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Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas Questionnaire!

Merry Christmas everyone!  I finally have time to breathe after all the holiday preparations and  now have a little down time before we set out to my grandma's house.  The kids are happily playing with some new treasures that were under the tree this morning.  They are at such fun ages for Christmas (six and three!). Since I have been missing my little blogging world lately and can't think of anything education related to post with the brain on vacation mode, I was excited when I saw this super fun Christmas questionnaire by Michelle at Fabulous in First!
Hot Chocolate or Eggnog?
Both!  I really do love both and at Christmas time, we almost always have egg nog in the fridge.  My kids love both too!

Does Santa wrap presents of just sit them underneath the tree?
Santa wraps presents!  He always did when I was a child and I actually had never heard of Santa not wrapping the presents until a coworker told me a few weeks ago that he doesn't wrap presents at her house!  It was tempting, but I just couldn't do it.  Santa does use a "different" wrapping paper.

Colored lights or white?
I always use white lights like my mom did growing up.  We would beg her to have colored lights and, go figure, now I love white lights.  My kids haven't begged me yet to change. :)

When do you decorate?
We try to have the tree up the weekend after Thanksgiving every year.

Real or Fake Tree?
We have a fake tree.  The smell of a real tree would be wonderful but it seems like a lot of work getting a real tree and the pine needles to clean up.  Our tree was pre-lit but last year, my husband spent hours upon hours cutting off the lights after chunks of the tree kept going out.  I don't think I'll ever buy a pre-lit one again!

What tops your tree?
We have a plain star on top.  Here is a picture of our tree this year on Christmas Eve night (last night!).  It looks like there are more presents than there actually are because there are no presents under the tree. Santa left a Polar Express train going around under the tree!

Favorite Christmas Memories or Traditions?
Baking Christmas cookies with my mom was my favorite tradition and I am the only one out of my two sisters and mom that makes Christmas cookies now.  

Do you remember your favorite gift as a child?
I loved the Cabbage Patch doll that I got one year with "corn silk" hair.

Do you prefer giving or receiving?
Giving!  I am a giver and would buy presents for everyone if I could.  In college when I didn't have two pennies to rub together, I still bought presents by charging them.  I just can't help myself!

What is your favorite Christmas song?
O Holy Night (hands down!).  Gives me goosebumps every time!

Candy Canes. Yuck or Yum?
They are okay but I will always choose chocolate over candy canes!

Favorite Christmas Movie?
I love watching all the Hallmark Christmas movies every year.

Do you shop online or at stores?
I shop mostly online now because I live in a rural area and it is not that easy finding the time to shop when the "good" shopping malls and stores are an hour drive away.

Photo cards, letter, or store bought card?
Ever since we had kids, we send photo cards.  We have family scattered everywhere across the United States and they enjoy seeing the kids grow. 

Here are my two favorite little elves on Christmas morning.  They were SO excited!

Merry Christmas friends!!  Have a relaxing, safe Christmas night!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Tried It Tuesday {Christmas Cards Recycled}

It's the most wonderful time of the year!!  Christmas is my favorite holiday, but with Christmas comes one of the busiest times of the year!  I love making Christmas cookies for gifts, but with school letting out on December 20th this year, I have to get them ready in a hurry.  My daughter is also in a dance recital and last week was the beginning of 13 straight days of dance for her.  We start dress rehearsals tonight and tomorrow and then the show is Thursday and Friday.  My Christmas shopping is done but I haven't wrapped a gift yet.  The hubs is great for that though! :)

We have been so busy at school and home that I barely have had time to devote to this little blog.  January will be better. :)  After today, Tried It Tuesday will be on vacation until January 7th.  I know everyone will be spending time with their families over the break and just relaxing, so save up some tried its for the New Year that you can share!

My Tried It:
Recycled Christmas Cards 
One of my teammates introduced me to this idea about five years ago.  She brings in old Christmas cards that people send her and lets students use them to make their own handmade cards!  I love this idea because I always keep cards around the house, but now I am starting to realize that I really can't KEEP every card forever!  Also, I cannot draw to save my life, so having something to cut out and make a handmade card look great seems like a wonderful option for my fourth graders who are not confident with their artistic skills.

