Saturday, December 28, 2013

Get Geared Up for January!

I suppose it's time to start thinking about January and going back to school.  Hey, it's gotta happen sometime!  So, I'm going to throw a few fun and easy ideas out there for ya, if you're looking to get started preparing and prepping.  For me, I don't go back until January 6, so I'm not quite to the preparing and prepping stage - shame on me!  :)

One of my favorite resources I have created are my Monthly Common Core Writing Activities.  They have done WONDERS for my classroom and for my students' growth in writing.  One of my favorite pieces that we write each year is the one featured below.  It is the Opinion Piece from my January Common Core Writing Activities.  You can see a close-up of it below.  This prompt asks students if schools should be closed due to inclement weather (ice, snow, etc.).  They must write a letter to the principal or school board stating their opinion.  This is a hot topic in my district, so my kids were loving it!  I also think this could work even if you are not in an area with snow/ice.  It's a great authentic piece of writing for students to think about.

To prepare for writing this piece, we did do a little bit of research so that we could support our opinion with clear facts.  We went to our school district's website and researched how many students drivers there are in our district, how many teachers, staff, support workers drive to school each day, and how many buses transport students to school each day and how many students are bus riders.  This REALLY helped some of my students see the need for our county to close schools for inclement weather.  However, there were a few differing opinions last year.  "My mom can't get off work, so we shouldn't close school, because it makes it hard for Mom to find someone to watch me and it's just a big ole mess!"  This kiddo cracked me right up!  This student's opinion was clear and she wrote about it with passion! :)  There were others: "What about spending time with your family and playing in the snow?!  I have never been sledding and if there is enough snow on the ground to go sledding, I definitely don't want to be in school!"  Very matter-of-fact!  :)  This piece is always TONS of fun!

The other types of Common Core Writing can be found in the entire pack seen below or click {HERE} to see them on TPT.

Another favorite are my Common Core Winter ELA Printables.  These are a new monthly addition to my store.  I have so many seasonal books that I just love to read aloud to my kiddos, but I'm always looking for some kind of Common Core-Aligned graphic organizer or response sheet to assess their comprehension of the story and take it to a deeper level.  So, I decided to create themed ELA printables that can be used for just that and the best part is they are 100% aligned to the Common Core Standards which is a requirement in my classroom.

See below for a sneak peek of two of the printables included in this pack.  You can see that the first one shown is a graphic organizer that can be used to assess the students' understanding of the who, what, when, where, and how of the story (RL.1.1, RL.2.1, RL.3.1).  The second one shows how I ask my kiddos to take it to a higher level of thinking with the text.  The students must create a NEW setting for the story and then analyze the new setting and how it would change the plot of the story (RL.1.7, RL.2.7, RL.3.7).  The kiddos are really required to think deeply about the story, but are having fun using their imagination.  They have no idea they're thinking on a higher level - I love it!

You can find the rest of my Winter ELA Printables in the preview pic below.

And finally, if you're prepping for centers, early finisher activities, math tubs, challenge work, extra practice, etc. you will want to snatch up my Winter Themed Math and Literacy Centers.  They are aligned to the Common Core and are a great way to practice important skills and concepts in the Common Core with a fun game-like, hands-on approach.  There are 5 math and 5 literacy centers each with a task card, all materials needed, and a recording sheet.  The standards are also listed on the Table of Contents so that you will know exactly what CCSS you are assessing with each particular center.

You can see preview of the entire pack below or find more information about them {HERE}.

One last thing and I promise, I'm done.  If you are really interested in my Common Core Monthly Writing Packs, it is a really good time to get my Common Core Writing Bundle #2 (January-July) for 20% off.  You get all the months included and it's much cheaper than buying them monthly.  Click {HERE} or the picture below to check it out.

Have questions regarding how I use the Common Core Monthly Writing units?  Check out the Q&A blog post found {HERE}.  Also, don't forget to snatch up my FREE Common Core Writing Rubrics found {HERE} to accompany the writing units.

