Sunday, June 28, 2015

Cincy Mystery Meet-Up!

12 days.....I have only been blogging for 12 days.  I don't feel completely comfortable with it, but I am starting to get the hang of it.  So what better way to learn more about this amazing world of blogging than going to my very first blogger meet-up!

Yesterday evening, I attended the Cincy Mystery Meet-up hosted by Em at Curious Firsties and Jenny at Luckeyfrog's Lilypad.  It was located at Book Bums in West Chester, Ohio.  Book Bums is a coffee shop, restaurant, lending library, and learning center.  I have been there several times before to catch with my sisters/friends, study, grade papers, and just to eat their amazing cafe food.  If you have never been, it is definitely worth the trip!  It's super cute!

Book Bums
First of all, I woke up Saturday morning with butterflies in my stomach.  By lunch time, I felt like I was going to throw up....I was an anxious mess!  Remember, I have only had a blog for 12 days.  12 days!?!  Why would I think that I would be ready for a blogger meet-up after 12 days of blogging?!?! I  kept telling myself that I shouldn't be attending this meet-up when I have no idea what I am doing in the blogging world.  I was honestly trying to talk myself out of going.   Luckily, the host was my sister (Em @Curious Firsties), and I knew she would never let me back out.  Plus, I wanted my sister to be proud of me for taking this leap into the blogging world.  Once I arrived at Book Bums, I ordered a coffee, and pretty much stayed close to my sister's side.  I felt like it was my first day of school in a foreign land!!

Em @CuriousFirsties
After some small talk and introductions, we ordered our delicious food.  Then, we played a game to get to know everyone.  Before the meet-up, everyone received a google document where we had to fill out information about ourselves (ex: one fact about you as a teacher, one interesting fact about your childhood, one thing you wish you were better at).  Em and Jenny read the answers and the guests had to guess who they were describing.  It was so fun getting to know each person!  Everyone was also given a name ahead of time of another blogger coming to the meet-up.  We were to bring them a gift to open at the meet-up.  It was fun how everyone brought their person something based off of what they saw or noticed on their blog.  I had Jenny from Luckeyfrog's Lilypad.  I knew she was attending a Picture Perfect Science Workshop. So I bought her a few picture books she could use along with the Picture Perfect Science workbooks.  I also bought her some pink Post-It Note Reminder Tags and cute binder clips.  Em from Curious Firsties had my name.  Since she is my sister and knows me better than anyone else, she made me my binder for the upcoming school year. 
My Goodies
Mystery Picture Book Game
We also played a really fun mystery game.  Em and Jenny had placed picture books inside envelopes.  Attached to the envelopes were clues describing the book inside the folder.  Whoever guessed the book got to keep it!  This is MY favorite kind of game.  I like mystery games, but I LOVE games that have books as prizes!  As the evening progressed, we played a few more games, shared personal and school stories, laughed a lot, and exchanged information.  Not to mention, I walked out of Book Bums with soooo many teacher goodies! 

The ladies I met at this meet-up were so friendly, welcoming, and super sweet! I honestly had a great time and am so thankful I didn't chicken out.  I feel so lucky to have met a wonderful and knowledgeable group of ladies. I hope to meet up with them again. 
Cincy Mystery Meet-Up Bloggers      
W.O.W.....12 days of being a blogger and I have already attended my first meet-up.  SO COOL! I'd like to thank Jenny and Em for being great hosts!   Most importantly, I need to thank my sister, Em for helping me get started with my blog.  I am honored to have her as my big sister.  I learn from her every single day.  Thank you, Em, for pushing me to start this amazing journey!

Saturday, June 27, 2015

3-2-1 Teacher Bio (Weekend Warriors)

Today I am linking up with Primarily Speaking for this month's Weekend Warriors, 3-2-1 Teacher Bio.
This link-up is a way for you to get to know me better and hopefully you let me get to know you as well! I love the 3-2-1 nonfiction graphic organizer that is being used for this post.  Here is how it works:

Now, here is a little bit about me:

1.  I have taught for ten years.  My first year I was an intervention specialist at a school in Dayton, Ohio for first and third grade.  I was also the coordinator for the after-school program (which means I worked until 6:30 every was a LOOONNNG day).  I worked as an intervention specialist for grades 4 & 5 my second year of teaching.  Unfortunately, the district's levy failed at the end of my second year and I was one of the first to be cut.  Thankfully, I was hired as a third grade teacher my third year at a district near Cincinnati, Ohio.  I have been there ever since.  I LOVE 3rd grade and LOVE my district!
2.  Over the years, I have made PowerPoints for all my reading skills that I teach to my third graders.  I find myself tweaking (editing, adding, deleting...) the PowerPoint presentations every year, so they are definitely a work in progress.  These presentations include a lot of visuals, video clips, and commercials.  Every student learns differently, so these PowerPoints help students grasp the skills in a different way.
3.  I have two of my own children.  But during the school year, I have 20+ children.  I make sure all my students feel loved, just like my own children.  They mean the world to me!

