Monday, October 17, 2016

Oriental Trading Teacher Wishlist

Hey friends!
Let's not mention how long it's been since I've posted....
Let's just focus on the fact that I'm back! WOOT!

Today I'm posting about a company that every teacher knows and loves - Oriental Trading!!

Did you know you can create a Teacher Wishlist page? Well, YOU CAN!
Here's what you do:
1) Log onto Oriental Trading (or create an account if you don't already have a log-in)
2) Go to the Teacher Supply Page
2) Go shopping!! Instead of "Adding to Cart" you'll "Add to Wishlist" (as shown below)

What should you do once you've made your fantastic Wishlist? Share it, of course! 
Share it with your student's parents and guardians!
Share it on your blog! 
Share it with your family and friends! 
Share it with your co-workers and principal! 
Share it with everyone!! 

My wish list is stocked full of Oriental Trading fabulousness... 
Let me tell you about my most FAVORITE items I've already gotten. 

These are nothing short of fantastic. My school is doing a big push for vocabulary, and my kiddos are more than happy to get their antonym and synonym on when they use these magnetic sheets!

The second thing I love-love is Learning Ninja Award Medals!!
When a student does something extra fantastic, they get to wear a Learning Ninja Medal around their neck for the day! Of course I hum a little tune while I place it on their head - I like to make a big to-do out of it! You should see their adorable smiling faces when they get "medaled"!! 

Some of the other goodies I put on my wish list are:

Whatever you need for your classroom, OT has it! Bulletin board supplies, classroom management supplies, toys for treasure box, task cards, books... I could go on and on! 

I hope I've convinced you to start up a wishlist! Oriental Trading is SO affordable (another reason I love OT!), so go load up your wishlist and share it with all your peeps!! 

Disclosure: I was provided products from Oriental Trading for review purposes, but all opinions are mine! :) 

Tuesday, April 12, 2016


Hey friends! Are you in crazy-test-prep mode?? I SURE AM! STAAR testing season has officially started. Texas, I know you feel my pain. UGH... And I know PARCC testing has started, too. UGH2....

To make this time a bit less painful for my STAAR teachin' peeps (sorry PARCC), I got together some of my F-A-V-O-R-I-T-E Texas teachers to donate some of my F-A-V-O-R-I-T-E STAAR prep products to bring YOU a big ol' STOMP THE STAAR giveaway!

If you're looking for some simply fantastic STAAR reading prep products, LOOK NO FURTHER.

*Winner can choose grade level 

If you're looking for some totally amazing STAAR math prep products, WE GOT YOU COVERED.

    *Winner can choose grade level 

    Can I get a WOOT WOOT for all these amazing teachers!! And their fantastic products that are going to make STAAR prep stress-free and POWERFUL for your kiddos! 

    Choose your giveaway (reading, math, or both) and enter below!! And go show these ladies some on TPT! Just click the product links to be taken to their stores :) 

    STAAR, consider yourself STOMPED!!

    a Rafflecopter giveaway

    Thursday, March 17, 2016

    Morning Message

    Hey friends! I'm so excited to post about one of my FAVORITE products I've made for my TPT store... Morning Message: Spiraled Review of Essential Reading Skills!

    Morning Message is a PROJECTABLE, daily review of essential reading skills. It's saved as a PowerPoint file, so it's easy to project and flip between days. The ONLY thing to print is the answer sheets!

    Morning Message, Edition 1's spiraled reading skills include Topic and Main Idea, Character Traits, Theme, Inferencing, and Context Clues.

    Morning Message, Edition 2's spiraled reading skills include Main Idea and Supporting Details, Character Traits, Cause and Effect, Inferencing, and Context Clues.

    Morning Message, Edition 3's spiraled reading skills will include (it's being finished!) Main Idea and Supporting Details, Analyzing Characters, Cause and Effect, Inferencing and Conclusions, and Context Clues. Edition 3 should be finished in the next week or so!! 

