Monday, December 17, 2012

Thoughts on a Monday

Here it is Monday...but not a normal Monday. A Monday with lots of questions on my mind and lots of emotions. sadness of what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary, joy of seeing all of my students this morning, fear and nervousness of how to respond to their questions, confident that I have let my students know how much they mean to list of emotions could go on and on.

As we had share time today I thought for sure that ONE person would bring up the tragic event that took place Friday but not one of them did. I was so thankful that my sweet little kiddos were kept sheltered from this news. Instead they shared with me about their time spent with grandmas and grandpas, moms and dads and cousins. They shared about their decorating Christmas trees and helping wrap presents. These stories warmed my heart. Then we took time to share their journals today, I had one student write "I love my school" and another write "School is Cool". So it just reassures me that we are doing all the right things and that we should keep doing what we are doing! Making a difference in their lives and being role models, someone they can count on in good times and bad and someone to love them when they may need it most!

My heart is still heavy as I try to wrap my mind around what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary school. How could someone kill innocent people, especially little tiny children? Why? What did it prove? I have so many questions that I am not sure I even want answers for. I want to wake up and hear that this was all a dream. I wish there were more we could do to stop these awful tragedies. And mostly, I wish for something I have wanted since I was a child... World Peace. A place where EVERYONE feels safe. A place where everyone gets along and a place where we can all work together to make the world a better place.

I have so much on mind but I feel I may be rambling so I will leave you with this:

Tonight as I lay your head on your pillow, I will say a prayer for the 20 children and 6 brave women who lost their lives and for their families. I will say a prayer for the first responders and the faculty and students who witnessed this tragedy. I will pray for the community of Newtown. And I will pray for my students and my colleagues.
I challenge you to do the same if you are religious in any way.
May God bless each and every one of you.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Child/Student-made Christmas Ornaments

Looking for different to do for Christmas gift to parents or grandparents this year? I downsized one of my old gifts and made it into a Christmas ornament! Have each student cut out one mitten. On one side have the students write a message to their parents and put the year. Then paint the corresponding hand with white paint and have them leave their hand print on the mitten. While the mittens are drying, have the students cut out the hearts (I drew the hearts and copied them onto red construction paper). Once the paint is completely dry, have students glue the red heart into the center or top of their hand print. Then put their school picture or any small picture inside the heart. I then printed the saying, "cold hands, warm heart" and have the students cut them out and glue them by the finger tips of their hand print! At his point I laminate them they will keep longer but you do not have to! Then just punch a hole in the top, add ribbon and  WAH-LAH...there you have a super cute, child-made ornament! Enjoy! 

Below are some cute gifts that I had students make last year! As you can see the heart was the one that I downsized to make these cute little mitten ornaments! The wreaths are made out of small paper plates and green and red tissue paper. Students just wrap the tissue paper around the end of their pencil, dip it in glue and then put it around the end of the plate. Easy, peasy!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Christmas Craftivities!

This year, for Christmas crafts,  I wanted to do something a little different than I have the last few years. So I turned on the old brain and started to think how I could spice things up!! I normally do a Christmas tree made from green triangles and mount it on black or blue paper. Then we decorate it with hole punches, tissue paper balls and glitter. We have also done Santa Mobiles and presents. All of which are seen below! To see some other holiday craft activities and parent gifts click here.

I kept thinking, how can I make these tree's look a little cuter? So I decided to change the size and the shape of the tree. They would be tree's "Made from the Heart". So instead of triangles, I made 3 different size hearts and had the students color them and glue them on to and 8 X 8 square. I also showed them how to trace around the edge with marker and then color in with crayon to make the colors pop out AND to help give them a better line to say inside! We then just glittered the "snow" on. 

I didn't choose to make a quilt with these this year but that is why I chose to do this, on the 8 X 8. It would be easy to make into a paper quilt to decorate a bulletin board. 

