Sunday, August 28, 2011

Freckle Juice Unit... Posted!

Oh-my-goodness!  It has taken me FOREVER to wrap up my Freckle Juice bundle and post it to my TpT store.  I started it sometime in early July, and then it took a back seat to about a million other things.  At any rate, it is finally finished and ready for your viewing pleasure.

As you know, I have recently made the switch to Reading Street, however I created the majority of my lessons and units B.R.S... {Before Reading Street}.  Essentially, I am slowly trying to make my old, original printables look a little more polished so that I can share my lessons with you!  I taught this unit for about three years, and I know I am going to miss it like crazy this year, because I LOVE some of the activities we do with it.  My old co-worker Debbie influenced this unit quite a bit, since she was the one who introduced me to the idea of using this book to introduce my third grade kiddos to chapter books.  Over time, I took some of her suggestions and gave it my own flair.  Long story short, I adore teaching with Freckle Juice.   It looks like I'll be cooking up ways to try to integrate some of the key concepts other ways to fit with my new curriculum.  :)  Feel free to check out the preview file HERE:

Friday, August 26, 2011

A Walk Down Memory Lane

I can't believe that this is my sixth year teaching!  I know that many of you have taught quite a bit longer than I have, but it seriously seems like I was entering the classroom for the first time yesterday!  Since I'm feeling sentimental, let's take a walk down memory lane.  I used to be a Title I Reading Tutor for first and second grade kiddos... once upon a time.  I know I am missing a TON of pictures... because I have some hard copies that I can't seem to find on my computer.  Anyway, with our without them, it's amazing to see how much I've grown as a teacher! 

I still love student notes just as much as I did then!

Posing after performing the Gingerbread Baby Reader's Theater

Alphabet Beanbag Toss

A view of my rudimentary room

I used to draw a lot of my room decorations back then!

My very sad library area.

I believe this picture is self-explanatory.

Fundations Stuff

A hand-made sight word game for a Make & Take Parent Night.

I believe this was somehow coordinated with Click Clack Moo.

Phonics Activity

ABC Puzzles-  Some of my kiddos were still working on letter sounds.

Alphabet Match Up
Character Study with Officer Buckle & Gloria
I was introduced to Debbie Miller {literally} that year, and my teaching has never been the same.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Where It All Goes Down Wednesday

Today was my first day with students, and I am whipped.  I don't know what possessed me to wear a heel today, but I have to admit that I've made much better decisions in my life.  :)  It's 6:21, and I am finally home after organizing paperwork and decompressing a little bit in my classroom.  Let's face it, when you spend as much time as we all do in our classrooms, it's no wonder that we put so much energy into having it "just so".  I am loving that I made a switch when I changed jobs, because my tropical borders were starting to feel a little BLAH.  I'm actually digging my subtle jungle theme this year.  I've decided that zebra print makes my heart happy, and because I love my new room so much, I bought a new t-shirt to wear on spirit days that has a zebra print design.  :)  Yes, apparentely I am that teacher.

I planned to take new pictures today at work, but it just didn't pan out. If you want to see several MORE classroom photographs, check out my photo-laden post from a few weeks ago. :) 

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Teacher Talk Tuesday!

