Wednesday, December 09, 2015

12 Days of Winter - Best Kept Holiday Secret on the Internet

Have you been watching those folks over at The Primary Peach blog? They've pooled the talents of over 40 teachers together to create the fantastic collection known as:

Each day from December 1 to December 12th there is a new post chock full of fantastic ideas, tips, suggestions, lessons, and FREEBIES!

Right now they are on the Fourth Day. Check out the links below to see each and every incredible holiday fun. It might be the ONLY thing that helps you get from here to Winter Break!

You can thank me later. I like chocolate. 

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Sharing Sunday November 15

There is a decided chill in the air. Even down here in the south. Winter is coming. What better time to snuggle up in your jammies with a hot chocolate and a good book. NO need to worry about those pesky lesson plans to take you away from your happy place.

The folks over at the Primary Peach are putting your plans together for you!


*Click on the image below to get to the file where you can click each link.

 I know the typical spooky time of October is almost over, but I love this time of year. I try to extend as long as I can so I use this Monster Pack to enhance conversations and deep discussions with my students. Our school is big on text dependent questions and this pack takes five great spooky tales and helps students dig deeper and respond to each other.

Hope you enjoy!


Check back here for more information about the Primary Peach Link Up

Thursday, October 22, 2015

I Need My Monster!

The time is almost nigh upon the witching hour. The fogbank prowls closer to the front door. No need to worry about that whispering; it's just an old friend. Come to sit beside you and tell you a story.

Do I have you in a frightful mood? Well, I have a creepy little packet to share with you.

I put this together last year to get my students to have more in depth discussions about books and to put all their talking skills to GOOD use!

There are five spooky tales to with your class, or to break them into five small groups to discuss one at a time.


We practice a lot of conversational skills such as eyes on the speaker, sitting still, and responding to what is said. I have an anchor chart about Conversational Starters. It helps students form their responses and pay closer attention to what the other children are saying. Something I find they don't often do.
The poster includes things such as:
I like what you said about ______________
I think your idea is interesting, but ______________
I agree with _____________
That's a good point. Have you thought ______________
It also helps set a spooky mood when you turn off the lights and tell the stories by flashlight!

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Fall Freebies over at the Primary Peach

Double Double, toil and trouble.
Fire burn, and Cauldron bubble!

Tons of fun (and freebies!) happening over at the Primary Peach.

Check out my Pumpkin Day post for some fun freebies.

Oh, and you won't believe the giveaway happening! Three different chances to win some swag!

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Sharing Sunday

Do you realize that I've been in school a total of 8 weeks already? EIGHT! That's two whole months of back to school. This also means there's only one more before the end of the first marking period. Whoa! So fast. It often feels like time is slogging through the quicksand as you go day to day. Before you know it though, you look up and the first marking period is over.

Life is definitely in fast forward and it's hard to find time to just breathe. The fine folks over at Primary Peach have come up with a solution to the Merry-Go-Round this month. I am linking up with their Sharing Sunday to help you plan out the month ahead. Give you a little time to do those things you love - eat, sleep, go to the bathroom, read a book.

I've got some fun ideas for your ELA and Math blocks below.


*Click on the image below to get to the file where you can click each link.
 One of my favorite books to read to the class in Frindle from Andrew Clements. It shows them that there are possibilities to change the world if they have a little ingenuity. I am so sad that third grade taught it last year and I can't use it with my students this year since they know all the answers. Gah! Maybe you can squeeze some fun out of this one!


*Scroll down to the second file to see the links for this page
We are currently knee-deep in our intro to multiplication. But we aren't to teach the basic algorithm. School rules. Instead, we look at the relationship between addition and look at strategies to solve these problems. Area model, commutative properties, and arrays are just some of the methods we use. Good thing I've got my Factors, Multiples, Arrays Oh MY! packet ready to go in my TpT store.

Hope these help you out this month as the holidays start approaching. Maybe  you'll have time to carve a pumpkin, or start that early Christmas shopping. Who knows!

