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A New App for a New Year: Bloomz

In a moment that will surprise no one, I am back with another great app to share! 

I love technology. It's practically a sickness. I'm always on the hunt for an app that will make my life a little bit easier. Sometimes it backfires, though, when I end up with 15 apps to meet all my needs. Who has the storage for that? Not only that, who can remember it all and keep it all together? Definitely not me. I am super pumped I found an app that meets a few different needs and eliminates some of the excess. Best part? It's totally free. Bloomz is a sort of private social network that connects a teacher and the parents of students in his or her class. It's sort of like facebook, but way way better because parents of kids in your class can't creep on pictures posted by your college roommate. That can get ugly fast, people. 


With Bloomz, you can upload due dates and events into a class calendar, ask for volunteers, make a "wish list" of supplies, communicate with parents, and even send pictures. You can choose to send updates to one parent, a group of parents, or the whole class. Parents can then like, comment, or share on what you post. If you have an issue with a specific parent, you can even "mute" them so they can't post anything but they can still receive updates. This one app replaces google calendar, email, google drive, and even some paper notices. I am all about simplicity in 2016, people, so this app is definitely being implemented in my classroom.

Happy New Year! 

Currently December 2015

It's December- the most wonderful time of year. Lights are twinkling, decorations are hung, and festive Christmas music is playing. Does it get any better than that? I'm linking up with Farley from Oh Boy 4th Grade for Currently!

Listening: Have you ever seen Peg + Cat? It's a PBS cartoon that focuses on math for pre-schoolers. If you are a parent of a little one or teacher Kindergarten, you have to check it out! I first saw it when my little guy was only a few months old but he only recently started to be allowed one show a night. The NCTM conference last year featured a session about using this show for teaching math in the lower grades, too. Not to mention one of the main characters is a cat, which is my favorite animal. It's a win!

Loving: The Christmas season! How can anyone dislike this time of year? I think I have an extra special love for the holiday this year because my son is starting to get it. He loves to find his elf on the shelf every day and listen to Christmas carols. Is there anything better than the look in a baby's eyes as he stares at the Christmas tree? The best.

Thinking: This may be a little contradictory, but my goodness, teaching in December is HARD. As a fantastically hysterically teacher in my building said, "it's one long game of whack-a-mole." So true!

Wanting: Our school laminator broke down a few weeks ago, and I really miss it. I have a personal laminator to do small items, but I can't do anything larger than a standard 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper. I miss being able to do bigger projects, like nametags and anchor charts. Here's hoping Santa brings our school a new one!

Needing: Oh, report cards. They are always a ton of work, but this year is extra tough. We have a new computer system for inputting grades and the glitches haven't quite been worked out yet. I can't wait until they are all worked out!

Real or fake: This year, it's fake. With a little guy at home, I just don't want to have clean up after a tree. Vacuuming up dead needles, watering it, and keeping the cat out of it is all just too much this year. We got a nice fake one with lots of volume. You can hardly tell it isn't real... especially after we light our Christmas Tree candle. :)

Enjoy the season!

Community Involvement

I'm blogging over at Middle School Mob today, with some fun and easy ideas for community involvement in the classroom! Working together to help others has made my students better teammates and cooperative learners. Check it out!

Get your students started in writing (with a freebie)

I was sitting with a reluctant writer last week, conferencing with her on a personal narrative. She had only a few sentences down, even after she had been writing (or trying to) for almost 20 minutes. She was disinterested in continuing, and said to me, "I just can't get started. I know what I want my story to be about, but I don't know how to start it and make it sound good." This isn't uncommon- so many of my fifth graders struggle with the same issue! So, this week I really focused on helping those struggling students find some way to start and helping the rest of my students enhance their beginnings.

We worked together as a class to create a continuum of beginnings. We thought about all the different ways we could begin a story, and then arranged them with the more sophisticated beginnings at the top of our chart, and the more basic beginnings at the bottom of the chart. In retrospect, I would have added an arrow to the side.... but there wasn't room left when I was done, so I just added it on the whiteboard next to it.

1. Use a motion word or sound.

2. Pose a question. 

3. Use a quotation.

4. Just jump into the story and start "talking" to the reader.

5. Restate the prompt. Rearrange the words to create an opening paragraph.

My students really responded to the idea of a "continuum" of beginnings to chose from. In another conference after this lesson, one student said that he liked that the could "start with number 5" as a beginning to get over his writer's block, and then edit it later to be something more interesting. As a teacher, I loved how this lends itself to differentiation for the students!

