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Birthday Board Display!

I'm super excited to be partnering with Michaels again for the Create2Educate back to school promotion. Let me loose in Michaels, and there's no telling what I'll create! You can check out last year's ideas here. Just like last year, I had a blast cruising the aisles and deciding what to create.

I immediately saw that burlap seems to be the "it" material this year! So I picked up an awesome burlap canvas frame and colored burlap swatches in a Mat Stack. I had an idea rolling around my head to make a birthday display so I headed over to the sticker section to get some glittery letters. On my way there I spied some great chalkboard circles and gorgeous blue silky flowers that are designed to be flip-flop embellishments (but of course I had other ideas...) and the idea became crystal clear.


I used the fantastic KG font A Little Swag as a pattern for the pennant. I cut quite a few of each color so I could play around with the arrangement and I ended up only using one of each swatch from the Mat Pack! I didn't take a picture of this part, but I lined up all the pennant pieces on a string and taped them from the back to temporarily hold them in place.

When I liked the arrangement, I put a dab of E-6000 glue behind each pennant piece to stick it to the burlap. Then I added the sparkly stickers to spell Happy Birthday!

I made a small slit in each corner of the burlap canvas and slipped the flip-flop flower in it and clipped it closed. Then I just stapled the green ribbon across the bottom of the frame and added the clothespin. 
To display students birthdays, I picked up 12 of the black chalkboard circles and some chalk markers. Now each month I'll just change out the circles! The best part is that those chalk markers erase right off with a damp cloth, so I can use them again next year!


Michaels would love to see what you can do to inspire your students this year! It's easy peasy to enter and you could win a $50 gift card!


Happy Crafting, my friends!



Book Box Winners & Welcome Back Packs!

So, first things first - the winners of the book box giveaway are...


Congrats Julie and Lisa!  Please check your email and respond by Monday or new winners will be chosen.

Ok, now on to my Welcome Back Packs. I always like to have a little something on my kids' desks as they enter the room on the very first day. At our school the kids kind of trickle in along with parents who are helping them carry supplies and want to walk them to their desk. During those first few minutes I'm usually distracted greeting students and answering parent's questions, so I really need the kids to have something that they can start on right away. I really think it helps the kids too. They're often a little nervous and giving them something familiar to do for the first few minutes helps get them settled.  So when they walk in, they'll find this little packet at their seat with a nice new box of crayons and a "welcome to second grade" pencil.


All of the activities are meant to be very simple and completely independent. I always tell the kids to chat and get to know each other and it seems to happen a lot more naturally when they have something in front of them to actually discuss. All in all, they probably only work on this for about 10-15 minutes, but we then keep this pack for the rest of the week. It's fantastic for the kids to have at their fingertips when you just need five or ten teacher minutes to do things like handle dismissal concerns, shuffle supplies, and walk around and get a first glance at how your new little nuggets handle themselves with their new classmates. This is where I start making mental notes about my first seating arrangements. 

The second grade pack can be found HERE. It's got some simple math, color by code, a first writing sample, word search, handwriting practice, some critical and creative thinking... just a little bit of everything to help wake up their little brains from their summer slumber.



I've also got a pack for third graders as well. Same types of activities, but with a little more of a big-kid spin. You can find it HERE on tpt.


I'l be back to share a few other fun first day activities over the next few days. I can't believe it's just about time to start getting all of this stuff together! Where did my summer go?



If you're looking for a fun ice-breaker, this game is perfect. There's no prep for you, but big fun for your kids. My kids always ask to play this long after the first day of school! It's the perfect way for your new students to get to know each other a bit better while you observe how they handle working in a small group. It's so much fun to see who your natural leaders are, who your observers are, who's a little more low key, and who your little stinkers might be. Because, let's be real, there's always one (but you know you end up loving that one like crazy!) You can check out the game HERE


I know it's sad to say good bye to summer, but  having fun and easy to prep materials like this definitely helps a little :)


Win a Recycled Book Bead Bracelet!

It's like giveaway days here this week! I have a hard time saying no when fabulous people offer to give cool things to my readers. This fun giveaway is from Kim at Trashy Crafter.


I have a soft spot for Etsy crafters because I was once one myself. Long before tpt, I was a serious paper crafter with a little shop of my own, but slowly over time my paper crafting gave way to digital creation. So when Kim showed me the cool jewelry she creates from books, I knew I had take her up on her offer! I'll share a bit more about Kim in a few days but the short story is that she makes beads out of old book pages that come together in unique jewelry creations.

I asked for a neutral colored bracelet that showed some words on the beads. Kim sent me this bracelet and I was delighted!


It came packaged in an adorable envelope made from a map and it was on this card that showed which book the beads were made from. What an awesome gift for a fellow teacher or book lover!



Here are some of Kim's other designs, which make me feel like shopping!


Adorable, right? Kim has graciously offered to let one lucky winner choose a bracelet from her Etsy store which you can visit here. To enter this contest,  either pin an image from this post or one from her Etsy store and enter using the Rafflecopter widget below.  Good Luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Win Some Awesome Book Boxes!

Hi. I'm Denise. And I'm a contain-aholic. For serious. I have more containers, bins, boxes, and baskets than I could probably use in two teaching careers. But does that stop me from wanting more? Nope. Can you relate? So when I was asked by Steps to Literacy if I'd like to review and give away some of their book bins, it took me about a half a second to say "YES, PLEASE!"

And look how pretty they are!



I was sent a set of 8 bins in assorted colors, which I initially was a bit bummed about because I like my things to be matchy-matchy. But now I'm actually looking forward to organizing my teacher read-aloud library with these in a fun rainbow pattern.  They are so vibrant  and cheery - and sturdy!



