Friday, July 31, 2015

I wish they knew...

Last year, I did #Iwishmyteacherknew and #Iwishmystudentsknew with my class.

It was a very eye opening experience.  I will probably do some version of this within the first few weeks of school as a team building activity.  I stumbled upon this and thought it perfectly captured so many of my thoughts as a teacher:

What would you add?

Brace Yourselves

It's that time of year again!

Teachers pay teachers (TpT) is having their annual sale and I'm participating! 

I will be offering 20% off my entire whole store :)

Get ready.

Get inspired.


New Product

Sometimes I get an idea and run with it...

 Which is why two hours and 115 slides later, I have a new ice breaker activity!

It's a variation on the privilege walk.  I teach fifth grade, so the questions are geared toward upper elementary and middle school students.

Some of the questions are silly (I am sick of "Let it Go" from Frozen, for example) and some are serious (I have had someone be mean to me online).

If the statement applies, the student silently step forward.  

They have the option not to answer as well.

Discussion reflection questions are also included!  Snag it {here}.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Well I won't be doing that...

I took a glorious nap this afternoon and as a result, am having trouble sleeping.  To cope with this, I'm slowly working on my first week lesson plans while listening to some pretty ridiculous shows on TLC.  (Four hours later...I've got my first two weeks meticulously mapped out for each subject!  I've got to set up a planning time with the other (willing) members of my grade level to compare notes)

Coincidentally, they are all about weddings and brides so it's nice timing.

However, these shows are ridiculous and the brides are even worse.

Things I have decided that I will not be doing based on these shows:

1) Having sled dogs transport guests to the ceremony.  This bride was getting married on top of a glacier, in Alaska, in the winter.

2) On that note, I won't be getting married on top of a mountain.  Or on a volcano.  Or on a glacier. Or in the middle of the forest on a mountain in the winter.  All of these magically ridiculous venues happened within one hour of this show.

3) Having a helicopter entrance.  More than one bride went with this route.  Can you say bridezilla? 

4) Wearing a cape.  There are plenty of super hero opportunities to wear capes.  My wedding day won't be one of them.

5)  Making my guests super uncomfortable.  We won't get married in the snow for an outdoor wedding.  The poor bridesmaids were unable to hide their whole body shivering, despite their pearly smiles.  Another bride had her guests ride in jeeps for over an hour to the venue site (on the side of a volcano).  I get that it's "my day" (ish) but don't be unnecessarily mean to your guests by making them endure bridezilla ridiculousness.


So it's almost August and I'm painfully aware that soon I'll have to return to work.  I'll have to get dressed each day and wear shoes all the time. (Teacher problems, I know!)

I had such ambitious summer goals in terms of reading...and I haven't done much of it.  I also haven't done the long range mini-lesson writing plans that I'd planned...oops.

To ease back into the routine, I have:

-Started my first week lesson plans.  Granted, I only have math done...but I think that's excellent progress.  I have a rough sketch of what I'd like to do each day, but it's more just putting them into Curriculum Engine and figuring out what materials I need.

-Turned on my alarm.  Granted, Waffles gets me up around seven am most days so there hasn't been much sleeping in occurring over my summer break.   I don't think the adjustment will be too painful.

-Purchased a few classroom supplies.  I needed a new electronic pencil sharpener since the motor died in mine last year.  I also was running quite low on highlighters, so I stocked up on thirty of them.  Staples had supplies for much cheaper than other stores!
-We took Waffles for her first walk this evening.  I tried yesterday but we encountered a baby bunny and well, that was just terrifying for her.  Tonight both B and I were home, so after we conquered the harness, she went all the way around the block!  She's now exhausted.  She'll be getting a morning and evening walk to help her get out all of her energy.

-Bought new wedges for the first week of school.  Putting my best foot forward does include the best shoe (They were half off! Score!) I also gave myself a pedicure to match!

-Finished up some small classroom crafts.  I'm excited to get back in my classroom and organize my space!