So there you have it, I promise to get myself into school-mode in the next few days....or week.  :)  Hope this helps some of you that are already planning and prepping!  Thanks for stopping by!

Friday, December 27, 2013

A Peek Into This Past Week in Pictures

Well if you're anything like me, you haven't thought a thing about school in about a week!  I'm okay with that and think we all deserve some time to sit back, relax, enjoy time with our families, and soak up some down time!

I usually don't share much of my personal life on my blog, but I thought I'd share a little about what I've been up to in the past week in pictures.  You will have to excuse the iPhone pics.  I'm just not a fancy camera kinda gal.  So, let's begin.  On Saturday of last week, this happened....

We had some crazy weird weather!  Upper 60's in Kentucky in December is unheard of and this was the aftermath.  We had some wind damage on our farm, but everyone was safe and no one was hurt, so we're all good.  Now to re-build the building...

So after that we got our Christmas on and spent time with family and friends.  Some of my favorite moments can be seen below.  We love some Christmas Vacation and Elf - staples in our home every year!

That was quickly followed by the TV getting completely taken over by my 8-year-old who got a Wii U for Christmas.  So then it looked more like this...

...which forced me to look a little bit like this.

This was a FUN and complete surprise gift from my sweet Mom.  If you've been following my blog for a while, you know that I am addicted to reading books on my iPad - no more paper books for me.  I like to be able to read wherever I go.  Well, last summer I ran into major problems!  Glare on the iPad while trying to read in the sun - NOT OK!  So on our beach vacation, I found a lady who was reading on a tablet and I quickly (somewhat like a stalker, but hopefully not) approached her and said, "Ma'am, may I ask what you're reading on?  I can't for the life of me see to read on my iPad and I'm having withdrawals!"  She laughed and said she completely understood and told me to get the ORIGINAL, nothing major, no fancy schmancy-ness, plain and simple Kindle.  I must have mentioned it to my mom at some point, because she remembered and surprised me with it as one of my Christmas gifts.  Now I have realized how lightweight it is and it's even easier to read on it than on my iPad in OR out of the sun!  Did you know this thing weighs less than 6 ounces?!  OK, commercial is over - CUT!  Anywho, with Super Mario Bros U in the background, I read the first book in the Divergent series in two days....not bad, but I didn't get out of my PJs either.  :)

So these are the books I am reading next.  And I also downloaded Defending Jacob by William Landay and The Book Thief by Markus Zusak after taking this snapshot.  Both were recommended by some blogger friends of mine.  My mom also gave me $100 in Amazon Kindle Gift Cards, so please let me know of your favorites in the comments and I'll be sure to download and get my read on!

So my husband and I decided to have what we call "Friday Night Date Night" tonight.  It's nothing major.  We just take our kiddo to my Mom and Dad's house and then go enjoy a nice dinner out and relax and enjoy each other's company.  After we left the restaurant, we went to the mall and this happened....

If you follow me on Instagram, you have already seen the above picture and the culprits.  My friends Alisha over at The Bubbly Blonde and Stephanie at Falling Into First made me do it!!  So, I splurged a little on a Michael Kors bag.  Yes, I did.  I admit it.  And it felt soooo good - Merry Christmas to me!  No regrets!  :)

If you follow me on Pinterest, you also know that I've been pinning some non-teacher related pins too!  Like I said, we all need to relax our teacher brains every now and then.  There's time to panic next week!  :)

So, here I am on a Friday night at 11:30 pm, recapping my week for you all.  Like I said, I usually don't get personal on my blog and try to keep it teacher-focused, but everyone needs a little time to unwind.  So I hope you got to know me a little better by reading and viewing some of my crazy life that I love.  I'll post again in the next couple of days with some fun products to help you get your January teacher groove on!  Thanks for stopping by friends and enjoy your weekend!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Blogging Over at Owl-ways Be Inspired Today!

