Saturday, December 31, 2016

Highlights of 2016

It's New Years Eve and what a better way to spend the morning than by reflecting on the top 5 "Highlights" of this year!
 This is a link up with Daisy Designs so be sure to check out her original post to see more highlights!!

 First!! The BIGGEST highlight of the year was the birth of our daughter, Kennedy!! She was born June 13th at 3:21am!  Weighing 7lbs 4oz and measuring 20 1/2 inches!! We are blessed to be her parents each and every day!

A second big highlight this year is that we upgraded my husband's truck - we found the prefect truck in the color that he actually wanted! He needs his truck for work, but it also needed to be a family truck that would haul things!  I don't really have a picture of it to add, but it's been the perfect fit for our family!!

We have been doing a lot of family stuff!  This fall we bought two quads so that we can go out to the desert to go riding.  It has been so awesome!! We've made two family trips out to the desert so far this year and my husband has been able to take the quads out riding with some friends a few times, too!  We also went camping with Kennedy for the first time (she was 5 months old!).

I finished out the year (well.. almost! Kennedy was born a week and a half before the end of the school year) teaching TK and then moved up to Kindergarten! I ABSOLUTELY LOVE this age and am SO excited to be a part of kindergarten again!! It's been years since I've taught kindergarten, but it is truly my favorite age!!

We celebrated, visited, enjoyed, and relaxed A LOT with our family and friends!! Having our baby, it just has been so wonderful to visit with everyone and enjoy each others company!

What are your highlights from 2016??

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Making Christmas Wreaths with my Students!

I LOVE making little Christmas gifts for my students to give their parents.  I always think about what I would love to get from my kiddo at Christmas time - something hand made with a picture of them! I love looking at my mother in law's tree and seeing all of the little ornaments and crafts my husband made as a kid.  These types of things are my favorite!

These wreaths are SUPER simple and inexpensive to make!

 1. I bought puzzles from the a local thrift store for a total of $7. You could also get some from the dollar store.  A total of 2,000 pieces!

2. I had a doughnut shape template cut out (by a parent volunteer!).  I knew I wanted to make the child's picture 3 inches (because I have a 3' punch), so I used that as a guide and had the doughnut shapes cut out of cardstock.

3. I had a green piece of construction paper cut out that was the same size as the outer circle of my doughnut shape (this is for the back of the ornament).

4. We had our "4th grade big buddies" help us glue the puzzle pieces to the doughnut shape.  I told the kiddos to make 3 rows of pieces (to make sure we had enough pieces for everyone).  Some kiddos did 3, some did 8!!!!

 5. I took the wreaths home and spray painted them green.

 6, I took the kiddos pictures, got them developed, and punched them out with my punch.  I put an address label on the back of each green construction piece that said "Christmas 2016 Mrs. M's Kindergarten Class." Then I had the children write their name in sharpie above the sticker because it's fun to see how children wrote their name in kindergarten! I glued these pictures in the middle of the green construction paper back.  Then I laminated them and cut them out!

 7. I used an 18' strand of garland beads from the dollar store - I cut between each bead.
 8. I had the kiddos put a black sharpie dot where they wanted me to put a red bead.  I stayed after school one afternoon and hot glued all the beads on while listening to Christmas music!

9.  I hot glued a string to hang the wreaths on the back of the original doughnut shape.  Then I hot glued the laminated green construction paper on with the child's picture.

10. Lastly, I had the children pick out a bow they wanted to put on their wreath and then hot glued those on!

In years past I usually try and find little gift bags on sale for the children to wrap their gifts for their moms and dads, but this year, I used brown paper lunch bags!  I printed out a "MERRY CHRISTMAS" image that was in bubble letters so the children could color it.  They wrote "To: Mom and Dad" and "From:" on it after coloring.  They wrapped their wreath in tissue paper and I put them in their bags, folded down the edge and stapled it shut! I'm sure there are much more elegant and classy ways to wrap these gifts, but honestly, I love how simple it was to do it this way!!

Monday, December 5, 2016

Elf-tacular Giveaway!

I am SO excited to have you join me for the Elf-tacular Giveaway!  You'll find an elf holding a letter hidden within this blogpost.  Collect all 7 letters from the other blogs within this Blog Hop, then unscramble the letters to make a word and you'll be able to unlock the rafflecopter to enter the giveaway!

While you're here, check out my  
"How to Build a Snowman" 
sequence and writing activity!

This is such a fun activity for my kiddos! The children LOVE sorting through the sequence cards (there are 19 of them!) and arranging them into different sequences to tell how to build a snowman.  

Why this activity is so great:

Automatic brainstorming! With the sequence cards, I don't have students saying "I don't know what to write..." I like to use the sequence cards at an independent center for students to explore before we start working on the writing piece. With 19 different cards, the students find different combinations which is fun to see as part of their writing.

