Friday, March 23, 2012


I don't know about your neck of the woods, but the weather here in Western WI has been gorgeous! Like, warm sun, trees budding, daffodil blooming gorgeous. We should still have snow of the ground. We should still have ice on our lakes. We should be damp and cold and miserable. But we're not!!

To celebrate this wonderful weather and spring break, I'm having a Give Away! Here's what you win:

My "Chick Contractions Game set". Go here to see the details... I don't know about you, but we need a brush up of contractions in Mrs. M's room.

You also win "Alligreater the Alligator Greater, Less Than and Equal Kit" Check it out here...

AND... both sets of the Math Sandwiches, Numeration and Addition and subtraction Facts.

And just because I love my Bloggy friends so much, I'm going to toss in my Yummy Long I Word Sort Activities.

Now I know you're just dying to find out how YOU can win this fab package from my TPT store. Here's what you do....

Follow my blog and leave me a comment that you have done so
Follow my TPT store and leave me a comment that you have done so
Share this give away on your own blog with this button and a link back to my blog:

So that's it! What are you waiting for? The contest ends on March 30th!

(oh, if you are already a follower, just leave me a note that you popped in!)

Have you been thinking about which TedTalks you're gonna watch and share? The hubs and I watched the one on gaming....totally and completely fascinating. I can't wait to see what you choose!!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

TedTalks Challenge...Are you in??

Watch this first, before choosing a TedTalk. Then tuck what Taylor Mali says into your heart and hold it there safe.

Now, pick a TedTalks that looks interesting to you. It's ok if you aren't the only one to choose it. After watching it and thinking about it, write about it on your own blog. How can this affect your teaching? How does it already affect your teaching? What does it tell you about your craft? How can this change the face of education today?
Embed or link up the TedTalks video so that your bloggy friends can learn from it (and you!) too. Then link up here so that your wisdom can be shared even further.

 Pass this around, share it with your friends. Let's get some conversations going!!

TedTalks to Choose from:

Angela Maiers - You Matter

Dan Meyer - Math Class Needs a Makeover

Diana Laufenberg - How to Learn? From Mistakes

Gabe Zichermann - How Games Make Kids Smarter

Dave Meslin - The Antidote to Apathy

Gever Tully - Teaches life Lessons Through Tinkering and 5 Dangerous Things you should Let Your Kids do (2 videos)

Ken Robinson - School Kill Creativity

Sugata Mitra - The Child-Driven Education

Temple Grandin - The World Needs All Kinds of Minds

Tom Chatfield - 7 Ways Games Reward the Brain

Tim Brown - Creativity and Play

Philip Zimbardo - How People Becomes Monstsers...or Heroes (this one contains graphic images)

Michael Merzenich - Rewiring the Brain

Kiran Bir Sethi - Teaches Kids to Take Charge

Adam Savage - How Simple Ideas Lead to Scientific Discoveries

Dave Eggers - Once Upon a School

Outside the boundaries of our comfort, and a Bloggy Award!

First of all, I want to thank Sarah Mackey at Mackey's Classroom for the One Lovely Blog Award. Thank you, Sarah! What a totally and sincerely sweet thing to give another blogger. I'll be passing it along in my next blog post.

I'm back from our little vaca to the water park in the Wisconsin Dells. Remember my last post of having fun and playing? If you haven't watched the TedTalk from Stuart Brown, put it on your to-do list. If you have watched it, you now know the importance of playing. My hubs and I know it, too, and that's what we took our girls to do - play. Our brains should now be super-charged from all that playing we did! In fact, can I tell you how many great ideas I get while I'm having fun? I have a "no work" policy on play vacations, but I had to keep sneaking myself emails to remind myself later of the most excellent A-HA I just had.

This is about more than play, though. Ultimately, it's about comfort zones and going outside of them. You may or not know that I'm phobically afraid of scary rides. Phobic, like out-of-my-skin afraid. Pee-my-pants, cry-in-public kind of scared. Disney was magical enough to help me step outside my very established comfort zone enough to go on Space Mountain, which is the coaster I always quoted when I said "The only coaster I will ever go on is Space Mountain, and that's only if I ever go to Disney". Well, we did, and I did. So nowadays I'm all about not letting fear dictate what I do or not do.