1.  I LOVE COFFEE.  My love for coffee started when I worked at Starbucks during my second year of college.  I love the taste and smell of coffee.  I will actually get a headache by 10am if I have not had a cup of coffee.
2. My dorm room was always packed with people every Thursday night during my first and second year of college.  It was will filled with people from 8-8:30 pm once a week for the T.V. show Friends.  Best.Show.Ever.  Even though I have seen all the episodes a hundred times, I still catch myself laughing out loud every time!
My daughter is 6 years old and my son is 3 years old.  Lucy LOVES princesses and TOMMY loves Legos. We just purchased our second (and hopefully last) house, so now it is time to save for this trip!  Hopefully this bucket list will be fulfilled soon!

Now it is your turn!  Grab the pictures below and link up!  Thanks for the taking the time to learn a little bit about me!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

An Awesome DIY Bookcase

Have you ever found yourself pinning DIY projects on Pinterest hoping that you will magically find spare time for it?  I am definitely guilty of this!  I pin so many projects....and I actually made one of them!!

Project on Buzzfeed
This past winter was very cold and snowy in Ohio.  So, I decided to do something to keep myself from going crazy while being stuck in the house.  I searched through my Pinterest boards and came across a really awesome DIY bookcase.  Isn't this bookcase super cool looking?!?  I immediately had to find a way to create this project for my daughter's bedroom.

First, I read through all the directions from a blog called Small Town Craft Fair.  Next, I texted my dad to make sure this was a project that he was willing to do with me (honestly, I would never have been able to do this without my dad's help).  Once I got the two thumbs up from my dad, I needed to find a wooden cable spool.  I had NO idea it was going to be so difficult! Apparently wooden cable spools are not easy to get your hands on.  Plus-they are super expensive.  I called around to several stores such as Home Depot and Lowes asking if they had any wooden cable spools lying around that I could have. No luck.  I researched places online where I could purchase one.  TOO expensive.  I even called around to different electric companies.  I was on the verge of calling it quits and finding a different project.  After a few days of giving up, I ended up stopping at Lowes to pick up a few extra pvc pipes (pipe phones) for reading groups and I walked out hitting the jackpot! While inside, I walked past the cable aisle.  There just so happened to be a man wearing a Lowes name badge working in the aisle.  Needless to say, after a bit of small talk, I was jamming a large (and free!) wooden cable spool into the trunk of my car! YAY!

After going over the directions with my dad, we decided to tweak them a little based on the tools he had in his garage.  After a lot of sanding, we cut down our dowels to fit in the spool as the bookcase dividers.  We marked where we wanted each dowel to be placed in the spool, we secured the dowels, placed wood putty over the screws, sanded more...and more....and more, and lastly we screwed on the wheels for the bottom of the bookcase.
This whole process took my dad and I about 2 hours max.  It was great bonding time with my dad!  Overall, my dad and I had a blast together and the bookcase looked great!  Next came the hard part though.....deciding on how to paint it!!! Decisions, decisions, decisions!-------2 Weeks Pass By-----

So, after staring at many color choices, I decided to paint the bookcase white and the top of the spool with black chalkboard paint.  WOW---it really shouldn't have taken 2 whole weeks to decide on white!  After a few coats, here's what it looked like...
I was unsure how it was actually going to look with books on it.  After allowing the coats to try, I was eager to put it in my daughter's room.  Not all of her books fit, which was fine.  Plus it didn't work well for her chapter books.  Overall though, I was pretty happy with it.  My daughter loves it. The other day, Lucy drew a countdown for our summer vacation. We get a lot of compliments on the bookcase when friends come over.
If I was to ever make this bookcase again, I would probably do things a little differently with the dowels.  I would somehow create a two-layer shelf.  No idea how I would make that happen, but we'll see....maybe someday I will attempt it (and my dad!).

So, what do you think of this bookcase?  What DIY projects have you made lately?

