Thursday, November 28, 2013

So Thankful

Happy thanksgiving! Today across our country most people will be gathering together with loved ones and friends and taking the time to remember all that they are thankful for. It's been on your Facebook feed as friends and family post daily what they are thankful for. Well today I'm going to add to that and tell you all what I'm thankful for!

What I am most thankful for are my children and husband. They changed my course forever and I don't have any regrets. My highs are so much higher than before they came along and my lows are nowhere near what they used to be. They make life so much more meaningful!
This is my boys today. My oldest fell off his bike and made this pouty face for the camera.

In the teaching world I am grateful for a few things: 

First I'm grateful for the blogging world! I LOVE connecting with other teachers, learning new things, finding out how & what is being taught in different classrooms around our country and our world! I add as much to that as I can by having my own blog, albeit small.

Second I am grateful for a supportive principal. This man goes above and beyond the call of duty for us. He tries his best to get us what we need and encourages us to be creative and try new things if it works for the kids.
(That's him on the left. He is so good at getting donations for our school!)

Third I am grateful for donorschoose! I feel so supported through the generosity of others. It's like they want the best for my students, just as I do. 

Last but certainly not least, I am thankful for you, my followers. My blog and products may be building slowly but without you I wouldn't feel encouraged to keep moving forward. And I especially appreciate the supportive words from those of you who commented on my last post! {hugs!} I'm planning something special soon for all of you!

Now back to every day life:

I am grateful for friends across the world who are there through thick and thin. Who accept you (me) regardless of quirks and shortcomings.

And as crazy as this may sound I am grateful my husband doesn't work at his job anymore. He had been working 12-18 hour days for 2 years and I was a single mom during that time. This time (although extremely stressful financially) has given my husband the opportunity to connect with the son he'd see in passing and bond with our newest son. He never got that with our first and it's nice to see him finally building a relationship with his children. It's made us both realize that the sacrifice for a job just wasn't worth it. 

I am thankful for modern conveniences/technologies that help me stay connected to people throughout the world. Blogs, video chat, email, Facebook, airplanes, trains, etc. all of it helps me stay connected to those I love!

I hope you all had a very happy thanksgiving and wish you much rest as we will all need the extra energy for the month ahead!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Scores are In

So the scores came in a few hours earlier than expected….and….I didn't pass.  I missed it by 3 points. I hardly slept a wink last night just thinking about my writing and what could have gone wrong.  I knew my writing entry was weak for a few reasons.  First reason, I didn't pick anyone during the school year to focus on.  I just saved all the student writing and looked through it ALL (in May) to see if I could find good candidates to write about.  This meant I would have to remember what I did specifically to direct their writing forward. NOT an easy task.  And the second reason…I had begun my fury of writing over Memorial Day weekend and my husband lost his job on that Monday holiday.  I was 7 months pregnant at the time and I was now the only income. Needless to say, it was HARD to stay focused while writing. If I hadn't procrastinated I more than likely would have done better on this entry.  But because of procrastination I had to finish it under a stressful situation.  Third reason is I am just crap at writing! Sometimes I look at my blog and think, "boy I ramble!" But I write what's going through my head and I try to filter as much as I can before I hit publish. And final reason was i didn't have enough faith and confidence in myself. I went through the process with some extremely talented teachers who to be perfectly honest intimidate me with how amazing they are as teachers and as regular every day people. I often felt like maybe I won't pass this thing so it's quite likely I set myself up for failure. 

But whatever the reason may be I made the decision to be open and honest about it. I have never come across how anyone felt when they didn't make it the first year so here it is. Let me walk you through my results and the roller coaster of emotions that I am feeling.

I did very well on 2 of the 3 entries I spent the most time on.  I got a level 4 score on my documentation entry (#4) and a level 3 score on my social studies entry (#2).  Both entry 1 and 3 I earned a level 2 score (not passing). In the exam I passed all parts except for 2. Those aren't weighted as heavily so for me to pass next year I will only need to pick one entry to redo. I only need 3 more points to pass so I know focusing on one can help me.

So my emotions. Well I can get pretty anxious and when I saw my results and came to understand that I had not passed my heart sank. My husband is still without a job and my district pays for national board certification. We are given an automatic 7.5% pay increase. For me that translated to nearly $5,000. Something we REALLY need right now. I've been doing my best to create new TpT products (while working and being mom and trying to get healthy so I can be around for them longer) just to hopefully make a little extra cash but I can't churn it out fast enough! My list of "to create" is a mile long but finding the time to do it is just hard. I get about 2-4 hours a week.

So of course I cried not only for not getting the pay increase for my family  but for feeling like a failure. I am my own worst critic and feel like I've let myself down big time. I know myself however and while I cry today I'll pick myself up tomorrow, brush off the dust and get back to work. "Ain't nobody got time for that!" Lol I just need the time to mourn  "what could've been" today.

Tomorrow I begin the process of looking for grants/scholarships for retake candidates. We can't afford it so I pray to find it. I'm also trying to think of other ways to get the funding...maybe see if my school site council would invest in me? Ha! Maybe wishful thinking but it's worth a try, right?!

