Monday, November 28, 2011

Christmoose Wishes!

I feel like I've been working on this bundle FOREVER... but I finally wrapped up my new Christmas centers!  It was one of those projects that potentially could have gone on forever, but I finally reached a happy place. If I add anything else, I'll let you know!  As of right now, it is D-O-N-E.  :)  This 44-pager is on sale for $4.40.  In fact, everything in my store is on SALE through Friday!!!!  If you're interested, you can check the new file out HERE!  The activities address compound words (sort & scavenger hunt), blends (sq, spr, str, scr, thr, and spl), digraphs (sh, th, ch, ck, tch, ph, and ng), and common/proper noun.  Hope you had a great Cyber Monday, friends!  Tomorrow, it's back to the daily grind for me!

Thanksgiving Schema Chart

Today is Cyber Monday, and instead of doing a ton of online shopping on my day "off"... I will be tying up some loose ends to get ready for school tomorrow.  I won't lie, my short little Turkey Day break was wonderful.  I actually dug deep enough to stay away from my computer and my school work for several days.  {Gasp!}  Yes, it helped that I was in southern Maryland with my in-laws, and yes it helped that I spent an entire day at the Pentagon City Mall in D.C. zigzagging around frenzied Black Friday shoppers, but yes, I still feel a little proud of myself for avoiding the urge to work on my break.  I definitely feel rested... and I totally needed the mental break... or I may have had a mental breakDOWN.  However, as I sit here at my desk hunkering down for a LONG day of planning and school stuff, I sort of wish I had broken it into little baby chunks.  :)  Ohhhhhhh welllllll.

On to the next order of business.  I added a new file to my TpT store.  I know you're probably shocked, because I haven't been adding much of anything this year.  So, once more, I am going to apologize to anyone who has made a request recently.  I would LOVE to be able to create goodies for you, but the truth is, I have been incredibly non-stop busy since school has started.  As much as I love creating resources and blogging, it has had to take a back seat to learning my core curriculum and spending time with my hubs.  :)   As teachers, I'm sure you understand.  Some years are just HECTIC.  I sort of knew that this year would be since I took a new position in a new school district, but I underestimated just how nuts it would be.  I love it at my new home away from home {school}, but I definitely need to get my feet under me before I can put the kind of time into the extras.  :)  If you are still reading my little blog, THANK YOU!  I appreciate that you haven't jumped ship this year... because I know I had a lot more going on here last year. The good news is... I am almost half-way through this year, and I will hopefully be wrapping up my Masters soon-ish.  That means that I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, and hopefully next year I can be a LOT more creative... like the good ole' days! {Can I even say "the good ole' days when I've only been teachng six years?!}

Okay, so here's the deal with the new file.  It is an eight page file to create your own Thanksgiving Schema Chart...Debbie Miller style.  I used to scribble these out myself over and over again, and draw pictures to fancy it up, then I saw Kim Adsit and Deanna Jump's charts.  They changed my life.  Well, my teaching life anyway. They helped me realize that typing headers and titles up makes everything pretty and practical, because now I can make a chart in one minute flat.  I've been doing this for a year now, and I will never turn back.  :)  We created our chart with the "Colonial America" heading, but you can choose from "Thanksgiving", "The Pilgrims", "Native Americans", and "Turkeys" too.  I know that this delightful holiday has come and gone, but hey!  You can always tuck it into the file for next year!  The Droid X photograph doesn't give it justice... but here's a little snapshot of the finished product!  If you're interested, you can snag the file HERE!  Plus, it's on SALE with everything else in my store!

Please forgive my smeary white board.  This is what real life looks like!  :)

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

I'm Thankful for ... Tired Feet the Caveman!

How am I thankful?  Let me count the ways...

First of all, I am uber excited about my little authors.  Sure, I miss Units of Study something fierce, but when it comes down to it, teaching the craft is teaching the craft.  I have some artful little kiddos.  Enter Exhibit A of my thankful list:

"Once there was a caveman named Tired Feet, and as you guessed, he had tired feet.  He is the caveman who invented the car.  He was an ordinary caveman with ordinary duties, except his best friend Bonzo discovered fire, and his Triceratops was named after his hero Fred Flintstone.  One day, Tired Feet was playing with Fred and he walked into Bonzo.  "Careful, you might burn yourself"said Bonzo.  Tired Feet thought, "Burn? Bad?"  Bonzo told his best friend that he discovered fire. "No touch.  Fire hurt" said Bonzo.  Tired Feet nodded and left.

While walking Tired Feet said, "Me want buy rock."  Back then, hair was money.  Tired Feet was rich so he bought the most expensive one.  It costed 3 clumps and it looked like a flat cylinder. He bought four rocks.  When he was asleep, Fred the triceratops put on on each horn.  When Tired Feet woke up, he thought that Tri had broken them and kicked him out.  He made the last one a hole.  Then he got a lightbulb over his head.  He got his 5 foot 2 inches rock, carved 2 holes in it, got a long cylinder rock, and put the long cylinder in the holes.  Next thing you know, he's selling them, and now you know Henry Ford didn't invent the car."