First of all, let me say that I love being back in my element!  Meet the Teacher went SO well last night, and I am pretty sure that I have the most adorable students who ever lived.  It feels amazing to be welcomed with open arms by my new colleagues, parents, administrators, and support staff, and let's just say that may first day jitters are behind me now.  I am so thrilled to be a part of a fabulous new team, but in some ways, I feel kind of like a new teacher all over again.  Luckily, this time around, I have a few years of experience to fall back on.  When it comes down to it, is it really about the curriculum or the subjects that you teach?  Absolutely not!  It's about the kids!  I LOVE TEACHING KIDS... and that's why I keep going back year after year!
Of course, our Blog Hoppin' theme of the day is advice to new teachers, and I can't wait to share some of the things that have worked for me in the past.  To all of the new teachers out there, welcome to the profession!  You make not make millions... but the impact you will have on hundreds of students' lives is PRICELESS!  Good luck!
Top Ten Teaching Tips
1.  Don't take yourself too seriously!  Today, with high stakes testing, talks of merit pay and increasingly rigorous standards, it's easy to let stress bog you down.  Teachers are multi-taskers by nature and trade, but that doesn't mean that it won't wear on you after a while.  Infuse humor into your lessons, and don't be afraid to laugh at yourself.  Don't forget to have fun in the classroom!  It doesn't have to feel like "work".  :)
2.  Limber up!  Flexibility is so important to teaching, because every child is different on a day to day basis.  In order to be responsive to the needs of your students, it's important to be able to switch gears and go another direction when necessary.  Sometimes it's okay to deviate from Plan A... if Plan B is going to be more beneficial for your population of students.  Don't be afraid to take a risk for your kiddos!
3. Don't do more work than your students.  You won't be doing them any favors if you never give them opportunities to work independently or problem solve.  If we want to cultivate 21st century learners, we need to allow students to collaborate, think creatively, solve problems, and really THINK!  We can't do all of the thinking for them.  :)
4.  Take time for YOU!  At times, teaching can be all-consuming.  Give yourself permission to relax or do something you enjoy!  Teachers are givers, but in order to truly give your students the best, you need to take care of YOU! {I've found that I am much better at dispensing advice than I am at taking it... especially my own!}
5.  Simplify.  As much as I like to think I am capable of doing everything simultaneously, I can't do it.  Teachers wear so many hats as it is, so I really try not to heap too much extra stuff onto my proverbial plate.  I've become a lot more cognizant about keeping it simple in recent years.  So, essentially, don't be afraid to tweak systems to make them more manageable for you.  They won't do any good if you can't work out the logistics anyway!  Lesson learned.
6.  Avoid the Negative Nancy types and surround yourself with positive people! :)  Self-explanatory!
7.  Relationships are KEY... not only with your students... but also with colleagues, administrators, parents, custodians, secretaries, etc.  We are in a relationship business... and the more people you have in your "circle of trust"... the more success you will all have across the board.  Of course, we can never underestimate the power of communication & smiles!
8.  Organize your world!  Personally, I am a bit of a binder queen, but no matter what your preference is, you have to manage what could easily turn into a paper mountain.  As elementary teachers, we have rooms that are jam-packed with books, manipulatives, and a plethora of other educational goodies.  In order to use these materials effectively, you have to be able to find them!  Designate a place for everything, organize your paperwork, and then get ready to teach like a rockstar!
9.  Be prepared!  One of the greatest things I ever did was create a Sub Tub so that I wouldn't have to drag myself into work when I could barely drag myself out of bed to prepare for a substitute.  Do yourself a favor and have plans in place for unexpected absences.  Your tummy will thank you later!
10.  To foster life-long learners, become one yourself.  Never stop gobbling up books on best practices and ways to improve your teaching.  Work with mentors in your building that you want to replicate.  Write messages to your favorite bloggers.  Attend professional development sessions.  NEVER. STOP.  LEARNING! There's always more room to grow! 

Now that you've read my "words of wisdom"... {if you can call it that}... hop on over to read more!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Meet the Teacher

Tell us a little something about you...

I'm Amanda, and I am so excited to be joining such a FAB group of authors over at Blog Hoppin'!  I am going through at least 856,345,321 changes in my life right now.  Haha!  Okay, so maybe that's a slight exaggeration, but you have to admit that switching districts and buying a new home in the same month is pretty crazy.  Both moves have my mind reeling, but it's a really exhilarating time of my life, and I am soooooo excited!  Thanks for popping by to learn a little more about little ole' me!

How long have you been teaching?

This is my sixth year teaching.  I started out teaching Title I Reading in an inner-city behavior school with kids from 3rd to 8th grade during my first year.  After that, I moved into a more rural district where I worked for a year as a Title I Reading tutor for 1st and 2nd graders before landing a position in third grade.  I taught third grade for three years in a wonderful district, and now I'm starting a new school-year TODAY in a NEW place!  So far, I really love my new school-home, and I am excited to grow roots there professionally and personally.  :)  I will be teaching third grade yet again, but this year I will be departmentalized.  I will only be teaching Language Arts & Social Studies.  I have to admit... they are my favorites!  I will miss teaching all subjects and being self-contained though.  Maybe not all of the planning it entails, but I love the community you can build with one group of kiddos. {I'm going to miss all of my MES friends though!  Hope you have a great year!}

You might not know...

