Thursday, January 31, 2013

New products (I was on a roll!) and a giveaway

Teacher workdays have come to a close, and I feel like I got a lot accomplished - at least for my TpT store. On Tuesday, my sweet hubby called at lunch to say he was going to pick me up and take the family to the Williamsburg Outlets since the weather was PERFECT yesterday. He brought Keagan to the school a little early, and I got to show him off. I'll have to post the picture I took later. He found my rocking chair and loved it!

In contrast, we had those storms move through last night (a few power outages, but nothing major). Well, our school is REALLY old (well, not REALLY old, but in that time where construction must have sucked. Our school needs to be bulldozed and rebuilt) and has a flat roof. Since we've had all this precipitation recently (oh, and snow is in the forecast for tomorrow as well) and last night we had high winds as well, two of the classrooms flooded! Apparently there was about an inch of water sitting, and the kids are in the computer labs for the day because of it. Such a mess! Yet all the other schools in our county are state of the art...

Anyway, about those TpT items:

First, I made a quick writing craftivity for President's Day. It's similar to my craft for Valentine's Day and MLK, but I changed the writing part to a hat. Students write what they would do if they were President. Cute. Simple. Love it!

President's Day Writing Craftivity

My next project was much more in depth. I said I was going to make something to go with John, Paul, George, and Ben. I was thrilled that so many of you love the book as much as I do!

Here's the packet. Don't you just love the name?

Changing History One Lad at a Time - activities to do with "John, Paul, George and Ben" by Lane Smith

I ended up creating a plan that's really a BDA (before, during, and after) on accident. I guess my grad school program rubbed off on me more than I thought. Before reading, I thought it was important to activate their schema (which a big thing with me this year. All of the students who see me at least once a week know that word) about each of the founding fathers. So they will split into groups and list everything they know about each person on a word splash sheet. If they don't know anything, they can do a little research ahead of time to build their schema.

Then they will read the book, and I would have them differentiate fact from exaggeration. After reading, each student will do a biography sheet on one of the founding fathers. This sheet is a little different though. They will focus on the reputation each person had and how they earned that reputation. I thought that was a fun way of looking at it and still have them write what the person was known for. I also think I'll have the students fill out a bio sheet on themselves and do the same. It would be great for making them reflect on what kind of reputation they're building for themselves.

Finally, I included a "Create your own story" sheet. For this, they will choose a different person in history and think about what they're known for. They have to choose a reputation and then imagine what kind of trouble they might have gotten into as a child because of their reputation (for instance, maybe bossy John Smith got in trouble for telling his teachers what to do, or maybe he had trouble making friends because he always told them something like, "If you don't help, you can't play!"). I may add more to it later, but I'm in love with it already. Enjoy! 

And before you go, Lisa from Growing Firsties is having a fabulous 400 follower giveaway where you could win a $25 Erin Condren gift card. Have you seen the adorable stuff over there? I could spend $100 EASY. Go check it out!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Brain Teaser Puzzles and books

Okay, I have been looking for a book of brain teaser puzzles like I remember doing in elementary school. You may remember them as well. You had a group of people, a list of foods (or something like that), and another list of items (maybe a color). They gave you a small set of clues, and you had to use the process of elimination to match each person with the correct food and color. They gave you a chart to put X's and check marks as you solved the brain teaser. They were my FAVORITES! To this day, I have yet to find one. So last week I decided to try my hand at making some myself.

So far, I've only made 3. However, my plan is to make them throughout the year. I put the packet on TpT this morning for $1.50. If you buy it now, you can have all of the brain teasers as I create them for one low price. I will update the price as I continue to add.

Today and tomorrow are teacher workdays here (and the weather is BEAUTIFUL - I may have to eat outside), so I'm hoping to get another product or two completed. I want to do a unit on John, Paul, George, and Ben, one of my favorite picture books.

I would also like to create something for President's Day and something for Dr. Seuss since that's coming up. For Dr. Seuss, I'm leaning toward an activity with his very first book, And To Think That I Saw That on Mulberry Street. Did you know I had not actually read that book until last year? It's so great!

While I'm on the topic of books, have any of you ever read either of these?


The first one was all over Teaching in Room 6's Facebook page yesterday, and I had to check it out. Everyone thought it would be this year's Newbery Award winner. It lost to The One and Only Ivan. I went on my library's page and reserved a copy of Wonder to pick up today. Then I'll find the other. I need to catch up on these two books because I've never heard of them. Trust me, I'll give a review of them as I finish each. Wonder sounds fantastic!

