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Other Teacher Feature #2

     Lately, I've felt like a private eye snooping around looking for evidence of great teaching in my school to highlight as my Other Teacher Feature. I never have to go very far. Our school is divided into three distinct sections: the building, the "new" building and the portables (or cottages as a new little one from England referred to them). The "new" building is now about 6 years old, but I suspect it will always be the new building in the same way that I'm still the "baby" of my family at 25+15 years old. (Dang, no matter how I say it, it still equals 40!) But how can I be sad about it when apparently, I still look like a teenager. Sing it, sister!

Thanks Little A, that was the BEST card ever!

     I'm in the "new" building with 15 other teachers and I already have enough material to do an Other Teacher Feature weekly through the summer. Nice, right? If that doesn't give you confidence in your profession, what will? The best part of the Other Teacher Feature is always talking to the "other teacher".  This featured teacher and I have worked together for quite a while in many capacities. We've spent lots of time working with new National Board candidates and we've been on the same team in the past. We've had lots of conversations about lots of things, and the one thing that is always obvious is that she puts the kids first. She has just a few more years to go until retirement and still has envious enthusiasm. Here's what she was up to:

I hear ya, honey.


     Awesome, right? Everyone has been stopping by and taking note of these little gems. Ms. Ot2 explained that her 4th and 5th graders were exploring figurative language, specifically puns. It's amazing that even some of the brightest kids have wild misconceptions about figurative language, like idioms and puns. Having the kids visualize and illustrate the literal version is a great way to show them that they can't possibly mean what they say. Which is very good news for this guy:


Pretty good news for these two as well:


     Even if students don't grasp the concept of each pun, they'll at least get the idea that there is more than meets the eye when it comes to figurative language.


Five finger discounts...never a good idea.


      Ms. Ot2 (Other Teacher #2 <--Is that catching on yet?) was telling me that this whole lesson evolved from an email that our SLP sent to all of us quite a while ago. I vaguely remember the email and may have "accidentally" deleted it, thinking that it was kind of interesting, but really didn't need it clogging up my inbox. I felt a little wave of shame wash over me thinking about how I just flippantly disregarded something that held such promise for a great classroom activity. Doesn't that just prove how much teachers need time to collaborate? Here Ms. Ot2 came up with a fantastic activity from something I didn't even give a second look. One man's trash, I guess.  It's so unfortunate that teacher-to-teacher time nowadays is spent pouring over RtI packets and Data Notebooks...but no use wandering down that road again, right?  Thanks Ms. Ot2 for reminding me that a picture is worth a thousand words. Next time, I'll try to remember that haste makes waste when you have an itchy trigger finger near the delete key. Well, if it's not one thing, it's another. Take time to stop and smell the roses, my friends! Ok, I may be going overboard here, I'll pipe down. I've run of steam anyway. Ba dum dum!

Worth a Mint

     If you've been following me for a few posts, you already know some things about me. I'm a part-time neat freak, I love to write and in the words of  Doug Heffernan, I likes me cookies. <--I actually need to do something about that last one. I'm also a serious crafter. Take a peek at my craft room here.
     I have collected more crafting supplies and materials than I know what to do with. It's a little embarrassing, really. So, when there's an opportunity to use up some of my stash for a good cause, I'm all about it. In this case the cause is honoring our school secretaries and the stash is a slew of empty Altoids tins. My in-laws and my niece go through Altoids like no people I've ever seen and they save the tins for me. I bet if you put a box in the office to collect them, you'd have a bounty in no time as well.
     Here's another little tid-bit you can add to the list of things you know about me: I have a bad habit of raising my hand when someone asks "Would anyone be willing to...fill-in-the-blank?" That explains why out of a staff of 75, I'm the one organizing the gifts for Secretary's Week. It's all good though, I love those ladies (and one guy) and they deserve something nice. Here's what I came up with:
They're pretty AND they smell nice!
  

I collected $5 from each staff member and then divided the booty equally among the 9 clerical staff. I'm not quite sure what to do with the other stuff that also ended up in the collection basket. I must remember to ask who is missing a gold Lincoln $1 coin, a taped together bill that's about a quarter of an inch shorter than most and a Santa Dollar. Too bad it wasn't a Bunny Buck, that would have been good timing, dang it!