Writing this has been very therapeutic and I'm sure I've rambled! Those of you who have started following me for the NBC help well now I'm your cohort! I will finish no matter what. Good luck to you all and most of all trust and believe that you can do this!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

NBC Sunday #5 - Entry 2:Integrating Social Science with the Arts

Well hello once again!  The holidays sure do put a damper on trying to get blog posts out.  Halloween is over and there is a little down time before the other 2 holidays start up!  I'm going to attempt to get ahead and pre-plan the other NBC posts so I don't fall into the same trap.  But let's be honest...that would require me to not procrastinate!  And I'm just so good at it.  

Ok, so here we are talking about entry 2.  This is the entry where you focus on social science and integrate the arts.  Honestly as teachers I feel we are always integrating, are we not?  And in kindergarten the arts are almost always woven in, so I felt this was an easy entry.  (Now wouldn't that be ironic if this entry is what makes me NOT pass the boards?!)  

Here are the California standards I used:

Social Studies K.4.2 
Distinguish between land and water on a map and globe and locate general areas referenced in historical legends and stories.

Social Studies K.6.2 Know the triumphs in American legends and historical accounts through the stories of such people as George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Benjamin Franklin, etc.

Theatre 1
Retell or dramatize stories, myths, tables, and fairy tales from various cultures and times.

Theatre 2
Use costumes or props in role playing.

Art 2.2
Demonstrate beginning skill in the use of tools and processes, such as the use of scissors, glue, and paper in creating a 3D construction.

So I chose my 15 minute video on Christopher Columbus. We spent an entire week learning about him and why he is important.  It was a great way for us to integrate map skills.  I integrated costumes by having the children make their own hats and telescopes.  

These are screen shots of where I got the instructions from.  (I had pics of the students but can't seem to find them.)  The hats are from Dr. Jean's website and the telescopes come from DLTK.

THEN we role played.  We pretended to be explorers like Christopher Columbus.  The children "explored" the classroom looking for fake gold in addition to a very short play I created for them to participate in.

I videotaped EVERY SINGLE LESSON in this lesson plan.  It ran for 5 days and I made sure each period was taped.  Why?  Because I wanted to ensure I had enough video captured to be picky about.  No, not a single one was perfect but at least I had a choice!

We read books about Christopher Columbus each day.  We compared the books.  

We learned a poem about him.   
Here is a link to this free mini-poster in my TpT store.

We studied maps on the smartboard and on a globe and we created props (hats & telescopes) to dramatize exploration.  AND we wrote. 

Here is a link to this freebie in my TpT store.

This was one of my supporting documents.  It was a list the children created at the end of the week (I just fancied it up!) 

Lastly, what I learned mostly from the videotaping process is that I talk too much.  I noticed that I answered for the children sometimes.  It was eye opening.  Going through the process whether or not I pass has made me a better teacher.  

I hope that this blog post has inspired you to focus your direction on entry 2.  And if you're already working on it I encourage you to remember this simple phrase:

What is the impact on student learning?

If you can answer that question in your writing you will be well on your way to creating a document that's worthy of a passing score!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

NBC Sunday #4 - Entry 3: Integrating Science and Math & a Freebie!

Hello all!  I'm going to start today's post by quoting directly from NBPTS on Entry 3.

"In this entry, you submit a 15-minute video recording of and instructional materials for an integrative learning sequence designed  to deepen children's understanding of mathematics and science topics through unifying concepts and processes in science and to develop children's skills in using mathematical and scientific ways of observing, thinking, reasoning, and communicating.  You provide a written commentary analyzing the video recording and instructional materials, including your use of technology to support children's learning."

What I didn't know until I started investigating this process is that if you want to "get your feet wet" and try it out, you can do so with this entry.  They call it "Take One!"  Basically you are ONLY doing this entry.  None of the others would need to be completed and what you pay would be much less.  For some people this works. You get a good idea of how the process works and with much less stress and much less work to focus on.

For me I decided to rip the band-aid off and just do it all in one year.  I figured I might as well give the whole thing a shot and if I don't pass a particular area I can just retake that portion the following year. 


I did not pass this entry.  So what I wrote below may not be useful to you!  I learned that I may have focused too much on math in my writing when this was clearly more science with math support.  I may have also spent too much time/used too much space in my writing on literacy related activities.

~For my entry 3 ~
I used the following CA kindergarten standards: 

Science 1b: Water can be a liquid or solid and can be made to change back and forth
Math K.MD.1: Describe measurable attributes of objects by weight
Math K.MD.2: compare 2 objects with weight in common for more or less

We spent a full week exploring water and ice.  Here are some pics that I included in my entry:
 This is 2 snapshots of documentation from my Smartboard.  The top half was the student predictions of what would happen to the water when we placed it in the freezer.  The check marks were after we checked the water the following day.  Those with checkmarks predicted correctly.  The pitcher is words we came up with to describe ice.

This pic is of the journal we kept for rate of evaporation.  (Want a copy of this? Go here!)
We kept track of the cup of water that was left out.  We also put one in a ziploc bag.  Obviously the one in the ziploc didn't evaporate so it helped the kids to see that air is what caused the water line to go down in the cup we tracked.