-Start each day with a purpose.  I found this {helpful article} and I'm excited to give it a try!  I will never tackle everything on my work to do list and that's something I just have to be okay with.  This will help me with my anxiety about it.

Fellow teachers, how are you preparing for back to school?

Wednesday, July 29, 2015


This sketch has been all over my newsfeed this morning. 

Thank you DEN tribe for sharing.

Just spreading some teacher love as we all head back to work. 


A nice refresher

Besides conquering both laundry and an exciting day at Chevy (recall on my car, nothing major), my other goal for the day was to get started on my first week lesson plans.

While emotionally preparing to open Curriculum Engine (the site where we make & store our digital lesson plans), I got distracted on pinterest by preparing for your first week articles.  Most of them weren't that helpful, but I found this {one} that had some good points. 

Here are my favorite take-aways from the article:

#1: "Set up your classroom in an active learning format"

Fingers crossed the rumors are true and my projector got ceiling mounted over the summer!  I was spoiled with a ceiling mounted one for years and forgot how much I'd missed it.  Not having a desk or table in the center of the room really clears up space.  Not to mention I'd get to skip the daily (okay, several times each day) frustration of when a child accidentally (or sometimes on purpose) would bump the projector, causing the smartboard to need to be recalibrated.  Without the desk and cord set up (hello tripping hazard), I would be able to teach from the center of the room and strategically move closer toward off task students.

#2: Starting the day off with something other than roll call

We have our morning procedures (unpack, papers turned in, backpacks hung up, pencils sharpened, etc) and class jobs (lunch cards, attendance) but then we do our morning meme.  

Yup, we start our day off with a meme and it just sets everyone off on a good day.  Laughter is always good thing!  You can follow my classroom meme pinterest board {here}!     Plus if you've got a funny classroom meme, send it my way!

#3: Make Up work:

I've done the orange "while you were gone" folders and I haven't decided if I want to keep it again.  I already have them made, so that's a plus.  (Apparently I don't have a picture, but it's a florescent orange folder that says "we missed you".)
I like the idea of using a tub and putting a file in for each day in the month (1-31).  All extras would be filed there (minus one for me to use as the master copy if needed).  With this system, I'd only have to clean it out once a month :) 

#4: Class Norms:

Preach! This is one of our first week activities with a gallery walk.  I remake the class norms poster each year and have them sign it.  It helps with our buy in and provides a nice link to the US Constitution (when we get there in social studies).

#7: Noise

We are near a kinder classroom.  We do our best.  Sometimes there is just loud shouting, crying, and other unidentifiable noises so I just shake my head, try not to laugh, and remind them that I teach fifth grade for a reason. 


We don't do questions stems per say, but rather accountable talk stems.  I want my students to answer in complete sentences and know that it's okay for them to disagree with one another as long as they do it in a respectable manner.

It started like this:

But has evolved to this:


I have these in my classroom at the front of the room.  They are color coded to help students know how to phrase their comments.  Accountable talk stems also help students listen to one another because I expect them to give credit to one another for ideas.

#11: Encouraging risks

I want to do more of this, but I'm not sure how.  Wheels in my brain are spinning, stay tuned!

#12: Self-reflection

I have them reflect on their learning throughout the day and we have class discussions after we try something new (particularly if it doesn't go exactly as I've planned).   I don't know if my fifth graders could handle a written reflection daily, but I like when they reflect upon their learning (which should happen often).  

#17: Blog

We've got a weebly and I hope I have more parent communication with it.  I'll be doing class dojo as well to foster communication with families.  I do want to turn some of the responsibility of blogging over to my students.  I think it'd be a great venue for collaboration as well as authentic writing.  They have an audience: their classmates and their families, so I think they'd do a good job trying to impress one another.  It'd also be a great way to imbed those mini-lessons on technology that are so important. 

#18: Class jobs

Again, amen! My first few years in the classroom, I tried to do all these things myself.  But fun fact: kids want to help!  Fifth graders are not too cool to be motivated by a high five or a sticker.  They want to feel in control and help, so I might as well turn some of the smaller tasks over to them.

