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With Earth Day right around the corner, I thought I'd share some resources you can use with your kids with minimal prep. That seems to be my focus lately - minimal prep. That is high on my list of criteria for new resources lately, both for those I create and those I purchase. It's almost May. Need I say more?

So first up I have a freebie from my newest product line that I'm calling One Sheet Wonders. I was actually inspired by children's restaurant menus. They really pack a lot of fun stuff in a small space, so I tried to emulate that with these new printables. Of course I'm not actually using them the same way a restaurant would. I created them to align with the major subjects we teach in science and have been using them for the past couple of months. Before we start a new unit, we explore one of the pages and have some fun with word play, coloring, puzzles, and fun facts. It really gets them interested in what's coming their way and it gives me an idea of how much they know or think they know about our next unit of study. Since we've already learned about matter, science tools, and some of the other topics, I've been using those sheets for morning work. I also get called out of the room quite a bit for quick meetings and these have been perfect to leave with the paraprofessional who is covering my classes for a few minutes. So, if you're interested in the whole set, you can find them here.  I'm currently working on a set for habitats, next up is math concepts and social studies. In the meantime, enjoy this one for Earth Day to try them out with your kids. Click here to download it on TpT.

If you follow me in Instagram, you're probably familiar with my Orange Board Question of the Day. Every day I post a quick little question on this easel. This week I've been using facts from this free set of Earth Day task cards. You can download them here for yourself.
They're fun discussion starters or even writing prompts. Before the orange board appeared, I would use these in those weird little five minutes here and there that are too short to really do anything and too long to do nothing.

I've got one more fun freebie for word work. I have a few of these freebies in my store for different holidays, so my kids are used to them. The good thing is that I get a chorus of "yays" instead of "ughs" when I hand them out. lol! Click here to download this freebie.

Enjoy and Happy Earth Day!
I try to teach direct lessons on book genres at the start of the year because it's just such a basic part of kids knowing about books and discovering what they like to read. My library is organized by genre, we discuss genre every time I read a book to them, we pack our book boxes with a mix of genres...so moving the study of genres to the start of the year just seems to make good sense. Plus it's fun for me to be all dramatic when I teach them how to say "genre".

I have a pretty eclectic mix of resources that I use when I'm explicitly teaching genres, but today I'm going to share a few that I found especially fun this time around. The first was actually something I put together a couple of years ago as part of my formal observation lesson. It worked really well during my observation and my kids begged to "play" it again. To introduce the genres, I created a four pictures-one word type activity to play together as a class. Considering it was the first time they were being exposed to the names of the genres, I used the slide that gave them a few letters in the right place to start. {I created three slides for each genre - one with just the spaces, one with a few letters filled in, and one that reveals the answer}

The cards are pretty versatile.  If projecting them whole group doesn't float your boat, you can definitely print them for a literacy center or even an interactive bulletin board. I've just recently polished the set up enough to add to my tpt shop, so if you'd like to check this out to use with your class, you can see it here.

After we had a basic grasp on some genres, we went to town dissecting some Scholastic book order forms to find examples of them. They LOVED this. And I loved hearing all the discussion they were having about how or why particular books would best be suited to each category. It was during this activity they realized that sometimes a book kind of crosses the lines from one genre to another or has some elements of more than one genre. Learning this through their own discovery was much more meaningful than if I were to have told them. If you'd like the simple form I used for this activity, just click here to snag it from Dropbox. I also included a blank form so you can have your kids write in the genres they find if the ones I had listed don't work for you.

Another resource I love to use with my kids are these genre task cards. Kids read a little scenario about an imaginary book and they have to decide the most likely genre of the book. I love the versatility of task cards and most of the year these live on my Brain Builders wall, but we took them down and used them in small groups for this part of our study. You can find those in my tpt shop as well if they look interesting to you.
Happy Teaching, my friends. Until next time...

So, notice anything different around here? How gorgeous is my new blog design!? Big buckets of love and thanks to Megan from A Bird in Hand Designs. It's like she was in my head throughout the entire design process and what she produced for me was exactly what I envisioned. I'm in LoVe!

To celebrate, here's a little freebie you might like. I made a winter version of this game and my kids went bonkers over it! The key is to play just a couple of games at a time over a few days. As my friend Reagan once said, "Always leave them wanting more!" She was talking about her math rotations, but for some reason that little pearl of wisdom just stuck with me. Also, I'm ALWAYS the caller. I have found that that minute that you turn the calling duty over to a kid, chaos ensues along with a chorus of "what did you say?" being yelled whispered after every word.

