Sunday, January 18, 2015


Warning!  There is nothing fancy about this blog post.  There are no links listed and nothing here will WOW you.  I'm blogging now about my own experience two weeks ago when I taught similes and metaphors.

In the past, I have taught similes and metaphors as two different ways to compare.  Although I introduce them together, I would generally teach similes (an easier skill, IMO) and then I would move to metaphors.  Well, two weeks ago, I decided I would teach them as the same skill.  I mean, after all, they are used for the same reason, right?  

So I created a T-chart on the board.  "Simile" titled the left column, and "metaphor" titled the second column.  We first gave each of them the same definition: the comparison of two unlike things.  We wrote that definition under each column.  We focused on the fact that they both have the same function.  Then I asked my students this important question:

If they are both the same, why are there two kinds?

And that's when I entered the key words "like" or "as" under the simile column.  We discussed how similes have those key words inside of a comparison sentence.  

Then we used this example of a simile: My sisters is a sweet as an angel.
It's not earth-shattering.  It doesn't dig down in to the depths of great novelists.  It just is a plain simile.  And with this plain simile, my students were able to identify what/who was being compared, and they identified the key word AS.  

Next, instead of giving an example of a metaphor, we took the simile above and we changed it in to a metaphor.  Because we know that a metaphor has the same function, this was a simple task of rewriting the comparison without using like or as.  And in a flash, we got this metaphor: My little sister is a perfect angel.  Yes, we added some words.  We did that to make sure our new metaphor made sure that the reader understood the meaning of the comparison.  

We did a few more of these together.  And each time we created a simile, we identified WHY it was a simile, and then we changed that simile in to a metaphor that made the same comparison.  

Each morning of last week, I had my students write a simile comparing two unlike things in their morning warm up.  Then, I had them convert them in to a metaphor.  Did all students write perfect metaphors?  No.  But, for a new skill, most of my 4th graders have really grasped the idea.  

And I think it all has to do with my different approach....

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Supporting small businesses

This is not teaching related, but I had to post it now that we are approaching the holiday season(s).  I fully intend to support small businesses as much as possible.  Many people think that shopping at a small business causes a price increase for what you're buying.  This isn't always the case, and you should definitely shop around, but think of the immediate impact you have when you do this.

If you do not live near small businesses, consider online places like  Many artisans on etsy are able to create amazing items that would make awesome and one-of-a-kind gifts for friends and family.

Example:  I was thinking about the upcoming cold weather (I have random thoughts all the time).  I was trying to figure out if I needed to think about buying a new pair of gloves that allow me to wear my wedding band and engagement ring without it getting stuck to the weave.  Then I started to think about an alternate ring that I could wear that didn't stick up like my engagement ring.

I ended up wanting a ring made with my husband's signature.  His signature is certainly "special" and I even cringe when he signs his name because I do teach cursive.  I went to etsy and searched for "signature rings" which yielded many affordable results.  I ended up going with a store called SilverHandwriting and all I had to do was have my husband write his name, take a photo of it with my phone and upload it to etsy.  Then when the shop owner said she could do it, I spent a mere $30ish and a week later I have an awesome ring!

It went from this:

To this:

Now I want signature jewelry for everything!  :)

Thursday, September 4, 2014

2014: Setting up Word Work and Writing Activities

This year we will use Journeys for our Literacy instruction.  Although we will use a basal, I am going to try to create a schedule that runs like a reading workshop.  During the time that I work with students, some of my students will work on word work activities and an interactive writing center (created by Jody Udovich, which is Uh-mazing).   My word work centers are housed in plastic drawers and the writing center is housed in a file box.  (see photo)  There are more photos of my new classroom HERE.

I've posted about my word work centers before.  Some of them are the same as before, while I've added others.

 This particular word work activity has two drawers (so enough for two kids) and a record sheet.  Students will take the entire drawer (either #1 or #2) AND a record sheet to their seat.

You can download my word work instruction sheets and record sheets HERE.
 Above: All items for the activity are inside the drawer.  Below: Under the materials, I have laminated and hot-glued instruction sheets so students can be as independent as possible at this time.
 If an activity has a record sheet, they are located in the third drawer.  If the activity does not have a record sheet, there are just three drawers of the same activity.