I am currently working on my Masters in Literacy Curriculum & Instruction.  This degree is basically like the song from Lambchop & Friends... remember it?  Seriously, this is the degree that never ends.  :)  I love my classes, but I took last summer off for our wedding, and I have not been able to take a class for two consecutive semesters, because they are either full or not full enough.  This endeavor has taken three years so far, and I still have four more classes to go.  Hopefully I won't have any more setbacks, because I would love to wrap it up!  My ultimate goal is to eventually work as a Reading Coach or obtain my Doctorate in Literacy.  I keep thinking how great it would be to work at the college level, but I have NO idea when I will feel like I'm ready to move out of the elementary arena.  I just love precious children WAY too much to leave the classroom anytime in the next ten years, at least!

What are you looking most forward to this school year?

I am looking forward to meeting my sweet classes tonight at Meet the Teacher, and I am so excited about cultivating a new community of learners within each group!  It's crazy to think that I will be working with about fifty kiddos this year, but I just know that I am going to LOVE them!  I'm also looking forward to working on the Ohio Improvement Process team at the building level, because I was so sad to walk away from leadership positions at my old school.  I am so fortunate to be given an opportunity to get involved right out of the starting blocks!  The third thing I am really looking forward to is working with my awesome new teamie Stacey.  Seriously, we are going to be great together!  We both drive Nissan Rogues, our birthdays are a day apart, we both coached cheerleading... I'm telling you... it's meant to be.  Haha!  Anyway, my whole third grade team is wonderful, and I can't wait for this year to get rolling.  {Dear summer, I will still miss you... and sleeping in too.} I'll

What do you need to improve?

I am continually trying to improve my classroom management techniques.  I feel like this has to change and adapt with each group of kids.  I am always looking for new ways to organize my times and materials more efficiently.  You have all helped me immensely with this! I probably also need to stop being so hard on myself.  I am way to much of a perfectionist sometimes, and let's face it, I am so not perfect.  So, I tend to be my own worst enemy a little too much! 

What teaching supplies can you *not* live without?

I couldn't live without chart paper, markers, a timer, Pilot pens, cute notebooks, binders, and sweet tea. 
Now it's your turn folks!   Hop over to Blog Hoppin' to share your life story!  I'm going to hop to Convocation!  I can't wait to read all about you!  Thanks for participating in our linky party!


Saturday, August 20, 2011

Are You Ready for Blog Hoppin'?

We are so excited to bring you Teacher Week 2011 & a brand new blog!
Check out all the details at Blog Hoppin’ & join in on all of the fun!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Revised Focus Wall: A Quickie!

I was asked to create a few more headings for my Focus Wall to include "Objective" and "Essential Question" in the mix, which was really timely, because it was right around the time I discovered that I needed to include it too!  {I was only guesstimating before that based on websites I had found prior to receiving my manuals.  It's amazing what you can actually find out once you have the real curriculum on hand, isn't it?!}  Anyhow, it took me a few weeks to re-center and get it done!  Here's the new upload!  I tacked the new page on to the end of the existing file to keep it all together.  Enjoy!

Focus Wall

Winds of Change

I know that I promised to post about Daily 5 centers this week, but it might take another day or two to get around to it.  I've spent the last two days at a "new" teacher orientation in my new district, and I have to attend a super long grade level meeting today.  I still have a massive To-Do list that I want to accomplish before my kiddos walk into my classroom next Wednesday, but I will try to post something tomorrow at the earliest.  I plan on spending the rest of the day (post-meeting) putting the final touches on my classroom, and finishing my letter to students.

As if changing schools wasn't enough, my husband and I found our forever home, so we're going through the home-buying process right now.  We're really excited, but it's definitely been a HUGE time zapper over the past few weeks.   I'm sure that I'll be saying the same thing when we close at the end of September.  :)   I will be continuing the Daily 5 series of posts soon! 

