Friday, June 20, 2014

Five For Friday June 20th

Is it June 20th already?? Where is summer going?? Ahhh.
Anyway. Sorry I have been awol this week. I was out of town at a teacher conference. But, after a day of recovery, I am BACK. And linking up with Doodle Bugs for my favorite random linky- Five for Friday. Here's my random.

I spent Sunday through Wednesday in Little Rock (I live in Arkansas...that's our's your Southern geography lesson for the day) at a teaching conference called the Comprehensive Literacy Institute. It was hosted by the UALR Center for Literacy. UALR is the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. At this place, there are some really smart folks. The main person is Dr. Linda Dorn. She is the author of the books Teaching for Deep Comprehension and Apprenticeship in Literacy.

At this Institute, they work with schools to implement their approach to literacy. Through their approach, you work to make your entire literacy curriculum and workshops integrated. That is the big word. Integrated. Everything works together. Reading, writing, language, speaking, listening- connected. Their ideas are incredible and backed by some serious research and hard work. I highly recommend checking their work out. Or at least the free resources from their website. Ha.

This was my second year to attend the Institute, and though much of the content was familiar to me, there were still many "ah ha" moments. I learned so much about mentor texts, vocabulary, and literature discussion groups. And got lots of ideas to take back with me, that I am sure I will share with you at some point :) So that is my number one. 
P.S. I am not being paid or sponsored or obligated or anything to mention their books or website. I just like them a lot and learned so much from their ideas. Okay? Okay.

While I was out of town, I got to stay at a fancy hotel, eat out, shop, and watch dumb TV. And I got paid to go. So it was awesome, basically. 

This is me going to use the cool workout room and sweat all over the fancy elliptical. It was fun. And this is my cool new shirt that I got from Target. I like it. I posted this on my Instagram and Katie King from First Grade Jungle commented on it and followed me. ****BRB I'm fangirling****
So that just about made my week. 
P.S. I don't actually know how to "twerk". I'm pretty sure I couldn't do it even if I did. Okay. 

While in the "big city" we went to a teacher store. I love teacher stores. Sadly, Small-Town-Suzy over here has to drive at least an hour away to go to one. Walmart is my teacher store, mkay? So I was excited. I bought this really big piece of notebook paper. It's "wipe off" so you can use dry erase markers and I don't even have to laminate it. Love that. I'm going to use it to show my fourthies *exactly* how I want some things done this year. We have a document camera that I use sometimes to do this, but it's still hard for them to really see sometimes. So I got this.

I have also been on the hunt for some buckets. Yes, more buckets. The teacher's best friend I think. Anywho, after looking at Walmart, Target, and another town's Dollar Tree, found these gems. At my Dollar Tree. Take that, big cities! They actually had so many choices that it took me forever to choose. I think the cashier lady thought I was a weirdo. Don't care. I got my buckets. I am going to use these for my Guided Reading groups. Each group gets a bucket. Everything is all separate and organized. That's the plan. Cute colors though, right?
P.S. That's construction paper and colored pencils inside. I love dollar stores. And yes, I'm already buying classroom supplies. I'm a weirdo okay? Okay.

Also, I  made something. Woop! These are my new library pillows. I am saving the big fancy post about these for Monday Made It (because I never make anything and therefore never participate), but here's the basics. I needed new library seating. Beanbag chairs are randomly very expensive. I had pillows. I made new ones. And they only cost me $23. Booyah. Check back Monday for the "deets". 
P.S. I do not really say "deets" in real life. That was a joke. Don't judge me. 

And last of all, library labels. I really liked my library labels last year, and so of course, in true teacher nature, I redid them. Ha. I've added like a million more categories and a new KG font. And I didn't stop there. I made zebra ones!! In rockstar colors. Now, I do not have a rockstar room. But I think they are awesome. And I love these labels. I kept thinking of ways to make these labels work in my room. Seriously. They won't. But I wish they would. Cause I think they are adorable. So if you are in the market for some library labels with LOTS of category options, I have two options for you at the moment. Hopefully more to come.

