Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Step One: Build Community

One week down, folks! It's been a very busy week in and out of the classroom. I'm sure I'm not the only teacher who has been cashing in early mornings and late nights. Although, I've said several times that I've been anxiously awaiting having an actual to do list. Now my to do list grows everyday! I've noticed that I've been adding things on the list that I know I can easily accomplish. For example: wake up. check! eat breakfast. check! You can see where I'm going with this. Other things, such as grading assessments and cutting out tribal tickets seem to be reoccurring events that haven't quite been crossed off. 

I wanted to share some of the community building and back to school activities we've been testing out this year. In return, I would love to hear how you're promoting a positive atmosphere in YOUR room. I do love bloggy collaboration!


I talked in great detail of my personal Scrabble woes and my plan to use it in the classroom here. It was AWESOME! I handed out the cut up tiles and challenged the students to create their name (in some way). We had nicknames, last names, and some first names. Students approached our class Scrabble board (butcher paper) and placed their tiles to spell their name. When others were stumped, I had several students chiming in suggestions to help out. It was a beautiful, collaborative, and student driven activity. 

I wish I could show you our finished product, but since it's full of my student's names - you'll have to pretend!

Toilet Paper.

Yes, I busted out three rolls of toilet paper in my classroom. I was very vague with my details as I tossed around TP.  All I said was, "take some toilet paper!" The kids thought it was hilarious. Kids were looping it around their hands while some were taking one single square.  Then, I dropped a community building bomb on them. The rules were that for however many sheets of toilet paper they grabbed, they had to share that many facts about them. Cue the groans all over the room. After they got over the trickery aspect, they had a good time!

Establishing Classroom Norms & Rules. 

Earlier in the summer, I shared my ultra-exciting guest blogging experience HERE with Really Good Stuff. As a class, we came up with a list of our norms. One student asked, "what's a norm?" Before I could chime in an appropriate answer another gentleman replied, "Umm.. it's something you wear to the beach." 

Not quite. Then we had a reminder mini lesson on raising our hand. :)

Job Applications.

As of Monday, students were officially hired for jobs in the classroom. After the excruciating job application process (I kid.. I kid), I reviewed the applications and assigned our first quarter jobs. Two days in and my heart rate isn't near as elevated at the end of the day. Read more about my job applications here!

Later this week, I plan on sharing a few writing and "get to know you" activities! 

Th-th-that's all folks!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Sleep: The Second Chapter

Some of you may remember that one day I want to write a book. This will be the book of all books. It will be a book that will offer advice to new teachers that's practical and pointless at the same time.

Well, great news folks -  I've thought of another chapter for my book! At this rate, I'll have my book written by the year 2035. You'll be able to read it on Mars with your grandchildren. Enough about the future! Let's move on to chapter two of My Future Book That Does Not Have a Title:


I remember a professor in college suggested that we keep a notepad by our beds. That way, if we had any brilliant ideas in the middle of the night we could jot them down. I thought, "Wow! That's a brilliant idea. I'll do that too." Sadly, I don't have any ideas in the middle of the night. More importantly, once I've entered into the sleepy-time twilight zone, I'm no longer a contributing member of society. I'm dead to the world. If you call me past my bedtime, I'll probably answer, "What?" and maybe hang up on you. It's not your fault! The sleepiness has just taken over me. It's a slippery slope folks. 

I tested out this notepad strategy. Unfortunately, I found out that my brain definitely doesn't function when I'm in sleep mode. That notepad that was next to my bed wound up full of scribbles. Scribbles do nothing for my productivity.  They also don't typically generate any bright ideas. It was as if a toddler came in my room and wrote their to do list down. The sad thing was, I was usually jotting down my ideas before I'd even entered this self-titled sleepy-time twilight zone. Over the years, I've realized that very few things are successful while I'm in sleep mode. For example,  I've also tried to send text messages in the wee hours of the morning. Guess how that turns out? Not well. Usually someone will get a message that has to be decoded by Nicholas Cage.

I'm not a doctor, but I'm pretty sure that doctors recommend around 7-8 hours of sleep per night. That's a little stingy if you ask me. I'm one that thrives on sleep. If I'm tired... guess what? I go to bed. I have never been able to stay up all night and finish a book, work really late at night, or pull an infamous "all-nighter". I was on the one cooking breakfast for my crazy roommates who had stayed up all night. I was well rested like a normal human cooking egg sandwiches for the zombies upstairs. I am what some might call a morning person. That's why you'll probably receive texts or calls from me in the EARLY hours of the morning. Again, sorry friends... I assume that if I'm awake, you are too!

