March 28, 2015

Spring Blogger Meet Up Weekend In Review

It's been two weeks since the big Spring Blogger Meet Up in French Lick, Indiana, and my mind is still blown.  

When Holly and I reconnected in Indianapolis at the SDE Kindergarten Conference back in November, she and I began brainstorming ways we could make this year bigger and better.  

First of all, I cannot say enough about my friend Holly.  She is by far and away one of the most AMAZING, inspiring teachers I know.  She puts every ounce of herself into her projects, and it shows, people.  This weekend wouldn't have been half of what it was without her!

On Friday, my best friend, Tiffany, her baby boy, and I packed up the car (and I mean literally, it was PACKED... I wish I had taken a picture!) and headed a few miles down the road to French Lick.  

Click the picture to learn more about the resort!

If you've never been to the resort, it's a great place to enjoy a weekend away!  Whether you want to take your kids for a family fun weekend, or enjoy a weekend away with your significant other at the casino, French Lick has something for you!  We go every Christmas for the Polar Express train ride the town hosts and stay at the hotel.  It's a tradition that my kids hope we keep until they have kids.

We met up with our roommate and friend, Marissa from We Are First Grade Stars for a yummy dinner at the Power Plant Bar and Grill at the hotel.  I had YUMMY crab cakes that I am still thinking about two weeks later... :)

We had lots to do to get ready for the big event, so after dinner, we headed back to our room to work on some lovely name badges from Schoolgirl Style.

Even though we were working, we had so much fun talking and catching up with each other.

Early the next morning, we headed down to get everything ready for the big event.  

{Brittany, Heather, Holly, Amanda, Heidi, Marissa, and I worked really hard to get it all set up!  And yes, I did an outfit change after this picture was taken.}

To kick off the event, we did an ice breaker all about INSPIRATION!  Everyone had to write a little something about themselves, then we all introduced ourselves to the crowd.  This was the end result:

Which was really what the weekend was all about.

We had a fun teacher tool swap, where we played a fun left/right game to exchange our favorite teacher tool.  I received an awesome gift of organizational notepads, pens, and CHOCOLATE from the wonderful Maja at KookyKinders.

Really, this meet up had lots of great professional development opportunities.  After our ice breaker, we had a Q&A time where teachers were able to have questions answered about blogging and TPT.  Then, we broke out into table sessions, which was possibly my favorite part of the day!  My BFF and I led a session on using iPads in the Classroom.  I wish I could have gone to every single one of the table sessions... I heard rave reviews on each one of them!

The day wouldn't be complete without some fantastic companies showing us some TEACHER LOVE!   A huge thanks goes out to these companies for giving items for our giveaway:

But that's not all!  

EVERYONE received a lovely bag from Vera Bradley, a lanyard from GoNoodle, products from Scentos, and... wait for it... AN ERIN CONDREN PLANNER!!!  SAY WHAT?!?!

The day didn't end there, though... Time for the PJ Party!

Another shot of the crew...

Anyone up for some GoNoodle?!?!

My favorites...

A huge thanks goes out to GoNoodle and TPT for making the PJ Party happen!  

Now, remember that swag I mentioned earlier?  YOU can win one!  We are giving THREE away!

Check out some other fabulous posts about this fun event!  Make sure to check back around the first of the year when all the details of the #springbloggermeetup2016 become available!  You won't want to miss out!

March 27, 2015

Five for Friday

Hey there, friends!  Another Friday is here!  I'm linking up with Kacey again for

I know it's been crickets around here lately, but it's been for a very good reason!

I've been trying to soak up every moment with these two wackadoodles.  They are crazy!  It's Spring Break this week, and this is quite literally the first time I've looked at my computer for more than approximately 30 seconds.  I've had the best of intentions, but it's hard to get anything accomplished when you are needed every single second of the day.  As I write this, there are Fruity Pebbles all over the floor from my darling daughter, and I'm completely okay with that. :)

As mentioned above, this week was Spring Break!  It is always fantastic to be able to stay home with my babies, but it's exhausting at the same time!  I tip my hat to stay at home mommas...  I think I would love it, but man... It's exhausting!  