If you Google "altered Altoid tins" you will find some amazing stuff. There are crafters who turn those little minty metal boxes into serious works of art. I haven't taken to baking on clay toppers or hand painting them, but I think they look pretty nifty when I'm done with them. 

So, whaddya say? Feeling crafty? If you want to give it a try, here's the way I do it:

First, cut coordinating scrapbook paper to 2 1/8 inch by 3 1/2 inches. I round the edges with a corner rounder punch available for a few dollars at any craft store. Then, I run them through my Xryon machine which basically turns the paper into a sticker. If you do not have one of these magnificent machines, you are going to want to put one on your wish list. They are freakin awesome! I use it for so many things. You can alternate the cartridge inside from permanent to temporary adhesive, laminating film, magnet or laminated magnets. I could do an entire post on my Xy. I will eventually. Lots of bang for your buck with this baby.

Once you have one, you'll wonder  how you lived without it! In the interest of full disclosure, I do not work for the company (but if you are reading this and happen to be the CEO of Xryon, I'm available!)
If you don't have one, you can use spray adhesive or double stick tape. You can use mod-podge too, as recommended by many online, but I have no patience for that. 

Sometimes I use a fine sandpaper block to rough up the edges of the colored part of the tin. It lightens up the color of the band and makes it easier to match a scrapbook paper. You can even completely remove the color all together by sanding it away, which you can see in the masculine one that looks like metal above. Below you can see the difference between the sanded and non-sanded versions. Sanding brings out the shabby chic look:

Stick the scrapbook paper on top and really press down around the edges. Thinner paper sticks better because there is a bit of a ridge on the top of the tin and thicker paper, like card stock, sometimes won't bend enough. It's a little trial and error, but to me that's part of the fun. I also add a little piece of paper to the inside cover just to hide the indented Altoid's title:

You can add little embellishments to the top to brighten them up.  For many of these, I used some rhinestone stickers I picked up from the clearance bin. Bling on the cheap! One package can be cut apart to cover 2-3 tins. I've also made them with initials and ribbon. This is the Creme de Menthe Altoids tin. It's my favorite color to work with, but unfortunately my family's least favorite flavor:
Fun Fact: Reusing something like this in a whole new way is called up-cycling.

     If you're the least bit craft-inclined, you can do this. If you have any questions, I'm happy to help. If you are a crafty teacher like me and would like to see more tutorials like this in the future, leave me a comment and let me know. I've got lots more ideas I'd be happy to share if you'll get some use from them. Stay crafty, my friends! 

Tasty Tuesday

     I'm willing to bet that you've heard more than one kid say, "I don't know what to write about".  Despite compiling lists in writer's notebooks, reading a great model text, brainstorming sessions that take up the whole board and cartwheeling across the classroom with rollerblades on, it's almost inevitable that ONE kid will utter that sentence that makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up. That sentence to which you want to respond, "Are you kidding me right now?", but of course you don't. Well, most of the time you don't.
      I consider myself a good if not better-than-most writing teacher. I've been a National Writing Project trainer, I've given countless inservices to other teachers, I keep current by reading and participating in various forms of teaching media, I spent a year as writing specialist and yet I, too, was faced with that sentence from time to time. I'll admit, it can be maddening.
    Then one day I stumbled upon an idea called Tasty Tuesday. I was hooked immediately. Kids would follow a recipe once a month and then write a recipe review. Eating and writing - my two loves, joined together in my classroom? Yes, this could be good. Very good.


    It did not take much prompting to convince the eleven other 2nd grade teachers on my team to get on board. We quickly got down to business researching recipes and before long we had enough ideas to make this a weekly project, let alone a monthly one. My teammates are cool like that - lots of enthusiasm. It helped that we decided to use this as our year end parent involvement activity. We had been hosting a Chicken Soup for the Soul event for a few years and we were itching for a change.
     We decided to try different recipes and then discuss which worked well and which didn't. Let's just say that it's the rare child that likes coconut or black licorice. Getting them to admit liking vegetables in front of their friends was also tricky business. But, surprise! Every kid digs dessert. So, that's the path we chose. It's been sweet sailing this year as we haven't been trying to coax kids into eating hummus smeared celery sticks under the guise of healthier snacking.
     To those of you who bristle at the thought of a dessert-centered cooking program, I offer these rationalizations. I'm very good at rationalizing something I really, really want. Just ask my husband: 1. It's once a month 2. Our school no longer offers dessert with lunch 3. Even the pickiest eaters will try most sweet treats and 4. It's just plain fun!
     If it still bothers you, just take the kids out for an extra recess (see my rationalizing skills at work?)  Unfortunately, for some this may be out of your control. I feel for you, I really do. That may well be the case for me someday. But until I'm forced to make a turkey out of gluten free rice cakes, cherry tomatoes and a non fat cheese stick, I'm sticking to the cupcakes and candy corn.

