Sunday, August 14, 2016


Have you had a chance to tune into my weekly tips on Periscope?  Every Sunday, I pop on Periscope to give you a tip to try and make your life a little easier.  This week, I shared a way to gain some time, by organizing your meals for the week.  As so many of us know, coming home after a long day and cooking can make a long day even longer.  I have learned that by planning my meals for the week, I can easily get dinner made with little hassle, except for keeping a one year old safely out of the kitchen.
I use this grocery list and meal planner to keep everything organized.  I can add to my list throughout the week, and then on Sunday when I run my errands I am good to go.  I just pop it in my Happy Planner and add to it when I get a couple minutes.
You can grab this grocery and meal template by clicking on the picture or this link.  I hope this saves a little of your sanity this week.  Be sure to hop over to Periscope next Sunday for another #SundaySanitySaver.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Keeping It Real and Finding the Balance

How do all of you working parents do it?  The stress of the beginning of the school year is so much to handle, yet that is only a piece of my life now.  How do you balance taking care of your children and family as well?!?!  As we all start to transition back to school, I can't help but think about how I want to take better care of myself this year.  I want to "find" the balance between my personal and professional lives.  We all do; don't we?  I have learned over the years that balance is not always about sitting right in the middle ALL the time.  Instead, it is about the give and take.  Yes, at the beginning of the school year my professional life is going to require more of me, but that doesn't mean that I can't carve out time for yoga, hikes, and walks at the duck pond with my family.

This year, I want us to support one another.  I want to learn from each of you on how you find balance in your life.  Each month, I will feature two educators and how they find balance in their life.   These features will allow each of us to take a piece of advice from a fellow teacher.  Any educator can participate.  All you have to do is fill this form.  I will create a feature based on the information provided.  Let's support one another and have an amazing school year!  Please let me know if you have any questions (my email button is on the top right of my webpage).

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Change Will Do You Good...I Hope

Change is not easy, we all know that, but it may be one of the greatest things for you.  This year, I am changing schools.  I will still be teaching first grade, but I will be setting up shop in a building unfamiliar to me.  I will be leaving my teaching family, my home-away-from-home.  This is a choice that I made, but it is still one that I am struggling with.  Don't get me wrong, I am beyond excited, yet at the same time, I am so nervous and overwhelmed.  The mere act of setting up a classroom from scratch is exhausting to think about.  Plus, getting to know a new staff and fitting in is scary.  Have you ever felt this way?  How did you overcome these fears?
I have decided to take all of my nervousness and turn it into excitement.  This year, I get to start over. I get to relate to my students' feelings of nervousness on the first day.  I get to be the "new kid" that everyone supports (at least I hope).  Most importantly, I get to challenge myself to be my BEST self.

Are you resisting change or embracing it?

Monday, July 18, 2016

Guided Reading Expert Groups

One of my favorite ways to utilize guided reading groups and reading conferences is to create expert groups.  By allowing students to read about a topic that they are interested in I have found that their want to read increases substantially.  This year, I used Hameray Publishing's Fables and The Real World Sets to build expertise with my students.
The nonfiction books were perfect for my reading groups.  Each group would read their text throughout the week.  We studied main ideas and details, as well as retells.  The next week, I mixed up my reading groups and students taught each other about the topics they read about.  
I can't wait to get my hands on more of Hameray's real world books.  

Do you like to switch up your reading groups?  How do you try to spark interests with your students?

Monday, April 11, 2016

Building Connections Within Readers

When teaching students the importance of understanding their reading, lessons on making connections must take place.  As an adult reader, we constantly connect what we are reading to real-life events and topics.  These connections are what allow our brains to store the newly read information for immediate and future use.  How do we get young readers to do they same thing?
First off, as parents and educators we need to make sure that these readers are exposed to rich text, meaningful stories, and all around interesting topics.  I have found that Hameray Publishing offers a wide range of books that cover these three needs.  My students and I love that their books contain real photographs and cover interesting topics.
Second, we need a variety of books to support the strategy of making connections.  By reading nonfiction text and comparing it to the author's message/moral of the story in fables, young readers are able to grow their reading minds.  The connections that they are able to make between nonfiction and fiction helps to build the bridge to successful comprehension.  I feel that too often young readers focus only on text-to-self connections and the text-to-world connections fall to the wayside.  It is these text-to-world connections that strengthen our language skills and understanding of the world. 

The Fables and Nonfiction sets, from Hameray Publishing, are an incredible resource to use when teaching students about text-to-world, as well as text-to-text connections.  My kiddos not only love the nonfiction component, but they thoroughly enjoy discussing the moral of each fable.

What is your favorite resource for teaching connections?

