Happy Labor Day! I can’t believe it is already September 2nd. What a crazy rush of a summer and start to the new school year. So much has happened, but let’s just say… things are on the slow now and I couldn’t be happier.

Can I be completely honest? No judgement? Promise? Here’s a secret…  I really do NOT enjoy the beginning of the school year. I know it sounds so harsh, but I feel like a broken record for the first few weeks of school. I go home utterly exhausted, and I feel like the new normal takes longer each year to get established. I’m not complaining. I’m just stating my truth. I LOVE the second month of school. Kiddos begin to fall into our class routines, I no longer feel like I’m setting up the classroom, and I can go home with a few hours left of energy each day. I know the beginning of the year sets the tone for the entire rest of the year, which is why I still keep the record player going, I go to bed early to make sure I have energy for the next day, and I continue to believe, “We’ll get there.”

This week is our third week, so I’m beginning to have hope that we WILL “get there”. My new group of kiddos are *quite* the bunch, and I’ve been trying my hardest to be as consistent as possible because I KNOW they need the structure. The good thing is my team and I are in this together. This is truly a unique bunch of students and we are all working together to “get there”.

That being said, I have been oh so happy to have a 3-day weekend! Of course, I’ve been working on school stuff, but I’ve also been enjoying the calm. Keep Calm and Carry On, right?

One of the perks of having a genius for a sister is she has great jobs. Jobs that have perks. Perks that my coworkers and I will never experience. One of these perks is having Transformers 4 being filmed partially in her workplace. This weekend in Chicago, they were doing some of the filming, and employees were able to come and watch production, and see some of the props. She asked me if I wanted to come, and even though I honestly have NEVER seen a Transformers movie, I thought it would be cool to go and take pictures to show my kiddos. Sidenote— a few weeks ago Divergent was being filmed here also and I kept asking her if she was going to try to be an extra. I will totally try in case the second movie gets filmed there as well.

So, guess what… movie sets are pretty boring. There is a WHOLE lot of waiting and standing around. But, we did get to see some of the cars and we even had a Walhberg sighting. Take a look…

That’s me in front of a few of the cars that weren’t being used… Again, no clue abut these, but I’m sure some of my boys will be able to tell me the back stories.

We were pretty far away, but my sister still managed to get a shot of “Marky Mark”. I always think of him and wonder if “Nicole 4 eva” is still on his chest, lol. After his sighting, there wasn’t much going on. Still SUPER cool to see in person.

In other news, amid my internet absence, I completed several crafts for my classroom. I was pretty busy working on all sorts of projects this summer. I wanted to share a few of them with you since they turned out so well. :)

So, this summer I finally decided to take on flowers. I have a pretty large backyard that came with a bunch of really bad landscaping. Over the past three summers, I have cleaned up the landscaping to the best of my own ability, but basically that meant tearing everything out and starting over. I planted a bunch of flowers in pots because I wasn’t sure what I should plant, but I figured it was a good way to start out gardening. One day when I was at Home Depot buying soil, I found these cork mats. I bought a bunch, and decided to paint them using my class colors.

The picture below is the final shot. I am using them as cork boards to pin student pictures up on. They are currently hanging on the front of my desk at work and add a  nice touch of color to my usually dull desk. Easy Peasy!

The next project I made literally took all summer. Not because it was hard to do, but because I had to wait for Hobby Lobby to call and tell me my back-ordered parenthesis shapes were in. The signs below are made from Chip Decor and I originally bought all four letters and the two parenthesis they had in stock. After 5 different Hobby Lobby’s (including one in TN), my shipment finally came in and I was able to finish my project. I really do like how they turned out. They are displayed in window in my classroom library. They look great!

The next project was inspired because I had the urge to have all my shelves match. I have bought several of the plastic shelving over the years and they aren’t all the same brand, size, or height. They never looked bad, but I thought it would be fun to have them all the same color. Then I found spray paint for plastic and bought a few black cans. Here are the first few in my garage ready to be painted.

Here are the same two drying next to my shed. They dry pretty quickly but I wanted them to air out outside. Super easy project, just VERY stinky. I definitely suggest using a mask for any spray painting project.

One of the last projects was just an updated birthday card for my kiddos. I have used Lillie on my past birthday cards for the class, but I wanted the gift to be Pop Rocks, so I tweaked the saying to fit the candy. Lucky kids!

So, there you have it. A few of my finished projects that I just did not get to post about. But, better late than never. :) I hope you have had a great summer and start to your school year! I’m hoping to share some class pics soon. I finally have  a SMARTBoard and getting it meant rearranging the ENTIRE classroom. I feel like it is a completely different room.  A lot of work was put into it, but it’s one of my favorite set-ups and themes.

