Tuesday, May 31, 2011

There Should Be a Stipend

Here's the thing. Most days I go to work and think, "I can't believe they pay me to do this!"

Because I truly love my job.

But some days are different and I think, "They don't pay me enough to do this!" And today was one of those days. Because today I introduced the crayfish.

The creepy, bottom-dwelling, scary crayfish.

They are the stuff that nightmares are made of. Supposedly they will teach the children about the life cycle and biology. Whatever. I'm petrified of them. I can't get past their beady little eyes and their floppy antennae and those claws that threaten to pinch you in their attack position.

Luckily, one of my students had a pet crayfish because a few years back her older brother won the "Crayfish Lottery"

If the kids bring in a signed permission slip and a tupperware container to bring it home in, they are entered into the crayfish lottery and they have the chance to take home a bottom-feeder of their very own.

Anyhow, she was kind enough to pick them up and put them into their clear, observation containers for me. With great excitement, the kids gathered round their assigned containers and made scientific observations.

I bravely assisted one group in lifting their container so that they could observe the bottom of the critter and determine if it had boy parts or girl parts (as if the experience wasn't fun enough already).

And that's when it lunged at me. It's pincers were opening and closing like the jaws of a rabid Pit Bull. I swear I saw it breathe fire. It tried to eat me.

Last week in Social Studies we talked about the Revolutionary War and learned about "The Shot Heard Round the World."

Today in science they got to hear "The Scream Heard Round the School."

It was a blood-curdling, top-of-my-lungs, horror movie quality scream.

I'm quite certain that several children peed their pants while others clutched their stomaches and rolled on the floor in hysterical laughter.

I really think there should be a stipend in our contract based on the live animals you must encounter at your grade level.

What types of living creatures have you had the pleasure of experiencing in your classrooms?

Monday, May 30, 2011

Drumroll Please...

I'm super-duper excited to kick off my new blog: The Clutter-Free Classroom Blog. Watch the video to learn more about it and then hop over there to follow along and enter my debut contest!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

How I'll Spend My Summer Vacation

I've created a new daily blog specifically dedicated to classroom organization and management. Please visit me there at: The Clutter-Free Classroom

As I mentioned in my post explaining the What Are You Planning Linky Party (it's not too late...go post your list), I always make my summer to do list at the beach on Memorial Day Weekend (more on our beach fun later). So here are my plans for the summer:

1. Maintain Pretty Piggies- I'm a New Englander. Flip flop season is far too short. I intend to treat myself to a pedicure every couple of weeks. It makes me happy. And it's sort of a nice thing to do for the rest of the world who needs to view my hooves since I never, ever, EVER wear closed-toe shoes between April 1st and October 31st with the exception of my morning walk during which I begrudgingly sport the sneakers.

2. Pretend to Homeschool - I'm intrigued by this whole homeschool thing. Realistically, I need the salary and insurance and I do love my job so I don't see this as being something I would do full time. However, I thought it would be fun to see what it's like for the summer so I'm going to plan some structured things to do with the kids and some educational projects and outings.

3. Blah-Blah-Blog: I love summer blogging. It's such fun to connect with so many people and while I tend to let it fall by the wayside during the school year, I spend a lot of summer hours blogging and blogsurfing. Check back tomorrow for my latest blogventure!

4. Reclaim my Coupon Queen Crown: Back in the day I was a couponing diva. I saved so. much. money! I would play The Price is Right with hubby after each trip and make him guess how much I paid for the abundance of loot before him. It was my own Showcase Showdown. I've been too busy to do so lately and really need to get back into the swing of things. It kills me that I've been paying full price for cereal and toothpaste!

5. Discover the Magic of the iPad: Hubby gave me an ipad for Christmas and while I love it's sleekness, I am not using it to it's potential. I need to spend some time bonding with it.

6. Create Photobooks: I made Hubby a photobook for Christmas using photoshop to design the pages and had it printed as a hardcover album. I swoon each and every time I open it and it brings me great comfort having hard copies of my pictures since I live in fear of losing the digital version. I need to go back and make albums for previous years and trips.

7. Purge: I loathe clutter (surprise, surprise). I've been really good about getting rid of stuff, but I need to go all Rambo on the stuff that is left and do another thorough scan of every nook and cranny and take no prisoners. I need to Craigslist, donate, recycle and trash whatever is not needed.

8. Work on my Class Website: It's such a great resource and the kids use it regularly. I want to update links for all units.

