December Currently

It's hard to believe it is already December and the year is almost over. Can you believe 2016 will be here before we know it? 
Here is the December Currently!

  • I am listening to Chopped. I love that show. I've watched it for so long that I'm getting pretty good at figuring out who is going to be chopped.
  • I am loving that I got to spend Thanksgiving with my sister's family in Alabama. I have 2 nephews there and a great niece and a great nephew. I don't get to see them nearly enough. It was lots of fun hanging out with a 6 and an 8 year old.
  • I'm thinking about the basketball meet and greet I attended tonight for our UTSA Lady Roadrunners. It was great to hang out with the team and the coaches. 
  • I am wanting to start writing more on my blog. I've been such a slacker.
  • I am needing to finish my Christmas shopping. I'm almost through, but I need a few ideas for my mother-in-law. It doesn't help that her birthday is Dec. 23, so I need 2 gifts.
  • Real or Faux: Somebody around here (not me) is allergic to real trees, so we have a faux one we decorate with patriotic colors and stars.
Now go visit Farley's blog and check out the other posts this month! Don't forget the Rule of Three.


Bright Ideas Year in Review

Welcome to the November edition of the Bright Ideas Link Up. This month is a special one. Over the past year, teacher bloggers have shared hundreds of great ideas through the monthly Bright Ideas Link Up, and now we are sharing a recap of some of the great ideas that were published during the year. Below are some of the ideas I shared.

In February, I told you about using mini class lists to help keep you organized.

In March, I shared a way that helped me remember to take things with me when I left for the day.

In May, I brought you an idea to give positive feedback to students.

And in July, I shared a way to help you have a perfectly straight and aligned bulletin board display.

I had a lot of fun putting together this short recap. You can find more of my Bright Ideas by clicking on the Bright Ideas label in the column to the right.

If you enjoyed reading this recap, please consider visiting my Teachers Pay Teachers store and joining me on Facebook or Instagramwhere I share more great ideas.

For more Bright Idea roundups from different bloggers, please browse through the link-up below. Thanks for visiting!


November Currently

It's already November and I have been a bad, bad blogger! No posts since Farley's last Currently!

  • I am listening to Flea Market Flip. I am amazed that people at a flea market will pay that kind of money for the stuff these people make. I'm convinced the buyers just decide to pay that for the privilege of being on tv.
  • I am loving that we got some rain. We've had such a drought here. But I do feel so bad for the people who were flooded here in central south Texas again. I can't even imagine how hard that must be.
  • I'm thinking that I am glad college basketball is starting again. This year, I came up with the idea to write notes of encouragement for out UTSA Lady Roadrunners to read before away games. Five of us season ticket holders created three notes each so the team can read one before each road game.
  • I am wanting willpower. I definitely ride the struggle bus when it comes to holiday food, starting with Halloween candy. 'Nuff said.
  • I am needing to start Christmas shopping. I'm going to my sister's house in Alabama for Thanksgiving and plan to take the Christmas presents with me instead of trying to mail them. Yikes! That's only three weeks before I need to be ready.
  • Yummy: I am in love with homemade cranberry sauce instead of the canned stuff. And it's so easy to make. Here's where you can find the recipe.

Now go visit Farley's blog and check out the other posts this month! Don't forget the Rule of Three.


October Currently

Can you believe it is already October? Time for Farley's Currently linky!

  • I am listening to Worst Cooks in America. I like to cook and am amazed at how these people have no common sense and are horrible at following directions.
  • I am loving that we finally have cooler weather on the way. My electric bill will be grateful.
  • I'm thinking that I need beach time. I didn't make it there last month.
  • I am wanting a pedicure. My feet are looking rough!
  • I am needing motivation. I have a lot of things I need to get done but no motivation to do them.
  • Bootiful: I love a good sunset. Maybe I'll see a pretty one at the beach!
Now go visit Farley's blog and check out the other posts this month! Don't forget the Rule of Three.


