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.


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.


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.

Fact and Opinion IN

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


For my Pumpkins, I bought this file from Lifelong Learning


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


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


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.


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)




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.

free button


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



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.



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


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

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



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!



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

Button 1

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.

Button 2

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.

Button 3

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.

Button 4

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!

Button 5

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.


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



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.

Monday Made It 1

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…

2015 Birthday 1

And made these:

2015 Birthday 3

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…

summer lillie


Have a great week!


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.


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!
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!
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.
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.
The final product delivered the day of each class’s first test:

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.
 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!


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.


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.


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


We did the same procedure for Metaphors.



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. :)



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? :)


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. :)



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! :)




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.


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


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.


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. :)




This one is for my door. :)

This one is for my neighbors. :)


And, this one is for my classroom. :)


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!



Happy Holidays! I hope you and your family are enjoying this time of year and are remembering to reflect on what you are thankful for.

I personally feel thankful that the recent tornadoes to touch down in IL did not hurt any of my family or friends. Even though the damaging storms  were about 130 miles southwest of me, my town still had the tornado sirens going off as a precaution because of the strength and speed of these unpredictable winds. Lillie was NOT happy about the storm.

If she could have. she would have sat directly on my lap. She is pretty brave in most weather, but has never been comfortable or calm during tornado “drills”. Since we basically live in Tornado Alley, we have these warnings and watches more often than I like.  For this reason ONLY, I like having a basement to go to during the storms. Better safe than sorry, as you will see from the pictures below.

When I first looked at these pictures, it just seemed like an open field. But, as you look closer you see that this is an actual neighborhood where there *were* hundreds of houses. You can see a border of remaining houses, but the inside of the neighborhood was totally taken out. So sad and scary.

Even though I don’t personally  know anyone affected by these storms, my sister does. Having worked at Caterpillar for many years in Peoria (a town very close to Washington, IL), she has remained friends with some of her former coworkers. The picture below is of her friend Denise’s house which is in Washington. My sister made a good point. In a way, we were all lucky it happened on a Sunday afternoon. *Most* people are home on Sunday afternoon and on this day, most were waiting for the Bears game to start. Had it been a weeknight, there would probably have been a higher amount of injuries and deaths. Food for thought.

Denise and her family were home and luckily they also have a basement to take shelter in. After the tornado was over, she and her family discovered their damage. Even though their house is standing, they can’t stay in it, and had to move out quickly and will not be able to move back in for at least a year. I know they are grateful to be safe and alive, but I can only imagine the stress they are going through picking up the pieces from this horrible day.

To show how there is truly no sense in how/where these winds destroy, here is a picture from Denise’s back yard facing her neighbor’s house. As you can see, in a matter of yards, the tornado completely tore her neighbor’s home down. So sad.

So, why am I showing you all these photos? Well, the other day when I was perusing Teachers Pay Teachers, I discovered that there is a group of teachers who are raising money to help those in need from these disastrous tornadoes. I will be making a purchase and I hope you will to. If you are interested, click the image below and show your support.

IL relief

Now, let’s get my craft on… This weekend I made a new Pinterest craft. The thought behind this craft was that it could actually be a gift that my students make for their families. I used to do a family gift every year, but haven’t for the past few seasons. I’m hoping to try this one with my kiddos, because I know how much their families will love to take them out each holiday. What are they? Drink coasters with their pictures on each one. Here is where I got the inspiration from:

I am going to take you through my adventure creating my own example. Let me rephrase that… I am going to take you through my HONEST adventure creating my own example. Let’s just say, it’s a good thing I practiced first. :) I have to apologize about the quality of my photos. They looked a lot crisper last night, lol.

Step one: My materials

What I used:
A mat of some sort- I used (several) sheets of construction paper
4 pictures printed off my computer onto regular copy paper
4- 4×4 ceramic tiles (shower tiles)
4- 4×4 foam squares
Modge Podge
Modge Podge Acrylic Sealant
glue gun 
assorted ribbon
Not shown: 
Gift Card :) – I’ll explain 

Let me start with a few tips.