Alright, time to get to work now!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Valentine freebie

I have been procrastinating racking my brain trying to think of the perfect freebie as a thank you to all of my wonderful followers that helped me reach the 200 mark so quickly! I wanted it to be something that would be useful for upper and lower grades, so I thought a craftivity would be perfect. Since Valentine's Day is coming up, that was the most logical theme. I have a confession though (please don't unfollow me!): I don't really care for Valentine's Day. There. I said it! Maybe it's the fact that I was single for every one of them until I met Steven in college. Or maybe it's that my parents never did any of the sending flowers or chocolates like my friends' parents in elementary/middle school. Or maybe it's that my heart is two sizes too small. Anyway, I'm not much for the whole cheese factor. But I finally came up with a craft that I could get on board with that was still related to Valentine's Day. Plus it's a little different since I'm sure there are MILLIONS of heart crafts already out there.

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So this craft has students think about ways that they can show love to others. Yay for thinking about others and not what their favorite candy is or who has a crush on who! Sorry, Negative Nilly had to poke her head again. I stopped her, though! My helping otter (that's our 5th grade helpers - isn't it cute?) did this one for me to show as an example. I love it!

Photo: My new Valentine's Day craftivity!

I'm putting this on TpT as a freebie UNTIL SUNDAY or until I remember to change the price! But I'm also giving my special readers a link here to the Google drive that will always work. (But that's our little secret).

And even though I'm not much of a sap, I really do LOVE y'all and am very grateful for all of your comments and ideas. You've made my short time on this blog great!

While you're downloading my freebie, go check out All Things Upper Elementary for their very first Friday Free 4 All linky party!

Sunday, January 20, 2013


I can't believe how quickly this little blog is growing! Just two months ago, I reached 100 followers and was amazed. Now I've already doubled that! With that being said, I need to get my butt in gear and come up with some kind of giveaway/thank you. I wanted to change it up a little bit and not have some extensive list of people involved (plus I hate to ask people for help again when I feel like I just asked them). I'm thinking of having a flash freebie from my store for one day only.That way I can thank all of you at once! If I did that, what item would you most like to see? I was thinking about my Valentine Literacy Centers, but they're geared more toward upper grades, and I want to be able to help out my lower grade friends, too! Maybe I'll have to create some new craftivity similar to my MLK craft.

Input would be appreciated!

Mrs. Leeby is also celebrating 200 followers with 3 AMAZING gift cards! You really should check this one out!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

New Magic Tree House unit and snow?

I'm REALLY hoping that today was my Friday! After having temps in the upper 60s and even 70s last week, they're now calling for snow in our area starting in a few hours. This morning they said 6 pm, so hopefully it will wait until then. I usually get home around 5. So I prepared all of my kids with the typical snow homework (ice cube down the toilet and pjs inside out), and I'm praying for a snow day! We can miss one more day before the semester ends next Monday and not have to make up President's Day. I would LOVE a four day weekend! Is anybody else getting a snow day? Do you love them as much as I do, or are they more of a nuisance to you? Maybe it's because I grew up in the deep south and still get as excited as the children when it snows since I rarely saw it growing up.

Well, no matter if we have a snow day or not, next Tuesday I will begin a new historical fiction book study with one of my groups. It was not a book that I already had, but I got a copy from the teacher to go ahead and prepare. I love historical fiction, so I'm very excited about doing this study. As usual, the packet breaks the book into 6 sections (the last page is a reflective writing assignment). The questions range include reflections, straight from the book, vocabulary, and even some visualizing. Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Valentine's Day already?

Can you believe that Valentine's Day is less than a month away? This time last year, I was at home with my sweet one month old (today he's 13 months - eek!) enjoying maternity leave. I came back right before Valentine's Day and survived the rest of the year. I didn't do well with missing time in the middle. It was too hard to get back into a groove. This year, I'm finally falling into a nice groove. One of my favorite things to use for centers during pull-out time is my literacy centers. I bought some of Amy Lemons' earlier this year and they were adorable, of course. My kids did well with them, but the centers focused on skills geared more toward 2nd grade (which Amy teaches). I looked for comprehension centers that I could buy by theme and couldn't find anything. So I began creating my own. This is my fourth set, and I'm in love with them!

