Sunday, August 25, 2013

Back in the Saddle Again...

Hi, everyone! I had FULL intentions of more than ONE contribution to Blog Hoppin's Teacher Week, but my GOODNESS, that week got away from me! Last minute room preparations, 2 days of mentor training, and my first "official" day back to school (meetings, meetings, meetings) left me wondering: "where did my summer go?" Next year I'll write my posts in advance & schedule them! 

Like many of you, I'm now officially BACK TO SCHOOL!
It's been a whirlwind week of district meetings, open house, shiny new firsties, new routines, fire drills, new crayons, a few tears, and a lot of laughs.
Fun like THAT is exhausting!

Here are a few of my week's highlights! I'm in LOVE with my welcome sign letters! They were a last-minute grab from the teacher's store in town and I'm glad I picked them up! 

 My jobs chart. I printed off a list of student names on cards that go beside the individual duties. Changing jobs will be a part of our Monday morning routine!

A cozy corner! This is where I do read-alouds, practice flash cards, and lead whole-group work. I guess it's kind of my stage! Ha! One of the classroom jobs this year is the "chair person", which really means that they get to sit in the rocking chair during Daily 5 Read to Self time. They're so excited for their turn!

Don't mind the boxes, they're all gone now (I took this photo before school began). This is the banner I made last year from book jackets. If I could do the project again, I would have laminated the book jackets before attaching the ribbon. Some of them are a little flimsy! This year I added big tissue-paper flowers at the corners.

I took this right before open house began. We had a great turnout & it was sweet to meet most of my new class. They are such sweethearts! Eager to learn & show me what they know. Who could ask for more?

How cool is THIS? Our FAB librarian made it for back to school & I love it! At our first staff-meeting she had us fill out the "screen" of our iPods with a favorite book, and then we put our names where the dial would be. Such a neat idea! As a kid I would have been thrilled to know that I shared a favorite book with a teacher. I hope our kiddos want make that connection!

I just love the "getting to know you" activities we do at the beginning of the school year! Learning each other's names, interests, birthdays, and ages is superfly exciting for first graders! 

We brainstormed words to describe their impressions of their first days of school. 
Difficult! Bless their hearts.

We decided on some classroom "gold coin goals" too! We award students with "gold coins" that go in to their class' count. When classes reach their individual goals, they bring the coins to the office where a "ring-a-ling-a-ling" goes over the intercom (so exciting!) and their names are read over the next day's announcements. We also have school-wide goals to reach. Our first goal is 1000 coins. We'll be getting cups with our school & year on them and a tasty orange juice treat! I have one of the cups on display in my room that's creating quite an excitement. What a fun motivator! 

We made friendship fruit salad! We read lots of books about friendship and had lengthy discussions about how to be a good friend. Of course, they had LOTS of stories to share about their experiences with friends. I try hard to foster a community of learners that CARE and RESPECT each other. I think it's such important stuff at the beginning of the year! 

The idea behind friendship fruit salad is that together, the ingredients symbolize the climate of the classroom you hope to create. The fact that there are marshmallows involved make it fun and appealing to the kiddos! 
You can make this as easy (canned fruit salad) or fancy (fresh fruit) as you like. I prepared this in front of the class and they were SO engaged! 

The first can of fruit symbolizes the kind students in the classroom
The second can of fruit symbolizes the hard workers in the room
The third can symbolizes the sharing between the students through the year.
The marshmallows stand for the kind words that will be spoken in the classroom. My class promised LOTS of kind words in exchange for extra marshmallows in their salad. How could I say no?

Next, I took out an old brown banana. I explained that it stood for mean words being said, not working hard, not working together, and bad attitudes. Before I could ask whether they thought it should go in our salad, they screamed "Ewwww! We don't want that in our classroom/salad!" 

We shared the salad together and the room buzzed with excitement. 
Mission accomplished!

I found a great set of back to school graphs on the Smart Exchange website. We've been doing one or two every day. It's been a nice review of some basic counting & relating numbers as well as a way to get to know each other. We've charted how we get to school, our favorite colors, and numbers of letters in our name. Hooray for Smartboards! 

