Therapeutic Thursday!

Wow, it’s been a busy week. I am currently helping with my church’s summer drama program and of course the 4 performances happen to be this week. I have been going into my classroom around 9 or 9:30 (or earlier!) and not getting home until 9 or 10 at night! Man, I’m definitely CRASHING on Sunday!! My kiddos don’t come until Wednesday so thank goodness I have an extra two days next week 🙂

I have been slowly making progress in my classroom – yay! In order to gain some more wall space, I used the back of two bookcases pushed together – covered them with paper, added a border, and now I have a new “bulletin board”. Thanks to Pinterest for that idea! Unfortunately our big laminator has been out of commission for a week or so, which means I will have even more to do once it’s back up and running, but I have found plenty of stuff to do in the meantime of course!

So today is Therapeutic Thursday…and I could use a good dose of “therapy” tonight!! I got into my classroom around 8:30, had a meeting this morning from 9-12, then worked in my classroom until 3:30. I then had to run to church for a dress rehearsal/cast dinner, and finally had coffee with a friend who was visiting from out of town – and here I am, home at 10:30! But I couldn’t go to bed without adding my post for the day 🙂

When I get home from a long and exhausting day of work, here’s what I like to do. First thing I do is change into comfy clothes, like my sorority sweatpants or comfy shorts.

Next I check personal email, Facebook, and Google Reader, where I catch up on all of my favorite teacher blogs 🙂

Then, when the hubby gets home, we either make dinner or go out to eat, and spend the rest of the evening together!


I love to watch TV to unwind in the evenings. We don’t have cable – our antenna serves us well 🙂 My favorite “guilty pleasure” shows are Revenge, The Bachelor/Bachelorette/Bachelor Pad, and Glee. I also love Once Upon a Time, Modern Family, and Parks and Recreation. I watch Master Chef, Bunheads, The Glee Project, and a few other shows on Hulu. Love that site!


I play volleyball every Tuesday night at a local church, which is a great way to unwind and get out all of that pent up frustration after a bad day!

Finally, I love to spend 15-30 minutes reading in bed before I actually go to sleep. This is one of the most relaxing parts of my day 🙂 Right now I am reading through Lemony Snicket’s “A Series of Unfortunate Events” – my students love love LOVED this series last year, so I decided to see what all of the hype was about. They are great books!! I am on #10 and look forward to reading a little more every night 🙂

So that’s how I like to relax after a long day at work. Thanks for stopping by; see you tomorrow for Freebie Friday!!

Where I Teach Wednesday!

Linking up with Blog Hoppin’ again today for Day 3 of Teacher Week! Thanks for visiting!

Well, there’s good news and bad news for today’s post. The bad news is that my classroom is nowhere NEAR done since they just finished waxing the floors yesterday. The good news is that my kiddos don’t come for another week!! Thank goodness!

So since I can’t really show you too many pictures yet, plan to come back in the next week or so for a finished classroom tour! But for now, these will have to do:

This is my Pinterest-inspired Writer’s Workshop pencil that allows me to quickly see where each student is in the writing process.

My essential questions for September are posted near the door to my classroom. We post new questions every month!

Welcome to 5th Grade!

The bulletin board for my first unit, all about God’s Great Universe

This is the view of my classroom from the door. Yeah, not so pretty right now!

I love how big my classroom is, especially compared to a few others in our school! There are also tons of windows (there are two more off to the right of the picture!) which is both good and bad – the room is so bright and cheery when it is sunny, but that sun sure gets hot. It also makes it difficult to see the projector screen because of the glare. I also wish I had more wall space. I have so much more that I’d like to hang up but 2 of my walls are windows and a 3rd wall is mostly closets! But overall, I really enjoy my classroom.

So where exactly do I teach? I teach at a small Christian school in Pittsburgh, PA. We rent out space from a church in the South Hills. My first year out of college I spent subbing and was hired at this school to teach 5th grade the following year. I am getting ready to start my 4th year of having my own classroom – crazy!! I am so thankful to be in this amazing school with the best co-workers and students 🙂

Remember, check back soon for the updated classroom tour!!

Technology Tip Tuesday!

Welcome back to Fantastic Fifth Grade for Technology Tip Tuesday, hosted by Blog Hoppin’!

I absolutely LOVE using technology in my classroom!! Unfortunately, our school does not have the funds for the latest and greatest technology available to schools, but what we do have, I use ALL the time. Each classroom has a laptop for the teacher, a projector that we can hook up to our laptops, and a few computers for students (between 2 and 5). I also purchased an iPad for my classroom last year using money I had raised during our Race for Education fundraiser, so my 5th graders have this as well.

