Monday, December 23, 2013

it's beginning to look a lot like christmas {2013}

This time of year is always crazy.  Between holiday celebrations with friends and family and the fun and festivities at school, I have not had much time to sit still!  There's so much I want to share, and so little time--let's go straight to the pictures!

I planned on taking some better pictures of my first graders' Christmas gifts for their parents...  but I did not.  These are one of my favorite things we do during December in my class.  I have been making these ornaments with my special friends for the last three years!  We start by making Christmas light name banners, and then I take a picture of each friend holding his or her name.  I print them and trim them into circles (my wonderful husband made me a perfectly sized template), roll them up and stick them inside clear, plastic ball ornaments.

Old picture from 2011--it's still adorable, though!
My first graders write names and years on the ornaments using paint pens, we tie ribbon around them to hang them and wrap them up in brown paper bags.  Easy peasy--and the parents have a way to remember what their first graders looked like and wrote like when they were six years old.

And...  I've made myself one each year the kiddos have with a class picture inside.  I hang these on my tree in my classroom.

This weekend, I hosted a cookie exchange with some of the wonderful ladies in my family--my mom, grandmas, sisters, cousins, aunt and mother-in-law were all there.  So many cookies, so much hot chocolate, coffee and SUGAR.  It really is one of my favorite parts of the holidays.  My sister, Melinda, made delicious peanut butter chocolate sandwich cookies--shaped like a TARDIS--and has the recipe up on her blog.  You should probably take the time to test out that recipe.  I made chocolate M&M cookies and added more chocolate chips when I didn't think they had enough chunks in them--Chocolate Monster Cookies!

And now, I've been crafting up a storm to finish all of those last minute Christmas gifts.  That's what Christmas break is for, right?

Left to right: Cookie Label Chalkboard Ornaments, Washi Tape Money Box and Floor Wax Glitter Pirates Wild Card Game Ornament
It was SO HARD to find a Pittsburgh Pirates ornament anywhere this year.  Geez!  Merry Christmas, everyone, and happy 2014!

Friday, November 22, 2013

don't let the turkey drive the bus!

Don't even pretend you've never heard of this book.

Mo Willems' Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus is, quite possibly, my first graders' favorite book.  They adore it.  It's a perfect book for practicing identifying telling, asking and excited sentences and practicing reading those different types of sentences with expression while we study transportation for the month of November.  I think I've heard my first graders and myself read this story almost 100 times this year.  We LOVE this book.

My favorite activity to do with the class, relating this book with the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, is writing a class book titled Don't Let the Turkey Drive the Bus!  We start by making a list of reasons why the pigeon isn't supposed to drive the bus--reasons my kiddos gave went from "He's too small because he is a bird!" to "He might crash the bus."  Then, we talk about the turkey.  "His feathers won't fit in the driver's seat." "He's trying to get away from Thanksgiving!" "We want to eat him!"  LOVE IT.

We then talk about how the pigeon tries to persuade the reader to let him drive the bus, and how the turkey might try.  After reviewing the punctuation for different types of sentences, I give each student a writing paper with two speech bubbles on it.  They write a rough draft of what the turkey says, we conference, they write a final copy on the other bubble.  Cut, glue and draw their own turkeys...  we have a fantastic class book!

We display them in our classroom before I bind them up--but we will read the bound book next week to the parents at our Thanksgiving Feast.

I put together the speech bubble print out with some other speech bubble writing papers in my TPT shop--check them out!

Friday, November 1, 2013

it's november! {five for friday}

Linking up with Doodle Bugs Teaching for the Five for Friday.  Are you ready?

[1] Being sick is AWFUL.  I went to my college apartment-mate's wedding with a fever on Saturday, and while it was wonderful to share the day with her and her new husband and we had a ton of fun...  it was the WORST DECISION EVER.  We were down for the count on Sunday...  and Monday...  and Tuesday...  and I still do not feel like myself.  I spent about four hours between Sunday night and Tuesday morning writing sub plans--worst thing ever when you're sick.  I have such a hard time giving up my teaching time, though...  What do you do when you're sick?  Emergency plans or do you micromanage like I do with four page detailed plans for the day?

But look how great they look!

