December 1, 2016

Our Christmas Card Unveiled 2016

Sending Christmas cards is one of my all-time favorite holiday traditions (see last years). It was even more-so once Philip and I got married two years ago. Every year since I’ve planned and prepared a number of seasonal activities and movies to help get us into the Christmas spirit. From making a list of our favorite Christmas movies, going ice skating (pre-baby), to constructing a gingerbread house, we go all out during the holidays and this year it’s even more special. Greyson adds a level of excitement to this year’s festivities and although he may be too tiny to really know what’s going on, it’s our duty to document it so that these memories live on.

One tradition that is slightly new this year was getting professional photographs taken of our family to use for our cards. I figured it was time to invest in quality family photos (especially wrangling an eight month old and our Murphy-dog). I am so glad that we made that investment because the photos and cards turned out beautifully! Once we received our photos I couldn’t wait to start creating the cards we’d send to our family and friends this year. This years card is especially important because it is Greyson’s first holiday season! Thankfully Minted provided us this opportunity to share with all of you just how great their 2016 holiday card collection really is! So, let the unveiling begin!

 Card: Cheers For The New Year

When it comes to our Christmas cards we typically go for a simple design. This year we wanted our photos to be the focus, with a specific focus on our family as a whole and our Greyson baby. In keeping with the woodland theme we also wanted to extend that feeling with a card that encompassed more earthy-tones versus the vibrant colors associated with the holidays. One of my favorite features that Minted offers is their ‘find it fast option where you can place your own photo and watch as it is placed into Minted’s vast selection of holiday cards! It truly makes the decision making so much easier, and faster too, since there are hundreds of cards to sift through.

Another great feature that makes Minted stand out amongst the rest? Their FREE recipient address printing! OMG the days of having to handwrite each recipient name and address are long gone for the Daniel house and I am grateful. Minted offers a number of styles that you can choose to match your card theme or opt for a different design.

Personally, I went with the address printing that matched my theme but to each their own! In addition to my free address printing I selected their wrap return address stickers which are always a favorite of mine and worth the extra dollars. It makes addressing my cards so much easier and while we are living in our apartment (of which we’re moving in the spring) stickers, versus a stamp, is the way to go. But no worries! Minted also offers return address printing too as an add-on.

Holiday Teacher Gift Guide

The holidays are quickly approaching, as they do every year, and although you’re probably thinking, I have time!, it’s always a good idea to start thinking about what you would like to gift the teacher of your little one(s). Speaking from the teacher perspective, we love the holidays for more than one reason: we get to see parents at the class holiday party, we look forward to those Starbucks gift cards, and really feel appreciated by the families we serve when we are thought of to any degree.

So, here are my holiday picks for gifting those teachers in your life that make a difference every day with your child. The best part is: this list is made by a teacher for teachers and parents like you.

Minted Class Photo Frame via Minted
I’m not sure if you know, but Minted has a cute selection of art pieces and even ones you can customize just for teachers! I thought this apple print was adorable and it would be easy for any room-parent to snap some photos of the class and present it to the teacher at the class holiday party. Teachers love having keepsakes from each class and what better than something they can hang in their rooms for years to come!

Monogrammed Anything via Etsy
If you’re wanting to reach a little bit more outside the typical gift for a teacher, go with anything monogrammed or personalized. I have yet to find a teacher that doesn’t love jewelry, a personalized coffee mug, pencil holder, etc. I loved receiving a ‘K’ initial necklace my first year teaching and it was something I wanted to wear over and over. Plus, it makes the child feel special when they see you wearing and enjoying their gift (even if mom picked it out).

Custom Wine Label via Evermine Occasions
This particular wine label went viral just a few months ago and it’s for a good reason! What a funny, yet practical, gift for any teacher! Because honestly, we’re probably the biggest winos out there so don’t feel weird about gifting us a bottle of wine- it will be used! I had parents of students in the past do this and I loved it because it’s truly amongst the things we really want right before winter break. Add a fun custom label to it to make it extra special.

Starbucks Anything
Want to know something teachers love more than wine? Coffee (or tea). Whether they make their own at home or pick it up from their favorite roaster (i.e. Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts, etc.) getting them anything from a gift card to a new travel mug will be sure to brighten their day. Those tend to be things we want, but never buy for ourselves.