Perhaps you're in the mood for something more exotic?

For the culminating event, we invite the parents to our last Tasty Tuesday. Together parent and child complete the final recipe and the students proudly show off their cookbook. 
Such a beautiful family - inside and out!
     Now, I still get the occasional kid who can't think of ONE blessed thing to write about, but it's never, ever on a Tasty Tuesday. I adapted this from an idea I read about, but since the beginning I found my own recipes, made my own forms and presented it in my own way. You can certainly do the same and it will be worth every minute. However, if you are interested in trying this program with your kids without starting from scratch, I just listed a complete Tasty Tuesday guide in my Teachers Pay Teachers store with 14 recipes, pictures and every form you could ever need. Click here to check it out.
     This year, my class was even featured in a community magazine after the editor heard about our little venture. It was a pretty exciting day for us. You can read about it here.
     I'm sure if I tried hard enough I could incorporate some jellybeans and chocolate chips into just about every subject, but I guess I should leave well enough alone. Besides, how many extra recesses can a class have?

Shift Change

     Every.Single.August my husband and I have the same conversation:
Me: These kids are good and all, but they're not like last year's class.
Hubs: You say that every year.
Me: No I don't. I mean, these kids are good and cute, but last year's class had so much personality, ya know?
Hubs: You said that about last year's class too.
Me: I did not. Classes like that one last year just come along every few years, I guess. I just miss them.
Hubs: Seriously? I'm going to record this conversation and play it back to you next year.
Me: I just wish I was "jelling" more with them.
Hubs: Ok, this conversation is over. What's for dinner?

     You know what I'm going to say next - He was totally right. By October I was gushing about my new class and all of the cute things they said or did that day. I was showing off pictures of them as if they were my own children. And my Facebook updates frequently referenced how nice it was to start a weekend after spending such a great Friday with "my kids".
     Well, I just counted the calendar and there are just 8 little weeks left in this school year. 8! Now, don't get me wrong, I L-O-V-E my summers, but the thought of letting these kids go running into the arms of another teacher is a bit heart wrenching. Will my new kids bring me home-made duct tape bracelets? Will my new kids be so cheerful in the morning like these guys? There can't possibly be a kid with a cuter smile than Little Mr. S. Can there be a sweeter little girl than Little Miss L? And what about Little Mr. R who actually thanks me for spending one on one time with him - THANKS me?? And don't even get me started on the parents. Oh, these parents. They are parents from which Teacher Fairy Tales are made. I'm seriously spoiled and I know it. Am I the only teacher in America who gets a little melancholy at this time of year? Surely, this is not normal.
      It hardly seems like almost 9 months ago that I was obsessing over my welcome back bulletin board. Soon enough I'll be doing it again as I prepare to welcome the next "New Crew". Feel free to borrow this idea to welcome yours :)


<-- A few years ago, I painted my boards. BEST thing I ever did (well, bulletin board wise). No more wrinkled paper, no more cutting, no more buying or storing rolls and rolls! One sample size container was plenty, with some left over for touch ups. I highly recommend it!  Attaching the cups was a bit tricky. I ended up cutting a small piece of 3M double stick foam tape to hold them on after LOTS of trial and error. Not sure why that was so tricky, but the tape was the perfect solution.


