Monday, August 24, 2015

Summer 2015 Top Fives

VA LOVE sign, Hopewell-Prince George, VA

This week marks the last full week of my summer; school begins for teachers next week. I have mixed feelings about this. It's a good thing that I get to go back and see all my friends at school next week; to catch up, and reconnect. It's not good because my summer's going to be over very soon. 

All in all, however, it's been a stellar summer; one of my favorites by far. Actually, it was pretty AWESOME! so I thought I'd share my "Top Five" highlights in this post.

1. VA LOVE:  First of all, I spent my very first summer as a new resident of Virginia. It is a very beautiful state, and it's state slogan is "Virginia is for Lovers." To my surprise, I realized that there are lots of "LOVE" signs scattered all across the state to celebrate Virginia's LOVE theme. 

Once I discovered this, I've seen many pictures of people at the different LOVE signs. I was very excited to find and take my own picture at a LOVE sign. We found one that was not too far from my home.

The picture above shows me standing at the LOVE sign at the Hopewell-Prince George county Chamber.

2. Cruise2015: To kick off the summer, the hubby and I took a pre-anniversary cruise to Cozumel, Mexico and the Grand Caymans. We would celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary this summer. 

3. Beautiful Tampa Bay: The very next week after returning from Cozumel and Grand Caymans, we got to spend a week in beautiful Tampa Bay, Florida, to attend a conference. It was absolutely stunning.

4. Vegas2015: Another highlight of my summer was attending the TpTVegas2015 conference. I had never traveled that far before, solo, but I had such a wonderful time there I could hardly think about not being with my husband for almost a week.

This one deserves a few more photos:

Getting to attend the huge Teacher Blogger Meet Up with over 1100 TpT Teacher Authors and take photos with some of my favorite TpTers like Deanna Jump (she needs no introduction), A Peace of Africa's Laine Sutherland (who designed my logo), clip artist Krista Wallden, and one of my favorite bloggers, Christina DeCarbo of Miss DeCarbo at Sugar and Spice, was simply priceless.

Then getting to meet so many great friends and fellow TpTers the entire week was nothing less than awesome. 

I will always cherish the wealth of information and wisdom shared at the conference by Stellar TpTers who started out humble and hard working just like myself. I appreciated their humility and willingness to share how they made it as far as they have gotten. We even came home with some of their very own special perks just for attending the conference.

You can see even more of my pictures of Vegas2015 here.

5. VA Teachers Meet: Still one more great memory of my summer was getting to attend my very first VA Teacher Blogger Meet Up. 

The energy, camaraderie, and fun that these awesome Teacher-Bloggers showed the new ladies attending the meet up for the first time was toxic. We had a blast chatting, laughing, sharing and taking lots of pictures. We left with some really, really nice gifts, prizes, and giveaways in our swag bags from our awesome sponsors as well. You can read more about the VA Teacher Bloggers Meet Up here.

A Summer Farewell...

VA Love2, Cape Charles: Finally, to end my summer, I will be visiting Cape Charles, VA this coming weekend. I'm looking forward to the lovely beach, harbor, restaurants, and mostly, visiting and taking a picture at Cape Charles' beautiful LOVE sign pictured here. I'll be sure to post my picture soon.

What are some highlights of your summer? Please share with your picture posts, and comments below.


Friday, August 21, 2015

Back To School Writing: "All About Me"

Want to get your kiddos writing right away? Here's an ALL ABOUT ME Writing project that allows you to start writing with your students as soon as the first week of school. You can pick up this product in my store by clicking on the picture above.

Students also love to talk about themselves. This is a great way for them to write all about themselves to share with the class or a partner, and then make their very own book to share with their friends family.

There are plenty of pages for you to choose from to use for your particular class. Use a few pages, a little more, or all of them. Your choice. You can even differentiate the number of pages based on students' abilities. The landscape design with two pages per sheet saves on paper and is great for little primary hands.

Each page also provides emerging readers and writers the necessary writing prompts, pictures, and vocabulary for this time of year. 

Use this as a whole group activity, modeling each page and having students follow your lead, or, start the first couple pages whole group, and then have them finish it in center, with a partner, or with an assistant.