9. Math Workshop: Oh, how I love teaching math this way. My goal for the summer is to align things with the common core instead of the MA Frameworks.

10. Word Study: I've been working on creating Word Study centers and curriculum a lot this year. Much like the math workshop it needs some tweaking.

Friday, May 27, 2011

What Are You Planning?

This is the weather in my neck of the woods.

I'm giddy with a capital G!

Memorial Day Weekend is one of my mostest favoritest times of the year. The entire summer is laid out before me complete with the promise of long l-a-z-y days, countless hours in the pool and limited responsibility.

Summer always means the start of a new to do list for me. I view summer much like people view New Years. Complete with resolution-ish type items.

Our tradition is to go to the beach and I always take along a notebook. In it I scribble down my plans for the summer.

Some are simple: clean out the sunroom cabinet.

Others are lofty: Make a baby...FYI this was on the list a few years back...we reached our baby quota in 2009 in this house.

What are your goals, to-dos, resolutions for the summer?

Join my very first linky party to post about them. Simply blog about what you are hoping to accomplish as we roll into summer, link back here and sign the list below. I can't wait to see what y'all have in the works. I'll post mine after our annual beach trek on Saturday.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Crisis Averted

I've created a new daily blog specifically dedicated to classroom organization and management. Please visit me there at: The Clutter-Free Classroom

I live 1 mile from my school.

Me loves this fact. I'm lazy like that.

That means I live in the district in which I teach.

As such, my son goes to my school. It's been great. I'm able to volunteer in his classroom during my lunch and since he attends the afterschool program, I simply need to stop by the cafeteria or gym and snag him when I'm leaving.

I try very hard to keep a distinct line between parent and teacher which means I don't take him to school with me in the morning. I leave for work and 20 minutes later my husband drops him off.

Oh how handy that can be.

This morning I did the unthinkable.

I left my coffee at home.

I make the coffee the night before so it's icy goodness is waiting me when I awake.

Usually, it's been sucked down by 5:15, but for whatever reason (I'm looking at you toddler twins) the morning was hectic and it sat idle in the fridge waiting to come to work with me.

Halfway into my commute (yes, I realize that means 1/2 a mile from home, but it's still a commute), I realized my cupholder was empty. Not cool.

Unfortunately, I was crunched for time and couldn't doubleback and grab it.

Fortunately, hubby would be dropping the Boy off soon after so I put in the call.

My coffee was delivered and I was a happy teacher.

As an aside, the cup was a gift from a student last year. I coveted that stinking cup for months. I so wanted to buy it, but my track record of not properly caring for travel mugs made it hard to justify the purchase. I adore that cup. It looks like a regular Starbucks cup, but is hard, insulated plastic with a screw on top. The straw has a catch to keep it from coming out all the way. Best. Cup. Ever!

So...how long is your commute? Do you think you would want to live in the district you teach in?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011


I've created a new daily blog specifically dedicated to classroom organization and management. Please visit me there at: The Clutter-Free Classroom

You know how I've been hinting at something new that I've been working on?

Well, it's coming soon.

As in This Weekend!!!

I've set Memorial Day Weekend as my official launch weekend and have been working diligently to get all the ducks in a row.

I'm super excited to share.

I'm also super duper hungry.

Third grade eats lunch at 11:00 at my school.

Yes, that would be 11:00 a.m.

It's not really lunch.

It's more like 2nd breakfast.

The problem is that by 3:10 I am about ready to eat my own arm off.

But then I'm torn because 3:10 is way too early for dinner. I usually am good about distracting myself, but then there are those days when I can't be stopped.

Today I consumed several forkfuls of chicken that was waiting for me in the crockpot when I got home along with 2 slices of toast w/ Nutella (food of the Gods), a glass of milk and a handful of popcorn.

What time do you eat lunch?

What is your favorite after school snack?

Saturday, May 21, 2011

End of Year Activities and Ideas

I've created a new daily blog specifically dedicated to classroom organization and management. Please visit me there at: The Clutter-Free Classroom

(reposted from May 2010 with new pics added)
Do you smell that?

It the perfect combination of sunscreen, iced coffee, grills and ocean air. That my friends is the aroma of summer vacation and it is so close I can smell it.

So close!

But before my toes can go without shoes for 10 consecutive weeks, the school year must wrap up.
Those last few weeks can get tricky. The kids shut down, your to do list grows, the classrooms heat up and schedules get all jumbly which adds to the chaos. It's important to have an arsenal of end-of-the-year activities to balance out the nostalgia for the school year and the anticipation of the vacation. It helps to keep the wee ones engaged.