Today I'm blogging over at our collaborative blog, Owl-ways Be Inspired.  It is a blog specifically for 2nd/3rd grade teachers and has some amazing authors.  If you haven't checked it out before, go check it out now!

Over at Owl-ways Be Inspired, I am sharing how I use these in my classroom:

...and I'm also sharing a couple of different ways to incorporate some Christmas fun with engaging reading and writing activities like these:

I am also sharing a fun FREEBIE from a friend over there!  Click {HERE} or on the blog button below to head on over and read all about it.  You don't want to miss out!  Happy Holidays!

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Cyber Monday Must Haves and a FREEBIE

If you're like me, you're gearing up for the BIG, HUGE site-wide TeachersPayTeachers Cyber Monday + Tuesday Sale!  I am joining all of my favorite teacher-authors to offer 20% off PLUS an additional 10% off using the code CYBER at checkout.  That is some serious savings, my friends!  My wishlist is loaded up already and I just keep adding more!

I've been super busy getting the last few units uploaded and ready for this big event.  If you follow me on my Facebook Fan Page, you know I've given away a TON of FREE products from my store in the past week or two!  Let me show you what I have in my store that you might use this holiday season.  You can add them to your TPT Wishlist or Pin them for later!

In this unit that I created last year, the students will write a letter to persuade their parents to donate money or goods to a family in need (opinion piece).  We actually do this in my classroom in lieu of a holiday gift exchange, so this letter is an authentic writing piece that they actually send home to their parents.  The results are always awesome!  They will also write an explanatory piece that will explain how to wrap the perfect present.  Of course, I let my students actually wrap a present so that they can see the steps they take and record them as they go - how fun!  They will also write a narrative piece about their favorite holiday tradition.  The parents usually love how these turn out.  And finally, to culminate a shared research study of holidays around the world, the students will write an informative report sharing what they've learned about each country's traditions.  These authentic writing pieces are sure to get your kiddos excited about writing with graphic organizers to guide their writing and differentiated publishing paper.

Now, for the fun part!  New to my store this year, I created Common Core-Aligned Christmas Math and ELA Centers.  These are specifically created for 2nd grade Common Core Standards, but could be used with high 1st graders or as intervention materials for low 3rd graders.  These centers can be used in a variety of ways and help to reinforce skills that presently need to be reviewed.  Included are 5 math centers and 5 ELA centers complete with task page, materials, and recording sheet.  As with all of my newer products, I have created a printer-friendly version as well without the vibrant backgrounds.  I try to be as "ink conscious" as possible, so my centers aren't overloaded with a TON of ink!  Check them out below:

This year I also started creating seasonal ELA printable sets.  I love my Christmas ELA Printables!  If you like my Common Core Graphic Organizers, a Top 100 Selling Product, these are very similar, but with a seasonal feel.  I like to use these with all of my seasonal Christmas books.  They can be used with any seasonal book, are great for sub plans, morning work, homework, early finishers, or in a center.  These are so versatile and personally, I think they are SO CUTE! :)  They include the same rigor as my other products, but with a holiday feel.  Check them out below:

Can't celebrate Christmas or Santa in your classroom?  No worries!  I didn't leave you out!  You can also get all of the above in a winter theme, complete with cute penguins, polar bears, snowmen, etc.

My January Common Core Writing Activities were a huge hit when I created them last year.  In this product, the opinion piece will have your students writing a letter to the superintendent or principal of your school stating their opinion about snow days!  Should we have school when there are ice and snow on the roads?  The kids had a ball with this one and I found that some were echoing the opinions of their parents as well. ;) In the informative/explanatory piece, the students will be writing a fun piece about how to build a snowman!  They LOVE this one!  In the narrative piece, the students will be writing about a time that they played in the snow.  If your students have never experienced a snow day, they can always imagine the experience and write a narrative based on their ideas of what a day of snow would be like.  Finally in the shared research piece, the students will be using technology and informational texts to learn about polar bears and then write about what they learned.  You can check out this fun product by clicking the picture below.

