I think I see a skink!, Winners, and Other Excitement!

Yikes! This has been a quite a week in my first grade classroom! I anticipated a bit of chaos due to parent conferences, picture day, and concession sales, but I sure was not prepared for the amount of crazy that ensued yesterday!

Here is a little sneak peak at the reason for all the insanity in my room! Meet "Skinky" the skink! (who is a little blurry because I was seriously freaked out by her appearance in my room!)

It all started Wednesday afternoon as I was leaving the building. I opened the back door to exit and felt something creepy and smooth race over my foot! I screamed my head off thinking that it was a snake as they have been known to lurk around our back storage area.  When I looked down, I was startled to see that I had accidentally let some sort of lizard into the building! Of course, I nearly scared it half to death, so it took off into my teammate's room, which is connected to mine.   My favorite custodian was unable to catch him, so I went home and told my husband the crazy story.  He lovingly assured me that the lizard would definitely be long gone from my room by the next morning. Little did he know that I'm not that lucky...

So, yesterday started out pretty normal. I warned my kiddos as well as my principal and teammate next door about the lizard on the loose. They all laughed and thought I was crazy for worrying so  much about it.  As the day went on, I was a little jumpy, but I tried to push the thought of the creepy creature out of my mind.  That is, until our afternoon read-aloud time.  As I went to sit down on my rocking chair, I suddenly realized that I was about to sit on the intruding lizard!! It was all curled up, smack in the middle of the cushion on my seat!  So much for calm, structured teaching...I went berserk screaming, jumping, and yelling for help!

Fortunately, my principal came to the rescue, and the kids all clapped and cheered when our visitor, who turned out to be a female skink, was captured.  Needless to say, all my planned teaching for the remainder of the day was sidetracked by this critter encounter.  We did a little research and learned that skinks can lose their tails when frightened, and I am sooo glad that I did not have a loose tail flip-flopping around my room!  I would have really lost it! The kids really enjoyed reading and writing about the skink, and even though it was unplanned, it turned out to be a great learning experience for all of us.

And here I thought the highlight of the week would be our 3-D map that we made in Social Studies! Ha! Here are some photos of our 3-D map and the Circle within a Circle within a Circle Map we created to describe homes, neighborhoods, and communities.

In other crazy and exciting news, I am very thrilled and a little overwhelmed by the fact that so many of you have found my Binder Covers useful! I had a request to add monthly binders for June and July, so those are now included if you'd like to redownload the file for Free from TPT.  Also, if you have been to my store, you may have noticed some small changes.  The organizing and spring cleaning bug has definitely bitten me, so I'm working on making over my products.  If you already own my Classroom Jobs Pocket Chart or Magnetic Set, it is now fancy schmancy with updated graphics, some new job titles, and it comes in six color schemes to match any classroom.  If you own my previous set, you can update yours for free by simply re-downloading it!

The final bit of excitement...the winners!

Please send me an email at bmrice@ballstate.bsu.edu indicating which item you would like me to send to you! Have a wonderful weekend!

Project Binder-ize! A success! And some freebies for you!

**Edited to Add Customizable Binder Kit**

Today was my first day teaching in my new, Binder-ized classroom, and I have to say, I think I've got a little more pep in my step! Or, it could be that I know there are only 9 more weeks until summer, my baby girl took her first steps this week(holy cow!), and the weather is gorgeous! So, I've been in a good mood despite the fact that today was the kind of Monday that is usually pretty tough due to everyone's post-break blues.

As promised, I'm ready to share my photos and Freebies in case you are ready to add a little pep to your step as well!

The Before Pictures
(because an extreme file makeover just wouldn't be complete without them!):

These are my Theme and Holiday Files with books jammed in the file folders. I have two big drawers of these guys. Not working for me...

Curriculum files. Organized and alphabetized, but jam-packed! Also, not working for me! I have three big drawers like this.

The During Pictures:
Okay, here is a picture of the process in action. I started with my Theme and Holiday files. I made a binder for each month and placed the binder, all files, and empty book boxes on student desks.  Then, I sat on a rolling chair and wheeled my way around the table, recycling outdated materials (how can that be--I've only been teaching five years!?!) putting the keepers in sheet protecters in the binders and the related books in the book boxes. Easy, peasy!  I repeated this process with my Curriculum Files on day two. 

As I put things in sheet protectors, I put temporary sticky note tabs on the pages to separate major topics.

When I had everything in binders, I went back and added some fancy schmancy adhesive tabs to the sheet protectors so I'd be able to find items easily within the binders.  These are alphabetized as I am apparently an alphabetical-type girl. I tried putting them in order of occurence throughout the month like my teammate suggested, but I started to freak out midway through and had to change them!

The Afters: Ta-Da!

