Summer Accountability

by becky on June 4, 2018

Happy June! I know it’s a cliche but how many times have you heard this…

I hate to admit this, but after this particular school year, I fully agree with this statement. So, that being said, I really don’t see myself working on a whole lot of school related things until closer to school starting. Which at the moment, I don’t know the actual date. I know it’s early August, but I’m living my summer life right now, and I’ll worry about back to school later on-can anyone out there relate? 

But, just because I’m not letting myself think too much about school doesn’t mean I’m not going to be productive this summer. This post is my summer accountability. My plan is to make some home improvements that will make me happy and feel more comfortable with having friends over. So many of my people ask to have craft nights with me, and if I feel better about my house, it might actually happen.

I have two projects in mind and when it comes down to it, they aren’t really that hard, but they are just two chores I have had a hard time bringing myself to actually start.

#1-repainting my deck. I have lived in my current house for 5 summers and 3 of those summers I stained my deck. But after I watched all my hard work literally wash away, I took the last two summers off from redoing it. Therefore, I have been super embarassed by how it has looked and I avoided having friends over even though I have a beautiful pool that would make for fun summer afternoons. Not this summer-I’m going to try painting the deck rather than staining it. I’m hoping the color will last longer than a few months. I’ll take ANY suggestions on this process! 

Here’s the official “Before” of the current status of my deck:

It’s not the best picture because I’m so embarrassed by it… Lol. But, once it’s done, it will once again be my favorite place to be this summer. 🙂

Next up, is reorganizing my pantry. So, true story, I have never really organized my pantry. It just became the Monica Gellar closet that is seen by no one but me and my parents. It’s just my little secret. The ironic thing is I feel like I’m super organized and OCD, but just never gave this space much attention. No more. I have scoured YouTube videos and bought a bunch of storage containers from Dollar Tree/Target/Walmart and it WILL HAPPEN this summer.

This pains me to post, but here is the BEFORE of my pantry in it’s current glory…

That literally hurts… I can do this. I can do this. 😉

Anyone tackle this process recently? Have any suggestions??? I’ll take any advice you can offer! 

Okay, so those are my two “official” projects I plan to tackle. I have a few smaller ones that I already have started. I’ll post those soon-as in as soon as the paint dries.

What about all my fellow teachers out there? What home/school/life improvements do you have planned for this summer? I think when you put it out in the universe you are more likely to achieve them. Let me know below and we can help keep each other accountable! 

Happy June 4th-Make this your best summer yet!

I’ll be back soon with updates!

Becky

{ 1 comment }

Showing Kindness

by becky on March 18, 2018

Hello again! Can you believe it is already the middle of March? I love that out here in Illinois we are getting glimpses of spring with warmer weather and lots of sunshine. It just makes everyone happier and more energetic. I don’t know about you, however I’m pretty confident you may be going through something similar, but with the change in weather, I’ve seen a change in behavior in my classroom. Sadly, the students are getting stir crazy and not always making the best choices. My co-teacher and I have spent many afternoons dealing with less than ideal student behaviors. Just being honest here–it’s draining.

As a 15 year teacher, I am well aware of the shift in behaviors as the school year starts to come to an end, but it doesn’t make the “drama” any easier. So, after several days of going home feeling defeated, I sat down and reflected on what I need to make myself happier at school. PARCC is starting so schedules have been off and I needed to find a way for me not to lose sight of what’s important-teaching my students. But, we are all human, and sometimes we need to do things that are good for us. This is where being creative helps me. Every single other school year, I would create bulletin boards for each month. It was a lot of work, but always cheered me up. It makes me happy to see student work displayed and cheers up sometimes dull and drab hallways. Well, this year, I have only changed my boards twice because I just didn’t have it in me. However, I decided that I need to suck it up and put something together because I KNOW it will make me happier and might even brighten up the day of other coworkers. It’s silly, but I swear, it helps me, lol.

Since I didn’t have any student projects in the works that could be displayed-the main project my students have been working on has been their Solar System Game Boards, and while they are amazing, I can’t pin them up in the hallway. So, I shifted my thinking to just making something inspirational. I decided that my students needed some reminders to be kinder to each other so I chose to the quote, “In a World Where You Can Be Anything, Be Kind” and I set to work.

The great thing about being a teacher now and not 15 years ago is having access to ADORABLE fonts. So I sat down, and started playing with the words until I was happy with the design. I even threw in some clipart just to add more color. Something I discovered is that you CAN print on black AstroBrights paper. All you have to do is make the fonts unfilled and outline them with black. then you print and you can see the lines. GAME.CHANGER. No more sending things to Staples, I can make black letters on my own computer. Score! Here is what my board first looked like…

I loved it. It turned out so well. I know some other sellers on TpT sell bulletin board sets similar, but I like my take on this quote. I decided the next step would be to involve my students. So, I thought that teaching them about showing Random Acts of Kindness would be very appropriate. I read my students the story, Kindness Counts, and it was PERFECT. It might be a little too difficult for 3rd and under but for my 4th graders, it really broke down what really makes for a quality act of kindness. I truly can’t recommend it enough.

The next step was to generate ways each of them could show kindness to others. I didn’t limit it to school. I want them to show more kindness to EVERYONE in their lives. We reviewed what makes a quality act of kindness and then generated ideas of ways they can help others. With the exception of a few out there ideas, the majority of the students came up with some truly thoughtful suggestions.

Once they chose their act, I gave each student a copy of the following form-which I printed on colored AstroBrights paper to match the words BE KIND on the bulletin board.

