Monday, August 3, 2015

Assess Me & B2S Freebie!

Ready for an Assessment?

I'm linking up for a festive linky with Rachel from The Tattooed Teacher! This is the second week of her Assess Me party. Be sure to visit her to learn more about everyone...better yet, join in!

I definitely need to explain a few...

I know we wouldn't allow students to choose both or neither! 
And definitely not write in their own answer choice!

I ♥ dresses...with flip flops or Converse, jean jackets or sleeveless, add some leggings and boots for comfy!

I've worn the same diamond studs and matching pendant for years and love them! I do occasionally wear a statement necklace, but I don't change out my earrings. 

I chose Jay-Z because I had no idea Conan had a version!

City. City. City. Like NYC. But for now, Baltimore City. 
Love walking, stoops, boutiques, cabs  (actually, that's far-fetched) and all the energy that comes with city living! I have an irrational fear of wild animals, so living in the city works out well :)

Online. A lot.

Showers in summer and both in winter 
(because I'm always freezing).

I think everything else is self-explanatory!!

I wanted to share a throwback from 2012 (!!!) ... it includes a fun freebie perfect for Back to School. We used this at our first team meeting and it would also be great with students:


Like to Get to Know You Well

Can you name that artist?!?

This past week, our first grade team met & our fantastic team leader had us do a cute (& delicious) icebreaker. To start, we were asked to select 3 Starburst candies & they had to be different colors. Next, we had a list of questions color-coordinated with the candies. We went around the table and answered the appropriate questions. They were fun Qs, including: what's your fave city to visit, what's your favorite thing to shop for...

Side note: there are SIX general educators for 1st grade now (!), a special educator (that's me) and then a writing coach, interventionist, as well as someone from administration circulating between grade-level meetings. So there could be anywhere from 7-10+ staff members at meetings.

I was thinking this could easily turn into a student-friendly ice-breaker. Our school doesn't recommend using candy, so teddy bear counters could easily be used instead of gummy bears.

Click here to download this quick & easy activity!
There's also a blank template to customize for your students.

The cute candy graphics are from Goodness & Fun


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Classroom Pics & Writing Freebie!

Happy Monday!

Are you back in school yet? This is my second week and today is all about training...phonics (my fave!). 

I'm trying to squeeze in a hour before and after PD to slowly get my room in order. Yesterday I posted about bulletin boards and I wanted to share my update!

Here's the before:

And here's the after:

Ugh, I'm still not thrilled with it!

I changed the side papers to solid primary and I switched out the small plates to wooden letters. There's still something missing! Maybe when the students arrive, I'll be able to add pictures and their masterpieces to give this bulletin board a little more character?

Today is the first day of the huge Back to School Sale at Teachers Pay Teachers! Don't forget to use the code BTS15 and feedback credits! My entire store is 28% with the promo code!

Today I want to share a packet I'll be using all year (there's 180+ pages!). Last year, I used it for early finishers, at stations during my intervention groups, and I tucked extra pages into homework packets:

It's on sale for $4.40 in my store and then an extra 10% with the promo code!

Here's a throwback post featuring a freebie to try it out!

TGIF: Organizing & Freebies!

Happy Friday!

Thanks Kacey for hosting!

I'm starting off with a freebie !

The handwriting page is a sample from my upcoming "Handwriting with Mentor Sentences" packet...I've been using them with my students this year who just need extra practice writing. They are working well for my differentiated homework packets and early finishers. My packet now has 205 pages, but I keep finding more "must-haves." 

I could seriously teach at a year-long school!

Next week, my little guys will be busy writing, exploring our pirate themed sensory bin, and reading this:

I can't wait!

This week is Spring Break, and while I will never ever complain about having a week hasn't gone as planned! I had the flu and slept and worked on grad classes/portfolio for 5 days from my bed! I've completed 18 credits since November. That is completely crazy, right? I'm happy to report my classes are DONE. My model teaching portfolio isn't due until fall, but it's semi-completed and I'm stepping away from it for a few weeks. Now I'm feeling SO much better and ready for my Spring Break projects! 

Yesterday, I sat down to organize my plan for tackling my out-of-control dropbox & I think I've done it! So many people have great organizing ideas, but you have to find what works for you.

Here's what I came up with & so far, so good!

I won't share the exact details of how many files I have stored, 
but I could probably live off that amount 
(& I think I did, in the early days)! 

I started off deleting the files that didn't make sense. That wasn't much fun, so then I began searching themes, i.e.: Earth Day. I had over 125 Earth Day downloads (not counting clip art!!). 