I wish I could stay up late. Actually no, that's a lie. I don't wish that at all. I wish I wasn't a huge dump of a human when I don't get sleep. Some people turn angry, grumpy, or weird on no sleep. Not me! I'm just extremely boring and no fun. You might as well put a label on me that says, "No Fun Happening Over Here."  If you're someone who can operate under little to no sleep, I congratulate you. My friend and I were nick named Grandma #1 and Grandma #2 at the age of 16 because of our early to bed policy. Let's just say, I'm 24 and not a lot has changed. 

There is one piece of advice that I can offer you if sleep is becoming a burden in some way. I had an epiphany one morning after a lonnng day of work:

I came home late from work one afternoon during my first year of teaching. I remember I had several phone calls to catch up on. I hopped on my bed and began catching up with a few of my girlfriends. After chatting for awhile, I fell asleep. The next thing I knew it was the next morning and I was STILL wearing the same clothes from the day before. A few things crossed my mind:

1. I'm already dressed for work! Will anyone notice?
2. I skipped dinner. Ugh. 
3. This isn't right! Something has to change!

I was right, something HAD to change! I wasn't going to allow myself to fall asleep in my work clothing. No, no, no... that would never happen again. You're probably thinking I'm going to suggest coffee, more sleep, a red bull, or turning off my computer earlier. Nope! I have something very simple for you.  After that dreaded morning of waking up in my work clothes I made a change in my afternoon routine. From that day forward, I began putting on my pajamas as soon as I got home every evening. Now, if I did happen to fall asleep at 6:00 PM (before the sun sets) I was already wearing my pajamas. See folks? That's why they pay me the big bucks. I have big ideas!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Polka Dots & Football

If you've been a follower of my blog for sometime, you know by now that I'm a pretty big fan of the Missouri Tigers.  With the upcoming football season approaching, I am not only anxiously awaiting our first big game of the SEC... but I'm also waiting for the postman to deliver my season tickets. Any day now.. any day now. 

It was time for my front door to sport a new wreath and I knew exactly what kind to make. MIZZOU wreath, anyone?

I bought wooden letters from JoAnn's and gave them a little paint job. 

Yellow seemed like the perfect color to start with. Each letter got a nice coat of yellow to proudly display. 

I stared at them for a little while and decided to add polka dots!

 First, I wanted to add chevron to each letter. Then, I realized I'm not talented enough to make a chevron design. I decided to stick with polka dots. Polka dots are much easier and very fun to say over and over again. 

My crafting box looked like Charlie Brown threw up all over it. Don't worry, just a little experimental painting. See what I mean about the little talent with chevron?

I used my trusty friend the hot glue gun and added a fancy football for effect. 

What do you think? Am I ready for football season or what? Now all I need are my tickets!



Happy Sunday! Enjoy this beautiful day. 

Linking up with C.R.A.F.T.! 

Friday, August 17, 2012

Welcome to 5th Grade 2012!

The countdown continues until the official first day of school! Yesterday, I had the pleasure of meeting several of my new students. They were so excited to come in and drop off their new school supplies. I had to convince a few to wait until the first day to completely unpack! 

When thinking about organizing my classroom over the summer, I knew I wanted to adjust the look and feel of my library. Last year, the books were all over the back wall and it was kind of a hot mess. I wanted to focus on one corner of the room and make it the hot spot of the classroom. I talked a little more in depth about my library here

I swapped out my desks for fancy TABLES! The tables open up the room tremendously. 

I'm very excited about all of my back to school bulletin boards this year. 

My first bulletin board illustrates different types of maps - a nice combination of science and social 

Of course, I had to include Spiderman. YOU are destined for Greatness in 5th Grade!

The calendar area has our daily schedule, date, Captain's name, and a helpful reminder for me. :)

Do you notice that big blank wall? I'm reserving it for our soon to be made anchor charts. Right now, I have our procedures hanging proudly to practice. 

My cabinets are filled to the brim with extra school supplies, dictionaries, construction paper, and some junk. This is the area of the classroom where students turn in their homework AND tally points for our seat cushions

Similar to last year, I left a large open space in front of the SmartBoard for group time. I am a big fan of rallying the troops to the front of the room and then breaking out to our tables. 

