Monday, June 15, 2015

Summer Time!

Today was our last day of school!  One day longer than we thought, thanks to Old Man Winter.  If you've been following me, you know we moved into a brand new school this winter, which is awesome!  We greatly enjoyed the new building and all the new technology.  This last week, I have totally loved the cabinets and shelving!  Never have I gotten packed up and put away so quickly.  Each day I would put a little more away.  By today there wasn't much left to do.  Now I will also admit that after purging with each move, there was a little less to put away.  But you guys know all the stuff we teachers have no matter how much we go through stuff.

Now of course, as the school year ends, teachers' minds involuntarily start thinking of next year.  We just can't help it.  So I've decided on a monkey/jungle theme.  And I big thank you in advance to Krista Wallden of Creative Clips, Scrappin Doodles, and Melonheadz for all their cute monkey graphics.  I will be working on all sorts of monkey stuff for my room over the summer so be sure to check in frequently.

For now, I've started with behavior management sticker chart/punch cards.  At our new school we have tables.  No more desks so no more desk tags.  There isn't room on the tables for regular size desk tags, so I had to improvise this year.  I ended up using their sticker charts as their name tags.  So I have made new sticker charts for next year, with a nice space in the middle for the kids' names.  These charts would also work well as punch cards since the sticker spaces are all along the outside edges.

For a limited time, these cute little charts will be FREE on my Teacher's Pay Teachers store.  Here's to a great summer.


Friday, May 08, 2015


Have you visited the website Wordle,net?  Wordle creates word clouds with word you or your kids can enter.  One the the things I love about it is the ability to customize the colors, fonts, and layouts. You can save the Wordle as a PNG file or print it.  

I have used Wordle in the past to create word clouds to use with my class.  I would frequently use these word clouds as introductions to a lesson or as activators to get them thinking.  This year I began having the kids make their own!  And they are loving it!

Our first project was an activity that combined our units on the moon and poetry.  We read a number of poems on the moon including "The Moon" by Robert Lewis Stevenson, and "The Moon Was But a Chin of Gold" by Emily Dickinson.  The kids then worked on writing poems that compared the moon to another object.  Part of this assignment was to create a list of words to describe the moon.

We then went to the computers and  The kids entered their list of words into the "Wordle" create screen.  One of the features I like is being able to make one word larger by typing that word into the list multiple times.  This way we can make 'moon' bigger in the final word cloud.

(Wordle does need Java to run properly so be sure you have it installed before you begin and since it needs Java, it won't work on Google Chrome)

Now comes the fun part!  Creating the Wordle.  Once the kids have all their words in the box, they simply click "GO".  This will create the word cloud.  Then, from the drop down menus, they can change the layout (for some reason it tends to create a vertical word cloud first on a horizontal screen -- confusing for the kids).  They can also change the layout of the words by clicking the "Randomize" button.  In essence this creates a new word cloud with the same words.   The picture on the left is the word cloud that was made after clicking "go."  A few clicks of the randomize button created the one on the right.

Clicking randomize not only changes the position of the words, it also changes the background, the font and the color scheme.  Some kids love this process so much, they will do it forever.

Once they find a layout they like they can move on to changing the fonts and color scheme.  They can do this through the buttons above the word cloud.  They will want to stick with the "font"  and "color" buttons.  The font button is self-explanatory -- it lets them pick a font for their words.  The down side is the font menu doesn't show the true font, so the kids have to apply it each time to see the font, which can be time consuming for those kids who want to see every choice!

And finally, picking a color palette.  I showed my second graders how to create their own palette.  On the drop down menu, they simply go down to "Edit Custom Palette."  This will bring up tons of color choices from which they can pick four.

Now that the Wordle is complete it is time to save or print it, or as we did...both. You can print right from the screen or you can click "Save as PNG"  Be sure when they save, they keep the PNG at the end.  I discovered the hard way when they all renamed their projects and deleted the PNG ending.  It will save but not in that format.

And then it was May with Mother's Day fast approaching.  We decided to create a Wordle for our mom's.  Before getting to the computers, They created a list of words about their moms so they would be ready to type.  They were such hard workers getting those word clouds just perfect for their moms. After printing them, the kids then glued them into construction paper cards and decorated the cards. They loved them, and I'm sure the moms will too!


