Wednesday, November 26, 2014


Today is a SNOW DAY!

That needs a bit of clarification...we don't actually have snow here, yet. but Justin says it could happen. We have parent-teacher conferences today (no students) and my principal sent an email out canceling for the safety of families and staff. Thank you!

Last weekend, I posted this link to my Snow Day freebie
on my Facebook page:

It's still a forever-freebie, but it's about to receive a huge makeover!

Earlier this week, I pulled out my Snow Day packet to review all 85+ pages. I had created these pages for the students I worked with two years ago and then expanded with additional pages for last year's. 

But this year? These pages are a little out of reach for my particular group. I will be busy today and over Thanksgiving break adding MANY more pages to provide practice on exactly what my students need this year. This packet will be additional pages, plus some cute new graphics and fonts. It will remain $5.00 regardless of how monstrous it becomes! If you've already purchased (thank you!), please look for the new downloads.

I'm linking up with The Pleated Poppy and The Mummy Chronicles (& check out her huge giveaway!) for WIWW! 

I'm not really setting any new records for teacher fashion lately...I promise to do better once the holidays have passed. Yes, it's only November 26, but in my world it will be January 1st before we know it!

Here's 2 outfits from the week. I'm still playing the unfortunate game "What fits?" (Thank goodness for skinny pants & boyfriend cardigans!)

And this is what I'll be sporting all day today!

Please stop back tomorrow...I'll be sharing some sweet pictures from our Thanksgiving celebration at school. Have a wonderful & safe Wednesday!

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Monday, November 24, 2014

Sephora Giveaway & New Bundle!

No, it's not Black Friday and you haven't even stuffed your turkey yet but we are kicking off the holiday season early with a few other blogger friends by giving away a $160 Sephora gift card to ONE lucky reader!!
a Rafflecopter giveaway Winner will be chosen at random on December 1, 2014.

Thank you Victoria for organizing the freebie and being such a sweet & supportive blogger-friend!

Today marks my 3rd bloggiversary! 

Positively Learning

To say I'm thankful for everything I've learned sharing and learning from the blogging world would be a HUGE understatement! I remember starting this blog to accompany my store...thinking maybe I would pop up an action shot of a favorite product and activity. Possibly pose a teaching question and/or share a solution to a common teaching problem.

I NEVER could have predicted how much this blog has grown into a community of support and FUN. I went from awkwardly sharing a tiny tidbit to mostly oversharing each and every thing that happens during the week!

THANK YOU to everyone who visits, reads, and encourages!


I had a busy weekend of procrastinating on my lesson plans...I'm continuing on this 5+ year project of organizing my dropbox. I started tackling my clipart, specifically the black & white clipart I use for creating phonics products.

Here's what I'm trying out:

I made a PPT slide for each phonics sound/spelling. Next, I cut and paste the preferred clipart image I use. On the left, I inserted a textbox of the image name (I also have a list of artists with hyperlinks to credit). I realize this is showing off my extreme-Type-A tendencies, but I'm totally okay with that :)

After spending some quality time with my 16,000+ dropbox files, I realized that I really need a better organization plan. This is what happened when I typed in "Thanksgiving"

And who knows how many more Thanksgiving files I have that are either labeled "Turkey" or worse..."01234..." Can anyone relate or are you much more on top of things than me?

I really need to simplify. I need to take a break on downloading all the incredible freebies I see daily and just focus on what I can actually accomplish with a rowdy enthusiastic group of first graders during 180 days of school. 

My dream would be to have everything in one place. I could just type in "December Teaching" and one huge file would appear with everything organized and ready-to-go. 

I'm slowly starting the process. Yesterday, I took a hard look at my December calendar and realized I have only 15 teaching days. During those days, I will also be administering NWEA, attending a couple IEP meetings, and starting a new Power Hour (Guided Reading) group. I should also probably acknowledge that there's a holiday coming up ;)

I won't even tell you what my search for "Christmas" yielded in my Dropbox. I could probably use a different holiday activity for the rest of my teaching career and never repeat the same one!

I took my favorite Christmas products (paid and free) and bundled them into one large file:

If you click the link above, it will take you to the product description. 

Please download the preview...

There's a clickable link to each product (including 2 freebies!)

This makes my Type A heart very happy ♥
I'm also linky up all week with Blog Hoppin'

Today's was very easy:

I'm incredibly thankful for Paul and all of the supportive staff that make up Teachers Pay Teachers. There's a wonderful sense of community that keep the focus where it belongs...the students. I'm thankful they run such a financially viable business that makes it easy to both find and access exactly what I need to serve my students. I can't imagine teaching without them!

