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Monday, June 19, 2017

Friends at Target

So it all started last week when I realized that since it's summer, I can finally do one of my most favorite things- go to Target anytime I want to!  :) With that realization, I created a meme to show my excitement and posted it on my Instagram feed.

One thing led to another, and I found myself setting up a Target date with one of my teacher friends, Carrie from Adventures in Kinder and Beyond and I couldn't have been more excited!  To share the fun, we named our outing "Friends at Target" and decided to invite all of our friends on Instagram to follow our stories and feed to see all the goodies that we would find.

After catching up on coffee at the Starbucks conveniently located inside the Target, we headed straight to the Dollar Spot to hunt for all the new and cute items for our classrooms!  And oh look at all the things that we found!  From colorful binders, file folders, magnetic dry-erase boards, to chalk, fluffy pillows for reading centers, activity books for math and science, and easy readers on shapes, colors, and animals, they were all there right in front of the store just waiting for us to throw them all into our cart!

We had so much fun that we headed over to the home decor aisles to see what else we could find for our classroom, and it only got better! From sweet little rugs to a live-sized tent to stuffed flamingos, bears, and unicorns to cactus-shaped lamps and more!  Honestly, I wanted to buy them all for my classroom and for my own kids' rooms.

After an hour and a half of walking up and down the aisles like two overly excited teachers needing an intervention from the Target employees and a Where-Are-You phone call from both of our families, we had to call it a day and check out with a cart full of goodies.

Even though we had to say goodbye, we didn't want the fun to end there!  So....if you are reading this, I am tagging you to find a buddy to go with you on a Target date and share all the amazing items that you find at your local Target!  Add your buttons to the graphic below to share the excitement and don't forget to tag me so I can follow you as well!

Have fun, teachers!!!   

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Why Teachers Are the Best Type of Friends

Teaching is hard.  In fact, it is very hard.  With the daily challenges and pressures that present themselves everyday even before we show up at school, I have found that it is imperative for teachers to find kindred souls in their peers.  Because who else understands more and can better help us find joy and success in the work that we do everyday, but our teacher friends?!

Recently I read the article on 27 Amazing Things Teacher Friends Do For One Another, and it got me to reflect back on the many friendships that I have made and kept throughout the years.  After going through my Facebook Friends list,  I realized, "Oh my goodness, almost more than half of my friends are teachers!"  And because teachers are so amazing, it's no wonder why teachers are the best type of friends to have!

1. Teachers are so incredibly generous and giving.  Teachers spend out of their pockets and go out of their way all the time for their students and anyone they know.  They are also generous with their time and do things for others that they know they may never be recognized for.

2. Teachers are creative beyond belief! Give a teacher a cold and bare classroom and he/she will give you the most amazing and inviting learning space you will ever see!  Give a teacher a box of recyclables and things that others may consider trash and he/she will give you the most incredible STEM challenge.

3. Teachers are supportive.  Had a bad day or going through something difficult?  Find a teacher friend next door who will listen to you, cry with you, and support you every step of the way.

4. Teachers are multi-talented.  Need someone to teach, coach, bake you some delicious sugar cookies, fix the copy machine, console a crying child, design a new bulletin board for Open House, cook for Friday's potluck, take on a club, and present at a conference all in one week?  Ask a teacher.  I bet you a teacher somewhere out there has done these and more in a week before.  Teachers are amazing!

5. Teachers are selfless.  Sure, they haven't eaten lunch because they spent most of their lunch replying to emails or talking to a parent on the phone, but that's who they are and what they do on a daily basis.  They are always thinking of others before themselves.

6. Teachers are spontaneous and fun! Need someone to help you spice up the lesson and make it more fun for the kids?!  Your teacher friend got you!  May it be running to the store in the evening to grab a list of things for tomorrow's lesson or dress up and look ridiculous to others outside of teaching, but your teacher friends will help make teaching so much more fun for you and learning even more engaging for your students!