The kids create their own game boards by cutting and gluing the words of their choice onto the blank bingo board. I take a little time to let them make the game in class, but if your class time is limited, consider sending it home for homework.  If your class time is super limited, you can just have them write the words in the squares on the blank board. With the winter game, we played each day of the last week of school during that weird 10 minute block of time most of us have that's too short to really do anything with but too long to not do anything with. You know what I'm talking about, right? It helped with behavior management too because whenever something was taking a bit too long because of a severe chase of chatterboxia, I would ponder aloud in my most thoughtful teacher voice, "hmmm I wonder if we'll have enough time to play bingo today?" and like magic, we were back on track.

Now to be fair, I did have some pretty cool prizes up for grabs. I picked up some smelly Crayola markers from Walgreens that were about 39 cents each and some random holiday trinkets from the party store. I also offered up some fuzzies that we use for our reward system and some sweet treats. Since we only played 2-3 games a day, I didn't go through too many prizes.

We don't have an all out party for Valentine's Day. Instead it's referred to as a "treat day" which makes NO difference at all in the way the kids perceive the day. They're kids. They're excited about handing out their little cards and packets of Fun-Dip or what have you. So I try to work in as much fun stuff as I can. Can I tell you how big I smiled when I realized we'll celebrate on a Friday this year? Almost, but not quite as big as I smiled when Halloween was celebrated on a Friday! Now that was Heaven sent...

So, if you'd like to download this little freebie for yor kids, just click here. In the product description you'll also find some links for my other bingo games.

Happy Heart Day!

So first of all, yikes! I have been seriously neglecting this blog of mine. Real life is a bit crazy right now for sure, but I also feel so connected through Instagram that I think I've forgotten the value of a real actual post that's longer than a few quick sentences under a hastily snapped picture. I'm not usually big on New Year's resolutions because I NEVER stick to them and then I just end up feeling even worse about myself, but I seriously do want to get back to blogging. Now I just have to hope that all y'all still want to check in with me from time to time!

So, what's new, you ask?
Well, if you do follow me on Instagram you already know this, but I have a new class pet! About a month ago, I adopted the cutest guinea pig ever. His name is Mr. French (but we call him Frenchie) and he was purchased by a friend to be a class pet in first grade, but she found him to be very skittish and shy and just not the right fit for curious first graders. Then another friend of ours took him home to be a pet for her five year old son. Turns out he was allergic, so little piggie was back on the market again. On impulse, I decided to take him in. I really thought he would just be a class pet that would live at school and just go home with different kids on long weekends or vacations. But that is NOT what happened. I fell in love with this little stinker and now he comes home with me every night! It takes a few extra minutes in the morning to wrangle him up and definitely takes some planning when I leave school if I had errands planned, but so far it's working out. I took him for a vet visit, just to be sure he was healthy and happy, especially because kids are handling him too. The vet assured me that he would be fine on his own for up to 3 days as long as he had plenty of hay and water. So far that hasn't happened, but it's good to know it's an option if I need it. It actually was a bit of a rough start for us, as Frenchie was super skittish and not used to so much human contact, but he's made a ton of progress. I'm planning a longer blog post with things to think about when considering adopting a guinea pig because they're actually a lot more work than I realized, but to me it's totally worth it. I mean, look at this cute little thing!

On another note, it's December 12 and there is not a hint of Christmas in my house. In fact, there are still several turkeys currently staring me down that I need to pack away. I have purchased no gifts, baked no cookies, have no lights on the house, no elf on my shelf. And for real, all I want to do right now is go take a nap. Instead I will tackle this house and at least de-Thanksgiving it. Maybe. Probably not. I'm in trouble.

Hey friends! We've just finished up our second full week of school.  I'm sure you totally get it, but I am LOVING the fact that we have a three day weekend!  I changed a few things around this year. I don't have a particular theme, but I was trying to go for a more nature/natural look. As natural as a room could look with yellow cabinetry and fluorescent lighting...

This is the back wall of my room. Above the bulletin board it says #GatorRunRocks, which is kind of our unofficial motto. All of our tech stuff is on the back table under that board (laptops, printer, iPads). Then to the left is our Brain Builders board. I've blogged about that a few times. Here's one that explains it pretty well.  I usually sit on that black ottoman for read alouds. Under the easel are some rolled up partner reading rugs for Daily 5 that I picked up from Really Good Stuff.  The Fadeless brand paper on that board looks like wooden planks, which reminds me of a dock.  Then we have the gator, the pussy willows, and tall grass. All very Everglades  - fitting because our school skirts the edge of the actual Everglades! In my mind, the blue carpet is like a big lake.