 Here's another little hub of the classroom. Students can drop off notes to me in the blue basket, grab band aids and nurses passes, find lunch envelopes and whatnot in the white basket. 

I have rain gutters to hold brand-spankin' new books I bought for the classroom. Many of them were recommendations from the awesome literacy conference I attended. 

I stuck magnets behind scrabble tiles and let the kids spell different things throughout the year. I just noticed the nice little message left from May! I'll keep that one up for awhile! 

 This is real life: my desk is ALWAYS a mess. I can't even pretend to disguise it. 

This is by far one of the BEST ideas a friend gave me. Stick all of the extra copies in an "Extra Copies Basket". Then, if students need an extra - they know exactly where to look. 

In addition to the heaping piles of papers for students to pick up, I left everyone a little treat!  

My door is full of delightful little apples with names from my homeroom kiddos! 

Have you posted a tour of your classroom? Leave me a comment and let me know so I can check it out.

Enjoy your weekend! 

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Teacher Shape: The First Chapter

Someday, I'm going to write a book.  My book will be about basic survival tactics for your first year(s) of teaching. I may not be a first year teacher anymore, but I still have much to learn. Hopefully, once my book is published I'll be a little wiser.

Back to my book. Maybe some of you will read my book filled with humor and great ideas? I know at least my grandma and my dad will pick up a copy. Two copies closer to the best sellers list! Okay.. I bet I can convince a few more people to thumb through it.  Scott? Erica? Abby? Ali? Alissa? Teresa? I'll send you all signed copies in advance. That's fancy author talk - I'll explain later.

You Reading My Future Book... On an Elephant
One of my chapters of My Future Book That Does Not Have a Title (or any other chapters) will be "Teacher Shape". P.S. we are currently referring to my book as the above underlined titled... just so we're on the same page. (hehe witty book humor)

Teacher Shape (a working chapter)

One of my brilliant friends and thankfully former coworkers informed me of the phenomenon that is Teacher Shape. In a nutshell, Teacher Shape is readying the body, mind, and bladder for the upcoming and rigorous school year. We all know teaching is hard work, but it takes more than just prettyin' up your classroom and making copies. Let's look at each of these components individually.


As I sit here on the eve of the first day of work... my back is aching. Last week, when I was climbing all over desks, chairs, and cabinets (shh don't tell!) I came home to stiff arms. The week before when I was moving bookshelves, carrying tables, and moving boxes... I felt like my legs had ran a marathon. Clearly, my body is in no physical condition to just JUMP into these kinds of activities. Two things are obvious: I was really lazy all summer and my body is failing me at an terribly young age.

To prevent the inevitable from happening (me having to be wheeled into work on the first day of school), I suggest the following tips.  Although it must be noted that I do not ever follow my own advice. As long as we know this in advance, I cannot be labeled a hypocrite. Ahem, the tips:

1.  USE A DOLLEY! These things were probably invented in the 1800's. It's worth hunting one down in the school to carry boxes and boxes of goodies to your classroom.

2. USE A LADDER! Instead of stacking chairs on top of desks to make a more convenient ladder, I again suggest the hunting method. (See tip #1)

3. Perhaps participate in a little physical activity? Don't follow my lead and spend your summer watching marathons of Netflix shows, baking, and talking to a dog.

4. Stay HYDRATED! Although, this one makes the "Bladder" section difficult. I strongly suggest drinking more water than caffeine. I've experienced the opposite and I'm pretty sure I blacked out at lunch and came to around recess time. Just kidding. But really, too much caffeine throws me into a tizzy of the shakes and the meanies.


Maybe you're like me and you experience brain farts often. Often being everyday...unfortunately. It's wonderful that our schools have us come back a week or so in advance, so we can begin prepping our minds for real thinking again. Let's face it, in the summer... not a lot of thinking goes on. I don't speak for everyone, but here are some example of "tough" thoughts I made in the summer of 2012:

Should I put bananas or pineapples in my smoothie today?
Should I download "Bossy Pants" or "Most Talkative" on my iPod first?
What should I update my profile picture to?
Should I wake up at 9:45 or 10:00 today?
Should I let my laundry sit on my bed for a week or the couch?

