June 28, 2012


I cannot believe it!  Teacher Idea Factory has officially passed the FIVE-OH-OH mark!  Well, technically speaking, it's oh-so close to that milestone at this exact moment, but I just can't contain myself any longer.  This little old blog of mine has been growing like a weed as of late and it's time to celebrate and THANK my dear followers with a FIVE-OH-OH MEGA GIVEAWAY.  
Thank you Hello Literacy, Goodness & Fun, and Wisteria Design Studios for the design support!
I pulled out all of the stops and asked many of my rockstar bloggy friends to help support the cause.  Check out this list . . . 

Jena is offering up her awesome Backyard BBQ Packet as well as
a blog package (custom header, background, blog button, and installation) valued at $25!

Teri is letting the winner choose one of her rockin' TPT packets/crafts!

Christina is sharing her cuter than cute fillable Class Grid Checklist as well as
your choice of any of her cool Flippy Books!

Ron is throwin' in two rockin' CDs of choice.

Laura has offered to let the winner choose one kickin' cool item of choice from her TPT shop!

Katie is also letting the winner choose one of her sensational items from her TPT shop.

From Lori you can win her awesome "Does Your Story Answer These Questions" poster set!

Susan has also left the choice up to the big winner . . . 
you get to select one of her UH-MAY-ZING TPT store items!

Jessica wanted the winner to be able to select his/her prize as well.  
One of her FANTASTIC TPT store items is up for grabs.

Finally . . . little old me!  
Well . . . I am going to let you choose any item your heart desires from my TPT store.

Now is that a crew . . . or is that a crew??  That's 10 different wonderful bloggers offering up a truck-load of mind-blowing items.  So, what say you? Won't you take a moment and enter using the Rafflecopter widget below??  I tried to make it super easy on you.  Remember . . . if you already follow any of these rockin' blogs or TPT stores you can still capture the entries!  Just go ahead and click on through :)

That's all for today my friends.  I am off to try and jump start my creative juices.  I have three unfinished projects being held hostage in my Mac right now. Thanks again to all of the ladies who jumped on board to support today's giveaway and to all of my wonderful followers.  Teacher Idea Factory just wouldn't be the same without you :)  See you soon my friends.

June 27, 2012


Those of you who know how I roll can probably imagine the look on my face when I saw a linky party centered around music in the classroom!  Well, let's just say that my heart skipped a beat and I knew that this was a linky that I had to be in on.  Thanks Amanda at Teaching Maddeness!

I use music with my students ALL the time.  It is such a powerful teaching tool. Not only is it ΓΌber brain compatible, but it also drives emotion . . . the essential ingredient to turning those short-term memories into long-term learning for our kiddos.  And, in addition to all of this technical stuff, music is just flat out fun!

Obviously, I have a favorite songwriter who makes up the majority of my MP3 action (more on this in a moment), but I do have a few others that I like to bump as well.  

No surprises here (well, if you follow me).  Ron is my dad and I love to use his stuff in my classroom.  My pops started out as a primary teacher and taught for  25 years before retiring early to focus on creating classroom music. With this said, he "gets it."  Because he worked as an educator, Ron knows what makes kids tick and what teachers want.  I know.  I know.  I may be a little biased, but take a listen.  His talent speaks for itself.  Unfortunately, I ended up with my mother's singing voice . . . YIKES!  

Here are a few samples of his tunes and a few videos that other teachers have put together.  In addition, Kim Sutton from Creative Mathematics uses Ron's music like crazy.  I have included a video of Kim so you can see some of the movements you can incorporate with his songs.

Pirate Sound - AR
Ron Brown's Intelli-Tunes
This is still one of my favorites - we break out the eyepatches.
Push PLAY to start and PAUSE to stop the sample.

Ron Brown's Intelli-TUnes
I am from Nor Cal (way NORTH) . . . I love me a hoedown :)
Push PLAY to start and PAUSE to stop the sample.

Visit Ron Brown's Intelli-Tunes today to load up on MP3s or CDs.  Also, if you liked the Number Eating Alligator Song, you can get it HERE FOR FREE :)

Yes, he is older than the hills, but I still dig this guy.  I especially like the Bean Bag Alphabet Rag.  We always play this game a TON at the beginning of the year - I personally love to "drop the bag and dance!"  This song is available on iTunes.