 I finally opened up my Silhouette Cameo after it sat untouched for a year! My first project was cutting the words Brain Builders for that gator I picked up from Hobby Lobby. At first it was a little frustrating, but eventually I got the hang of it. It's an awesome little machine. I really need to use it more.

 This is the longer side of the room. The banner hanging across the window is from my set of bulletin board banners. I love how they make a little bunting when they're hung side by side.

This board used to be green. I always felt like it was like an old clinic green, so I was overjoyed when we actually painted it black! I keep my number of the day board here, so I was forever using a magic eraser to get the stray marker residue off the green bulletin board. Now that's not a problem at all. I got that chalkboard banner at Hobby Lobby (of course) and it was my second successful Cameo project to cut vinyl letters for it. The green pocket charts hold my spelling words. The copy/turn it in basket labels are in this freebie pack (along with my clip chart and trash tub labels)

Although not quite as obvious, the nature aspect is represented here as well with a rainbow!

I didn't get a good pic of this area last year. These are the two pieces of furniture I bought at Ikea when I decided to ditch my teacher desk and all my filing cabinets. These are both from the Kallax collection. This year I bought the drawer inserts for the longer piece. All my technology, document camera, printer, the laptop I use to connect to my projector are on top. Those black bins underneath are deep and hold a ton! The smaller piece under the black board holds most of my TE's and other things I need at my fingertips. I use the horseshoe table and the blue stools from Ikea when I meet with small groups.

This is the front of the room. Pretty standard stuff. You can kind of see the backpack hooks I hung under the board. BEST thing ever. Now I'm not tripping over them hanging off the chairs. 

The front board holds some schedule cards from my friend Stephanie Stewart which you can find here.  The clip chart is part of the freebie pack I mentioned above and the date cards are in my number of the day set. Squished in between is the amazing Word Superstars pack from Teacher's Clubhouse which you can find here. The specials signs above the board are just something I whipped up to match the rest of the stuff in that area last year, but to be honest, they eat up some serious printer ink. I need to revise them for this year, but I'm still playing around with a new format that will be a bit easier on the ink budget. Ounce for ounce, I'm pretty sure that stuff costs more than gold!

Not the best picture, but this board will be used to track my kids's AR points. It's from my Rock Star pack and it's editable so you can program it for your goals. This year instead of hanging it like a clip chart and using clothespins, I'm just going to use push pins to tack their name around the goal star for each kid. Once we get some name stars on the board, it will start looking a lot more fun. Can you guess where I got the painted canvases to the left? If you said Hobby Lobby, you are CORRECT!

This bookshelf was one of my first Donor's Choose projects. I filled it with these fabric boxes from Target. Perfect fit! Iv'e got all kinds of things in those boxes - math manipulatives, notebooks, supplies, etc. The extra crayon drawers are one of the most used pinterest finds ever! Read more about those here and grab a set of free labels.

My library! The smaller blue bins are from Lakeshore. They're great because depending on how you put the books in the box, you can use them for chapter books or picture books. The larger bins are from Really Good Stuff and have plastic dividers inside to keep the books standing up straight. The tree and branches are vinyl decals that I got from Target a few years ago. The burlap banner and owl are both from good ol' HL! Dang, I spend a ton of money in that place!

This is my new favorite area in the room. This is actually beautiful bulletin board paper from Fadeless. The leaf over the sink is from Ikea. Not sure where I spend the most money, there or HobLob. Which, by the way, is where I got the Zebra picture. There is also a monkey and giraffe in that series and I totally need them! The hermit crabs are in that tank. I've decided to keep some fresh flowers in the room and those beautiful sunflower from Whole Foods go perfectly in that spot.

In a small room, you use EVERY little nook and cranny. This little table from Ikea fit perfectly here. It's a perfect spot for a word work center. We also call this the "resource wall" and kids come here all the time to reference the part of speech posters, math vocabulary, coin chart, and some other stuff I have hanging there. I change out things as the year goes on. In my mind, I have a tpt product idea rolling around for this spot, but it's been rolling around for a couple of year and, well, it's still rolling with no sign of stopping.