Enter "The Howling Tornado".

Last time we were at the Dells I almost wet myself looking at it. My sister and I were those people, gawkers that stood outside of the ride line and said oooohhhhhhh and ohhhhhhh when the riders got off.

But this time? "I'm going on it". That's what I said to Bails and Liv. "I'm terrified and I'm going on it". Ok, so it took me until the last hour we were there, and I nearly chickened out. But then I DID IT. I climbed in that giant yellow tube and flew down a 60 ft drop, and then sloshed back and forth up the sides of a giant funnel.

What does this have to do with teaching or blogs? Well, it's all about our comfort zones. It's easy to settle into the things that are familiar and not venture into places that make us uncomfortable. You know, we often find our most significant growth doing things that are scary or that make us uneasy. So, it is with this spirit of venturing out of what is normal for each of us that I offer a challenge for all of my bloggy-friends. Here's what I would like to do:

I'm going to post a list of TedTalks that are relevant to our craft, the art of teaching. I would like you to choose one and watch it. Then I would like for you to talk about it on your own blog, sharing what you learned with your own readers. You should link or embed your video, so that your peeps can watch it too.

So why should this make us a little nervous or uneasy? We teach little ones, not big ones. But we should teach the big ones, too (that means each other!). I think we have more to gain in knowledge from each other than almost anything if we can only give each other the opportunity to tap it. So stay tuned...and please consider contributing your wisdom. Can you imagine the amount of knowledge we will spill into the net if we all did it? It would be amazing. Let it be known that we are very good at what we do because we never stop being learners ourselves.

And now these parting words. I overheard my Liv chanting this little ditty while walking down the hotel hallway.
"Hear no beaver. See no beaver. Feel no beaver."

I have no idea what that means, but it makes me laugh.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Word sorts, iPads, and Wonderings

Not necessarily in that order.

My wondering is first.
We watched a very cool Ted Talks (do you know Ted Talks? Seriously cool stuff here, bloggy-friends). It is  given by play researcher Stuart Brown, and stresses the importance of play. This is importance stuff. Humor me and watch it. You will learn something, I promise.

Who knew that play was really as critical as all that? I tell you what: it seriously made me consider my teaching strategies with my firsties and rethink some of the things that I do. The biggest problem we all face is time, right? There is simply just not enough time in the day to do everything we need to do, let alone throw a whole lotta play in the mix. But here's the thing - we know that this is really critical stuff for the brain, right? So let's make a pact to be smarter than the system. Between all the rock star edu-brains we have collectively, we should be able to come up with some kick-ass ideas to bring play back into our learning. Here's my wondering:
I wonder how you can bring play back into your day. Share one small idea that you will try in the next week or two.

That brings me to my next subject, which really has a lot to do with the first. I was just talking with a K teacher on Friday about how little time there is in K for role playing or play-based centers. I realized that we absolutely can utilize play-based centers during readers and writers workshop, not to mention how easy it is to do for math, health, science and social studies. I saw this great idea on Pinterest where kids sort "french fries" into McMdonald's fry boxes. Wouldn't a food-themed set of sorts and writing be SO COOL? So I whipped up three activities that I am going to use when we return from spring break. Check them out!

These are just the instructional posters that go along with them. The whole kit includes all the materials for all three activities, including prep directions, the instructional posters, common core state standards for each, and all the printable material you need. I can't wait to introduce the kids to them!

This week is spring break, as I already mentioned. Yesterday was grad school all day, and then I didn't want to start my real break with a horrible, no good, very bad classroom so I spent the majority of my day there today. I am setting up my Writer's Eye bboard, a new writing center, and new area of working with words. I had to clean up the bunnies and send them packing for the week with one of my students.

Ok, lastly the iPad. Is it horrible that I feel a little lost with it? I'm no techie-idiot, but I really need to do some research on the best way to use it with in my teaching. I did get this pocket organizer app that has task lists and calendars and all kinds of shiny whistles and bells. I realized that I can do all of my lesson planning on it, have it sync to my google calender (and vice versa), and can use it instead of my written calendar which is always a bit of a mess. Plus, it gives me an excuse to carry iPad with my where ever I go.

