Wednesday, November 26, 2014


Is it just me, or is this school year just FLYING by?! It seems like Halloween was just yesterday and now it's Thanksgiving time! The past few months have been busy and stressful and fun and exciting, and I have so much to be thankful for!

We've had a great time in 2nd grade learning about Thanksgiving. We read all about the Pilgrims and Native Americans, and even took a virtual field trip to a Wompanoag home-site! (Side note: This was the second virtual field trip we have done, and my kids just LOVE it! It is so neat to use technology to be able to show my kids things they may have never seen otherwise! Our first virtual field trip was to see artwork in a New York City subway station after we read Jamaica Louise James. So cool!)

We also did all kinds of projects:

At the beginning of November, I sent home blank feather templates for a class turkey and told my kiddos to decorate it however they wanted and bring it back. I just love how our turkey turned out! It shows off how unique each of my students are, and it is beautiful! We also made the little pilgrims at the top using paper plates and some construction paper cut outs. Last Monday, a pilgrim came to our school and talked to all of the second grade classes. She was awesome, and since then my kids have been really interested in learning about the Pilgrims. 

Another project that we made was a turkey glyph. The kids had to answer a series of questions about how they celebrate Thanksgiving to create their turkey, and they turned out so well! (I forgot to take a picture of them all hung up, but here is one of them!)

 On Monday, we had a Friendship Feast for snack and math. My students brought in food items to put in our snack mix, and they all helped me put the mix together. Each item represented something from the first Thanksgiving. For example, the marshmallows represented the snow and bad weather the pilgrims endured their first winter in America, pretzel sticks represented the logs the Pilgrims made their houses out of, goldfish represented how Squanto taught the pilgrims to plant corn using two rotten fish, etc. After we made our Friendship Feast mix, each student got a plate and had to count and graph each item as they ate. At the end, they answered a series of questions about their graph. My favorite question was "If you could add any snack to our mix, what would you add and what would it represent?" My kiddos are so darn creative, and what a fun way to use those higher order thinking skills than with food! They did a great job.

  I read the book The Most Thankful Thing by Lisa McCourt (which is really cute!) and then we made our own books of Thankful Things. Each student had to write about 5 things that they are thankful for and draw a picture. These turned out sooo cute!

And apparently, a lot of my kiddos are thankful for me, which is so very sweet! In addition to their sweet writing, I loved their different artistic renditions of me ;) 

On Tuesday, we celebrated Thanksgiving with a Read-In Pajama Party and a feast for lunch, complete with pizza, cornbread muffins, fruit salad, veggies, pumpkin pie, and all kinds of other goodies. The parents in my class are awesome and so generously donated to us so much food that we did not even open all of it and I had to send it back home with them!

 It was a lot of fun to study and celebrate Thanksgiving with my second graders! I'm so thankful for the 20 kiddos that I get to teach this year, along with so many other things. How did you celebrate Thanksgiving?

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Mystery Walker

Hello all! Long time, no blog! A lot has happened since the last time I posted, including some fun projects, Apple Week, a field trip, starting Math Stations, and a lot of learning (by the kids and by me!).

Today I wanted to write about something that I feel like I personally have been struggling with: classroom management. My class is very chatty, and I have a couple of kiddos with severe behavior issues. There have been days where I feel like I spend more of my day trying to get my class to be on task than I am actually teaching them something. What many of you may not know about me is that I'm a perfectionist. (Like, if you looked up the word perfectionist in the dictionary, my picture would be right there.) It's very frustrating for me when I feel like I am not doing things right the first time (even when other people tell me I'm doing ok), and keeping my class under control is one of those things.

That aside, I have learned a couple of tricks throughout the past few weeks that have drastically helped my class, and today I want to tell you about one of them. It's called:

The Mystery Walker.

Now, I wish I could say that I came up with this idea on my own, but I didn't. It was one of those things that I happened upon while skimming Pinterest, and I don't think I even pinned it because at the time I thought "Well what a silly idea." For some reason though, it just stuck with me. One day when my class was being loud and unruly in the hallway, this idea popped back into my mind and I decided to give it a shot. Turns out, it is one of the best management tools I have for transition times in the hallway. The Mystery Walker is the one student whose behavior in the hallway will determine whether or not our class will earn a letter toward our REWARD for the day.

Here's how it works: Every time we are about to leave the classroom, I pick a student to be my Mystery Walker, but I don't tell them who it is. I do mark them on my class list that I keep on the clipboard that I carry everywhere so that I don't forget who it is. This also helps me keep track of who I have already had as Mystery Walker so I can make sure everyone gets a chance. I keep an eye on that student to see if they are doing a good job in the hallway. When we get back to the classroom, I announce whether or not the Mystery Walker earned a letter for our class. If they did, I tell them who it is and give that kiddo a Hershey's Kiss. If they didn't earn it, I don't reveal who the person was and I give that kid a chance later in the day to earn it.

