Sunday, September 28, 2014


 While visiting two friends in Springfield, Missouri recently we ate breakfast at Hurts Donut. A truly delightful little donut shop in the heart of downtown Springfield that you do. not. want. to. miss. Read a little more about Hurts Donut here from 417 Magazine. 

After staring at the cabinet of endless, weird and wacky, donuts. I settled on a donut covered in Froot Loops. Two of my favorite sweet treats. 

Now, take my advice and pop into Hurts Donut. You won't regret it!

An Uncommon Candidate for President...

Confession time. 
I am mildly obsessed with my dog, Chip. I find ways to share my obsession of Chip with the rest of my world through social media. All of our adventures, naps, and pure cuteness are captured on Instagram for others to see! Because I'm crazy, I try to capture Chip's unique personality through my posts on the web. Hey, at least I can admit I have a problem. 

Now, my loyal readers, meet Chip. 

He's a reader. He knows the way to this teacher's heart. 

He's a big fan of lake-livin'. 

He's okay with an impromptu photo shoot on the front porch as long as there are treats involved. 

He's a big fan of naps and will occasionally actually sleep in his dog bed, because he is a dog of fancy taste and prefers slumber on the bed. 

He works really hard during the day while my bf and I are away at work and needs time to stretch out his doggy joints and bones before his evening naps and bone chewing. 

Now, I know you're in love with Chip too. That makes us both crazy now. 

Earlier this spring, I was contacted by UncommonGoods and given the opportunity to review an item on their website.  Of course I jumped on the opportunity and began scouring over the website and their personalized gifts and unique gifts. As described on their website, Uncommon Goods is "an online marketplace offering creatively designed, high-quality merchandise at affordable prices." Not only do they have high quality products and merchandise, but they donate a portion of each sale to non-profit organizations. Now that's pretty stinkin' cool. 

It took me several days to decide on just one thing I wanted to review. I was making lists of gift ideas for my engaged friends, friends with babies on the way, and birthdays approaching. A few of my favorite personalized gifts were the Couple Tandem Bike Art, Down the Aisle Personalized Art, and the Neighborwoods Map Coasters

While I was browsing through the personalized art options, I found an amazing assortment of pet portraits. I knew, in an instant, I had to have a pet portrait of Chip.  Now, the question was... should Chip be sailing on a boat? Riding a motorcycle? Sitting in his throne? Or ruling the Nation from the Oval Office....? 

Of course I made him President. It only makes sense, I started my Presidential career at a very young elementary age (didn't make it past high school... but that's neither here nor there). It's about time Chip started planning his Presidential future! 

If you're looking to turn your cute pup's face into a portrait or find a unique and uncommon gift for a friend, I highly recommend checking out You won't regret it!

Friday, August 29, 2014

Meet the Fairy Scientist

Every year, we begin our year in science by chatting about scientist stereotypes. Students illustrate a picture of the "scientist" they have envisioned in their head and we have great conversations about how we ALL are scientists.. we don't have to look like a mad man to be a scientist! Every year, I have structured the activity differently and each year yields different conversation. One year, I even dressed up like a mad scientist - now that was FUN! Read about it here.

Like year's past, students first illustrated a picture independently in their science notebook of the scientist they were imagining in their head. Then, we chatted about similarities in all of the pictures and common themes and characteriristics we noticed. 

For the most part, the illustrations looked something like this....

Then, I brought everyone to the carpet and showed them this video:

Lydia the Fairy Scientist

At the conclusion of the video I posed the following question to the class, "Why would I show you this video?"

The conversation was amazing! Students were breaking down stereotypes of scientists and talking about how scientists can be anyone and have a passion for ANYTHING. 

To wrap up the lesson, we wrote in our notebooks, "A scientist is someone who..." Then small groups filled in various characteristics based on our conversation. 

Fantastic way to kick off the year!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Breaking in our Reading Spirals - Genre Overview

Once school started, my mailbox seemed to fill up with Book Orders rather quickly. Now, I'll be the first to admit I love browsing the new selections from Scholastic, but do I need 2 bundles of the same book order... twice in one week? No... No I do not. 

Bouncing off an idea from colleagues and Pinterest, I decided to use those Book Orders to chat about genres. To start the school year, I felt it was important to have an overview of some "big" genres they will encounter as readers. 

We discussed the general characteristics of about six genres and created a chart in our spirals. Then, students searched through the Book Orders to find examples of each genre. 