    I also have a GROWING BUNDLE of Edition 1 and Edition 2... It will jump in price when I add Edition 3! 

    Guys. My students LOVE Morning Message. And I pretty much want to jump for joy whenever I hear them present their answers. Just listen to this little smarty pants by playing the video* below!!
    *Please note I DID NOT HELP AT ALL WITH THIS RESPONSE! The student used the sentence stem provided on the Morning Message slide to construct his answer.


    Morning Message is for ALL learners in ALL classrooms. Here's why: 
    - Each slide starts with a short review of the focus skill
    - Reading selections are engaging and short in length
    - Responses are open ended
    - Sentence stems are provided for each response
    - Students support their answers with TEXT EVIDENCE
    - 2 types of answer sheets are included: blank and with sentence stems

    I start my day off teaching reading to my homeroom. Morning Message is the PERFECT warm-up before my students start their independent reading. My students walk in, get settled, look at the overhead screen for the day's morning message and get started. After announcements, we review everyone's answers. As I said before, my students LOVE to read their responses! The hardest part of reviewing is letting my kiddos know we don't have time to listen to EVERY response because they ALL want to answer!! In my opinion, that is a FABULOUS problem to have! :) 
    Recently, WeAreTeachers Reading shared my post about "Think Deep Thursday" on Facebook and it went viral! Think Deep Thursday is the inferencing activity that started my Morning Message set. 2,960 shares?!?!? Are you kidding me?!  I WAS STOKED!! And I for sure did some jumping for joy... And squealed... There was definitely some squealing!! 
    Every Thursday is STILL "Think Deep Thursday" in my classroom, but now it's projectable! No prep! YAY! And all the other days review other essential reading skills. I cannot express in words the feeling I get when I see ALL my learners, high and low, being successful when using Morning Message. But I don't need to - you're a teacher so YOU TOTALLY GET IT! I'm so excited about the feedback I've gotten on TPT, because other teachers are seeing the success with their students as well. WARMS MY HEART, Y'ALL!

    I would LOVE for you to check out Morning Message and use it in your classroom! You can download a FREE WEEK from my TPT store! I'd love to hear what you think! 
    And if you LOVE it (I sure hope you do!), check out Edition One and Edition Two, or save some money and get the GROWING BUNDLE which will include soon to be finished Edition Three! 

    Do you use Morning Message in your classroom? I'd love to hear how it's helping your students!! <3 p="">

    Sunday, February 21, 2016

    Houston Blogger Meet Up!

    Hey friends!
    I have nothing educational to share with you today.... Only fun stuff and a free thing.
    More on the free thing in a bit! :)

    I hope you had a wonderful weekend! I for sure did, because I attended the Houston TPT & Blogger meet up on Saturday! Big ol' Texas sized thank you to the amazing Megan Favre (all the cute clipart used on the pics below is from on of her awesome clipart sets!) and Sandy O'Brien for setting the shindig up! They are just the sweetest!
    I met so many amaaaaazing teacherprenuers. Look at all these lovely ladies! 

    I enjoyed the wealth of knowledge Suzanne from Crazy Town Blog shared. Thank you, lady!! You're a rockstar!  

    I loved-loved meeting two of the sweetest ladies EVER - Shannon and Hailey of Texas Teaching Chicks! They are just the cutest! They collaborate together to make all of their TPT goodies which is just amazing to me! You can tell they have such a fun friendship. And they live soooo close to me! WOOT! I see hang-outs in our future :) 

    I also loooooved meeting the sweet Jacqueine Ortize from The Little Lady Bug Shop (even though I already felt like I knew her and for sure already loved her!!), Cassi Noack from Cassi Noack Teach and Marcy Fair from Marcy's Mayhem! These chicks are a barrel of laughs!! 

    There were SOOOO many other amazing ladies there! I wish I had had more time to talk to ALL of them! I cannot wait until the next meet up :) 

    Now for the free thing! 
    Again, it's NOTHING educational. But, it's pretty much my life motto right now. 