Gift Cards
This is by far the most typical, yet most coveted, gift you could give a teacher. It is nothing new for parents to know that teachers always spend money out of their own pocket to provide materials for the class or for that fun activity she/he has planned. It’s also no secret that we aren’t necessarily bringing home top dollars either to help fund our classrooms. So, with that in mind gifting a teacher a gift card will be very appreciated. Here are the top retailers most teachers shop at regularly:

  • Coffee (Starbucks, Dunkin’, etc)
  • Target or Walmart
  • Teachers Pay Teachers
  • Amazon or Barnes & Noble
  • Michael’s or Hobby Lobby (whichever is nearest to you)
  • Visa Gift Card
  • Stitch Fix (this is an exception. Most teachers love this service but check with the person before assuming they’ll use it)
Other gift card ideas include fun things like a nail salon or massage so we can treat ourselves, movie tickets, restaurants or popular chains like Subway or Chipotle, and even office supply stores like Staples are great ideas.

Scarf or Other Accessory via Mom Advice
I love scarves and all of my students knew that so it was a lot of fun to receive a gift I wasn’t expecting. Our little kiddos are a lot more observant than we give them credit for. So, if you have a favorite accessory please believe they’ve noticed.

Ruler Photo Ornament via Simply Kierste
One of my favorite gifts ever from my kids were those who thought to buy me ornaments I could hang on my Christmas tree at home. Most of them were store-bought, which were very cute and I still hang to this day! However, if you have the time or find something on Etsy that’s handmade, just slip your child’s photo in and voila!

Gift Registry
This one is really special and the most overlooked. Is your teacher engaged? Have a baby on the way? Do some digging to see if you can find their gift registries and pool the class on getting an item or purchase one from your family to theirs. I found it to be so thoughtful (and a huge surprise) that my class bought me the Kitchen Aide from my wedding registry at the end of the year. Absolutely touched my heart.

Letters From Students
A free gift that could possibly take the cake and be more valuable than any Starbucks gift card is anything made from our students. Whether it be a letter or a handmade item, it all means so much to us and we love receiving little notes about how much our kids appreciate us as teachers. It’s little sentiments like that, that get us through those tough work days.

So there you have it. Gift teachers this year something they would really appreciate and get a lot of use out of. I hope this guide helps you decide on a gift for the teacher in your life!

Anything missing from my list? What would you add to your Teacher Gift Guide?

October 10, 2016

Annual Flash Fall Sale!

You guys I am very excited to be running my early FLASH FALL SALE over at my TpT shop! Everything, even the newer products, are 10% off now (and for four days this week) ending on October 13th! So, be sure to stop by TpT and grab yourself a resource for 10% off! I have all kinds of new products that range from reading to writing and math!

Not sure what’s new around the shop? Take a peek below!



These downloads were fun to put together because I don’t believe any teacher can have too many resources for guided reading. The block is always evolving and it’s important to keep your instruction new and exciting for your kiddos. But, the only way to do that is when you’re properly prepared! Check out my Guided Reading Made Simple original 2nd Grade download for the complete pack of resources (read more about what’s included here). PT 2 of this download was created from feedback I had received from a buyer who requested JUST the blacklines of the activities (read here). 


Even and odd numbers are amongst the first mental math concepts taught in second grade and these dice games are so easy to create and play that your kids will for sure be engaged! Read more about it here or go straight to my shop!

The other math activity I put in my shop recently was this engaging Doubling Pot activity, which references and goes perfect with the popular story Two of Everything! Doubling is another mental math strategy that is taught towards the beginning of the year and I loved doing these skill activities with my class. After reading the story and recognizing that the pot doubles everything that’s placed inside - students then get to pick a number 1-10 of any item, place it inside the pot, and demonstrate what comes out! See more in the preview over at my shop here.


Have you used Discovery Journals in your classroom before? Read all about how I’ve implemented it in my classroom here or run over to my shop to see for yourself the amazing, and super easy, this additional project is for your higher learning students! Keep the kids on both ends of the spectrum engaged all year long!