Saturday, February 07, 2015

Valentines Fun at Home

Somehow Valentines Day always sneaks up on me. Maybe because it is toward the beginning of February (I know, I know, it is smack dab in the middle but it feels like the beginning!) Or maybe because it is just after the end of the marking period and I am not thinking ahead yet. Anyway, like I said it always sneaks up on me and then I have to scramble to get my class party ready and things ready for my daughter too. This year, instead of doing store bought Valentines as she has always wanted to do in the past, we went crafty. I can't say where I first saw it, but I tracked down the directions on Pinterest (where else?), she thought it was cool, and off we went. I had almost everything I needed. Well, I had lots of crayons.
All I needed now was a heart shaped cookie sheet, which I was luckily able to find at Michaels.
Next step, peeling and breaking up all those crayons. Sorry, forgot to take a picture of that step. We used mostly reds, pinks, and purples with some blues and yellows thrown in too. I filled the bottom of each heart with broken crayons and then put the tray in the oven at 250 for about eight minutes until all the crayons had melted, but hadn't blended all together. I took them out and let them cool and then placed them in the refrigerator. Once they cooled, they had shrunk just enough to come right out. They look pretty cool!
Last step was to create the cards. We picked frames from Ashley Hughes and graphics from Creative Clips to make the cards. I was thinking "Color your heart out Valentine" but K decided she wanted to hand write each message so we left the middle blank and she filled them in.
One more reason I love these Valentines... they are food free. My daughter comes home every Halloween and Valentine's Day with bunches of candy, none of which she can eat because of severe peanut and tree nut allergies. These great little Valentines are a wonderful cute alternative that are sugar free, calorie free, and full of creative opportunities! And now on to figuring out a craft for my own class's party. I have my idea. Let's see if it works. Hugs, Heather
Sunday, December 21, 2014

On the move!

So this year has gotten away from me.  After you read this post, you'll hopefully understand my lack of recent posts.  (Not to mention my blog design keeps disappearing - I gotta get some help with that!)

I don't think I've mentioned before, but I've been in a holding school for the last year and a half.  My school was built in the late sixties and was long overdue for a makeover.  The building had been designed with that open floor plan where one classroom joined another.  And then later, when the powers that be decided that didn't work so well, they divided it up and put in walls.  My  classroom was a bizarre pie shape.  Fitting desks, not to mention all that other stuff was a creative feat every year.

So at the end of the school year in 2013, we packed everything up and moved into a temporary holding school.  I spent about 6 months sorting through my 18 years of accumulated teaching stuff. Some got tossed, some passed on to others, and much of it packed into over 100 boxes.  And in August we came back to a holding school as they tore our old one down and built a brand new one!

Now the building we moved into, ironically enough, was about 20 years older than the one we just moved out of and hadn't been used as an actually school in years.  My mantra became "18 months."  In all honesty, it wasn't that bad.  My room was a normal rectangle shape and had plenty of storage.  However, whenever I tried to turn on the AC a swamp developed in my room.  But we learned to adjust.

And now it is time to move into our brand spanking new school all two stories of it with the latest technology.  I am super excited about!  Having to move twice in less than two years...less than exciting.  But ultimately worth it. Hugs, Heather
Friday, August 29, 2014

Five for Friday - The First Week

Yeah,  I know, I haven't blogged in a while.  Bet you can't guess why?  Ah man... you did.  That's
right... we are back to school.  So last week I was all wrapped up in planning and decorating.  And then Monday... they walked in the door, 20 little second graders.

So here are my five from the last 2 weeks.

1.  Walking into my room for the first time.

That table is full of all the supplies we ordered and the papers from the
copy center I had ordered last June.  Thank you mom for divying up all
those copies between me and my teammates!

Before we went back for our professional days, my sister-in-law challenged my husband, myself, and my daughter to the ALS ice bucket challenge.  This was special to me.  My uncle had ALS.  He battled it for 7 years...that's two years longer than most people who are diagnosed with the horrible disease.  And my father, while he didn't have ALS, he did have an even rarer degenerative muscular disease called Inclusion Body Myositis.  As our neighbor poured that ice water over my head, I was hearing my dad's belly laugh and my uncle's chuckle at our antics, knowing they were proud of all the attention being brought to this cause.  If no one challenged you over the summer or you want to learn more please check out this website.  My uncle was passionate about funding research to try to find a cure for ALS.

Isn't funny  the things you find when you begin unpacking your room.  This year I lost my two teammates and gained two new ones.  One of my new teammates found these shoes in her closet!


I've kept my Hollywood theme going this year.  And I wanted my kids to have a way to share themselves keeping with the theme.  So I created my own All About Me poster. I will be putting these up on the board for Back to School Night.

And finally, my big third grade, and our bundle of fur, ready to head off to school.  Those of you who are teachers and parents know who bittersweet that first day of school can be.  So as I headed off to my school, and had to leave my daughter at home with her dad.  Her amazing dad who has always taken off the first day of school, so he could take her when I couldn't.  She was so excited and has had a great first week.  Oh, forget to mention, she decided to take down all the princesses from her room that had been there since she was two.  She's growing up.  At least she put up puppy posters and not One Direction.

