Friday, July 26, 2013

Teacher's Tropical Vacation?!?!?! #ShouldHaveThoughtOfThisSooner!

Well, I don't know about you, but I am spending my summer on a tropical island, enjoying the sounds of the ocean, the breeze, and the sway of the palm trees. It's absolutely gorgeous, and I couldn't imagine a more serene way to spend my summer 'vacation'. Here's a pic of me.....soaking up the rays! 

By now, I hope you know how far fetched that introduction was! Ha. That's just a terrible picture using the effects on Photo Booth! Notice the long sleeves and pants? It's rainy here in Michigan today, and I now feel like Richard let's get on with what's really going on over here. 

 Here's how I'm really spending my summer: taking kids to/from sports camps, day camps, friends houses, boating, reading, soaking up the sun, gardening, meeting up with my friends and teacher-friends, hosting family gatherings, lifeguarding at the backyard pool, cleaning my house, doing lots of laundry, and more! It truly is a great summer. I'm looking forward to our ocean side condo vacation coming up in August (for real!). Know what else I've been doing? Sneaking in WORK! 

Today was the last day of all camps for my 3 kids. It's raining, and I didn't want my laminator to get too out of practice, so I thought I'd fire it up today! I've been busy making products for my classroom and TPT and TN stores, as well as downloading great products from others. I decided to print and laminate it today. Here's my huge stash. 

As I'm sitting here laminating things, something in my brain begins to nag me about how much time is spent SITTING while I search, download, and put page after page through the laminator....which snacks and TV in front of me. After I've spent some time trying to change my eating and exercise habits the last few months, SITTING around too long felt all wrong. 

So----I decided to combine my work with exercise and I found out I could get 13 squats in per page from the time I put it in the laminator till the time is rolled all the way through. Once my muscles got warmed up, I sometimes hit 17-20 squats. I did 23 pages today (lots more to go)----but I'll just go ahead and average 13 squats/page and multiply that by 23 pages for a total of 299 squats!!!! 

I'm happy to have gotten two birds with one stone today....and thought I could easily incorporate different exercise while I'm waiting for those pages to slide through. 
  • planks
  • sprint in place
  • jog in place
  • ab exercises
  • stretch
  • push ups
  • some plyo stuff I learned from my Insanity DVD'
  • More! 
I'm excited about this new multi-tasking opportunity. I mean, that's what moms/teachers/women do best anyway, right?! Of course, I have no idea why I didn't think of this sooner.....I bet I'd be a lot more fit if I combined my work with exercise a looooong time ago....especially since I seem to spend a lot of time on work and not enough 'ME' time. Although, playing geeky nerd on the computer is 'me' time, and I like it a lot. But being a thinner, in shape, geeky-nerd would be even better!! 

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Goodies Are Rolling In!

The goodies I've been ordering for my classroom have been rolling in! Don't you just love a box or two on your porch this time of year?! I know I do! Thank goodness I'm home to grab them before the husband sees, and tries to guesstimate how much I've spent....only to be shocked by the credit card bill how much it actually was. It's better he just sees the bill, freaks out & I'm like, oh yeah....I bought some stuff for school. By then, it's stashed in the trunk of my car or somewhere around the house, and there's no going back....only my classroom! So here's what came 2 shipments ago. This isn't even the latest stuff I've bought. I went on a girls day on Monday with some relatives to the Spa & there happened to be a Melissa & Doug store in the resort. All I can say is that I LOVE Melissa and Doug----and my own 3 children scored some sweet pool toys/diving games & my classroom will reap some rewards from that little shopping trip as well! More on that later....

Back to my Amazon goodies.....

Take a good look! You will see....

