Monday, March 13, 2017

Book Review: The Jelly Donut Difference

I don't know if it is the Michigander in me that automatically fell in love with this book or the amazing lesson it teaches, but this is a must for every family and classroom library.

Award-winning author, Maria Dismondy inspires
lives through her poignant stories about topics
challenging today’s modern child. Maria’s
background in early education and commitment
to teach the importance of character building
enables her to touch lives the world over while
touring as a public speaker in schools, community
forums, and at national conferences. Maria’s eighth
book, The Jelly Donut Difference, drives home the
important message of generosity and kindness.
She included the polish donuts as a nod to her
heritage. When Maria isn’t writing, she can be found
embarking on adventures throughout southeast
Michigan and beyond, where she lives with her

husband and three book-loving children.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Word Buddies: Part 2 Blends

It is always a great find when you have one resource that continues along with your students as they grow and develop in their learning.  That is why I am still loving the Letter Buddies series, from Hameray Publishing.

You can read all about how I used the first stage of Letter Buddies with my developing readers here.  We have since moved into blends, which is huge for my readers!  I am so proud of them and the connections that they have been making.
The blends books that are the next stage in the Letter Buddies series, by Hameray Publishing, are the perfect bridge to sight word development that all developing reading must achieve.

Just like the first stage, the blends books, have a sight word reader and a pattern book that go together.

After reading and reviewing the sight word book, my kiddos practiced building the words and finding connections between other words that they have learned.

They then applied these new words to the pattern book.  The successes they have with the pattern book are incredible because they are familiar with the words, thanks to the sight word reader.

If you haven't checked out the Letter Buddy series, from Hameray Publishing, get on it.  I cannot say enough great things about these books.

What is your favorite tool for supporting your developing readers?  Leave a comment below.  I would love to hear from you.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Sunday Sanity Saver: Workshop Organization

This weekend was incredible!  I had the privilege of sharing my passion for Readers' Workshop with other educators at the Oregon Reading Association's Winter Institute.  I presented on tips for managing an engaging Readers' Workshop.
One of the most important parts of this, is organization.  As teachers we know that organization is the foundation to all of our teaching.  Without it many of us are lost.  For that reason, I wanted to share with you the organizer that I use when planning out my Workshop overview each week.  This does not replace my lesson plans.  This overview is my plans for my workshop each week.  Just like my lesson plans it may change, but I love that I can record notes and observations on it, which I revisit daily.

This planner can easily be used with writing and math as well.  I hope this saves you a little bit of sanity as we enter a crazy week.

What do you use to keep all of your groups and conferences organized?  Leave a comment below, I would love to hear from you.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Valentine FREEBIES! Yes, more than one!!

Valentine's Day is around the corner and I don't know about you, but I feel like it has become worse than Halloween in the terms of sweets and treats.  Several years ago, I informed my student that treats would no longer be allowed.  I encouraged them to make cards and tokens of their affection for each of their classmates.  With food allergies and the need for healthy choices in schools, I am sticking to it.
This year, I am giving my students fortune cookie erasers with these fortunes (you can grab a free copy here).   Oriental Trading also has an awesome assortment of fortune cookies.  From charms to plastic cookies, these novelties make the perfect valentine gift with these tags.
These erasers are super cute and the tags, which I printed on cardstock, can be rolled up to make the message a surprise.
My students and I recently read the book The Biggest Valentine Ever, by Steven Kroll.  It is an adorable story of two boys that realize that working together isn't easy, but it is so worth it.
Together they end up creating the most amazing valentine ever,  a Valentine Mouse for their teacher.

This craftivity pairs perfectly with the book, but can be used without it.  Honestly, is the perfect craft for any day of the year.  I mean, how cute is this mouse.
All of the pieces and directions can be found by clicking on the picture or this link.

What is you favorite Valentine's Day book and craft?  Leave me a comment below to let me know.

Classroom Organization: Cubbies

This year, instead of tubs and bins for student materials I have cubbies.  I am super grateful that these were left in the classroom I moved into.  They have provided a place for students to keep their individual tools and materials.  However, I am scared to know what my students' rooms look like based on how messy their cubbies are.
I decided I needed an incentive so enter, The Cubby Fairy.  She drops in when no one is around and checks the status of our classroom cubbies.  If she likes what she sees, she walks into the cubby, leaves some fairy dust behind, and drops a note off.  The note indicates that the student did an awesome job keeping their cubby organized and can head to the prize drawers.
This has been a game changer.  Now I have kiddos taking the time to organize there space.  I have had a decrease in students complaining because they can't find something or they don't know where a particular paper should go.  They have taken ownership and I LOVE it.  You can grab this Cubby Fairy Letter or a more generic one, in case you don't have prize drawers, here.

