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Tardy to the Halloween Party! {updated freebie}

Oh, this little blog of mine has been woefully neglected lately. I think it's partly because I tend to put off writing a post until I have some grand idea with a billion artfully staged pictures. And then that never happens and then way too much time passes between blog posts. So a great idea that someone might like never even gets posted at all. Well, I'm hoping to change that a bit. I don't teach in a Pinterest-perfect classroom, so to hold off posting until it looks like I do is a little crazy, right?

I've actually been giving myself a lot of slack lately. In the past if something bubbled during lamination, was cut crooked, or wasn't "just so", I'd find myself re-doing it. I would laminate everything. Like EVERY. THING. It's like I was protecting all my classroom materials from some infectious disease. Ok, I know I work with little walking germ factories, but was the lamination going to save us from doom? Nope. Maybe everything didn't need a shrink wrap haz-mat suit after all. So if it's something I'm using once, like a scoot game, scavenger hunt, pocket chart activity, or bulletin board title, it gets a lamination pass. It feels a little naughty at first. A little wrong. You know what else it feels like?  It feels like freedom, people! It feels like time saved. It feels smart.  And I can definitely use my materials again next year, even without the lamination. But the way things change in this profession, I keep finding that I what I use from year to year changes anyway! {But that's a whole 'nother post}

I'm hoping from this point on to post a little more frequently. Maybe a little more imperfectly. Which may turn out to be a little more honestly. So, who wants to join me in celebration of imperfection? Let's just be real, right? <end rant/step off soapbox>

Moving on...

In the "just in the nick of time" category, I updated my free jack o'lantern glyph with a little writing extension and it came out so cute! We are paired up with a 5th grade class for book buddies. Once a month we meet, read a little, and usually complete some type of activity together. This month we used the glyph and it was perfect. The fifth graders helped my kids make the glyph and then guided them through writing a little Halloween autobiography.



At the time, we just wrote on index cards, which was fine. But then we ended up leaving our projects with our buddies to hang in their hallway, which bummed out my kids a little. Honestly, it bummed me out too because it had a naked bulletin board that was the perfect spot to hang them!

So, the next day, I had my kids make the glyph again. It was a much faster experience this time because they had a little practice. Just to change it up a little, I tweaked the objects on the glyph a bit and I added a writing extension page.  This time I had the kids switch glyphs and write about each other using the glyph as a guide. Then we mounted it on black paper. Super cute!



I know it's getting down to the wire for Halloween projects, but this is something that can easily be done in one day. Or in my case, once a day for two days! lol! Get the glyph with the writing extension for free here!

We also finished up our storybook pumpkin character based on Crazy Hair Day. I think he came out awesome! My room moms painted the pumpkin head and then each kid got a popsicle stick and some pipe cleaners, feathers, markers, and other random craft objects. Then the moms helped give the pumpkin some hair implants. One talented mom made the body for us. I love him!


We're almost at the end of Halloween week. Hang tight my friends and say a prayer of thankfulness that Halloween is on a FRIDAY! Yahoo!

Fun Morning Messages!


If you follow me on Instagram, you've seen my orange board messages and I've promised a blog post about it forever - so here it is! A while ago I saw this little table top easel at Hobby Lobby and had to have it. I had no idea what I was going to do with it at the time, but I knew I had to have it. Needless to say, it sat unused for a few months until I had the "Bright Idea" to use it as a quick and easy way to welcome my kids to school!

Our kids line up in the hallway before school. We have books for them to read and they can chit chat while they're waiting to come in and now the orange board gives them something meaningful to discuss! They really look forward to it every day. I have forgotten to change the message twice so far this year, and man did I hear about it! I also have teachers and other kids stopping in to ask the answer, too! It's been a fun conversation starter.

Ok - here are the questions I get asked most often about the board:

Where/How do I display the board?
I tuck the legs into a plastic pocket that is mounted outside my classroom door. {We used to use it for attendance, but now there's no real use for it. Perfect for my Orange Board!}

What do I use to write on the board?
I use Bistro Liquid Chalk markers. You can see them here. I spray the board with Expo spray and wipe it down with paper towels and it's ready for the next day!

Where do I get the messages?
I usually Google "kids trivia", "fun facts for kids", "jokes for kids" and see what pops up. Now that I've been doing it for a while, I try to make the question relate to something we've learned about or discussed recently. 

When do I discuss the answer?
Well, I used to do it as they were walking in, but those first few minutes of the day are SO crazy. Now I keep them in suspense for a while! On the way back from lunch, we pause for a minute in front of the door and discuss the question. This also gives them some time to look it up if they want to before we talk about it as a class. It only takes a minute or two and they really look forward to it!

