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Thursday, August 9, 2012

Crate Seat Chronicles

I was super excited to make the crate seats with my mommy today! Here is a glimpse into our adventure.


Attempting to pull out the foam...




 Adding backing so it looks "professional", as my mom says....

Scotch Guarding to protect them against dirty little hands...

And... Ta Da!!

Now, where was my dad this whole time....

Dreaming up my next project.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

"Arghh You Ready for 4th Grade?"

I can't claim this bulletin board idea as my own. I found it here.

I liked the idea, but Tom thought no pirate was complete without a parrot, patch, hook and peg leg. So here is what I came up with.

I found this stool laying around my grandfather's garage.

He was nice enough to let me take it. Clearly plain white just won't cut it in my classroom.

I had to jazz it up.

That's more like it.

Here's how the conversation between Tom and I went regarding the stool...

Tom-   "What the heck is that?  It's intense! "
Me-    "Do you like it?"
Tom- "I'm happy that you like it."

 Good thing this stool isn't for our apartment.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

I'll "chalk" it Up to Beginner's Luck!

Today I had my first experience with chalkboard paint.  Surprisingly, it went well.

I decided to take my old, banged up, hand- me -down coffee table....

and turn it into this...

It will be perfect for game nights...

I sent Tom a picture message of the final product. His response...

                                  "We are so hip now."


Monday, August 6, 2012

Ditching the Desk

This upcoming school year (after much thought) I am deciding to go deskless. *GASP*

Here's why...

1. The desk is HUGE, therefore it takes up a ton of space.
2. My computer is on a smaller table, so the desk is not needed for that.
3. My desk just collected junk and was never very organized.
4.  I want more space.
5. Let's be serious, how often do you find yourself sitting at your desk???? NEVER.

No desk means my kidney reading table will be taking on more responsibilities. I plan on moving it up to the front where my desk used to be. That leaves the entire back of the classroom open and available for more reading nooks or places to accommodate the Daily Five and my math rotations. 

The only time I really sit at my desk is to correct papers, check emails or meet with students. All of these tasks can be completed at my reading table instead.

Where am I going to keep all of the supplies that were in my desk? I thought you'd never ask. I perused Pinterest for space saving organizational tips and was inspired to put my own twist on a combination of a few ideas. Here is what I came up with.

I started with an over the door clear plastic shoe organizer. You can find it super cheap at Walmart.

And with a little patience, duct tape, chalk and construction paper, I turned it into an over the door supply organizer.

It was tough to get a good picture without the glare of the plastic, but you get the idea.

This will be way more functional and space saving than my giant desk (or so I hope).
I won't lie, I'm a little apprehensive to go "deskless" but I figure the only way to find out if it will work, is to try! Here goes nothing.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Have You Filled A Bucket Today?

I (and many other fabulous teachers at my school) use the bucket filler system to reinforce positive and encouraging interactions among students. Not familiar with bucket fillers? Check out their website.

I introduce the concept of bucket filling by reading....

Throughout the year students write compliments to each other using use this...

They place the compliments in each others' buckets.

I have seen some teachers get really creative on what they use for buckets. This year I am having my "buckets" do double duty. They will be cubby name tags as well.

I started with these...

And turned them into these...

 In the process my apartment looked like this...

And my boyfriend looked like this...

At this point, I feel like this...

I think it's time for bed.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Hooray Home Depot!

I'm finally ready to begin assembling my crate seats as seen on Pinterest and just about every other teaching blog ever created. I may be late to the party, but boy am I excited!

I ordered the crates online from Staples, a little pricier than Target or Walmart, but much sturdier. I had a coupon, so 6 crates (and a big box of pencils) came out to $40. They arrived today.

I went to Home Depot to get my plywood and boy did I luck out! I had the most helpful, generous and friendly associate help me. Say hello to Steve. (Apologies for blurry photos today)


Thanks to my new best friend, I mean Steve, I am now the owner of perfectly measured plywood. If you know me, you know I'm not the measuring type. I wouldn't have known where to begin and I can guarantee if I had to cut these myself, they would look more like puzzle pieces than perfect rectangles.

The BEST part about my Home Depot experience was that when he found out this was a classroom project, he only charged me $4.00. What a steal.

I've searched high and low for the best price and product for the foam padding. I didn't realize how expensive it was! After much shopping around, I decided to go with a memory foam pad from Walmart. This came to $25.00. My mom and I will cut it up into smaller pieces before adding the fabric. This should give me more padding than necessary for 6 stools, so I plan on sharing the wealth with a fellow teacher.