#1-I went to my local Home Depot and purchased 100 tiles for $13. I have 24 students, and with my own coasters, we will use all 100. Hopefully, we don’t have any “uh-oh’s” because I have exactly enough. If not, I’ll make a quick trip for the extras.  This box is HEAVY. I’m hoping I don’t trip on my way bringing it into the school or I’ll be buying 100 more. :)

#2- Don’t use pictures printed from your own computer. The ink will run a little. When I actually do this with my own class, I’ll take the pictures (which will be it’s own blog post… so excited for this part!) to Office Max or Staples and have them print them out. I really don’t think it matters if it’s printed on photo or copy paper. Copy paper is more delicate, but still doable.

First things first, I cut my pictures out. For my examples, I used dog pictures. I’m going to be giving the coasters to my mom and since we sadly don’t have any grandkids (yet) in our family, we only have granddogs. 😉 Two of the coasters are of my girl, and the other two coasters are of my sister’s pugs, Yoda and Hunter. Yes, that’s Hunter’s real tongue. It’s super duper long and we love him even more because GOD made him extra special. Poor dude.

Okay, once I cut out the pictures, I spread Modge Podge onto the back of each picture and flattened them onto each tile (with my fingers).

Since everything looked good, I did the next step. I applied a THIN layer of MP to the tops of each coaster. Right on top of the pictures.

I let it dry for about 15 minutes so that I could do the second THIN layer. This is where I noticed a problem. In the original directions, the blogger said to smooth out each photo with a credit card so that it doesn’t bubble up. I thought, “I don’t want to gunk up a credit card. I can smooth it with my fingers.” Well, guess who was wayyy wrong??? THIS girl. After the first thin layer, they were all super bumpy but one was way worse than the others. So, since I knew I have exactly enough tiles, I wondered if I could start over.

Luckily, being wall tiles, they are very durable and SUPER easy to clean. I ran them under water and with some semi-serious rubbing, got all the remnants off of the original picture. This is where using actual photos could be better. If I were doing only a few, I’d use actual pictures, but for this craft, that would mean printing 96 pictures. I decided I wanted to do another one over, so I reprinted these two photos and found (oddly enough) a PetLand gift card. This way I had the strength of a credit card, but wouldn’t possibly damage an actual credit card. I don’t know if I’ve ever been in a PetLand. I’ve been to PetCo and PetSmart, but can’t say I even know where a PetLand is near me. I was given this as a Christmas gift MANY years ago and obviously have never used it. Lol.

Slide12So, I started over with these two tiles. I cut the photos, applied MP to the back of the pictures, laid them on the tile, smoothed them with the gift card and let them dry. Once dry, I applied the first THIN layer to the top of each tile. I liked it so much better that guess what I did???

I redid the other two tiles.

Yep, that was me… the girl who should have followed directions the first time. Lesson learned. But, I figure, if I am going to do something, I might as well do it right. :)

Okay, so after each of the four tiles had three THIN layers of MP applied to the top, I did the next step. (BTW–wait about 15 minutes between layer to let them dry completely. I had a ceiling fan going so that sped it up as well)

For this step, I took the tiles into the garage and applied a generous layer of the acrylic sealant to protect the pictures from wet glasses. I did this in the garage because the original blogger said to do this in a well-ventilate area. I was not about to NOT follow her directions again. So, I sprayed them and let them dry in the garage over night.

Almost done! Once they are totally dry, I warmed up my glue gun and applied a generous amount of glue to each foam square and pressed them to the backs of each tile. This is to protect your furniture from the rough side of each tile.

Some people use felt dots like the picture below while others use foam or felt.

Slide17I did buy these, but I’m pretty sure I’ll save them for something else. I have a TON of foam sheets left over from a project I didn’t end up doing, so I’d rather use that and make sure I’m not possibly damaging some family’s furniture if the dots fall off.

Last step: Tie together with a pretty bow!

Once all the glue dried, I stacked them, and used the green ribbon to tie them together.

Overall, I think it will be a great project to complete with my class. It will take a few days to complete because of the drying, but we’ll make it work. Have you done this project before? Any words of wisdom before I tackle it with my class?

If this isn’t your cup of tea craftly speaking, check  out the other creative teachers who also linked up with a fourth grade favorite of mine–Tara at 4th Grade Frolics! She always has the best ideas that are helpful and most importantly, easy to implement!