Check back here for more information about the Primary Peach Link Up

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Sneak a Peek With a Peach: September Version

Is September stretching out in front of you with no end in sight? Want to make it a little lighter and FUN? Then I've got just the right thing to keep you busy this month.
Definitely check out the Primary Peach blog all month long!

Check out my Favorite Classroom Spot on September 10th!

Sunday, August 09, 2015

Shark Week as a class theme

Color me crazy, but I love Shark Week.

They are such amazing creatures who have weathered the passage of time. Yes, they can be scary, but they really don't like the taste of humans. So I'm good with that. I just won't be going surfing off the coast of North Carolina any time soon.

It was during this shock filled week that some blogging friends got together and created a super fun Blog Hop. As I was carefully going through the Hop so as not to miss any of the goodies to be had, that it hit me.

Why not have Shark Week as a class theme this year? What a great way to extend the summer fun.

Love it!

I started the wheels turning and did some research into ideas that I had. There was a perfect book to read during the first week

Clark is a shark with zing, bang, and BOOM. Clark zooms into school, crashes through the classroom, and is rowdy at recess. Clark loves life—but when his enthusiasm is too much for his friends, Clark's teacher, Mrs. Inkydink, helps him figure out a way to tone it down.
Clark the Shark celebrates boisterous enthusiasm—and knowing when it's time for indoor voices!

I immediately ordered it from Amazon and when it came I left it in the wrapper so I can truly share a moment with my new group of students.

I tracked down some plastic sharks to give to each of my kiddos as they arrived on the first day. They were not cheap, let me tell ya. But they are fun. I also looked into shark teeth necklaces, but my wallet was already groaning. Maybe for Christmas?

On a trip through Jo-Anns I bumped into a fun little 50 piece puzzle for Shark Week. It fit perfectly into my evil master plan to conquer the world build some teamwork into my class.

Tomorrow is the first day of a new year. I think I am ready. As they come in I have a large shark tooth out on their desk with their names on it. I'm going to have them color and decorate them with things they like to do or are good at. Then I'll string them along the back of the room to create a class banner.

I'll let you know how it goes! Wish me luck in a comment below and let me know what your class theme is going to be.

Congrats are in order

Congratulations go out to Anna Y! She won the Back to School Rafflecopter.

Sunday, August 02, 2015

Back to School 2015 Giveaway

Yep, it's that time again. Teachers go back tomorrow morning!! I can't believe how easy this summer slipped from my fingers. Even after 24 years in the teaching business I still get this anxious feeling in the pit of my stomach when the Great School Machinery begins to turn.

Not sure if you know yet, but Back To School means a huge sale at TeachersPayTeachers. They do this every year to help you get ready for your new kiddos. If you use the code (BTS2015) you will be able to score a whopping 28% off.

I did manage to find time to work on three new TpT products that I am really excited about. The first thing I completed was a total Brain Gem. You know how something just comes to you out of the blue? I love those ideas.

I was thinking of how to get my students more interested in one of our last Social Studies units of the year. We look at Westward Expansion, which I think is pretty cool. The kids are usually in their summer mind mode by now and aren't soaking up any new information. I was tossing around some ideas and suddenly it hit me, "Why not write a Choose Your Own Adventure story?" Do you remember those? I loved them as a kid and could sit for hours flipping back and forth trying new adventures. That's how the Westward Ho! Packet came to be. It has some fun stuff in the full packet. There's a couple of task card sets on Main Idea and Cause and Effect. There's also a ppt presentation to use as a daily writing activity as you study the Oregon Trail.

My next project was something I've been meaning to put together but never had the time. A Grammar Interactive Notebook would be a perfect addition to my class.  I sat down one day and started on it. As I kept working on it, I kept finding more information that was needed in this packet. I had the Common Core standards handy and kept finding new pages that were needed to cover a 3-5 Grammar unit. By the time I got done with this I couldn't believe how many pages were in it. Coming in at Ninety-Two, it is by far my largest single project to date. Check out Interactive Grammar Notebook 3-5

Last, but not least I managed to complete a full year of Mentor Sentence lessons. That's a total of 40 Grammar lessons. If you aren't familiar with Mentor Sentences, check out my post from earlier. A customer had contacted me and asked when I'd be done with a full year of lessons. Since I only had two of the 10 week lessons up, I had no answer for her. So I got to work and found some great Mentor Texts to use for the second half of the year.  Full Year of Mentor Sentences

If you've managed to get this far into my blog post, you are in for a treat.

