Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Currently... Almost 2015!

I am posting a Currently before the new month begins? WOW. Vacation must be affecting my brain. That's like turning in an assignment before it's due. (Rather than three days late with a list of excuses!) Early is kind of exhilarating! (Clearly EARLY is a word that is not often in use in my vocabulary!

I just LOVE our BlogFriend, Farley. It's like she gives us a present each month through Currently. All of her posts have a funny line (or twelve)--and they are, at the same time, often the source for much reflection for me! Farley is sort of like a Public Service Announcement for "Take Care of Yourself." After you link up today, be sure to link back and read a few of her "other" posts--along with Currently, of course!

Here are my musings now and for the month ahead...

I've truly enjoyed my vacation this year. I have done a lot of resting and relaxing. I've watched TV, and read books and magazines, and taken naps whenever the mood struck. I have to admit I am getting comfortable with this laid-back lifestyle. I just hope I don't fall asleep in the middle of the day when I return to school!

I really want to have a plan for my after school time when we return to school. I am NOT an afternoon kind of person. I like to get up early (often before 5:00) and I can stay up late into the night. But the middle of the day...

We are an "early start" school. We have to be there by 7:20 and "duty" starts at 7:25 if you have a morning assignment.  I have playground duty or "Greeter" duty most days, and I'm almost always on time. But our school day ends at 2:00 (which I love, love, LOVE!). Of course, there are meetings and IEPs and tutoring after school, but I can be out of the parking lot by 4:00 on most days... if I don't work after school. Since this time of day is not my most productive, I am usually a work-in-the-evening kind of gal. I love planning after dinner with my coffee close by. But before I can plan I need to organize what I have dragged home. Too often my way of finishing the school day is to dump everything in sight into a box and take it all home to be sorted, graded, etc. (And, sometimes, I don't look at the box at all in the evening.)

If I am a little more strategic, I would be a lot more organized. So, I am thinking of making an "After School To Do" list. I may even make it into a sticker chart! I am not beyond working for extrinsic rewards--how about a mini Kit Kat if I get it done?! I just need to do one hour of concentrated work after school, so that I don't have three hours of chaos in the evenings. Make sense?

Like everyone, I'm sure, I have plenty of goals for the new year. At the moment, I have Kit Kats in every room (My students know me too well!) and I am going to have to give them away if I am to find space for an apple or two! And I want to exercise more and sleep more--which can be accomplished if I don't say YES! to every project, training, and activity that comes along.

With all of that extra time I'll be saving by organizing myself after school, I could learn to do something new. At this moment, I am thinking I'd like to learn how to play the violin! Or... maybe I'll just eat a few more Kit Kats, take a nap, and dream about it!

Don't forget to link up with Farley... 

Wishing you a happy, JOY-filled New Year!

Monday, December 29, 2014

Just One Word... with Punctuation This Time.

Do you choose "One Little Word" each year? I love the simplicity of this tradition! 

There's a whole website devoted to the concept. You can check it out HERE.

I have made lists and lists of resolutions over the years... only to lose the paper before the new year begins. (And, often, my commitment to "healthy eating" lasts only until I pass one of the four Starbucks within a mile's distance from my house!) Resolutions are so daunting--and they are lost all together as soon as they are "broken."

But I can manage one word. It's just do-able for me.

For well over a week, I have been thinking about my word for 2015...

For a day or two, the word-to-be was CONTEMPLATE. However, I think I may already take "contemplate" to an obsessive level (as evidenced by the hours spent mulling over my new word!) But I knew that over-thinking was part of my problem, so I kept refining...

My life is often like an wobbling tricycle speeding down a steep hill. In too many situations, I hurry to get going... and keep going. Sometimes I don't think things through carefully until I am already in mid-speed. So, for a  little while, I thought the word should be STOP. But that sounded so... abrupt. (And a little scary).

So I decided that the word should be WAIT. Just wait before you rush into things. Into so many things. Into TOO many things. Yes! And yet... Well, wait felt too much like procrastination. (And I've already mastered that skill too!) Nope I wasn't there yet.

And then I thought of PAUSE.

