Monday, July 28, 2014

Make It Monday - Clipboard Cutie

I've seen a lot of cute clipboards on Etsy, but I just couldn't bring myself to pay for one!  So I decided it was finally time to try my hand at it!  I'm happy to say that it came out fairly well and it wasn't too hard or messy.  That being said, I have some tips on how your experience could be a lot less messy (and quite a bit easier) than mine!

To start, I just used a cruddy old clipboard I had lying around the room.  For a first time experience I figured it wouldn't matter.  It probably didn't, but if I were to do it over again, I'd be sure I picked a better clipboard.  My first choice would be one that had screws so I could remove the hardware and easily cover the whole board with scrapbook paper.  The board I had didn't have screws, it had pins.  I couldn't remove the hardware and had to work around it.  It made for a sometimes sticky mess.

Now if you can't find the ones with screws (or if they are too expensive) then I'd opt for the ones that have a clip that rests on the metal hardware itself and not on the actual board.  I later bought this clip board at Walmart for $1.37.  I think it will work much better for my next one!  When the clip rested on the board that was covered with Mod Podge, it stuck if you weren't careful!

Now that you have picked a much better clipboard than I did, gather the rest of your supplies.  I used the glossy Mod Podge, but I'm sure you could use the flat just as easily.  And I wouldn't use the glue substitute recipe you can find on Pinterest.  I tried that a couple of years ago on a different project and it didn't turn out very well.  It turned a yellowish color and the paper fell off within the year.  Spring for the real stuff, it's worth it and you can use it on TONS of projects.  Then just grab some scrapbook paper, ribbon or Washi tape, and a paint brush.  I even used a few scraps of my bulletin board border!  Now you may also want to grab a pair of scissors but I didn't use them.  I used a file instead.  I wanted a weathered, old feel to the piece.  But if you want it to look perfect, by all means, break out the scissors!

Then just coat the front of your board with a thick layer of Mod Podge and press your paper right onto the board.  Push from the center of the board outward to get rid of any air bubbles.  If you're using more than one piece of paper you may want to work in stages.  Then trim your edges.  I did this while it was still a little wet.  I used a file and just scraped the edges of the board until the paper came right off.  If you're using scissors, you may want to wait until your project is dry before trimming the excess paper.

After the paper dried, I applied another coat of Mod Podge, right on top of the paper, and allowed this to dry as well.  I applied 3 top coats in all and finished the front with a quick spray of the Mod Podge in a can to seal it well.  Then I flipped it over and did the same thing to the back.  Afterwards, I hot glued a flower into the metal hole on the clip to make it pretty, and it was done.

Front of board.
I have to say, it's more time consuming than my other projects with all the dry times, and it's probably the messiest project yet, but I'm making more, so it's not THAT bad!
Back of the board.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Berry Good Book Bags

I am so excited!  My guided reading book bags came this week!
Wait, let me back up...  So two years ago, when I really delved into the Daily 5, I found large canvas tote bags on clearance at Oriental Trading Company for $1 a bag.  My students used them that year to keep their Daily 5 materials handy during guided reading time.  They were large enough to hold their self-selected books for read-to-self and read-to-someone, as well as their writing and fluency folders,  a dictionary, and anything else they may have needed during that hour.
The only problem was that their chair backs are only 24 inches from the floor.  The large bags dragged on the floor, ripping and becoming a tripping hazard.  By the end of the year many of the bags were missing one or both of their handles.  So the following summer I scoured Pinterest for ideas for keeping the students' guided reading supplies handy.  I saw that many teachers were using empty cereal boxes for storage.  Being cheap, I thought that sounded like a viable option!  It wasn't.  I didn't have shelf storage for the boxes, so we tried keeping them beside/between their desks.  They kept falling over and getting kicked.  Then we tried keeping them inside their desks but they didn't hold up well.  Also, their folders didn't fit inside the boxes without bending and if they wanted to get something out of their boxes they ended up having to get EVERYTHING out of their boxes!  End result - we tossed these before making it halfway through the year.  So this summer I decided to see if there were any sturdy bags that were large enough for all of their supplies but that wouldn't drag on the floor!  I searched the internet for cheap canvas bags, but didn't find anything that was both large and inexpensive!  Then I found a Fourth of July sale on eBay.  There were reusable nylon shopping bags with handles that were incorporated into the bag instead of being sewn on separately and the dimensions seemed to fit what I was looking for.  They came ten in a pack, so I ordered three packs so I would have spares if I needed them.  I got all 30 bags for less than 20 bucks!  And the best part, they fold up into little strawberries!  So cute!
Coming from China, these took almost a month to make it here.  I'm glad I ordered them when I did.  Yesterday I took these bags up to my classroom to try them out.  Not only do they hold all of our supplies, they don't touch the floor when they are hanging on the student chairs!  I'm hoping I have a keeper here.  I'll have to let you know as the year goes on.  Here is the link to the bags on eBay.  They are no longer on sale, but are still only $1 a bag.  But if you think you want to try these, I suggest ordering soon!  I hope they are "berry" good bags for some "berry" good kids!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Tech Tip Tuesday - Glogster EDU

