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Thursday, October 8, 2015

Halloween Art Ideas

Below are two fairly simple Halloween art ideas that you can do in your classroom (probably without even having to buy any further supplies). 

For this project, the students cut out the jack-o-lantern design of their choice. We then added tissue paper to the back to give it that "glow-y" feeling. Slap it on a piece of black construction paper (optional), add some festive words, and you are all set to go!

Do not ask me where I found orange paper bags, but I did. (My guess is that they were on clearance from last Halloween and I picked them up! But you can get some via my affiliate here on Amazon.) Anyway, we cut random shapes into the front of them, added some tissue paper so they looked like they were glowing, and added a construction paper stem. These were especially useful for the school that gave out treats at Halloween time. Each student had their own bag to collect from! (Or students could take them home to be their trick-or-treat bag too.)

Looking for even more Halloween ideas? Try my Halloween Pinterest board!

I'd love for you to share your Halloween ideas in the comments below!

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Friday, October 2, 2015

October 2015 Currently

It's been awhile since I've taken part in Farley's Currently, so I thought it'd be fun to link up this great Friday morning. 

Sheesh! That's some small writing above. 

Listening - Little man has decided that sticking his top lip up almost toward his nose and "huffing and puffing" is cool to do. It's adorable, and this mama just might be doing it right back at him. Creating more of a monster? Perhaps! :)

Loving - I'm not sure that everyone knows, but I left my principal position last year to become a full-time work-at-home mom. I <3 it!!! I have been lucky enough to spend all my time with little man, and I get to work on this blog and TpT store more. :) I'm also doing a little bit of virtual assistant work for five other blogs, teaching continuing education courses for teachers, and helping people get rid of chemicals in their homes. It's still busy, but a totally different king of buy - and I love it!

Shameless plug - Since I'm not teaching, I've found it really hard to walk past all of the great teacher items in stores. To be completely honest, sometimes I can't! I decided to start sending out little care packages to my amazing followers. Sometimes it might be simply a Magic Square Puzzle from my TpT store, but it might also be a little goodie basket of things I couldn't help but pick up on my last shopping trip. Love free stuff? Love snail mail? You can learn more and sign up here if you're interested. 

Thinking - I need to get some more products updated! I've been going through my Teachers Pay Teachers store and updating products. They are all getting new covers, and the other ones are all getting facelifts. If you've bought something from me in the past, you might want to go to your "My Purchases" tab, and then click the "Recently Updated" drop down box. If I haven't updated it yet, chances are that I'll be getting to it too.

Wanting - I really want these school shootings to stop! I'll be honest. I've been naive. Most of them have happened along the coasts, and I always sorta thought it wouldn't happen here in South Dakota. Now it has! I'm incredibly sad about this shooting and the one in Oregon. My thoughts and prayers go out to everyone affected by these tragedies! What's it going to take to make them end??

Needing - To eat breakfast! I've been up over two hours and haven't eaten yet. EEKS! My belly is grumbling and rumbling at me!

Boo-tiful - Isn't fall weather amazing?! I love the colors, the cooler temperatures, and the fact that football is back! :) 

Sheesh! I thought I wrote a lot on the picture, but I got even more wordy in this section. I can't wait to get this post linked up and start reading everyone's posts! I love catching up on a more personal level with all of my blogging buddies! 

Take care everyone!
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Thursday, October 1, 2015

Halloween Frankenstein Art and Secret Pal Gift

Last year I spent a lot of time walking up and down the halls of our school as the elementary principal. I was always seeing such neat ideas! Here's two from October...

This Frankenstein art project warmed my heart! I love when students are given the basics but allowed to put the final pieces together themselves. Every piece looked a little bit different, but I just thought it was precious. 

I organized a secret pal gift exchange for the staff. We used this free sheet to see what everyone liked. 

One staff member always went above and beyond with cute sayings and gifts for her secret pal. Check this one out! Her secret pal listed booze as her favorite drink, so she incorporated a school-appropriate drink along with a note and a couple bucks for a "witch's brew" drink. CUTE!

What are some cute Halloween ideas you're seeing in your own hallways at school?