Remembering September 11

Fourteen years ago, I was teaching third grade in San Antonio. San Antonio is known as military city. At the time, we had four military bases here. The school where I taught had many, many students who were children of service members.

We were in the middle of reading workshop when someone came to my door, beckoned me into the hall, and whispered what had happened. She passed on instructions not to tell my students. I went back into the classroom, shaken, but trying to follow directions and act as if nothing had happened.

But kids are smart. 

During the next few hours, they saw parents come to the door to peek in the room, reassure themselves their precious children were ok, and leave again. They heard whispers from other children who saw their teachers trying to hide their emotions. They knew something was horribly wrong, and they were afraid. 

After lunch my students returned to class, repeating the rumors that were spreading. They were worried about their families. Some were in tears. I finally did what I should have done at the start - I disobeyed the orders and told my class what had happened. I didn't care if I got in trouble. I couldn't let them go on wondering because I knew that what they were imagining was even worse than the terrible truth.

I promised I would do everything I could to keep them safe. I assured them their parents were giving their all to protect our country. I told them that the best thing we could do was to go on with our learning, that keeping with routine would hold the fear at bay, the fear that our city might be next.

So we continued with our day. We did our math facts practice. We worked on our math menu activities, and we did our science experiment. We wrote in our agendas and packed up to go home.

At the end of every day, our usual procedure was to walk out of the room, each student choosing to receive a hug, a handshake, or a high five. That day, every single kid wanted a hug.

I saw each of them safely out of the room.

Then I went home, watched the news, and cried.


Currently September

It is time to link up with Farley for her monthly Currently!

  • I am listening to Tiny House, Big Living. Am I the only one fascinated by the tiny house movement? I think if I were by myself, I could downsize quite easily. But no lofts (bad knees) and I'd need more than 200 square feet. Our house is almost 1600 square feet. That's a lot for two people and a dog.
  • I am loving that our local university is starting fall sports. We have season tickets for volleyball, women's basketball, and softball. We love to go support our young ladies' teams.
  • I'm thinking that I want to plan a trip. Maybe some beach time...
  • I am wanting to do some more decluttering. We had to have our washer repaired, so I cleaned out the combination pantry/laundry room. Now I have the fever. I think the linen closet is next on the list.
  • I am needing to get back on the exercise bike. I slacked off after Vegas. It's time to get with it again.
  • 3 Goals: I need to work on being more kind. Karma is going to get me if I don't. I need to focus more on my health. And I need to take care of some legal stuff. Since I got married in July, I need to update my will and all that goes with it.
Now go visit Farley's blog and check out the other posts this month! Don't forget the Rule of Three.


Student Labels Save Time - Back to School

Welcome back for another tip from the Bright Ideas Link Up!

This month, I'd like to share a little tip that saved me time and energy during the hectic first few days of school. 

I used to have Sharpie markers available for kids to use to label their materials. That took a sweet forever. Ain't nobody got time for 25 kids to write their whole name on all their crayons, folders, and composition books.

Instead, grab some return address printer labels, the ones that have 80 labels per sheet. Take your class list and create labels for each student. Give each kiddo 20 labels - one column. If you assign your kids student numbers, you can add that. You don't need to make these fancy. If you're like me, you never have your class list until the last minute before school starts any way, so no time for fancy!

Peel off the excess sticker paper around the labels and cut the columns apart. On the first day of school, pass out the labels. Let the kids go wild labeling their supplies. 

Boom! No lost supplies and no tearing out your hair wishing kids would hurry up!

If you enjoyed this Bright Idea, please consider visiting my Teachers Pay Teachers store and joining me on Facebook or Instagramwhere I share more great ideas.

For more bright ideas from different bloggers, please browse through the link-up below and choose a topic/grade level that interests you. Thanks for visiting! 


August Currently

Can you believe it's already August and time for Farley's monthly Currently linky?