Tomorrow is the beginning of the annual TpT sale that lasts for only two days. What are you to do after that if you've missed some of your favorite products? Well, I've put together a little Rafflecopter Giveaway to help you out with that. It ends Saturday night (Aug. 8) at 11:59 P.M.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Hope it helps make your week just a little easier.

Leave me a blog post below and let me know what you were able to work on this summer.

Saturday, August 01, 2015

Classroom Makeover 2015!

Our school was downsized this year. On the one hand it is fantastic news. We've been so overcrowded for the past 15 years, it was time. On the other? Lots of changes this year. Including the fact that I got moved to a new room, a lot smaller room. If you know me this is a cause for concern.

I have a LOT of stuff.

After 20 years of teaching you just accumulate things. Things you can't willing part with unless there is a tornado or they are ripped from your fingers by a giant shark. Where am I going to put all this stuff? What do you mean I won't have any handy cupboards underneath a sink to cram place my art supplies in?


So I braved the change and packed up all my stuff at the end of the year. I will sort through it over the summer. Right?

Well, it took forever to get into my new room. First they had to clean all the carpets. That took a really long time. I kept checking with no success. Then the day that they had cleaned my carpet I was at a staff development and was going on vacation the very next day. Then to find out that I couldn't get in  until they finished waxing the floors. Really?

Finally, finally I was able to get in there and get started. I simply had to put some desks out to see if they would all fit in this room. But this is what it looked like the first day I arrived.

A mess.

I came in for a couple of hours every day for a week to go through all those boxes. I threw out a bunch of stuff. I decided that my motto this  year was if I haven't touched it in two years, I don't need it.

The boxes were slowly being emptied and I was arranging the furniture in the room in a hopefully functional way. Can you see on the back  wall how that board is painted black and stenciled with gold? Yeah, those were our old school colors. There was also an original mural painted of a castle to go with our school mascot, the Knight. I had to paint over those with our new school colors.

Then I started getting more relaxed about this new year. After asking the Head Custodian for a second cabinet to store all my math manipulatives in, things were coming together. It was starting to look like a classroom.

But a problem arose. The more days I spent working in my room, the closer the beginning of the new school year approached. Which means more and more colleagues started showing up. They would stop by to chat (read help them move heavy furniture) and I started getting less and less done.

But today I was able to get to a place where I started in on the real grit of teaching. I sat down an opened up my account at Look for this in a different post. It was time to seriously start looking at my daily schedule and think about lesson planning.

Here's how my room looks the day before pre-planning:

Monday, June 29, 2015

How to {ROCK} as a First Year Teacher - Linky Party

It's almost the end of June and I am already thinking about starting a new year. We start in August down here in Georgia, so it's coming sooner than I want.

To get the ball rolling I thought I'd link up with the incredible Chandra at Teaching with Crayons and Curls to share what I think every first year teacher needs to ROCK it!


* Finding a veteran teacher to befriend will help you tremendously. They have been in your shoes before and they have survived. Sitting down with them and talking through their process for pacing out the curriculum is going to be very beneficial. And they probably have some tricks up their sleeves on how to cover those awkward moments or pitfalls sure to pop up.

* Technology is NOT your friend. It may look all shiny and new and promise to save you HOURS of your time. But it will go down, it will freeze up, it will cause a power failure on the very last day of school. Grades are too important to trust to this finicky friend. I write everything down in an old school gradebook and then transfer to the school's suggested electronic filing system.

* Breathe. Deep. Then breathe again. As soon as that morning bell goes off they will come whether you are ready or not. If you breathe then you'll have time to remember that you are strong and can face what is about to come. Even if you forget what you were saying or drop your coffee all down your front, it will be okay. You still have tomorrow to fix any mistakes. So breathe.

