Friday, November 30, 2012

Thankful for the Liebtser Award - and Friday Favorites

I was so excited to find out this week that my blog has been nominated for the Liebster Award by two fantastic bloggers!  This award is given to up and coming bloggers with fewer than 200 followers in recognition of their efforts and to provide support to keep on blogging.  To me, the best part is that it's given by other bloggers, and once you receive it, you are asked to pay it forward by finding other deserving blogs and sharing the award with them.  A big "Thank you!" goes out to both Michalene Mills of The Teacher in Me and Mrs. Adler of  Teaching Junkie for noticing my blog and giving me the chance to connect with so many great teacher-bloggers.  I really appreciate it.

Here are the rules for the Liebster Award…
1. You must post 11 random things about yourself.
2. Answer the questions that the nominator set for you.
3. Create 11 questions for the people you nominate.
4. Choose 11 other blogs with fewer than 200 followers to nominate and link them in your post.
5. You cannot “tag back” the other blog, but leave a comment on this post with the URL of your Liebster post so I can learn more about you & see whom you nominate. we go:

11 Random Things About Me

1. I am left handed, and meeting other left handed people makes me smile.
2. I have a 5 year old son who is the light of my life.
3. I love sushi.
4. I thought for the longest time that my son loved it when I sang to him.  That is, until he was old enough to ask me to stop because I was hurting his ears.
5. I'm a Leo.
6. Christmas Eve is my favorite day of the entire year.
7. My husband and I went to Disney World for our honeymoon...15 years ago. :)
8. I adore Food TV and The Cooking Channel.
9. I have been teaching ELA in middle school for 14 years.  I took a leave of absence for this school year to be home for my son as he started Kindergarten...and although I miss my kids and my classroom, I just love being present for my Lil' Man and watching him grow every day!  I'm very lucky.
10. The best trip that I have ever taken was the Alaskan Cruise we went on for my 30th birthday.
11. I am a little nervous around terrified of clowns...kind of a bummer because my kid loves them.

Questions from The Teacher in Me:
1.  How long have you been teaching?  14 years
2.  Do you have a TpT or Teacher's Notebook Store? Link?  Yes, I do.  My links are:
3.  What is your hobby if you have one? I love cooking, reading and hiking.
4.  What grade level do you teach or have taught? I have taught 6th, 7th and 8th grades.
5.  Favorite Season? I love everything about Fall!
6.  Favorite Food? Cheesecake
7.  Favorite Christmas song? "The Best Gift" sung by Barbra Streisand - It makes me think of my son, who was born the week before Christmas.
8.  Favorite subject to teach? ELA
9.  Do you have a Smartboard? Yes
10.  Favorite blog? One of my new favorite finds is a blog called An Educator's Life - created by Mr. Hughes.
11.  Favorite place to go on vacation? Hands down...Ogunquit, Maine.

Questions from Teaching Junkie:

1.  How long have you been teaching? 14 years

2.  What is your most disgusting habit? This made me laugh out loud!  Between teaching in middle school for 14 years and having a 5 year old son...I've seen disgusting habits!  To be honest, mine seem to pale in comparison. Lol I guess one of the worst things I do, at least in my husbands opinion, is wait until we're in the car to go somewhere to paint my nails while he drives.  It's not the nails that's a problem, but the smell of the polish in the car that he can't stand.  I've tried to be better, especially with our little guy in the car, but every once in a while...a girl just runs out of time! :)

3.  How much time do you spend in one week blogging or looking at other people's blogs?  Having taken this year off, I try to do my blogging while my son is at school.  It's been taking a lot of time lately, as I've been learning so many things about blogging and social media.  I hope that I can get things down so that I can still write quality posts and create quality materials for my stores once I return to my classroom next fall.  I'm going to need to be a little quicker!

4.  What is your proudest accomplishment?  Hands down...becoming a mom.  For my husband and I, it was not an easy road, but every challenge we faced brought us closer together, and now that we have our son...we know for certain we are truly blessed.

5.  Favorite beverage?  Pumpkin White Chocolate coffee from Dunkin' - I love me some DD!

6.  Teaching tool you couldn't live without? SMARTBoard

7.  What is your favorite snack? Right now, it's pistachios. 

8.  If you could change one thing about your school, what would it be?  Not just in my school, but in education in general, it's the intense focus on numbers and test scores.  Let's not forget that we are working with children...not widgets in a factory.