Yes Glog!  I Glogged before I Blogged!  In fact, making Glogs consumed my entire summer last year.  I made one for every one of my weekly reading stories, and a couple for other subjects as well. If you haven't seen, used, or made a Glog yet, you should.   This is what a basic Glog page looks like:

What is a Glog?  For me, it's a place where my students can independently work on skills they need and have all of the activities in one place, but there are many different uses for Glogs.  Students themselves can even make Glogs and turn them in as a culminating activity for a unit.  I haven't tried that yet, but I hope to this year.  For my reading Glogs, I have spelling, vocabulary, and skill practice, as well as relevant videos and games all on one site.  Some stories even have a link to hear the selection being read to them.  And on each of my reading Glogs there is an assignment students may choose to complete each week for extra credit.  The kids loved the Glogs last year.  Since I only had six computers, I used this as part of their Daily 5 activities.  By third grade, many of my students are fluent readers and do not need the Listen to Reading component every day.  Instead, some days they were able to get on the computers and work on the activities on the Glog independently.  If you can make a flipchart or a power point, making a Glog is basically the same idea.  Yes, it takes time to find the sites and graphics, but once it's done it can be used for years.  Plus, there are TONS of Glogs already out there that are public for everyone to use.  Just do a search and you may not need to recreate the wheel!  A GlogsterEDU subscription is free for educators and the Glogs you create are stored on your homepage.  Of course there are upgrades that cost money, but I haven't found a need for those yet.  Check out GlogsterEDU here.  And if you discover you're interested, Glogpedia is a good place to see all of the ways a Glog can be used.  Oh, and if you have any questions about starting your own, let me know.  I'd be glad to help.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Make It Monday - Ugly Bookcase Fix

Okay, so today's Make It Monday isn't much to talk about - but hey, it didn't cost much or take long either.  So I had this ugly old bookcase that I didn't have the heart to get rid of, AND... I kinda needed a bookcase for behind my guided reading table to store my Daily 5 supplies.  When I pulled the book baskets off of it, I noticed that at some point in its long, hard life, this poor bookcase had been written on with permanent marker.  I really didn't want to see the scribbles, and with the hubby deployed, moving it outside to paint it wasn't going to happen.  My mom suggested good old Mod Podge and wrapping paper, but I knew I'd drip on the carpet and get myself in trouble with the custodial staff.  Don't want to do that before school even starts - and in a new-to-me-building!
See the scribbles?

So I decided I could cover the back with Contact Paper without getting myself into too much trouble.  I searched eBay for polka dot paper and ALMOST decided to pay close to $20 for a roll!  I know, ME - 20 bucks!  Unheard of, right?  But I just couldn't bring myself to do it.  Then, while shopping with a friend at Big Lots, I stumbled upon the exact same polka dot Contact Paper for 2 bucks!  It wasn't an exact match to my room, but hey, 2 bucks is right up my alley!  So I measured the backs and carefully peeled and stuck the paper to the back.  Quick, easy, and yes, CHEAP fix for an ugly bookcase.  Sorry it's not more exciting, but here is the finished bookcase.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Tea Time - Poppy Seed Scones

While pondering the implementation of the PA Core this morning over my daily cup of tea (Cherry Almond from Tea Merchant 101 - sorry, I can't find any online ordering or website for them), I decided that weekends were tea times!  So I'm putting the PA Core dilemma on hold for the moment and sharing one of my favorite scone recipes - Poppy Seed Scones.   I've had many requests for this one, so here it is.  Oh, and don't Google cream of tartar substitutes.  Just go get some.  It does make a difference!

Poppy Seed Scones

Yield: 16-20 scones
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Bake 13-15 minutes

1 1/2 cups flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup COLD salted butter, cut into pieces
1 tablespoon poppy seeds
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon cold heavy whipping cream, divided
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

* Preheat oven to 350°.
* Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
* In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, cream of tartar, and salt, whisking to blend.  Using a pastry blender, cut butter into flour mixture until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  Add poppy seeds and stir to combine.
* In a liquid measuring cup, combine 1/2 cup cream and vanilla extract.  Add to flour mixture, stirring until mixture comes together.  (If the dough seems too dry, add more cream, 1 tablespoon at a time, until dough is uniformly moist.)  Work with hands until dough forms.
* Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface, and knead 3 to 4 times.  Using a rolling pin, roll dough to 1/2 inch thickness.  Using a pizza cutter or cookie cutters, cut scones from dough.  Place scones 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheet.  Brush tops of scones with remaining 1 tablespoon of cream.
* Bake until edges of scones are golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 13-15 minutes.