I only use this one song from Wayne, but it is one of my faves.  It cracks me up and the kids love to get down to the beat!  I looked forever for a video, but this is the only snippet I could find (it's a commercial - sorry).  Scroll in to about 1:15 . . . it's short (less than 30 seconds), but you can get the "flavor" of it. This song is also available on iTunes.

That's what I've got for you today my friends.  Be sure to check in with Amanda over at Teaching Maddeness for more classroom music inspiration.  Maybe you want to join in the fun too??  

**Check back tomorrow for a MEGA GIVEAWAY announcement . . . I am six away from celebrating 500 :)  So many wonderful bloggers have jumped in to support this!  I am one lucky lady . . . and speaking of lucky . . . someone will be very lucky indeed when Rafflecopter selects a BIG winner**

June 26, 2012


Okay, okay!!  So, I know it's Tuesday and I am flyin' with a Monday piece today (I swear I haven't gotten that far into summer mode yet).  However, in my defense, if you came for a little look-see yesterday, you may have noticed that I was guest bloggin' for my palsy-walsy, Katie King, over at Queen of the First Grade Jungle.  I thought about just skipping MOVE IT this week (I really like orderly things - except for my home office it seems), but I just started this series and couldn't pass it up.  So without getting us too much further away from Monday . . . here she be . . . in all her glory :)

Last week I highlighted a crazy game called, "She Just Ate An Eight."  Sticking with the whole number/math theme, I figured I would showcase another couple of number sense games that I played with my kinder kids during those first few weeks of school.

All of my kiddos knew what a three was coming in the door (except for one . . . poor baby), but this silly little game helped generate some excitement around counting and the follow-up handwriting practice that came with it.  It's all about "sellin' that sizzle" and gettin' those wiggles OUT!  And, I always heart it when everything fits with a theme :)

All you need for this ditty is a set of hula hoops, a grassy area, and a whistle.  **NOTE: Start with just enough hula hoops so that your entire class can fit three in each.  I don't know if that makes sense.  In other words, I started with 7 hoops because I had 20 kids . . . 7 hoops x 3 to a hoop = 21 total spots).**

Now you are ready to play.
  1. Scatter the hula hoops in your grassy playing area.
  2. Place your kiddos on a "starting line."
  3. On your whistle, the kids take off running towards the hoops.  The goal is to make your way into a hoop before they are full.  What makes it "full" you ask?  Well, three's a crowd!  So, once there are three kiddos in a hoop, no more students can join the group.  
  4. I started with enough hoops so everyone could make it into a circle "without missing the boat" during that first run.  However, after each "round" I took a hoop away.  I really front-loaded this with my babes before and during the activity.  It was the perfect time to talk about good sportsmanship, teamwork, and that "it's just a game." 
  5. I ended it with only two hoops left.  I didn't want them killing themselves trying to all cram into only one circle.  It was week two in KINDER for goodness sakes . . . I knew better :)
The grass/sidewalk served as the perfect "starting line."
And . . . they're off!
Notice that the girl in the purple is the 4th person in that front hoop.
The kids who made it into that hoop first actually pointed out another circle that she could make her way to.
 It was a win-win for everyone!
After we finished our game and got our drinks, the kids were able to sit still long enough to hammer out the three handwriting page that you see below.  I made it downloadable for you . . . just in case you wanted to snatch up a copy.

CLICK HERE to get a copy!
Thank you KPM Doodles and Hello Literacy for the design inspiration.

This game was rather dippy, but the kids loved it and I LOVED watching them do it.  Again, my goal is to ease that transition into paper-pencil work and knock some of those wiggles out of 'em in the process.  This one also helped the kids learn their classmates' names and faces!

To play this movement activity, you need boom-box (datin' myself a bit here) and an upbeat little tune (check back later this evening - I will have a free tune up for grabs).

When you are ready to roll with this one, here's how it works . . .

  1. Have everyone stand up behind their chairs and push them in.  When you start the music everyone moves safely around the room.  
  2. When you stop the music, everyone is to find a chair, sit, and put their heads down.  (The goal here is to switch up seats so that the kids cannot tell who is missing right away).
  3. While their heads are down, you go around and tap FOUR people to sneak out of the door and hide from the rest of the crew.  
  4. When everyone is tucked away outside, your class brings their heads up and tries to guess who is missing.  Each and every time I sold this like crazy . . . a big reveal as they guessed correctly and such.  They ate it up.  
  5. I played long enough so that everyone had a chance to be "out the door." They didn't realize that the last round should have been super easy . . . awwwww . . . how I heart kinders! 
They were giggling the whole time. 
They wanted so badly to be selected to go out the door.
Therefore, they were WAY on task during the "selection process."
You can bet I milked this one for all it was worth :)
Here's one of my sneaky foursomes!
I should have provided sunglasses . . . it was a bright one :)
When the game was over and they had wiggled enough to tap into that "focus" again, I followed up with the handwriting sheet below.    
CLICK HERE for a copy of this one!
Thank you KPM Doodles and Hello Literacy for the design inspiration.