Tomorrow we are off to the Wisconsin Dells for some serious play time. I'm even more ready to go after watching Stuart Brown! Have a Fab week!!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Leprechauns None, Tag Bootcamp, I Wonder and iPad

I hope everyone had a fun pre-St.Pat's day. For those of you on Spring Break, will you celebrate on Monday? Or just skip it? To my utter glee, there were no leprechauns that visited our room. My desk looks like they did, but it always looks like that.

We had a fun day, doing lots of little things like a counting coins activity (green gifts bags with random coins in it, 21 bags in all). We did some sequencing and reader's theatre with this story. I got the cutest, cutest gift from a student; it was a small bag of rainbow colored licorice, with gold foil wrapped Rolo's in the bottom. Why didn't I do something like that for the kiddos? Instead, I threw some dollar store pencils at them at the end of the day, and they were so cute but so cheap the erasers all fell off them. One kids complained because he didn't get the design he wanted, so I took his pencil away. Mean Old Mrs. Mathews.

We spent another recess at Tag Boot Camp. Today did not go as well as yesterday. I guess some of the shiny wore off as it wasn't brand new and exciting today. I had four kids that violated the "Good Sport Policy" by a) stamping their feet b) yelling "No Fair!" c) cheating d) arguing with me and e) general freaking out. They had to sit out and watch the rest of boot camp. Mean Old Mrs. Mathews.

So here is my big "I Wonder" of the day: what is it, really really, what is it that is making our babies the products that they are? Why am I having to take little gifts away and teach Tag Boot Camp. we can all sense it, all see the symptoms. There has been a gradual (but rapidly accelerating) shift is inabilities to play fairly, share, be still without some kind of stim, and general sense of self-entitlement. I know I sound like an old grandma, complaining about "kids these days", but I am really, really worried about it. I believe, very very firmly, that it is us - our society, that is doing it. We are building up our iSociety, founded on individual networking, instant gratification and constant incoming information. I know I'm part of the problem; my two daughters, 9 and 12, have their own laptops and Nanos. We have Dish, and NetFlix and a PS3. I crawl into bed at night and read, but I also blog and research and create on my own laptop. I read on a Kindle. It's true that I make the girls unplug often, and they have to read for at least 30 minutes before bed (which they adore). But as a whole, what am I supporting that is doing such damage to little bodies and young minds?  I am smart enough to know that I am a part of the problem. And I don't know how to fix it.

And what's the deal with not being able to play together on the playground? I read all around "blog land" about teachers that spend time every day sorting out recess problems, and a lot of talk about having to teach kids to share. They don't have to share at home? Maybe not.

Ok, off my soap box. I worry about it. I really, really do. I fear that it will build and build and then backlash. We are these amazing creatures capable of such beautiful things, we and need to be kind and loving to each other. We need to share and collaborate and problem solve together. What can we do as teachers to keep our students a cohesive and productive community? Did I say I was off my soap box? It's the flu; just when you think it's done, you crap your pants at Walmart. Sorry. Help me talk this out.

Two very exciting things. First I GOT AN iPAD!!!! Did you hear me scream that? I did, I did!!! But now what, I don't really know. I think I'll just lay it next to me in bed and stroke it while I sing it a lullaby. But then I'll have to get serious about what I can do with it for teaching. Apparently downloading free "Fart Sounds" is not a productive thing to do with it. Second, tomorrow is my last cohort Saturday for Grad class. Then in a month we present our research at a conference, and then we WALK GRADUATION!! Can I just wear my hood around town for awhile? And I never thought I'd ever even get my undergrad. When can I start on my double Masters?

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Why, oh Why, Can't They Play Nice? Tag Bootcamp.

I took the firsties outside during second recess to teach them (again) about good sportsmanship. Never seen anything like it, this level of competitiveness and demands for being "fair". My class had been banned from playing basketball, football and tag during recess. I had a little epiphany today - I can teach them how to read, I can teach them math, and I can teach them to be good sports. It was like bootcamp out there today. If only I had some fatigues and one of those whistles like Captain Von Trapp.