 * To this day I am still afraid of parents. They make me nervous, but you can't avoid them. They are your direct line to sanity this year. Make sure to build a relationship with them from the start. Always begin with something positive before you ask them to help you keep their child awake all day in class.

* Best advice my professor ever gave me during student teaching. You can not be their friend and then turn around to take away recess from them when they aren't behaving. It just creates more headaches for you. They will trust you more if they understand you are coming from a place of authority. It's okay to have fun with them and laugh, but remember that you are the adult and will have to put on the Big Pants sometime this year.

* You are going to wear many hats this year. Teacher, parent, counselor, nurse, and coach. You are always on. Remember that you are trying to compete with SpongeBob and video games for their attention. You will need to sing, dance, and act all day. Just remember you are a Triple Threat and you can do this!

Good luck with your first year and try not to overload on Pinterest. A lot of that stuff won't pass fire codes.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Wagons Ho! Oregon Trail

I'm so excited to have finished this newest TpT product. I had a ton of fun creating it because it brought me back to my childhood curled up on the couch with a good book. I used to love reading those Choose Your Own Adventure stories. I could spend hours flipping back and forth between the pages. If I made the wrong choice I could just go back to the last page and try again. Such fun getting lost in the stories where I was boss.

When I was trying to figure out how to approach my next product I thought it would be a perfect vehicle for such a try out. Why not combine history with a little interaction?

I found this site where it would help you format your Choose Your Own idea. inklestudios was easy to use but I definitely suggest walking through the tutorial first. That was a big help in figuring out how it all works. Once you are done you can have your book formatted for use with tablets and such and it was only $10.

I had to find some other stuff to go with this idea, so I put together some task cards and a daily writing project that followed the Choose Your Own story. There are Main Idea question cards and Cause and Effect cards that take situations from the story and ask you to answer questions about them.

The daily writing  project also takes events from the story. There are twelve stops along the way out west. You would provide each student with a little journal (paper folded and stapled) to use throughout the project. You share one slide on the powerpoint each day. There is a prompt for students to respond to. I've provided a rubric to go along with it. You can print out a copy for the students so they know how this project will be graded if you like.

So, if you have to teach Westward Expansion at all, may I proudly present

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Organizing Math Stations

Hey there, I am linking up with one of my favorite blogs of all times, The Primary Peach, to bring you a Sunday organizational tip.

If you're like me and have finally caught up with the digital age you have all of your files on your computer now. Our school lets us directly connect to the office printer so that we can send the stuff that we need printed off multiple times right to the 'big' printer and not have to waste the ink on our classroom printers. This is so helpful when you forget are planning for the week. I can send it immediately to the printer and just walk over and pick it up. So quick!

To get back to my point, I began to realize that I have not opened my filing cabinet files for at least two years. Everything I use is on the shared drive whenever I need it.

Another problem I had was trying to keep my math stations organized. They were everywhere. I tried to keep them in a fun fabric drawer like thing I found at Walmart, but they always got mixed up and I could never find what I was looking for when it came time to switch out the stations. I needed a way to keep them in order by subject.

So guess what I did? I went through my entire Language Arts and Math drawers and threw everything away. Yep, I did it! It was so freeing. I had things from when I first started teaching first grade in there from 1995. It was time. Total purge.

Now I had a space in the room where I could coordinate math stations by strand. I put each station into a folder inside of a gallon Ziploc bag so I could grab it when I need it. If you looked inside you'd see all of the Place Value games together, all the Multiplication stations in one place, and all of the Geometry ideas close by.

I am fully advocating the need to go through you filing cabinet and purging stuff you haven't even set eyes on in the past year or so. Then you can use that empty storage unit however you want. Believe me, it's a wonderful feeling!

P.S. I left my Social studies and Science drawers alone because some of that stuff is hard to find on line.