Til then, have a great short week at school!


Monday Made It (finally)

by becky on July 8, 2013

Hi Everyone! I can’t believe how fast the summer is flying by. This time next month I will hopefully be putting the finishing touches on my classroom. We officially start August 16th so I have A LOT to do to get ready for my upcoming Goobers. I have been working on plenty of things this summer, but most have been house related. I have also been waiting impatiently patiently for Hobby Lobby to restock some of their Chip Decor so one of my first projects has been put on hold since early June. I cannot even express how many Hobby Lobby stores I have been to in IL and also in TN. I went to TN a few weeks ago to visit some college friends and luckily I was able to stop in a Hobby Lobby there. Per usual, my shape was out of stock. Grr. Oh well, it will just make the project more meaningful once it is done.

So, for today’s post, I wanted to share a project I was able to complete. I don’t know about you, but the things my students collect on and inside their desk drives me nuts. I feel like some kiddos understand that less is more on their desk, but others are mini hoarders and every day they have more “things” they accumulate. In their defense, I do expect them to have a pencil, pen, and highlighter at easy access. But, that can turn into a pencil, pen, highlighter, glue stick, dry erase marker, pink eraser, smencil, marker, notebook, and hand sanitizer. AHH! I am forever saying, “Find a new home for this” to several  Goobers each year. Sooo, when I saw that The Dollar Tree had black, plastic, kid-friendly pencil cups, I knew I could work with them.

After I bought 30… yes, 30,  (we never know how many kids we are going to have and my 1st year, I had 34 students.) I figured out how I could tweak them to make them more fun and personalized. Here are my materials:

I’m still going with a colorful classroom theme this year, but I’m narrowing the colors to pink, yellow, green, and blue. Why? Well, those were my favorite colors of polka dot border I could find. I wish they had purple with white dots, but no such luck. Maybe next year. The good thing is that I have a bunch of signs and posters already made up in these colors, so hopefully the room will look less punky and more pulled together.

To create my new pencil cups, I cut strips of ribbon in each of my new colors, 2-inch black polka dot circles, and  numbers 1-30 in a whimsical frame. To adhere everything I used mini Velcro dots and of course, my hot glue gun.

The reason for the Velcro dots, is because I am planning to have my kiddos pick their own pencil cup. I don’t have my roster yet, so I don’t want to assign numbers to cups without know who is getting what. I mean, most boys are go with the flow, but I wouldn’t want to accidentally give a boy a pink cup just because their number happened to land on a pink ribbon.

I put a velcro dot here…

And the opposite side on the back of the numbers.

This way once they are glue together, the numbers will be easy to change out when necessary.

After a few trial and error cups, I got the hang of it. I’m hoping they will hold up.

I might need to get bigger Velcro dots, but I’m hoping they stay strong. Fingers crossed.

The final examples…

And, the same cups with the numbers switched around… easy peasy

All cleaned up and ready to be taken to school. :)

And there you have it… My first Monday Made it completed. :)

I am hoping to post a few more finished ideas this week. If it keeps raining, they will definitely be completed. This may be one of the rainiest summers I can remember.

For a TON more craft ideas, click the button below and visit Tara’s famous linky party.

Happy Crafting! :)


It’s the end of the year!

by becky on June 6, 2013

I’m back!!!! What a crazy last few weeks of school. I cannot believe the year is actually over.  The past 26 days of school have gone by in practically a blur. Today is officially the first day of my summer vacation, so what have I done? Nothing, lol. I slept in, did some laundry, walked the pup, and caught up on my blog. I did get dressed and stayed dressed, but after a few hours, decided that I’m not leaving the house today…so, my pajamas are back on. Now, I’m catching up on Dance Moms 2-hour season premiere that I missed the other night. Well, I had it on, but I fell asleep practically 20 minutes into the episode. I’m sure you can all relate to the end of the year craziness. So, for me, chill-axing is not a bad way to kick off vacation.

But, now that I have time to catch up, I realize I started to explain what all I did for the ABC Countdown to the end of the year and then I went MIA. Well, I hope you like the following explanation! I know I already talked about our A-Day, but I wanted to have all the ideas in one place…

There are several versions of this floating around TpT and Pinterest. This is my take on the project. To complete, I instructed my students to come up with 3 things that they want to accomplish over the summer. One was to be family related, another school related, and the third was their choice. I love how they look with the fun summer colors!

