Saturday, December 21, 2013

A Little *JING* to Explain Classroom Routines...

This post will be short and sweet.  A parent from my 4th grade class told me that I should create a how-to section on my classroom blog for those parents that were not tech-savvy. I of course thought this was a genius idea as well, but then reality set in when I added it to my already giant to-do list. Sleep or how-to videos?

Since I have two weeks off of school, I decided to revisit the idea to make my life easier in 2014. Jing is an easy screen casting program that allows you to take a screen shot of a video or picture and then annotate it. The best part is that it is SUPER user-friendly and quick. Here is my first JING...

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We use Spelling City in my room and students seem to think if they start the game or activity, they get points. On Friday, when they turn in their contracts they have a million reasons why their work didn't show up on my end. Parents are totally confused and often bamboozled by their darlings, so I hope this informational video clears up the confusion. 4 days until....Merry Christmas!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Camp Leader-In-Me Reveal

This post has taken a HUGE backseat due to the first two weeks of school madness.  Whirlwind!  Now with Back to School Night under my belt, I am ready to revisit the blogging world. Here are a few long overdue pictures of my camping themed classroom.

Picture #1:  My 7 Habits Posters & Schedule Area.

  • RED MAGNABORDER from the School Supply Store.  The one in the link has a pattern, but most teacher supply stores have it in red.
  • 7 Habits Posters.  I ordered these from Danderson Art on Etsy, and he created a custom order for me to match my color scheme.
  • My Schedule Cards.  I used magnetic tape on the back of these cards.  

Picture #2:  Word Woods.

  • Dragonfly Lights from Target.  I have a very large bulletin board across the back of my room and needed 3 strands of lights.  
  • I painted and laminated stumps from Scrappin Doodles Camping Trip for each letter of the alphabet which will make up my WORD WALL.  Can you see it?  Lol.  I will put it up Monday before school. 
  • Colored burlap instead of bulletin board paper in Lime Green.
  • Brown corrugated border from teacher supply.
Picture #3:  Clip Chart and Job Board.  Clothespins are still being dyed.

Picture #4: Lunch Count and WBT Rules.

Picture #5: Collage

I hope this gives you a general idea of my decor in my room. The flashlights were created by enlarging flashlight clipart from KPM Doodles on card stock, painting them with acrylics, and laminating them.  The MOOSE was from Scrappin Doodles.  I enlarged it at Kinkos, painted him with acrylics, and then laminated him.  Finally the hanging lanterns with the group numbers were also clip art from KPM Doodles.  I enlarged them, painted, and laminated them and hung them from the ceiling with fishing wire.

If you have any questions, please leave me a note in the comment section!  My eyes are getting very heavy right now. :)

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Down To The Wire!

Good morning everyone!  Finally, finally, finally I have the keys to my classroom and am able to start my class makeover.  I THOUGHT I was going to be able to work in my room all week, but REALITY shoved EXPECTATION to the side and 1 1/2 days was all I squeezed in due to lack of a babysitter for my 3 sons.  Thank GOD next week my husband used some vacation time to watch my darlings so that I can WORK (which is actually a vacation for me).  

During the short time I was in my room, I basically stared at the mess, clutter, mismatched furniture, and clunky desks wondering how in the world I am going to make my room PINTEREST-WORTHY.  Has Pinterest changed your expectations for what looks good?  It has certainly changed mine. :)  Time is definitely NOT on my side, and I am afraid I am going to have to be somewhat REALISTIC (ugh) about my decor.  This is my first year back after being home for three years...

Thank God, my mother, who I refer to as The Cat in the Hat, is coming to help me on Monday.  She has a way of coming into a place, and in a very limited time, cleaning it all up and putting it back together like magic. Wham-bam-spit-spot-poof...and it is amazing!  

Without further ado, here are a few of my BEFORE pictures. Brace yourself.

These actually don't show a lot, but you get the idea.  The really tough part of coming into a room that isn't yours is getting rid of all the STUFF that is shoved in file cabinets (which I had hauled out of my room) and closets (which are minimal).  I have already hinted to my principal that IF they decide to make a change in desks, I prefer tables.  So let's see!

Next week I will be posting BEFORE and AFTER pictures of my CAMP LEADER-IN-ME classroom, so don't forget to stop back by!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Weekly Newsletter with *EDITABLE* Text

Hello everyone! With less than 3 weeks until school starts, I am officially in panic mode! 100 degree heat plus 3 stir crazy little boys =  LITTLE TIME FOR WORK.  Remember the quote by Franklin D. Roosevelt, "When you feel like you're at the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on."  My knot is tied.