I have 36 different classroom jobs and it helps me stay sane.  Obviously I can't have them grade essays, but I can have them remind me to take attendance, file nurse notes, lead the class in the pledge, pass out lunch cards and papers, and other small time-consuming tasks.  I like to set aside the last five minutes of the day (during our "pack and stack") for class jobs and tidying.  Another "negative Nancy" teacher has commented time and again that her students don't need classroom jobs and that things just magically get done.   I like structure and I don't think that's a bad thing.  We switch up jobs every month and I have students vote on their top five choices.  

#20: Learning Styles Assessment

I try to shape my lessons to hit multiple learning modalities (auditory, visual, kinesthetic) but it's nice for my students to realize what type of learners they are.  Most of them have never really thought about this before fifth grade, so it's nice for them to think about themselves as learners.  I stress that it's okay to be a combination of styles.  Knowing what "type" they are empowers them to take charge of their learning and that's never a bad thing!

What were your take aways from the article? Any "ah ha" moments?

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Try it Tuesday: In Kahoots with learning

I'm all about gallery walks and collaborative learning.  I've blogged about using cups as a response strategy and having students solve problems together for math review.  

However, I'm excited to take this to the next level with kahoot! 

I signed up for a free account and will create quizzes for my students.  They'll answer with the iPads and as a table group.  All they'll do is go to and log in with the code I give them (that I generate to go along with a specific set of questions.) 

It looks like this:

There is literally no way for them to mess it up other than typing in the code wrong.

From there, we'll make teams (usually the table teams since they're Kagan structured anyway).  From there, the game begins!  The quicker they answer will lead to more points for their team.    

Here's what a sample question looks like:

I'm also excited about using this to build metacognition for my students.  I can have them create questions for the class.  I can have them answer if the questions were too easy or too hard, and have them give feedback to me and to others.

In the fifteen minutes or so we played with kahoot, my brain began buzzing with possibilities.  This could be great for inspiring students to create really thoughtful, deep questions for one another about what they're learning.  They'll get to take charge of their own learning.

Will you be in kahoots with me this year to try something new to get your students excited about learning? 


From the start, DENSI 2015 is purposefully filled with intentional activities, sessions, and conversations meant to hone our craft as educators.  

One of the opening sessions focused on passion projects, which is similar to Ted Talks, but this time focuses on DEN Speaks.

One of the opening questions was simply this:

Why do you teach? 

The room immediately exploded into conversations, some with tears, about making a difference in students' lives.  Teachers from all over the country (as well as Canada and the UK) shared stories about that one student who was particularly difficult, but they were able connect with and positively impact.

For once, I didn't join the conversation.  I simply sat back and soaked in the inspiration, the joy, the passion of teaching.  I took the time to listen to others and not just wait for my turn to speak. Sitting at the table with teachers who have been changing lives for longer than I've been alive was a very humbling experience.

That is what it should feel like when I'm surrounded by other teachers.  I don't want to be in a cloud of negativity, I want to be inspired by the passion in others.

So let's continue that conversation: Why do you teach?

The answer is yes.

I love my tribe.

I love that they understand the great loves of my life.  

Especially my love of Shark Week.

In sixth grade in ELP (extended learning program, Arizona's version of GATE/TAGS), we did an entire year on oceans.  My research project was on Megalodon.  We dissected a shark and yes, I took part of it home.  My mom wasn't pleased when she found it in my room several weeks later.  (Sorry mom!)

I did discover that I'm not a fan of cold water diving...or sand, which put a damper on my dreams of being a marine biologist.  I obviously took another career path and couldn't be more pleased with my choice to become a teacher.  (Okay, there are moments of doubt but they usually coincide with ridiculous amounts of grading or difficult situations.)

That being said, I love Shark Week.  I understand the critiques that it contributes to fear mongering and appreciate that Discovery has taken that into consideration with recent programming choices.  

