Saturday, June 27, 2015

Winner Winners!

Just a quick post before I'm away from blogging and social media for a week or so...I wanted to let you know the winners of this last week's giveaways!

Mr. Potato Head:
Kristy Smith

Week 4, Back to School Products Prize Pack:
Allison M.

Congratulations to the winners! They have both been notified!

Have a great weekend everyone!!!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Top 9 Uses for a Mr. Potato Head, a FREEBIE, and a GIVEAWAY!

I have been inspired by my 2.5 year old son's love and fascination with "Toy Story" lately to use my Mr. Potato Head as a classroom management tool. I don't use it often, and I certainly can't use it the whole year. It loses its novelty after that long. But I thought it would be perfect for the end of the year. It is novel. It is fun, and the end of the year is a little more laid back than ...March (standardized testing, dun-dun-dunh!).

However, Mr. Potato Head has MANY uses in the classroom, and I wanted to share just a few of those with you. Some are my examples of how I use them, and others are from fellow Pinterest users (genius, how did we ever live without Pinterest?).

Here are 7 uses for Mr. Potato Head in the classroom. (Make sure you read all the way to the end of this post. You might have a little surprise at the end!)

1. As mentioned, CLASSROOM MANAGEMENT (whole class)
I like to bring him in and set him at the front of the class. Almost always, students are familiar with exactly what it is. I let them name him and then I explain how he will help us behave for x amount of time. This can be the last 20 days of school or the last 2 weeks before a holiday or break. You can use it at any time of the year.
I've done this two ways - you can do a positive, add-on approach. Take off all the Mr. Potato Head pieces, put them all in a box or container and as the students earn behavior points each day for following the rules, being kind to one another, or just keeping it together before a holiday or break, I add one piece at the end of the class (or at the end of the day).
Or you can do a take-away approach. You can deck Mr. Potato Head out in all that he can wear, and if he keeps all of his clothing, accessories, and parts, the class earns x reward. This can be a popcorn party, or even just an extra recess at the end of the day or the end of the week. The rewards must be geared towards your kiddos - do what works for them and motivates them!
picture found here

picture found here

This is similar to the classroom management approach, except he's just a member of the class. You can have your kids name him, dress him, make accessories or signs for him. Use toothpicks and tape to hold signs to his hands. You can decorate him according to seasons or holidays. It's just an extra, fun way to encourage classroom community. He could even be a buddy to read to, or if you want at times, he can be a reward to sit on someone's desk for extra good behavior for a day or so.

For younger students, this is an excellent way to start labeling and spelling body parts.
For older students, you could use this as a spelling/vocabulary activity. For example, they could find synonyms for "shirt" or "shoes". You could easily do a "shades of meaning" type of activity with this - you could have students find versions of clothing from casual to dressy.
I created a very simple FREEBIE for you to use. You can get it here, or click on the picture.

I saw an example of this on Pinterest. I even thought of the line "I'd give an arm and a leg for a good book!"
(picture from Pinterest - Enokson on
Younger children could learn the 5 senses and list something you do with each sense.
Older children can write creatively using adjectives to describe what Mr. Potato Head (or Mrs.) might see, smell, taste, feel, and hear!
I have found that teaching students to write a diamante poem is a great way to get them to express and describe the 5 senses creatively!
picture found here

You can take pictures of each step in "building" a Mr. or Mrs. Potato Head. Students could follow the steps and directions and complete it in a center. You could also take pictures of completed Potato Heads and have students "build" him/her and write down the steps/order they followed to build the Potato Head.
picture found here

I wouldn't advise having students just color to color (well, maybe only a few times a year), but you could use coloring sheets to have students practice a variety of skills - sequencing, labeling, spelling, writing, etc. Also, if you are using a center like I listed in #6, you could have a coloring sheet as a follow-up activity. These could also be used as morning work. You could use them as an entrance or exit ticket, having students write a new word they learned or one of the 5 senses they've learned about. 
There are tons of coloring pages out there. You can Google it or search on Pinterest. Here are two I found. 

picture found here

picture found here

If you teach health or food/nutrition, you could have students create a "Healthy Mr. Potato Head". Here is one example I found on Pinterest. 
picture found here