On a more positive note, I finally wrapped up my Weekly Newsletter.  At first glance you might think there isn't enough room to really COMMUNICATE all the classroom happenings, but I did this on purpose.  There is a method behind my madness. :)

Since I am encouraging my parents to use my CLASSROOM BLOG as the primary resource for school information, I was able to significantly downsize my WEEKLY NEWSLETTER. If I gave them everything in the newsletter, why would they need to look at the blog?  The newsletter has a space for upcoming important events and key learning highlights, but the rest is devoted to the the behavior report, which correlates with my Camping Clip Chart.

Here is how it will work in my classroom.  Each day, I will record their clip ups and clip downs on my behavior compass spreadsheet, along with notations as to why they clipped down.  On Friday, I will record this onto the Weekly Behavior Compass chart by putting an X in the box next to each day, and if a clip down occurred, the # from the behavior codes box.  The codes correspond to my classroom rules:

1- Follow directions quickly
2- Raise your hand for permission to speak
3- Raise your hand for permission to leave your seat
4- Make smart choices
5- Keep your dear teacher happy

In the comments box, I will record extra little notes of praise or a specific note as to why they had to clip down.  I am trying to keep this system as simple as possible so that I am worker smarter, not harder.  

How do you communicate student behavior to parents?  Feedback is always appreciated!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Our Writing VOICES!

While exploring Pinterest, I found oodles of adorable VOICES headers, but none of them matched my camping classroom color theme.  In order to keep my overall class design cohesive, I created a VOICES bulletin board kit to match my room.  

Writing is a BIG, ENORMOUS, HUGE (you get the idea) focus for me this year, and deserves to be showcased in my room.  For the individual skill cards, I am going to have students write them for me on on the matching paper vs typing them, which keeps it more student centered.  I really want my classroom to reflect student learning, not my decorative style.  

Now I just need to figure out which bulletin board will be VOICES worthy!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

THINKING about Non-Fiction

One of my summer professional development reads was Making Thinking Visible by Ron Ritchhart, Mark Church, & Karin Morrison.  

This book was a quick, easy read for me, and the authors provided many excellent tips and strategies for getting students to THINK in the classroom. Many of the strategies presented are ideal for COLLABORATIVE  group settings because students come up with the most creative ideas to problems when they work as a team.  

In order to encourage thinking skills and collaborative group discussion in my own classroom, I created a choice board that can be used for collaborative groups or independent practice.   Templates are provided for use in Interactive Reading Notebooks, or however you see fit!  

Let me know what you THINK in my comments section.  Constructive feedback is welcomed.  

8 days until my classroom is open!  Hurray!!!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Vistaprint Stamps

A big thanks to Maria @ Kindercraze for her Vistaprint Stamp Tutorial, as I didn't even know you could make stamps on Vistaprint.  I decided to make two stamps for my classroom with a Groupon I purchased a month or so ago. Here they are:

Both of these stamps are self-inking, 3 x 1.5 inches in purple ink.  I went to Stamps & Ink, then Self-Inking Stamp.  The key to successful stamp creating is to click the ADVANCED EDITING option pictured here:

A little fiddling around and you will get the hang of it. Rocket Science this is not. :)  The HARDEST part for me is to STOP making stamps!  

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Leader-In-Me Inspiration

Seeing is believing in my world, otherwise...out of sight, out of mind.   I created these posters for my Camp Leader-In-Me themed classroom as a visual reminder to myself AND my students to reach for greatness.  At this time in my life, these quotes are highly motivating to me and with school starting in roughly one month, I need all of the inspiration I can get!  

Thanks for stopping by my blog!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Camping Theme Classroom Bundle

As I have said many, many times, my classroom theme for 2013 - 2014 is going to be Camp Leader-in-Me (camping theme + 7 Habits of Happy Kids).  If you happen to be on my same page in terms of themes, check out this *BUNDLE* of classroom materials I made for my room.  The book bin labels and calendar numbers are not all represented in the collage below.  Also, there is a calendar topper that isn't displayed but is included in the bundle.

In order to spare my very mediocre printer, I have been sending all of my posters, etc., to Kinko's to be printed on Cardstock and then laminated.  Not cheap, but the lamination is so thick that these materials will last FOREVER.  Also I have a Scotch Personal Laminator that I adore, and will use for many of my smaller print jobs. 

