July 25, 2015


Someone PLEASE hit the pause button.  I have been running around like a mad woman for the past two weeks and I still have TONS left to do.  I had my first back to school nightmare (I was late on the first day).  I also have started grinding my teeth at night and my jaw is on fire most days.  My gym membership sits idle and I can't remember a thing unless I write it down. However, despite this stress and chaos, I absolutely feed off of it all.  Are you like this?  Please tell me I am not the only one who thrives on pressure. Sure, I had my first ugly cry of the late summer stretch (and it won't be my last), but I am loving every minute of it :)  It's definitely back to school prep at its finest.  How are you holdin' up my friends??

On that note, here's a little look at my busy week.  It may have been hectic, but some serious progress has been made.  

It's coming along . . . PTL.  It's been a long road, but I can just touch the "light" with my fingertips. A few more ditties and I am done.  I am guessing about 5-6 more hours total.  Then, I can start on curriculum and planning. (My personal favorite!)  I will be hosting the big reveal early next week, but until then . . . here's a little sneak peek.
I went for crayon pack colors in my new room.
It's bright and happy for sure :)

As I was working in my room yesterday, I looked out the window and saw the little fella below.  I blinked my eyes and looked again.  Then my brain slowly processed the situation and three thoughts went through my noggin.  Um . . . what is a baby fox doing on campus?  My classroom door is wide open.  Where is his mommy?  Let's just say that I promptly shut the door and called maintenance. They trapped the little fella and his kid brother and dropped them off in the wilderness with their mother.  Crazy, huh??

I have been working my tail off on my computer when I am not at school.  I joined forces with my dad (Ron Brown's Intelli-Tunes) to create a new series of packets dedicated to using music in the classroom.  Concept-based sets come with a collection of his professionally recorded MP3s and related ideas.  The movement-based sets come with those ready-made audio files and directions on the movements.  It has been such a treat getting to work with my pop on these new projects.  What can I say?  Teaching is just in me blood :)  


The two packets above are more concept-based.  
They contain MP3s, lyrics, and ideas. 
(Yes, a 1st Grade calendar set is coming soon!)

When I taught Kinder for a year, 
I thought I was going to die that first month. 
(All you alls deserve a HUGE gold star!)
With this said, I had my dad write oodles of 
movement songs that year. We stole some of my favorites 
 off of a handful of his albums and packaged them. 
These are a LIFE SAVER in primary :)

So, with working like a mad woman at school and on the TPT front, the house has taken the brunt of it.  Whoops :(  I am trying to keep up, but I'm failing miserably.  Most of the house is a-ok.  We won't talk about the laundry room and my office . . . well . . . see for yourself.  **SIGH**  However, I figured I would show all you alls that I am not "keeping it together" across the board. I'm okay with that at the moment :P

Just look at this mess . . . BLARG!
Please don't judge :)
I am actually going to the pool today. I need a time out. Friends are coming into town tonight as well.  I am going to unplug.  It's gonna feel so strange, but it's time. Finding balance this time of year is oh so hard.  My best friend coined it oh so well when we were struggling to find a day to hang out  . . . 

Now that's what I call a friend.  
She so gets it . . . not many outside of the biz do :)

I will see you again soon with a little freebie.  Stay tuned :)

July 20, 2015


Classroom Pen Pals . . . yes please!  It's friendly letter writing at it's best. Here's a little post for all you alls who signed up for the Pen Pal Pair Up as well as those teachers who are interested in establishing a connection, but missed the sign ups. I broke this post up into sections so you could scroll and skip around :)

If you didn't get into my matching event this year . . . it's not the end of the world. You can still create your own match this year.  My thought here would be to pull up your Facebook account and scroll through your friends looking for teachers.  When you land on one that is in a different state or even at the other end of your state, reach out.  Don't wanna dig through your friend list? No problem . . . just put up a post on your wall asking for a classroom to pen pal with this year.  Someone who sees it is BOUND to know someone :)

For those of you who got in before the mighty Google Doc gates closed on Saturday afternoon, you are in the mix.  Steps are already well underway to start matching you . . . holla!  With this said, I have received quite a few emails during the past few days asking what's next. Well, it just so happens that I wrote a little post last year that I thought I would toss up again.  I added a few extra elements this year :) 

Before I get into the details you need to know . . . I did want to thank everyone for their interest.  Although this take hours and hours for me to do every year, I truly love working to make connections.  