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

TER 2015 - Conference Do's and Don'ts

I was just thinking about something. The Educator's Room Conference is only two months away. I need to start getting ready. There are several things I want to do before the big day arrives. Just to keep my self sane, I am putting together a list of Conference Do's and Don'ts. Hopefully you can get some use out of them as well.

DO (Definitely Do)
* Make some business cards. They don't need to be too fancy, just your name and blog or email for contact information. You never know where new friendships are going to lead! Office Depot sells plenty of options and  your Word programs are usually set up to coordinate with them.
* Make sure you have all of your conference documents in hand. Print out the schedule of the day and the confirmation email to show at the Registration Booth.
* Get there early. Not only to start the day off, but also for the sessions. You don't want all the good seats taken before you make your grand entrance, do you? Being early also affords you some time to check things out. Where are the bathrooms, what kind of concession food will be on hand, will you need to go off site to get something good, are there any vendors present, and the layout of the rooms so you can find your sessions quickly. Wouldn't want to miss anything.
* Bring something to write with (two of them won't hurt either) and to write on. After previewing the sessions, I can already tell that the ideas will just be flowing and you will want to record those that you want to bring back to try out in your own classroom.
* Since I'm on the subject, preview the sessions. Check out the speakers websites and any pertinent information they are already sharing about their talks. This way you will be well informed on the day so that your brain can be thinking of how to best make use of the information instead of, "Huh? What was that? What does she mean?"
* Talk to people. This is called Networking. You will be pleasantly surprised to meet someone who flew all the way from California, or is here from your own backyard. Talking to them can open up new understanding, or even better opportunities. I hung out with some great people at another conference in February and a GA collaborative blog blossomed from there. Talk to others. They are there for the same reason you are.
* If you are attending with other friends, or colleagues, set up a meeting spot for getting back together later. A familiar spot like the entrance is an easy place to remember. This way you have someone to talk to at lunch or dinner.

DON'T (Stay Away)
*You don't want to leave with any questions. Talk to the others who attended your sessions. Ask them to help you understand difficult materials. Make a note of your questions, maybe you can email the speakers after the conference if you aren't able to catch them there.
* Try to do it all. Give your self some down time to let your brain process all the goodness you've crammed into it from your sessions.
* Neglect your Instagram account. Take tons of pictures! They are great reminders once the whirlwind of the day is done.

Are you getting excited as well?

I will be finalizing my sessions next month, so make sure you stay tuned for that!

Monday, April 27, 2015

The Educator's Room Conference is Coming to Atlanta!

Hey there, it's Gary again. The 4th grade teacher from Metro Atlanta.  From 2009 to now, I've had some major changes brought to my life through this little blog of mine. I've gone from a avid scrapbooker to a TeachersPayTeachers designer to a blog collaborator. It's never a dull moment around here. Which brings me to my reason for today's post.

Just thought I'd drop in and let you know about a little secret.

There's a really great opportunity coming to town for educators. The Educator's Room is a collaborative blog started in 2012 by Frachesca Warren to bring news about what's going on in today's classroom by the people who know, the teachers! Their blog covers topics that encompass all aspects of the teaching world, from instructional strategies, to legal matters, and opinions about current practices. You should give it a shout. I've already got my eye on the "Teacher Branding" article. I never thought that I need to live my brand as a teacher. I thought we were all doing the same thing, how am I different than the herd?

On July 17th (a Friday), they are going to bring their first ever conference of amazing speakers to the hallowed halls of the AMA Executive Center. The title for the conference is "Empowering Teachers as the Experts." Isn't that just thrilling? It is a one day event with several breakout sessions offered throughout the day. I can't believe how many different topics they will have on hand in the given time. The list of content is mind-boggling. Besides the usual Reading, Math, and Literacy, there are sessions on student behavior, classroom management, educational technology, and my newest interest branding.

And guess what? I've been invited to become part of the Blogger Brigade! Don't you just love that name???? I am very interested in seeing what is happening on the front lines of education. I am already feeling a shift in methods as our school embraces the new BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) movement this year. My students definitely jumped at the chance to bring in their devices. We had some talks about how and why to use them. Unfortunately, I've already had to remove some devices for a time to help them learn the proper use of electronics in the classroom. I am not downhearted by this, though. The outlets this brings into the classroom are endless, but still need to be handled appropriately. I know I will find some answers at the TEC2015.