Then I thought about my Santas...I LOVE those Santas but I wanted to do something different and include the reindeer! Soooo, I went to one of favorite search engines, Google, and I searched for paper sleigh Christmas crafts and found this site. I got my idea from this site and the black-line master for Santa and the reindeer (the reindeer I did have to enlarge on the copier) but the rest I did on my own.  I literally free-handed a sleigh with a black marker and then cut black strips for the runner of the sleigh and for the reigns to go on the reindeer. I had the students angle off the edges of the black strip used for the runner. Then, to make it look even more official, I still had the students make little presents out of construction paper, to put in the sleigh! Cutting out the reindeer was And this is what the final project looked like! I was so excited  because they turned out so cute! And the kiddos had a lot of fun making them! Especially the fact that they got to attach the reindeer to the sleigh and fill it with presents

Then when I displayed them in the hallway...I made it look like Santa and his reindeer were flying over the forest of trees on Christmas Eve night! 



Sunday, November 11, 2012

Veteran's Day!

As we all know, today is Veteran's Day...a day that I am lucky enough to celebrate with my fellow Veteran's. Some of us are not lucky enough to get to enjoy this day, as they gave the ultimate sacrifice...their lives. I pray for them and their families and all current service men and women not only today but everyday.

 I have been a kindergarten teacher for seven years now, but prior to that, I spent a little over 9 years serving our great nation. (To read my whole story click here.) I thank my family for being so supportive of me during that time. Especially my husband Sam, who had to endure the first whole year of our marriage without me! I also have to thank each and every one of my Battle Buddy's who helped me through Basic Training, AIT, and Deployment to Iraq.  Without them, I would not have made it through the ups and downs of my service. I was going trying to tag each and every one of my Veteran friends and family on Facebook today there were nearly 90 Veteran's that I can say I served with, went to school with or am related too! What an amazingly wonderful thing that Facebook has allowed me to keep in contact with them!! I thank God for putting each and every one of them in my life! And  so I say THANK YOU to them and to all Veteran's on this day!

Now on to the teacher side of things...Each year, I try to think of new ways to teach my kindergartners about Veteran's Day. Most of the time they just want to see pictures of me in uniform and my GUN! It is always about the gun with them, haha. But I love to share with them what I can about my experience as a soldier.  A few years ago, I emailed our whole district and got pictures of them or their family members who were Veteran's and I made a power point presentation with the pictures and music. I sent it out to all the teachers in the district to share with their students! What a neat thing to see how many people in just our area are affected when their loved one's deploy. I have shown this power point each year to my students and then let them share with me if they know someone who is in the military.

With the help of Debbie Clement, I came up with a few different Veteran's/Memorial day quilting ideas from her book "Red, White and Blue" (My favorite book ever!!!!!) Before I got into blogging, Debbie blogged about my first quilting project for me and you can check the strands out here
After that LARGE quilt, I came up with another idea for a quilt which you can find here!

I have also designed a showcase in our school that displays pictures our staff and student's loved ones who have served or are currently our country. It also has artifacts from the military, almost like a mini museum for the kiddos. And lastly, I have to thank my supportive colleagues who have turned Friday's into "Red Shirt Friday" at our school. We purchased "Red Shirt Friday, I Support Our Troops" shirts and wear them (or any form of red) to school each Friday to show our support for our troops!

Happy Veteran's Day to all the Veteran's out there. Your service, sacrifice and dedication is greatly appreciated and does not go unnoticed. THANK YOU!

Thursday, October 18, 2012


So, yesterday morning as my students were doing their morning work, I was taking our moving our book-cart out into the hallway and saw a sweet little spider on the floor....and what I mean by sweet A BIG BLACK SPIDER!!!!  Luckily, I was the only one who saw it so I quickly grabbed the can that was sitting on my reading table and put it over the spider. I told my kiddos that there was a can on the floor and to please just leave it there (because bless their little hearts...they are forever picking up things that are on the floor and putting them away or in the lost and found box). Then of course, I got "Why is there a can there? What is it for? Why can't we move it?" So I finally told them that there was a really big spider under the can and that I needed to find a jar to put the spider in. Well that got them all wound up and they quickly got up and wanted to see it! Such curious little kiddos...I love it! I made a promise to them that if they would please stay in their seats until I found a jar, then I would let them watch me put it in the jar. They QUICKLY sat down and waited :)

 I found the jar and collected the spider in it. I then put it on a stool in the middle of the carpet and let the kiddos check him out. They were all very excited and got their vocabulary rolling! An extension to this spontaneous little lesson would have been to have the kiddos write about it in their journals. We never did get the chance to do that, but next time it is a must!