Here are some of the activities we did during the week:
  1. Introduction - What is Ice?
  2. Sensing Ice (using the senses to describe ice)
  3. Weight and space of water and ice - which one takes up more space?  which one weighs more?
The Video
I taped every lesson I did and then selected the one I felt would work the best.  It ended up being the very first introduction to water and ice.

What you NEED to know is they aren't looking for perfection.  Let what really happens in your school day show in the video.  If the intercom interrupts while you are teaching the lesson that is something that really happens so don't stress over it and feel like you will have to retape it.  If you were to see my video entry for #2 you would CRY!  Not only do I have intercom interruptions but my neighboring teacher (whom I have a connecting door with) came in to ask a question PLUS my special ed visitors had missed the previous day and were EXTREMELY noisy in the back of the room working on what they needed to catch up on to do the activity with us and I got a phone call.  It was CRAZY!

I'll wrap this up by giving you a few key questions to ponder when you are putting together your lesson plan and executing it:
  1. What do you know about your students?
  2. What is the goal of the lesson?
  3. How will you evaluate their learning?
Then reflect:
  1. What could you have done to teach it better?
  2. How effective were the strategies used and your resources?
  3. What is the next step?
Lastly, if you missed the freebie up above I've got it right here once again.  It's my Water Observation Journal.  Just click HERE and you will be taken to the google doc to download it. Have a great week!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

NBC Sundays #3 - Entry 4

Good morning everyone!  So I hope you had a better week than I did. Mine started off with this little find:
My USB thumb drive had gone through the washing machine!  Not just once either.  I had been missing it for a couple of weeks so it likely went through quite a few washings.  I didn't have the courage to put it together and see if it still worked until yesterday.  I decided to face the music and if you can believe it, it worked!  I transferred ALL my files to my external hard drive immediately!

So on to the topic of the day - entry #4.  This entry is all about your accomplishments as a teacher.  They will be looking specifically at your

parent communication 
your ability to be a teacher leader 

and how well you collaborate with your colleagues.

You will have a total of 16 pages to demonstrate this and can use up to 8 events to fill up those 16 pages.  More often than not though, you won't be able to get to 8 events.  What you write about each event will take up more space than you think.

You will also need to think about what you will use to verify each of your accomplishments. Data, pictures, emails, etc.

I'll share with you the accomplishments I chose.  

I wrote about being grade level chair.  This addressed all 3 aspects and it covered 3 different accomplishments.   It included things like how I led my kindergarten team to write a document for parents to help them know what would be expected on the upcoming report cards; leading them to create a curriculum "map" for the school year; and how we worked together to learn writers workshop. The documentation I used was one page of the actual expectation document; a page from the curriculum map we wrote and student work samples for the writers workshop accomplishment.

I also wrote about a community art show our kindergarteners participated in (I used pictures of the event as documentation) as well as leading my team in a kindergarten academy. (The academy was like-ability grouping of students for ELA across the grade level.  Every morning we would switch the kids and 1 teacher would take the high group, another the medium and another the low.) This particular entry I used data to demonstrate its effectiveness.  I got data from 2nd grade that showed the first group of kids were still excelling as well as showing that each year kids left kindergarten with greater success than previously.

In total I had 4 accomplishments and it took up ALL 16 pages.

Your task for this week: write down what you think could be considered accomplishments in these 3 areas.

If you're not sure what you think of your accomplishment, write a comment below.  I'm happy to offer help if I can!

Have a great week!

Sunday, September 29, 2013


Well, I'm here to apologize!  My son had gotten ill Friday night and kept us up ALL night.  I was a walking ZOMBIE on Saturday! I was hoping to get it done today but I didn't make it.  So that means NBC Sunday is postponed til next week.  Have a great week and see you then!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

NBC Sundays #2-Scholarships

This week's post is about how to find those scholarships.  (I had much more to say about this than I anticipated so I'll save my discussion on entry 4 for next week.)

The easiest way to look for scholarships is to go straight to the NBPTS website.  On their fees and financial support page they have direct links to many different scholarships. On that page (click here to get there) they have listed links to state and local funding and corporations/foundations who will fund. It is IMPORTANT to note that in order to qualify for these scholarships you MUST pay your initial fee FIRST.

So let me tell you MY story about getting full funding.  I got the $1200 state scholarship with no problem  (this has since been suspended in the state of CA).  To get the Amgen scholarship I had to act quickly.  I can't quite remember the process exactly but it was something like you log on to the NBPTS website and click a link or send a message.  They open up those scholarships at a certain time at a certain hour and it's first come first serve. I MISSED IT.  Yes, I missed it!  I had too much going on and I just plain forgot to sign up.  

Luckily, my friend who was also going through the process (thank you Aun!) found out that we could get the very same scholarship through National University!  
National University

They have a free support program and were also allocated funds from Amgen for scholarships.  Even after her and me (and 2 other colleagues of mine) received scholarships from National University there was still scholarships left!  So while the scholarship money allotted to NBPTS had run out quickly, National University still had plenty.  We were lucky thanks to the hard investigative work of my colleague.