Ok, this was just cute. It's not necessarily academic. If you have a toy class theme or your kids like "Toy Story" or just Mr. Potato Head in general, this would be so cute. 
picture found here

I hope you can use some of these in your classroom. If you want to enter to win a Mr. Potato Head, I'm giving one away. This is only a 24-HOUR GIVEAWAY, so if you want this little guy, don't wait! :)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thanks for stopping by! Don't forget to enter this week's Birthday Blowout giveaway. It's "BACK TO SCHOOL" themed products! You can enter that giveaway below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, June 22, 2015

Top 3 Back to School Prep Tips

Ok, let's be honest, our back to school prep lists are probably over 100+ items long! I know! I know! And, we keep adding to them constantly. If you're anything like me, the list keeps growing every time I finish an item on the list, and then I never finish it. I've found B2S To-Do lists at the end of the year that were only half-checked off. Oh well, such is life. We can't do everything.

However, I wanted to share with you 3 things that I do each year to help me keep my sanity while preparing for my kiddos to return. You probably do some of these things too.

1. Teacher/Curriculum organization
That's probably a no-brainer, but surprisingly, many of my fellow teachers start the year back in their rooms with little to no change in their organizational strategies. Some things you do, you keep from year to year. BUT, for me, each year, I teach something different, and I teach different kids. Now, I know what you're thinking, "I teach different kids every year too." No, what I mean is that I haven't taught the same spelling, vocabulary, reading, writing, etc. curriculum over the last 9 years. I've mentioned it before, but I teach at a private school for students with learning disabilities. Our math and literacy classes are grouped according to student ability, so depending on the students enrolled and how many each class can handle, that is how our groups are created. There are also no more than 12 students in a math or literacy class. We use a lot of the SRA (special ed) materials, MUCH older versions of Houghton-Mifflin and Steck-Vaughn materials. Plus, we have to wait until late July-early August before we get our class groups and curriculum. They change all summer depending on enrollees, and we get new students all through the summer. ANYWAY, I'm going on and on.

Once I find out what my curriculum is for each area (spelling, vocabulary, reading, and writing), I decide on how I'm going to store all of my materials for the year.

Various organizational strategies I've used for curriculum supplies and daily supplies:

2. Student Organization
One thing I've done over the last 5 years or so for student organization is use the large paper magazine holders. I let students decorate them and they put all of their notebooks and textbooks in those boxes. I have a shelf next to our meeting area, and they come in each day and pick up their "literacy box" with all of their supplies in it and take it to their desks. That way, they have all the supplies they need for class.

Here's the ones I use:

They are the larger ones so they can hold more than the regular magazine file holder. You can get either the 4" or 6" depending on how many books and supplies your students have. I found this website where you can get them for cheap. The 4" 3-pack is $5.97. I use these boxes for 2 years, just covering the name tags on the fronts. You can check the pictured set above here
**Note, I put packing tape on the bottoms and front of the boxes. This helps them last longer and gives them strength on the bottom. I also teach students how to pick up the boxes and hold them on the bottom! If you teach your kids to take care of these things, they will last longer!

3. Choose, Design/Decorate, & Create my "Teacher BIG Binder"
One of the most exciting prep activities is choosing a fun color BIG binder to put all of my important teacher "stuff" in for the year. There are about a hundred options to choose from on TPT for Teacher Planner/Binders, but mine is so individual, it would be hard to create a generic example for others. I teach a literacy class, 10 technology classes, and I have lunch duty, carpool duty, and recess duty. My schedule and the information I have to keep up with is MASSIVE. I literally look at my calendar/schedule every single day to keep up with which classes I have that day and which kids are in each class. I have to plan about 8 different technology lessons each week because the range of my kiddos' knowledge and abilities are so vast. 