I use an adorable teapot shaped cookie cutter I received from one of my students.  But I've also formed the dough into 2 balls and flattened them into circles.  Then just used a pizza cutter to cut each circle into 8 wedges.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Tech Tip Tuesday - Save Videos to Your Computer

How many times have you pinned a cute brain break video on Pinterest, or found a video on YouTube that would be awesome with your curriculum, but then it just sits there as a pin...  Finding cool things on Pinterest and actually using them are 2 totally different things.  And if you're like me, you have mountains of pins you've been meaning to use, but haven't gotten around to it yet.  This tutorial will help with all of those cool videos you've found.  Once you download the videos to your computer you can embed them into Power Points, Flipcharts, Glogs, or just keep them in a folder on your computer so you can access them anytime you want WITHOUT the internet!  That's right.  No buffering, no ads, and no waiting for them to download.  They'll always be right at your fingertips.  And it's super easy.  I know...  I always say that!  But it is!
First, find a video you'd like to save.  This works best on YouTube.  Copy the URL address at the top of your screen.
Then open a new tab for  This is a free site that allows you to download and store videos on your computer.  Paste the copied YouTube URL into the box on this page that says, "Enter the link of the video you'd like to download."  Then ignore the BIG blue and green buttons!  They are advertisements.  Click the boring grey download button.  This may take awhile, and if prompted, go ahead and click Run.  A whole bunch of download choices will appear.  You want MP4.  There may be a few of these as well.  Click Max 480p or 720p.  Either one is fine.
Now depending on which browser you're in, you may get a couple of different choices.  If you're in Chrome, it will probably just automatically download your video to your Downloads folder on your computer.  I'd move it from there to a folder on your desktop for easier access, but that's up to you.  And if you don't know where you're Download folder is, that's okay!  It's right here, under your computer button.
You can find your video in that folder.
If you're using Explorer, you may get a prompt in the lower right-hand corner of your screen when you start your MP4 download.  Like this:
I like to use Explorer to download videos because of this pop-up.  It allows me to choose where I want to save my video.  Click that little arrow beside the Save button and a couple of options will show up in the drop down menu.

Choose Save As and you will be able to save your video anywhere on your computer.  Personally, I have a folder on my desktop labeled Graphics.  Inside that folder I have all my graphics and videos stored inside folders broken down by subject, then theme, and then individual story or concept.  This way I know where everything is when I go to make a flipchart for the Promethean board or a Glog.  
That's it.  Now you can watch your video anytime you want - without internet access.  And it will always be there.  If you'd like to learn how to embed these videos into your Promethean board flipcharts, Power Points, Glogs, or other applications, let me know.  I'll do another tip on that.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Make It Monday - Bathroom Pass

So I pinned this idea of making bathroom passes out of hand sanitizer WAY back when, and decided it was time to go through my pins and actually make them instead of just pinning them!  This idea originally came from the blog Third Grade Thoughts.  She has a free download on this link for a simple printable label for hand sanitizer, but I didn't care for it much.  Then she reposted and had much cuter bottles, but this time she used her Cameo Silhouette machine and vinyl.  I checked this out on Amazon, and if you have an extra $269.98 sitting around, go for it!  You can order the machine  here on Amazon.  I, however, am CHEAP!  So I spent a whopping $2.98 on stickers at Michael's that pretty much went with the Dots on Chocolate theme in my room.  I know, big spender.  I then dug out 2 matching hand sanitizer bottles that had been donated to my room last year and hadn't yet been used.  Unfortunately, I forgot to snap a picture of those exact bottles, so you're seeing a bigger refill bottle in the supplies picture.
I then doused both bottles with a good amount of Goo Gone - a staple in our house - to get rid of the labels.  If you don't have this stuff, get it!  You can find it at Walmart or Target in with the cleaning supplies.  It's about $3 a bottle and great for getting sticky residue off of just about anything.  We have both the spray on and the squeeze type.  For this project I used the spray on version and then just walked away.  I let it sit for at least 15 minutes.  When I came back I pulled the sticker label off as best as I could, and then added more Goo Gone and walked away again.  Depending on the label, you might need to do this multiple times.  And yes, I did smell of oranges most of the day, but it could be worse...  When the front and back stickers were gone I washed the bottles with soap and water and even rubbed them down with a little bit of the sanitizer to get rid of the residue from both the labels and the Goo Gone.  I wanted to make sure my new stickers would stick.
Now speaking of stickers, do NOT get the paper kind.  I'm thinking those won't hold up.  Purchase the plasticky, vinylly kind that there is probably a word for, but I don't know it, so I make up my own words.  Spell check hates me!  Then all I did was layer my stickers to say 'boys' and 'girls' and added a couple extra stickers that came in the pack!  I'm going to have these beauties sitting by my clip board (which I hope to decorate soon) so that the kiddos can sign out and place the bottle on their desk.  That way I can easily see who's out of the room and hopefully they'll use it before putting it back!  Side note - I have my kids sign in and out with times and elapsed time.  That way they practice telling time to the minute and figuring out elapsed time AND it cuts down on unnecessary bathroom trips since it's got a little work attached to it!  I'm sneaky like that!  That's it, but if you have something you'd like to see on Make It Monday, let me know.  I'm always up for suggestions, and I'll do it as cheaply as possible!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Shake It Up!

