Oh my…

Is anyone still reading??

I feel like such a slacker for not posting since December 7th! But trust me, things have been quite busy. My husband and I are closing on our first house at the end of February, so that has been consuming much of our time lately!!

Here at school, we have been busy studying electricity. The students experimented with light bulbs, batteries, and wires today to create series and parallel circuits. They had a blast and were all successful – expect pictures later!

We have also been discussing biographies. We are currently reading a biography of Thomas Edison as a young child, so we talked about features of a biographies and used other examples to locate and identify these features.

Today, the students presented their “How To” essays. Each student wrote an essay on how to do something, such as make an ice cream sundae, play Pound Tag, or draw a caricature. These were tons of fun, and of course the kiddos loved the presentations that had to do with food 🙂

Well, hopefully I will be checking in more regularly. Things are busy, but I love having this blog to keep all of my thoughts and ideas 🙂 Anything exciting happening in your classes? How do you teach biographies??

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!!

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 who.knows.how.old 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: http://www.festisite.com/text-layout/ !! 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!

Medieval Wrap Up

We finally wrapped up our unit on the Middle Ages! The students did a phenomenal job on their unit test. I find that this is always the best test of the year and I truly believe it is because of the lap books that we create. It is constant reinforcement of the material that we learn – we discover information through a PowerPoint, we create a mini book based on that information, and we review the information again when we put our lap book together. They love it and it creates a wonderful keepsake for this fun unit.

Last week a parent came in to help me spray paint the castles the students built. We opened up all of the windows, put tarps under the castles, and draped sheets over the computers to keep them spray paint free. They turned out GREAT! It took us 10 cans – way more than we originally thought – but they look awesome and the class was so excited about them. The next day the students brought in Lego and Playmobile figures to “decorate” their castles with – we have lots of knights, dragons, and kings and queens.

Check them out!

Another exciting activity we did was one that a classroom parent came up with – banana jousting! The class was split into two teams and the current “jouster” on each team was given a poncho as armor, a shield made out of thick foam core, and a banana. The students would take turns making a pass at the other knight, trying to touch their poncho with the banana. One point was awarded for banana being smeared on the poncho and one point was awarded to whichever knight had the longer banana after the round was over. It was an enjoyable activity that the kids had a blast with!!

To close out our unit, we enjoyed a fun medieval party. I set up three stations throughout the room – coloring, computers, and Wii. For the Wii station, I brought in my Wii and borrowed Medieval Games (http://www.amazon.com/Medieval-Games-Nintendo-Wii/dp/B001S86ISG/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1337188714&sr=8-1_) for the Wii from a parent. This is a fun game, especially with four players, that allows the students to joust, sword fight, compete in archery tournaments, and much more. The kids of course loved it and did really well! For the computer station, I created an internet scavenger hunt based on a website I found with interesting facts about medieval times. The students had to answer questions based on what they found on the website. Finally I copied pictures of religious stained glass windows from a coloring book I have. The students used marker to color the stained glass and we rubbed vegetable oil on the other side to make it transparent – they looked awesome! I also had parents send in some yummy food to enjoy, such as cheese and pepperoni, grapes and watermelons on sword-shaped toothpicks, and pretzels. One parent even made some mead for the kids to try!

Overall, our medieval unit was tons of fun and it’s always sad to see it draw to a close. My goal was for the class to come away with a deeper understanding of this time period, including the role religion played, the importance of feudalism, and how our world has changed since then. I am already looking forward to next year!!


Linking up with Farley over at http://ohboy3rdgrade.blogspot.com/ – that dang pencil sharpener is SA-WEET! The new one I ordered this year, supposedly a “quiet” sharpener, is just alright. I mean, the kids use it a LOT but it is sure not quiet. It’s also really messy – don’t you just hate those tiny, dirty pencil shavings? And when the kids try and sweep them with their hands, both their hands and the table get smeared with graphite? Argh. The drama of pencil sharpening!

Today was frustrating, watching my Steelers lose to the Broncos. However, that Tim Tebow is a quality guy, so if we had to lose to anyone, that’s the team I’d pick! They better beat the Patriots next weekend!

School is going to be rough this week because it is our first full week in quite a while. I’ve got lots of plans to work on and no specials tomorrow. Did I mention that Mondays are not my favorite? Last year I had two specials on Mondays – it was the BEST! But not anymore. Oh well – the kids are doing some independent reviews tomorrow for some tests coming up, so at least I’ll have a little time during the day 🙂

Welcome to my classroom!

I am so excited to be starting this blog all about my adventures as a 5th grade teacher. We do so many fun things in my classroom and I look forward to sharing them with you.

Well, first things first. Let me show you around my classroom!

The entrance to my classroom is the door to the left. These are my classroom computers. I am hoping to get a few more, as there are not nearly enough for 14 kiddos!

Here are the closet doors right next to the entrance to my classroom. Unfortunately I can’t put anything really large on these walls since they are mostly taken up by doors. It’s a bummer, but it is nice having such large amounts of storage.

Here are the other set of closet doors, along with our reusable story map.

This is the bulletin board between the sets of closet doors. The kids all decorated puzzle pieces (cut out using our Crikut) and they are now hung up proudly!

Here is a close-up of the Pinterest-inspired Story Map that I made. We can use this over and over again with post-it notes for each new story.

Here are my bookshelves, on the wall perpendicular to the closets. The books are sorted according to their AR level, as my school encourages the kids to use Accelerated Reader.

Here is the front board area of my room with lots of posters.

Another Pinterest-inspired poster.

The students like this one a lot – another Pinterest find.

Our essential questions for each month are posted in the front of the room.

Another view of the front of the room.

This is at the back of the room and will be switched out for the unit each month. Obviously this month we are studying God’s Great Universe. Books relating to the unit are on the top shelf of the bookshelf and lots of games are on the bottom.

My desk area – love having a mini-fridge behind my desk!

My favorite Pinterest creation is my way of keeping track of where the kids are in the writing process – the fun pencil! The kiddos love it and are anxious to move onto each new stage to move their clothespin 🙂 This is also the writing table where the kids can find any supplies needed for the writing process.

My final Pinterest creation is a “Tired Words” pocket chart. Each pocket contains synonyms for the word on the front of the pocket tha the kids should use in place of the “tired word” in their writing. Every day I see kids using this and it makes me so happy! My goal is that they would eventually not even need the chart but can think of the other words on their own 🙂

I hope you enjoyed that tour of my room. 5th grade is off to a GREAT start this year and I can’t wait to share more about our adventures!

In the meantime, check out my TpT store – I’m in the process of adding my American Revolution unit that I have worked extremely hard on!