Have a wonderful Monday!

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Sunday, November 23, 2014

Frozen Update & Huge Elf Freebie!

Thanks for stopping by!

Exciting news...I just finished updating my packet
Frozen - A Wintery Mix of Math & Literacy.

Every year my students help me learn more and more about what they need. I added more activities based on my students' areas of growth and I gave the entire packet a fancy makeover:

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If you already purchased it (thank you!), it's still only $4.50 and you can go to "My Purchases" and redownload to get the updates.

Here's what's included:

Frozen! - Two "Blast!" style phonics games. One set has 48 cards featuring initial blends with long vowels spelled with Silent E. We just wrapped up our Silent E unit last week. When students return after Thanksgiving break, we're tackling initial and final blends. My students are ready for blends, but I'm not ready to have them leave behind the Silent E. See how I was sneaky and solved my problem? ;)

I also left the original cards (over 170 - I spread them out to create 3-4 different games!) with the adorable penguins all bundled up. These cards have initial blends, final blends, and then words with BOTH initial and final.

All the cards are the same size, so they can easily be mix & matched. My students are thinking they are playing a game, but I'm actually taking a quick-check assessment! Simply count out ten turns (or less if your group is larger) and you can collect a percentage easily, i.e.: my students decoded 8/10 words accurately with no prompts = 80% mastery!

There's also snowflake number bonds (I print them on "Frozen" assorted blue cardstock) and a phonemic awareness interactive activity (plus ideas to use it as an interactive bulletin board). My students did this last year...we often move ahead from phonemic awareness in first grade, but my students still need it!

I'll also be doubling up the activity cards to use in my sensory bin:

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I just finished updating my HUGE Elf Antics freebie.
It's up to 25 pages now!

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Although I do find that I often need to create customized materials for my students, I would much rather updated existing files. If you have ever downloaded anything from my store (free or paid), please check back periodically - it will often be additions (extra pages), rather than substitutions. 

I'll be back soon to share more photos of our elf in action. I can't even imagine what mayhem it will bring with this year's students, haha. I'm also keeping my Elf Antics Pinterest board updated this season :)

My Elf on a Shelf freebie is linked up with:
Classroom Freebies Manic Monday
Have a fantastic week!

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Friday, November 21, 2014

Number Bonds Freebie & More!

This post is packed with exciting info...IF you like number bonds, freebies, and cute outfits :)

I'm linking up with Kacey to share a VERY random 

Today is our students' last day before the Thanksgiving break. Next week, staff reports Monday-Wednesday for professional development and parent-teacher conferences. 

This may not go over well with many readers, but I'm wondering if anyone else can relate... My students really struggle with "fun" activities at school :(

We thrive on structure and schedules. We track our progress and feel proud of our hard work! But festive holiday activities that translate to a change in our routine?


I had almost blocked out the trauma of Halloween...until yesterday. Everything was going swimmingly during the morning. My students were extra gritty completing our math unit assessment and participating in Power Hour (Guided Reading). So we deserve to let loose in the afternoon with an adorable Thanksgiving math-snack-recipe and writing, right? Doesn't that sound like fun?

Just. Say. No. 
There were tears, a few swift kicks (!!),  and timeouts. 
There was also a lot of extra caffeine (for me). 

I did try to prepare everyone for the schedule change, and I tried to keep the setting as much the same as possible. I used our "first...then" language, but the holiday got the best of us :(

I'm just a tad concerned about today. I know the general educators have prepared some fantastic holiday activities...there will be pumpkin pie sampling, Thanksgiving food graphing, and we are even making butter!

As a special educator, I will be armed and ready with our social stories ("I can handle change!" "How to take a timeout" and "It's never too late to fix it!"), picture schedules, and believe it or not...math & literacy reinforcements. Since we don't easily transition from a highly structured environment to a "free-form" schedule, I have transformed some of our "tried and true" learning resources by incorporating a Thanksgiving theme. We have Thankful sentence writing, Gobble Till You Wobble (freebie!) vocabulary cards to use for writing, and our favorite...turkey number bonds (freebie!):

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Positively Learning

Positively Learning

Here's a picture of how I set them up using colored cardstock and coordinating pom poms:

Positively Learning

The number bond freebie is linked up with:


Fingers crossed we have a wonderful day of learning!

