This is what I spent quite a few hours staring at yesterday. 

Now just imagine an icy cold refreshment and "Brown Eyed Girl" and other similar summer tunes in the background. Don't forget the unmistakable scent of suntan lotion and the soft crashing of waves mixed with the sounds of children laughing...nice right? There is just something so relaxing about sitting with your toes in the sand. My hubby and I needed this little retreat. We're enjoying a pre-summer-vacation-vacation on the beautiful west coast of Florida. For us, it's just a short drive over Alligator Alley to the white sandy beaches of Naples, Captiva, and Bonita Springs. We've still got two weeks of school left and after this little break, I think I'm recharged enough to tackle them full force!

Enjoying this amazing scenery with him sitting right next to me was priceless but even as we sat there on the beach I had to force the "teachery" thoughts I had out of the forefront of my brain (like the small roped off area you can see if you look really closely which is protecting a sea turtle nest that prompted a zillion teaching ideas). Of course, I also worked on ideas for new centers on the way over and I finally figured out what to do for my room mom gifts which I'll share a little later (don't want to spoil the surprise).

I'm off to a nice dinner with the hubby at one of our favorite restaurants over here where I'm sure I'm going to eat way too much and enjoy every single second of it.

Hope you are all enjoying your weekend as much as I am!
The Colossal Contest is over and we have a winner! One of our very own followers, Fern McAllister Smith! I'm so happy for you Fern!! When I saw her name I was almost as happy as if I had won myself. I know we have a Janine here too, but there's no last name on your profile. So if our Janine is Janine Fernandez, then I'm super doubly excited!!

This contest was such a success with so many TpT sellers gaining followers at their store, on Facebook and their blogs, that there is a serious buzz about what do do next to top this one! So, stay tuned for more chances to win some really amazing prizes.

As a participant in the contest, I am beyond grateful for all of the new followers who have joined us. I hope you'll stick around :)

During our 100th follower celebration, so many of you asked for the Center Six Pack Beach Theme - which was validation to me that you see this as a great classroom resource. But I did find a little oopsie in the copy I sent you. A revision and explanation can be found here (I hope!). It's just a little correction. If you purchased the actual file from TpT, you can go to your account and download the entire file again, or you can also just access the revision on Google Docs.  This is my first shot at using Google Docs. I've never worked with it before, but what a great way to share files! I can see so many uses for this, so I'm crossing my fingers that everyone is able to access the revision. If you left a comment with the resource you wanted and for some reason I haven't sent it yet, (JUDY - I STILL need your email address!)  please leave another comment below. It was just an oversight on my part.

12 more crazy, busy, jam packed, frantic but fun days of school left for us! I'll miss these kids for sure, but I'm so looking forward to that first Monday without an alarm clock ;)
I have been creating these altered dominoes for years. Once I got started, there was no stopping me for a while. I scoured the aisles of the craft store and found all sorts of things that could be glued to the back of a domino. I created domino necklaces, barrettes, bookmarks, magnets, keychains, name tags, party favors...oh, the list goes on and on. I made pins and necklaces for the holidays and so many people wanted them, my principal gave me permission to sell them at my school for $3.00 each - they went like crazy! I also donated some for a Relay for Life fundraiser and for our student council to sell at the school store. For a while they were a permanent fixture on most of the kids' backpacks at school. It was pretty neat for me to see that and I had daydreams of sitting on Oprah's couch gushing over how quickly my idea took off and how a billionaire investor begged to by the rights to them for a jillion dollars...but it was not meant to be. Here are some samples (about .1% of the dominoes I've created).

Click on any of the pictures on the page to see them a little larger.

There are various methods of creating these tiny little masterpieces and some people really take them to extremes.  If you google "altered dominoes" you'll find some incredible images. I have tried lots of different methods from stamping to stickers to hand painting to vellum overlays. The method I'm going to share with you now is the absolute easiest. Trust me. Seriously. If you are interested in the stamping method here's a tutorial I found with a quick search that's pretty close to the way I've done it. It's more for the advanced crafter and requires some specific supplies you may not have on hand and can be hard to find. I can share some other ways to make them later if you like (like the cool effect I came up with for the BMS baseball one above). For now, let's tackle this beginner level project.

For this method you will need dominoes, rub-on transfers, and a crystal lacquer glue. I love Crystal Effects by Stampin' Up, but if you check out the glue section of your local craft store you'll see other brands that work just as well. It's relatively cheap - around $5 for a bottle that will last you forever. The rub-ons can usually be found mixed in with the stickers. 