Here is a list of the word work activities my students will have access to:

4th Grade -
1.  Cursive Vocabulary - Students will use skinny dry erase markers on a personal wipe board to practice writing word wall words in their best cursive.
2.  Vocabulary Clips - Students will match clothespins (with vocabulary words written on each one) to definitions on sentences with context.  I think I will use Social Studies words for this activity.  I haven't yet decided and, therefore, my clothespins are currently blank.
3.  Stencil Spelling - Students will spell their current spelling words with stencils I picked up at the local teacher store.
4.  Bottle Cap Spelling - Long ago, I saved water bottle caps from many cases of water.  When I had enough, I wrote a letter on each one.  Students will use these caps to spell out their longest spelling word for the week with the bottle caps, then then they will spell smaller words with those same letters and record their work on a record sheet.
5.  Letter Cards - Students will use letter cards to spell out their weekly spelling words and take a picture of the finished product.
6.  Sight Word Test - Students will test teach other on their quick reading of Dolch and Fry sight words.  If they miss one, they write it down on a record sheet.  They are no penalized for missing a word, but this will give me an instant list of words they need more practice with.
7.  Letter Card Fun - Students will mix spelling with math using my Letter Card Fun center.  Since this activity is geared toward younger students, I only used a portion of it for my older kids.
8.  PA Counties - Students will identify the counties of Pennsylvania on a map.  This is a tricky thing to do from memory, but I think it will be good practice (and it ties in to their 4th grade Social Studies).
9.  PA Cities - same as above but they will identify PA cities.
10.  PA Rivers - same as above but they will identify PA rivers.

5th Grade -
1.  Cursive Vocabulary - Students will use skinny dry erase markers on a personal wipe board to practice writing word wall words in their best cursive.
2.  Mystery Words - I have letter cards in an envelope.  Each envelope houses only the letters needed to spell one longer mystery word.  Students manipulate these cards to figure out the mystery word, but to also spell out smaller words.
3.  Rainbow Words - This is an oldie, but a goodie.  Students will write this week's spelling words using alternating colors of the rainbow.
4.  Vocabulary Water Art - Students will write this week's vocabulary words on a coffee filter in any design they like.  They will turn it in DRY, but once I give them credit for doing the assignment, they will be allowed to add droplets of water to it to create coffee filter water color art.
5.  Magnetic Sentences - I bought these magnets from Lakeshore.  Students will create sentences and then identify parts of speech.
6.  Letter Stampers - Students will use alphabet stampers to spell out their weekly spelling words.
6.  Sight Word Test - Students will test teach other on their quick reading of Dolch and Fry sight words.  If they miss one, they write it down on a record sheet.  They are no penalized for missing a word, but this will give me an instant list of words they need more practice with.
8.  US States - Students will identify the US States on a map.
9.  US Capitals - same as above but they will identify US capital cities.
10.  US Rivers - same as above but they will identify major US rivers.

Hope this gives someone some good ideas!

2014: New Year / New Grade Level(s) - PHOTOS

I have decided that I'm not the best blogger around.  In fact, I often forget to blog and then wonder if it's been too late since my last entry.  Well, I'm about to start a new year in a new classroom with a new grade level (4th/5th Literacy/Social Studies).  So, I figured it's okay to make a post even though it's been a LONG time since my last post.

First, here are some "before" pictures of my classroom.  I teach in a 100 year old building, which can be terrible and awesome at the same time.  The ceiling heights are great, the woodwork is beautiful, the coat closets are large...There is no elevator, there is no air conditioning, the heater has two settings: off and sizzling.

(If you click on the first photo, you will be brought to a 
screen where you can flip through the photos in a larger view)

Here are my after pictures.  We were allowed to paint our classrooms this year.  I have an affinity for turquoise, so I found a sea blue color that isn't too bright, but definitely cheers up the space.

You can read about my word work activities HERE.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Classroom Pictures Pinterest Board

Just a quick note that I've been busy pinning classroom pictures on a Pinterest board.  If your classroom isn't pinned, please let me know and I will add it.  

Click here!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Christmas Tree Hacks

Am I using the term "hacks" correctly?  I try not to use new words if I'm not sure, but my post today is a little more than "DIY fun". 

Last year I went to bed early one night.  I fell asleep and my husband screamed ad yelled for me, called me on my cell phone when I didn't answer, and sent me multiple text messages of "help!" I came running to imagine the worst.  There he was, on the floor and I panicked.  But, like the pain he can be, the reality was he was watering the Christmas tree and he ran out of water.  :/

Here is how I prevented that from ever happening again.  I created a tree watering tube. 

I went to Lowes or Home Depot for 4 feet of tube.  They cut it from a giant spool of tube for you right there.  I made sure to find a tube that was wide enough to insert a funnel in to one end.  Then, I raided the baking drawer in the kitchen for a small funnel. 

Although the end of the funnel fit pretty well in to the tube, I secured it with a little duct tape just to be sure. 

I placed the funnel near where I wanted to water the tree, and inserted the tube between branches, securing the tube to the trunk every few inches with some simple zip ties.  Then, I made sure the tube sat below the top edge of the tree base.  Now, we just fill a cup of water and pour it right in to the funnel. 