So there's my five for the week! Go link up at Doodle Bugs and read some more :)
Happy Friday!


Friday, June 13, 2014

Five For Friday - June 13th

Happy Friday the 13th! I'm linking up with Doodle Bugs for Five for Friday! So here are five random things from my week...

I have been so lazy this week...mostly sleeping and reading. With a little bit of cleaning thrown in. And some swimming. And just a smidge of work. I am working on not feeling so guilty about being lazy...during the school year I am literally working nonstop. So transitioning to not working at all has been weird. Awesome. But weird. I keep reminding myself that I deserve to relax. Right? Ugh. But anyway. This is a picture of my dog, Lewis. Sums up our lives these days. 

I have also been soaking up all my laziness because I am leaving for a Literacy Institute Sunday afternoon. A couple days in Little Rock (our state capital) staying in a hotel, eating out, and learning about literacy with some teacher friends! I am really looking forward to it. And not just because I get paid to go. We're planning some shopping, cupcakes, and a teacher store visit as well!

Last night I worked on a great home project! My husband and I have lived in our house for almost two years and the shoes in our closet have been driving me crazy for that long. Okay, my shoes. Because that's mostly what it is. This is the "before" picture. Yuck.

Can't find anything. Hate it. So...

We bought some shelves! I know, I really went all out for this one. Ha. But it looks sooooooo good! We bought two of these shoe shelves from Walmart for about twenty bucks each. The box said they hold like 16 pairs of shoes or something, but if you stack them up (like the flip flops) you can fit more. I even managed to fit three pairs of Husband's shoes on there! Miraculous. 

I may have a slight shoe obsession. Maybe.

And this is the smidge of work I did this week. I finished up my 4th Grade Survival Guide for Back to School! I love this thing. Best idea my brain ever had while I was supposed to be sleeping. It's basically a little journal with rules, procedures, and stuff to know for my new kiddos. As you go over this stuff, the kids fill in the blanks and answer some questions about their first day and what they want to accomplish this year. And then they keep the little book or take it home and share it with parents. I can't wait to use it!
So what I did this week was make an Editable version for TPT. It has like 40-something pages for you to choose from and then type in your own information to build your very own Back to School Survival Guide. So if you're interested in that kind of thing, go check it out!

Thanks for reading my random! Go link up over at Doodle Bugs and tell us about your week :)

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Throwback Thursday

Hello all! I am loving Teaching Tribune's Summer Bloggin' link ups! Today we are "throwing it back" (I'm so hood, I know) to the grade we teach.

So after a little digging and calculating (where's Mom when you need her??), here is me in the fourth grade!

I am on the left in the hideous gorgeous pink jacket with the cold sore (plagued for life, anybody feel me?) and my little sister Sarah is turning four and being adorable on the right. I am exactly five years older than her, which is how I figured out I was in fourth grade at the time. Apparently those were not very well photographed years. Which is surprising, since I am clearly model material. Duh.

But anyway. I love this picture because it was so obviously posed by my Mom. My older sister and I were such bullies to Sarah when we were  younger (we were 7 and 5 years older than her, respectively). Which sucks because now we are all best friends. She just graduated high school and is coming to college at my Alma mater here in town and I couldn't be more excited! She is also coming to stay with me this weekend, which is good because my conversations with the dog are getting longer and longer the more I am home alone... 

So we are also supposed to say how/when we knew we were destined to be a teacher. Honestly, I didn't figure it out until I was a senior in high school. Both of my parents are teachers, so I grew up my whole life in classrooms, playing school, and bossing people around (although that might be because I was the middle child...different story). But I spent many years dedicated to becoming first an artist and then an architect. I bought houseplan magazines and everything for years. Then I figured out that I can't draw. Or do math. Whoops. 