9.  What is your favorite thing to do in your free time?  Play with my son AND plan "Friday Family Fun Night" for us each week.  All three of us really look forward to crazy things to do to start our weekend.  The favorite of the house right now is Backwards Night.  I mean, who doesn't like dessert before dinner?
10.  Why do you blog?  I have always dreamed of being a writer, and blogging allows me to share my writing with such a large audience.  The bonus was when I figured out I could combine my teaching experience with writing - two of my biggest loves - and it's been a win-win from there!

11.  Do your students or friends have a nickname for you?  Yes...and I'm sure some that I don't even know about.  What is it? Giggles is one I've had for a long time.  I laugh.  Loudly.  A lot.  People tend to know I'm near, even if they can't see me...because the giggle is pretty recognizable (or so I've been told.) :)

That was fun!!  Now, it's my turn to share the Liebster love!  I'm considering this my Friday favorites for the week, as I am so happy to share with you just some of the blogs that inspire me.  I hope that you take the time to check them out, too.

And...the nominees are:
 An Educator's Life
 Bayside Teacher
 Being Inspired
 Effective Teaching Articles
 Mr. Giso's Room to Read
 Right Down the Middle
 Shutters & Scribbles
 Teacher's Take-Out
 Wild About Fifth Grade

Questions for My Nominated Blogs:
1. What is your favorite holiday tradition?
2. If you happened to find a $100 bill laying on the ground, with no way of finding who lost it, what would you do with it?
3. What is your favorite comfort food?
4. What inspired you to become a teacher?
5. What is your favorite part of the school day?
6. On the weekends, when do you most generally do your school work?
7. Coffee OR tea?
8. Tropical sandy beach vacation OR snowy mountain skiing get away?
9. What extracurricular activities have you advised for your school?
10. What kind of car do you drive?
11.  What advice would you give to new teachers just entering the field?

Thank you once again for nominating my blog.  I look forward to meeting many more wonderful people - from whom I will surely learn and with whom I will gladly share!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Classroom Management Magic - Making Review Fun

This time of year can be wonderful, magical and full of fun.  Children seem to ooze with excitement; walking into my son's Kindergarten classroom, the energy is honestly palpable!  Our younger, elementary friends are not the only ones who may seem to have a little trouble focusing on the necessary tasks at hand during the school day.  Between concerts, and snow days, and professional development days, and vacation days...not to mention the extras that go on outside of school this time of year in December, Middle School can quite easily become Crazy Town in the days nearing Holiday Break.  Though these are mostly the best of times - they can also be the most challenging of times, especially when we know that CCSS and benchmarks wait for no one...not even a distracted child.   This is when, much like Santa and his magic toy bag, if you have a few tricks to pull from your sleeve to harness the energy and keep the kiddies focused, everyone will be that much happier to prepare for things like... any assessments you may be giving in December. ;-)

My Winter Tic Tac Toe Review is one such activity that is an easy game to set up, and provides not only for a creative review, but a chance for you to gather some formative assessment data for your students as you check questions and answers and observe game play.  I'm always looking for quick review activities that require students to process and internalize new information. This version of Tic Tac Toe is perfect because students must first create their own open-ended questions and answers to those questions - which require details for support - before they can play. Students then work together, quizzing each other, as they move their way to a Tic Tac Toe.

This download includes:

Complete Directions

Game Board

18 Game Pieces (Students can cut these out.)

Question/Answer Planning Sheet

...AND a link to a FREEBIE on my blog that can help with easily creating cooperative learning partners that can be used for this activity or any other quick think-pair-share kind of brain break you like to practice in your class.  The key to keeping activities like this from taking too much time to make worth it is having a system already in place to quickly get students working'll find that here.

You can download a preview of this at my TpT Store:

{click image}

and you can also find other activities to help with some fun review that will leave your students asking when they can play again...and not, "When does this class end?!"

Common ELA Vocabulary Review Game Pack

ALSO - I'm linking this post to:

Be sure to click and check out other great resources for this crazy time of year...all for $1.99 or less!

Any activities that you like to do this time of year that keep kiddos focused  while having fun?
Please think about sharing below.
Thanks for stopping by!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Collaboration...In More Ways Than One!