Monster Valentine Literacy Centers - Comprehension and Word knowledge

Like the rest, I have a mixture of comprehension skills and word knowledge. This one has the following centers (bold centers are new skills I'm adding):
  • Fact and Opinion
  • Main Idea and Supporting Details
  • Cause and Effect
  • Drawing Conclusions/Inferring
  • Synonyms
  • Antonyms
  • Prefixes
  • Guide Words
I took out Author's Purpose and Suffixes to replace them with the others because I felt like there was more of a need for those two, at least at my school.

If you like these centers and missed the others that I've created, here are the pictures and links:

Snow themed - great for January

Christmas includes an extra Sequencing center for The Polar Express

Thanksgiving was my very first. I plan on adding more to it later!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

New TPT Store

Remember back in the fall when I blogged about Kim Norman, the author, coming to our school?

She's so sweet, and I've been in contact with her since then. Kim has been considering opening a TPT store for herself to sell guides for her books and other cute little things that she has created. Yesterday I received an email asking me to review a few of her guides to see if they were "TPT ready". I was so honored that she valued my opinion enough to even ask! I looked two of them over, and they have some fantastic resources. She posted her first few items on her brand new store (all of them are free so far!), and I want to encourage you to check them out.

My favorite item she posted is a teacher's guide for her book, Ten on a Sled.

This book follows the same patterns as Five Little Monkeys, but it's full of wintery animals. They keep falling off of the sled. The book is one that Kim read when she came for her author visit, and all of the kids loved it (even the 5th graders). Her activity sheets that she included as the freebie are great practice for alliteration. It has a place for students to write their name (or an animal) and then describe how they wiped out. She even included a list of great verbs for each letter so students can just choose one. I will have to use this activity with my older students to discuss alliteration!

Right now, she also has a freebie of seasonal number mazes which are very colorful and fun. Then there are writing prompt cards that use the 4 W's. She included 88 of these all for free!

So go check out her store and be sure to leave her some love! 

Oh, and keep your eyes out for another book review of hers. I'm about to get Crocodaddy, which I have been eyeing for a few months. As a mother, I HAD to check out this book!

I also noticed this morning that I am at 195 followers. When did this happen? I'm super excited and will be trying to scramble and put something together to celebrate when I pass the 200 mark. Any ideas? I was thinking a flash freebie for all of my followers.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Tell me something good

This time of of the year can be a very tiring time, or at least it is for me. I don't like cold weather (fortunately there hasn't been much of that here), and I hate that the sun is already down so early. I thrive during the warmer months and just survive the winter usually. After Christmas, give me one good snow and make sure the groundhog doesn't see his shadow. Anyway, as usual, Jennifer at Rowdy in First Grade has perfect timing with her monthly linky. This has become one of my favorite, and I think it's so important to focus on the positives. If you haven't ever participated, I'd encourage you to do so!

Something good from home: We got a new sectional for Christmas and bought Keagan a toy box. Now that Christmas decorations have been taken down, the living room looks SO much more organized! One of my unofficial New Year's resolutions was to actually keep the house clean. It's been clean a lot more than usual, at least. The toy box helps a lot because we're actually able to consolidate the space that his toys take up. Plus it's a lot quicker to pick everything up. Oh, and he's LOVING all of his new toys from Christmas, especially his kitchen. I'm starting to see him mimic us. He likes to "feed" us, although I've also seen him "feed" the dogs (he LOVES his dogs), so I may stop actually putting the spoon in my mouth!

Something good from school: I mentioned this in an earlier post, but I'm actually starting a version of Daily 5 in my classroom! As a Title I teacher pushing in and pulling out, I didn't think I'd be able to make it work. However, I wanted to do more individual conferencing and decided I would have them put together book bags (right now they're just Ziploc baggies) to do Read to Self. I think I'm going to also add Word Work and Work on Writing. For 30 minute blocks about 3 times a week, I think that will be perfect. Then I can do other lessons/activities for the other days. I'm excited!

What's your "something good" right now?

***Quick Update***

The lovely ladies from Sister Teachers are hosting their 300 follower giveaway, which I am a part of! If you would like another chance to win my Winter Literacy Centers, one of those pencil sharpeners, or one of the other great prizes being offered, go check it out!!

Sister Teachers

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Product Swap #3 - a sight word game

It's time for the 3rd ever product swap!


Jessica is so awesome to set these up every year, and this time I was matched with TWO fantastic ladies! This one is a little different.

