Thursday, July 31, 2014

"My Summer Fun" Back-to-School Bulletin Board

I'm not actually back to school until after Labor Day, but all of you who are returning soon have got me thinking about all things back to school!  

My school district runs a camp for incoming Kindergarten students on three afternoons in August, and I am planning to have my littles complete a piece of work that I will use to create a display for our back-to-school Open House at the end of August.

I bought this adorable clip art a while back from Whimsy Clips.  I have been dreaming up all sorts of fun ways to use it and I think it will be super cute for a back-to-school display in my classroom.  
I added my student names to the stars and am still working on getting them all cut out.  Mindless work while I'm watching TV after the kids go to bed. :)
During Kinder Camp, I'm going to have each student draw a picture of their summer fun on this half-sheet.  Click the image below if you'd like to grab it from Google Drive.  Just print, copy, and cut in half.

I plan to take a picture of each little guy or gal to add to the display as well.  I'll post each child's drawing, photo, and name together on the board.  When the families come for our open house prior to school starting they'll already get to see their child's work displayed in the classroom! :)

I think this display would be adorable with any clip art you might have!  Add your students' names and you'll be all set!  I'll probably leave this one up for a while because you know how crazy things are early in the year!  Changing out bulletin board displays isn't top on the list!  Ha!

Kindie artwork is just plain precious.  But as much as I love it, I will most definitely enjoy my last few weeks of summer before getting too excited to fill those bulletin boards again. ;)

Monday, July 28, 2014

Monday Made It: Homemade Laundry Soap

 I'm linking up with Tara today for Monday Made It!

A few years ago I stumbled across THIS blog post and became intrigued about making my own laundry soap.  I do a lot of laundry, and when my son was younger he struggled with eczema and his skin got irritated really easily.  I loved the idea of 1. saving money on laundry detergent and 2. having a laundry detergent that was gentle on my little guy's skin.
I tried making the detergent once and have never gone back.  It's easy, lasts forever, and is super inexpensive.
If you want to try it, you'll need this...
...and this.
My hubby was a gem and grated the soap for me before I got started on the rest, so I didn't have it for my photo.  But, it looks like this.  You need it.  It's important.
You'll also need a way to grate it.  I use a hand-held cheese grater like this one.  Since I don't ever actually grate cheese, I use ours as a soap grater instead.  And, this isn't actually a photo that I took.  Remember that my hubby did this while I was gone?  So, it's not him.  But when we grate the soap, it looks almost exactly like this. 
This photo actually came from here.
Grating the soap is the most strenuous part of the process.  Everything else is easy peasy lemon squeezy.  Seriously.

After you have the soap grated, combine it with one cup of Borax, one cup of washing soda, a scoop or so of the Oxi Clean, and half a lid or so of the Purex crystals.  As you can see, this is a very strict recipe.  Add all of those things give or take whatever you feel like.
 I ended up with a few clumps that I had to work out.  It didn't take me long at all to break them all apart.  And if there are some small clumps left, no big deal.
After it's all mixed, I pour it into the container where I keep it in my laundry room.
 See how there are still some clumps?  Totally fine.
I use 1-2 tablespoons per load.  I add a little more if the clothes are extra dirty.

 Another recap of the ingredients:
Make sure to use washing soda and not baking soda.  I find this by the laundry items at the store.
This stuff is amazing whether you make your own detergent or not.  It's excellent for getting stains out.
In my local store, the Fels-Naptha soap is kept by the other bar soaps, NOT by the laundry soaps.  But I've seen it both places.
There are several of types of Oxi Clean.  Buy whichever you like.
If you need to stay FREE from all dyes and perfumes, just leave the Purex Crystals out.  I tried adding them in slowly because I like the freshness they add to the detergent.  They don't affect my son's skin anymore.  They are NOT a necessity and can be left out.

TA-DA!  This is a double batch of detergent and will last me 4-6 months.  I do anywhere from 3-7 loads of laundry each week.

I'd love to hear from you if you try this, or if you already make your own detergent!

Happy Monday!!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Five for Friday {July 25}

It's time for Five for Friday!

My week was all sorts of summer fun....with a little bit of work tucked in.   