The students really enjoy looking through all the cards and choosing some designs to cut out.  These are some cards that they worked on for their pen pals (we are pen pals with Jivey at Ideas by Jivey and Gary "The Scrappy Guy"!!).

 This student cut a hole in the front of the "Let It Snow" card as a "window" for the design inside!

 I wanted to share this idea with you in case you have some extra time this week for students to work on making a Christmas card for a family member or friend.  You might just have some old cards laying around your house in a box somewhere that they could use.  This could work for other holidays too like Valentine's Day, Mother's/Father's Day, or birthdays!

The same teacher also told me about using all those envelopes that you get in the mail to hold cut outs for projects at school!  When we have something we are working on that involve little pieces of paper, I give each student an envelope that would have otherwise went in the garbage!  Don't you just love repurposing? 

All I want for Christmas is a real snow day, a real snow day, see a real snow day!  Gee, if I could only have a real snow day, then I could wish you Merry Christmas!  
Seriously, I could REALLY use a snow day but it hasn't happened yet and it's not going to happen this week.  It could have happened a couple times last week, but it didn't.  You know those weeks when the possibility of a snow day makes you restless at night and then it doesn't happen?  That makes for an exhausting week!  I know...poor me!
This is the courtyard by my classroom.  We really have been dumped on and I had the worst drive ever in white outs Sunday night!  We usually get one to three snow days a year but the snow has to be falling at exactly the right time and there has to be at least 25mph winds with it or ice (like, BIG time ice!).  The threat of a foot of snow or more in a day doesn't get us off. :(
Enjoy the rest of your week and I hope you find some quiet moments to celebrate the season!  It goes by so fast! 

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Tried It Tuesday {Book Bins Holding Up?}

What have you tried lately?  Link up any ideas you have tried, old or new, and share what worked for you!  I learn so much from all of the creative link ups!

My Tried It:
Book Bins 
This is a pretty simple "Tried It" and I know so many teachers have used bins to hold their books for a long time.  However, this is the first year that I have tried them and was a little apprehensive about how they would work. :)  You can read more about the work I did this summer to my library here.

I thought I would revisit this topic after the bins have been in use for a good 15 weeks.  So far, I really  LOVE having book bins!  I thought that the books might get unorganized and end up in the wrong bins, but they have stayed surprisingly organized!  I have a librarian job that changes every two weeks.  The librarian helps put back books that were returned to the "book return" bin.  The books are also labeled on the inside cover with an Avery label indicating the name of their book bin.

I attached my owl book bin labels using shipping/packaging tape and that has held up great except on these small "holey" bins (all my bins are from the Dollar Tree).  I don't know why I didn't think of it before, but the dust collected on the tape through the little holes and the labels started falling off! I am a tad anal and it was very annoying.
My solution?  I went back to the Dollar Tree and bought these replacement bins (no holes!).  I'm just glad I could find some that they had in stock that matched my other bins and were small enough for this shelf.  Now, there are no holes and the labels should stay put!

I was also worried that the bins would end up in a disarray on the shelves.  I snapped these photos yesterday without straightening the bins on the shelves and they look passable by my standards!  I talk to the students about putting the book bins back neatly and they have listened for the most part. :)  
These bins pictured below are a little easier to keep in line on the shelves since there is not as much extra room for movement.  The bins themselves have held up well (they were only $1 each).  If you look closely at the picture below, the last red bin (closest to the window) has duct tape on the handle.  This actually broke when another teacher grabbed the book bin, so there are no book bins damaged by students yet! :)

The black paint has also held up very well with the clear coat I put on top of the shelves. Again, see this post here for more about that.  The only bookcase that has given me problems with the paint is the tall one in the corner.  That bookcase had the veneer coating all over and there was no real wood.  The other bookcases were higher quality and real wood that I primed first, painted, and then applied the clear coat of varnish on the shelves.  I don't think I could ever go back to not having book bins again!

I also wanted to share these Command Hooks that I have used for two years now on my mantle in case anyone else is looking for a solution to hang stockings.  They really work well and are barely visible.  They remove without leaving any marks on our century old mantle!

 I love Christmas!!  