    I wake. 
    I pray. 
    I slay.... 
    Oh, and there's GLITTER!
    Feel free to share, print, make it your phone background... I don't know. Just enjoy! Click HERE For the downloadable PNG! 

    Have a great week, friends! 

    Sunday, February 7, 2016

    Strategies for Teaching Paired Texts

    In the Lone Star State, fourth grade marks the time our students start being tested on paired texts. That means double the reading, double the connections, and double the thinking. Thanks, STAAR! My nine and ten year olds are TOTES ready for that... *smh*

    No matter my feelings on the subject, my kids are going to be tested on paired texts. So I might as well make them fun, right?! And truthfully, I have seen some majorly awesome thinking coming from my little boos as we've started on our paired text journey.

    To get our paired-texts-comparing-and-contrasting-juices flowing, I started with Venn Diagrams. This is nothing new to our kiddos, right?  They know about comparing and contrasting. But did you know how powerful Venn Diagrams are to help students understand COMPLEX ideas? As they are classifying information, they're recognizing complex relationships. As the rockstar teacher you are, make sure you're asking the deeper, higher level questioning as they're getting their Venn on. Some examples of questions/thinking stems to present to your students are: 
    - How are ___ and ___ alike?
    - How are ___ and ___ different?
    - A similarity between ____ and ___ is?
    - A difference between ___ and ___ is?
    - A theme found in both selections is ____.
    - How are the characters alike in ____ and ___?
    - How are the characters different in ___ and ___?
    - Why do you think ____ was mentioned in both stories? 
    - One idea present in both selections is _____.

    There are tons of FREE Venn Diagrams available for download on TPT. And Venn Diagrams don't always have to be circles... Check out all the fabulous F-R-E-E Venn-Like Diagrams from 

    After some hardcore Venn-ing, we continued to explore paired texts with some super fantastic games from Jennifer Findley of Teaching to Inspire. It was such a fun way to introduce the questions students will see with paired texts in a non-test like format. Jennifer's Paired Passages Reading Centers give you FIVE paired texts with gameboards. We started with a poem and fiction pairing. We read, discussed, and strategy-ed both selections, made some connections between texts, then got our game on. The kids LOVED it!! And I did too- they were flipping between stories, proving answers and DISCUSSING both stories... Which was continuing that complex thinking AND are the exact things they need to do when kicking a paired text's butt! 

    The next step I took on our paired text journey was with a straight up paired text. But about some pretty cool dudes - Lebron James and Michael Jordan. Perhaps you've heard of them? My kids sure had!! They were very excited to dig in, and I took this opportunity to introduce our paired text strategies. I am so thankful that my student teaching was in a 5th grade ELA classroom. The strategies I'm sharing are from my cooperating teacher, Kathy Brock. She was an inspiration to me! 

    The first paired passage strategy I use is LABEL your passages. First passage gets a 1 and the second passage gets a 2. Pretty easy stuff for the kids to pick up. 
    Why do this, you ask? A few reasons. 
    - When the kiddos get around to the questions, I want them to label which story they need to flip back to for text evidence. 
    - If my kiddos get confused on where to find and answer, all they have to do is FLIP TO THE CORRESPONDING STORY. I will push, push, push this during practice and PRAY they do it on their own come STAAR time. Lol. 

    Here's an example of what I'll expect my kids to do using a released STAAR test from 2013. The cute red font represents the labeling strategy I'm teaching my kiddos. 

    The T-Chart strategy comes in on the questions that deal with passages 1&2. Students need to find proof from BOTH stories. So I bring back the Venn Diagram thinking but in T-chart form because it's easy and quick. Here are the steps:
    - Make a T chart. Label it 1 and 2 (this represents the stories)
    - For each answer choice, find the proof in both stories. Record the paragraph number. 
    - The correct answer will have a paragraph number under BOTH stories for "compare" questions (shown) or under ONE story on "contrast" questions. 
    Pretty easy to see that the answer is A on this "compare" question!

