Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Wordless Wednesday

I'm linking up with Wordless Wednesday at Sugar and Spice!  

In the spirit of "wordless", I'm going to show you pictures!

I don't know about you, but I've already spent some money at the TpT Back to School Boost sale, and I'll probably end up spending more before the sale ends at midnight. (I'm becoming quite the Clip Art addict!)

Now back to "wordless"...

Here are a few things available during the Boost sale... 
all pictures are links!

See you at the sale!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Getting the Tape Off!

If you've been following my blog or my facebook page, you'll know I've had a little crisis with tape! Since people were in our classrooms this summer for summer school, we had to tape everything up so the people using our room wouldn't get into our stuff. Well, I happen to be in a very sunny classroom, (which is usually good!) but all that tape just baked away this summer, and the tape wouldn't come off!

I had lots of fabulous advice on removing the tape, and went into my classroom yesterday armed for battle!

I bought a spray bottle of "Goo Gone", a set of plastic scrapers, extra scrubbing sponges, and Dawn dish detergent. Why Dawn? Because it's extra good at cutting grease, and the Goo Gone is VERY greasy!

I sprayed all the places with stuck tape on Monday. I gave everything a good soaking with the Goo Gone. Unfortunately, it's drippy and runny, so it was all over the floor, which made those newly waxed floors super slippery, but I survived.

When I came in on Tuesday, I took my little plastic scrapers, and most of the tape came right up! You can probably tell the desk is rather shiny, because of the greasy Goo Gone. It took a lot of Dawn to get rid of that slippery mess!

After a good scrubbing, a quick second coat of Goo Gone to get rid of the sticky residue under the tape, and a good washing with Dawn, I was very happy!

I got all the little spots around the room, and feel like I'm caught up on the tape disaster!

I also did a whole lot of  other cleaning. Even though we cleaned the desks before summer pretty well, they were pretty disgusting after summer school, so they needed a full scrubbing. (It's hard to tell in this picture, but they were filthy!)  I had to pull out the magic eraser to do these desks!

I've got a few more days of work in my classroom before I'll be ready for those kiddos next Wednesday, but after all that cleaning, I think I deserve some shopping!  There's a BOOST sale at Teachers Pay Teachers, and my sales cart is already packed! This sale is for the benefit of people like me who weren't quite ready to shop at the first Back to School sale a couple of weeks ago... I'm ready now!

Of course, if you already shopped at the last one, I'm sure it wouldn't hurt to pick up a few more things for those kiddos!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Brain Breaks are Essential for Learning!

Brain research tells us that movement is an important part of learning. Research also tells us that children can only pay attention for about as many minutes as their age, plus or minus two minutes. That means that my second graders can pay attention at max, about 9 minutes. That also means some of my little ones can only hold it together for 5 minutes! (Yep, that sounds about right!)

There are so many types of brain breaks!  Some involve a lot of movement, enough to get your heart racing. Others include just a quick stretch and breath. Still others are just a break from the routine, without movement at all. It's important to use all sorts of brain breaks in the classroom!

You're in luck! I have quite a collection of brain breaks on my Brain Break Pinterest page!

If you aren't familiar with Go Noodle, it's time you checked it out!

Just go to and set up a free account! Then enjoy! Each little video is totally fun, different, and wakes those kids up so they'll be ready for the next part of your lesson. Seriously, I can't say enough great stuff about Go Noodle. And... did I mention it was free?

Here's a brain break freebie to help you start the year. Click HERE to download 12 different Brain Breaks with a back to school theme!

Brain Breaks help the kiddos learn their sight words with this game! The brain breaks are shuffled right into the deck of words and phrases for them! They love those brain breaks so much, this became the most popular game in the classroom! This one is made up of Fry's first hundred words, but I have several sets of these, including a Bundle. You can find this game HERE.

It works with Math, too! Here are a whole set of addition and subtraction facts for the kiddos to learn, with a research based sequential order for learning. It includes a gameboard for practice and... brain breaks! You can download it HERE.

I'm linking up with other Brain Break Bloggers for the Brain Break Blitz! Click the image to see the linky!

GoNoodle Inspiration Blog

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Tips for Teaching Procedures

The beginning of the school year is all about procedures.  The kiddos learn procedures for lining up, choosing books, signing out to the Library, how to pass in work, what to do when work is finished.    We teach them the procedure for fire drills, procedures for lock down, procedures for evacuation drills. We teach them the procedure for going to lunch, going to recess, and going to Phys. Ed. class. 