It worked. We had 20 very successful minutes of different tag games with only 3 bouts of tears, no cries of "unfair!!", no stomping feet or throwing of objects. I only had to get cross with one student for pouting and one for arguing. Success!

Never seen a group this competitive. Can you imagine the potential if all that energy was put into good sportsmanship? They would be unstoppable.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Editing Strategies

I spent the day creating a new bulletin board for my classroom. I needed an editing station with reminders of what editing strategies were expected with my little ones' writing. It's a lot to remember! I'm excited about it, I'm posting it out there for free. Check it out and see if it would work for your room, too. The part I'm most excited about is the daily editing practice sentences. I can't wait to implement them in my room!

For some reason I'm all about the owls these days. Just like everybody else. Oh, and mushrooms, too. Pretty soon I'll be making Holly Hobby wall hangings for my girls' rooms. When did it cease being 2012 and turn back to 1973?

Oh, and the biggest challenge? Figuring out where the heck I can put this bulletin board. It's going to involve moving my "desk", that much I know.

I am

On the tangent of Who Am I, Who Are You...
Have you seen this? You HAVE to see this. It is utterly profound. I promise you it will forever change how you look at the world, how you look at others, and how you teach. Check out the trailer...

Who are you? Who am I?

I was not a good teacher yesterday. I totally and completely lost my ha-ha, and I really don't have anyone to blame but myself and maybe hormones. Maybe it was that killer headache I had that hummed behind my right eye. I just really lost my cool. Have you ever had one of those moments where you feel full of negative, soul-sucking emotions? A person can't do their best teaching on days like that. My remedy was to take a day and restore. I'm going to drink lots of water, eat good food, do some yoga and get my head back into happy-happy land.

That's the back story behind what just transpired here on my sofa with my 9-yr-old. I'm enjoying a cup of coffee and reading through all my favorite blogs. She looks over my arm and asks "Too bad you can't change the name." I'm confused. "Name?"

"Peacocks and penguins."

me: "that's my blog title."

"Yeah. It doesn't make any sense, mom."

So that got me thinking. How did you come up with your blog title? I know that neither peacocks nor penguins have anything to do with teaching, but the video "Perry the Peacock" speaks so strongly to me. I cry every time I watch it. I use my blog to connect to other teachers, to share ideas, and to tell my story of teaching.

What does your blog mean to you? I want to know! I'm trying my hand at a Linky Party. Join up and tell us your story. Click on the link below and follow the directions. You'll get to link this post to your own blog, letting you share your thoughts with others about this.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Teachers Taking Care of Teachers

I am always thinking it would be so cool to help out other teachers who need a hand, a lift up, a little love. This amazing teacher Krystal, at Kreative in Kinder, actually did something. After the devastation of the tornadoes in the heartland, there are teachers and schools in desperate need. Want to help out? Follow this link and see what you can do.

Never argue with the little folk about the Little Folk

and I mean that totally PC-ly. I found out today just how vehement 6 and 7 year-olds can be about make-believe creatures. I'm blaming this one on kindergarten and their darn "Leprechaun Traps". We have been learning about St. Patrick's Day this week, as a fun excuse to explore fiction vs. non-fiction and gather the good stuff from informative texts. Our conversation went like this:

me: "Look at the cover. Study the illustration. Give me a thumbs up if you think this book will be fiction, or a thumbs down for non-fiction." The cover had a sleeping man with a harp and a leprechaun dancing around him.

firsties: mostly thumbs up. There are four thumbs down.

me: "Look at the leprechaun. Can this be a book that is going to teach us about real things?"

firsties: "Yes."

me: my ha-ha has been gone since 9:07. "No."

firsties: "Yes. Leprechauns are real. So this book is non-fiction."

me: uh-oh, thin ice here. Don't want to give away Santa or the Easter Bunny. But screw those little leprechauns. "I'm not saying they aren't real, but we can't say they are real, either. We would need proof that they are real, like a picture. Bunnies are real. Lots of people have pictures of bunnies. We see them, too. No one has a picture of a leprechaun, and no one has ever seen one. I'm not saying that you can't believe in them. I'm just saying no one has proof that they are real."

child #16: "I have."

me: oh boy. "With your eyes? You saw one with your own eyes?"

child #16: "I seen their footprints in my kindergarten room." Damn you, kindergarten.

child #8: "Mrs. M, you better watch out! They'll trash our room! Then you will never find your desk!"

