Thursday, June 23, 2016

Great Bargains at the Summer Sale!

Elementary Matters

It's finally summer vacation, and I'm celebrating! 
Starting today, I'm having a huge sale!
Not only is most of my TpT store at 20% off, 
but several "summer themed" items are 50% off!

Come on by HERE and see my half off items! 
It's a great time to stock up on some great review stuff 
to start the year in August or September!

Happy Summer!

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Four Awesome Blog Posts That Have Lasted the Test of Time

that have lasted the test of time

I've been on summer vacation for a week now. 
Like most teachers, I've been doing some catching up on cleaning. Unlike most teachers, I haven't been cleaning my house.
 (It's rather dreadful right now, but I just don't have the energy yet!) Instead, I've been cleaning up my blog!

I realized I've been blogging for 5 years now! As with any cleaning project, I've found a lot of things I need to throw out. 
(Those first few blog posts aren't very informative.)
Just like anything, the more you do it, the better you get! 
I've tossed out a few posts, and I've updated a few posts.

But, just like any cleaning project, I've found a few gems!
Back when I first started blogging, (back in 2011 and 2012) I did a lot of guest posts on other blogs.

I realized today that those posts are still out there, and they're still pretty valuable thoughts! (If I do say so myself!)

A few years ago I did this guest post on the amazing Rachel Lynette's Minds in BloomKeeping Your Students Engaged with "Turn and Talk".
That's something I use every day, several times a day! Be sure to click the photo for the link!

Several summers ago, I had the opportunity to do a post for Really Good Stuff's blog, The Teachers Lounge about how I set up Open House at the beginning of the school year. Here's that link: Ideas for a Successful Back to School Open House.

Really Good Stuff
It was 4 years ago, but I still use these same strategies and ideas today!

Keeping the brain happy has always been important to me. Here's a post I did 4 summers ago for The Filipino Teacher: 12 Simple Strategies for Brain Fitness.

Here's another post I did about card games to practice math facts on Raki's Rad ResourcesCard Games for Fast Facts.

Click any of the images for links to these posts!

Who knows what else I'll find while cleaning!

Monday, June 13, 2016

Summer Time Blues?

Summer vacation

Today is officially my last day of school this year.

This is the end of my 31st year in my present school.

This is the end of my 39th year teaching in all.

As usual, I have mixed feelings about the school year ending.

These are some reasons why I'm sad:

summer vacation
1. I'll miss the kids. Seriously, After spending 180 days with these little ones, and giving them a whole lot of my energy, they have my heart. They'll always have a place in my heart, just like all my other former students. I never forget them!

2. I can't help but feel "If only I'd..." and wish I could try a little more. I have a feeling we all feel that way. (After all, we're teachers, always trying to do the best for the kiddos!)

3. I'll miss the structure of my days.

4.  I know there are some kids that need that structure as well.

5. I know there are some kids that need the "safe place" of the school environment, where they are loved and supervised, and there are people who care about them.

summer vacation

Of course, I'm happy about school getting out! Here's why:

1. I'm tired, I need vacation!

2. I can hang out in my jammies, sip coffee, surf the internet, and watch mindless TV shows!

3. I can go to the beach and do my favorite thing: put my feet in the sand with a book in my hand... and totally escape into a book. Yes, fiction! I never have time to read for pleasure during the school year, and I can't wait!

4. I can find my garden... and my living room... and my house in general! (Who has time for housework in May and June?)

5. I'll have more time for blogging! I've had tons of ideas, but it seems this year I've had less time than ever, so I can't wait to get back into blogging!

It's been quite a year. You'd think it would get a bit easier after 39 years, but it really hasn't, in fact, I can honestly say teaching is harder than ever.  But it's worth it.  Here's what my students had to say about me this year:
end of school year

Sunday, June 12, 2016

The "Summer Games" are Complete!


I made it through the last week of school by celebrating the Academic Olympic Summer Games. (See THIS POST)

We had an exciting week, starting with our Opening Ceremonies!

We marched up and down each hallway with our flags and banners. The Olympic torch led the parade, and the American flag was at the end. (The USA was the "host country"!) Other countries include: Japan, Italy, France, Mexico, and Canada. (It just so happens I had flags to represent those countries, and a very old CD that has the National Anthems of each country, which was needed for the medal ceremonies! We came back to the classroom, read the Academic Summer Games Oath and Creed, and said that famous phrase: 
"Let the Games Begin!"

I wish you could see the pride in their faces!