When I first passed out the ABC Countdown calendar and the kids saw that C was Cartoon Day, they immediately thought we were going to be watching cartoons in class. Even though I PROMISED them that that is NOT what we were going to do, they didn’t believe me. But, I know they were much happier with this activity. One of my great 5th grade teacher friends gave me these copies a decade ago when I was a first year teacher. Basically, the kids trace different heads, faces, hair, eyes, and clothes and create new characters. They LOVED this and it was super hard to get them to stop. Luckily, we had many indoor recess days during May so they were able to create more characters during that time.

This was another fun day. At first I was just going to do L-Lollipops, but then I thought it might be fun for the kids to write letters to next year’s students. I asked them to give the new Goobers advice on how to be successful in TEAM Furlan! I’ll have the letters on the new kiddos desks on the first day of school. :)

For this activity, I gave the kiddos their Time Capsules that they had completed during the first week of school. With the capsules, they had measured themselves with a piece of string. The cutest part was their sincere amazement at how much they’ve grown. To wrap this up, I had them complete the End of Year Reflection page seen above. I recollected both forms and a few days later they glued their forms in their 4th grade scrapbook we put together.

If you haven’t downloaded your own copy of these forms, click the picture below and visit my TpT store where you can get them for free! Enjoy!

Super fun!!! I found this idea on Pinterest and it was such a fun way to exchange autographs. I gave each student their own beach ball and permanent marker, then they blew their beach balls up, and the fun began. I will admit that the bouncing sound was stuck in my head for several hours AFTER school was over, but si la vie. It was a great memory for the class.

And, to end the 2012-2013 year, we had a classroom awards ceremony where each kiddo was given a candy-bar themed certificate and of course, the candy that goes with it!!! And, because I didn’t quite spoil them enough, as they were leaving me and becoming Stinky 5th graders, they chose two kool-aid freeze pops to enjoy over the summer!

Wow! And, I wonder why I’m tired?!?! Well, no time to really rest this summer since my district is going back 2 weeks earlier than normal, and we have a brand new reading AND writing curriculum. So, what am I doing this summer? Getting prepared, that’s what.

Until next time… have a great day and enjoy some time for  yourself!


Just in time for Mother’s Day

by becky on May 4, 2013

So, this morning I was browsing Pinterest for EASY and inexpensive Mother’s Day ideas that I can have my students make this week. I found this cute idea from Kathy of First Grade ala Carte.

I had thought about my kiddos making coupons for their moms, but this added a little more sweetness to the gift. Each flower has a chore or a promise to do something for their mom.  I hope Kathy doesn’t mind, but I tweaked this idea and created my own version of this project. I plan to brainstorm “coupon” ideas with my class next week, but I figured it would be a good idea if I had some ideas already written to help guide their thinking.

Then, I made templates for my own flowers and flower pot. Here is my example I made this morning. (The things I do instead of yard work…) I don’t have all the fun colors of paper at home that I do at school, but I still think it looks cute. :) (Those are supposed to be tulips, btw)

I thought it might be cute to give the kids an option to write a message directly on the flower pot or they could write on the “card” I created. Want to see all I made?

Does this look like a break down of a product I might post in my TpT store? Well, it’s your lucky day!!! Click the picture below and download your own copy of this project for your own students. Oh yeah, for FREE! :) I hope it brings a smile to yours and your student’s mom’s faces. Not sure if I used the apostrophes correctly… lol.

I’d love to hear what you think!!! I hope someone finds it useful. Have a great rest of your weekend. Get ready for Teacher’s Appreciation Week! :)


A= Art Project Day!

by becky on April 30, 2013


Well, we kicked off our ABC Countdown to the last day of 4th grade. Like I said yesterday, I’ve never done this with my class before. I wasn’t sure how my kiddos would take to it, but OMG… I really don’t think they could have been any more excited when I explained it to them on Monday. ALL morning they kept asking me when we going to make our project. I had some SUPER fun MAP testing this morning, so I just wanted them to focus while they were taking their frustrating important tests.

Finally, it was time to get started. I decided that I wanted to try to tie in a holiday with our craft. Since we discussed a lot about Veterans Day back in November, I decided to talk about Memorial Day. A more organized teacher would have had a picture book to read the class, but I was having quite the overwhelming morning, and didn’t have time to find one to read. Soo, we just reviewed what we had learned about Veterans Day, and how it relates to Memorial Day. Then, we created a craft inspired by Teri from A Cupcake for the Teacher . Check out the Goobers in action…

Can you tell how excited he is? What a goof!!! :)

Here are our projects on display…

Since my whole team is doing a countdown in their own classrooms, I wanted to see what projects they were making with their class. Take a peek:

The Human Highlighter’s class made these way cute flowers.

