Saturday, December 29, 2012

Balancing all of Life's Blessing- A Linky Party

It has been over a month since my last post and as much as I L-O-V-E love this online teaching community, I haven't missed it all that much

Here is why I'm okay with this. I spent most of the summer immersed in any and everything school related. I spent the first months of school with school blinders on. School consumed my thoughts and most of my time. 

What I realized is that I had a six year old and a four year old who were missing their mama. And I had a husband who was tired of eating chicken nuggets and french fries for dinner. I spent so much time pouring everything that I had into my classroom and my students, that the people who should matter most were being short changed. 

So I decided to take a step back and re-evaluate the way that I was prioritizing my time. Boy was my scale tipped in the wrong direction. 

Here are a few things that I have been doing at home and at school to make sure that I keep the right balance between the blessings God has put in my life.

1. Importance-o-Meter
When my kids (my own, not my students) ask me to come see something that they've made or ask for my help with something I try to avoid saying, "Not right now" or "In a minute" because in all actuality what I'm doing is NOT that important. It's more important for my kids to know that I care enough about them to put that laundry down for one second

2. Keep work at work
I know this is practically impossible for teachers to comprehend, and is actually unavoidable sometimes. Keyword there: sometimes If something doesn't get done during my school day and if it's not critical that it be attended to prior to the next school day, then I leave it at school. I haven't brought home anything to grade or work on for a few weeks and it has been great!

3. Grade Selectively
I started the year off recording every-single-paper that we did in class. (I say "recording" because thank the good Lord that I have a T.A. who grades a ton of stuff for me!) Each week I was recording 7+ math papers alone. I was drowning in paperwork! My new goal: select only a few things to grade each week and implement more hands-on activities that may not necessarily need to be graded, but that are certainly more memorable for my students than another workbook page.   

4. Write it down
If I write something down I have a much better chance of remembering it. That's just one of the ways that I learn and I've known this about myself since high school. But with the iPhone age raging along, I have tried--unsuccessfully--to keep all of my imporant dates in the calendar app, and my shopping list in a grocery app, and my notes in the notes app. For some reason it doesn't work for me. Trust me, I love technology, but in this area of my life I cannot use it for planning my schedule, meals, shopping, or things I need to remember. I had to go  back to the old school paper and pencil calendar book. Mine is great though because it has a spot for a to-do list, shopping list, and meal plan. Hopefully a post will be coming soon about it. I haven't felt this organized in a long time!

My list could go on for quite a long time, so I'll stop here. But I want to know...what do you do to balance all of the blessings in your life? What are your top tips for all of those mommy-teachers out there? Link up and let us know. If you don't have a blog to link up then leave your top tip in the comments. I'd love to hear from you!


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Sight Word Linky- Shower Curtain Game

I'm WILD about this sight word linky hosted by Katie over at Teacher to the Core.

I teach 3rd grade and unfortunately we don't spend a whole lot of time on sight words, so I'm loving the vicarious living through all of you teachers of the teeny-tinies. 

Here is a game that I made in my first literacy class in college. I've never had the opportunity to use it. {a cryin' shame!} 

Our assignment was to make a game using a shower curtain. 

>>Insert a dramatic Whaaat?!<< 

I know, that was my reaction too! Here's what I came up with.

How to play:
Gather your students around the game board. You need a good amount of plastic poker chips (or some other item that is tossable and flat). 

Have your little lovelies take turns tossing their chip. If they can read the word that it lands on, they get to keep the chip. If not, they give it back to you. If you only have one item to toss, you could keep tallies instead of letting them keep the chip.

Play several rounds. The student with most poker chips or tallies wins. You could change it up and play teams, where the reader earns a point for his or her team instead of an individual point. 

If you have wall space or can hang it from your whiteboard or on a fence on the playground it makes a great "fly swatter" game. Call students up in pairs and give them a fly swatter. Call out a word and the first person to swat it wins.   

I'm sure there are many more ways to use this. If you have an idea, share it in the comments. I'd love to hear. Don't forget to link your own sight word activity/strategy/game at Teacher to the Core  

And while I'm at it, I'm going to give Corrina over at Teaching Fabulous Firsties a quick shout out. 

She's having a fabulous giveaway. You don't want to miss the chance to win this:

She has several {I'm jealous!} in her class and raves about them. I'm so ready to FLIP-OUT over all the pencil drama in class that I'm almost ready to buy one myself, but not until I give winning one a try! Good luck everyone

Friday, November 9, 2012

A Turkey's Plea

We just finished parent-teacher conferences this week...yay! I was able to get lesson plans done all the way up through the end of the month, which feels fantastic. Here is the activity that I'm most excited for next week:


I'll start the lesson by reading My Lucky Day by Keiko Kasza. It's an adorable story about a pig who outsmarts a fox by giving the fox different reasons why the fox shouldn't eat him. It's the perfect lead in to persuasive writing. 
My Lucky Day

When I teach writing, I use an "I do, then you do" method. This allows me to model writing techniques and talk through my thinking process. I have a blank graphic organizer like the one below and all of my students do too. I fill in a section and then I let them fill in the section. I let students share so that reluctant writers can hear variations and different ideas. Hopefully it spurs an idea within them.

Here's what mine might look like when I'm finished. Theirs should be similar, but with their own ideas. 