I am reviewing Karla at Life in Special Education
 Life In Special Education

and then Sasha from The Autism Helper is reviewing me!
5th, 6th, 7th, 8th - Special Education -

So I went to Karla's store (One Room Schoolhouse), and she has SO many great items! She has a lot of math and literacy centers and some great activities for vowel sounds and things like that. The item that grabbed me the most, though, was her Splash! Sight Word Game.

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My third graders (and some fourth graders) still have a lot of trouble recognizing some of their sight words, so I thought this would be nice to use. I like to put my activities and games in file folders, but this one was too long, so I adapted it. I printed it on colored paper and then glued the two game sheets to card stock. Then I taped them together and had them laminated. This way I can fold it and put it inside the file folder still. For the cards, I just printed them on colorful card stock. They have cute frog backs you can print on the back, but I didn't have enough colored ink to do that.

Students read a word, and then they roll a dice (I just took dice and game pieces from one of my other games) to move if they read the word correctly. For my third graders, I took out most of the easier words to make it a little more appropriate for their ability.

  The colors are so nice, and my kids really enjoyed it!

So go check out Karla and Sasha's blogs, then follow the button at the top to see what products other bloggers are reviewing!

Friday, January 11, 2013

Making inferences (or drawing conclusions?)

Okay, I mentioned earlier in the week that my 4th and 5th graders are working on drawing conclusions/making inferences. I feel like as a reading specialist I should know the difference, or IS there a difference? I feel like I was taught there was, but I was looking it up to see and couldn't find anything. Can anybody help me out?

Anyway, I created my Case of the Secret Admirer earlier in the week and completed it with a group of 4th graders yesterday. They loved it, and I was so proud that I at least kind of tripped them up (they had it narrowed down to two and were split on which was the right person). I'm always worried that I'll make something too hard or too easy, but this seemed to be just right!

Today I decided to make a "scoot". One of my co-workers in fourth grade last year introduced me to these, and I LOVE them! If you're not familiar with the idea, you place cards on each student's desk and number them. Then students go from desk to desk answering each card on a sheet of paper. It's great because they're doing a lot of work, but they enjoy it because they're constantly moving and it feels more like a game. I took a lot of them for grades when I taught 4th grade.

This one gives a short paragraph with clues, and then it asks a question. Students have to use the clues to determine the answer and write a short response on the final sheet.

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I used this today with my 5th grade class that I push in to on Fridays, and they had a lot of fun! Some of the cards are pretty easy, and then others tend to stump them more. We talked about how some of the cards were harder because they lacked the background knowledge, which helped pull in the fact that you draw conclusions/make inferences based on what you read AND what you already know (there's the schema word again! I swear my kids are going to start calling me "schema" with how much I bring it up.). For one of the cards, I encouraged them to use a map to help them build schema and figure out what the question was talking about.

In other news, I'm SO glad it's Friday! I love my kids, but this first FULL week back after the break is always tough. I will feel much more prepared next week. Oh, and I already have my post scheduled for tomorrow. Keep your eyes open for Jessica Stanford's product swap. There's always a ton of great items to learn about!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Daily 5 a little late

We're almost halfway through the year, and I'm just getting started on Daily 5. Since I'm the Title I reading specialist now, I wasn't quite sure of the best way to do this. Actually, I didn't think I could. I've been doing lessons and activities that are for the entire group and working that way. Now that I've been at this job for a few months, though, I decided it was time to try it out. 

So today I had my students come in and find books that were on their reading level (or one above or below). They grabbed 1-3 since I don't have them for long, and most of them were really excited to put together a book bag. We don't have any nice bags or baskets yet, but I (well, actually my wonderful para) just labeled gallon size Ziploc bags and put them in containers based on their group. Then I can pull out each container at the beginning and let them find their bag.

My plan is that I'll do read to self, work on writing, and word work as my centers (since my classes are so small and time is limited), and I'll try them 2 or 3 times a day. Then I want to do whole group lessons to review the new skills they're working on or to work on test-taking strategies. I'm about to lose my para for a few weeks because she's having surgery, so I'll be on my own for a little while. I think this system will help with that, though. Then when she comes back, I'm going to have her help me either pull kids or help with the word work station.

What do you do for word work with the upper grade students? I have kids ranging from level I-Q that I see, and they are from grades 3-5. I was thinking prefixes and suffixes for my higher 4th and 5th grade students. Then for my lower ones, I want them to practice a LOT of decoding strategies. Any recommendations?