Also, I just have to say this to make myself feel better . . . if you didn't make it in this year, I'm sincerely sorry.  I wish I could match everyone, but there just aren't enough hours in the day :(  However, I will be back around this same time next year for the 5th Annual Pair Up!  I always give about week's notice prior to the event and announce both the day and the exact time things will get going. Along these same lines, if you didn't make it in, you may want to check my blog or Facebook from time to time.  If emails bounce back or things don't match up during the pairing process, I will do an all-call for teachers who might be interested in specific matches.  

Alright, now that all that is out of the way, we can get down to biz.  I figured I better shed a little light on what's next for all you alls who were able to fill out the Google Form.  I have had a few questions tossed my way, so let me just lay it all out there for ya . . . 
  • How do I know if I got in the pair up? - If you were able to fill out the Google Doc, you are definitely in the mix.  A few emails have trickled in as well . . . you are in too :)
  • When should I expect my match? - With more than 500 matches to make this year (542 to be exact), it will take me a bit to get to all of you.  The whole process takes about three weeks. It takes this long because it looks like this . . . 
The Google Form produces this hot mess.
'Scuze the blurry mess . . . I got rid of your emails :)
These get cut apart (um, thanks MOM . . . she helps me every year). 
Next, I head to my parents' house and use their big table and kitchen counter space.
Mom and I sort the strips by grade level (see top photo below - that's one of the smallest groups!)
I go through and make pairs and she tapes them down on the correct colored strip.
Henry Ford would be darn proud ;)
Finally, I take those pairs and send INDIVIDUAL emails to each match.
That's the part that takes so long, but it will happen.

This probably isn't the best system, but one of these days I will streamline it.
Until then . . . this way works pretty well :)
  • What do I do when I get my match? - When you get an email from me it will introduce you to your partner and give directions.  I ask that you email your match right way so you two can connect {don't worry . . . it repeats all this in the message}.  
  • My partner didn't email me back? - If they don't get back to you within a couple days, try again.  If you don't hear within a week, email me and I'll see what I can do.  I can't make oodles of promises to these folks as most of my pool to pull pairs from will be already gone.  However, I promise to try with all my might.
  • What if I don't hear from you (Teacher Idea Factory)? You will hear from me unless your email was put into the sign up form incorrectly (there are always a handful of these every year)!!!  Remember, it will take a while to contact you due to my school move and cranky tendonitis. However, I will give updates on my blog that outline which grade levels have been completed and estimated contact dates.  I WILL GET THROUGH THEM - just stick with me!  However, if your grade level's completed date passes and you haven't heard anything . . . come after me!  I put the first grade level outline down below (it's subject to change at any time, so keep checking). I am not going on vacation this year, so I should be able to push these out a bit faster than in previous years.  
  1. TK - By Sunday (7/26)
  2. Special Ed - By Sunday (7/26)
  3. K - By Sunday (7/26)
  4. 1st - Week of August 3rd 
  5. 2nd - Week of August 3rd
  6. 3rd - Week of August 3rd
  7. 4th - Week of August 3rd 
  8. 5th - By Sunday (7/26)
  9. 6th + 7th + 8th - By Sunday (7/26)
Once you and your match have connected, the rest is up to you guys.  Work together to create an exchange that works for you. 

I do want to make one quick disclaimer here.  Please know that it is out of my hands once I pass off the match.  I really do my best to find you a solid partner, but there is no way for me to know if the person on the other end of that Google Form is going to follow through {giving the evil eye here}.   


Is your head spinning yet??  Don't worry . . . it's really easy once you get going. PROMISE :)  I outlined a few ideas and tips to help jump start things for you and your pen pal partner. 
  • Set a schedule - I suggest picking out a day every month that you always write.  We are going for the last Tuesday of every month this year.  
  • Parent permission letter - some schools will require a parent permission letter.  I made one for you (just click the picture - I made one for state to state connections as well as overseas matches).  
  • Get it going early - in the past I have waited to get the ball rolling.  I suggest that you DO NOT follow in my footsteps.  We will be kicking it off early this year.  The kids absolutely LOVE getting the letters and if you start around the holidays, that limits the number of exchanges.  