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Building Number Sense with Games: CHOMP

Number sense is critical for each and every child to have.  Many child acquire it at home as they explore and play.  Unfortunately, too many children now lack this vital skill.  As a primary teacher, I work diligently to build number sense with my kiddos.  Over the last decade I have learned that games make the biggest impact on mathematical knowledge.  This is because students are taking mathematical information and being forced to apply it to a real life/useful situation.  They are also building connections to math and the world.  These connections strengthen their brain thus enhancing their mathematical knowledge bank.
One of our favorite games right now is CHOMPCHOMP is designed to practice comparing numbers and place value.  The game can be played with either two or four players.  Here two of my kiddos are working together practicing their lanugae skills, while comparing numbers.
By playing games like CHOMP, students are able to apply number knowledge in an interactive means, thus strengthening their mathematical mind. 
You can grab a copy of CHOMP from my TPT store

I would love to see it in action with your kiddos.  Snap a picture or video of your kiddos playing and tag me in your pictures!  I love to see learning in action!!

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Bunny Launch: Math Center

Happy Spring!  Well, we are back at it.  Spring Break flew by and now it is time to put the pedal to the metal.  This year, I have put a lot of focus on the math workshop model and using interactive notebooks.  At the same time, I have worked my tail off to solidify number sense with my kiddos.  As a way to practice number sense during centers, kiddos worked on estimating and, well, having a blast.  They got to launch stretchy bunnies, from the Target Dollar Spot, into "cages."

We are all about problem solving and being inquirers.  Kiddos not only estimated and launched their bunnies, but they conversed with their classmates to figure out ways to get more bunnies into their "cages."
I loved listening to their giggles as the bunnies landed in their "cages."  Seriously, is there anything better than authentic learning?!?!
Click on the image to grab a copy of this activity.

Images by Creative Clips.  Fonts by Kimberly Geswein Fonts.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Your Support System

As a new mom talking to other moms was sometimes the only thing that helped me get through the day.  There were times when I was convinced no one understood what I was going through.  That was until I attended my first mom group.  As we sat and introduced ourselves and our littles an immediate calm fell over me.  I was with my people.  "They get me," I thought to myself.  I made it a point to attend these weekly groups while I was on maternity leave and boy do I miss all the mamas I met. 
Since being back to work and taking on the role of a teacher mama, I have learned that I still rely on a different support system.  Now, I fall toward other working mamas.  They have shared the misery of sleepless nights and feeling like you are being stretched to your limits. 
As we search for balance in our lives it is so important to have a support system.  We all need someone or a group that we can trust, talk to, vent to, commiserate with.
 I saw this sign recently; I am convinced that every moms' group needs this on the door of their meeting place.

Do you have a support system?  I am here for you if you ever need to vent.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

How We Express Ourselves: Part 3

During the last chunk of our inquiry unit, my kiddos applied their knowledge of feelings and character expression through their own stories and Readers' Theater. 
Before I let my kiddos loose into their learning, we spent some time reviewing our character posters and discussing Shades of Meaning. 
Through our lesson, we started with one character's expression and discussed other words that meant the same thing.  The language that my students were able to generate, thanks to Mo's books, was incredible.  I wanted to see what students learned so with a partner they had to create A Shades of Meaning Card (thank you HomeDepot).

You can see that students started with the weakest of emotions and worked their way to the strongest.
Kiddos continued their learning during writing by starting new books.  Instead of just handing each student a book, they had to Draw It Out to plan their story.  Students we required to choose two characters, a setting, problem and solution.  They spent several days drawing out their ideas.  Once they had their plan I was able to give them their book during writing conferences. 
I am so proud of the writing they created; more importantly, they were proud of themselves as they shared during Author's Chair.
This inquiry unit took us through many stories, characters, emotions, and discussions.  In true inquiry form, each kiddo applied all of their learning into not just their book, but Readers' Theater. 

For over a week, students read and practiced their scripts (different Piggie and Elephant books).  They spent time making props, critiquing each other, and being loud!  I loved watching them interact with one another.  My favorite was seeing my struggling kiddos shine in their learning! 
After tweaking, rethinking, and planning this unit for the third year, I can say this year was a success!  I am so proud of the learning that took place.  The books and acting that my students did proved that it worked!

On a side note...
The Reading Strategies Book provided so many supporting lessons to our unit.  If you don't own this book, order it NOW!  You won't be sorry.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Being a Teacher Mom

Last night, as I was up nursing, at 2:30 am, I came across this article.  Since then, I have seen it all over social media.

As a new mom who recently returned to work, from maternity leave, I get it!  Before I was even pregnant, I was searching for balance in my life.  Now, with an 8 month old that search is FAR from over.  
What do you think?  Can you be a present parent and educator at the same time?