Saturday, December 12, 2015

A few of my favorite things... Christmas Linky Party

It's the most wonderful time of the year and I am excited to share a few of my favorite things. Thanks to Southern Fried Teachin's Christmas Linky Party you can collect even more teaching ideas and resources over on her cute and patriotic blog.

Favorite Things via Southern Fried Teachin's Blog

Holiday Linky Party hosted by Southern Fried Teaching

1) My favorite holiday song is Andy William's Happy Holiday/The Holiday Season. It's so upbeat and festive that whenever I hear it I just can't wait to do Christmasy things, like craft, decorate or bake. Click the video to give it a listen if you like!

For more of my favorite Christmas songs click this pic for my YouTube playlist with over 50 songs.

Best Christmas Songs

2) One of my favorite holiday treats is the Scots Shortbread recipe my Mom makes. It's a recipe my grandmother saved. She used to make it for my Irish grandfather who loved shortbread since he lived in Scotland before immigrating here. 

3) Which leads to a family tradition for the holidays which is baking together. I have fond memories making shortbread, fudge and decorating cut out cookies with my Mom and siblings growing up. The holiday tradition continues with nieces and nephews getting in on the action too. I just love making chocolate covered marshmallow reindeers but they are not as easy as they look.  When I tried this recipe in my classroom it was hard to get it to work, as you really need a freezer to help the chocolate set, and putting them on top a large ice pack wasn't cutting it.  

Now I just stick to making edible Christmas trees with my students! I found that using frosting from a squirt can is easier than spreading it on with a knife.  Also this year I'm going to use shredded coconut as it gives the effect of snow! As with all difficult crafts or messy projects that you might do with students, I recommend that you pull a couple of students to the back table while others are working on something else. This way you can help students make and decorate their trees and supervise closely for less mess. Small plastic or paper bowls will also help to contain the mess while students decorate their trees. 

 Chocolate Covered Marshmallow ReindeersDecorated with Candy Christmas Tree Cones

4) One of my favorite holiday books is the Polar Express and I absolutely love the movie. If you are interested in having your students compare and contrast the book with the movie, you can use a Venn diagram or have them draw a double bubble. If you subscribe to my blog you will also get a link to a Venn diagram with writing lines, specific to this activity, in this month's newsletter exclusive freebie.

5) Christmas Kindness: Every year I chose a couple of charities to donate to, instead of spending a ton on gifts.  Some of my family and friends have also chosen to donate on my behalf in the past as gifts to me. 

6) and 7) One of my favorite memories is when my sister and I both got kissing barbies one Christmas Eve. These dolls came with a lipstick stamp (pictured in her hands) and a button on Barbie's back that when you pressed it, Barbie's head would jut forward. It was so silly. Even her dress came with kisses on it. Our aunt and uncle got us the exact same dolls, probably so we wouldn't fight over them. This memory coincides with one of my family's favorite traditions which were when my parents allowed us to open just one gift on Christmas Eve after we got back from looking at holiday lights. 

8) Some of my favorite Holiday crafts include this awesome Countdown to Christmas Tree and Garland that I made this year. I got tired of plain red and green rings, so I made one with washi tape style ribbons. I love how it turned out! I choose a student or two each day to take a ring off and then they get to wear the ring as a bracelet with a little Scotch tape. You can grab this craftivity too for just a $1.00 in my TpT store.  Just click the pic to follow the link.

Christmas Countdown Tree Garland Craftivity

9) My favorite holiday movie is without a doubt the Christmas story (besides Polar Express). I can watch it over and over for some reason. My Dad really enjoys it too, so when I am home visiting we watch it together and laugh our butts off. 

10) I do like to give small gifts at work to thank my team, teacher assistant, office staff and bosses. I rely on the Target dollar section and/or treats from Trader Joe's to thank them.

11) I would like Santa to bring me a Fitbit Flex so I can be motivated to stay more active. 

12) Finally, here is one of my students' favorite games this time of year. They're Multiplication and Division Fact Family Flash Cards with a Christmas Tree theme.  Students cover the answers as they use them and try to guess the answers before they lift their thumb or hand.