  • Think about shared writing - shared writing is a great way to introduce your classes (especially in the little grades).  When kiddos can't write all that well yet, a group letter provides a great introduction to friendly letter writing and your new crew.  It's an easy way to connect.
This was perfect in September.
I wrote a large letter on chart paper and conveniently forgot all of the sight words :)
Toward the bottom of this letter the kids helped come up with a
highlight from our month.
  • Techy works too -  you don't always have to write snail mail style.  Think about emails and Google Hangouts.  Also, what about creating an electronic book or Power Point presentation?  All of these are fun ways to mix things up and save on postage from time to time :)  
  • Homework option - I run into trouble sometimes around the mid-year mark.  Things really heat up in class and it is SO easy to overlook your poor pen pals.  What about sending the pen pal letter writing home for homework every so often?  Check back early next month for a freebie.
  • Email option - a very smart follower asked about emailing letters this year. Yes, you can totally scan student letters and email them to avoid postage. Sure, it will require a bit of ink from time to time, but those letters arrive immediately!  Pretty genius if you as me :)
If you are looking for more quick and easy Pen Pal templates and ideas to help simplify the whole process, I do have a packet available if you're interested. (No pressure though . . . I match ya for FREE.)  This collection introduces friendly letter writing and offers up oodles of levelized templates (ranging from big dotted lines and ample picture space to smaller big kid lines).  It also provides many "out of the box" ways to connect with classroom pen pals - not just your basic friendly letter.  This packet has over 75 pages of pen pal goodness jammed inside!  

Erica Bohrer also has a wonderful friendly letter packet that you can look into! It uses picture books to introduce the whole process.  Check it out here!!

Alright, my friends.  There it is in a nutshell - the Pen Pal Pair UP process.  If I didn't answer a burning question that you still have, please feel free to email me and ask.  You're never a bother :)  Have a great one and I'll see you again very soon.  (Be sure to check the bottom of my latest posts for updates on my matching progress.)

July 18, 2015


Alright my friends . . . the time is RIGHT NOW!  Sign ups for the 4th Annual Pen Pal Pair Up have officially begun and is now over :(.  We are full at this time. Thank you so much for your interest.  I will be hosting again next year - please try me again in 2016!

You may have seen random notes popping up on Insta, FB, and my blog throughout the past few weeks and thought . . . "What in the word is she blabbing on and on about. (I wouldn't blame you as I am quite the talker and I have been a bit vague.)  With this said, let me shed a little light on the subject and let you in on the details of a fun event that I host every year.  

For years I wanted to start up pen pals in my classroom.  Not only is it the most authentic friendly letter writing practice possible, but it opens the door to so many different content areas!  Well, I didn't know where to begin and finding a partner always seemed so daunting.  Well, that changed for me when a friend approached ME about pairing up our classrooms.  She made things SO easy and my kids loved getting letters from their cool MD pals.  After experiencing this, I just had to pay it forward . . . I started the Pair Up that same year.  

Now that you have a little better picture of what I am offering up, you can make the choice to keep reading or bail now :)  However, if you are ready to jump in and become a COMMITTED pen pal for the upcoming school year, simply click on the Pair Up link below and fill out the Google Doc form ASAP.

Once the submission deadline passes, I will work hard to provide you with the best possible pen pal pair up (it takes me a few weeks to get through the list).  I will contact you directly with your pen pal's info as soon as I have most of the list compiled. One quick disclaimer here . . . unfortunately, I cannot make the teacher that I paired you up with follow through.  (((SIGH))) I would guess that about 5-10% of the matches end up imploding due to lack of interest. This makes me sad as I spend HOURS on this and the other teacher is counting on follow through. However, I will be crossing my fingers and toes that I made a lucky match when I reached your name!  


On that note, what are you waiting for?  Go on . . . sign up already!  I'd love to help you find a partner.  

Before I jet, I have had a few questions over the years.  Here are a few that come to mind as I am typing.  Figured I might as well toss 'em out and save you the step of having to email me.  

  • How does it work with Kinders?  I suggest doing this shared writing style. Write letters as a class on large chart paper and send them this way.  You can switch to individual letters later in the year if your babes are up for the challenge.   
  • Which grades do you pair?  I mostly pair grades K-5.  However, I have paired up some middle school classes in the past.  My thought here is sign up.  I am not promising anything outside of 5th grade, but I sure as heck will try for you :)
  • Do you pair overseas classrooms?  Yes. If you want an overseas pen pal, there is a place to note this on the Google Form. 
  • Do you pair special education classes?  Yes.  I always get a handful of SPED classes and it usually works out.  No promises here either, but these pairing have great odds.  
  • When will we get our match?  I have to match everyone and that takes me at least a couple of 4-5 hour sessions.  I will start rolling out the match emails within a week or so and will be done by August 19th (my first day of school . . . GULP).
  • I have multiple classrooms . . . what do I do?  Just note this on the form in the final question.  I don't always get all of your classes matched, but I will try my best.
  • Do you match duel language classes?  Yes.  These are tricky though . . . I won't lie here.  I have about a 50% success rate on these.  However, what does it hurt to toss your name in there? Sign up, note it in the last question and I will see what I can do for you.  
If you are wondering how you will fit in pen pals and manage it all, I did make a Pen Pal Packet for my partner and I to use.  It makes things easy as it contains everything you need to start and maintain a successful long distance classroom connection.  This collection received a MUCH NEEDED facelift last summer.  If you purchased it in the past, be sure to pop on over and snag the new copy -- it's SO much cuter :)  

Thanks for your interest my friends.  Continue to check this page to see when I shut down the event.  I also will occasionally post updates on when to expect your pairing . . . a progress report if you well.  