You can see I've got two large hardcover books and 4 paperbacks in this bin and it's standing tall, no wobbles at all! Uh, please disregard the coffee mug in the sink... ;) Soon enough school related pictures will once again be taken at school!

Here's the fun part. I get to give away a set of book boxes to TWO lucky winners. If you win, you will receive a set of 8 boxes, in your choice of colors (based on availability).

Just enter using the Rafflecopter widget below. Good luck!

Sharing my Long Range Plans

Confession: I've never had a long range plan. Ever. Not ever. For real.

Then one day my amazingly talented and uber generous and inspiring friend Amanda Madden from Teaching Maddeness shared hers and a light bulb went off! Here's her post on Long Range Plans. And while you're there, please read through her series on homework {AMAZING!}

I've always taught a non-traditional class (Dropout Prevention, ESOL, Specials, Gifted) and I liked the "freedom" I thought I was giving myself by not having a plan to follow. I was like a little teacher hippie skipping through the year doing whatever I felt like doing whenever I felt like it. I covered what I knew I was supposed to and I don't doubt for a second that I provided great experiences for my kids, but I was perpetually stressed about what I was doing next and trying to plan for it.

That stressful feeling become my normal. Not good. I knew I needed a change so my goal was to create at least a guideline of where to go through the year. When Amanda shared her LRP's I knew that's what I needed to do.

First, I created a template that would cover all of the main areas of my day. That took about a bazillion different tries. But this was my end result.


Then I just duplicated the pages to have enough for the year and added our school dates and days off/testing days/etc.
Then I just started plugging things in! On our team some people use the basal and some do Daily Five, that's why there's a column for both. I still have a lot of things to add, like actual writing activities, STEM projects, Tasty Tuesday Recipes, etc. but this is a really good starting point! 

When I shared this earlier on Instagram, a lot of people asked me if I could share it. I'm happy to!
Here's what I've got:

My Year at a Glance - personalized to my year, my team (with lots of holes that need to be filled) which you won't be able to change. Get that HERE.

An editable Year at a Glance - you should be able to edit the dates and content boxes. That can be found HERE.

The font I used is KG Part of Me, so you'll want to snag that at tpt HERE

Here's where it gets a bit more complicated. If you are a Mac user and have Pages, you can download this document which has all of my plans that you would be able to go in and edit. (I create everything in Pages) You can get that HERE, but make sure you have that font from above, or it will look like a total wonky mess.

*To get those pink titles that go sideways, I used this powerpoint file to make the titles, then cut and pasted them into the Pages document - but you will need this font in order for it to look the same.

I sure hope that makes sense. That's about as many different ways I can think to share it! I hope one of them works for you :)


Spelling Homework for Any List for the Entire Year

I've been obsessed with spelling this summer. It's one area of my curriculum that I have never really been fully satisfied with. I put in a crazy amount of time researching and planning out exactly what I wanted to make spelling both meaningful and engaging for my kids, but yet easy to manage for me.

So that's the story behind my Word Study and Spelling Solution, which you can read more about here and see on tpt here.

I knew as soon as I posted it, there would be requests for all kinds of modifications. I really super wish I could make all of the little tweaks and adjustments to have it fit everyone's personal needs but if I did, I think it would be my new full time job!

So, I started thinking about it and created something that I hope is a good compromise. This is just the homework notebook section of my program, but it can be used with any word list with either 10, 15, or 20 words. Complete directions are included as well as everything you need for an entire year of stress free homework! You can check it out on tpt here.


I can't wait to get this in action in my room this year!




Hope this helps!

Boggle Your Kids

I used to have a Boggle board up on my classroom wall, ala Pinterest. (Yes, even my elf got involved)



But I found that my kids were not always copying the letters correctly and they were really not making words longer than 3 or maybe 4 letters. All in all, it seemed like a waste of space and time. So, a little bit ago I tried a new approach, and it was fabulous. You can find that post here where I shared how I turned the game into a teaching opportunity (along with a great freebie!). One major key was to really model for them how to travel around the board to find longer words than the, and, and you. After that, my kids were hooked!

I've incorporated a version of this printable Boggle game into a few of my packs including my August & September and October Printable Packs (which both need cover make-overs. eek!)


When I saw how much my kids liked them, I decided to make a bunch that I could use for some other seasons along with ones that can be used any time of the year. Then I also realized I was probably playing with copyright fire calling them Boggle. oopsies! So I now have a pack of 15 printable Boggle
inspired puzzles called Wordables


I included some easy to follow directions and helpful hints:


And best of all, I also included an answer key of sorts, so when you're using it as a teaching tool, you'll have a list of words that can be found in the puzzle to use!

I carefully chose the letters for each grid so that at least a few would have something to do with the season or general clip art. I was also super duper careful to make sure kids could NOT find certain  three or four letter words that will cause your whole class to go "oooooohhhhh". You know the ones...

These Wordables are also great free-time fillers, sub plan additions, fun for those days when you're too exhausted to teach but still have time left in your day (oh, like field day, field trip the freakin farm when it's 90 degrees out...) They also make great challenges for your early finishers and enrichment students as well! If you need some really quiet time, like maybe the older kids next to you are testing, pair up kids to work on a Wordable but tell them to be super quiet so no one else can hear the words they're making! Here's a surefire tip to make that work (I'm so mean...) If they are supposed to be working quietly but I can hear the word they found, I'll announce it to the whole class! It only happens once, trust me. Then they get the idea ;)

To save on your copy budget, consider laminating them or putting them in a plastic sleeve so kids can use them over and over again. 

You can find the pack here to see them on tpt. Enjoy!

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