Tuesday, December 23, 2014

I Failed Circus School

Hi Friends!

My name is Tammy and I failed circus school. 

It was about this time last year that I started this blogging journey. Actually, my TpT store came first, then my blog, then Facebook.  It was all new and exciting... so much to share!  I was able to keep it all up by blogging once a week, even though "they" say you should write more often.  I was even able to put out 75 TpT products that I'm proud of in that amount of time.  It was all going great!  I was juggling it all...  only dropping the ball on occasion.

Then the lions of September hit.  Back to school.  Back to 32 kids in the classroom.  Back to the almost impossible task of fitting all of the standards into a regular school year.  Back to the tightrope of parent meetings, report cards, teacher evaluations, SMART goals, and SBAC.  Not to mention all of the "must do"s at home.
"Con Colleano on a slack-wire, circa 1920" by Con Colleano(Life time: 1973) - Original publication: Print from approximately 1920Immediate source: Scan by me from an original signed photographic print.. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Con_Colleano_on_a_slack-wire,_circa_1920.jpg#/media/File:Con_Colleano_on_a_slack-wire,_circa_1920.jpg

I failed circus school.  I looked...  I haven't posted a blog post since SEPTEMBER!!!  WHAT?!

How to "they" do it?  How do you manage keep the three rings: home, school, online world running smoothly?  How to you  post 2-3 blog posts a week?  What do you write about?  Where do you find the time?

Here is where I think I've gone wrong:
1.  I'm WAY too wordy!  Even this blog post was supposed to be short and sweet... FAIL!
2.  I write what I'm feeling at the time...  I need to keep a journal of ideas and do more research on blog posts.
3.  I LOVE PICTURES!  This is my biggest stumbling block.  Tagging all of those pictures with my logo before I post them on the blog is time consuming!  I think that is the biggest roadblock for me.  If anyone has any advice for this, I'd appreciate it!
4.  TIME...  I was blogging every Sunday morning before the hubster gets out of bed.  I need to find more time.  Maybe make a blogging date with myself once a week, during the week?  Go to a coffee shop, drink a cup-o-joe and type away.  I've always been curious and weirdly envious of people at coffee shops working on their computer...  I could be one of "those" people!
5.  I have too many balls to juggle (that made me giggle just a little).  Between school, home, Literacy Loves Company blog, TpT store, Facebook, and now Instagram that's a lot of balls!  I don't want to give any of the up, but Facebook has been kinda depressing for me.  I can put out a post and only 2 people will see it.  I have over 200 followers, and only 2 people see it!?  I know there is an algorithm involved and the more interaction, the more people see, but honestly,  I'm not going to worry about it.  I'm giving myself permission to not worry about Facebook.  Ahh...  that felt good.

I know many of you who follow and read this blog are bloggers yourselves.  Any tips for keeping your circus manageable?  Any secrets for success?  Any advice?

So, I've confessed my failings.  I've given myself permission to not be perfect.  I've come up with a plan, sort-of.  I've reached out for help.  I feel better.

Bring on 2015!  

Thanks for visiting!
Here are a few of my most recently added TpT products!  
Pebble Puzzles {Level 1}

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Travel Journal

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Engaging Students in Writing with a Sandwich

Need help motivating your students to write organized paragraphs?  This highly engaging classroom anchor activity will be a go to lesson throughout the whole year.

We've been back to school for about 3 weeks now and it has been very busy!  Today I taught one of my favorite lessons to my new class:  How is a Paragraph Like a Sandwich?   I love this lesson for several reasons:

1.  It totally engages the students!  My students were right with me the entire time.
2.  It is an anchor lesson that I come back to time after time throughout the year.
3.  So many writing skills are introduced in this one lesson.
4.  At the end of it, I get a great sandwich which I eat for lunch!

I started out with a bag full of sandwich ingredients and random items from my pantry.  Well, they might seem random, but I actually picked each item on purpose.

  • Choose items you would actually put on a sandwich.  I brought ham, turkey, cheese, lettuce, tomato, mayo, and mustard.  
  • Choose some items you would eat on a sandwich, but are unexpected (with a little "spice"), such as pepperoncini, jalapeƱos, or spicy mustard.  
  • Bring items that you wouldn't eat on a sandwich, but would make a great "paragraph" of a different topic.  I brought pasta, pasta sauce, and parmesan cheese.  
  • Bring items that are exciting, that students would love, but have nothing to do with a sandwich.  I brought a kook-aid packet, popcorn, cat foot, and a TWINKIE!
I started off by having my ingredients in a mysterious bag on a desk placed right in the middle of the carpet.  Students were intrigued right off the bat because it was unusual to have a desk there and they had no idea what was in the bag.  