Then, they planted them around the school and spread some happiness! Love.

Check out these super creative torn paper masterpieces. I wish I had taken a picture of the hallway shots. One kiddo made a amazingly realistic Pikachu out of torn paper. My class was way impressed.

You can’t see it, but underneath the apples, the ladies are grinning with pride!

And what Mom won’t adore these hand print flowerpots. I’m not a mom, but I know that it’s just the kind of project I would save forever. Your child is only in 4th grade once and with this project the lucky moms will forever have their child’s fourth grade hand print.

I think it’s safe to say that our first A-day was a success. I’m sure B-day (bubble gum), will be just as exciting. Now, this teacher is going to work on some way cool progress reports and watch the 2-hour (score) season finale of Dance Moms. Yes. I watch it. I can’t help it. It’s a sickness. Have a great night everyone!

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It warms my heart…

by becky on April 30, 2013

It sincerely makes me feel good when I see other teachers use my ideas in their own classrooms. I mean, I know I get feedback on TpT, but it’s honestly humbling when I can see for myself how others use my ideas.  I’ve gone to district in-services and seen my Math Posters on other 4th grade teacher’s walls. Um, way cool. So, when I came to school today and saw one of my teammates had hung the Autobiography file I had shared with him, I was super stoked. Let me introduce him… Here’s Steve. :)

This is how he looks EVERY morning  and EVERY afternoon when he goes out for bus duty. He was more than excited mortified when he was asked to take over this when the teacher who used to do it was going on maternity leave. I like to think of him as the human highlighter. I secretly love when he goes to leave for home and he still has the vest on. Then, I bring it to his attention, and he rips it off like it’s on fire.  Ahhh, good times, good times. Well, he has helped me TREMENDOUSLY with my reading instruction this year, so I am happy that I was able to give him a writing idea. What idea was that? Well, around the time my kiddos were finishing their Autobiography projects, I shared my files with my teammates. I’m not sure if the others used it or not, but I do know Steve did, because I even saw that he had created an anchor chart just like the one I used with my class. Aww. Well, his students completed theirs and today he hung them up.

Super cute!!! :) Thanks, Steve. You made my day!

In case you missed my blog post about how I tweaked Christi Fultz’s original file, no worries! Christi has updated her file and let’s say… it’s way cute. Just click the picture below and visit Christi’s store where you can download her ENTIRE file for free. Don’t forget to leave her some feedback. She totally deserves it.

In other exciting news… today is officially the last day before the last 26 days of school. Confused?  LOL, what I mean is, that starting tomorrow my class is going to begin our…

I have seen this idea on Pinterest and ProTeacher, but I’ve never sat down and put ideas on paper. Luckily, one of my teammates very generously shared her ideas with our team. I was super excited she shared this and tomorrow the fun begins! To celebrate “A”, my class will be completing a Memorial Day Art project. Stay tuned… more pictures to come!


Having an opinion…

by becky on April 25, 2013

is NOT something my kiddos have trouble with. They do, however, have some trouble writing about their opinions and supporting them with reasons. So, when the time came in my self-created writing timeline, I thought about the best way to introduce this genre was through some short writing prompts. To get them talking, I read Hey, Little Ant.

Such a cute book! I liked how it left the ending open. It helped us to have some discussions about what they would do if they were the boy and they had the choice to squish the ant. Poor ant… some of my goobers were all about making him sidewalk smear.

After we read the book, I had the fill in this graphic organizer. Then, they pair/shared with a buddy.

The next day, we continued our discussion about opinion writing. I introduced this graphic organizer.

I reviewed the “ingredients” for an opinion piece and then I created an anchor chart to model for them how I would write my own. I chose a hot topic in my classroom. We were working on this right around the time the White Sox and the Cubs were having their home openers.  :) Go Sox!

The next step was for them to try to write their own piece. At first, I thought I wanted to have the kids choose a topic at random. I had made copies of the form below, and cut each out. I was going to have them choose one from a pile and then write. At the last minute, I changed my mind. Instead, I projected the whole paper and let them choose what they wanted to write about. I’m glad I did this because then NO ONE complained about their topic. I saved myself a headache that day. 

They loved the one about grounding their parents, ha!

While they were editing/revising, I found some scrapbook paper that I had hidden in my cabinet. Of course, I had to use it with this project. It is inspired by Amy’s Writing Tips and Tricks Craftivity. Love it!