So when it came time for graduating/college/blah blah blah I started looking at what I could actually do. At the time I was teaching a kids' Sunday School class and "Cubbies" at Awana each night (kids Bible clubs, for those of you not cool enough to have them...jk). I had also worked many years of VBS, been a kids camp counselor, and was signed up to work at a preschool before college. I spent my days off from school in my mother's kindergarten classroom. What 17-year-old could say that? I did all of these things- not because I knew I wanted to be a teacher- but because I liked working with kids. That's when I knew. And I've never looked back!

So, blogging friends, when did you know? Link up your Throwback Thursday over at the Tribune with me!


Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Two For Tuesday - June 10th

Happy Two For Tuesday, friends! I am linking up with Teaching Tribune to share two of my TPT products that are 50% off today!

First up are my Classroom Reward Coupons! I shared about these the other day and how my students LOVE "buying" them with their Class Dojo points. Aaaaaaaand even better I updated this just the other day to now include 30 coupon choices (used to be 14)!!! Woo!!! It is regularly $4.00, but today it is just $2.00! Check it out :)

Next is my "Grammar is Great" Literacy Centers pack. This is a pack of six, full-color, ready-to-print and cut literacy centers that cover these skills: Parts of Speech, Demonstratives, Modal Auxiliaries, Pronouns, Adverbs, Common/Proper Nouns, and Fragment/Run On/Complete Sentences. My kids LOVED these centers. I used them last year to review for our state test, but I fully plan on whipping these out throughout the year to reinforce grammar skills we're working on. Today you can get all six of these for just $2.50!!!

Thanks for stopping by! Make sure you check out the Tribune linky for a ton of great products you can get half-off today, and link up yours too!

Now, just for funzies, I will choose two random people to get one of these items for FREE! Comment with your email and which product you would like (Grammar Centers or Reward Coupons) and I will send the winners their items. Thanks for reading!!!!

Monday, June 9, 2014

Monday Meet Me

Hello! Today I am linking up with Teaching Tribune for Monday Meet Me. Just a fun way to get to know blogging friends :)

Don't you love Mondays?? Okay, let me rephrase that... don't you love Mondays during summer vacation???!! Today was a good Monday. Except that I had to go to the dentist this morning. Yuck. But then I got to go home and take a nap and enjoy the rainy afternoon reading, so it got much better. Anyway! Here is a little about me...

 I teach... this year I will start my second year teaching fourth grade literacy. At our school, we switch classes. My teaching partner does Math, Science, and Social Studies and I do Spelling, Reading, Writing, and Language. I looooooooove it. I have gotten so spoiled. And it's only been one year. I have never enjoyed Math and Science and History. I've always loved books and words more. And even though we are teachers and we can technically teach anything we are asked to... I just don't do my best when it comes to those subjects. Are at least that's how I feel. So that's what I teach! Any other literacy-only bloggers out there??

I have... a techie husband named Josh that I will be celebrating two years of marriage to in July! He is a computer programmer and the only reason I am blogging right now since our internet is out (rain rain go away). And I have a one year old cocker spaniel puppy named Lewis that I love like a baby. No shame in this game.

I watch... Friends! Love that show. Husband recently bought me the complete series. So yeah. You know what I've been doing with my life lately. And I always end up watching what my husband puts on... TV love comes with the whole "techie" thing. I could probably go without TV. Seriously, Netflix gets me through. That and my new Friends collection. But he loves TV and finding new shows to watch. And I just get sucked in. Always. Even if I don't like it. He is the reason I have watched Breaking Bad, The Simpsons, Seinfeld, Dexter, Mad Men, Game of Thrones, How I Met Your Mother, Orange is the New Black, House of Cards, and whatever video game he is playing at the moment. For many of those, I am grateful. Some good stuff in that list. Other times...not so much ;) But I love him anyway.