It's also easy to differentiate.  There are 3 different picture organizers - 3 steps, 4 steps, and an open box for more open ended writing.  There are also 4 different formats of lines - two sets of dotted lines for primary grades, and two sets of upper grade lines in different sizes. 

It's different EVERY TIME.  The sequence cards and the unique ways that they can be put together make each child's writing different.  I love that they can have a shared experience while creating different pieces of work!

It's great for the whole winter season. I love having these writing pieces displayed during the winter months! It's not something specific to just one month, but instead can be a great activity all season long!

It's at a discounted price until Friday December 9th! 

Click below to find it on TPT!

Here's your elf and your letter!

Hop on to other blogs in this Blog Hop to collect the other 6 letters!  When you have them all, unscramble them and enter them into the rafflecopter to enter the giveaway!!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, November 20, 2016

What is your BEST teaching secret?

Yesterday I met another kindergarten teacher and she asked me:

What is your BEST teaching secret?

I've never thought about that before! It was an awesome question, and I have to say, it was really fun to share "secrets" with her!

On the spot, I told her my best teaching secret is: 

Regardless of whatever classroom management system you use, boundaries are fitting in every classroom, and from my experience, 
kids actually NEED and THRIVE when there are boundaries in place!

So, what do boundaries look like in my classroom?

1. I am quick to praise!
--Students NEED praise.  They need to know their teacher is looking for and acknowledging their efforts on a very regular basis.  
Anywhere from "Wow! I really love how ___ is following directions quickly!" to "Wow! Watch how ____ is coming quietly to the carpet!" or one of my favorites, "___ is it okay for me to share with the class how you were problem solving?"
The children LOVE being praised and especially love being an example to their peers.  I try to look for different children every day and cycle through the class

2. Children get many opportunities to show correct behaviors.
 --Piggybacking on praise, I have the students who are doing a great job in class model for the other students what the behavior is.  Depending on how much practice we need at that particular time, I may call on students one at a time to show the correct behavior - like lining up quietly at the door - or a whole group - like coming to the carpet quietly from their table groups. 

3. I am consistent.
--I try to be as consistent as possible so that students know exactly what is expected and how our classroom runs.  They can be most successful when they are set up for success! One example of this is during centers time, I use a timer or a bell to get children's attention.  Typically at this time it is time for students to get ready to rotate centers.  When the bell goes off, they freeze with their hands on their shoulders.  I say "Our hands are here, our voices off, our eyes are on me." and I wait for ALL the students to follow through with these directions. 
--Next, I use hand motions for our directions.  We all say these together: First, we clean up. Second we stand up. Third, we do it quickly and quietly!  For the past few weeks, we've been doing these directions with JUST the hand motions.  I mouth the words along with the directions, but this sets the students up to go into these routines quietly.  Since we've been doing the directions with just hand motions, my parent helpers have watched in amazement! 

4. The first month to two months, are "BOOT CAMP"
--That sounds more extreme than it is! I just go over rules and routines CONSTANTLY! I have students demonstrate correct behavior over and over again.  Students practice, practice, practice.   It is grueling. By the time the month or two months is over, I find myself thinking "WOW! They have become SO independent!" And all of that painful struggle of "boot camp" pays off!  Looking back over last year, I gave my littles a month to get into the groove.  The remainder of the year was smooth sailing!! So worth it in the end!! 

5. Children get one warning
--I give one warning.  This is one of the biggest components to boundaries in my classroom.  When students are off task, I give them one warning related to the classroom rule they aren't followingI offer a suggestion as to how they can better fulfill that direction, and let them know if I need to remind them again, they will be moving their clip down.  Because I do so much in the first two months of school to practice routines and behaviors, as well as praising the students so frequently, I find that this one warning generally eliminates poor behaviors pretty quickly!  If the behavior continues, I follow through with my discipline procedures.  

So, what is your BEST teaching secret??  I'd love to hear your secrets!!


Friday, September 9, 2016

4 of the BEST School Supplies

When it comes to school supplies, I've found myself reaching for certain ones over and over again.  Besides my love of flair pens, I gravitate towards these four supplies on a daily basis. They make my life easier and more functional!

1. Tape Runners

These tape runners are THE BEST!  I have tried so many different kinds and had some pretty big letdowns over the years, but I've found that these are one of my absolute biggest "go to" school supply.  They make projects go quickly and I never have to worry about the end result like I sometimes do when I use glue sticks.  The best part about them is that I find them at the 99 cent store! SCORE!  I know some craft stores and other stores sell them in packs of 3 for anywhere from $7 to $9.  I will go to the 99 cent store JUST to grab 10 of these things!! 