Believe it or not, I had saved up enough empty Starbucks cups so that each kid would have their own cup with their name on it to welcome them back. It was actually not so difficult. I'm a bit of a caffeine junky. Actually collecting those cups was a nice little excuse to stop there every day...but I digress.  When I started to attach the cups to the board with my ingenious plan to use a push pin through the cup into the board, it was a total no-go. I had saved plastic cups from cold drinks that just cracked when I tried to pin them.  In the end, I ended up using empty cupcake wrappers for their names. Not exactly what I pictured, but it did the job. And for some reason, Starbucks gift cards were a popular teacher gift this year!

Organized Chaos

     If my mother was here to see that I was a guest blogger on a site called "The Organized Classroom", she'd certainly have something to say about it. She was never one to mince words. My husband also thinks it's pretty darn funny. I have to admit, I'm a little bewildered myself. In my classroom I live by the credo, a place for everything and everything in its place. I am notorious for walking around and straightening up kids' desks as I'm teaching because it drives me nuts when they're all crooked. My kids actually put their hands up in the air as if they're being held up when I come near their desks while I'm teaching because they don't want to get their fingers squashed when I straighten the groups.  You know that student who seems allergic to the contents of his pencil case, and drops every supply he touches (and then leaves it there)? That kid drives me insane on the daily. It takes all my restraint not to stop teaching and tell Messy Marvin to pick up his crayons and scissors and glue stick and...
     Then when I go home, uh...not so much. Now, I don't exactly qualify for an episode of Hoarders, but the mini mountain of shoes in the little nook right next to the closet would never fly in my classroom. Right now, on the end table beside me is an empty box of Cheez-its that has become a bit of a permanent fixture. I know I'm totally blowing my cover here, but if we're going to become friends, its important to be honest. So, now you know. My classroom is the picture of organization and my house is a bit more...um...relaxed. 
     I've stopped trying to figure myself out. It is what it is. I'm a real life Dr. Jekyll and Mrs. Hyde of organization and housework.  So, I invite you over to The Organized Classroom Blog to check out my superior (and puzzling) organizing tips for using task cards in your classroom. And now, I leave you with this thought from one of my favorites, the great Erma Bombeck:

My theory on housework is, if the item doesn't multiply, smell, catch fire, or block the refrigerator door, let it be.  No one else cares.  
Why should you?

Amazing use of space, if I do say so myself...

Other Teacher Feature #1

     Yesterday I wrote about an interesting little social experiment that I was conducting. <--That actually sounds way more formal that it really is. Honestly, I was just surprised to see how much teachers really enjoy being noticed for their hard work. Who would have thunk it?
     When I started this blog, a mere 12 posts ago, I was simultaneously excited and worried. Excited to have an outlet for writing and sharing, but worried that I would soon run out of things to write and share. So, I turned my eye toward things that other teachers in my school were doing that were really worth noticing. I didn't have to go very far. I teach second grade, but share my hallway with some 4th and 5th grade classes. The class just two doors down had some really awesome math displays hanging on their bulletin board. Here's the first picture that grabbed my attention:
Who can resist a number line-mouth sock monkey?

     As I stood in the hallway snapping pictures of these displays, I realized that I should probably tell my neighbor why I was going all paparazzi on her bulletin board. As so often is the case, this teacher and I chat occasionally, but being on different teams means we're not especially close. When I told her how much I liked her bulletin board, I saw a different look on her face than I usually did in casual conversation. It was that special little spark teachers can spot a mile away - that moment when you make a real connection with someone. Usually it's with a student, but here I was seeing it on the face of another teacher. She really seemed especially pleased that the work of her students was being noticed and appreciated. She offered up some details about the project and shared that she had even more of them inside. It was really nice to have an old-school teacher conversation about the things that matter, in this case a really cool math project. It was a stark contrast to the all too familiar new wave of teacher talk that centers around contract negotiations, test specs and school reform. After I explained that I'd started a blog and would like to share this idea, she graciously gave her permission.
     A few days later, when she asked if it was on the blog yet, my initial feelings were validated. She really was appreciative that I had taken the time to notice the projects and then gone one step further by telling her so. She was excited to be recognized. Spreading the sunny stuff around for a change felt good! I had a similar experience with another teacher, which I'll save for "Other Teacher Feature #2" and it really got me thinking about how much we, as teachers, spend so much time praising our students and not nearly enough time praising each other. And it feels good to get praised, darn it! So, without further ado, I present to you: The Amazing Technicolor Math Projects from Teacher 1's class!

