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Pumped for Pumpkins!

Well, if the above is true, then it's definitely fall! I am a lover of all things pumpkin. Along with the lattes, I love me some pumpkin bread, pumpkin muffins, pumpkin scones, pumpkin bagels and cream cheese from Einstein's and most recently the freakin amazing pumpkin coffee and pumpkin chai tea latte mix from Trader Joe's. Strangely enough, I don't really dig pumpkin pie. Pie in generally doesn't really do it for me. 

Besides being about 1/2 of my daily diet lately, pumpkins have also been front and center in my classroom. I'm a little embarrassed to admit it, but my class pumpkin was NOT among all the amazing pumpkin characters I shared with you in this post. I was super sick the week we were supposed to make them and have them out on display I just didn't have it in me to get my craft on. I almost let it go without making one, but the kids were not letting that happen. So, I finally busted out the supplies and let the kids have at it. It seriously only took about an hour and they did all the work themselves. Look at this awesomeness!


Can you guess the book? It was fun to see them group up and figure out how to get it done. We had a group making leaves, a group making the spider, there's actually a diary in there that's kind of hidden that has pages with journal entries written on them. One little cutie made the hat out of felt and I had a group of boys stuffing a pantyhose leg with cotton balls to make the worm's body. If you want to see kids laugh hysterically for no apparent reason, pull out a pair of pantyhose. That'll do it. Trust me.

Here are my proud little artists with their creation. Seriously, how lucky am I to get to spend all day with these little nuggets? I actually miss them over the weekend. This is a special year, I tell ya...




We've also been working on our Pumpkin Science Investigation unit. I've done these kinds of math and science experiments with a pumpkin for years, but I never really put it together in such a nice cohesive unit. The kids love the trifold brochure to keep track of their data. Amazing how something as simple as folding a paper makes an activity seem that much more special. I love it because what I used to have to make about 10 pages worth of copies for is now condensed into one back to front page!


Here there are reading the informational text cards and diagram poster to fill in the background information:


Thinking hard about their predictions:

 Finding and recording the actual data:


Tomorrow we'll wrap it up by cutting into our pumpkin and counting the seeds. I snagged enough latex gloves from the clinic for all the kids to cut down on the "ew" factor. Experience is an excellent teacher. I was thinking of taking the seeds home and roasting them for the kids, but someone actually brought me some homemade roasted seeds today - and they are HARD to eat! They don't crack open like a sunflower seed. It was a serious struggle to get the seed out of the shell. I actually googled it to see if maybe you were supposed to just eat the whole shell. I got mixed answers that helped not at all.
Any advice on that? As if I need another pumpkin snack...

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Pot Luck Yummies

We recently welcomed a new team member to our happy little group.  We are a tight team and I think we might have overwhelmed her with the, um, comfort level that we have with each other. We tend to speak pretty freely in front of each other about any and all subject areas, professionally and personally. Sometimes very personally. Our new teamie is a bit on the shy side and I was afraid she left our first meeting a little shell-shocked. So, we decided to have a little pot-luck lunch on our recent early release day to officially welcome her to the group and spend some good team bonding time together.


Yummy! Between the 10 of us, we pulled together a pretty nice lunch, especially considering we can't have any electrical appliances! Not even crock pots - ugh. Fine, Fire Marshall Bill, we'll comply. But don't expect an invite to our little luncheon.

We also had some pizza and some fantastic pumpkin spiced coffee from Trader Joe's. I have officially fallen in love with that store after my first visit. The closest one to us is about an hour and a half away, but I will be making a trip there to re-stock my pumpkin coffee, pumpkin chai tea latte, spiced apple cider and dark chocolate covered dried cherries soon. Very soon. I might even move there. For real.

All in all, the lunch was a success. We learned a lot more about our new teamie and I think she's going to fit in just fine. She definitely seemed to relax a bit more around us, so yay! We really are nice people who would do anything for each other and we wanted her to see that and feel welcomed into the fold.

So, the point of this post is to share two no-fail recipes for your next pot luck. Do you all do them at your schools? If not, then maybe you can use one for the upcoming holiday season. Any time I'm invited somewhere and ask what to bring, these are the two things that are almost always requested. There's a third one I'll share soon...suspense, my pretties!

The first is Oriental Coleslaw made with ramen noodles, of all things.


The second is Buffalo Chicken Dip. If you like wings you will LOVE this. My hubs is a big fan of this one. I ended up bringing my dip to school with a big scoop missing, but that's ok there was still enough to go around.

If you bring these dishes with you, someone WILL ask for the recipe, I promise. So, just click {HERE} to get a copy of each one to print out and take along with you!


Happy weekend - rest up for every teacher's nightmare favorite day - Halloween!

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A Fun Fall Play to Get Your Whole Class Participating!

