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When I was in Second Grade

So Kate over at Second Grade Sparkle is hosting the cutest linky party asking us to share some pictures of us as kids in the grades we teach now. I decided to join in the fun even though these pictures I just dug up are actually pretty embarrassing! 

I started off pretty cute - I guess I'm about three here. Looks like  I was already trying to figure out how to tame my wiry hair by sitting under my mom's old fashioned dryer looking through some of my favorite magazines. I actually recreate this exact scene every six weeks or so! Without the footy pajamas of course. 


Ok, prepare yourself for the next ones. I was entering my gawky phase. I think they're actually from third grade which would be 1979. Yikes! I'm old. I remember that pink polyester shirt. It had a little purse that came with it. Can you see the little strap going across my front? The second is obviously my communion picture. The ginormous forehead you see here is the reason I now have, and always WILL have bangs. Oddly enough I never had braces! Somehow my teeth kind of straightened themselves out. Thank the good lord because I know my parents couldn't have afforded braces!

And here's how I turned out. The first picture was from this summer on vacation and the second was from last week on Thanksgiving. Straight teeth and hair make a big difference. I still have the chubby sausage fingers though. Oh well. I'll take sausage fingers over snaggly teeth.

FYI: I don't normally pose next to my oven. The rest of that picture shows my beautiful turkey in there. I just realized that I cropped that out. You'll just have to trust me it really was a picture worthy bird!

Click on the button below to head over the the linky and see some more pictures (so you can get my snaggly toothed, fat fingered, nine year old self out of your brain already...)




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More Tools I Use!

Yesterday I shared some tools that I depend on in my classroom and as promised - here are a few more! First up is this little hammer/screwdriver combo. I picked this up at Sears around this time in the stocking stuffer section a few years ago. Of course, the flowers caught my eye and I just wanted it because it was a cute girly hammer. But it's actually so much more. The bottom screws off and there's a little screwdriver hidden inside! You can even flip the head of the screwdriver over and it changes from a standard to Phillips head. This thing has really, really come in handy. People come in to borrow my "little girly hammer" all the time. Not sure why the battery is there...I use a lot of those too, but there's nothing special about this particular one. Dumb photobomb battery.


This next doojiggy is called a Crop-a-dile and it is the schinz-nit! It's really made to set eyelets, like this the one on this journal. This is a standard composition book covered with scrapbook paper.


Before you can set the eyelet, you have to punch a hole through the material you're using, which is basically the only part I use of this tool lately. It looks a little like something that you can use to pull out a molar, but this thing can punch a hole through just about anything! I've even used it to punch holes through thin sheets of wood and Altoid tins! Below you can see how I use it in my classroom. That AR pennant banner (a freebie you can get here btw) is printed on 6 sheets of card stock and laminated. I held them all together and with one gentle squeeze, punched a hole through all 6! Not that you'll ever need to do this, but you can also punch a hole clear through a stack of bandaids! {I was trying to get another quick action shot to share the awesomeness that is the Crop-a-dile...}


Finally, one tool that I would be completely and utterly lost without is my Xyron machine. I actually should say Xyron machines, plural. I have 3 of them and I use them all! 


You can change the rolls inside which allow you to laminate, laminate on one side and magnet on the other, laminate on one side and sticker on the other, permanent or temporary adhesive backing...seriously amazing possibilities. Before I bought my own home laminator, I would use this to laminate some things, but really I mostly use it for the sticker making capabilities. Anything you roll through it is instantly turned into a sticker! You can even roll ribbon, material or really thin strips of wood through it and it gives it a great sticker backing. This is how I make most of the labels I use in my classroom and for things like my shaker bottles. Getting a label to stick to a glass or plastic bottles can be tricky, but the Xyron makes it foolproof.  I'd really be lost without these babies. Here are my library bin labels that are laminated and turned into stickers.