I had prepared my anchor chart with the question "How is a paragraph like a sandwich?" and a lightly penciled in drawing of a sandwich which I would draw in at the end of the lesson.  

As I gathered my students to the carpet, I shared with them the topic of the lesson and had them pair-share what they thought a sandwich and a paragraph have in common.  

After letting them share I told them that this morning I went around my kitchen gathering "ideas" for a great sandwich and this is what I came up with...  Then I dramatically pulled my items one by one out of the bag, making a big deal out of all my GREAT IDEAS!  Students think it is hilarious that I have popcorn, cat food, and a Twinkie!  When I got all of my ideas out on the desk I ask students what the first thing I need for a sandwich is.  BREAD of course!  

Starting with the bread, I ask students to share what ideas/ingredients should come next in my sandwich paragraph.  After the basics: bread, mayo, and meat, I put on the top piece of bread and ask students if I have a sandwich.  

Yes, but do I have a GREAT SANDWICH???!   CAN WE MAKE IT EVEN BETTER!!?  CAN WE SPICE IT UP!!!?  YES!!  YES, WE CAN!!!!!!!!!!  
Need help motivating your students to write organized paragraphs?  This highly engaging classroom anchor activity will be a go to lesson throughout the whole year.

As we add more details to our sandwich paragraph, students often disagree with the order and I adjust or "reorganize" my sandwich as new items are added.  This models for students that details don't always fit where placed and it is okay to move things around.  

Unfailingly, a brave student will suggest the Jello or the Twinkie.  I always say that that is a GREAT idea!!!!...  but does it fit in this paragraph?  When a student suggests the pasta sauce, I let them know that the pasta sauce is a great detail, but wouldn't that idea fit better in a paragraph about spaghetti?  

One of the things I really try to model for students is that they need to make their writing interesting.  They need to SPICE IT UP!!!  We spice up our sandwich with peppers, but how do we spice up our writing?  With surprising facts, interesting word choices, and unusual details that still fit the topic.  

When we have used up all of the ingredients to make our AWESOME sandwich, I always take a huge bit and go on and on about how WONDERFUL and TASTY this paragraph is!!  The kids love it!

When the students have settled down a bit, we take a look at our anchor chart.  I ask students to remind me what was on the sandwich and I draw the ingredients in.  I then label the parts (topic sentence, conclusion sentence, and details) with some help from the class.  I still need to go in and add some of the connections students made to my anchor chart, but this is what it looks like at this point.  
Need help motivating your students to write organized paragraphs?  This highly engaging classroom anchor activity will be a go to lesson throughout the whole year.

I then randomly choose students to tell me what they learned from the lesson about how a paragraph is like a sandwich.  I got some great answers this year.

"Not all ideas fit in the paragraph.  You can have great ideas, but they don't make sense in the paragraph."

"Sometimes you have to move around ideas to make the paragraph better."

"You want to use interesting ingredients to add spice to your paragraph."

"The topic sentence and the conclusion sentence are similar but a little different."

All in all, I think the students really learned a lot from this lessons and I'll be able to draw on it for months to come.  I've posted the anchor chart on the wall for reference for the students and had a great sandwich for lunch.  I call that a success!  
Need help motivating your students to write organized paragraphs?  This highly engaging classroom anchor activity will be a go to lesson throughout the whole year.

Do you have a great idea for a fun and engaging writing lesson?  I would love to hear about them.  Share them in the comments section below!  

Thanks for visiting!  

Saturday, September 6, 2014

From Frightening to Fabulous: Classroom Reveal

Hello Friends!

It was a rough start to the school year for me.  I'm one of those people who goes in a week early on my own time and sorts, organizes, and staples my way to a nice tidy classroom before the actually "start day".  This year my plans were foiled by.........   my gall bladder.

Two weeks before teachers were due to report back to school I had to, quite unexpectedly, have surgery to remove that angry little organ.  I wasn't released to go back to work until the official start day and, even then, I was suppose to "take it easy"... yeah...  right!  Some people think our jobs are just about talking in front of the class and shuffling papers...  ummm...  not even close!