As stressed as I am, I realize that I am really blessed.  All of my stress is normal and healthy, and I realize how lucky I am to have the opportunity to own a wonderful home and have a job I love.  I know that my "problems" are so trivial and minute in the scheme of things, so I want to take a minute to tell you a story about my husband's cousin Allison.  She is a 32 year old nurse who is married to a school teacher.  They have two one-year-old twins and a four year old at home, which I am sure is about 12 kinds of crazy.  This summer, Allison was diagnosed with Cancer.  She is undergoing chemotherapy right now, and has already had surgeries to remove damaged organs/tissues in her abdomen.  Unfortunately, the Cancer has spread to her brain, her lungs, and her lymph nodes.  They are still doing tests to see if it is anywhere else.  She is such a strong, optimistic person, and I am so inspired by her.  I personally believe that prayer is so powerful, and it's sometimes underestimated.  If you feel so inclined, please add Allison and her family to your prayer lists.  Thank you so much.  :) 

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Read to Someone

I wrote a pretty extensive post HERE about my Word Work center, but there have been several questions about the contents of my other tubs.  Today, I'm focusing solely on my Read to Someone area, but keep your eyes peeled for the other centers throughout the week.  Please be aware of the fact that I am continually revamping and rethinking everything, and right now, these are a work in progress.  It's really nothing earth-shatterning, and  I have no idea how it's all going to fit together with Reading Street (for sure).  At this point, I can only speculate and cross my fingers that it will work like I hope it will.  I try to keep centers simple, easy to manage, and predictable so that they can be used for a variety of purposes and with a variety of books.  I have battled with trying to manage constantly-evolving centers in the past, and I admire teachers who make it work.  Simply put, it doesn't work for me.  :)   I would LOVE to hear how you have organized this center in your own classrooms!  

This is my little Read to Someone Tub.
Here's a little looksie inside of the tub.  I probably will add more goodies over time.  The pointers are drink stirrers!  The bookmark was created by Cara at The First Grade parade, and you can grab a copy here:

I filled little tubs from the Dollar Tree with comprehension questions so they can be read without opening the containers.  You can snag this freebie from Christina Bainbridge here:
These checkmarks for "Check for Understanding" are also from Christina Bainbridge.  They are for sale at Teaching Oasis!

I don't remember where I downloaded the "Ways to Read to Someone" sign.   I adapted this idea from someone else's blog.  I think it may have been Beg, Borrow, and Steal:

This is really blurry, but basically since I will not be able to do literature circles with my students anymore, I took two copies of each duplicate book I own and created a separate area for Read to Someone.  This will (hopefully) ensure that these books make it back to their home and aren't mixed in with the rest of the library.  The two crates hold clipboards and whiteboards for now... until I can think of a better storage solution in my new classroom.  I'm not loving this look!

Students will be permitted to sit on these reading rugs {from Target} while they read together.

The lion is a small nod to my old school.  I'll miss my MES Lions! Oddly enough, I'm at another MES now.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Word Work Center etc.

Whew!  It's been a crazy-hectic day!  I spent a ton of time in the classroom labeling books, laminating, setting up centers, and completing a plethora of other little odd jobs.  I think I rearranged bookshelves and desks at least four times.  My room is finally shaping up the way I want it to be, especially since I have two more bookshelves now!  I have two days of  "new" teacher orientation on Monday and Tuesday, and then my first official teacher day is the 19th.  The kiddos will be there soon after that.  :)  So, I'm going to try to take this weekend to email everyone back who has emailed me in the last week or so.  I'm sorry it's taken so long for me to reply!  Switching districts is exhausting!  :) 

I will be addressing several questions from my lovely followers throughout the week.  Today, I want to focus on my current Word Work activities.  All of them are going to primarily focus on the Reading Street spelling and vocabulary words for each story, but I also wanted it to address sight words.  I also wanted to encourage kids to read the room and expand their vocabularies in more organic ways.  As skills are taught, I will probably throw in some centers that I will rotate out that are more skill-specific.  Right now, I'm going to show you what will always be in that area.   I'll share my other centers another day.  Prepare yourselves, this is a super LONG post! {I'd love to hear what you all do with your students for word work too, so comment away!}

I have the kids work on file folder games that I made for a college project eight years ago! The file folders are not included in the file. They were hand-drawn, and I have not scanned them in. However, they are used as a supplement in my classroom.