Multiplication and Division Fact Family Christmas Tree Flashcards

If you are looking for some more great Christmas resources I just updated my Letter to Santa to include primary writing lines and a bulletin board display kit.  I have my students write letters to Santa persuading him to fill their stocking because of good behavior and work they have accomplished. Then Santa fills them with small trinkets and treats!  Santa can even write the class back with my handy template that is included.
Dear Santa Letter Writing Paper 
Originally, I bought brick patterned craft paper from Lakeshore as well as the chalkboard Christmas lights borders. But since updating this resource there is brick paper now included for you to print and tile across your board and a template for the white part with Christmas light borders as well. However, you can also get the background paper and borders here and here through Amazon using my affiliate links. For the top part I just used white construction paper to make the top of the fireplace, and black construction paper for inside the fireplace. 

Mini-Stockings for students

In MS Word I simply created a table and added student names to it. (UPDATE now an editable table in the resource too!) I then print, cut-out, and glued the labels to the mini-stockings from Walgreens. It usually only runs 1.50 for six little stockings. What a deal! Amazon has them here too. I also see if there are any trinkets to fill them with, and they usually have Christmas pencils, stickers,  and candy canes. You can buy goodies in the Target dollar section too.  

Here's hoping that you have a Holly Jolly Christmas this year and a relaxing vacation!

Friday, November 13, 2015

Thankful for Thanksgiving Blog Hop and Follower FREEBIES!

Thankful for Thanksgiving Holiday Tips and Freebies

Being Thankful

I am thankful that I have been able to pursue all my childhood dreams, which included becoming a teacher and writer. I never thought I was going to be able to pursue both dreams but here I am blogging away and sharing curriculum resources I've written with you. I also wanted to share one easy way I practice daily gratitude. I have set an alarm on my smartphone that goes off before bedtime, that I have edited to say in place of the words alarm, today I am grateful for... This way no matter how bad my day goes I can always end with a positive and count my blessings. I hope this tip helps you in some way too.

Fun Traditions

Since my first year of teaching in 2000, I've been using this exact turkey that you see pictured below. I drew it on tag board then cut it out and added scrunched up tissue paper to decorate it.  Each year it is displayed and finished with student decorated thankful feathers! It's a yearly classroom tradition that I love sharing with my students. They also like hearing that they are part of this longtime tradition that all my past students have got a chance to do as well. Best of all they love that his name is Turkey Lurkey.  I laminated it a few years ago to make it last.  If you want to make one for your class you can check out my TpT product here. It includes the four-page poster template to make the large turkey, feathers, and newly added this year, display signs that say I am thankful for... with cute graphics added.  This year Turkey Lurkey got a major makeover! Check out the before and after photos below. I got the felt thankful letters from the Target dollar section and added a turkey border along with new graphics I created. 

Thanksgiving Class Craftivity  

Thanksgiving Class Craftivity

Thanksgiving Recipe

Pumpkin Pecan Squares

Here is my favorite Thanksgiving Recipe.  I first came across this recipe in Williams-Sonoma where they were giving away yummy samples. Of course, I just had to buy their Pecan Pumpkin Butter they used in it, but there is a cheaper alternative without nuts at Traders Joe's.

Ingredient List ~ Serves 12

1 (18 oz) box yellow cake, use Duncan Hines
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 jar of pumpkin butter from Trader's Joe's one jar pumpkin pecan butter from Williams-Sonoma
3 eggs
1/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup butter, softened 
3 tablespoons
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup of chopped pecans
1 -12 x 9 Cake Pan

Pumpkin Coffee Cake Squares Ingredients


1. Preheat oven to 350ºF
2. Reserve one cup of the cake mix flour to be used later.
3. Mix remaining cake flour mix with 1/2 cup melted butter and 1 egg. Press mixture lightly into the bottom of a 12" x 9" baking pan. (I like using the disposable baking pans for this)
4. Mix one jar of pumpkin pecan butter with remaining two eggs and milk, 
and pour over cake mixture in pan.
5. Bake 35-40 minutes, or until golden.
6. Mix remaining 1 cup cake mix flour, sugar, remaining 1/4 cup butter, cinnamon, and crumble over the top of the pumpkin layer. Sprinkle chopped pecans over the top.
7. Cool to room temp before cutting into squares.

I also found this awesome free printable to use for our place settings via Craft Aholics Annoymous last year. Follow the underlined link above to get this FREE printable. 