So to all of you who have been back at school for awhile Kudos!  And to those of you starting next week Good Luck!


Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Narrative Writing with Nothing Ever Happens on 90th Street

I've linked up again with Deanna Jump's We Love Books!

I love when a book just seems like it was written to match my lessons!  And so it is with Nothing Ever Happens on 90th Street by Roni Schotter.

This book is about a young girl named Eva who has been given a written assignment by her teacher.  "Write about what you know" her teacher says, but Eva complains that nothing ever happens that is worth writing about.  As she is sitting outside her neighbors come by and give her some advice.

First, Mr. Sims, the actor, and his cat Olivier, came by.  He tell's Eva "The whole world's a stage -- even 90th Street -- and each of us plays a part.  Watch the stage, observe the players carefully, and don't neglect the details.  Eva immediately starts writing down details about Mr. Sims.

Next Mr. Morley advises her to "Try to find the poetry in your pudding.  There's always a new way with old words."  Eva tries to come up with new words to describe Mr. Morley's chocolate mousse.

Alexis Leora, the dancer, tells Eva "Stretch, use your imagination.  If your story doesn't go the way you want it to you can always stretch the truth.  You can ask 'What if?' and make up a better story."  Eva begins asking 'What if' about her neighbors.

Finally Mrs. Martinez comes out with her soup.  She tells Eva stories are like soup.  "Add a little action.  A little this.  a little that.  And don't forget the spice.  Surprise yourself"

As Eva ponders all this advice, things begin to happen on 90th street.  A baby's ball rolls away causing a pizza delivery man to crash into Alexis Leora.  A car stops with a famous actress stepping out into the fray and offers Mr. Sims a job.  The cat runs off knocking the coffee into the chocolate mousse.  As Eva takes all this action in an idea comes to her.  Her friends should combine their talents and open a restaurant together.  As the story wraps up and problems get solved, we are left wondering which parts of the story really happened and which parts were Eva's newly discovered writing skills.

I must admit it took me a couple of years to fully appreciate this book, but now I love it.  We take this book apart and look at all the advice the characters offer and put it into practice in the kids' own writing.  What I truly love is the fact that throughout the year the kids refer  back to it.  "Don't forget the spice" I hear them say.  "We need to include action"  "Be sure to include descriptive words."  

So I took the activities we did with this book, polished them up some, and created this mini-unit.

Included in this unit are numerous anchor charts including each characters' advice, the characteristics of a narrative, and the story map for the book.


To help the kids totally understand each piece of advice, I have them work in small groups to discuss each and rewrite it in their own words.  Then we take each piece of advice and practice using it together and independently

Finally we work on our own personal narratives.  We map out the events from the book (beginning after all the advice is given) and then map our the events for our own narratives.  Then we revise our work using the advice from the book.  

You can pick up your own copy of this mini-unit here at my Teachers Pay Teachers store.  
To keep your kids working on those writing techniques, you should consider my daily writing journals. These journals are ready to go, quick writes for your students and include  narrative, informational, and persuasive writing prompts.  So have your kids add some action and spice, don't forget the details, and find the pudding in their writing!



Sunday, August 03, 2014

Teachers Pay Teachers Sale Must Haves

If you haven't heard yet Teachers Pay Teachers is having their annual back to school sale and so am I!    When you use the code BTS14 at checkout, you can save up to 28% on all my products.  Click on any of the pictures to take you to my store.

Do you need new decor for your room?  I'm going with a Hollywood theme.  My kids love being the stars in the classroom.  Most of the products are also available individually.  

This bundle includes everything from desk tags to a word wall, number posters to a job chart.

word wall headers
desk name tags

number posters

job chart

Do your kids need practice with basic facts?  These are two of my best sellers on fact families and turn around facts.

Looking for something to go with your writing units?  We use the mentor text Nothing Ever Happens on 90th Street.  Love this book.  And it's a great intro to personal narratives.

To keep the writing going I use Daily Writing Journals.  These packets include a different prompt for each day of the month...just copy and go.  No cutting and pasting prompts into journals!


Are you using Words Their Way?  We started using it this past year and I've started creating games and centers to go with them.  This dominos game follows the beginning blends unit from the Letter Name/Alphabetic speller book.

And don't forget, before you check out, make sure you have given feedback on all your previous purchases.  You earn TPT credit towards your purchase.  Just like you will when you come back and leave me feedback too!

The sale starts tomorrow so go shopping, get ready for school, and save money!