1. I make my own laundry soap.  I found a "recipe" a few years ago, and the whole concept intrigued me enough to try it.  I've been making my own ever since.  This is a double batch and will last me between 4 and 6 months.
I'll be talking more about it on Monday for Monday Made It.  Come back then if you'd like more info!

2.  This week I had THREE lazy beach/pool/relax with friends days.  AWESOME.  Two of them at friends' cottages and one of them at Lake Michigan.  Here are some pics from the first one.  This is how I spent Monday.  Summer fun with my kids is one of the best things in the world.
I EVEN worked up the courage to do THIS!  I am not much of a water lover.  I'd rather be on the beach than in the water, but this looked like too much fun.  And it was.  At one point, my son (the adventure-seeker) said "I can tell we're going sooooo fast.  Good job mom!".  Bless him.  We were going 14 MPH.  
I did pick up speed after getting comfortable. :) So much fun.

 3. A little bit of school work.  All in moderation in the summer!  Cutting out these adorable stitched stars for my door display this year!  Next step...add my little superstars' names and laminate them!

4. This is FREE in my TPT store.  I posted about it yesterday.  Go snag it if your word wall needs a fresh look!

5. So, you know how I'm on Facebook now???  Well, I'm still trying to figure it all out.  I've spent too much time this week trying to set up a Fan Freebie app on my page.  I *think* I've got it now (fingers crossed), although I haven't actually tried adding a freebie yet, so I guess time will tell!  Ha!  Hoping to get something added there next week....I'll let you know so that you can go get it!
Carrie and Danielle were both so patient and helpful and answered so many questions for me.  Thanks a million, girls!

I'm headed to Chicago for the weekend and can't wait!  See you back here next week, friends!

Thursday, July 24, 2014


Hey hey friends!

It's nearing the end of July, and I can hardly believe it.  I CAN believe it, because summer goes by this quickly every year, but still.  Waaaahhhhh!

BUT....even though I love summer so much, I also love teaching so much.  I've been doing a teensy weensy bit of back to school prep to keep my teacher-brain happy!

If you follow me on Instagram, you know that I am freshening up my word wall this summer.  I actually love my word wall -- it's bright, cheery, and super functional -- but the letters had gotten really faded since I put it up two years ago, so it needed a re-do.  I'm not changing anything about it...I'm just re-making what I had before.  
When it works, it works!  

In case your word wall is in need of a fresh look too, I just uploaded this FREEBIE to my TPT store!
I love how student-friendly the lined letters are.  So clean and easy to read.  Go grab it!! 

I have more summer fun planned for today -- a play date at the beach!  Yes, please!! 

Happy Thursday!! 

Sunday, July 20, 2014

200+ Follower GIVEAWAY!

Hi, friends!  A while back I reached an exciting milestone with 200 followers on my blog!  I have had the most fun sharing about my classroom here and getting to know so many talented, creative, energetic teachers!  Your love of teaching and your heart for your students inspires me and I want to say THANK YOU!  I had planned to do a giveaway to celebrate right away, but it was the end of the school year and I was just too busy!!  Since then, I've gained a few more followers, so let's just call this a 200+ giveaway!!  Ha!

I'm so thankful for each of you that stop by to read, share, and comment.  I love posting here and connecting with all of you.

AND....I'm finally on Facebook!!  I know that this will be another super fun and easy way to connect with so many great teachers and I'm very excited about it!  I'd love for you to connect with me there as well!

I recently finished my short vowel CVC Write the Room packs and bundled them into a set!  I'd love to give one away to one of my faithful followers!

Sign up to win using the Rafflecopter!  The giveaway will run for a week, and I'll pick a winner next Sunday.  Have an awesome week!

Friday, July 18, 2014

Five for Friday {July 18}

Happy Friday!

It's been a while since I've checked in.  Summer and vacations and all things wonderful!  But I'm back today with a few things that I've been up to!

1. We spent five days with my bestie and her family in Wisconsin Dells.  We just love it there.  The kids LOVE the water parks and all the fun activities.  And time with our favorites that live too far away?  Yes, please.
 This picture just makes me smile!  BFFs.  We had so much fun.
And on the last day we walked out looking like this!  You know she's your BEST when you accidentally coordinate your outfits so well for good-bye photos!  Ha!  Love this girl!