This is what I came back to on that Monday:
So, between mandatory meetings, lesson planning, and such I put in 12+ hour days to get to where my classroom is now...  or at least to where it was before the kids walked in the door.

Disclaimer...   You know that magical moment when you stand back and survey your hard work?  That teeny tiny moment when everything is "perfect"?  Most of the following pic were taken during that moment...  before my wonderful new kiddos walked in the door with their backpacks, pencil-shaving-creating pencil sharpeners, snack wrappers, and supplies galore.  :)  Gotta love them!

The Library

 Picture books and magazines.  I used patterned contact paper to cover the wood paneling on the front of this bookcase.  I love how it turned out!
 We participate in Battle of the Books, so those books will be located under the armor and shield.
 I teach 4th grade, so my books are organized by genre and author.  These book baskets hold author and series specific books.

Science Station
The science station houses a microscope, books, hand lenses, jeweler's loupes, and a variety of objects (rocks, fossils, plants, etc.) for students to study.

Our first science unit is about the brain, the senses, and mindfulness.  I decided to create group signs with different colors and these symbols.  I made them on PowerPoint, so when we switch topics, it will be easy to create new group signs to go with the curriculum.

The Front of the Classroom
Along the front wall I have inspirational Subway posters (purchased from  The Brown Bag Teacher on TeachersPayTeachers.com), my favorite books for back to school.  I love to read Chrysanthemum and we talk about our names.  I also read "It's Hard to be a Verb", a great book for students who have difficulty concentrating and staying in their seats.  

Here is the main part of the classroom ready for the first day.  I buy book boxes from Ikea and I have wire "cubbies" for each of the students.  I don't put a lot of bulletin boards or posters on the walls to start the year.  We create anchor charts, display our work, and show off our art on the walls as the year progresses.

The Teacher's Corner/Small Group Area

This year I decided to let go of my desk and replace it with a multi-purpose round table.  This is where I plan on meeting for conferences, holding small reading groups, and doing my planning.  This is my favorite part of the room.  It is my ZEN place.  My goal is to keep it looking like this ALL YEAR LONG... which is not small task for me.  I am a clutter keeper.  I fight is every year and every year I LOSE!  

 My CAFE wall is here, close to my table.  I used paper plates I found at Walmart and some die-cut letters I had.  Of course, This isn't done, but it is a start.
If you follow my blog, you probably recognize the pennant banner hanging.  I posted a quick tutorial on how to create one.

This is my favorite spot.  My favorite books, my favorite colors, my favorite animal.  Ahhhh....  makes me happy.

Outside the door of our pod, my teammates and I created this WELCOME bulletin board.  We wrote the names of our students on each of the grapes and organized them into their classes.

Outside our class, in the hall, are the pennant banners students completed the first week of school.  You can find these pennants as part of my "All About Me and VIP" product on TpT.

Well, there you have it!  From frightening to fabulous!  I hope you have fun touring my classroom and have an idea or two to take away with you!  I hope you visit again soon!

BTW...  I recently started posting on Instagram.  I tend to post quick pics more often there, so if you are on Instagram, consider following me there.  You'll find me under #literacylovescompany

Have a great weekend!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Classroom DIY: Binder Clip Tabs

Save money with this classroom DIY tip:  Make your own binder clips!  An easy and cheap way to stay organized!

I have a confession:  I'm cheap...

I'm also creative...  and a problem solver... which makes for an interesting combination.  Sometimes I see things that I would really like to have but one glance at the price tag and...  YOWZA!!   Then the problem solving gears start turning and the creative juices start flowing.

This happened to me the other day while I was back-to-school shopping in Office Depot.  I came across these great binder clip tabs but the price seemed a bit steep to me!  That's like almost $0.70 each...  for a binder tab!  Crazy, right!?
I just recently purchased a Silhouette Cameo and thought to myself, "I can make these!".  

I started by gathering some mini-binder clips I had purchased a few weeks ago for a couple of dollars and some random card stock I had gotten on sale at some point.  
Save money with this classroom DIY tip:  Make your own binder clips!  An easy and cheap way to stay organized!
Save money with this classroom DIY tip:  Make your own binder clips!  An easy and cheap way to stay organized!
I measured my binder clips and my card stock to get an idea of what I was working with.  
Save money with this classroom DIY tip:  Make your own binder clips!  An easy and cheap way to stay organized!
The binder clips were about 5/8 inch and my sheet of card stock was 4 1/2 by 6 1/2.  I decided to make my tabs 1 in. by 1 in. square.  Using my Silhouette Design Studio software I created the shapes you see below to be cut out.  

