Sunday, October 12, 2014

Weekend Stories

Happy Columbus Day!

Hopefully, you have Columbus Day as a holiday from school, and you're using the day to find new awesomeness on blog-world and TPT. Or if you're lucky like me, you get to go to work as a Teacher Work-Day. I'm all for a break (I started teaching in 2010 when budgets were at an all-time low, and I was used to receiving a million furlough days), but now I'm just grateful that I'm getting paid to wear jeans and attend a few workshops tomorrow! And HEY! One less day for lesson planning :)

Okay so either way..... I'm here to share a new product with you. I've done Weekend Stories for a couple of years with my first graders, and I've seen so much progress after comparing stories from week to week.

Now this year, I'm teaching a 3rd grade Writing group, and I've had to differentiate the task so that they do not get away with the bare minimum! Also, the pace of the 3rd grade writing curriculum is so fast, that we don't have time to do this task every week. However, it's always good to do every once in a while, or once per month.

For me, it's a great work sample to use for data collection, since so many of my kiddos have needs in writing. For you, it may even be a great sample to hold on to and compare one from the beginning of the year to one towards the end of the year. However you choose, I think this will be great for you to use to differentiate whether you are teaching regular-ed 1st, 2nd, or special education 1-5th grades.

This product includes the following:
- 3 graphic organizers for different levels
- 3 content checklists for different levels (two copies on each page)
- 1 editing checklist (four copies per page)
- 3 styles of writing paper (you can use this as the final OR rough draft - whichever you choose)

Please click the picture below to find it at my store, and let me know what you think!

Graphic Organizer #1: Lowest Level

Lowest Level Checklist

Graphic Organizer #2: Middle Level

Graphic Organizer #3: Highest Level

Highest Level Checklist

Lowest level Handwriting Paper

Highest level Handwriting Paper

I hope you enjoy this product as much as I do! Let me know your thoughts,

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

2nd grade Reading Response Journals

Hey Everyone!

Happy Hump Day!!

I have SO many fun things that I am currently working on! My "TPT in progress folder" has too many things going on at once!

SO I'm here to talk about Journals today. Now that I survived my first year in a new teaching position, new school, new district, new house, everything, etc. I decided to "up my game" this year when it comes to accommodating student handouts. My first HUGE task at hand has been making printables for my 2nd grade reading class response journals.

Skill: Locating words that tell about the setting of a story, and using evidence to support
After seeing an overwhelming amount of sadly overwhelmed second graders when it came to reading response journal time, I quickly picked up on the fact that some students were unable to figure out where to write the title and date, let alone draw a T-chart and follow the prompt (of course, some tried really hard and did really well. But I was not allowed to leave any child behind). I immediately began making handouts that they could fold and glue to their journals. They were differentiated so some students who were more independent could actually fill out both columns themselves. Then I realized... with the GA Milestones test coming up in the spring, we really need to work on supporting evidence and reasoning.

So then - the guided reading response journal idea was born. My co-teacher and I got together one afternoon and listed 7 different skills to work on for the remainder of the 9 weeks. We would practice them in my group so that once they learned it with me, they could do it independently during their day to read to self. We co-plan weekly, so at the end of this unit, we will brainstorm the next skillset. 

With my new motor running, I eagerly started them a couple of weeks ago, but it took me weeks to see each group due to testing, early release days, etc. However, I did get a couple of pictures to share with you! 

Skill: Asking thoughtful questions before, during, and after reading. 

Another example

 I'm now putting final touches on my first unit. If you like what you see, please comment below with your name and email address (or email me personally at and I will email you the ENTIRE unit for FREE, to get your feedback before it hits my store this weekend.  

Deal?! You get to KEEP it. For Free. Just promise me to leave your feedback within one week! 

Now ....... please keep in mind, I am a new blogger! I've been accommodating assignments for YEARS, but finally now just getting around to jumping into this business, which is why I need your help! I'll take the first 5 people who contact me, so please don't hesitate. You get the product for free, you get to look over it and try it out with your own kiddos if you like! 

Also, I must add. These journals are not like any others that you've seen. I've taken time to make several differentiated versions, and labeled each at the top with an "A, B, C" etc. Some are made for students that need larger lines. Some are made with sentence starters. Some are more open-ended. It really depends on the skill. 

These are geared towards the 2nd grade curriculum, and currently I use them with the entire general education class. Some students need the step-by-step practice, and some don't. But everyone can use a little interactive~ness in their journal responding! ;) Dont'cha think?