What game-changing classroom organization tips do you have?  Leave a comment below and let me know.
Also, are you on Instagram?  If you happen to use this Cubby Fairy letter be sure to tag me, @searching4tchrbalance.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

All the Heart Eyes for TPT

When I discovered TeachersPayTeachers I knew that I had entered a new realm of awesome!  I wasn't sure if it was real or not, all of these amazing standards based products and ideas from teachers around the world.  Well it was real, really incredible!  Now as a creator and seller it is still really incredible!  I love that I can share my love for engaging curriculum with other teachers.  
So why do you love TPT?  Just leave your email and answer in the comments below and I will gift one lucky individual with a $10 TeachersPayTeachers gift card.

This giveaway closes at 7:79pm PST, on 2/6/17.  The winner will be chosen at 8:00pm PST, on 2/6/17 and will be notified by email.

Sunday Sanity Saver: Organized Planning

Happy Super Bowl Sunday!  What kind of fun plans does everyone have today?  With the want to enjoy our weekends, I decided today's topic of Organized Planning was a must.
Whether you are new to teaching or a veteran teacher, you know that planning a successful week takes time and energy, something that we are all lacking.  Several years ago, I started using a planning guide, that I created and it has helped me tremendously.
*Please note, I have tweaked and revamped this organizer multiple times and I feel like it truly covers all aspects of my planning needs.*
These organizers are all that I bring to my team planning meetings because they allow me to take the notes I need, without feeling overwhelmed.  I can then sit down and plug my detailed planning into  What I love is that I have a clear view of where I am starting and going each month.
The organizers that you see here are just one of the available templates.  Also included is a year long overview, ELA organizer, and editable forms of everything.  Click on the image above for more information and a direct link to these planners.  Because everyone deserves to be organized, I am discounting these down for the next 24 hours.
Do you love that feeling of being organized?  What is your go to organizational tool for planning a successful week?  Leave a comment below and let me know.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Nonfiction Text Features: Diagram Lesson

Teaching and studying nonfiction is one of my favorite units to expose my students to.  I love that we get to take all of the foundational reading skills that they have developed and blast off to the next level of learning.  We are no longer just reading to enjoy books, but we are reading to LEARN and grow as learners.
This past week, we spent time learning about diagrams and captions.  These two features are packed with information so we spent several days really diving into them.  Much of our nonfiction reading has been done through National Geographic Kids and Hameray Publishing.  They both have an immense library of nonfiction readers that are perfect for my firsties.
For this particular lesson, we used Penguins from National Geographic Kids.  The students worked in teams of 4 to read and discover 4 traits that make penguins unique.
The focus was not on the entire book, but just on the diagram of the penguin.  Students worked to read and summarize their findings.  They took turns recording their discoveries in a 4 box.  You can grab a copy of it here.  I also included a general version that could be used with any other animal or plant diagram.

What is one of your favorite nonfiction text features to teach your students about?  Leave a comment below and let me know.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Joy Cowley Classroom Giveaway

It is my favorite time of year!!  It is Joy Cowely Giveaway Time!!!  
Click the image to enter
The Joy Cowley Classroom Giveaway by Hameray Publishing is here! One lucky classroom will win an entire set of Joy Cowley Collection leveled readers (60 books), Joy Cowley Early Birds lower-leveled readers (45 books), all of her newest big books (34 big books), a set of finger puppets, and more!
Click the image to enter

These books pull in even the most reluctant readers with their humor and whimsy. Your students will clamor to keep reading about their new friends: Mrs. Wishy-Washy, Hungry Giant, the Meanies, and more. Recurring characters make them reach for the next book, and playful storylines lead them to finish it. All books in this package are written at guided reading levels C–I. Read more about the books included here.

This contest is closing February 28, so enter now! Winners will be announced March 1.  Be sure to tell your teacher friends to enter, this is not a giveaway you want to miss out on.
Click the image to enter
Who is your favorite Joy Cowley character?  Leave a comment below and let me know.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

A Recipe And A Read Aloud Linky: February 2017

A Recipe & A Read Aloud is a monthly linky party where you post your favorite read aloud (or book you are reading) and recipe on your blog. Then, you come back and link your blog post up at the bottom of this post in the linky tool. 
Grab the button at the end of this and link back to this post on your blog.

I am keeping it real with this month's Recipe & A Read Aloud.  I feel like I aways keep it real, but right now I am EXTRA real.  Life has been BANANAS (I just sang the Gwen Stefani song to check the spelling of that)!  
I love to cook, or at least of used to love to cook.  I still make dinner every night, but I am not trying new recipes like I once did.  Being a parent and working full time in no laughing matter.  I am exhausted when I come home, but a healthy meal is a must.  I am one to whip up some veggie-meat concoction and call it good, so I have no fancy recipe for you.  *Side note:  I am not looking for fancy recipes.*  However, there is a recipe on repeat, in our house, right now, and the fact that little man can help make it is key!
I love that he wants to help in the kitchen, I think that it is so important that he sees that man or woman you have a space in the kitchen.  I HATE gender bias and I don't want them in my son's world.  So, enough with my soapbox rant, this is our favorite recipe right now and goodness they are YUMMY!
Gluten/Dairy Free Muffins
They are straight from Bob!  If you haven't used any of Bob's Red Mill product line, I recommend you get on it.  They are based here, in Oregon, and they are AMAZING!  
This GF muffin mix is so good and by using almond milk and canola oil it is easily dairy free.  We always add some berries or ripe bananas.
 I never know how much fruit actually makes it into the batter.  This kiddo loves to help by eating all the ingredients before they make it into the oven.
As you can see, they barely make it out of the muffin pan without one disappearing.

