Thursday, November 19, 2015

Thanksgiving Freebie-Thank You Grams

Are you like my Colorado teacher friends and have ALL of next week off?!  If so, then this might be too late and I am seriously jealous of you.  If you're like me and still have a few days to go before break then this freebie might be just in time.  

I use Thank You Grams every year just before the break for students to write notes to past teachers and staff members at our school.  I always LOVE finding sweet notes from past students in my mailbox at the end of a long day! 

Two full pages as well as a half page version can be downloaded by clicking on one of the pictures below. 

Happy Thanksgiving and enjoy your break!  We're almost there!!

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Veterans Day November Read Aloud

It's November!  Month of falling leaves, chilly mornings, and pumpkin pie!  Hooray!

If you're looking for a fun read aloud for this week (or month) try Nubs: The True Story of a Mutt, a Marine & a Miracle.  It's perfect for Veterans Day or for a Thanksgiving (so many things to be thankful for) story.  I am a giant sucker for a good animal story and this one has it all!  It's such a fantastic story of friendship, loss, love, and perseverance.      
Here's a video clip of with Brian and Nubs on The Today Show.  At one point Nubs attempts to lick himself, but it's short lived.  :)

Love, love, love Nubs! and hope your kids do too,

Monday, October 26, 2015

Popular Purple Pencil Sharpener

I'm so excited to get a chance to review for The Quietest Classroom Pencil Sharpener in their newest color - Popular Purple! (Doesn't it look beautiful next to its old friend Pinkalicious - which has now lasted 2 school years?)
Quick Review:
I've been a fan of the Quietest Classroom Pencil Sharpener for a few years now and have purchased 9 or more with my own moolah.  I am officially the teacher who purchases the packs of 3 and then fellow teachers come and ask me if I'll give them one for a $20 bill.  Every single one of my teammates who has used the sharpener has loved them as well and I will absolutely buy one every year for my classroom!  So far I've had a green one, two pink ones, three red ones, and now PURPLE.

My favorite thing about it:
My classroom pencils are sharp, I don't have to listen to the horrid noises emitted from the electric sharpener variety, and the kids love using it.

There are lots of great things about this little guy!  It sharpens new pencils quickly and makes them super sharp.  The pencils are so sharp in fact, that my (male) teammate decided to throw a newly sharpened pencil onto the cork-like ceiling tiles to see if it would stick.  It did.

The sharpener is definitely quiet, not like those annoying electric ones.  It is fairly easy to use, although a few of my students did say it took a few tries to master using the sharpener.  They also liked that once the pencil is locked in, you don't have to hold it anymore and are free to hold the sharpener while you turn the crank with the other.  I love that the sharpener comes in many colors and hasn't yet broken.  It has far surpassed any other sharpener I've had in the survival department.  I haven't had much luck with the fastener attachment, but it's no biggie.  Since the pencil locks into the sharpener, even my second graders can stabilize the sharpener while they use it. 9+ sharpeners in and I haven't had one fly off my counter top yet.  :)

Overall, if pencil sharpening has been  an issue you've yet to solve, I would recommend The Quietest Classroom Pencil Sharpener to teachers old and new.  It's gets the job done quickly and quietly and is relatively inexpensive compared to some of the electric sharpeners I've seen ($80 to $100 - yikes!) I also love that these are sold by a teacher!  Overall, the Quietest Classroom Pencil Sharpener has been a great addition to our classroom.

What color is coming next? I'm hoping lime green.  :)

Sunday, October 25, 2015

What Should My Teacher Be For Halloween? Art and Writing Freebie, Now in PowerPoint!

If you need a quick, fun, activity for the week check out my now editable and in PowerPoint "What Should My Teacher Be For Halloween?" Freebie activity.
For the last ever I've had these freebies in Google Docs, but I'm yet to master graphics and fonts in Google Docs and now don't think I ever will.

So now all three versions of this activity are in an editable PowerPoint where no one will need to deal with the ridiculousness that has been this activity in a Google Doc.  Hooray!

Want more pictures and copious blog posts about this activity?  I write about it pretty much every year.  I just think the kids' ideas are so darn cute!  You can check out the links below:
"Draw it Yourself" version - the original
"Man Hands" version - this didn't quite work out how I wanted, maybe with a bigger head? (See how I'm being reflective here?)
"Stick Figure" version - I think these turned out quite nicely, but the "Draw it Yourself" ones are still my fave.

Have a great week of Halloween.  I can't wait to watch scary movies and eat Chinese food all day on Saturday.  Hooray for celebrating in costume on Friday and enjoying the actual day at home!