The last step was to put it all together. So, using thick clothespins with silver tacs glued to them, I hung up their suggestions on the board and put on display all the way the students in Room 169 plan to show more kindness to others. I want to revisit their goals at the end of the month to see who followed through and how it made them feel. Here is the final product.

So, not it’s MY turn to show kindness. I originally wanted to post this bulletin board set in my TpT store, but I’m afraid some sellers might feel I’m taking their idea so I do NOT want to upset anyone. However, I can make this into a poster for you. In fact, I can make two versions of it and include the BE KIND forms for your own students to work out. If you would like to get your own copy of the following file… click the picture below and you will be taken to my TpT store where you can get this for FREE. It’s my way of saying Thank You for taking time out of your busy day to visit my blog. I hope you and your students enjoy it.

Before you go, I’d love you to leave a comment and tell me how YOU cope with end of year stressors. How do you take care of YOU? I think I need to fill my arsenal with suggestions so in case I can’t bust out a bulletin board, I can try one of your suggestions. I can’t wait to hear your ideas.

I truly hope you have a great day and do something that makes YOU happy.

Have a GREAT week!

Becky 🙂

{ 9 comments }

Hello again, and Happy New Year!

I thought it was only fitting that since I’ve explained what I’ve been doing professionally for the past few years, that you might be interested in what’s been going on personally in my life.

Warning–it’s not that exciting! 😉

Meeting New People: The past few years have been priceless in the friend department. As a self-proclaimed introvert, putting myself in so many new and uncomfortable situations has really forced me to make new friends and find a new support system. I think people underestimate how hard it can be to do this not only as a child but also as an adult. Luckily, in EVERY building I worked in, I met some of the most amazing human beings that have not only been there for me as a co-worker and fellow educator, but each and every one of them has been there for me through some of my hardest personal struggles. As I said in my last post, if nothing else, my journey was meant for me to meet these people because they were an important part of my story then and in the future. Below is just a few of these special goofs that have forever earned a permanent place in my heart!

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Taking Care of Me: Two years ago, a couple of weeks before the school year ended,  I was driving to work and I  saw a sign that said, “Kickboxing, why not?” And I totally thought to myself, “Seriously Becky, why not?” I text my good friend Lisa ( bottom right of top 4 pictures) and asked her if she had any interest in trying kickboxing this summer. Thinking she’d tell me I was crazy, I began to forget the idea. But, no joke, rapid speed, she replied and said, “Yes! Totally! I’ll call places today.” I secretly started regretting asking. I’m more a zumba or dance-related exerciser-not being aggressive and punching a bag. But, I ignored my doubts and went to my first class. Let’s say it was a 100% humiliating experience. No joke. I don’t like to look weak or like I can’t hang, but let’s be honest, I was out of shape and this class was intense. I won’t go into details, but after walking out to spend some time outside in the parking lot, I left and declared I’d NEVER go back to kickboxing. Never.

Then, Lisa kept assuring me that the trainers felt so bad that I had gotten sick-yes, I threw up my first class. AHHH. But it wasn’t their fault. I decided (after a LOT of convincing from Lisa that I will be OK, it’s not a big deal, and it just proved how hard I was working… blah blah blah) that I’d try ONE more class and then make a decision. Let’s just say the second class I did it at my own speed and I still worked incredibly hard, but I didn’t get sick and I actually enjoyed it. The soreness the next day was  a whole different story. 😉 Fast forward to two years later and I still love it (even though I’ve been lame the past few weeks) and it is now a part of me. And occasionally, said trainers like to remind me and the other people my class just how exciting my first class was. Sigh/Ugh. But, I can’t imagine a  better whole body workout than the insanity our trainers put us through. I don’t know if I’ll ever enjoy burpees (lol) but darn it, I can do a WHOLE lot more now than I could 2 years ago. What doesn’t scare you doesn’t change you.

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My Family has grown: I think one of the hardest things for me to understand in my life is why I don’t have a family of my own. I’m just being honest. I have always thought I’d have at least 3 kids and be that crazy mom who makes my kids take insane pictures (cira 1990’s Anne Geddes) but alas, it’s not been my reality… yet. However, one of the happiest days of my life was when I became an Aunt. My sister and her husband had their first child on September 7th, 2016 and the sweetest boy I’ve ever met-Ethan Tyler came into my life officially making me an Aunt (and later Godmother).

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Babies just make everything better and Ethan is no exception. He’s my sweet love bug and my only wish is my sister lived closer so I could spend a lot more time watching him terrorize his parents- ;-). He turned a  year old this past September and I was tasked with making most of his Monster-themed decorations. Which of course I LOVED doing. He had a great day and I will never forget his blue frosting face from his 1st smash cake. He definitely loves his sweets. Which is why naughty Auntie Becky sneaks him spoonfuls of whipped cream-oops. #sorrynotsorry

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The inspiration of “spots” in Dots-n-Spots- When I first started my blog and my TpT store in 2011, I wanted a name that represented me. I didn’t want to put any specific grade levels in my name because even then, I didn’t think I’d be in 4th grade forever. So, I combined two of my absolute favorite things-polka dots and dalmatian spots. My whole classroom was black and white polka dots and my sweet fur baby was a dalmatian named Lillie. It was a great name and to this day, I still love it and feels it represents me and my style.