Teaching writing once upon a time was a daunting task. Most of my second graders coming in hated writing and didn’t have the confidence to put pencil to paper. Not anymore! I love how-to writing at the beginning of the year because it helps build student’s writing confidence because it’s a writing piece that showcases what they’re experts in! Read about it here

**See this same project but in time for those Leprechaun Traps here!

Happy shopping!!

October 4, 2016

Get Kids Moving During Math With These Dice Games!

Happy October everyone! I just love how the weather here in central California is beginning to crisp up just a touch (I’ll take what I can get!) on the coast and the fact that I get to dust off those scented fall candles! There’s something special about the arrival of fall, especially for me, since it marks the kickoff to the holiday season starting with Halloween and working its way through Thanksgiving and ending at Christmastime. I’ve also been enjoying these new holiday traditions my husband and I are doing for our son, who will be celebrating his first holidays this year! Last year I was pregnant during this time of year so it’s extra special to share these memories with. 

**If you’d like to follow along with our #verydanielhalloween and are interested in celebrating your own family traditions be sure to jump on over to my lifestyle blog where I share all about it!

But, nonetheless the fun doesn’t stop at home. I’ve always loved setting up and organizing my thematic units that play right along with the seasons and today I have a brand new download to share with you all and how dice have changed the math game in my class.

I will always, and highly, recommend foam dice for any teacher regardless of the grade you teach. It doesn’t matter if you’re in fifth grade or kindergarten - dice just have a way of being loud and end up all over the place. Using foam dice is the easiest way to crack down on those issues and provide instant classroom management - and I have yet to misplace any of them!

Dice have been such a fun addition to my math block ever since I started incorporating them into my lessons during independent or guided practice. It’s an instant engager and keeps those kids busy while learning! The Turkey Trot mini-unit uses dice to do this same thing by having students play a game while practicing their abilities to recognize even and odd numbers! Let’s take a look...

Race To The Top: This game is especially easy for kids to play and requires very little planning on your part. Just print off as many game boards as your class needs and laminate! I recommend using thick laminate sheets because it will allow you to use them year after year. 

How To Play
Students will work in pairs with one student as evens and the other as odds. They will flip back and forth rolling the dice and identifying whether the number they rolled is even or odd. For example, if I were evens and I rolled the number 2 I get to move my marker (any manipulative) one spot on the game board. However, if I rolled a 3 (which is odd) I'll pass my dice to my partner without making a move. Repeat this over and over until a student reaches the top!

**Challenge students by having them use 2 dice and determine if the sum is even or odd!

Number Crunchers: This is another easy dice game to play! Again, students will work in pairs and decide whether they are evens or odds. When it’s their turn, a student will roll the dice and if that number is even or odd they’ll use their game pieces (can use any manipulative) to cover that number. The student with all of their even or odd numbers marked is the winner! Students play with up to 2 dice and can determine for themselves if they want to roll one or both die to reach their desired number.

**For example: If I were evens and the only even number left on my board was 12 I would HAVE to roll both dice to reach that number. This game starts off easy but becomes more challenging as the numbers left to cover become harder to reach.

I’ve also included a few handouts that can be incorporated into your lessons as review or even morning work practice pages! I love getting kids to use their hands to represent their learning and the Turkey Math Trouble page (at the bottom) has students use hole punchers to represent their number! Nifty huh?!

September 26, 2016

Guided Reading Made Simple {PT 2}

I am so happy to see that you all are just loving my newest guided reading resource! Guided Reading Made Simple is chocked-full of useful organizational tools, data collecting resources, and engaging reading skill activities that can be completed both in whole small groups or individually. Also, there are posters and a few flip-books included too to take your instruction to that next engaging level!

However, due to feedback I received from one buyer I have created this PT 2 resource that takes the blackline handouts and puts them all into one download at half the price. That way those who already have the posters and other handouts don’t need to spend the full price for resources they already own.  (That’s why I love receiving feedback and recommendations! It helps me better stock my shop!).


September 6, 2016

The First Week: A Behavior Management Unit

A lot of teacher friends are celebrating their first days back into the classroom and yet another school year has begun! Even though I’m sitting this year out due to staying home to raise our son, I do remember the work that went into those first few precious weeks when establishing those classroom routines and rules that are so influential to a great year. It takes class discussion, thoughtful conversations, and practice, practice, practice to get students in the new groove of cohabitation with one another.