Friday, July 5, 2013

M.O.O.S.E Binder - Part One

Finally, finally, finally I finished my M.O.O.S.E Binder.  What an undertaking. :) Actually, I finished designing the contents of the binder, but am still working on the assembly process, which requires a trip to Office Depot.  Triple digits have kept me indoors today, but tomorrow I will brave the heat and put a bow on this project.  

What is the M.O.O.S.E Binder?

A variety of organizational binders are floating around on Pinterest, all of which are equally fabulous, but I chose the mighty M.O.O.S.E to tie into my camping theme.  Also, I am using the 7 Habits of Happy Kids as my classroom behavior philosophy this year, and this binder fits perfectly with Habit #1:  Be Proactive.  

The Contents:

  1. Avery 2" Heavy Duty Binder.  This year I put this binder on my supply list, but in past  years I purchased them for my class at Costco.  They sell these binders in packs of 6 for a phenomenal price.  
  2. Sheet Protectors.  Each binder contains about 14 sheet protectors IF you use them in place of dividers and IF you put your monthly calendars in them.  I do because I am over the top.  Costco sells a huge box of heavy duty sheet protectors, again, for a phenomenal price.  
  3. Pencil Pouch.  In years past, I let them pick out their own but, well, I am a little bit controlling.  :)  Each pouch will have the following: 2 sharpened pencils, pack of Post-It notes, colored pencils, highlighter, personal sharpener, whiteboard marker, & green pen for grading.  
  4. Folder.  Target = $.25 folders at the moment in an array of colors.  I purchased orange ones, again because I am controlling, and wanted them to match my color scheme. Also, I am going to label the inside:  Left at Home, Right Back to School.  The jury is out on whether or not I will laminate them this year.
  5. 1 Single Subject Spiral Notebook.  This is new and will be kept in the HOMEWORK section as a homework journal. Instead of packets going home, I am going to have them cut and paste, or simply write, assignments into their homework journals.  Great resource when conferences roll around, and also a great resource for the students.
The Order & Sections:
  1. Pencil Pouch.
  2. Sheet Protector 1:  Binder Overview & Guidelines.
  3. Sheet Protector 2:  Classroom Rules & Habits.
  4. Sheet Protector 3:  Goals for the Quarter.
  5. Sheet Protector 4:  Lunch Menu/Misc.
  6. Section 1:  Classroom Calendar
  7. Section 2:  Communication.
  8. Section 3:  Classwork
  9. Section 4:  Homework.
  10. Home-School Folder
What is Included in the Listing:
  1. M.O.O.S.E Binder Cover.
  2. Binder Overview & Guidelines. Editable pencil pouch contents.
  3. Whole Brain Teaching Class Rules.
  4. 7 Habits of Happy Kids.
  5. Goal Setting Template.
  6. Parent Communication Template.
  7. 12 Monthly Calendars with editable text.  
  8. Cover pages for the 4 sections:  Monthly Calendar, Parent Communication, Classwork, & Homework.  I included color and black and white versions.  I am going  to print them in black and white on colored paper.
  1. At the beginning of the year, as with all rules and routines, a lot of rehearsal is needed to get students used to using their binders correctly.  Morning meeting might be a good time to look at important dates?  Closing (7 minutes prior to dismissal) is another good time to record  assignments and dates, and make sure all necessary materials are in their binders.
  2. Random and scheduled binder checks.  I am not a "gotcha" teacher, but occasionally a "POP" binder check might be needed to keep the kiddos on their toes.  Also, I am going to have binder check days that count towards their grade.
Once I have assembled the actual binder, I will post a M.O.O.S.E Binder - Part Two, so keep watch!  I love constructive feedback, so let me know what you think in the comments section!

Friday, June 28, 2013

Camping Out with Whole Brain Teaching Class Rules!

As I mentioned in previous posts, my classroom theme this year is Camp Leader-In-Me, which combines Steven Covey's 7 Habits of Happy Kids program with camping.  Since I am over the top when it comes to decorating my classroom,  I just had to create class rules to coordinate with my outdoorsy decor.  Come to think of it, I have three themes going on here...camping, 7 Habits, and WBT.  

 At the moment, I am reading Chris Biffle's Whole Brain Teaching for Challenging Kidsand am intrigued by his strategies.  Whole Brain Teaching makes a great deal of sense to me, and I am planning on incorporating many of the elements into my teaching style this year.  Baby steps at first! Here are 5 aspects of the program that I will implement right out of the chute: 

  • Class - Yes.    
  • 5 Powerful, Classroom Rules.
  • Teach - Okay.  
  • The Scoreboard.
  • Daily Classroom Procedures.