It was such a successful week! I've been blessed with a sweet class & a stellar staff to work with. We're committed to working hard & making it fun! 

Blessings came in other ways, too! 
Check out our new laminator! Woot!
Quick, smooth, and just wonderful.
The previous model was easily over 30 years old. It took FOREVER to heat up and smelled like burning plastic (that's usually how you knew it was ready!) Resisting the urge to go all "Office Space" on the old one was hard! Ha! We also got a new color printer in our teacher's lounge, which was greatly needed! 
If you want to make a teacher squeal with delight, tell her she'll have a new printer & laminator to use! 

Also, my iPads arrived on Friday! I was stalking the window ALL day waiting for the UPS man!
These are the iPad Mini tablets I'm receiving as a result of my completed Donors Choose project. 
In 6 days, between my family and friends, this project went from start to finish.
Talk about blessed! I can't wait to buy cases for them and put them in the hands of my students!
This week we'll be learning about how to use them! Yippee!

Of course, a week like that deserves a little treat at the end. Actually, the whole weekend was pretty sweet! 
On Saturday, my husband and I headed to Columbus for lunch at the North Market which included dessert at Jeni's (a.k.a the BEST ice cream!) The seasonal flavor of Loveless Biscuits and Peach Jam was amazing. Having it in a sundae with salted caramel sauce, well, that was over the moon!

We also checked out Summerfest & saw some bands we'd not seen before. I really enjoyed the Cold War Kids! Bonus: I saw my SISTER in the crowd! Neither of us knew the other one would be there! 
Summer is certainly not over yet, regardless of what the school-year might say. 
It was a perfect weekend! Cheers to THAT!

Alas, now it's Sunday night.
Laundry has been done. Meals are planned for the week. Lesson plans have been sketched out.
A pile of laminating is staring at me from across the room. 
Math centers wait for no man, or woman, I suppose. 

Hope your week is filled with FUN!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Teacher Week '13: Day 1: Meet the Teacher!

It's Teacher Week '13 at Blog Hoppin' and to kick it off, it's "Meet the Teacher" day!
(To check out what this is all about click the picture below)

So here's a little bit about the teacher behind the blog...ME!
It's also my 100th blog post! Wooty-woot-woot!

For those of you who don't know me, my name is Alisha and I live in Southeastern, Ohio. My community is small, but we have a lot of heart! I teach at the smallest of 3 elementary schools in our school district. This will be my fourth year teaching 1st grade. It's crazy, unpredictable, and so much fun! I graduated from Ohio University in 2009 with my bachelor's degree and just finished my master's degree at Marygrove College this-past spring. I'm glad to be taking a break from least for a little while.

I live with my husband, our dog, Casey, and our cat, Fluffhead. Expanding our family is in our (hopefully) immediate plans and we are patiently (okay, sometimes not-so-patiently) waiting for our time to enter the parenting arena. Until then, we're enjoying the freedom to travel, seek adventures, and basically do whatever we want. I know this is short-lived and I'm determined to enjoy all that this time in my life has to offer.

I started blogging in the summer of 2011. Last year I created (and sold) my first product on TPT. It's been an interesting journey so far. My favorite things about blogging are the friendships I've made and the ideas I've gathered. Teachers are a clever bunch! Practically every day I use something in my classroom that was created by another teacher. Kudos to all of you!

1. I am an old lady trapped in a 30-something's body and I'm okay with that. I love houseplants. I hate fast driving. I have the urge to unplug my appliances when it storms. I'm trying to perfect my pie crust recipe. I can appreciate a good cup of tea. I yearn for more Tupperware. I find myself getting a little "stay-outta-my-yard" when dealing with neighbor kids, strangers, and ugly birds who eat all the good birdseed in my feeders. I buy shoes for comfort. I'm kind of creaky in the morning. I want to yell at kids to pull their freakin' PANTS up! I am shopping for a good face cream. I'm up at 5 a.m. and asleep by 9:30. Sometimes I think coordinated separates are cute. While I know that any one of these things, in isolation, is not old-ladyish, but I feel that the combination of my idiosyncrasies makes me a little older than my years. Like I said, I'm really okay with that.
Be who you are!
Wear it loud & proud! 

