Wednesday, December 30, 2015

2015 Best Nine and Give Away Winners

Hi Friends.
I hope you are enjoying your Christmas break.  I am.  I've been able to stay in yoga pants and no makeup for the past couple of days, which is about as relaxed as it gets around here. 
I've also had a chance to catch up on a little blog reading and enjoy checking out holiday Instagram posts.  One fun hashtag I really liked looking at is #2015bestnine.  
You can go to a site and enter your Instagram user name and it will generate set of the most liked pictures of 2015 from your account.  (To do it yourself, just google #2015bestnine.)

Here's a run down of my top nine Instagram pics from 2015.

1.  Prepping my 100th Day of School door banner.  My firsties loved going through the steamers.
2.  I always take pictures of my students on the first day of school.  I started having them hold a chalkboard a couple of years ago.  They always turn out so cute.
3.  Here's a peek at my class set up.  I haven't made any changes in the past couple of years.  (Maybe this summer will be time for a little makeover.)
4.  From time to time I like to share outfits and accessories.  Here is my favorite summer Tory Burch cross body.  I love the colorful polka dots.
5.  I celebrated a milestone birthday this year.  D and A did a great job picking out a special gift for me.
6.  A had a talent day in her class.  She demonstrated ballet.  Her teacher snapped this awesome picture of her doing a grand jete.  Love it!
7.  We wrapped up color week with a color themed STEM activity.
8.  During Read Across America, we made these cute birthday cats to display in the hall.  Click here if you would like a free copy of this activity.
9.  On April Fool's Day I pranked my class with a fake spelling test.  Number 1 was the word Happy.  Number 2 was the word April.  Number 3 was the word Fools.  (At this point the kids were on to me.) And Number 4 was the word Day.  My kids went crazy. ;)

There you have #2015bestnine.  Click here if you would like to follow me on Instagram.  Since it's such a quick way to share, I update it pretty frequently with school stuff, personal pics, outfit ideas, products, and basically things that make me happy.

Speaking of happy.  I got to make three ladies very happy this morning by letting them know that they each won a $25 Amazon gift card during School Is a Happy Place's 3rd Blogiversary Give Away. 
Congratulations to Christin of Shifting Teacher K-2, Wendy of First Grade Fireworks, and Anne of Elementary AMC.  I'm sure they will put their prizes to good use.
Be sure to visit these ladies.  They all have lots of great ideas to share.

Shifting Teacher K-2
Elementary AMC

Thanks to all of you that entered.

Monday, December 21, 2015

What I've Learned About Blogging and A Blogiversary Give Away

In a few days School Is a Happy Place will turn three.  Over the past few years some teachers have inquired about ways to get started with blogging and Teachers Pay Teachers.  While I do not consider myself an expert, I thought I'd take this opportunity to share some things I've discovered through blogging.

One tip I have for teacher bloggers is to get your family's (or significant other's) support.  If you are working full time at a school, blogging will happen during your "free time."  Your family will need to understand your goal and be patient.  You'll have to figure out how you're going to balance your time blogging with your quality time with loved ones.

I discovered teaching blogs about 4 or 5 years ago.  Before that, I didn't even know that they existed.  I was implementing The Daily 5 in my class for the first time.  I spent lots of time combing the Internet, trying to find how it looked in real classrooms.  I found a few Daily 5 blog resources, but more importantly, I found the world of teaching blogs.
I became so inspired by all the sharing by these bloggers, it became my goal to start my own blog.  My biggest hang-up was coming up with a name for my blog.  I spent months thinking of possible names.  I kept an ongoing list of name possibilities.  In late October of 2012, I decided on School Is a Happy Place.  Finally, I was able to get started.
While unintentional, I'm glad I ended up with a blog name that is not grade level specific.  Who knows, I might be in another grade next year.  School Is a Happy Place should work whatever grade I am in.

Once I came up with a name, I went in search of a blog designer.  I found my original designer on etsy.  Theresa Bluhm of Always In Bluhm worked with me on creating a custom blog.  Bless her heart.  She would ask me design questions and I would have no idea what she was talking about.  Somehow she managed to create a blog that I really liked and was proud of.
Fast forward a couple of years and I was ready for a little makeover.  This time Megan Favre of A Bird in the Hand Designs designed my blog.  She was great to work with and I love the updates she made.
If you are thinking of starting a blog, hiring someone to design your blog is a great way to get the look you want.  There are also free blog templates available online, if you want to go that route.