I listen... to a lot of different music. At the moment, I mostly just listen to Sirius radio in my car. But lately I've been on a John Mayer kick (love him). I love Ariana Grande's voice (great workout music) and Coldplay's new album is sweet as well. In the past, I've been known to love some All Sons and Daughters, Mumford, Needtobreathe, Adele, Taylor Swift, JT... I could go on and on. I'm weird, okay?

I read.... lots!! I come from a reading family. Now that my sisters and I are older, we are constantly exchanging books. My older sister came to my house Saturday night, handed me a book, and went to check my bookshelf for something new to read. It's just how we roll. I'm really into dystopian society books (think Hunger Games) or just any kind of adventurous fiction with some romance thrown in. I draw the line at vampires though. Currently I am finishing up C.J. Redwine's Defiance trilogy. SO good.

I do... Teachers Pay Teachers OF COURSE. Who doesn't? Blogging! More frequently now that I am on summer break, and some crafting from time to time! I love calligraphy, painting, and hot-gluing. I am also trying to become some that "does" working out too. Especially since I am going on vacation in 16 days. Ahhhhhhh.

So that is my "Meet Me"! Anything we have in common? Sorry I'm so random. Ha. Make sure to link up your Meet Me over at Teaching Tribune, and have a great day!

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Sunday Smorgasbord Link {June 8th}

Hello all! I'm linking up with Michelle at Fabulous in First for her wonderfully random Sunday Smorgasbord linky.

Here in Arkansas it's a stormy Sunday afternoon. Perfect for blogging, reading, and napping. Oh and working on my computer. Which leads me to random number ONE...

I shared on Instagram about a new project I'm working on. It came to me in a dream...well actually it came to me when I was supposed to be sleeping. Does that ever happen to y'all? But anyway, it's a 4th Grade Survival Guide for back to school. A book full of interactive pages with school rules, expectations, getting to know your teacher facts, etc. There are places for the kids to draw, fill in the blank, and respond to questions. The pages in the picture are about Class Dojo and how I use it in my room, and then how we do Citizenship grades in class. I've also done a page about me and my switch teacher and what to expect from each of us. I'm planning pages for "Lunchroom/Recess Expectations", "How We Get Home", "Things We Learn in 4th Grade", "Activity Classes and Teachers", and "Things to Know About Mrs. Burns". I am also planning on including some reflective pages at the back for students to write about their first day and how they're feeling.  I'm really excited about how this is turning out. I'm trying to model it like the books my kids love so much (Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Big Nate, Dork Diaries) with the journal set-up. I think it will make teaching rules and procedures more interactive and exciting!
P.S.- I've also been dreaming up an editable version for TPT and other grades. Anyone interested? :)

Random Number TWO
I told myself I wasn't going to do anything school-related this week. That didn't last very long??!! Oh well.

Random Number THREE
(Because it's summer and I've been really boring this week) Some of my favorite recent purchases...
My Chacos! I held off on the Chaco trend for a long time...they're so expensive. But I'm so glad I (aka Husband) finally caved. They are so comfortable and perfect for summer. Much better than flip flops, but not as constricting and hot as tennis shoes. Love them. And I think they're going to be great for vacation!

These shorts from Old Navy! I bought two pairs. Mostly because they had some kind of deal going on. But I am really glad I did! They feel like they're already broken in when you buy them. I love that. Pretty sure I'll be living in these this summer.

And (big finale) random number FOUR...
I updated my Classroom Reward Coupons yesterday. Originally, it had 14 reward coupons, but now it has 30! I love these things. And my kids loved them this year too. I still do a small treasure box with the kids, but they really want the coupons. And it's less shopping on my part. They come six to a page, so I usually print one or two pages of each, laminate them, and use a cheapo plastic coupon organizer thing (official name) to let the kids "shop" the different categories. So if you're in the market for some classroom rewards, check them out! And if you've already purchased, make sure you re-download :)

Thanks for reading my random! And if you want to share a little random of your own, link up over at Fabulous in First! :)

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

First Year Teaching Advice - From Someone Who Just Lived It

As of last week, I have officially completed my first year of teaching. I had an awesome year. It was hard. It was super hard. But I loved my kids and I love my colleagues. They made it all possible. 