[2] My school doesn't "officially" celebrate Halloween--but ALL of the primary grades get around that fact pretty well.  Kindergarten has a Letter People Party, second grade dresses up as birds for the end of their bird unit and third grade presents their explorer reports in full explorer costume.  My first graders end our mammal unit with a bang by dressing up as their favorite mammal.  After reading two Magic School Bus chapter books, I dressed up as Ms. Frizzle--all ready to go on a batty field trip.

[3] There was too much rain last night, and we didn't get any Trick-or-Treaters.  We have too much candy left for me to eat, and the puppies didn't get to show off their costumes.  They'll just have to wear them to my cousin's birthday party tomorrow.

[4] I've been a big fan of Krista Wallden's Creative Clips for quite awhile, but she had a fantastic sale going on over Halloween that I took major advantage of.  I like to think I'm really on the ball and got myself a very nice selection of Thanksgiving and Christmas clip art.  If you don't know her stuff already, GO CHECK IT OUT RIGHT NOW.

[5] Every time I go to Starbucks, I get one of three beverages: Peppermint Mocha Frappucino, Iced Peppermint Mocha or a Peppermint Mocha.  Year round.  October, July, April, it doesn't matter.  Today, I stopped for a nice, hot one because I was feeling lousy--only to find out that a.) it was the first day for holiday red cups and b.) the first day for the "winter holiday" beverages.  I felt like a goober rushing to Starbucks for the first of these delicious treats.  I just wanted to scream at all the people looking at me like a nutcase that I get this every time I'm here.  Forget pumpkin spice lattes.  I want that peppermint mocha!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

mammals, blubber and the zoo (oh my!)

During the entire month of October, my class does a very thorough study of mammals.  We learn about many, many different mammals, but my favorite to teach about are the Arctic mammals.  I'm pretty sure I could teach the entire month just talking about polar bears, whales and the many other creatures you can find up north.

My students' favorite thing we did this month has to be, hands down, the all too famous blubber experiment.  A little messy, a lot of fun--my first graders couldn't get enough of it!  It's super simple to do as long as you have all of the supplies and a great demonstration of how those Arctic animals keep warm.

You can find many how-tos for this experiment all over the internet, I'm sure, but this is how we did it:

vegetable shortening
two pairs of plastic gloves

1. Before the experiment, I filled one of the plastic gloves with vegetable shortening and made sure it was in all of the fingers and the hand/palm area.  I then put a clean glove on my hand and stuck that hand and glove inside the shortening glove.  The shortening acts as the "blubber" for the experiment.
2. I filled a bowl full of ice and added water to about two inches from the top of the bowl.  
3. I had each kiddo wear the blubber glove on one hand and two clean gloves on the other (we did a little discussion of a "control" for the experiment).  After each first grader got a turn, we talked about which hand felt colder faster and the blubber helped to keep one hand warm.  We, of course, recorded our discussion on a giant piece of chart paper (love chart paper!  I wish I had taken a picture of it, though!).

Note:  While year old shortening does work for this experiment, it also smells funny.  Live and learn.  Probably a good idea to buy new shortening for next year!

In addition to this experiment and all the other in class things we do to learn about mammals, we also take a trip to the zoo in our city.  We have a very set curriculum of animal studies, and our students learn about different types of animals during each year in the primary grades.  Of course, the zoo is one of the only field trips we can utilize for these studies, so we take care to really focus on the animals we are studying at that point.  To help my first graders at the zoo find all the mammals, I created these mammal tour guides for them to take with them.  

I use the map from the zoo website to help me break them down into the different habitats and put them in the order that students will see them.  I personally get a kick out of seeing the first graders so intently searching the zoos with their tour guides and pencils, ready to check off each mammal as they see it.  When we get back from the zoo, we use these to help us with any writing we do about our trip.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

run, run, run!

I'm super excited to link up with Curious Firsties for the Wednesday WOW!  Head over and share something super fantastic about school or home yourself!

I mentioned this time and time again this past spring and over the summer, but I'm so pumped about it, that I have to share it again.  Way back in March, I started the Couch to 5k training.  Sometime over the summer, I completed it, and kind of sort of started a 10k trainer (I've been loving running 4-5 miles at a time for the last two months, and I'm probably going to keep doing that for awhile).

