Monday, June 29, 2015

Monday Made it!

Wow that week went by fast!  And so it goes when you're on vacation, right?  It's Monday, which means it's time for another Monday Made it with 4th Grade Frolics.

I found these mini chalkboards at Target in the Dollar Spot. I painted them lime green to match my classroom colors of royal blue and lime green.  I have never used chalk before (as is probably evident here) but it was fun nonetheless.

I made some cute labels for my classroom library. I decided to go with round labels this year.

I have been working hard on refurbishing a vintage school desk that I hope to be able to share next week.  I had no idea how much work it was going to be until I took the project on. It will be great when it's done but... wow! Sanding, cleaning, and painting looks a lot easier than it actually is! :)

What projects have you been working on?

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Rock Your First Year Teaching


I have been teaching for 18 years. Most of that time was in a private school. Three years ago, I was fortunate to get a first grade public school teaching position.  Yes, it took me that long. Teaching positions in Massachusetts are hard to come by and I suspect that is the case in many states.

The transition from private to the public school sector was HUGE!  It many ways to try to compare teaching in both settings would be like trying to compare apples to dogs.  It really is THAT different. 

It many ways, 3 years ago I felt like I new teacher. I was referred to as a new teacher by my district and colleagues and I felt almost exactly like I did my first year out of college. Terrified, excited, elated, overwhelmed, anxious, happy, sad- my emotions ran the gamut that first year and often times they ran that gamut in one day.

I love this linky from Teaching with Crayons and Curls and My Mommy Reads.  We all can learn from one another whether we are in our first, 18th, or 30th year teaching.

1. Collaborate- I learn more from my colleagues than I ever did in college. From bulletin board ideas to our new teacher evaluation system, having the support of colleagues is so important.  Be accepting of their support and guidance.
2. Ask for help when needed- Let's face it folks, teaching is a tough job.  Please, please don't feel bad about asking questions. This is not a sign of weaknesses or stupidity. If anything, asking questions or asking for help shows you care about your practice.
3. Be as organized as possible- I say "as possible" because inevitably, all kinds of new things will be "thrown" your way this school year.  Find a system that works for you. Whether it's a 3 inch binder, a cabinet full of files, or a simple notebook to keep yourself on track. Try not to let too many piles build up on your desk or around your classroom. It will make it hard to find things when you need them and it will make the classroom feel unorganized.  For me, when my classroom feels like I mess, I feel like a mess. Like this:

1. Gossip- Just don't. It's not nice and it's not professional.

2. Isolate yourself- Try to make time to spend time outside of school with your co-workers.  They can be a great support system and when the job gets tough-they know how it feels. Don't go it alone. You don't need to.

1. Be good to yourself. Take one day at a time. - That teacher down the hall whose classroom looks like the window of Saks 5th Avenue, that 3rd grade teacher who has been nominated for "Teacher of the Year" or that kindergarten teacher who never seems to ever be stressed out. Don't compare yourself to them or anyone else. Just do you. If a lesson went horrible, the bulletin board didn't come out as cute as you thought, or that parent just seems to have it in for you- try really hard to let it go.  You'll get there. Not all at once- but you'll get there.  Try not to worry.  Worrying is like a rocking chair. It gives you something to do but it doesn't take you anywhere.

Just breathe and enjoy.  Teaching is the very best job on earth.  May you always feel this way!  Be good to yourself and give yourself permission to rest and relax.

Have a great school year....because you can!

Don't forget to check out the other bloggers and their helpful hints too!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Dare to Dream

My son struggles in school. A lot. He went on an IEP in kindergarten for a "learning disability."  By first grade I had taken him to a neurologist and he was diagnosed with ADHD.  I experimented with medication for him, cried myself to sleep many a night, had more meetings with his school and teachers than I can count and still...Tyler struggled. 

By second grade Tyler began hating school. He could barely read and still couldn't add. His writing was arduous and not able to be read. He began losing hope.