PAUSE before I commit hours of my time (Do I really want to spend six hours recreating that water cycle diagram?)
PAUSE before I purchase (Do I need all of the books in the series right now or can I get one now and have money for something else?)
PAUSE before I over-contemplate (ruminate?) over things. (Wouldn't it be better to just pray and take action?!)
PAUSE before I eat the cookie/cookies and consider an alternative (Although you don't prefer an apple, won't you feel better later?)
PAUSE before I comment (Will those words be kind enough or do I need to rethink my response?)
PAUSE before I say "yes" to more things than I can handle (Are you willing to give up even more sleep if you commit to doing something else?)
PAUSE before I choose my word for the year. (Are you sure this it it? )


Pause. With a period. Pause. Think. Reflect. And then act. I can already imagine saying this to myself throughout the day! Unconventional, yes. But I like it. (Happy Sigh!)
Do you have a word yet? If you do... and even if you don't... Casey Jane at PrimaryPowers is having a Link-up. Lots of bloggers have joined in. And they are sharing their words if you need some direction or some motivation... or if you are looking for ideas. Click on the graphic to enjoy their reflections. And then come back and link up your own word!

The new year is SO close. I am sending you all good wishes!

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Sending You Happy Holiday Wishes!

I'm wishing you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy Holiday Season! I hope that you spend the day surrounded by family and friends... and that the holiday season is filled with good memories, plenty of laughter and lots of love!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Visit, Enter... and WIN! (It could be YOU!)

I have a LOT of clip art in my collection. A. LOT. And I have clip art from many different artists. But my clip art collection is special to me for a different reason: Through blogging and TpT, I have the opportunity to meet the real people who create that fabulous art!

One of my favorite clip artists is Zippy from Zip-A-Doo-Dah Designs. She is very talented... AND she is very sweet too! Here's a sampling of what is in my own Zippy collection...

So much loveliness!

And why am I telling you this? Because Zippy is having an AMAZING giveaway. In fact, there are twelve days of giveaways! And I am so lucky enough to be a part of the giveaway for Day 11. And if you enter, you can win a $30 Target gift card! What a perfect time to have some extra spending money!

But that's not all! You can win some store credits at TpT or some featured products. Lucky me... I am THRILLED to partner up with Amy Alvis and Joey Udovich. They are two of my blogging mentors! And their stores are packed with great stuff!

Here are the store and blog links for my pals...
  • Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah Designs on TpT... HERE
  • Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah Designs on facebook... HERE
  • Amy Alvis on TpT... HERE
  • Amy Alvis' blog... HERE
  • Joey Udovich on TpT... HERE
  • And you can visit her blog... HERE

So... How do you enter? Just follow the Rafflecopter directions below. I'm sending you lots of good luck wishes... I hope you win!!!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Five for Friday... Cooking, Cleaning and Catching Up!

I am wrestling with the hands on the clock. I wish time would just SLOW DOWN. I have truly enjoyed all of my "minutes" during this break. I am one of the lucky ones who get a whole week away from school for Thanksgiving. It has been pure bliss.

Since I am always late for all-things-technological, it seems only fitting that I should be late for Doodle Bugs' Five for Friday. I know I am not the only Five for Fraturday gal around, so I don't feel too bad. In fact, I have blogged twice in three days. That's practically a record!

So here are some of the JOYS that have been a part of the week...

We participate in two Thanksgiving meals each year. First, we join in a "Family Gathering" with "extended" family and great food (because I rarely have to cook anything)! My friend, the hostess, is a gourmet cook... Translate that as: "YUM!" Then we have a just-the-two-of-us Thanksgiving dinner at home. Here's a picture of the turkey. Love the giant thermometer? A consequence of growing old... and I still can't read it without my glasses!

I did have some concerns that there wouldn't be any place to eat the Thanksgiving dinner. I have taken over every room in the house with piles and piles of school stuff. Wherever you look, there is a pile of books, a pile of papers and/or forty-seven assorted pens. The dining room table has served as my desk since September. Hmmmm. At least I have now have pictorial proof that the table was (once) cleared!