  1. 1. My "Mrs. Powell" monogramed binder from It's BIG. And cute! All my assessments info. will be put into this binder this year. I always use a binder to store my running records, MLPP testing (letter/sound knowledge, concepts of print, etc., sight words data, DIBELS info., and DELTA Math info.) seems as if I have my Data Binder out every day, so this year I wanted to make it super cute. And for a reasonable price, I snagged this binder!
  2. GIANT Magnetic Base Ten Blocks. I was really wanting some of these last year. I mentioned it to my principal as he did a walkthrough last year while I happened to be trying to model with base ten blocks that it would be really great if I had some that I could put on the whiteboard at our group area. Is it super sad I didn't even know they existed?!??! I'm ashamed to admit it. Glad I googled that one! It led to my wish coming true! 
  3. Foam Bath Letters & (not pictured) the crab letter links for the water table. I bought two sets of the crab letter links and 2 sets of the foam letters. I figured I'll rotate sets so that the kids stay engaged/interested in them & purchasing 2 sets of each will ensure that there are enough vowels for kids that are spelling a variety of lengthier words! Check out this FREEBIE for your students to practice their sight words at the water table! Just post it on the wall above your water table. 
    Click HERE to grab this FREEBIE!

    Click HERE to grab this FREEBIE! 
  4. Soft Number Dice. I also desperately needed these last year. What a perfect math station to just roll & add. You could add 2 numbers or 3 numbers. You could graph how many times you rolled a number. There are so many possibilities. Check out this FREEBIE for you using number dice. Don't want to purchase number dice? Simply download a template online, or use a sharpie and write numbers on a wooden cube.....I'm sure you have some of those! If you happen to like the number dice freebie I gave you, you can get LOTS more for your classroom in my Number Dice Activities Pack
  5. Click HERE to grab this pack! 
  6. Belkin Rockstar headphone adapter. I'm very excited to get some of my audio books on an iPod or iPad this year so that the kids can listen to them digitally. That's a whole blog post for another day....but I am seriously excited about this little techy purchase. I'm such a geek! 
  7. Letter Beads. These are great. I am very excited to add these to my word work station this year. I do have beads already, but some are old, some too small, and the pile has dwindled over the years. I'm re-stocking & plan to use them with my new items from A Differentiated Kindergarten! Thanks, Marsha!! 


Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Incorporate Sensory Experiences into Academics

Aren't the Early Childhood years/grade levels cute and fun and MeSsY?! When I taught Kdg., Jr. K, and Preschool, I could easily incorporate a lot of sensory play into our daily schedule. Not only was it play, but I often found fun ways to integrate academics with sensory experiences. Now that I'm teaching first grade (which I love, love, love!!!), sensory items were really lacking in my room, and I missed it terribly. I felt like my first graders, just coming from Kindergarten, must be missing it, too! Although, my students last year were completely charming, and never seemed to notice, were completely happy with whatever activities I had available for them to choose, and were too kind to say....I still felt like I was not tending to everyone's needs/interests. As hard as we try, that crazy balance of making activities, tending to 20 (even 30) something personalities, interests, abilities, and learning styles gets tricky! We do the best with what we can at the time.

All year, I said to myself that summer "vacation" would be my time to think of (or pin) ideas to entangle sensory experiences with academics. While I would love an opportunity for a little sensory "play", there certainly isn't time for it....too much is at stake. But to keep learning fun, engaging, and knowing how important sensory is to children, I first needed to remind (justify) to myself why sensory activities are important to young learners, before I went all out and collected ideas and materials to make it all happen.
Photo Cred:

Here's why I think it's important to integrate sensory experiences and academics amongst all the primary grades (and any grade level, really!):

  • We all know that sensory play builds nerve connections in the brain’s pathways, which lead to the child’s ability to complete more complex learning tasks. If we are differentiating instruction as we should, all tasks are complex to each child at some level. If it simply takes some sensory experiences to help this process, I can absolutely justify having a sand/water table in my classroom! 
  • Sensory play supports language development, cognitive growth, fine and gross motor skills, problem solving skills, and social interaction. We all know those little loves that need help with fine motor, and so many sensory experiences provide that practice. Integrate academics....2 birds, one stone. 
  • This type of play aids in developing and enhancing memory. YES! Create those pathways and remember the content we are teaching. Will sensory activities aid students to concept mastery? I'm willing to roll the dice on that one. 
  • Sensory play is great for calming an anxious or frustrated child. I don't know about your school, but we don't have school counselors anymore due to budget cuts. We have one counselor that visits 4 Elementary Schools, plus the Jr. High, I believe. While I try to tend to the whole child, individual counseling sessions with the teacher are not an easy feat. If a little time sifting some sand, or digging your hands into something squishy, messy, etc. helps calm a child---I'm all for it. I know I love an opportunity to kick back, put my toes in the sand! If I could bring my work to the beach everyday, I certainly would! 
Photo Cred:
Gosh....I used to have a water table filled with these letters for letter recognition, letter sequencing from A-Z, letter matching (upper/lower, upper/upper, lower/lower)....but HELLO?! Why not put our spelling lists next to the water table and allow them to fish for their spelling words?! This is the stuff that makes me remember how un-creative I am sometimes!! OK---this idea, definitely getting put into my 'word work' station this year. 