It's so funny to see my hand-drawn centers now that I am lazy and use clip art for everything!

I have four different colored sand tubs for writing words.

My Phonics Box now houses about eight white boards, four sand boxes, file folder games, and puppets.  {See below}

You're probably wondering about this one, but I threw this in for syllabication practice.  They can bend their little fingers to count syllables... or they could use them to spell words too!  Think "Spelling Buddies".  :)

The magnetic letters are pretty self-explanatory.  The kids use cookie sheets with them to spell words.

The kiddos can use pipe cleaners to spell words too!

You can find this printable at  There are other ideas there too!  I am so ordering a set of letter shakers!  They are like Boggle, and they look like tons of fun!  Click the link to check it out!

These are sight word/spelling word chants.  I can't remember where I found them online.
I ordered the sight word flashcards from Lakeshore, and the magnets were from Walmart.

The dry erase word strips were from Walmart.  The mini pocket chart was from Target.  I have four in the center.

Stamps & ink for stamping words.

The trays formally known as math trays are now used in my Word Work center since I no longer teach math.

Another shot of flashlight for reading the Word Wall and funky straws for reading the room.

A close-up of my cookie sheet storage on top of a two drawer organizer.

Cut up pieces of plastic canvas to create bumpy word art. 

Here's an example.  The kiddos use crayon to write their words!


Crayon storage!  Love these containers from Walmart!

I stuck crayons, dry erase markers and an eraser in this little nook by the other materials for easy access.

Big Bling Spelling with the "word work trays"!  I picked up three packs of these letter gems at Pat Catans.

I threw in two more pointers as I was working in the room.  This shot shows you where I tucked the pocket charts.

Sparkle Spelling with pom poms.  This really makes you focus!  I would write out large sight words on a laminated sheet of paper if I were using this with younger kids, because it really forces you to think about letter formation. 

Hot Dot Writing with bingo markers.  Use a crayon to write the word in block letters, then use dots to decorate it. 

I found these little photo holders at Target, and I thought it would be a neat way to practice vocab words with partners.

I cut dry-erase strips in half for this activity.  Everything is kept in a gallon sized bags, including a few markers.

I didn't realize how crooked my baskets were when I took this.  Oh well, this is how it will look when the kids use it, right?

Large flashcards for the Reading Street spelling (yellow) and vocabulary words (green).

I will be sharing some of my other centers for the Daily 5 throughout the week.  Can you feel the suspense building?!  Instead, here are the answers to some recently asked questions.  If I overlooked yours, I'll double check tomorrow and address any other questions this weekend! 
The posters on the bottom are the fluency posters from my TpT store:  The top posters are by Made for First Grade:

I use my buckets for all sort of things.  These three buckets are used to teach metacognition:

Some buckets are just basically sitting around looking pretty... for now.

I like to use my buckets for hidden storage.  In this case, this bucket is a nice place to store magnifying glasses for mysteries.

I keep the alphabet in one bucket at all times for any alphabet books we make, like with Miss Alaineus.
Lastly, here are a few new shots showcasing the finishing touches.  I think my room is ready for kiddos!

Here's a shot of my newly created genre posters on TpT.

Thank you Amy Lemons! I love this!  Snag your own numbers here:

I got an actual listening center today to replace my sad little CD player.  Someone asked about the Books in the Spotlight page.  You can find that here:

Finally organized & labeled!

The bookcase on the right is broken, hence the curtain.  Luckily I had a spare rod and valence from my old school.  This is where I will keep materials for Guided Reading groups.

Not the most impressive photo!  This is my Buddy Reading center featuring parts of my literature circle collection!

This little beauty will house all of my teacher binders.  :)