All right, you caught me. I'm not including the actual important thoughts I had this summer, but I'm just proving a point. Those were ACTUAL thoughts that crossed my mind. When it comes to school, students, curriculum, meetings, students, students, and students... we have a lot to think about and consider. It's the most important part of the job! In my first year of teaching, my mentor told us a fun fact about thinking teachers. It's been said (I can't find a source at the moment) that in an hour teachers make more decisions than an air traffic controller. Incredible, huh? I think we can all relate to that moment when Johnny, Bobby, Mr. So and So, Mrs. Toots, and Carl all have something that has to be solved at that very moment. 

I wish I could offer some helpful tips for prepping your mind for all of the thinking. Sadly, I've got absolutely nothing. This is where you come in faithful reader. I'll leave an open blank box for you to write advice to me. Who knew My Future Book That Does Not Have a Title would benefit both parties?


It becomes evident far too quickly in the school year that using the bathroom at any time is just not possible. I'm one who likes to drink a big 'ol glass of water before I leave my house topped off with a cup of coffee or sugar free red bull. By 8:00 AM, my brain and bladder are about to burst. I apologize if this is too much information, but it's the facts of life: when you've got to go, you've got to go. 

It's as if we have to train our bladders to use the bathroom during specific times. Just like a runner wishes to complete their next 5K in under a certain time, my bladder needs to know that I can ONLY use the bathroom during x amount of times:

We all know how difficult the training can be. It won't happen over night, folks. Sorry! The truth hurts. I hope that I have many heads nodding with me as I'm writing this. Once again, I don't have any great advice. My advice would be... hold it? Probably not the best advice actually. Scratch that, I have no advice for this one either. I recall a moment in 8th grade, when I (for some extremely bizarre reason) told my teacher that I was going to "hold it" all day long. She quickly informed me that I was making a terrible decision and to use the bathroom immediately.  Sheesh, I was a weird kid. 

I apologize for the extreme lack of helpful advice throughout this chapter, but hopefully we can all relate here. The training of the mind, body, and bladder can be painful at first - but eventually, it makes the job much easier. 

There you have it folks! My work in progress. Like I said, someday... someday I'll write a book. Rome wasn't built in a day! :)

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Build Community With Scrabble!

Scrabble is one of my favorite games. Like most people around the world (including Alec Baldwin), I was addicted to Words With Friends. Not only could I play Scrabble but I could play long drawn out games with all of my friends. Perfect!

Unfortunately, I'm not very good. Honestly, I'm pretty terrible, but I keep playing. I'm 99.9% sure that my friends kept playing me so they could rack up their wins. Actually, I'm positive of this... because I've been informed of this.

I've taken several beatings. 

I had a pretty powerful streak of losing going on there for awhile. My friend's dad and I played for MONTHS. Then, sweet victory came my way and I won.  On the day I finally beat him.... I didn't plan on challenging him to another game,  but I accepted and ended up losing...again. Obviously, I haven't played in sometime. I suppose the sting of all of the losing finally caught up with me. OR! I just got hooked on Draw Something! and I couldn't handle that many games going on with friends. 

We're very familiar with the first few days of school being quite stressful and busy busy busy.  This year, I wanted to tie in Scrabble with my community building activities. It's been decided (and written in my plans) that the class will play a collective game of Scrabble. Why not!?

Here's how:
I'll start the game by giving an introduction to the game of Scrabble and how it works. I have a scrabble board and actual tiles to demonstrate. 

Next, I'll issue the challenge: As a class, we must fit our names together on the scrabble "board". The board will actually be the wall and the "tiles" are made of paper. Thanks to Christniana and her awesome Scrabble Freebie on TpT! 

I'll start with my name, first. Then, students can grab tiles (that have been cut and laminated for future use!) and spell out their first, last, middle, or nickname. I'm hoping students use nicknames to add into the fun. 

Not only will we be practicing our names, but we can learn more about each other as each student adds their name to our classroom board! I plan to encourage students to help one another by building from the growing names on the board. We may have to fudge on the rules of actual Scrabble just a tad to make it work. 

What community building activities do you use to start off the year?

Friday, August 10, 2012


If you live in Missouri, specifically central Missouri, I know you're loving the weather right now. I actually only know about the weather in my current location, so other parts of Missouri could be having great days, too. We've been in the triple digits for several days and we're finally getting a much needed break.

Next week, I'll be back to posting about fun classroom and back to school goodies. I am waiting until our back to school night until I post pictures of my room. I also have some fun community building ideas I plan on sharing. Stay tuned!