 Thanksgiving Free Printable Utensil Holder

Also, if you subscribe to my newsletter at the top of the blog, you will be sent this month's exclusive FREEBIE for newsletter subscribers only and not available in my TpT store. It's a passage on the History of Thanksgiving with comprehension questions included. This book also compliments this activity too.

Finally, I have a quick giveaway to say, thank you for your readership and support. I hope that you also visit the other wonderful bloggers in this hop for more recipes and FREEBIES.

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Thursday, October 22, 2015

Tricks and Treats Blog Hop, Freebie, and Giveaway!

So happy to be joining up with the Elementary Entourage for the Tricks and Treats Blog Hop! I have some great tricks and treats in store for you to help make your October and Halloween Celebrations Easy Peasy! I've included some teaching tips and tricks, treat ideas, freebies, and a giveaway for a choice of one product from my TpT store. 

 Tricks and Treats Blog Hop

One trick I've used among many to encourage my students to practice their multiplication and division facts is holiday themed math flash cards! My students love using these rather then the plain flash cards I print for them to practice with for homework. You can have students make their own fact family sentences using my FREEBIE sampler with the blank cards or opt for the ready-made flashcards included in the complete product. You can also have students color their fact family cards and string them up for a math and holiday-themed banner! These have been great for my math center time games as my students start multiplication in October then division in November so I'm covered for two months with these fun flashcards. 

 Candy Corn Multiplication Division Fact-Family Flashcards

Here's another teaching trick or tip that I use to motivate my students in writing. Student gets to make their own Pop-Up Haunted House and write a spooky story to accompany it. There is a customizable haunted house where students can pick which graphics they will include or a pre-made haunted house with all graphics included already. My students were really excited to get to chose their own graphics to include behind the windows and doors they cut open. The only thing is that I found out it takes so much longer for students to cut, color and glue so many pieces. It's great if you have time to spend an hour on art, but if you don't I have provided a second option where after coloring they just glue the back paper to the haunted house they already cut open and that's it! Graphics are already placed to appear through the windows and doors as well as additional ones on the front that you see pictured below. Don't forget that students will still need time to write a narrative story about their haunted house.  I just broke my lesson into two days to make it manageable because I wanted my students to have plenty of time to do the art and their stories. Another option is to have students write picture stories. In place of character names, they can put even smaller graphics that I've included in duplicate sets.

 Pop-Up Haunted House Craftivity and Spooky Story Writing Paper

Pop-Up Haunted House Graphics


My students would get so excited when I told them they would be eating dirt pudding on Halloween over the past years. My student's parents would also donate all the ingredients needed to make this fun dessert for parent hours. However last year our school adopted a healthy snack policy and this year they are pushing towards only healthy items for classroom celebrations and birthdays too. While it's hard to depart from fun treats in the classroom it has led me to think outside the box. Last year, I came up with these! If you check Pinterest there are some additional healthy snacks you can serve for Halloween but they involve more time to prepare. What makes this easy is that there is no prep for the teachers and kids get to decorate their very own clementine "pumpkin" with food safe pens or sharpies!

Now if your school doesn't celebrate Halloween or you happen to have some students who don't  participate for religious reasons, I use this activity that I found thanks to Pinterest. My students got to chose between doing the haunted house activity or this great fall activity. It was actually quite easy to dye the pumpkin seeds and since I basically live in a desert they dried fairly quickly outside in the sunshine only taking about 4 hours. I think drying them overnight might be best just to be safe since a few were still damp. I also changed out the paper towels underneath the seeds after 15 minutes and put down new towels. Now on to the directions for dying. First, I boiled some water and added it to each cup of seeds until they were covered. Then, I added two tablespoons of vinegar each followed by 5 drops of dye. I stirred and let it sit for about 30 minutes before draining and drying the seeds.  I found the pattern for the tree via this blog. I just right clicked and saved the images there then added them to PowerPoint, resized them and printed them. Another important tip that I learned when I tried this the first time was to make sure to use unsalted dried pumpkin seeds as salt inhibits the seeds from absorbing the dye fully. Oncethe seeds are dry let students glue them their paper trees that have been cut out and mounted on paper.

