Happy Halloween!

Just a simple post to say Happy Hallowen from my family to yours! Here's a quick picture walk of our festivities!

Blog on Fire Award!

Woot! I am so honored to have been chosen for this award by both Mrs. Bee from Mrs. Bee's Kindergarten and by Desiree from Kinders on the Block!
The rules for this award are to tell 7 things about yourself and then nominate 7 other blogs. I am going to try to be brief, but honestly, briefness is not one of my strengths!

1. I have a browser addiction. Seriously, my husband is always complaining that I'm hoggin all the bandwidth because I have so many browsers open! Right now, for example, I have 23 browsers open. I just can't stand to close one before I switch to another!

2. I have a weird fascination with Toddlers & Tiaras. It just floors me that these mothers don't realize what they're doing to they're kids or what they look like on television. I keep wishing that they would do follow up shows and just show the mother having to watch their episode of T & T to see if it makes any difference in their behavior.

3. I always put my feet up during scary movies - and I sometimes still take a flying leap to get into bed at night if my husband isn't home and the house is all silent and creepy.

4. I have to have popcorn during movies! Last weekend I went to see Paranormal Activities 3 with my husband and a friend. Between the 3 of us, we killed the whole tub of popcorn before the previews were over! I couldn't stand not having any popcorn left for the movie so I went and got a refill even though it meant missing the first minutes of the movie.

5. I spend way too much time blog stalking! In fact, it's now after 5pm on Sunday and I haven't even started my lesson plans because I've been busy reading blogs!

6. I love getting comments! Seriously, a sweet comment will make my whole day brighter! Silly me, I even keep the email notifications of comments simply because seeing them in my mailbox still makes me smile :)

7. I get cold super easy, and then it takes me hours to warm back up. I even went and got my thyroid checked but apparently it's fine. I wear thick fuzzy socks around the house and have been known to wear gloves to bed too!

Alright, I'm sure that was way more than you wanted to know, but I did do a little bit better keeping it short! In no particular order, here are the 7 blogs I am nominating:

Amy has a fabulous blog AND right now she's having one of the best giveaways I have seen! Go check her out and be sure to enter!

Kelly has the cutest idea for using Halloween candy wrappers to make an ABC book - go check her out!

This is a super cute new blog that started in August. I am using her bat hats next week!


I cannot forget Laura from Kinder Kraziness. She has a heart of gold and is so helpful to new bloggers! She even featured me on one of her  "Someone New Sunday" posts!


Miss E has fabulous ideas and shares a lot of printables! I'm using some of her 50's Day stuff this week too!

 Alysia has a great blog - I especially like the "Think" poster she posted about today!

And finally, Criss Cross Applesauce in First Grade is a relatively new blog that has some super sweet ideas! Check out her "good fit books" poster with the bicycle analogy!

Again, thank you so much to both Mrs. Bee from Mrs. Bee's Kindergarten and by Desiree from Kinders on the Block for giving me this award! If you'd like to make my day even better, please consider voting for me in the Circle of Moms Top 25 Teacher Mom Blogs contest. I am so excited to be nominated along with a bunch of the "big name" bloggers!

Week in Review (plus an addition freebie!)

Wow, this week went by FAST! I can barely remember what we did this week, although I do know that much of it wasn't planned! Such as Friday afternoon when a parent showed up unexpectedly with cupcakes. I had decided not to do a Fall party, so I hadn't sent home a note or anything. But, apparently older sister is in 4th grade and they were having a party, thus mom bought enough sugar-laden goodies for my class as well! That wouldn't have been so bad, but I had another mom come in right after that to read to my class. I thought she was coming on Monday, but apparently not! Last year and the year before she came dressed as the Bride of Frankenstein and read The Berenstain Bears and The Spooky Old Tree. This year she came dressed as a blood splattered zombie (whoa! unexpected costume change!) and read "The Monstrous Glisson Glop" which was published in 1970. It was a great story and she is a very talented reader!

However, she also passed out candy, plus the kids were totally excited by her costume so it made for a bit of a stressful afternoon as we just could not come back down from that high. Zombies are a favorite topic in my classroom this year, I've had to occasionally admonish some of my boys to walk like humans rather than zombies in the hallways (seriously, if any movie companies are looking for 1st graders to play zombies, I've got a handful who could win academy awards for it!) Also, some children have apparently watched too many Paranormal Activity 3 trailers since a new favorite topic is what would happen if they really did say "Bloody Mary" 3 times in our classroom bathroom. No matter how many times I tell them to leave their zombie/ghost/bloody mary talk at the door, I still catch them whispering about it throughout the day. Hopefully that kind of talk dies down (hahaha!) after Halloween is over!

