See that sign up there. That is totally me (in fact I created it!) I am way addicted to Pinterest. I do have a problem though. I can't remember if I've already pinned something, so I keep repining things I've already pinned. No worries though, the more the better, I say!

This week my Pinterest inspired project was all about the apple. Of course being Johnny Appleseed Day and all, I had to incorporate something applelicious into my plans. Our first grade team really rocks it out for Johnny, so I had to go some to find things the kids didn't do last year. I saw this cute apple math project on Pinterest. It's great on its own, but a bit too simple for my kids.

I took the basic idea and kicked it up just a bit. We traced an apple shape onto red paper {which you can find here} and then added a stem and leaf freehand. Then I guided them to divide it into five parts similar to the one in the original project. I told them to think of a number in the hundreds place, with no zeros and no repeating digits. They wrote that number on the leaf and then showed it a different way in each section: in words, in expanded form, with base ten blocks and as the answer to an addition and subtraction problem.

After each student was finished, I had them write their initials on the back of each apple piece. Then they put their pieces into the bowl on their table. Eventually, I had three bowls of apple slices that looked like this:

I switched each bowl with one from another table and they had to work as a group to put the bowl of slices back into six apples. It was tough, but they really worked well together! I was pretty proud of them! This would have been a great time for a walk-through, but of course walk-throughs only seem to happen the instant your butt-cheek hits the seat after you just taught an amazing lesson like this one. 

Finally, each kid got their original apple back. We pasted them on to a black background with the clever title: 123 Any Way You Slice It!

We actually had a few more apple-tastic activities that day - one of which had me cracking up to the point of tears. I'll share them, complete with pictures, this weekend. TGIF my friends!

Ok, my friends. I have been thinking about this activity since the summer when I stumbled upon this crazy awesome idea about discovery bottles over at Tunstalls Teaching Tidbits. Please allow me to give her proper credit for planting this seed in my brain!

I had been saving a collection of Tropicana juice bottles for some time. Why? I mean really. I've watched enough episodes of Hoarders to know that I was on the verge of a real problem. However, something was preventing me from throwing these away! They were so pretty and clear and I knew they'd be good for something someday, dang it! Well, call off the "organization interventionist" because I am putting them to good use my friends! I present to you...The Synonym Search Shaker!

Nestled among the colored rice (directions below) are 20 word cards. Students try to mach the list of words on their answer sheet with a word from inside the, um, shaking it! The rice moves around in the jar and the kids try to get the words to peek through, much like these Find-it games that the kids love. I actually made enough cards for 2 separate shakers cleverly named Synonym Search 1 and Synonym Search 2. I first filled the bottle with colored pasta, but the papers seemed to all clump together in one place. The rice is much more effective and actually a bit less noisy. I have plans for that pasta though, no worries! I also tried pom-poms which actually worked ok, but they end up being exSPENsive even from the Dollar Tree!

Coloring rice or pasta is pretty darn easy and kind of fun. Fill a large ziplock bag with rice, add about 2-3 tbsp of rubbing alcohol or vinegar. They work equally well. Add a few drops of food coloring. For the rice I used the gel food coloring in neon colors and I squirted it pretty liberally. Then close the bag, mush it around and then lay it out flat to dry overnight. Here's the finished product drying on my back table and then after I mixed the colors together. 
The purple rice was dyed with vinegar, the others with alcohol.

So pretty! {& close...I was attempting to be artsy}

I made the word cards double sided so the kids will be able to spot the word easier in the rice. Just fold the word list in half and glue it shut before you cut the cards apart:

In case you didn't know: the black blade that comes with these trimmers will score a perfect fold line for you!
I have put together a file for you that includes everything you need to make your own synonym shaker - except the juice and rice of course. {I'll wait while you add that to your grocery list...} Click here to get the word cards and click the picture below to get everything else.
Let me know what you think and get ready to shake things up a bit!


I have developed a bit of an addiction to Dollar Tree. I can quickly think of six locations within driving distance, which restaurants are near each one (hey, if you're going out anyway...) and then quickly rank them from best to worst - all in the space of a few seconds. I know I'm not alone here. The thing about the Tree though, is when you see something good, you have to pounce on it. There's no time to think it over and then come back to pick it up a few days later because the good stuff is gone, baby gone, in no time flat.