If you followed my blog for any length of time prior to my two year hiatus, you will know that even though I don’t have actual children I love animals and I basically considered Lillie my “dog”hter. I know I’m a crazy dog lady but I am just of the opinion that dogs are family and you treat them like any other living breathing family member. When I moved into my first house and Lillie and I left our family home we had a great few years. Then, she broke her ankle in a bunny hole, and through routine blood tests, non-routine biopsies, and a lot of digging, we discovered she had a liver disease. I can’t believe I can’t remember the name of the disease but it’s equivalent to cirrhosis of the liver in humans (insert annoying neighbor jokes that made me want to punch them in the throat—no douches I did NOT give her alcohol. Sorry, it got annoying because I never found a deadly disease a reason to make a lame joke.) Anyway, for about 4 years we had it “stable” and she was able to live a pretty normal life. If you consider 15 pills a day normal. Sigh. Cutting to the chase, because I still have trouble thinking/talking about this, on January 5th, 2016, I took Lillie to our beloved veterinarian and had her euthanized. It was the saddest, hardest, but most relieving moment of my life. I’d never had to put a pet to sleep before and I didn’t know what to expect and I’ll never forget that at the very very end when I knew her breaths were numbered, she looked directly into my eyes and put her paw in my hand. I told her I was there, I loved her so much, and that I WILL see her again. And here go my waterworks. But even though that moment will forever be in my memory, I also can’t explain the relief that came almost immediatly after she was “gone.” It had NOTHING to do with being “rid” of her. I think I had been living for 4 year with constant worry, stress, fear of blood test results, and watching seeing her lose herself to the illness. I was relieved she was out of pain and fear. She could rest in peace and wait for me on the rainbow bridge.

Here is picture of one of our last “good” days…

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The next few months were rough. I came home to an empty house. I didn’t have ANY responsibilities besides myself. And yes, there was some enjoyment in that, but all I wanted was my Jo Jo back. I don’t judge others on how they grieve because everyone needs different things. One day, I got an email from a friend of mine and she told me about when she lost her cat, Lola, a few years ago. Like Lillie, Lola was more than just a cat. She grounded her during a time when she needed it and because of that she told me she planned to get her name tattooed on her left foot because the left foot is the same side as her heart. She invited me to join her and it was the weirdest thing–I felt like it was right. I really never gave tattoos much thought as they just don’t seem like “my thing”, but the idea of always having Lillie with me, just made things seem ok. Let me repeat, this is NOT typical Becky behavior, but I’d been doing a lot of non-Becky things over the past few years.

Cut to a few months later, and my sweet friends Maggie and Shilpa (bottom left-top 4 pictures) bravely came with me while I got my sweet girl’s name on my foot. Let me say this-it hurt. Like HURT HURT. Like, I wanted it over half way during it. But, I got through it and I loved it immediately. I think about her everyday regardless, but any time I look at my left foot, I just smile to myself.

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The new man in my life– and sadly not a human man 😉 So, remember how I said I started going to kickboxing? Remember I said Lillie took a ton of pills? Well, one day I got the nerve to ask a girl named Nikki at the gym who I had heard talking about all the animal rescues she works for and I asked her if any of her rescues took medicine donations. The thought of throwing out perfectly good medicine that cost A LOT of money, when there could be some dogs who could use it made me sick. Luckily, she was more than happy to take it off my hands. Well, you know the saying everything happens for a reason? Well, I think this is a perfect example of that expression. Over the next few weeks Nikki and I talked some more and we became Facebook friends. She was always posting pictures of lost dogs or dogs that needed to be adopted. I just scrolled through the pictures because nothing in me even wanted to consider getting another dog. One day she posted a picture of a fawn colored pit bull that looked like he was crying. I stopped and looked at his picture and the first thing I thought was, “That’s my dog.” But I threw my phone across the floor and tried to ignore what I had just thought. Suddenly, every time I went on FB all I saw was this dog’s-Brady’s- picture. Nikki was pleading with anyone to be a temporary foster. His days were numbered at the shelter and he needed a temporary pit stop until a rescue could find him a long-term foster house. I ignored ignored ignored it. Then, I made the mistake at the gym asking her if she’d found a foster for him and she got super sad and said no one will take him. He had two days and he’d be put down. I took a deep breath and said, “I will do it ONLY if NO ONE else steps up.” Then, I prayed and prayed someone would. But, like clockwork, two days later she said, if I could just take  him for two weeks she’d find someone else to bring him to. I said, “Two weeks. Only two weeks.”

The next day after his neutering surgery, Nikki dropped him off…

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He didn’t feel good because of his surgery and he’d been so stressed at animal control. I could tell he just wanted to relax and enjoy the calm of not being around other dogs. I learned quickly he was incredibly well-mannered in the house. He didn’t dirty, steal things, scratch, or jump up. He did however like to be as close as possible to me. The closer the better.

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His eyes looked awful. He had huge circles of dried tears around his eyes and it just looked painful. After talking to the rescue who had pulled him, I took him to a local vet and she diagnosed him with entropion. Basically, both his bottom lash lines were rolled inward and his lashes were constantly rubbing against his eyes. Imagine having like 30 eyelashes stuck in your eyes 24/7. ouch! The rescue asked me to take him to a specialist and the said that if we didn’t do surgery immediately he’d risk losing his eyesight. All I could think was, “why do I  always find the dogs who have issues?” Well, I handed over a very reluctant dog to this doctor and it about broke my heart.

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So, the recovery was 2 weeks. I told the shelter I’d hold onto him until his cone was off and his eye drop schedule was finished. It didn’t take long but you could tell he was feeling better and his handsome green eyes were open and soaking everything in. He had become very attached to me and my whole family (who immediately fell in love with him), and I kept putting off his “next foster”. I should have known I wouldn’t give him up. About 2 months after he came to me, I text the rescue and said I wanted to start the adoption process. I sincerely didn’t think I’d ever have another dog after Lillie but I also truly believe no one else stepped up to take him because he was always meant to be mine. He’s my big baby and he loves every minute of it.