Below is a thematic kit of activities I've developed to keep the kiddos on task.

Below that is a collection of ideas that I like to use during those last few weeks of school. Hopefully, you'll find something new to try.

The following pictures show my most recent kit designed for the End of the School Year. It includes over 35 reproducible pages that are ideal for grades 1-5 and can easily be adapted for preschool and Kindergarten. Included are a:
  • 28 page Memory Book ~ (click on the picture to see larger versions) These pages allow students to reflect on the past year. There are pages for the funniest thing that happened, field trips, favorite lunch, what they did at recess, what is popular now, and much more. Print them all out or select just the ones you want to include. There is even a blank template that they can customize (my kiddos use them to add in student teachers, aides and one child even created a page for each classmate). You can assemble the book using a binding machine or just staple it. What I do is copy the pages and 3-hole punch them. When the students finish writing and illustrating them, I give them the choice of binding the book with ribbons and pipe cleaners or putting them into folders with prongs.

  • Top 10 list Template for each grade level ~ It reads, "The Top 10 Things You Need to Know About ___ Grade" and I've included a copy for each grade level starting with preschool. There is clip art on the side that the students can color or you could cut that off before photocopying and have your kids decorate the border themselves. These make a great back to school bulletin board for the fall (hello, timesaver!) and also a nice class book to have available to your new class.

  • 3 different templates for letters to the child's future teacher ~ It's nice for the next teacher to get a letter from the student and the kids feel better knowing that their teacher knows something about them. I designed three versions of this so that it can be used by different developmental levels. There is one for students to just draw on, one with a headline/midline/baseline and one with smaller lines for advanced writers.
It's available at my online TPT store as an instant download for only $5.00. I have them do a few pages each day. It's great as an instant filler when you find they need a low key activity and it's such fun to hear them chatting and remembering the year. I find it is great closure and a wonderful keepsake. I typically print some photos from the year and make a page for each student's book as well with a note from me.

I promise it will make those hectic last weeks easier for you. Wouldn't you rather spend your upcoming nights and weekends picking out new flip flops and browsing Barnes and Noble for beach reads instead of creating end of the year projects on your own.


Fresh Air Reading:
Have the students bring in sheets or beach towels from home. Spend some time outside reading in the fresh air. Give the parents a head’s up so that they may apply bug spray or sunblock.
Sidewalk Chalk:
Use sidewalk chalk to create some outdoor art to enhance a lesson. Anything you would normally do on paper can be done using chalk outside. Some ideas include: webbing stories, character sketches, illustrating scenes from a book, etc.
Water Painting:
Take the kids outside with cups of water and paintbrushes. Let them “paint” their spelling or vocabulary words onto the wall of the school or the playground.
Detail Writing:
Use clipboards and allow the kids to sit outside and journal, compose poems or write descriptive paragraphs about an object that they can observe outside.
So Many Nouns:
Go on a walk around the schoolgrounds and list all of the nouns that can be seen.
Now is a great time to do some safety lessons and activities. Topics such as sun safty, water safety, bike safety and fireworks safety are timely and important.
Have kids write persuasive paragraphs on why bike helmets should be worn.
Research summer safety tips and design posters that can be hung around the school or town.
Contact the local police and fire department. They are often willing to come to schools and do presentations on these topics.
Read and write campfire stories.
Research and write about woodland creatures. Use model magic to create them.
Make “solar s’mores” by wrapping marshmallows, chocolate and graham crackers in foil and setting them in the sun.
Tye-Dye tshirts or use watercolors and coffee filters to make pretend shirts.
Give the children posterboards and allow them to create their own board game. Provide them with parameters and guides. They can design the game board, write trivia cards, write out instructions for play, etc.
Do an “in-class game day” where the students bring games from home. Allow them time to teach each other how to play the game and let them enjoy playing together.
Use online programs to create word searches using words that relate to your school year.
Play a whole class game of Pictionary.
Challenge another class to a kickball game.
Make playdough and allow the children to be creative.
Collect recycled items (newspapers, egg cartons, cans, etc) and let the kids create interesting artwork.
Make collages.
Water color murals. Put on some quiet music and see how calm the classroom becomes.
Read the book, It’s Not a Box. Have each child bring in a box from home and use classroom supplies to transform it into something else. Allow time for each student to share with the class.
Print out reader’s theaters scripts and have your students work in small groups to plan a performance. Supply them with some art materials to make props, costumes and scenery.
Hold a “class talent show.” Let kids practice and perform on their own or with a friend.
It’s so tempting to put in a movie during those last few days. Justify it by reading a novel that has been made into a film. My personal favorite is Charlotte’s Web.
Watch SchoolHouse Rocks and then have the kids make up their own songs to teach a concept.
end of year ideas end of the school year end of year activities for the classroom preschool kindergarten first grade second grade third grade fourth grade fifth grade sixth grade end of year celebration memory book yearbook printable free ideas