I also have Common Core-Aligned Winter Math and ELA Centers that are similar to my Christmas Centers shown above.  There are 5 Math and 5 ELA centers complete with task cards, center materials and recording sheets.  Again, they are easy on the ink!  I think your students will find that they are fun and engaging!  These were a big hit when I first created and put them into action last year.   Check them out by clicking the picture below:

And finally, brand NEW to my store, I have my Winter ELA Printables set.  Again, these printables are VERY similar to my Common Core Graphic Organizers, but with a seasonal feel.  They are EXACTLY the same as my Christmas ELA Printables above, but with winter-themed graphics rather than the traditional Christmas ones.  I like to use all of my winter-themed seasonal books with these and the kiddos have a blast with them!  You can check them out by clicking the picture below:

Now, if you are REALLY looking for a bargain on this awesome Cyber Monday + Tuesday SALE, you should check out my Common Core Writing Bundle #2 which will cover you from January (which you saw above) all the way through June/July.  Even if you don't use the June/July Writing Activities, it is still cheaper (20% savings) to buy the bundle rather than the individual months.  With the discount on top of that, you are REALLY getting a steal!  You can check them out below or find a complete Q&A blog post about my Common Core Writing Units {HERE}.  If you wonder how I use these units in my classroom or the thought behind them, you will want to read that blog post.  Check out Bundle #2 by clicking the picture below:

Last, but not least, I created this FREEBIE a while back and have blogged about it before, but I've had some requests for Common Core Writing Rubrics to accompany my Common Core Writing Units and I already have them! :) These FREE rubrics are for Grades 1-4 and they are already in my store!  In case you missed the first blog post about these rubrics, you can download the rubrics for the 3 main types of Common Core Writing in Grades 1-4 by clicking the picture below:

Whew!  I hope that helps you to get your Wishlist all organized.  Feel free to Pin anything you want to remember to come back to later, by clicking the little red Pin It button beside or underneath each picture.  

So if you're as pumped as I am, don't forget to use the code CYBER at check out to receive an additional 10% off of the already 20% off discounted prices in my ENTIRE STORE - what a deal!  Thanks for all the support and Happy Shopping!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Save the Turkey with a Touch of Common Core Writing

I am on what we call a blog posting roll, ladies and gentleman!  I haven't blogged this frequently....well, ever!  I think it's because I love this time of year.  Just when I was feeling the teacher burnout (aren't we all?), here comes Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas!  How in the world can you not just LOVE the holidays?!  So today I'm going to share a fun activity that my students absolutely adore!

First, we begin by reading Turkey Trouble by Wendi Silvano.  You could also read A Turkey for Thanksgiving by Eve Bunting.  Both involve turkeys that don't want to be eaten for Thanksgiving dinner.  There are several other picture books out there, but these are two of my favorites.  Click the links below to purchase them from

After reading one of these picture books, we discuss the plot, point of view, and problem/solution.  There are several graphic organizers in my Thanksgiving ELA Printables pack to use when reading either of these books. 

After completing one of the graphic organizers from my pack (there are several that will work), we begin to brainstorm how it would feel if we were a turkey on Thanksgiving Day.  We talk about how we would solve our problem.  The students are assigned the following writing prompt from my November Common Core Writing Unit.  They have to write a letter to try and persuade families to NOT eat turkey for Thanksgiving and provide reasons that support their opinion.

They will have to support their opinion using the following graphic organizers, also included in the unit.

And finally, they will publish their Opinion Piece on differentiated publishing paper, also included in the unit.

You can find all this and more in my November Common Core Writing Pack.  