I scrutinized each one, chose my faves, and renamed the files. 
I also created a Pinboard to catch all the fantastic ideas from other teachers. 

My last step was creating a "Table of Contents" page 
listing the title from my Dropbox:

The Table of Contents is all I'll be printing out (plus blank templates to catch all the ideas I find throughout the year). I'd love to be "paperless" as much as possible and just do a quick search & print when needed.

It's been like Christmas around here! There were bundles I hadn't even downloaded yet :(  I'm not sure if I'll ever need to purchase another product ever again!

This project required a long due overhaul to my Pinterest boards. I admit I've only been posting to ONE of my boards...dumping everything (math,spelling, crafts) in one place! Yikes.

Here's what my boards look like now :)

That's just a snapshot!

Between my renamed Dropbox files and Pinterest boards, I think I've got it covered! Best part...I'm so stinkin' excited to teach now that I've reunited with ALL these awesome ideas! 

Can you think of any organizational steps I'm missing? I tried the folders on Dropbox and while they are awesome, I tend to ignore them when I'm downloading, lol. It's better for me just to name each download purposely and then use the "search" option.

Earlier this week, I added an update to my

There's two different word sorts included (1 picture/1 text). 

I'm working on a mega "Words Our Way" sorting packet. 
There's over 100 phonics sorts already, but I'm not done!

Whew! Thanks for sticking with my through this long post! 
I'll be back with my chapter updates for the book study Worksheets Don't Grow Dendrites this weekend!

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Sunday, August 2, 2015

#2getherwearebetter: Bulletin Boards!

Happy Sunday!

I'm linking up with the dynamo-duo Angie & Ashley for:

I really need to thank them...not only for sharing their wealth of information (Periscopes!) and this linky, but also for giving me the kick I needed to get this bulletin board up!

This month is all about bulletin boards...
which are somewhat the bane of my existence.

I can explain! 

As a special educator, there have been years where I didn't have a bulletin board or a classroom with walls. I kept a growing wishlist with ideas if I DID have a board and last school year, my wish came true!

I inherited one perfect board that is perfectly centered to dazzle my small reading groups. 

I'm so fortunate to have this bulletin board, yet with only one...I put a bit of pressure on myself to make it ALL-encompassing. I want to display my students' masterpieces, our Grit Trackers, motivational posters, Whole Brain Teaching visuals (freebie!), focus wall, and more!

I also adore Schoolgirl Style - I have her ebook (LOVE!) and tried to incorporate some of her brilliant ideas.

The result...

It started off well:

I gathered my supplies...

I turned up my music and then I tried...I really tried!


Okay, here's what happened...

I'm working with the black background and chevron border. These are from last year and I can never go through what I went through to hang that paper again. It has to stay :)  The paper is "fadeless" and I hope that holds true!

I wanted to add "pops" of primary this year to my black & white decor. I also wanted to add a 3D touch with the arrows, small plates, clips (I know it's hard to see!).

All of the white papers are for my students' work. The 6 outside are for "WOW" work and the 3 inside are for our colorful Grit Trackers (i.e.: tracking reading stamina, fact fluency, sight words, etc.). The small plates were supposed to have letters inside, but the letters I used just didn't look right. 

I asked two colleagues to diagnosis what else was wrong with my board because I just couldn't figure it out. One friend said the black/white patterned papers made it too busy (I agree!). 

Another colleague pointed out the red and yellow arrows 
and said they were...


Hahahah, I was laughing so hard, plus I agree!

I went straight to Michaels (on a Friday happy hour afternoon) and purchased what I needed to make it "less aggressive." I fought all the urges to go in on Saturday to fix it and snap a new photo. Instead, I will go in early Monday morning.

Please visit to see the update!
I'm REALLY excited about it!

And if you are a bulletin board guru, please offer suggestions. Thanks :)

I'm also sharing a fun blogpost all about phonics, 
including a free sample!

Be sure to also enter this fabulous giveaway!!

And you may have heard a little about this...

Love Gabby's Classrooms & love the button she created!

My entire store will be 20% off, then TPT throws in the promo code: BTS15. That adds up to 28% off!

I also have a special announcement...
stop back next Sunday for my new blog series:

I incorporated weekly sensory bins last school year and ready to share what I learned with you! All of the bins are based on children's literature and are student-tested and approved :)

Please visit every Sunday to see a new theme and pick up some freebies! Here's a sneak peek at next week's theme:

I can't wait!