  • I am listening to Celebrity Family Feud. Not a fan, but I'm not in control of the remote.
  • I am loving the dinner we had. Grilled ribeye steaks, corn on the cob, green beans, and fruit salad. Banana pudding poke cake for dessert. So yummy!
  • I'm thinking about writing. I'm working on some products for TpT that will help with writing personal narratives.
  • I am wanting nothing. I'm very happy nowadays.
  • I am needing organization. I'm working on a system to help me keep track of blogging and business.
  • RAK - I donated some supplies that I am not using to my last campus for the principal to use as door prizes. 
Now go visit Farley's blog and check out the other posts this month! Don't forget the Rule of Three.


Getting Started With Reading Workshop

I feel very sorry for the students I had when I first started teaching. Despite one whole class in college on teaching reading, I had no clue what to do. I think they learned despite me, not because of me. I knew what I was trying to do wasn't right, so I kept searching for the perfect answer. My journey took me from a basal reader to whole language to whole class books and ended with reading workshop.

Why did I feel reading workshop was the right answer?
  • My students were reading at their own ability levels.
  • Students are able to choose the books they are interested in, which motivates them to read more.
  • Students can read at their own pace.
  • Students apply the instruction from the mini-lesson in the context of their own reading, making them successful.
I got started with the idea of reading workshop (I was already using writing workshop thanks to some fabulous professional development) with this book. It's out of print now and there are much better resources available, but it gave me the idea that I could have students reading different books and still be able to teach the skills and concepts required by my curriculum.

These days, I recommend the following resources for anyone who is implementing readers workshop.

This book is a wonderful resource for teachers in grades 3-5. It includes lessons for the first 20 days of starting with independent reading. 

I am an unabashed Lucy Calkins fan. This book is key to understanding the underlying principals of reading workshop. 

Laura Candler is a fabulous teacher/blogger. In addition to lessons to get you started, this book has some wonderful forms and lesson ideas that will enhance your reading workshop.

I struggled at first with conferring with students. I was used to checking for understanding by giving a quiz. In reading workshop, I needed to meet with my students and hold a conference to determine if they were "getting" what they were reading. I developed these two products to help.

The first is my Conferring Cards. These cards provide questions to help you have meaningful conversations with your students about what they are reading. They include questions about features of both fiction and non-fiction texts. I printed, laminated, and stored them on a binder ring. I carried these with me as I conferred, and I was never again stuck for a way to interact with my kiddos during conferences.

The next product is my Note-taking Form for Conferring in Reader's Workshop. This form is designed for you to record anecdotal data gathered during your conferences. I printed one for each student and kept them in a binder. Each day I pulled the forms for my targeted students and carried them on a clipboard as I met. These forms provided information for mini-lessons I needed to teach or strategy groups I needed to pull. I found these forms extremely valuable when talking with parents and when referring students for intervention.

 Each photo is linked to the product described so that you can click and go read more information.

I hope this information is useful. Do you have a favorite book about reading workshop not listed here? Please tell me about it in the comments!


Monday Made It - Clipboard

I'm excited to link up with 4th Grade Frolics! It's been a while since I made anything, but I was inspired this week!

I wanted a cute clipboard to house my planning materials for my blog and TpT store. I've made many of these before and think they are easy. Here's what I did...

I started with a plain brown clipboard and used a cheap foam brush to paint the whole front and about two inches all the way around the edges of the back with black acrylic paint. The paper will cover the part that isn't painted on the back. I gave it 2 good coats. I left the front all black because my materials will get clipped onto the front.

Next I made a graphic using my blog elements and printed it on card stock. (Card stock doesn't bubble as much as lightweight copy paper does when you apply the Mod Podge.)I used spray adhesive on the back of the card stock and then smoothed it onto the back of the clipboard.

Then I applied 2 coats of Mod Podge (I prefer the matte finish) with a cheap foam brush, letting it dry several hours between coats.