Can't wait to hear your thoughts!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Writing Across the Curriculum

Ever stress out and wonder how you're going to fit all of that JAM-PACKED curriculum into your busy schedule? Then figure out how to differentiate and give some kids an extra boost?

Well... I can't say that I'm here to solve all your problems... but... this unit is like a 3-in-one!

I feel like I've been creating a lot of graphic organizers lately for my high-functioning kiddos, so I thought I'd start sharing them, and see what you guys think!

So I adapted a writing assignment for a 3rd grade social studies unit about Georgia Habitats and made a graphic organizer and checklist to help our visual learners organize their thoughts. My new product is great for all learners, but it is PERFECT for students who have frequent "writer's block" or executive functioning weaknesses.

The assignment: Students must choose a habitat to write about, then write a friendly letter, with facts that they've researched about their habitat, and persuade parents with reasons why they should visit, or write their teacher explaining why it is the best habitat.

The skills practiced in this unit:
- Expressing opinions
- Supporting their reasons with evidence from informational text
- Organizing ideas in 4-square
- Writing interesting topic and closing sentences
- Using a checklist to increase independence and direction-following

What's included:
- 4-square organizer (for GA habitat or any habitat in other regions of the US)
- checklist with all components needed for writing the friendly letter with sentence starters!

You may pick up this FREEBIE for a limited time by clicking on the picture of the cover page above or right HERE.

Thanks for stopping by! Have a great week, and don't forget to leave your feedback!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Organizing my Classroom!

Our school was open yesterday (yes, on a Saturday) so that teachers could prepare for Parent-Teacher Conferences next week. So while I was there prepping my stuff, I decided to spend a couple of hours organizing! Whew, it feels so much better! Here's a tour:

Classroom Supplies:

This wooden shelf holds the construction paper, various styles of handwriting paper, and buckets of "Fun Friday" activities (dry erase center, fine motor center, pattern blocks, unifix cubes, toy cars, and coloring books)

The blue mailbox above holds various teaching materials on the right column. The left column is for finished work (each student has a number) that needs to be graded. The middle column is for work that needs to be finished. It's a great system for figuring out who needs to finish what. 

There are regular and mini-sized clipboards next to the mailbox. 

From top left to bottom left: Pencils & erasers, colored pencils, sticky notes, crayons, scissors & glue, index cards.
From top right to bottom right: Thin markers, thick markers, dry erase markers, stickers/rewards, magnet center, chalkboard center.
On top: Thick pencils (left), Ready-to-write regular pencils, battery-operated pencil sharpener, and pencils that need to be sharpened.

 Above: A picture of the markers drawer! Sooooo organized! I'm obsessed!

 Storage Cabinet #1:  

 (I wish I had taken before-pictures! Everything was scattered all over the place, and things were shoved in on top of other things, and it was AWFUL!)
Top Shelf:  Since our room is used for Lunch Bunch, we NEED paper towels, wipes, and sanitizer. I also keep plastic cups on hand for different activities and bucket filling. :) 

2nd Shelf Down: Card games & flash cards

3rd Shelf Down: Board games for Lunch Bunch!

Storage Cabinet #2: 

Top Shelf: Crafts Materials (foam materials, tissue paper, confetti & ribbon)
2nd Shelf Down: Stuff for bulletin boards, timers, Notepads, and Various Teacher Supplies & Sentence strips

3rd Shelf Down: Stamps & Pipe Cleaners, batteries, extra staples, craft sticks, thumb tacks, hot glue guns, clothes pins, teacher scissors, and tape
4th Shelf Down: Playdough kit, paint brushes, shaving cream & Modeling clay, Teacher markers/pens, stamps

 Well, that's a sneak peak into my cabinets! Now... On to making labels!! Whew! What's behind yours?

Monday, September 8, 2014

Now presenting............

The Grand Opening of my TPT Store!!!

I've had ideas flowing all summer, and I've finally taken the time to pull it all together! First, I would like to share with you my *FIRST TPT PRODUCT!!* 
I use this 5-star Leader Poster Pack to provide a visual for my rules and expectations. The 5-Star Leader Program uses a mnemonic device to remember the expectations: 
S= Stay positive (Always bring a positive attitude to class!)
T= Try your best (Never be discouraged!)
A= And participate while following directions (You must participate AND follow directions! It's two different points! That's how it adds up to a 5-point star!)
R= ...Respectfully and Responsibly (You need to be respectful and responsible at all times!)