Thanks for reading! Jen

UPDATE: this post is never-ending! ;)

Farley at Oh Boy 4th Grade throws the best parties!

Listening - I ♥ ♥ ♥ my mixes from Rock My Run!

Loving - Every year I worry that my love of teaching won't return! This past week was very touch & go with a few ugly cries thrown in. Luckily, my mojo returned in a BIG WAY on Wednesday 
(our 1st day)! Thank goodness!

Thinking - I'm really excited about ESGI, but haven't decided all the amazing ways I'm going to incorporate into my planning. I'm definitely focused on my first graders' IEP goals, which I try to align with CCSS when appropriate. Stay tuned!

Wanting & Thinking - my model portfolio is due (in 130 days, but who's counting). I truly don't mind documenting every teaching decision from my career and the hundreds of pages that capture this. Honestly, it's pretty awesome - it's great to reflect and really makes me want to do even better with my students. BUT, the clarity of the portfolio rubric is seriously lacking. I've read each artifact description no less than 100 times, debated with at least 6-8 other teachers, and we still can't figure out what exactly is being asked of us. So, in typical fashion, I'm writing an epic novel for all 40 artifacts! Because at least somewhere I will hit the rubric point. That's how I aced the writing portion my Praxis...they were probably thinking "there's no way I'm going to read all of this, I'll just give you a 100%). 

130 more days. 

B2S RAK - this year I'm not in any type of leadership position, yet I still enjoy mentoring. I'm going to try to find a way to support where I see a need, even if it's just offering a piece of chocolate!

Thanks again for reading!!

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Friday, July 31, 2015

5 For Friday: Pinch Me!

Happy 5 for Friday!

I'm linking up with Kacey (thank you!)
to share about what is happening around here :)

We returned this past Wednesday!

I'm in the same room (intervention space/shared office) as last year, so it will only be a matter of improving on what worked and revising what didn't. I think it's going to be about 50/50.

I'm trying to avoid coming into school on the weekends to prepare my room. This means I have to resign myself to doing only small portions at a time (which is really tough for me). I come in at 6:30 and work until we start PD at 8:00 am. Then I sneak in another 30 minutes during lunch. 2 hours a day for 3 weeks should be enough even though I really want to get it all done NOW.

Here's a peek at my numbers above my bulletin board:

I posted the picture above on Instagram and several teachers asked where I got the number posters. I made them last year using B/W ten frames from Graphics from the Pond and Penmanship Print font. I simply opened a white box with a black outline and centered it on digital paper. Easy Peasy!

Thank you for the teacher who suggested adding the colorful linking chain! I love it! If it was you, please claim your fame in the comments - I'd love to give you a shout-out :)

One teaching tip I've been using for the past few years are Pinch Cards (a.k.a. Every Pupil Responds). I made a starting set about three years ago and was constantly adding to it. 

I finally fixed it all up into one BIG collection:

Here's everything included...please let me know if I missed anything!

 You can download this list in the preview here.

There's also a freebie in the preview:

This page includes 8 student cards (2 styles). The colored line shows how you would cut out the two faces to represent Yes/No or Agree/Disagree. Many cards could be used for more than one type of response.

I like for all of my students to have their own, so I made them printed-friendly with B/W graphics and maximizing the space on each page.

Just print this page 4 times on colored cardstock = 
24 "pinch" cards!

If you try out the freebie, I'd love to hear what you think! I've noticed a dramatic increase in participation and less "copycat" of the agree/disagree gestures we use. 

Thanks for reading & have a fantastic Friday!

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Wednesday, July 29, 2015

And We're Back!

Happy Wednesday!

Today is my FIRST day back!

We have about three weeks of PD and then the students return (yay!) for two weeks of summer school (half day for students, teachers continue PD in the afternoons).

While I'm not a huge fan of going back in July (we just got out June 17th!), I do ♥ having the two weeks of summer school.

The students and families get acclimated to their new teachers, classmates, etc. and it really helps prepare them for the longer school day (7:40-4:30). 

This week has been all about cooking and Target-ing to make sure I'm all stocked up and ready to roll. If your year is anything like mine, Halloween is next week and then it's Christmas!

I froze protein-muffins for my pre/post workout (I work out before school), and I also cooked TONS of proteins (chicken breast and ground turkey breast) for lunches/dinners. I divide them up into individual servings before freezing = SO quick to assemble a healthy meal when I get home.

My Target list included 3-4 sets of all the daily essentials...I know there won't be a lot of extra time for running errands. 