2. I married Shrek. Well, kind of. We're lucky to have friends who do up Halloween in a BIG way! Costume parties, bonfires, monster-mashing until the wee hours of the morning...we like to have fun! The years since I've met my husband have seen us arriving to said parties as Shrek & Fiona, Drew Carey & Mimi, Jerry Garcia & Janis Joplin, Roaring 20's flapper/gangster, and one year, a geisha & Elvis (we weren't really coordinating outfits that year). Here are a couple of our more memorable costumes:

My husband went to the barber for a flat-top haircut this year. That's dedication!

By the end of the night my husband had misplaced his teeth, taken his bald cap off (he said his head was itchy) and had green paint all over the front of his shirt. 

3. I think I could eat a BLT every single day. My favorite way is with peppered bacon, NO MAYO, tomatoes fresh from the garden, and spinach instead of lettuce.

4. If I weren't teaching, I think I'd be a baker. Maybe a pastry chef! I LOVE to cook & create in the kitchen. Sometimes it's knockout creations--sometimes it's huge messes! I'm always searching for unique and interesting ingredients and recipes. My next home will have a large kitchen! It's a must!

5. I long to head westward. Colorado, California, Washington, Oregon, Idaho...I want to see it all! I secretly (or not-so-secretly now) feel that if I visited, I wouldn't come home! Luckily, I've chosen a career that could take me anywhere in this country (or even this world), so I'm not counting out the possibility of a cross-country adventure in my future. There's so much of this world to see!

6. Even though my husband has tried to explain it to me, multiple times, I will never understand what The Matrix is about!

7. The smell of Nag Champa incense is one of my favorite scents.

8. I am SUCH a chicken in the dark! Thank goodness grownups can buy "decorative" nightlights disguised as air fresheners! A creepy hallway becomes cozy!

9.  My first concert was in 8th grade (1992!) It was Soul Asylum, Screaming Trees, and The Spin Doctors. I can't believe my parents let me go. We were just kids!

10. I love to hula hoop! I had one made for me that's black & orange. It's really cool!

Well, that's a little bit about me! Hop on over to Blog Hoppin' and link your post up!
Check back tomorrow for Day 2: Our classrooms!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Sunday Smorgasbord & Preparing for Teacher Week 13'

It's been a busy, almost-back-to-school week around here! All of the laziness and taking-my-sweet-time-ness of summer has gone by the wayside and has been traded for never ending to-do, to-make, and to-buy lists for heading back to school.

I'm linking up with Michelle at Fabulous in First for her Sunday Smorgasbord link up! 

I've been a craftin' fool lately! While I haven't bought a ton of stuff (which is remarkable for me), I have been repurposing things that I already have. A little paint, primer, and glitter can make a big difference!

A wooden stool got a little pizzaz!

Glittery clothespins that need thumbtacks, magnets, and student names/pictures. 

My favorite! The rocking chair I rescued from the side of the road. It got a total facelift and I'm in love!
My poor dining room is craft central! My husband will be glad to be able to eat at the table again once it's all cleaned up. I still have to paint those letters and a chipboard mustache (so fun!) and then I should be done...for now! I've also been spraypainting pencil holders, paper trays, and really, whatever else I can get my hands on! What have you been crafting for your classroom?

Check out my pumpkins! They're unintentional! Listen up kids, watch where you toss pumpkin guts when you carve Jack O'Lanterns. You just might get pumpkins the following summer. I'm excited to see how they grow! The stalks are HUGE! Grow accidental pumpkins, grow!

Let me just say that even though my mind is on back-to-school, I had the quintessential summer day yesterday! It started with a nice walk/run with an old friend. It was nice to work out & catch up! Then a friend and I headed out on the lake for a little kayaking. So fun! We ended the day with an evening on the lake that included midnight-meteor-watching from a pontoon. It was incredible! We saw SO many shooting stars! Viva La Summer! :)

And some news that made my week:

Yes! I won a $100 Erin Condren gift card this week through an Instagram contest! I could NOT believe it!
I bought a deluxe lunchbox set and a new 18-month life planner! Definitely splurges that I could NOT have justified in this month's budget. Woohoo for THAT!
I got the "Mad Morocco" theme. Love it already! What's nice about this is that I can order additional faceplates & change up the look when I get tired of this! Smart idea, Erin Condren!