After this planning stage, we write rough drafts. I also model this for them using the graphic organizer that I completed the first day. It allows me to share my thought processes as I take information from the organizer and turn it into complete sentences. 

After rough drafts we revise our own work and then have peers proofread for us. I  have a checklist that I hand out to each student. 

Then we write our final drafts and share our work. I'm going to have students write their final drafts on the paper below.   

You can find all of these resources, along with the revising checklist and a brief 5 day sample lesson plan here.  


Sunday, November 4, 2012

Hey Good Lookin'! Whatcha Got Cooking? -- Pasta E Fagioli

Time for another edition of....

Here's one I made this week.

Pasta E Fagioli
I am not a food photographer, so please know that this is much yummier than it might look in the picture. 

I love this recipe because it's usually a meal I can make with things I have already in my pantry. The only things I might have to go out and buy are the V8  and celery.

Last night I had some friends come over for dinner, and was able to whip this up fairly painlessly. But keep in mind: it has a 1 hour simmer step, so plan carefully for that one. 

The recipe originally came out of the Top Secret Restaurant Recipes books by Todd Wilbur. I L-O-V-E, love them! Everything I've tried has been yummy. You can snag his books on Amazon here. They're great. 

1 lb. of turkey sausage (beef is the traditional ingredient if you prefer) 
1 small onion, diced
1 large carrot, julienned (you could dice if you don't know how to julienne)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 14.5-oz cans of diced tomotoes (I used one 28 oz. can)
1 15-oz can red kidney beans, with liquid
1 15-oz can Great Northern beans, with liquid
1 15-oz can tomato sauce (I used two 8 oz. cans)
1 12-oz can of V-8 juice
1 tablespoon of white vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 pound ditali pasta

Brown the meat in a large stockpot. Drain off the fat. 

Add the onion, carrot, celery, and garlic and saute for 10 minutes.

Add the rest of the ingredients, excluding the pasta, and simmer for an hour.

When you have about 10 minutes left on the simmering, boil the pasta in a large pot of water and cook until al dente. DO NOT OVERCOOK!

Add the pasta to the pot of soup, let simmer a few more minutes and then enjoy. I serve this with salad and some yummy garlic cheese bread. 

So link up and tell me watcha got cookin!

*Include your recipe title for easy browsing.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Friday Flashback Linky: Multiplication and a Candy Cash-In

I was beyond excited for this week of introducing multiplication concepts, especially after scouring Pinterest for some fun and exciting ideas. 

Here is what we were up to this week:

I was inspired by this chart I found through Pinterest. It originated from Allison over at The Hanleys

Here is my version.

I followed up this introductory lesson by having students create these posters. I think I found them on Pinterest, didn't actually pin it to my board, and now, for the life of me, I cannot find where the idea originated. If it's yours or you know who the idea belongs to, please let me know.

I also found an adorable flip chart that I traced back to Amy from Step into Second Grade with Mrs. Lemons. You can find her original here. We did ours exactly the same. Here's how they came out.

And of course, for some additional fun, we got to play with candy corn. You can purchase this fun Candy Corn Arrays activity from Katie Cherritt at TpT by clicking here.

My favorite moment by far, was when I gave my students the opportunity to "cash-in" their Halloween candy for classroom reward coupons and passes. 

The day before Halloween I gave them a list of passes and coupons they could purchase and the cost in pieces of candy. They calculated how many pieces of candy they would need based on the coupons and/or passes they wanted. 

That morning I knew this had the potential to be a flop. After all, what 3rd grader is going to give his or her teacher 25 pieces of candy just to have a special lunch together?? And what 3rd grader in his or her right mind would give up 45 pieces of candy to sit at my desk??

Boy was I wrong! Here is what I collected from my 21 students:

 Over 1,000 pieces of candy!!
(One student brought in over 200 pieces 
and one of my darling boys said he kept around 10 pieces 
and brought in the rest, which was well over 100 pieces!)

The best didn't cost me a cent. LOVE IT!

The candy will be donated to be put in care packages for our deployed troops (My students and families didn't know this at first, which makes the whole thing even cooler). Not only did I save my students from a cavity or two, but we get to show our military men and women some love! This was a win-win situation all around. I think the parents loved it most of all!

I know Halloween is a whole year away, but I'll be putting together some resources to help you hold your own Candy Cash-In next year. Watch for that coming soon! 

And don't forget to link up with Amanda for her Friday Flashback...I know it's late, but better late than never.  


Happy Friday Everyone!   

Monday, October 29, 2012

Linked Up to Thank Soldiers

Natalie over at Teachery Tidbits posted a few weeks ago about a local radio station that is collecting letters to be delivered to soldiers who are deployed over the holiday.

I was a military wife for 9 1/2 years. I spent 8 months of my first year of marriage alone in Mississippi while my husband was deployed, had to watch my husband miss our son's first Christmas, first steps, and first birthday (among many other firsts!), and delivered my baby girl while he was in Iraq. Needless to say, this campaign has a special place in my heart. 

Last week, we talked about formatting a friendly letter, we wrote a sample letter as a class, and then I walked them through writing a letter to a soldier. I had tears in my eyes the whole time they were reading them aloud. Here are a few:

The deadline is Friday, but if you have a few minutes to spare today or tomorrow, please, please, please head over to Natalie's blog, check out the details, and get those letters sent.