My 7-yr-old niece Rebecca also believes that leprechauns are real. But she insists they only have one foot.

True story. I actually hate leprechauns. I haven't even ever seen that awful 80's horror movie about them. I just think the ugly green hats and un-moustached beards are gross. My god. Believe in fairies. Believe in dragons. Let's just leave the little green guys out of it.

Next year I'm going to build a Santa trap and leave his footprints all over my classroom. Maybe he'll even "trash it". Why not? If we can insist that some little fruitcakes in bad hats are leaving money on a Saint's holiday, then I say we give old Saint Nick a a try, too.

Enough about leprechauns. I actually love St. Patty's Day despite them. I'm not even Irish, and am not that great a lover of beer.

Tell me if you've ever had this happen: a student got into a bit of trouble today for yelling at me and as a consequence had to call his mother and tell her. Said mother then drove up to school from work to deliver him an ass-chewing. She also told me what his punishment should be, including writing lines. Wowwweeee wow. I kind of don't even know what to say. I'm impressed, scared and a little pissed all at the same time.

Hmmmmm. Tuesday. *Freebies*

I think Tuesdays are the hardest day of the week. You aren't fresh from the weekend like Monday, and you haven't reached the hump like Wednesday. I hope the sun shines down on my firsties today and fills them with warmth and vitamin D. I'm so happy to recess duty today!

Here's a freebie to get you going. Don't forget that today is my big Share the Love sale!
Go to my store to check it out. In the meantime, enjoy this vowel sort game.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Share the Love...Get Green Sale!

Some people drink beer, and some people dye their river green. Apparently some people color their toilet water green, too. Me? I just throw a sale. You know how I like to share the love.

Come on over to my TPT store and Tuesday, 3/13 ONLY, get 20% off St. Patty's Day learning tools. After that, you'll just have to fork over your lucky charms to get the goods.

St. Patrick's Fun Stuff!! *freebies!*

Rolling out the St. Patty's extravaganza!

First, an original story. This 2-up full color .pdf file features a St. Patty's Day story. The books print out 8.5 x 5.5 inches, 2-up to a page. It comes with a puppet making kit and a sequencing activity.

There are some companion files that go with the story. I couldn't get them all in one big .pdf. Darn file sizes!!
Lucky Goes Shopping - Gold Coin Math

Long and Short vowel sort coloring sheets
Making Words (ending -y)

Companion activities for the story

Linky Party

Who loves a linky party?

I DO!!!!!

If you do, too, check out the awesomeness at

Leprechauns and Green Water

We talked about St. Patty's Day today. We began with the old standard KWL chart. We listed the things that we already knew about the holiday. It went like this:

"Everyone wears green."
"There was a potato disease."
"The symbol is a clover."
"Leprechauns destroy your classroom."
"You wake up and water in your toilets is green."


We also got stuck on leprechauns and were unable to move off of them. The kids are convinced, I mean convinced, that leprechauns are real. Which actually got a little creepy after about 15 minutes.

Speaking of leprechauns, there is a new kit coming out and some freebies, too. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012


I walked into a door frame last night. In the dark. Have you ever done that? Walked into something full-force? I smashed the bridge of my nose on the edge of the frame. I have a nice looking pressure cut, and it hurts like a son-of-a-gun.

What happened to the damn night light that was supposed to be on?

Monday, March 5, 2012

What have I done?

Ever ask yourself that? I do. I did. Today. After school. Let's just say a little organizing turn into a cleaning frenzy that involved moving the fish tank and totally rearranging our library. Woe is me and my poor self tomorrow morning before the kids come.