Have a great week!


Veterans Day Rerun (Just in time) :)

by becky on November 3, 2013

Can you believe it is already November?!?!?! I have Parent/Teacher/Student Conferences this week so I have had to really plan ahead to keep everything moving smoothly. I’m excited for November because it means full Fall! I love seeing the trees changing colors and the change in time. The extra hour this morning was MUCH appreciated. However, I wish someone had let Lillie in on the secret that we could sleep an extra hour. That girl was up and at it at 4:00/3:00 am. Really? Really? Oh well, once she settled I was able to take a power nap because let’s be honest… this teacher needs all the sleep she can get.

Another part of November I enjoy is teaching my students about Veterans Day (no apostrophe) :). I created a mini-unit last school year that I’m incredibly proud of. If you have already purchased it, make sure to re-download it because now it is CCSS aligned. In case you missed it last year, here is how I implemented it with my students.


So, I have to be honest. In the past I haven’t taken much time to really discuss Veterans Day. I always asked students what they know about the holiday and why we celebrate it. I am ashamed to admit that I’d often get Veterans Day and Memorial Day confused. Well, not anymore. This past year my best friend began working in the Murfreesboro Veterans Administration Hospital in Tennessee. She can’t tell me much about her patients, but the bottom line is Veterans are not honored nearly enough for what they sacrifice for our safety. Now that my eyes have truly been opened to this, I decided that I will no longer pass up this holiday and I will educate my students on the history of Veterans Day and why we NEED to honor and celebrate these heroes. I learned a ton and I feel confident my students did also. In fact, every once in while teachers create lesson plans that they don’t want to admit that they are proud of, but THIS one I’m very proud of. Here is a breakdown of the learning that took place in my classroom.

First I passed out a Veterans Day K-W-L to my students and together we filled in the K and W section together. Then, I read the first of two pictures books to the class. I intentionally chose LOW leveled books so that they get the gist without overwhelming them. Here is the exact book we read the first day.

As I was reading, students were allowed to take notes on what they were learning. Like I said, it was low enough that they were able to listen and take notes. Here they are doing a GREAT job of participating… (such good Goobers :) )

On the same day, one of my thoughtful teammates brought in her boyfriend’s actual military dog tags for the students to look at. I forgot to take pictures, but they were so gentle with the tags and they were beyond excited to find out why it had the information on it. Nothing like building suspense.

The next day we read my personal favorite book on Veterans Day…

They again, took notes as I was reading. At the end, I had them share out their “L” thoughts. Here is our KWL anchor chart filled in. :)

Then, came the part I was MOST excited about. I told the class that they would be writing friendly letters to the Veterans that my best friend works with.  But, it wouldn’t be just any friendly letter. Nope, these would be in the shape of dog tags-cuh-ute!!! Of course immediately they were super stoked. I have to admit one of the things I really enjoy about this class is they enjoy doing projects. That of course makes me feel good knowing they are excited to use their creativity. Here is my example I showed to my 4th grade friends.

Since they were excited (“Cool. Awesome.” were just some comments I heard 😉 ) I knew I wouldn’t get many complaints when they turned over their KWL chart and saw on the back I had created a Friendly Letter graphic organizer for them to write their letters. The letters will be glued in between the two tags. With some guidance they got to work and began filling in the different sections of the graphic organizer. OMG… some of the things they were writing really made me feel good because I know the veteran who receives it will be touched.

Moving on… :)

The next day I decided to discuss why soldiers wear military dog tags and the history behind them. (very cool to know btw) We read a handout I made and then answered questions such as, “why do soldiers wear 2 identical tags? What types of information is included on them? and “Why are they called dog tags?” I wanted them to learn that everything has importance and that when something is symbolic, it’s because there is a history to it. That led us to why Poppies are a popular and symbolic sign of Veterans Day. By this point students were ready to peer edit their sloppy copy organizers and get to work on their final copy stationary.  When they were finished recopying their letters (in pencil), I had them pick the cover they wanted. I had 4 choices available. They then colored the letters in with a gray crayon, and cut their pieces out. I wanted to make them look super authentic so I found this silver ribbon at Hobby Lobby that looks like a real chain.