Best of all, I made a little miniature anchor chart for my kiddos to paste in their notebooks- and thought I'd pass it along to you as a freebie! I left it at full size (8.5 x 11) and they fold it in half to paste it in. I like the words to be big enough to be easily read. If you prefer it slightly smaller, though, it shrinks well on the copy machine! I made three versions (all included)- one blank so the students can fill it in, one with just the ways to begin and a blank spot for the students to fill in their own examples, and one completely filled in.

Download the freebie here!


Thank you to everyone who entered for the Classroom Friendly Supplies pencil sharpener contest! The winner is....

Gabby L

Look for an email for me soon- that pretty purple sharpener is coming your way.

Happy Wednesday!

My favorite pencil sharpener returns...

Are you sick of my posts about my favorite pencil sharpener yet? I know.... I can't help it. It's changed my life! Well, maybe not changed my life.... but it did make my classroom pencil management a lot easier. :)  It's fast, quiet, and it has a "cool factor" that makes the kids love to use it. So much, in fact, "pencil sharpener" has become one of my most coveted classroom jobs! Classroom Friendly Supplies is now offering the sharpener in a pretty shade of purple, too!

Isn't she a beaut? One of my favorite things about this sharpener is how fast it is for a manual sharpener. Check it out......

16 pencils, read to sharpen. Apple watch, ready to time it.

And... I'm off!

Last one!

All 16 pencils done in 3:42.

Check out those hyper-sharpened tips!

I've said it before, and I'll say it again- I am a huge fan of this sharpener. I couldn't be more excited to share the new purple color with you- and since I have already bought a few for my classroom, this one is up for grabs!  Open to US residents only.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

You can also check out my previous posts about my favorite pencil sharpener by clicking the "pencil sharpener" tag in the word cloud in the side bar, or by clicking the "pencil sharpener" tag at the bottom of this post.

Happy Monday!

Currently October!

I feel like the days are flying by. Every time the calendar turns over to a new month, it takes me by surprise! I think that life hit fast forward when I had a baby last year. That "baby" is 16 months old, putting two words together to ask for things, running around, and feeding himself. When did that happen????? 

Linking up with Farley for my favorite monthly linky- Currently!

Listening: Criminal is my new addiction! It is a podcast that talks about crime in every episode. They interview all different people- people falsely accused, people that were victims of a crime, law enforcement people, criminals that have served their sentences, and even historians to talk about old crimes. I can't get enough!

Loving: GIVE ME ALL THE PUMPKIN THINGS! I love a pumpkin spiced latte as much as the next girl (iced, please!) but I take it one step further. We have pumpkin everything going on! Pumpkin candles burning, pumpkin seeds for snacks, pumpkin pancakes, pumpkin mac and cheese... you get the idea.

Thinking: I got my NAIER order-  I have so many post-its and white out strips now! I am so happy. Office supplies have that effect on me. 

Wanting: My living room is currently a mix of baby toys,  baby clothes (that he pulled off in his travels),  and papers to grade. It's a mess.... and I don't want to clean it! 

Needing: A terribly long nap, which is why I don't want to clean the horribly messy living room. :) 

Boo-tiful: Don't you love when students say nice things about you when they think you aren't listening? It made my day- I'm not sure what she is referring to with "fancy and fashionable" considering I am the mom of a toddler and never have much time to get ready... but I'll take it!

Happy October, friends!

What's in my Teaching Bag

Linking up with some fabulous bloggers for the What's in My Teacher Bag linky! It's inspired by the Us Weekly "What's in My Bag" articles, where celebrities show off what they are toting around. Such a fun idea! I have to admit something right now, though. When I signed on to do this link up I told myself I was going to show everything that was in my bag when I wrote my blog post. I totally believed that... until Thursday, when I cleaned my bag out since I was "fall cleaning" anyway. So, pretend that there are also about 15 Starbucks straw wrappers, a few crumbled up sticky notes, and some stray pieces of notebook paper with random notes in this picture... then it would be real life. :)  So here's what I have:

I use my iPad ALL.THE.TIME in my classroom. I don't have a set in my classroom for my kiddos, but I bring my personal one in all the time. I use it in centers, for read alouds of ebooks, and for my own organization. Some of my favorite apps are Classroom Organizer by Booksource (for library organization) and Plickers (for formative assessment). I usually have a few ebooks for my own personal reading on here, too- just in case I get stuck waiting for a PD to start or in line at Starbucks.