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Drawing conclusions, advice, and another giveaway

I have a new product in preparation for Valentine's Day! We have been working on drawing conclusions in 4th and 5th grade, and I found a cute little "Case of the Missing Santa" here for free. I liked it, but I decided there was more to it that I wanted to see. For one thing, it wasn't obvious enough for my kids to be able to figure out who kidnapped Santa once they narrowed it down to two. So my plan was to have my 5th graders help me put another mystery together. Epic. Fail. They were WAY too hyper to do it, and the fact that it was based around a love letter made it worse. So I ended up doing it on my own and keeping a few of their ideas to flesh it out. 

The packet includes background info on the boy and his 5 female suspects. Then it also includes a letter and a graphic organizer for students to fill out if each suspect is the admirer and why or why not. I already started it with my 4th graders, and they loved it! It takes longer than 30 minutes though, so we'll have to finish it tomorrow.

On to my advice (or need for it): So this quarter was AMAZING for me on my TpT store. I made just shy of $300, which is WAY more than the previous two quarters combined. I still am a basic seller right now because honestly we can't afford much of anything nice this year (hence the reason I wasn't thrilled that we had to replace my car that was already paid off). Steven took a teaching job next door to me teaching Criminal Justice at a Career and Tech Center, which is awesome, but this year he's only part time. We know he'll get a full time salary next year because he'll continue with his current class of juniors for year 2 of the program AND add a new class of juniors, but money is tight right now.

I feel like moving up to a Premium seller would be worth it, especially since I can pay for it with the money I earned last quarter (once that money comes through), but I want to know if it's really worth it. How many of you are premium sellers? About how much more money do you make for each item sold?

In other news, Holly at Fourth Grade Flipper is having her 300 follower giveaway, and there are some GREAT prizes! 

I am offering my Winter Literacy Pack and winner's choice of any other item in my store.

Monday, January 7, 2013


There are 2 giveaways going on that I want you to know about:

Jennifer is having a 300 follower giveaway where you can win a gift card to Dunkin Donuts and $10 worth of products from her store!

Diane is having her 100 follower giveaway, and there are 3 great opportunities to win! Go check it out, and keep your eyes open for another giveaway later this week that I'm helping out with.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Snowmen and a penguin!

Okay, I said this would be up and ready to go, and it is! I uploaded it to my TpT store yesterday morning and even took a picture of some of the completed snowmen! I wanted to take pictures of the kids actually doing the activity, but I forgot. Oh well. Baby steps. This packet is in my store for $2. It includes 5 main ideas, and each has 3 supporting details. All are snow-related. They are geared for upper elementary grades and are meant to be a little tricky (not too hard, but they aren't all obvious choices). I did this with 4th and 5th graders yesterday. The 4th grade class got them all right eventually after reading VERY carefully and debating over the BEST choice. 5th grade pretty much breezed through it (both classes were the lowest in their grade level). 

Snowmen Main Idea and Supporting Details

When I prepared the activity, I cut all of the pieces into squares (there's only 5 sheets, so I did them all at once) and put them in ziploc bags. Then I gave the bags to small groups and had them work together to match the cards. They had to match EVERYTHING first to make sure it was correct. Then they cut out all of the pieces and glued them together. You could have students color them and hang them up if you wanted! Mine really wanted to write their names on the brim and decorate them, but I only have 30 minutes. Without coloring, this activity fits PERFECTLY into a 30 minute block, at least for 4th and 5th grade.

I also wanted to update my door for the rest of winter, so I went to Pinterest and looked around. Then I stumbled upon this from Mrs. Ussery's Third Grade Class:

How flippin' adorable, right? I HAD to make my own. Unfortunately our walls have not been painted ANY nice colors, so mine doesn't look quite as cute in its surroundings. It was funny, however, as we were working on putting up the pieces to hear what people thought it would be. When we added the belly, they thought snowman. Then we added the whites of the eyes and the red strip for the scarf. That made it look a LOT like a ballgown. I think our cute little penguin is going to stay with us up to Spring Break. I'm thinking of adding hearts next month and then changing out the hat and scarf for green (maybe a top hat?) during March.

I do need opinions though. What do you think I should do about the top? I tried to make a pouf, but it just didn't look good. So I pulled it off. Does it even need anything?