I hope you enjoyed the second installment of Move-It Mondays. Next week I will be back with something for 1st-2nd graders.  On a final note today, I have a MEGA giveaway coming your way tomorrow or the next day in honor of hitting that 500 mark (I am so close).  A bunch of the "BIG DOGS" are teaming up with me to offer up a mind-blowing prize.  It's going to be UH-MAY-ZING, so stay tuned!  Thanks again for visiting and I'll see you tomorrow.

June 25, 2012


Hey friends.  I packed up and moved for the day :)  You can find me over at Katie King's pad today . . . you know, The Queen of the First Grade Jungle.  

My dear bloggy buddy is enjoying a long-overdue vacation and a handful of us are fillin' in for her while she is away.  I cannot tell you how honored I am to be a part of this.  So, please hop on over there to read my little old posty-post outlining why PHONICS IS FUN!  Lots of easy and free ideas up for grabs today.

I will be back tomorrow bright and early with my MOVE IT MONDAYS post (early as in Pacific time . . . just to clarify . . . I ain't gettin' up before Mr. Sun does).  I pushed this movement ditty back a day so I could help Katie kick off her week.   Thanks for visiting my dear friends.  Click either button to hop on over to my post :)

June 24, 2012


Hey y'all  . . . I am back from a wonderful weekend with my dear sweet hubby and our wonderful friends.  We hit up the BIG city on Friday night and truly did it up right.  Hotel Vitale, The Ferry Building, Market Street Bar, Bourbon & Branch, and Delarosa made for a magical evening.  
Gotta heart the Ferry Building!  It's a SF must :)
Hotel Vitale . . . definitely recommend this place!
This was the view from the roof-top lounge at Hotel Vitale.  Not too shabby if I do say so myself!
We kicked off our Saturday morning with a gluten-free cinnamon roll (I heart you SF) and a cup of Blue Bottle Coffee.  Then, we stuffed ourselves with my FAVORITE lunch at my all-time favorite spot - Yank Sing has the very best Dim Sum in the city (so not gluten-free . . . don't tell my dietitian).  Then, we traveled to Napa for a friend's evening birthday BBQ.  The indian food was absolutely amazing (we're talkin' homemade naan people) and the company was even better.  Our adventure ended with a big Settlers Of Catan late night bash in Sacramento with our dearest friends (yes, I am a huge dork . . . I heart this board game).  Boy, did we get around!

I almost went out on the corner with a sign ...
Guess who won?  It's all about brick, wood, and that longest road!
Now on to my reflections of the Daily 5 - Chapter 2 :).  My last post initiated some great comments on this and I learned a lot about this program, myself, and how I may be able to make D5 fit my personal style.  I am excited to chat it up about each of the foundations of the Daily Five - TRUST, CHOICE, COMMUNITY, URGENCY, STAMINA, and STAYING OUT OF THE WAY. 

As soon as I read this, I wrote in BIG RED MARKER, "This is the key to everything!"  I believe that from day one this is the essential ingredient to a successful school year.  As soon as they get in that door, you have to figure out a way to not only get your kiddos to trust you, but to also quickly learn to trust them.  If you take your time practicing behaviors and building stamina, while fostering relationships with your new children, this one typically falls right into place.  I have found that once you have earned trust, behaviors and work ethic are only an issue with a select few.

I do indeed offer up some choice in my classroom, but it does not fit the D5 model.  Children have the opportunity pick which activity to work on during their daily independent work.  However, all items must be completed by the end of the week.  The teacher (my district requires OG phonics instruction as well as other phonics activities), computer (my district requires 20 minutes of Lexia per day), and parent helper stations do not come with a choice.  

In addition, children get to choose what they want to do if they finish a station early.  I have a handful of rotating bins containing "I'm Done" choices.  I would like to offer up more choices during reading groups next year, but not exactly as the D5 model outlines (I just don't have the time in my day and it doesn't fit my style at this time) . . . however, I am willing and ready to squeeze in more choice.  Any ideas for me?  Maybe I could shake things up at the parent station.