I am so happy to introduce you to Arlene Sandberg today. She and I collaborate in a group of blog buddies and I love her perspective on things. She's a retired educator who dedicated her life to teaching kids all over the globe. Please welcome her today and enjoy her amazing freebie!

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It is such an honor to be guest blogging for Denise. It's a great opportunity for you to get to know me and for me to share a fun activity with you. My name is Arlene and I blog over at LMN Tree. I'm 63 and have had an amazing career teaching all over the U.S including Hawaii and Alaska and even overseas in Seoul, South Korea. My husband was in the military and my children and I followed him all over which turned out to be an exciting journey.

I've everything from Early Childhood, Elementary, Special Education and ESL. My last 9 years were spent as an ESL Resource Teacher in a Title I Elementary School in the worst performing school in the district. I always worried about the struggling readers and ESL students in the regular classroom and how difficult it was for them to take risks and participate in many class activities.

After retiring my husband thought it would be a great hobby to make my own materials and sell them on TpT . Hobby!?! I had no idea what I was getting into and neither did he. I had never blogged before and a friend convinced me to start a blog -What was I thinking?!? Well it's been 9 months since I began and what a journey it has been. I wanted to blog to share great ideas and knowledge that I've learned over the years and little by little people are visiting and following. To be honest I still miss being in the classroom and my students from Anchorage. There were over 100 languages spoken in our district. My students loved my poems and plays that I wrote during the year and it was a great way to get them all participating while learning and having fun. I'm sure you have several of these students in your classrooms as well.So here is my gift to all of you.


I wrote a cute all play about teaching the signs of fall. The characters are The Sun, The Day, The Night, The Wind and all the other signs of fall. They tell the children what happens to them when it's fall. There are Character Picture Cards to copy and cut out so they can make a necklace of the part they play and you can pair up your struggling readers and ESL students with good readers and have several students read their part together. Just watch and see your students smiling and reading, too. Just click on the picture above to get your free copy. I hope you and your students enjoy it!


If you like my play you may also like my K-2 Reading and writing Unit called: "What Happens In Fall"


Thanks for all you do to make a difference for your students. Hope you will visit my TpT store and blog.

It's LMN Tree


10 More/10 Less Freebie

I'm all about math groups lately. I teach a self-contained gifted class, but within my group there is still a big range of abilities. Mostly because gifted students are not always gifted in all areas, so I may have a very verbal student reading on a 5th grade level who is on par with a typical second grade peer in math - and vice-versa, of course. This year I'm seeing a bigger difference in math than I usually do. I have about half the class who is ready to fly in math and the other half needs a bit more time to process things. I can totally relate. As a kid I was all about reading, writing and geeky work games but the prospect of answering a math question out loud sent shivers down my spine!

So, to accomodate this group of nuggets, I've been doing a lot of pretesting and then dividing the class into two groups. One group works on the current concept  through some independent or group activities on a higher level and the other works more closely with me. 

For this last go around, I made some math mats for the higher group to work on 10 more/10 less. Each mat has a list of numbers down the middle for the kids to use to find 1 more/1 less and 10 more/10 less.
There's a matching answer key for each mat too.
You'll see in the download that I also included little squares that you can use as manipulatives, but I have a crazy overabundance of foam math manips. Seriously, this is about one-fifth of the shapes alone! 


So I just wrote the numbers on the foamies and added them to the bag with the mat and the answer key.  Originally I planned on writing the answers on bottle caps, which I also have a collection of for some reason. You can also just laminate the mat and have them write on it, I suppose.



Here they are in action:



If this looks like something you can use, you can download the whole set of mats and answer keys free from tpt. Just click {HERE}. I'm working on a set of 100 more/100 less too.

Happy Mathing!

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Teaching Place Value

Boy, my blog post titles sure are snazzy lately, huh? At least you know what's coming!

Today I have an easy peasy thing we've been calling "Show Me's" on my team. I have no idea what they're really called. A friend showed these to me a few years ago - they are very simple and very effective.

It's just a piece of card stock folded up and stapled on the sides to make a pocket. These are laminated but you don't need to laminate them if you use a strong card stock. Inside the pocket are small strips that are numbered 0-9 on the top and bottom (different numbers on each end).  Ideally, you'd like enough for each child to have one. To start, the kids take out all of the strips and on your verbal command, they add them back in to create the number you've just asked for.

So, to get the result of 214 as in the picture above,  you could have asked the kids:
• Show me the number two hundred fourteen
• Show me a number with a 2 in the hundreds place, a one in the tens place and a 4 in the ones place
• Show me a number less than 220
• Show me a number greater than 210
• Show me an even number between 200 and 220
• Show me a number where the ones digit is twice as many as hundreds digit
Those are just a few examples - pretty versatile little tool, right? This week I'm going to have the kids come up with number clues and let them take turns leading the class. Should be fun! I'll keep you posted.