And coffee. I bought SO much coffee :)

(just imagine that as a black coffee in a to-go cup 
that I'm gulping while driving to the gym)

I'm actually super-psyched for this school year! Last year, I had the opportunity to work with kindergarten intervention groups - my incoming firsties! They are 100% awesome and I can't wait to work with them and see what they accomplish in first grade.  

The past school year was challenging and a bit overwhelming. 
It was like being a first year teacher again (the crying part). 
I can't wait for a "redo" this year!

Last year I took my last six classes ever (all A's!). 


It wasn't pretty at all! I also started my model portfolio:

That's half of it!

This year is going to feel so much easier because I have ZERO classes (woohoo!), but I still have this portfolio. It's due in October if Baltimore City processes my paperwork. I'm thinking that may not happen ;) so I'm prepared to turn it in next year (March).

Yesterday, I tried to get reacquainted with the process and made this color-coded system to keep it all together:

So much better than all the stacks of papers!

I hope this functional-cute set-up yields results!

My celebration week of my HUGE Phonics bundle continues...
hurry before it reaches it's full-price!

 Positively Learning Phonics Bundle
Click on the picture to read more and download the scope & sequence!

Enjoy your week! Jen

UPDATE: I'm home from Day One and it was GREAT! 

It was nice to see friendly faces and meet new ones. We dove into curriculum internalization today - Core Knowledge ELA (1st Grade). Looks really good, so far! I'm used to NO curriculum, so it will be a big change, but one I'm looking forward to.

I arrived at 6:30 am and did my FIRST Periscope! I figured I wouldn't be too nervous with everyone asleep :)  I had fun showing off my bare office/room and can't wait to post an update when it's ready!

Now I need a nap! 

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Monday, July 27, 2015



Happy Monday!

Every summer, I tackle a huge-to-me summer it was a TON of classes, another was a big presentation, and this summer: PHONICS!

I've been refining my phonics materials for FIVE years and this past school year, I realized I had everything I needed.

 If you feel like I often do while teaching, 
you know this was a big deal!

Why? What I had was working! I was no longer tweaking it with little sticky notes, adding more materials for extra reinforcement, etc. It was "done."

Then it was time to go pack to all of my phonics packets and "clean them up" with everything I had learned.

This past May, I announced my growing Phonics "BUNDLE." I set a deadline of July 31st to complete formatting and updating ALL 32 "core skill" phonics packets.

I'm so, SO happy to announce I finished early!!!

The bundle is up and on sale all week!

Now my task this week is to upload the new packets individually. 
If you've already purchased one (thank you!), please check for the update :)

I'm also linking up with the fabulous Rachel for a quick assessment!

1. Of course
2. Not really, but it's not like I'd purposely step on a crack before boarding a flight
3. No way and I don't like it when other people crack their knuckles, neck, back...
4. Always
5. Rarely
6. Yes, all 4 grew in like extra molars
7.  Twice before 6 am! Once before gym and once after my workout
8. Once, for a dance competition in high school
9. Yes (and contacts)
10. I was born in Ohio, but haven't lived there since I was 21

Have a fantastic week! Jen

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Friday, July 24, 2015

5 for Friday (& a Freebie!)


I'm linking up with Kacey for my LAST "summer" 5 for Friday!

There's something about the last week before returning to's as if you remember every project you NEED to accomplish in order for the school year to kick off smoothly!

I've been laminating, spray-painting, and creating huge cutting "stacks" around the house! It's looking very "primary" around here.

I set up my new-to-me room last year with a solid foundation of black and white. This year, I'm adding a TINY touch of primary colors. I still want the room to look clean and simple...I want my students's displayed work to take center stage.

I love seeing all the "brights" and the shabby-chic colors out there, but I don't know how you all do it! I lose a few items every school year to do excessive use (or just something unmentionable), and I'm just not lucky enough to find the same shade of teal, coral, or even purple!

I can always spot black and white, with a just a few pops of primary. Simple and maybe boring, but it makes me happy!

I am venturing out a little bit with this awesome burlap trend!

I ♥ how it looks with chalkboard-black!

To see how I created these VERY easy table numbers, please hop over to my blogpost on Ellison Education Blog today! My next project will be to use the same star frames and insert my firsties' sweet faces!

Last week, I shared my classroom style with my Focus Wall. This week, I updated my Whole Brain Teaching Rules to match:

I printed them out on bright yellow!

You can download the cards here 
and I also inserted them into this file:

Have a fantastic Friday!
When do you head back to school?

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