Friday, July 29, 2011

Travel Ideas for Your Kids

Sorry for my 2 weeks of MIA.  Wow time really flies!  I have been super busy lately with my oldest daughter's softball team.  She made the All Star team, which was a week long tournament.  Their team took first place and went on to compete in San Bernardino, CA at the Little League Softball Western Regional Tournament to represent our state.  It was such an incredible experience, but I don't think the girls fully understood just how lucky and incredible the talent of these young girls (11-13 year olds) was.  Our team ended up winning 2 games and losing 2 and we were super excited by those results!  I returned home yesterday and after being a chaperon to the girls, I am figuring out my identity of being a wife, mother and more all over again!
Since I have been traveling, I thought I would share a few ideas that you might be able to use on a trip of your own.  After all there are still a few more weeks left of summer!
Make your own dry erase tote from Stubbornly Crafty:
Make an antibored kit. Gather small items your kids would enjoy and place them in a painted and decorated Altoids tin.  Idea from Instructables.
Printable Bingo cards from While He Was Napping.

Make a marble maze game as seen on Serving Pink Lemonade.

When my family takes a trip, I try to have a car bag filled with things the kids enjoy.  It would be best to have a small bag for each child to help cut down on fighting.  Here are a few ideas for entertaining your kids on your next family trip:
  • Small toys your kids love - small plastic animals, cars, etc.
  • Electronics - Ipod, portable DVD, gameboys
  • Coloring books, notebooks, crayons, markers
  • Magnadoodle, Etcha Sketch, etc.
  • String/yarn - cat's cradle, friendship bracelets
  • Snacks - remember chocolate is messy and melts!
  • Magnetics with a (metal) TV dinner tray so your kids can build on their own travel table.  Plus the dinner tray works well for snacks and coloring!  I bought some a few years ago for my kids when we were heading on a road trip and they helped a ton!  I bought mine at the check out stand at Walmart for only a few dollars each.
  • Books
  • Crossword puzzle, Wordsearch or Sudoku books (make sure your child doesn't get car sick!)
  • Travel sized games - Target & Walmart have these in their game sections, but check the dollar store too!
  • Deck of cards, dice, card games.
*Keep in mind your children's likes, ages, gender and the duration of the trip.  Any other ideas you want to add to the list?  Let me know what you do to keep your kids entertained!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Pictures Of My Pirate Themed Classroom

When it comes to setting up your classroom, the hardest part {for me} is finding a theme to use.  Using a theme makes life so much easier for me.  I try to tie everything, or as much as I can in my classroom to that theme.  When I taught 3rd grade, my theme was bees.  When I find my pictures of my old classroom, I will do a post about that.  Currently, I have chosen to go with a pirate theme.  I'm not sure how/why I went with it, but it works...for now.  Here are some themed items from my classroom.  Keep in mind this was my first year with this theme, so it is a work in progress to build upon what I have. 

I found a {scroll} notepad at a teacher store and knew it would work well with my theme, but at the time I wasn't sure what to do with it.  Well I ended up typing up some reading tips and glued them to the scroll paper and attached them to a small bulletin board next to my guided reading table. 
 My word wall I also created using a note pad.  I glued a piece of treasure chest notepad paper to a piece of poster board to form a more sturdy letter. word wall:
 I made my job chart by finding a clipart image of a ship I liked.  After copying it onto a transparency, I used my overhead projector to project the image onto the wall and I was able to trace the image in a larger scale.  I believe I am the last person at the school to still have an overhead projector, in case you are wondering what ancient teaching tool I am talking about! :) 
This is the front of my desk, and how I like to take roll & lunch count.  When my students come in to class, they move their lunch tag (on the right of the yellow tape strip) to the appropriate treasure chest.  Cold for home/sack lunch and hot for school lunch.  This comes in handy during the day when I can't remember who is absent for the day.  All I have to do is look at who's name tag hasn't been moved and I know!  The name tags I made by using a 2 1/2" die cut circle punch and punching the "gold coins" from a sparkly gold bulletin board border.  (I made the job chart name tags the same way, using yellow poster board.)
Here is a picture of my reading nook.  I realize how plain it looks, but it is going to have a lot more going on before much longer.  I ordered the flags (hanging from the ceiling) from Amazon for (I want to say) $3.00 a piece.  The brown mast is spray painted white poster board bent into shape.  I added the pirate flag pennant that I found at the dollar store.  My husband thought it would be a good idea to add the fishing net, but against my carpeted wall it was very plain so we added blue butcher paper behind the netting.  The reading chair is a whiskey barrel planter turned upside down and upholstered with batting and pirate fabric. 
It would probably be better to make a "wooden plank" bench (like this):
to fit more kids, but this chair will allow for 2 kids to sit on it and I like the way it turned out.

This summer I found a paper mache treasure chest, similar to this, at Hobby Lobby for less than $12.  I already use a treasure chest filled with goodies for rewards at the end of each week, but I liked the price and look of it so I grabbed one and took it home.