   (Like the snazzy build up?)  Of course, the thing that caught my eye was that brilliant art work was hanging outside an intermediate math class. Although it makes perfect sense to do so, unfortunately, art and math are a rare partnership these days. When I stopped to examine the work closer, I saw that beyond just being eye-catching, it represented real understanding of some pretty abstract math concepts:



Kids worked together to create a paper quilt
wherein each square contained a math vocabulary word and an illustration to demonstrate its meaning. Obviously, this is a culminating activity after many months of study, but I can even see this being done on a smaller scale after each unit. Take it one step further and save each one those to compile into a book and you have an instant picture book of math facts that will serve the kids better than any last minute kill and drill test prep.


To me, this is the epitome of engagement. This teacher found a great way to provide a meaningful review of math concepts and vocabulary in preparation for our state's standardized test, and all it took was a piece of chart paper and some crayons. Pre-printed materials have their place, but what do you think is going to make more of an impact? 

   Test prep never looked so good... 
thanks Other Teacher #1 for allowing me to share! 
Keep on coloring :)



Sometimes it's a Tough Choice

    Staying focused on the sunny side of things in education is sometimes a battle. It's not my students, my class, my school. It's all of the other junk that gets in my head when I allow myself to pay attention to sound bites from the news or I read about budget cuts and teacher lay-offs. When I start to feel myself being drawn into the doom and gloom, I have to make a conscious effort to change course. I used to allow myself to get so mired in it that I'd lose sleep at night. Now, it still bothers me but I just can't let myself dwell on it. I have to accept that I don't have control over some things and continue to give 100 percent to my kids every day. Not because of some merit pay carrot being dangled in front of me, but because it's the right thing to do.

     So that's all fine and good in my own head. But step into a school like mine with 75 teachers who haven't all accepted the "Keep Calm and Carry On" mantra and it becomes very easy for the little ball of sunshine I'm trying to cultivate to become quickly overtaken by some pretty dark clouds. I can't walk around the school like a smiling lunatic pretending not to notice that newer teachers are worried about not having a job and veteran teachers are facing times they could never have imagined. Besides just offering a sympathetic ear and encouraging words, what more can I do? 

 Well, quite by accident, I think I've found a teeny tiny way that I can help lift the spirits of my colleagues as I continue on my personal quest to keep my head above the rising tide of negativity. It's called "Other Teacher Feature" and it's coming right here to this sunshiny blog starting tomorrow. 
     I hope you'll stop by to read all about it!

We Have Company!

As a fairly new teacher blogger, I've been overwhelmed with how openly other teacher bloggers have welcomed me into the fold.  I started this blog as a way to keep my focus on the positive during the most trying times I've ever been a part of as an education professional. Between the amazing connection I've forged with other dedicated educators and my effort to focus on the good stuff, my self-prescribed remedy is totally working.  Enjoy this guest post from one of my new blogging buddies, Charity Preston. It's full of great ideas to keep the positivity on an upswing in your classroom.  Charity is such a great guest, she's already invited me over to her place in return. I will be a guest blogger on Charity's blog on April 19th. 



    Motivating Your Students

     Student recognition in the classroom is a necessity to keep students working their hardest. It becomes easy to overlook the student who is always doing what is expected, and to always notice the child who is misbehaving. But, consciously recognizing students as they achieve great things is vital to motivating children throughout their school career.
     Think about the last time you were praised by your superior. How did it feel? Did you remember whether or not you smiled? Were you then more likely to continue working at that specific something in order to improve it even more? I know I am always grateful when my boss takes notice of something special I have been working on. Make sure your students also have these too-rare experiences. Without them, they are less likely to continue working as hard. Children, in particular, work to please you. Intrinsic motivation only goes so far in school, until extrinsic motivators (positive or negative) take over. Make sure you create those positive choices in each child's frame of reference.
     Take a class roster quickly this week and start noting what talent(s) each child is particularly good at, or has been working extra hard at accomplishing. At first, the list will be easy - you always have shining stars. On the opposite end of the spectrum, you will also easily be able to jot down how behavior students have made strides at certain things because they tend to take up so much of your time. But, the middle-of-the-road students become more challenging. These are the students you want to zone in on because they are the students that typically get overlooked. They are not star students, but they also are not time-consuming behavior issues either. You may really have to work hard throughout the week to notice talents that you may have not seen before.
     By focusing in on all students, you will have a complete list of subjects or talents from which to recognize each individual in your class. You can then make it be a special awards day, complete with a party. Or do something simple like make a call home or send a note. Whatever way you choose to celebrate, every student will feel special and continue to want to please. Extrinsic or intrinsic, as long as they feel good, that is all that matters.