In the beginning of third grade, he was reading two grade levels behind and he couldn't add beyond a sum of 10. His writing looked more like a kindergartener's than a third grader's. His peers were soaring and he was stuck. His heart was breaking and mine was too.

By mid-year of third grade, he began telling me he wanted to die. He said he'd rather die than have to keep trying to read, write, and do math. I asked him if he knew what that meant and he said "I would go to heaven and I wouldn't have to read and do math anymore."

My heart continued breaking. All the testing, meetings, doctor's appointments and still...we had no answers and Tyler was sinking into an abyss of feeling like a failure. He felt like he had nothing to contribute to the world and he is only 9 years old.

When the second round of testing from a neuropsychologist this past April revealed that Tyler has dyslexia, dysgraphia and dyscalculia, we cried.  We cried with relief.  Tyler learned what I knew all along, but Tyler had to hear for himself. He's not stupid or dumb. He just learns in different ways.  He is still learning what this means and what it feels like and looks like on a daily basis. We talked about what dyslexia is, what it looks like, and what it feels like. We talked about people we know in our daily life who have it, celebrities who struggle with it, and what it means to be dyslexic.  Tyler tells people who ask him why he goes to a different school now and he says,  "I'm dyslexic. I just learn in different ways."  Knowing that there isn't necessarily something wrong with him but maybe, perhaps, something wrong with how we teach, has helped him understand his own challenges.  Wow! To be able to get to the core of who you are at such a young age is pretty amazing.

After years of struggle, we finally had our victory and Tyler began a new school in May. The school has a program for students with language learner delays (such as dyslexia). Tyler is one of 4 students in his class.  I thought this would be hard for my sociable and outgoing son, but for the first time I have heard things like "I feel relieved, Mom" or "Mom, I'm learning more now than I ever have in my whole life."  I never thought I'd hear such words from my child. He is learning that learning can be fun.  It doesn't always have to be hard.  He has been given a gift. 

My dream for my TPT store is to continue to create educational materials that motivate and inspire. Maybe that will be a teacher. Maybe it will be a student. Maybe it will be a student like Tyler.  How amazingly awesome is that?

Creating has allowed me to reflect on my own teaching. Am I teaching to reach all learners? Are the activities, projects, and lessons differentiated to meet the needs of all learners?  This is so important to me.  I know what it is like to struggle in school. I also know what it's like to have a child who struggles in school. I also know how awesome it feels when you "find your niche" and then learning isn't so much hard work anymore. It becomes fun and it becomes fulfilling.

My dream for TpT is to be able to continue to have this amazing opportunity. My dream is to make learning fun for students and for teachers.  May it always be fun! May it always motivate and inspire someone else and myself.

Creating, selling, and collaborating with so many talented, creative, and inspirational teachers, bloggers, and sellers has given me the confidence to know that my contributions to teaching matter. 

No matter what the scores on the myriad of assessments I give over the years, learning should always be fun. 

My dream is that it always will be. 

Thank you to Sparkling in Second, Teach Create Motivate , Third in Hollywood, and Peppy Zesty Teacherista for encouraging us to share our dreams. 

Monday, June 22, 2015

Monday Made it- Yipee!

I'm just giddy over here. Downright slap happy. You know it's summer when..... (cue the drumroll)....
Tara from 4th Grade Folics launches her annual "Monday Made It" linky.  I believe she has the linky monthly during the school year but I'm only somewhat creative in the summer when I have more time.
This is my first Monday participating since last summer because summer didn't begin until 3:25 this past Thursday for me. But now that summer has begun for me this is what I'm doing...

Riiiighht. Well, not exactly. I have 3 kids. Let's keep it real. But it does mean that regardless- I do have more time on my hands. So without further ado...with that extra time, so far I have accomplished this:

I love Americana décor. A friend had found the bunk bed ladder at a yard sale and painted it a greenish color for me since I was unclear how I was going to use at the time (our house was under construction). Then I found the pic below on Pinterest from Especially for you Home Décor and had an "aha" moment.