We didn't do anything extraordinary.  No Mickey.  No water park.  No beach.  What we did do might not sound as fun, but it was perfect.

We had to take the kids to their well child visit on Tuesday.  They both got great reports, but my little guy has to go to the eye doctor because they noticed some issues with his ability to track objects.  We go Monday, so I'm anxious to see what they say.  

My daughter and I went to see Cinderella this week.  It was AMAZING.  Definitely one we will buy when it comes out on DVD!  

My little guy and I also had a special day.  His choice?  Visit Toys R Us and buy a Lego set.  That's just what we did!  His day was such a contrast to my daughter's.  I loved having special time with both of them.  

Today, we have made a vow to not get out of our PJs.  Even though my daughter has changed her clothes no less than four times before noon, we are having a lazy last day of Spring Break.  

It seems as if the time from Spring Break to the end of the year is the final leg of the race.  We try our best to fit the rest of it in, as well as fit in content area topics that engage our students.

When we get back from break, we will be wrapping up our third grading period.  I will finish up tracking my students' progress using EGSI.  

If you don't have ESGI in your classroom, I strongly encourage you to check out all of the ways it can make your life easier.  You can sign up for a FREE sixty day trial by clicking the link in my sidebar!  If you love what you see, you can also purchase ESGI at a discounted price!

After the grading period is wrapped up, we will be studying life cycles!  I will admit, it's one of my favorite units of study.  There is so much you can teach about life cycles.

I plan on creating a research pack (with tech resources included!) in the next week.  In our classroom, we study the life cycles of butterflies, ladybugs, frogs, chicks, flowers, fruits, vegetables, and this year, I am going to add worms to the mix! 

Last year, I created some life cycle-themed math and literacy stations for my classroom.  While the purpose of these really have little to do with the actual study of animals/plants, they do make things cute and relevant to the topic being studied.  The station activities are great reinforcements of the basic skills and concepts your students will need for first grade!

FYI:  I plan to update this pack very soon.  I will be adding at least 3-4 activities/stations for both math and reading.  You can get this pack NOW for just $2.  The price will go up to $5 after I add more activities.  Snag it now and redownload it when I've updated!

Back to the Fruity Pebbles on the floor...

So, I've been thinking lately... How in the world do you people do it all?  How do you manage a household, manage a classroom, manage being a blogger, manage being a TPTer, and manage being AWESOME at all of it?!?!  The more I thought about it, the more I thought, 

"Hey... I kind of fit into that category, too."

Sure, there are hundreds of you out there who are doing it far better.  And I want to hear from you.  How do you do it?  What do you do to keep yourselves organized?  

Well, look no further...  I have just what you need!

Starting Tuesday, April 7, I will host a weekly series on how to make your life easier!

To help me make my life easier, I am inviting you to be a guest blogger for this series!

Fill out the form below if you would like to participate!

Have a great Friday, friends!

March 6, 2015

Worksheets Don't Grow Dendrites Week 2: Field Trips

I'm thrilled to be linking up with Deedee for round two of this book study!  This week's strategy is all about field trips!  While I know that school budgets severely limit the capability of physically going on field trips, there are definitely ways to make field trips happen.  

I am fortunate enough to work in a district that encourages field trips.  We are allowed around $10 per student, so we like to break it up into two field trips.  Our district kindergarten classes also partner with the Farm Bureau and our local chapter of FFA for a spring field trip to the farm.  

Aside from that, I've used grants (such as Donors Choose) to give my kids the experience of an onsite field trip.  

We also take full advantage of virtual field trips often!

We also love having experts visit our classroom.  This may not be considered a field trip, but 

I think it is extremely important to always make your field trip relevant to learning.  I always try to make sure that the trips align to our science or social studies units to enhance my students' knowledge of the subject.

Our first field trip of the year is always to the pumpkin patch.  We used to go to a pumpkin patch that was much more commercial, but lacked in the educational content presented to students.  This year, we went to our local pumpkin patch, where the farmers were so informative and talked to the kids at a kindergarten level.  They learned the importance of bees, the parts of the pumpkin, and even got to pick their own pumpkins to take back to school for our pumpkin investigations.