This simple practice takes very little time/effort and has made a HUGE difference in the way that my class acts in the hallway. Since they don't know who the Mystery Walker is, they are ALL on their best behavior just in case it's them. If someone starts acting up in the hallway, I just calmly remind the class that "I am watching my Mystery Walker and I hope that they can earn us a letter" - usually that gets them all back in line immediately. When I announce that our Mystery Walker earned the class a letter, that kiddo always looks so proud as they march up to the front of the room to get their Hershey Kiss and the rest of the class usually claps for them or congratulates/thanks them. I like how the kids feel like they are working for the team not just for their own personal reward.

What is your favorite classroom management tip? 

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Has it been 3 weeks already?

Hello everybody, it's been a while! I officially have a little over 3 weeks of teaching under my belt and boy, there has not been a dull moment since my 20 kiddos walked in on the first day! I'm not going to sit here and say that the first couple weeks were sunshine and roses, because honestly they were tough. But I am truly enjoying my job, my kids, and the fact that I finally have my own classroom!

Speaking of my own classroom, I never posted pictures of how my classroom turned out! These pictures are from the night before school started, and things have certainly changed a bit as my room has been "lived in", but this will give you a pretty good idea of what everything looks like.

This is the view when you walk into my classroom.

Here are my Thinkpads and my Math Corner posters.

One of my favorite parts of my classroom is my alphabet. Each letter is represented by a Disney character - it is so cute and just makes me smile! I also love that extra whiteboard space, where I usually post my anchor charts and things we are working on in class.
I can't wait to really get to using this space. I am doing the Daily 5 for reading, and my kiddos are still building up stamina. I haven't had a chance to pull small groups yet, but it's coming soon!

A favorite location of most of my students: the classroom library.

Each of those buckets holds the students' extra supplies (glue sticks, markers, erasers, etc.) I love how much storage I have in my classroom!

Here is our clip chart that I made! Each student's number is on a mini clothespin that they can move up and down.

Here you can see some important features of my room: my classroom job chart, our reading focus wall, the "I'm Done, Now What?" choices for early finishers, and my cart. I LOVE that stinkin' cart! 
My [enormous!] hallway bulletin board, all ready to welcome my kiddos!

I have a lively group of second graders who make me laugh and keep me on my toes, and I'm looking forward to the rest of the year with them! We've been working hard to get procedures and expectations established, and we are finally starting to settle into a routine. Unbelievably, we will be halfway through the first quarter next week... how is that even possible?! Anyway, I hope to start posting more often now that things are settling down. I hope all of your first few weeks have been wonderful!

Monday, August 4, 2014

Taming the Beast

And by beast, I mean my classroom library.

I am very blessed to have people in my life who are so willing to help me out as I begin my teaching career. One of those people is my aunt, who, upon moving into an administrative position in her school district after 30+ years of teaching, has generously passed down to me an abundance of resources, including hundreds and hundreds of children's books. And I mean literally, hundreds. I am unbelievably grateful that I have such a great start to my classroom library, but it is crazy overwhelming to just look at the mass quantity of books in my possession, let alone to go and ORGANIZE them. After several different attempts (and lots of pulled hair later), I stumbled upon these super cute Classroom Library Bin Labels off Teachers Pay Teachers. I can't begin to explain how excited this OCD, organization-lovin' girl was when I printed these bad boys out, spread them out on the floor of my grandparents vacated basement apartment-turned-storage unit, and started going through box after box of books.

I ended up creating some categories of my own, but having the bulk of the categories set was very helpful for me. After going through all the books, I realized that some of the categories only had a couple of books in them, while others had probably 40. I ended up going through and combining some categories or narrowing others. In the end, I narrowed it down to 30 bins for my topics and some popular authors and then put the books that were part of a series just on a shelf. I bought some plain clear plastic bins from Target, attached the Bin Labels, and put them on the fabulous bookshelves my dad made me. I numbered each of the bins, then put a sticker with the corresponding number on the inside back cover of each book so that my kiddos can (hopefully) easily put them back in the right spot. Here's the finished product!

This was quite the undertaking, but I'm pretty pleased with the outcome. I think having it organized by category will help my kiddos find books they are interested in. How is your classroom library organized?

Friday, July 18, 2014

Five for Friday - Is Summer Almost Over Already?

Is it just me, or does summer seem to go by much faster once 4th of July hits? I just cannot believe how fast these last few weeks have gone. My official report date is a little over two weeks away and I feel like I still have so much left to do! I think "overwhelmed" is a good adjective to describe how I've been feeling lately... "anxious" and "excited" are pretty accurate too.

Anywho, today I am linking up with Doodle Bugs Teaching to share five random things about my week for another Five for Friday

1. Probably the biggest thing that has happened this week for me is that I moved! I tried to time the move so that I could be settled in the new house before school starts so I can focus all my energy on one big thing at a time (I have a bad habit of overloading myself). The house is really starting to come together, and I just love it! This is my first time living without any roommates and I've been loving the fact that I can decorate the entire house exactly how I want it. It's been helping me get out a little of the decorating bug while I wait to go decorate my classroom (which is happening next week!!).