Okay...  So 2 years ago, I tried to make these discovery bottles I came across on Tunstall's Teaching Tidbits, a wonderful blog with awesome ideas.  So I drained some water bottles and went to town.  I made them ALL!  I wanted to use them the first week of school to introduce my students to the idea of science being a discovery.  Well, as noted in the blog, the Vitamin Water-type bottles may have been a better idea.  I went to all that work, and my cheap, flimsy water bottles weren't very attractive after the first day!  They were filled with dents, wouldn't sit up straight, and I found out the kids enjoyed making them crack and pop more than discovering the explorations inside of them.  So I gave up and pitched them all in the trash!
That same year, my husband bought me a Find It! Beach-themed bottle for Christmas.  I took it to school and the kiddos loved shaking that one around to find the hidden beach items, but I'm not sure how much they were getting out of it educationally.
That brings me to this summer.  My son and I were at the grocery store when he asked for Cuties Juice.  If you haven't tried this stuff, it's delightful!  100% pure Cuties Juice - you know, those little, baby-sized tangerines that are easy to peel, but this is squeezed!  So we bought it and he drank it all in a couple of days.  Now it's empty, but I can't bring myself to throw out the adorable bottle it came in.  Now don't call "Hoarders," I don't think I have a REAL problem.  I know this is another garbage post, but bare with me...  I'm pretty sure all teachers have a little hoarder in them.  It's like our little gift, we see the potential in a piece of trash.  So I'm holding the bottle and wondering what I can do with it, when the discovery bottles come back to me.  But I'm in my guided reading mode at the moment, so I see word work bottles when I look at this gem.  I could fill these with synonyms, antonyms, idioms, you name it!  The possibilities seem endless and the bottle seems to be glowing!  But what to fill it with?  I think back to Beach bottle which is filled with little pieces of plastic.  Hmm...  Beads?  Too expensive.  Those Perler beads the kids melt together?  Still too expensive.  It's a big bottle.  Sparkly pom poms?  Probably would work, but I don't have any on hand here at my house, and I'm one of those
Rice drying on my patio
people who want it done NOW!  So I quickly peruse my pantry.  My eyes land on the rice.  It's cheap.  It's the right size, but it's boring.  So I grab my egg coloring supplies and get to work.  Seriously, once I got the plan in my head, it all fell together in less than 15 minutes - start to finish.  And I love how they turned out!  I grabbed 3 quart zip top bags, some neon food coloring, vinegar, and my rice.  Pour 2-3 tablespoons of vinegar into a bag.  Add 20-25 drops of food coloring to the vinegar and dump in enough rice to almost fill the bag.  Smoosh it all around until it's evenly colored and pour it out on a wax paper-lined cookie sheet.  I let it dry over night and then just squished it around to separate
Close up of rice
the grains in the morning.  And it looks great!  I filled the bottle with 1 half of each pair of synonyms and put the other half on an answer sheet for the kids to match them to.  I plan on making tons more of these as soon as I drink more juice!  And this is so adaptable to any subject/grade level.  Kindergarten/first could match upper and lower case letters, find sight/picture words, or match numerals to pictures.  Math could match equations to word problems, equivalent fractions, you name it!  Right now my mind is like that Energizer Bunny!  It keeps going, and going, and going...  You get the picture.  So go drink some juice and save your bottles, because as educators, we know that all garbage has potential.

