I've been a pretty hardcore paper crafter for many years. I could roam the aisles of a scrapbook store and just gaze at the pretty papers and embellishments for hours. But only if there's a cushy hubby-chair, otherwise, after about 20 minutes I start feeling guilty that someone is going to rush in and strip the hubs of his man card.

That being said, I was dying, dying I tell you, for a Cricut. I knew I could make magic with it! I just couldn't bring myself to spend the money on it, but then hubby got me one for Christmas one year. I cried. I really did. I actually cry a lot, but still...

Now the weird thing. That Cricut I begged for, desired, neeeeeeeded to have? It sat in the box - unopened - until the next Christmas. No lie. Why? I was intimidated by it! Then my friend Gina convinced me I was being a nerd. She told me it was easier than I was making it out to be and just open the dang box and use it already! Did I mention this is the same Gina that finally got me to start selling on TpT? Yeah, BIG thanks to Gina :) A Cricut is basically an electronic cutting machine, so no more trips to the workroom to use the Ellison Press - bang, bang, banging the handle to get 30 dinosaur shapes. Now just stick the paper to mat, slide it in the Cricut, tell it what you want, and bingo - it's done! Here's my original Cricut. You can see a little leftover pink pig nose there. Look at how precise the cuts are - even the nostril holes are cut perfectly!

So, I took the plunge and then kicked myself (well, not really. I'm so not flexible) for not using it sooner! I use the heck out of this thing. At the beginning of the school year, it really gets a work out. I like to bring it in to school with me, because invariably, a friend will need something cut and it's easier to do it at school then remember to do it at home. A couple of problems with bringing it in - it's big and it's expensive. And I'm not exactly known for my grace. As a matter of fact, Recyclo affectionately (?) calls me Destructo, if that tells you anything. He did buy me this pretty carrying case, though which made me feel lots better, but it's still big and kind of a pain to pack up and roll in to work.

Now I don't have to! Enter my new baby, the Cricut Mini!  Ta-da!! Isn't she cute?

Now, look at the difference in size from mama Cricut and Cricut Mini. I can hold the Mini in one hand while moving it around. No way could I do that with mama.

Mini lives at school now. It's sleek and compact and the best part is that I can connect to the Cricut Craft Room and design things there without having to use any cartridges! Although I can use all the cartridges I already have if I want to, which is good news because I might be a little bit of a cartridge hoarder. (See cartridge storage case here)

When I got an email about reviewing the Cricut Mini, I replied so fast it was actually a little embarrassing. I was completely over-eager. I have no patience anyway, but I couldn't even fake it for this one. I'm so glad I did. I also had to ask very sweetly a few times if they would pretty-please offer a giveaway for my readers. I just can't bring myself to review a product otherwise...and they agreed. So yahoo for you too!

One lucky ducky will also get a Cricut Mini! By now, you know the drill. Just enter via Rafflecopter below!

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Ready for another cool giveaway? You're going to like this one. It's a Home Team Advantage Goal Achievement Pack from ETA Hand2Mind.
It's a nifty nylon backpack filled with these goodies:

3 books—
  -Color My World
  -The Dragon Family
  -The Volcano Project

1 My Writing Journal

3 VersaTiles® Activity Books:
   -Reading Fun with Phonics
   -Math Using Numbers
   -Science Life Science
   -1 VersaTiles Answer Case

1 Math Activities with Dominoes book
1 Set of Double-Sixes Dominoes
1 Pop for Sight Words™ Game

1 Game Plan Guide

The idea is that you can send this home and enable parents to work effectively with their child to boost their classroom achievement. I love all the hands-on and game based options. A great pacing guide is included to help parents see how to use these materials to their maximum benefit in just 30 minutes a day. Of course, the materials in this kit would make great classroom resources as well. I especially LOVE the Versatiles.

I have a set of Versatiles that is about 20 years old. I've always loved the concept of them, but I was never crazy about the student work book. In my opinion, they were a bit confusing. They have really updated the books and they are just fantastic! You can see the difference in these pictures below. The new books are the larger ones with one activity per page and the new Versatiles set is black. They still function the same, they just got a nice little upgrade. My kids are really digging them!

This is a fantastic set of materials that makes it easy for a parent to work with their child. Imagine having this to offer to some of the amazing parents who sincerely ask how they can help at home. Rotate the bag around your class so several students can benefit from it. Funding for several sets might make a good grant or Donor's Choose project.  Enter to win one below to try them out!

I so hope you all are enjoying these giveaway days! I'm no Oprah or anything, but it's been fun for me to know all these cool products that I got to review will also be in some of your classrooms soon.

