Sunday, December 29, 2013

2014 Resolutions

I can't believe it's almost the New Year (goodness, it seems like my students just got used to saying the year is 2013!). Jessica from First Grade Nest is hosting a linky all about our New Year Resolutions, so I'm joining in!
Okay, I'll expand on some of those:

My first resolution - work out at least 4 days per week. I did pretty well with this during the first part of 2013 but it petered out and I'd like to get going with the workouts again. I really want to be healthier and lose some weight and working out regularly will be a big part of this.

My second resolution - make a cleaning schedule and stick to it. I am a real procrastinator, and my house suffers for it. I tend to leave everything for all at once, and then get overwhelmed. I have been looking for a system for a while, and I discovered the "Daily Planner (My Personal Assistant)" from Amy Bayliss' blog (scroll down for the free, editable download!). I'm excited about personalizing it for myself and trying it out.

My third resolution - blog at least 2 times per week. I do consider this a professional goal, since blogging has completely changed (for the better!) my teaching. It keeps me accountable and also gives me so many great ideas. Blogging also includes creating products for my classroom and TPT.

My fourth resolution - finish my basement remodel. I started this last winter - making my unfinished basement into a completely finished area with a laundry room, workout area, and most importantly - a customized teacher work area! It is complete except for blinds on the window (I hate the fishbowl feeling especially when working down there at night) and carpeting. My dog is afraid of the bare wood stairs, so carpeting the space - especially the stairs - is essential. I can't wait to finish the space, organize it, and be able to do all my school work/creating/blogging down there! I'll be sure to share photos when I'm done.

My fifth resolution - learn to knit or crochet. This is always been something I've wanted to learn, but now that I'm going to be an aunt for the first time come May, I'm itching to create some baby blankets or something! I actually picked up some practice yarn and a crochet hook (I hear crocheting is easier to learn than knitting) this weekend and am looking up youtube instructional videos. I'm very uncoordinated, so wish me luck!

Now for some goals that aren't on my official resolution list:

Be a great cooperating teacher. I am going to have my first student teacher starting in February, and I'm looking forward to the experience. I met her already last week, and she seems pretty fabulous and excited about working with my particular population of students. I am really hoping to provide her a fantastic experience in my classroom - and also learning from her! "Letting go" of my classroom for a while is going to be my biggest struggle...I am a bit of a control freak when it comes to my class (haha).

I'd love to explore more of the places Michigan has to offer, especially during the fall and summer. I live here, and don't take advantage of it like I should. Beaches, hiking trails, camping etc...Now that I have my dog, too, I want to find dog-friendly, in-state vacationing spots. I know there are a lot of places I could take great long weekends close by!

I love food and love cooking. I love finding new recipes to try! I'm generally very willing to try any food (except meat; I'm vegetarian) but I'd love to find more ways to enjoy quinoa.

My weakness is salty foods - specifically, chips. I want to give up having a snack of chips/salsa or something similar every night! Replacing it with something would be okay with me - I just want to be healthier when I snack.

I want to take more photos - especially in the classroom! I used to be much better at taking pictures of whatever we're doing in class. Not only do the parents love it when I give out a pack of photos of their kids at conference time, but it's a great informal way to keep records for myself, as well as a way to keep track of what we have and haven't done in class...which is especially helpful when I have my students for several years in a row! Not to mention, it helps with that whole blogging resolution thing :)

You can link up with your own resolutions and goals here:

Friday, December 27, 2013

Parent Gifts 2013

I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas! I think I'm really a fan of this year's Christmas break schedule, when we only begin break a couple days prior to the holiday - and therefore still have an entire week, plus, of break to go!

I'm sure my students loved giving their parents their presents this year, too. Each year, since I have the same students for several years at a time, it's always a challenge to find holiday gifts for my kids to make for their parents that they haven't made before, are age-appropriate, and that they can participate in creating. Last year, I had pinned these amazing tiles from Christina Bainbridge and knew they'd work great for my kiddos this year.