7. Teachers are amazing!  From the little things to the great, BIG things that teachers do everyday, teachers really are amazing and I am so grateful to have taught with and become friends with so many AMAZING teachers!

So if you have teacher friends, hold onto them.  If you're looking for the most awesome friends around, find a teacher and be a good friend to them! :)


Wednesday, May 3, 2017

12 Days Until Summer Countdown

It's hard to believe that the summer break is just right around the corner for many of us!  It's been a wonderful year of learning and growing, and the best way to end it is with celebrations and lots of fun!

I've scoured the blogsphere and brainstormed some fun ideas to help you countdown to the last days of school with your students!  I call it the 12 Days Until Summer Countdown! :)

(Click to the above image to download a copy of my 12 Days Until Summer Countdown Chain.)

Day 12- Make a pop-up card for staff members in your school.  Secretaries, janitors, and paraprofessionals, and cafeteria workers work tirelessly all year to help schools run smoothly and effectively.  Show your love and appreciation by showering them pop-up cards with a personalized note that your students will love to create!

If you would like directions on how to make this card, please click to this link.

Day 11- Paint a picture of a classmate.  Partner students up and have them draw and paint/color a portrait of each other.  Have students attach their partner's portrait with a sweet letter to review parts of a letter and some fun writing skills!

Day 10- Draw a summer mural with chalk together as class.  Brainstorm of an symbol or picture that represents your class this year.  This would be the perfect time to review what symbols are and some that students have already learned about especially in Social Studies.  Afterwards, decide as a class who will draw which part and then create it with chalk outside.

Day 9- Make fruit popsicles.  Review as a class what procedural text is and how to make fruit popsicles.  Students will create it in small groups and pour the juice in ice trays with little popsicle sticks inside them.  Leave them in the freezer (hopefully in the big freezer in your school's cafeteria) until the afternoon to enjoy!

Day 8- Celebrate summer birthdays! Students who are born in late June, July, and early August often feel left out since they are not in school for their birthday. Celebrate them early as a class!  Students can create a timeline of all the birthdays in the class and then celebrate the summer birthdays.  If your school allows, maybe have those students bring in a small snack or cupcakes to celebrate with the class!

Day 7- Spelling with dry-erase markers on student desks!  Who doesn't love writing with colorful dry-erase markers on their desks?!  It's fun and super easy review of spelling and sight words learned this year.

Day 6- Create a flower using tissue paper.  Go over parts of a flower and a flower's adaptations as a class.  Afterwards, students can create their favorite flower with tissue paper.  

Day 5- Make an aquarium for tropical fish.  Discuss as a class animal habitats and how ocean animals rely on the ocean as their home.  Cut out the center section of a paper plate then line it with wax paper.  On a different paper plate, glue cut-out pieces of seaweed, coral, and tropical fish from construction paper. Glue the two plates together and tah-dah!!!  

Day 4- Create a plan for a lemonade stand.  Review your lessons on economics and have students work with a partner to create a plan on how to run a lemonade stand this summer.  What is their budget?  What supplies do they need and how much will they cost?  How much will they sell it for? When, where, and how long will they sell their lemonade?  What other materials will they need?  

Day 3- Create a firefly catcher.  Fireflies are so unique as one of their adaptations is being able to glow at night. Kids also love watching fireflies in the summer evenings and nights, but it's so hard to catch them and see them up close!  Have students design and create a firefly catcher that will not harm the bugs but allow students to watch them up close and release them easily.

Day 2- Make an outdoor game that demonstrates rolling, spinning, and sliding.  Provide students with different equipment such as balls, scooter boards, and any other equipment that you can borrow from your P.E teacher and have students create a game that will incorporate the three types of movements.

Day 1- Celebrate each individual student!  Print a picture of each student and glue it to the middle of a piece of bright-colored paper.  Students will take turns writing down what they like/will miss about each other.  Afterwards, students will be able to take their picture home for a keepsake!