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Spark Student Motivation Saturday {Buddies}

It's Saturday and time to link up with my sweet friend, Joanne, at Head Over Heels for Teaching for Spark Student Motivation Saturdays!   
Each fourth grade classroom at my school voluntarily participates in a buddy program with a younger grade.  Throughout the year, we meet with our Kindergarten buddies for activities.  We used to meet once a month, but now that we have departmentalized, it will probably be only about five times that we will meet with our buddies during the year.  Our schedule is just so tight with the blocks.

Yesterday, we finally had time to meet with our Kindergarten buddies again and we worked on a chain link countdown for Christmas craft together.  Everyone has done the infamous chain link countdown, but what makes it nice is my lovely fourth graders can use a stapler safely (most of the time!) to staple the links while the Kindergartners pass them the strips in an ABC pattern (red, green, white).  Have you ever tried to glue the links?  It is messy and difficult!  When they are finished, my fourth graders can make one of their own (most of them still really want one and they can use the excuse that they worked on it with their buddy!).  Has anyone noticed that so many fourth graders still believe in Santa?  I don't really remember any of my friends still believing after 2nd grade growing up.  I think the internet and tracking Santa might have something to do with it?!?

I just love watching the students interact with their buddies!  The biggest surprises are always the  students who are potential behavior problems and how they just SHINE in this environment when they are given the opportunity to be a role model.  It is a great motivator for all students and an excellent way to teach them to be a role model for good behavior. I really see a different side of so many students come out when they are the "big kid".  

Here are a couple other pictures from last year with our buddies working on a Valentine's Day card holder and on Dr. Seuss hat day reading with our buddies.

We use this Getting to Know you activity that you can download for FREE here.  I copy the two papers in different colors.  One paper has questions for the 4th Grader to answer and I have them fill it out before meeting with the buddies.  They share their responses with their buddy when they meet.  The other paper has the same questions but the 4th grader asks their buddy for their answers.  Each student keeps the paper with answers about their buddy to take home.

If you have never tried buddies, think about joining a classroom for the rest of this year or put it on your to do list for next year.  You won't regret it and the students will thank you!

Don't forget to enter this giveaway where everyone wins at I'm Lovin Lit!  It ends tomorrow!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Workshop Wednesday {Seasonal Math Workshop} and Holiday ebook!

I am linking up with my sweet friend, the super talented Jivey at Ideas by Jivey, for Workshop Wednesday.  This week's topic is Seasonal Math Workshop.  I know, I know...I am not teaching math this year (technically), BUT that doesn't mean that I can't show you some of the centers I have on hand, right?  Math is my all-time favorite subject and I have pulled out some centers this year when I have extra time with my homeroom kiddos (there are many kids pulled out for extra services at this time).  The students who are not pulled out LOVE to see me take out some extra fun math games!  
I really can't blame them! Who doesn't LOVE math?!? :)
You are sure to score some amazing Holiday themed products for FREE from the just released 2013 Winter Holidays Tips and Freebies for Grades 3-6 edition (there are also other grade levels available)!  Thank you to the amazing Rachel Lynette from Minds in Bloom for compiling the grades 3-6 edition. She is the task card "queen" and I have lost count of how many of her sets that I own! 
Fifty TPT sellers are featured with pages and links to free products for you to download!  To say I was thrilled to have one of my products chosen for this book and be featured among so many seasoned outstanding teachers, bloggers, and educational professionals is an understatement!  What a humbling experience.  The free product I created is ELA related, but there are a variety of products available!  

The host herself, Jivey, has a great new math seasonal product that can be used now and kept out after the Holidays!  Let It Snow Math is full of fun, CCSS-aligned math activities.  
It is perfect for the cold months!  The snow season lasts a LOOOONG time in WNY!

Last year I used this FREE Winter Themed Constructed Response Practice Problems by Teaching to Inspire in 5th.  It had great practice problems aligned to the CCSS and she has many other math seasonal activities available in her store.  I love her products!
Another activity I used last year were these FREE Snowman Word Problems by Time 4 Teaching.  They were great for my math intervention groups to review one step word problems!
I also have used these engaging, fun  Holiday Hoopla Math Centers (there are seven of them!) by 4th Grade Frolics.
Here is a picture of some of the centers from this set after I laminated them.