The fabric I chose can be found in this post. Of course, now that I already have my fabric, I heard of an even better idea. Some people are making these crates with vinyl table clothes. What a great idea! That sounds much easier to clean. I think I will stick with my fabric for this year and try to find a clear plastic tablecloth for protection.

Side note: Check out this fantastic roll of duct tape I scooped up at Walmart today. How Cute?


Okay, time for some outdoor boot camp!

Monday, July 30, 2012

Common Core Galore

It's no secret that I've been spending my summer doing all the fun, cutesy, decorating type stuff for my classroom. It's one of my favorite parts about teaching. However, there is much more to teaching than creating a well decorated classroom.

The Common Core is coming quickly. Pretty soon we will no longer be using Massachusetts state standards; but rather a set of standards used nation wide. We will be saying goodbye to the MCAS for good. I've been trying to read up on the new standards and figure out which have changed or been removed. I came across the MasteryConnect  website and found out I can add the common core standards to my blog. Over on the right hand side of my blog you should see a pull tab. You can use this to search for standards by grade and subject. How helpful is that? I also downloaded the app for my iphone. Now I can have access to all those standards at any time, on the go. Because we all know how often you stop in your tracks and say "Hmm.. I wonder what standard number 4.OA.2 is ?" Just kidding, but I'm sure it will come in handy for quick reference throughout the year.

Here is a Pinterest board I found helpful in my Common Core search.

I also pulled the trigger on the quietest classroom pencil sharpener that has been all over Pinterest and teaching blogs.

I purchased it online for $24.99 from Classroom Friendly Supplies. After reading the reviews, I was sold. I went through 3 pencil sharpeners last year and was determined to invest in a good one for the upcoming school year. Let me tell you, this thing sharpens pencils like no other sharpener I've seen. Hopefully it can stand the test of time.

This is the blog that really sold me on it. I also like her classroom management idea about pencils.

Time to go enjoy the "pick of the week" weather out there. Happy Monday!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Daily Five

Last summer I spent a lot of time revamping the way I taught math. Thanks to Beth Newingham and her willingness to share all of her fabulous ideas, I now teach math through leveled small groups and rotating stations. The groups are flexible, meaning they may change based on the kids' strengths, needs and the concept being taught. Each day, every child has the opportunity to work in a small group with me, practice the skill independently, and play a math game to reinforce the skill learned during instruction time. It was very time consuming to find or create math games to go along with all of the concepts. (My colleagues were all very helpful in this department!) Now that the games are created and laminated, we can reuse them year after year. It was well worth the time and effort. I'm sure this year I will continue to work with my colleagues to find more games that align with the Common Core, but we are off to a good start.

Now that I am comfortable with my new method of teaching math, I figured it was time to reevaluate my literacy block. I felt I needed to figure out a way to meet with my guided reading groups more frequently, but also keep the rest of the class engaged while doing so. It's no secret that a majority of students aren't actually reading independently for the duration of their independent reading block. I needed to use my time more wisely.

How to solve this problem? Meet the "Two Sisters".

They created the Daily Five and I am jumping on that bandwagon!
The Daily 5: Fostering Literacy Independence in the Elementary Grades

The Daily Five is a series of literacy tasks (reading to self, reading with someone, writing, word work, and listening to reading) which students complete daily while the teacher meets with small groups or confers with individuals. Students are allowed to choose the order in which they want to complete the tasks each day. Yes, that means I need to relinquish control. It's a scary thought, but kids love choice. And really, they are having choice within limited parameters. Even better, they aren't lazily wasting their entire independent reading block.

My first reaction, OVERWHELMED! Where do I begin? How do I possibly fit all of that into my 90 minute literacy block. However, after reading the book and researching via Pinterest and many many teaching blogs, I took a deep breath and realized I could do this. If all goes well, after the initial month of introducing the Daily Five and practicing expected behaviors and so on, it will eventually run itself (or so I hope).

This summer I have been gathering all the resources I need to begin implementing the Daily Five in my classroom this coming fall. I've been sharing and bouncing ideas off colleagues who already use variations of the Daily Five; as well as those who will be using it for the first time. I will post more about the individual activities I've been finding/making for each task. Tonight, I will just share some of the organizational pieces I've been working on.

Since the students will be choosing their activities, I need to make a choice bulletin board for students to sign up, and for me to organize how the rotations will work. My hopes are that my 90 minute literacy block will look something like this...

15 minute mini lesson
3, 20 minute guided reading groups (rest of class doing Daily Five)
15 minute closing

I found these adorable signs on Teachers Pay Teachers for FREE!