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Here’s his official “before” and “after” picture… This is why you should never judge a book by it’s cover. Look at my handsome guy.

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If you’re still reading to this point, THANK YOU for taking some time to get to know me better. My plan is to start posting classroom related content once school gets back. But, it’s also nice to get to know the teacher behind the blog.

I wish everyone a very Happy New Year! I strongly feel great things are coming in 2018 and I hope to bring you all along for the ride.

Til next time!

Becky

{ 4 comments }

Hello Blogland,

I can’t believe I’m FINALLY blogging. Let’s just say, things have been crazy for oh, you know, several… years. lol

But, since this is a teaching blog, I’m 100% sure you all understand. The world of education has drastically changed and no one is exempt from feeling those changes. If your past few years have been anything like mine, you’ve been hoping to find your “teacher self” within all the new mandates and expectations. But, luckily, I feel like I’ve finally found myself again and I’m able to teach (mostly-well, a little bit) like I know is best for my students.

Let’s travel down memory lane, shall we… 

In 2014, after 11 years of teaching 4th grade at the same school I attended as a child, I took a risk and changed buildings and grade levels. I did love 4th grade and my school but I was starting to feel antsy and I worried that if I never took a chance I might regret staying safe and not branching out. So, I applied and was offered a 2nd grade challenge position in a school down the street from my first school. I was so excited to be a 2nd grade teacher. I was so excited to teach challenge-an accelerated program. But, somehow it wasn’t the right “fit” for me. I worked with amazing people, and I was supported 100% by my administration but I just felt wrong. I can’t explain it. But, about half way through the school year, I just knew I needed a different change. Immediately, I worried about the comments people would make… you know the kind I mean. But, ultimately, I did the scariest thing I could, I decided to change grades/buildings–again.

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In 2015, I moved to a different building and began teaching 3rd grade. I realized the very first week that as much as the thought of being a 2nd grade teacher was always something I thought I had wanted, I am an intermediate teacher. It’s just who I am and who I’m meant to be. Even though 3rd grade can be considered both primary and/or intermediate, I knew I liked the older elementary grades. I liked the age, the curriculum, and the pace soo much better. However, as much as I LOVED my new set of co-workers and teaching 3rd grade, I had an unfortunately scary year of teaching. I wanted to give it a longer chance, but deep down (again) I knew this wasn’t my “home.” So, once again, I packed my classroom up and said a lot of sad good-byes.

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I loved this room– it was so bright and cheerful. I had a HUGE window that  I miss very much! 😉

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Then, in 2016, 72 hours before the school year began, my good friend Steven whom I had taught 4th grade with back at my first school, told me about an opening at his current school. It was 4th grade. I unofficially  met with the school principal and I knew I had to take this chance. The next few days were a blur but I knew that even though my classroom was NOT ready, my boxes were NOT all unpacked, my bulletin boards were EMPTY, I was meant to be in this school teaching 4th grade again.

This is what 12 hours of set up looks like…

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It only looked like this for a few more days-2 weeks tops.  Click here to see how it looked for Parent Night

It actually makes me emotional to talk/type about it because I had felt so “lost” for years and I had pushed myself out of my comfort zone time and time again without knowing if it would ever pay off. Well, last year the 2016-2017 school year was hands-down, the BEST school year I’ve ever had. My new school is my new home and I felt like me again. I found fun in teaching and was reminded of why I became a teacher in the first place. I worry that had I not been gifted with last year’s experience, I might have left the profession altogether. Which, as we know, happens all too often now. I know it seems crazy that I made all those changes just to go back to 4th grade, but I look at it as now I never have to wonder. I know I’m meant to teach 4th grade. It’s my happy place and where I will be until something out of my control changes.

And  just for fun… here is an evolution of the SAME bulletin board, just different grades. lol

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Final thoughts: My biggest take away from the past few years is that you don’t grow unless you scare yourself. Change is TOUGH, but worth it. I have met sooo many people throughout my “journey” and I love that every single time I go to a district training I always see people I have taught with. Some of my best friends have come from this journey and if nothing else, I did all this to meet them and have them in my life.

I’ve learned it pays to branch out because you increase your knowledge and your network. My classroom management is a lot stronger, my ability to not overthink everything has improved, and I can appreciate what I have now and where I’m working. All I experienced–the good, bad, ugly, and sad have molded me to be a better teacher and person than I was when I started. I will never forget that.

Well, that’s my professional update in a nutshell. 🙂 Tomorrow I’ll update you on my personal life.

Have a great day! Thanks for coming back to read about my professional journey.

Becky 🙂

 

{ 3 comments }

Fall Fact and Opinions (Part 2)

by becky on November 16, 2015

Hello, friends! Well, in my last post I said I be back “tomorrow” to talk about my scope and sequence of my plans. Well, tomorrow turned into 2 whole weeks. Whoopsie. Man, life just got busy. I had conferences, Veterans Day, progress reports, and two new students that pretty much engulfed the last two weeks of my life. But, alas, that’s the life of a teacher. 🙂 So, let’s just get to the good stuff.

Once I was happy with the project ideas, I planned out the scope of the lessons. This is a quick breakdown of my plan.

Day 1: Introduce topics, Assign groups, Read to Self

Day 2: Read with a partner identifying 3 things they learned, 2 important facts, and 1 question they still have about their topic.