First, I like to use a sanding block or a piece of fine sandpaper and give the domino a quick smoothing. Just about 5 seconds is enough. It removes some shine and gives you a nice clean surface to work on. This is not an essential step, but it is especially important if you are stealing borrowing dominoes from your kids or the math center for this project. A little sanding and they're good as new! Just be sure to wipe off the dust with a dry towel. 

Next, I like to play around with the rub-ons and lay them over the domino to get an idea of what I want and where I want it. Then cut out the pieces from the sheet and place them on the domino without pressing down and arrange as desired:

The rub-ons are usually meant for much larger surfaces, so you can cut right through the design to get it to fit wherever you want. 

Use a popsicle stick (or your fingernail) to transfer the rub-on to your domino. If tragedy strikes and something funky happens to your rub-on during the transfer, just sand off and start over. It takes some practice to learn how hard to rub on the transfer and every brand is a little different. Again, I love Stampin' Up's rub-ons, they really sell superior paper crafting products. 

We're almost done! Here comes the fun part. You will want a latex glove now. Again, trust me, friends. You do NOT want this glue on your digits. Be sure to carefully cover your work surface as well. I could get my husband to chime in here about all of the furniture I've ruined embellished with my artistic endeavors, but I don't think this is the place for such hash language.

I place the glove on my left hand so my right is free to hold the bottle carefully. Squeeze a healthy amount of glue over the surface of the domino and let it run off the domino onto the paper-covered work surface. It's a waste of glue, yes. But even still, that bottle will last you forever. You can move the process along by running over the domino with a sponge tip paintbrush, but once you do, the brush has to be thrown away and that gets expensive. If you're saying you'll try the brush method and just wash it out, I have a bathroom sink to show you that says otherwise. So, now I hold, drip and wait. Feel free to move the domino around the get the glue all over. Add more where you need it. It's pretty forgiving. You can tap the domino on your work surface to get the glue to cover. A little trial and error comes into play here too. Once it dries (at least 4 hrs.) the surface is self-healing and it will have a nice even, shiny coat. 

I usually wipe off any excess glue on the sides of the domino with a paper towel, a sponge tip brush works great for this too. But again, after one of these projects the brush is trash. When I'm making several, I'll use the brush but for just one or two it's not worth it. This is what I'm talking about by the way:
I like to set the wet domino on top of another one to dry just to avoid having it stick to the paper it's drying on. The next step is optional. I always like to add a little bling. These are cheapy rhinestone stickers. You can find packs of them for a dollar or two at the craft store. I started with the brown and purple flower, but it got really closely acquainted with my glove, so I had to go with my second choice. 
While the glue is wet, set the rhinestone in the desired position and that's it! It will become one with the domino once it dries.

As a little happy accident, I realized that three dominoes fit perfectly inside an altered Altoid tin:

While you're in the glue aisle, grab a tube of this:

This is wonder glue. It's messy and the tube is awful and the cap never stays on, but it's worth the trouble. After you use it for the first time, just forget the cap. Stick an opened paper clip in the end and lay it on an old coaster or something. It's gooooood stuff. It will hold a magnet on the back of the domino  like nobody's business. 

One of my favorite altered domino ideas is this one below for a picture holder. How cute would these be as place card holders or to mark the food on a buffet at your next party?

If you have any questions, I'm happy to help. If you'd like to see more tutorials on the stamping method, just leave me a comment and I'll put one together soon. 
I'm getting pretty good at taking pictures with one hand!

If you are anything like me, your to-do list is growing faster than your lawn in the summertime. And speaking of summertime, it's almost here! Ah, coffee from a real mug, pajamas all day if I want, matinee movies with the hubs and lots of time to plan and write new curriculum. There's also lots of not-so-fun junk to catch up on, like jamming in all of our doctor's appointments (which have grown exponentially as I enter my 40's) and my yearly pledge to exercise every day. 

We have 13 more days of school left in our county and they are jam packed and I'm a little stressed out (Did I mention that I'm in charge of the end of the year luncheon and we still don't have a venue?? Or that I still have to have 18 conferences. Or that I have to pack my entire room and haven't moved one blessed thing?? uh oh...where are the Rolaids?)