My next "hack" has to do with my obsessive urge to make sure things match.  Last week, we set up the tree with our rustic ornaments.  Since last Christmas, though, I finished painting and decorating our living area and the colors are on the creamy/aqua scheme of things.  So, the rustic looked really out of place.  Since we recently set up a family room in the basement, we figured we could set up our fake tree with the rustic ornaments there. 

Then, I went on a mission to find ornaments that would work better with my color scheme and found this picture on Pinterest.  (Here is the website from the pin.)

I LOVE this look. I had to have this color scheme!  Although, I was disappointed when I went to the store to find that most white bauble ornaments were a matte finish and cheap looking.  I ended up at Michaels and bought clear glass ornaments to coat with white and gold paint.  Here are the results:

A few tips, if you want to try this.  You'll need patience.  I sometimes lack this.  Fill the ornament with the color paint you'd like and shake it around.  Empty the leftover paint back in the bottle and sit the ornament upside down to dry and empty for at least 2 days.  I did not do this second part and one week later, I had some  many sad ornaments that needed another shake and dry. 

I didn't have any plastic cups, so I used a shipping box and a box cutter, cut an X and poked the top of the ornament through to hang upside down. 

Here you can see many of my ornaments had extra paint in them.  LOL
Now that I have my ornaments, I needed a garland.  I used red wooden cranberry garland on the rustic tree, which I love because it was simple.  I've looked all over for a simplistic garland to add to my new color scheme.  Found. Absolutely. Nothing.  Why must everything Christmas-y be covered in glitter?  
So I went back to the craft store and bought some cream-colored ribbon to string on a thread.  Here's how my garland turned out:

Happy Holidays!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Leaving schoolwork at school...

Back in March I posted a blog about managing my time throughout the week to make sure I didn't bring any work home over the weekend.  I'm back to report that IT IS WORKING GREAT!  As a matter of fact, I donated my teacher bag and I only bring my lunch box to work each day. 

There is only one exception: Thursday nights.  Thursday nights I bring home anything I may need to complete lesson plans for the following week.  This is usually minimal because I make sure I have a copy of the novel we are reading at home, and many of my other documents are accessible by email.

I'm not saying that I don't ever do work...I mean, sometimes I enjoy creating something fun and new for my classroom, but I don't bring work home (aside from one night of lesson planning). 

Here's how I do it:

1.  I stay after school until 4:30-5:00 each night.  Everyone once in awhile I leave a little earlier, but there are nights when I stay until 5:30.  It all evens out.  During this time I grade papers, make copies, make parent phone calls, send emails, etc.

2.  I immediately enter grades into the online grade book.  If I have to grade an assignment that takes awhile (like essays), I make immediate note of who did not turn in an assignment, and I add the zero in the grade book so kids and parents can see that something is missing.  Then, I am able to grade the papers as the week goes on, and enter the rest of the grades when they are done.  Because I teach three sections of Literacy and have to deal with a LOT of essays, I spend good time with my students doing individual conferences.  This time is valuable to them, but it also familiarizes me with their essay.  So, when it comes time for me to grade the published essay, I've already read their rough draft and reading the published draft goes a lot faster. 

3.  I only make copies after school.  I do this for good reason:  If my teacher friends who share the same machine have time during the school day to make copies, the machine is almost always free after school.    

4.  I don't leave a mess.  I straighten up the main areas of my classroom.  Then, at least once per week I try to straighten up a zone.  I have a table near the entrance to my closet that ends up catching the stuff I move around throughout the week.  I cleaned this table off on Friday and it felt great.  Next week, I hope to remove anything from my closet that I don't need anymore.  I'll let you know how that goes. 

A Little Vignette, if you will:

Three weeks ago, I stared my guided reading lesson plans.  15 different groups at many different levels.  I had 15 different books with 15 different plans.  I worked my tail off making sure I had a rough outline of each of these lessons.  The only thing I had to do was type them up and write up my shared reading plans.  But, I left them at school and didn't realize it until I was at my car and locked out of school.  I sent a quick email to my principal to let her know I left them there, and my normal Thursday night lesson plan email was postponed until I could get back in and have time to type them all up.  Well, I took it all home with me that next day...a Friday...a day when I'm not supposed to bring work home.  But, I had to make up for my mistake.  From the moment I put that stack of lesson plan papers in my car, the GUILT that I have unfinished work to do hit me like crazy.  I can still feel the sweating and shaking like it was yesterday.  I knew that if I didn't do those plans until Sunday, that my entire weekend would be spent with that pile of work staring at me because it was unfinished. 


Do you have any tips that help you stay organized and on top of your paperwork?