I hope this fun, seasonal activity helps you tame down the teacher burnout too!  :)

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Peek at My Week {Visual Plans}

Totally breaking all blogging rules by posting two times in one day - OVERACHIEVER!  {NOT!}

This is the first time I've ever tried my hand at visual plans and it seems like it took me FOREVER!  Now, please keep in mind that these are not my actual lesson plans.  These are links to some supplemental resources that I will use throughout my week.  We have a basal series in reading and a fabulous math series, so the plans below are just the supplements that I will use to make my ELA and Math blocks a little more hands-on and interactive.  The Writing block includes some seasonal, authentic writing and the Morning Work/Homework block shows you where I will pull for extra practice/reinforcement.  I use two different packs to pull from for homework in order to differentiate.

REMEMBER: In order for the product pictures to be clickable links, you will need to click on the pictures from this blog.  This will open up the document in Google Drive, where you should be able to click on each individual product picture and it will link you to the product on TPT.

If you want to take a peek at other teachers' weeks, you can click over to Mrs. Wills Kindergarten to read more and/or link up to share your week in visual plans!  Hope you enjoy!

Native American Fun (and Writing too!)

The past two weeks, our class has had a TON of fun learning about Native Americans and how they used natural resources to survive and live off of the land!  'Tis the season to be thankful!

First, we researched the different types of tribes and their characteristics and the areas in which they settled using Lauren Bell's fabulous All About Native Americans unit that can be found {HERE}.  The kids were so excited to learn about the different Native American tribes and her unit was perfect to cover all kinds of content!  The suggested websites were a big hit with my kiddos!  Click the picture below to check it out her unit!

After we learned all about the different Native American tribes and the regions of the United States that they inhabited, it was time to learn about how the Native Americans used natural resources to survive.  THIS is what I brought in to "hook" my husband's arrowhead collection!  Check it out below!  It really IS pretty impressive!

The kids went CRAZY!!  They wanted to know about each piece and what it was used for and how it was made.  This called for a little bit of RESEARCH!  First, I gave them some background knowledge about where to find arrowheads.  We discussed how Native Americans had to live high on a hill so that they could look for two things: 1) animals for food and 2) enemies.  We also discussed how they needed to live by a water source like a stream, river, or lake.  And in our area, we talked about how Native Americans would like to settle near the caves in our region.  We also discussed how this is a Primary Source.  Well, they wanted to know more about these COOL ROCKS above!  This is where my November Common Core Writing comes into play!  I can always trick my kiddos into doing a little bit of writing with some cool, authentic information!  But that's our little secret!  ;)

This was their writing task.  It is one of the pieces found in my November Common Core Writing Unit.

To cover some specific Common Core State Standards, we chose to use both books and technology (websites) to research.  We also worked in cooperative groups to research.  I checked out some books from our school library and also the public library to aide in our research.  The following are some websites we found helpful:

** WARNING: As with any websites, please review the website before showing students to make sure it is suitable for the grade level and maturity level. Also, check for inappropriate ads, links, or pictures.  These days websites change like crazy! **

Then, we used the following graphic organizer to write down facts/notes about Native American artifacts.  It is also found in my November Common Core Writing Unit.

Finally, the students discussed among their groups, then shared out with the whole group their findings.  We talked about what was most important and what we also thought was simply super interesting!  After a discussion that helped cover the Speaking and Listening Common Core Standards, we decided it was time to publish our research articles and sneak in some Common Core Writing (shhhh)!

We used the publishing papers from my November Common Core Writing Unit to publish our informative/explanatory writing in a report format.

This was probably one of the most engaging units we have done this year.  From start to finish, the students were 110% excited and ready to learn more!  It's definitely something they will never forget!  They asked me if we could keep my husband's arrowhead collection in the classroom.  I told them how important and special they were to him and they decided they could let him have them back - WHEW!  :)

So if you're interested in using Lauren Bell's All About Native Americans Unit or my November Common Core Writing Activities which cover 3 more pieces of Common Core Writing, you can check them out in our TPT stores!  Have fun!  :)