Cheap Ideas for Engaging Your Students!

Y'all, I seriously do not know how we are already in the month of November! I feel like we were just starting school and now we are a few months in and time is FLYING by! 

I just wanted to stop in for a few **quick** tips for engaging your students. We all know how impossible it seems to create engaging lessons for our kids. It seems expensive and {quite honestly} too hard to accomplish. BUT, there are several different things you can do to engage your students on the cheap!

First, I have to say that Dollar Tree should be your best friend!! Everything is seriously a dollar (sometimes less) and is so doable on a teacher budget. I frequent Dollar Tree probably WAY more than I should! This October I went to buy some things to really engage my kids during our last week before Halloween. 

Some of the cheap things I bought were spider webs (they looked so real), streamers, candy corn, giant spiders, silly string, and supplies for a candy corn experiment. I came into school early one morning and with the help of my amazing student teacher we changed the room into a "spooky lab/classroom". This all cost me about $10. And it was so worth every penny! 

We put up the spider webs all over the room and hung streamers from the ceiling. I played some spooky (kid friendly) Halloween music in the background via Spotify and we had a blast! The kids were so engaged as we did our candy corn experiments. I loved hearing them speak in terms I typically would not have heard! It was a great time to bring some science into our day and to get them thinking. 

Now, this next idea is just ingenious. I have some seriously talented teacher friends who are kind enough to share their awesome ideas with me. This one came from one of my teaching BFF's Natalia. If you don't follow her on Instagram (@tictacteach123) or TpT you should go do that now! She came up with the idea to tell the kids to close their eyes and pretend they woke up stuck in a spider web. The kids had to write about what that would be like and think of questions to ask a spider. When the kids had their eyes closed and were envisioning themselves in a spider web she suddenly said wake up and sprayed them with silly string (which feels so much like being stuck in a spider web!). My kids went absolutely nuts over this. It created lots of interest for writing and was so easy for me to do! Here are some pictures from one of our days! :)

Y'all stay tuned.. I'm sure I will be back with some Dollar Tree goodness for November! Happy Teaching! <3


Fall Blog Hop!

Wow! Am I the only one or has life been nuts for everyone?! We started school back in July and it seems like these past few months have flown by! However, this is one thing I am so excited to be apart of! I loveeeee the friends I've made on my TpT journey. They have become so dear to me. So, this is an exciting time to start a new collaborative blog with my Punchbowl friends and do a little blog hop! (Yes, there will be prizes!!)

Fall is seriously one of my most favorite times of year! I love doing different arts and crafts with my kiddos. As well as having our awesome 2 week fall break! :) Here is one of my favorite activities to do with my kid during the fall months- Dissolving Pumpkin Candy Corn! 

So, here is what you'll need. 
Pumpkin Candy Corn
Plastic Cups

Basically this science experiment speaks for itself. You are seeing how the candy corn pumpkins break down in different substances. Typically, I pair my kiddos up and let them work this in groups. They have a recording sheet to record their observations. You could totally turn this in to a writing activity too :)

It's freebie time!!! So my freebie is one I've had in my store for a while. During the fall season I teach my kids about the genre of a Biography. I came up with the idea last year of letting my kids become authors and write a biography about another friend in class! It turned out to be a huge success and I was so happy I did it! Click HERE to get this freebie! Here are a few pictures of it in action with my own kiddos.

Well if this doesn't get you excited I don't know what will!! I am super excited to have 4 featured items that will be on sale during our blog hop! 

The first two are my Place Value Memory Match Game and my Root Word Memory Match Game. Both of these have proven to be fun and engaging for my students and great for review! I typically will use these in a small group setting during our center rotation time for math or language. They have worked great! 


My next item on sale will be my Study the States resource. For our standards in 2nd grade, we are supposed to cover different states in the U.S. This has helped me so much in teaching the different states! My kids enjoy making the different state books and sharing new "facts" with their friends. 

Finally, my Rockstar Telling Time Unit will be on sale. This has been such a fun way to aid in teaching time with my kiddos. They seem to really enjoy the rockstar theme and getting to channel their inner rockstar! :)

And now on to the best part... a giveaway!! I am giving away a $10 TpT gift card! After going and reading all these other great blog posts, you're going to want to win this!! Just fill out the Rafflecopter below! :)
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Make sure you go visit all the other blog posts! Freebies and giveaways on each blog! 