Here are pictures of our guest readers this week: our Zombie Mother and the Unexpected Officer who showed up on  Wednesday to volunteer for the morning

Speaking of reading, my favorite coworker has a fantastic way to organize her books that I would love to share with you! We do not have a lot of storage space at school - well we do, but a lot of it is taken up by things that we don't even use but have to hang onto because they were purchased by Title I funds etc. I have a whole closet in my room that is full of inventory items that I never use but can't get rid of. Anyways, storage is at a premium as is space. We just don't have room for book shelves for all of our books! So what to do with all of our theme books? Enter Mrs. Mckelvey's fabulous idea, which I will be implementing over Winter break:
EDITED: Due to popular demand, I have shared the book dividers for FREE in my TPT store. Click here to get them!

She made full-page labeled dividers, laminated them and then sorted her books according to theme. She stores them all in large Rubbermaid tubs which can then scoot under her computer desk in the back or be put on top of our cubbies. The best part? She typed a list of all her books and placed it in sheet protectors in the back of her lesson plan book. This way, if she's writing lesson plans at home, she can just flip to the list to see which books she has for that theme!
I know, it's super simple right? But sometimes I have to see a simple idea in action to appreciate it's worth! So, that is my self-imposed organizational task for Winter Break. Currently I have my books separated by theme in the actual theme bins along with all of my materials for teaching that theme, but they take up a lot of space and if I don't have a particular theme bin at work then I can't access the books if something comes up. This way I can store all my books in just a few bins and keep them at school all the time! Edited Again: Check out Growing Kinders Book Organization Linky Party for other book organizing ideas!

I am having my first observation of the year on Thursday and it will be a math lesson. We are working on adding doubles and on Thursday I will introduce doubles +1. Cross your fingers that it goes well please! I created another "I have...Who has?" game for the occasion, just because my firsties love to play it. This one only has 22 cards, so if your class is larger I apologize, but I was limited by the facts lol! Actually I sometimes play this game in small groups and give the students 2-3 cards each. Also, make sure you hand out the cards strategically so that your little ones who have lots of difficulty aren't given the hardest cards. We usually get in a circle to play and I maneuver myself so that I end up by the students who might need assistance during the game. If anyone has any other ideas for teaching doubles & doubles+1 please leave me a comment! Click the picture to get the game free!

Postcard Exchange!

This is my first installment for our 50 State Postcard Exchange, started by Cheryl Saoud! I am absolutely loving being part of this - it has opened up so many questions and ideas for my firsties!
Here is the bulletin board where we are displaying our post cards. It's nothing fancy right now, but we'll be adding to it as we get more cards and do more research! Please excuse my license with state borders, it was a bit difficult to trace the map!

As we receive the post cards we are looking up the state and compiling a list of questions for the class. Here are the states we have received so far and the corresponding questions. I don't have Skype at school, so I'm hoping that if I post here that the other teachers in the exchange will answer in the comments so I can show my class :)
 The first state we got a card from was Illinois, which is coincidentally my home state! My firsties were so excited to see the state where I am from (Elmhurst, Il) and I was able to provide a  lot of information about it. Here are the questions we came up with for Mrs. Draftkorn's class:
Have you ever drunk milk straight from a cow? What kind of activities do you do for Lincoln's birthday? Since you attend a private school, do you wear uniforms? What kinds of things do you do after school in a small town?
 Next we received a card from Ms. Stephanie's class in New Jersey! We wanted to know:
What is that amusement park on your post card? Have you been there on a field trip? You mentioned beaches - do you go to the beach on field trips? Since you are a kindergarten class, do you have nap time or center time? Do you go to school the whole day?

 We were so excited to get this card from Ms. Petersen's class in California! We have a student who just moved here from California, her mane is Andi! We also a student named Marc who visited California this summer - he drove all the way from Lawton, OK to Anaheim, CA with his family! You mentioned that you are between the mountains. How many mountains do you have? We are close to the Wichita Mountains and some of us go up to Mount Scott with our families for picnics. Do you ever visit your mountains? What is your state animal/bird/butterfly?

 Kansas is right on top of Oklahoma! That is so neat! Your card said you have 18 students in your class. We have 20 students in our class (a difference of 2!) Do you think you'll get more students soon? Do you have any class pets? We have  hermit crabs, a common house gecko and a tree frog. What is your favorite book? Do you write class books? We love writing, we're making a book based on Mo Willem's Pigeon books.
 Do you eat a lot of sunflower seeds in Kansas since it is your state flower?