And so on. 

Here are some things to think about when teaching procedures!

When addressing a new procedure, I'll get right up and act out different scenarios. I find the kids really pay attention if I act out what NOT to do! (Adding a little humor helps the memory!)

For example, when acting out how to get into line, I might:
  1. neglect picking up my materials
  2. forget to push in my chair
  3. run, flailing my arms
  4. cut in line
  5. get into an argument about who got in line first
Isn't it amazing how they'll always notice what's done wrong when the adult is doing it? 

And they're not shy about pointing out what I did wrong!

Once they've had a good discussion on what NOT to do, it's time to have someone model what to do.  Have a few volunteers act out the right thing to do. Be sure to comment on each thing the child does right! This is a good chance to give positive attention to some of those kids who REALLY need attention!

"Notice how John pushed in the chair as he walked by." 
"I like the way Bobby walks at a good pace." 
"Did you notice how Marie let Anna go first?"
"I noticed Bradley kept his arms by his sides when he was walking."
"Of course Theresa put her math tools away properly before walking to the line."

The old saying goes "Practice Makes Perfect", but I think "Practice Makes Permanent" is more accurate. 

After having several children acting out the right way for the procedure, it's not over. Find time later in the day for more children to model it again. Every time they go through that procedure for the next couple of days, have them stop and think about what they've learned.

"Before we line up, turn and tell your partner what we've learned about the right way to line up."
"Close your eyes and picture yourself lining up the way we practiced."
"After you share with a partner, take a deep breath before you line up."
"Put your hands on your head if you know the right way to line up."
"Name something your partner won't think of that's important to remember when lining up."

You know, it's amazing we ever finish going over the procedures and get on to the real learning!  But seriously, if you take the time to teach the procedures properly, the rest of the year goes smoothly. 

 And I truly believe that's worth it!

See the linky below for more bright ideas from over 100 different bloggers!

If you enjoy my tips here on Elementary Matters, feel free to follow me on facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter for more tips, tricks, and fun teacher stuff!

Friday, August 15, 2014

The Final Friday

Today is officially my last day of summer vacation, since the school is closed today, and I'll be working in my classroom every day next week. School starts the week after that. 

So here are some highlights of my last week:

It's been a little crazy with this August "Back to School" season. The minute the calendar turns to August my head is into getting the room ready. We hadn't been able to get into our classrooms because summer school was going on and other people were in our classrooms. Yesterday, we finally got in! My classroom was looking pretty good, since we didn't have to take down the things from the walls, and I had done my bulletin boards last June for this year. 

The first day in after summer is always the hardest, since the job is so incredibly overwhelming. I've learned to make the first day a short one, so I didn't end up in tears. I was there for 2 hours yesterday. I removed the plastic coverings from everything, moved basic furniture, and pulled out all the book tubs that were stuffed into cubbies last spring. I was achy and sore (and overwhelmed) from just those two hours, but I'm glad I got through "the first day back". 

Since we had other people using our classrooms for summer school, we taped up all the cabinets and storage areas. (Last time summer school was in our school, we all had things missing!)  This time, nothing was missing, but there was another problem.

I usually count my blessings that I'm on the sunny side of the building, but that worked against me during this summer. Everything that had been on the sunny side of my classroom looks like the pictures above. The tape won't come off! Unfortunately I'm going to have to spend some of my valuable time in the classroom next week scraping that off. I'm open for suggestions on getting the tape off!

On Tuesday I went to a training on the FUNdations program, which our school is adopting. I'm SOOOOOO excited about this!  Why? Because it's a fabulous program! What's so fabulous about it? From what I can see, it follows the rules about how the brain learns! Every lesson builds on the previous lesson. There's lots of repetition, practice, and review. Every letter and letter sound has a key word, which helps to connect things in the brain. There are plenty of fun ways to engage the children every day. I could go on...
But the thing that excites me the most is that our first graders had the program last year, so they'll be coming into my second grade classroom with a strong phonetic base! They'll (hopefully) already know their vowel sounds! Yahoo!
Since I couldn't get into my classroom, I've been giving many of my products a facelift. Here's a Halloween freebie that I "cleaned up" today! I took all the color out of the printable pages, to save the ink in everyone's printers, I changed a lot of fonts to make them "newbie reader" friendly, and I jazzed up the cover. I'm going to miss having time to do this! You can download this freebie HERE.