Click to the images below to download my Summer Countdown letter to parents and a blank, editable copy for yourself!  To edit, copy the image into a Powerpoint slide or a comparable program then insert text boxes.

Special thanks to PrettyGraphix, KG Fonts, Keeping Life Creative Clip Art, A Perfect Blend, and Chirp Graphics.

Below are some more ideas on how to celebrate and countdown until the end of the year!  Click to the images for more details!

Thursday, April 20, 2017

How Going Digital Changed Me as a Teacher

For nine years of my teaching career, I was a traditional teacher teaching in the primary grades the best that I knew. I focused greatly on the core subjects, especially reading and writing. I used traditional best practices and employed technology the best I knew, and honestly, I felt that I was doing a pretty good job.  A streaming video here and a phonics website there during Guided Reading and I thought, "Hey, I'm integrating technology into my instruction just fine!" 

That was until I moved across town, switched districts, and found myself on a campus whose main focus is science, technology, engineering, and mathematics and where each students has his/her own digital device to use in the classroom and take home.

Well you see, I've always thought of myself being very techie in a sense that I have always been surrounded my computers and technology since I was a kid.  But truly, nothing prepared me for what was coming my way and how educational apps and technology flipped my classroom and instruction.

At first, I must admit, I was skeptical and resistant.  I was taught the traditional methods and in a traditional school setting for a long time.  My students did wonderful, and I knew that when I sent them off to the next grade, I had done my best to prepare them the best I could. Furthermore, isn't perfecting fine motor skills and building stamina to write with paper and pencil important anymore in the 21st Century? 

And so I did some deep teacher-soul digging into what kind of students I want to prepare for this century and what kind of students and citizens I want my OWN children to be when they start school? The more I thought about my methods, the more I knew that embracing both the traditional and 21st Century methods of teaching was the way and only way to go.

Slowly I began using various apps to enhance my students' learning and understanding.  I also found how feasible, time-saving, and easy it was for me as a teacher to share assignments and activities with my students and how interactive it can be for them!

My students were still learning those core concepts along with the mandatory standards, yet the thinking was deeper, the understanding was widened, and the connections were more meaningful than I had ever seen in the primary grades. From integrating videos and links into documents to allowing students to digitally praise and give constructive feedback to each other's work, my classroom truly became a community of learners immersed a new digital world.

Furthermore, the engagement was clearly visible and the learning became more personal as students were given more options and opportunities to personalize their own learning and understanding.

Once I saw the benefits of a digital classroom, I began creating digital notebooks to enhance my students' learning.  The first time I showed my students our first digital notebook, they were so incredibly excited and could not wait to get started.  I watched them as we went through the lessons together and saw how well they connected to the learning and proud of their own work.

As an educator, I will always find value and appreciation in traditional methods of teaching.  However, going digital has allowed me to transform my teaching style to best fit my students' needs, and that is the greatest reward of all.

Here's an example of how students are able to respond digitally.

If you would like a list of FREE Apps that I use in my classroom. Click to the apple image.

If you are interested in Interactive Digital Notebooks that are perfect for the primary classroom, feel free to check out my Memorial Day Interactive Digital Notebook FREEBIE below!

Additional Interactive Digital Notebooks:



Sunday, February 5, 2017

How to Make Your Classroom Valentine's Day Party Fun & Stress-Free

As students are getting back into the swing of things after a long winter break, it seems that February, while the shortest month of the year, feels like the longggest month for teachers.  Am I right or am I right?! :)

Every year when February rolls around, my calendar fills up so quickly with activities, events, meetings, and deadlines at school, that I am constantly checking and double checking just to stay afloat.

But again, it's February, and it's one of the more magical time of the year in the primary classroom, especially for the little ones!  Who can forget making your own Valentine box/bag and passing out and receiving Valentine cards from your friends in elementary school?  I definitely love those memories and love them even more now that I can make those sweet memories with my sweet students!