I grouped the square and the slot that the clip will go through and then used the "row of..." option under the Replicate menu.  I'm really new to using my Cameo, so I just happened upon this menu.  It has a lot of great shortcuts!
As you can see, I had my tabs touching each other.  If I had to do it again (which I will) I would not have them connected.  The edges that were double cut didn't have the smooth cut I would have preferred.  

I went ahead and cut out the tabs using my Silhouette Cameo.  
Save money with this classroom DIY tip:  Make your own binder clips!  An easy and cheap way to stay organized!
Save money with this classroom DIY tip:  Make your own binder clips!  An easy and cheap way to stay organized!
I struggled getting the binder clips through the slots, and had to bend the tabs a bit, but I think they turned out pretty well! 
Save money with this classroom DIY tip:  Make your own binder clips!  An easy and cheap way to stay organized!
 These binder clip tabs can be used to hold papers that need copied or mark lesson plans or your read aloud book.
Save money with this classroom DIY tip:  Make your own binder clips!  An easy and cheap way to stay organized!

Save money with this classroom DIY tip:  Make your own binder clips!  An easy and cheap way to stay organized!
Add caption
There are a lot of great uses for these binder clip tabs!  

I made 24 binder clip tabs for pennies!  The cheapskate in me is doing a happy dance while the problem solver side of myself is patting creative me on the back.   

Thanks for stopping by!  

Monday, August 18, 2014

Classroom DIY: The "Clipboard Make-over

Classroom DIY - Turn old clipboards into a creative organizational tool for the classroom!

One week left... Yikes!  Only one week of summer left for me and I'm looking at my piles of paperwork, product ideas, and DIY craft projects and my heart is having palpitations!  Where did the time go?

One snag in my summer plans was an unexpected surgery a bit over a week ago.  Not fun and it totally ruined my big plans for getting my classroom in tip-top shape before I head in for a week of meetings and curriculum planning.  So, I'm stuck at home looking at piles.

Classroom DIY... Turn an old clipboard into a functional piece of art! Check out the one creative idea that makes this clipboard make-over different from the others!
With this forced week of relaxation I decided to dig out those old clipboards I had been meaning to redo.  I had attempted to Mod Podge one several weeks ago and ended up throwing the whole thing in the trash.  I decided to give it another go with the help of some colorful Duct Tape.

There are so many different clipboard make-overs floating around Pinterest that I decided to up the ante a bit and added a clear pocket for name lists, reminders, etc.
The first thing I did, besides gather some old clipboards, is collect my materials.  
 I like to use card stock scrapbook paper.  The heavier paper works better for me.  I also grabbed an old jar of Mod Podge, old paintbrush, and a scraper.  I used the one that came with my Silhouette Cameo, but you could use a credit card type hard plastic rectangle.

You will also need a transparency sheet cut in half to make the pockets.  On my clipboards, I made a pocket on the front and also one on the back.  

I picked some colors that worked well together and set to work.  
The first thing I did was cut my print paper to fit the front of the clipboard.  I just eye-balled it by turning it over and cutting around the board.  
Next, starting at the top of the board, I applied a thin layer of Mod Podge and used my scraper to press down and get rid of any air bubbles.  This also moves the adhesive down the board so that it is evenly spread.  
 I continued to apply the Mod Podge and use the scraper until the card stock was completely glued to the board.  I then turned the board over and did the same thing to the back of the board.
After the paper was glued down, I placed the transparency film toward the bottom of the clipboard and secured it with a strip of duct tape.  I then turned over the clip board and taped the second piece of transparency to the back with the same piece of duct tape folded to the back.  
Now comes the sides!  I used a ruler to make small marks about 1/2 inch from the sides.  This is the duct tape line.  
After adding a strip of tape to the each side, I trimmed the corners to curve nicely.  
Along the top of the clipboard was the most difficult.  I just kept adding duct tape until most of it was covered.  I made sure to trim along the way to avoid extra bulk on the corners.  
So here is the final result!  Much nicer looking than at the beginning and also more functional with the pockets!  

So, there you have it folks!  My take on the "clipboard make-over"!  I hope you feel inspired to give your clipboards a facelift!  

Thanks for visiting!