So, that's about it. I didn't go crazy with new projects and decor, because I want things to be simple and uncomplicated. I mostly want lots of space for the kids to move around and work with groups or by themselves. I also really want them to feel like the room is theirs and they can easily access everything in it. My focus this year is making my curriculum meaningful and purposeful. My kids are raring to go and I want to keep them that way - engaged and motivated!

I have some more pictures and resources to share from Open House in the next few days. 

Hope you all enjoy the long weekend! If you're anything like me, long days in pj's, coffee, and Netflix are on repeat around here!
I've been working on my room for a couple of hours a day for the past couple of weeks. I have gotten a lot done, but there's still so much more to do! We report for the first day of pre-planning on Monday but it's ok. I work best under pressure!

I just wanted to share this quick and simple tip with you. My brain does NOT work this way, so I have to give credit to my husband for this one. My dilemma was that I wanted to hang this heavy wooden alligator from Hobby Lobby on my Brain Builder task card bulletin board.

When I tried to hang it with just a push pin and the metal hanger on the back, it was way too wobbly for me. I could just imagine a kid grabbing as set of cards and having that gator bonk him on the head which is a huge no-no.

So Jeff came up with a great idea, that totally worked. We used velcro! But I didn't want to put the adhesive part of the velcro directly onto the painted surface of the bulletin board because if I ever remove it, I don't want the paint coming with it.  So what we did was to first determine where he would go on the board and temporarily place him with push pins holding him up.

But nothing was securing him to the wall and it was way too flimsy. So we then stapled one side of the velcro to the board without removing the adhesive strip.

Then we stuck the other side of the strip on to the part we just stapled. THEN we exposed the adhesive. Then we pushed the gator into place which stuck the velcro to the back. In the end, I left of the push pins too even though it really feels strong enough with the velcro alone, but better safe than sorry!

The finished result:

The wooden alligator is from Hobby Lobby, I picked him up last year. He's our school mascot, so he's been just hanging around with no real purpose until now. I finally opened my YEAR OLD Silhouette Cameo and figured out how to work it (I KNOW!) to make the vinyl letters. Love how it turned out!

If you're interested in the task cards, I've got tons in my shop, but you can find the main bundles HERE and HERE.

Well, I'm off to enjoy my last weekend before we report back on Monday. If anyone sees my summer, can you please return it?  I seem to have misplaced it and I'd really like it back!

Glad that you were able to join us for the third annual Orange Ya' Glad it's a Blog Hop!
I am the

If you have hopped with us in the past, some things will be familiar, and some things will be new!
This year, all of our bloggers are focusing on free tips or ideas that they can share with you to get your school year off to a great start.  Some ideas will have a freebie, others might just be a stand alone concept.  The idea is to try and share things that will solve problems and create a happy and stress free first few weeks!

Today I'm sharing an idea for a fun first day activity that my team and I have been doing for a couple of years and it's always a HUGE hit. It's practically zero prep for you, so win-win!  I think ice-breakers fall into two categories for most kids - exciting or terrifying. Your outgoing, verbal kids love them and get super into them. Your shy, introverted kids can't wait for them to be over. This one usually works really well for both kinds of kids. And it involves play-doh - what kid doesn't like play-doh!? I'm sure there are probably some, but luckily I haven't found one yet.

So, this is super simple. Give each kid a little mini-tub of play-doh and let them explore for a few minutes. Then tell them to use it to create something that they can use to tell about themselves. I usually model something quick like a coffee cup or apple while they're sculpting so I can start things off.

The explanations are usually pretty awesome.
Huge water slide on a cruise ship:

A girl and her family:

Baking cookies with grandma:

Pancake breakfasts on the weekend:

I love science!

Taking care of the dog:

Instead of putting each child on the spot and making them talk in front of the whole class, I have half of the class stay with their creation and let the other half wander around. Then they chat informally with each other. Then we switch. It's a great way to get the conversation flowing in a very non-threatening, fun environment! Sometimes you can find mini-tubs of play-doh(ish stuff) at Dollar Tree. So far this year, it's been a little hard to find them there. You can get this set of 10 on Amazon for $4.99.
So back to the hop. I'm letter

 The letters all work together to give you the name of a type of orange!  This year is a bit tricky...it's a two word name!  **Hint: Starting on my blog and going through will give you the right answer!** 

Once you've solved the puzzle...take a picture of the answer.  
Post it on instagram and hashtag it with #orangehop2015.  We love original ideas...so, do something fun with your image!

We will go through the pictures and select a winner.

Next up is another amazing Sunshine State blogger, the adorableTammy 
The Resourceful Apple. 

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