Have you gotten into the Common Core State Standards yet? I'm ALL over them. I think it's because Wisconsin had such gross standards before; like, they were all things that should be learned by 4th grade. Yeah, that works nicely for firsties. Way to project your teaching.....waaayyyyyyyy out there.

I have some angels that just can't focus. I am trying lots and lots of things with them, but just nothing seems to be working.

Sunday, March 4, 2012


We were driving in the car (where all of our best discussions happen) and my oldest is telling us all about "Tech Ed" (which is fancy for Industrial Arts which used to be fancy for Shop). They are making pinewood derby cars. Just like I did. In 7th grade. In Shop Industrial Arts.

"Mom, like it has to be exactly 35 milliweiners or it won't qualify."
"What did you just say?" I'm totally baffled. I swear she just said milliweiner.
"It has to be 35 milliweiners. Weren't  you listening? Sheesh."
"Milliweiners." Eye roll. Apparently I'm not Mom-of-the-Year after all.
"Bails, do you mean millimeter?"
"Oh yeah. Oops. Millimeters."
"Milliweiners are what mice have."

That is almost as good as the conversation my sister had with my 7 year old niece.
"Mom, guess what the biggest number is."
"Um, a google?"
"Nope. It's anus."
".... honey, ..what?...What is it?"
"Anus. You count and count and count then you get to anus, then you start back over at 1."
" you mean infinity?"
"Oh yeah. Infinity. That's what it is."

Sunday morning

Do you know what is the best indicator that you have put off something related to education for too long? Besides common sense, it would be the "school nightmares". They come in many forms: missing the bus, losing your class schedule, forgetting to attend a class until the final. They all suck, but I had the granddaddy of all school nightmares this morning.

I was on a bus (like a city bus - random), and this lady calls me over and tells me she is a dean of my former college. She informs me that she had sent me many emails during my undergraduate that I was failing a math class (which also showcases in my school nightmares frequently) because I hadn't been attending. Due to my failure, which they just realized, they were going to revoke my degree. She had already talked to my principal, so I would lose my job.

So the anxiety about this grad paper has apparently gotten out of control. Time to put it to bed.

On a happier, and yet more frustrating, note...I picked up drawers for my students. I had written before how I am completely and totally fed up with those stupid frustrating idiotic badly-engineered chair pouches. My solution is to replace the pouches with a drawer (tub) that the kids will pull out and tout around with them. AND....DUM Dum dum, they will each have their own math tool kit in it! For some reason, that seems to be the holy-grail of my quest towards organization.

Seriously excited about this.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

You were just like all the *other* teachers.

Yesterday I got to stand in front of the whole school during our All School Meeting and share my "Hot Pick" book. I was so nervous! But it was fun, and I thought I did a pretty good job. While driving home, I asked my 4th grader daughter how she thought I did (she goes to my school). Miss Crabby Pants answered "The same as all the other teachers, mom".

Yeah, except that no other teachers have gotten up at the all school meeting and presented their books. Super confidence booster.

It's March. My mind is wandering to chickens. Did you know I LOVE chickens? We always incubate and hatch them in my room. It's my favorite time of the entire year. Each year I add to the unit, and can't wait to do it with my Firsties. If you have any good chicken crafts or lesson plans, pass them my way!

I would so color the chicks with food coloring, but I think I would catch crap. Maybe I'll do just one. Or maybe two.

Do NOT suggest I do the cutie chicken cake pops. Been there, and there is no way I'm going there again.

This is my weekend to finish my grad paper. No excuses, no more time to put it off. It's due next week. Y.I.K.E.S.

Friday, March 2, 2012

"Hello? Mrs. M's Room"

Yesterday while I was giving a DRA, the phone in my classroom rings. One of my sweetlings answered it. I hear "Hello? This is Heather's room." I guess that will happen when you tell your firsties what your first name is.

I get to share my Husky Hot Pick today at the all-school-meeting. I'm a little nervous! I'm sharing Super-Completely and Totally the Messiest. It's also hat day for Pennies for Patients, so I can hide behind my cowboy hat.

Happy Friday!