Ok, beyond the fact that Henry Ford was responsible for the assembly line and not necessarily the inception of automobiles, let's just say that I am a little smitten by this creative little tale.  ONE.  MORE.  DAY.  One more day until a turkey, sleep, and shopping-filled break!   Happy Dance!!!!!

Seriously though, I love unexpected moments like this story... and another unmotivated spontaneously motivated student who recently wrote a seven-pager.  He claims he was bitten by the writing bug and that it's my fault.  I just LOVE sharing my excitement about reading and writing with my thirdsters... and if that means that they catch just a little smidgen of that illness, I'm okay with sharing my "germs" or "bugs" or whatever else they want to call it.  :)  Cooties maybe?

At any rate, I am so thankful for a job that I LOVE.  Sure, sometimes it's a challenge, and sometimes I feel like I'm on a treadmill, but at the end of the day, I can't imagine doing anything else.  Teaching is totally a calling... and you know we don't do it for the money!!!  Ha!

I'm also thankful for God's never-ending grace, my wonderful husband, my rascal pups, my family, my friends & co-workers, my new forever home, my bloggy buddies, my fantastic followers, TpT, chocolate, Ann Taylor Loft, Modern Family, my new guilty pleasure New Girl (because I might be a little lot like Jess), and about a bajillion other things.  In all seriousness, God has blessed me in totally unfathomable ways over the past few years.  I used to feel like the walking billboard for Murphy's Law, but fortunately all of the puzzle pieces have started to fall into place for me.  My life may be far from perfect, but I have no doubt that I am exactly where I am supposed to be right now, and for that, I am thankful.  :)  Happy Turkey Day friends!  Thanks for continually inspiring me to keep improving my instruction, and thanks for always providing me with feedback on my own lessons.  I am so very grateful for our collaborative "family"!   I know I am being a rule-breaker with my format, but I hope you all forgive me.  This is all I can muster.  After all, I'm not on break yet.  You'll have to take it easy on me!!!   I can't narrow my favorite blogs down to three of them anyway!!!!

It's not too late! Join my sweet friends at What the Teacher Wants... and share what you're thankful for! :)

Saturday, November 19, 2011

I Am a Walking Tornado!

I remember my first year of teaching so vividly.  I was teaching in an inner-city behavior school part-time, and I spent my evenings working at a daycare center.  I drove an hour to work every morning, worked with elementary and middle school kids with more real-world knowledge (street cred) than I had, and I was in charge of creating a new Title program from scratch in a pretty barren library-less environment.  It was a crazy time, and it forced me to grow so much as an educator in one short year.  I worked from 9-12, then drove a half an hour, ate a quick lunch, and started my 1-8 PM job at the daycare.  Every single day I walked in to job number two, my co-workers teased me and called me a walking tornado.  I was also called "Alex" (think Madagascar), because of my lovely wind-swept locks.

Well, as I was sitting here trying to think of something super amazing and interesting to post, it occurred to me that some things never change.  I am still a walking tornado.  :)  My life has been such a whirlwind this year, and my year six has totally been a year one for me all over again.  I have been the world's worst blogger this year, and I have barely had time to think about making supplemental resources let alone create anything note-worthy. It's driving me completely and utterly bonkers! So, I am sorry to anyone who has emailed me or made any product requests in the past month or so.  I've been busy with report cards, two weeks of student-led conferences, special projects for our Building Leader Team & OIP process, assemblies, lesson plans, meetings, and a field trip.  I'm pretty sure that's not an all-inclusive list, but wow.  Beyond that, there is a TON going on in my personal life. Hectic! I still need to make it through observations with my principal and several more days of school before a much needed break.  :) {On a happy note though, we just got our fall OAA test scores back for Reading, and our building kicked some serious tush!  About 80% of my 48 kiddos passed the first round of testing.  Many of the kiddos had great scores, and now it's time to analyze their results, imbed more test prep into Reading Street, and pump up the volume.  I am aiming for a 100% passing rate this spring!  Lofty goal?  Perhaps...but definitely possible.  Growth is really what it's all about though... so now it's time to G.R.O.W.}

I feel like I've said this umpteen times this year, but I am not a very stellar photographer this year. So this is really just the tip of the iceberg...and it really only shows what I remembered to snap pictures of!  :)  Hope you find something useful!  We are in the middle of creating a mural for Social Studies, but I can't bring myself to take photos of a half-finished project.  :)

Disclaimer:  The pastel pumpkin art project was done in Art, but they are so cute I had to share!