We had many medal competitions during the week. Yes, medals were given daily for behavior, plus there were competitions in sight word reading, math facts, group scoot games, memory games, and brainstorming games. We recited the creed daily, along with the Pledge of Allegiance and our school's promise!
Olympics Creed
For a freebie copy of this, and a few other things, check out this resource: 
Olympics freebie

Their banners and some of their medals:
Academic Olympic Summer Games

France and Italy!
Academic Olympic Summer Games

Japan and Mexico!
Academic Olympic Summer Games

Honestly, there were double this many medals by the Closing Ceremony!

I think everyone's favorite part was when we had medal ceremonies, which was a lot!


Yes, I actually let the kiddos stand on desks!
Again, I wish you could see the pride in their faces!

Finally, it was time to "sail home", from the U.S.A. back to Japan, Italy, France, Mexico, and Canada! The children made ships from milk cartons and various "S.T.E.M." materials and set sail.
Sailing Home

I confess, I didn't get any pictures of the real ships they decorated. This photo was from a Summer Themed Week we had a few years ago, that you can read about HERE. Their ships were far more colorful and elaborate! I couldn't be prouder!

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Academic Summer Games! A Celebration of Learning!

A Celebration of Learning!

This is our last full week of school, and we'll be celebrating learning by having Academic Summer Games!

My goals:
  1. Have fun!
  2. Give the kids a taste of what the Olympics are like!
  3. Give the children some experience with some of the different countries all over the world.
  4. Review skills from the year!
  5. Liven up these last few dreary days!
  6. Promote teamwork and positive feelings.
  7. Promote individual self esteem
  8. Grab an opportunity for some Project Based Learning.
  9. Did I mention having fun?
Of course, the real Olympics start in August and will be over before we come back to school in the fall.  But I'm a huge fan of the Olympics, and rather passionate about Social Studies as well. What better way to learn about different countries from all over the world?

Here's my plan:
  1. Form 5 groups of 4.  Those students will choose a country to represent, design a banner to represent that country, make a flag for that country, and pick a color to wear on the days of "competition".
  2. We'll start with a "parade of athletes" around the school.  Each "country" will carry its banner and flag, and will proudly display their colors.  
  3. Then we'll hold a number of "events".  I'm thinking a few scoot games, like these, perhaps a "read-a-thon", brainstorming contests (How many nouns can you think of in 60 seconds?), math facts contests, a S.T.E.M. project (something to do with water that can be done outside!), physical contests (How many jumping jacks can you do in 60 seconds?)
  4. After each ceremony, hold a "medal ceremony" for the winners.  I'm thinking some events will be group events, and some will be individual events. Yes, I actually own a CD of national anthems, so I'll play the one that goes with the country they represent, while they display their flag/ banner.
  5. If necessary, I'll come up with my own events, to make sure everyone gets an opportunity to be a winner. (Most people wearing purple?)
  6. Send them home with smiling faces and stories to tell.
Brain research tells us that emotions play a big role in memory. Contests and competition get the blood pumping! Brain research also tells us that the social part of learning is essential. This will include quite a bit of movement, music, artwork, and opportunities for everyone on every team to show their strengths. According to brain research, this will touch on many important points.  

Here are some books with Olympics themes: (Each image is a link to Amazon for more information.)
What do you think?  Have you ever done anything like this?  Do you have any ideas for "educational contests"?  Any ideas for organizing it all?

I'm looking forward to your input!

For more ideas and details of my Academic Olympics, as well as a freebie, see THIS POST.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Six Years Ago Today


Six years ago today, I had a life changing event.  It wasn’t necessarily a good one, but it changed my life forever.

On May 29, 2010, I had a stroke.

Luckily, I look fine. You'd never know just by looking at me.

Although, honestly, sometimes I think if I were somewhat maimed or deformed, people might be a tad more compassionate. There are actually people who think I’m just lazy and using the stroke as an excuse.

I much prefer to think of myself as a fighter. Or a survivor.

The stroke affected the left side of my body. You know that “pins and needles” feeling you get when you fall asleep on your arm? That’s what I feel ALL THE TIME. When I first had the stroke, it was my entire left side. I could actually draw a line down the middle of my face. Luckily, it has subsided some, but it’s still there. I have some “hot spots": my left elbow and my left knee, where the “pins and needles” feelings are the most intense.