Finally, I applied matte spray acrylic sealer to protect the paint and Mod Podge finish.

The finishing touch was adding ribbons to the clip.

Here's the finished product!


Bulletin Board Tip

It's getting close to Back to School time. That makes me think of creating bulletin boards. This Bright Idea might be of help!

I don't know about you, but I never loved creating bulletin boards and displays. I am a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to making sure everything is straight and lined up. I used to work for hours, pinning, stapling, and rearranging until everything was just right. Then one day I had this Bright Idea.

I used 2 pushpins and a meter stick to help me align the items I was putting up. Simply insert the pushpins spaced about 30 inches apart and rest the meter stick on top. (I used a level to make sure the meter stick was level - now there are free level apps for your phone!) Straight pins can hold the objects on the bulletin board temporarily while you use the measurements on the meter stick to guide your spacing. Once satisfied with the layout, use your stapler to fix them in place.

If you are mounting multiple items, it's easy to move the meter stick up and down. Just remove and reinsert the pushpins where they are needed.

If you enjoyed this Bright Idea, please consider visiting my Teachers Pay Teachers store and joining me on Facebook or Instagramwhere I share more great ideas.

For more bright ideas from different bloggers, please browse through the link-up below and choose a topic/grade level that interests you. Thanks for visiting! 


Leaving Las Vegas

I'm linking up with The Elementary Entourage to tell you about my trip to fabulous Las Vegas. Unlike the movie in the title of this post, my experience was nothing but fantastic.

I was so excited to be able to room with my two great friends Farley at Oh, Boy and Daliene at NotJANE. If you don't know these two, go check them out (after you finish reading here.) You will love them. Rooming with these two made the conference just that much better!

We arrived in Vegas on Tuesday and checked into our hotel room (I tried the $20 trick and we got a room with a view!) after a lot of drama with my credit card. Turns out some miscreant ran up a few fraudulent charges while I was busy traveling. After spending about 30 minutes on the phone, we got it straightened out. Or so I thought. More mini-drama came later when we tried to check out. Fear not, though, all is well.

We grabbed some lunch and hit the slots. The Flintstones were good to me, so we celebrated by shopping for shoes!

I had a lunch meetup on Wednesday and then we hit the big blogger meetup that evening.

Oh Mylanta. There were tons of people! I saw some of the people I hoped to say hello to, but missed so many more. Next year I have to have a better strategy to connect with the people I admire so much.

We played in the Go Noodle photo booth....

...and went back to our room excited for the learning to begin.

Thursday, the conference started. It was wonderful to hear from TpT's founder Paul, Adam, the CEO, and Amy, Director of Seller Happiness. Hearing about the steps the company is taking for the future makes me proud to be a part of it.

Rachel Lynnette's fabulous keynote got to me. I love what she said so much, I had to make this.

I can't believe that the presenters were willing to share all their secrets with their competitors. That would not happen in any other industry.

I attended wonderful sessions during the two day conference. These are the three that had the biggest impact on me:
  • Thanks so much to Science Penguin, Teaching With a Mountain View, and Blair Turner for making my blog to-do list grow much longer. Your Fix Your Brand session was exactly what I needed to hear.
  • Chris from Kesler Science presented a fabulous session, sharing his business knowledge, and made my store to-do list crazy long! The resources he provided are amazing.
  • Rachel Lynnette from Minds in Bloom made me think about my niche in the TpT world and got me motivated to get busy on the line of products I've been thinking about lately.
I came away with a renewed determination to work harder at blogging and building my business. I think I have something to share with teachers that can help them as they mold the minds of our country's children.

In order to keep this post from being even more krazy-long, I've left out some meetups, the show we saw (Rock of Ages!), other sessions, lunch with @farleyfarleyfarleysdad, playing in the photobooth with sweet Jen from Hello, Mrs. Sykes, and much much more.