Here are my binders all nice and neat (and, they take up much, much less space)! I decided to make my monthly binders blue and curriculum binders red to help my brain out a bit. Apparently, I'm a color-coding kind of girl, too!

Here are the book boxes that correspond with each binder. All I did to make the labels was print the binder covers four per sheet, laminate them, and attach them to the book boxes, which were super-cheap from IKEA. I like how they match the binders and I'm excited to finally have all of my read-alouds in one place! No more getting lost in files or mixed up in student library baskets! Yay!!

Now that I'm done with my curriculum and theme files, I'm ready to move on to my teacher and school-specific files... And maybe I'll find some other uses for binders, too!

If you would like to Binder-ize your room, I will happily share my binder covers and spine inserts.  I only ask that you leave me a little love if they are useful for you or share an organizing tip of  your own(because a girl can never have too many organizing tips)! Click the pictures below to download them free from TPT! Happy organizing!

P.S. By request, I have updated the binder covers and matching spine inserts to include the months June and July!

Ready to binder-ize your classroom, but want to personalize your binders with your own titles, graphics, name, fonts, and more? After many requests, you can now purchase a Customizable Binder-izing Kit!

It includes over 36 color-coded binder covers and graphics that you can use with the suggested titles or your own personalized text. In addition, there are matching binder spines and blank binder covers that you can add your own text and graphics to in order to complete your class binder set!

Personalizing your set is easy! All you do is open this file in Powerpoint 2010, select the textboxes that say "Edit Binder Title Here," and type in your own text! You can add your own images to the blank binder covers and even edit the font to your personal favorite!

Click below to check it out at my TPT store!

Project Binder-ize!

Some might call me a neat freak. Others on my first grade team have been known to refer to me as "Anal Annie" (not my favorite nickname). I, on the otherhand, like to think of myself as an organizer...A very organized organizer, maybe. I sometimes wonder if that is my true calling--okay, not really. But I honestly do love it! In fact, I love organizing so much, that I spent two days at school (plus several nights working at home) over Spring Break to organize, um, files!

Maybe I sound ridiculous, but I couldn't take it any more! It seems like all year, my paper files have been bogging me down. They are thick and heavy, blah-manilla colored, bent, and full of wrinkly or shuffled papers. Some are even a mix of white and yellow copies due to a previous organizational endeavor in which I planned on keeping all of my masters on yellow paper so they wouldn't get lost or worse--used! In an effort to get rid of the crazy file cabinet clutter (which may well be the worst kind of clutter), I decided to ditch the files and invest in, drum roll, please...binders! (Or, notebooks as some call them).

I cannot tell you how much better I feel about my entire life now that I have these beauties in my classroom! It is like a large picture window has been added to the four cinder-block walls of my sad and windowless classroom--okay, not quite, but it does make me feel much less cluttered! Anyway, in the next few days, I'll be posting some pictures of my organizational process as well as some FREEBIES for you to use to organize your own files!  Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for some goodies!

PS. Don't forget to enter my 100 followers giveaway here!

Fun with Frog and Toad and a 100 Follower Giveaway! A Little Freebie, too!

Woah! The last few weeks have been crazy! I am very excited to be back to blogging because I've got some goodies to share and because it is so much easier to do on my fancy new laptop! (May my old one rest in peace:). A few weeks ago, I feared that with the loss of my laptop, I may have also lost my Frog and Toad unit that I'd been working so hard on for our Arnold Lobel week.  Luckily, I was able to scrape together some bits and pieces of my unit to do with my kiddos before our Spring Break, and even more luckily, my unit was recovered along with several other important files from my old computer!! Yay!

Anyways, we had a lot of fun reading all of Arnold Lobel's Frog and Toad stories, and my kids did really well with all of the activities. I am so proud of the wonderful readers and thinkers they have become! It is hard to believe that it is the end of March already!

Here are a couple of pics of our favorite activities. The first is of our Snip, Flip, and Fold 3-D Graphic Organizer. I let the kids choose any Frog and Toad story (of course, most picked The Kite, which is in our Treasures Basal), and they simply had to write and draw to tell what happened in the beginning, middle, and end of the story. They liked this activity because of the flippy aspect of the pages, and I liked it because it turned out way better than when I used to have students fold and cut the pages on their own.  Amen for dotted cutting lines and handwriting lines!  If you'd like to try this Snip, Flip, and Fold activity with your class, it can easily be used with any book that has a beginning, middle, and end format...You are welcome to download it for FREE from my TPT store. Just click here and then click, Download Preview.

This next picture is of my personal favorite Pinterest-inspired activity! I think they turned out sooo cute! I let the students pick their favorite character to describe using at least one adjective.  They wrote things like, "Frog is excited to play outside with Toad" and "Toad is forgetful because he lost his button."  Haha!