Once all pages are complete with a word to complete each sentence starter, a picture, and colored, cut each page apart and staple along one side or assemble with a book binder to make a real book for your students.

I usually print and laminate the front and back pages on colored paper or card stock. This makes for an attractive student book. 

Once all books are complete, invite students to add their books to the classroom library for tons of fun opportunities to read each others' books. Young children absolutely love reading books by and about each other, looking at each other's art work and pictures, and talking about their pages. 

How would you use this writing activity in your classroom? Please share in the comments below.

Have a great beginning of your year!

Monday, August 17, 2015

Back To School Essentials for Reading and Writing

Within the next few weeks, teachers across the country will all be headed to their schools, preparing for their new students and the new school year. Many of you have already begun your new school year and I do not envy you for having to weather this harsh summer's heat. It's been brutal.

Anticipating the new school year is exciting for us all. For me, as soon as August comes along, I enter into what I call "school mode." This is the time when most of my energy is focused on preparing for the beginning of school. I try not to think about school much before August. I try.

"School Mode" usually entails shopping for classroom essentials, supplies, and materials. All throughout the summer, however, when I'm shopping for other things my back-to-school radar is always keen to spotting the latest, coolest, and cutest back to school finds. I take mental notes and decide which ones I will go back and check out in "August" when I'm in "School Mode." 

This year will be a little different for me though. It is bitter and sweet. This year I will not have the opportunity to plan a new classroom. This year, however, I will get to help other teachers prepare their classrooms for the new brood of kiddos they will be receiving, and I will actually get to help them teach.

Most of the teachers in my new school highly respect me for my many years of experience as a primary teacher, so most of the time when I enter their classrooms, they will give me an idea on what they want to do for the day, we will collaborate a bit, and then they release their children to me with full teacher confidence that I will be able to execute their plans for the block of time that I have their students. I'm am blessed that I have such an opportunity and such favor among the staff and teachers in my new school.

Having prepared a new classroom for over twenty five years, I've been able to gather together some ideas that would benefit teachers at the beginning of their school year. Perhaps you are a new teacher who may need some extra assurance on what will be necessary to have in place in your classroom when the new school year arrives. You will find this post quite helpful as well.

In today's post, I will focus on two classroom tools essential for your classroom for teaching reading and writing: Focus Walls and Anchor Charts. 

Essential #1:  Focus Walls

Simply put, a focus wall is a board that reflects daily learning in your classroom. It serves as a visual aid for students to help them focus on what they are learning. The focus wall helps students make connections with the language arts elements they are learning as well as the new concepts you are presenting in your current theme.

Focus walls are also helpful to students because they can find the information they are to focus on in one central location in the classroom, rather than the traditional way of scattering the different elements throughout your classroom.

Focus walls are designed to be changed either weekly or daily, as you present different elements of your theme. 

A reading focus wall, for example, would have the following essential learning components:

1. Question of the Week - The essential question
2. I Can Statement - Standard you are focusing on
3. Comprehension Skill & Strategy - Prediction, inference, connection, etc.
4. Grammar Skill - Punctuation, capitalization, types of words, etc.
5. Phonics Skill - Vowels, digraphs, word families, etc.
6. Genre - Folk tales, poetry, realistic fiction, etc. 
7. Spelling Words - This weeks words
8. Sight Words - Words you are currently working on
9. Story of the Week/Day - Title, author, illustrator, etc.
10. Word of the Day - Vocabulary word you are focusing on

Depending on your grade level and curriculum, you may use all or just some of these focus wall components.

Pouty Pink Princess has a very attractive weekly focus wall design that I want to share as an example: 

If you prefer a daily focus wall, check out this one as well done by Kathleen Pedersen over at Growing Kinders:

To create your own focus wall labels and signs, you can check out my Task Cards and Frames pack at my TpT store.

As you can see, this handy packet includes several different chevron color schemes that you can choose from to create your own focus wall signs, sight wall labels, etc. You will love these cards and frames because they are editable. Yes! Once you download the file, you will be able to type your own text right onto the cards and frames templates. 