I love to post quick pictures of my DT finds on my FB fan page, because most of the time I'm using things for a simple idea that doesn't warrant a whole blog post or I just want to give you the heads up to run like the wind & go there first chance you get. However, even if you go with the quickness, you still might not be able to find some things. That makes me sad. I'm sure it makes you sad too and the last thing I want is a bunch of sad blog buddies. So, in the spirit of sharing the wealth, I present the...

Win the awesomeness pictured below which includes a primary lined composition book, 3 file folder games, a set of 20 wipe-off clocks, a package of jewelry links (perfect for a compliment chain!), a pack of fun erasers, a pack of color word magnets, 2 packs of sight word magnets, a set of compound word magnets, 2 sets of long and short vowel magnets, a package of 24 skeleton worksheets and a package of 24 label the states worksheets!

I'm also including a set of six handmade owl themed notecards made by yours truly - 
just because it it's fall & all.

There are two ways to enter:
Be or become a follower of my blog for one entry 
and/or blog about this giveaway for one entry.
Leave a separate comment for each entry on this post.
I'll choose a winner using Friday 9/30/2011 at midnight EST and I'll announce the winner on Saturday morning.

Good luck friends!

P.S. I just found out about this great contest at Crazy for First Grade. Click the button below and enter to win a $25 Office Max Gift card & 3 items from her tpt store!

When I first started teaching many moons ago, I learned pretty quickly that if your organizational skills were subpar, you were in for a world of trouble. One of the things I struggled with the most was managing students' finished work. I tinkered with various methods, like mailboxes and file crates and just handing  it back to them when I was done grading with a wish and a prayer that it would actually get home to the parents somehow.

After many years and many methods, what I'm doing now seems to work better than anything else I've tried. Just thought I would share in case any of you struggle with this like I did. Man, where were teacher blogs and Pinterest when I started teaching? Oh, that's right! They didn't exist yet! Seriously, I did not even have a phone in my classroom when I started teaching, let alone internet access. We didn't have to chisel our lessons in stone, but I did have an actual chalkboard. I am making myself sound oooooold, but it's not like we had to hide from dinosaurs at recess or anything. {I'm 41 for the record. How did that happen so fast??}

Anyway, I digress. Back to organization.

Tip #1: Take a number
Assign each student a number and have them put that number on every paper. This makes it easy-breazy to put your students' work in order before you enter grades or get it ready to send home. Seems simple enough, but it took me 3 years before I saw someone else do this and I had one of those V-8 moments. I also number many, many things in the classroom so that I can re-use them next year without making any changes.

Tip #2: Have a strict return policy
Be sure your students know how to return homework and other finished work. My students have 2 folders in their desk. One red, one green. Red means stop. Green means go. The red folder stays at school and any unfinished work or work not yet collected goes in the red folder. Green is the homework folder. Green folders go home every day with notes, homework, handouts, etc. I  never randomly have kids return work to the finished work basket. I have my daily helper collect each assignment and turn them into the basket all together. If someone is missing the assignment, the helper tells me. This eliminates the "I put it in the basket, I swear!" conversation.

Tip #3 Get off the Friday Folder train
So many teachers struggle with Friday Folders. Now,  I like alliteration as much as the next girl, but having everything checked, graded, filed and ready to send home on Friday turned me into a giant stressball. Now I give the kids some Fun Friday time every week and that's when I try to catch up on grading, but I don't have the pressure of having to have it all done before they leave.

Tip #4 Recruit volunteers
I have the same mom who comes in every Monday, affectionately known as my Monday Mom {ha! Got my alliteration in there after all!}. She takes all the graded papers and organizes them into a pile for each kid and tucks them into their weekly work folder.