This was a quick prompt/project that  I completed before Spring Break. I still am not 100% sure how long they need to be, so I just stuck with paragraph length. The think with the Common Core State Standards is that they can be interpreted more than one way. If you think this might be an idea you want to try with your class, click the picture below and you can download a free copy of my Hey, Little Ant graphic organizer, my opinion graphic organizer, and my prompt ideas. Hopefully, you’ll find it helpful. I’d love to hear what you think!

Well, I’m going to get ready for tomorrow-Friday-… the best day of the week (in my opinion)! Hope you have a great night and weekend!


The Great Flood of 2013

by becky on April 19, 2013

That’s what I’m sure many of my co-workers, friends, and family will be referring to when we talk about April 18th, 2013.  Let’s just say that I’ve never experienced a “rain day” from school until now. My town and several of the surrounding towns have been underwater since around 4:00 am. School seems to be open tomorrow, since most of the roads around the district are open. However, it’s the teachers who are driving from nearby towns that might find our commute to work a little difficult. Here is a picture of an intersection near one of my district’s high schools.

Luckily, my basement is NOT flooded and I do not have a major mess to clean up. I do understand the stress of that though, since I had two floods last year. It’s not fun, and I feel for anyone experiencing that right now.

Well, the good news about having a “rain day”, (besides the fact that I didn’t have to get ready for work) is that I had an entire day to catch up. I don’t know how I can feel so behind even though I just had Spring Break. The life of a teacher, I suppose. :)

So, what have we been working on since we got back from Spring Break? A whole LOT of things: decimals, reading Because of Winn-Dixie, learning about the causes of the Civil War, and writing about how we can take care of our Earth.

I love this particular writing unit because it really gives me the opportunity to talk to my students about how to take care of our planet but also, why  we need to take are of Earth. They love sharing ideas and brainstorming ways we can do our part both at school and at home. They did “suggest” that I use both sides of the paper when I’m writing class notes during math. I loved that they made this connection and promised to do my best!

To keep the momentum going, we discussed the 3 R’s. Otherwise known as Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle. We talked about what these words mean and how they work together and can overlap. Then, I had them work in their clusters to cut out and sort 15 Earth Day statements. 5 statements were to be sorted under each heading. I wanted them to work with their groups, but I didn’t want them to glue anything until we did the same sort as a whole class.

Once most groups had sorted their cards, we worked on the sort as a whole class.  To do this, I picked  students at random and asked them to read the card I gave them. On the cards were suggestions that would fit under our Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle heading. the great part came when students didn’t agree. They used their evidence to support their reasons, and when all else failed, they compromised. As we went along, there were times that we switched cards around to fulfill certain agreements. I heard things like, “I’ll agree that that card can go under reuse, if you agree that this card goes under reduce.” So smart! Here are some of my Goobers placing their card under the headings.

When we finished placing all 15 cards on the board, I instructed the kiddos to glue their statements down under each corresponding heading.

Then, I hung the statements up in the classroom for the students to refer to later on during the week.

Now, I felt that they had some good information to help them to complete their writing portion of the unit. Must build background first! :) To complete this, students watch me model how I filled in my graphic organizer of how I plan to Handle the Earth with Care by reducing, reusing, and recycling. They needed to say what they would do and how it would help the planet. I forgot to take pictures of this part, but, pretty much they spent one writing session filling in the graphic organizer, and the next day they peer edited using the acronym CUPS. Then, they revised using the acronym ARMS.

Once they felt confident about their editing/revising, they were given final copy stationary to use for their project. I modeled mine to show them the quality of handwriting I was looking for. It’s been tough with some of my kiddos this year. They just have really hard writing to read.

Once they finished recopying, they colored their heading and cut their circle(s) out.

Finally, came the project! Since the topic was “Handle with Care”. I wanted them to recreate the project I made last year with them holding the Earth (carefully) in their hands. First, they glued their writing inside their covers, glued their continents on, and worked with a partner to trace their hands. This part was super sweet to see! I love teamwork!

When everyone was finished, they shared their prompt with a partner and then we hung them proudly in the hallway.

We have a few more Earth Day activities to complete, but I’m hoping that through this project my students will begin to take responsibility for our fragile planet.

If you are looking for a fun/informational way to celebrate Earth Day with your students, take a trip to my store. Here’s all that’s included!

I’d love to hear how you and your students recognize this special day, so leave me some Earth Day love! Have a great (hopefully rain-free) night!