**If you have additional questions about the Pen Pal Pair Up 2015, please feel free to contact me (kelleydolling@gmail.com).  

**NOTE: The response these past few years has been OVERWHELMING.  I received over 800 entries within a few hours last year.  So, if you want in, get in right now!  I am going to place the cap at 500 this year.  As many of you know (I think I may have stated earlier, but I can't remember this far down in a post cuz I'm old), I am in the middle of a classroom move.  I may be nuts taking this on right now as I had my first back to school stress ugly cry this week, but I'm committing. Don't get me wrong my friends.  I am DELIGHTED to help and wish I could match everyone.  However, compiling the list and emailing each pairing takes hours and I just don't have the time right now.  I will do my best to crank these emails out as quickly as possible . . . PROMISE.  I see some really quality late night TV in my near future :)

Here's a picture of my process.
It's probably not the most efficient system, but it works for me.
I cut the spreadsheet apart and group by grade and sort by class size.
Numbers that are semi close and in different states get connected :)

July 17, 2015


This is such an amazing post.  The one and only Natalie from What the Teacher Wants slaved away over this one and as a Blog Hopper, I just had to repost.  It highlights a night that's up there with Christmas for educators -- The Vegas Teacher Blogger Meet Up.  It was a magical evening and I'm already counting down the days until #TpTVegas2016.  Take a little look-see through this post. Some amazing companies were involved :)

The meet up that we held in Vegas last week was AMAZING!! There really isn't many other words that could describe it. Picture 1,100 teachers in a room together, having fun, meeting new people, and winning lots of prizes. We were all smiling so hard that our cheeks hurt. It was a great night and we appreciate all of the many teachers and bloggers who came and shared a fabulous night with us. 

First and foremost, we have to give a HUGE shout out to Teachers Pay TeachersSDE, and GoNoodle!  These sponsors not only donated generous amounts of giveaway swag, they also helped organize and make our meet-up extraordinary!

It's safe to say that in a mix of 1,100 educators, we all appreciate staff development that is fun, engaging, and inspiring.  SDE donated several different staff development gift certificates... from online seminars to National Conference passes!

Not only did TpT host their very own conference, but they were also so generous when it came to our blogger meet-up!  Who wouldn't get excited about FIFTY TpT gift certificates??!!  That's right, FIFTY lucky winners went home with a little money to spend atTpT!  Oh, and those drink passes?  Those were from TpT as well!

I mean, what would we have done without those amazing GoNoodle swag bags??  Plus, they brought in the neatest PhotoBooth that you ever did see!  AND, we can't forget Freckles, theGoNoodle mascot!  How fun was it that he was running around snapping pictures with people all night long??

We had so many other sponsors that helped donate over $55,000 worth of swag, prizes, and goodies!  Can you believe that?!  I don't know about you, but to us... that's a whole lotta love for teachers!  Let's take a look at these amazing prizes...

Who loves Scentos out there?  Teachers AND students love the fun-loving smell of all theScentos goodies out there!  Scentos gave markers and stickers to all of our attendees!  Isn't that amazing?!

Who doesn't want a precious {and FREE} bulletin board set to start off the new year?!  Creative Teaching Press sent bulletin board sets to every single person who came to our meet-up!  A couple of lucky teachers went home with a Creative Teaching Press gift card as well!

Erin Condren sent products that were hot off the press!  Have you seen their teacher postersteacher bundles, and teacher planners?  Erin Condren makes lesson planning such a beautiful thing!

Speaking of beautiful things... check out these too cute to boot Vera Bradley gift baskets! Vera's bags are PERFECT for teachers, moms, and well... anyone who loves pretty things :)

Now, we all know how stylish all you teachers are out there!  The Pampered Teacherdonated TWENTY Teacher Subscription boxes to our lovely attendees!  These boxes are designed to help teachers keep up-to-date with the latest trends and styles without any hassle!