This field trip has always been my favorite.  Pumpkins are one of our first BIG units, and there is no better way to make the learning stick than by taking them to the source!

In the spring, we will be traveling to Louisville to the Louisville Slugger Bat Factory and tying that visit into a PBL project.  I took my very first class of kinder kids on a field trip to the bat factory and museum, and then our entire school went on a trip to a Louisville Bats game.  That field trip will go down in history as my FAVORITE field trip ever!  I'm excited to take this group of kiddos back with the intention to tie it into our curriculum.

We also visit a local farm in the spring during our life cycles/farm unit.  The farm is owned by local people, and our high school's FFA run the various stations that the kids visit.  The kids learn about farm safety, go on a hayride, learn about crops, plant their own tomatoes, and get up close and personal with the animals.

Tying field trips into community service is a great way to get your students out and about PLUS teaching them to be go

Around Christmastime, we perform the play, "The Gingerbread Man" by Heidisongs for our family, friends, and classmates.  This year, we took our show on the road and visited a local nursing home to perform our play.  EVERYONE loved it!  

Aside from these field trips, we often get creative in how we can bring experiences to students.  In this chapter, the author references this quote:

Field trips, including those that are virtual, enable teachers to create as many authentic, experiential experiences as possible.  These spatial memories are embedded in the brain and need no rehearsal. (Fogarty, 2001)

We often take advantage of virtual field trips!  If you can't get there, bring them to you!

Last spring, our class created a park for our town.  As our entry event, we "visited" the location of our park.  By "visited," I mean we FaceTimed. :)  

It was a GREAT experience for the kids to see the park location and talk to the individuals involved in the project.

This project ended with our class visiting the park to design the mural and landscaping.  It was a great, meaningful, get your hands dirty type of field trip.

We also utilize FaceTime often during our annual Career Day.  Last year, we even FaceTimed with a Disney Cast Member. #canyousaydreamjob

Another great way to bring this level of engagement to your classroom is by inviting the experts to come to you.  We often have guest speakers who will enhance our units.

We have our local meteorologist comes to teach about cloud types during our weather unit.

We do community helpers week in a big way! 

During this unit, we have firefighters from our local station visit.  They talk fire safety with the kids, and they even bring their big truck that the kids can explore.

We also have our sheriff come to talk about their job in helping the community.

We also have air paramedics come and tell about their job.  It is really cool to have the helicopter land and take off right in front of the kids!  Talk about a grand entrance!

Tate also discusses the importance of simply taking kids out of their environment.  We do this often through various types of "hunts"--nature hunts, shape hunts, letter hunts...  You name it, and we have probably done a hunt for it!

Having iPads has made these so much more meaningful to my students.  The kids travel to our destination with two hands on their device, and take pictures to document their learning.

I think this guy was looking for a bird during our nature hunt!

We went on a little shape hunt through our school.  This sweetie found a triangle on the turkey nose!

Finally, a great way to take your class on a great adventure is to bring it to them!  My favorite example of this is our Polar Express Adventure right before Christmas.  During this unit, we learn all about trains and the classic story by Chris Van Allsburg.  Since we can't actually board the Polar Express and take our students on that grand adventure, my team and I transform our gym into a magical place where the kids will watch the movie, drink hot chocolate, and eat sweet treats, all in their PJs!  We break out our Christmas lights to make it as magical as possible!

My biggest takeaway from this chapter is that field trips (and similar experiences) make the learning so much more meaningful.  I can tell you, from experience, that I remember ever field trip I ever took as a child, but I don't remember one worksheet.  

I feel as if I do a good job incorporating field trips (whether onsite, virtual, or in our own setting) into the norm in our classroom, but I'm going to continue to challenge myself to get creative and use this strategy in my classroom as often as possible.  With technology being what it is in this day and age, the world is literally at our fingertips.

One of my favorite quotes comes from my high school math teacher.  I remember this often as I think of ways to challenge myself:  

"If what you did yesterday still impresses you, then you haven't done diddly squat today!"  

Always, always, ALWAYS challenge yourself.  If you are challenging yourself, then I can almost guarantee that your students will be challenged and, most importantly, engaged.  

