Monday, January 28, 2013

My Visual Centers: A Week in the Life!

You've probably seen the ever-fabulous Deedee Wills' visual plans by now.  :)  I swear, she must not sleep.  Like ever!  Anyway, I tore a page from her book, quite literally.  I created a little visual centers page to show you what my week looks like in terms of center rotations.

I get lots and lots of questions about how centers work in my classroom.  I primarily cram them into the morning work segment of my day, but I occasionally make room in class for them too.  :)  The kiddos start arriving at school around 9:05, and they slowly filter into the room.  They always have morning work to do leading up to the announcements at 9:30. {This is when the kiddos chose from the Morning Work Menu.}  We have a 25 minutes in between announcements and specials that's devoted to centers.    {Yes, we have a totally weird schedule, but my partner and I have made it work for our little departmentalized world.}   Any-who!  :)  The kiddos enjoy working their way through the centers each morning, and they are always asking when I will be done with my next set.  They are totally my inspiration for getting them done on time each month!  Here's a peek at how my current centers look:

If you're interested in taking a closer look, you can click on the photo to download a pdf version with live links.  I included links to each resource including a few FREEBIES.  :)  

If you want a refresher on how I organize my centers, you can find that HERE!  Have a good one! 

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Love and Literacy: Valentine's Day Centers!

It's hard to believe that Valentine's Day is right around the corner, but it is!  Time is absolutely flying by at a blistering pace, isn't it?  Luckily, I managed to get my new Love and Literacy centers done in time by some kind of miracle.  :)

If you're looking for some holiday centers to use with your kiddos, you can check out this 122 page file HERE!  I am so excited to use them with my kiddos in a few weeks, but in the meantime, it's back to lesson planning for the week ahead!  Enjoy the rest of your Sunday!  :)

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Beep Beep Boop Boop: A Facebook Giveaway!

Since Rafflecopter is throwing a tantrum today and won't cooperate with me, simply "like me" on Facebook, and then leave a comment letting me know that you follow me! :) I will draw a winner the old fashioned way! Oh, technology!  Gotta love it! :)  Good luck, friends!

Friday, January 25, 2013

Rocks in His Head and A Little Problem-Solving!

Our main selection for the week was "Rocks in His Head".  This was a fast and furious kind of week, so I knew I had to throw a craftivity into the mix somehow to give a little something back to my kiddos.  We've really been focusing on the series' essential questions this year, and I do think it's made a big difference for my kiddos.  This week, I wanted to do a little reader response activity to help bring us closer to the concept question of the week.

So, after working through a few repeated readings, I broke my kiddos into groups to form discussion tables.  I lifted text from the story to correspond with questions I wanted my students to ponder.  Of course, they could always go back to the text to look it up, but I wanted to draw their attention to particular passages as they discussed their thoughts.  

I used little color-coded rock cards to randomly group my kiddos for this activity.  :)  

{Yes, that's my Coke in the corner.  I was pulling a late night at school, and I was in serious need of caffeine! Ha!}  

The kiddos worked around the butcher paper to discuss their ideas and record their answers.

Here's an example of how they turned out.  It's nothing fancy, but it got the job done! :)

To try to get to the heart of the story, we talked a lot about unique interests and how our passions can lead us down different paths in life.  I had the kiddos make text-to-self connections by thinking about their own unique interests.  We made little rock people to reflect on how our interests shape us and lead us to new opportunities.

Before starting this story, we had just wrapped up Unit 2 which is all about solving problems.  (As I mentioned before, we take about 8 days for each story.  We also skipped Unit 3 as a district to allow us to take our time and use Unit 3's stories and resources supplementally.  So, if you are wondering why this seems so wonky and out of order, it's because we aren't progressing from one story to the next in order.  Just a little nugget for my RS peeps!)  Anyway, to wrap up our unit, the kiddos had to work to create plans for inventions that would help solve problems.  They used the "Inventor's Notepad" from my Inventors: An Engineering Workshop unit.  I may not teach science anymore, but I love to incorporate it whenever I can.  :)

After planning out their inventions, the kiddos were responsible for creating advertisements and commercials, and they presented them to the class.  I think they had some really great ideas!  :)

It's still been super busy at school, and you know you've had a crazy week when you find yourself eating your lunch here... after running all over the place for the rest of your lunch period... on a Friday...

