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Sunday, August 6, 2017

A DIY Unicorn Birthday Party

Recently, we celebrated my daughter's second birthday, and of course, I HAD to throw her a Unicorn-themed birthday party!  What other way could we have celebrated how magical she is than to throw her a party that matches her personality?! :)

Well, since I am a Do-It-Yourself kind of gal, I was up to the task to do just that but also on a budget!

First, to decorate her high-chair, I simply cut pink streamers to size, folded them in half, cut slits to the make the tassels, and then twisted the halves on a long string of white yarn. Once all the tassels were made, I taped the entire string onto the tray.  I then added some pink, white, and aqua blue balloons and streamers onto the wall to give a little POP of color!

For her cake table, I decorated the background with matching yellow, pink, and aqua streamers in alternating heights.  The easiest way to hang streamers that I have found, is to tape them beforehand on a long piece of clear tape.  Once it's complete, hang the entire strand to its designated spot.  It's SUPER easy to put up and SUPER easy to take down! I also added a white and gold glitter banner to the background as an accent.  I also added to the cake table some unicorn paper straws, party hats, unicorn chocolate bark, cupcakes, small marshmallows drizzled in unicorn chocolate, balloons, and a simple cake.  The banner in the front of the table fit perfectly with our theme and made her day even more special!

To make the Unicorn Bark, I melted pink, blue, white, and purple chocolate together in a microwave on a tray low heat. I then mixed the colors together then sprinkled sprinkles on top, left it out to cool and harden, broke the large piece into chunks, and then TAH-DAH!

To make the unicorn marshmallows, I saved a small batch of unicorn chocolate and poured into a small Ziplock bag. I then cut a small hole in the corner with the bag tightly closed, then I carefully squeezed the chocolate over the small marshmallows and added sprinkles on the top.

These adorable party hats and paper straws from Target with some pink lemonade were easy and super fun touches!  And of course, rainbow cupcakes and cake to top it all off!

Well, our little unicorn had a blast and loved all her decorations! I think daddy was a little tired in the end (notice him lying in the background), but it was ALL worth it!!! 

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Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Dear New Teachers: An Open Letter to New & New-ish Teachers Starting Out

11 years ago, when I was hired 15 minutes before Meet-the-Teacher Night, I was overcome with excitement and honestly, pure terror. The teacher, who was assigned to my classroom had decorated it with the cutest decorations and sent out postcards to the kids to introduce herself, decided that she wanted to transfer back to her previous school that morning. And so, I walked into a fully decorated classroom and met students who thought I was someone else.

The night actually turned out great and my excitement helped calm my nerves. It was only until the next day that it hit me. My classroom was completely EMPTY except for the furniture, the mandatory school signs, and the name plates that were left behind. 

Everything that I had bought and saved up from the Teacher Section at Dollar Tree was in a big plastic bag and that was it.

Teachers from across grade levels at my school then began dropping off decorations at my door, and I happily and gratefully hung them on my walls. No specific theme, just whatever that worked to help run an organized classroom.

Those were the days of NO PINTEREST, NO FACEBOOK GROUPS, and NO INSTAGRAM. There were few teacher blogs around, and seriously I didn't even know of them because I had not even of such a thing until much much later (silly me). But with the limited digital and instant source of ideas at my fingertips, I didn't really feel pressure one way or another my first year of teaching to buy or have much.

My classroom was decorated, but according to today's standards, it was pretty empty and plain. However, I had one of the most memorable years in that classroom with my students and wouldn't change it for the world! 

For new teachers today, it's different. Way different. And I get it. While it's inspiring and exciting to see so many ideas for your classroom, it can literally be OVERWHELMING! Everywhere you look, the bar for teaching has risen so high with so much talent, creativity, and innovation, that you can't help but to question your own talent and creativity. I know, because even after all these years I still doubt and question my own ability. 

But, what I want you to know is that you are ENOUGH. Yes. YOU ARE ENOUGH. 