I loved the flag background so I decided to make my own flags to continue the theme. 

I plan on using these as part of my choice board. I'm still developing the idea, but students will use clothes pins with their name on it to pin certain flags depending on which activity they are doing. I made enough color coded flags to represent each activity for three rounds. (Make sense?) There will be a set number of students allowed at each station per round.

I will be sure to post the final product in September so this makes more sense!

That's enough Daily Five talk for one night!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Bargain Shopping

I've been spending much of my summer hunting for classroom bargains. Here are a few of my finds.

I scooped up this bad boy for .50 cents at a garage sale.

It's going to provide much needed storage space.

I hit up The Salvation Army Store, and for under $4.00 I walked away with two learning games.
Our Social Studies curriculum covers the regions of the United States. This game will definitely come in handy. What I like most about this game are the shape recognition cards.
I also grabbed this Scrabble Slam card game. I'm thinking this will be a creative way to practice word work.

The Christmas Tree Shop had this super cool guitar pillow for $4.99.
At an even bigger bargain, this pillow went for $3.99.
They will both be great additions to my reading nooks.

On Pinterest I found THIS great idea for keeping dice controlled. This prevents the dice from rolling all over the floor. Not to mention the obnoxiously loud sound they make as they slam on the desks. (Note to self : invest in foam dice)
Since I use dice often with many of my math games, I knew I had to try this out. I found these in the million dollar section at Target. I don't know why they bother calling it the dollar section. I can't leave there without spending at least $30.00.
There are 2 in each pack. You can't beat that price!

Happy Shopping!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Summer Obsession

I'm baaaack!

My apologies for falling off the grid. As you can imagine, the end of the school year is chaotic. Finding time to blog seemed impossible.

I guess there is no other way to say this.... I'm Diana, and I'm an addict. A Pinterest addict! I know I am not alone here. This magical website has put a spell on me, and I'm loving every second of it. From classroom to kitchen, I have been pinning and making so many fabulous projects this summer.

Now although I am thrilled with my new found obsession, I don't think Tom is as appreciative of the art of Pinteresting. My plethora of projects has slowly taken over our 900 sq ft apartment. My kitchen table is currently covered in all sorts of gadgets including a laminator,  wrapping paper, wooden animals and ribbon. I'm sure if he hears, "OMG Babe, look at how cute this pin is!" one more time, he might lose it. Thanks for putting up with me, Thomas!

Here is a peek into some of the Pinterest inspired projects I've tinkered with so far this summer.

I am in the middle of  Operation Cute-sify My Classroom.

Exhibit A:  For the past two years I have used sentence strips to post I'm Done, Now What? It is a list of activities the early finishers can choose from. Sayonara, sentence strips. This is way more fun...

Exhibit B: This past school year I started implementing math groups. I created oodles of games and the kids rotated from station to station. The kids were in flexible groups based on their level. Each day they worked with me, played a math game and worked independently. This year I am going to add a math facts station. The kids need all the practice they can get. I LOVED teaching math this way. I got the idea from Beth Newingham's website. She is pretty much my idol. Since it was new this year, I didn't have a bulletin board to display the rotation schedule or grouping. This year I am stepping up my game.

 This year the groups will be animals...

and I will use these cute labels (made by yours truly- I was shocked I could do this) to create a Math Workshop rotation bulletin board. This way the kids will have a visual and always know where they should be during each rotation.
 Exhibit C: I started to store all of my math games in the Sterilite plastic drawer units. Boring and plain they are no more! Thanks, Pinterest! Why didn't I think of this?

Teachers Pay Teachers is another website that I'm utilizing via Pinterest. I found these adorable bookmarks there. I printed them, added scrapbook paper, laminated and voila!
Now I have a cute first day of school gift for the kids.

This was another, "Why didn't I think of that?" moment. So simple, so cute...

An old Pringles can, covered in scrapbook paper is my new ruler holder.

I've also dabbled in the home decor arena as well.
These adorable framed letters now have a home above our new bed. Tom actually likes them, success!

My next big project is making the adorable crate seats that have been all over Pinterest. My mom and I picked out the fabric for the cushions. It was on sale at JoAnn Fabric, 50% off.
 Can you tell I love polka dots and stripes?

We are hoping to find a deal on the crates and padding before we can start working on our masterpiece.

Now that I've written this long awaited post, I must go make dinner. I think this is the first time in months that I haven't had dinner ready for Tom when he got home. Like I said, I've been obsessed!