Charity L. Preston is an author, teacher, and parent. Most importantly, she is an educator in all roles. The ability to teach someone something new is a gift that few truly appreciate. Visit her now at http://www.theorganizedclassroomblog.com or at her facebook fan page at http://www.facebook.com/TheOrganizedClassroomBlog to sign up for a free newsletter that offers free downloadable classroom resources every month delivered right to your inbox! Check it out now!

Clean up your Handwriting

     There is very strange phenomena I've been witness to for many years. It's called Sticky-Kid-Finger Syndrome. As a teacher, I'm sure you've witnessed it as well. A seemingly clean kid uses a pencil at small group. You go to put it away and it's sticky! A child using the computer is having trouble. You take over the mouse to assist. It's sticky! My favorite is when a child rests their hand on your hand (face, arm, leg, any body part within reach) and it's sticky! They're like little sticky tree frogs hopping all over the room, and at times all over me. I suppose it's one of the joys of childhood, but it's also one of the reasons why I stock up on hand sanitizer and baby wipes. I'm not sure where the stick comes from, and honestly, I really don't want to know. I just know that it exists. So, any activity that promises clean hands and clean desks ranks high on my list.
NO PICTURES! I'm working up a good stick!
     This is a great activity to introduce on Earth Day. I tell my students that they are going to do lots and lots of writing today and since it's Earth Day, we won't be using any paper. Instead we're just going to write right on our desks! Of course half of the kids are confused and half are delighted. I have to be sure to explain the next part fast before my "early finishers" put lead to wood.
     Squirt a generous amount of shaving cream on each desk and let them spread it over the entire desk to create their "paper". Erasing is super easy, just smooth over your desk and start again! Ah, an entire lesson with no broken pencils, no sharpeners, no eraser dust, no complaints about a millimeter of paper touching a neighbor's desk. It really is heavenly. 
     I usually let my students experiment with cursive writing, but you can also have them practice math facts, spelling words, symbols of the periodic table...just about anything. Try using this as a fun alternative to individual white boards now and then.
     After a few minutes, the shaving cream actually starts to disappear on it's own. I usually re-squirt them a few times before we eventually are just left with a room that smells like dad, spectacularly spotless desks and, most importantly, clean hands!!

Whether it's Earth Day or just time to shake things up, bust out some Barbasol and get writing!


Shameless plug: Check out my Basal Break complete literature unit 
on The Lorax. It's on sale for Earth Day!



The Great Cover Up

     Each school has their own distinct challenges when it comes to parental involvement. I've worked at a school where I sat at Open House, alone in my room, wondering if a single parent would venture in. I've worked at a school where about half of the parents attended Open House, asked few questions, and just generally wanted to know that their kids were safe and happy which in turn made them happy. And, I've worked at a school where ALL parents came to Open House, most in pairs, even divorced parents and sometimes with new spouses <---That would be 4 parents for one child.  I've had parents staring back at me with blank looks when I discussed curriculum frameworks, cooperative learning and classroom management. I've also had parents on the edge of their seat, furiously taking notes and then asking more questions than their children do. As a teacher, I'm not sure which challenges are easier to handle, but make no mistake they are all challenges, indeed.
     In any case, I'm always amazed at how I can look into the handful or the crowd and see my students in the faces of their parents. In the end, if a parent made it to Open House, it's because they just want to have some connection to the world in which their child spends most of their day.
     It's hard to believe that our year end grade level annual parent event is quickly approaching. As I did for Open House almost eight months ago, I'll be staring out at a crowd of parents, so excited to be a part of their child's world if just for a few minutes. I am guilty of going overboard preparing for these events, but when I look back I know that any preparation, decoration, cute display, work portfolio, slideshow or heartfelt speech pales in comparison to the moment that parent and child realize that each took the time to connect to their world.
     Many times the focus on these parental involvement activities is on welcoming the parent into the school with student made art projects and creative displays, but I want to share this quick and simple way to for parents to leave their mark on the room as well. A colleague of mine is responsible for this genius idea. Put some crayons in the hands of your parents and let them be a kid again as they write all over paper covered tables leaving welcome notes for their children to see the next day. Imagine the look on your students' faces when they are met with sweet morning messages like these:
 