I got the "Favorite Things" Life Planner. It was so fun coming up with my "favorites" list! I also ordered photo stickers! Now my friends & family get a picture with their face on as a birthday reminder in my planner! 
As you can see, it's been a busy & exciting week around here!

This coming week is SUPERFLY exciting because it's TEACHER WEEK '13 at Blog Hoppin'!
Click the picture below to read about the schedule and how to link up.

I'm going to schedule some blog posts so I don't get behind! I can't wait to link up and read my little teacher-heart out! Collaborating with you all is the reason all this work is worth it! Teachers, by nature, are sharers. We practice what we preach! I've gained ideas, friendships, support, and confidence through working with fellow teachers. I'm excited to find new blogs to follow, teachers to admire, and techniques to use in my classroom. Even if you're not a blogger, it will be worth checking out! Tomorrow is "Meet the Teacher" day. 
See you there!

Friday, August 2, 2013

August Currently and Five for Friday

Well, hey there August!

The ushering-in of a new month and the fact that it's Friday means that it's time for 2 of my favorite linkies! Farley's "Currently" and Doodle Bug's "Five for Friday".

Farley's "Currently" linky is so much fun and I would LOVE to meet her in person! She seems so animated and FUN! She's definitely a teacher-blogger inspiration of mine!

If you've not ever linked up, why don't you try it this month? It's easy, I promise!
You just go to her post, save the blank Currently form on your computer. I open mine back up in Power Point (like a picture) and add text boxes to add my words. Save it as a .jpg when you're done and then you link up and post it! I love reading others' ideas as much as I like making up my own.

Here's my "Currently" for this month:

Listening: Love me some Pandora! When my iTunes playlists get boring, this is where I head. I've tried Spotify, but I think I like the surprise element that Pandora offers. I've discovered some favorite songs and artists this way! In my classroom, I love listening to the Laurie Berkner (children's) or Indie Kids stations. It's amazing how kiddos will just mellow out (and continue to work) when Jack Johnson is singing!

Loving: I can't fake creativity or the desire to get crafty. Either I feel like it or I don't. I'm actually that way about a lot of things! This week I made a couple of trips to hobby & craft stores and got some supplies. That was enough to get me in the creative mood! I "rescued" a wooden stool & rocking chair from my classroom and have BIG plans for their re-entry! I've been to the dollar store to pick up some ho-hum containers and baskets that will be getting a spray paint refinish. I've dismantled my dining room and turned it into B2S CRAFT STAGING AREA #1. (#2 is in the yard, with all the spray paint spots!) It feels good to have paint on my arms and in my hair. It's making me excited to get back into my room!

Thinking: While there are some definite first-day activities I'll be doing (like Daily Five intro and Whole Brain Teaching rules/routines), I am still in search of some fun stuff to make our first days together fun and exciting. What do you do in your classes? What books do you read?

Wanting: To do just that. Savor it. Enjoy the peace and the quiet. The hot sun on my shoulders at 1 pm and I'm not on recess duty. Yoga pants and ponytails ALL DAY. I want to enjoy it all. I want you to enjoy it too.

Needing: While none of these are actual "needs" I'm glad to report that I can't really think of anything I absolutely NEED. I'm glad and grateful for that! That said, I have been eyeing some new lunch bags on Etsy and think I may take the plunge this week!

Must-haves: 1. Patience. Duh. I have to remind myself that our students are ALWAYS like this at the beginning of the year. That they will WOW me with their growth (literal & figurative) in a few months. This is like the "before" picture of first grade. Take deep breaths, keep smiling, and carry on! 2. Positive attitude. Kids (for the most part) replicate what they see. If I'm SUPER excited about vowel sounds, they will be too! 3. An early bedtime. It's no joke, yo! Back to school makes me stupid-tired, stupid-early. There's no shame in 7:30 bedtimes here in a few weeks.