Lesson Planner, Flair Pens, Paper Binder Clips, Post-its, and Washi Tape
No big explanation necessary- I would be lost without them! I use the flair pens and washi tape to color code and organize my calendar. I write notes, to do lists, and plans in flair pens that are color coded by subject. It makes getting ready for my week SO much easier! A quick glance at my planner and I can see what is going on, what I need to do, and what is coming up- for each subject. I use washi tape to indicate deadlines, meetings, and other "special days" that PDs or in-service training. Events in our district are somethings subject to change in date, so using removable washi tape saves me tons of time... and let's be serious, it's just cute. :)

ARC notebook, that I use as a TpT planner
I carry this around everywhere. I jot down ideas for products, blog posts, or things I should check out. I can be super forgetful, so this is important for me!

Hairbrush, water bottle, and KIND bar
A girl's gotta take care of herself! I keep an emergency makeup kit in my desk, but this brush has saved me so many times as I traveled to different buildings in my district for meetings or trainings.

Name badge
This one isn't optional. :)

Not pictured: the stack of grading I brought home, under the planner. Getting caught up is my goal today.

So, there you have it- my teacher bag and it's contents on full display! Check out the other great bloggers that have linked up to see what's in their teacher bags.

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Tips for Teaching in an Overcrowded Classroom

If your district is anything like mine, you are being asked to do more with less. Since the recession, funding has been slashed. Teacher jobs have been cut, and class sizes have been increased. Ten years ago, there were 20 - 25 students in a typical classroom in my district. Now, there are 28 - 35. To many people who are not in the field of education, that doesn't sound like that much of a difference. We teachers know, though- it's incredibly difficult.

It's inevitable, isn't it? As soon as you get the classroom routines going and you have a good rhythm happening, you get the phone call. You know the one I am talking about... a new student has arrived! You look at your classroom and see this...

I've been in this situation more than once... and it isn't pretty. I happen to be in the most over crowded school in the city, and in the most overcrowded grade. We have one less teacher than the other grades do, although our student population counts stay the same. Aren't we lucky? I've worked hard at identifying the ways in which I was successful (and not so successful) over the past few years, and used that information to help me plan for the future. So, here are my tips:

Time Management
When you have 30+ students in front of you, time management is key. You are only one person with (likely) only one planning period, but you are expected to do a whole lot. Grading alone can eat up a huge chunk of time! If you spend even 5 minutes grading each paper- which is easy to do- you are looking at about 150 minutes of grading for one assignment. That is two and a half hours.... which is almost all of my planning time for the week. There literally just are not enough hours in the day... and I mean literally by the OLD dictionary definition, not the new "figurative" meaning! Points to focus on with time management:

  • grade student papers in a conference with the student. They get immediate feedback, and you get to spend the time you need focusing on their work.
  • correct homework as a class, then collect it to give credit and do "spot checks."
  • accept that sometimes you have to just give a check/check plus/check minus and not traditional letter grade for less important work
  • prioritize the grading that you cannot complete these ways. Do the most important things first, and accept the fact that you will not always get caught up.
  • give students jobs! Not just some of the kids... ALL of them. I have as many jobs as there are kids in my class. Everyone does something. Kids sharpen pencils, fill the paper supply trays, and even reset the behavior chart. I give them some of our classroom currency as a "paycheck" each week, and they can save up to trade it in for prizes at the end of each term. 
  • Every day, set up 3 priorities that you have to complete outside of instruction. If you accomplish those three things, then consider the day successful. Do these before ANYTHING else!
Peer Learning & Collaboration 
I am a big believer in allowing kids to learn from each other. Sometimes, hearing something explained by a peer can be the "magic ingredient" to get kids to understand something- for both kids! The student that is explaining the concept deepens their understanding by teaching someone else, and the student that is listening has an opportunity to hear the concept again. I like to have students work together a few different ways.
  • Peer tutors that are "experts" on subjects help other students while I work in small groups during guided reading and guided math.
  • For some activities, I pair students of differing abilities so they can learn from each other.
  • Assign reading activities in guided reading groups, so they can discuss and collaborate before coming back to me to debrief.
Routines & Optimizing Space
Making all of this work depends routines, clear expectations, and space optimization. I start engraining routines into my students on day one. Much of what I practice I learned in Fred Jones' Tools for Teaching. If you haven't read this book, I seriously highly recommend it. This book is what saved me my first year teaching, and I have revisited it before going back to school every year since. What works for me:
  • Have a routine for everything. Throwing out garbage, turning in assignments, sharpening your pencil, using the bathroom. Clear routines that are always followed help to keep a class going without interruption.
  • Teach students how you like things done. This one seems simple- but if you focus on it, you will save yourself some serious time! I spend a few periods early in the year showing students how I like them to correct their work. What marks to use, what to write (or not write), and what writing utensil to use. After doing this a few times, they have a clear idea of what is expected and I can collect the corrected papers to record in my gradebook. I "spot check" them once a week or so, and the students rarely cheat with this because they know I look at them. 
  • Setup space so it can be used for more than one activity. My guided reading conference area is also my guided math conference area, and doubles as a place for me to grade papers after school. My math centers are next to my reading centers so students can use one space for both. Use every inch of space! Hang pocket folders on walls with extra work, get stacking trays for paper, and put sterilite plastic drawers under tables for extra storage. 
Let the Little Stuff Go
No matter what, you will never be able to do it all as a teacher- and especially not with an overcrowded classroom. Learn to let the little stuff go! Prioritize what is important to you in your classroom, and learn to let other things go. This is a huge struggle for me- and I'm sure so many other teachers! We are perfectionists by nature, it seems. 

So, that's what works in my upper elementary/middle school setting. Some of these would work in other grade ranges, and some could be adapted to work. Good luck out there, fellow teachers with overcrowded rooms. I understand the struggle!

Product Swap with Miss L's Busy Bees

I'm starting to get back into that "almost back to school" swing. I guess it's inevitable, but it's so hard to see the end of summer on the horizon! I still have 3 weeks left, but that means it's time to kick into gear. I'm organizing paperwork, thinking about setting up, and getting curriculum resources put together. I was super lucky to participate in a product swap this week with a SERIOUSLY awesome product from Haley at Miss L's Busy Bees!

I have to start by saying that choosing a product to swap was the HARDEST. Haley has so many great activities in her store! After changing my mind a few times, I landed on her Hands On Greek and Latin Root Activities for Spelling and Defining.

I know it's not technically part of the product I'll use in my classroom, but can we talk about that cover page? So cute. I can't even handle it. I decided to go with this product because my district focuses heavily on root word spelling and definitions. We are expected to have students learn to apply the root word meaning to help breakdown the definitions of words that contain those roots. The CCSS call for "common" root words, but in our literacy program we also dive into some of the more obscure root words. I've been hunting for a way to make my instruction more interactive and hands on, and this product seriously fit the bill. 

The activity kit contains the following Greek and Latin root words:
  1. tele
  2. photo
  3. astr
  4. naut
  5. miss
  6. form
  7. liter
  8. magn
  9. migra
  10. therm
  11. tract
  12. dura
  13. hyper
  14. vis
  15. clam
  16. vid
  17. ultra
  18. tra
  19. aqua
  20. dynam
  21. graph
  22. meter
  23. ology
  24. phobia
  25. ism
  26. ist
  27. spec
  28. scrib
  29. rupt
  30. port
  31. ject
  32. dict
  33. able
  34. ible
  35. ance
  36. ence

The pack starts off with word wall cards to be posted on the word wall, glued onto an anchor chart, glued into a notebooks, or printed and cut to send home as vocabulary flash cards. I love the fact that the are multi-use! The word and definition are included for each.

Next, Haley make a note-taking sheet for the root words. It includes a place for the root word, definition, and examples. I love the fact that it can be put in a binder for quick reference for homework. That is where my kiddos usually need it the most! You all know what I am talking about... they go home and magically forget the lesson of the day. Using this in their binders, the students will be able to study to root words and share what they are learning with their parents. 

The next part is the best part. Haley has 5 really fun hands on activities for the kiddos to complete to help them really understand the meaning of each root word. These activities can be completed independently or in partners/small groups, depending on your needs. These are perfect for completing during Reader's Workshop stations. I LOVE that they are fun and engaging and will keep my kids on task! I don't want to give away all of Haley's secrets so I won't go into details with the games, but they are definitely worth checking out in her product.