Here is our little fella...

Needless to say our spider...whom we cleverly named "The BEAST" became the main attraction at school yesterday!

And FYI, this is the second spider of this size and that I have found in my classroom in less than a week and my friend found one that was a little smaller, in her school bag!!! Could you imagine!?!?!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

September is underway!

Wow! What a crazy time of year! I cannot believe that it is already September!!! My To-Do list keeps growing! Just when I think I am caught up...I'm actually 3 steps behind! But, I do love it and wouldn't trade my crazy days for anything!

I am working on hopefully getting a TpT site up and running sometime this school year. That's the goal anyway! So hopefully you will see something from me soon. I have many super-bloggers that are here to support me when I take that giant leap for man-kind!

So tonight I just wanted to check in and see how everyone's school year is going so far?!?! What new and wonderful things have you tried so far this year that have worked? What hasn't worked? Did you start your year with a new theme? What do you start your year with?? I want to know, so please feel free to leave a comment and share with me!

I started my year off with Pete the Cat. This is the second year that I started with Pete the Cat and I can tell you that the kids LOVE Pete. They truly cannot get enough of him and BEG me to play the CD whenever they are working at their tables.

We are also working on our class names. We play the name game each day.  Soon students will  learn how to read and write all of  their friends names.

Remember when I said, just as soon as I feel like I am all caught up, I am actually 3 steps behind??? Well it is true.I am in an out of state wedding next weekend so I will be leaving on Thursday. Plus,  I just decided to change my schedule around to make a little more time for reading and writing workshop so that means I have to re-do my lesson plans and make sub-plans for next week. Then the week after...I have training for our mentor program. So I will also need to make sub plans for that week as well!   So here is what is on my To-Do list for tonight....

Start crossing things of that to-do list, grade papers and cut out BEE bucks!

Make envelopes for each child's name puzzle and name card!

Whew! That is a lot of work to get done! And who said teachers only work from 8-3p???

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Classrooms Galore!

If you are like me, you are always wanting to see how other teachers set up their classrooms!

How cute is it?
 How do they fit all of their center areas in their classroom?
 What kind of chair do they sit in...a rocking chair? A wooden straight-back? A stool?
 Do students sit at desks or do they sit at tables? 
How are those desks or tables arranged?? 
How is their calendar area set up?
What type of carpet do they have?

Well Debbie Clement over at Rainbows Within Reach has graciously started a linky party so that we can see each others classrooms by blog hopping! If you have a blog that shares your classroom pictures, LINK UP!! We would love to see it!

 After you check out all of these AMAZING classroom set-ups, you MUST stop over and read Debbie's blog...she tells a very heartfelt story of a fellow educator that truly will bring tears to your eyes and remind you why we teach! Click here to read this wonderful story!

Monday, August 20, 2012

My room is complete! Finally!

Well today was the first official day back to school for teachers. Students come on Wednesday. I have been working in my classroom for a week now, cleaning out cupboards, re-organizing, pitching old things, and so much more! I felt so rushed to get everything done because I wanted my room to be put together before students or parents came in and today, we had our district wide meetings until 11:15am and then had beginning of the year conferences with parents starting at noon. We have these parent conferences to get out some important information that they will need to know prior to their child's first day. I also got a chance to meet the kiddos today! I can't wait to spend the day with them Wednesday! They seem like a great group of kinders!

So as I promised, I will show you pictures from my classroom! The finished product! 