Spring Break 2013

by becky on April 14, 2013

Hi, There! I can’t believe my very late Spring Break will officially be over in just a matter of hours. That “gotta go to work tomorrow” feeling has been brewing in my stomach all morning. Though it hasn’t been the most eventful break, it was just nice to have a break. A true break. I’m not embarrassed to admit that on one or two of the past 9 days, I literally stayed in my pajamas all day. I don’t get true down time a lot during the school year, so I enjoyed every last second I had.

But, before I go any further, I did want to give a little update on my girl. The results came back and she has something called Copper Hepatitis. It’s a genetic disorder where her liver stores copper instead of filtering it out of her system. Through the biopsy we were able to find out her current level of copper in her liver. Forgive me, I don’t know the exact unit the doctor said, but basically a healthy dog’s liver can tolerate around 50 (mg, mL, ???) of copper. It becomes toxic at 1,500 (mg, mL, ???) but Lillie’s liver showed around 5,400 (mg, mL, ???) of copper currently stored. Can you say OMG??? The good news is that because we know what is wrong, we can actually try to clear her liver out over the next 6 months. We are going to do this through prescription food and many, many, many prescriptions. She is on a TON of medicine for the next 6 months in hopes that we can get this under control. Right now, I’m staying positive that all this will work itself out and we’ll get her on a maintenance plan. Believe it or not, there was no damage yet to her liver so we literally caught this in time. I never thought I’d be glad that she broke her foot. But, without those blood tests we probably would not have caught this in time. Her broken foot literally saved her life.

So, speaking of Lillie, I did spend a lot of time over break with her. One of the last ditch efforts I am putting in to keep her from having to have her ACL repaired surgically, is to do one last round of laser treatments. She’s had them in the past but I didn’t do a good job of forcing her to rest while the treatments were going on. This time, I went back to the original center where she did water therapy after her foot surgery. So, now, the princess gets laser on her knees, hocks, and hips, and then uses the water treadmill for 15 minutes. SHE LOVES THIS!!! And, I’m so happy to say, that I’m seeing a HUGE improvement on her walking. Fingers crossed that this may be just what she needs. Here’s a fun picture of her sporting her goggles before the laser began.

I was surprised that she actually kept them on for the majority of the treatment. Then, she realized she could swat them off and off they went. What a goof! :)

 Another thing I need to mention about my spring break is that it rained. A LOT. Which I guess turned out to be a blessing because I was forced to get some projects done/partially done in my house. Comcast came out, I ordered Hinckley Springs water for my house, and I made a new wreath for my door. Here’s a few pics of the supplies and then the final product.

It looks really nice on my door. I’d show you, but my front door is part glass and all you’ll see is the wreath with me reflected in the image. I’ll pass 😉

I also FINALLY finished up 5 projects/units I’ve been working on for what feels like forever. They are currently being edited, but I thought I’d share some teasers of the covers.

This is a writing/craft project I’ve been working on since last school year. I’m really a big believer in only selling what you teach so I wanted to make sure I’ve gotten all the kinks out before I post this. More information to come… :)

This is a kid-tested/teacher-approved math game that is PERFECT for fast finishers or math centers. My kiddos played this the week before break and they kept asking to play again. They didn’t even have the “cute” version, lol. More information to come… :)

I recently had a very sweet visitor email me about an IL unit I had mentioned I was making. The unit itself is still a work in progress, but I was motivated to finish a few extras I had in the works. This is a super fun, IL-Fact filled scavenger hunt my kiddos always do before we start our IL unit each year. I’m very happy with how this one turned out, and even though I’m done teaching it this year, I can’t wait to put it to use next year. More information to come… :)

Speaking of Illinois, this project is one of my all-time favorites each year. In my class it is part home project part school project, but it always turned out fun and informative. More information to come… :)

And, last but not least…

I finally put an idea I’ve had into action. I get a lot of questions about my bulletin board letters so I finally sat down and created my first themed set of letters. In this download you will get letters A-Z (no numbers at this time) in three different animal prints. I created these because though I love buying pre-cut letters from the store, I usually run out of vowels and have to buy more packages than I really need. This way, if you like the design, you’ll have as many as you want to print out. But, again, More information to come… :)

Well, looks like the sun is out… this may be the second or third time it’s made an appearance. So, I’m going to take advantage and take my goober for a walk. Have a great week!!!


Keeping it real and Autobiographies

by becky on March 23, 2013

Hi Everyone! This particular post has been a long time coming, but I’ve had several personal distractions that have kept me from actually sitting down and writing it. I’m hoping that by writing about it, I’ll put good karmic vibes out and things will work out in a positive way. Recently my poor pup, Lillie (The dots behind Dots-n-Spots) has been having some pretty serious testing. For those of you who aren’t “dog people”, I apologize for this personal story.