To make this transition into the school year much easier I’ve decided to bundle together all the plans I’ve taught into one comprehensive download! Take the work out of planning that first week with these fun read-alouds and engaging activities! Let’s take a peek or see more about this download here...

Full Lesson Plans
Each day of the week is dedicated to learning about a new ‘rule’ or expectation, which is set by the teacher but agreed upon by the class. I have included complete lesson plans and accompanying activities that help drive the discussion about the four big rules you’ll find in any classroom. 

Make Good Choices
Be Respectful To Others
Always Try Your Best
Stay Organized

I believe that when we can narrow down the ideas about how to behave and treat others it will stick easier with the kids throughout the year. These activities get students learning about each other all the while reflecting on specific ways they can achieve all four of these expectations. For instance, The Book Of Bad Ideas is a wonderful way to kickstart the year as it represents cause and effect. Students can begin to think about what it means to make the good choices as well as the bad ones too and that they both have consequences. 

Classroom Posters
These posters reflect the four main rules outlined in this unit. They can either be printed in full color or be used as coloring pages for the students. Simply print them poster size (if your school has a poster printer) and display them in your room throughout the year. Another great way to use these are to include the blacklines in the student booklet as a coloring page after each day’s discussion and activity.

A Commitment
This unit includes student booklets for which they’ll complete each day after each lesson. Students are to think of one (or more) ways they can best represent each of the four expectations with a picture an description of them doing that action. I love this section because each student may have a different idea on how to make good choices, be respectful, try their best, and stay organized. I’m always so amazed at the ideas they all come up with!

At the end of the unit each student will complete a classroom contract where they sign their name, promising to uphold these expectations and set the best example for themselves, their school, and community. Those can be printed on fun colored paper or have students color their own certificate!

Pick up your copy here...

August 20, 2016

Kicking Off Informative Writing In The Classroom

Download at TpT
 Getting my students to love writing in second grade is pretty much the most difficult thing to do besides getting them to love pretty much any other subject. My first year teaching second grade a few years back, I remember sitting there trying to figure out why my writing block seemed harder than it needed to be. Why were some of my students flourishing and others leaving me pulling teeth just to get them to write something on the page?

It took me some thought and rethinking my approach to writing at the beginning of the year. I wanted to start my class out with first understanding themselves as writers and once I could do that, then I could build upon their skills and make the writing objectives apply to them and be fun in the process.

One fun form of writing that always gets my students, even my most reluctant writers, in the spirit are informative writing pieces. By having them become experts in something and having them write to inform others instills confidence and allows them to break down those barriers of frustration. It’s with informative writing I can see them light up with inspiration and experience that writing is a skill in which even the greatest of writers can always improve.

With October, autumn, and Halloween just right around the corner once school begins why not start off the year with the introduction of informative writing about something most students have experience with?! Jack-o-lanterns!

This download is the second creation from my How-To writing series (you can find my post about Leprechaun traps here). I am so excited to share this because it’s a whole theme mini-lesson in one complete download. The purpose of this activity is for students to create a one-of-a-kind jack-o-lantern that they’ll actually create and bring in to share with the class. As they are creating their designs and carving their pumpkins they are recording the steps and process to which they will write to explain to their readers. It’s always fun to see what the kids come up with and all of the jack-o-lanterns make for a fun room display!

Enlisting help from home...
To start, I’ve included parent letters which outline the writing project and breaks down for them the exact help I’m looking for for my students at home. Since I don’t want to take up too much time in the classroom for planning (I have other mini-lessons that explain the writing process) and creating the pumpkins, I’ve opted to include that step for an at-home activity with their parents. That way they are thinking and planning out their designs and filling out the provided homework planning sheets that come back to school. Besides, the kids always love the help and participation from family!

*I have also included copies of these planning sheets for in-classroom planning (sans the HOMEWORK tab in the top right corner).

Brainstorming & transition words.
One of the keys to writing informative writing is using key transitional words like: first, then, next, after that, and finally. Once students become familiar with these they can find new transitional words or phrases to enhance their writing!

The planning sheets provided in this download are clear and easy-to-follow for writing out their directions on how to create their jack-o-lantern AS they actually do it. With parent supervision they are to create their jack-o-lanterns and be creative in their designs. I leave it up to them as to how decorative they would like to get. Then, after they’ve recorded their step-by-step directions they move on to their first draft.