I will share some of my sections in my binder:
*To Do List (one page with post-it note squares)
*Lesson Plans
*Monthly Plans
*Yearly Plans
*Student Grouping Lists (homerooms, math classes, literacy classes)
*Current Info/Planning
*Important Info (tech log-ins, important school memos/notes, etc.)
*Special Ed resources (depending on the student population, I keep quick lists of how to help these students with their specific academic, behavioral, and emotional needs
*Professional Development (I keep copies of certificates and PD hours for the year)

As I said earlier, my list is so long. This is only my top 3 important prep tips. What are some of your Back to School prep tips? I'd love to hear what you do!
Link up below and share with your teacher/blogger friends! Feel free to use the picture at the top of this post in your blog post! 

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Final Week of the Birthday Blowout + Week 3's Winner!

Congratulations to our Week 3 winner, Emily Levine! She won the Holiday and Seasonal products prize pack!

Emily has been notified and is excited to get all of her amazing prizes!

On a bittersweet note, this is the final week of the month-long Birthday Blowout. It's been a great month! I've met so many wonderful teachers and shared some great experiences! Thank you all so much!!! I'm excited for this week's events, but I'll be sad when it's all over. 

This final week's giveaway and celebration events are all about BACK TO SCHOOL PREP. Take a look at the sponsors and prizes for this week:

If you want to enter to win the Back to School Product Prize Pack, you can do that here.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

I will be back tomorrow with my Top 3 Back to School prep tips. Be thinking about 3 things you do each year to get ready for those kiddos to return. They can be simple or just ritual to you. (I'm sure we all do a lot of similar things, but who knows, someone might get a great idea from you!!!) You can link up with us on tomorrow's blog post! Until then, take it easy and Happy Father's Day!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

My Teaching Quirk

How can I pick ONE teaching quirk? I think I've had many over the years, and I think they have changed just a little bit over time.

I'm linking up today with Miss Monica of I Heart Grade 3 today for her Weekly Summer Link-up.

I think my biggest quirk (if you want to call it that) is my obsession with organization in the classroom. Not only do I strive to be organized with all of my teacher materials, but I took an entire summer to organize all of my student (and teacher) supplies. I bought all of the smaller rubbermaids to put the supplies in and I labeled every single box. I even went back and put labels on both ends of the boxes because students would put the boxes back on the shelf with the label facing the back, so it wasn't clear what all was in each box.

These pictures were taken a little later in the year. Obviously, I added a few more tubs/boxes. I started putting class sets (small group sets) of books in the Rubbermaids with pink tops.  They are not labeled...yet.

I work with students with learning disabilities. One of their biggest challenges, especially at the beginning of the year, is being organized. I teach them how to organize their planners, their desks, and we go over where things are organized in the classroom. I do this for their benefit and my own sanity. I need to be able to find things too! I used to separate student supplies from teacher supplies (aka supplies that only I could use). Then after a few years, I found out that 1. I wasn't using the "teacher only supplies" - I kept saving them for special occasions. I had to teach myself that every day is a special occasion! and 2. I kept raiding the student supplies (tubs/buckets, boxes, etc.), so I just combined and simplified. 
I still keep some of my supplies separate from the students' supplies. I don't want them using my grading markers and pens, but pretty much everything else is fair game. 
My fellow teachers come to me for organization advice!

Other quirks???
1. Starbucks coffee every morning (even my students notice!)
2. the scrapbook paper/bulletin board border hoarder/craft supply queen - colleagues come to me all the time for crafting and decorating supplies!

What is one of your teaching quirks? Don't forget to link up with Miss Monica at I Heart Grade 3 and share with all of us! :)

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Top 3 Favorite Holidays in the Classroom

It's the THIRD week of June already! I keep saying it, but where does the time go?

During this third week of my month-long Birthday Blowout celebration, I'd like to share a little more about myself! This week, I want to share about my top 3 favorite holidays at home and school.

1. CHRISTMAS - I'm sure this one is at the top (or close to it) for many of you! What an exciting time of year! When you teach kids - and I don't care if they are 2 or 20, they LOVE Christmas. It's a magical time of year. When you are old enough and have kids (or just teach them), your excitement turns to a more adult form of magic, but it's still a happy and joyful occasion!