Here's a little teaser from the list of scheduled events:
* Zap! Bam! Boom!  Math Strategies that Work with Felicia Young
* Building a Classroom Culture with Danquel Williams
* Gamification and Learning: Why our Education model must change with Cari Harris
* All Students are Motivated, are You? with Linda Darcy
* Guided Math: Meeting the Needs of All with Mandy Gregory
* Empowering Struggling Readers with Dr. Shakenya Harris-Jackson

WAAAY too many good ones to get them all in. I am going to have such a hard time trying to figure out which sessions to attend. But that's going to be all the more fun. This way the time between now and July will pass quickly as I juggle my decisions back and forth. Several of the sessions are repeaters, so if you can't get into it at one time, there's another chance later in the day.

This is an opportunity not to be missed! So head on over to The Educator's Room website and check out all the details coming to Atlanta this summer. Can't wait to see you there.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

The Primary Peach Blog - Launch Party!! and Blog Hop

Hello to YOU!

If you found this page too early, you need to start out the Blog Hop on ThePrimaryPeach. But if you just arrived from The Fabulous Life of an Elementary Teacher's page, Welcome!

My name is Gary Fryns. I'm a fourth grade teacher currently educating young minds in Metro Atlanta. I've been teaching for a total of 24 years and have had 1, 2, 3, and now 4th grade experience. I started blogging in 2004 and turned to TeachersPayTeachers in 2013 as a way to share my ideas. This opened up a whole new universe for me.

Here I am with my favorite visiting author, Kristine Asselin.

On March 2 of this year Mandy Holland Gregory  of Mandy's Tips for Teachers sent out a call amongst the GA Bloggers group on Facebook. She wanted to know if there was any interest in creating a blog that we all contributed to on a routine basis. It wasn't long before over 25 people responded in the affirmative.

The Primary Peach was born. A blog intended to share ideas and strategies for elementary educators.

Want a chance to win one of four TpT Gift Certificates? There will be one GRAND PRIZE worth a whoppin' $50 TpT Gift Certificate, and three more lucky winners who will receive a goodly $25 TpT Gift Certificate! Head on over to the Primary Peach to enter the Rafflecopter. Good luck!

This collaborative effort of some amazing educators will launch this weekend. To introduce ourselves to y'all we thought it would be perfect to start with a little blog hop so you can visit with each of them along the way.

Just for you I created a little End of the Year poster (8.5 x 11) that you can hand out to your kiddos this year. They will fill it out with all the Insider Secrets to the teacher that a new student in your room would need to know. There's a HE and a SHE version included in the file. Click on the link beneath the picture for your goodie.
Hope you find our little blog helpful and information and keep returning for new and exciting updates!!
Oh, btw. Watch for my blog post on the Primary Peach this coming Wednesday!
NOW, to continue with the blog hop, head on over to Amanda and Stacia's Colloboration Cuties page for your next freebie.


Thursday, April 16, 2015

The Reading Game - A Review

A while back amidst the falling snow and freezing temperatures I told you about my Top Ten booths from the EdExpo. My #8 (no particular order) was for a company called The Reading Game run by Erika Bird and her father. Erika has such a great personality and was so easy to talk to she just drew myself and Felicia into her booth to see what she had in store.

Once she began displaying the game cards and materials and shared a quick version of the procedures my little brain was immediately thinking of those students in my class that would most benefit from this. I was telling Erika about one of my students that is reading on a First Grade level in Fourth Grade and how I thought this program would help solidify her sight word vocabulary. Erika offered to send me the game FOR FREE if I'd blog about it.


I did a little dance when I opened that package that arrived not too long after the Expo and had to jump right in. I called J (my student) over and started sharing the cards with her from set 1.