Drafting makes perfect.
Once students are ready to begin writing their pieces they are to complete their first draft where they sketch a picture of their steps and write a couple sentences to explain what the step is. After following through the writing process, editing/revising their work both themselves and with their peers, and a writing conference to check in with me, they can move on to finalizing their writing with their final draft and publication. This download is also complete with an editing checklist for their own use and use with buddies.

A writing celebration.
I love the concept of celebrating the culmination of their hard work. By celebrating each of the students and the effort they’ve put into their work helps them see the value in themselves as writers and their peers. Once students are finished with their final drafts and have published their work, they are to display their writing and share the actual jack-o-lanterns they’ve created. Students get the chance to see each others writing and celebrate the budding authors they’ve only just started to become!

I’m excited to continue adding themes to this series so be on the lookout! Oh, never miss a post by signing up for my email list (on the sidebar!).

August 15, 2016

Monday Made It | Classroom Management

Even though I’m doing the stay-at-home-mom thing this year, I still can’t believe that summer is winding down and Back To School is nearly here (I even know some friends and teachers who are already back at school!). I always loved the beginning of the year because I had a moment to refresh and start the year with a positive attitude, try new things instructionally, and anticipate the class coming in. For this Monday Made It I am sharing the classroom management tools I love to use in my classroom and has been a proven improvement in student behavior and accountability!

Be sure to link up with 4th Grade Frolics!

The Think Sheet
You can read more about this fabulous tool and how I use it in the classroom here, but these little sheets have been a huge lifesaver in terms of quickly dealing with behavioral issues in the classroom. I’ve been using them for a few years and every year I have only needed to use them a few times. It is designed to place accountability back on the student meanwhile allowing them to express themselves, think about what caused their behavior, and a means to discuss the problem with an adult both in school and with parents at home. Since students return them with a signature it allows me to stay on top of at-home communication easily and I store them in their student files in case it is needed for conferences or meetings with admin.

*The Think Sheet comes in both a single sheet here or a BUNDLED version here with forms for K-6.

Testimonies from TpT:
"This made communication with my parents very easy and students knew to bring it back signed the next day or their parents would also receive a phone call.” -Michelle M.

"Great resource! I used this consistently last year and saw a great change in student behavior. The parents also told me they really appreciated having specific information about their child's behavior.” - Ashley S.

"This is a great resource to use with students to have them reflect on their behavior. Thank you!” - Karen H.

Awesome Behavior Recognition
Another great resource to use when implementing classroom management is acknowledging those students who are always setting the perfect example. It’s hard sometimes to notice these kids, especially when you may have one or two ‘difficult’ students. However, I’ve found that having these slips already printed off and easily accessible, I was able to fill them out quickly and send home a little handwritten note letting my parents (and kiddos!) know that they’ve been doing awesome in the classroom! See more about how I use these notes here.

Testimonies from TpT:
"Such a great and simple way to support a positive relationship with parent and students.” -Mindy E.

"This is great! I find myself too often only sending home notes when students misbehave, so this is perfect to acknowledge the positive behaviors too. Thank you!” -Robin D.

"I love being able to send these home with parents. Sometimes we get so caught up in calling parents for bad behavior that I can now send these home with my students on fun neon paper and they're parents are still getting that positive feedback!!” -Stephanie N.

"I love these notes! I have been using them a ton and my students are excited when they receive one. :)” - Sunny In SoCal (TpT Seller)

The Clip Slip
This clip slip is a perfect addition to any classroom clip chart you use! This download comes with the traditional clip slip language AND a blank copy for you to write in your own if you’ve customized your clip chart. Read more about how I use this clip slip here! It’s such an easy tool for students to again communicate their daily behavior to their parents - freeing up your time NOT writing daily emails or making those phone calls. Parents can simply check their slips and by initialing every night it allows me to see which parents are checking and who are not.

Testimonies from TpT:
"Absolutely adore this Clip Slip management system. It goes perfectly with my classroom behavior chart! Who knew??? Thank you so much! This is AWESOME!!!!” -Kimberly R.

"Easy format for daily use and maintaing Parent-Teacher Communication concerning behavior.” -Jara T.