Day 3: Fact/Opinion Interactive Notebook, Fact/Opinion Task Cards for their assigned topic

Day 4: Identify 5 facts and create 5 opinions about their topic

Day 5: Choose their 3 favorite facts and opinions to write on their final drafts

Day 6: Project day/Put it all together. 🙂

For the first part of this mini unit, I created informational texts for each of the topics. They ended up being leveled nicely for four groups with varying reading levels. My lowest group learned about apples. My low/medium group learned about pumpkins, my medium/high group learned about bats, and my highest group had spiders. In the beginning, some friends groaned because they were not allowed to pick their own topic, but I explained that we don’t always get what we want, but we will get what we need. Yeah, they still pouted. #reallifeasateacher

On Day 1, after I assigned my students topics, they were instructed to read their selection 2 times to themselves. Then they were asked to put a star by 3 things they learned or found interesting. (We are still working on  learning Close Reading annotations) Most did this easily as the text was “just right” for them. While some groups met with me to discuss their reading, the other students read independently and wrote reflections in their journals after they finished their assignment.

On Day 2, I paired the students up with a partner with the same topic, and had them read their text for the 3rd time with their partner.
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Then, together they filled in a 3-2-1 graphic organizer. They were instructed to identify 3 things they learned, 2 important facts, and 1 question they still have about their topic.

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On Day 3, I wanted to discuss Facts and Opinions. We had been working sporadically on this for several weeks, but I decided it was time to take notes and do some practice as a whole class. I made up a seasonally appropriate Interactive Notebook entry where they needed to sort the statements into the correct category and then glue them into their notebooks.

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I cheated and printed mine in color because I didn’t have time to color. It’s sad though, because honestly, I enjoy coloring-ha. The kiddos happily colored theirs, sorted them, and then after we went over the answers as a class, they glued them in their notebooks.

After they finished their Interactive Notebooks, I broke them up into small groups for some Fact and Opinion practice with their topics. Luckily, I found Fact and Opinion task cards on Teachers Pay Teachers so I was able to keep them learning about their assigned topics. If you are interested, the files I used are all listed below. Click on each picture to visit the seller’s store.

For my Apples, I bought this file from Adventures in Kinder and Beyond

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For my Pumpkins, I bought this file from Lifelong Learning

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For my bats, I bought this file from All Y’all Need

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And, for my Spiders, I used this FREE file from Teacher’s Clubhouse!

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The kiddos really enjoyed this and worked so hard with their groups. I enjoyed seeing them engaged in their learning.

On Day 4, I instructed the students to take out their assigned text, their 3-2-1 sheet, and any extra notes they had taken on their topic. Now, they were asked to write 5 facts and create 5 opinions about their topics.

They peer edited their spelling with a buddy from the same group. For homework, they took their facts and opinions home, shared with their families what they had learned, and asked an adult to edit and revise their statements.

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Day 5 was the project day, but sadly I had to miss it for an IEP meeting. But, luckily when I came back they were all completed and almost all were done correctly-ha. Gotta love kiddos who just want to be independent. It makes my OCDness crazy, but I do respect their feelings.

After their projects were done, the last step they had to complete was to pick their top 3 favorite facts and their top 3 favorite opinions. They filled in their final draft, colored the border, and put it all together!

Slide5And here they are~all ready for Fall (and Parent/Teacher Conferences)

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I hope I was able to give you some ideas or inspiration for your class. If you would like your own copy of my Interactive Notebook page, the 3-2-1 Graphic Organizer, my Fact and Opinion Sloppy copies, and the final draft sheet, click the picture below to download your own copy.

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I hope you have a great night/day/week! I’ll be back soon!

Becky

{ 3 comments }

Fall Fact and Opinions! (Part 1)

by becky on November 1, 2015

Happy Fall! I can’t believe it’s already November. I feel like I say that all the time. I don’t know about anyone else, but I feel like August-December are always so busy with one thing after another, that as soon as school starts in August, I’m virtually MIA until Winter Break. I’m really making an effort to balance my school life with real life this year and it’s helping me get through the stress of teaching.

#realtalk— I started a different position this year in a new building. I’m now a 3rd Grade general education teacher. In a nutshell, I love it. I love third grade, I love the vibe of my new building, and I love my kiddos. It’s definitely the most emotionally charged position I’ve had. The students in this building are low poverty and many have very sad childhood experiences. I do feel like I’m making a big difference in their lives and it’s honestly my whole reason for becoming a teacher 13 years ago. But, teaching is teaching, and like everyone else in the profession, I’m doing what I can to survive all the changes and new expectations. #thestruggleisreal

I wanted to share a picture of my bulletin board back in September. Our school theme is Superheroes and I shrank the adorable templates Deanna Jump has in her store. Students then completed a back to school getting to know you/goals form and I attached them underneath. It looked super cute and parents loved them.

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Well, unlike past school years, I did NOT change my hallway displays until just this past week. Totally not how I usually do things. But, when you are in a new school, with a new grade, different expectations, and 26 little friends demanding all your attention and energy, hallway work gets put on the back burner.

However, I decided to plan three main hallway projects in the past few weeks. Today I’m going to talk about the Fall Fact and Opinions research and projects my kiddos completed this week.

For some reason, the skill of identifying Facts from Opinions has been an extremely difficult concept for them to grasp. I decided to combine Reading, Science, and Writing into the following lesson.