 Next up was a card from Ms. Kennedy's class in Louisiana. We loved your card! We're not sure why the big craw fish is cooking the little craw fish though. We haven't tried craw fish yet - what does it taste like? We were so excited to see that you live in your state's capital! Have you been to your capital building or seen your governor? Do you like jazz music? Can you tell us what Baton Rouge means and why your city is called that?

Our latest card was from Ms. Cooper's class in Montana. We were fascinated by the grizzly bear on your card! Do you see any bears around your school? Is it your state animal? How much snow do you get in the winter? Do you have a lot of snow days where you get time off school? You mentioned the Yogo Sapphire, where do sapphires come from? Can you tell us about your state flower, the Bitterroot?

We can't wait to get answers to our questions and receive more cards! We are even more excited to see what you want to learn about Oklahoma!

A drawback to being a teacher is.....

coming into contact with every germ imaginable! I have been lucky up to this point this year, I didn't get sick once the whole first quarter! Now, however,  I am under the weather big time! I actually considered not going to work tomorrow, but I couldn't get up the energy to arrange everything for a sub. Not to mention I have my pre-conference for my first observation tomorrow (and somehow I must have left my evaluation forms at school so I am going to have to go in early to fill them out! Darn me and my procrastination!)

Anyways, today we had some officers from Fort Sill come out and "volunteer" in our classrooms. We didn't have any prior notice that they were coming, they just showed up and got shoved into classrooms :) My students were a bit confused at first since they're not used to seeing a soldier who isn't my husband in the classroom. I had to explain a few times that I was not married to this particular soldier, even though he had the same hair cut and uniform as my husband lol! My kiddos were wonderfully behaved, they loved having him there to help! He read them one of our new Elephant & Piggie books - my firsties love Elephant & Piggie so they were soooo into him reading it, it was precious! I'd post pictures but of course I left my camera at school :(

My son's kindergarten class got the prize for most awkward moment though. Their soldier was fielding questions and comments from the class. Mostly along the lines of "I'm going to be in the Army when I grow up." or  "My dad is in the Army". Up pops a little girl's hand, and when the soldier calls on her she blurts out "My daddy cheated on my mommy!" The poor guy was frozen for a split second and then quickly called on someone else! The things these babies say!

I am crossing my fingers that this is just a quick little cold bug that goes away with a good night's rest, so hopefully I will be back up to speed tomorrow, I really want to share my postcard bulletin board with you!

Terrific Tuesday

My teaching-fairy-godmother gifted me again! If you remember, she teaches K across the hall from me and is fabulous! She gave me the tree that is the focal point of my classroom and she is a super teacher to my little guy Joshua (who read 10 sight words today!). We are supposed to have a "Crisis Bag" hanging in our classroom this year, complete with class roster and phone numbers to call parents, some busy work and band aids etc. It's what we grab as we head out the door in case of a fire or evacuation, so all of the contents are aimed towards that scenario. This is the first year we've been required to have one. Well, rather than having to hang up a boring old bag, I am now able to hang up a bag customized for me by Mrs. McKelvey! She spent her fall break making custom crisis bags for our team! I only have a picture of mine right now - I forgot to grab pics of the others, but I can't wait to show you how cute it is!

We had a really good day today, behavior wise and in terms of what we got accomplished. At the end of the day we had enough time to do some fun stuff! Some of us were finishing up our torn-paper candy corn projects, while others were illustrating their page from our Pigeon class books:

Others were practicing their spelling words in shaving cream:

 Still others got out our Perler beads and made some creations, great for fine motor control!

I love the Perler beads, not only are they great for fine motor dexterity, they are also great for patterning. It's also wonderful for building patience/focus. After school I iron any creation that is complete and then use my glue gun to attach a magnet. My kiddos love coming in and seeing their creations displayed on the easel the next morning and then I let them take their creation home at the end of the day! Since I have a few little guys who have such poor fine motor skills that the Perler beads are too difficult, I was thrilled to see these "Biggie" Perler beads the other day! I am ordering a set of them as an alternative for those who find the smaller ones too frustrating, I think they're the perfect size for kindergarten too!

All in all, it really was a terrific Tuesday, we even stopped at Atlanta Bread Company on the way home for dinner - it's Kids Night on Tuesdays so kids eat for 99 cents! Since I have 4 kids, that is a bargain I can't resist :) Alright, headed to spend time with my significant other now (no, not my husband, my laminator! I swear I spend more time with it than I do my poor spouse!)

Spelling Ideas Linky Party

This is my first year doing spelling words and I am trying to come up with more fun ways for my students to practice their words! In class we spell our words with play dough and letter stamps, or use our magnet wall to spell with magnetic letters. Sometimes we just get out the dry erase boards and practice that way - they love using markers!