Interactive Moon Writing with FREEBIE!

Wow... I can't believe summer is already over and I've been back at school for about 3 weeks! I am loving my new group of 2nd graders and excited to see what this year brings! 

One goal I had for myself this year was to really try to "set the stage" for my kids. I've taken much more consideration into decorations (I promise to have a Classroom Reveal blogpost soon :))  and different ways I can truly engage my students. 

I know writing isn't a fun thing for most teachers to teach, myself included. It's really hard to get my students to think creatively and put their thoughts down on paper. So for my first writing project with my kiddos I knew I was going to have to get creative.. so we took a trip to the moon!

I know what you're thinking... setting the stage can be so expensive, but thats so not true! I spent $0 during this project. Could I have made it a little more extensive? Of course! But, I was thinking on my feet and just went with the flow. Here's what I did:

 First, I cut the lights in my classroom and told my students to close their eyes. 
Next, I pulled up a picture of the moon on my Promethean Board. 
Then, I turned on some "space music". (I found this by typing in space noise on YouTube)
Finally, I gave my students their prompt. I told them to imagine winning a trip to the moon with their family. I let them think of different questions they would need to ask, things they would need to pack and how they would travel. 

They REALLY got into this. I had kids writing front and back on a piece of paper I gave them. Now, I did stress that spelling wasn't that important this time as long as they could get thoughts down on paper. I was really amazed with how it went. Simple, easy and extremely effective! 

Now onto the FREEBIE! I've created a simple file for recording their writing. Feel free to download and use! I'm excited to see how this works in your classroom! 

Thanks for stopping by! I hope everyone is having a great start to school! (Or enjoying the last few weeks of summer!)

The Book Whisperer - Chapter 3

Where has the first half of my summer gone?! I have been so busy the first 3 weeks of summer.. any only 3 more left to go! :(

I have been doing a book study along with some other fabulous ladies this summer. If you haven't heard of the The Book Whisperer then you are in luck! You get to hear all about it this summer with us! I have been blown away thus far by Donalyn Miller's accounts of turning her students into readers. If you get the chance, I would grab a copy of this book immediately. I've already got some good ideas for next year!

Haven't we all felt that stress? The stress of somehow finding time to fit in our love of reading with our students? I know I have. So many times during my first 2 years of teaching I've WANTED to fit in free reading in my classroom and so WANTED my students to love it as much as I do. However, that is much easier said than done. During the first two chapters of the book, Donalyn went into great detail of how she made mistakes which led her to figuring out how to instill a love of reading in her students. If you haven't read the first two blog posts in this book study series, you can find those on Diana's Blog and on Jessica's Blog.

In Chapter 3, Donalyn talks about finding a time and a place for reading. While I was reading this I thought to myself... DUH! It really is THAT simple. Often times, I think we make "fitting in" that reading time much more difficult than it is actually meant to be. Donalyn gave some awesome ideas of when to fit in reading during your week. 

1. Classroom Interruptions

We teachers know these all to well. The drop in of a colleague. Call from the office. Parent on the phone. Student getting sick. There are so many things that interrupt our class time on a daily basis! I know I had always known that it would be best if my students knew exactly what to do during these times, but I never really put it into practice. Donalyn's classroom looks very different from mine. She has middle school students while I have elementary students. I know my students could master this but it would take some definite prompting and modeling from me. 

PLUS, wouldn't it be nice not to worry about watching the students and dealing with the interruption?! I know it would be for me!

2. Bell Ringers and Warm-Ups

Oh yes, we've all done it. Printed out mass copies of "morning work" (or busy work) to get our students going the minute they walk into our classroom. Now, don't get me wrong. There are definitely times when I need to do that to help my students practice a skill. But more often than not, I don't use the morning work for anything other than getting their brains going. Reading a book in the morning would be a great solution for me. Again, it would take some modeling with my new 2nd graders but could be so beneficial. 

3. When Students Are Done

We've all got those dreaded early finishers! I have never figured out what exactly is the most productive thing to do with those students. Many people have charts that explain what to do when you're done or folders for students to practice skills already learned. However, I feel almost like I'm punishing my students for finishing early. Donalyn explained she felt the same way and began to notice students who typically finished early would take more time so they didn't have to do extra work. I love the idea of my students grabbing their book and finishing up some reading rather than doing more busy work.