I always like to start with the end in mind. I decided I wanted to assign students a Fall themed topic to have them research and learn about. They would list different facts they learned about the topic, create opinions on the same topic, and finally make a cute project to hang above their learning. Then, came the task of deciding which topics to focus on. I have a student who doesn’t celebrate holidays so I made sure to choose topics that were generic to the season. I finally decided on Pumpkins, Apples, Spiders, and Bats. I’ll be honest, the next thing I did was look up projects to make. Here’s what I came up with— the best part is that most of them are posted as freebies. Check them out below.

appleThis cutie was posted by Michelle from Smitten With First and can be downloaded here

 

batI’m sure you’ve seen this adorable bat from A Cupcake for the Teacher, but if not, go download this freebie here

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This freebie was made by Susan Jones and can be found here

I only used one set of the included eyes (just an fyi)

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Finally, this pumpkin is part of Jennifer’s “Pumpkins, Pumpkins, Everywhere” file. I actually tweaked this one and used the same eyes, stem, and leaves from the Apple Craft above. I do love how it turned out. Click here for Jennifer’s (First Grade Blue Skies) file.

Tomorrow I’ll be back to explain the scope and sequence of the lesson plans. Hopefully, you found some cute craft ideas you can use with your class. I’ll tell you this much–they turned out great!

Til then, have a great day!

Becky

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I am geeking out over here with this week’s Monday Made It projects. Literally, you know you’re a teacher when making things for your classroom pumps you up. Okay, so the letters V and P… what’s that all about. Those letters,  ladies and gentlemen, represent the V in Vista and the P in Print. Yes, Vista Print. One of my favorite printing places. EVER. So a few years ago before teaching blogs blew up the Internet, a really excellent online resources was ProTeacher. I still have an account but I sadly haven’t logged on in years. It was one of the first places, if not the first, where teachers could interact, bounce ideas, get encouragement, and/or ask questions related to teaching. One of the coolest things talked about on there was Vista Print. There used to be amazing deals (and honestly maybe there still are) where you only had to pay shipping for projects you create. Last night, I was thinking about it and logged on to see if there were any freebie deals going on right now. There didn’t appear to be, BUT they are having their Semi-Annual sale where everything is 50% off. It goes until 7/28/15. I decided to play around. I created some personalized .jpg images and got to work. The thing with it, is not everything seems applicable to a classroom–but that’s where creativity comes in. So, let’s get to it. Thanks Tara for continuing to have this fun link up. 🙂 Monday Made It 1

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VP Pen
For this, I used one of Erin Bradley‘s ADORABLE banners paired up with my name to create a personalized pen image. I just LOVE Erin’s papers and banners. I have bought a ton of sets lately because I’m obsessed. She has a TpT shop but I bought most things from her online store because she has all her designs available there. She’s a fellow Illinoisan–and that rocks! Check her store out!

Anywho, I made a few pens years ago and I love them.They write smoothly and look super cute! I only have the graphic I can show you right now, but I’ll post ALL the projects once they come in the mail.

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VP magnetic notepadSecondly, I have made some really cute To Do List frames for myself and some coworkers, but mine got broken when I moved schools this past year. I was going to make myself another one, but I decided I would make a To Do Notepad instead. This way, I get 100 lists that I can tear off and put in my binders, car, purse, etc… They come in regular or magnetic.

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VP car door magnet

Remember when I said you sometimes need to be creative when using Vista Print? Okay, here is a perfect example. Backstory to this is that my experiences with magnets on my classroom’s white boards is THEY.DO.NOT.HOLD. anything. It’s so annoying. I’ve had the worst luck in my two classrooms with this. So, I need to use heavy duty magnets to get anything to stick. I decided to see if this will work. I used buttons from Erin and added numbers for each of my students. Lord, please may I NEVER have 36 kids in my class. I had extra room on the page so I made myself a button-ha. Okay, I created my .jpg and uploaded it to the site using the SMALL car door magnet. It measures about 8×11 inches. When it comes in the mail, I’ll cut out the numbers and have strong magnets for attendance or for class activities.

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VP magnetic business cards

My last Vista Print project is my FAVORITE. It’s been a few years, but I used to give the parents a gift at Parent Teacher Conferences. They would get a magnetic business card saying, “Look what I did in Team Furlan” to hang good papers with on the fridge. My old ones were okay, but this year’s make me happy! I know kids and parents are going to love them. You get 25 in one order. Totes adorable!

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Baby cakes

Lastly, this isn’t school related, but they are Made-It’s. I discovered a few years ago I really enjoy making Diaper Cycles and Diaper Cakes for baby showers. Once I started posting pictures of my finished gifts online, family and friends have asked me to make gifts for showers they are attending. Here is a White Sox themed cycle and an elephant themed cake. I will wrap the cake in shrink wrap, but I like to show the “owner” the finished product before I wrap in case there’s anything they want me to change. 🙂

So, there are my Monday Made It projects. If you are looking for any more Vista Print inspiration, check out one of my past post’s here.

I’d love to hear what you think of these projects! 🙂

Until further notice, I’ll be living at setting up my new classroom.

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Clearly, I have a LOT of work to do! Til Next time! 🙂

Becky

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Summer 2015

by becky on July 6, 2015

Hey Everyone! I am so happy to be able to blog again this summer. I thought I’d return with one of Tara’s famous Monday Made-It’s to share.

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In all honesty, I have done NOTHING to prep for next year yet. I have been taking the past few weeks to recouperate, read, relax, and spend time with Lillie. The weather has FINALLY decided to catch up to the season and we’ve been having some beautiful summer days. I’ve been taking advantage and just getting myself back in the right head space for the upcoming year. More on all that later this summer. 🙂

Anyways, onto the fun stuff. It isn’t anything too crazy, but I wanted to get a start on birthday gifts for this year’s kiddos. I made the mistake of not having that done last year, and I had two birthdays on the first day-oy!

Before I share my new gift, I thought we’d take a trip down memory lane and I’d show you what I’ve done in the past. They are all fun memories, but since I have serious issues with repeating ideas, I seem to make more work for myself and reinvent the wheel. #issues

I want to say 4 years ago, I made pixie stick balloons. The kids LOVED them! They were fun, big, and super tasty. I liked making them but it did get a little pricey. However, still one of my favorite projects I’ve made for my kiddos. I still use the container these days to house all my extra rulers and pointers.