Before you go, be sure to check out this awesome giveaway that lasts until December 8th where everyone wins!  It is hosted by the amazing Erin at I'm Lovin' Lit.  Go here to read all about it!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Tried It Tuesday {December 3}

This is the original post from last week.  
Link up any new Tried Its for this week at the bottom of this post. 
Thanks! :)

My Tried It:
Karate Tournament
If you have been reading my blog for awhile, you might remember that I have been taking kickboxing for a couple years and started karate last spring.  You can read more about it here.  This is the first workout routine that I really do love and keeps me going back for more.  Many of my friends have picked up running at some point, but this sums up how I have always felt about that exercise:
I like to challenge myself in all areas of my life and am a goal setter.  Kickboxing and karate fits perfectly into my mindset and need for setting goals for motivation.  For me, kickboxing is probably a better cardio workout, but karate is my favorite if I had to choose between the two.  I think it is because I love the mental challenge and structure of it.  Karate seems like it is just good for my soul.
So, I played around with the idea of trying a kickboxing fight, but didn't know if I was physically and mentally ready for that.  A karate tournament didn't seem as intimidating and point sparring in karate was a great place to start.  I registered for a small tournament and spent all day Saturday at my first ever karate tournament and competed (I had never even been to one before!).  
There is no time like the present, right?  
I registered to compete in sparring and traditional forms for ages 18-34 (I am 35 years old now but the divisions go by how old you are in January of that year).  Since it was a small tournament, there was no novice division for women, and I would be competing against all women in that age group except for black belts.  I am a lowly yellow belt (second belt after white), have only been doing this for a little over 6 months, AND might have to compete against women much younger who are in much better shape, but I went ahead with it!
 So...you're probably wondering how I did, right?  WELL, there were no other women to compete against in my division! :(  That was disappointing, BUT I still learned so much.   I was fascinated watching all the katas performed that day...amazing!  You have to do a "sound off" where you state (at least) your name and what you will be performing.  Well, some of the sound offs were quite unique, intimidating, and fascinating to say the least.
I sparred one of the guys from a satellite studio that I have sparred with a little in class for an exhibition.  He was a good sport and went a little easy on me but I "won" 6 to 3 in points (two minute round).

I also performed my kata and it was a great way to get my feet wet.  For the "grands", I had to perform again because all the 1st place competitors in a certain age range (I was the only one in my division) compete for grand champion.  I lost in grands but my instructor was pleased with my performance.  It was almost like an out of body experience because, as I was performing my kata, my mind went completely (I mean completely!) blank.  I almost, for a fraction of a second, stopped my kata right then and there.  Then, somehow I turned in the right direction and found the movement.  It was a little freaky but that is what I love about karate.  The mental discipline is so challenging and it just awakens me.

Will I compete in more karate tournaments? Absolutely!  I don't want to look back years from now and have regrets.  There's no day like today (from one of my favorite musicals...Rent!).  As Thanksgiving Day draws near, I will be reflecting on all the things that I am grateful for.  Finding a new passion at my age is one of them.  It is never too late to begin.

Find your passion and go for it!! 

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Winter Planning Giveaway Stop C-3

I am thrilled to be a part of the Winter Planning Giveaway Scavenger Hunt hosted by the amazing Erin at I'm Lovin Lit!  My stop, C-3, is just one stop on the scavenger hunt where everyone wins!  Head back to the start of the the hunt if you are not familiar with the details and how to win the prize pack shown below!  
Check out the awesomeness of prize pack C! 
(There are two other prize packs available too!)

For this part of the scavenger hunt, please follow my blog through bloglovin'.  Click here to follow or click the icon in the right hand sidebar.  Or, you can follow through Google by clicking "Join This Site" in the sidebar.  Thanks!

I would also love it if you followed me on facebook.  
I have a fan freebies page and also would like to have more mini giveaways for my facebook fans.  I recently gave away my newest product to some lucky winners, but you can win it now too!  Just complete the scavenger hunt, and you will win my winter themed nonfiction text practice set!

Here is my secret word for stop C-3!

Don't forget to check out the Cyber Monday TpT sale starting tomorrow!  My whole store will be 20% off and with the code below, you will get a total of 28% off!