Monday, June 22, 2015

Simplified Classroom Library....Part 1

OK....I just finished my 10th year of teaching! WOW--a whole decade!  Sometimes I forget that I am actually an adult in my early thirties....You'd think I would feel pretty confident with my teaching after ten whole years....and I do....I really do.....most of the time.  I love to read professional books, attend PDs, and collaborate with others to grow as an educator.  I am always learning something new...and I love that!

But right now, I don't feel like a thirty-something educator that has taught for a decade!  I am stuck.  I am lost.  I am unhappy.  OK....I don't need to be that dramatic.  But after reflecting and reading some professional books/blogs this summer, I don't like the way I have my library organized.  I have a ton of books.  TON.  I love my classroom library.  Every year, I tweak it and add more books.  But...there's something I don't like about it...and I need some help.

Just a few of the books I purchased today
Today I took my two kids to Half Price Books for some quiet reading time.  Unfortunately, nothing with my 3 year old boy is quiet, but we did have some fun reading and looking at the books.  I ended up walking out of there $45 poorer than when I entered that morning.  However, my classroom library will be gaining some new additions (or duplicates because I tend to do that a lot).  Once I got home, I was taking the price tags off the books (I hate dislike stickers on the cover of my books) and I decided my classroom library needs a remodel.  I need to organize my books in a different way.  But I need some help.  Should I organize my books by authors?  Genre? Theme?  Currently my classroom library is organized by popular authors and partly genres.  

So.....send me some thoughts, ideas, feedback, suggestions?  How do you organize your library?  What do you think is the most simplified and best way to organize your classroom books?

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Reflect and Refresh: Part 1 {Link Up!}

Welcome to Reflect and Refresh, a two part linky party where teacher bloggers share their reflections on the 2014-2015 school year and ways they are planning to refresh their teaching in 2015-2016.  Thank you, Mrs. D's Corner, for this linky party~~~what a GREAT idea!

It's really hard to believe that I have been out of school for 20 days!  It feels like yesterday I was hugging my third graders and saying our goodbyes.  I LOVE summer.  It's funny how I look forward to summer every year, so I can relax and have fun with my family-BUT I always find myself thinking about how I am going to make next year even better. What I will do differently?  What actually worked? What new ideas can I bring to my team?  I don't think our teacher-brains actually turn off....what do you think?  So, I am here to share with you things that went well and also what I aim to work on for next school year.
KG Fonts
This year at open house (which is the day before the first day of school), I placed a communication log on every child's desk for the parents to complete.   Even though I can access all this information from the office or from their emergency medical forms, this sheet immediately goes into a binder that is next to my desk computer and phone.  This gives me easy access to student's contact information and I can quickly regard what the email or phone conversation was about.

On Fridays, I would send home weekly newsletters which gave information about the upcoming week.  It would give the parents some insight about what we will be working on in all subject areas, upcoming school events, and random reminders.  Unfortunately, I would find that some students weren't emptying their "mailboxes" Friday afternoon and wouldn't take the newsletter home.  So, I am starting to think more about creating a classroom website where I can post the information.  Does anyone have a classroom website?

My classroom library is HUGE!  I LOVE my books and take a lot of pride in my collection. In years past, though, I would catch myself getting mad because I'd forget certain books that I wanted to share with my students.  So, I decided something needed to be done.  I needed to organize my books in a better way. I spent a lot of time last August organizing the books by author, some by skills, some by genre...etc.   I am not a fan of the way I decided to organize them.   I need to go back in this summer and tweak it a little.  How do you organize your classroom library?

Teaching writing has never really been my favorite.....UNTIL this year!  Throughout the school year, I purchased a lot of different picture books (mentor texts) to use when teaching writing. I have found that the books are a great way to show examples of different types of writing.  We can teach students how to write, give them a checklist & rubric, but we can't expect them to know exactly how to write it unless they read examples.  I think it's important to talk about the mentor texts and then let the students discuss the writing.  For example, the books below are a few of the picture books that I used when teaching students how to write an opinion piece.  

My Big Summer Project:
One of the things I want to do this summer is read The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller.  I really want to make sure that I am creating life-long readers and not just students that need to read in order to pass a test.  I want my students to leave third grade knowing and understanding that reading is full of rewards.  I want it to be enjoyable and not just homework.  I WANT my students to have a love for reading that lasts much longer than just 9 months of the year.  Has anyone read this book and implemented her instructional approach?

Now it is your turn.  Share how you're looking back and reflecting on this past school.  Grab the picture below and link up with Mrs. D's Corner.  Make sure you return on August 3rd to show how you're going to Look Forward and Refresh Your Teaching!  