Dyed Pumpkin Seed Fall Trees Craft

Finally one more treat for you!!  I hope you enjoy the quick giveaway below. Please keep in mind that emails entered to access the giveaway will be auto-subscribed to my blog newsletter which you can unsubscribe from any time. I promise to keep your emails safe and secure. I will only be sending newsletters a few times a year to share monthly blog posts, that include giveaways, and exclusive freebies I have for subscribers only. Some upcoming freebies in the works include behavior management tools using Whole Brain Teaching. 

Thank you for participating!

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Monday, September 28, 2015

Blog Re-Launch and Huge Giveaway with 3 Winners Chosen!

Thank you for stopping by my Blog Re-Launch Giveaway! I am beyond excited to share my new blog design with you! September has been quite busy with a new school year that started the end of August and everyone has been taking me out for my recent birthday. Finally, I found a free weekend to launch this awesome celebration and my it's my first time hosting a collaborative blog giveaway!

It's been an amazing journey becoming a TpT author. I honestly thought I would never make it this far. I never saw myself becoming a successful blogger, but over time and with the support of blog buddies I have made it. I am so grateful for all the readers and teachers who support my TpT store. I know that teachers deserve much more than they make, but sometimes we just can't help but spend a little extra of our own money to enrich the lives of our students whether it's extra classroom supplies, prizes, or buying helpful and engaging resources on TpT. Your support enables me to do more for my students and my family and I can't thank you enough. I'm excited to be able to give back to you today in the form of a super-duper huge and awesome giveaway! 

I also just can't believe how many views my blog has now. Deanna Jump even commented on my blog this past July when I posted about my experience at the Second TpT Conference in Vegas. I am so grateful to be part of a generous and collaborative TpT community! So many wonderful bloggers and teacher-authors have come together to support me in the celebration of my blog re-launch!  I am also happy that I was able to find a blog designer who was able to execute my vision perfectly! It took some time, but I found a perfectionist like myself and this is the end result. I love what Alexis of LEL Designs has done for me. She worked tirelessly to make sure I was happy with every aspect of my design this past summer. 

Just take a look at this BEFORE picture of my blog to get an idea of the complete makeover that was done. I'm going to miss the cherries, but I'm happy to have a more professional looking blog now that isn't so busy. The good news is that a similar cherry theme will continue over at my new recipe blog in the works.

I want to give a little background about my design inspiration. When I was a little girl I enjoyed watching musical movies like Singing in the Rain, Oklahoma, Westside Story, and Grease with my Mom and grandparents. With the last two movies being my favorite, I really wanted a 50s themed blog to remember my grandparents by and to showcase my love of music that I inherited from my parents. My grandmother became sick at a young age with heart disease and passed away when I was only ten years old. So sitting down to watch movies with her was a big thing our family did as she was always resting in her recliner. 

My sister and I would also dance around the living room to entertain her and my grandpa and for some reason, my Irish grandfather played had a particular fondness for Polka. Didn't matter what country it was from he just loved it. Of course, this was in addition to some Irish music. I also loved movies with Elvis, Audrey Hepburn, Doris Day, and watching that Sha Na Na show. My parents were teenagers in the 50s and 60s so they played many tunes from those decades. Often, my Dad had the radio turned to the oldies channel while my siblings and I swam in the pool. My mom was also a huge Beatles fan too and would play their beautiful ballads on the piano. I blogged about taking my parents to Beatles Love and Jersey Boys two summers ago, while in Las Vegas for the first-ever TpT conference. Words can't express how nice it is do something big for my parents, after all, they have done for me. So there you have it the story behind my design.

Another free resource I'd  also like to share with you is something I learned about from one the first Whole Brain Teachers I worked with, back when it was Power Teachers. It's a way to label the parts of grammar when you are completing DOL or Daily Language Practice. Well since my school has been using the Teacher's College Reading and Writing Workshop lessons for some time I wanted to find a way to better incorporate grammar. Through Growing Educators, I attended a workshop that talked about the importance of mentor sentences, and the book Everyday Editing by Jeff Anderson which shows students how they can take a look at an author's word choice and craft to build their own sentences, all while analyzing the various components and structure of a sentence. Click here to get this FREEBIE or click on the image below.