I rocked some shark week nails for most of July.  

I tweeted, frequently, about wanting a Shark Week chum bucket while at DENSI.

So when not one, but three people sent me messages about this blanket within an hour, I couldn't feel more loved:

Thank you tribe for knowing the way to my heart.  The answer is yes, this is an amazing blanket that I would love to own.

Monday, July 27, 2015

July goals revisited

Apparently July is ending soon, so I thought I'd revisit my July goals post.  The original post is in italics while my updated thoughts are in bold.

So let's set some goals for July:
1) I will keep my wedding prep talk to a minimum.  B's brother and fiance are getting married next month and we're both in the wedding party.  I don't want to steal their thunder.  

Yeah....I got a little carried away with the planning.  Sorry readers...I'll refrain from posting more for a bit.  I've tried to keep it to the blog and with my mom.  I did get my dress for their wedding and am helping with some craft project on Thursday morning. 

2) Finish The Blood of Olympus. I'm on chapter 14 and don't plan on doing much more the rest of the day.  Plus this will be my plane reading.

So my plane reading became napping.  I'm on chapter 32 (of 50?).  I plan to knock out a few more chapters tomorrow.  I'd be farther along if I didn't have my helper...

We've been doing lots of belly rubs!  Waffles has been amazingly helpful at blogging, reading, and crafting.  Her fur sisters have been equally helpful at aggressively smelling things and knocking sharpies to the ground for Waffles to play with.

My goal is to finish it before I go back to school...and before his next novel comes out!  The main character shares a last name with Annabeth and this is based on Norse gods.  My heart is happy.


3) Learn, a lot.  I'm off to DENSI 2015 tomorrow evening and super excited to reconnect with others.  I'm the only representative from my whole no pressure there!

I learned so much! Now I just need to stop being a slacker and share what I learned.

4) Help a friend earn some great rewards with her online Jamberry party.  We are having lots of fun with our nail wraps and I love that I can have gorgeous nails without a trip to the salon for way cheaper! It's a win-win all around!  I previously posted, I'm currently rocking a Shark Week themed jamicure.
Favorite Jamicures:

Oh yeah, I did that glittery pink and silver ombre look at home in 20 minutes flat while watching television.  Bam!


Her party is finishing up on Wednesday.  We've had fun and I've learned a few things. I don't think the next online party will go as long because there isn't the sense of urgency when it's open for three weeks.  Now I know better. 
5) Finish watching season 2 of Arrow.  We've got just a few episodes left, but it's Shark Week and that obviously takes priority!

DONE!  We've got a new season of Ink Master to enjoy next.

6) Catch up with family and old friends.  We're seeing one of my oldest friends and his girlfriend tomorrow for dinner.  I get to spend next weekend in DC with my bestie.  I'll get to talk to my mom soon (she's gallivanting in Europe and having the time of her life!)

DONE!  I've had some recent painful moments where I've realized that the friendships I treasured just aren't the same because people change.  That's been a rough lesson to learn this month.  I feel like this is a lesson I keep learning over and over again because I have a hard time giving up on people.  But I've also had some great times with the wonderful people in my life, many of them my new friends  from my new school.  Thanks tribe for being awesome.

7) Finish up some minor craft projects that I've started.  I donated a bunch of old items to a friend for her church's garage sale, so it's nice to purge items that I no longer need.  I'm in the process of organizing the garage and cleaning out our guest room (since it will quickly be taken over by wedding prep craft projects).

Done...ish.  One paint project is currently drying.  Others are being finalized this evening (I am binge watching Netflix without shame) or tomorrow after my eye doctor check up.  Our guest room has three distinct piles: work, Jamberry, and wedding.  The school pile is the largest. 

August will be consumed with their wedding, math training, and returning to work to conquer year seven in the classroom.

I've got five or six small wedding projects (mostly for the engagement party) to work on next month.  I'm excited about my math training.  