I'm so excited to share that the next Get Your Pretty On Challenge registration opens today! This is my 5th challenge and I have no plans to ever stop. If you've been reading for awhile (thank you!), you have seen some of the outfits ideas from previous challenges. If you're new (welcome!), you can click on the label "Fashion Snap" or right here to catch up.

Registration is open for only one week (ends Thanksgiving night). Next, we receive our shopping list! There's usually about 20 items and I usually already own most of them. The last challenge, I had a blast picking up 2-3 new items and adding them to my existing wardrobe for fashionable updated looks. These challenges have truly helped curb my shopping habits while expanding my wardrobe repertoire.

And to close out this long & random post...I'm so happy to joining these lovely bloggers for our Style Me series:

Today is all about Winter Hats. As someone who is freezing-cold from September through April, I have my fair share of cozy hats. I live in the city, so once my car is parked after school on Friday, it's rarely moved until Monday morning. That means we're hoofing it or hailing cabs to get out and about. So my winter hats are not selected based on fashion, but instead warmth.

Here's what I have so far:

Am I missing anything? I'm off to go check out what the other Style Me Bloggers suggest!

Have a fabulous Friday!

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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

WIWW & SENSE-Sational Thanksgiving

Happy WIWW!

I'm dropping by to share an EASY Thanksgiving sensory bin idea, plus linking up for WIWW:

Positively Learning

The bin is filled with all sorts of Thanksgiving goodness...gourds, pine cones (cinnamon-scented), table scatter (various acorns, pumpkins, autumn-colored gems), and even a few turkeys.

It took ALL my willpower to not jump into my winter-themed bins. I have WAY more ideas than available weeks! Instead, I stuck with autumn in an attempt to not skip over Thanksgiving!

We are reading a fiction (Thanksgiving for Emily Ann) and nonfiction (Turkeys that Fly and Turkeys that Don't), plus completing several "thankful" writing responses:

Positively Learning

I offered these Thanksgiving writing freebies last week,
 in case you missed they are!

My students' stamina for writing is increasing (thank goodness, since it is November!) and now we are working on building independence for completing work :)

We easing into it with a few activity pages
from my Don't Eat Tom Thanksgiving Activity Pack:

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The entire pack is on sale for $5.00 until Friday! 

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I'm also linking up with The Pleated Poppy and The Mummy Chronicles to share "What I Wore Wednesday"

I'm not going to sugarcoat's been tough to not reach for only warm & cozy this week (a.k.a. flannel & UGGs). Lucky for me, Alison & Cyndi's challenge outfits came very close to my cold-weather requirements:

the next outfit picture was...a fail :(

The second outfit we received for the challenge was a chambray shirt, skinny pants and boots. Super easy and chic, but I had a picture-fail. 

And here's what I'm wearing today...unless I change before I leave ;)

This outfit is serving a dual purpose - our old public school temperatures range from 55 to above 90 with nothing in between. It's so sad for our students :(  Today I'm prepared for it...I have a sleeveless black top with black dress pants and then a camel boyfriend cardigan for when I move to a freezing classroom. I also have a scarf, mittens, hat & a parka for outdoor dismissal! I keep an extra set of these at school (plus rainboots) for weather-emergencies. 

Thanks for stopping by! Please visit this Friday for BIG news!
Enjoy your last full week before Thanksgiving :)

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Sunday, November 16, 2014

Behavior: Making Lemonade

Welcome to the last full week before Thanksgiving break!

What is the holiday schedule at your school? We have regular hours all this week and then parent-teacher conferences (no students) next Monday-Wednesday. 

As a special educator, I will sit in on several conferences either to assure parents their child is doing well, offer suggestions and/or resources, or have a conversation discussing next steps. 
We also have a few scheduled staff meetings and possibly some work time (fingers crossed!).  We are allowed to leave on Wednesday at 12:00 pm.

Does this sound similar to your schedule?

The week of conferences is a lot of fun. We have an all-staff potluck one of the days, I'm blasting Christmas Pandora while I'm typing, and there's a festive feel in the building all week. I don't mind being there at all...and it so nice to leave for Thanksgiving break feeling accomplished!

Lately I've been sharing off and on about my school year and people have been so kind in response. Just this past week, I've sort of come out of the fog I've been in and able to reassess the situation. Previously, I think I was in denial and then almost in mourning for what my former professional life looked like! 

This probably sounds a tad over-dramatic, but for whatever reason, it's been rough! Now I think a "new normal" is finally starting to form (it's about time!) and I'm ready to start making lemonade :)

Here's what I'm starting to feel better about now:

Behavior is slowly coming around! Before this school year, I felt that I had decent behavior skills...I don't fall into power struggles, I can calmly state replacement behaviors, etc. I just haven't had to use these skills too much. Until this year. 