The First Week {complete lesson plans & ideas}
I love the first few weeks of school because that is when you can really set the boundaries and practice routines and procedures until your kids understand what’s expected of them all year long. It’s also a lot of fun because you can integrate some fun read-alouds to discuss these expectations when establishing your class rules. I love creating the rules together as a whole class because it gives them ownership over their behavior and the behavior of their peers. I’ve put this download together as a means to start you off with fresh lesson plan ideas and some fun read-alouds to pair with them!

Testimonies from TpT:

"As a first time classroom teacher, I am excited to use this to start of the year with my students. It is comprehensive, yet concise. Thanks so much for sharing !!” -Kimberley E.

"Great resource that will be perfect for the start of this new school year. I am very excited to use it and love your simple four rules!” - Katherine S.

"This is a really complete package! Love that read-alouds and lesson plans are included, as well as posters and worksheets for the kids! Wonderful! thanks so much! :)” - Martine

Intersted in each of these products that have helped me get prepared and organized for establishing those classroom rules? Then opt for the BUNDLED version and get a copy of each resource at a discounted price! 

How do you implement classroom management/routines in your classroom? Do you have any great resources to share? Share them in the comments!


August 8, 2016

Communities: A Resource & Lesson Ideas

One of the first social studies lessons that is covered at the beginning of the year is establishing communities within the context of our neighborhoods and in our very own classroom. Having students understand that communities reach far beyond what we see day-to-day helps them build a foundation of understanding of their roles both in their homes, neighborhoods, states, and country. It also relates to how they are a part of a common community at school. I have always enjoyed teaching communities because it’s the beginning of students realizing that their worlds don’t end at the tip of their noses. They begin to notice commonalities across the communities in which they live, work, and play!

In second grade in most states the beginning of the discussion about communities is understanding past vs present and how that relates to communities changing over time due to various circumstances. Although it ends there, I love extending my lessons just a touch to include conversations about what these different communities look like, how they’re similar or different from one another, and how they’re impacted over time. I mean, who can understand past vs present without first understanding the communities in which they’re learning about?

** This download has been updated to reflect Canadian provinces and country portions of the flap-book! (This is why I love my readers and customers on TpT!!)

One of the resources that I use for teaching communities is this Communities Among Us packet. It is complete with a fun and engaging flap-book style workbook that breaks down each community as it gets larger and larger starting with the student and working all the way up to the country in which they live. This flap-book is a perfect addition to the popular read-aloud: Me On The Map by Joan Sweeney!

I have also included three workbook pages that break down each community: rural, suburban, and urban! These can be stand alone worksheets or even be included in an interactive notebook. Another fun activity is the Guess My Community writing page! Students select a community that they have learned and come up with three clues that describe facts about their chosen community. Then when displayed the reader guesses the community then flip up the top portion to see if they’re right!

This download also includes fun vocabulary cards for the classroom!

I also love finding amazing resources from around the teaching blogosphere too and these caught my eye for engaging activities that the whole class can participate in!

Image Source: Mrs. T’s First Grade Class Blog
Mrs. T’s First Grade Class - Here students create a timeline of sorts that compares vocabulary and concepts relating to PAST, PRESENT, and FUTURE. I love that this simple activity gets kids connected and relating to the objective being taught!

This blog also has a wonderful technology component as well where she uses a Pixie App where they label the seven continents, then created a simple clip art picture of themselves and used the Superimpose App to place themselves upon the continent in which they live. How cool is that?!

Image Source: The Teacher-Trap
The Teacher-Trap - Kady of The Teacher-Trap blog has a wonderful collection of read-aloud that introduce students to how communities look across the globe. Although she’s teaching to third graders, I know second graders could benefit from her lessons! I love how she breaks down her objectives to teach her students the different characteristics that describe different communities!

Image Source: Mrs. Winter’s Bliss

Mrs. Winter’s Bliss - Lastly, Christina at Mrs. Winter’s Bliss blog has a great second grade appropriate compare and contrast flap book where students compare past vs present as it relates to living long ago and today. I also just love how she connects her ELA objective for informative writing with her social studies objective!

Teaching communities is such a blast and with these ideas you’re sure to get the year kicked off to a fun start! What are your favorite lessons to teach related to communities or past vs present?