Below is a pic of what I came up with to help my students label their mentor sentences. (Just click it to get it.)  I used this free lesson by Cutesy Clickables for one of my favorite books The Relatives Came by Cynthia Rylant as I figured my students could all relate to visiting relatives. My students loved the lesson and my boss did too. I was shocked at the incredibly detailed sentences with attention to proper grammar and punctuation that they created on their own. So I began using Mentor Sentences by Jivey for grades 3-5 this year. Watch this video to see how she used it in her third grade. Since my boss was so impressed she purchased enough licenses for my grade level and for second grade too! I can't wait to see how my third graders come in next year after experiencing Mentor Sentences in second. See how she use her lessons in this blog post that includes video of how she uses it in younger grades. Not only is her stuff fabulous I got to meet her this summer in Vegas and learn how to create reading comprehension passages.

If you like freebies and deals I will also be launching my newsletter so you can be notified of great happenings here. The first newsletter coming up will focus on Classroom and Behavior Managment with Whole Brain Teaching freebies thrown in that are not yet available in my TpT store. I promise not to share your email or send too many. As it is I'm only a once a month blogger and I only see myself sending a newsletter a few times a year. Sign up in the giveaway and check opt-in and earn your first entry into the giveaway. You can always decide to unsubscribe later. 

Now on to the huge giveaway where three lucky winners will be chosen. Please keep in mind that while the contest is open to everyone 18 years or older, but you'll need to be a U.S. resident to claim the first prize package as it will be mailed. The giveaway widget will already sort out eligible participants for this. However, the second and third prize packages are digital in nature so anyone from any country can win! No purchase of any kind will be necessary to participate, but the giveaway widget does require the collection of emails so I can contact the winners. With the legalese out of the way let's get this giveaway started!! Whoo hoo!

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Back to School Blog Hop: Ideas, Tips, Freebies, and Giveaway!

Start your Year Right! Back to School Tips!

8 Tips to Start Your School Year Off Right!
Tips for Teachers by Teacher Ms H

Blog Hop Hosted by the Owl Teacher.

8 Back to School Tips for Teachers

Call on and Select Students Randomly

This is an easy way to keep track of what students you have called on already. Draw them, then clip to the side. Just write their numbers and names on the clothespins. I prefer to put the numbers on with a thin fine point sharpie and just use pencil so I can erase old names and add new ones each year. I also like leave one or two in that say volunteer for students who just want share their knowledge without waiting their turn. I take any hands raised when a volunteer is selected.

Easy to Use and Set Up Classroom Calendar

Do you teach upper elementary students and find they still lack calendar skills? This idea works great for me and students get to take turns being Calendar Monitor. All they have to do is move a magnet on the day that it is! Also when it's a new month they get to help me put up the new calendar and decorative pieces I've had since I began teaching so long ago. They have magnets on the back and the number of the month. I keep the month headers organized with a binder clip and the little accents in a ziploc bag. 

Finally, I chose a bright marker color that seems to go with the month, so the calendar numbers can easily be seen from far away.  I always find these great desktop calendars at Big Lots each year during their back to school sale. I just tear off one month at a time and post it on my whiteboard using more magnets to hold it up! I love that I can write special occasions or student birthdays on this calendar too.

Student Name Plates
Goodbye cards or student nameplates.

Want to play a quick game? Comment below if you know what movie and/or book these characters are from! 

My school requires us to check out our kids at the end of each school day for added safety. I made these as I got tired of fumbling around with the daily check off clipboard while kids say goodbye and head to their parents or an after-school program, I can now just collect the cards put them back in number order then mark off my list of names when dismissal is complete. 

Luckily (as I update this post) our current principal no longer requires a checklist as long as we have a procedure in place like this one! Thank goodness, as I hated looking for each kids and the day's date on the teeny tiny list of columns and boxes to check off each day that the office gave us since these eyeballs aren't getting any younger! 

Now you could make your own by cutting up sentence cards and using a Sharpie to write on them or check out the editable version that is now included in my Back to School Bundle pictured at the end of if this post. Don't forget to laminate them. Also you might as well make two sets of them as even with lamination they only last half the year. Bonus is that these also work as name plates! 

Easy Classroom Library Check Out System: Just take a picture!