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Sunflower vs Pumpkin

I've created a new daily blog specifically dedicated to classroom organization and management. Please visit me there at: The Clutter-Free Classroom

I've been very lucky this year. By having my son at school with me, I've been able to volunteer in his classroom during my lunchtime. Admittedly, the reason I'm skipping my brown bagged nourishment and hanging with the K Crew is because my son is in the class. However, if you have the opportunity, you should totally spend some time in other grade levels. First of all, Kindergarten is a hoot. Those kids are funny. Secondly, it's really neat to see the spiral in the curriculum.

In third grade we are learning about life cycles in science including the life cycle of plants. Yesterday I planted seeds in little cups of dirt with 5 year olds. I love seeing where they are coming from knowing where they are going.

Anyhow, while I was showing off my green thumb and getting dirt under my nails with small groups, the kids were also working at their seats on a writing activity that the teacher had modeled. They had to choose between two seeds: a sunflower and a pumpkin. They then had to write if it was big or little and what it would grow into.

My son selected the pumpkin. It was a 50/50 option so I thought nothing of it.

Last night at dinner I made conversation by asking why he picked that seed. I expected the shoulder-shrug-I-Dunno-Thing or maybe the "I like Halloween" answer.

Instead, I got..."It's easier to write 'big' than 'little' and there are more letters in 'sunflower.'

I couldn't decide if I was disappointed in his laziness or impressed by his cleverness.

I opted for the latter.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Getting My Sale On

Are you feeling appreciated?
You should. It's teacher appreciation week.

I told my husband he needed to appreciate me this week.

He said, "You're not my teacher."

I proposed, "It'll be good practice for you for doting on me on Sunday."

He replied, "You're not my mother."

Do you feel the love?

Just so you know....

YOU are appreciated. And to show my appreciation, I have marked everything in my Teacher Pay Teacher store on sale.

I should probably clarify that by "number one selling" I mean in comparison to my other products and not that it tops the NY Best Seller's list or anything like that. You know...in case you were wondering. ;)

Monday, May 2, 2011


I've created a new daily blog specifically dedicated to classroom organization and management. Please visit me there at: The Clutter-Free Classroom

When I was little, my mother used to make a culinary delight.

It was a treat for the senses.

We called it Goulash.

I Googled Goulash (try saying "Google Goulash" 3 x fast) and found out that it was all a lie. The results for "goulash" do not even remotely resemble this dietary staple of my childhood.

So I called my sister and said, "Take a casserole dish, line it with Spam, dump in Velveeta Cheese, a can of corn, and instant mashed potatoes. Bake it in the oven until the instant taters from a box get all brown and crunchy. What's it called?"

Her response, "I call it GROSS! Why?"

I found myself discussing this dish as the culmination of one of my rambling tangents today.

You know the ones where you start to tell a story and then get off topic and forget your point.

In this case my path lead me to a description of Mama's Goulash. Want to know where it started? Spam.

But, not the nasty processed 'meat-product' spam. The kind you get in your inbox.

The reason...

I discovered today that I've been spamming people for months and months. Unknowingly.

When my classes started in January I used the email account that I use for this blog and my business. I needed to set up a gmail account for the course and since I already had this one I figured it would be easiest to use it.

No big deal.

Except I forgot that there is a signature file attached to my email with links to my blog and store. I didn't realize until today that it automatically attached to all my messages.

That means that every. single. email. that I sent over the course of the semester (and there were a bunch) all had the signature. Hopefully they knew that it was an automatic thing and weren't just figuring I was using the course for marketing purposes.

So if you are here because you clicked on the link in an email...well, welcome.
If you are here because you are one of my regular readers, and you were just asking yourself, "What's for dinner?" Well then, might I suggest a heaping helping of Spam Casserole? Now you have the recipe. Go crazy. I triple dog dare you to bring it to a potluck and try to keep a straight face.

And on that note...what's the yuckiest thing you were forced to eat as a child?