It was so much fun to have this special shirt with my blog button on it to wear. A+ Images provided free shirts for teacher bloggers who attended the conference. Isn't it great? They have fabulous custom shirts at reasonable prices. If you are in the market for shirts for your class, head to their website and check them out!

If you are interested in seeing more about the conference, check out #tptvegas15 on Instagram.


July Currently

Oh, my goodness! It's already time for the July Currently link up with Farley! Here's mine.

  • I am listening to my San Antonio Stars lose to Phoenix. We are 2-8 so far this season. It's going to be a looong season. Sigh.
  • I am still loving WNBA Basketball. I am a big supporter of women's sports. Our WNBA players are very talented. If you ever get a chance to see a game, take it!
  • I'm thinking about Vegas! I've been prepping for my trip and I've got just about everything ready to go. Tuesday Farley and I take off and meet up with our friend from NOTJane. I can't wait to meet up with all the other bloggers and TpTers I've been in touch with online.
  • I am wanting peace for our country. Times are so hard and there is a lot of hate out there.
  • I am needing courage. I have a funeral to attend Thursday. It's going to be a difficult one.
  • All Star - I think I'm pretty good at teaching writing. My other talent is fluent sarcasm. (wink)
Now go visit Farley's blog and check out the other posts this month! Don't forget the Rule of Three.


Keeper of the Keys - a Classroom Job

It's time for the June Bright Ideas linky. I love reading all the tips and hints bloggers share during the linky. Almost makes me wish I wasn't retired. Almost. I think I've got a great idea to share with you this month.

Do any of you have trouble keeping track of your keys? Please tell me it's not just me.

The school where I taught the most years during my teaching career had locks all over - the school's front door, the alarm system, the gate to the hallway, the classroom door, the cabinets. Fortunately, one key fit all of those. But it meant that I always had to know where my key was. And that was.....hard. I had a tendency to put my keys down during the day and not be able to find them again. I'd be patting the top of my desk, hoping to hear them under the litter of papers. Usually some bright kiddo would help me out - they're in the closet lock....but not always. And towards the end of the year? Yeah, I didn't know where anything was! I needed help.

So I made it a classroom job.

Every year when I explained the job, my third graders took the responsibility very seriously. If I picked up my keys, their eyes were glued on me. There's something about an eight-turning-nine year old that loves knowing something the teacher doesn't. And it was fine with me! I rarely got out more than, "Where are...." before my Keeper of the Keys told me where I'd left them this time.

Maybe you need help with your keys or with something else that you have trouble keeping track of. Do what I did - make it a job!

If you enjoyed this Bright Idea, please consider visiting my Teachers Pay Teachers store and joining me on Facebook, where I share more great ideas.

For more bright ideas from different bloggers, please browse through the link-up below and choose a topic/grade level that interests you. Thanks for visiting!


June Currently

It's June 1 and that means it's time to link up with Farley for the June Currently! Here's mine.

  • I am listening to Texas Rising. This show is on the History Channel and is the story of the Texas Revolution. Very interesting, but NOT G Rated, fo sho!
  • I am loving that the WNBA Basketball season is starting. The Stars had a pre-season game last week in our (supposedly) temporary facility. We have new seats after being in the same ones for 14 years. Too much change! 
  • I'm thinking about getting to see my great niece and nephew next week. They are 7 and 6 years old and such fun! You might see a pic or 2 of us next time I blog.
  • I am wanting to stay on track with my fitness plan. I got a new exercise bike and have done time on it every day since it arrived.
  • I am needing to do a pantry and fridge cleanout. I found some canned goods with a really old expiration date. Oopsie.
  • Summer: I am going to the TpT conference in Vegas with Farley and NOTJane! Hope to see all of you there!
Now go visit Farley's blog and check out the other posts this month! Don't forget the Rule of Three.

Edited to add that Farley is coordinating a donation drive to help the critters who were affected by the flooding in Wimberley, Texas. I donated. Won't you?

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