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Letter Recognition & Discrimination FREEBIES, Ideas, & Resources

As a former Kindergarten teacher, I realize the importance of letter recognition. Students need to know their letters before anything else can begin. I know many of you are fortunate enough to have Kinder kiddos who come in knowing their letters thanks to preschool and other early childhood programs. I, however, did not have that luxury - and I know I'm not the only one!

That's why today I did a round up of some great letter recognition and discrimination activities for you! These activities are sure to help your students master their letters! Use them for centers, take home ideas for parents, or as whole-group or small-group classroom activities. The sky is really the limit! So use them however it fits best in your classroom.

Letter Recognition & Discrimination FREEBIES, Ideas, and Resources

First up we have a Parking Lot activity. Any little boy (or girl!) who's into cars will like this one! This activity is by the great Marsha MaGuire of A Differentiated Kindergarten.

Then we have a letter recognition book that my Kinder students loved. I took extra scrapbooking stickers and created a book with one page for each letter. My students LOVED this book! You can read all about it here

This alphabet squish activity from Jenae of I Can Teach My Child looks like so much fun! I can't wait until my own little man is old enough to try it out. =)

If you need some simple letter recognition flashcards, look no more! Michelle of Inspired by Kindergarten has a free set right here.

Are you a fan of my Magic Square Puzzles? Then you'll love this FREE letter recognition puzzle! It's great for all students, but especially those who will enjoy the critical thinking aspect of the puzzle.  

Alison at No Time for Flash Cards has a great activity for kinesthetic learners. Check out her blog to see what it's all about! {I could see this one being great outside with sidewalk chalk, or it would even work inside - maybe on a snowy or rainy day when extra movement is needed...}

Want some good ol' fashioned letter recognition printables? Pam and Lisa at Over the Big Moon have you covered! Head over to their blog to check it out! 

Want your students to recognize different fonts? These puzzles will have students see the different fonts that letters come in. Check out the freebie here on my blog. 

Maybe your students already have most of their letters down. Then let them practice at a higher level - the difference between vowels and consonants! You can get your free maze from me by clicking right here!

This Feed the Monster activity is also from Jenae at I Can Teach My Child. This would be the PERFECT center activity! Or - better yet - send it home with your students as a game to play with their parents or older siblings!

If you're in need of another game, how about this one from The Lesson Plan Diva? Your students will have their letters down in no time with this free memory game

The last of our twelve ideas for this letter recognition roundup is such an easy idea, but it will work! Find out how Joyfully Weary made this activity out of egg cartons by clicking here.

Were those twelve ideas not enough? Then how about 10 more! Anna at The Measured Mom has you covered! Head over to her blog post to get your next ten ideas. {It's actually a guest post, so make sure to thank Amy of Wildflower Ramblings as well!}

Do you have more letter recognition activities? Leave your idea or a link in the comments below!

Thursday, September 17, 2015

All Things Exponents

It seems exponents are a bit tough to teach. Students need to understand how they work. Ideally, they should even have the basic ones memorized - particularly if you're working on order of operations! So it's time to get a little practice in! Here's a round-up of all the great exponent activities I could find!

Exponents are important to teach! Students should have the basic ones memorized, but they need to understand the concept for ALL exponents. This is especially true when they are learning Order of Operation! This blog post has a round up of great exponent ideas!

This first idea is one of the first exponent activities I found online, and I used it every.single.year. Thanks go out to To The Square Inch for this awesome exponent foldable idea

Want to take that foldable idea to the next lesson? Coffee Cups and Lesson Plans has the same type of foldable idea, but she included vocabulary and terms with hers! You can check it out here

Misty Miller has a great freebie on TpT. It's an exponents (and expressions) math relay. You can set it up just like a real relay race, but in the classroom! Use just the exponent sheets or go for the expression ones too. 

If you're wanting to check basic understanding of the exponent terms, then this freebie from Jersey Teacher is for you! I love it because it has them identify the base and exponent. Plus it makes them write it out in expanded notation before writing down the answer. They just HAVE to understand it by the time they're done with this printable! 

How about a card game? This is a great way to get some extra practice in while having fun! Students compete to make the number with the highest value, but you could change the rules to create the smallest number as well. It definitely involves some critical thinking skills! Here's another variation from Learn with Math Games. 