Sunday, October 4, 2015

October is Here! Halloween Art, Costumes and Read Alouds

Hooray October!  I am a giant Halloween and October in general fan.  If you're as into the month of October as I am or just need some fun October ideas, check out some of these links:

Need a quick Halloween art project?  
Try this What Should my Teacher be for Halloween quick and fun art
or if you need something that will take a little longer you can try doing Mixed up Monsters with your class.  I'm pulling out Mixed up Monsters asap so I can have a cute Halloween door before October slips away.

Need a quick Halloween read aloud so you can chill out for two seconds?  
Try out Storyline Online.  There's a great reading of I Need My Monster read by Rita Moreno that the kids love.  You will need access to YouTube to watch this at school though.  I feel for you if YouTube is blocked by school filters.  I had that issue one year too. I hate it when people who've never taught are in charge of making technology decisions. Boo! (not the Halloween kind of BOO- the THIS IS RIDICULOUS and I'm going to smack someone kind).
Need a quick Halloween teacher costume?
Check out these Super Teacher iron on pattern freebies.  They come in the colors shown above.

Have a little more time to put together a teacher costume or want to dress up like a book character?
Check out this step-by-step Olivia costume.  Plus look at my cute friends dressed as Pinkalicious and Lily from Lily's Purple Plastic Purse.  My awesome teammate just had those to die for yellow cowboy boots in her closet!  
Need an October read aloud?
The Araminta Spookie series is one of my favorites!  Araminta is spunky and quite hilarious (as most of my favorite fictional characters are), plus I just love saying the words "bat sack" which you get to do quite a bit if you read the first book aloud. (It's the little things that make us teachers happy you know).  My second and third graders all loved these books and wanted to continue reading the series after we read the first one together.  You can get it at Amazon here.

Need more ideas for teacher costumes or October ideas?
Hop on over to Pinterest and check out some darling teacher costumes plus an array of amazing October classroom projects and ideas from simple (I can do those!) to way too complex for me (maybe next year - I'll pin them now just in case).

Happy October,

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Do Unto Otters Guided Drawing and Classroom Rules

My fabulous principal magically finagled FIVE workdays before school started this year, so my co-teacher and I (I'm currently in a classroom that uses a co-teaching model - Hurrah!) had FIVE amazing days to get our classroom ready and get prepared before the students came. 

Thus we had lots of time to make things cute and think about what we wanted to change for the upcoming year.

One of those things ended up being our classroom rules.  The sign was faded, you couldn't read them, and they didn't come close to passing my cuteness test.

Thus, we came up with these!
I love starting out the year with the book Do Unto Otters.  It's super cute and witty, and I laugh all the way through reading it while I explain to the second graders (who are staring at me like I'm crazy) why the little things the otters say are funny.  If you haven't seen it, or don't own it, click on the pic for an Amazon link.  I need to get a new one as my paperback is sorely worn.
Since we had a little extra time for a fun art project at the end of the week I decided to try my hand at guided drawing.  This was pretty last minute so I just came up with a drawing and about 8-10 steps which I said aloud as students followed along with my drawing on the doc camera - nothing fancy.
I think the results were SUPER cute!  Plus,  it was QUIET and NO ONE CRIED.  On the first week that's what I call SUCCESS.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

LaborLESS Bloghop and Gift Card Giveaway!

Hello everyone!
Main Graphic Laborless
It is finally here!

Today I am linking with Laura from Where the Magic Happens, Krista from Teaching Momster, and Lisa from PAWsitively Teaching! I have joined forces once again with my bloggy friends to bring you the best, most amazing giveaway on this Labor Day weekend!

All of us have been thinking about  good ways in which to treat our readers and followers.   We thought hard, and I mean it! Really, really hard… and decided that  we can treat you to our best ideas to work smarter rather than harder… at school and home!

It takes a lot to be a great teacher, the stress, the time, the energy… I could go on and on! But, we also crave time to ourselves and our families.

So here are a few ideas to work smarter, not harder
I have a secret teacher fear that I will forget a child's birthday.

Thus, "The Birthday Committee" is my saving grace.  During the summer I grab as many packs of cheap streamers and birthday pencils as possible and put them, along with one roll of Scotch tape (more than one and you're just asking for trouble) in "The Birthday Box".  Then, during the school year our humanitarian (this is a job on our job board) is in charge of using these supplies to decorate anyone's desk who has a birthday.  They can ask a few friends for help and they become "The Birthday Committee" for the day.  They make sure the birthday kiddo gets a pencil, a decorated desk, a card, and they put a birthday hat on my stuffed animal Kermit.  (He looks so cute in his jaunty hat).  I also have an old trophy given to me long ago that is now our birthday trophy.  It's old and decrepit but the kids love having it on their desk on their special day.

