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Turning the Tough Parts of Teaching into the Thankful Parts

Every year since I was in high school, I turned crummy things around and made them positive every year when Thanksgiving rolled around.  You know, I'm thankful for the farthest parking spot because it means I'm healthy to walk sort of thing.  

When I started blogging a few years ago, I used the same mentality and applied to to teaching here and here.  Sometimes, it's so easy to get caught up in the negative parts of teaching.  You know, the politics, the bullying, all of the assessments, tough parents...the list can go on and on.  

Read the rest over at The Primary Pack

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All I Want for Black Friday {Giveaway, too}

Oh my, this year is just flying by!  I feel like school just started but we're already to Thanksgiving.  I 

love this time of year because the holiday excitement is just beyond.  Although it doesn't feel like

 Thanksgiving is upon is since it's in the eighties today here in San Diego, it is!  I always use this time 

to reflect on the not so great things happening in my life and changing my mindset and turn those into 

things I'm thankful for. 

We are celebrating Black Friday again this year with all of you in a fun way (and a little early). There is no word yet if there will be a Black Friday sale but regardless, we are sharing a few of our most wish-listed items in our personal wishlist, our carts and our own stores. We are also hosting a HUGE Black Friday giveaway, check it out below, you don't want to miss it!

If you've followed me for some time, you know I'm I strongly believe in taking time for your self and finding some sort of balance between teaching and your real, actual life!  Sometimes I like to treat myself with a blow out at our local blo bar.  What's better than reading gossip mags, drinking a glass of champagne, and being fussed over.  I also believe in treating yourself to some comfy and stylish ballet flats from Tieks.  Not sure about the price, I answered all of your teacher questions about Tieks last summer.  I own five pairs and really want the rose gold ones for my upcoming wedding.  Do you like them?
Not only do I have a personal wish list  but I have started a wish list of things I need for my classroom.  I'm all about implementing ideas and resources into my class that make my life a little easier and organized.  I really miss my read aloud display shelf  (Amazon affiliate link: I am paid for products that I mention) that I sold when I moved to teach in Hawaii. 
This year, I began using Wall Pops (Amazon affiliate link: I am paid for products that I mention)on our guided reading table.  They're large, circular dry erase stickers that are perfect for students to share their thinking, practice work word, and spell sight words.  They're now a class favorite and also make my room pretty!  I'm a sucker for a pretty pen and love Flair pens, but really wished them made them in all pink and teal.  We are working hard on close reading, or as well call it in my district, Reading with a Pencil.  This Close Reading bundle will be perfect!  I'm lucky to be at a school where we can talk all things Christmas so I know this non-fiction unit complete with close reads will be a hit in 2nd grade!  I don't know about you, but we don't have a science curriculum so I'm always looking for resources to make science awesome.  I'm absolutely in love with this new Non-Fiction and Science Units for the Whole Year.  What at time saver!
I want to help make your December a little easier, especially since it's a shorter month with vacation and parties. 
I love December because the kids are so excited and that definitely carries over to me.  I love making crafts our No, David's  from the popular books by David Shannon.  I blogged about how I use it a few weeks ago.  I also send home a monthly art project that families work on together.  They love, love, love decorating Santa and sharing how they made him with the class.  Learning about geometry, you will be sure to love this cute Shape Friend that looks especially good on bright paper.  We do a lot of sight word work and this High Frequency Work Pack is great because it's flexible and can be used with any words.  My kids love it because it's thematic and gets them pumped up about Christmas.  I like it because it takes zero prep. and includes so many different activities.  The biggest life saver in my class are my math centers because they cover all of the skills we're learning. I use them to reinforce what we're learning as well as activities for early finishers.  Math Centers for the whole year are a serious game changer!

Drumroll please.... Check out this HUGE giveaway package you can win by entering below! There is

a resource from almost everyone in The Primary Pack, perfect for all primary grades!! Good luck,

friends and happy shopping!

Now It's Your Turn To Join The Fun! 