 
My personal favorite -The drawing of son and daddy and the "Sunny Day" caption, it's just perfect!
So, cover up those tables and let your parents be kids again. As they sit in plastic chairs sized for little bottoms and wrap their fingers around chubby crayons, they'll connect with their child in the most basic and beautiful way.

Oreo Overload

     For a while this year, I'm sure my students' parents thought I had a serious Oreo habit. It seemed like every week I was asking them to send in more packages of America's Favorite Cookie. While I'll admit I did sample a cookie or two (gotta maintain quality control) they really were for educational purposes, I promise!

    Our first Oreo encounter was our participation in the annual Oreo Project at ProjectsByJen. <--VERY cool site to check out.

      We experimented on those cookies as if they were a completely foreign object. We made estimations and predictions, logged, weighed, measured, rolled, stacked and sculpted them.

   It was torturous, but no Oreos that hit the floor or were handled by sticky kid fingers were eaten (at least not that I'm aware of, but I did see a few corner-of-the-mouth-crumbs that made me suspicious.)

As if that weren't enough, Oreo-palooza continued with our October Tasty Tuesday recipe - Spider Pudding Pie. Those most certainly were eaten. The Quality Control Inspector was on high alert that day making sure all of the ingredients were up to our rigorous standards.
  And just when you thought it was safe to bust out the Chip's Ahoy, we moved on to this crazy awesome science activity: recreating the phases of the moon with Oreos! We used some of the projects we already made as a reference, and then carefully twisted the Oreo apart and used plastic spoons and knives to scrape off the correct amount of creme filling to show each phase of the moon.  Then we placed them in order around the edges of a paper plate and labeled each phase. Seriously sweet science fun!

If you are studying the moon, you might like this FREE Anticipation Guide to gauge your students' prior knowledge and track understanding.
Although I did go through a bit of Oreo withdrawal after the moon phase activity, I found solace in the candy corn that started to appear for some other purely educational purposes soon after.

Not Just For Camping

     Anyone who knows me at all knows that I am not a rough-it-in-a-tent kind of girl. I appreciate the beauty of nature, but I'd rather admire it from afar. Like in a climate controlled hotel room with a great view.
     That being said, I do love a good tent. A direction tent, that is. I like to have a set of directions at every center, so that my munchkins can refer to them and not interrupt my small group if they have a question. Does it always work? Um, no. But a girl can try. I used to just print my direction tent on cardstock and place it at the center, but the humidity in my room turns most paper into mush and the tent looks less like a tent and more like a blanket. So, as they say, necessity is the mother of invention and voila - the folded folder direction tent was born!
     First, enter my craft room. Awesome, right? Big love to my husband who created this amazing space for me. Love you, honey!
     Now, do not be alarmed. The mess behind these next photos is the direct result of creativity, not a break-in. Actually, it doesn't look so bad since I cropped the photos. Someday when we know each other better, I'll let you see the full reality of the craft room on a normal, not ready for pictures kind of day. It ain't pretty folks.
     Back to the direction tent. I reuse old file folders as the base of my direction tents. It's very Earth Day Chic. Feel free to brag to your friends about how environmentally aware you are. First, take a folder and lay it flat open. Then, fold each side to the middle and open it back up:

The fold in the middle will become the top point on the tent. Just fold the two sides in to make a triangle (triangular prism, if you want to get technical) and fold the two end flaps over each other. Now staple the overlapping flaps and stand up. (Can my hand look any bigger in this picture?? Great, another body part to hide from the camera...)

Almost there:
See the tab? Fold that up and it becomes a little stopper to hold the directions in place. I have to admit that was just a happy accident, but it is pretty cool. Here's the finished product:

Ta-Da! A set of eye-catching, obvious directions that should keep your kids from interrupting your small groups -but probably won't.
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