...but it's funny.  It's amazing how you can have the most hectic day, week, or month, and when it comes down to it, seeing your students grow, learn, and enjoy the process is totally worth it in the end.  

In closing, I want to leave you with a moment that caused me to giggle this week.  One of my students is in Girl Scouts, and she said she had to use a doll to represent a person for one of her badges.  She decided to create yours truly.  As you know, I've had braces for about a year and a half.  (Yay.)  Well, she is in the process of starting orthodontics herself, so I've fielded lots of questions over the past few months.  Friends, I'd like to introduce you to "Mrs. Nickerson".  I die!

Bahahahahaha!  I don't know whether to be flattered that she used Barbie or saddened that her/my braces are so noticeable!  Ha!  :)  Either way, my first thought was, "How precious!", and my second thought was, "I cannot wait to get these things off of my face!"  :)  Oh, kiddos!  They always find ways to make you laugh, right?!  

Well, it's Friday, and I am about to indulge in Chinese food.  {No cooking for this lady tonight!}  I'm about to kick up my feet, relax, and breathe.  :)  Have a great weekend, friends! 

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Keeping It All in Perspective!

Life is one big CRAZY TOWN when you stop to think about it.  In our society, we're always rushing around trying to accomplish 456,826 things at once.  Bare minimum.  It's so easy to get swept up in all of the hoopla, so this post is devoted to real life.  All of it.  :)  I'm talking about those moments when your computer dies right in the middle of report card week and you find yourself on the verge of tears every time you think about it because your gradebook is online... your assessment data is online... and basically your whole life is on that stinkin' machine.   Okay, so maybe that was just one recent example from my own life, but truly, it's so easy to get caught up in everything and freak out!  I seriously just had one of those weeks.  Literally, last week,  I was the walking billboard for Murphy's Law.  Now, trust me, I took the time to count my blessings too, and I know that all of my obstacles were minor in the grand scheme of things, but I felt like I would NEVER get everything done and that technology was somehow out to get me! Once I slowed down enough to breathe, I realized that my life would, in fact, go on without my computer.  It would, in fact, go on if I had to install every file, program, and font all over again once the hard drive was replaced.  I would, in fact, get my grades and comments done on time, and LIFE WOULD GO ON.  So, in the meantime, I checked all of my non-technological things off of the list, spent more time with my hubs, and I enjoyed quite possibly the most beautiful, most vibrant, reddest sunset I have ever seen.  I don't know about you all, but I know I don't slow down enough to enjoy the simple things in life nearly enough.  My technological nightmare helped me really think about teaching, blogging, TpT, and life in general, and I suppose I have a lot to say about it today!  Buckle up, friends! ;)

Let me start by saying that I owe my friend Rebecca a nice big bloggy write-up because in the midst of my computer fiasco, I was unable to participate in the Product Swap last week.   Okay, and first of all, if you don't follow Darlin' in First, you MUST!  Rebecca is a fabulous teacher, and she makes adorable and creative products!  I have also had the pleasure of meeting her in real life, and she is quite possibly one of the cutest and sweetest people in the whole world.  For real.  :)  Anyway, we paired up for the product swap, and I was very fortunate to be able to review "The Case of the Mystery 100th Day Bottle" project.  It is just way too cute for words!  I am actually pretty excited about using this packet with my kiddos this year, because I think it's another great way to integrate drawing conclusions in a really tangible way to (once again) tie it back into what we do as readers. !  Let's check it out, shall we?

The packet comes with lots of printables to get the project off of the ground.  They come in color or black and white.  :)  I chose color, because it's just so much prettier, but considering that I have 56 kiddos, I will most likely use black and white with them!  Here's a shot of some of the contents.  I realized now that I forgot to print the parent letter, but it is super detailed and cute.  :)  It explains the purpose of the activity and includes instructions to help the parents assist their kiddos as they put their 100th Day bottles together.  The project is intended to be completed at home.