Just a few rules to follow and you're on your way:

  1. Download the images above!
  2. Add your personal holiday wishlist to the image titled "My Personal Black Friday Wishlist"
  3. Add your favorite sellers products from your TPT wishlist to the "My Classroom Black Friday Wishlist"
  4. Add your own products to the "For Your Black Friday Wishlist"
  5. Link up below to share your Black Friday Wishlists!
  6. Don't forget to enter our fabulous giveaway above AND visit others linked up below

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Books Teachers Love: It's Christmas David

This month, I'm excited to bring you one of my favorite Read Alouds for December!

I absolutely loved the David series by David Shannon.  Since we haven't read a David book since the beginning of the school year, this is a BIG treat!  Merry Christmas, David is always a class fave!

When I take out all of my December Read Alouds and put them on the chalk tray, the kiddos' eyes light up!  "David!!!" they shout!
I leave that book on the tray for a few days, to keep them waiting in anticipation.  Then, I show them the little teaser video above.  They are cracking up and loving every minute of it!  They beg me to read it, but I tell them, "Tomorrow, friends."

If you don't have the book, you can pick it up with my Amazon Affiliate link.  I get reimbursed by Amazon when I recommend products that I believe in.

Or, watch the video with your class!

After we read the book, we get right to it with a fun little art project.  This year, I'm printing these out in color.  But you can print them out in black and white and have students use water color, poster paint, or even oil pastels to color David's skin, hat, and shirt.
Since I have a laser printer at home, I love printing things in color when I can and my kids get a kick out of it.  They think it's soooo fancy!
I want to focus on the positive so I have my students write about the the reasons they are nice...especially around the holidays.  Sometimes, to check for comprehension, I have them cite text evidence from the story that shows how David was naughty.  Do what works for you!

Want more lesson ideas for your December Real Alouds?  Check out my friends below!
An InLinkz Link-up

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Parent Conferences Don't Have to be Scary

Parent Conferences always give me some sort of anxiety.  Maybe it's because I haven't formed a strong relationship with the families yet or the fact that the parents are getting used to the new curriculum and all of their emails have me feeling scared.  But I'm here to tell you that they don't have to be scary...really.  I've talked about this a few times because I believe that parent relationships are seriously the key to a great year!
I've got 3 tips that have helped alleviate some of my conference anxiety.
 I'm a big planner and I decided that if I don't know what to expect, I can't plan for it. And that scares me.  Does that make sense?  Can you relate? 
So, after a few conferences where I felt like I was bombarded with questions that I wasn't prepared to answer, I created a pre-conference form.  This form is a game changer I tell you!  I send it home 2 weeks before conferences so I can prepare accordingly.  Just today, I got one back that said "I would like to discuss all of my child's behavior letters that have been sent home."  That lets me know that I better to have all of those letters ready in time for this conference.  Parents like this form because it gives them a voice and shows them they are active participants in the conference and I'm not running the show.
Want a copy, just click on the photo and save it!
Tip 2:
We had a very heated discussion with my grade level today about what data should be shared at conferences.  All of the parents on my grade level said that the bottom line is this: Parents want to know where their child is at and where they need to be.  Simple.
I'm not a parent, but definitely agree as every parent I've conferenced with wants to know the good stuff.  And there's always that parent that wants to know where there child is in relation to the others in the class.  Please parents, stop asking that awkward question!  I digress.  Create some sort of table that lists Subjects or Assessment Data.  I use Word Study in my class and in the past,  listed the goal for this point in the year.  However, now that we use Standards Based Report Cards, I list the end of the year goal.  On the right hand side, I list where the student is at and any notes.  This page is the bread and butter of the conference, in most parent's opinions. 
Tip 3:
 I like to give parents a little task while we're conferencing.  I always start out the conference with things the child does well.  In the past, I would  type them up ahead of time.   That took forever so I changed my ways and got smart.  So now, I give this little form to parents to they can take notes on the things the child is doing well.  It's great to start out a conference with the positives, then throw in a few things they kiddos can work on, and end with another positive.  Parents get so busy asking questions and listening to what they're saying that they sometimes forget what was discussed.  This little cheat sheet is great for them to refer back to as well as talk to their child about what they're rocking at in class and what they need some support with.