Get your Synonym Shake Up download here.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Room Inspirations

Sorry this post is so late, but I had SO much fun today helping 2 of my colleagues find new color schemes for their rooms!  Honestly, it was the most fun I've had in ages!  One of my friends knew she wanted to use teal or aqua, but that was all she was sure of!  My other friend knew she wanted to use Dr. Seuss in her Learning Support classroom.  Knowing these two things, we headed to Hobby Lobby.  My favorite place to go for inspiration!

For the teal/aqua room, we had many options to choose from; from bright hot pinks and teal, to owl themes, to calming tones of grey, yellow, and aqua.  We finally decided to use the calming combination of grey, aqua. and yellow.  We picked out material for curtains and crate seats, as well as ribbon.  Then I came home and searched through my new catalogs until I found matching alphabet letters and bulletin board borders.  I LOVE the results.
 Fabric and ribbon from Hobby Lobby.

 Border and Letters from Teacher Created Resources.

For the Dr. Seuss room, I knew we had to use red and white, so I was texting pictures back and forth to my friend to get her opinion on fabrics.  She went rather bold and picked this floral, polka dot, and chevron combination.  I think it will work well with the Dr. Seuss borders and bulletin board sets we already had for her room plus I found an adorable double-sided border for her that combined the red and white polka dots and the teal and red chevron.

 Fabric from Hobby Lobby and bulletin board set we already had.
Border from Teacher Created Resources

As we work on the rooms, I'll continue to post pictures.  So what do you think?  What inspires you?  Do you have a favorite character or color that could get your decorating juices flowing?  Let me know your thoughts.

PS  I am not affiliated with any of these companies.  They have no clue I'm mentioning them in this post.  I get NO money or other benefits from this post.  I just liked the items and thought I'd share!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Tech Tip Tuesday: Automatic Music Transitions

If you're like me, when you're teaching, you lose track of time!  You're all excited about the topic and pretty soon hands are waving in the air and students are telling you that they're late for lunch, recess, special, dismissal, whatever!  Then you're all racing around and pretty soon the lunch ladies are mad at you!  Well, that was me, anyway...  I can fix that for you!  Program your computer to automatically play transition music for you!  I have mine set up to play different songs for different transitions every day.  It's one of the best tricks I've ever learned!  My schedule looked like this last year:

Go to the gathering spot at 8:20 - Good Morning by Mandisa and TobyMac
Guided Reading Transitions at 8:45, 9:00, and 9:15 - I Like to Move It (from Madagascar, but I only use a 17 second ring tone for these transitions)
Unified arts time (my prep!) at 9:30 - Ain't Got Rhythm from Phineas and Ferb
Lunch at 11:20 - Peanut Butter Jelly Time by Chip-Man and the Buckwheat Boys
Recess at 12:15 - The Best Day Ever from Spongebob
Dismissal at 2:40 - Return to Pooh Corner by Kenny Loggins

My kiddos know exactly what each song represents and line-up or move accordingly!  I don't even have to look at a clock - and neither do they!  It's a lifesaver!  So let's get you started.

First, download your tracks and make sure you know where you saved them.  I made a folder on my desk top I called "Class Songs."  Crazy, huh?   I got most of my songs from iTunes and the ringtones (for shorter transitions) from Zedge.  It's a free site.

If you want to see the images in this tutorial larger, just click on them.  Then click your browser's back arrow to get back to the tutorial.

Once you have your songs, open your computer's Control Panel.  (It's under your Start button.)  Then open Administrative Tools.
Once you're in your Administrative Tools folder, open Task Scheduler.
Click Create Task in the right-side window.
You'll see a new window with some tabs at the top.  Start with the General Tab.  Name it something you will be able to identify it by - Morning Routine, GR Break 1, Recess, Dismissal, whatever.
Don't click OK yet!
Open the Trigger tab at the top of the window. and click New at the bottom of the screen.
A new window will open up.  Click Weekly, and click in the boxes of the days you'd like the music to play.  Pick your Start Date and the Time you'd like it to run.  Then click OK.
Open the Actions tab from the top of the window.  Click New.  
Open Browse and find the song in your desk top folder that you want to play for this activity.  Open it and click OK.
1 last step before you click that final OK.  Open the Conditions tab at the top of the window and make sure the first 2 boxes under the heading Power are checked.  I do this so it's easy for me if there are days I don't want the music to play, like state testing days.  If you don't want the music to play, just unplug the power source from your computer.  And that's it!  You'll need to follow these steps for each transition you'd like to program, but it's easy to do!
If you ever want to change a song or time, just go back to your Task Scheduler and click Task Library on the left-hand side.  It will show all of your tasks.  Click on the task and you can edit it.
Hope this helps you as much as it has me!  Enjoy!