Here are a few of my technology tips:

–If you create PowerPoints to use during lessons, make them interactive! Rather than simply listing facts and pictures, add some questions, thought-provoking statements to discuss, maybe even a mini quiz in the middle. I use PowerPoints for almost all of my unit lessons, especially during our Revolutionary War unit in November and our Middle Ages unit in April. They keep the students so much more interested than if we were simply reading out of a textbook or watching a VHS on the topic. But I definitely find that those where I keep the kiddos involved throughout are so much more beneficial! Below is a great article on the basics of using PP in the classroom:

–If you only have access to one iPad like I do, don’t stress! I was really worried in the beginning that it would cause major issues between my students, but everything went so smoothly with it last year. I have downloaded lots more apps since my original post about it, including some really fun ones (that still require strategy!) such as “Where’s My Water?” and “Cut the Rope”, two of their favorites.

We had a rotation in our classroom, so each day one student was allowed to use the iPad each day. When we got to the end of the rotation, it repeated. That student was allowed to use the iPad after finishing morning work, during snack time, during literature centers, during silent reading (to read on the iBooks app – there are tons of free books for kids!), and, if they had it on a Friday, during KICKBACK time. One of their favorite things to do during snack time was take pictures of each other using the Photo Booth that comes on the iPad – I now have almost 700 crazy pictures of my students!!

I kept the iPad on my desk during the day, but if it was a time when they knew they could use it, they would simply come ask me for it. I liked to use it for review games with the “ClassQuiz” app, for giving a spelling test if a student was absent (I typed the words in and the app repeated them out loud to the student whenever they took the quiz!) using the “Spelling Free” app, and for an interactive whiteboard sort of idea, using the “Whiteboard” app.

I’d love to hear any apps that you and/or your upper elementary students love to use!!

–My last technology tip is a fun one. I was typing up some notes and wanted to make them a little more creative, so I decided that I wanted the words to be in a spiral shape! However, I had no idea how to do this without a fancy program like Photoshop. Thank goodness for this website: !! You simply copy and paste the chunk of text you’d like to be transformed, choose the shape you’d like (spiral, heart, waves, etc.), and it will generate a PDF of that text in the shape you chose! The only downside is that it is a PDF, so you can’t really copy and paste the shaped-text anywhere else unless you do a screen capture, but I  love having this fun feature available! You can also insert the screen capture into Paint, select only the area you want, save it as a JPEG, and insert as a picture into your document – that’s how I did this:

So those are a few of my favorite technology tips! Someday I would love to get my masters in technology education, as teaching teachers how to use technology in the classroom is one of my passions! I’m still looking for possible programs, either online or in Pittsburgh, but haven’t found much yet – any suggestions?!

I can’t wait to read everyone’s tips for today! See you back here tomorrow for Where I Teach Wednesday!

Must Have Monday!

Welcome to Teacher Week, hosted by Blog Hoppin’! Today is Must Have Monday – here are a few of my “must-haves” for the school year:

  • Paper Mate Flair Pens – These babies are the best for grading, taking notes, etc. I love that they don’t bleed through paper!

  • A good lesson plan format – I had previously used a plain old teacher lesson plan book, but it just wasn’t working for my plans. I created my own last year and it works great! I don’t have to be super detailed (usually I refer to plans I’ve written for each particular subject in more detail!) but I can still see exactly what I am doing, when I need to do it. Check it out below!

Lesson Plan Format

  • A mini fridge – I keep my mini fridge from college in my classroom! It’s great for keeping my water bottle cold or for things we do in class that require a cold fold item, such as butter or eggs – no more running downstairs to the kitchen 🙂 Mine also has a small freezer section, so I can keep an ice pack in there for emergencies.

  • A good stash of folders/notebooks – we typically take notes in math in a spiral notebook that I provide for the students on the first day (although with a change in curriculum, I’m not sure if we still will…). Some of them write larger than others or take up more space to work on a problem, so they usually get through at least two every year. I also give them a new folder for every unit that we study, which totals to nine. My mom has helped me out a ton this year by picking them up for me when she sees them on sale!!

  • Last but not least, a nice projector – this year, we are finally getting mounted projectors!! I am so excited!! I used to share a projector with our 4th grade teacher since we are on the same floor, and it got so confusing trying to coordinate our schedules since we both use it almost EVERY day. Plus we had to drag it out of the closet, plug it in, hook up the computer, and turn it on, making sure we did so in the right order or it wouldn’t quite work.  But now we will both have our own which makes me so happy 🙂 I literally use it every day and I am thrilled that it will be permanently attached – no more lugging it out!