Speaking of critical thinking skills, you know my Magic Square Puzzles require them! This exponents Magic Square Puzzle will have students practicing 24 different exponents in one puzzle. The puzzle format makes them think!

If QR Codes are your thing, then you'll love this freebie from Sara Oberheide. With two sets of cards, you're sure to find some that will be a perfect fit for your class! 

Joy in Sixth has a great freebie in her TpT store! With the cards she has included, your students can play War, Go Fish, or Memory (Concentration). 

Exponent Tic Tac Toe would be another game option. This would work particularly well during centers or for early finishers who you KNOW understand the concept pretty well since they will be self-checking their answers. Plus it's another free activity! 

If you have a great exponent activity, I would love to hear about it. Shout it out in the comments below!

Thursday, September 10, 2015

The Pros & Cons of Administration After Being a Teacher

Many of you have heard it here on the blog before, but I was actually in administration last school year. After spending seven years in the classroom, I made the leap! I became a K-6 elementary principal of two schools, and I was also the K-12 special education director for our district. To say it was a different experience is an understatement. 

The Pros and Cons of Being a Principal After Being a Teacher

Here's what I learned when I crossed over...

The Cons

  • Teachers can typically control their classroom environment. They know who is walking into their classroom, and they have a general idea of how their day will look. Administrators have little to no idea what might walk into their office each day. I could see students, parents, teachers, company reps, and more just in my first hour at work! While the spontaneity of it kept things exciting, it could also be very draining.
  • I dealt with a lot more negativity. As a teacher, I saw the "aha!" moments happen quite frequently. This made up for the rude children or upset parent. As a principal, I often got to deal with the negative end of things. There's nothing quite like a parent phone call that blindsides you because you didn't even know there was an issue to start with...
  • Evaluations. They're a whole different ball of wax when you're the one delivering them. I did my best to be honest and provide constructive feedback, but it wasn't my favorite part of the job. 
  • My list never ended. I know it's this way as a teacher as well, but I seriously had at least a half-page "to do" list at any given moment. There were times as a teacher where everything was graded and in the books, so I felt caught up. I've really had to work on my prioritizing skills. I do my best to ensure the students and teachers come first! Even when I left my admin position at the end of the school year, there were still things on my list! I felt horrible handing them over to other administrators and my predecessor, but I had no choice. 
  • I spent just as much money being a principal as I did being a classroom teacher. (I had it in my head that this would change...) But I don't qualify as a "teacher" for some of the discounts out there.
  • I was in charge of over 150 little lives - indirectly, but eek - that's a LOT of responsibility! (And I know there are principals who are in charge of WAY more!)

Enough of all this negativity! Let's good on to the good stuff!

The Pros

  • No more grading, unless teacher evaluations counted.
  • No more lesson planning, but I planned or helped plan every in-service, assembly, service learning project, and other big event that came up. (Sometimes I got lucky and received the help of others, depending on what was going on.)
  • I got to make sure in-services and staff meetings were worthwhile. There was little I despised more as a teacher than sitting through a boring meeting. Last year I sent out weekly e-mails to ensure my staff knew what was going on. We had an agreement that we would not have a bunch of staff meetings if we could accomplish items via these e-mails.
  • I actually worked just a bit less as an administration that I did as a teacher. Technically my day was still 8-4. As a teacher, I was at the school from roughly 8-6 each day. As a principal, my day was about 7:30-4:30. I had more evening obligations as a principal, so it often felt like more hours. And I also think I had more things going on in my head when I went home than I did as a teacher (which I didn't think was possible!). 
  • I got to work with a larger group of people and interact with them daily. As a teacher, I really only worked with the grade levels closest to me and the specials teacher. As a principal, I had more flexibility to work with a larger group of people. 
  • I was able to help our staff feel more appreciated! No matter how much appreciation is shown to staff, I always think we can do more. Last year I gave out small treats to the staff at the beginning of the year to thank them for the "extra" time they put in during the summer. During Teacher Appreciation Week, my fellow administrators and I put together a soup lunch for our "souper" teachers. At Christmas, my staff received a subway art gift. During teacher appreciation week, I gave out little treats each day. I also gave out random thank you treats throughout the year in appreciation for the little things my staff did. My favorite was sending out a quick e-mail when I saw something amazing going on in a classroom. All too often, teachers do not feel appreciation on a daily basis. (I experienced this myself at times!) I'm hoping a quick little e-mail from me could make their day that much better. :) Again, I think we can never say thank you or show people our appreciation too often!
  • I got to see a lot of GREAT teaching practices each day. There are seriously a LOT of great things going on in education that should be shouted from the rooftops! {And if you really do want to shout these things from the rooftops - which you should! I highly recommend seeing what Greg and Kayla are up to with #HappyClassrooms!} I encouragee my staff to share great ideas with one another, and I did my best to celebrate the great things I saw going on each day.
  • I was able to change the culture of the school. Do I honestly think I did much of this in a year? No, but I got started. Then life took over and I resigned from my position. (insert sad face)
  • I was in charge of 154 little lives. That's a lot of love and a chance to make a bigger impact on the world! =)