Anyway, about two years ago (around the time I started this blog), Lillie and I were playing in the backyard with her basketball. She likes to pop them and them use them as a frisbee. :) Well, she caught her paw in a rabbit hole and broke her ankle. She had surgery and the ankle healed itself. Well, unfortunately, like a lot of dogs who have leg traumas, the opposite legs become high risk for problems because the animals begin to compensate on their “good” legs. Well, my girl did this and for a while she was doing water rehab and taking anti inflammatory medicine. If you have dogs on NSAIDs, then you know blood tests are required to make sure the liver continues to work properly. Well, over the past several months her liver enzymes have skyrocketed to the point of high risk for liver failure. I stopped with the NSAIDs and they continued to rise, I stopped giving her any extra supplements, and they continued to rise, she had an ultrasound of her liver, bladder, gall bladder, and everything looked fine. Then, it was finally time to biopsy the liver itself to see what is going on. In the meantime, she’s been feeling/acting fine but obviously something serious is going on. This past Wednesday she had the biopsy and an x- ray. The biopsy was of her liver and the x-ray was of her knee. I won’t find out the results of the liver until this upcoming week, but her knee shows a partial ACL tear. I honestly thought with how bad she’s limping and toe touching it, that it was a full tear.

Well, in the meantime, they sent my dog home and she has been a complete zombie. I guess I felt I wasn’t fully informed of what to expect from this procedure. She is so lethargic and sad. She  is not acting like herself and it’s going on 4 days. I feel like a horrible mom and just want her to feel better. The worst part for me is knowing that once the liver is figured out, she is going to have another procedure on her knee to recover from. I don’t plan to do the surgery until school is out, but if it gets any worse, I don’t know if I’ll be able to wait. If you can keep my pup in your thoughts, we would both appreciate it.

Speaking of appreciate, I want to truly  thank each and every one of you who has ever purchased a product or lesson plan from me. Just know that your financial support has helped me to be able to take care of Lillie the way she deserves. Without the income I’ve received from TpT, I don’t know how I would have been able to afford all her past (and future) expenses. I honestly look forward to the day that one of the checks I earn can be used for something fun. :) But, in the meantime, Lillie and I appreciate everything you have done for us.

If you read this far… you seriously rock. I don’t like to get too “real” on here because I know a lot of times people just visit blogs for ideas and not downer stories. But, like I said, we can take all the positive thoughts we can get.

Moving on… let’s talk Autobiographies! :)

Since Common Core now dictates the writing of autobiographies for 4th graders, I knew I had to figure out how I wanted to teach this. So several, several months ago, I was on TpT looking for Autobiography lesson plan ideas. I happened to come across this unit from the amazing Christi Fultz of Ms. Fultz’s Corner.  I loved how she had all the topics listed and included, and best of all that she was giving her unit away for free. As I sat down to plan out my unit, I tweaked her ideas a bit to fit my class’s needs, but essentially, my plans came from Christi. So, before I go on… THANK YOU, Christi! :)

Here is a breakdown of how I taught this particular unit in Writer’s Workshop.

First, I started with an Autobiography Anchor chart to get my kiddos familiar with the type of writing we were about to tackle.

We discussed how writer’s write stories about themselves when they feel they have accomplished something worth mentioning. (or they “think” it’s worth mentioning 😉 ) Then, we discussed how this is a form of nonfiction writing but has the storytelling aspect to it.

I explained that we were going to be writing our own Autobiographies in writing class and that at the end, we were going to put them together into a book. I’m not going to lie, at first, they were less than enthusiastic. Most kids realized how much writing they were going to have to do. But, once I told them they were going to be made into a book, the excitement got greater.

For my hesitant writers and for general knowledge, I posted our “schedule” of topics.

I explained that I would be modeling each prompt for them before they began their own sloppy copies. I also explained we would never do more than one a day. This again seemed to relieve some anxiety.

Then, came the actual writing. I wish I had taken pictures of this part, but I completely forgot. :( But, basically, this is how it went. Each day, I would introduce a new topic/prompt. I would literally write my sloppy copy while they watched. I used this time to model what I was thinking while I was writing, how it’s okay to change your mind about a topic, and most importantly, how to start and finish the prompt. I really feel that taking this time each day to model is what helped my students to complete their prompts successfully. It did take a lot of time, but it also reduced the amount of comments such as, “I don’t know what to write about.” or “I don’t know how to start this.” that I usually hear during prompt writing.