I loved Christina's "you light up my life" coasters! For ours, I found 4" white ceramic tiles at Home Depot for a whopping 13 cents apiece! Staff wrote the text and drew the black line with Sharpie. The kids chose their paint colors and used their fingerprints to make the lights. We did discover our classroom tempra paints flaked off the ceramic tiles when dried, so we had to figure another technique out. We found out that baby wipes cleaned off the tiles perfectly - even the Sharpie - so we could have another try. We ended up cutting pieces of white construction paper, had the kids recreate their light strands, and then Mod Podged the completed paper to their tiles. We finished with a covering of Mod Podge and then a spray of an acrylic sealer for extra protection. I also put mini adhesive furniture pads on each of the four corners of the back of each tile so the coasters would not scratch furniture at home.
Here are some of the construction paper light strands before we put them on the tiles. I can't believe I forgot to take photos of the completed coasters - they turned out great! Please excuse my messy attempt at blacking out my students' names - the bottom right corners of their coasters say "♥, [name] 2013"

We also had taken photos of the kids at our local garden/sculpture park's holiday tree display, so we decided to make those photos into a second coaster for parents, as well. The kids cut their photos out with craft/shaped scissors and we Mod Podged/sealed as we did the light strands:

I'm sure the parents loved receiving these special gifts for the holidays - the kids were sure excited to wrap and bring them home! Several were going to insist their parents wait to open their gifts until Christmas morning :)

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Remember. Heal. Act.

As educators, we remember and honor our fallen colleagues and their students from Sandy Hook School. We honor them each day in our classrooms in which we continue their dream of teaching our children. We honor their memory with our service. Join with teachers everywhere in committing random acts of kindness to show our love for Sandy Hook.

Tasty "Tuesday," Jury Duty Edition

I had jury duty at the beginning of this week (actually got selected for a case, which was interesting to say the least!) and an all-day training at our ISD on Thursday, so I was in school for a grand total of one day this week. Jury duty was actually a mostly positive experience (very glad I did not get selected for one of the more major cases they were trying this week - a murder case and a rape case were up for jury selection, neither of which I would have wanted to be a part of), though sub plans for 4 out of 5 days, two weeks before Christmas break, was less than ideal! We have lots to do in the coming week!

This week, my class studied Kwanzaa. Last week for Hanukkah, we made latkes. This week Tuesday, they made sweet potato pie. This recipe is one we used last year, so I know it's fantastic! Many of my students last year had never had sweet potato pie, and many enjoyed it. They enjoyed it this year, too - I snuck some leftover pie yesterday, and it sure turned out great.

Below is the visual recipe they used:

We have studied Hanukkah and Kwanzaa for the past two weeks; this coming week we will focus on Christmas. We aren't going to do a Tasty Tuesday cooking class, as we will be too busy with other holiday preparations. We are going to our local botanical gardens and sculpture park on Monday to view their "Holiday Traditions Around the World" exhibit on Monday. We need to make our parent holiday gifts, set up and decorate our Christmas tree, make cards for our sister school buddies, wrap parent gifts, and have our class gift exchange. Whew! I'm tired already.

Full report to come on our week of Christmas study/celebration...Right now, I need to venture out into the snow to do my own Christmas shopping. I'm sure it's going to be crazy busy this weekend. Hope other people are full of the holiday spirit and not impatience and grumpiness!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Hanukkah, and December Currently!

In December, we study winter holidays - specifically, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and Christmas. Since there are three weeks of school this month, this works out pretty well to give us one week for each holiday. This week we are studying Hanukkah. We are reading I Have a Little Dreidel by Maxie Baum during circle time this week to supplement our curriculum text, playing the dreidel game during leisure time, and tomorrow we will be making latkes during cooking class.