I also love linking up with Doodle Bugs Teaching for the Five for Friday linky
Reporting on 5 things that happened over the week (or weeks, sometimes, depending on how long since I liked up). The linky went on hiatus for the month of July so I'm glad to see it's back in action! Here are my 5 for this week:

1. Yesterday was my anniversary! Four years ago I truly married my best friend. He's the funniest person I know and can always make me laugh and smile. He supports me 100% in whatever I do. Over the years, those endeavors have ranged from going back to school for my master's degree to restoring pieces of furniture on our dining room table (I'm doing that right now). To know him, truly, is to love him and I have no doubt that with him, is where I belong.

Going down memory lane for a bit with these shots from our wedding. What a day that was! We got married later in the afternoon so we had a reception of cocktails, appetizers, and TONS of dancing! It was PERFECT! Our photographers, Michelle Black and Jessica Price did such an amazing job on our photography. They perfectly captured those sweet moments! 

Dancing up a storm (and a sweat!)


Is this it? Are we married?

Seal the deal & kiss your bride! Poor Billy is tall & had to hunch over! :)

Our groomsmen, cracking up!

Our wedding photography was outstanding!
Michelle Black and Jessica Price

Unity sand  Michelle Black and Jessica Price

Together as let's have some FUN! Michelle Black and Jessica Price
2. As I mentioned, I am refinishing some furniture in my dining room right now! I brought my wooden stool & rocking chair home from my classroom and I'm in the process of revamping! Stay tuned for the finished products!

3. I have 11 days until I'm back to work. The 2 days before our official first work day will be spent learning about being a mentor! I'm excited to be mentoring my new first grade partner! Do any of you mentor new teachers? Any advice for a newb like me? How many days until you're heading back? Maybe you're back already! 

4. Okay, I'm about the cross over to the darkside...the Scentos darkside. Seriously, these markers are eluding me! I can't find them ANYWHERE! Actually, last night, after our anniversary dinner, I glanced across the restaurant parking lot and saw a Michael's craft store. "Sweet!" I thought. Maybe they'll have Scentos like I've been seeing! I was 10 kinds of bummed out when the store associate told me they were completely sold out. Arrrgh. You see, I don't have a Michael's less than an hour away. Boo on THAT! 
I'm about to solicit help from y'all and Paypal someone some fundage to snag me some & ship them to me in Ohio. Any takers? Puh-lease? I'm looking for chisel-tip markers, but I'm really not picky!

5. Finally, as I've done in the past, I'm including a fun recipe that I've made in the last week or so.
This is a favorite of my husband (and of mine, too).

Let me start by saying that I don't do mayo. At all. I don't know that I've EVER had a bite of "regular" potato salad. Heck, I didn't even eat sour cream 5 years ago (crazy, right?) I found this recipe for a super-good potato salad that's mayo-free and flavor-full. (It's superfly easy, too!)

Bacon-Cheddar-Ranch Potato Salad

6 or 7 (or more if you have a lot of people) potatoes. I like red-skinned potatoes or Yukon gold.
1 pint sour cream 
1 packet Hidden Valley Ranch dry seasoning
1/2 package of bacon (any style- we like pepper bacon)
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese.
Green onions or chives

Peel (or don't peel, I like peels's kind of rustic), chunk, and boil your potatoes. You know. when a fork pierces them easily they're done. Drain and let cool (you can speed this up my rinsing with cool water or ice-bathing real fast). 

While you're waiting for your potatoes to cool, dice up your bacon & cook til crispy. Drain & set aside.

Mix sour cream and ranch seasoning. Add the green onions or chives. 

Add your potatoes and bacon to your bowl. Add sour cream/ranch mix and cheese. Stir until combined. If it's too dry, add some bottled ranch or more sour cream. If it's too wet, make a few more potatoes. 

Seriously, this stuff is GOOD! Try it out!

Well, it's time to get this Friday started! Have a great weekend, everyone!