While I was flying through my cleaning frenzy, I decided to move some boxes into the garage. Of course, I had to have matching boxes. And the boxes had to have labels. And then I decided there should be clip art. I guess no one really wonders why it takes me so long to get anything done...

I love these clear bins. They have them at Office Depot (They have colored ones, too, which I use for curriculum). These bins hold enough to be efficient, but not so much that I cannot pick them up when they are full). I open them all year long to replenish supplies, and having everything in one--labeled!--place makes that task go much more smoothly. 

Even after thirty years, I still love planning and creating lessons. With computers and clip art, I may love it even more at this point! I have to teach the water cycle in science this week. However, the water cycle lessons require (in my mind) some background knowledge about phases of matter. So I planned those lessons. And those matter lessons require (in my mind) some background knowledge about atoms, molecules and elements. So I planned those lessons too. At this point, I am reminding myself that sometimes you have to go backwards to feel successful going forward. And I am rejoicing in the fact that I have science planned for the week! Besides, I think any flip chart or slide show is better (or at least more fun for me to look at!) when a little Melonheadz clip art is added in. I love all of Nikki's kidlettes!

I still have a lengthy To Do list and LOTS of papers to grade. Thus my plea for time to slow down. Even if it is only to have a few more hours to "get stuff done," I still enjoy doing things at my own pace. And, happily, there are just three short weeks until the next vacation.

So, with a contented sigh, I wish you a happy Sunday!

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving!

Hello Bloggy Friends!
Wherever you are, whatever you're doing, I hope you are enjoying the day!

Although there will be turkey and accompaniments later, my plans for the morning include organizing some items in the garage and sorting through the papers currently cluttering the dining room table. After all, it will be hard to eat if there is nowhere to put the plates--or the food!

I'm embarrassed to admit: On most days, my dining room tables doubles as my expansive desk!

Like Scarlet O'Hara, I'll think about THIS in a little while!

I am thankful for so many things...
    - I am happy and healthy and have, truly, everything I need
    - I live in a beautiful place with lovely weather (Today's forecast is 87 degrees!)
    - My faith sustains me and keeps everything in perspective
    - My friends manage to stick with me and celebrate or console me depending on the
    - My family comes together for each holiday to kindle the spirit
    - After many, many years, I still love being a teacher
    - I am part of a wonderful blogging community, filled with teacher friends who constantly make
      my life easier--even when they don't know it!
    - My life is filled with blessings, big and small...

With that, I will send you good wishes for a wonderful day, filled with good food and good friends... and all the happiness your heart can hold!

Monday, November 10, 2014

There's a (Really Good) Giveaway Going On...

One of my favorite things about blogging is the chance to meet wonderful people like Laura from Love to Teach. She is incredibly sweet and always leaves the nicest feedback on other people's blogs!

She's having an amazing giveaway, featuring some great products AND TWO $75 gift cards! Even the button is adorable! Click on the image below and go enter. I would love it if someone visiting my blog could win a prize!

I've spent most of my weekend working on report cards. Yuck! Report cards give me an anxiety attack. It doesn't seem to matter how much evidence I have, I can talk myself into or out of almost any grade for any student. It's that whole "body of evidence" thing. We're not supposed to use "percents," but, instead, consider all of the evidence together. Things seems more "cut and dried" for math, but for reading...    All of the intricacies of reading summarized into one font-of-six number. (and I keep forgetting if 1 is "high" or 1 is "low" because we have changed systems so often!) Almost impossible, if you ask me! (Of course, they didn't, so I am stuck with their system!)

So, forget about my report card worries and go enter Laura's giveaway. Something good will definitely come out of that effort!

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Currently... It's November!

There are many (MANY) things I love about Farley's Currently. But one of the things I love most is the fact that so often it is a Currently post that brings me back to blogging. Doesn't seem to matter how long I have been away, Farley's Currently is like an invitation to come back home.

So here I am. I feel like I should I have some sort of confession statement: "I'm Kim and I'm a blogging slacker." That is, however, more than obvious... considering my last post is dated August! It seems to happen that way with me every year. Each August, I get excited about posting the adventures of a new school year. And each November, I look back and wonder: "Why didn't blogging happen this time?"