Author's Purpose Anchor Charts
My partner and I made multiplication/division fact family turkeys during our intervention period on an "off-day".  {We only have intervention/enrichment periods three days out of our six-day cycle.}  I adapted this idea from the FABULOUS Cara Carroll last year, and I created a little rough drafting sheet to go along with it.  Of course, my teamie took it one step further this year, by suggesting that our kiddos draw arrays on the turkey's bodies.  LOVE it!  You'll notice something on the printable about pulling a card out of a bucket.  I found free place cards online last year, and I wrote one multiplication problem on each card.  The kids drew them out of one of my colorful beach pails and completed the fact family for that fact.  Easy peasy. :)  I love Cara's craftivities... and I totally want to teach first grade someday.  :)
The 2010-2011 model of the fact family turkey! 
The 2011-2012 version with arrays.
Fact Family Turkey

Sunday, November 6, 2011


Okay, I love Christmas!  I really seriously LOVE it.  I do not necessarily endorse Christmas merchandise monopolizing floor space at all of my favorite stores in October... BUT I won't lie.  It gets me pretty excited!  Since I didn't share ANY Christmas goodies last year, I figured that it might be a good idea to post some photos to help with any long-term planning that you may be doing!  I didn't capture everything, but you'll get a good idea of what we did last year.  You're going to recognize a lot of ideas from blog-land... and you'll see how I adapted some of them to fit my intermediate kiddos!  ENJOY!

We made Geometry Christmas Trees... or geome-trees.  :)  Download my directions at the bottom!

We Made Multiplication Mints!  {Thanks Cara!!!  I will totally be making them for phonics this year!)

Shopping for Christmas Gifts!  {A Beth Newingham Lesson!}

I believe this is still available on Beth Newingham's Scholastic blog!

We made Grinchy arrays with the little images in Deanna's Grinch packet.

We made polygon reindeer! {A Lesson Plan SOS idea!}

We had some hot chocolate, wore PJs,  and had a very condensed Polar Express experience lined up in the hallway {train}  to start the day! Our principal punched our tickets... and we spent the day at "The North Pole"... or so it seemed.  :)

We had special visitors!  My thirdsters were sooooooooo excited!

We made Deanna's Grinch craft... so cute!

geometry tree

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Brain Dump...

First of all, I would like to apologize to all of the Reading Street teachers out there.  I intended to keep posting all of my documents throughout the year, but this is like my first year of teaching all over again.  Except this time, I know what I've done in the past, and I am being my own biggest critic and worst enemy.  :)  So, again, I am sorry! This school-year has been a LOT more difficult than I anticipated.  Thanks for sticking with me throughout this really transitional time of my life.  As you are about to see, I am making use of all of the wonderfully creative ideas out there on the web, because I haven't had the time to reinvent the wheel this year! :)

Anyway... this post is basically a hodgepodge.  I am piled under a ton of stuff on my desk, but I wanted to take a quick minute to update you all on some of our recent classroom happenings. Please excuse my crummy Droid-tastic photos!  :)

We just started our new unit on we made this Pinterest-inspired flip book.

We learned about how exciting, strong verbs make our writing more exciting and vivid, so I taught a highly condensed version of The Teacher Wife's verb packet.  We brainstormed verbs and created a web, they made action heroes, and we took a few "boring" verbs and found more vivid synonyms before writing.

We did a little mini-version of Abby's Mystery Box lesson too... and the kids loved it!

We talked about how our prior knowledge or schema works a lot like a file cabinet.  Thank you Debbie Miller for helping me access my students' knowledge about penguins prior to reading Penguin Chick.

We also just wrapped up our Pumpkin Book Reports!  I used Hope King's bundle... and it was super cute and organized.  :)  The only setback?  Trying to store 48 pumpkins between my room and my teamie's room.  If you aren't afraid of a little pumpkin encroachment, I highly recommend this project!  With 48 kiddos, there were soooo many cute pumpkins.  Here's a sampling!

Answer Buzzer Winner!

Congratulations Ms. Jasztal!  You are the proud new owner of answer buzzers from Learning Resources!  Please email me soon... and I'll forward your information along!  I hope you enjoy them, Victoria!  :)  Thanks to everyone who participated!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

An Unexpected Happy Dance

O.M.Goodness!  I was just flipping through the digital version of Scholastic's Winter 2011 edition of Instructor magazine... and I saw my name.  I was like, "Wait?!  Is that me, or is it another Amanda Nickerson?"  As it turns out, it's me!  I had responded to a prompt on Facebook a LONG time ago.  Someone asked, "What do I do when an 11-year old student complains an assignment is 'stupid'? She often says things like "Do we really have to do this?' Reminding her that assignments are graded isn't helpful."  I responded, "Make it relevant.  Help the student see why that skill is important and cite examples from the 'real world'.  Maybe explain a few careers that require that kind of knowledge."  Holy Batman!  I can't even place when it was.  It was literally MONTHS ago!   Apparently they decided to publish my advice, because there it was!  It was a big surprise, and because you are all teachers who will understand how excited I was about this, I had to share!  HAPPY DANCE!