August 6, 2016

Creating Free Thinkers, Not Robots

It’s summertime and now it’s the season for teachers to begin planning the upcoming year. I always have to laugh to myself whenever I hear people comment about teachers having their summers ‘off.’ If they only had the time to actually discuss this misconception they would realize that a lot of teacher’s summers consist of professional development, lesson planning, etc.

I’m here today to share a fun lesson I always look forward to doing with my kiddos at the beginning of the year. One of the first standards I taught at the beginning of the year was citizenship and what it means to be a good citizen. It’s actually pretty fascinating to ask my class each year what the Pledge of Allegiance means and why we say these words every day before class and to hear crickets in response. 

A lot of students have no idea what it means to pledge their allegiance to something and it’s a shame they memorize the words but have no clue as to what they’re saying.

My goal is to not create robots, but free thinkers. I do this by simply educating and informing my kids of what it truly means to have allegiance to the United States and what those big words mean in the pledge they recite each morning.

This workbook is so easy to prepare and it’s something my kids always loved learning about. This packet combines a little language arts, handwriting, as well as an interactive component. Plus there’s coloring involved and who seriously doesn’t like to color?

What’s Included...

The United States of America

In this section, students quickly locate their state and it’s membership to the United States of America. You can easily slide in geography standards or objectives here by having students locate their state on a U.S. map!

Color, Paste, and Match

Students have pictures that they must color and match to the correct section of the pledge. If you want differentiation, skip the matching pictures and have your students create pictures of their own that reflect each line of the pledge.

Practice language arts and handwriting by having students copy and write the pledge line by line. Discuss with your class the reason certain words are capitalized and others aren’t, punctuation found throughout, and introduce new vocabulary.

Interactive Pages

This workbook has many interactive pages where students work together to learn the different terms found in the pledge. This is a snapshot of ‘and to the Republic’ where students practice voting to make a decision, which is similar to how our government works today.

After completing this lesson I found that my students stood a little taller during the morning announcements when they recited the pledge and I have to say it makes me heart happy to see that.

How do you tackle beginning of the year objectives in Social Studies?

August 5, 2016

The Think Sheet: The BEST Behavior Management Tool

We all know that establishing a great behavior management plan early on just makes the rest of the year go so smoothly. Your kiddos know exactly what’s expected of them, but when a mistake is made they have the means to deal with it and know that they can always recover from their actions and that tomorrow always brings a new day. At the beginning of the school year I spend a few weeks, yes WEEKS, establishing classroom routines and expectations for behavior. However, we all have off days or things going on at home that affect us and our kids are no different.

On those off days it’s important for teachers to have a way to communicate with their students about their behavior, what caused it, and ways to improve or know how to handle those moments in the future. These Think Sheets were exactly what I needed that not only helped a child understand their actions, but helped them talk it out with me and with their parents at home.

Today I'm excited to share with you all the easiest system I've used for years to maintain student behavior accountability all year long - without adding more work for me. Here's how I do it...

These Think Sheets have changed the way in which I give attention and due diligence in the classroom. Oftentimes when students misbehave I am to notice those signs that something is coming along. It may be irritability in the air, an off night or morning, being hungry, or anxious about friendships. For little ones it can absolutely be about anything. Think Sheets provide a way for students to not only take a few moments alone to reflect, but it gives them a few moments to themselves to calm down...and on their terms. Once they've calmed themselves, these sheets allow them to think through what happened and what lead up to their behavior.

The beautiful thing about how these sheets are used (and communicated to parents) are that they aren't punitive. Actually, they're meant as a tool for students to use for themselves. After reflecting, they now are equipped with the ability to share their feelings not only with me in the moment, but with their parents once they get home. I've heard from so many previous families that they've appreciated these Think Sheets because it clued them in to what happened at school and how to communicate with their child at home. This is especially important since kids see their parents hours after an incident first occurred.

Furthermore, I love that these think sheets allow students to take responsibility for their actions, regardless of their intentions. They are given the opportunity to think through what happened, explain why they did what they did, but then be able to communicate the issue with an adult, which to me is the most important piece. Long gone are the days when an adult asks a child ‘what happened’ and their response is ‘I don’t know’ or ‘I don’t remember.' Having a parent sign communicates to the teacher that the think sheet was discussed at home and therefore everyone is on the same page.