Want some more conference tips?
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We got a new FANCY pencil sharpener that the students are in charge of

I don't know about you, but I will only use a pencil if it's super sharp.  Like, can poke-a-hole in something sharp!  Dull pencils kinda weird me out.  Just last week, I asked the librarian to borrow a pen and she handed me a dull pencil.  She didn't understand why I no longer needed a writing utensil.  Same thing is true for my 2nd graders.  Maybe I'm wearing off on them {only time will tell}?  But I secretly hope I am because no one has time for dull pencils.  
I first found out about the Classroom Friendly Supplies Pencil Sharpener last summer when I discovered that they had one in the most perfect shade of hot pink!  It was love at first sight!  When I found out they specially made one in purple, I knew I needed another!  It's just so bright and cheery and will make any of my little teacher's helpers just want to sharpen our class pencils.
Before I discovered the Classroom Friendly Supplies pencil sharpeners, our electric sharpener was reserved for the most responsible of scholars to use.  Those things are spendy and I couldn't risk a student breaking another one.  I'm living off of a teacher's salary for crying out loud!

This little sharpener is sturdy and durable and has made it out alive as a few of my kiddos dropped it on the ground.  The best part about this sharpener is that my students can use it to get the sharpest point.  I mean seriously, look how sharp that is {on a cheap pencil too}.  I also love that it sharpens all of those fancy pencils you buy for your students as rewards that have the glittery, sparkly wrapping on the outside that gets stuck in your other sharpener.  I know you know exactly what I'm talking about.  I gave up on buying those decorative pencils  until I discovered this awesome must-have.
A few other perks:
-It's easy to empty and clean out!
-You can choose to mount it on your counter or not, but all parts are provided
-Did I mention that the pencils get sharp, like really, really sharp?
-There are a ton of bright colors for you to choose from
-Free shipping, woo hoo!

What color would you choose?
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STEM: Arcade Games that Students can Play

Cardboard Challenge Day is by far the BEST day of the year for so many awesome reasons.  Basically, kiddos have 2 weeks to create a cardboard arcade game using what they know about force and motion.  They create the game at home with their families and seriously have a blast collecting materials and decorating their game.  

So how do we get started?  We watch an awesome video about a little boy, Caine, who inspired the Cardboard Challenge when he created his very own arcade in LA at his dad's auto shop.  He kept himself busy creating these imaginative games but no one came to play.  He keeps making the games though and even comes up with the idea to make a "Fun Pass."  Eventually, a man comes in and is blown away by Caine and his passion and decides to surprise him by bringing him hundreds of customers in one day.  It's absolutely the sweetest thing and his reaction will melt even the coldest heart.  You have to watch the video, whether  you implement this at your school or not!
Is this not the coolest game?!?!
Parents are given an information sheet explaining what we're up to and the kiddos are given a planning sheet that includes space to draw a sketch of the game, how it's played, and their inspiration for creating it.  Way more fun that boring worksheets, right!

We had kiddos bring in their games one day before the big event.  We even tested them out in class so everyone had a chance to play!   We talked about the importance of good sportsmanship, being a good game host, and all that other fun stuff to eliminate any bad attitudes that sometimes happen.

On the actual day, we set up a schedule with our grade level.  Since we have 10 teachers (I know, crazy!!!) we had 5 classes set up first while the other 5 classes played.  Then, we switched.  Each rotation had 45 minutes to play.  This year though, it was 90 degrees and we were roasting, so shortening it would have been a better idea!
Some kiddos were inspired by the tickets that Caine gave out, so they added them to their game.
         That group will stay out during the big kids' recess so they can play too.  It's a HUGE event at our school and all of the other grades love trying out all of the games.  Later in the day, the other group will bring out their games so another group of kids who aren't in second grade can play.  By the end of the day, every child (that's 1,400+) at our school has had the opportunity to play some arcade games.


The students were so proud of their games and I was so dang proud and super impressed.  You could really tell that the parents had a lot of fun as well, and I'm glad.  This project was meant to be a time for families to work together and have some fun.



There were so many creative games.  There were lots of sports games, skeeball (my fave), rolling ball games, tossing and throwing games.  There was so much spray paint, glitter, stickers, and fancy little embellishments.  