Even though my schedule is a little insane, this blog remains a priority to  me. So I had to stop in and welcome all of the new members of our bloggy family. My how we've grown! This amazing contest might have something to do with it. So, let me add one more thing to your to-do list. Be sure to enter if you haven't already. These prizes are too amazing to miss out on.  Oh, and be sure to stop by The Organized Classroom blog for a cool freebie!

Thank you also for fulfilling a secret wish of mine to be an anonymous philanthropist by taking advantage of my 100th follower freebie offer. Ok, so it wasn't so anonymous, but it was pretty philanthropic, no? Seriously, if I ever won the lottery I would love to regularly fund Donor's Choose projects and buy up materials from new TpT sellers.  Of course, I would also spend some time shopping, traveling and making sure all of the 5 star spas I read about are really up to snuff. Seriously though, It excites me to know that my materials are now in classrooms across the country (and the world!) making teachers' lives easier and kids' days a little brighter. ( Ok, I know it wasn't THAT big a deal, but it still felt good, dang it!).

I've got lots of great new posts coming soon, like a step by step tutorial for making these cool domino magnets that are great room parent gifts.

So, welcome new followers and and special thanks to those of you that have been here from the beginning (a whole 2 months ago!). I can't wait to spend the summer together!
Remember when I teased that a big contest was coming?? Well, here it is! You don't wan't to miss this one! You can win 14 amazing resources from TpT sellers, including one of my center six packs. I mean, look at all that teachery deliciousness right there. Imagine looking forward to starting next year with all of these unique, teacher created resources. I'm a little bummed that I can't enter myself! So, check it out and get busy clicking away, you can enter 15 times! I would love to hear that one of my blog buddies was the winner :)

What are you still doing here? Go, this baby!
Good Luck!
     When I started this blog a little under two months ago, I remember being super excited that 8 people were following me. Of course I was one of them and 2 were my husband. Still, I was thrilled. Now, we're up to 100 in our little blog family.
     I hope this means that I've been able to share some stories, inspiration and ideas that have helped you in your classroom. But you must know, that you have helped me more. You see, as much as I am trying to focus on the positive things going on in schools right now there have been more than a few dark clouds looming over my little sunny spot lately. There are so many major changes happening in my school and my husband's school affecting us in a very close, personal way. In some ways they are life-changing. We are doing our best to wrap our heads around them and move forward and I know for me, this blog will continue to be the best way for me to do that.
    So thank you for being a follower. Thank you for being a friend. I'm not going anywhere anytime soon, and I hope you won't either.

I also hope you will take me up on this special thank you offer. Visit my TpT store,  become a follower and choose any item ($5.00 and under) and I will send it to you for free. Just leave me a comment in this post before May 20 with the item and your email address. That's it!  If you have any questions, just email me at

     I've been spoiled blessed to have great classrooms for most of my career. In my 18 years of teaching, at my best count I've had 7 different classrooms in three different schools (including one year I spent co-teaching in the media center- Hi Gina!) I've always seemed to have plenty of storage, lots of cabinets and drawers. One school had a glorious walk-in closet and in another school I shared one of 4 classrooms that opened up into a shared office/storage area. Even in the media center, we found ways to store our things pretty efficiently. Then about six years ago I moved into my current room. There are plenty of things I love about my room, like the ceiling mounted projector and speaker system. And I know that there are rooms far worse than mine, but my room does present certain challenges. First of all, it's wet. Sometimes the humidity is so strong, that papers don't really crumble, they just kind of quietly mush into a ball.  The worst part of the humidity is what it does to my hair. From May to October I pretty much have full time brillo-bangs. The best part is that the rooms on the other side of the hall are dry and cold! It kind of comes in handy when I'm teaching habitats. We just have to cross the hall to go from our rainforest environment to visit the arctic region!
     Besides the humidity, there is a serious lack of storage, at least compared to what I've had in the past.  The room does have one tall cabinet, but that's it for closed storage. Everything else is on display at all times. Below is my cabinet and you can get a glimpse of the two open shelves that run along part of one wall:

As I've related before, I'm a bit crazy when it comes to keeping things organized in my classroom. But I must confess, if you could click on that cabinet and open the doors I would fear for your safety. I've been creating a lot more centers of my own lately and I've been at a loss when trying to store them. I was putting all of the pieces in a ziplock bag and then shoving the bag wherever it would fit. I knew there had to be a better way. I think I found it!

I've started to put all of the pieces to each center into a plastic page protector and place them in a giant three ring binder. This way each center is kept together and all of the pieces are ready when I am.