Thursday, June 18, 2015

The Ultimate Summer Reading List

Summer is here-- which means I have a list of places I want to take my kids, DIY crafts that I have pinned on pinterest, and a list of books that I would like to read. So....I thought I would try my first link-up!  Molly from Lucky to Be in First is sharing her summer reading list.
One of my favorite things to do during the summer is read right before I go to sleep.  During the school year, I am usually so tired from the day that I'm asleep before my head hits the pillow.  So, the summer is the perfect time to catch up on my reading.  My husband keeps telling me to buy a Kindle. But for some reason, I love reading from the actual book.  Especially a teacher book because I am usually taking notes in the margins, underlining, highlighting, and putting post-it notes on pages that I don't want to forget about.  And let's not forget-I am super clumsy and would probably break it within a week!  :)  

First, here is the list that I WANT to read this summer.

I am actually starting Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty tonight.  I am looking forward to it!  I read the The Husband's Secret within a few days.  I highly recommend it.  Which brings me to my list of books that you SHOULD read this summer....

What are you going to read this summer?  Do you have any suggestions for me?

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Rain, Rain, Go Away!

The summer is here! Yay!

Unfortunately, today does not feel like summer.  Today is rainy, cloudy, and gloomy.  Rainy days usually don't affect me when I am in teacher-mode (unless I am in charge of indoor recess).  But right now, I am in mommy-mode.  I have a six-year old daughter (Lucy), three year old son (Tommy), and a one year old boy that I am babysitting.'s raining.  Yuck!  My plan to go on a walk has been destroyed. My idea of playing outside is not going to happen now.  The last thing I want to do is drive three kids around in the rain to run errands. So.....? 

Luckily, I can easily and quickly switch from mommy-mode back to teacher-mode in a blink of an eye.  While trying to entertain a one year old with trucks and balls, I worked on sight words with Lucy and letter identification with Tommy.  Next, Lucy graphed her sight words based on occurrence while Tommy practiced writing his name.  As the morning slowly moved along, we played Go Fish, Candy Land, put together a Monster High puzzle, and watched one episode of Odd Squad on PBS.   

As the kids finished up their lunches and I finally cleaned up all the food off of the floor from my one year old friend, it was time for a nap.  I don't know about you, but nap time can sometimes be my favorite part of the day-especially on rainy days.  So, after changing diapers and making sure everyone had their favorite nap time toy, I closed all three doors and walked slowly downstairs to peace and quiet.  I had three options.  I could: 1.) clean up the hundreds of toys that covered my living room carpet; 2.) load the dishwasher with all the lunch dishes; or 3.) cuddle up on the couch with a book I have been reading (The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty).  Needless to say, I finished my book by the time the kids woke up from their naps!

Overall, this rainy day wasn't so bad after all.  What do you like to do on rainy day?

The Lemonade Stand

This is my very first literacy post, so please bear with me....

The last two months of school (April and May) can be a very exciting and stressful time for a third grader.  It's exciting because they're only weeks away from the freedom of summer, but also stressed with the large amount of assessments.  Not to mention, one of the state assessments determines their future to become a 4th grader.  So, what better way to end the year than with a class chapter book.  After successfully getting a Donor's Choose project funded in the winter, I had a class set of The Lemonade War by Jacqueline Davies.  This book is about two siblings that launch an all-out war to see who can sell the most lemonade before school starts.

This book ended up being a huge success.  My students wouldn't put the book down.   They made great personal connections to the characters and I was also able to link a lot of our social studies standards to the book.  The chapters included definitions of business terms,  marketing tips for making money at a business, charts, diagrams and math problems.  Because they would not put the book down, we were able to finish the book just in time for a project.  Learning from the two siblings successes and mistakes, I helped my students design and implement their own lemonade stand.  They designed posters, advertisements, and other business schemes like the characters did in the book.  The students decided on a location, time, brand and price of the lemonade, and even how their profit was going to be spent.  In the end, my third graders donated roughly $120.00 to our community's non-profit organization which is raising money to give four-year scholarships to all graduates.  And the best part students left for summer break excited to read the second book in the series!

Has anyone read this book with their class?

Tuesday, June 16, 2015


Hello!  My name is Sarah Smith and I am a third grade language arts teacher in Ohio.  I am brand new to blogging and haven't quite figured out what I am doing.  Luckily, I have a very talented sister at Curious Firsties that will be helping me along the way.  I am very excited about this new adventure!

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