My Read Aloud So my read aloud fits with this idea of a world free of gender bias.  It is Violet the Pilot, by Steve Breen.  It is a fabulous story of a little girl that loves to tinker and build.  Everyone thinks she is "weird" because of this, but it doesn't bother her.  She sets out to build a flying machine to be a part of the air show, but never makes it because she just so happens to save a bunch of lives instead.  This story is all about growth mindset and proves that girls are POWER HOUSES!

If you don't own this book yet, grab it, love it, and share it!  It is a story everyone needs in their live. 

What is your favorite read aloud this month?  Is there a recipe that everyone needs to try?  Grab this image and link up.  The InLinkz will be open until the 10th of each month.

Don't forget that you can always link up on Instagram.  Just grab the image below and use the #SFTBRR.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Sunday Sanity Saver: Laundry Saved!

This week is all about saving your laundry from those inevitable stains that we all know too well.  First off, why don't more parents warn you about kid stains and the amount of laundry that would be added to your daily/weekly chores?  Since having my son, I swear my washing machine doesn't stop.  I am not one for super fragrant detergents and I made my own laundry soap for quite a while, but stain removal continued to be an issue.  Even more of an issue was the amount of clothing that got thrown away due to oil based stains that never cleaned up right.  I had just about had it until I stumbled across a random pin, on good-ole Pinterest, and decided to give it a whirl.  I have since played around with it and today I have for you the GREATEST DIY stain remover!!!
All you need is: Dawn dish soap, baking soda, hydrogen peroxide, and an old toothbrush.
Start by finding a garment that makes you want to shed a tear.  I was so upset that I had only gotten one wear out of this beautiful top, from Paizlee.  Little man thought that shaking his oily hands at dinner was a great idea; it was cute until the oil was all over my new top and not his hands.
Drizzle Dawn dish soap on all the stained areas.
Sprinkle baking soda over the dish soap.  I always use too much baking soda, but it doesn't hurt the recipe.
Next, coat the baking soda in a layer of hydrogen peroxide.  You want just enough to create a thick paste.
Use the toothbrush to gently work the paste into the stains.
Let this stain remover sit on the garment for an hour and then wash it normally.
Finally, wear your favorite piece of clothing again!  I posted this picture after using this incredible and easy stain remover.
I figured if it worked on the delicate fabric my top was made out of, it was worth a try on little man's stain-ridden clothing.  I followed all of the above directions TWICE, yes, two times, and look at the before and after.

I am still shocked as to how well it worked.  Yes, it really is the same onesie!

What are your tips for keeping up for laundry and attacking all those crazy kid stains?  Leave a comment below, I would love to hear from you.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Word Recognition with Letter Buddies

Teaching word recognition to developing readers can have its ups and downs.  I swear there are days when my kiddos are on it, they are recognizing all their sight words, and then POOF! the next day it is all gone.  I decided to try out the Letter Buddies series, from Hameray Publishing, with my developing readers.
According to Hameray, "This product line supports the development of letter knowledge and early literacy skills through letter recognition and formation, letter-sound correspondence, phonemic awareness, vocabulary development, and oral language development." I couldn't agree more with this statement.  Right away my readers started building letter recognition that they struggled with prior to using this series.
First of all, I love that the letters on the covers of the books are printed in a raised text.  My kiddos were able to "feel" the letters before diving into the books.  By using their kinesthetic sense, we began building a muscle memory that is vital for learners.
So each Letter Buddy has a book and a starter that go hand-in-hand.  We started with the letter books and practiced our letter and whole word recognition.  This allowed my readers to begin connecting the inital letter throughout the book.
After spending time with the letter book, we reviewed the words, generated a few more, and started gaining more letter and sound connections.  It was amazing listening to my readers as they inquired about their learning.  One of my students, who has really struggled with letter recognition, asked "Why do all the words have red letters?"  This is HUGE!!  He took his learning past letter recognition to word recognition.
Once my readers showed an understanding of the letters and their sounds, we dove into the starter books.  These pattern books take the words that students practiced in the letter books and place them in an early reader.  These pattern books allow for students to continue to build on their letter and word recognition, while gaining fluency and accuracy with more sight words.
I am so excited for my readers and the skills that they have gained.  I cannot wait to use the Letter Buddies Blends Books with them!
Have you used Letter Buddies with your readers?  What are your favorite resources for teaching letter and word recognition?  Leave a comment below and let me know.