While February brings so much fun and excitement, it can also come with a lot of stress in planning and organizing your classroom Valentine party.  Here are some tips to help make it so stress-free and fun that you will definitely LOVE!!! :)

1. Send Out Your Valentine Party Note Early
Once the time and date are settled with your administrators, notify parents right away along with the class roster.  Stores can start setting up their Valentine's Day displays and goodies as early as the beginning of January.  Save yourself from responding to multiple emails inquiring information about the Valentine party by being proactive and sending it out early.  The kids are excited to buy their Valentine cards and will appreciate the ample time they have to choose the perfect set!

2. Enlist Help from Your Room Mom or Parent Volunteers
This year I have been blessed to have such wonderful mom volunteers who buy decorations, schedule a time after school, and decorate my classroom for me without my having to be there. I know, right?!  :) They have saved me so much time, and I am so appreciative of their help.  May it be classroom decorations, door decorations, or donating items for the party, having parent volunteers is a BIG plus and will save you so much time.

3. Vote on a Design and Create Your Valentine Bag or Box Together as a Class
Yes, students love making their own Valentine boxes or bags at home to bring in. However, I have always had my students vote on a design and create it together in the classroom.  Not only is it fun for them, but I know for sure that everyone will have and come home with a Valentine bag full of memories and cards.

4. Have an Extra Box of Valentine Cards in Your Classroom, Just in Case  
Thank goodness it doesn't happen often, but once every two or three years, a student of mine would not have Valentine cards to pass out.  Having an extra box at hand instantly brightens up that one student's day and will make your teacher heart so full and happy!

5. Plan on Doing a Simple Game or Activity
Since passing out Valentine cards can take the majority of the time especially in Kindergarten and first grade classes, a simple activity such as decorating a heart-shaped cookie with candy and frosting or playing Valentine Bingo will simply do the trick and bring on smiles!

If you need some Valentine resources, click to the images below.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Chinese New Year: Classroom Ideas & More

One of the units that I personally enjoy teaching is Chinese New Year or Tet as it is known to the Vietnamese community.  I love teaching about Tet because it takes me back to when I was a child and brings back all the wonderful and festive memories that I had with my family growing up. 

Besides Christmas, Tet was one of the most exciting times of the year for our family.  We always began by cleaning up our house to let go of all the previous year's bad luck, preparing for the incoming New Year with spring flowers and bright colored decorations to call on good luck, and tidying up our family shrine which purpose is to honor our ancestors and call on them to pray and bless our family for the New Year.

In addition, we attended Dragon Dances which are often done in shopping centers, restaurants, and places of worship, including our local church.  We would also dress up in our traditional long dresses, wish our elders good wishes for the New Year, receive lucky money, and enjoy traditional snacks and rice cakes.

If you are interested in integrating some cultural fun and celebrate Chinese New Year with your students as well, here are some ideas!

Tidy Up the Classroom to Bring in Good Luck
Encourage students to help you clean out the classroom by starting with their personal learning space and belongings (desk, cubby, backpacks, pencil boxes, learning centers, etc.).  Enlist students to straighten up books from library center, pick up trash around the classroom, etc..  

Decorate the Classroom with Bright Colors
Red is best known as the color of good luck in Asian traditions.  However, any bright colors would definitely help make your classroom more festive and fun!  Use bright colored construction paper to make lanterns or create cherry blossoms or flowers to place around the classroom!

Create Your Own Dragon Dance in the Classroom
Show students some drawings of dragons and have them draw and decorate only the head and tail of their dragon.  Use glitter, feathers, sequence, the gambit.  Connect the head of the dragon with tail but cutting and folding a strip of construction paper like an accordion.  Tape or glue a large popsicle stick to the head and another to its tail. Search and play Dragon Dance music on the internet and have your students parade around the classroom with their own dragons!

Wish the Teacher and Get Lucky Money
This activity can easily be tied in with English/Language Arts as students are encouraged to write a short note to their teacher to wish him/her a happy and prosperous New Year in exchange for LUCKY MONEY!!!  Well, actually.... gold chocolate coins inside red envelops are more like it! :)  I promise you, your kids will love you so much for this! 