They also mention loans offered by NEA and for veterans but obviously I encourage you to seek out scholarships.  It is not a cheap process!

So briefly I want to mention that there are free support networks out there for you.  As mentioned earlier National University carries out a program on campus or online.  I could never make either of their sessions.  I did however make it to CTA's (California Teacher Association) 3 day seminar last summer and that was probably THE BEST thing I did to get familiar with the process.  Our presenter got us organized and started on entry 4.  CTA's support is also free.  It is run by Stacy Begin who was the presenter at the 3 day seminar and she held meetings throughout the year as well as online classes. (Stacy is on twitter at @STBegin) Both of those programs are funded through a grant (if I remember correctly!) which allow it to be free.  My district offers a support program but it was going to cost $500 and I really didn't want to pay anymore expenses.  

At this 3 day seminar by CTA they encouraged us to seek out other funding from local businesses in our school's community.  They talked about writing letters, setting up meetings and networking with people in the community who would like to help the local school.  One suggestion was to approach real estate agents.  Make your case as having a nationally board certified teacher in the local school would be a good selling point for them, possibly increase home values as the schools had highly qualified teachers.  Another suggestion was to approach any business who funds little leagues, such as pizza parlors.  They could also market that they helped fund a teacher which in turn helped the children of the community.  The best way to get this type of funding is to be creative and to be personable!  

Good luck in finding a scholarship for yourself and I'll see you next week to talk about entry 4!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

NBC Sundays #1

Those of you who follow me are aware that last year I went through the National Board Candidate process. So what I've decided to do is make Sundays my NBC Sunday and write posts that will help you prepare for candidacy and if I didn't pass also help me stay focused to redo whichever part needs to be redone!

Today's post is all about organization. Now that the school year has already begun it is so easy to say I'll put it off to tomorrow...or next week...or even next month! If you can avoid it please do! I had every good intention to stay on my outlined path but did I? No! So how did I spend the week before I had to turn the paperwork in? Yes cramming and rushing and praying I wrote well enough to impress the reader who would be scoring my work! Which is why I sit here wondering if I passed rather than feeling confident that I did a great job.

So what I had done with my cohort is map out on the calendar when each task would be completed. So here was our plan: 

1. Mid-August - Finish entry 4, teacher accomplishments (before school begins)

2. October - Finish entry 2, social studies/arts

3. January - Finish entry 3, math/science

4. February Finish entry 1, writing

5. Sign up for the exam in January (which was actually pushed back to February this year).

IF I had actually stuck to this schedule then May would not have been so stressful! 

HOWEVER, making a schedule (whether you follow it or not!) would be pointless if you haven't paid your $565 to NBPTS. Just as early as last year they were still sending boxes out but they have since gone digital and everything is turned in online. I was a part of the first digital group! (The boxes were for turning in your portfolio and now its an ePortfolio). There are scholarships of all kinds and maybe you'll qualify. I was able to get a $1200 scholarship (which is no longer available) and a $750 scholarship from Amgen. It meant the only fee I paid was the $565. Without a scholarship you are looking at just over $2500. It's not cheap so find those scholarships! 

This week I encourage you to make a schedule and keep to it so you don't suffer like I did! (Unless you work well under pressure)

Next week I'm going to focus on where to look for scholarships and entry #4.

I wish you luck if you are going to do this process and want to let you know I'm here to go through it with you!  I enjoyed the process even though I was a procrastinator and am looking forward to helping others!

Good luck to those of you who decide to do this!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Sight Word Program now in TpT!

Well time has literally FLOWN by since having baby J!  It's been 7 weeks since he arrived and I knew I'd have to get those favorite things posts up BEFORE I had him and turns out I was right! I still have 2 more product reviews sitting in my post list just waiting for me to finish them up and share with you.  Those will come out {hopefully!} before September is done.  If not, I guess I'll just wait til next summer since they are beginning of the year products.  Why not?!  I've postponed it this long, right? *sigh*

So even though I was delightfully sidetracked with my sweet newborn I was determined to get this product finished and up on TpT. (especially since I needed it for my return to work next week!)  So on to the product!  It is a high frequency/sight word (whichever term you like to use more!) program.
Click {here} to pick yours up on TpT!

In the past I've begun this program by talking about how we are going to be working towards the most ultimate, incredible, fantabulous ice cream party. And of course that draws their interest in and I've found that this has been an incredible incentive for my students!

Now I must tell you that I have run this party 2 ways.  In years when a lot of children have learned 60+ words they only get what they've achieved at the ice cream party.  Each list they complete earns them one more ice cream scoop or topping.  BUT in years (like the year I taught Transitional Kinder) where the little ones didn't get anywhere near 100 we just had an ice cream party where they could pick what they wanted on one scoop of ice cream.

The first time someone can read 10 words we celebrate!  I give that child a certificate and make a big, BIG deal.  This is what the certificate looks like.  There is one for each level but there is also a generic certificate without a background that you could copy in mass and keep on hand.