This is the easiest way to check out library books that I have found yet. I use extra large ziploc bags (2 1/2 gallons so big picture books can fit if necessary) and I write the student's name and number with a Sharpie. I ask them to have their book cover facing the front where their name is written. Next I snap a picture on my smartphone and when they return and put it away I delete it.  I use an old iPhone that has speakers that don't work due to water damage. But you could even use a classroom student iPad if you weren't worried about the photos accidentally being erased, or just create a library album on your iPhone. You could even train a responsible student to check everyone out!

Groovy Grader for iOS: Easy grade calculation

Grading made easy!!! No more old cardboard slidey grading thingies. This app Groovy Grader for iOS is ready to go. Just enter the number of questions in the white box, and it will calculate the percents in black, based on how many wrong in red. While this app is great, it doesn't grade my papers.  In an upcoming blog post, I will be sharing about another one of my new favorite grading apps from where you can make custom scantrons and scan them right into your phone with instant data at your fingertips! Don't forget to subscribe to my email list or my bloglovin' to receive updates about this and other blog topics.

End your glue problems for good

End your glue problems for good! End your glue problems for good!

Glue!! I hate sticky stuff especially on my hands. I've been known to become slightly panicked when there is not a napkin or sink in sight. This is why I go through several napkins for finger foods and messy meals. If I could I'd eat everything with a fork I would. I do try. Lol. 

Anyhow I also hate strong smells, so glue sponges are a no for me. The thought of them growing icky over time is just well... Yuck! Enter easy cleanup!  If you have a restaurant supply store near you, or you would like to wash and recycle takeout sauce containers this trick might work for you. Just pour a little glue in each container and have kids use these awesome glue wands or spreaders. I ordered mine on Amazon, but I think Lakeshore also carries them. 

When my kids are done with their projects, if there is a lot of glue left in the containers, I just put a matching lid on so the glue doesn't dry out and you can use it again later. If the glue is almost out, just leave the container with the glue wand inside to dry overnight. Then the next day just pull out the glue wands and off comes the dried glue. No more sticky mess at the sink and trying to wash it off! Your janitor will also thank you for not clogging up sinks. Finally, kids absolutely love pulling the dried glue off. So get them to help!

Mr. Clean erasers remove glue from students' desks easily.

Speaking of glue, magic erasers are amazing for getting it off students' desks and classroom table tops! Combined with natural lavender all-purpose cleaning spray from Target and you have the added bonus of lavender being a natural bug repellant for your classroom. For any classroom parties, I have regular sponges that I dampen and the students use them to wipe down their desks after I have sprayed with this magic stuff. It also smells awesome and calming instead of chemical like! I have noticed that while neighboring classrooms get ants and other yucky bugs I don't seem to have this issue anymore since using it over the past few years. 

Do allergies or asthma cause you to catch colds easily? Try this!

My final back to school tip is.... Take Care of YOU! Besides wiping down desks frequently and reminding kids to wash their hands or use hanitizer,  (That's a legit teacher word, sure to be added to Webster's one day) take your VITAMINS!! Also, if you can help it never pick up students pencils, crayons, markers etc. because they are full of germs. Always have a pencil or pen of your own in hand that is labeled with your name or teacher only that you tell your students they can never touch or borrow.  

I don't have the greatest immune system for fighting off kids germs with cough-variant asthma and terrible sinuses but since I started taking Vitamin D daily and eating yogurt with lots of healthy bacteria, it has helped me to ward off more colds. When I do get sick I take Ultimate Flora Advanced Immunity. You can find it on Amazon at the link, at Walgreens or at the Vitamin Shoppe. It has helped me to kick colds quickly before they turn into bronchitis or a sinus infection. Besides natural and powerful probiotics, it contains Echinacea which helps to clear up any viral or bacterial respiratory infections.

I just want to end by sharing some Back to School FREEBIES and resources of mine that you might find useful in your classroom to start the year off great.  I find it very important to start my year off with organizational systems in place, great parent communication, and first week of school activities ready to go. These tools help me do just that. I hope you take a look and see if there is anything that might be of help to you!

Have a neighbor student use this to help keep student work organized while they are gone!

Parent Survey About Their Child for Back to School    Back to School Activities

Now on to the big giveaway and blog hop!

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