So there you have it – a few of my teacher must-haves. There are, of course, SO many more, but it would take me all day to type up that blog post!

See you tomorrow for Technology Tip Tuesday!!

B2S Sale!!

If you’ve been waiting for a good time to buy some goodies on TPT, now is the time!! Many incredible teachers are hosting Back 2 School sales where their stores are 20% off. I can’t wait to go pick out some fun new things for my classroom!

However I couldn’t let them have all the fun, so everything in my store is 20% off as well! My top selling item, the Facebook Profile Page Character Analysis, is now only 80 cents!!! You can’t beat that.

PLUS, if you enter the code BTS12 at check out, you will get an additional 10% off because TPT is awesome like that 🙂

Thanks for shopping!!

Tar-jay Scores

Yesterday, my husband and I celebrated our four year anniversary. Boy, did four years fly by! When we first got married, I was about to become a substitute teacher due to a lack of jobs available and he was working as a secretary at a huge PT practice. It’s amazing to see how far we’ve come since then! Now I have my own classroom and he is now a PT himself, no longer just a secretary! We have been incredibly blessed and I look forward to seeing where we are at this time next year 🙂 PS: He surprised me with a DELICIOUS dinner at The Melting Pot, this super cool fondue place in Station Square – oh my goodness, it was so so good!

Anyways, today I decided to check out the sales at Target. I knew this could be a dangerous thing because I rarely leave that store spending less than $50!! But I love back-to-school shopping, so out I went.

Here’s what I got today:

Guess what my total was??

$49.91!! Not bad, right? Granted, I did buy a few other things for home…but my goal was to keep school stuff under $50 and I just barely succeeded!

So this stuff is for my prize bin at school. My bin had been getting pretty empty and most of the “good” stuff is gone after last year. I love the dollar spot at Target which is where I got all of this stuff!

This stuff is mostly for me! I had a coupon for the PaperMate pens, I needed some new pencils, one of the RoseArt boxes of markers will go in my marker bin (all of our red markers were gone by the end of the year, so I knew I needed to restock) and the other box is for me, and we go through glue sticks like crazy, especially once we get into lapbooking! I always like to keep some in my desk, away from the students 🙂 Everything here was on sale – score!

I ran out of construction paper at the end of the year, so I was pleased when I saw it was on sale – I got four packs (with 96 sheets each) for $4 when it would have normally been $7.96 for all four! I give my kiddos folders for each unit topic that we study, so I was able to pick up four dozen folders (I have 11 in my class this year) for 17 cents each…definitely not a bad deal.

Not sure what I will use these bins for, but they were too cute to pass up! Any ideas??

I liked these bins too – they match the smaller ones but are quite a bit bigger and will hold my Language Arts center materials much better than my current bins do.

(Please excuse the zombie sign in the background…haha)

If you look closely at the last picture, you’ll also see my enVision math box in the background. We just received this new curriculum and I have been busy checking it out and determining the best way to use it in my classroom. If you use enVision, I’d LOVE to hear from you!!

Have you hit any back-to-school sales yet?? What did you score? Anywhere you recommend checking out??

Parody Play Writing

This has been a wonderful summer!

Ben and I have traveled to Niagara Falls, Toronto, Rochester NY, Rehoboth Beach DE, and will soon be spending a week in the Adirondacks in upstate NY with my husband’s family.

We’ve celebrated my nieces 1st birthday, the marriage of several friends, and the passing of the PT board exam.

We have seen many movies, from Brave and 21 Jump Street, to Spiderman and Dark Knight Rises (well, we’re going to the drive-in to see it tomorrow!).

Most of all, we have just enjoyed time together and time with friends and family.

But it is approaching the start of the school year (already?!?!), which means time to get back into the classroom. Every October, I lead a 3-day, 2-night class trip to Philadelphia with the help of several parent chaperones. It’s getting to be the time where I make reservations for our trip. I still can’t believe 3 months from today we will begin this incredible trip! Don’t get me wrong, I’m thrilled and excited, but I definitely want to enjoy the rest of my summer 🙂

Before getting into all of the fun stuff for next year, I wanted to touch on something I mentioned in an earlier post and something that my class had a blast with at the end of the school year! Now, keep in mind that this was my first year teaching writing (the 4th grade teacher had always taught language arts, while I taught math to her kiddos), so I wasn’t quite sure what I was doing…but I think they learned and had fun 🙂

Our last unit in writing was play writing. In order to introduce this unit, I printed off several examples of plays, mostly silly and interesting for the students. We chose parts and simply read through the script once. After a quick read-through, we went back and looked at any stage directions, words in italics to show actions, and other notable features. We payed attention to how the characters interacted and talked about what made these plays unique.

