Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Read it Wednesday!

"I won't describe what I look like. Whatever you're thinking, it's probably worse."

How can that not pull you in and not let you go? How can it not break your heart into a million pieces? 

Would it make a difference if I told you that this book, which starts out with such a sad statement, is filled with beauty and hope and love that's for real? 

It's Wonder, by R.J. Palacio

I read this early last fall, and loved it so much I ordered 5 hard bound copies for my classroom. I was so going to read it with a small group. But I loved it so much I couldn't bear not sharing it with my whole class! So I skipped the small group and decided to do it as a read aloud. But...I couldn't let go of thinking about the small group and ended up not reading it at all!! What a goof. My copies are sitting next to my desk all ready for this September (even though everything else is in piles around the floor). I am promising myself, and you, that I'll read it this year. 

Wonder is about a boy named August Pullman. He's different. Really, really, beautifully heart-breakingly different. But inside he is so the same as every other fifth grader I know. Except maybe a little kinder. When he decides to finally go to school the complex life of feelings of everyone around him is revealed. 

What I like most about this book is that it's like someone finally mentioned the elephant in the room. I looked in the mirror as I read about how cruel the world is with "not-looking" for the sake of being polite. I learned quite a bit about looking, not-looking, ignoring and staring from Auggie. 

Check it out.

While you're at it, please add your own Read it Wednesday link!! I can't wait to read what you are reading this summer!

Next week: The Missing!!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Hey girl....

Naughty Dog with a Flash Sale

Her name is Juno. And I love her.

But she is a naughty dog. (and you may be asking "And why do I care? Keeping reading and you'll find out)

She is not the kind of naughty you can catch. Usually.

Sometimes she is naughty because of me. I forget she is naughty and I make it easy for her. Like today.

A very good friend was having a very hard day. My heart was sad for her, so I did the thing that girls do: on my way home from the Vet's office I bought her an Caramel Frappacino. And one for myself in sympathy for her feelings. I stopped by and dropped it off for her. Big hugs were issued and hearts were lifted. I didn't stay long, 2 minutes tops. It was very hot outside, and Juno naughty dog was in the running truck.

I opened the door and jumped in. This is what I first noticed.

isn't she cute? don't let her fool you. 

Do you see? The straw? I didn't understand until I noticed this.

That was a BRAND-SPANKING-NEW-FRAPPACINO! The whipped cream was all the way to the top. I had not even taken ONE SIP.

I sputtered and spluttered all the way home. This is what naughty dog did. 

this is what guilt-free napping looks like.

I was stinkin' mad, but how can you really get angry when you were stupid enough to leave your Frappacino without the proper protections? 

My philosophy is "forgive and forget". In the spirit of letting the mad out and letting happy back in, I'm going to throw a flash sale every time Naughty Dog does her naughty thing. So bring on the

Get your naughty dog 20% off mojo on today at my TPT store!

Monday, July 29, 2013

Quick and Crafty: Little Piece of Heaven

where's your little piece of heaven?

let me show you mine.

Everyone knows I'm happiest when my feet are dirty. There's a reason for garden is my happy place. I wanted to make sure everyone knew it (just in case they missed the dirty feet), so I made these hanging flower buckets to spread the news. 

I went to the Big Box Project Addition Store and bought four empty paint cans. I do not know what their real purpose is, paint cans. Do people really mix up their own paint in them or something? Do they not just pick a color from the wall of samples?

I reached into my spray paint hoard supplies that I had gotten when I did this project. I thought black would be spankin', even though it was glossy. I thought the gloss might help the paint to hold up to the weather. 

"short bursts!" that's what Mr. would have been shouting from the kitchen window if he had been home. but I smartly do my projects during my leisure summer days. 

While the cans dried I printed up some labels on this fancy tan paper Mr. had in his paper hoard supplies.

nothing special, just printed at home.

I cut the labels out and reached for the Modge Podge. But the Modge Podge was missing! I settled for gluing them on with a water-proof varnish, which I intended to coat them with anyhow. (I found the Modge Podge a week later in the closet next to the dog food. I'm blaming Naughty Dog and her suspected midnight craft parties). I coated them several times with the varnish, trying to seal the edges of the paper as best I could.

Now I see my very own satisfied thoughts cheerily reminding me every time I head out to my happy place. I suspect the labels won't last forever, but what does? In a few years they'll be ready to reuse and upcycle into another project. 

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Quick and Crafty: Not Your Mama's Lamp


"Once you start to spray, you'll never stop." 