Today's giveaway is sponsored by Boost Promotions' Brag Tags. I was lucky enough to be able to choose 4 different designs, 100 tags altogether. You will too if you win today's giveaway!

I have to say the customer service from this company was fantastic. The tags arrived super fast and were just as cute in person as they were online. One of the tags wasn't printed with the words I thought I requested, although they were still perfectly useable. I happened to mention it to my contact at Boost and she had new tags shipped out to me incredibly quickly.

I chose the tags below.  As a student earns the first one, we hook the keychain to their backpack to start their collection.
They've got tags for attendance, AR, spelling, box tops, you name it, they've got it. Now that I see how excited my kids are to sart collecting them, I'm going to need to place an order of my own. There's just something about collecting things that gets kids excited. Here's just a tiny sample of what's available on their website. Most of them can be personalized with your name or school with no additional set up fee.

For 100 tags of your own - just enter below! Be sure to check back tomorrow - the giveaways aren't over yet!

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I am really excited about today's giveaway. I've been to several CCSS math trainings and each of them brought out a Number Balance like this one from Educational Insights, claiming that each school should have plenty of them "somewhere". Well, I searched high and low, asked around, emailed pictures and... not so much. I found parts of one or two covered in dust, but nothing useable.

Even if we did have them at one time, I'm guessing nobody really knew what the heck to do with them, so eventually they started to get packed away, given away, thrown away (?!) or lost. I have to admit, If I had one in my room before the training, I wouldn't have known what to do with it either. But this is truly an amazing and fun math resource to have.

Let's start with a quick overview of how a Number Balance works using addition. The blue "weights" you see stacked on the base of the balance are all the same. They are not numbered or of different weights and you can use any of them on either side.  The magic is in the balance itself. You can see here I have one weight on the 6 pin on each side and it's balanced.

Now, I move it over just one pin so you can see how obviously unbalanced it becomes by being "off" just one number. The lesson to the kids: 6 and 5 are not equal, so they don't balance. This reinforces the concept that the equal sign symbolizes more than just "the answer comes next" and actually means that both sides of the equation balance

Here I'm showing that 6 on one side balances with 2 + 4 on the other side. 

Challenge your students to see how many combinations they can find to balance with 6.

You can even stack two weights on the 3 to show 6 balances with 3 + 3.

Neat right? There are so many ways to use this Number Balance. Teaching the kids that 5+1=4+2 can be amazingly difficult, but imagine showing them using the balance. Allow the kids time to work with the balance at centers and they'll soon be coming up with all the ways they can make it balance with equations on each side.

You can also use the Number Balance for subtraction, multiplication and division. It really is an amazing math manipulative - and the kids can't wait to get their hands on it!  I've found a great free resource from Move It Math to use with the balance. It has teacher information and task cards and activity pages for the kids to use at a center or small group. Just click on the picture below to check it out:

How would you like one for your classroom? Just enter the giveaway below for a chance to win one!
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Hey friends!
Ready for another giveaway? Don't miss yesterday's and don't forget to stop back tomorrow! We're just getting started :)

Pop for Addition and Subtraction is a great way to work on quick recall of basic addition and subtraction facts. My students have a pretty good skill set, but even they could use some practice with automatic fact fluency. This game is perfect for that.

The game is very easy for the kids to grasp. Once they understand the concept, they basically just open the lid and play! Each gumball game piece has a math fact on the reverse side. The kids spin and take that number of gumballs from the box. If they answer those facts correctly, they keep them. The first player to collect 20 gumballs is the winner. There are some sneaky "pop" gumballs in the box. If a player takes one of those, they return all theirs to the box.

Just a little tip: Make it a bit easier for the kids to spin the spinner by placing it in the lid of the box!

I was a bit worried that my kids might not like the game considering the basic level of the math facts, but I was wrong! The fast pace and ease of playing really grabbed them. I even had some ask to play it for Fun Friday!

Enter below to win one of your own!
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One of the perks of blogging is getting to try out new products and then sharing them with you! I have a few really amazing things to share with you right now and instead of stretching them out over the next few weeks, I've decided to share them with you over the next few days in a fun little event I'm calling:
I only agree to review products if the company agrees to a giveaway as well. I love knowing that some cool products are getting into your classrooms! Among those goodies this week are some Brag Tags, math games and manipulatives, a MeCorder mini video recorder,  a Cricut-Mini and that's not even all!

So, let's get rolling with this fun game I am loving from Lakeshore! I have a morning center called Globetrotters, which includes all kinds of geography based activities. I knew this game was going to be a perfect addition to the center. I had the box on my back table for a few days before I played it with the first small group and they were so curious about it! My kids really seem to have an interest in geography, but the cute, colorful box really drew their attention. I like the compact size. I don't have a ton of storage space and I hate games that have a thousand little pieces or come in a box that is so much bigger than it needs to be. You can see this game is a bit smaller than a new pencil.