What do I call it?
Um, honestly, we call it "The Orange Board" lol! I intended to call it something really cute and fun, but I started calling it Orange Board and it just kind of stuck. Even now that I'm using the cute little owl board for October, we still call it The Orange Board!


It's brought a lot of fun discussion to our class. If you give it a try, let me know how it goes!





Check out all of the other bright ideas in the links below!

October Math Mats - No cutting or laminating necessary!

I was trying to create some math task cards for the month and I kept thinking about how I was going to have to  laminate and cut all of them before I could use them. Then I thought - well,  maybe I won't cut them apart. Then I took it a step further and and decided to make all of the questions on that card relate in some way... soon after that my Math Task Mats were born!



Each card has four tasks on it and all four tasks focus on the number or numbers in the circle. I also wanted these cards to reflect what I'm currently teaching or have already taught. We're just finishing number sense, place value, forms of number, and basic operations. In looking for centers for October, so many included skills I'm just not ready for them to work on independently yet, like time, money, and measurement. I was also very careful not to include any graphics that might make it questionable for you to use in your classroom, like ghosts or witches. The colors are definitely Halloweeny though, so they bring a touch of holiday fun to your room.


To introduce the activity, I showed the cards on Smartboard and we did a few together.


Then I set them free to explore the cards. I put two cards on each table and they roamed the room and worked on the various tasks while I circulated to assist as necessary. I overheard lots of great math talk and I loved hearing them try to explain the tasks to each other when someone needed a little clarification.
I also made very specific recording sheets, so if they had to write a set of related facts, the spaces were already there for them. Short answers had small boxes, longer answers had bigger spaces. I also included a full answer key. It makes it easier for you of course, but you can also use it to let the kids check their own work because it's in the same format as their recording sheets.


These cards have so many uses - they're great for a write the room type activity, but would be great in a small math group, as morning work, for your fast finishers, or even a formative assessment. You can use them as enrichment or remediation too, depending on the needs and level of your kids. For me, they were a great formative assessment. From this one activity, I was able to see that we totally know forms of numbers, fact families, and place value. Surprisingly, we need some review on tally marks (really??) and questions like "what is the sum of the digits in the circle."

The best part is that I printed them and had them in my kids' hands immediately. You can even skip the laminating and just slip them in a page protector. Honestly you can even leave them naked since the kids won't really be handling them all that much.

I've also completed a first grade version for October and I'm already working on next month's set and also standard specific versions, like money and time. I just fell in love with the concept and ease of implementation. I hope you will too!


Math in Pictures, Products, and Freebies

Math in my room this year has been interesting. Mostly because I don't actually have a math book. We're going into our seventh week and they've been on backorder since school started. It's really ok though. I like the freedom of not having the book. I do miss it at times because, let's face it,  it's a LOT easier to use the book to drive your instruction than having to search for and prep the most appropriate, relevant, and meaningful activities. But, no one ever promised us this job would be easy, right?

I've been making sure to cover the same skills as the rest of my team, but I have to say, it's been a lot more fun than ever before. Thankfully, I've had my own resources to fall back on. Our text starts out with place value and forms of numbers. I'm HUGE on teaching my kids how to draw "quick pictures" to represent base ten blocks because they're asked to do it so often. You would think that would be an easy task, but nope. We had all kinds of weird ways to draw the base ten blocks! I  swore I took pix, I guess I didn't. We really seemed to be having some difficulty with it, so I created an extra practice page, and we finally got on the right track. Here's the practice sheet if your kids could use some help, too.

Without a book, other visuals became essential so my kids could actually see what I was talking about. Luckily, I had the anchor charts that I made for my Place Value and Base Ten Resources pack, so those helped a ton. 
We had some time for a little hands on fun too since I wasn't rushing through to finish the pages in the book.  We made the Any Way You Slice it Apple project, which you can read more about in this blog post from a few years ago. This year, we glued them onto black paper plates and they made a great bulletin board display for open house.



Here's a little apple I made for the title of that board. You can snag it here, if you like.

Shortly after I hung them up, my fabulous teaching partner/neighbor/friend remembered that I made another version of that activity last year! So she did that one. It's a freebie in my tpt shop, you can grab it here.





We played lots of games, which is the BEST way to practice math facts in my opinion. For this one they had to match up the same number in different forms. There are enough cards in one set that four kids can easily play together. It's part of this pack on tpt.

That pack has a lot of other goodies too, including more anchor charts, math journal topic strips, practice pages, and easy to make "show me folders".



We also worked a bit from this pack, but my kids were already doing a pretty good job with skip counting. We just used the pages with the larger numbers for this. Although these anchor charts in the bright colors are my FAVE, so I had to display them for a while anyway.


I was also able to use my Math Assessment pack instead of the chapter tests. Each standard has three assessments, so I was able to use two for homework and saved one for a formative evaluation before moving on.