 Enjoy the tour of my kindergarten classroom!

My theme this year is NIU Huskies! My Alma mater and a team that my husband and I follow to home and away games each year! (Looking forward to September 1, the first game of the season vs. Iowa Hawkeyes.)

But I don't stop at my favorite college team, I have to represent a few of my favorite teams! The Chicago Cubs, Buffalo Bills, and of course Team USA! 

Below you will see some of my centers. Top-left is my writing center. (You may notice the table is low to the ground so students can sit on the floor with carpet squares). They love it! Top-right is my poetry center. Bottom-left you will see my manipulative/toy shelves for choice time and math centers. And bottom-right is my library center.

Our school rules are Be Ready, Be Safe, and Be Kind. So, I have worker Bee's to help us to follow those rules and complete class jobs. Hanging on the file cabinet is our lunch count pocket chart. You also see our class computers and my guided reading table.

 Below you will find our "Bee Buck" can, decorated by previous students. When students are seen or heard being ready, safe, or kind, they receive a Bee Buck. They write their name on it and put it in the can. At the end of each week a winner is randomly drawn out. Their name is announced during Friday morning announcements and they get to go chose a prize from the office. The Beanie Babies that you see there, are actually my bathroom passes. Monkey is for the girls and Tiger is for the boys. when a child has to go to the bathroom, they put the pass at their seat and go. This way, I can see who is gone and know where they are. After the first few weeks of school, everyone is very good about only using the passes when they need them!

Here are some more views of my classroom and how it is set up! (Yes, those are my shoes...had to take them off after school today because my feet were killing me) :) 

Last but not least, I had to share my favorite tape! The tape that holds everything up! It's our ACE Hardware tape! For the last few years, each masking tape that our school has bought has not held anything. We would tape up our locker tags or art projects and the next morning everything would be on the floor! But with this wonderful tape, I never have that problem! 

I hope you enjoyed your tour of my classroom and maybe it even gave you some new ideas! To see a little bit more of my classroom and some of my organizing tips check out my post at Pre-K and K Sharing from this month! 

Happy Beginning of the School year!


Thursday, August 16, 2012

Still working on my classroom!

So this week was my first chance to get in my classroom! Usually it doesn't take me the WHOLE WEEK but, I decided to clean out my cupboards (which took almost a whole day just in itself)! It was one of those things that I just NEEDED to do! My cupboards still had things in them from the teacher before me who retired 7 years ago! I kept some of it because I "THOUGHT" I would use it, when I knew down deep inside that I wouldn't. So it was time!

I ended up taking four small cart loads of stuff to the end of our hallway to the "One mans trash is another man's treasure" pile that we have every year! I also gave about four cart loads to my cousin who just graduated in May with her Early Childhood degree. And I am happy to say that she just got hired on as our new Title I Reading aide for the year! (We have a kindergarten teacher retiring next year so I am hoping that she is hired for that position but if not, I am still happy that she got a job in the school).

Another reason it is taking me so long is because I can't stop talking to everyone else in the building! I feel just like the kids do when they come back to school...haven't seen some of my friends all summer and all I want to do is talk and catch up!

But I have gotten a lot done and will continue to work today and tomorrow. I even have a parent meeting already tomorrow! So I want my room to be ready to go for that! Our first official day back is Monday the 20th and kiddo's come Wednesday the 22nd! Ahh!

 I hope those of you who have started already are surviving and I hope that those of you who haven't started get everything done in time and with minimal stress :)

So far so good! I will share more pictures later! 

Saturday, August 4, 2012

It's a bloghop Linky Pinterest Party!

My dear friend Debbie Clement over at Rainbows Within Reach has decided to host a linky party for Pinterest lovers! A great place to find several educational Pinterest pages or boards! Please link your educational blog below! Or click on the picture of Debbie and I for her post that goes into a little more detail! don't have to be a blogger, you don't have to have your own special teacher Pinterest page...all you need it to link to your personal Pinterest educational boards!