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Math Journals

This year I've been getting more into math journals. I used them a lot when taught third grade and I'm not quite sure why, but I kind of got out of the habit over the past few years. This year, I knew I wanted to make it a priority. To get started, I purchased the entire year's worth of journal prompts from Ana Brantley.

Instead of using a composition book or spiral, I just folded a few pieces of paper inside a cover that I whipped up. This way I can send it home at the end of each month and the parents can get an idea of what we've been up to.




Want a little tip? See those little circle stickers above their names? I use 4 or 5 different sets of matching stickers to group the journals. That way I can call them up to check a few at a time. For example, I might say, "All the candy corns bring up your journal" or "All the owls leave your journals open on your desk". It's just a fun way for me to spot check them as we go along. They never know which group I'm going to call, plus it's a good way to use up those little stickers!

I made covers for each month - just simple stuff, but they do the trick. Just click {HERE} to download from GoogleDocs.



Here's a peek inside a few. Some of their answers crack me up, but I love how they're learning to express math ideas in writing. Very common core friendly, by the way. These are all from Ana's set. We just glue the prompt right into the journal. I suppose they could just copy the prompt too.










I have seen lots of amazing journals with flaps and tabs and drawings. I may work my way up to that kind of thing, but for now I'm letting the kids get the hang of how to explain their mathematical thinking. I don't do a page each day either. I try to squeeze in at least 2-3 a week. I've also added some pages with math vocabulary as it comes up and sometimes I even sneak in a few higher level practice problems.  I'm probably breaking some math journal rule - but I'm a rebel like that. I've been keeping a running list of some of my own prompts. You can get those {HERE} if you'd like. As I add more, I'll share them too.

If you know of any other good math journal resources for 2nd-3rd graders, I'd love to hear about them!
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Spider Stuff

It's that time of year when all of a sudden spiders are cute. Normally, spiders are firmly in the not-at-all-cute category as far as I'm concerned. There is a ton of spidery goodness out there right now though, so I make an exception in October. Now palmetto bugs (big giant man-eating roaches we have here in Florida) would NEVER receive this kind of pardon, so I hope the spiders appreciate my kindness.

First off, a fun little math game that really requires no prep. Click on the picture to download the directions from GoogleDocs, but you really don't even need to print out copies for the kids. They usually get the idea pretty quickly. Here's the gist:
I usually start by telling them to try to get to 8 by using addition, but as they get the hang of it, they can start using multiple operations. So if they rolled a 6,6,4, and 1 they could add 6+6 and then subtract 4 to get to 8. It's a fun little game the kids usually dig. Especially the boys. Go figure.

If you're in need of a Just Say No bulletin board or door decoration, our little creepy crawlies can help you out here as well. This is my door from last year. Click {HERE} for the blog post with details.


And if you're in the market for a whole unit of spidery fantasticness, check out my buddy Reagan's unit. She gave these little buggers a whole week of exterminator-less freedom. There are lots more details about spider week on her blog, just click {HERE}. I have her unit and it is FABU! We haven't started it yet, because the bats have invaded and I'm having a heck of a time getting rid of them. More on that soon...


Thanks for all the well-wishes! Aside from the constant cramp in my side from coughing I'm doing much, much better. I also learned that you should actually carefully read dosage instructions. Had a little oopsie with the steroids, but everything seems good now. I thought maybe I'd start sprouting some muscles, but apparently that's a whole different kind of steroid. Oh well.

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More Storybook Pumpkins!

I've been a little under the weather lately. Finally dragged myself to urgent care Sunday. I got about 2 steps in the door and a terrified looking receptionist insisted I put on this lovely device. So, I guess my cough sounded as bad it felt.


That led to a steady diet of all this for the past few days. That tea is seriously yummy btw.
And all that led to me doing strange things like putting an ink pad in the refrigerator at work. I had given up looking for it after about half an hour only to find it in there at lunch. Still works though!

But, hubby has been really taking care of me and I'm on the mend now so it's all good.
Some fun news! I finally cracked the top ten sellers list on TpT! 

And now...the pumpkins! This year's pumpkins are crazy good!
The third grade team worked together and all chose a character from The World According to Humphrey. The author, Betty Birney, visited our school today and she was just amazed to see this display!





 One of my faves - the little guy from Parts



And yup, that's Walter the Farting Dog...farting. He's a big crowd pleaser! 

And the rest are just as awesome!























A little tip: for the last few years we've been using the carvable craft pumpkins that you can get at Michael's. The first year we did this we had some grossness to dispose of after Halloween and some didn't even make it that far. Plus the craft pumpkins are much lighter and really hold paint well.

I'd love to see yours if you give it a try!
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