While students were working, questions and conversations were centered around the books they were previewing in the Book Order. We even started talking about OTHER genres I hadn't intended on bringing up - talk about a teachable moment! For example, I was able to introduce the Dystopian genre for my class. Pretty awesome!

How do you teach genres to your students? Share with me!

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Seeking Input for our Morning Procedure

There are two procedures that have caused me the most grief over the past five years (see! I have so much to learn) and those are: morning and afternoon procedures.  This year, I decided to shake things up a bit and make a change - for the better! Instead of creating a procedure for the kids to memorize and follow... we established a procedure as a class. Which, I must add, coincidentally was exactly what I wanted them to do anyway! 

Using another idea, and quality tool, presented in our district-wide kick off meetings, I asked students the following questions:
What is YOUR job in the mornings? Specifically from 7:50-8:12 AM...
What is MY (the teacher) job in the morning?
What is our job as a classroom in the morning?

Each student was given the opportunity to answer the questions on their own and stick their post-it note on the front board. 

As a class, we read through and grouped similar responses under the "Your Job, My Job, Our Job" categories. Some of the "Your Job" responses were: filling out planners, sharpening pencils, unpacking backpacks, using the restroom, etc. As for "My Job", students wanted to be greeted, wanted me to prepare for the school day, drink my coffee (hah!), give hugs, and talk to them. For "Our Job" students felt it was important to get prepared for the school day. 


We drafted our morning procedure and hung it proudly on the whiteboard for all to see. It would have been easier to iron out this procedure for me to write this on my own, but seeking input from my students was far more powerful. When students came in Friday morning, the morning ran like clockwork. It was ah-maze-ing. 

Now... let's hope they remember over the weekend! If not, we can always practice the procedure they created. :)

What tips do you have for establishing classroom procedures?

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Creating a Classroom Mission Statement

Like most teachers, our first order of business in the classroom is to establish a solid foundation for the rest of the school year. This includes establishing a classroom community, getting to know one another, ironing out the procedures and routines of our room, figuring out our daily schedule... and learning on the fly. Let's just say, we had several "teachable moments" today on the second day of 5th grade. 

My district kicked off back to school meetings by introducing six different quality tools we could implement in our classrooms in the following days. Of course, I left our meetings and started rewriting my lesson plans to start adding in some of the tools introduced. If you're interested in quality tools (i.e. plus/deltas, consensograms, affinity diagrams, etc.) click on the link here.  

In previous years (four to be exact), I've used the story "The Kingdom With No Rules or Laws" to begin our conversation on classroom norms. After reading the story, students would suggest classroom norms and we would compile all of the results into a positive list, sign the document, and post it for all to see. 

This year, in place of "The Kingdom..." story, we created a classroom mission statement. I began the conversation by showing students our SOTO Mission Statement - which was a conversation in itself. I'm certain none of my students were aware this "phrase" existed. 

Disclaimer: This is how I chose to do this activity in my classroom, by no means am I saying this is the absolute way it has to happen. :)

Yes! We can!
 Next, I explained to the class how we could create a classroom mission statement to simply state who we are and our purpose for the year.  After handing out post-its to five different tables, I posed the following questions:
Who are we?
What will you need to do in order to be successful this year?
What can I, the teacher, do to help you be successful this year?
What should the students do in order for things to run smoothly?
How are we going to accomplish these tasks?

After about five minutes, groups shared out their responses from the post-it notes. As students were talking, I help form their thoughts into a cohesive paragraph. After a few minutes of collaborating, our classroom mission statement had been created!

Perhaps I'm biased, but my favorite part of the statement is where they asked for me to entertain them. Oh, my students! Ask and you shall receive. 

To polish things off, each student took turns signing our mission statement and vowed to hold one another accountable to our classroom expectations. 

It's going to be a great year!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Thinking Like Scientists

 If you've followed my blog for a few years, you may remember my post "Power of the Pod" where I shared an idea about naming your tables or pods after material you wish for students to remember. Read more on that blog here.  

To kick off the year, I decided to create new table names for each of my groups. This year, we're starting our year with units of measurement. In 5th grade, we hit the metric system in science and math and this is an area where my kids struggle. They can remember the various tools we use in science (balance scales, thermometers, meter sticks, etc.), but struggle to remember the unit they are measured with. I'm hoping the repetition of the terms will help students remember the units. 

If you wish to download a copy of the posters to hang in your classroom, click here! You can access the docs via Google Drive. If you do use these posters in your classroom, I would love to see photographs! Please email me a picture and I'll post them on my blog as well. 

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