You can’t beat 24 feet for $1.99. Um, totally happy I found this. I really makes them look authentic.

Once their actual projects were done, we talked about red poppies and why we see Veterans and those supporting the Veterans wearing these flowers. Another interesting fact I learned. Then, each student used the template I created and made their own poppy. I told them that they get to keep the poppy since we are sending their letters to the Veterans. Here is my class’s amazing final projects.

They look so great and the students have a way better appreciation for what these men and women have done and continue to do everyday. I wish I had thought of this sooner, but at least I feel better knowing that from here on out, come early November, my students will be learning a whole lot more about this honorable holiday.

I realize that today is Veterans Day (P.S. did you know that you are NOT supposed to add ‘s to Veterans Day? I didn’t until I did this project), but if you want to purchase your own copy of this unit, even if you just hang on to it until Memorial Day or for next year… here is a breakdown of what you will get in this 24-page unit.

Included in this unit:

{Suggested} Lesson Plans
KWL Anchor Chart Headers
Veteran KWL student copy
Friendly Letter Graphic Organizer
** (NEW)Text vs. Text Graphic Organizer
4 Front Cover templates
Back cover template
Final copy stationary (2 page options)
**(NEW)Blank Page Option (Students can draw a picture for their Veteran.)
History of Military Dog Tag handout/Review Questions
Poppy Craft idea
Character Traits of a Veteran student organizer
Bulletin Board Headline Letters
Examples from my classroom

 Click {here} to visit my TpT store to get your own copy.

Have a great week!


A free gift perfect for Halloween! :)

by becky on October 30, 2013

Hi Everyone! So, if you are reading this, I’m hoping you have all your Halloween candy bought, your costume completed, and your party plans all figured out. If you have, then you are MILES ahead of me. Well, I have the candy bought but, everything else “will get done when it gets done”. I had a very busy and super fun weekend visiting my friend Lisa in Nashville. No joke, I could totally see myself living there. TN teachers… know of any teacher openings? 😉

Well, if you aren’t 100% sure how you are going to reign the troops in on Thursday, I’m hoping I can help. Last year, I created a Halloween Hunt for my students to complete. Here are some highlights from last year’s October 31st activities. :)

When I was lesson planning last week, I realized how choppy the next two weeks were going to be. I decided that on the 31st, we would do some math review. I wanted to play different Halloween-themed games, but again, that didn’t happen. Instead, as I was laying in bed a few nights ago, I kept thinking how wound up the kids were going to be ALL day on Wednesday and how I might contain a little of the craziness. Then, duh, it hit me! A Halloween hunt. If you’ve visited my blog fairly often or even if you just snag my freebies, then you may notice I like to do classroom scavenger hunts. This time, I’d have the kids do a Math review scavenger hunt. THEY LOVE IT and the deep down bottom of my heart secret reason I love this is because they are SILENT. So, I printed up some cute Halloween question cards using digital backgrounds I bought on Etsy , wrote 22 review (a question per student)  questions on the cards and hung them up around the room. Here is an example of one of the 22 cards scattered throughout my room…

As soon as I started taping the cards up, the kids knew exactly what I was doing. They were way excited and I was way happy I didn’t have to pump the activity up. Once we reviewed expectations, (spread out and give each other space, work independently, be quiet, stay focused, and use your resources) I passed out their answer sheets and let them go. I kid you not, it was so quiet in my room you could hear a pin drop. That kinda freaked me out… I’m so weird. Too noisy and I get nervous but too quiet and I get jittery. Have I ever mentioned I have issues? It’s cool.

Sooo, I turned on some fun Halloween music (quietly)

 and then it was just right in my room.

Questions may be found on the counter…

On the wall…

Next to a whole BUNCH of toilet paper…

and even in the mailbox bin.

And it wouldn’t be a successful math review if I didn’t ask them to answer my FAVORITE math fact!

What did I do during the hunt? Well, after I monitored that everyone was focused, I sat at my back table and re-glued the Goober’s morning magnets. Nice!