 2. I was recently invited to join a Bunco group in my neighborhood that meets once a month.  I had no idea what Bunco was, but thought it would be a fun way to meet some new people.  We got together last week and it was my first-ever time playing.  As you can see, I didn't do so well!  Ha!  BUT....the person with the most losses wins a prize so LUCKY ME!  Hee hee.  It was mindless and fun, and it's always a good night when you can have girl time, snacks, and wine.  Looking forward to next month!  

3. I went into school for a morning this week.  My first time since the end of the school year!  It felt good to be there and get a few things done.  You know how it always goes that you get a few things done, but add a dozen more to your to-do list!
I did some laminating and printed a few things to cut out at home.  The circles designate my student tables and the triangles are for our "Table Captains".

4. The top of my to-do list right now is updating my word wall!  I don't plan to change it much.  It was just ready to be freshened up after getting faded by the sun for two years.  This is one of the things I brought home to work on.

5. I've also been working on this!  
I feel like I've learned SO much as I've read through this book this summer.
I've had ideas running through my mind for a few weeks now, so I've done some creating and have gotten everything organized into this binder that I can't wait to use for guided reading this coming year.  I promise to share them soon, once I finish it all!

Have a wonderful weekend!!

Monday, July 7, 2014

The Next Step in Guided Reading {book study, Chapter 4}

Hi there, friends!  And a big WELCOME to anyone who might be new here!  I'm so thrilled to host this week's discussion of our book study!  Have you been reading along?  I would absolutely recommend this book to any of my teacher friends.  It is FILLED with resources for your guided reading time and covers every level of reader -- today we're talking about those sweet early readers!!  
Love them!
This chapter contained so much useful information that I will be able to apply DAY ONE of next school year.  Kindergarten is full of early readers, and while we see lots of them blossom in the winter and spring, there are always a few cuties that come into Kindergarten reading up a storm.  It is so important to me that I meet the needs of those students the same way I meet the needs of my emerging readers.  I LOVED all the concrete ideas Jan Richardson shared in this chapter for setting up and running my guided reading time with them.

Here are some of my thoughts on Chapter 4:
1.  What part of the reading caught your attention?  Maybe it's something you never thought about.  Maybe it's something that you've been trying to get a grip on.  Maybe it's something that you've never heard quite they way it was put.
I spent the most time in this chapter looking through the description of a sample guided reading lesson that was mapped out from pages 116-133.  It was so thorough and explained what a lesson might look like, sound like, and focus on.  I don't think a single detail was left out!  Reading through this really allowed me to picture clearly what my own guided reading times will look like next year.  Loved this!
OH!  And I LOVED on page 125 where she listed the target phonics skills by reading level -- major "AHA!" moment for me!!
AND the high frequency words based on reading level -- loved that too!
See?  I told you there was lots of goodness in this chapter. ;)

2.  How do you already incorporate this into your guided reading routine?  There's probably at least some part of the chapter that you're already doing!  Tell us about it!
Truly, it was nice to read this chapter and know that I am doing so many of the activities she suggests already.  BUT...the way she lays it all out in such a clear and detailed way is so helpful!   

3.  What is something new you want to try next school year?  How do you want to make your guided reading time better or what new things do you want to try?
I want to be more organized when it comes to my guided reading time.  I always know what I want to focus on throughout the year, and I use formative assessments to guide my instruction, but sometimes I get distracted and don't stick to my original plans. :)  Next year, I'd like to stay more organized and keep record of what I cover throughout the year.
I created a document to help me achieve this goal and maybe you can use it too.
I think this sheet could have several uses (and I'll probably try them all next year to see which I like best).  I plan to fill this out each week for every group I work with and save it in a binder so that I have documentation of the things I've covered with my kidlets during guided reading.
I also plan to fill this out and send it home weekly with my students so that parents know exactly what we're working on.  This will help them know what they can do to support their child's learning at home!

CLICK HERE to grab this freebie from Google Drive!

4.  What are some resources that you ALREADY HAVE that you can use to teach what you read about in this chapter/section?
I am fortunate at my school to have a great supply of resources for teaching reading.  We use the Scott Foresman reading curriculum, and we also have a large supply of resources for our RtI program.  There is not a shortage of leveled student texts, making words activities, phonics books, and more.  Definitely a plus when trying to plan for a productive guided reading time!