Overall, Haley has made a great activity packet for teaching root words. The focus has been pushed away from rote memorization, and into activities that have been created to help engage students and encourage authentic interaction with the root words. Check it out!

I'm the last stop on the Blog Hop, but if you started in the middle click below to continue on to Vanessa, our first stop, to see her product swap!

Currently August

Time seems to fly in the summer, doesn't it? It feels like just yesterday it was the last day of school... and now, here we are! The Sunday night of the summer.  Linking up with Farley from Oh Boy Fourth Grade for Currently.

Listening: Silence! Moms, you totally understand how glorious this is when you have a toddler. I relish in the quiet I get for a couple hours each night.

Loving: I don't go back for a month. A GLORIOUS month! I am going to love every second of our late start this year. We always head back the week before Labor day, which just happens to be late this year. It's pretty great.

Thinking: starting to put some ideas together for my classroom. I haven't gotten serious yet, but I have some new thoughts!

Wanting: Does this need explanation? Summer nights.... :)

Needing: I'm thinking tomorrow we will hit the beach. We live so close to the coast that it's hard to stay away in the summer time! It's been too long for people who live so close.

RAK: I love the idea of doing some random acts of kindness for BTS. Who doesn't love a good treat in the teacher's lounge??

Enjoy August, everyone!

Beliefs into Action

Every single teacher I know came into the profession for a meaningful reason. No one that I have met has ever said "oh, I decided to teach because I wasn't sure what else to do" or "I don't know, I just ended up here!" in the way that sometimes people in other professions sometimes say. Similarly, I think we all have philosophies and beliefs about education- but I personally feel as though perhaps I don't talk about them enough to my students and their families. When I saw Whitney's from With Love from Texas' Beliefs to Action blog hop, I knew it was the perfect opportunity to spend some time focusing on my philosophy.

  • All students have the ability to be successful. This is so critical! If students know right off the bat that you believe they can do well, then you have set a precedent. It's true that some students will inherently be more successful than others, but that doesn't take away from the successes of other students. 
  • Nurturing is an incredibly important part of education, but so is tough love at times. You have all seen it before- some kids just need a hug. They are hurting, lonely, or have a major difficulty in their life which seems insurmountable. Those kids need love and nurturing- there is no doubt about it. I think that teachers need to be skilled in recognizing those moments, but also in recognizing when a kid needs tough love. I grew up in a less than ideal living situation, and remember lamenting about it to my fifth grade teacher. She took me to the hall and said to me "Listen, Mandy. Your life is hard, that's true. It's probably harder than lots of kids in the class. But, they will be applying to the same colleges that you do. They will take the same SATs and final exams in high school. No one will give you extra points because life is tough for you. You have to find a way to work through it." I won't ever forget those words. I'm not saying that all students need this or even that all students would react well to it. I do think, though, it's important to recognize the moments when this conversation, or one like it, is absolutely appropriate to have with a student.
  • Instilling confidence in a child can make a tremendous difference in his educational performance. This one really speaks to me. How can a student do well if they don't believe they can do well? It's just not logical. Anyone that has taken a standardized test can tell you that a little bit of confidence goes a long way. Anxiety and lack of confidence will just distract from your focus and lower your chances of performing to the best of your ability. As a teacher, I really believe it is a part of my job to help students to recognize their own abilities and have confidence in themselves. 
  • Parents, students, and teachers should work together to be part of an educational team. No one portion of the team can do all the work. Each of us has our role, and all of us must do our best to fulfill that role to help students succeed to the best of their ability. What else can I say? Communication and teamwork between all three parts will lead to success! 

I really enjoyed writing my beliefs down! Although they were always within me, it had been a while since I sat down and put them into words. I encourage you all to do so, as well! In the meantime, hop on over to Hodge's Herald to see what Elizabeth's educational beliefs are. 