This year they'll be tracking their progress on this little graphic:

There is a "topping-less" ice cream graphic to my packet if you want to go the 3D way and use art materials for the sprinkles and mini chocolate chips!

I've also created word cards that can be posted on your word wall.  They look like this:
But once again if you'd prefer to give it a background of your own I've also created word cards that have no background so you can personalize it to your classroom.

And how to keep track of their progress you ask?  Well, there is also an assessment piece to this program! There is a master checkoff list AND a checkoff for each individual list.  Like this:

The students will look at this list of words while you check off on your sheet above:

(Student Material)
OR further along in the year you may want to use this list:

I have an assessment folder where I keep all my student materials and I'll just tuck a stapled copy of the checkoff lists in the front pocket.  That way I never lose my master list or the student lists!

For my students' writing folders they must have a list they can access while in the writing workshop time.  So I've created this freebie for you! (It is a part of the packet as well) To get this freebie just click on my freebie link above. :-)

In kindergarten I work towards 100 words.  Seeing all 100 can be intimidating at the beginning of the year.  So the first time they are working with the lists in writing workshop I print out the first student material list, which contains only list 1 & 2.  This list will last through to the first reporting period in November.  After that I put in the list with all 100 words.  However, if a child is easily distracted and just can't focus enough to pour through the 100 words to find the one they are looking for I will print out more of the student material lists for them.  The freebie will also include all 200 words on one page for you first grade teachers (and end of year kinders!)

And lastly, parent involvement.  You do all you can do in class.  That's a fact.  But how about at home?  As a part of their daily homework my little ones are going to be getting this worksheet this year:

There is a list to go home for EVERY level with instructions in English AND in Spanish. I've also put in parents letters in English and Spanish!  There is an introductory letter which explains why reading sight words is so important and informs the parents of what list their child is beginning on and also there is a shorter letter that I attach to the list each time a new one goes home.  When the new list goes home it includes the parent letter, the list and their certificate of achievement for passing the previous level.

OK, so that was A LOT of information!  If you're still reading this and you've decided to purchase my program I have one itty bitty request! Please take pictures of your class party and send them my way!  I'd love to see how far each of your little ones got! Oh, and thanks for sticking through this LONG post!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Blog Follower Freebie!

Today is a special day!  

I created my first blog follower only freebie!  This freebie is just for you!  Just click on my freebies link above and you'll be able to access it. 

It's my little way of saying thank you for your support!  

Oh my! An Award!

Ok, so this is a sure sign I've just kept myself too, too busy during the school year!  My friend, Christy, over at Crayons and Whimsy nominated me for the Liebster Award...back in December!  Oh my! I didn't even see it until she had posted about it again yesterday.  I don't know about you, but once the school year starts I can very easily lose sight of anything beyond work and family and it certainly happened to my new blog this year. :-( Well, better late than never I say!

Ok, so there are some rules to follow when you receive the Liebster award.  They are:

*You must post 11 random things about yourself
*Answer the questions the nominator set for you
*Create 11 questions for the people you nominate
*Choose 11 blogs you love (with less than 200 followers) and link them in your post
*No tag back (but it would be great if you can me a comment on this post with the URL to your liebster post so I can learn more about you!)

Last summer I had received the Versatile Blogger award and in those rules, 7 random facts were to be posted.  So I'll start by posting a link to that award then add on 3 more random facts!

11 Random facts about me:

1.-7. Versatile Blogger Award Post - In this post I talk about my husband, my year teaching abroad, my love of scuba diving, where I live, my BA, and a couple more! (including pics!)

8. I just completed the work for National Board Certification. Phew! I'll find out in November if I've passed.  Here's to hoping I wrote well!

9. My mother is from Brazil.  I still have family there but don't get a chance to see them often. :-(

10. If you've been following me on Instagram you would probably already know this...I'm just a few days away from having baby #2! My due date is July 22 but he is measuring big so we scheduled a C-section for the 17th...if I last that long!

11. Probably the most random fact about husband and I are attempting to open a preschool! Our goal is to have it open by September 2013. It is a VERY ambitious undertaking and one that we hope will pay off for both of our children.

OK, now for the questions from Christy:

1. How long have you been teaching?
I am about to start my 14th year.  I can't believe how time has flown by!

2. What is your favorite thing about being a teacher?
I'd say I love when a child has that "a-ha" moment and just flourishes because they finally get it. That is the most rewarding part of teaching!

3. What is your favorite grade to teach?
My favorite grade to teach is kindergarten.  I taught 1st grade for 4 years but eventually ended up back in kinder.  I just love it!

4. What type of lesson planner do you use? (old school paper and pencil or online?)
Up until last year I used old school paper.  Now I do it all in powerpoint.  This year I want to do a visual lesson planner.  I hope to learn how to do it before the baby arrives next week!

5. Do you have any hobbies?
Well, yes I do.  But I don't get to them.  Scrapbooking, scuba diving and traveling.  I've been told I need to squeeze in more time for me...but I really love working with children so that is my stress release right now, whether it be with my class or my son.