I'm also excited for this free learning opportunity

It's an online PD on August 4th and I'll get teaching materials in the mail after completing the course.  I didn't have the opportunity to attend this at DENSI, so I'm pleased it's offered again.  To clarify, I'm not excited about the content.  I think the content is beyond important and I am excited to learn strategies for discussing this dark period in history with my students.  I plan to use Number the Stars as one of our grade level read alouds and want to do a better job front loading the novel with the historical context.

Last year we read Esperanza Rising and building in the historical context about the Dust Bowl made a world of difference with my students.  

What are your goals?  Did you achieve them? If not, (no judgment) what's your revised plan for success?

Bad Bride

I've already expressed this to both my mother, B, and the world of facebook, so I can share here:

I am going to be a bad bride.

Today I was at my local craft store picking up some more things for the engagement shower.

I found these:

Which I'll hot glue to Popsicle sticks to for responses for an engagement shower game.  I'll store them in these beauties ($1 each, thanks Target!).

I haven't decided if I'll add a black and white polka dot ribbon or a chalk circle (with A & B) to each but I want to do something to jazz them up.  I'll probably go pick up three more for utensils, but possibly in black.  It all depends on what color I get silverware (because I don't want them to match, I want a contrast).

I'd had a vision of making a banner like this:

With these supplies:

But midway through today's errands, I found this:

All I need to do is add thick black letters, which I can easily print at work or free hand myself.  There is less chance of me messing it up and it already has polka dots!  This was also the option B liked better and the best part? This banner was $4 at Target (as opposed to the almost $30 I spent at the craft store...good thing I saved the receipt because I'll be returning that stuff next week.)

Would both be cute? Of course.  However, I'm choosing to go with the one that is both easier to make and cheaper.  Win win!

I also picked up these blank signs for the photo booth:

Did you know these signs are half as much as the pre-printed ones? I will gladly save a few bucks by writing the sayings myself.  Plus they can be more personalized this way.

After looking through the craft and party planning aisles, I wandered to the bridal aisle...and that's where things went wrong.

Most of the bridal aisle was overwhelmingly too feminine.  I'm marrying a man.  He does not want ornate lace, pearl, and floral wedding invitations.  I do not want large feathers or bejeweled sparkling white tree branches. I do not want monogrammed napkins.

Here's a collection of things that have no place in our wedding:

(If you had these things in your wedding, I'm sure it was lovely and you found a way to make it work in an elegant way.  I however, don't want them in mine.)

Jeweled food stands. ($60)

I know my friends and family.  This will be beyond dirty with dropped food and a pain to clean.  Just no.

I don't even know what the purpose of these feathery wands are but the craft store had lots of options.  Perhaps they line the aisle? Go in flowers?  Are table decor?

All I can think of is how much fun my cats would have playing with this...which is a clear sign that it does not belong in my wedding.  Feathers and jingle bells? I'll pass.

I'm not opposed to candles as table decor.  However, these blinged out ones? From a distance, I thought the jewels looked like eye that's a no go.

A fancy, formal pen for the guest book.  This wouldn't work for our guest book but more importantly, this means only 1 guest at a time could sign the book.  Also $25 is a tad ridiculous for a pen.  

Know what we'll use for our guest book? 


Why? They are permanent, I know they'll work, and they are thick enough for our wood guest book.  As an added bonus, I'll get to reuse them.  One can never have enough sharpies.

Fake diamond place holders.  Again, why? 

I like "bride" things, but I think I'd prefer "wifey" since you know, that's the whole point of the marriage.  I don't think I need a special make up bag for the day.  I don't think the bridal party needs them either.

The aisle went on from there.  My favorite item, which I should have snapped a picture of, was bejeweled straws.  Seriously? Straws?  I feel like that's a choking hazard...

I did find a small gift for my mom and for B's mom for the engagement shower, but that is all that was purchased. 

There was another bride in the aisle, very loudly arguing with her bridal party about the number of bejeweled sparkling tree branches with hanging gems that they needed for the wedding. 

(Zero is the answer ladies.)