PLUS, who wants to put together an extra pack of work for students on top of the regular planning?! Not this girl!

4. Picture Day

If you teach a middle school grade, this might be more of an issue for you. However, my entire class goes at one time to get their pictures made. It typically doesn't take us that long to get through the process and get back to class. But, if your students are going to be sitting while waiting for others to get done, reading a book would be a fabulous option! 

5. Library Time

Again, this isn't really an issue for me. Our library time is put into our encore or specials schedule. If you are in a school where you have a scheduled time to take your students to the library then this would be a great opportunity to let your students read a book or help them choose a book!

Now to move on to the second part of this chapter, A Place to Read. As a 2nd grade teacher it is really important to me that I create an atmosphere for reading. I want my students to have that one place in the room where they feel comfortable and want to relax and read. I have tried my best to create that reading nook the past 2 years (not to much avail). I see all these amazing classrooms and think why isn't my classroom the same?! 
Donalyn explains that its not so much the area as it is the atmosphere. It was so helpful for me to read that. If I set the example for my students that reading can take place ANYWHERE at ANY TIME they will be more apt to read a book anywhere in my classroom. Although I am still going to try to perfect my nook, I know that that isn't what it's all about. 

This book study has been so much fun for me. Donalyn has taught me so much about creating readers, improving readers and letting them read! I am finally feeling like my love of reading can come across to my students and that is something to be excited about! 

Thanks for reading my summary to Chapter 3 of The Book Whisperer! Be sure to link up and go read everyone else's blog post! 


Tell All Tuesday: Summer Snapshot

I am so excited to link up with so many of my sweet blogger friends for the second Tell All Tuesday! Thanks so much to Diana and Jayme for coming up with this idea! I have loved reading everyone's Two Truths and Lie from last week! 

This weeks topic is Summer Snapshot!

It's Tuesday which means it is time for Tell all Tuesday.  This week our topic is Summer Snapshot.  Read below and join in on the fun!

We are definitely in a summer state of mind.  This week our topic is called "Summer Snapshot" Think about a favorite summer memory current or new and post a picture or two about it. It could be a favorite summer trip, activity, or spot that you enjoy.  We can't wait to see and read all about your summer adventures.  

Here's how to join in on the fun:
1. Grab the picture and banner above and use it to link back to this post on your blog.
2. Write a post about the topic of the week.  
This week is: Summer Snapshot!
3. Add your link below.
4. Advertise your post using any social media of your choice.

Summer Snapshot

So, it is hard to choose just one picture that defines a favorite memory from summer! However, I am gonna go with one of my absolute favorite summer memories - my honeymoon! 2 years ago JB and I got the incredible chance to spend some time in Jamaica. It was the most beautiful place I have ever been. Crystal clear waters and the kindest people. If you ever get the chance, go! I can't wait to go back again someday! 

Join in on the fun and link up with us! Can't wait to see your favorite Summer Snapshot!


Blog Reveal!

So, you must have noticed my super cute new blog template... I am totally obsessed! If you haven't heard of Gabby's Classrooms then you are missing out! Gabby is the sweetest designer to work with (trust me I asked for millions of little tweaks and she never once complained!). She got my design done in such a timely manner and I am in love. Thank you, Gabby!

In order to celebrate this cutie-patootie new blog of mine, I am going to be giving away a $25 gift card to TpT! I know everyone needs to get some new goodies to gear up for next year! All you have to do is enter below!

Happy Summer!  :)
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End of the Year Rambles

Wow. I can not believe that another year has come and gone. When I think back to 2 years ago, walking across the stage graduating college, I really never imagined I would be where I am today. It's been an awesome two years. So here are my end of the year lessons learned, lessons taught and rambles.

I first have to start out by thanking my absolutely amazing husband. I met Josh my sophomore year of high school (had a major crush) and was lucky enough to date him my senior year. I was even luckier to marry him 2 years ago. God knew what He was doing when he placed JB in my life. He came at the perfect time and has been there through a lot of tough times. He has supported my crazy ventures this year with so much encouragement and believed I would be successful when I wasn't so sure. We celebrate our 2 year marriage anniversary next Monday, and I seriously can't wait to celebrate many more. You're the real MVP! :) I love you, Josh! 