Maybe a month ago I was asked to return to my Alma mater  Southern Arkansas University and speak at a luncheon for graduating student teachers. They asked me to give them some advice for their first year of teaching.

To be honest, a part of me laughed at this. What could I possibly say? How do you prepare someone for being a teacher? Well this is what I came up with. I thought I would share, just in case there are any new teachers out there looking for some advice, or some returning teachers just looking for a laugh or reassurance that you're not alone. Disclaimer: This is by no means everything you'll need to know or the best advice out there. Okay? Okay.

Dear New Teacher,

First of all, congratulations. College is hard and not a lot of people do it. So good job for making it this far. I want to tell you that when I sat here one year ago, about to graduate and become a teacher, I thought I had it all figured out. In fact, I can give you a list of all the reasons why: both my parents are teachers; I taught three summers of preschool; years of Sunday school, VBS, and camp; substitute teaching; not to mention all the countless observations, lessons, and student teaching I did in college; blah blah blah. If anyone should have been prepared for this, it was me. Boy was I wrong. My first piece of advice for you is this- You do not have it all figured out. You are never going to know everything you need to know. Whether you have taught for one year or for fifty, you will always have more to learn and more experience to gain. Figure this out early.

Probably the hardest lesson I learned this year was this: Take it easy on yourself. I spent many days and nights racking my brain about what I could do to fix a problem with my students. But sometimes, you are not the answer. There are things I cannot fix. Read that to yourself again. Rinse and repeat as needed. As long as you do your best each day, as long as you do the most that you possibly can, that is enough. Do not beat yourself up over the things you cannot change or control. Accept these things. Get creative about these things. Just do your best.

Don't be afraid to be different. Currently, I am one of the youngest employees in my district, and the youngest at my school. I teach with colleagues that have been doing this for decades. When you think about that, it is easy to become intimidated. Here's an example. When I first began preparing my classroom last year, I snooped around in my neighbor's rooms. Not because I am creeper (I am), but because I wanted to see how everybody else "did it". You know what I mean. And I quickly realized that my room was different. Begin the freak out, right? "If my room is different-looking, I must be doing something wrong!" My first thought was to change what I had done to be more like everyone else. To fit in. But I am so glad I didn't. Do not succumb to following the crowd. Be different. Be young. Be fresh. Be excited and energetic. Don't be afraid to have different ideas. Don't be afraid to stand out in your hallway. Be you.

The next thing I'll tell you about is flexibility. I know this is a shocker, but things will not go perfectly every day (as much as I would like them to). Lessons will fail. You will mess up. The kids will complain. Your boss might tell you to change something. You'll run out of time. The glue won't work. The projector will mess up. The internet will be down. There will be a fire drill. I could go on and on. And you know what? It's all okay. Deep breath. Your classroom will be like a family. Not the picture perfect families from TV, but the one you know about at home. Dysfunctional, running late, losing things, arguing, crying, driving you crazy. But it will also be full of compliments, hugs, laughter, jokes, and love. Be flexible enough that the bad days don't get you down. That the mess-ups just make you laugh. Everyone is learning, including you.

Above all else, remember why you started this journey. Remember how you felt today, on the edge of so much possibility and creativity. When things get tough, as they inevitably will, remember the good moments. Like the time when you started to yell at your kids for passing notes again, only to find out they were signing a card to give to you with the words "Our Favorite Teacher" on the front. Or when they do something so randomly sweet and kind for someone else (without you making them or telling them to) and you just want to cry your eyes out. Or when you get test scores back and that one student that you've been working with all year knocks it out of the park. Or when they move up a reading level. Or run up to you wanting to show you the book they checked out of the library. That sparkle of "ah ha" you see in their eyes when they finally get it. Or even just the spontaneous dance parties or deep life discussions you have in class. Be a teacher that didn't just teach them. That encouraged them, disciplined them, never gave up on them, and loved them.