Happy Holidays!!  I SO love this time of year...from Thanksgiving right on through to the new year.  It brings with it a little extra happiness, a little more generosity and a lot more kindness.  To start the Season of Giving, here's my first freebie for the holidays:

Click {here} for your copy of this freebie.
Make copies on cardstock, if possible, to make them more sturdy.
3-hole punch them along the top so that they can stay in the front of each student's binder for quick referencing. :)

It's my next theme for making cooperative learning partners quickly and easily.  I explain how to use this tool in both my October Terrifying Twosomes and November Grateful Gabbers posts, but to make it easier I am also including directions here.  Please be sure to click on the October and November links to grab those as well for next year.  Each month I use a different chart for my students to prepare for spontaneous cooperative learning opportunities in class.

How to use:

  • Have students write their names on the back of their own paper.  This way, if it's lost, they have a chance to get it back.
  • Explain to your class that they are going to have the chance to pick some friends to work with for different activities during class.  For some students, it will be as though you just told them they hit the lottery, so wait for the buzz to die down.  Then explain that when they are finished filling out the cards together (They can't go ahead because there are specific directions.), everyone will have 4 different people to work with as partners at any given time.
  • It is very important to remind them about being respectful of the feelings of others, and that no one should feel left out when writing down names.  These are for quick tasks that last only a few minutes at a time, so it may be nice to have 1 or 2 people that you don't know as well on their cards, too.  It's a great way to make new friends! 
  • Tell students that they are going to pick 4 different people to work with this month.  Explain that when you call out a picture ("Santa," for example), students have 2 minutes to find a friend.  They must exchange papers, write their own name on the line next to the picture that you call ("Santa"), hand the paper back to it's owner and return to their own seat.  Once they are finished, they need to sit down so that people who are having a hard time finding a partner can see who else is still looking.
    • If you have an odd number of students, you can pair the student with an adult in the room OR create a group of 3.
  • Once everyone is sitting, call a couple of students to make sure they have each other's name in the same spot. (Student A and Student B are partners.  Student A should have Student B's name on the Santa line.  Student B should have Student A's name on the Santa line.  If you were to call "Santa" now, Student A and Student B would know to quickly find each other, follow your directions and then go back to their seats to continue with the lesson.)
  • The 1st time through can be a little tricky if students aren't listening.  I have found that if I wait to call an object until the last second, once I've given directions and everyone is silent and waiting to hear which picture they will be working with, it's much easier.
  • Once you've completed the 1st picture, fill out the other 3 in the same way.  Stress that they should have different people on each line. 
Now, when you want students to have a brain break, move around, and share with a peer, all you have to do is tell them to find their "Santa" and they will be able to work with someone they've already chosen ahead of time.  Then, when you assign groups for a different kind of task and you hear complaints that they are not picking who they work with, you can remind them that they work with people they choose all of the time!

Classroom Freebies Manic Monday
Another example of collaboration that is VERY exciting is the super Cyber Monday and Bonus Tuesday SALE going on at Teachers Pay Teachers!

Graphics by: Charlotte’s Clips

I'm sure you have heard of this fantastic opportunity for teachers to share amazing resources with others at an incredible bargain.  With the additional 10% off that TpT is adding in, my store and many, many others are able to give you up to 28% off your purchases for the next two days.  Stop by, take a look and spread the word that there is some great shopping to be had at TpT!! :)

Thank you, as always, for your support!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Thanksgiving Bookmarks - FREEBIE

“Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.” 
― Marcel Proust

I love this quote!  Often we forget that, in the stresses of everyday, we are lucky to have the family, friends, coworkers, students...special people in our lives...who are able to make our hearts smile by just being near.  I am so thankful for my "charming gardeners" and their influence on my life.  

For Thanksgiving, why not share with our students some quotes that may serve as reminders about the significance  of an attitude of gratitude, not just for this week, but everyday?  These bookmarks are more than just a reminder of the last page they read, but a visual cue to be thankful for the little things...which they will find someday to be the most important.

(Click the image for this Thanksgiving freebie.)

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

Classroom Freebies Manic Monday

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Grammar At a Glance

(image from

Yoda is not the only one who struggles with using correct grammar. :) Check out my store for Grammar At a Glance and some quick, basic review of parts of speech and sentence structure.  My I have...Who has...? game is a great CCSS aligned activity (grades 5-8) for the days just before or just after Thanksgiving break! 

Here is what's included:

- Grammar At a Glance: This is a 1 page (front and back) reference sheet with basic parts of speech and sentence structure terms and definitions. This sheet can be given to each student and placed in their binders for review and a quick reference when needed.