2.  Paper Cutter

My school has a few of those big guillotine style paper cutters which are great for construction paper, trimming down multiple pages at once, and big projects.  We have a guillotine cutter in our grade level work room, but this paper cutter is my go to for smaller, more detailed projects. It's light weight, fits in my cupboard, is precise, has a guide that helps hold your project in place, and has a ruler that swings out to measure bigger projects.  I use this ALL the time for prepping materials in my kindergarten classroom.  I used it all the time in my 3rd grade classroom as well! It was perfect for things I needed to do super quick - like cut paper to make fraction pieces or cutting around the edge of lamination.  I purchased it at either Joann's or Michaels with a coupon.  The blade is also super easy and cheap to replace! 

3.  Baskets, baskets, baskets!

These are some "little" baskets I have in my classroom right now.  I have matching baskets in a long and thin size and matching baskets in a long and wide size.  They are perfect for EVERYTHING!! Today I made these two baskets to hold crayons by color.  I wanted the crayons to be easy to grab for my students when they are coloring in their day at the end of the day.  I used my paper cutter and cut some cardstock in half, folded it up and made "dividers" to separate the crayons.  Even with this little divider, I can still stack the baskets inside of each other and put them out of the way which is super nice! I got all of these baskets for just a few bucks at Wal-mart.  I grabbed a BUNCH of them in different sizes.  They different sizes come in 2 packs or 3 packs. I bought a bunch of them not knowing exactly what I'd use them for at the time.  I've since found so many uses!  I organized my drawers and supplies with a bunch of them.  I use two long thin baskets to keep my pencils in - sharpened pencils ready to be put out for the kiddos are in one, and the other had pencils needing to be sharpened!  SO MANY USES!!

4. Sheet Protectors

I use these ALL THE TIME!! My two biggest uses are for centers work and for practice pages in my students' take home folder.  These ABC writing pages will first be a center in class this week and then they will be going home in my children's take home folders along with a whiteboard marker to practice their stroke order at home.  Right now I have a sheet protector page in their take home folder so that they can practice writing their name.  These are GREAT for games at centers too - children can use whiteboard markers on them and quickly wipe them off!  Last year this eliminated a lot of extra "fluff" for me!  I didn't have a bunch of student papers I needed to send home, which was SO nice.  I also didn't have to make a ton of copies.  Since they can be easily wiped off, these helped give easy repetition to the skills my students were working on at centers time too!!
It also serves as "instant lamination" when I know I don't have time to get something laminated!  

What are some of your favorite school supplies?

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Challenge Boxes - and SO much more!

I am always on the lookout for great ways and ideas to organize, simplify, enhance, and [you get the picture] my classroom.

Insert these wonderful, awesome, incredible Photo and Craft Boxes!!
Photo from Michaels

They come in multi-color or in all clear. Each box has 16 cases that can be used to keep 4" by 6" photos.... and so. much. more!!

These boxes were a huge hit this summer in a Facebook Group I'm in.  I was so excited about all of the uses of these boxes that I went out to Michaels and got three of them: one colored, and two clear.  They run at $39.99 but were on sale for 40% off.  I had gotten the colored one for this price and then a member of the FB group posted that there was a 30% off coupon that was one day only and could be used on an already marked down storage/organization item.  At that point, I was so addicted to these boxes, I drove to Michael's, realized I had forgotten my wallet at home, drove all the way home, and drove back to Michael's to purchase one at 40% then 30% off of that, and the second one at 40% off.  

These boxes are incredible and the uses for them in the classroom are seemingly endless!
 1.  Challenge Boxes

This is how I'll be using my colored set of boxes in my classroom this year.  It's a great Fast Finisher Activity! I love that I can switch in and out task cards or activities that go along with what we are learning.  It helps me keep track of student progress and I can use this data to reteach in small groups.  I can even use the boxes to assess students!

2. Math Toolkits - I'll be using one of my clear sets for this in my classroom.  I will have about 26 children, so these toolkits will be great for pairing children up in whole group lessons and for using in small groups too! Right now I have all my pieces printed out, laminated, and waiting to be cut by a parent volunteer! Check out Teaching Pineapples' blog about Math Toolkits!

Check out Math Toolkits on TPT
Check out Math Toolkits on TPT
3.  Storing monthly items - (calendar pieces, bulletin board letters, memory book cut outs, etc.) I can use 10 cases to store things from August - June (If I combine August and September) and then still have 6 more cases for seasonal or holiday items!

4. Supply boxes - these will be great for holding a set of crayons each.  Especially for centers time!  They'll be great for children to use individually or in pairs.