There is a set of color coded cards (six sets of cards in all) that introduce 5 new words at a time. Each set gets progressively harder. The cards are laid down in a Memory Game style and students flip cards over trying to make a match. They need to say the word on the card as they flip them over each time to help fast recall. J and I were playing and she was struggling a bit with some of the words from set 1. One of the boys in my class wondered over to see what we were doing. As J struggled he calmly pointed out letters and reminded her of the sounds.

I had such a huge smile on my face.

Once J could recognize the words and read them without trouble (we played several rounds) I pulled out the first book that incorporates the words introduced in set 1. After my initial read through I thought some of the sentences would prove difficult for J - there were complex sentences and such throughout the story. She did very well with it and wanted to move on. I call that a success!

I can't wait to share this with my colleague next door who just received a Non-English speaking student from Honduras. I'm very interested to see how it goes with her.

Thanks again Erika for the generous opportunity to try out this game!

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Top Ten from Ed Expo 2015

I just got a surprise in the mail today. More about that in another post. But it reminded me that I haven't posted my top ten FAVS from the selling floor at this year's #edexpo2015.

In no certain order, here goes:

1. Redispace from Pathways - not only were they giving away samples of great pencil grips. They also had these European inspired composition notebooks that have pages filled with graph paper. This way students learn to write their letters in each box and properly space out their words, rather than these sloppy messes I've been seeing in my classroom lately.

2. Goldiblocks - a super cool Kickstarter project that finds a way to engage girls in engineering pursuits. You go, Girl!

3, Capstone - this leading distributor of educational literature has a brand new list of titles that perfectly meshes with my curriculum.  Almost every book I looked at elicited an "OOOH."

4, Essentials - Great writing titles to help kids understand the different genres and their nuances.  LOVE the Stella Writes series.

5. Kagan - if you aren't already familiar with this fun product line for the classroom, go check it out.

6. The Pencil Grip - they had so many different and progressive grips for kids I couldn't stop playing with them all.

7. Roylco - they had this super cool lightbox that students could play with color combinations, look at x-rays, and even a moving one that could seriously change my lessons on erosion.

8. The Reading Game - a great set of vocabulary sight words that builds into a child reading a correlated story independently.

9. Say It - a fun card game where students create stories from random
phrase cards.

10. Learn in Style - super fun multiplication wrist bands to help friends remember their facts.

I'm still trying to track down what the official top ten were from the entire expo.

Anyone know?

Leave me a comment~!

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Edexpo 2015- Guest Blogger

Sometimes things just fall into place. 3PM on Saturday I just happened to catch a post from the GA Bloggers about a meet up. Not sure how I missed this in the first place, but okay. We met downtown at the Hyatt Regency Atlanta with about 50 other bloggers from around the country.

Turns out they are in town for an Educational Market Expo. They had been invited by the incredible Sherron to attend as guest bloggers at this dealer and exhibitor exclusive event. HOW do I miss these opportunities?? I wanted in!

I got up at the monkey butt of dawn and drove down to the Ga World Congress Center to see if by chance they had any open slots for people who didn't show up. My newest blogging buddy, Felicia McAtwell, already had an invitation but wasn't able to register yesterday, so I waited for to ride on her coattails if possible. The registrars were more than accommodating and I had a bonafide name badge and entrance to all the goodies within minutes.

I then spent the next eight hours walking up and down the aisles of the brightest, newest, most exciting products available in the educational market today. Oh, it was awesome.

Sherron asked us to list our ten best products witnessed during the event so they could announce the 'Best in Show' on Tuesday. Here's my list in no particular order:
  1. Redispace composition notebooks from Pathways
  2. Goldiblocks - engineering toys for girls
  3. Capstone - their newest list of non-fiction was so spot on with my curriculum it was scary
  4. Stella Writes series from Essential - perfect for different writing genres
  5. Kagan - classroom management tools
  6. Pencil Grip People - so many of my students have weird motor skills this year
  7. Roylco Light box - just fun idea
  8. Reading Game - sort of a memory match to build vocabulary then move to reading context
  9. Say It - fun party game
  10. Learn in Style - multiplication wristbands, better than flashcards

I will be sharing more reviews of specific items later. I just couldn't believe how awesome this weekend turned out to be and had to share!