That's my friend Jules. Super-Junker-Painter-Visionary-Extraordinaire. She was right. Let me show you my gateway addiction painting project.

this was my mama's lamp. 

My mom and dad had this lamp in their bedroom for my entire life. I thought it was the most romantic thing I had ever seen for as long as I can remember. There was just something about it. 

When it ended up at our garage sale I had a sudden impulse. I just had to have it. My dad was thrilled. I think he envisioned it on the nightstand next to our bed, glowing gently as his grandchildren snuggled in for bedtime stories. 

I got myself to the local Big Box Project Addiction Store and got me some spray paint. Turquoise. Satin. 

In "short, even bursts from 12 inches away" (says the Mr.) I did her up. Mr. said it "would not stick." I said "Don't get in the way of a girl and her good ideas."

after two coats. one more called her good. 

Three coats and an hour later, and she had a place of honor in my dining room. 

a little blown out, but you get the idea.

My dad was horrified. I might have to hide what I did to the box of deer antlers he gave me. 

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Burning the midnight owl.....

I couldn't help myself from adding some letterhead, name plates and labels to the owl clip art set.

the clip art

the letterhead and label pack that is now included

the new letterhead design (it comes in four colors!)

owl buttons

names plates

the original letterhead

Everything but the letterhead and name plates comes in two different sizes. 

Want it for free? Check out Peacocks and Penguins on facebook to see how you can get it.
(what, you didn't think I wasn't going to give a limited number of the updated kit? Crazy!)

Friday, July 26, 2013

Sweet little owls - a freebie for you and a giveaway!

I can't seem to stay away from owls. I know that they were ragin' big last year, but I had to do 'staches. This year I'm sticking with owls.

I tried really, really hard to not think school this summer, at least until August. I can't seem to stay away long, though. Once I was rolling with improving my spelling lessons I was hooked. I redesigned my CAFE board with the new owls I'm using. The CAFE menu is a Freebie, so feel free to grab it!


If you are looking for some sweet lil hoots to lighten up your letterhead, bulletin boards or anything else, check out these sweeties. They come in two sizes to fit your printing size needs!

The first ten people to "like" this blog, my facebook page and comment get these guys for FREE! 

Why can't my kids spell?

It's a problem.

 We all know how education swings up and down, left and right. Phonics. Whole language. Balanced reading. It's a wonderful thing to rethink, reinvent, and reevaluate how and what we teach. But happens in between the swings? What happens at the apex when we realize that things may have gone too far in one direction and we haven't turn back in correction?  Groups of kids miss whole blocks to their learning foundation.

 My daughters can't spell.

They have had amazing teachers, both of them every year. I know how amazing they are because I teach in the same district. I know their teachers as professionals as well as colleagues and friends. I also know the curriculum. I know why they can't spell.

 Our job is to fix holes, right? I'm starting to fix my holes my summer. The first step was to look at the very basic elements of my own spelling program. Our district does not have a good one. I've used bits and pieces, just like everyone else. No more.

A friend made me laugh the other day. A group of co-workers were having a beverage together the other night and she told me that she always thought that teachers had to know everything so that they could teach everyone. I giggled. Wouldn't that make us geniuses or something? We're regular people who have to keep brushing up and relearning the things we get rusty at.

I've created a ground-up series of lessons that address syllables and how to divide words into their basic chunks. Guess what I found out? I couldn't teach spelling very well because I didn't understand the rhythms of it myself. Now I'm starting to. I hope this might be able to help you, too. If not the lesson kit, then the admission that sometimes we don't know what we are doing and can't live up to our own standards. It's time to fill those holes.

Rules of Syllables has everything you need to teach dividing words into syllables for 3-5 grade.

 Each of the 11 lessons comes with an "I can" statement mini-poster (8.5 x 11), mini-anchor poster, large anchor poster components, practice activities and a guide for the lesson.

126 pages of pure syllable heaven! Each lesson is made to fit into a 15-30 minute word work block. 

How about you? Have you ever had a moment like this? Please share how you've fixed some holes in your own teaching. 

Friday, July 5, 2013

Math Marvels: Equal Sign Teeter-Totters

If you've been reading me for awhile you'll remember how much I love the equal sign. 

It's, like, what we all strive for, right? Especially in math.....

You might also remember remember how much it drives me crazy that most folks think that equal means "give me an answer". I really hate this simple and flat job description the equal sign is misaligned with.

The equal sign doesn't mean "give me an answer". The equal sign means "both sides are the same".

I shudder when I think about algebra and how the poor equal sign in blamed for mysterious letters without quantity and confusion about how to get to the final destination of a math problem. 