Tip #5 Invest in your folders
I spend a chunk of change each year on these plastic folders. They will last all year though. I ask for gift cards to office stores at the start of the year and most of the time I get at least a little bit to help defray the cost. Check with Office Depot to see if your school has a savings card plan with them. We have a special card that we can show them at checkout and we get a pretty significant discount on some items.
I'm a dork and make little labels for each folder with clip art that looks like each kid. In all honestly though, the kids end up loving that and they take a bit more pride and ownership in the folder when handling it.

Tip #6 CYA
Include a sign off sheet in the folder for the parents to acknowledge the fact that they saw the work from that week. I also like to have a place for comments so I have additional documentation of parent contact. If they are writing "nice job!" every week, they can't all of a sudden storm in and demand to know why I didn't teach xyz using the blah-blah method if they've been complimentary the entire year. Click on the pictures below to snag a copy of the note I send home with the first folder of the year along with the parent signature page I keep in the weekly folder.

Hope this helps someone out there who may be struggling to find a simple system that works :)

P.S. Be sure to stop by this weekend. 
I'm having a contest that you won't want to miss!
Happy Sunday!
Just popping in for a quickie post in between enjoying a family birthday, playing with my new laminator, and working on the most awesome {freebie} activity to share with you! I'm seriously so's one of those ideas I've had rolling around in my brain that finally actually made it into reality.

I didn't have plans to blog today, BUT my fab friend Jenaya aka The Lesson Plan Diva is having a Facebook linky party, so I thought I'd join in! I can not pass up a good linky. If you are not currently following me on Facebook, I'd love if you'd join me there. I do share some things there that I don't necessarily write a whole blog post for here.

I'm pretty much obsessed with teaching blogs - definitely an addict, Facebook, Pinterest and TpT. So, You might as well benefit from my addiction by following me on those other sites too :D.  If you miss the links in this post, just check out the icons on the right to join me in my other travels around cyber space!

*Here are a few examples of things that I've shared in just the past few days*

This little genius idea I found on Pinerest {addicted!! Feel free to follow me there too!}
Great way to keep dice from "accidentally" flying around the room during math games:

I also shared a free Smarboard attendance file perfect for International Day of Peace coming up this Wednesday. Click on the pic to download your copy :)

And one of my most favorite things to do on Facebook is share other fantastic resources that I find while blogstalking my blog buds and favorite TpT sellers like the ones below.

FREE place value from my blog bud Ashleigh. Click on the image to download and check out her blog here too!

And the ever amazing Mrs. Lemons who shares the most crazy incredible stuff like this free bunch of noun printables - click on the pic to go right to the post with this awesomeness:

Ok, pulling myself away from my trusty Mac to enjoy some real-life life before my friends start planning an intervention for me...

Using a benchmark to make an estimate is an important skill for our second graders to develop and it's one they continue to revisit through the years. Estimation Station is a really fun way to bring that skill to life in the classroom. A teammate introduced this to me a few years ago and I loved it. For some reason it didn't make it into my routine last year, but his year it's back baby!

We start it at Open House. I put out a jar of Swedish Fish (my fave!) and this sheet asking parents to guess how many fish were in the jar. {Helpful hint: ask parents to leave their guess as mom or dad, ie: Mikey's mom. It will save LOTS of time the next day}

The next day I share their parent's guesses and then we count the fish together. This year one of our parents guessed right on the nose! Since Jordan's dad had the closest guess, Jordan got to take the jar home to fill up and return on Monday. Click {here} to download the form below that I place in the empty jar to send home as well as the sign above and a label for your jar.

Now each week the estimation jar sits out from Monday to Friday and as the kids have some extra time, they are allowed to look at the jar and decide on their estimate. On Friday, I bring the jar to each table and pass out little squares of paper to have the kids write their name and estimate.

Then each table takes their estimates and lines them up on the floor in order from least to greatest and I call a few kids at a time from the other tables to add their estimates to the line-up. In the end we'll have everyone's estimates in order from least to greatest. Duplicate guesses are placed above the original.

Then we name the least guess, the greatest guess and figure out the difference between the least and greatest guesses. Finally, we count the contents of the jar together. Depending on the size of the items we'll skip count by 2's, 5's, 10's...whatever seems appropriate. Today we had a tie! Two kids estimated 100 and the actual number was 101. We did the ol' choose a number from 1-100 as a tie-breaker. So, Diego was the big winner today! He got to help pass out 3 kisses to each classmate and then he got to keep the rest and take the jar home with the responsibility to bring it back on Monday.