Until then, here's what fun things my phone and instagram captured this week...

A Precious Hand Delivered Thank You Card.

My Sweet Nephew With a Mouth Full of Cheese.
My "lost" Lesson Plans That Have Been Found.

The Best Gift Ever. 

My Roommate For the Week. 

Happy Friday! I'm off to a patio. (Well, when my date arrives..!)

a href="http://liferearranged.com/" >life rearranged

Thursday, August 9, 2012

I Bid You Farewell, Sweet Summer. (Well... Almost)

In four days I'm...
back in action! 
on the clock! 
ready to rumble!
back to workity-work!
setting my alarm and waking up early!
drinking lots of energy drinks again!
sleeping less and stressing more!
starting my third year of teaching!


As the last weekend of summer approaches quickly, I am caught thinking about the spectacular summer that I just experienced. It feels so wonderful starting a new year knowing that I took advantage of every opportunity.  I squeezed in vacations, family time, relaxation, sleep, road trips, and everything in between into the past three months. Plus, I spent all of my time with the best people on the planet. Perhaps I'm biased, but I'd like to think that I'm the luckiest. 

Here's a few snapshots that reflect the amazing summer that quickly passed by. I wish I could post the hundreds of pictures I took, but I had to pick a few (or two or three...). 

Hanging out with this little man and his vibrant personality takes the cake. Even if he's only three, the kid can still crack me up and fill my heart with oodles of joy.

Plus, we got to celebrate his third birthday! Who else can say they hung out with a bunch of pirates one Saturday afternoon?

We skipped town and headed out west to sunny San Diego, California. It was a trip for the memory books! Plus, we got to spend time with two of my very best friends who happened to get hitched!

There was never a dull moment in SD. We rode bikes, kayaks, boats, cabs... you name it, we tried it out. Besides all of the sightseeing, we got to hang out with locals! 

Ali & Brian said their heartfelt and emotional I do's overlooking the beautiful water. Of course, I cried. A lot. 

These two love birds made me cry one too many times. Let's be honest, I cried waaaay too much at their wedding. I can't help it! They're just too cute to say dry-eyed. 

As a bonus, I talked this handsome gentleman into hopping on a plane with me. Lucky me, huh?

San Diego proved to be the perfect reuniting place for two of my favorite gals! I guess this means I'll have to go back to California soon so I can see you both again. 

 My BFF (yes, that's Best Friend Forever) came back to the Show Me State one weekend and I got to spend quality time with her on a boat one afternoon. Murphy hung out too!

My seeester had a birthday and we celebrated with ice cream cake and family time. Perfect!

Kenny Chesney couldn't get enough of Missouri last year, so he had to come back to Arrowhead with his good pal Tim McGraw. A year later, it was still an awesome show. 

I spent many weekends playing hostess to these lovely ladies and many wonderful friends. It gave me several opportunities to test out recipes and an excuse to fold my laundry. 

I became an aunt again!!! As if having a nephew isn't great enough, now I'm the happy aunt to an adorable baby girl, Libby. 

Needless to say, Grandpa and I are just eating her up. She's too cute not to love. 

She's definitely my favorite niece. 

My grill was used many many times this summer - except only by me once. I let other (knowledgeable) people test her out. (Jason, I know you're reading this...)

I spent lots of time with my girlfriends celebrating another bride to be. Our pink shades and lei's made us a popular bunch at the water park!

I spent several days participating in professional development with my lovely coworkers in STL!

One lucky water proof camera managed to survive kayaking, floating down the river, and several lake trips. Developing that bad boy was a treat!

We celebrated America's birthday in all the hot spots in STL. Actually, let me rephrase: We celebrated America's birthday in the air conditioning at all of the hot spots in STL. 

I cooked, we cooked, I ate, we ate... it was a glorious summer of food experimentation. 

My beautiful friend, Kelley, said "I do". Of course, I was waterworks that weekend as well. I'm uncontrollable when it comes to my emotions apparently. Don't invite me to your wedding unless you supply a box of tissues. 

Speaking of crying, I might burst into tears right now. Maybe it's the Olympics? I don't know, but all of this nostalgia is getting me mushy. I need to lock it up before the primetime events begin or I'll be boo-hooing all night long.

Thanks for reliving the past few months with me. I sure enjoyed it!

What was your favorite memory from summer 2012? Do share!

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