This collage was created in PicMonkey (a photo editing site that I adore and can actually operate), therefore you don't see the full slides, but you get the idea.  Click on the picture to be taken to my TPT store where you can see them in greater detail.

To find out more on WBT, visit the website at  If you are already using the program, what part of the program is working best for you?

Happy Trails!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Camping Themed Book Basket Labels

After 4 years, I am FINALLY returning to the classroom this August to teach 4th grade at a private, Catholic school next door to my high school alma matter.  Quite funny how life ends up. :)  As if returning to the classroom wasn't enough of a treat, the icing on the cake is that I get to take my three sons with me.  I prayed daily to find a working environment that matched my teaching style & my prayers were answered.  I am literally pinching myself everyday!   

At any rate, I am going with a camping theme, specifically Camp Leader-In-Me, to tie in the 7 Habits of Happy Kids.  My color scheme is lime green and chocolate brown with pops of orange, shades of green, turquoise, yellow, and other colors found in nature.  

I already had Book Bin Labels designed and listed on TPT but could NOT resist the urge to create a new set to coordinate with my theme.  Here is a glance at the labels:

I will say that these book bin labels are bigger than previous labels I have made, but they look fabulous on my lime green dollar store baskets pictured above.  Dimensions = 5" x 3.75".

One project down...only a million more to go!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Non-Fiction Reading Response Choice Board Bundle

Choice Boards have been around for quite some time, and were created by Carol Ann Tomlinson, the guru behind Differentiated Instruction.  The idea behind choice boards is that if we give students choice in how to show us what they know, they will be more interested in the assignment, and therefore more actual learning will take place.  Here is an informative video on Learning Menus (similar concept to Choice Boards) and how they fit in with the Common Core Curriculum:

I have created 3 different choice boards to help meet the demands for text complexity with the CCSS. Let's be clear...I am not claiming that these are "aligned to the CCSS" just that they will HELP meet the demands for higher-order thinking skills required by the CCSS. :)  

The Choice Board pictured below uses Sandra Kaplan's Depth and Complexity Icons, which helps students THINK and interact with the text on a deeper level.  

In my classroom, I am going to use Choice Boards when students are working in their Literature Circle Groups.  Students will cut out the templates (provided in the bundle on TPT) and glue them into their Interactive Notebooks.  For Language of the Discipline (aka vocabulary), they will use Frayer Model templates (provided in the bundle) for words that either they don't know the meaning of or are important to understanding the text.   

In the past, I have sent a choice board similar to this home in their homework packet for them to complete in lieu of a traditional reading log.  The options are really endless for choice boards.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Camping Themed Clip Chart

I love the idea of a Clip Chart, and am so excited to use this as my classroom management strategy this next teaching year. We all make mistakes, and clip charts recognize this natural human behavior and allow students to redeem themselves and turn their behavior around. If you would like more information on clip charts, follow the link below:

This clip chart has the following levels from top to bottom:

Camp Leader
S'More Great Effort
On the Right Trail
Happy Camper
Check Your Compass
Something Stinks
Parent Contact

The Happy Camper slide is the largest, since this is where students start out and some will remain. I am going to print on card stock, punch holes in the corners, and use jute twine or ribbon to hold each level together. At the top, I will use twine and 3M hooks. That is the plan....for now!

Click on the picture to purchase this in my TPT store!

Clipart by the AMAZING Scrappin Doodles and KPM Doodles!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Simple Ways to Integrate Technology

Wallwisher changed their name to Padlet, and in the process added some new features such as customizable backgrounds.  Padlet is an engaging, effective way to share ideas being discussed in your class and is very user-friendly. You can post a question that is an extension of the lesson that day and have students respond for homework. What I love about this type of formative assessment is that it provides "wait time" for students by letting them process what they learned (or didn't learn) in class. Also, struggling students can see other student responses, which puts the content in a language they might better understand.  

Below is a Padlet I created in about 15 minutes.  I customized the background by uploading one of my own digital backgrounds for fun.  Another amazing feature is the mobilize option that allows you to create your own QR Code.  You would copy the link and input it into a free QR Code generator.  Depending on the age of your students and their access to mobile devices, you can have them scan the QR Code which  will direct them to their homework for the night.  Another idea for those teaching in a 1:1 environment would be to display a QR Code that leads students to a warm-up question on Padlet.  Boring?  I think not!!!