As you can see, there's a lot that goes into administration. It was a job I truly enjoyed on many levels, and disliked on a few. With that being said, I would recommend anyone who is interested in pursuing administration to give it a try! If the list above intrigues you, what do you have to lose? And if you have any questions along the way, I'm more than happy to try to help! Going into administration can be a definite challenge, but the rewards are also worthwhile!

Feel free to ask any questions in the comments below!

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Sunday, September 6, 2015

Work Smarter, Not Harder Blog Hop

I've teamed up with a group of other bloggers to help you work smarter, not harder this school year! You'll get some great tips from all of us and there's a great giveaway with over $200 in gift certificates being handed out! What's not to love about that!?!

So - read on to see my tips AND make sure to enter the giveaway!

Main Graphic Laborless

Today I am linking with Laura from Where the Magic Happens, Krista from Teaching Momster, and Lisa from PAWsitively Teaching! I have joined forces once again with my bloggy friends to bring you the best, most amazing giveaway on this Labor Day weekend!

We've been trying to think about ways to treat our readers and followers. After MUCH thought, we decided to give you our best ideas to work smarter rather than harder - at school AND home!

I know how much there can be to be an effective teacher! The time, stress, and energy... You know what I mean! We crave a little time to ourselves and quality time with our families, while also wanting to do everything that needs to be done for our students at school. 


The biggest time saver for me is documentation! Taking just a few quick minutes each day, I am able to jot down any parents I've contacted, which standards I've taught, little Johnny's outbursts for the day, late work, and more! I've written an entire blog post about the ten things I document here.

Ten Things Teachers Should Document on a Regular Basis

Why documentation, you ask? My documentation has saved my behind more times than I can count! I've been able to show my administrators exactly how many times I've contacted parents (even though they are saying otherwise). I've been able to prove which standards I've already covered and how many times. I can walk into an IEP or RtI meeting and show what strategies I've already been using with students. With just a few minutes of time each day, I can save myself hours of time! {Yes, it takes a little time and practice to get the hang of everything - but it's been incredibly worthwhile to me!}

If you're more interested in classroom management ideas, you can find them here!


After a long day of work, my favorite way to de-stress is to take a bubble bath, chill out watching a movie on Netflix or Amazon Prime, chat with my husband, or enjoy time with my son. 

De-stress at the end of each day by enjoying time with family!

I also love using my essential oils to de-stress! I put them on at the start of each day, diffuse them throughout the day, and apply more at night. You can't go wrong!


My absolute favorite product is Magic Square Puzzles! These puzzles will work at home with your own children, in the classroom to review previously taught concepts, for early finishers who need a worthwhile activity to do, or as a fun-filled center activity!

Magic Square Puzzles are a great way to engage students! Use them for review, early finishers, or center activities!

With over 80 Magic Square Puzzles in my store, you're sure to find something you love! But - let's get you started with this great Back to School Magic Square Puzzle FREEBIE!

What's better than these tips? PRIZES!
Check out the amazing products you can win!

A $100 gift card to Amazon

A $50 gift card to TpT


Two $25 gift cards to TpT

A $10 gift card to TpT

Thanks for sticking it out for my tips. Not make sure to enter the giveaway! We all know the $$ above would obviously make your life better! =)
Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Now make sure to see all the other great tips from the other bloggers as well!