I would like to say that I sanded the ladder and spent hours making this but I didn't. I simply re-painted it with a semi-gloss white paint and waited a few hours for it to dry (because I'm really impatient).
I found the flag at a local hardware store for $14 and wrapped it around the ladder and tied it with jute string (raffia would probably look better but I didn't have any in the house).  I had some fake (don't judge) greenery that I had laying around that I had bought from Michael's and weaved it around the jute string and the rungs of the ladder and called it a day. 
Now I have an adorable Americana decoration for my front porch to enjoy this summer when I'm sipping wine on the front porch with my book.

It's 8:00 AM. I'm supposed to take my son to school at 8:15 and realize he has no gift tag or card to accompany his gifts for his teachers.  Ooops!  Do you use your clipart to make your own gift tags? I never really thought of it before. I just purchase it to make TpT stuff. But this morning, in 10 minutes, I  designed, printed, and added a tag to the gift bag by 8:12.  Phew! 
Thank you Educlips, 3AM Teacher and, Kimberly Geswein fonts for saving me in my final hours!

When I recover from the school year I'm hoping to have some more creativeness to share.  Right now, I'm still in my PJ's (yup...dropped my son off to school while wearing them).

Have you shared your creativity?  Give it a whirl. I's a ton of fun and you'll get a lot of great ideas from the 4th Grade Folics "Monday Made It" linky 

Have an awesome summer....because you can!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Makeover Madness

It's week 1 of the TPT Seller Challenge and I'm loving this first challenge!  The challenge is to make over a product cover. 

Making over my store product covers is actually on my "to do" list this summer.  My goal is to change all my cover thumbnail images to a consistent square size in my store. I'm hoping it will make a more cohesive and consistent look. Here is the first one I have done:

I'm trying to steer out of my comfort zone a bit and use patterned paper.  But the chevron of my "before" product cover is a little too distracting.  The softer toned patterned paper of the "after" cover is a little more appealing to me. I also like the look of the larger clipart boy. 

The font is KG The Last Time which is a hollow font, meaning that it is has no fill. This was my first time using the font.  I experimented with outlining and filling in a font by clicking on the text box where the font was and then clicking on format in the drawing tools option in PowerPoint. I'll show how I did that:

After choosing the font (KG The Last Time) I clicked on "text outline" in the drop down menu of the drawing tools option and chose the color outline and thickness of the outline. 

Next, I clicked on "text fill" and chose the color I wanted to fill the outline.

That's it!  Super easy!  So easy in fact, that I then changed a few of the graphics within the product and re-uploaded the product.  I'm thrilled. 

To celebrate the new and improved "Vowel Teams" product it is on sale for the remainder of the week at half off.   You can grab it in my store here or by clicking on the image below.

Are you up for a challenge?  Come join us and link up! Head over to one of these fabulous blogs featured below to link up. I'd love to see what you make!

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Summer Reading

I was so pumped to find this summer reading linky from Molly of Lucky to Be in First yesterday! 

I double puffy heart, LOVE to read. But who has time for that during the school year?!

Reading is my favorite past time in the summer along with relaxing by the pool or at the beach and of cream!

Since the summer is short and sweet I am quite picky about what I read. These moments are sacred and cannot be wasted on a not-so-good book.

Currently reading: Every Fifteen Minutes by Lisa Scottoline and Unraveling my Father's Suicide by Kathleen LaPlante.  I started Every Fifteen Minutes during April vacation. (See, I told you I don't have time to read during the school year). It's a great story about a psychiatrist who takes on a teenage client whose life is spiraling out of control and ironically so does the psychiatrist's. Is it a coincidence? You'll have to read to find out!

I started Unraveling my Father's Suicide a few days ago and I cant put it down. The author is actually a dear friend of mine so when she told me she had written a book that was going to be published I wanted to read it. I had no idea it was going to be as captivating as it is.  What an amazing story!  It's the busiest time of year for me (I have 4 days left of school) and this book has me captivated.