6. What is your favorite place to travel?
London.  It's my home away from home.

7. If you were stranded on a desert island tell me 3 things you would take with you.
The 3 things I would take are things that would help me to survive the deserted island!  A toolbox full of tools, emergency medical supplies, and food.  That's boring I know!  But I'd want to be able to live long enough to figure out a way back to my family like Tom Hanks did in Castaway except my family was able to wait for me!

8. What was the last book you read and did you like it?
I usually listen to books on audible while I'm driving to and from work. I can't sit and read for pleasure anymore with a kid at home. So the last book I actually read was The Daily 5 last summer.  I liked it and implemented most of it in my class.  The kids did really well! The last book I listened to was The Host.  I loved The Host and haven't seen the movie yet.  But I'm hoping it doesn't fail my expectations.  The worst thing for me is when they cut so much from the book out to make the movie!

9. What is your favorite food?
Umm, dessert!  I love most desserts!  It's probably why I've got a few extra pounds on me but I seriously have a hard time saying no to cakes, brownies, trifles, anything sweet really!

10. Do you watch TV? If so, what is your favorite show?
I don't watch TV much...can't sit still for long.  But when I do I love to watch Yard Crashers. I don't like my landscaping much so I'm always watching to get ideas to change our yard up.  It's come A LONG way but there is still much to do!

11. What is your favorite app?
I suppose I could say Instagram because I'm always on it!  I love seeing what other bloggers post about whether it be about their lives or about work.

So now for my 11 questions to the 11 new bloggers:

1. How long have you been teaching?
2. Did you always want to be a teacher?  If not, what did you want to do?
3. What is your favorite thing about teaching?
4. How long have you been blogging for?
5. If you could travel anywhere in the world, no expense spared, where would you go?
6. Do you have a favorite techie tool or any techie advice? If yes, what is it?
7.  What is your favorite dessert? (I love dessert!)
8. What is your favorite movie of all time?
9. What is your favorite holiday?
10. Are you a dog person or a cat person?
11. What was your favorite toy or doll from childhood?

And without further ado, here are the 11 blogs I am recommending for the Liebster award!

1. Gluesticks 'N Giggles
2. Diary of a 5th Grade Teacher
3. A Kindergarten Life For Me
4. 2 Preschool Pals
5. Tailor-made Teaching
6. Owl in A Vowel Tree
7. 2 Super Teachers
8. Life in Room 24
9. Whoooo's Ready to Teach
10. History Chalk Talk
11. ~Mrs. Mathis' Homeroom~

Check these ladies out!  Lots of tremendous ideas from them!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013


Hello all!  I finally registered my blog on Bloglovin'.  Since google reader is no longer..most bloggers are moving over to Bloglovin'.  So click the link below to follow me on there! Thanks!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

My Favorite Things #2: Behavior Calendars

My next favorite thing was the behavior calendars I used.  The calendar itself came from Teri at

A Cupcake for the Teacher

Last school year I used her original calendars and really liked the behavior codes she had.  It seemed to really get the point across to the parents.  Although... I have to admit I tended to use #3 (I wasn't following directions) A LOT!

AND since this is California most schools here are not enclosed (rooms open to the outside of the building) we never EVER used #8 which says "I misbehaved in the hallways".  We have no hallways to misbehave in!

Earlier this year she wrote a post about her calendars.  She not only updated them for the 2013-2014 school year but she now has an editable version and a Spanish version! Click on the links below to see her blog post or direct links to her TpT store for each item.

Original Calendar - non-editable

So here's how I set mine up.  First, I used a color file folder.  Next I put a label on the front cover using our school mascot and a space for their name. But since not everyone has an eagle for a mascot I used this adorable space kid!  Here is a link to my eagle label.  I used Avery label's 5168.

I was a bit anxious getting out of school so I had thrown my original out already. These pictures are a mock-up of what it would look like in use.  I had also left my labels at school so I printed on regular paper and used packing tape to affix it to the cover.  I don't like it as much because it's not as uniform and tape can leave a crease if you're not careful (as you can see!).

This next picture is what the calendar would look like.  When the child achieves a white day they use a black crayon to outline the box.  This lets me know that it wasn't a day they forgot to color.  I also forgot to show a sample day of when a child is absent.  They are to write in a capital A on the day they missed.  (If they miss 3 or more days I usually don't allow for a prize.)  I add in a line on the Saturday boxes for the parents to sign.  To make a complete week I'll add in either the beginning of the following month (as you can see at the bottom) or move to the next month and add in the final days of the current month.
When the child has to change to yellow, orange or red I write in the number for the reason that caused them to obtain that color.  Normally I'll talk to the parents that very day when they get a red or if they are consistently changing their card to an undesirable color. 

This picture shows how I note that those days were already accounted for during the July calendar page.  I just put a large X and don't start the parent signature line until the following week.

Here is a picture of the parent explanation letter. I did have to trim the white edges so it would fit better.  I usually put in 2 - one in English and one in Spanish.  I don't double side because it is stapled in.
 I copied most of the text from the pocket chart explanation I got at Lakeshore.  The Lakeshore pocket chart starts at green and goes down to red.