If there is something that we know... it's that teachers LOVE getting new tech-goodies for their classroom!  So many times our schools, districts, and counties just don't have enough funds to outfit our classroom with the latest and greatest, but we sure are glad that oursponsors are willing to step up to the plate!  Hue HD gave 11 different doc cams!  Isn't that amazing?!

ESGI is all about helping teachers simplify giving meaningful assessments.  They were so generous to donate a GRADE-LEVEL license!  That's up to TEN teachers that get to use ESGIfor an entire year! Plus they even included a little gift basket of goodies!

Alive Studios' mission is simple: to equip teachers with engaging solutions that help young students become proficient in reading and math by 3rd grade.  But, wait.  By engaging, I am talkin' about AUGMENTED REALITY for the classroom.  Yep, 3-D learning.  I mean, who doesn't want to get on board with that?! 

Do you want your students to come to the carpet, line up, and transition in an organized and FUN manner?!  Sit Spots knows how important spatial management is for teachers!  That's why they sent FIVE $100 gift certificates to our meet-up!!

Now that we are talking about staying organized, let's focus on Seat Sacks!  THREE lucky winners went home with different Seat Sack Packs!  These teachers will now be able to have a classroom full of organized and tidy students!

Carson Dellosa has been in the business of making teachers happy for over 38 years!  If you have taught for any amount of time you have probably purchased their classroom resources, decor items, or supplemental materials!  Not only did they give cut-out accents to every attendee, they also donated three gift baskets

It's no secret that the Ron Clark Academy has been positively impacting education for several years now!  Well, now that our sweet Hope King and her precious hubby are teachers there, we are getting to see even more incredible things that are happening there!  Several bloggers have visited over the past year, and now TWO more teachers will get to plan a visit thanks to the generosity of Ron and Kim! If you can't get to their Academy right away, you many want to check out their newest books: Move Your Bus by Ron Clark, Crash Course by Kim Beaden, and Inside the Trenches by Adam Dovico.

Have you seen the Ellison All-Star machines?  These die-cutting machines are portable and easy to take on-the-go!  Ellison generously donated FIVE of their AllStar SuperStar Machines!  They also sent goodies for our swag bags... that every attendee was able to take home!

While we are on the subject of classroom goodies, let's talk about Teacher Created!  They donated THREE gift baskets showcasing their very own classroom decor materials!

Do you teach about butterfly life-cycles in your classroom??  If so, you MUST check out Insect Lore!  They are the original Butterflies-By-Mail company!  Everyone went home with a package of 3D insect stickers at our meet-up!

Kaplan provides developmentally-appropriate educational products to families, early education professionals, and classrooms! 


Looking to jazz up your laptop, phone, or tablet?  Skin It makes those devices that we are so addicted to even better than before!    

If you haven't heard of Kim Sutton's math materials, you must stop what you are doing and check them out NOW!  She brings the fun into your math instruction!!  Creative Mathematics generously gave a Staff Development DVD :)

Lakeshore Learning is no stranger to education, right?!   We all know and love their teacher-and-student-friendly products!  Their STEM kits were the perfect gifts for our winners!

Who doesn't love a pretty notepad, desk organizer, and cards?!  Well, we have all known that Krista Wallden brings her A-Game to clipart, but she's also knocking it out of the park with her new Creative Paper Collection!  Of course, we just adore her new designs that make scheduling and planning such a pretty thing!

OHHHH, and if you love adding personal touches to your classroom, home, and well, pretty much anything... you MUST check out Silhouette America!  You NEED this cutting system in your life!  Silhouette donated a Portrait and Cameo to our get-together!

Are you a blogger?!  Are you looking to start a blog OR revamp your blog-look??  Jumping Jax Designs offers printables, invitations, AND blog designs!  We can't wait to see the look that our winner and Jumping Jax comes up with!

And, finally, we all just swoon over 's educational products.  From teaching materials, classroom manipulatives, classroom decor, and management tools to all thingsorganizational... we just can't get enough!  Thanks to RGS for donating an entire Math Kit to our meet-up!

Things By Joyce

There are literally a thousand pictures that we took that night and it would be impossible to share them all with you. Here are just a few pictures of the night. 

(To see more pictures, please visit the What The Teacher Wants Facebook Page.)

As you can see, this turned out to be the biggest teacher and blogger bash of the century. Thanks again to all our generous sponsors who made the night possible and to all of you who were able to be there in person! 

The last shout of of the night goes out to all those who planned and organized this event over the past year. These girls reached out to all the sponsors and helped make the night such a success! (Not to mention they helped fill over 600 swag bags…)


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