    These strategies help my kids THINK, PROVE their answers, and GET THE RIGHT ANSWER. And once they have these strategies down, they will be second nature to them. 
    Paired Text? Consider your butt kicked. BOOM. 

    There are so many fantastic teacherprenuers on TPT whose products have played a HUGE roll in my our paired text journey. Here are some products that I big puffy heart love. 

    - Readers's Notebook Response Pages by The Thinker Builder. I use these response pages for EVERYTHING, not just paired texts. You have got to check out Michael's blog, he's like a reading genius in my opinion!! 

    Paired Passages Reading Centers by Jennifer Findley. As mentioned above, my kids just LOVE these! Reading and working paired passages ALL THE TIME gets BOOOORING. Liven things up with games! Your kids can still practice their strategies but in a fun and stress-free way. 

    - NBA Legends Paired Texts by Keith Geswein. Keith is Kimberley Geswein's (KG Fonts) hubby, and equally as talented! He offers paired texts on NBA, NFL and Soccer legends. Perfect for those reluctant readers in your class!! And my girls were just as stoked to read about Lebron & Michael as my boys were! 

    I hope some of this info inspires and helps you! 
    How do you tackle paired texts in your classroom? I'd love to hear from you! :) 

    Thursday, January 28, 2016

    The Unmotivated Reader...

    A few days ago, I looked up from my guided reading group to scan the classroom. I was frustrated to see my independent readers NOT READING. A few of them were actually staring at me. Creepy. I redirected and moved on.

    Fast forward to today. At our school, we do "Books and Breakfast", so after my students complete their Morning Message, they grab some grub (we eat breakfast in the classroom) and they read while they eat. Well.... we used to. Today, I looked up and noticed breakfast eaters, Morning Message-ers, but NO READERS.

    I was freaking out, y'all. My READERS weren't READING. My kiddos went from telling me EVERY DETAIL OF EVERY BOOK to nada. Zilch. Nothing. I went from, "Ohhh, you made ANOTHER connection??? Really? Already?" to "Put your nose in your book!"

    I knew my fourth graders were not enjoying reading.
    And I knew I sounded like a JERK telling them to READ, READ, READ when they SO did not want to. I mean, isn't throwing tiny pieces of paper at your neighbor more interesting than that Big Nate book?

    So I asked my kiddos to come up with some ideas to help re-motivate them (not gonna to lie, I may have "planted" some of the ideas).

    My sweet kiddos said, "Bring back the reading logs!" and I thought, I reeeeaaaaally want you to enjoy reading without having to log your time because that makes it feel like something you have to do, not want to do, so I replied with, "OK, let's think of a way we can record our reading."

    My sweet kiddos said, "We could summarize our chapters!" and I thought, Eh, I don't want to read 239 summaries (DON'T JUDGE ME), so I replied with, "OK, let's come up with a way to quickly summarize what we're reading."

    I'm going to quickly sum up how the rest of our brainstorming session went:

    Me: "What if we write book reviews!!"
    Kids: *Intrigued*
    Me: "After y'all read, you could summarize your book and rate it so your friends know if they should read it!"
    Kids: "We could give our books stars!"
    Me: "Sure! How about 3 stars!"
    Kids: "Make it 5!"
    Me: "Ok! 5 it is! And let's make sure we don't give away the ending... So let's just summarize the beginning and the middle"
    Kids: "This sounds fun!"
    Me to myself: THANK YOU, LORD! My kids want to read again! And I have a quick way to check what they're reading!

    I'm not going to lie, I haven't tried out the book review thing yet... So I can't swear that it works. I'll definitely update y'all once I try it out. BUT I will say my kids are SO STOKED about reading. Like, so stoked they were ready to write reviews on sticky notes!