Enough looking back. Let's move forward. It's November! The month of football and turkey dinners (and lunches!) and report cards and parent conferences... and days away from school! I panic each year when I realize there are no holidays (without school) in October. So November always seems like an extra blessing!

I am spending this weekend checking in homework, grading papers and planning some quick assessments. We have a new report card this year and it's not ready yet. We saw a prototype, but we can't enter grades yet. I always procrastinate when it comes to report cards, so I have NO room to complain. In all honesty, the program will likely be ready before I am! But I am guessing there ARE people at my school whose grades are actually ready...

Conferences are around the corner. Initially, we thought there would be interpreters to attend our conferences to explain the new grading system to the parents. So, I submitted my request: I needed interpreters in Spanish, Arabic, Japanese, Vietnamese and Chinese. Alas, there isn't any money for interpreters after all, so we will need to get creative. Thankfully, our secretary sets up a schedule for a few conference sessions in Spanish. And our principal jumps in too. I guess we will need to operate on the bring-a-friend system for the other languages. Sometimes the students present their part of the conference in their home language. It is always so impressive to watch!

All of this talk about report cards and conferences is making me want cheesecake. It's my "feel-better" food. I went to the Cheesecake Factory with a group of friends a couple of weekends ago... Oh the deliciousness! This was my pick for the day... Kahlua Cocoa Coffee Cheesecake!

Let's stop thinking about cheesecake... Unless they will deliver?

Have you read Number Talks by Sherry Parrish? It's a wonderful book and I am learning so much about number strings and math conversations. I can't wait to teach kids who have learned math in this way starting in kindergarten. It is so fun to listen to kids think! (Click the picture to check out the book on Amazon.

I hope that this November finds you well and happy. I am looking forward to seeing what is Currently going on in everyone else's lives. In the meantime, why not hop by to Farley's and make a friend or two at this month's link-up. I'll see you there!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

A Bright Idea: Picture Book Organization

Oh, I just love to read about all of the Bright Ideas in this monthly BlogLand linky. I have collected so many tips and strategies and materials over the past few months... Haven't you? I am particularly excited about the August edition because I know I will have a list of Back-to-School ideas to consider!

My Bright Idea this month has to do with my picture book collection. I have a LOT of books--as in lots and lots and lots! I keep my picture books in "tall" boxes like these. I got the boxes at the Container Store, and almost any picture book will fit inside.

But here's what usually happens: I am running late for school (Why, Oh WHY do my stories always have to start like this?!) and I need a picture book for a lesson. I rip the top off of the first box, thumb through, no luck. Try the second box, thumb through, consider crying, still no luck. Try the third box, sigh with great exasperation and give up (or, less frequently, squeal with delight when I find what I need).

Based on this "system," I never knew which books I owned, and I was constantly buying a second copy of a book when my Amazon account said clearly, "You purchased this book...."  More than once, I said to the screen (withhold commentary, please): "Well if you're so sure I purchased this book, Where is it?!"

This madness came to an end this summer. I knew that this was the only time I would have for a picture book overhaul, so I took advantage of a few July days.

I numbered the boxes from one to six. (Coincidentally, I found that filling the boxes made them pretty heavy. I figured I got a "gym work out" every time I moved the boxes from one room to another. Well, maybe not a whole work out...)

For each box, I made an alphabetical index--and color-coded it to match the numbered label on top of the box. If I don't have my computer, I can quickly scan the indexes on the sides of the boxes to find what I need. More importantly, because I typed the list in Power Point, if I have my computer close by, I can just do a "search" for the book title and Voila! (Please say this with French accent since I can't find the accent key!) I quickly know which box to look in!

I also listed a possible focus for each of the books: nature, kindness, courage, etc. While it is not completely comprehensive (and there are a few typos and other errors), I have a system that works! I can search the document for a topic and see if I tagged any other books for use with that same topic. Compiling the Picture Book Index took a bit of time, but I did the work while watching movies, so it was fairly painless.

For many books, I took the system one step further....

When I read a blog post or track a pin to a resource about a book, I print it and put it in the back of the book. In this way, I have someone else's notes to help guide me through lesson planning.