Love her! 

photo of: The Great EDU-Pinner Link-UP hosted by RainbowsWithinReach

Happy pinning and happy blogging! 

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Mission Trip II & Getting Ready for the New School Year!

Well, I said I would come back and put together pictures of the "fun" we had during our Misson Trip to St. Louis Missouri! Like I said before, we did a lot of hard work during the day and some nights but when we were off for the day, we liked to have some fun too!
The girls dying their hair...well just putting in a streak! Pink or Purple...your choice

The other group got fudge and didn't share with us, so we decided to get a little revenge! We went and got squirt guns and made our move!

Wednesday was our 1/2 day. So we worked in the morning and then headed out to Six Flags after lunch! We got Mary Kate and Gavin to ride a roller-coaster...after A LOT of coaxing! That is Gavin in front of the BOSS...his new "FAVORITE" ride!

A gift for all their hard work throughout the week! ;)

Next Stop...City Museum in St. Louis! Our last stop before heading home! If you have never been to city Museum, you MUST go! Especially if you have kids! The will love it!

Riding the ferris wheel that is on top of the museum! (Michelle was a little scared)

Having fun climbing in all the little nooks and cranny's!

More excitement at the museum!
Again, this mission trip was an amazing experience and the group of kids that we had were truly awesome! We all learned something and it changed each and every one of our lives in some way!

Now, it is time to get back in school mode! I have a new theme this year that I am super excited about! Well actually I always have two themes because I ALWAYS have a Patriotic theme going on in my classroom but I like to spice it up and try some new things once in awhile. This year's "other" theme is NIU HUSKIES!!! My Alma mater and my favorite team of all times! Red and Black! I have red and black paw prints for their locker tags, name tags and name plates for their tables! I can't get into my classroom for awhile though because they are cleaning all this week and part of next week. This means I cannot get anything done in there for awhile! Once I get into my classroom, I will post pictures!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Mission Trip

I have been super busy this summer and just cannot believe how fast it is going!  I haven't even had time to blog about my wild and crazy summer! But I am taking a few minutes while I am on my vacation to share with you some of the wonderful things I have been doing. Mainly the greatest experience of the summer so far...I went on mission trip in June with our church youth group. I must say it was one of the most amazing and humbling experiences of my life! I was lucky enough to be asked to go by some friends from the church who have been adult leaders in previous years. We took 9 students (17-18 years old). What an truly wonderful and fun group of young adults!

And so it began...

We all went to church together on Sunday morning and left right after church to head to St. Louis, Missouri.

Three vans  --> One adult and three students in each van. Lots of memories and fun on the way down talking to each other on the Walkie Talkies and playing the Alphabet game.

When we got to St. Louis, we headed to the Arch. Some had been to the Arch and some had not. I personally had been to St. Louis several times but never had been to the Arch. So I was pretty excited to go. If you have never been in the Arch, let me tell you how it works. First, you go in and buy your tickets for your group. You wait in line to get in the cars/pods that take you to the top. There is not much room in the pods but you can fit 5 people in each pod.

Views OF the Gateway Arch and views FROM the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Missouri

Waiting in line and then inside our pod!

After we finished our tour of the Arch, we headed to dinner at Fitz's Restaurant. A place known for their root-beer.  I am not a big root beer drinker but everyone was quite impressed, so I am going to say that you should probably stop there if you like root beer!

Next we headed to the church that we would call "home" for the whole week. Once we got there and unloaded. The girls took one side of the basement and the boys took the other side. The girls, being girls quickly rearranged the beds into a circle (including Danielle (another adult leader) and myself in the circle. This was so that we all could lay in bed in chat. Little did they know, that they would be too exhausted each night to sit in bed and chat :)

As the kids settled in, the adult leaders got together and talked about plans for the week. We would be slitting our group of 12 into 2 groups. These would be the groups that we would work in for the whole week. We went over the schedule of places that we would be working throughout the week. Then off to bed we all went!