Although we all went home tired from the heat, it was pretty awesome to step away from all of the assessments and seriousness that is school sometimes to let the kids just be kids!  Is this something you'd like to do at your school?

Books Teachers Love for November

We're back for another edition of Books Teachers Love and this month, we're bringing you our favorite November read alouds.  Each month, we share our books and some activities that you can use in your classroom tomorrow.  And the best part, you can win 4 of them!

One of my favorite read alouds in November is Turkey Trouble by Wendi Silvano.  It's about a little turkey who is in a lot of trouble because the farmer wants to cook him for Thanksgiving dinner.  He does his best to escape being turned into dinner by dressing up in different costumes to disguise himself.  The kiddos go nuts because they think the turkey is the absolute funniest because he's just so ridiculous.

*Easy Teaching Tools is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to different products in this post.”

I always read this book to get the kiddos excited about their November Family Art project.  In November, the kids take home a turkey to disguise. They love, love, love this activity!  They have a week to decorate it with their family and present it to the class on Friday.  They are just so dang proud of their hard work and my kids love asking them how long it took to make.  Plus, these make for an adorable bulletin board.  I always have them write about the steps to create the turkey, which is perfect for 1st graders, or write an opinion paper to the farmer convincing him to save him.  Hello, perfect for Common Core and opinion writing!

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Are Parent Volunteers Too Much Work?

I've spent several years at Title I schools where parent volunteers were few and far between and I've also spent my time where I had so many parent volunteers I just didn't know what to do with!  Parent volunteers can be work, but it doesn't have to be with these easy tips! 
parent volunteers, teaching, easy teaching tools, classroom volunteers

 I blogged over at The Primary Pack and can't wait to share my four favorite tips with you to help you use parent volunteers in a meaningful and organized way!

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Math Ideas for Early Finishers

Why give your early finishers extra work?!?!  What incentive is there to get your work done when you're just given another worksheet?  How boring, right (I'm totally guilty though)!  A few years ago when I was teaching a combo, I had to get really good at having activities and centers ready for my kiddos who were done because I couldn't have my 1st graders interrupting a lesson that I was teaching my 2nd graders.  

So, I created a Math Station area where all of our manipulatives, tools, and games are stored.  It's great because when students are finished in my class, they know to leave the assignment on their desk since we'll be grading it together as a class, and go work on something from the Math Station.  If you have everything set up, they can grab what they need.
  • You can use a shoe organizer to hang all of the items students use on a regular basis.  We store dice, paper clips for spinner games, dry erase markers, flash cards, and anything else I can think of!
  • All of the manipulatives can be stored on a shelf for easy student access. I believe it's important for students to be able to grab what they need!
  • On top of the shelf, I store the math games.  The basket on the left has addition and subtraction games since it's a year long standard in our district.  The basket on the right has games that reinforces our current unit of study and a few games for spiral review.

You can even try this for math center storage if space is limited.

I bought baskets at Big Lots a few years ago and they work well.  I also love the baskets from Dollar Tree and they're never out of stock!

I like to include games that reinforce skills we're learning.  Just pop it in a fun thematic bag and ta-da, a fun center!

It's important to include different types of games to reach all of your learners.  My kiddos love clip cards because it's novel and they think mini clips are absolutely adorable.  See, I'm wearing off on them!

Another activity for your speedy friends is anything on the computer.   Our school uses Ten Marks and Dream Box to reinforce math skills.  If your school doesn't have a site license to a program, bookmark some great sites.  I love Sheppard Software and so do my kids!  Plus, it's free and fun!  Score!

One of my favorite things to do in the class is have students play games on their whiteboards that take absolutely zero prep!  Just teach them a few and they're good-to-go!  Don't have whiteboards, get a class set for under 15 bucks.  I'll show you how!

I love to store all of our math games in dry erase sleeves because they're sturdy and last a while!

I hope these tips are helpful for you and can't wait to hear how you use them to engage your kids!
Want to learn about more about math games, click on the link up below!

*Easy Teaching Tools is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to different products in this post.”

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