In case you're wondering how I know about all of these things I'll let you in on a little secret. I have a major craft cave in my house. Before I started my digital life blogging and tpt creating, I was a pretty heavy duty hardcore papercrafter. I would make all kinds of crafty things like clipboards, cards, notebooks, basically anything I could figure out how to cover with paper and glue a ribbon to. I would travel around to craft fairs setting up my little booth and I even had an Etsy shop for a while. It started to turn my hobby into more of demanding business that sucked the fun out of it,  so I put a stop to that. Now I just craft for myself or to make a personal gift for a friend or my teammates, but as you can see I've managed to figure out how to use a lot of my stash in my class!

Anyone want to come over for a play date in my craft cave?

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Some Tools I Use

There are some things that I use in my classroom on a daily basis that I would just be completely lost without. On the top of that list are copious amounts of coffee and my computer. Beyond that, there are a few actual real things that make my life so much easier. So, since this is the season of wish list making I thought I'd share some things you might want to ask Santa for! If you believe in Santa that is. Like I tell my kids, he's real if you believe! And I choose to believe in anything that will bring some presents my way. I'm pretty shameless about the fact that I love opening presents. My husband knows this and he accepts me this way. He always makes sure I have plenty of gifts to open on Christmas morning. He has even wrapped up new windshield wiper blades! I actually did need them on my car and although I wasn't really sure what the heck they were at first, I still had fun ripping that paper off!

I'll share two things today and some more tomorrow. Try not to pass out from the suspense...
Ok, my first go-to, can not live without item is my paper slicer. I'm sure you've probably seen these or even have one. I use this all.the.time but do you know what the special secret black blade is for? I can't tell you how many people think that's just some kind of place holder or something...



If you pop out the orange blade and pop in the black one, you can use it to score things that you are going to fold! It makes it so easy to get a nice straight fold, especially on something that is laminated, like the paper cubes you see above (those come from this center, btw). The one on the bottom, far right was folded without scoring first and you can see how easy it is to get a crooked fold. If you are making something like your own greeting cards, using a scoring tool like this really helps give them a professional finish. A little tip: Always score on the side that you will be folding back. So on the dice above you will score on the face, since you are then folding them all down to meet each other. Clear as mud? Hope not...

My other favorite tool today is my Swingline High Capacity stapler. I am so crazy in love with this thing, I can't even tell you.


The funny thing (besides the fact that I'm in love with an office supply) is that a parent donated this and I was so bummed at first because I just wanted a good, normal stapler. I almost returned it! But I was so, so wrong to turn away from this baby. Once I figured out how it works (do you see how the paper kind of goes in the butt end?) I was hooked. The thing is, it will not replace your every day stapler and you can't open it to staple into walls. It really is only for when you are stapling large amounts of paper. This stack was a bunch of duplicate copies, 45 pages in all. One smooth push and the staple goes right through! It's kind of incredible. I use this so much more than I thought I would. It's really an amazing little workhorse.

I may have a little addiction to office supplies, but I have a feeling I'm among my people here. See you tomorrow with a few more of my faves!


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Have You Heard the Word?

I'm guessing that you've already heard the big news, but TpT is having their annual Cyber Monday sale this week! It's actually a two day sale, so technically it's Cyber Monday and Tuesday. TpT will automatically discount your purchases 10%, then I'm also discounting all of my products 20%. So, in my brain that's 30%, but someone much more math savvy than I am has figured that it actually equals 28%.  Either way, still a nice discount!
Button Credit: Crazy cute Ashley Hughes
I have to say, I pretty much shop exclusively on tpt for all of my teaching resource needs. See, I've got lots on my own wish list and I even have a bunch of credits to spend!

I used to spend lots of time browsing the teacher stores and book stores looking for things to use with my kids, but now the first place I go is tpt. One of the things I like best is that I can usually just buy what I need. Lots of times when I buy a resource book, I can only use a few pages from it, but when I buy from tpt I can just buy an activity or a center to use instantly. Plus there are tons of freebies there too and I snag them up just as fast as anyone else! I also love that my filing cabinet is now virtual and I no longer have stacks of books making my shelves sag and providing homes for the paper-munching critters I have to contend with here in South Florida.

As much as I love to create teaching materials, I know my strengths and weaknesses so I have my favorite sellers that I stalk for my social studies and science needs! I'm constantly amazed at the level of professionalism my peers have reached when creating materials and I'm so proud to be part of a community of teachers who are lifting up the profession as a whole and showing the world that we can do amazing things for our kids inside AND out of the classroom.