Sunday, January 25, 2015

R.A.C.E.S. booklet

Sitting in staff development classes is kind of a conundrum. The information is usually good, but if you're like me your mind is thinking of all the OTHER things you could be doing right now. As the county guy was hitting us with the scoring guide associated with the upcoming GA Milestones test, my brain was thinking, "How on Earth am I going to get my students used to this test formatting?" It's so different than the CRCT with all of its multiple choice questions. That in and of itself has its issues. But this new format asks students to write comprehensive essays in the FOURTH GRADE! I'm still struggling to get them to remember to put capitals and  punctuation, forget paragraphing.

Since my other lesson on Close Reading slowed the process down for students, I began to think how we could do that again with another article. The county guy shared (another) acronym to use with students in helping them prepare for these essays.

This sparked an idea to create a booklet for my students that broke down the process for them. We have this time during our morning schedule called DBQ (Document Based Questions) that I could use to have them conduct this lesson.

It starts with them reading an article I wrote about using electronics in school and how it helps improve your academics. There is a question after the article that asks what they think the main idea would be. So they brainstormed some ideas for what it might be for this article. We shared in class and looked for a common theme amongst them all.

Now I 'sound the gun' and they are off to the RACES! There's a page for each of the letters of the acronym as students build up their response to the question.  Citing evidence and explaining how it fits with the main idea puts meat on their essay bones.

The final day (or two) has them writing the essay with an introduction, their answer, evidence and reasoning behind it. They cap it off with their conclusive summary and we are done.

Right now, we have gotten up to the 'E' page. I'm happy with what I'm seeing them produce. Hopefully we are well on our way to preparing to knock out that essay come testing time.

Oh, you can find this booklet at my TpT store. Hopefully you can get some good practice out of it as well.

Monday, January 19, 2015

The Author is Coming! The Author is Coming!

I am so very excited! My good friend from college has managed to become an oft published author in the 20 or so years since we've graduated. I am so proud of Kristine Asselin , and yes, slightly jealous. With the upcoming release of her first YA novel, Anyway you Slice It, I thought it would be cool to have her come visit my school and talk to the kids about her process.

And she said YES!!


It took some finagling with my school's media specialist, emails and about 19 phone calls on Kris's part to other schools to secure two elementary sites for her to visit while she is down here. I mean why fly for three hours and only visit one school when you can grab two?
Right now Kris has a ton of non-fiction titles available through Amazon, Capstone, Barnes and Nobles, and even Walmart online. I love that so many of them fit perfectly with my Fourth Grade curriculum. I've managed to acquire some great titles.
The first one I bought was this:
I use it to start off every year. As it addresses how our great nation began. It's a perfect way to lead into our unit on Native Americans and how they arrived here 12,000 years ago. I can also see how their minds open up to new ideas as we take what they THOUGHT they knew about who discovered America and add new knowledge to their memory banks.

We also cover the Solar System each year and the students can't get enough of books that show actual photographs of stars and celestial bodies light years away. Shouts of "Look" and "Wow" always follow sharing this book. Kris also has a title just on the Sun that I want to pick up soon, so I can have her autograph them for me.

Later in the year we move into our unit on the American Revolution and what better way to start it off  than with something cool.

The boys especially think this title is way cool. It has great information about the War for Independence that we can't find in the history text. Such as the fact that arrows were much more accurate and deadly than the guns they had at that time.

Once our nation was established they needed to create a governing body. I always find this such an obscure section of history to teach to 9 year olds, but this book helps:

It adds some spice into a very dry curriculum. It has taken the information and presented it in a straightforward manner that the kids can easily understand.  This title has been reviewed for the School Library Journal, and Hornbook.

Kris is going to be conducting five sessions working with our Fourth and Fifth graders on writing informational pieces in her talk titled: Just the Facts, Ma'am. She has designed a couple of other great presentations that you can take a look at on her website. If you're interested in having her at your school let me know, I can put in a good word for ya!