My favorite thing about teaching is watching the "classroom family" form.  From about one month in through the rest of the year, a magical thing transpires.  If you've played your cards correctly, your crew is working together, helpin' each other, and lovin' one another.  I don't think that this stops here.  Community also encompasses the families as well.  When you can get your parents on board with this one too (i.e. attending functions, keeping open lines of communication, volunteering, supporting their children and the class as a whole), your "family" gets even stronger.

Why . . . why . . . why . . . WHY!!  If I say this enough maybe I will be able to remember to front load each and every one of my lessons (not just the reading ones) with the "why" we are doing this.  Again, I have gotten so much better over the years, but sometimes the pressure to "fit it all in" causes me to skip over this part from time to time.  Helping kids understand "why" you are having them do something, makes them buy-in more.  This, in turn, causes motivation, productivity, and overall behavior to improve.  The sister's nailed this one!

I talked about this in my last post.  You have to go slow!  I always start out the year with quick whole group activities and short reading centers.  As the year progresses, these get longer and longer.  Every school year is like training for a marathon.  Again, you gotta embrace the "What About Bob Baby Steps."  

**If you read my last post, you may have noticed that I blew this movie reference and couldn't fix it until today as I was out of town.  What a dork!  I am going to try this awesome joke again . . . hehehehe**

Over the years I have gotten better at this one.  My first year I often "blew up" my lessons or activities without even knowing it.  Have you experienced this? However, as I have been in the game a bit longer, I have come to realize that some of the best moments occur when you step back and let the kids go with the flow!  It is indeed all about letting go.  I am still perfecting this one :)

To read more thoughts on this chapter and/or to join in the fun, visit Teaching With Style and Seusstastic Classroom Inspirations or Cheryl over at Primary Graffiti.

Well . . . I am off to finish my thank you notes to my kids.  I decided to write to each child (whether or not they gave me a gift) a special note addressed just to them.  I am also throwing in a photo of them in action - one that I thought they would really like to have up in their rooms.  It cost a few extra bucks on my part, but if I can make this crew feel special just one more time, I am all about it :).  Thanks for visiting and I'll see you tomorrow!

June 21, 2012


I am joining the fantastic Cheryl, Anna, Lindsey, and Lory to discuss the Daily 5. My book finally arrived in the mail yesterday, so I am a little late in chiming in on this.  However, I quickly plowed through the first two chapters despite having to give some attention to the hubs when he got home from work last night. 


I felt like I was in college all over again. The little red pen was broken out of the top desk drawer and I was circling key words, underlining moving sentences, and jottin' notes all over the margins.  I must say that I am way hooked on a lot of the things the sisters are saying, but my controlling side most likely will not allow me to swallow the whole program.  Just being honest.  However, I do see great value in many of the elements that have been outlined thus far.  

What routines do I have in my current classroom?
I admit that I do indeed fall into the reading center "box," but I did notice that some of my stations incorporate the Daily 5 elements.  However, they are definitely teacher-directed not student-led.  My kids are grouped into four homogeneous groups and they rotate through the following stations - computers (Lexia), teacher (phonics readers, spelling, and Orton-Gillingham), independent (skills review game or word work) and folders (independent worksheets or writing).  I have been pretty happy with this thus far and with each passing year, I have found that I have eased up in the "busy work" department.  I put a lot of thought into the items that my kiddos do.  My thought is . . . I have to grade the darn thing so why in the world would I give them something that wastes their time and MINE?  Also, many of my centers are "learning disguised as play."  I know I've said this before, but it's just how I roll.  If I can make a couple of routine tasks novel or fun for a kiddo, I have done my job for the day.

I know I've shown this picture WAY back when, but just in case you missed it . . .
this is my kind of a reading center!
Post short u words around your room.
Give each kiddo in your center a clipboard, a game sheet, and a pair of glasses :)
It's a glorified word work sort at it's best!
CLICK HERE to get your hands on this template.
What routines do I want to have in my upcoming classroom?
My mind started racing when I read the part about training them slowly and building stamina.  I work at a top-performing school and the push from admin has been to go . . . go . . . GO . . . as soon as you get 'em in the door.  Over the past six years, I have slowed down a bit more (I just might be getting wiser in my old age . . . hahaha), but I am really hoping to spend ample time this year reviewing procedures.  I feel I do a good job in the "building stamina" department (and I earn their trust right off the bat . . . this is the KEY to EVERYTHING).  However, I fall in that middle category of, "I've reviewed how to do this twice, now do it."  This portion of the Daily 5 was a real eye-opener for me.  I know it sounds silly, but my guard come down a bit and I felt like I was "given permission" to take my time. Did anyone else feel this way?