Before I started blogging I was a first grade teacher, a wife, a mommy to a five year old, a volunteer on a couple of different boards, a volunteer at my church, and a group fitness instructor.  Once I committed to the blog, some of those things had to go.
I cut down my board work to only serving on one.  I also gave up teaching group fitness.  I had been teaching various group fitness classes for 19 years.  I really didn't want to stop, but there is only so much time in a day.  I still workout regularly.  But, I needed more flexibility than being an instructor offered.
I still have my sweet family, I still help out at my church, do some volunteer work, and teach full time.  I'm on the go a lot and I get super behind on laundry.  But, to realize my goal of having a teaching blog, I had to give some things up.

I guess "You Can't Do It All" and "Say Goodbye to Free Time" kind of go together hand in hand.  My truth is, since I started blogging and creating for Teachers Pay Teachers, I have very little free time.  I really feeling like it is a second job.
I usually bring my computer with me wherever I go.  If I get a moment, I'm often working on something blog or tpt related.
I know that sounds like a bit of a bummer.  I'm only speaking for myself.  Other bloggers my have a different perspective.  But for me, becoming a teacher blogger really cut into my already limited free time.

I really think my teaching skills have improved since I started blogging.  I'm constantly thinking of ways to improve classroom activities.  Of course, before I started blogging I always worked to make my classroom a better place.  But, there's something about sharing your classroom and ideas with other teachers that takes things to the next level.

I'm speaking now as a blog reader and not a blog author.  Be careful with your content.  For me, reading post after post about an author's Teachers Pay Teachers products, is not how I want to spend my time.
Yes, some product placement is fine and maybe even welcome.  But, space it out a bit.  Your blog should not be one continuous commercial.
Along with posts about great classroom ideas, I also like reading some personal stories and seeing some pictures.  It makes me feel a little connection to the author.
And speaking of pictures, teaching blogs should include lots of pictures.  Pictures make the post have much more impact.

An important piece of the content pie is freebies.  Being able to share useful activities (for free) is one of my favorite things about teaching blogs.  It is really awesome to share something that your students enjoyed with teachers all over the world.
I do most of my freebie sharing on School is a Happy Place through google docs.  (You can find tutorials online.)  I also share some free items at my Teachers Pay Teachers store.
If you start blogging, be ready to share with others.

Yes, you have your team at your school and they are great.  But, blogging allows you to connect with with other teachers and educators outside of your building and see what is trending out in the education world.
Blogland is really a community.  Through comments, emails, and other social media sites you have a chance to form relationships with other teachers who share the same passion you have for creating a positive, loving, and effective classroom.

"Comparison is the the of joy." -Theodore Roosevelt
I just love that quote.  It's applicable to so many aspects of life.   
It's especially applicable to the world of followers and top 100 Teacher Pay Teacher rankings and all those other ways someone may not feel as though he/she is measuring up.
Do not compare yourself to other teacher bloggers.  On a regular basis I tell my eight year old daughter that how someone else is doing has nothing to do with you.  Your buddy is reading on a 6th grade reading level in 2nd grade?  Good for him.  But, that has nothing to do with you.  You do your best and that's all you should worry about.
If you join the world of blogging, do not compare yourself to others.  You will just get frustrated.  You have an important and unique perspective to share.  What others are doing has nothing to do with you. 

There you have it, some of my thoughts after three years of blogging.   Like teaching, blogging can be very rewarding and some times challenging.   If you are a teaching nerd like me, overall, it's a great thing to be a part of.