Birthday pixie

 

Next came the incorporation of the birthday “postcard” to my collection. I wanted to have Lillie share in the celebration with the kiddos since she is always an Honorary Student in Team Furlan. One year, I found bubble gum crayons with the cards and a different year, I gave out Pop Rocks. Both were a hit with the classes!

Birthday Crayons

 

Birthday PopRocks

 

Last school year, I had all intentions of giving out the Pop Rocks and coordinating card, but I came to find out, that 6 of my students had serious food allergies. My principal made it a rule for any class with allergies that there was no passing out of food. I had 30 packs of Pop Rocks I ended up giving out for Halloween since I couldn’t give them to my students. Instead, they got the card and a pencil. They loved it because they didn’t know any better-ha!

So, FINALLY onto my MONDAY MADE IT– this year this is my plan. I took the following items: Metal Bin from Target, Washi Tape, birthday pencils, birthday badges, and scrap-booking stickers…

2015 Birthday

Then, I let my OCD take over the project part…

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And made these:

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I attached the badges with washi tape so they can either keep them as a pencil topper or they can peel them off and wear on their birthday. Since, I still like the idea of giving them a “card”, I made these to go with the pencils. I have found that several students keep their cards in their folders as a memento. I thought it was sweet so what the heck… what’s a little more ink. 😉 But, these can be printed at school since they are black and white. See, I’m using my brain!

2015 BDay cards

 

If you have any questions, let me know! I’ll most likely be found here…

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Have a great week!
Becky

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PARCC-and so it begins…

by becky on March 8, 2015

If you live in the United States, chances are pretty good that you have heard of the new standardized test correlated with the CCSS that has begun rolling out this week—PARCC. I know that many of you live in areas that have  opted out of the new standards and the PARCC, but I live in Illinois and we have decided to stick with this “new” plan.  I won’t offer my full opinion on these standards yet, because they have only been implemented in my area for a few years, but there are parts I fully agree with and parts I feel  make learning (and teaching) more complicated than they need to be. Until I’m the Queen of the World ;-),or until I move somewhere else, I will do my best to teach the new standards and prepare my students for the new wave of testing.

That being said, for the past 11 years of my career, one thing I have always been able to count on is that the Tuesday after Casimir Pulaski Day (celebrated in IL) marked the beginning of implementing the ISAT’s. As a veteran of proctoring these tests, I was a *little* excited that this year, as a 2nd grade teacher,  I would not be reading the directions verbatim for 5+ days. It was always a joke by the last day of testing, that the students could repeat back to me exactly what they were to do. At least things were consistent-lol.

I always tried to express the importance of taking these tests seriously, but I didn’t want my students to feel overly stressed. I would take the weeks prior to the testing to strengthen their test taking skills. Each week we would focus on a different testing strategy to give them the confidence they need to feel their most prepared. I would then post the strategies around the classroom to be a visible reminder.

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Even though I no longer administer the ISAT’s, these posters are GREAT reminders for any standardized test your students may take. In my district, in addition to the PARCC, students also take the MAP test 2 times a year. You can never go wrong with test prep.

Moving on to this year, if your district is administering the PARCC, then I’m thinking that your schools may have been a *bit* frazzled the last few weeks making sure there are enough testing places, working computers, internet access, etc… My new AP put it best, “It’s hard to have questions, because we don’t know what we don’t know.” Agreed.
To help relieve some testing stress AND to have my students perform a Random Act of Kindness, I decided to pull from my file and have my kiddos create some pre-testing treats for the 3rd grade students we share a hallway with. I think it’s good to do things like this every once in a while to remind kids that it feels good to do nice things for other people WITHOUT expecting things in return. SO many times this year, I’ve had to bite my tongue with the “what do we get?” mentality. I know it’s sadly the way of the world these days, but sometimes we should ALL do things just to be nice. This was the perfect opportunity to put my feelings into action.
First, I found out how many students each class had and when their first day of testing begins. That’s another HUGE difference between previous standarized tests and the PARCC. Before, (in my district) all teachers in a grade level tested at the same time. In my district, schedules have been upheaved, rearranaged, and flipped around. This will go on for weeks. I feel so bad for all kids, but especially the high anxiety students who have difficulty adujusting to change. Oy! Anyway, I found out there are 86 3rd graders in my hallway. I went to the grocery store and bought enough water bottles and Blow Pops for each student. Then, the fun began. In my Rock the Test file, I have two versions of water bottle labels.
water bottles
I decided to go with the pre-printed labels to save time. I didn’t want to use too much instructional time, but I still wanted them to be cute, fun, and motivating. The pre-printed labels fit the bill! The kids LOVED coloring them. They worked super hard!
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Once their labels were colored, then they cut them out and glued them around each water bottle. I emphasized them to be tight. They did such a good job. They took this VERY seriously!
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Once the labels were attached to the water bottles, we began putting together the Blow Pops. All 86+ of them 🙂 This is when we needed a reminder that this something nice we are doing for others, not ourselves. You can imagine the groans.
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I had all intentions of having a “treat” for my kiddos later in the week, but they didn’t know that. I literally heard one of my kids say, “This is torture.” Oh, the dramatics of second graders.
I added a cute poem/card that all the kiddos signed and so that I could keep everything organized by class.
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The final product delivered the day of each class’s first test:

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If you are interested in purchasing my “Are you ready to Rock the Test?” file check out the preview below and click to visit my store.
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 Finally, to throw my kiddos a bone, I decided that to celebrate the good Dr.’s Birthday, we would play Dr. Seuss Bingo. I saw a cute idea on Pinterest where they create their own Bingo Board filled with titles of books and characters from Dr. Seuss’s stories.
dr seuss bingo
They were able to choose from extra Blow Pops, twizzlers, and Dr. Seuss pencils. Everything was right in my kiddo’s world. If you want a copy of this quick activity, click the picture above. 🙂
I hope this post gave you some ideas for how you can motivate your students for high stake testing. I’m going to give away 5 copies of my Rock the Test file to the first five comments. Make sure you include how you or your school gets kids ready and include your email address
Good Luck and have a Great Week!
Becky

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Snowflake Similes & Monday Made it!

by becky on February 3, 2015

Hello old friends! I never thought that it would honestly take me OVER a year to continue blogging. I’m just going to be honest, life got in the way. Nothing tragic, just a LOT of small things that became time consuming. That being said, I have a lot to share. First things first, I was offered a new position in a different school in my district. I went from 4th grade General Education to 2nd grade Challenge. It’s an accelerated program where the second graders skip a year’s worth of curriculum and learn 3rd grade Math and ELA standards. The funny part is that even though I’m at a completely different school, my old school feeds into my new one and I have quite a few families that I had the older brothers and sisters in 4th grade. Small small world!

Well, one of the new benefits to my position is incorporating the William and Mary Gifted ELA curriculum. It’s a 20ish day program meant to meet the needs of accelerated students. It is heavily influenced by poetry and figurative language devices. I’ve been introducing devices one at a time as we read and analyze various poems. I’ve been having the students add to their Language Interactive Notebooks from Nicole Shelby and as we learn a skill we add a page. I was going to do the same thing as we learned the figurative language devices, but I happened to find a flash freebie from Joey Udovich and knew it would be perfect for my students. The file is no longer free, but TOTALLY worth the purchase price.

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To help my kiddos understand the meaning of the devices, I created the following posters to help them visualize their usage. So far, we’ve learned about Similes and Metaphors.

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Then they would fill in the accompanying page in their flip books. 🙂

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We did the same procedure for Metaphors.

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The posters I have been using are available in my Teachers pay Teachers Store. There are actually two versions. One that matches the Reading Skills and Strategies posters that are one of my best selling products. The other version is the one shown in the pictures above. If you click on the pictures, you can check them out in my store. 🙂

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Then, to apply their new-found knowledge of Similes, I wanted to have them create ADORABLE snowflake craft that I know you’ve seen on Pinterest. Look familiar? 🙂

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I knew I wanted to use this project but I wanted to make sure I included some writing prompt or correlation to the CCSS. I decided to have them write Snowflake Similes. I found this super helpful graphic organizer from Scholastic.

snowflake similes

I really liked this idea but I knew it would be enough room for my kiddos. So, I created the following Rough Draft form and Final Draft stationary. If you click either picture below, you can download your own copy from GoogleDocs. 🙂

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After they wrote their sloppy copies, we edited their work, and then they wrote their final drafts. Here are a few of their finished projects. SOOOO cute! 🙂

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Now, onto the non-teaching related part of this post. 🙂 I have ALWAYS loved Tara’s Monday Made-its. I had a bunch of projects I made over the summer, but yeah, those didn’t get posted. Oh well, just more do to this summer! Anyway, I just love getting great ideas from her link ups.

Monday Made It 1

If you follow me on Instagram you’ve seen what I’m about to post. So, in the winter I get a little stir crazy. Well, this winter is no different. To beat the winter blues, I craft. Alot. Last year, I made a ton of decorated picture frames. This year it’s all about the wreaths. I have forever drooled over the beautiful burlap wreaths you can buy on Etsy. But, I have a hard time buying something I know I can make myself. So, for months weeks I read every tutorial I could find on how to make my own. Thing is, sometimes I just need to see it. Then, I can play with it and adjust to my liking. I found this tutorial on YouTube. It’s honestly one of the shortest I’ve seen, but I was able to “get it” and then the fun began. Here’s the video.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EOVJOxmuB-g

Here’s an overview for one of my Valentine Wreaths. 🙂

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What you’ll need:

12-inch wire wreath (Hobby Lobby $2.99)

30 feet of burlap (2-15 ft rolls-Walmart $3.49 each)

Heart Embellishments- Prices Vary (Walmart $4.99)

Ribbon to hang

Not Shown: Pliers, Glue Gun 😉

So, I realize I never took any action shots of looping the wreath-duh! Sorry, about that. But let’s pretend you have your wreath looped (watch the link above) and then I tweaked the hearts. Since you could totally just attach the 3 hearts as it, you don’t have to take this step. I was having a very hard time finding wood hearts because everything was picked over by January 15th. So, when I found these hearts at Walmart I knew I could make them work.

Here’s where you need the pliers: Just pull apart the wire from the hearts. Yes, it leaves a little hole but once it’s attached to the wreath you really can’t see it.

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Now I have 3 usable hearts. 🙂

Basically, the last two steps are SUPER easy. Glue the hearts along the side of your wreath and then tie your ribbon. You can do as much or as little in terms of embellishments. Here are the 4 wreaths I made over the past few weeks.

This one is for my Mom. 🙂

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This one is for my door. 🙂
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This one is for my neighbors. 🙂

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And, this one is for my classroom. 🙂

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I totally did not go out today when the roads were bad and buy more wreaths. Nope, not me. Never. 😉

I hope everyone is staying warm and enjoying 2015. I promise I’ll be back soon!

becky2

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