During my social skills classes, that I call Lunch Bunch, I use a self-monitoring positive reinforcement system to keep kids accountable for their behavior, while rewarding them for making good choices. In Lunch Bunch, everyone "wins" regardless of how many points they earn. The prizes are ranked, so that they can usually earn something (as long as they earn at least 5 points). Usually, this system works well enough that it's easy to earn the maximum number of points. However, when a kid is having a rough day, this system reminds them to improve on a certain skill so that they can earn the desired prize next time. 

Setting up for Lunch Bunch! Students pick a sheet and a twistable crayon, write their name & date, then color their score for the day!

Below is a picture of the self-monitoring sheet that I use. I copy them on colored paper, and then slice them on the dashed lines. My groups come to me twice each week (either Monday/Wednesday or Tuesday/Thursday) so I have a separate format for each. The kids are taught to color in their score, so if they earned all 5, then they color in the number 5. On the second day, they add their points up, and prizes are as follows: 

This is the MW self-monitoring sheet. **FYI: There is also a TT template, as well as a 5-day template if you want to use it for a group that you have every day. 

Available Prizes (organized in Drawers): 
5 points = 1 sticker
8 points = washable tattoo
9 points = pencil/eraser prize
10 points = STAR SLIP (A PBS System that my whole school go nuts over them, which makes them EXTREMELY desirable!)

Here's a sneak peek of what's included when you purchase this packet! Click the picture to get it from my store!


For the next month, I am giving it away FOR ONLY $1! I want users to try it out and give me feedback for this system, so the price will increase on 10/8/14. Please, please, PLEASE help me out and let me know what you think!

While you're visiting  my store...

Please check out my new freebie! (Click the picture below to find it at my store)

Please be mindful that these are the very first products that I am posting in my store, and the best way to help a new Teacher-Author out, is to give feedback! 

Thank you all for your help in supporting a new TPT Teacher-Author!! :)

Thursday, July 24, 2014

TBT: Our Wedding....

*One Year Anniversary* 

So we just had our first wedding anniversary on Monday (we spent the weekend in Asheville to get out of the new house and celebrate, so that was VERY nice)!! In honor of our recent anniversary, I thought I'd complete a #THROWBACKTHURSDAY post to share a few wedding ideas and pictures with you!! Sorry it only took a year, but I hope you enjoy it! 

The Destination: We decided on the Beloved Hotel at Playa Mujeres (a few miles north of Cancun), Mexico. It was an all-inclusive resort, which was absolutely amazing.

The Party Favors: 

If you could zoom in, it says: "Don't be blinded by our love; take some shades!" The baskets were rented from the hotel, so I didn't have to bring them from home. One basket contains sunglasses, and the other holds handheld battery - operated fans (This was inspiration from a cousin's outdoor wedding). They were bought from Oriental Trading, and very cheap.

These were also from Oriental Trading. I saved the ones that were left over for the treasure box in my classroom :)

The Guest Book: 

$4 from Walmart. I bought a frame, and will {one day} place our picture in it to put up on the wall. This *amazingly* fit flat in the suitcase and was never ruined! :) 

The Wedding Party Gifts: 

Spanish Phrases for Dummies!! (We were in Mexico...) These were $1 each - impulse buy from Office Depot. I bought like 20 of them, lol!! 
Yes, I had to pack one full suitcase for wedding accessories and gifts. They couldn't be assembled until we got there. The girls received custom t-shirts for our morning brunch, the necklaces and earrings to wear for the ceremony, and a cute little personalized poem. I also bought their hair and makeup at the spa, for their main gift, because the jewelry was VERY cheap. They knew about their gifts ahead of time :) but the t-shirts were a surprise. The boys received a "coupon" for one 30-minute jet-ski session with the groom. Yes, that was his idea. That's what he wanted to do. Then, of course, everyone got the Spanish for Dummies book  :) along with a pair of matching sunglasses to wear during the sunny ceremony (I couldn't survive without glasses outside, so I didn't expect anyone else to either)

Everybody's role in the wedding party (bridesmaid, maid of honor, mother of bride/groom) is listed on the front with our wedding date in the middle (7*21*13)

The numbers on the back made an excellent guessing game! It's equal to the number of years I've known that person. My mom=my whole life. LOL. And my number stands for the number of years I've been waiting to be "Mrs. Kramer" (the number of years since we met. lol) and I met the Mother-in-law one year after we started dating (only because she lives in NY)

The bouquets: 

The four girls had a mixture of yellow & white roses with white ribbon. Mine was the opposite - mostly yellow with some white roses mixed in, but with yellow ribbon. I didn't want a white bouquet for me, and yellow for the girls, because then it wouldn't stand out from our dresses. This was the PERFECT blend.