Like I mentioned earlier, this month marks School Is a Happy Place's third blogiversary.  To celebrate, I'm giving away three $25 amazon gift cards. 
To enter...follow School Is a Happy Place here on this site, on Bloglovin, and on Instagram.   By doing this, you can receive up to three entry chances.  (If you are already a follower, you can enter as well.  Just be ready to share your user name for verification purposes.)
Read below for more details.  Also, if you have have any questions, feel free to email me.

a Rafflecopter giveaway a Rafflecopter giveaway a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good Luck and Merry Christmas from my little family to yours.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Elf in the Classroom (Ideas and Free Activities)

At dinner tonight my daughter started up a conversation about holidays and explained that Christmas is her number one.  I was not surprised in the least.  Then she proceeded to tell me that getting visits from our family elf is one of her favorite parts of Christmas.
Our Ms. Joy arrives tomorrow and so does my class elf, Anderson.  At the moment I have an"E" written in Sharpie on my hand.  That E stands for elves...the elves that I better not forget about or else.
I should probably just keep a Sharpie E on my hand for the next 24 days, just in case.

If your class gets a visit for an elf, here are a few activities (old and new) that you might want to use with your students to take advantage of all the elf-induced excitement.

First up is a fun Elf Glyph.
These glyphs make a very festive display.  As part of this project, there is a little data collection/analysis activity, if you want to extend the activity a bit.  A writing prompt is included as well.
Elf Glyph:  A Fun Holiday Creativity is available at my Teachers Pay Teachers store.  You can click here for more details.

Next up is an elf themed scoot (or write the room or math center).  My firsties have been working on fact families.  I made this simple activity for students to complete in small groups.
You can click on one of the picture below for a FREE copy of Elf Friends: A Free Math Activity (Practice with Fact Families).

Another elf inspired goody for your classroom (or even for home) is my Diary of an Elf:  A Free Writing Activity.  Your students can get in some extra writing as they chronicle the adventures of their elf with this daily journal.  
For a FREE copy of Diary of an Elf, click on the picture below.

I have one more elf freebie before I wrap things up.  It's my Elftastic Rhymes.  This quick, print and go sort features rhyming words for the book The Elf on the Shelf.  I like to use it after I read the book to the class.  
Students read each set of words and determine if they rhyme or not.  If your students are anything like mine, they can always use more practice with rhyming words.
For a FREE copy of Elftastic Rhymes, click on one of the pictures below.

I hope you've picked up some ideas that will help incorporate elf into some of your learning activities.  If you have a favorite elf in the classroom idea, I'd love to hear about it :).
Thanks for stopping by.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Thanksgiving Tidbits (Activities and Freebies)

It's a little less than a week until Thanksgiving.  I cannot believe it.  It seems like Halloween was just last weekend.  Craziness!  We'll have a couple of days in school next week to wrap up some of our Thanksgiving activities, then we're off for a little break.
Traditionally, my first graders get a little (let just say) spirited the week or two leading up to a holiday/break.  Being prepped and ready with plenty of engaging learning activites is super important.  Here's a peek some at a few Thanksgiving inspired math and literacy activities we stayed busy with this week.

We started off by making our Pilgrim Writing Craftivity.  Our class cabinets have been embarrassingly bare for the past couple of weeks and these little Pilgrims look great.
On the backs of the Pilgrims, students wrote about what they are thankful for.

Some of our literacy time has been devoted to Thanksgiving themed literacy centers.  I am so happy to see how much independence most of my students are gaining as we work through our year of math and literacy centers.

Speaking of math centers, those have been Thanksgiving themed as well.  Math centers are an awesome way to provide ongoing review and to lay the ground work for upcoming instruction.  The fact that they can be seasonally inspired makes them even better.

Another Thanksgiving related resource we used during our math time was my It's Turkey Time Math Mini Book.  I made this book a couple of years ago and have been using it ever since.  It includes word problems that review several of the skills we've been working on so far this school year.
If you would like to have a FREE copy of this math mini book, click on the picture below.

We wrapped up our week with a fun round of scoot.  When I say fun, I mean FUN!  My firsties think scoot is awesome.  They love moving around the room or in this case switching from desk to desk.  They get a huge kick out of scoot.
Since we have been working on subtraction the past few weeks, our scoot focused on basic subtraction equations.

If you would like a FREE copy of my Perky Turkey Subtraction Scoot, you can click on the picture below.
I addition to using this freebie for scoot with your students, it also works great as a math center or as a write the room activity.