Here's an example: Recently, I found a pin from Teaching with a Mountain View and a blogpost from Life in 4B about a book called Sierra that could be used to teach personification. I printed both and placed them inside my book.

So, how do I keep it all organized? I use sheet protectors cut in half! The "combo" looks like this...

I use The Important Book to teach a variety if different strategies every year, so I have (gulp!) three copies of the book (and now you know why!) (Click the pic to add a copy to your own library)

I know that my sweet blogfriend,Stephanie, from Teaching in Room 6 uses this book too. I found her blog post about the book, printed it, and placed in a "pocket" at the back of the book.  Now I can see Stephanie's notes when I take out the book to use it in my classroom.

And if you know me at all, you know that the pocket is not affixed crocked--even though it looks that way. When I propped it open (with a book of crayons!) to take the picture, the photo came out wonky-looking. Just had to set the record straight (heeheehee).

One of my absolute favorite sources for picture book commentaries is Barbara Gruener from The Corner on Character. I always love her ideas and she presents them in such a wonderful way! Here's my copy of Stellaluna... (Click the pic for a link to Amazon)

And here are Barbara's notes, tucked neatly into the "pocket" at the back of the book. I use a few small pieces of double stick tape to hold the pockets, and my notes stay right where I can find them.

It is so... refreshing... to have everything together in one place. I am forever spending my time trying to find "missing pieces" when I am trying to plan. Having the books and notes together will save me a lot of time. And having a Picture Book Index will ensure that I can find the right book in the right box without exasperation or tears.

Just look at all of the Bright Ideas listed in the Link Up below! The authors have listed a grade range--and most have listed a topic to guide your browsing. I just know you're not going to want to miss any of them!

If you enjoyed this bright idea, I'd love it if you linked up with me on Bloglovin, Facebook, or Pinterest.

Monday, August 11, 2014

DaaaaaDuh DaaaaaDuh Shark Week Hop!

WooHoo! Shark Week is here. And that means two things: There will be a lot of shark-infested programs on TV... AND there's a Shark Week Blog Hop going on!

All teachers know that kids learn more when they’re excited and engaged. For this event, a team of bloggers has come together to help your students take a BITE out of learning with a theme your students are sure to love. And we think you're going to love this little hop as well!


Each of the bloggers in this link-up is sharing a motivational strategy to keep students' interest level high. Here's my offering...

Frame by Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah Designs HERE on TpT ... Funky watches by Sarah Beth HERE on TpT
One way I help my students get excited about learning is to involve them in setting mini-goals for learning. When we are doing a whole class activity, I support them in setting classroom goals that can be attainable... with a little work. For example, if we are sequencing decimal cards or finding sets of synonyms, I ask students to set a goal for the amount of time needed for all partnerships to complete the task. I use strategic partnering (and/or modified materials) so that no one is made to feel "under the microscope." Because they are working in partnerships, they are motivated to help each other because their work contributes to the class' success. Often, students will say, "Let's try again... I think we can do better!" And they do!

Adding a shark-fin twist to an activity will add a little intrigue... So, in honor of Shark Week, I'm offering a freebie with a sharky vibe...

Slide 10.png

My Shark Week freebie is a sorting activity involving mathematical comparisons. Students need to sort the comparisons... deciding which are true and which are not true. They look like this:

I giggle every time I look at "Mark the Shark." He's from Scrappin Doodles (HERE on TpT). I love him! And I think he provides just the right amount of motivation to take on the math task.

In order to accommodate a range of grades and ability levels, I included a set with whole numbers, a set with tenths, and a set with hundredths... all with a smiling shark. (I would never want math to be scary!) Simply choose the set that works with your students. You can mix and match levels if you need to differentiate--I put little letters in the corner so you can keep track of the cards.

Click on the graphic below to download your freebie from

Every blog in the Shark Week Blog Hop features a fishy freebie for you and your students--but you'll need to hurry! Shark Week only lasts until Sunday, August 17th. Just keep swimming clicking on the links and collecting freebies as you go! Be sure to watch for fins along the way...