They did such a stellar job, I was super happy I had put these baggies together. I had originally planned to hand them out at the end of the day, but I thought their mature work habits deserved a little reward. Each baggie had a purple pen, orange pen, bag of pretzels, Pop Rocks, and 10 mini toothpastes. I mean, everyone needs more toothpaste after Halloween! 😉

I have ALL intentions of doing this again on Halloween… minus the goody bags. Those just didn’t happen this year. Si la vie! If you also want a little peace and quiet WHILE also having your students review previously learned topics (it doesn’t have to be Math… in fact, I’m already thinking of Science and Social Studies questions I’m going to write on the cards) then click  below and download your own copy of my 22 question cards (blank) and student answer form. I hope you enjoy!

Have a great night and Happy Halloween!


iPick…iPod style!

by becky on October 6, 2013

Hi, Everyone! I hope the Fall weather and dropping temperatures has been getting everyone ready for the best holidays of the year! :) I am excited to share some fun freebies over the next month of things you can do in your classroom to make the holidays more fun and manageable.

Today, I am going to share my newest addition to my Teachers Pay Teachers store. I’ve been working on some new units, but wanted to share a fun visual that anyone with ANY reading program can use.

This current school year has been an explosion of new curriculum in my district. We are implementing a brand new reading/writing curriculum and attempting a new Math pacing in order to meet the needs of the CCSS. Needless to say, like SO MANY of you out there, it has been a challenge to stay afloat. I have to say though, this has been a great year in terms of team collaboration. I am lucky to work with 3 other professionals that “get it”, and are willing to work together to make sense of this new adventure we call CCSS. I still feel overwhelmed EVERY.SINGLE.DAY…. but, I’m starting to feel like I might get through the year with only half of my hair turning gray. 😉

One of the big steps I’m taking to getting on the same page as my team is to begin to incorporate the CAFE into my reading groups. I love learning about new strategies and bought both The Daily 5 and The CAFE books years ago. I use parts of the Daily 5 inmy classroom even though I don’t necessarily call it that, but I have been apprehensive to delve into CAFE. I’m taking it slow this year, and praying my teammates don’t get annoyed with the bajillion questions I will have, but you have to start somewhere. I have the headers up and will get them in my TpT store soon, (free of course), but for now, I want to share how I taught my students to pick “Just Right” books.

In the first few weeks of the school year, I observed my students choosing books from my library. I wanted to see what types of books they gravitated towards. It was not surprising that books like “Diary of a Wimpy Kid”, and “Bone” (graphic novels) were among the most popular. I knew that this year I needed to do a formal mini-lesson on how to choose “Just Right” books. I am a firm believer in not forcing students to read at a certain level just because their formal assessments say that is the “right” level. I really feel that in fourth grade, students should be free to choose the topics and genres that interest them… to a certain extent. I want to create and deepen their love of reading, but also want to challenge them as readers. That’s why I give them a few weeks to choose their own books. Then, I swoop in and guide them in choosing “better” books.

To start, I ALWAYS read this book:


I LOVE LOVE LOVE and just for fun LOVE this book! It is a great way to introduce choosing books. After we discuss the story, we create an anchor chart of Too Easy/Just Right/Too Hard books. Then, I introduce my version of the iPick poster. There are millions of these floating around cyberspace, but I decided to gear mine towards the iPod. Here is my class’s anchor chart and iPick poster displayed in my classroom.

 Then, after they know what my expectations are for them, they “check in” their books with me. The language we use is “Fun books” and “Independent books”. I let them choose three a week from my library and one of them MUST be an “Independent book”. They are assigned a shopping day to choose new books, and their books need to last them the week. If I notice they are finishing way too quickly, I step in and help them make better choices. The funniest part is when I suggest a book and they seem very apprehensive. Then, after they read it for a few days, almost always they come to me and say, “Ms. Furlan, I LOVE this book!” I joke and say, “Wow! Ms. Furlan must know something about picking good books for her library.” But, it’s forming trust between us so they can believe me when I say, “Try this. I bet you’ll like it.”

If you would like to have your own iPick poster iPod style, click the picture below, and snag the file for yourself! I made them in a variety of colors to fit any color/theme you may have. I hope it helps. Til next time, happy reading!