The centerpieces: 
These were *Very* Cheap. I made the print outs, brought the ribbon with me, and cut the bows after we arrived. The white flowers were made from tissue paper, and the vases were pop-out cardboard (All was packed flat, and then assembled when we arrived). That set came from Party City. The yellow flowers are artificial flowers from Wal*mart (99 cents per piece!) Bringing these from home saved me about $600 (at least) versus paying for real floral centerpieces. 

The dancing shoes!

Flipflops: $3 from Old Navy. Stickers from walmart, stuck on with modge podge and extra tape for just in case!

My Something's: I never did get a picture, but my something new was my tiara, which perfectly matched my something old - my grandmother's bracelet and my something borrowed - one of my bridesmaid's earrings that she wore on her wedding day. My something blue was my garter - which was from Walmart. I didn't care that it was under $5 and I knew my husband wouldn't, either! lol

The boy's suits: The boys wore Sean Jean separates (from Macy's). We got them on sale, and each groomsmen (and my dad) only paid around $60 for a matching set of gray/plaid dress pants and vest. They all were kindly asked to wear a white button down, black shoes and socks (just for the ceremony).

The trial hair-do at a local salon: With my wedding being a destination, I did a trial hair style with Taylor Brooks Salon. They were awesome, and I went right after my birthday, so I used my $20 off coupon :)

The blog/wedding website update before the trip: This site was super easy to use, and I was very impressed with out great it turned out!

The silly father/daughter dance routine: Since I have been a "Daddy's Girl" since Day #1, I knew I need to do an upbeat song to eliminate tears. So I started with a slow-dance (instrumental version of the Dirty Dancing Song: I've Had the Time of My Life), and created a custom choreographed dance to a custom set of clipped songs. So our slow-dance quickly transitioned after about 30 seconds, and we broke the ice with "Do You Love Me?" (Now that I can dance... HEY!) by the Contours, and a few other fun dance songs including the Cotton Eyed Joe and the Chicken Dance, ending with "We Are Family" as our finale. It was the best start to an amazing reception, and it really set the mood for the whole night.

The songs that I requested for everything! First dance, perfect! Cake song, perfect! Bouquet toss, Garter toss, Walk-out songs, perfect, perfect, PERFECT! I honestly started thinking of songs WAY in advance. Fortunately, my sister-in-law got engaged a couple of weeks before us and she had her wedding in March. Her music was so awesome throughout the entire ceremony & reception, that I thought about the songs for my wedding the entire 9-hour car ride home. And I continued thinking about it during every jog that I took. I tuned into particular Pandora stations (oldies), thinking songs may pop up that would be perfect. On spring break, I officially started organizing a list on a Google Drive document, that could be updated on my cell whenever and wherever I was. I also started searching daddy-daughter dance routines, and formed the entire ensemble myself (with a little help from a friend ;) hehe).

Piece of Advice:  Honestly, they say that wedding planning is REALLY stressful, and time consuming. For me, it really wasn't that bad. I maybe had 30 emails back-and-forth with my planner, and never spoke to him on the phone. He broke the process up into bearable sections. I would think and plan ideas in my head for weeks before I got back to him. When we finalized one decision, he would pick something else. Yes, it was a LOT of decisions (which is difficult for someone like me), but I did have a vision in my head, and I took my time (it took all 7 months to get everything straight), and it really came together in the end. 
The most important thing is to visualize your perfect day over and over. The more visualizing you do, the more it comes together, and the more you enjoy it when it all does come together. I envisioned my dream day every morning when I woke up, when I went to work out, and when I went to bed. I am so glad that everything worked out perfectly, but I don't think I would have been so pleased if it wasn't for all of the planning I had done in my head.

Our photographer made a very awesome slideshow of all of our wedding pictures, and you can see that video here:

So after everything, I don't think anything could have POSSIBLY been more perfect for us. I wish I could re-live those moments over and over again. Every girl (and guys too, I suppose) deserves that happiness on their wedding day! Please let me know if you have ANY questions about my planning, budgeting, or wedding that I didn't cover here (I started to slack with the details at the end, but thanks for sticking with me)! I'd be HAPPY to help, and especially happy to help make others' dreams come true, like mine did at the Beloved Hotel on 07.21.2013 ....