- Teacher Guide: CCSS alignment, directions, suggestions for use of the game AND an answer key

- I have...Who has...? card game: 24 cards 

Please consider visiting my stores and taking a closer look:


I hope that you'll find to be a great resource and review tool for your students!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Friday Favorite - The First Thanksgiving

Happy Friday!! I've been looking at lots of great teaching resources this week, but my favorite find is what I share with you today. I happened to see a preview for this on Scholastic Teachers' Facebook page. Scholastic has a whole series focusing on virtual field trips with The First Thanksgiving as a theme. It's fantastic!! For anyone looking for resources to use for supplementing any thanksgiving reading or writing lessons in the next week or so, please take the time to check this out:

The First Thanksgiving Student Activities for Grades PreK-12

You'll find a variety of different resources, including high-quality videos that recreate the events that transpired in the creation of that very Thanksgiving so many years ago.  In my search, it looks like the newest video about the Mayflower is coming soon, and if the preview is any indication, I can't wait to see it.  I know that students in middle school would love it!

Take a look and let me know what you think.  I hope you find it helpful!  In the comments below, please consider sharing any ideas you may have for using it in your lessons next week.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

CCSS Aligned Close Reading Activity

Aside from the focus on nonfiction, the Reading for Literature standards within the Common Core State Standards encourage close reading of classic literature that is at a grade-appropriate level of rigor.  Close reading is the act of really reading like a detective.  It requires a careful reading, and often rereading, of a given text with the purpose of analyzing the structure of the text and the author's choices for writing as he/she did.  My newest product is an example of this type of reading using a classic poem.

"The Cremation of Sam McGee" is a poem written by Robert Service and is located in the Public Domain. It is a classic ballad telling the story of two prospectors as they make their way through the Arctic North looking for gold. A promise is made while on their journey, and to fulfill it is a challenge that is almost too much to bear. The mysterious ending of the tale makes this a fantastic poem to share for Halloween, but it is fun to read and analyze any time of year!

(Click the image to see a preview.)

This product includes:

- a PowerPoint prezi giving background information about Robert Service and includes slides of the poem itself to be used in close reading with the class


- a student packet that contains the poem, vocabulary and space to write responses to questions

-a Formative Assessment Sheet to be used for the "Do Now" activity, 2 focus questions that direct students to support answers to questions with details from the text AND the "Ticket Out" activity (This will be handed in at the end of class.)

-complete lesson plan with Teacher Directions section

-alignment to Anchor Standards and specific grade level standards as well

This contains all that you will need to roll once downloaded. I hope that you enjoy using this lesson with your students. My students truly love this poem every year! Any feedback that you can provide on this resource is greatly appreciated.  Once again, I hope this is a useful resource for you and your students.

***UPDATE:  I've had some great feedback on this lesson and I'm so happy that colleagues are finding it helpful!  Here's what some teachers are saying:

- "This was a very helpful resource to refer to while teaching this poem."

-"Great resources for a wonderful poem."

- "I've taught this poem for YEARS! Thank you for the fresh approach!!!"

Thank you so much for the kind comments!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Independent Reading Bookmark - FREEBIE


Today I am adding my Independent Reading Bookmark to my collection of free resources for you to print and use.

This is a great tool for students to use to practice their "during reading" skills that we know improve comprehension - and they have one place to put their thoughts that stays with the they can use it anywhere they are reading.  The bookmark includes space for:

  • Information about the book and author
  • Specific information pertaining to fiction and nonfiction reading.  The first focuses on genre and the elements of fiction.  The next section provides space for information about a nonfiction text.
  • Once folded, the inside of the bookmark provides space for questions and predictions the student may have while reading and a space to answer or validate their thoughts with details from the reading.  There is also space for new vocabulary.
Click on the image above to get a closer look. You will also find that there is a page that gives direction for how to copy and fold the bookmark as well.  I hope this is a useful resources for you and your students.

Classroom Freebies Manic Monday
Freebie Fridays

Sunday, November 4, 2012

November Currently - Awesomesauce!!

I saw so many of these posts over the last month and wasn't really sure how it worked...until now. Turns out, each month Oh' Boy 4th Grade hosts a really sweet linky party.  This is such a fun way to get involved in the teacher-blogger community and learn about other teacher-authors!  Thanks for the opportunity, Farley...and heeeerrrreee's my November:

Listening:  It's funny how kids really subscribe to the "out of sight - out of mind" principle.  We've had some old toys in a box for several months now, and our son has not mentioned them once.  Today I brought the box up from the basement to go through some more things that we can donate to those who have lost everything in the wake of Sandy...and now everything in the box is his favorite.  Lesson learned.