Did I mention that I don't have social studies or science books yet either? Yeah, good times. 
Never fear, though. It's made me step up my game a little and I'm actually enjoying it. (I just keep telling myself that over and over...)

Bright Idea for Using Extra Math Manipulatives



Two math adoptions in less than 5 years combined with 21 years of teacher hoarding collecting, has left me with an abundance of math manipulatives - especially foam shapes like these:


I seriously contemplated throwing them out or trying to find a place to donate them, when I realized that I could put them to good use. I needed a quick center for my kids to practice adding 10's so instead of making matching cards with each number, then laminating, and cutting them all apart, I wrote the answers on extra foam shapes and I was done in a fraction of the time!



Besides being faster and easier for me, it's also easier for the kids to pick up and use the pieces that have a little depth to them. It's also a lot easier to spot pieces that fall on the floor. Using different colors and shapes for different boards also helps keep things organized. 


If you've got some extra shapes hanging around, give this bright idea a try! {Also works well for bottle caps if you happen to hoard collect those, too}

If you enjoyed this bright idea, please consider joining me on Facebook, Instagram or Pinterest for more great ideas.

For more bright ideas more than 100 different bloggers, please browse through the link-up  below and choose a topic/grade level that interests you. Thanks for visiting!






International Day of Peace Idea

I love that our school always makes a big deal about the International Day of Peace, which will be on September 21 this year.  We've always participated in the Pinwheels for Peace project and have the kids make pinwheels that we plant around the school grounds, which are adorable. You can learn more about that here.


This year we're celebrating a little early, which works out for you if you want to join in! Today all the kids in the school decorated a tag (like these) and wrote their wishes for peace. Then we all went outside and tied our tags to a tree. There was some soft music playing in the background while we tied and then we checked out the tags that were already there.



It was a quick and easy way to take part in Peace Week activities and it was a really meaningful experience for the kids.

Here are some great books to help kids understand the concept of peace, just click on the cover to see them on Amazon:



Peace Out!

Open House Ideas

Whew! We're wrapping up our first month down here in sickeningly hot and humid sunny Florida and I kinda sorta finally feel like maybe I have both feet on the ground. Personally, I had a weird start to the year. I'm always so excited to get in and start working on my room, but between having work done on our house, no AC at school (which in Florida equals sauna times a thousand), and an infected wisdom tooth, the first couple of weeks did NOT go the way I had carefully plotted and planned as I feel asleep every night over the summer.

Maybe you noticed that I didn't have a big "classroom reveal" post. Maybe you didn't, which I totally understand because sometimes I don't even have time to notice that I'm wearing two different colored shoes or that I've been wearing my shirt inside out all day. #truestory



My room didn't really come totally together until about 10 minutes before the parents came in for Open House on Wednesday, and even then it's not exactly what I want but really, the important thing is that we're building a nice little community in our classroom and I love love love love my kids. Like super love. Like I walk around the room and watch them sometimes and I'm almost on the verge of tears when I realize how lucky I am that I get to spend my day with such amazing little kids. I mean, look at them! See those sweet smiles? They're genuinely happy little kids. Which makes me a genuinely happy teacher. These faces are what help me forget the crazy political bureaucratic testing baloney that can threaten to overwhelm most of us on a daily basis.


Here's a little peek of the parts of the room that I did manage to get looking sorta like I pictured. I'll blog a bit more about my room at some point I'm sure. But I do like how our science center is shaping up and I'm really lovin the fact that I got rid of my big honkin teacher desk. Now I just use my horseshoe table and behind that you'll see the two Ikea Kallax bookshelves that I'm using for storage. It's working out really well so far!


Ok, so I promised Open House ideas. Here's what the tables looked like as the parents came in:


That lapbook was something I just stumbled upon on Tpt. You can see it here. Super cute and perfect for open house. The colored strip is for the parents to make a bookmark for their kids. The little poster is from my friend Gina at Beach Sand and Lesson Plans. The kids make a welcome poster telling the parents about school and their classroom and they don't know it, but we have the parents make a version to welcome the kids the next morning! You can see it here on tpt.


Kids Work:

Parent's Work:


And look at these priceless reactions when they saw the little notes from their parents on their desks.

Open House is the first time I put out the Estimation Station jar. Before this, the kids haven't seen it. They really get a kick out of seeing the guesses their parents made. We put their guesses in order from least to greatest and then see whose mom or dad came closest. That student then takes the jar home and fills it for the next week. You can read a lot more about how we use Estimation Station in our classroom every Friday in this blog post and this one which has a few freebies.


So things are slowly coming together in our little corner of the world. The decor in the room may not be picture perfect, but the little people in it sure are!


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