I'm now (somewhat) happy to report that my behavior management is being tested and perfected this school year! The "testing" hasn't been loads of  fun, but I'm facing it head on and feeling much more confident. There are scenes that may make an educator cringe and I can honestly say to myself: 

"Oh, that's nothing!"

I'm also feeling much more confident with data tracking regarding behavior, completing Functional Behavior Assessments, observations,etc. I've been trying a lot of different resources and starting to see what sticks. If  you search "behavior" on this blog, you'll see tons of charts and trackers. 

Here's a peek at a recent one:

Behavior Chart Template - Click here to download!

Last year, I was using Grit Trackers with my students to track academic progress. This year, I'm adding the element of self-monitoring behavior. Can a six-year old do this effectively? 
I can now confidently state "YES!"

I'm almost ready to gather up all the resources I've created and implemented. I'm hoping to make a bundle...and it makes sense to have them editable. I've found that customizing behavior charts is key . What do you think? What would you like to see in this bundle?

So now I'm looking ahead...I feel ready to say "SO LONG!" to 2014 and I'm feeling much more excited about kicking off 2015 using all that I've learned. Anyone else? What new areas have you tackled so far this school year? Please share :)

I'll post soon about other areas I've been working on...managing 1:1 (student aides), sensory boxes, language development, social stories for students with autism, using apps for communication, and differentiated homework!

The behavior chart freebie is linked up with:
Classroom Freebies Manic Monday
Enjoy your weekend!

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Friday, November 14, 2014

Five for Thankful Friday!


This is the school year "TGIF" has been taken to a whole new level.

I ♥ my students, but boy...I am REALLY been challenged. 
I've had to reevaluate almost EVERYTHING I have in my bag of tricks... especially revising how I measure success.

Anyone else?

I'm linking up today with Kacey 
for a most random (& thankful!) Five for Friday:

We explored the November harvest theme this week with our scarecrow sensory box:

Positively Learning

You can read more (& grab a freebie) here!

Next week, we'll be reading both fiction and nonfiction text to explore Thanksgiving. We'll be using both specific writing prompts and reading responses, plus incorporating more "general" writing. 

Here's one (or two) you can download to use with your students:

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Positively Learning

Thanksgiving Writing Freebie
Click here to download!

I absolutely ♥ using Kimberly Geswein's fonts for creating...she offers a HUGE variety that my students both enjoy and can access (legibility), plus she just makes them so EASY to use with her "bundle" format for both downloading and licensing.

I  incorporated her "frames" font to create the above prompt. Cute!

I highly encourage you to check out her website to see all the creative options (fonts! Silhouette Cameo resources!), plus listen to her podcasts: Inspiration for Entrepreneurs.

While you are there, I'd love to get your opinion! Below I'm listing a few of my favorites to use as my "basic" font for my students. Which do you like best & why? Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

I don't know how your assessment calendar runs, but we are busy doing assessments in the weeks running up to both the Thanksgiving and winter breaks. It's a bummer because it's definitely takes away from celebrating the holiday themes, but it's also SO exciting to measure progress!

Our school has moved away from Fountas & Pinnell's Benchmark Assessment to University of Chicago's STEP. This is one of the books I'm listening to over and over (and over) again: 

Positively Learning

It's extremely creepy. It also doesn't help that our school has more mice than children :( This book is considered "realistic fiction" - Yikes!

I'm all about the impending holidays here! I've already busted out my Christmas bracelet, candy cane coffee, and Netflix holiday classics. Have you started yet?

Since I'm a devout Whole 30 follower, I'm looking for healthy substitutions for one holiday treat: eggnog. I know it's the opposite of healthy (HFCS, artificial coloring, etc.), but I still ♥ the grocery store eggnog. Actually, I love ANY type of eggnog. I love it so much (in a chilled glass, my protein shake, in my coffee, straight out of the carton), that I've had to "outlaw" it in my house.

I thought this was understood and then I found this...
on Monday morning (of all days!):

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What?!? Do you think I wouldn't notice this?
I'm happy to say it's still there & I haven't gotten into it...yet. 
This weekend I'll need to do some google-research to find a more wholesome recipe. If you have one, please leave a comment!

This post is also linked up with Teaching Blog Addicts:

  Teaching Blog Addict

Have a fabulous Friday!

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