5.  What are some NEW resources that you want to get or try to use to teach what you read about in this chapter/section?
I think I've said this before in other posts (possibly even in this post...Ha!), but I really want to implement a binder or some other system for organizing my guided reading time next year.  I feel like I'm a pretty organized teacher, but the more of this book I read, the more I realize that being organized and purposeful with every minute makes all the difference!  My wheels are spinning -- and I'm anxious to put something together that I can use to keep myself organized for guided reading.  And, once I do, I'll be happy to share it with you too!

Are you reading along with us???  We would love to have you link up so that we can hear what you are learning from the book too!   You can join our linky at the end of this post.

Thanks so much for stopping by and have a wonderful Monday!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Favorite Things Party

WARNING:  This post is not teaching related whatsoever.  But every teacher needs a chance to have fun with her girlfriends every now and then, so maybe this post will be helpful to you anyway. :)

I hosted a Favorite Things party last week, and OH MY would I recommend this if you are looking for something fun to do with a group of friends.  We had such a blast!  I had wanted to host one for a while, but finally got around to doing it and I'm so glad I did!  I used blogs and Pinterest to really help me figure out how in the world to host one of these parties, so I thought blogging about my party might help you out if you are looking to host one too.

I made this invite and sent it out by e-mail.  I removed my address, but you get the idea...

I really didn't do too much as far as decorations.  I actually dreamed up a lot more than I ended up doing.  Mostly because it's summer and I didn't want to go overboard.  I knew that we'd be outside most of the night and that, really, the company was the most important detail of all.  It all ended up being just right!

I found this awesome table caddy at Home Goods and I know I'll be able to use it again and again.  The plates were so super cute and from Dollar Tree!  The paper straws and napkins were from Target.
I had a station set up for the girls to write their names on three slips of paper.  They folded them and put them into the white bowl.  We drew these names later to decide who got which gift.
I made these cards for the girls to fill with a few of their favorites.  We used these when it was time to share our gifts -- I read a card and we guessed who it belonged to, and then it was that person's turn to tell us about their favorite and choose three friends to receive it!
 This metal tin was filled with things that we might need outside.  I stocked up on bug spray, but not a single bug bothered us!!  Each girl got one of the brown and yellow bags to bring their things home in. 
 These cutie little pedestal frames are from IKEA.  So super cheap and really fun for decorating.  I made little sayings to put in them.  There were six of these total.
 I made a yummy s'more mix to share.
 I also got my very favorite pita chips and hummus.
 And then each of the girls brought something too!  I was so happy that I had saved my appetite because the food was divine!
I can't believe that I forgot to take a picture of the drink counter.  There were some very pretty and tasty drinks too!
We ate and laughed and talked and laughed some more, and then it was time for gifts!

  Each girl was asked to bring three favorites.  I chose $10 for the amount, but you could do any amount you want.  I was excited to share two of my favorites!  The Hawaiian Tropic after sun lotion is awesome!  It's a lotion/aloe blend and is so hydrating.  Not to mention that it smells incredible!  Definitely a summer must-have.  And I had to include my favorite floss.  I am known at my school for my love of dental floss!  I always have it with me - in my purse, car, desk drawer at school.  Whenever anyone needs floss, they know to come find me. :)  I happily shared my absolute favorite dental floss!
Here was the table full of goodies!  It was so much fun to see what everyone brought.  Lots of beauty items, a kitchen must-have, a cleaning supply, homemade strawberry jam, and even an unmentionable. Ha!
 This was the awesome group of ladies that joined me for the party.  Love them.
 I just had to share this photo.  This girl student taught in my classroom three years ago.  She was my first student teacher and I'm not sure I'll ever be able to top her.  I knew almost instantly that she was the real deal and that any school would be lucky to snatch her up.  I was over the moon when that school ended up being my school.  I just love working with her!

 This was my stash at the end of the the, ahem, unmentionable that I wasn't about to post a photo of. ;)

Have you ever planned or attended a Favorite Things Party?  
Just for fun, leave a comment telling me what favorite (or combination of favorites) YOU would choose that equals $10.  I'll pick a comment at random on Thursday and that person will get to pick any item you'd like from my TPT store.  Don't forget to leave your e-mail!!