This becomes a much anticipated Friday morning ritual and as the year progresses it's amazing to see how much closer their guesses become.

To help the kids understand the concept of using a benchmark to estimate, I have these great books available in the math center and the kids REALLY dig them.

Happy Estimating!
Today was pretty awesome. I felt a little like a Jedi master at one point. I started to realize that I was talking louder and louder because the kids were talking louder and louder. All my years of wisdom and experience had kind of abandoned me for some reason over the past week and all of my little tricks were just not coming to me. Instead I found myself using this crazy loud voice to get their attention. Today I came to my senses and got a grip. I started to talk much softer and much slower and make them respond to me, instead of me responding to their noise level by raising mine. It's something I've done in the past, nothing earth shattering, but it totally works. The softer I talked, the quieter they were. Gotta remember to slow my roll with this group.

Yesterday we did this quickie little math project just to be sure they understood all the different ways to represent a number. It was just a little shutterfold activity and they got pretty creative with them.

That was yesterday morning. Then first thing today two of my super cuties ran over to me to show me what they did yesterday after school. How cute is this?! They remembered how to fold the paper, they cut it and everything and made their own version!

Yeah, big fans of The Biebs. Not only is this cute as can be but it's also a pretty darn good activity to do with the whole class to generate writing ideas! I'm actually going to use this as a center activity next week. The girls are just over the moon that "their" idea is going to be used by the whole class! The fact that they remembered the activity and then applied it on their own at home seriously just made my day. Moments like those are what keeps you going sometimes.

For some other great foldable ideas, check out this linky at Laura Candler's Corkboard Connections!


I have to say that in years past, I did not specifically address the events of September 11 with my class. Our district never put forth any clear directive and I was never quite sure how much the kids might already know. Honestly, with such young kids, I felt that this is one of those sensitive topics that might be better discussed at home. However, with this being the tenth anniversary of that fateful day, it was hard to let the day pass unnoticed. Our school decided to have the kids dress in red, white and blue for Patriot Day. I explained this to the kids on Thursday and many of them followed through on Friday. When I asked them why they thought we were doing this, one student actually said that it was because the school really liked the New England Patriots and wanted to celebrate football starting. (We live in South Florida remember). After that, I knew I had to do something to set them straight.

I started by reading this book, which I'm sure you're familiar with. It really is the best thing I've ever found to share with the kids regarding the events of September 11. Most kids had a basic idea about 9/11, and of course some thought they knew more than they actually did. I heard the word "bomb" being tossed around a few times. I explained that it was a a very sad, very scary day for America and many people were hurt and many lost their lives. I did not go into specifics about planes hitting buildings. I told them that we should be very proud as Americans, because even though this was a sad, scary day we were able to come together as a country and help each other feel safe again. I kind of left it at that and they seemed cool with it.

Then we completed this cute little project. My friend Kathie shared it with me about 15 minutes before school started. Somehow I managed to put it together in time for the kids to create these patriotic hearts with construction paper and they copied the Pledge of Allegiance on the back.

We had a nice talk about the heart representing the love we have for our country. Then we discussed the similarities and difference of our project to the flag. Next year, I'll be a bit more prepared and use a Venn Diagram for this part. We also read each part of the pledge aloud and talked about what it really means. I think that was the most important part of the lesson. So many kids recite the pledge mindlessly or with the wrong words every day which kind of drives me nutso. This was a great way to set them on the right track and help them understand what they're saying and why they're saying it.

All in all, I have to say I am so glad I did not pass the day by as I have in the past. I actually had goosebumps a few times when we were talking about what a great country we live in and how we all came together to heal the nation. I will never again let my insecurity on broaching this topic interfere with such an important teachable moment.

Although it might be a little late to use this year, I'd love to create a collection of projects or ideas that celebrate American pride to keep in mind for Veteran's Day, Independence Day, President's Day or next year on September 11. Join in and add your project below!

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