I really, truly believe that we need to eradicate this misconception about the equal sign as early as we can. It's really not so tough. Take this little group of objects....

You can well and truly teach the true identity of the equal sign with these few little things. 

Start by explaining that the equal sign is a little tiny balancing stone. Choose a nice round, flat glass bead. This is your equal sign. Mark it with a sharpie and make it clear what job the bead needs to do!

An equal sign's real job description is Master Balancer. If it's got an equal sign in it, then both sides MUST be equal. You can demonstrate by (very carefully) putting a penny on each end. It's easy to show what happens when you create an unbalance by removing a penny or adding one on to a side. The equal sign can no longer do it's job. 

You can teach this just as well with a pan balance, but kids LOVE to have their own little balance to play with. It creates a lasting memory about what an equal sign really means

To give a little practice that goes along with this activity, I love to use this quick and simple activity sheet. 

 You can get it FREE by clicking here!!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Read It Wednesday!

I love juvie fiction. Everything from Junie B. to Edward and Bella. The problems are so real (ok, maybe not Edward and Bella), without getting all tangled up in grown-up perspectives and scruples. I always think that the problems in juvie books are really what all our problems are about, once you strip away all the crap.

One of my favorite books I read this year was Hatchet by Gary Paulson. I know, I know. I must be like a decade behind, right? Both of my daughters read it long before I did.( I always thought it was about historical fiction....and I really try to avoid that like the plague. I had enough in my own intermediate years. No offense to any historical fiction lovers out there.)

Hatchet is a survival story. If I had known that, I would have read it ages ago. If there is one thing I'm irresistibly drawn to, it's a survival story. I'm not alone; why do you think "Survivor" is going on it's, like, 80th season? And Zombies? Yep, it's that survival stuff again.

Hatchet is the story of Brian, a 13 year old who is traveling in a single engine plane on his way to visit his father in Canada.When the pilot has a heart attack, Brian crash lands the plane in a very remote area, far off the plane's original route. When he regains consciousness, Brian realizes he doesn't have much in the way of survival equipment, except for a small hatchet his mother gave him as a going away gift.

There are several other books that follow Hatchet, including Brian's Winter, Brian's Hunt, Brian's Return, and The River. Each one is as good as the  last. This is a great series that I have found many of my reluctant readers drawn into.

What is one of your favorite juvie fiction books? Link up and talk about it! I need more books to add to my "Must Read" list!

Don't forget to grab the button!

Monday, July 1, 2013

My Favorite Things: Composition Notebooks (plus a freebie!)

It's a little crazy how much I love composition notebooks. What's not crazy is why I love them.

Composition notebooks have it ALL going on. They are small, have hard covers, there is no wire to catch on an unwary sweater or create little jagged edges that flitter about when I'm collecting work. They are cheap. You can cover them with stickers or duct tape.

Mostly I love how sturdy and compact they are.

I also love that I found a new use for them this week. I occasionally tutor students. I've tried a few different ways of keeping my students' work organized, like folders or binders, but haven't been happy with the way that folders seem to get destroyed and papers in them crinkled. I decided that I'd like a central place to  keep everything my current student needs in one location. Enter the composition notebook.

I needed a place for my kiddo to keep his word sort cards, so I glued a large envelope to the inside cover. It folds over on itself to keep the flap from opening and spilling out the contents.

Each day we meet I write a "Bigger Brain to-do list" so that he can keep track of what he needs to work on for the coming week. You can get your free copy of the to-do list shown here for FREE!! (just click here).

This particular kiddo needs to work on fact fluency, so I give him lots of games (Math Pickle, anyone?). The directions aren't always easy to remember, so I always glue them onto a page in the notebook. Then I paperclip any activity sheets needed right to the page as well. Below is a picture of the instructions and activity sheets for the perimeter game I blogged about here.

I love word sorts, which are great for kids that need a boost with phonemic awareness (especially big kids!).  Speed sorts are part of the homework I give, and here my current student wrote down his times for me from his last speed sort. It will be fun to look back at his times at the end of summer.

Lastly, I like to keep anecdotal notes from when he reads short stories or articles to me. I keep the notes right in his notebook; I read him what I write each time, so that he knows what he is doing well and what he needs to work on next. I don't have to try to keep track of my notes on him.

Some of my favorite uses for comp notebooks besides tutoring are Reader's Notebooks (or reading journals), free-write journals, math notebooks, poetry notebooks, science journals, and student/teacher communication books.

Do you use composition notebooks in your classroom? What are your favorite ways to use them?