Now, go read all the great stuff from other bloggers on Deedee's blog!  Not a blogger?  No problem!  You can easily participate in the conversation by commenting below!

Five for Friday... Snow for Days

It doesn't feel like it, but 

Which also means I'm linking up with Kacey from Doodle Bugs Teaching for

I say it doesn't feel like Friday for good reason.  Winter storm 2.0 rolled into our region Wednesday afternoon, and we haven't had school since.  We knew it was coming...  The forecasts all said it would be here by midday Wednesday, and they were right!  

This was the view from my front porch when coming home from school on Wednesday.  It snowed.  And snowed.  And snowed.  You can't really tell, but when I took this picture, there were flakes as big as your head coming down.  Not really that big, but REALLY big!

We dismissed at 1:00 on Wednesday afternoon, so at least we got a day in (Praise Jesus), but I've really missed my kiddos this week!  We had lots of fun planned for Read Across America Week, and we got quite a bit of it in!

Monday was a VERY exciting day in our classroom!  If you follow education news, you probably know that the State of Indiana has had some turmoil between the State Superintendent of Public Instruction and the Governor.  All politics aside, we were PUMPED that the State Superintendent visited our school on Monday!  It was an absolute honor to host her in our classroom with the other K-1 classrooms.  She read The Cat in the Hat to our classes.  I can't imagine a better way to kick off Read Across America Week!

Aside from our exciting guest reader, we did lots of other fun stuff to celebrate one of the most beloved authors of children's literature.

We made these super cute Cat in the Hat fruit kabobs on Monday.  The kids LOVED them, and they were healthy, too!  We used a toothpick to hold it all together, a grape for the cat's face, and then made an AB pattern using bananas and strawberries.

Monday was also Dress Like Your Favorite Seuss Character Day.  In all honesty, I wanted to be Cindy Lou Who, but I didn't want to have Who hair when Mrs. Ritz visited our school!  I am Sam was a better choice for good hair. :)  With me in this picture are two of my teaching besties, Liz from Mrs. Wimp's Firsties and Lindsey from Miss Law's Kinders.

On Tuesday, we kept the celebration going with Green Eggs and Ham day!  I spent the kids' last recess frantically frying up 2 dozen eggs, then we had a wonderful guest reader read the story while I plated and served it.  Then, we graphed what the kids thought of the green eggs and ham.  Surprisingly, the overwhelming majority LOVED them!  

Thanks to the sweet guest reader momma who took this picture of me teaching.  She's our in-house photographer for events! :)

Wednesday was One Fish, Two Fish  day, and the snow tried to mess it up (we knew at 7 that we were having an early dismissal), but HA to Mother Nature... You can't hold us down!  

Since our principal was scheduled to be our guest reader for that day, we had to rearrange some things since he was occupied with making sure everyone had a way home that afternoon.  Thank goodness for technology, because YouTube has a great video of authors reading One Fish, Two Fish!  And yes, that is Kevin O'Leary from Shark Tank!  

After we read the book, we graphed our colorful Goldfish crackers and did some simple addition with them, packed it up, and went home.

You may be wondering how I plan all of these special events in our classroom.  For this special week, I used the site Sign Up Genius to organize everything.  I got the idea when one of my sweet friends had a baby, and rather than try to organize meals the old fashioned way, her friends used this site to sign up to bring them food.  Immediately, I wanted to try this in my classroom!  

I created the lists of things we needed, shared the link with my classroom parents, and voila!  I had everything I needed for Dr. Seuss Week!  The site will also send reminders to those who sign up.  I loved using it!

I'm in the middle of planning ahead, and I wanted to share my latest creation with you!

It's not quite finished yet, but I hope to have it up by the end of the weekend!  When I do finally get it posted, it will be on sale for the first 24 hours!  Make sure to follow my TPT store to see when it gets posted!

It was a busy week, to say the least, so when I finally got to rest my feet on Monday (I made the mistake of wearing heels...LOL), I saw this on my chair.  Reason #2034 why I love teaching kindergarten!  There are days where we are physically, mentally, and emotionally drained (first week of school, anyone???), but there is no other grade I would rather teach.