The before...
BUT!  This past Saturday, I (finally) ran my first official 5k race.  If by "race," I mean run with many people--because let's be honest here.  I did the Pittsburgh Color Run--and it is neither timed nor competitive.  And it was SO MUCH FUN.  Run for fun and get colored cornstarch powder thrown at you--it was awesome.

Since this was the first time I had ever run an actual 5k in a plotted out 5k course, I was excited to time myself and track all of my stats for it.  Using the stats I had collected on myself on all of my other runs, I thought a reachable goal was to aim for running the race in 35 minutes.  I was SO EXCITED when I finished in 29 minutes 6 seconds!

And the after.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

a new pirate generation, everybody shout... let's go bucs!

Yes, I know this is supposed to be my teacher/home/organizing/craft blog.  But I named it the mrs. b blog so I could write about anything I want.  And today, I feel moved to share something with you.

I am a Pittsburgh Pirate fan.  Always have been, and always will be.

 It goes all the way back to when I was really little.  My grandparents watched games all the time.  I remember getting to their house to visit, and the game was on.  I wanted to play with Grandma or Pap, but I had to wait until the game was over...  and over time, I got more and more into it.

When I was in first grade, there was some big, school wide reading challenge where we somehow earned tickets for drawings and raffles.  I don't remember the details to the whole system, I just remember that there was a school assembly at the end of it, and Jay Bell from the Pirates came to do the drawing.  I don't remember what I actually won, but I do remember Mr. Bell pulling my ticket out more than once and getting to shake his hand each time.  I was thrilled.

Fast forward to when I was in middle school and high school, my poor Buccos were terrible.  Awful.  I was a Pirate fan when they lost 100 games in 2001.  Funny story--that's when PNC Park opened.  I was a Pirate fan when they lost 105 games in 2010.  I saw my favorite players get traded numerous times (and eventually got to the point I wouldn't vocalize who my favorite player was because as soon as picked favorites, they got traded).  I loved Jason Kendall, Jack Wilson, Oliver Perez and Jason Bay.  I loved watching Salomon Torres go up to bat with a huge smile on his face.  I bet my choir teacher in high school for six years running that this was the year the Pirates were going to win as many games as they lost.  And I lost that bet every year.

But more importantly, over all those losing seasons, the Pirates gave me something really important--something to bond with my Gram, my Pap Pap, my cousins, my sisters, my parents, my entire family, over.  There is nothing like talking baseball with your ninety year old grandfather, hearing him call players Fish Lips and arguing whether this is their year or not.  There is nothing like listening to your grandmother go on and on about how handsome Nate McLouth or Neil Walker is one minute, the next, cursing out the radio for the error they just committed.  I've gone to so many games with my sisters and cousins--freezing opening days, melting hot summer night games, in April, in June, in September.

Fast forward to this--the 2013 season.  After two end of season collapses the last two years, I was still saying this was their year.  This was the year we were going to hit .500.  I went to eight games this season, and the first was on April 14 against the Reds.  Then, in September, my boys--Neil Walker, Andrew McCutchen, Mr. Hurdle and the rest of them--won their 81st win.  For the first time in 21 years--we were guarenteed to at least have as many wins as losses.  I cried.  I freaked my husband out with the happy tears that were streaming down my face.  Then, they won again, and we had our first winning season in 21 years.  I didn't think the season could possibly get any better.  Everything I had ever wanted for my Pirates had happened.

And then, they made the playoffs.  I watched the team celebrate with champagne on TV while I sat on the couch yelling right along with them, clutching a Kleenex and drying my happy tears.  The electricity in Pittsburgh is insane.  We've been waiting for a winning season for so long, and our boys delivered big this year.  Never have I been to games in September at PNC Park where the crowd has been as big, as excited, as this season.

My Pittsburgh Pirates are playing in the National League Wild Card Game tonight.  And you better bet your bottom dollar that I will be there.  I'm packing my snack bag, wearing black, wearing my Post Season cap and taking some Kleenex.

These Buccos have already made me one of the happiest baseball fans in the country.  And tonight, they're going to make me even happier.  It doesn't matter to me now whether they win or lose (although, I would love if they beat the Reds again...) because these boys have finally done what I have known they could do since the time I was five.  They won.  Everything after win #81 has been icing (and sprinkles) on the cake.