You also have to know that there is a whole lot of cool behind the scenes networking that goes on between bloggers. We meet and chat regularly in virtual groups and have come to rely on each other both professionally and personally. To say that  many of the ladies I blogstalked and idolized for so long are now true friends of mine is amazing. I've never been so uplifted, encouraged and motivated as I am by these women - and that's saying something because I've been fortunate to work with some pretty amazing people in real life.

I try not to use my blog to focus on tpt too much because I don't want to turn anyone off or feel like a constant commercial for my tpt store. I know that feeling when a blog you love suddenly becomes nothing more than a constant advertisement to buy their products. I do sneak in a little blurb once in a while when I make something I'm particularly proud of or especially if it's something I've been getting constant requests for.

So, thanks for indulging me today in my tpt ramblings! I know I don't always have time to respond to everyone's comments, but know that I do read each and every one. Feel free to comment today and let me know what you're thinking about. Do you shop at tpt? Do you mind when bloggers post new products? Who are your favorite sellers? How am I doing walking that line between keeping my blog useful, purposeful and relevant without crossing over into that disappointing commercial zone? {Be nice though, I cry easy.}

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Lost in the Leaves

Everywhere I look I see beautiful fall leaves! Well, everywhere inside my school, that is. Living here in South Florida  the leaves on the palm trees don't exactly change color, the air doesn't get that crisp chill, we don't go apple picking. We know it's fall because we can get pumpkin spice lattes again at Starbucks or we take part in a conversation that goes something like this: "Hey, are you sweating?" "You know what? Not as much as usual!" And there ya have it. Fall in Florida.

But, we make up for it in the building with copious displays of all things fall. I was walking to a friend's room and happend by the cutest turkey! This one comes from A Cupcake for the Teacher.
Googly eyes just ratchet up the cuteness factor of any project.


I love this next activity. I didn't actually do it with my own class yet. These pix are from some other second grade classes in the building. It's called Lost in the Leaves and it's an oldie but goodie from Mailbox Magazine.
The kids write clues about an object that is lost in the leaves on the front of the project. They can either draw a picture of the object or draw it before they cover it with leaves. Love how these turn out. The kids have fun guessing what's hidden under the leaves of their friends' projects too.

And our last lovely leaf project is this beautiful leaf wreath (Kind of a tongue twister, huh?)
During non-instructional support personnel week (which is a real thing btw - and it was this week) each grade level recognizes a group in the school. This year we had the cafeteria ladies. Each of our second graders decorated a leaf and then we attached them to this giant wreath that we hung up in the cafeteria for them. Came out cute I think!

I am so crazy jealous of all y'all that have a break this week! We work all the way up to and including Wednesday! We barely have time to shove the turkey in the oven and clean up the mess then it's back to work on Monday! Turkey day is at my house again this year, so I've got lots of shopping, cleaning and cooking on my to-do list for the next few days. oh joy. It will all be worth it for those 20 glorious minutes it takes everyone to eat the meal that takes me a week to prepare! Right?

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Oodles of November Goodies!

I seriously can not believe Thanksgiving is in two weeks. Seriously?!  I love this time of year, but it is flying by already!

I have lots of fun goodies for November and Thanksgiving, so I thought I'd just compile them altogether here in one blog post so you don't have to go searching through the archives. I'm cool like that.

Here's one of my most favorite writing activities. It's a twist on the traditional "What I'm Thankful For..." assignment. This turned out to be one of our best writing pieces last year. {Click on any of the pictures in this post to check out the original post for details, printables, etc.}


I love, love, love scoot games. Here's a fun one. It's a true or false turkey trivia game. I learned a ton making the game and some of the facts are pretty darn interesting! It's a freebie, just click the pic.
If you still haven't changed over your bulletin boards (like me) here's a super-de-duper fast, easy and free one for you!