I also want to build more choice into my reading centers.  However, my style does not fit the model of all kid choice and long rotation, meet, long rotation, meet . . . !  I just don't think this way.  However, I don't believe this set-up is the only way to "skin this D5 cat."  Still mulling this one over.  

Finally, I really want to work "read to someone" into the mix next year.  I remember being so nervous about reading in front of others as a kid.  My name would get called and I'd just about pee my pants in horror.  It doesn't have to be this way . . . and I think reading to someone on a daily basis will ease those "public reading" fears that may arise in students. MMMMMmmmm . . . now, just how to fit it in.  

What do I have to change to get there?
It's simple to pinpoint.  I am the thing that needs to change to get little old Room 13 ready to take on these elements of the Daily 5.  The keys for me are going to be: 

  1. Allowing myself to slow up a bit in the teaching procedures department
  2. Pre-planning during the summer
  3. Shaking things up by "thinking out of the box" 
  4. Letting go of those control reins just a bit :)

I know what I've just spewed is just an "What About Bob Baby Step" in the overall Daily 5 movement, but I am excited to try this.  Thanks so much for taking the time to read my rambles this evening.  Think about linking up if you haven't already!  I would love to hear your comments on this :).  And, if you aren't into joining officially, comments work just as well in the discussion process!

I will be back sooner rather than later, but most likely not until Sunday.  We are off to San Fran and Napa tomorrow for a little post-anniversary weekend getaway :)    

June 20, 2012


It's a miracle I tell ya!  I finally finished my watermelon-flavored Back To School Pack.  I have no idea what happened, but as the ever-popular Katie King would say, my "creative mojo" went missing.  It took me nearly two weeks to get 'er back, but I finally found it hiding in some dark and dingy corner.  Good grief!! So, without further ado . . . here she is in all her glory . . .

Make a watermelon number line for your classroom that very first day!

Slice of Me Flipbook (K-2 Versions Included) -
Get to know the kids and create an awesome "get to know you" bulletin board to boot.
The majority of the projects/activities in this packet have been levelized (i.e. multiple versions) to fit the needs of grades K-2.  I figured that since I had the template already made, I might as well change it up a bit to fit a broader spectrum.  Click over to TPT to see more details!  

Oh yeah . . . and I couldn't let the opportunity to include one of my dad's songs (Ron Brown's Intelli-Tunes) slip us by.  When I used this packet in my classroom last year, I wanted a little "simon says" ditty to help me check out my new kiddos' listening skills.  Hence, Mr. B wrote me the "Watermelon Game."  This one is a crack up and the kids LOVE it.  I always love to watch them freak out when they do something that the "farmer" did NOT tell them to do :)  This awesome tune comes free with the packet . . . or you can snag it alone for 99 cents HERE!

Watermelon Game Sample
**Press play to start and pause to stop**
Perfect for K-1 :)

I couldn't let you walk away without a watermelon-style freebie, now could I??!! If you haven't noticed, I am ALL ABOUT the freebie :).  Below you will find directions for my Super Seed Tea Party.  I love to do activities that get my kids interacting right off the bat.  This is a prime example.  Click on the link below to download the templates and the directions!

CLICK HERE for this freebie!
Thank you Goodness & Fun for the cute watermelon slices!

**CLICK HERE to get the free banjo ditty that goes with this game**

On a final note today, my super-awesome bloggy friend, Susan over at T.G.I.F (Thank God It's First) is hosting a 100 Follower Giveaway and I got to be involved (YAY!!).  She is giving away some fantastic items - you just gotta go check it out.  Click on her button to enter!  


The coolest part is that I get to meet Susan face to face in a few short weeks. We are both going to the Vegas Blogger Meet-Up!  I cannot wait to shake her hand . . . wait . . . who am I kidding?  I am going to plant a HUGE hug on this woman :).  Good times for sure.

Well, that's it my friends. I am off to finish up my Short O unit and a guest blogger post (wouldn't you like to know . . . hehehe). Thanks so much for visiting and I'll see you tomorrow. 

WAIT!!  The doorbell just rang and a little brown Amazon box appeared.  Good thing our anniversary was yesterday as my husband isn't going to be getting much attention for a while . . .


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