Enjoy Some Traditional New Year Snacks Together 
Asian markets are filled with traditional New Year snacks and rice cakes during the weeks leading to Chinese New Year.  If students are not allowed to consume the food products according to your district policies, they would still love seeing some of them in person or seeing pictures of them.

There are many more wonderful ways to teach and celebrate of Chinese New Year! No matter how you celebrate it, I hope you have a wonderful and prosperous New Year with your family!

If you are interested in additional resources, feel free to click to resource below. 

This extensive 34-page packet that includes facts and interactive activities! With printables, vocabulary cards, colorful signs, graphic organizers, a Chinese Zodiac Calendar and bookmarks, and an interactive game with game mats and dice templates, students will be greatly informed and thoroughly engaged the entire unit!

-Chinese New Year Reading Comprehension
-3 Colorful Signs with Clipart and Real Photographs and Explanation of Chinese New Year
-Chinese New Year (Is, Can, and Will) Graphic Organizer
-Chinese New Year Fact Sheet Graphic Organizer
-I Can Celebrate Chinese New Year Writing Template
-KWL Chinese New Year Graphic Organizer
-Chinese New Year Circle Map
-Lucky Money Envelop Template
-BME Story Template
-Chinese Zodiac Calendar
-14 Pages of Chinese Zodiac Bookmarks (Full Page of Each Zodiac & 2 Pages of Entire 12 Zodiacs Together)
-12 Vocabulary Cards
-Chinese Zodiac Dice & Game Mats 

Other Resources That You May Be Interested In:

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Santas Around the World

December is one of the most fun times for me as a primary school teacher.  With so many holiday symbols and themes that can be incorporated into the core subjects, it is truly the most magical time of the year in the classroom!

One of my favorite holiday lessons is teaching Christmas Around the World.  A couple years back, my first grade team and I were brainstorming of teaching and celebrating Christmas Around the World but with a different twist.  We loved having the kids rotate from class to class to learn how different countries celebrate Christmas, but we wanted it to be more relevant and relatable to the kids. Thus, I thought..."What about Santas Around the World?!"

Instead of focusing on Christmas traditions, we would focus on the story of Santa Claus around the World and how he brings joy to children on Christmas! The idea lit my imagination like fire, and I began researching like a mad-teacher. :)

The end result was simply magical!  The students had a wonderful time and were so incredibly engaged, excited, and much more knowledgeable of all the different traditions that make Santa Claus who he is globally.

Below are some facts that I found on Santas Around the World.

Santa in the USA- Santa Claus as he mostly commonly referred to in the States is jolly and generous. He travels in his sleigh on Christmas Eve's night to deliver toys to kids all the around the world with the help of his reindeer.

Santa in Italy- In Italy, La Befuna is a kind witch who travels on a broomstick and delivers gifts to children on January 5th.

Santa in the Netherlands- Santa is referred to as Sinterklaas, rides in a white horse, and delivers toys to children with his helper.

Santa in France- Santa is France is known as St. Nicholas.  He travels with his friend Pere Fouettard.  St. Nicholas leaves toys for children in their shoes by the fire while his friend, Pere Fouettard, spanks children who have been naughty.  (Ouch!)

Santa in Germany- Also known as St. Nicholas, Santa in Germany places gifts and sweets for children in their boots placed outside their door on the evening of December 5th.

Santa in Sweden- A little man known as tomte with a long white beard brings gifts to families as they show their appreciation by leaving out a small bowl of porridge for him.

Santa in Australia- Similar to Santa in the USA, Santa in Australia also places gifts in children's stockings hung by the fireplace and gifts under their trees.  He just does everything except wearing flipflops, since it's summertime in Australia during Christmas.

If you need additional resources on Santas Around the World, feel free to click to the image below.  The resource includes colorful and engaging informational signs and an interactive student booklet.

Additional Resources:


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