Monday, February 25, 2013

Non-Fiction Reading Response Choice Boards

A choice board is a graphic organizer that allows students to choose how they will gain knowledge on a particular topic.  I have created numerous choice boards for spelling, and am now broadening my horizons to reading, specifically non-fiction.  

The sky is the limit in terms of how to use this choice board.  If it were me...I would have students glue the choice board into their Interactive Notebooks and cut out and glue the templates they chose into their notebooks as well.  You could have them make a tic-tac-toe or choose a certain number.  The CHOICE is up to you!

Good luck!  I would LOVE to hear feedback from you in the comments section in regard to how these worked in your class or how I could modify them to better suit your needs.  

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Getting the Scoop with! is a content curation platform that allows users to create a visual collection of topics that interest them. Is similar to Pinterest? They both have bookmarklets that you install on your browser bar, but allows you to focus more on one topic instead of bouncing from party ideas to lesson plans to home organization. Also, you can share your compilation via Twitter and Facebook.

In the classroom, would probably work best for older students. However, upper elementary students working in collaborative groups could probably master the tool better than some digital immigrant adults.

The disadvantage to for ME is that I wasn't able to embed my latest scoop into Blogger. They only allow this feature with Wordpress.

Here is a link to a compilation I created in regard to Google Chromebooks for education. I am CURIOUS to know why schools choose iPads vs. Chromebooks vs. other tablets or laptops. I need to purchase a Chromebook and compare it to the iPad from a student perspective. for Google Chromebooks.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Characteristics of Effective Vocabulary Instruction

This infographic is an excellent visual tool to remind us of what effective vocabulary instruction looks like in our classrooms.  Kimberly at Learning Unlimited also provides a list of 20 digital tools that can be integrated into the classroom to support word learning.  As an educational technology enthusiast, I am over the moon with her list of resources and will definitely add them to my teacher tool kit when I return to the classroom.  

Wallwisher is an online bulletin board that allows users to create sticky notes with words, images, videos, and links.  Teachers can embed this into their  classroom blogs to create a collaborative space for their students to interact with vocabulary words.  I can also see this used for homework instead of the busy work that often gets assigned to students.  

I can't wait to try this and will post a demo on my blog soon.... Here is the link to her article:

Monday, January 21, 2013

Keynote Victories - Changing Slide Dimensions

I FINALLY purchased a Macbook Pro and am familiarizing myself with the Mac OS X Lion operating system.  In the Bay Area, we used Macs exclusively, therefore I am quite familiar with how they work but am retraining my brain since I have used PCs for the past 7 seven years.  During the PC to Mac transition, I decided to use iWork only and not install Microsoft Office on my laptop.  So far I have loved working with Pages, Numbers and Keynote mainly because there are fewer formatting headaches.

For the past few days, I have been trying to figure out how to change a Keynote slide to 8.5 x 11 so that it prints out on regular paper.  I was almost at the end of my rope when I found the answer in Apple Support Communities.  Hallelujah!

Here is the link:


  1. Open Keynote
  2. Select Inspector.  
  3. Select the first button in Inspector (as pictured below), then click slide size and custom slide size.
  4. Enter 768 x 1024, as you see below, and you will now have an 8.5 x 11 slide!  
Note to Self :  Command + Shift + 4 enables me to take a screenshot of a clip and save to desktop.  Amazing!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Common Core & Informational Text

Informational text has become quite the talk lately in education with the switch to Common Core State Standards.  This makes sense to me since in college, the workplace, and life this is the type of text students are required to read.  "According to international achievement tests, U.S. students do worse at reading informational text than they do at reading literary text (Mullis, Martin, Kennedy, & Foy, 2007). As with everything in education, the pendulum swung too far one way, and now we need to find the perfect balance between literature and informational text.

In effort to expose students to informational text, I revamped my Current Event Report that I used in my classroom over the years.  I came across DOGO News which is a fabulous news site for children.  Each article has a vocabulary list with the words bolded in the article, and both pictures and video.  Check it out!

Mullis, I.V.S., Martin, M.O., Kennedy, A.M., & Foy, P. (2007). PIRLS 2006
International Report: IEA"s progress in international literacy study in primary
schools in 40 countries.
Boston: TIMMS and PIRLS International Study Center,

Lynch School of Education, Boston College.