Raise that Jolly Roger!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

ten-frames and other things

School's busy, blah blah blah.  No more excuses!  At my school, we use the enVision math curriculum...  and to be quite honest, it kind of drives me crazy.  I got permission from my principal to use enVision more as a guide and ignore many of the worksheets they provide and do my own thing with hands on activities, white boards and projects.

I teach at small Christian school, and our units of study for the first month of school are Creation and All About Me. One of the first math projects we did this year was a Creation Ten-Frame accordion book.  My kiddos LOVED doing this activity.  I was super happy with how they turned out--and just in time for our Curriculum Night!

I made a basic ten-frame and printing blank for each day of Creation for each kiddo.  They wrote the number in the blank and filled in the ten-frame to correspond with that number.  After illustrating and coloring, they cut them out and glued them together.  My principal and kiddos loved them, and the parents enjoyed them, as well!

I've made the file available on TPT--feel free to head over to check it out!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

a classroom tour, of sorts.

School started, and I have been running around like a chicken with its head cut off.  Just like most teachers, I feel like I didn't have everything prepared as well as I wanted at the very beginning and have been playing catch-up ever since!  My apologies for dropping off the blog for awhile.

This week marks our second full week of school (today was day number 11) and I have already been through Curriculum Night and getting a new student.  Picture Day is this Friday, our first field trip is next Friday and October will be following soon after that!  It is insane how fast this year is going already!

I'll be sharing some actual activities and things from Curriculum Night soon, but until then, how would you like to see what my classroom looks like this year?  It hasn't changed too much since last year, but I'm really excited about the little changes I have made and I'm still loving the room two and a half weeks in.  That is awesome--at this point last year, I had already done some rearranging!

I took most of these pictures before school started because I totally meant to share these over Labor Day Weekend.  That didn't happen.  Some of them are from last week, though--you can see what our room looks like now that it's a little more "lived in."

The view from the back of my room (the doorway in the second pictures leads to the hallway). 

My still slightly unorganized classroom library in the back corner of the room.

The wall when you immediately enter the room.  This wall showcases our Band-Aid Hearts (activity adapted from First Grade Wow), our Clip Hall of Fame, Memory Marathon (Bible Memory Verses) and Word Wall.

Close up of the Word Wall.  You have got to love binder rings and clear 3M hooks.

This is the area surrounding my desk (I didn't take a picture of my desk for some reason.  It runs parallel to the closet doors).  I am in L. O. V. E. with the book shelf I moved behind my desk.  I keep my daily lesson plans in the drawers on the top and my colored clips are there, too.  All of my unit binders live here, as do the chapter books I use for our read alouds throughout the year.

 This is the bulletin board next to my desk.  We read First Grade, Here I Come!, discuss what a "First Grade Picture" looks like (lots of details, takes up the whole page, etc.) and draw self-portraits.  This is one of my favorite things we do in first grade and I'll keep these up until at least Open House.  Check out my fancy-pants clocks and the bit of my desk, too!

I promise that I'll do a better job keeping up with the blog now.  Things at school are starting to calm down and I'm finding my routine again to balance school and home.  My favorite kindergarten teacher has made it her goal for the year to be out of school by 4:30 every day--I think I may strive for that, too!  Says the girl who left school at 5:15 today...

Saturday, August 31, 2013

the first five for friday of the 2013-14 school year

I am exhausted!  It does not matter how much preparation I (or any teacher) does over the summer, I can always create a To Do List for the beginning of the year approximately three and a half miles long.  We had a week full of in-service training, meetings and room prep time this past week, and our kiddos start on Tuesday.  While my room looks ready, who knows if I'll ever be ready to begin this new year!

I'm linking up with Doodle Bugs Teaching to share my Five for Friday this week on Saturday to go along with the busy, busy, busy theme.  And to add to it even more, we're going allllllll the way back to two weekends ago to share!  I have disappeared lately!

On August 17, my lovely, lovely grandparents celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary.  We went to a new casino to eat dinner with most of my family, where I was carded getting in and told I look like I'm twelve.  Anyway--it is such a blessing to have these two in my life and showing Mark and I a grand example of a committed, slightly dysfunctional marriage.  I adore my grandparents--they're a fair mix of loving, crazy, giving, one clown short of a circus people.