Making Research Reports Fun with Instagrok

I have spent a lot of time researching the Common Core research standards this year as part of a professional learning community. My PLC worked hard at finding ways to integrate the research, writing, and technology standards into our teaching. It's not easy, friends! I use PROBE notebooks as a yearlong research report project, but since that is written it doesn't address the "technology" portion of the fifth grade writing standards and the College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards. In my hunt for websites and apps, I found something really cool: instagrok

Instagrok seriously puts the "cool" back into research reports. It's super easy to use once you understand it! A "grok" is a visual concept map created for you based upon a search. It's pretty simple to get started- there a search bar, just like google, and you type in whatever you are doing research on. The concept map populates pretty quickly! Instagrok searches educational websites, pictures, and videos and puts together the best supporting concepts.

It's pretty, isn't it?? I love concept maps! Now, the real fun comes in. It's totally interactive. If you click on the video, it pops up a larger window and starts playing. If you click on the words, another window pops up with more details.

It's broken down into key facts, websites, videos, images, concepts, and notes. I have spent most of my time working with the kiddos in "key facts" but I think that as time goes on and they become more sophisticated in their research abilities I explore all the tabs with them. What a great way to teach them about determining importance! 

When you click on each fact, it brings up the source of the information so you can view it yourself. It also gives you a little text box on the bottom where you can add your own notes.

You can then "pin" the resource to your journal, which saves the information for later so you can refer back to it (and the notes you made) while writing your research report. I have to tell you a major downfall I found though- instagrok includes results from wikipedia. I address this by having my students mark them "not credible" and having them disregard that information. If there is a fact they really love, I ask them to find it from another source to use it. If it's a reliable fact, they will find it again!

One of my favorite things about instagrok is that you can customize the level of difficulty!

In the top task bar, there is a difficulty slider. Kiddos can self-select their level of difficulty, or you can assign it for them. This is SUPER helpful when trying to get some deep information and understanding for enrichment kids! I have put them up to "difficult" and then been amazed at some of the things they have researched and put together. They have examined some of the intricacies of their topics and really done a fantastic job. 

The grok stays really true to the topic, no matter the level that is assigned. At each one, the "meat" of the topic is really well represented. In the easy level, the student is introduced to the key components of the research topic. I like to think of it as the "quick and dirty" of the topic. They get the information they need without extra information to bog them down. This is great for kiddos that really have no prior knowledge on a difficult topic or for the students that struggle with retaining information. They get the knowledge they need, on their level, and are able to synthesize it into a written report. 

When the research is done, it's time to write the report! I don't know about you guys, but typically this is the part that my kiddos hate. I can't tell you how many times I have had kids that did spectacular research and then failed to put it together in a meaningful way- resulting in a lackluster project. I have to tell you- instagrok has really revolutionized the research report in this way! All the information that you have pinned as you looked through your grok is easily accessible on the sidebar. You can refer back to it as you write your report. When you finish, a bibliography is populated in the sidebar, as well. Best of all, you can export your sources to EasyBib and have a bibliography populated for you! I love doing this to teach my kiddos the correct way to cite sources. Let's be real- fifth graders are not always the most detail oriented, and little things like bibliographies sometimes slip through the cracks. I once had a student turn in a research report with "my brain" listed as a source... not even listed in proper MLA format! ;) 

Once the kiddos have finished their reports, they can email them as embedded text or print them. If you have assigned the project through your teacher account, the finalized report will show up in your teacher dashboard. The major downfall I see here is that you cannot save the file as a text document on your computer. Instead, I have had the file emailed to me and then I have copy/pasted it into Word. This is definitely not the fastest way to get things done, but it works for now. 

Instagrok is totally free to use as a student, and the "teacher" account is free for 90 days. Once your 90 day trial is up, it is $45 a year to keep the "teacher" services. I have to say, I won't be signing up for a paid account once my trial is up. For me, I love the student portion of the site (researching and writing) but found the teacher dashboard a bit clunky and hard to use. I like walking through the computer lab and working with the kiddos on the research as it happens. I don't think I use the paid version enough to justify buying it. I will definitely keep using instagrok to help my students address the CCSS research and technology standards, though! 

Crazy 8s Math Club

I learned about a seriously fun sounding after school recreational math club curriculum that I just HAVE to share. It's too good to pass up- the curriculum is free AND it comes with some of the necessary math gadgets, like measuring tapes and and protractors! Seriously- it sounds to good to be true, doesn't it? Somehow, though, it isn't. I want to introduce you to Crazy 8s.

I realize I sound like I work for them, but I swear I don't. They don't even know I am posting this- I just had to share because I loved the idea so much!