The following photo is a close-up of the mystery bottle and the bag.  Essentially, the kiddos fill their bottles with 100 beads or pebbles or whatever, and then they use the printables from this packet to decorate their bottles and bags.  All of the materials needed (except for the bottles) are sent home with the kiddos when the parent letter goes home.  I added ribbon, because I LOVED the way Rebecca added ribbon to her version, but it's totally optional, of course!  :)    ( NOTE: I used a small bottle, because that's what I had on hand!)

I read that Rebecca sends envelopes home with her kiddos and has them slip their clues inside.  Then they attach a label to the outside.  (She also includes photos in the file to show you how she organized the materials.)  I decided to give this component a little bit of a spin. Instead of using an envelope,  I glued the three clues to a regular-sized piece of construction paper, spacing them evenly.  Then I cut the paper into thirds.  I used a different color for the cover, and I attached the label to the front of it.  I also cut a blank piece of paper to use as the backing.  Next, I stapled the strips together, hot-glued ribbon down the side to cover the staples, and  glued an additional ribbon to the top to tie it all together with the adorable bag and the bottle!

To make a long story short, I LOVE this resource, and I will definitely be using it with my kiddos this year.  :)  It's just precious!

NOTE:  This product was recently removed, so it is no longer available!  Sorry if you missed it!

In other news, I have been trying to finish my Valentine's Day centers.  I started them before Christmas, and then I pretty much spent two weeks fighting the flu and sleeping, so they took a back seat.  Then school started, and they took a back seat again, because it was time for benchmarks and report cards and my computer crashed.  Now I am finally in a good place to resume working on them.  Thank goodness!  My kiddos are already asking, "Did you make any new centers yet?"  and "Are you making new centers for Valentine's Day too?"  Seriously, they keep me busy! :)  I am so happy they enjoy the activities though, and for that reason, I'll keep chugging along!    Here's your proof that it's coming your way soon-ish.

Now that I've gotten all of that off of the plate,  I want to get back to the meat of this post.  :)  Keeping it all in perspective is sometimes hard to do.  I know that I am my own worst enemy, and I struggle to keep my Type A tendencies in line.  I fuss over details, and I sometimes work myself up way too much about things.  This blog has, at times, become one of those things.

I've been blogging on this site for two and a half years, and I used to contribute to a collaborative blog and run a pretty elaborate classroom website before that.  I don't consider myself an expert, but I feel like I've gone through my own peaks and valleys when it comes to the whole blogging song and dance, so with all of the recent posts to newbies about dos and don'ts and everything in between, I figured I would offer my own nuggets of wisdom to all of the new bloggers and sellers out there.

First of all, I started blogging to share ideas and learn from others.  This remains my goal, first and foremost.  I would be lying if I said that TpT hasn't been a huge BLESSING, but that's not why I started this journey.  I started this journey to share what I am doing in my classroom, to share the resources I have created for my kiddos, and to keep up on what others are doing.  It's not about having the most followers, making the most money, or having everybody know your name.  It's not a competition.  It's not a life and death situation.  Blogging should be FUN... and you should write for yourself.  When you worry too much about what your "audience" wants, sometimes it's easy to lose yourself in the process.  I think the same thing can be said for products.  If you are making things simply for the sake of making some moolah, are you making them for the right reasons?  Do they jive with your own educational philosophy, or are you just selling them because you saw something similar on the Top 100 list?  I think we all have to be careful not to get caught up in the rat race.  I sometimes get discouraged, but personally, I would rather see myself fall down that list than sacrifice my own principles and ethics.  Hands-down.  :)   I also realize that there's much more to life than that.

Secondly,  I try to be cautious.  I am very careful not to cross any lines with my blog or my store.  I will not sell anything that is associated with my school's curriculum out of respect for my administration.   I don't want any gray areas to develop.  The same can be said about other sellers' products.  I think we all need to be cognizant of the fact that we should not be making money off of the backs of other people or other programs.