This year has been a tough, yet rewarding one. I've learned so much as a teacher, wife and daughter. My very first love, my sweet Diddy, battled cancer this year. As any daddy's girl out there can imagine, that put the rest of my life on hold for a while. I won't ever forget sitting in the waiting room at Vanderbilt, praying prayers I had never had to pray before. I praise God for His healing hand, faithfulness despite my doubting heart and peace when it seemed unfathomable. There is no love like a Father for his daughter (Heavenly and Earthly). I am forever grateful that my parents taught me who the true love of my life is. All to you I owe, Jesus. Nothing I have accomplished is my own. It is Him working through me. 

And teaching! Teaching is my absolute passion. I knew in college I was where God intended for me to be. But when I got my own classroom, everything changed. There are things college can never teach you. They can't teach you about that "one kid", about how nerve wracking observations are, about how to eat your lunch in 15 minutes, about not going to the bathroom but once a day, or about the amazing friends you will make along the way. So, here are my top 5 lesson learned (or taught) from this year.

1) Be grateful and have an abundantly patient heart. 

Is this hard to do or what? We all have those certain things that totally work our nerves, our children being one of those things sometimes. I have had some trying times this year. Each time things have seemed to get the best of me, I have to stop and look into the sweet faces of the kids at my school. Every one of them has a story. They are so much like me. They face challenges that seem unsurmountable (like reading a paragraph or parents divorcing). It's in those little moments that I regain my patience. It's in those moments that I am so thankful God placed me in their life. To love them in their worst moments, to remind them someone cares, to show them I am not perfect. I have learned to apologize this year to my kids when I fail them, and to rejoice with them in our successes. My heart is fulfilled most when I am with my kids.

2) Remember when lessons bomb.

We all have them. Those lessons that are supposed to be so awesome. So filled with "rigor". Sooooo engaging. Then they bomb. Like full on, face-palm to the head, bomb. I can remember a specific lesson this year. I had slaved over it (I was getting observed on it). I was so super sure it would be great! I knew my kids would rise to the challenge and be awesome. It was going to be the best lesson to be observed with. 

Until it bombed. 

It was too long, not as well thought out as I thought and extremely challenging (which isn't always a bad thing). I was so upset that day. I thought what's wrong with these kids, this was a great lesson! Then I realized it wasn't the kids. They had tried their very best. So (about a week later mind you), I brought it up with my kids. We laughed and talked about things that could have gone better. We formulated a new plan and it went so smoothly. It is times like these that humble me (and help me remember what to put a big red X over in my plan book). Hard to imagine, but teachers are *not* perfect! 

3) Be thankful for supportive co-workers and friends. 

I am really lucky to work in the best school in TN. (or so I think :) ). I get to teach with some amazing teachers who inspire me to be better. We are like a big family. We laugh, cry and rant together. We fight with each other and stick beside each other. I've been really blessed to spend my first two years in a school like this. I know not everyone is as lucky as I am. 

I'm also blessed to be able to have some of my best friends teaching in the same county as I am. They are my constant cheerleaders, lesson sharers and dinner dates. They are way more creative than I am and some of the best teachers I've ever met. I wish you all could meet them and love them as much as I do. Alicia, Nat and Ken - you guys rock. 

AND to all my amazingly awesome TpT/Teacher Blogger friends - thank you! You have taught me so much about this exciting new venture, listened to rants and answered many questions. I have loved collaborating with you all, you guys are incredible!

4) Remember to laugh.

Some people just take themselves too seriously! Teaching can really get the best of you sometimes. It's important to remember to laugh it off. We all have those kids who make us wanna scream, those lesson plans that bomb and those after school meetings. Find joy in each of those situations. It's important not to take yourself so seriously! 

5) Your kids deserve the best of you.

I don't know about you but this is hard for me. To leave my problems at the door and teach my heart out everyday. But these kids deserve it. When you think about some of the hurdles these kids overcome, it is truly inspiring. Many kids at my school come into Kindergarten or Pre-K knowing NO English. By the time they get to 2nd grade, they've had 2 or 3 fearless teachers who have worked incredibly hard to bring them to where they are. I always tell my kids how amazing it is that they can speak 2 languages at the age of 7. 

Kids are awesome! They will rise to the occasion if only we believe in them and believe they can. I get it. We get tired. We get sick of explaining a skill 1,000 times before it clicks. But, if not us, then who would do that? Our students deserve for us to have a desire to teach them. They need to be loved, taught and cheered on. We have the best job on the planet. (Most days ;) ). 