My left side is super sensitive now. If you brush against my left side, it’s extremely uncomfortable for me. There are many of those “touchy-feely” types that have to touch people when they talk to them. In an effort to be polite, I try not to scream, but honestly, once someone has touched my left side, all I can concentrate on is NOT screaming, and I’ve lost pretty much everything they’ve said to me.

After the stroke, I went to Occupational Therapy and Physical Therapy for several months, in an effort to get certain muscles working again. We made a little progress, but there are parts that will never work again like they used to.

My left hand is unable to grip things like it used to. I can hold things for a short time, but it takes a good deal of concentration, and it starts to hurt real fast. Blow drying my hair, putting on necklaces, or going through a drive through are some of the things that are very difficult now.

I can’t lift much anymore because of weakened shoulder muscles.

I can walk just fine, but I have trouble with balance because of weak core muscles. If I walk on soft or uneven turf, or have to turn quickly, I will lose my balance. Unfortunately, when I lose my balance, I look like I've had too much to drink. It's very embarrassing, not to mention all the bruises I wear all the time!

The hardest effect from the stroke has been the constant fatigue.

Before the stroke, I used to perform in a lot of musical theatre productions. We had rehearsals several times a week, often with very physical demands. I also was in an adult tap dance group. I was busy often after school, going from one rehearsal to another performance, both on weekdays and weekends. That was my release at the end of the school day. It’s what I loved to do for myself.

Since the stroke, I have trouble getting through the school day. I wouldn’t dare make any plans for after school. When I’m done with my daily school work, I go straight home to rest and relax.

I use weekends to catch up on my resting.

Want to read a good explanation of the fatigue? Google “The Spoon Theory” at  

I am certainly grateful that I never hesitated to enjoy life when I had the opportunities.

Luckily, I have a job I love, since I really don't do much else besides my job.

I have a wonderful man in my life who is very understanding of how tired I get.

And I found a hobby I can do sitting down: blogging!

Thursday, May 19, 2016

How Can I Keep My Active Students Learning?

Reading Comprehension for Active Learners

It's getting close to the end of the school year, but we're expected to keep teaching. How can we pull this off, when those kiddos just can't sit still any longer?

Clearly, the answer is... have them learn standing up!

I've got a very active group of kids this year, so we've been learning in a variety of positions all year!

Here are some ways we can keep kids moving as part of their moving:

1. Have them move as part of the learning. For example, when we learn to spell a new word, the kids "dance" the words. For each tall letter, we stand tall with our hands in the air. For each medium sized letter, we put our hands on our hips. For the letters that go below the baseline, we squat with our hands on the floor. A couple of my students really enjoy the "dance" concept, and have added a hip movement as we spell and dance out the words.  I'm all for making it more fun!

2. Brain breaks! Sometimes children need a break FROM the learning, and that's fine. But it's possible to add a physical break that's also part of the learning! For example, in math, the children could do "wall push ups" while counting by fives... or reciting math facts. When sharing a story with the children, the children can take a walk as if they were one of the characters in the story. 

Here's a little freebie with some Social Studies and Science related Brain Breaks!

3. Scoot! Scoot is an active game where children move from desk to desk answering questions or performing tasks. It's fun to play any time of year, but I find it particularly necessary as we get to those last few weeks of school. Here's a blog post explaining how to play Scoot.

Bright Idea

Keeping these ideas in mind, I've made a couple of new resources! Each resource has an informational text with 10 text based questions, 4 text based sketches for drawing, and 6 text related brain breaks. These are perfect for Scoot, or simply as task cards for those kiddos that need to move. 
Click the links below if you want more information!

Keep those kiddos moving!

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Organizing the Class Library

I've struggled with keeping my classroom library organized for years.

The kids are in such a hurry when they put books away, the tubs often look like this:

If you look closely, you'll see that not only are the books a mess, but hardly any of them go with the topic Information Books About Sports! Hopefully, the reason they're in such a hurry is because they're excited about the other books! (One can hope!)

What do I do?

I have the kids re-organize the books!

Yep, about once a month, I take about a half hour of my reading time to have the children re-organize the books. 

Yes, as you guessed, at first it's chaos. But once I get them going, it's amazing!

The Benefits:
1. The children learn to organize books.
2. The children have ownership of the book tubs.
3. The children learn the find the author of the books on the cover and on the title page.
4. The children usually find interesting books they didn't realize were in the classroom library!

Plus, the tubs now look like this:

This is a part of our Bright Idea blog post. 
If you like what you see here, don't hesitate to follow me on these social media platforms:

Be sure to explore more bright ideas in the linky below!

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