I added some paint, and here is the new and improved version.
Although a treasure chest like this might have been better looking!
 My biggest tip is to think of a theme that works for you best.  Look for items that work and build upon your collection gradually.  The dollar store and thrift stores are great places to look!  If you can't find what you want...make it!

Clutter Free Classroom is a great resource for classroom themes if you are unable to think of something you to go with.  Check it out!! 

Do you use a theme in your classroom?  What theme have you picked out?  I would love comments, ideas, links and more to see what is happening in your rooms!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Back to School Bulletin Boards

Can you believe summer is half way gone?  I guess that depends on when school starts up for you again, but for us, we have about 1 month left.  It's crazy how fast it flies by.  Honestly, by May I am needing a break, but by August I am ready for school to begin, mainly so our family can get back on a routine.  With the thought of school, here are a few back-to-school bulletin board ideas to get you thinkin... 

"Wel-GUM" to ______ grade!...using a gumball machine with the students' name on gumballs.  The 1st picture comes from Heather Beauchamp.

The 2nd picture is from a 4th grade teacher @ Two Things In Common.  She has more bulletin board ideas so check out her link for more.  Also on the link are some great back-to-school teacher tips!
"Look Who's Poppin' Into _________ Grade!"  Idea from Mrs. Naylor.
"Wild About Learning" from Trendy Teacher.
Cute idea for a Toy Story/Monkey themed room. Idea from Sewin 2 Disney.

"Buzz On In" to Mrs. McDowell's room with this display!  I would have totally loved this when my (3rd grade) class was bee themed!
More ideas can be found HERE

and HERE.

Monday, July 11, 2011

I Like Big Books And I Cannot Lie!

Honestly, can you even read the title to this post without singing it!?!  Well since I have done some recent posts about reading, I thought I would share with you a fun book bag idea.
Hilarious right?  I got a kick out of this idea when I saw it.  If you want to make one of these for yourself, check out Love Endures All Things for the tutorial. 

*Sorry if you now have Sir Mix-A -Lot stuck in your head for the rest of the day!  LOL I know I will!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

FREE Sharpies at Target!

I LOVE a good deal, so I thought I would share this great site I came across...Target Treasures.  Basically this blog tells you about the deals Target has going on each week...Great!  One more reason to visit the store and spend more than I should be!  I can't complain if it's a good deal though right?!?   Anyway, with school right around the corner, the deal for this week is Sharpie markers
Sharpies are on sale for $1.00.  Print off this $1.00 coupon (see page 9 of the add) and get 2 Sharpies for FREE!!  Spread the word, but make sure to leave some for me!!

Getting Your Child Ahead Over the Summer

I am sure you have heard from teachers, or witnessed it for yourself as a parent, but it is true that children can loose some of their learning from the school year over the summer months.  It can be frustrating for both the parents, child and teachers.  Well in asking for some reading suggestions to get your kids motivated, I received several great ideas.  One idea comes from a reader @ Busy Kids = Happy Mom.  (By the way, I totally love the title of this is so true!)  Anyway, Kristen suggested coming up with what academic area your child needs to work on, based on their end of the year report card and make a plan.  Set goals and a point system so your child knows there will be a reward for their hard work and effort.
Here's what Kristen had to say:

"How are prizes awarded at my house?

1. My husband and I decide what we really think the kids are willing to work for.
2. We ask our kids for suggestions. My youngest always says "Lego Land" - we ask for simpler ideas!
3. We choose 3-4 prizes that we can make happen. This means- is this something that we can afford to purchase or are we willing to travel or attend (sporting event, amusement park).
4. Finally, we figure out exactly how many points we think our children can earn over the summer. We generally award for 50 points, 150 points, and 300 points.

50 Points - Video Game
150 Points - J: trip to local baseball game, R: trip to a water park for the other (they will earn it for the entire family to attend)
300 Points - Trip for the entire family to a local amusement park
  • All points are cumulative - they do not need to start over from the beginning for each prize
  • Setting goals and accomplishing them gives your child a huge boost in self-confidence!
  • Do not make this too complicated for yourself or else it will never happen. "
For more on her top 10 tips for summer points, CLICK HERE.

Truthfully, I have been doing something similar to this with my son already this summer.  I wasn't too pleased with his math scores at the end of the year so I asked a teacher if I could check out a (less often used) math book from her for the summer...this way he wouldn't have a repeat of the same book.  I sat down at my computer and typed up a list of (what I felt was) the most important pages/assignments from the book and told him he would be working on a page a day during the summer.  Some people may call me the "Nazi Mom" for doing this, but in truth I don't want my son to get further behind, so I will gladly wear that title!  Aside from the week vacation we took in June (hey, the kid has to get a break sometime!) he has been very determined and surprisingly self- motivated.  I told him I would pay him $20 if he would complete his work, so that may be why he has been self motivated! :)  My son is driven my money, but find out what works for your child (like Kristen did) and go for it!  Nothing too expensive or crazy is really needed.  If your child needs rewards more often, buy items from the dollar store and make a prize box out of it. Taking your child to the park, to see a movie, McDonalds, to get a snowcone, or a parent date night are all ideas that might work for you?!? 
I asked my son earlier this week if he thought doing his math was helping him to learn more and improve and he said yes so that makes me feel like it is all worth it!  If he can start 6th grade feeling more confident about his abilities, that will make for a much better overall year!!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

FREE {Online} Storytime From Barnes and Noble!