To read: Not Without my Daughter is one my Mom read and she has great taste in books.  It's the story of a woman who travels with her husband to his native, Iran. Little does she know this is not a visit.  He holds her and their daughter hostage and will not allow them to return to America.

After the Storm by Linda Castillo is due to be released July 14th.  This is another book in her Kate Burkholder Amish thriller series. Kate Burkholder is the town sheriff and formerly Amish.  When a murder happens in the Amish community, the Amish want to handle it themselves. But Kate is the sheriff and they must cooperate with the law.  For some, this is challenging. Everything in this series is great!

The Husband's Secret I have heard about on social media and have heard it is good so I'm going to give that one a whirl too.

Every parent should read Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult. Although fiction, it tells a story very similar to the Columbine shooting and it gives the perspectives of all parties involved.  It's a quick read.

The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls is one of the best books I have ever read. It is a true memoir of a girl who grew up with mentally ill parents and what their life was like. It was quite inspirational.

The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom was the best book I have ever read. A young Irish immigrant girl is traveling to America but events lead her to grow up among the black slaves who are the kitchen help for the wealthy plantation owners were she now lives. 

If you liked Gone Girl you are sure to enjoy The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins.

Kid President's Guide to Being Awesome is so great!  I enjoyed reading it myself and parts of it to my own kids and students. It makes a great coffee table book. I love his message and when I need a reminder of a "pick me up" I turn to this book.

Make sure to hope over to Lucky to be in First to check out the other book suggestions by other bloggers. It looks like my summer reading list is growing....

Happy Reading!

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Learning about Tide Pools

I am lucky enough to live in New England (remind me that I said that in January, February and March).  Every year in June we go on a field trip to the beach. It is a blast! 

Right after Memorial Day we begin learning about tide pool habitats.  We made an anchor chart to depict what we know about tide pools.  I did not correct any thoughts.  This was just a brainstorm.

Brainstorm and list animals and plant life that can be found in tidepools.

At the end of our unit, we go back to this anchor chart and cross out any misconceptions after our discussions.

We really enjoyed some close reads on various tide pool animals such as sea urchins, hermit crabs, sea anemones, sea stars, barnacles, and mussels.

tide pool close read

Close reading: Tide Pools

Close reading: Tide Pools

Close reading: Tide pools

We sorted tide pool vocabulary words from our close reads.  We identified the word, found the matching picture  and corresponding definition.

Close reading:  Tide pools. Vocabulary words, definitions, and pictures

We researched tide pool animals using our close reads, iPads, and non-fiction texts.

Close reading tide pools. Hermit crab research and craftivity.

Then using the facts we researched and recorded, we wrote informative writing pieces about a tide pool animal.

Close reading: Tide pools.  Hermit crab research and craftivity.

We learned that some types of tide pool animals have shells that open and close to feed and protect themselves, and even help them move.  These animals are called bivalves. We made a bivalve mini book to share the facts we have learned about tide pools.

Close reading: Tide pools. Bivalves

 By the time we went to the beach, we knew so much about tide pool habitats and we loved showing our teacher all the cool animals we found! 

Learning about tide pools in New England

We found hermit crabs, bivalves, and snails.

Learning about tide pools.

And we found barnacles, sand dollars, and mussels.  There were shrieks of delight echoing across the beach. 

When we returned our learning continued with some great YouTube videos all about tide pools and tide pool animals.

The YouTube video below is the full episode of "Mussel Beach" from Magic School Bus.  It's fantastic!

The video below is silent (except for ocean sounds) but has wonderfully up close video footage of tide pool animals. It makes for a great discussion piece and learning tool.

To find the tide pool resources seen here, click the picture below. 

Close reading:  Tide Pools

I hope you have a wonderful summer!  Do you have tide pools where you live?  I'd love to hear about them! It would be great to share that information with my students too. I LOVE your comments!