To explain the “Must Haves” and “May Haves”, it goes like this… No matter what, each student will include an Introduction, Meet my Family, Memories, My Interests, and Future Goals section of their Autobiography. Then, they “may” choose the final two prompts they want to write about. They can choose from My Pets, My Best Friend,   a second Memory, or the Me Poem which I changed to the I Am Poem. This way they could feel more ownership of what they were writing and not feel like I told them exactly what they had to do. Even though their final copies didn’t include all 9 prompts, I still modeled each one so that they had an idea of the writing I was looking for. Again, model, model, model.

In the middle of this project, I began to think about all the editing that was going to need to happen. I immediately began to wish I hadn’t started this because I thought about all the work I was going to have to do clean this writing up. I ended up taking some of the pressure off myself and putting it back on the students. We took an entire writing session to reteach how to appropriately edit and revise our writing. Then, we  focused on Peer Editing. Lastly, I sent the prompts home for Parent Edit. I will admit, I was a little disappointed in how many of the papers came back without any corrections. Don’t get me wrong, many parents helped their child, but a scary amount came back untouched. I blamed myself though, because I should have sent home a checklist of sorts for parents to use to edit, but I didn’t think of this until they had brought them back. Side note question… Does anyone out there have a checklist like this that is geared towards parents? Would you be willing to share? Have you had success? Any thoughts/ideas are appreciated! :)

So, this is how I managed the overall editing of the prompts. As students finished their sloppy copies, they would keep them in their writing binders behind the “Genre Writing” tab. Every three prompts we would take some literacy time to edit/revise and peer edit the previous three prompts. Then, they had two nights to have a parent edit. This way, classmates and parents weren’t expected to edit all prompts at once. I was available while students were working for conferences/questions about grammar, word usage, and most of all spelling. We really put our “Have a Go” sheets to work for this unit.

Once we had cleaned up our writing and worked out the kinks… the fun really started. Each day students would recopy their drafts onto their final copy stationary. I really wanted to have them type them, but I think some of my kiddos would be typing until 5th grade. Plus, there is something about actually writing things out because when they are old like me, they can pull these out and look at their 4th grade handwriting. Idk, just seems more special this way.

To ensure quality effort, I again showed them how I transferred my sloppy copy version to my final copy. Then, (as you’ll see below), they needed to color their headings. They were told, and fully understood, that as the teacher I reserved the right to have them rewrite any/all pages that I felt were not up to their quality writing abilities. This meant, if they slopped it down in 2 minutes without using their neatest handwriting or they colored their headings without taking care, then they win the opportunity to write it all over again. I said all this in my happy teacher voice, but I did make one friend redo their introduction because he tried to see if I was serious. Yes, little man, I’m serious. After that one “incident”, all my friends really did do their absolute best. I was so happy to see the pride they were taking in their project. Here is a pictorial breakdown of my final project. I can’t seem to find my “Future Goals” Picture. I’ll take a picture on Monday and then update this post. :)

The Cover. I let each student choose their background for their story. I used black construction paper for everyone’s to give them a more uniform look.

The Table of Contents. My students completed this LAST. After we had glued absolutely everything else, I had them sit with me in groups of 6 and we filled out their page numbers and their topics.

My Introduction

Meet my Family

My Interests


My Best Friend

My Pets-I was at a training the day this prompt was presented. I actually asked the Guest Teacher to model her own story about her pets. Luckily, she had pets and she did write her own story. I’ve just not gotten my own written yet. Doh! Bad Teacher!

Future Goals-To be posted

and last but not least… The Back Cover

 After they saw my finished project, they were so excited to put their books together. So, in groups of 5 or 6, I went through where to glue what topic. Then, I helped them number their pages and complete their Table of Contents. As I sat with each group I was able to ask them their favorite part of the project and most of them talked about their families or their memories. I can’t wait to finish reading all of them because I do feel like I’ll get to know my students even better. Here are few action shots of my hardworking Goobers! :)

A bit of helpful advice… have some extra glue sticks handy.

They will need a good amount to glue their whole project together.

Finally, we hung them proudly in the hallway. I’m so happy with how they turned out!

If you have read this post to the end… THANK YOU! Hopefully it has inspired you to tackle your own Autobiography unit with your students. But I’m not planning to post this in my store or on GoogleDocs,  as this was NOT my original idea, but Christi’s idea that inspired my project is available for FREE  here.

Here is what you’ll get…

Happy Writing!