Here's a fun game to help your little turkeys practice recognizing odd and even numbers (another freebie)

And also for math, don't miss Gobble Bump! All of my monthly bump games are always free :)
Ok, now some new stuff!
I recently started creating these Calendar Centers. I plan to have one for each month. Each set comes with correctly labeled monthly calendars for 2012, 2013 and 2014 and 20 task cards. I'm not sure where this aligns with CCSS, but dangit kids need to know how to read a calendar!! Somehow after doing calendar math for at least 3 years before they come to me, they still have major misconceptions about calendar skills. So these are working out really great for me. I print out the monthly calendar and task cards and leave it with the answer sheet as a center. You could also very easily just keep the task cards handy and incorporate them into your calendar routine or use to fill those awkward few minutes that sometimes creep up on us. Click HERE to check them out at TpT.

My other newest obsession are my monthly printable packs. I took some essential skill practice pages and added some fun and seasonal flair to them! I've been using them to supplement lessons and as centers and homework, but starting next month, I'm going to make it a monthly challenge packet. This way the kids can always just keep it at their seat and use it as an early finisher choice. I'm not just saying this, but my kids really had fun with the October pack and they were asking when the November one was coming! There's something magical about dressing up a printable with a turkey, I suppose! You can check out the November pack here.  Here's a little freebie from the pack. I've also listed October and December so far.



Ok, I think that about does it! I have a feeling I'm going to run out of month again before I get to use all of my resources - especially considering I just took down our jack o'lantern glyphs today and still have mystery mansions hanging on my hall bulletin board! Think if I just added some colored leaves, I can turn it into a little fall landscape??

I just linked up with TBA for Freebie Friday - head on over there to get some more free goodies!
Freebie Fridays




P.S.You can check out some of my favorite November read alouds HERE!

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Halloween Wrap-up!

So, did we all survive Halloween? It wasn't so bad, I suppose. I just kept repeating my mantra, "They're just kids enjoying Halloween. They're just kids enjoying Halloween. They're just kids enjoying Halloween. They're just kids enjoying Halloween." That seemed to work. For the most part.


Here's a little glimpse of some of the fun things we were up to:


The hula girl costumes seemed so easy, until we actually tried to buy them! Seems that the party stores clear out the hula stuff to make room for the Halloween hoopla. Didn't count on that. We ended up ordering everything from Amazon and it came in time, so no worries. Oh, and trying to run into the potty "real quick" makes for an interesting encounter with the grass skirt. Yeah, not such an easy costume after all. Must rethink this next year.

As you can see we had a ridiculous amount of treats sent in. Lucky kids, right? We had some visits from our pre-k kids. How cute are they? My little second graders felt so grown up giving out the candy when they came to our door trick or treating.

Academically, we kept things rolling along with some of the projects you see up there. We finished up our Pumpkin Science Investigation and had lots of fun with creations from my blog buddies.

In case you're planning for next year, you can find the Haunted House for Sale writing project from Clutter Free Classroom {HERE}. The first pic on the bottom row is from a great set of math problem solving cards from Amber Polk which you can find {HERE}. Those worked out really, really well! I became and instant fan of hers. The Candy Corn Place Value Race game in the bottom row is from my always fab friend Fern and you can find that one {HERE.}  The Where the Wild Things are writing is from the amazing Amy Lemons and can be found  {HERE}. That Hallo-Wiener writing is from me which is {HERE}. A definite must-get freebie is the Halloween I Have, Who Has from my buddy Mandy at Cooperative Learning 365. That one is {HERE} and don't miss the freebies she has for other holidays as well. Her stuff is always awesome. Ok, hope I didn't miss anybody. I also bought a slew of other stuff from TpT that I ran out of time to use. Hopefully, I'll remember I have them next year!

On a serious note, big love to my friends and readers in the Northeast living through Sandy. It's strange for me to be watching hurricane coverage from a distance. We've made a donation to the Red Cross to help out and if at all possible, I'd urge you all to do the same. If you can't donate money, consider donating blood. It's also in short supply at the moment. I've been the one on line for free ice and water before because I really needed it and it's a feeling you can't imagine unless you've lived through it. Even as you're standing in line, you can't quite believe you're where you are. I know it's hard to believe now, but the good news is that eventually, life returns to normal. Until then, I'm with you in spirit.





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