Hope some of these activities are helpful to you during these last few days before Thanksgiving.  If you are among the lucky teachers that have the entire week of Thanksgiving off...enjoy your well deserved break.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

50th Day Fun (Plus a FREEBIE for Your Class)

Do you celebrate The 50th Day of School with your students?  If not, you may want to consider marking the day with some fun learning activities that they will love.
One of the most best parts of 50th Day is dressing the part.  It's a good idea to give your parents plenty of notice so they can get an outfit together.  In class, I like to show the kids pictures from the 1950's, that way they can start getting an idea of what that decade looked like.  Plus, 50's inspired outfits are really easy to pull off.  Roll up a pair of jeans and throw on a white t-shirt (girls add a scarf), there you have it.  
For our 50th Day my team went a little fancier and found some (for lack of a better word) puffy dresses for the occasion.  Amazon has lots to choose from.

This year the 50th Day fell on the same day as my daughter's Halloween party at her school.  Since I planned to take off part of the day to be a mom, I was careful not to over plan our 50th Day activities.  One activity I was sure to fit in was our 50th Day 50 Second Challenge.
Before we started the challenge, I showed my class how to twist, bunny hop, and do the hand jive.  All are dances included in the 50th Day 50 Second Challenge.  I also explained the other tasks in the challenge.
I placed the station cards around my class and gave each student a recording sheet.  I turned on some 1950's music and we began our 50th Day 50 Second Challenge.
The tasks in the challenge are a mix of 50's inspired movement activities and math skills.

If you would like a FREE copy of 50th Day 50 Second Challenge to use in your classroom, click on the picture below.

After lunch our whole first grade went to the gym for a sock hop.  We had root beer floats and one of our sweet parents made a yummy cake for a special treat.  The kids had a great time.

After our little blowout, we'll be ready to buckle down for the next 50 days (or at least until Christmas).
Thanks for stopping by and have a great weekend!

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Short Vowel Solutions: Ideas and Freebies

A quarter of our year has come and gone.  The first four to five weeks are really devoted to procedures and routines in the classroom.  Of course we've also been working on some of the standards.  A big focus during the beginning of the year is always short vowels.
One area many of my firsties struggled with this year was phonemic awareness of medial sounds.  They were awesome at hearing the initial sounds in words, but hearing that vowel sound in the middle was tricky.
To get more practice correctly identifying the vowel sounds in words, we did lots of listening oral segmenting of words.  We also did (and continue to do) lots of picture sorts.  Students need to be able to identify the sounds of the words, without having them written down.  Oral segmenting and picture sorting really helps with phonemic understanding of short vowel sounds.
If you would like a free set of my short vowel picture sort (seen in the picture below) you can click here.

Brain Pop Jr.'s Short Vowels video chip was an inspiration for another one of our activities to practice correctly identifying short vowel sounds.  In the clip, Annie labels objects in her classroom that have short vowel sounds.
I paired my students up to label short vowel objects in our classroom as well.  Students wrote their words on post-its and stuck them to the short vowel objects.  Then we gathered at group time to share what objects were labeled.  The class determined if the labeling was correct with a little thumbs up or thumbs down voting.

Of course we worked with actual short vowel words as well.  After we covered all of the short vowel sounds, we did a little differentiated Write the Room short vowel word sorting.   
I printed the short vowel words cards on two different colors of paper and posted them around the room.  My below level readers read and sorted the words that were printed on the red cards.  (The red cards include picture support.)  My on/above level students sorted words on the yellow cards.

My students always love Write the Room activities.  If you would like a free copy of my Sort It Out {A FREE Write the Room Activity}, you can click on the picture below.

During our word work time we did quite a bit more independent practice reading, sorting, spelling, illustrating, and matching short vowel words.
Click on the picture below to learn more about the independent tasks students completed to round out their understanding of short vowels.

Next week we'll start our work with digraphs.  We'll proceed with many of these same types of activities.  Listening for digraphs, reading words with digraphs, and spelling words with digraphs. 
Hopefully next time I check back in, I'll be writing from my new computer.   My dependable little MacBook is past its prime.  After making an update this summer (big mistake), any work I do on her (like this bog post) takes way longer than it should.  I'm not a big fan of change, but the time has come.  Fingers crossed all goes smoothly.  If you don't hear back from me for a while, you'll know why. ;)
Have a great week.