Okay, now the good stuff! I am so excited to have reached 100 followers--101 to be exact! I appreciate all of your kind words and the fact that you take the time to read my sometimes long, rambling posts!  In honor of this milestone, I will randomly select THREE lucky followers to win any one item from My Teachers Pay Teachers Store. You will get to choose from my new Fun with Frog and Toad Unit (which includes the patterns to make the cuties above and other goodies!), My Green Eggs and Contractions Unit, Writing Using Thinking Maps: A Year of Circle Maps and Tree Maps, and more!

The Fine Print:)
You have three chances to win! To enter, post a comment after doing each of the following items:
1. Follow my blog.
2. Follow my TPT store.
3. Blog about my giveaway.

Thanks for reading and good luck! The giveaway will end Friday, March 30th at 9:00pm.

Teachers Helping Teachers

As a former Hoosier, my heart really went out to those teachers and families in Indiana and other places who recently lost much of their lives to severe storms and tornadoes. I cannot imagine what it must be like to face the idea of starting everything over from scratch. To do my part in helping those teachers and school families in need, I'm linking up with Crystal from Kreative in Kinder to send supplies and materials where they are needed. If you'd like to help out too, just click here!

Great news, even greater news, and the greatest news of all! Oh, and a little on Parent Conferences

**Thanks so much for stopping by my blog! I have written an updated post regarding how I prepare for Parent Conferences. If you'd like to read my most recent post on Parent Conferences, click the photo below.**

Last week was a bit of a bummer... As I may have mentioned (about a million times to those around me-sorry), my laptop crashed, and I thought I lost a lot of hard work. The great news is that even though my motherboard is bad and I need a new laptop, my hard drive is okay! I am so relieved! The greater news is that my new laptop is set to arrive this week, which is very exciting (you know, its the little things...). And the greatest news is that I only have five more days until Spring Break and our weekend mini-trip to Atlanta! It will be our first real trip with our one year old (other than to Indiana to visit family once a month, or so). We are going to visit the zoo, aquarium, and children's museum! I cannot wait!

Now, onto a little on Parent Conferences... As part of what must be some cruel joke on teachers, we send Report Cards home and have Parent Conferences the week after Spring Break. In preparing for my conferences, I thought I'd share what I do with you all. At my school, we hold conferences twice a year, and we do not have to meet with every child's family each time. I think this is simply due to time constraints since we only hold conferences after school from 2:45 to 5:45.

Even though I don't get to meet with everyone, I still like to take the time to at least reach out to all of my students' families to let them know their child's current strengths and weaknesses. This is where my Parent Conference Rubric comes in handy. Prior to conferences, I fill out this rubric for every single child. It discusses things like achievement, work ethic, behavior, etc.

A couple of weeks before conferences, I send a Conference Scheduling Form home with the rubric attached to it. The scheduling form tells the parents if I would like to have a conference with them or if I do not feel like they necessarily need one. I also give them the opportunity to request a conference if they would like to do so. Then, when it comes time to hold conferences, I use the rubric to guide our conversation in addition to addressing any concerns the parents may have.

If you would like to use my Parent Conference Form, please feel free to click the picture above to download from google docs.  It has really helped to make conferences go a lot smoother for me, even if it isn't the prettiest document...maybe next year I'll fancy it up a bit! If you've got any other Parent Conference tips, I'd love to hear them!

**I have recently added an Editable PDF Format of my Parent Teacher Conference Forms to my Teachers Pay Teachers store. If you'd like to check them out, please click on the photo below. Thank you for visiting my blog, and good luck with your conferences!**

Hooray to 100 followers and boo to some bad news!

Yay! I was so excited to see that my little blog hit 100 followers yesterday! I have learned so much from so many other wonderful teachers' blogs, and I'm really enjoying sharing some of my teaching successes! Thank you so much!

This week, I have been working on a Frog and Toad unit that I'm really excited about, and I was hoping to celebrate with you all by sharing some freebies and giving away my new unit...that is, until my computer crashed last night right before I could back everything up...yikes!

So, since my lovely laptop is being worked on (let's cross our fingers that my new unit is recovered), I'm going to be doing the Frog and Toad activities that I'd previously emailed myself as well as Cara Carroll's Pint-sized Presidential unit with my newest purchase from Barnes and Noble, Grace for President. I think it is going to be so much fun!

Hopefully next week, I'll have a healthy laptop back along with some of my lost goodies so I can share with you! Until then, I'm going to have to be extra nice to my handsome husband so he'll let me borrow his fancy iPad to stay caught up on all the blogs and Pinterest! I don't want to go into withdrawal or anything! Have a great week and happy teaching!


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