I didn't like that the children started at the top and never had a chance to move up. So I added blue and white colors that allowed the kids to move up from green.

It seems Teri from A Cupcake for the Teacher didn't like that either! This blog post of hers from May explains how she changed it up as well.  The calendars I use are the ones she offers for free.  But as you saw earlier in my post she now has other options and those are available in her TpT store.

So how can my students earn a blue or a white?

Blue is the first step above green.  I tell my students that they can move up here when I see them making good choices.  That can be anything like, helping a friend in need, getting a pencil themselves without asking me (solving their own problems), sitting and ready to learn more than once, etc.  By the end of the year I change it up a bit to motivate them even more.  I tell them that if the whole class stays on green EVERYONE will get blue.  And if it continues for the following day EVERYONE will move to white.  If the class, as a whole, can achieve white they get a pizza party!  But inevitably, as you can imagine, there is the "one"! So it took my class a REALLY long time to achieve this goal.  It wasn't until the 2nd to last week that they were able to earn a pizza party, which meant my planned pizza party became a reward!  Woo-hoo!

OK, so finally white.  What do the students have to do to get white? White is when they are consistently making good choices.  This is your child who is often moving to blue.  She/he is typically reliable, responsible, independent and helpful.  These kids who reach white get an immediate reward from me.  This past year I had what I called the "big prize".  It was reserved for those who got white.  Since our school is Title 1 we qualify for a lot of aide.  So the Molina Foundation had our teachers come over to their warehouse and take as much as we wanted!  I got enough Scholastic books to last me the ENTIRE school year!  This was their "big prize".  Of course when I changed it up to the whole class needing to be on white the big prize changed to the pizza party.

And lastly, the students get a prize for taking it home and having it signed by their parents.  I give them 2 picks from my treasure box if they achieved an "all green or better" week and if they happened to get a yellow, orange or red the students can still pick 1 treasure from the box for at least getting it signed.  I decided to reward them for getting their parents signature because it rewards them for having a discussion with their parents about what happened that particular day.

Now if a child is changing to yellow, orange or red on a regular basis I change up their calendar a little bit.  I draw 2 horizontal lines in each calendar week.  This breaks up their day into 3 equal parts.  This allows them to see that they are getting green some of the time and it has actually helped to motivate them to do better!  And it let the parents know that their kid wasn't always making bad choices...that sometimes is just as important as helping the kid to feel better about himself isn't it?

I hope this post helps you to refine your communication with the parents about their child's behavior or has given you a new method to it!  It's worked wonderfully for me and I hope it will for you!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

My Favorite Things #1: Daily Calendar

So now that summer is here and my national board process is nearly complete I thought I'd take some time to share what products I used and LOVED from TpT.  My absolute favorites were things I used daily.  Every morning I start off with attendance and calendar.  For years I stood at the calendar bulletin board and somewhere mid-year I could tell the kids lost interest with the monotony of it and had trouble with understanding calendar concepts...such as today, tomorrow, yesterday, where is Monday, etc.  I tried having helpers, so they could take ownership of it.  But that didn't seem to engage them after awhile.  So next I tried to change it up with different songs. Nope, that didn't work either.  Then I got a smartboard and while that was exciting for awhile it also was something that by mid-year bored them from monotony that information was not retaining. So last fall I came across this product and it has made a WORLD of difference in my class!  

Just click on the highlighted words above to connect directly to the product on TpT or her blog name to read her wonderful blog.  The front cover label I made on the Avery label website.  I used Avery label 5168.  Here is a link to the one I created: Calendar Label
 I put together these calendar binders for each student to use.  They LOVED having their very own calendar to follow.  It was something that they could each interact with.  

Here's my class procedure:
1. I put the days of the week and months of the year mini-charts in a sheet protector and we sang a months of the year song and a days of the week song using them.

 2. Next we would turn the page and talk about what number day of school it was.  We would color in one box in a ten frame.  When we reached 10 or a multiple of 10 we would write the number.  That way as the year progressed we could count by 10s quickly and easily by reading the numbers, not just the 10 frames.

At the end of the school year I had the children write it the numbers for the last 30 days of school.  This way we could keep track faster of how many days were left in school.  The end of the year is always rushed, isn't it?!

3. Then we would turn to the month page. The pages come blank.  But since this is kindergarten I idd the following:  Each month we filled in the numbers on the first day of the month.  For August the numbers were there for them (we start mid-August) In September I had the children trace the numbers.  In October and November they copied me as I wrote the numbers.  Each month's beginning we discuss where to start numbering and what number to stop with.  Once we have completed that (this takes a long time in the beginning of the year) we then circle the day it is.  It helps the children to see where today is, what was yesterday and what tomorrow will be.

From the previous picture and this one you can see we either drew pictures to denote holidays or used stickers.  They preferred the stickers obviously!

4. Next stop in their folders was the lost tooth tally. Whenever a student excitedly came to school telling us they lost a tooth we'd make a mark for them.  They LOVED this too!  But finding it was difficult.  So I eventually put little tabs to help them find it quickly. Everyone had the same color so I could say, "turn to the green tab."