I'm pretty good at this moving thing, if I do say so myself! ;)

(On second thought, maybe I ought to just stick with teaching.)

2. On another non-school related note, I discovered the On-Demand feature on my TV this week. That may not seem like a cool thing to most people, but for this girl who is easily amused and never watches shows in real time, it made me pretty excited! I decided to see what all the hype is about and watch the first couple episodes of Game of Thrones. I haven't quite decided how I feel about it yet, I think I need to watch a little more. Are there any other shows I should check out? 

3. This Sunday is my birthday! I started off my birthday weekend a little early last night to see Aaron Watson and Chase Rice at the free concert in Kansas City. It was such a great show!

Tonight, my friend and I are going to the Lakefest concert in Atchison to see Thomas Rhett and Randy Houser. I can't wait!

4. Now to something slightly more school-related. This week at work we decided to get all the bulletin boards ready for the new school year! It must be the teacher-nerd in me, but I do love a good bulletin board! Last year, we made this masterpiece:

This year's back-to-school board was not quite as involved, but I still think it's equally as cute! How awesome are those life-like popcorn pieces?

5. I started working on a couple of projects for back-to-school, including my Meet the Teacher letter and an All About Me page for my students to fill out of the first day of school while I am doing some housekeeping things. I scoured Teachers Pay Teachers for an All About Me page to use, but just couldn't find any that I really loved, so I decided to just make my own! Can you guess what my classroom theme is? ; )

The blank space on the right ear is where they will draw a self-portrait! I'm planning on displaying these either around the classroom or out in the hallway on my big bulletin board. If you're interested in a copy of this for yourself, comment with your email address and I'd love to send it to you!

I hope all of you have a fabulous Friday and enjoy your weekend!

Monday, July 7, 2014

Monday Made It - 7/7

Happy Monday! It's hard to believe that it's already July, isn't it? I can't believe that I just have a few more weeks before school starts... I'm so excited/nervous/anxious! I have a couple of weeks left until I can actually get into my classroom, and I'm getting so antsy - I so badly want to get in there and get everything all ready for my kiddos! While I wait (maybe not-so-patiently), I've been continuing to fill nooks and crannies of my house with projects I've made for my classroom, which brings me to this post. I'm linking up with 4th Grade Frolics for my first ever Monday Made It! Today I want to share with you all my latest project... my teacher stool!

My latest pastime is scouring local thrift stores in search for things for my new house and classroom. I've been searching and searching for a plain wooden bar stool to use in my classroom and last week, I (finally) stumbled upon this bad boy for just $5! (Side-note, it is much harder than one might think to find a plain wooden bar stool at a thrift store.) Even though it was super duper wobbly, I decided to snatch it up!

Once I got it home, it didn't take long until my brother, boyfriend, and I got started and turned it into this:

This project turned out to be a lot more involved than I had anticipated! After a lot of sanding, wood glue, screws, paint, and some help from my favorite men (thanks Dad, Aaron, & Ethan!), that ugly, unstable bar stool was transformed into this beauty!

It is so cute I can hardly stand it. I love, love, LOVE my stool and can't wait to get it into my classroom!

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Friday, June 27, 2014

Five for Friday - June 27th

Happy Friday everyone! I don't know about you, but I've been so busy this week that I feel like I've barely had a chance to take a breath! To give you all a little peek into my week, I'm linking up with Doodle Bugs Teaching for my very first Five for Friday linky party!

1. I work in an Extended Care program with preschool-aged children four days a week throughout the summer. This week's theme was camping and we did some pretty cute art projects, such as a handprint campfire, a jar of fireflies made from their thumbprints, and these awesome binoculars. I decided to channel my inner Russell (from the movie Up) and make a pair of my own! 

2. I spend my Fridays working in a school-aged "Summer Camp" program. This afternoon we walked to the Dairy Queen a few blocks away to get a treat. You really can't beat a cherry-dipped cone! 

3. So, how many of you have seen the pictures of "Pinterest Fails" online? Well, my co-workers and I just crack up over these and have decided that this summer we are going to try several Pinterest ideas and see if we can fare better. We were sure that this one was going to bomb completely, however we were pleasantly surprised that these Rainbow Jello cups actually turned out really well! 

4. I have been working on the daunting task of organizing the hundreds of books that my aunt (a former teacher) gave me to use in my classroom library. This week, (with some help) I made huge progress on this endeavor. I am feeling like I will actually have it finished by the time school starts! (These pictures barely show a fraction of the amount of books we went through!) 

5. Many people have recommended that I read The First Days of School by Harry Wong as I prepare for my first year. I finally started it this week! If you've read it, I'd love to hear how it has helped you in your classroom! 

I hope you all have a fabulous weekend!