I'm clearly a "bad bride" because:

1) I'm on a budget and not at all ashamed of it.  It's one magical weekend that I don't want to spend five years paying off.

2) I don't think everything needs to be monogrammed.  Or bejeweled.  Or glittery. Or perfectly matching.

3) I don't want super floral invitations. 

4) I don't need specialty items for the day (like the guest book pen) that are way more expensive then necessary.


Our engagement shower

Since our engagement is going to be on the longer side (looking at a wedding at least 14 months away), we decided to have an engagement shower over Labor Day weekend.  My mom is coming up for the weekend and she'll get to meet more of B's family as well as the bridal party.  We wanted to get everyone together to celebrate in a low key event.


 We'll be having the shower at our house.  B's mom is helping with dip and my mom is helping with desserts.  We'll be visiting Costco for food, beer, and snacks.  


We'll clean the house.  We'll stock up on black, white, and gold plates, napkins, and utensils.  Much of our serve wear is already white (matches everything) or polka dotted, so there isn't much to buy.

I do like the look of this:

But I'm not going to spend thirty bucks on it when I could recreate it for less than half the cost. Good thing I like crafting!   I have two different visions in mind...stay tuned! 

This will be easy to recreate:

Plus if I use erasable chalk markers, I can change the vague "2015" (or in our case, 2016/2017) to the actual date.

 I do like the look of these LOVE candy dishes:

But the only ones I found online were $40 for the set and that seems a bit pricey.  If I can find them for half that price, it's a do!

As I previously shared, we'll also have guests sign our engagement vase. 

So the final product should look like this:


I'm working on our invitations because I want this to be a classy event.  There is no facebook invite for this one people!

I did investigate the bridal aisle for invites, but I won't have access to a printer for a few more weeks and that doesn't give a lot of time to get out the invites to our guests.  Plus the bridal invites were all super feminine and well, I'm marrying a manly man.  So, I ventured to the regular party planning section of the craft store and found black, white, and gold ones.  They have both stripes and polka dots, so that makes me happy.

I spent most of yesterday working on them:

I'll be going to the post office later to get cute stamps and get them in the mail this week.

I also spent some time working on games.  I do want our friends and family to feel comfortable, but I don't want the gentlemen to sit around watching TV or playing beer pong in the garage.  So  to try and prevent this, I'm coming up with some activities for everyone.  As an added bonus, I'm hoping many of these games we can reuse at the reception.

Ring Toss

I'll be collecting wine bottles to create this:

I haven't figured out what to use for the rings because I don't want the bottles to break from impact.  I should be able to find a crate at a craft store for a few dollars.  

Bean bag toss
These will also be fairly easy to recreate:

I'm not in love with the design, so I'll probably paint something different.  I'll be borrowing bean bags from work (another perk of being at an elementary school with an amazing PE teacher) so that's one less thing to make.

B also wants to pick up a horse shoe game at Target for the backyard as well. 

Not everyone will want to be outside, so we'll have some indoor games as well.  

I like the classic marriage advice cards, so we'll be doing something like this:

I also want to do "advice for B" and  "advice for A" cards.  I'll have the guests put them in something like this:

I'll probably do these cards again at the bridal shower (like a year from now) so I can combine the cards from both events into a scrapbook.

 Another thing I liked from another wedding was mad-libs, so we thought it'd be fun to have people recreate the story of our proposal and our relationship with these:

(Even better? These gems are a {free download} and I can print them on card stock at work.)

I found these adorable cards on etsy, but I think I'd rather recreate them myself:

We could have everyone answer and then do this to share answers:

I imagine I can find lip & moustache straw or cupcake toppers to recreate this delightful moment.  I'm not in love with the idea of having everything be lips & mustaches at a wedding because I think it's beyond over done, but I'm okay with this small moment.  

(Update: I found them, I just have to assemble them.  Bring on the glue gun!)

We'll also be asking our bridal party during the shower, but that part is still a secret!

Any other must-haves for our engagement shower?!