I also finished a totally new product this week! It's Back to School Printables! I'm excited about this one, since it's a big ol' review of first grade skills that I'm thinking I'll use for morning work the first couple of weeks. It's all fun stuff, plus, it's a valuable use of their time so I can do things like take attendance, figure out all the crazy dismissal stuff, and give me time to get my head organized in the morning. Plus, it will give me an idea if I need to spend more time reviewing, or get going on the new stuff!

Don't forget to check out the link up at Doodle Bugs Teaching!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Bringing Back the Back to School Blow Out!

I am so excited to announce that Educents is bringing back their HUGE back-to-school blowout sale and I am going to be featured in one of the curriculum bundles! From August 13 - 15, they are bringing back all of their favorite and most popular bundles for INSTANT download at up to 77% OFF! There is something for everyone and it is their BIGGEST sale of the year!
Take a peak into what is on sale! Tell your friends, because there is something for everyone who teaches children in PreK-8th grade!

Yes, folks, they're bringing back The Write Stuff ELA Bundle!!!

K-2 The Write Stuff ELA Bundle - 68% OFF


There are several items in this fabulous package, and one of them is this one: 

Here's a closer look at the Writer's Workshop Collection:
and that's just one of the many parts to this bundle! But you must move fast, it's only available through the 15th!

Don't Miss It!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

How to Have Them Happy When They Exit the Classroom

This is the last in my series of reposts to celebrate 3 years as a teacher blogger. This one is the response to yesterday's post: How to Have them Ready to Learn When They Enter the Classroom.

It's important to have the children leave happy for so many reasons.  For one, you want them to feel good about school so they'll want to come back tomorrow.  Maybe even more important, if they're feeling bad, that's how they're feeling when mom asks, "How did school go today?"   This can lead to bad feelings and/ or bad communication, which we just don't want to happen. 

I start my day on a high energy note (see my previous blog post:  How to Have Them Ready to Learn When They Enter the Classroom)  I prefer for the kids to leave on a calm, reflective note.

I play soft music as the children are packing up.  (They tend to have trouble focusing by the end of the day, and the music calms them down and helps them focus on their responsibilities.)  When they are all packed up, we meet in a circle for "High Low".  While they are waiting for the others, they reflect on their school day.

When most of the children are ready, I usually start "High Low".  I pick up a beanie baby.  (Whoever is holding the beanie is allowed to speak.)  I tell the class my high of the day and my low of the day.  It might sound like this:  "My high of the day was how everyone enjoyed the story I read.  My low of the day was that someone hurt Susie's feelings at recess."  As the children decide their high/low, they raise their hands.  I'll pick one child and toss the beanie to them.  And so it continues.  A few procedures I've followed during "High/ Low".  No one can be raising their hand while someone is talking. Don't raise your hand until you've planned what you're going to say.  Say the person's name BEFORE you toss the beanie.  No one has to have a low, you can do two highs instead.  If you want to participate, you have to have at least one high.  No mentioning names if it's not good news, just say "someone".  If it's good news, use names!  Don't toss the beanie to the same person every day. 

Often people wonder why I even do a "low" for the day, why focus on the negative?  Well, I've found that sometimes things bother the little ones and it's important to let it out.  As long as it's anonymous, letting it out is a good thing.  I also find that when I tell my low, it gives the children an idea on how much I care about them.  My lows usually have to do with someone who is absent or someone who got hurt.  A lot of thought and "modeling" go into my personal "high/ low".

I do find the children love it, and it's a great motivation for them to finish packing up so they can participate.  I also find it's a great way to learn what is important to the children.  And, of course, sometimes I find out things I didn't know were going on in the social circles of my classroom.  This is all valuable information for me!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

How to Have them Ready to Learn When They Enter the Classroom

We are nearing the end of my "revisiting posts from three years ago", but you're seeing one of my very favorite posts today! Again, it all comes from what I have studied about the brain and how it learns!
Everything I've read about brain research and memory tells me that there are strong ties between the memory and emotion.  As an experienced teacher, it's clear that children will remember events that are associated with emotional events.  Personally, I prefer to keep that emotion a happy one while in the classroom.  (Although I'll bet everyone reading this remembers events from extremely unhappy times, I'll leave those negative emotions to a power higher than myself... hopefully it's not the principal!)

I remember, a long time ago, I walked into a workshop after a long day of workshops.  It was a long morning, and we were fed a good lunch.  This was mid afternoon, the time when many countries like to take a siesta, and the rest of us wish we could. 