Day 2-7

Though I can't talk about everything due to privacy contracts that were signed, I will tell you about some of the things we did throughout the week. We went to a Day shelter that allows homeless individuals to stay for the day. It was here where we heard a man's story of how he became homeless in St. Louis. His story was so shocking yet full of strength and hope. Then he took us for a walk through the streets to show us what it would be like in the life of a homeless individual in the city. He showed us where we might go to get put on a list for possible housing, where to get a meal, how to get help for children, and where to stay away from.
When we returned back from our walk, we went to eat lunch in shelter. We conversed with the people in the shelter during lunch. I sat next to a mom of 2 young children and the table was specifically for people with children. The children talked to us freely, the adults were a little more reserved, as most of us probably would be. Then after lunch we took a tour of the shelter to see where clients were able to shower, relax, use computers to try to find jobs and better their life and of course where they eat lunch.

We also visited a family day shelter. This shelter was for families. Meaning a mom with her child/children, and dad with his child/children or a husband and wife with their child/children. They had a capacity of 20 individuals, therefore there was a long waiting list. At this shelter as well as one of the other shelters we visited, clients must give the shelter 60% of their income. This is money that is put away and given back to the clients when they are ready to leave the shelter and live out on their own again.

A few of the other places we visited were:
Night Shelter: we set up a night shelter by laying out mattresses and bedding, setting the table and serving the clients staying in the shelter. Then we clean up afterward.
Crisis Nursery - This is a place where people can take their children when their is an emergency in the family and there is no family around to take the children, when  a parent is homicidal or suicidal, or when their is another approved emergency.
Salvation Army - A shelter for homeless men and homeless veteran's.
The Covenant House: the Covenant House provides services to homeless, runaway and at-risk youth ages 16-21. To learn more about them you can visit This shelter was the most impacting to me. The people who work at the shelter have a very strong belief in God (but not any specific religion) and they are so focused on giving these children a future. They are a family, a community they give children a place to call home! There was a woman who worked there named Ms. Eileen. She brought me to tears several times with her passion for these youth and for her love and kindness that she has shown. She reminded us that we are all human, we all are viable to the world and we each serve a purpose in this life.She also took pictures of all of the youth living there, blew them up to 8X10's or 16X20's and hung them up all over the Covenant House. This helped in making this "house" a HOME to the youth and to anyone who walked through the doors. Here is that wonderful woman that I speak of.

Ms. Eileen and myself at the Covenant House.

Many of the shelter's we visited, put us to work in some way. We cleaned up van's used to take clients back and forth, cleaned out and fancied up playgrounds and properties, cleaned windows, trimmed bushes, stocked a pantry, and served dinners. BUT...we also got to have fun with the children in the shelters by playing games, playing on the playgrounds, doing fun art activities, playing a game of kickball and just sit and chat with them. Here are some pictures to show some of our experiences.

Flag Day Art projects that we did with some of the younger kiddos in one of the shelters.

Kickball fun!

 One of the teaching moments for all of us was when one of the liaison's asked our youth what they thought of when they thought of homeless people. No one wanted to answer at first but then they started naming off some things such as, dirty, raggedy clothes, scruffy face, etc. The liason told us that we were exactly right in the way that MOST people describe the homeless. Then she went on to explain that those are stereotypes. Just because someone is homeless doesn't mean that they do not take care of themselves. The cashier at the  store, the person you sit next to at work, the most well-behaved, well-dressed student in your class, the cute boy who sits next to you in your high school English class...any one of these people can be homeless. There is no face of homelessness. So remember to treat everyone how you want to be treated and don't stereotype anyone.

I must say that if you ever have a chance to go on a mission trip, you should take the opportunity! It is not only humbling but it is an experience that will change your whole outlook on life and you will want to be a part of it year after year!

With all of that said, we did a lot of hard work and had a long week BUT we also made time for some fun as a whole group. To see pictures from our fun times...check in next week (when I am back from vacation) and I will share with you some pictures from our free time!