     An added bonus is that other teachers can easily borrow a center by just removing one of the page protectors. I added a check out sheet in the pocket of the binder. I'm pretty notorious for letting other teachers borrow things and then forgetting who has what. Hopefully this will help a bit.
     Now that I finally found a way to organize my things a bit better, you know what will happen right? I'll get moved to another room. Well at least it will be easy to pack!
Check out my guest post over at Effective Teaching Articles. A look back on a lesson from one of my high school teachers that took about 20 years to sink in. Better late than never, right?
Warning: What you are about to see may surprise you. It depicts a ritual that sadly, has been abandoned in some areas of modern society. The following images show public school teachers being treated as highly regarded, respected professionals worthy of recognition and appreciation. Feel free to share these startling pictures with others who may be in the position of reviving this often forgotten custom of treating teachers with respect and gratitude.

On Monday, the red carpet was rolled out to welcome teachers to school. They delighted  in finding their star on the walk of fame (and then spent the rest of the day shuffling kids around the paper and answering the question: Why is there paper on the floor?).  

The red carpet led to the newly re-designed teacher's lounge, where paparazzi was forbidden.
Upon entering the room, they found lots of treats and notes of appreciation. Teachers truly did feel like superstars and were certainly flashing smiles worthy of the banned paparazzi. They reveled in their privacy and let their guard down while enjoying their lunch together.

The teachers at this school were so appreciative of these efforts and happily chatted about them for the remainder of the day. Unbeknownst to them, more surprises lay in store. Later in the week, the unmistakable aroma of "teacher's little helper" wafted through the halls. Was it their imagination? No. Incredibly, an authentic coffee cart complete with umbrella and barista had appeared in the hallway.
It was magical and wonderful and prompted the teachers to mull over ways in which our limited budget might be stretched to include our new barista as a permanent staff member. Sadly, it was not to be.

Now, you may be thinking this is too good to be true, trust me when I tell you that was the general feeling of the staff as well. Besides providing this celebrity treatment, the PTA parents had also made sure to notify family members that Teacher Appreciation Week was upon us and urged them to send in cards or notes of appreciation. Mission accomplished:
Finally on Friday, each teacher was treated to a spa experience during their break. As you can see, it was the best use of the copy room to date. Can you think of a better way to start the weekend? How about being able to leave a half hour early? Nice little bonus.

     I share this with you not to incite jealousy. I share this because the efforts of our PTA deserve to be showcased and applauded. I sincerely believe through these actions and from conversations I've had with some, they really understand that the current wave of anti-public teacher rhetoric is just that - rhetoric. They are doing what they can to support us as teachers and it is so very appreciated. 

     Look, I'm not delusional. I work in an affluent area in a school that no one would deem "failing" on any level.  We have involved parents and well cared for students. We work together to create a successful learning environment. In the past, I worked with students suffering the perils of poverty. I was the same teacher then that I am now. I gave it my all then and I give it my all now. The difference is that my efforts are channelled in a different direction. Teachers rise to the challenges they are presented, be it lack of supplies, staff or parental support. 

     If any of you work in schools fighting the effects of poverty. I send you my personal gratitude. I know how hard you work. I know you want the best for your students and I know you sometimes feel like you are doing it all alone. I walked in your shoes. I consoled students whose siblings were serving time in jail. I held students as they cried from losing a parent to violence. I watched a student lie belly down in the hot sand on the playground because she thought it would help her stomach ache, when in reality the only thing that would help was a good meal. I've pried crying students off of me and onto the bus, assuring them that tonight they wouldn't hear gunshots as they tried to sleep. I've been there and it's heartbreaking. You deserve to be treated as a celebrity this week, but sadly I'm guessing you weren't.

     There are days when I cry from frustration over what's happening to our profession and I become disillusioned over the direction of education in our country. And even though I work in a fantastic school, we have our own specific challenges that try us all. Every school does. So, wherever you work, whomever you teach, whatever your level of parent involvement, please accept my sincere thanks as a colleague. I'm doing everything I can not to lose hope in our profession and I hope that you'll join me in doing the same. You are needed and valued and deserve to be told, not just during Teacher Appreciation week, but every single day.  Enjoy your weekend, you deserve it :)

       At the risk of sounding like a salesperson, which I so am not, there's a big sale going on at TeachersPayTeachers.  Enter the code TAD11 to get up to 40% off depending on the seller.  All of my things are 40% off until midnight Wednesday if you use the code, and then 20% off until Friday (no code required).