I wish you so much good luck in your journeys. Work hard, stay late, get to school early, and push yourself harder than ever before. Welcome to the most frustrating and rewarding profession in the business. We're glad to have you.

Someone Who Made It

Construction Zone

I'm here to apologize for the state of my blog lately...and currently, if I'm honest. It's been under a major construction project.

I don't know if I've ever said this, but Husband is a computer programmer. Literally, his job right now is creating a website. He is fluent in html and all those other computer languages I can't even think of the names for. So, when little old me says "I want a new blog layout!", Husband says: "You can do it yourself". 

Now then, I am a if-I-can't-do-it-pay-someone-else-to kind of person. But he is not. Therefore, the blog renovation began. And it is still far from perfect. But I have learned a lot. And gotten frustrated a lot. But I am pretty happy with it right now. And thankful to Husband. Even if he pushes me to do things I don't like to do. Such as complicated blog renovations. And what not. Also he did some of it. So thanks for that too.

So I say all that to say- Thank you for your patience! Internet stuff is hard. Computers are mean sometimes. I am very grateful to people like Husband that deal with them all day because I certainly could not. And he certainly could not deal with fourth graders. So that's good that we have each other.

Now I am off to go swimming (must get skinnier and tanner before Hawaii!!!) and will post something later that I am really excited about. 
Have a great day!


Sunday, June 1, 2014

June Currently Link Up

Happy June! We made it! Haha. I can't believe it's already many things happening this month! PD trips/classes, vacations...crazy!

So I am linking up with the oh so wonderful Farley from Oh Boy Fourth Grade. Love reading her stuff :)

So here you go...

First of all, listening to "The Office". Love this show. Pretty sure Husband and I have watched it like a million times. Pam and Jim never get old though! :)

Loving that I have no school work to do this weekend! No papers to grade, bellringers/worksheets to make, activities to plan, things to's so nice, right?! It also gives me time to blog, which I have really missed. Been spending time with my fam this weekend, and it's so great to actually be here- not attached to my laptop or gradebook.

On that note...I'm also thinking about work tomorrow. Though the school year is over and my PD is complete, I volunteered to some literacy curriculum planning tomorrow and Tuesday. Although I'm not looking forward to getting up early (so spoiled already by summer break), I am excited about mapping out next year. We are moving to some Common Core Units that mesh Reading and Writing Workshops with Social Studies and Science. I think it's going to be awesome! Aaaaaaaand knowing ahead of time what we'll be doing gives me time this summer to whip up some cute matching centers/activities to go with everything. And you know I like that ;)

Wanting...a cupcake...of course. My baby sister graduated this past Friday (*sniff sniff*) and there are leftover cupcakes from her party calling my name from the kitchen. Must resist!!!

So naturally, I am needing to workout! Haha. Husband and I have been on a diet for a month or two and I've lost 10 pounds. And I loooooove that. Even if I hate dieting. And exercising. But, the more you do it, the more you like it. It's becoming a habit. A good habit, for once. Ha. And there have been so many inspiring Instagrammers helping me stay motivated! So that's that.

My Summer Bucket List...I talked a little about these things during my last post, but here you go again!
1. Go to Hawaii. Leaving in 25 days. Must. Workout. Must. Not. Have. The. Cupcake.
2. Read books! Always on my to-do list. Will preferably be completing this item at the pool ;)
3. And of course, keep being healthy. I don't care so much about the pounds I lose, but how I look and feel. I bought some shorts (yes, shorts!) yesterday that were a size smaller than usual. Things like that keep me going!

So how is your June looking? Make sure you head over to Farley's to share and link up.
Happy summer bloggies! 

P.S. Here's a picture of me and my sisters from this weekend. Love them!