Once we had looked at plenty of examples, I explained to the class that they would be writing a play together as a class, however our play was going to be a parody of a popular story! We discussed parodies, which they had learned a bit about in previous grades and in earlier lessons, and spent over an hour brainstorming ideas for our play. After narrowing it down to “The Wizard of Oz” and “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”, we learned that a previous class had already done “The Wizard of Oz” which made our choice easy 🙂

I will say, the students were throwing out lots of ideas but we had to talk about what would be widely known to all ages (as we would be performing for the school) and what had a good story line with plenty of characters. It took them a while to stop throwing out crazy ideas (like “Transformers” and “Sesame Street”), but we got there eventually.

After coming up with the idea, we then began to think about the parody aspect of it. We first changed each of the characters’ names – so “Charlie Bucket” became “Ike Pail”, “Grandpa Joe” became “Grandpa Moe”, “Willy Wonka” who owned a chocolate factory with Oompa Loompas became “Billy Bonka” who owned an ice cream factory with Goopy Loopys, “Veruca Salt” became “Veronica Pepper”, and so on. The students were so incredibly creative and did a great job at this! We had very few disagreements and when there was a debate, we simply did a blind vote.

Once coming up with character names, we then went through the actual story and figured out what each scene would include. We talked about main ideas to be included in each scene and what was important about them.

Then came the most time consuming part – writing the script. It’s rather difficult to write a script when you have 13 kiddos all contributing ideas for what each character should say next…but praise God we made it work! I hooked up my laptop to our projector, opened a Word document, and off we went. We decided that we needed a narrator to introduce each scene, so that was a good place to start. We then broke it down, scene by scene, character by character, and ended up with an amazing script! There were a few disagreements, however a blind vote was considered fair by everyone and solved these problems.

After completing the script, I went back through and edited it, adding a few lines here and there for flow and continuity, but honestly, the students did the majority of the writing. Once we had the script complete, we decided on characters. I had each student write down their top three choices. This ended up working fairly well because there were only two parts which were wanted by more than one student (can you guess how we solved this problem?? That’s right, a blind vote!). We then discussed costume ideas, props that were needed, and scenery that could be made.

The students spent most of May working on memorizing lines, creating scenery/props, and writing the songs that the Goopy Loopys would perform after each contest winner would “disappear” in the ice cream factory (ps – these were HILARIOUS!! They did an AMAZING job. I split the class into four groups, one to write each song. They used the tunes of “Moves Like Jagger”, “Black and Yellow”, “We Are Young”, and “Party Rock Anthem” – I found instrumental versions of each of these to play during the performance and it worked out so well!).

We performed the play during the 2nd to last week of school. Everything came together amazingly well (as I knew it would – God has a way of making things happen!) and the students blew me away with their enthusiasm and energy. From their stage presence to their enunciation, they were little actors and actresses 🙂 And I have never heard the rest of the students at my school or the teachers laugh so hard!!

So with that, I leave you with a picture from “Ike and the Ice Cream Factory”. I wish I had more, but I was involved in the play (helping move scenery, playing the background tracks for the Goopy Loopy songs, etc.) so I couldn’t take any until afterwards. Oh well, such is the life of a teacher 🙂

From Left to Right: a Goopy Loopy (they were supposed to be “ghetto”!), Ike (wearing the white shirt), Goop Dawg (the kids with the sunglasses on – he was the head Goopy Loopy), Billy Bonka (in the awesome purple outfit), a Goopy Loopy (in the sideways hat; he also played Mr. Pail), another Goopy Loopy (in the other sideways hat), Michael PC (in the Angry Birds shirt), August Bloop (in the Pens jersey), Veronica Pepper (in the white dress), Grandpa Moe (in the suspenders), Scarlett Boulevard (in the red shirt), Mrs. Pepper (in the blue dress; she also played Mrs. Pail), and the narrator.

If you are interested in having a copy of our play to use with your own classroom, let me know! I’d be happy to share the love.

Have you ever written a play with your class? How did it go? Any tips or advice for next year??


Previous Older Entries Next Newer Entries