2. HALLOWEEN - Again, it's like watching a bit of magic with the students! I have taught middle school kids in literacy the past 5 years and I love finding ways to incorporate dressing up for Halloween into our lessons/units. I usually do something with vocabulary projects. I will either have students dress up as their favorite book character or dress up as a character in a descriptive way with their vocabulary words. For example, if a student wanted to dress up as Freddy Krueger, he could use the words "gruesome" or "hideous". We usually do some type of descriptive writing activity to go with these fun activities. Gotta keep it academic!

3. VALENTINE'S DAY - This is the easiest holiday to incorporate character education in class. It's disguised as Valentines and "love" letters from classmates. It's just a feel-good holiday all about giving and showing others that you care. What's better than that?

I would love to hear what your favorite holidays are in the classroom. You can link up at the end of this post!

I would also love to have you join me in celebrating Week 3 of my Birthday Blowout month by entering this week's giveaway. If you hadn't guessed by now, the prize pack is seasonal/holiday products!

There are some great products for every single season in this prize pack. Just think, if you win it, how much you would have ready for the upcoming school year?!?! Awesome!

Here's a look at the sellers who are participating!

Take a look at some of the products we are giving away!!!!

One lucky winner will get all of this and more! Yay!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Don't forget to link up with your 3 favorite holidays. I'm sure some of these sellers will be blogging this week about their favorite holidays too! Thanks for stopping by!

Week 2 Winner!

Just a short post today to let you know the winner of the Summer Products prize pack. This is our Week 2 winner of my month-long birthday celebration!

The winner is...

Congratulations Kerry!
You have been emailed!

If you'd like to enter Week 3's giveaway for Seasonal & Holiday products, you can do that here!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

You can check out all of the prizes and info about this giveaway here.

Have a great weekend and an even better week!

Saturday, June 13, 2015

And the Winners are...

**I'm so sorry this post is a day late. I drove for 9 hours yesterday and I was SOOO tired when I got to my destination, I ate dinner and literally went to sleep right away! However, I did let the winners know that they won yesterday! :)

Without further adieu, here are the winners of my HUGE Birthday Blowout giveaway!...
Congratulations to all of you, and thank you so much for joining our big celebration.

Winner #1: Dawn Broussard
$50 gift card to Sit Spots

Winner #2: Michelle Miller
Over $300 in 28 teacher/seller store credits

Winner #3: Monica Parsons
My Favorite Things pack

Winner #4: Eilidh Husby
$50 Membership to The Creative Art Teacher's Exclusive Clipart Club

All of the winners have been emailed! Congratulations again! And if you didn't win, you still have time to enter this week's giveaway - Summer products from some amazing teacher-sellers! You can do that here:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, June 8, 2015

Pool Party Blog Hop with The Education Highway

Wow! June is turning out to be a very busy month in the blogging world! I'm actually celebrating Celeste DiDonato's birthday with her Pool Party Blog Hop until June 14th.

She is doing a TON of stuff over the next few days. There are giveaways, craft ideas, recipes, and freebies galore! So let's get this party started!

So, today, I wanted to share a recipe with you. It's not my original recipe, but as you'll read on the recipe, it's so easy and yummy, it's worth sharing! It's for my go-to entertaining dip, and it's great for any season!
Let me know what you think!

In honor of American Pharoah's winning the Triple Crown (amazing!), I am sharing my Derby Race freebie! It's a great math game - perfect for any time of the year AND perfect for almost all ages! It's just a ton of fun. All you need is a pair of dice, the recording sheet, and a pencil!
Click on the picture to see this product and download it for free! Enjoy!

So what are the giveaways, you ask? Well...

Click on this picture to download an amazingly awesome e-book that Celeste made to help you see all of the sponsors, all of their links, and what they are donating!

Here are all of the giveaways sponsored by The Education Highway (and 30 other amazing teachers)! Enter any and all that you'd like!

Giveaway Pack #1

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Giveaway Pack #2

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Giveaway Pack #3

a Rafflecopter giveaway

So what are you waiting for? Go ahead, enter the giveaways, download my fun freebie, make some buffalo chicken dip. You won't regret it! :)
Also, if you want to hop to the next blog and get more goodies, you can link up below!

An InLinkz Link-up