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'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, 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. 

For the third year in a row, I'm joining with some wonderful Florida bloggers to give you some great back to school ideas to start the year off right! You can look forward to seeing tips  and winning prizes from the following Florida PreK-5 bloggers!

Please join us on Saturday, August 8th at 12 noon!

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