We were meant to have art class today, but our art teacher was out and had no sub (which we didn't discover until we were in the art room at our scheduled time and there was no teacher!)...enter an on-the-fly art project that turned out rather well, if I do say so myself!
Using our curriculum text, "I Have a Little Dreidel," and some google images, we looked at a few examples of menorahs. We talked about how they all have nine candles, and also how an important color for Hanukkah is blue (it's hard to tell from this photo for some reason, but the menorah and candles are light blue).

We used this as a following-directions activity as well as an activity to practice cutting skills. Students were each given a piece of black construction paper, and a piece of light blue paper. They were instructed to cut a strip of blue paper from the "long side," then snip a short piece off the end of this strip. They glued the long piece and the snipped piece to their paper to form the base and stand for their menorah.

Then, they were instructed to cut 5 strips from the "short side" of their blue paper, and then cut each short strip in half. They now had 10 short strips. Since menorahs only have 9 candles, they were to count out 9 short strips and glue them onto their menorah (the leftover one was recycled). Finally, they dipped a finger into yellow paint to make the candle flames.

Worked pretty well for an unplanned, off-the-cuff activity when our schedule unexpectedly changed! I may have the students extend this activity later in the week by selecting and adding some icons that have to do with Hanukkah/symbolism of the menorah to their projects. And in fact, we might just do something very similar with the kinara when we study Kwanzaa next week!

Now, one of my favorites each month - Currently!
Listening - While I steadfastly avoid Christmas music before Thanksgiving, the day after I'm all over it!

Loving - My brother and sister-in-law finally announced to the extended family over the holiday that they're expecting! I've known since mid-October so it's been a hard secret to keep! I'm so excited to be an aunt for the first time - though I'm a surrogate aunt to my cousin's kids, this is the "real deal" and I couldn't be happier!

Thinking - I'm going to have my first-ever student teacher beginning in February. I'm kind of a control freak about my classroom, so I'm kind of nervous about the whole "giving the classroom up" part of it! Any suggestions and/or advice from those who have had student teachers before is very welcome!

Wanting - House cleaning is not my favorite - at all...Especially vacuuming. I will do laundry all day long, but I can't stand vacuuming. Would love someone to do it for me!

Needing - I don't have tons of Christmas shopping to do, but I hate leaving it for last minute! I need to get started!

Favorite Tradition - Ever since I was little, my family has had two Christmas morning breakfasts: one early, when we first get up, is a buffet-type casual thing with coffee cake and fruit. Then we open gifts...and then have a second breakfast of my mom's amazing French toast! Needless to say, we do not eat lunch (and have a very late dinner) on Christmas! Love our breakfasts. We have continued this tradition even now everyone is grown...just wouldn't be Christmas without them!

Go link up with Farley for your own Currently:

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Cyber Monday & Tuesday...and some new products!

Happy December! I hope everyone had wonderful Thanksgivings!

My TPT wish list is primed for the big Cyber Monday and Tuesday sale...how about yours? My store will be 20% off during the sale, so be sure to stop by (and don't forget to use the code CYBER at checkout for a total of 28% off!). Click the sale image below to go to my store:

Here are a few new products I have ready for the sale (click images to go to the products):

Literature Study Packet for "Mercy Watson Fights Crime" by Kate DiCamillo. My students love Mercy Watson! This is another fun adventure in the same style as my other literature study packets.

"Mercy Watson Fights Crime" has been added to my Beginning Chapter Books Literature Study Packet Bundle, so if you own the bundle, make sure you go do your "my purchases" tab and download the updated file at no additional cost...And if you don't already own the bundle, the sale would be a great time to snag it!

Visual Recipe - Turkey Pretzel Treats...I neglected to post this for Tasty Tuesday this week, but this was a fun Thanksgiving recipe we made using our new visual recipe format! Thanksgiving may be over for this year, but it's not too late to snag it to keep on hand for next year!

Visual Recipe - Latkes...Stay tuned for this week's Tasty Tuesday which will feature this recipe! Great for Hanukkah studies or celebrations!


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