This post is a follow up on my yesterday's post about getting your children to LIKE reading.  Thank you to everyone who commented.  You all had some great ideas and suggestions!! 
Well last night I found out that Barnes and Nobles has an online storytime.  How cool is that!?!  Each month a book is chosen to be featured.  The stories are read by authors and celebrities and are played right on the computer for FREE.  This month's book is:

As of now there are 14 books in their library including some real classics that your children will love!!  Some of the books...

Go check it out and see for yourself how entertained your child will be!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Getting Your Child to LIKE Reading!

Yesterday morning as I was walking with some friends, we were talking about ways to making reading more exciting to our kids.  I recently did a post about how to keep your kids reading during the summer, but my oldest son is one of those kids who HATES reading.  I know how important reading is so I am one of those mean moms who MAKES him read.  I have him read picture books to my younger 2 kids to help my son with his fluency, but I also make him read chapter books in his head so he is working on books more on his level.  I know...super mean mom!  Here are a few ideas my friends and I talked about that might help your struggling reader or child who hates to read too!
#1 - Find a {chapter} book to read from each night.  By doing this, your child isn't actually reading, but they are listening to oral fluency and expression, which will help them to become better readers.  The other thing with this idea is that sometimes chapter books can be intimidating to a child, so having the book read to them makes it more exciting and a little less daunting.

#2 - Get books on tape/CD.  The public library is a great place to start!  There is usually a great selection to choose from and maybe your library would even be willing to order some in if you had a request.  Book orders (during the school year) are also a good way to build your collection.  Again, by listening this will help your child with fluency and expression.  I came across this site (STORYNORY), where you can listen to stories on your computer or download them to your I-Pod.  Check it out to see if a story you are looking for is there.

# 3 - Turn on the subtitles when watching TV or a movie.  My friend suggested this...something I never would have thought of.  Your child will be reading without even thinking about it!

# 4 - Have your child find a series or author that interests THEM!

# 5 - Create a special reading area in your house or outside for your child to enjoy their time with the book.  Build a fort, read in a treehouse, etc.

Any other ideas or suggestions? 
I would love to hear what works for you!!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

My Target Finds Last Week

I have seen a lot of others (mainly teachers) "show-n-tell" about their Target and or dollar store finds.  Since I came across some great stuff I thought I would share in case you can find any of this at your local stores.  The pictures from above are the items I bought from Target:
1.  Dr. Seuss erasers.  I also bought these last year and gave them to my students during Dr. Seuss Week.  They were  a big hit with the kids, and for less than $0.20 each I didn't think they were a bad grab either!
2.  Totes.  These work perfectly during centers or if you have your students grouped at tables.  Stick some scissors, glue, and pencils inside and your students will have easy access to supplies.
3.  A pocket chart...great for so many things!
4.  Bingo games.  These games were only $1 each.  Can you believe it?  I grabbed one of each of the choices.  (Math Bingo - addition, subtraction, multiplication, & division practice, Alphabet Bingo - see # 5 and Time Bingo - which turned out to be more advanced than the suggested 5+ age on on the box.  In first grade, we are only responsible to teach whole and half hour times, while this game works with all time.  Perfect for the older grades though!)
5.  Sample cards from the Alphabet Bingo (as mentioned above).  I think this game might have been my favorite find.  The game works with beginning, middle and final word sounds, along with naming the missing letter from the sequence.  Perfect for a center!
6.  File Bin.  These are great to use for storing and organizing all kinds of things, but I plan to use mine for organizing my personal books.  Even though these bins were $2.50 each, I still thought they were a great deal for getting organized the way I want!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Framed Art for Just $1

Super cute right?
Would you believe this only cost $1 to make?  This 4x6 picture frame was at the dollar store and the {free} printable is from It Works for Me!  I love this quote.  It's such a great reminder (and teaching tool for your kids) that not everything has to be brand new to be great!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Thank A Coach (or Teacher) with a SOBE!

I thought this idea was worth sharing.  My husband received this Sobe drink from a player on his softball team.  The same idea would also work for a teacher appreciation gift though!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Let Freedom RING!

I made my way to the dollar store this weekend and walked away with this (and some other finds, but that will have to wait)....
Inspired by this find at Fiskars....
I created these bad boys....
My kids are going to hand these Ring Pops out to their cousins tomorrow at our family 4th of July get together!  The glow sticks will be for later that evening....simple, easy, inexpensive and the kids will love them.  Can't go wrong!