As homework, they do the same activities every week and I am getting bored of it! I import our words into Spelling City and print off a handwriting practice page for each student. That is their homework for Monday night. They trace the word once and then write it two more times on the lines. On Tuesday nights they Rainbow write their words - writing each word with pencil and then tracing over top of it with 3 different crayons. On Wednesday nights they write their words "sailboat" style. Then on Thursday nights they have their parents give them a practice test, identify misspelled words, and write those words 3 more times. Here is my Weekly Spelling Homework sheet - I just change the words each week and send it home on Mondays. They are supposed to place it on their fridge and bring in the homework each morning.
Weekly Spelling Homework

Also, I have one little guy who has really, really bad fine motor control. His writing is still about 3 inches big and very spindly. He has correct grip, but just not the dexterity he needs to improve his writing. He is ELL and his mother is a doll - he will go from not knowing any spelling words on Monday to getting 100% on the test on Friday each week, simply because she works with him so much. She's asked me for extra handwriting sheets for him, but I hesitate sending that home because 1) he'll get bored with so much pointless handwriting practice and 2) he did a TON of it in kindergarten and it didn't help at all. I am getting him tested for Occupational Therapy, but in the meantime I am looking for more ideas for him to improve his fine motor skills at home. I have to keep in mind that this is a high poverty area and I can't expect the family to have anything other than the very basics to work with. I'm thinking of sending home Play Dough, and I told her to let him rip up the bills/magazines before putting them in the trash. I try to do a lot of torn paper activities in class for this very reason, because while he is the worst off, he is not the only one that needs to improve his fine motor skills.

In light of all this, I think it's time for my very first linky party! Please help me out with any ideas you have for teaching spelling in the classroom or activities for learning spelling words at home. OR link up with some fine motor skills ideas! You'll be helping me out tremendously if you do! I am really hoping that my first foray into hosting a linky party goes well and that we all gain some great ideas and tips!

I'm linking it up here too:

TBA's Ultimate Linky Party

The End Of Molasses Classes Part III

Yay for the linky party for  Part III of The End of Molasses Classes! I truly enjoy reading every one's thoughts about the book, I keep checking back to see who else has linked up! Part III is entitled: Creating the Right Climate and Culture.

I am super envious of all the bloggers out there who can cover their points succinctly. I have tried, but even my shortest posts seem long! So, please bear with me if I ramble a bit, I get super excited when talking about this book! I will again limit myself to 3 Principles, although I could write a whole post about any principle from Part III since they all spoke to me!

First up is Principle 65: "Encourage children to cheer for one another." This is actually one of our 8 Expectations and we say it every day during morning assembly: "Expectation #4 "We will cheer each other to success."  Even when we are playing competitive games where I have the students in teams, we don't allow any booing or heckling, and we always celebrate regardless of who gets the answer right. I know that my kiddos take this to heart, because of an incident that happened last year. One of my kinders was extremely low academically. She was the sweetest little girl, but had not been exposed to very much in life before she came to our classroom. She also had some developmental delays (I suspected Fetal Alcohol Syndrome), but she moved before testing could be done. The bottom line was, she was always the last one to complete any thing and she frequently needed extra help and guidance. One day, I asked one of my higher level girls (I'll call her Mary) to help this sweetie (I'll call her Susie) with a patterning activity. By this point in the year 99% of my kinders had patterns down pat. I listened closely and tried to keep an unobtrusive eye on the pair, ready to step in if Mary showed any frustration with Susie for not knowing the answers. Instead, I listened with delight as Mary coached her, saying "Okay, we're doing an AB pattern, red, green, red, green, red...now what comes next?" Susie answered "Red!" and Mary said "Nooo...." in an encouraging tone. "Green?" asked Susie. "Yes! You did it! Good job!" Mary replied. They spent the next 10 minutes doing the whole activity together, with Mary coaching and cheering Susie to success. The best part was, Mary had no clue I was listening, and didn't even realize how special her behavior was! It was just what she knew to do, because of our Expectations! I firmly believe that children can be awesome supporters of one another, we just need to teach them how to do it and let them know our expectations until it becomes second nature to them.