The game is for ages 8+. I found that some of the American history based questions on the cards were a little tough for my kids right now, who are actually a little younger than the suggested age.  However, we will be learning most of that content by the end of the year. The great thing is that the first two questions on the card are map based questions and the game comes with a laminated map for the kids to use while playing the game. So, we modified the directions a little bit. The kids just choose from  question 1 or 2 to answer, instead of questions 1-5. Perfect!

For each correctly answered question, the kids get to take a points token from the drawstring bag. The first student to reach 100 points worth of tokens is the winner! Nice way to sneak in some math, too.

My kids really enjoyed the game and I'm sure yours will too. Enter to win one below.

Lakeshore had also generously offered a 25% discount on any one non-sale item. Just click {HERE} for the code. Good Luck and be sure to check back for tomorrows giveaway!

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We have another guest today! Barbara is here with a great book review. Sounds like one I need in my library for sure. Enjoy!

Being Too Frank by Barbara Gruener

Howdy from The Corner On Character. Today I'm basking in the glow of being invited to guest post at Sunny Days. I admire Denise so, so much and am thrilled beyond words to share the newest Flash Light Press release with her readers.

What do you do when two character values collide? Say your mother-in-law tries a new recipe and asks you what you think. Well, you don't like it one bit, but she wants feedback and you don't want to hurt her feelings. If you tell her it's good while you choke it down, she's likely to make it again, maybe even take it to her next social sorority potluck. But is there a tactful way to let her know that you don't think it's very tasty? When I posed that question to a group of second graders, one of them suggested telling her that it might taste better with a little cinnamon in it. 

Enter Being Frank by Donna W. Earnhardt.

Click the book cover for an activity guide.
Frank is an elementary student who hasn't quite learned yet that 
You get more flies with honey. In fact, he lives so strictly guided by Honesty is the best policy. that his truth is often unkind and hurts the feelings of those he loves. Spewing his Frank observations, this little truth sleuth so upsets people in his world that he himself isn't happy anymore. When he goes for advice, it's Grandpa Ernest who teaches him how to filter his Frank thoughts and sprinkle the truth with tenderness.

This newcomer is rich with literary treasures. Analyze the characters' names. Why did the author pick Zaroma for the teacher who needs a breath mint? Why is the Grandfather's name Ernest? What about Frank's singing friend Carol? And his freckled friend Dotty? 

What other examples of names-that-fit can they find in this text?
Talk about axioms. What is an axiom and what example(s) can they find in the book? What other axioms do they know?
Finally, have them talk or write about a time when they had to cushion the truth with a little compassion and care.
Check out this book and enjoy Being Frank! 

I'm so excited to welcome my blog buddy Heather. She's got a great math activity to share with you and she brought gifts! Enjoy!

 Hey everyone! It's Heather - better known as HoJo - from HoJo's Teaching Adventures! {Read on! I promise there's a FREEBIE in it for you!}

I'm here today to tell you about my favorite product - Magic Squares! They are brain-teasing puzzles that get students practicing concepts in a FUN way! I have successfully used them with students ages 4-12, and kids LOVE them.

Don't believe me?! See for yourself!

Now you know I wouldn't have come over here just to tell you how much I love these without letting you test them out firsthand - right? So --- here's a FREEBIE just for the fans, followers, and visitors of Sunny Days in Second Grade! There's only one little catch - you must download within one week of this post because after that the Google Doc link no longer works, and the price goes back to $4.00 in my TpT store.

Click here or on the picture below to get your free copy NOW!

So there you have it folks, 13 pages worth of FREE Magic Squares! I hope you like them because I have many different varieties available in my Teachers Pay Teachers store!

Thanks to Denise for letting me guest blog today! For everyone else, please leave a comment letting me know what you think of these Magic Squares!


HoJo's Teaching Adventures
Down here in South Florida, we're entering the 5th week of school and I JUST now feel like I have my feet under me! After a bajillion years in the classroom, you'd think it would come a little faster. It's mostly because I'm always changing things up. I have to be that way though. I just can not do the same things I've done year after year in room that looks exactly the same year after year. But as much work as it is and as much as I question why I do this to myself every year, in the end it makes me happy and it's what's best for my little nuggets.