Here are some other great ideas shared by other teachers:
  • Task Cards shared by Kelsey
  • "Fine Motor Suitcase" with different tools, manipulatives, and tasks for working on fine motor skills also shared by Kelsey
  • Busy boxes with lacing cards, ABC puzzles, tracing cards, color match games, etc. shared by Gianna
  • Card boxes for individual decks of cards shared by Patti
  • Counting Collections where each box holds different amounts of objects (mini erasers, macaroni noodles, beads, pennies, mini pine cones, foam shapes, etc.) with amounts going up to 30 and extending into higher numbers like 100 for more of a challenge shared by Tarah
  • Organizing Bulletin Board Letters shared by Kelci
  • Small Letter Storage including one set of uppercase letters and one set of lowercase letters to make CVC and other words shared by Lori
  • Early finisher boxes and individual center boxes shared by Kara
  • Word Families for use during literacy centers shared by Heidi  


I'd love to hear how you plan to use your box(es)!  Leave a comment below!

 *basic photo box photo from

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Closing out the end of the Year

Wow! It's been a busy year and I can (almost) hardly believe we just have a few school days left!  I think right now we're at 17 more school days!

With the end of the year coming up, my mind is thinking of all of the final things to do to close out the year:
-Report cards
-Sending home student work
-Sending home student items
-Organizing supplies for the summer
-Giving students end of the year gifts
-Giving my parent volunteers gifts

With all of that to think about, this year is a little different! As I write this, I'm 37 weeks pregnant! I'm due just 4 days before school gets out.  I finally decided last week that I'd work until June 13th (a Monday).  Since I'll be making sub notes and plans for my "long term sub" I decided I'd take that weekend to make sure all of my plans were ready to go and then I'd be able to make copies when I was at work on the 13th.  Also, my sub will shadow me on the 13th. 

So... there also lies my "to do list" for things baby related!

As we wrap up the end of the year, my main focuses are on getting assessments finished to complete report cards, plan for my "long term sub," and to get all of my students' work and supplies sent home!  Then something cute and simple for student gifts.  I'll get Starbucks cards for my wonderful parent volunteers!

What are you doing to wrap up the end of the school year?

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Getting started with

Have you heard of

I've heard about it so many times over the past few years.  I always navigate to the homepage, then sit there thinking, "Am I really going to use this?" or "Could I really give up my custom paper and pen lesson plan book?"

Usually these questions steer me away from going any further than the homepage.  But this weekend, something changed.  

I read a blog post about customizing and Planbook and making your plans look *beautiful* with pictures to prove it!  Again, I scrolled to the homepage and asked myself those same two questions.

I still wasn't convinced.  So I posted a question in one of my FaceBook teacher groups, asking my fellow teacher friends how many of them use Planbook and how they could give up their "physical" lesson plan book in exchange for the internet based planning website.

I was surprised that so many teachers, like me, had asked themselves the same questions, but had taken the plunge and found that they absolutely LOVE Planbook. Some teachers wrote that they use a similar site, but ultimately, those who responded had not only enjoyed planbook, but have been using it for a few years.  

They shared some of their favorite features of using
-It's Inexpensive ($12/year with a free month trial)
-It's easy to shift/move lessons - if you didn't get to a lesson on a particular day, you can move it to another day
-You can create templates and formats to use for multiple subjects and classes
-You can add standards to your lessons
-You can copy and paste things easily
-There's an app!
-You can easily e-mail your plans in case you're at home sick and need a sub
-You can adjust the boxes so you don't run out of room
-You can copy your schedule across the week (if it's the same each day) and add in special things that might only happen once a week
-You can save it as a PDF for easy reference or print them out to turn in, keep in a binder, or just have a hard copy
-You can see multiple years - it's easy to reference back to your prior years plans as needed

With all of these benefits, I was eager to give it a try! 
One teacher commented that I should try out the free month trial before the end of the school year to see if it was something I'd be interested in.  I can't believe I hadn't though of that! 

I also read somewhere that you can add links in and even attach files.  These two ideas were HUGE to me!  Especially thinking of all the time it'll save me next year when I'm wondering where I got that giraffe video I showed!  Or when I'm wondering where I filed that writing paper master I used for that week's writing.

So I decided to give it a go!

After signing up for my free trial, I got started setting up my "classes" which in the Elementary world is the same as "subjects" essentially.  (I heard this was the most time consuming part)

The classes are color coded.  The blog I read suggested to color code "non academic times" as gray.  I also colored my Library and Music times as gray since another teacher is teaching during that time.

Here are my classes.  I LOVE that the ELA parts of my day are different shades of green and the Math times of my day are different shades of orange.  It was SO easy copying the schedule across the days of the week.  It was also easy to add in Library and Music to my Friday schedule only. 
Click the picture for a larger view! 
Right now all of the classes are collapsed so I can quickly see them.  There's a "+" box near the printer icon on the upper right that will expand the classes boxes to show the details I have added.

Next, I started adding in lessons to each class.  During rotations ELA and Math, I have 4 centers, so I typed in "1., 2., 3., 4." into the Monday sections of these rotation times and then copied them through the week. SO SIMPLE!

My Monday and Tuesdays, my centers are the same, so I typed them in on Monday and copied them into Tuesday. Easy peasy!