Last weekend, we celebrated my Pap Pap's 91st birthday.  I'm willing to bet that my grandpa is cooler than your grandpa.

I've been working very hard at school getting everything ready.  The kindergarten class and my class are going to be doing a modified version of the Daily 5 that we're calling PILOT time--super excited to get this started, but there is so much to get ready!  I also painted a beehive for my new job chart, simply because I was too cheap to buy the $12 one at the teacher store.  I'll be posting a full classroom tour sometime next week--I completely forgot to take pictures on Friday before I left!

We've gone to a couple more Pirate games and have watched quite a few more on TV.  While they're not quite playing well every game, they're doing well enough that we are finally in first place again.  We saw Garrett Jones hit his 100th home run last night!  Scooter and Mattie have been watching a lot of games cuddled up with us as well.

Lastly, I finished C25K again this past week--I started back at Week 4 when we got back from Disney World and now, I'm officially moving on to the 10K Trainer.  I'm running my first 5k race in October and hope to continue my training so that I'm ready to run the Disney Princess Half Marathon in February 2015!

I hope that everyone has a relaxing weekend and holiday--enjoy the last few days of summer!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

favorite things: shopaholic (a love letter to target)

The first day of in-service for teachers is only days away now, and I'm starting to feel like I can't wait for school to start so I can rest a little!  There's just so much to do before summer is over!  I've been working on a literature study for the seventh grade curriculum development at my school (we're adding seventh grade this year, and eighth grade next year!) and working on things for my room.  I've been in to school twice already and plan on going in again today.  And teachers technically don't have to report until next week.

But today, I'm bringing one of the last summer hurrahs to the blog before I go back for meetings, trainings and major planning next week.  I'm linking up with Across the Hall in 2nd Grade and sharing some more of my favorite things.

Today, we're talking about my inner shopaholic and my favorite places to spend my paycheck.  If you have read anything in my blog before...  none of these should be a surprise to you.

| ONE | Target
No worries--no snow here yet.  This picture is OLD.

My absolute favorite place to shop is Target.  Do you remember the Black Friday commercials from a couple years ago with the Crazy Target Lady?  My husband and my dad think that I am possibly the real life Crazy Target Lady.  Who am I kidding?  My mom... my grandma...  my cousins...  many of my close friends...  they all say that.

But seriously!  I love the Merona clothing and the Threshold home decor.  They carry all of my favorite Method products and the clearance end caps are almost always full of cheap treasures.  And on top of that?  They let you stack manufacturer coupons, Target coupons and Cartwheel coupons.  I can collect them, shop smartly and walk out feeling like they just paid me to shop.  I love to look for fantastic deals!

| TWO | Half-Price Books
Every time my little sister is in town, we head over to Half-Price Books.  I love looking at all of the books they have--there is always an interesting selection there.  I always make a beeline to the children's section to look for books for school, and since I started college, I've built quite the impressive classroom library for a fraction of the list price thanks to HPB.  I also love looking at the special collection of rare and collectible books.  I have found quite a few books that I loved as a child here (the same edition, even) and repurchased to have in my own collection--my librarian of a mother is holding most of our childhood books for "when she has grandchildren."

| THREE | Trader Joe's

The first Trader Joe's near me opened a few years ago and it isn't in the most convenient of locations for us to shop there on a regular basis... but I love to go there.  Since it's not our usual grocery shopping, I usually go in more in the mindset that it's a treat trip outside of our usual food budget.  I love the wall of cheese, the hummus and the cookie butter. The selection of vegetarian frozen food is a delight to this overworked teacher during the school year, too.

| FOUR | Old Navy
I mentioned that I love looking for good deals.  Old Navy is a wonderful place to look for those good deals.  Old Navy carries some great clothes that can go from school to home to weekend at a price point that I can usually swallow--and if I can't, I can always try waiting for things to go to the clearance section.  I have raved and raved about their workout clothes (see my "Get Fit" favorite things), but I also love their flip-flops, summer tank tops, basic layering pieces, and quirky puppy items.

Thanks for taking a break from all the Back to School Crazy with me.  We can do it!!