     It goes against my nature as a teacher to sell my things instead of sharing them freely, truly it does. I could barely get myself to post this. In fact, I should have posted it yesterday to coincide with the sale, but I decided not to at the last minute. Then, the servers at TpT crashed and the sale was extended through tonight. I took it as a sign to go ahead and post.

     It took me about two years to make the decision to join TpT as a seller. I just felt as if I was going against what I stood for as an educator and sort of selling out. However, the response from other teachers who have been buying my work is slowly convincing me that I made the right decision. I'm now getting the sense that other teachers actually appreciate the chance to purchase the work I'm creating because it saves them time and costs much less than they're used to paying.  I really feel like I produce high quality materials for way less than you'd pay at the teacher store. I also add in lots of freebies to reconcile the whole thing to myself.

     I promise that I won't just use this blog as an advertising ploy, ever. I really dislike that.  For me, from the start, I wanted this blog to be something more. Something of substance, a place where I can share a great idea, a funny story, be a little bright spot in your day, lift up our profession - and occasionally, like yesterday, have a place to let it all out. But a sale like this deserves a mention.

     It's a tough time to spend money out of your pocket, I know that as well as anyone.  But, if you are inclined to do so anyway, be sure to use the code to save big. All of the pictures below are samples of my work and almost everything you see below would be right around $2.

     Thank you bunches if you made it all the way down here to the end of this post. If you haven't already downloaded a copy, please hop over to my store to get the center below free of charge.  Happy Hump Day, it's all downhill from here. (Maybe that's not such a good analogy, huh?)

Visit this Linky Party for some more end of the year ideas!

     Well, my friends, today was one of those days that even I had a hard time staying positive. As usual, nothing to do with my kids or school, just the general nastiness of what's happening to us as professionals. But, also as usual, sitting with the kids and working on a project together lifted my spirits a bit. I did succumb to a little pity-party after school, but then venting talking to a good friend made me feel better. What a roller coaster day. Keep Calm and Carry On, right? The alternative is just too depressing.
     So, in keeping with the focus on the sunny side, I present to you the cutest spelling review EVER!

     First, we looked through our spelling notebooks and made a list of 20 words that were hard to learn, interesting, new or just fun. Then we painted paper plates red to resemble soup. Are you ready for this? My kids don't know about alphabet soup! How is that possible?? I grew up on alphabet soup!  So when I showed them an example project, they looked at me like I had 2 heads. It was really hard to resist the urge to stop at the store and buy cans of soup for the next day's snack, but I'm already waayyy over the spending limit for school supplies. (Who isn't, right?) Instead, I told them to ask their parents to let them try it and then did my best to convince them that this project was way cooler than they were giving me credit for.

     They won't fit all 20 words on the plate, but I wanted them to have plenty to choose from. One box of alphabet pasta was enough for my entire class of 18 with leftovers to do this project again for the next five years! Man, there are a lot of little letters in that box!  I had the kids find the letters for one word at a time, then I squeezed some clear Elmer's glue where they wanted the word to be on their plate. After I helped the first few kids, I had them act as helpers for the rest of the group. We just cycled in and out of the craft table over a few days to complete everyone's project.
     Check out the spoon! One of my kids came up with the idea of adding a word to the spoon. Some kids added a spelling word, some added their names. It works better if you hot glue the spoon to the plate for them first, then let them add the word in a pool of clear glue.

     Here are some other pointers: The letter Y is hard to find and much thicker than the rest of the letters. The M moonlights as the W. The I and H are also locked in a struggle for their own identity. There are also selected numbers thrown in just for fun, so that every new kid who sat down could tell me so. Hey, look! A 5!

    These will be on my bulletin board in the main hall with the "Soup-er Speller" title in the first picture. I've actually done these projects once before as a welcome back board with the title "Welcome Soup-er Second Graders!" I had the kids add their name and then words that described them. That time I used actual bowls instead of plates -they are much harder to tack to the board and got knocked off about 10 bajillion times a day. This time I used small Chinet paper plates. They took the paint really well and they have a bit of a dip in the middle that resembles a bowl, at least enough to give the illusion for the bulletin board.
     I hope you are all feeling some love this week for Teacher Appreciation. Goodness knows we need all that we can get lately. I think you are all just soup-er!
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