Lastly,  I also try not to let blogging consume my life.  Honestly, it's hard not to get caught up in everything, and I admit that I spend a lot of time on school stuff, but if you are going to be happy, healthy, and balanced, you need to find some time away from the computer too.  My work-friend Jenny recently asked me, "Do you sleep like 40 minutes a day?  How do you get everything done?"  The answer is... you know what?  I don't always get everything done, but I never lose sleep over it, because it will eventually get done, just maybe not that day.  As neurotic and Type A as I can be, I never stay up late to work.  I am always in bed by at least 10:30, and I actually require a LOT of sleep to operate! Ha!  So,  when I am awake, I really work hard to manage my time wisely and prioritize tasks because I can't do it all, nor would I ever want to.  I try to focus and get my work done without distractions so that I can enjoy life outside of teaching too.  Lately, I've really enjoyed spending extra time with Mr. Wonderful and decorating our home one detail at a time.  I've also been working on some professional development pieces for teachers in my area, which is a nice change of pace for me too, even though it's still teaching-related.  :)

For me, any time I start to beat myself up for not blogging enough or not making enough products, I just think about the fact that I also have a home and a husband and a dog.  I also have a life.  It's great to be passionate about your job, but it's healthy to have other passions too.  For me, I'm going through a season of my life where I am shifting gears.  I am realizing that if I keep the pace I've been running for the past seven years, I am going to burn out before I even get CLOSE to retirement!  I don't want to look back on my life and feel like I've missed out on anything because I was too busy working.  I want to act silly with my husband.  I want cook amazing dinners... and travel... and sometimes... I just want to relax.  Since I'm turning 29 this year, I'm also starting to think more about starting a family in the next few years.  Of course,  in addition, I want to shop for bargains and immerse myself in my other love... home decorating.

Recently, I fell in love with drapes, and I lucked out because they were on sale!  Score!  So, I spent the evening hanging them with my hubs and goofing off by the fireplace.

Another day, I found three cute little mirrors on-the-cheap at Marshalls, and then I went on a little trip to a hardware store with the hubs to hang them with drawer pulls.

Just like the sunset I mentioned earlier in this post, it's about the little things.  It's about the beauty that is all around us... the beauty that you can sometimes miss if you're too busy working.  Don't miss it, friends!  ;)  Have a good weekend!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Valentine's Day Box: Book Reports!

Hi, friends!  Please excuse my absence.   As luck would have it, my computer crashed last Friday, and I had to replace my hard drive.  Then I had to add all of my software, fonts, and files again.  Luckily, I was able to save everything to an external hard drive at the very last minute.  My computer wouldn't restart or function.  I kept getting two different spinning wheels of death any time I tried to do anything!  Crazy Town, people!  My computer was acting like a complete whack-a-doodle!  Of course it happened during benchmark week, so I've managed to fill my extra time with lots of grading.  Gotta love the end of the nine-weeks, right?  :)  I have done NOTHING but grade papers for what feels like an eternity, but really it was only a week.  Non-stop.  Every night.  For hours.  (I know you feel me! Ha!)  I'm hoping to wrap up my report cards and comments by tomorrow so that I can take a deep breath and catch up on a few other projects and the big product swap over the weekend.  :)  I'm a little late to the party on that one... the product swap.  My computer crashed before I was able to schedule a post.  Goodness gracious!  I was lucky enough to pair up with my sweet friend, Rebecca from Darlin' in First though, and I owe her a write up on one of her fabulous products!  Oh, and I need to relax too! That's the plan anyway!

Of course, before I go to work, I want to share a quick idea with you!  In the event that you're looking for ways to enhance your Valentine's Day party this year, I want to introduce you to my Valentine's Box Book Reports.  :)  Essentially, you send a letter home to the parents about the project on the same day that you send the book report packet home with the kiddos!   Each child should choose a book to read and write a book report about.  Then, they should complete the packet and decorate their Valentine's Day box to represent that book in some way, shape, or form.

Friends, I am SO excited about this!  I am always looking for ways to do cute projects in third grade, but in order to justify cutesy, I have to know that it has a learning link.  I have to be able to justify it.  So, I am really excited that this project will help me review story elements with my kiddos by merging a project with a common V-day tradition.   They already decorate Valentine's Day boxes, so why not give it an educational twist?!  So stinkin' excited!!! I cannot wait to share all of their projects with all of you!  In the meantime, here's a little peek at the packet.  If you're interested, you can check it out HERE!  Happy Thursday!

P.S.  I would LOVE to hear what you think!  ;)  The first two comments get this for F-R-E-E!  Just leave your email so I know where to send it out to!  Just one way of saying THANKS for following!