Loving:  I so adore the first few snowflakes that fall from the sky and blanket the muddy fall ground in a blanket of white.  My adoration wanes shortly after the holidays...but for now, Yay!!

Thinking:  Fall Back Day (what our family calls it) had once been of my favorite days of the year.  That has changed since having our son.  There is no sleeping in anymore.  It is 6am every morning...except for Fall Back Day when it is 5am.  I always have great hopes and seem to forget the previous year's lack of sleep.  I worked on some projects a little later than usual last night knowing I had the extra hour, but this morning our son informed us that though he knew what the clock said, his brain told him the clocks were wrong.  Oh well, nothing a little extra java can't fix.  And the flip-side is we have an extra hour that my hubby and I are spending with our greatest little love! :)

Wanting:  Nothing like roasted chicken, mashed potatoes, gravy and biscuits to accompany the first snowflakes!

Needing:  Added to my to do-list ASAP...Teachers Help Teachers is a link for anyone who can help those teachers who have lost so much - including teaching resources - as a result of Hurricane Sandy tearing through the East Coast.  Here is the link if you would like to learn more about this and would like to help:

I plan on linking a product donation today. 

Music: I know.  Christmas music already.  Crazy...but it makes me SO happy!  Our son has been singing "Frosty the Snowman" since Tuesday when he had his first "snowday" from Kindergarten.  It was actually a hurricane day (Who knew in upstate New York?!) without snow.  He was a little confused, perhaps, but it put me in the spirit nonetheless.  

That's what I'm doing currently.  That was so much fun!  Click on mine above to check out the link for Oh' Boy 4th Grade to share what you're doing currently, too.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Friday Favorites

So I'm trying something a little different.  As I've been learning more and more about blogging and all of the great teaching resources that are out there in the blogosphere, I'm realizing there is just SO much to see and so little time to really dedicate to exploring. This, my friends, is a great problem to have!  I'm adding more and more items to my Pinterest boards, but I also want to share with you some of my REALLY favorite finds and keep them in one place for you.

Each Friday I plan to share a link to a favorite blog post or resource that I happen to come across.  I'm hoping that you may also be inspired by my lucky finds.

To start, this week has been an unbelievably difficult one for so many of us.  Whether we are experiencing for ourselves the devastation that is occurring as a result of Hurricane Sandy, supporting friends and family who are in the midst of the disaster, or looking for a way to help as we see image after painful image of the desperate situation unfolding in the Northeast - many of us are physically and emotionally exhausted.  Courage is just one of many character traits that we are seeing so much of these days...and many are digging down deep to find it within ourselves.

With this in mind, I was so happy to stumble upon:

This blog, written by Maria Dismondy, is filled with all kinds of resources, including book trailers and teaching guides to books that she has authored.  My favorite part of this blog is her monthly linky party.  It focuses on a character trait as a theme for the month...and as luck would have it, November's theme is courage!  Her hope is that each month bloggers will link up ideas on how to teach these traits to children so that, as more ideas are shared, more children will be able to recognize these traits in others and develop them within themselves.

Talk about teachable moments - tons of them have blown in with Sandy!  I find that, in middle school aged students, it helps guide their understanding of concepts like this when they are given a chance to make personal connections.  If it relates to them...then it's valuable to consider it, read about it and write about it!  I love using current events for this purpose, and especially with the shift toward using nonfiction resources with the Common Core State Standards, collecting several news clips of true stories of courage to show as writing starters would be fantastic.  As in any natural disaster that brings communities to their knees, media coverage of Sandy has provided us a plethora of images and true stories of courage.  Gathering a few of these and showing them as a starter for students explaining what courage means to them, or describing an example of courage, would be very helpful.

For another idea, we've all seen the advertisements and billboards that promote character traits like courage.  On their website they have a page dedicated to courage and a space for students to design their own billboards.  Whether you choose to use this resource as it is, or develop a lesson around creating a "Courage. Pass It On." type advertisement, this would be a fun way for students to explore their own definition of courage and to share it with others.

Here is the {LINK} to her post explaining Maria's monthly themes and how her linky party works. You'll find other opportunities to link up as well.  I just couldn't wait to share the link with you as November is starting already and I'm sure that there are so many of you who have ideas that you could use right now.  Be sure to check out Maria Dismondy's Make a Difference Monthly Linky - my 1st Friday Favorite!

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