Principle 45:"Do not use cell phones or computers while the students are in the room, unless the device is part of the lesson being taught." This is one of my biggest pet peeves! I absolutely can't stand it when I go into another classroom and the teacher is checking messages or talking on the phone and then gets upset when the kiddos aren't doing what they should. I firmly believe that we are getting paid to teach, and while we are with students our focus needs to be on them, not texting. Our district policy is not to have cell phones turned on during class time, but unfortunately it is not strictly enforced. I can tell you that I can see a clear difference when I walk into a classroom where a cell phone is in regular use during the day, and one that never sees a cell phone.  The same goes for checking emails etc on the computer. The other day, during our read to self, the whole class was quiet and reading. I had to email our counselor about an issue with a student and thought I could just hop on the computer really quickly and get it out of the way so I didn't have to worry about doing it after work. Within about 45 seconds of me getting on the computer, the students started to lose their focus. They could tell I wasn't paying full attention to them any more, and by the time I sent the email our read to self time was completely shot. I realized that I had just thrown our afternoon off track when I could have simply waited until the end of the day to send that email. Trust me, it is not worth the behavioral problems that are sure to follow if you use your computer/cell phone during the day.

Principle # 40: Dress the part; attire matters! This was a hard one for me! Since I teach primary, we get messy, a lot! My former principal did not really have a dress code, aside from "no holes" so the teachers wore jeans and t shirts or sweatshirts every day. It was great! I was comfortable, I didn't care if I got messy, and getting dressed was a snap in the morning! This year, our new principal said "Dress to impress." Jeans and school t shirts are only allowed on Fridays. Man, I hated that! I was bitter as I went out to buy dress pants and shirts. However, I now find that I enjoy getting dressed in the morning. I like looking nice! And, since I feel good about myself, it starts my day off on a good note! Also, when I talk to parents - even just in the hallways before school - I feel more confident and more authoritative.  I look

That's it, thank you so much if you read this far! Be sure to head over to the party at TBA to see which Principles other bloggers are talking about!

A few giveaways

There are a few giveaways going on that I'd like to pass on, I would love to win any of them, so I figure you would probably want to enter too!

Crayons & Curls is having a giveaway for a grab bag of goodies! This one ends on Friday Oct 28th!

Teach it with Class is having a giveaway for 3 different prizes. Up for grabs are a Turk & runt book (love it!), a Scrappin Doodle gift card or 3 items from her TPT/TN store!Winner will be chose Oct 30th!

The Techy Teacher is having a giveaway for a set of 25 free photo cards from Shutterfly! 3 winners will be chosen on Oct 30th!

Miss B, Busy Bee is having a giveaway for her Bossy R Turkey Feather game and Read the Room pack. 2 winners will be chosen on Wednesday Oct 25th!

Looks like its a busy week for giveaways in blog world! Good luck to you if you enter!

Multiple Musings (plus a Free Math Game!)

Ahhh! My Fall Break is slipping away! I've had a lovely time, actually got to take a nap yesterday and read a book, made Shepherd's Pie for dinner which I don't usually do unless I have lots of time (never have any of that on a school day!), and now today I'm lounging in my pajamas, catching up on all my favorite blogs!

First up, I have a quick shout out for a giveaway:
Rebecca at Teaching First is giving away a $15 Walmart gift card! Who couldn't use that with holidays lurking right around the corner! She is also having a 15% off sale at her TPT store, so that's double the reason to head over to her blog! Giveaway ends on Monday!
Teaching First

Next up, someone needs to invent lamination that doesn't require me to cut out all of my pieces first, then laminate and then cut again! There has to be a better way...or at least a way that is not so time consuming! I have not watched tv all week - anticipating that I would need a loooong play list on my dvr to get me through the upcoming hours of cutting, laminating and cutting again! So, as soon as I am done this post, I have to get to work on cutting out everything I will need for this week, hopefully there weren't too many reruns this week so I have some new shows to keep me entertained.

I have also been giving a lot of thought to Thanksgiving and Christmas lesson plans. If you have any ideas for skills you'd like to see activities or games for, please leave me a comment! Since I'm new to 1st grade I always seem to be playing catch up and I'd like to be able to plan out the next 2 months so I can get started on creating!

I did make this quick game - I think my firsties will enjoy it as a math center. The basic premise is that they take a cottage card  (Sums of 12,11,10,9,8,and 7) and then find the cats with the correct addition sentences. I plan to play this almost like Memory - all of the cat cards will be in the middle of the table and students will have to pick a card and solve the problem to see if it matches their sum. If it does they get to keep the card and have another turn, if not they have to put it back and play moves to the next person. I debated about putting "extra" cards in for lose a turn etc, but I thought maybe someone would like them and it may extend the game a little once my firsties get good at it! Please leave me a comment and let me know what you think if you download the game - comments seriously make my day brighter! Click the picture to download:

Finally, I would love it if you voted for my blog for this award. I was thrilled that someone nominated me! It would mean a lot to me to get this little blog recognized like this!

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