Essential #2: Anchor Charts

Anchor charts are a great way to make thinking visible as you record strategies, processes, cues, guidelines and other content during the learning process. Teachers use anchor charts in their classrooms for any subject and any concept being taught. They serve as a visual for students to easily refer to when they are stuck on a particular procedure, concept, or rule, for example. 

Anchor charts can be posted permanently around your classroom once the concept, procedure or rule is taught. Or if you have limited wall space you might prefer to post your anchor charts flip chart style in one particular location of your classroom for students to go to look at when they need to refer to a particular chart.

Anchor charts can be as simple or as detailed as you prefer. The more colorful, though, the better in my opinion. Children love color and pictures. The more colorful and attractive your anchor chart, the more likely children will refer to them when reading or writing.

Here are some great anchor chart examples from Teacher Trap and A Cupcake for the Teacher:

If you are not the artistic type, I have created these Seasons Anchor Charts that you can also get at my store. You can get your students writing right away with these anchor charts on each of the four seasons. 

These colorful charts have attractive pictures and provide vocabulary for different seasonal items and activities. They are the perfect support for your early writers, struggling learners, and your ESL/ELL students in the beginning of the school year. 

Use them for discussing the seasons with your class as the seasons change. Then copy, laminate and post them on your Focus Wall and in your Writing Center for students to refer to when writing on the seasons. Or, after a discussion on the current season, project the chart straight from your projector onto your white board for students to write from. 

If you haven't tried using a focus wall or anchor charts in your classroom yet, perhaps this information provides you with the information you were looking for before making your decision to try them. Go ahead, give one or both a go. You can do it!

If you do decide to try anchor charts or a focus wall, I would love to see how they turned out. Leave me a comment below or share a picture. Have a great Back To School!

Monday, August 10, 2015

VA is for Teachers Collab Blog Coming Soon!

Hey, Everyone!

In case you haven't already heard, I'm just making sure you have with this quick post. 

In just a few more days, over 30 of VA's most awesome teacher/bloggers will go live with our "VA is for Teachers" Collaborative Blog. #VATeacherBloggers

There will be lots and lots of ideas and freebies and prizes the first full month as an introduction to our blog, and so much more!

I am so proud and excited and a little scared to be a part of such a wonderful event, as I am new to the collaborative blogging scene. I can't wait to learn and grow from the best of the best!

Be sure to take a moment to "Like" our site if you haven't already, and get ready for a wonderful first month, as we introduce ourselves, give away lots of prizes and freebies, and offer to you lots and lots of what we love and hold near and dear to our hearts as teachers, as bloggers, moms, friends and so much more.

See you on the 15th!

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Assess Me Linky: Week 2 This or That

Today I was combing through some of my new VA Teacher Blogger blogs, getting to know them a little better and following their blogs, and I came across this cute Linky Party over at Jessica's The Teaching Oasis

She was linking up with Rachel Lamb at the Tatooed Teacher for her Assess Me Linky: Week 2 This or That.

I know it's way past Sunday, but I just found this and it looked fun so I'm linking up as well.

Since it's summer I prefer skirts. Skirts are way cooler than jeans right now. That answer would be different if it were winter. Then it would be jeans all day long.

Earrings over necklaces, but I really like them both, especially if they're a matching set. the way!

Silver because it's inexpensive to buy and goes with almost anything. City because I'm a city girl--born and raised there. I love shopping online rather than in stores. I could do it all day long.!

I'm an introvert by nature, so I'm real comfortable being a homebody. Dinner out is my favorite thing to do, especially for date nights. And not having coffee in my life could be a deal breaker.

I'm also an early bird...a morning lark, because the early bird gets the worm. Much great peace and revelation has come to me as a result of quieting myself in the stillness of the morning. Getting in the presence of God early in the morning is priceless to me. I'm a much better person to be around when I've had my time alone with God, in the morning.

I'm a shoe LOVER. I love all things SHOES. Most of the closets of my home are full of them. And so is my bedroom floor. I know. I should have a place for them. But the closets are already full. Of the two, however, I just love me some heels!

I was born in the heat of the summer, so give me heat over cool air any time.