Since I first began using them in my classroom, I've since updated them so they can be used in a K-3rd/6th grade setting! Now that I'm back to teaching kindergarten, I love that I have differentiated pages that are just as effective.

Shop the individual page or the bundle!

If you're only looking for the OG Think Sheet that I used for my second graders, you're more than welcome to pick it up right here!

However, if you're wanting the differentiated bundle you can grab that, too! 

What's even better? This product is included in my ULTIMATE Back to School bundle! You can grab this and a ton of other helpful tools to ensure you launch the best back to school ever!

May 22, 2016

Launching Guided Reading

Guided Reading is a vital and necessary portion of your language arts instruction no matter what grade you teach. It's a dedicated time for teachers to meet with the little readers in their classroom, which always span multiple reading levels. The purpose of this time is to model and instruct students on specific reading strategies and skills while giving students time to safely practice these skills and learn to become better readers.


One text that EVERY teacher should own or somehow get their hands on is Jan Richardson's The Next Step In Guided Reading as it is the current bible on guided reading instruction. If not every district, most districts use this textbook and teachers model their instruction after her practices. So if you are unfamiliar or have yet to read it, it's my #1 first recommendation. She does a great job explaining step-by-step how to implement each section and includes examples for Pre-A-Fluent reading levels.

The next step after familiarizing yourself with Jan Richardson is to begin organizing your binders and materials for your groups. At the beginning of the year you receive your class list and current independent reading levels based on assessments (typically DRAs) from the spring the year prior. Use that data to help begin setting up your groups or dedicate some time at the beginning of the year to assess your students as they are at the beginning of the school year. Every teacher is different so find what works for you and what your school district requires.


I typically like to have about 5 or 6 groups made up of no more than 6 students per group. More than 5 even can begin to be too much of a hassle, but again, go with what is comfortable for you and accommodates your class. Give your groups a theme! I used Dr. Seuss characters when I was teaching kindergarten and it stuck even in second grade. I used these characters to create my reading center board and listed the students in each group so they always knew what group they were in and what centers they'd be doing that day. You can kinda see the poster I made on the bulletin board near the table.

Setting up your reading table is another organizational hurdle you're going to have to jump. My guided reading area consists of:

1. kidney table
2. student chairs
3. plush rolley chair 
(your buns will thank you!)
4. magazine holders for each group
5. caddy or plastic drawers 
with guided reading materials
6. strategy posters and room 
for anchor charts

Another great resource I use for organizing my guided reading time are my colorful D5 Teacher Resource Packet, which includes center posters, rotation cards, introductory D5 lesson supplemental resources, and more!


Assessments are another necessary evil and can be quite overwhelming, at least I thought when I was in my first year teaching. Your assessments, whether they're anecdotal notes or running records and DRAs, they're all wonderful data points that all teachers need to collect throughout the year. There are a million different ways to collect and record your data so this is another time where I recommend you find what's comfortable and will work for you.

I keep two binders for my guided reading table. First is my main binder where I have dividers labeled with each of my groups, lesson plan copies for that group and day, and multiple pages for anecdotal notes and assessments. This helps me keep everything together and easily accessible. However, it would be a recommendation to keep all assessments in it's own binder so you have all your data in one place for each child. Just a thought ;)

My second binder is my lesson plan binder. Here, I keep all copies of my lesson plans for each book at different levels for throughout the year. I write a basic template that will never change (such as the introduction of the book, vocab words, etc.). That way I all I have to do is make copies of that original and input the info for a specific lesson for that day, for that group, and with that particular focus. It helps me save time so I don't have to constantly write out the same lesson over and over again. Plus it's a way to save all your lessons and use them again in the next years.

Lesson Plans:

So how do you plan for your groups? Well, thanks to Jan Richardson she provides you with the template for each reading level: Pre-A & Emergent, Early, Transitional, and Fluent. These lesson plans will carry you throughout the year as your students continue to make progress and move up in their reading levels. Allllso lucky for you I have taken all of her plans and put them in easy to use templates that I have used every year.

Be sure to nab your copy for BTS and get yourself organized and prepared for the reading year ahead!