Crazy 8s comes from a company called Bedtime Math. They publish bedtime stories that involve math to help kids develop number sense and operational knowledge early. My son is only 1 year old, but I read him the beditme math stories and count things out to him. I enjoy the stories and think that he will as he grows older, too.

I learned about this program at the NCTM conference a couple months ago, and the representative was genuinely eager to spread the word about this program. This is designed to be a "recreational math club" for young kids. It is social, fun, and collaborative and not competitive or focused on worksheets.

The club motto is "where math meets mischief," which gives you an idea about their activities. They include things like toilet paper olympics, glow in the dark geometry, and bouncy dice explosion. Seriously, how much fun does that sound like?

There are two age level activity kits available, K-2 or 3 - 5. The activities are geared toward kids within those levels, but are not intended to be a substitute for typical curriculum or intervention. They are math activities that are designed to inspire a love of math in kids. So many kids dislike math and think of it as a chore- this is how to show them the fun side of it! The club lasts for 8 weeks, and each session is designed to be about an hour. Bonus activities are included if you would like to make it longer! 

Here's what you need to get started:
  • Request a kit from Bedtime Math
  • Commit to coaching for 8 weeks and to follow the honor code
  • Gather a group of 10 - 20 kids in the age band you select
  • Have a place to host the club for about an hour a week for 8 weeks
That's it! I can't get over how great it sounds. I talked to the representative for a long time at the NCTM conference, and also got the chance to chat with a few other teachers who had used it. The teachers said that it was wild, messy, and fun- all in a good way. I knew right away I had to sign up! Since school it out of session, I won't be able to start my club up until the fall, but I had to share the information with you all now so you can request your kits.

Once you request your kit, you will get a call from Bedtime Math to talk about the program with you and make sure you have everything you need. You WILL need to provide some basic supplies, like markers and paper, but most of the supplies have been taken care of. They also give you a checklist of the things that you will need to provide on your own, and they estimate it will cost about $10 for those materials (but I bet you already have some of them).  If you still have questions, check out their FAQ page

It's not often something like this comes along, and is FREE! I am super pumped to try it out. :)

Currently JULY!

How is it July already?! Maybe it's because we have only been on summer vacation for 4 days, but it feels like it should be earlier. All that record breaking snow really extended the last day of school this year! Linking up with Farley at Oh Boy 4th Grade for my favorite linky- Currently!

Listening: We are having one of those really fantastic New England summer thunderstorms right now. Heavy rain, loud thunder, bright lightning. It reminds me of summertime when I was a child, sitting in the window seat with a book. Probably The Babysitter's Club because that was on point back in the 90s. :)

Loving: These first few days of vacation! Leaving my little guy for work every day was so hard this year. Now that he is one, he is SO much fun! I love getting up every morning and playing with him. We don't rush around, and we play outside every day. It's heaven.

Thinking: It's the 4th of July this weekend! We are probably going to our local fireworks with the little guy, but we will walk so we don't get stuck in 3 hours of traffic as we drive the 1 mile home.

Wanting: I need some time to create! I have some fun ideas, but no time to implement them. I'm going crazy. I think I'm going to have to dedicate nap time to creating a couple times a week.

Needing: This year, I am determined to go back to school with a roadmap of the year. I'm not talking specific plans- goodness knows I could NEVER do that- but a basic outline of the units and when I am teaching them. I think it will keep me on track more than referring back to 4 different district curriculum maps constantly.

All-Star: I am an all-star organizer! I love to organizer. Color coding, filing, sorting, labeling- you name it. It's kind of a sickness. I re-organize my closet and my office fairly often. I am in the process of switching over to a new personal planning system, too. Maybe all the re-organizing means I am actually NOT an all-star?  :)

TpT Seller Challenge

I'm so far behind the times, you guys, but I just finished the TpT seller challenge week one!

School just ended for the year last week and I've been recovering. You know that end of the year feeling- so exhausting!

So, I've been hard at work making this

into this!

At first, I started by just updated the cover page. It was just kind of ugly before, and I was going to clean it up and make it a little more appealing. I got going, though, and decided to change the font on the whole thing to something more clean. One thing lead to another, and I decided to change all the backgrounds, too! They are still "bright color" themed, but they are just a bit more modern and attractive. 

Watch facebook for some flash freebies! In the mean time, check it out on TpT.

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