So, here's a peek into what we've been up to. First of all - big love to my blog buddy Jen over at:

I found her Gooney Bird Greene unit on TpT and it is fabulous! You can find it {HERE}. I've been starting the year with this book for a couple of years and I had intended on creating a unit of some sort to use with it. Now I don't have to! If you don't know the book, check it out - totally adorable. A spirited little girl moves to a new school and dazzles her classmates. She tells amazing "absolutely true" stories about her life. The kids are always completely fascinated by her. It's a great way to introduce writing, as Gooney keeps explaining what makes a story interesting to the readers. Really, it's a gem of a book.

One of the favorite activities we did from Jen's unit was to come up with our own Gooney-ish names.
After we all renamed ourselves, we made name tags and wore them all day. I did an example for myself on the board first and became Libby Michelle for the rest of the day. I forgot I had on my new name tag  when I stopped in principal's office later that day - that was an interesting conversation. Can you tell the kids liked this one too?

Not sure what a "tinkleberry" is, but these two boys were proud to be called that for the day!

I also especially loved these graphic organizers. We recorded important elements from all of Gooney's stories as we read, which then helped us complete the Double Bubble map below. I don't think my kids have had a lot of prior experience with graphic organizers, but they're learning fast!

I can't believe I didn't know this, but there are a LOT of Gooney books! Each of them seem to cover one month of the school year and a particular writing focus, like fables and poetry. I'm ordering them all! These links will take you to them on Amazon.

We also celebrated the International Day of Peace this week. We made pinwheels from the pattern you can find here. I modified the assembly a bit. We used pencils and I just stuck a thumbtack through the middle of the pinwheel and into the pencil eraser. Super easy and they came out ca-ute!  We have a small Peace Garden on the side of our school. A few years ago each class decorated a garden stone and there are a few memorial markers for staff and students we've lost over the years.  The original plan was to "plant" our pinwheels in the garden, but it seems like every year they get rained on! So this year we walked out to the garden, took some precious pictures, visited the memorials and garden stones and then took our pinwheels back inside to take home. A nice little class bonding moment...
And finally - the boots. I have an adorable little nugget who is really a unique and interesting child. She's always dressed adorably and always, always, always wears these pink sparkly cowboy boots.
I finally said something to her about them, guessing that they were just her favorite shoes - thinking it would be a good way to get to know her a bit better. She totally surprised me with her response. She said, "Well, there are a lot of memories in these boots." Captivated, I asked what she meant. She went on to explain that they were also her older sister's boots. She showed me something that her sister had written inside the boot. Then she told me how her mother keeps asking when she's going to wear the new shoes she bought for her and her response was," I have to wear these while I can, they're not going to fit me forever, you know." Seriously, how cute is that?? Is it crazy that I'm already thinking about how I'm going to miss this class when the year is over?

Well, my friends, the weekend is upon us. Yay! I'll be spending a large part of it getting some amazing product reviews and giveaways ready for next week - about 10 to be exact (including some Brag Tags, a Cricut-mini, some fun learning games, a nice big bundle of my newest products for October and November to name a few!) I think I'll call it Back in the Swing of Things Giveaway Days {I thought that sounded better than OMG I'm Super Far Behind in Reviewing Some Fantastic New Products Giveaway Days}. 

I tease my husband all the time about his penchant for recycling. I've actually nicknamed him Recylco, like a superhero recycler. I recycle, but I can be a lazy recycler. If I use up the last of the peanut butter or mayonaise or something similarly sticky or messy, I may "accidentally" just throw the jar in the trash instead of trying to clean out the gunk so I can recycle it. Recyclo will come behind me and remove the jar from the trash and look at me with a raised eyebrow pointed in my direction. Now I have to make sure the jar is buried under something to disguise it...like some dark coffee grinds or something. {Just kidding, honey!}

This summer, I was especially impressed with the Adventures of Recyclo! While I was at a training, he decided to get rid of some old electronics that were taking up tons of storage space. Our city has an electronic recycling program, but it's only a drop off once a year. We needed to get rid of this stuff over the summer when we actually had the time, so Recylo did some research and found out that Best Buy has a fantastic electronic recycling program. Go Recylco!

You can basically load up your car, drive to Best Buy, drop off your useless old electronic crap and leave it there! The pix above were from the third trip we took. In all we got rid of a TV, a couple of VCR's, 4 computers, a scanner and 2 printers - and maybe some other stuff I'm forgetting. Hubs removed the hard drives from the computers first. He's got the skills for that, but you can google how-to videos if you're not sure. I don't know if that's a requirement, but it feels safer to do that.

Best Buy also had an impressive recycling container that you see above for wires, ink cartridges, gift cards, bags, CD's & batteries. Nice, right?

You can find out more about the program {HERE}. There's even a cool video that shows what happens to your stuff after it's recycled.

Remember to recycle - you never know who's watching...
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