AMEN to all of that, right?! Stay with me here....let's talk about this a little more then I have a little surprise for you for hanging in there with me. 

So, if you are like me, you are thinking 'Oh, right. Looks fun & there's research to back the importance of sensory experiences for children, but management of it could be a nightmare while I'm working with small groups'. True. It could easily get a little bananas out there----but with rules, expectations, and follow will run smoothly just like everything else in your classroom. Treat this kind of learning as a privilege. There are certainly less desirable ways to learn concepts (ahem, worksheets upon worksheets). With firm guidelines, mutual trust and respect, it should all be just fine! 

I have both a turtle sandbox and a sand table in storage----it's not whether I will use one in my classroom this year, but a matter of WHICH one?! If you have any ideas to integrate sensory experiences with the first grade common core, please do share your ideas! 

In the meantime, I'm sharing with you two items from my TpT and TN shops FREE for a limited time. Blizzard Beach is a sand table math activity I used during math stations last year. My students loved it!!  We used it for two weeks in the winter and then they asked for it to be brought back out at the end of the year. I've recently added Sandbox Stations....and plan to make more sandbox stations as the year continues. Enjoy! 

Click photo to get SandBox Stations

Sunday, July 7, 2013

In My Shopping Cart

I have so many random thoughts about what to purchase for the upcoming school year, my cart is overflowing at Amazon, and yet---my mind is still swarming with this week's sports schedule and activities for my three children this week. It's July, and I don't go back to school until the end of August....but my mind is already creeping back into school mode. What?! So here I am linking up with Sunday Smorgasbord! Read my random thoughts on what's in my cart and why I may or may not delete one or more of these items before I check out! 

Sunday Smorgasbord photo Slide1.jpg

There are so many things in my shopping cart for this up coming school year. I really do need to narrow it down, but I'm not sure how! Here's my wish list (so far!)!!

I'd love a set of magnetic base ten blocks, and I'm certain my first graders would love these giant ones! I've also thought about just using them in a digital manner, too. I have the graphics and we could easily use them on the interactive white board. So, I'm not sure----digital, or hands-on? The digital version is cheaper, and is still hands on because they can manipulate the graphics with the IWB pen, but I like how the giant ones are an exact model of what's in their calendar bag each of them use at our group area. Hmmmmm?! I'll keep thinking about that one...

The next item I want is the Belkin headphone splitter. I'd love this for my listening center. I currently use the listening center bags-----but the personal CD players frequently need the batteries replaced. It's expensive if I don't get enough donations. This can be hooked up to a typical radio/stereo or iPads/iPods, other devices. For under $20, this is a great buy, I'm thinking! 

I could also use some number dice and dice domes for our math stations. 
These dice domes are genius and hopefully will take out the temptation to toss the dice in the air, roll them WAY too far across the table, or tossing them to friends.  

Lastly....the final purchase I am contemplating is what to do for book boxes this year. Last year, I used white cardboard magazine holders....

 They went on a shelf like this....which I loved because I could put the students' names on the spine of the holder and they held various sized books really well. I also like the uniformed look on the shelf...but  I hate that they get ruined or that I have to re-purchase them every year. It's expensive!

The other option are these book bins....but all the books hang out and I think it'll look too messy on the shelf. However, it's a one time purchase (until they are really bad/broken)....but I think I can get more than one year out of them. 

What's on your wish list for the upcoming school year?! 


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