This was fun!

What do you prefer...This or That? Link up with Rachel and share yours!

Tuesday, August 4, 2015


 Glad to be linking up with Farley over at Oh' Boy 4th Grade for the August Currently

Listening - Hubby's taking a nap so he's doing a little s-n-o-r-i-n-g. HeHe. 

Loving - This week and for the next two more, we are giving up the television. Man it's quiet in the house. But I'm loving it! So much peace and quiet. Getting so much done without the distraction of the TV. Who knew!?

Thinking - Can I get a CHA-CHING today?...Please? Just once would make my day.

Wanting - I recently discovered "Sweet Frog," the frozen yogurt shop in your local neighborhood, almost everywhere by now I think. I've already had one this week, and I'm really wanting one today. Maybe we will WALK over and get one...after dinner. HeHe.

Needing - Since returning from Vegas2015 I've been putting a lot of time and energy into revamping my TpT Store and also my Pinterest page. It would be so nice if now all that labor would not go in vain. I wish for an uplifting week with some sales. Ho Hum...I know my day is coming over the horizon.

B2S RAK - This summer I've been blessed with a lot of new teacher goodies from attending both the TpTVegas2015 and the VA Teacher Bloggers Meet Up. Our swag bags had some really really nice things in there that I plan to share with some teachers and friends in my building that I've really made a cool connection with over the past school year and summer. It was my first year at a new school and they were very nice and supportive of me. I will be filling their mailboxes with my swag bag goodies. YAY!

Your turn! Now you get to share. Link up at Oh' Boy 4th Grade with your August Currently.


VA Teacher Blogger Meet Up

This past Friday I was blessed to attend the "VATeacherBloggersMeet" blogger meet up. It was at a very nice country club. I felt so important and swaggy going into the place. But when I got there it was not what I expected...but in a good way.

I thought that since this event was being held at club...that I was going to feel kind of out of place seeing that I'm not a country club type of girl at all, and I'm not exactly a teacher in the true sense of the word anymore.

What I experienced for the next four hours was a group of women who were from all walks of life. Some were teachers, some were not. Some were mothers and some were not. Some were chatty and giddy and some were not. Some were organizers and some clearly were not! :-) Some were bloggers and some were not. 

We all had one thing in common, however. 

We were all from VA and we love doing what we do best, whatever that may have been. I did get the sense that most of us were educators of some kind or another, however, and that we all absolutely LOVE what we do!

The atmosphere was very positive and celebratory. The organizers did a phenomenal job of putting together the meet up. 

We got a swag bag with some very nice gifts from our sponsors. I'll talk about that later.

Speaking of sponsors, they were: Educents was the big one; and then there was ESGI, Learning Resources, Ellison, Science4Us, A+Images, Snap Learning, Vocabulary Spelling, SitSpots, Classroom Friendly Supplies, GoNoodle, kasefazem,, Really Good Stuff, and Teacher Created Resources.

And from these sponsors, we were given the opportunity to enter into drawings to pick from about $4000 worth of giveaways and freebies! Yep, $4000 worth! I mean nice stuff like Ellisons, and font packs, and planbooks, and shared yearly subscriptions, and so much more that I can't even remember them all.

And then we came home with all kinds of cool swag bag goodies like gift certificates from our sponsors, and magnetic borders, and lanyards, and pens, and nail files, OH MY! Sorry, I got a little carried away. 

And then someone broke out their brand new {cute, purple} selfie stick and we took group pictures like the one above of us all putting up the LOVE VA sign.

One last thing and I'm through raving. Finally, we got a Digital Swag filled with all kinds of very very cool products from our FANTASTIC Sponsors! I got a chance to open the file this morning and could not believe what all was there. O-M-G! It was the "icing on the cake" for me, which prompted me to write this blog today. I had to say thanks somehow.

Wow! All I can say is that I am so thankful to become a part of such a wonderful and supportive group of ladies, whose passion is all things educational, and all things kids, and all things supportive, even if you're new at all of it like me. Thank you so much, VATeacherBloggers! I love you!

I am one blessed teacher blogger.

That's about all I can say right now.