All I have to do is write birthdays down on my calendar and buy stuff for our birthday box. The kids take care of the rest.

So, while you're at the store this summer get some streamers, a plastic box with a lid, some tape, and you're good to go.  Work smarter, not harder baby!
If it's just been one of those days (and you know we'll all have a few), I leave school as soon as humanly possible - making sure I feel at reasonably ready for the next day.  Then, I stop and treat myself on the way home (pumpkin spice latte, frozen yogurt, frappuccino) all while telling myself I totally deserve it and WILL NOT stress about the calories.

Then I do one of two things:
#1 Work out - I always feel better after I do this, but some days I just can't, that's why there are TWO options here.
#2 Order take out, pet the dog, watch reality TV (Dancing with the Stars, The Bachelor/Bachelorette, Project Runway, something else mindless) and nap/go to bed early.
If I choose option 2 too much then I feel gross, but in moderation option 2 is my saving grace!
I am a slow and steady sort of TpT gal.  I always take forever to post new products!  So in classic Katie form I spent an entire year getting these homework packs ready.  They are perfect for students whose parents complain can finish homework in 2 minutes, or say their child is never challenged, or for classes where you have students on a large range of levels.  I also like that the menu system gives students choice and control over their own learning.  I refined these over 7 years and loved them.  Even on years that I didn't use the homework system for everyone, I used it for one or two students who really needed something different and I still use the printables from these homework packs in my own classroom (grades 2-3) all the time. They're my "go to" resource when a student needs a challenge, or just something a little different like a research contract or fun word work activity.  

No onto the amazing giveaway!
Top all these great tips and ideas  with these top-notch prizes!
A $100 gift card to Amazon

A $50 gift card to TpT


2 $25 gift cards to TpT

1 $10 gift card to TpT

Thank you for reading! And now go click away!!  Good luck and happy Labor Day!!!

Friday, September 4, 2015

Teacher Week Friday: My Favorite Subject - Writing!

A few years ago I participated in the Colorado Writing Project as part of my summer PD and it completely changed the way I taught writing.  What went from the lamest subject in my class, turned into the most fun and fulfilling part of my day!  
One of the most important things I learned is the role of the teacher as author.  On the very first day of the year I always show the kids my ever growing collection of writer's notebooks (some cute - shown up front, and some not cute - hidden in back).  

Now I model every part of the writing process and publish new pieces right alongside my kids. I've written stories about my sister screaming through a snorkel (ingeniously titled Screaming Through a Snorkel) after seeing one tiny fish in the ocean, one about passing out at the eye doctor (yep, I can pretty much faint anywhere), another about almost losing my dear dog Lily on a frightful nighttime walk, and the one shown above about being forced to leg wrestle in first grade PE.  This would now be illegal, but in the eighties I guess there were no rules about making two six year olds attempt to flip each other over while on their backs using only their legs while the other students screamed around them in a circle. Can you say SCARRED FOR LIFE?!  
Katie Wood Ray's book has been my "go to" writer's workshop book ever since that summer PD.  I love all the quotes from authors she uses.  
These inspired me to create my own "Think Like and Author, Write Like an Author" bulletin boards.  I love looking for new authors and mentor texts to inspire me and my students as writers.
When I see sweet dedications like the one above it absolutely makes my day!
and seeing students engaged, reading their classmates' stories is the best!  I can't wait for another year of writing, sharing, and learning more about my students from their stories.

If you're interested in more detailed posts about writing in my classroom here's a start. I'm hoping to add lots more this year including revising mini lessons, editing strategies, the road to publishing, and more mentor texts!

I've written more about some of my favorite mentor texts at these posts:
Making Mentor Texts Meaningful and Memorable
Collecting Mentor Texts for Writing

If you're looking for info about a back to school writing activity focused on idea generation check out this post:

If you're working on research or informational writing this post could be helpful (you might have to wade through a few pictures of Lily in her winter coat though):

Thanks to the authors at Blog Hoppin' for helping me get my booty in gear and motivating me to blog for 5 days in a row!  Hurrah!

I have a new job in second grade this year where I'll actually be able to TEACH, not just distract children from jumping on the air conditioner.  I'm excited to take lots of pictures and start posting about TEACHING again.  Hooray!
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