Beautiful decorations are nice to have. Bright colored bins are pretty and eye-catching. Laminated colorful supply labels make your classroom very organized. But none of that can replace a GOOD teacher. To get to this point in your life, you have had to complete hours of observations in the classroom, hours of volunteer work with children, passed amazingly hard college and state exams, and jumped over unbelievable hurdles to receive your own classroom. You GOT this. You are ENOUGH.

Don't feel overwhelmed and intimidated with what's out on only display on social media. Know that what is posted on teacher accounts and profiles mostly relate and pertain to ideas and resources for all teachers because they are afterall, teaching accounts. You do not have to have all those things to be a GREAT teacher. 

You just have to do the best you can everyday with your own students. That is the most important thing of all!

So don't feel intimidated or pressured in anyway. You GOT THIS. You really do.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

5 Things to Do Before the First Day of School

So the countdown to the first day of school has begun for many teachers.  As more and more things are added to our long list of things to do, it is important to prioritize all the tasks at hand and go down the list one by one.  I am guilty of having a million imperative things to do and then finding myself in the corner of my classroom rearranging the pillows at the Library Center.  Yup, that's me! Guilty as charged.  :)

So to keep me focused, I have come up with 5 Things to Do Before the First Day of School so that everything will go as smoothly as possible, which of course does not include me remembering to grab my lunch from the kitchen counter before dashing out the door. :)

1. Have your plans and class schedule ready. Yes, it sounds counter-intuitive, but after spending hours getting your classroom ready and meeting your students at Meet-the-Teacher Night, you need to have your class schedule set and all the plans with any print-outs to go along with the first day and the first week of school ready on your desk. Display the classroom schedule on the board or somewhere students can easily find and follow along.  This is especially important toward the end of the day when it is dismissal.  Going over and practicing how students will be dismissed will definitely make your first day much smoother and less stressful.  Being organized and prepared will help set the stage for the rest of the year.

2. Designate different learning areas in your classroom.  Part of setting up your classroom is having different learning areas for students.  Do you have an area for reading, Word Work, writing, computer, math, STEM, etc.?  Are you doing Flexible Seating? What are the expectations for those areas?  The more defined the areas are, the more helpful it is for the flow of the classroom and for students to learn the expectations of how to work and learn in your classroom.

3. Establish a system on how to organize your classroom supplies and let your students know. Having a place where supplies are stored or a designated area for students to get and replenish their supplies later on will help with classroom management.  During the first week of school, I always go over where our classroom supplies are and the process of getting them.  For instance, construction paper is separated by color and is stacked on the open shelf in my classroom.  Also, there are two buckets for sharp and dull pencils by my pencil sharpener.  When students need to sharpen their pencils, they simply leave their pencils in the bucket and get a new one.

4. Have a behavior incentive system ready.  No matter if you are doing a clip chart or brag tags.  Having an incentive system so that students can be recognized for their good choices and be held accountable is imperative in a positive and productive classroom. In the past, I have done clip charts, tickets for Treasure Chest prizes, and punch cards.  They have all been effective and helpful in encouraging good choices.  Whatever you decide to use, make sure that you explain it thoroughly to your students and parents, be faithful to it, and have your prizes ready (little toys, coupons, etc.).  However, if you need to change it up in the middle of the year or so, do so!  You know what's best for your class.  Just make sure you go over with your students and their parents as well.

5.  Label individual student areas.  Have name tags ready for where students will place their own personal belongings.  Will they have their own cubby or hook to hang their jacket and backpack or assigned desk?  Young students like having their own personal spaces in the classroom.  It helps them keep track of their own belongings and feel belonged in the classroom.

It's hard to believe that with a blink of an eye, summer will be over soon.  But your new students have been waiting all summer to meet and get to know you!  They are so excited and know that it's going to be their BEST year with you as their teacher! :)

Below are some resources that are great for Back-to-School!

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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!

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