As I walked to the room for my next workshop, I was seriously thinking of sneaking out to find a place I could slip in a little nap.  I walked into the room, and I heard music playing.  Not your typical "little kid" music, but fun music, the kind you'd hear at a party.  Immediately I started smiling and happily found a seat, smiling at the other teachers in the room, who were also smiling.  I saw lots of other people do the same... looking around, smiling, moving to the music, chatting happily... can you picture it?

When the workshop started, we were all in grand moods.  I still wonder if I would have enjoyed that workshop as much, or even been able to stay awake, if it weren't for the "feel good" music while we were arriving. 

I've remembered this moment many times.  I've collected a number of classic "feel good" songs that I like to play when the children enter the classroom.  These songs always bring smiles to faces.  Even though they hate to see it end, they settle right down ready to work after the happy music. 

I find this music is great for Open Houses, too.  It's nice to see those parents smiling.  I'm preparing my music for this Monday's Open House... it's their first impression of me, and I want it to be a good one!

What music makes you feel good?  Here is one of mine!  I can't help but smile when I hear Aretha!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Meet Teacher Blogger Linky Party!

I found a fun linky party! In order to participate, I get to write about something I know quite well:  me!

First and foremost, I'm a teacher. I'm about to enter my 37th year of teaching, and have no intention of slowing down anytime in the near future. I absolutely love my job! I always wanted to be a teacher, and come from a family of teachers. You could say it's in my blood!

The most important person in my life is my beautiful daughter. Here she is with her handsome boyfriend the day she was awarded "Student of the Year" at her college. She's 21, about to enter her senior year, and is the best kid there ever was. 

I've been a single parent for most of her life. It isn't the easiest life, but she is totally worth it!

Here are a couple more important people in my life: My gentleman friend, Kevin, (I'm much too old to say "boyfriend".) And my cat, Mia.

A few more I couldn't leave out: my brother, David (yes, that's an Emmy he's holding, his second! He's a college professor.) Next is my sister, Nancy. She's taught Physical Education as well as Health and Nutrition. She also has a farm!  Next is my aunt Carol. She's a former special education and home economics teacher, and a retired state representative for Massachusetts. 

I also have a lot of people in my life that are no longer alive, but are still with me every day. My dad was always my hero. He still inspires me, even though he's been gone more than 10 years. He was a Phys. Ed. Director and football coach. Those who knew him, knew he taught a whole lot more than football!

How about a little Q&A?
I've always been a huge fan of musical theatre and can belt out many a show tune! As most New Englanders, I'm a Red Sox fan, even though they are right now 15 games out of first place. (There's a lesson in loyalty here!)

Seriously, at no point in my life did I ever consider a job other than teaching, and theatre has always been more of a hobby, but if I were offered a role as a Broadway star, I might take a leave of absence from teaching.

I'm real. As much as I love theatre, I'll leave the drama for the stage. I'm not putting on a performance for anyone. What you see is what you get!

I could have spent a lot more time on this question!

Some of these people are even alive! It would be quite a party!

 I should have used "Strong" as one of my words above. A lot of things in my life have forced me to be strong: being a single mom, losing my mom early in life, poverty, health... I could go on, but I won't!

I don't mean to sound like I'm in a beauty pageant, or overly sappy, but I just wish people would get along!

I must admit, I've had plenty of those moments, and I'm counting on having many more!

In case you don't know the song, here's Carol Burnett singing it. It's awesome! (She's awesome, too! I've invited her to my birthday party!)

This becomes difficult at the end of the summer, adjusting back to the school schedule, when I have been sleeping late and staying up late all summer.

Fry Phrase Frolic with Brain Breaks  is actually a bundle of three different products:

The thing I love about these sets are the research behind them. Research proves that children learn sight words better in phrases. Plus, brain research gives us plenty of information about how children learn and remember, and I've used a lot of the information to create these sets. 

The best part? Each set has several brain breaks, which the children LOVE! This activity was one of the most popular in my class last year, because the kids LOVED the brain breaks. (I didn't mention that the brain breaks helped them learn, I let them go on thinking they were just for fun!)

Be sure to use the links above to check these sets out in my TpT store!

  So that's all about me! In case you want more, HERE's a link to my "About Me" page, which in turn has several links to other posts about me. This should take you days to read! (Seriously, I'm not all that complicated!)

Be sure to check out the lives of more teacher bloggers from 

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