5.  Second to last stop was the birthday page.  I also put a tab on this page so they could turn to it quickly.  As a child had a birthday we'd write their name in as part of their birthday celebration for the day.  The child could come up and tell us what letters to write for their name over the class microphone.

6. The last stop in our calendar binders was the weather page.  I teach in California, 10 blocks away from the port of Los Angeles so as you can imagine, sunny days is the norm here!  We often had to go to a second page to continue our graph which would create problems for them visually.  Later in the school year I contacted Jeannie from Kindergarten Lifestyle and she created a special page just for me!  It had twice the number of boxes for the kids to color in.  It worked out so much better and used so much less paper.  Something we all need to worry about with budget cuts, right?!  At the end of the month we would color the winning type of weather and of course sunny won a majority of the time.  I think we had one month where cloudy actually beat sunny!  We were all surprised!  

My students really knew calendar well by the end of the year.  I could talk about days of the week and events that were going to be upcoming and they all seemed to understand well enough to not ask, "when is that?" or  "what's next?"  Jeannie has since updated the product so if you purchase it today it might look slightly different than what I've got pictured.  I loved how independent it made my students and highly recommend this product to any kindergarten teacher!

Monday, February 18, 2013

100th Day Fun

So this post may be a little late for most of you but I'm hoping it can inspire those of you who still have a 100th day to come or maybe for next year!

Our 100th day started off with a fun little entryway for them!

That gum ball machine on the door was a fun little activity we actually never got to.  I was going to kick off counting by 5s by having each child add 5 bingo marker dots to equal 100. (Yes, I'm still at 20 to 1 - so lucky!)  I kept it up for a week afterwords hoping every day we'd get to it but them I had a workshop in my classroom and I didn't want unfinished work up and in view of all the teachers so I took it down. If you teach kindergarten you know that counting by 5s is a 1st grade standard so I usually hold off until I know they have a good grasp of counting by 10s and 1s.  I probably carry the counting to 1s too far since the common core standard says they only need to count to 20 but I'd like them to at least get to 50 comfortably. I spend this last term practicing the counting of 5s and 2s in preparation for 1st.

Once they were all settled in I read "The Wolf's Chicken Stew" by Keiko Kasza.  I LOVE this book. The end just melts my heart!  The wolf is trying to fatten up the chicken for a tastier stew so he brings her 100 baked things each day to her house.  Then the day he decides she should be plump enough to eat he gets a sweet surprise!

Next we prepared to go outside and do a kindergarten-wide PE of 100 things!  The kids had SOOOO much fun!  We have 9 kindergarten classes, YES 9.  We are all at 20 to 1 so that is a total of 180 students in kindergarten alone.  All schools in our local community are this big so as you can imagine there are a LOAD of kids in the neighborhood!

Each teacher took 1 station and we had a parent volunteer help us with the 10th station.  At each station the kids performed an activity 10 times.  The end result was doing 100 things!  We had a checkoff list as well for the kids to wear around their necks.  Once they completed a station the teacher marked it off and they moved on to the next station of their choice.  Here's the different activities they did:

Station 1: make 10 baskets
 The only problem with this station is it took WAY too long.  We needed more basketball hoops. So next year we are going to use laundry baskets and smaller balls.  Hopefully that will relieve the lines on this one!

Station 2: jump over a rope 10 times

Station 3: do 10 push ups

Station 4: do 10 sit ups

Station 5: do 10 jumping jacks (Yikes!  the only station I didn't get a picture of!)

Station 6: run for 10 seconds

Station 7: throw and catch a bean bag 10 times

Station 8: hula hoop obstacle - step/walk/run through 10 hoops laid on the floor (but obviously we only had 5 hoops so 5 more had to be drawn in chalk!)

Station 9: bounce a ball 10 times

Station 10: hop on 1 foot 10 times

Once all this fun was done it was time for recess!  This took us a good hour.

After recess I set up stations and for next year I've decided I won't do stations.  They LOVED it but not having any aide and no parents being able to come help really made stations difficult for me.  I had to explain everything before I sent them off and that took up WAY too much time.  Then while they were busy working I had to run from station to station to help kids out.  Never again without help!!!  To top it off, most couldn't even get through 2 stations by the end of the day.  We finished up our activities the next day and whatever they didn't get to they could take home.

Here is what the different stations were:

Draw what you would eat 100 of...

Fruit Loop necklaces!

Here is some of the kids who actually were able to finish the day of...
I ask them to count by color then use the separator numbers to thread them on.

Write/draw on a mock $100 bill - If I had $100 I would buy...

Color in the objects then count them up.  They equal 100!

By far the hardest one...write you name over and over on a blank 100 chart then color each letter of your name a different color and watch how the pattern develops!

Make a hat using 100 stickers! We didn't have time to make them look like crowns but they LOVED the wiggly stems of the hat.

Lastly, we also had write numbers to 100 in 100 hearts. But again another activity I didn't get a picture of!

All in all it was a fantastically fun day for kids and the teachers!