As Ron Clark would say, "Be a runner, not a rider".

So, those are my end of the year blurbs. I am overly excited for summer (which begins in 4 days!). I am thankful to have some time to get refreshed and go back into my 3rd (OMG!) year of teaching. I am also excited to set sail on an anniversary trip with my amazing hubby in T-minus 4 days... Tropical places, here I come! Enjoy summer friends!

Winner Wednesday: ELA Interactive Activities {CCSS Aligned}

I am so excited to link up with my awesome friend Jennifer from A Dab of Glue Will Do for a new linky party called Winner Wednesday! This fun linky party will give you a chance to win a product every month from different TpT sellers/Teacher bloggers. 

This Wednesday I am giving one lucky person my ELA Interactive Activities.

This is totally one of my favorite resources to use! I was in a creating rut for a few months and kept putting this on the back burner. I am so glad I finished it! My kiddos and I have used this like crazy the past few weeks as we have been reviewing for our state assessment tests. 

This packet covers 5 different ELA skills (I made this with 2nd grade CCSS but it could be used in lots of others grades as well). Included skills are Prefixes, Suffixes, Compound Words, Irregular Plural Nouns and Collective Nouns. Each different skill has a word card hunt, puzzles and an interactive journalling page.

My sweet babies absolutely LOOOVVVEEEE to be moving. So I incorporate a "read the room" or some kind of "hunt" whenever I can. They love searching for the different cards! Here they are in action. :) 

These are what the word hunt cards look like. I try to print these on cardstock and laminate them. I put tape or sticky tack on the back of these and hide them around the room. Part of the fun for my kids is making them tricky to find. I enjoy it too! :) (Sorry for my lack of pretty colors. The only cardstock colors I have left are green and bright red!)

The kiddos use the clue on the recording sheet to find the corresponding word card that goes along with it. 

Yay for puzzles! This is a super easy, yet effective, center we use during our rotations. I prep it the same way as the other cards, cardstock then laminate!

Here is a picture of our interactive journal page for collective nouns. My kids keep an ELA journal the entire year. We go back several times to review skills we have already learned. If you don't do this in your classroom, I highly suggest it!

Now to the good part... You can win this for FREE!! All you have to do is enter below! :) Don't forget to stop by Jennifer's Blog to enter her giveaway and see who else has linked up too! Happy Teacher Appreciation Week! You guys rock!!

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Tech Tuesday {April 28, 2015}

Woohoo! I was proud of myself for successfully linking up with Marie from Once Upon a Classroom, so I am going to do it again this week! 

Today I am going to talk about a new app I recently found for our classroom iPads. I seriously don't know what I did before I had some classroom iPads! They are so awesome! 

The app today is called  Sight Words Ninja. The best part about it is that it's FREE!!! (Teacher's can NOT pass up free goodies!) I'm not sure how many of you are familiar with Fruit Ninja (one of the most addicting games ever!), but this game is A LOT like it. Plus, you get to see these cute little ninjas - what kid doesn't love that?!

The app will call out a word to the player. Once the player has heard the word, they have to swipe their finger through it to slice it in half. After they have mastered that word, the app will call out another common sight word. I think this is probably geared more towards a kindergarten or 1st grade classroom, but my kiddos loved it all the same!

Be sure to check out Marie's adorable Mother's Day Tech Tuesday! She is great! Happy Tuesday friends!!

Tech Tuesday

Well, this is my first official linky party! Hopefully I do everything correctly. Each Tuesday, Once Upon A Classroom shares a cool tech tool she uses in her classroom. Here is mine! 

One of my favorite things to use in my classroom are LakeShore interactive games. Now, I know many of us aren't lucky enough to have a SmartBoard or Promethean board. BUT - if you do, you should totally get some LakeShore games! 

The one I worked with today is a Regrouping Interactive Chart. It does 2 & 3 digit addition and subtraction with regrouping. It also visually shows base ten blocks to help students understand the concept. 

Here is what it will look like on your board. You can play it as a game, small group or whole group (like I did today).

My students would view the problem on the board and then use their desks (the love doing this) to solve the problem. We have also used base ten blocks instead of writing on our desks!

So, there is my short little tip! Hope you guys can use it! Be sure to stop by Once Upon A Classroom!
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