    So yeah... I'm pretty excited to show up maƱana with these review papers. I think I might shut down the classroom for some major D.E.A.R. time so they can really dig into their books.

    I want YOU to try out these, too! So I've uploaded them for you to use FO' FREE! Because all kiddos  should get all jazzed about reading! Just click the pic to be taken to the download!

    If you download, PLEASE let me know how your kiddos like these review papers! They're short and to the point. Book Title, Beginning, Middle and Rating. BOOM.


    Sunday, January 17, 2016

    Rock and Teach Review: National Geographic Puzzle Explorer App

    Hey all! Happy Sunday! And to some, happy loooong weekend! We have MLK day off (Monday) and Tuesday is a teacher work day. So next week is only three-days-of-teaching long! I'm definitely going to take advantage of the day off to SLEEP and the work day to CATCH UP on grades, data charts, anchor charts, room redecorating, etc, etc, etc... I'm thinking I may need more than one work day.... EEK! lol

    I'm so excited to review an awesome new FREEEEE app that you can start using in your classroom TOMORROW. Because it's FREE. And AWESOME. Do you have students that like Minecraft? I know mine do... That's why I was SO gosh darn excited about the National Geographic Puzzle Explorer App!! 
    This app allows kiddos to build puzzle mazes using different types of blocks (very Minecraft-y).

    Thanks to Donors Choose and the most generous donors EVER, my classroom has FOUR iPads. WOOT! Last week I downloaded the app on all of our iPads and let my kiddos explore. The intro gave the students all the information they need to be successful with this app. My tech savvy kiddos had no problem picking up how to solve a puzzle and create a puzzle. 
    Some of the awesomeness my students found was: 
       - They get to SOLVE puzzles 
       - They get to BUILD puzzles and then SHARE with their friends to see if they can solve them
       - There are CAMERAS within the puzzles that lead to cool pics and information 

    Some of the awesomeness I found was:
       - When they're SOLVING puzzles, they're working on problem solving and logic
       - When they're BUILDING puzzles, they're planning, sequencing and strategizing
       - The CAMERAS expose them to gorgeous, eye-catching pictures full of informative facts

    My favorite part of this app is the pictures and information my students are exposed to while "playing". Included in the FREE download is pictures and facts about the Yucatan Peninsula. Other packages include Antartica, the Himalayas, the Nile River (OMG I LOVE EVERYTHING EGYPT) and the Australian outback! Fabulous, aye mate? 

    After the initial exploring, I decided to have the kiddos write down these fantastic facts they came across. We're studying information texts in reading right now, so it was a PERFECT tie in. The kids were so excited to find info their friends hadn't found yet and share with the class... They ate this fact finding activity up and didn't even realize they were getting all educational-y! And LOOK at that picture!! 
    Check out some of the other fabulous features! 
    - 48 National Geographic Photo Fact insights from 5 Regions around the World.
    - FREE Yucatan Region; Purchase the Exploration Package with Antarctica and the Himalayas. Purchase the Expedition Package with the Nile River Valley and the Australian Outback.
    - Easy to follow multimedia step-by-step maze design Instructions make creation easy and fun.
    - 20 unique obstacle blocks can be mixed and match to provide thousands of puzzle designs!

    I already loved the Nat Geo Puzzle Explorer App, but made me 100% decide to put this app into our iPad rotation time was the reviews my kiddos gave. Cutest part was THEY wanted to review it. One even gave it five stars!! 

    Straight out'ta the mouths of my 4th grade babes: 

    Wondering where you can get this fab app? iTunes, of course! Click the pic below to be taken to the iTunes preview! 

    Want more information on the app? Check out the Puzzle App website HERE! There are links to info for teachers and parents!

    Don't have iPads in your classroom? Then check out THIS great paper puzzle craft-ivity by Nat Geo! I see a math connection here with all those 3D shapes!! 

    Are you thinking of downloading? I'd love to hear your thoughts! 
    Do you already use this app? I'd love to hear how you're using it in your classroom!!