Sunday, 27 July 2014

It's a Sunday Smorgasbord!

Hi friends! Thanks for popping by for a bit of Sunday Smorgasbord randomness. :)

Let's start with just about my favourite craft of all time - paper plate Lorax faces!  These are so easy and make the cutest display.  Kidlets paint a paper plate orange and add a moustache that they have cut from either a traced outline or paint handprints.  Glue on a cotton ball nose and some googly eyes and you're done!  We made these this week after reading The Lorax and discussing the opinions of our little orange friend and The Once-ler.  (The Trufflula trees I used came from Krista Wallden.)

Isn't it always the way that when you have no spare money bargains are just everywhere?  That was the story of my life this week.  I bought a few things for my house and some for school (of course!).

I've been wanting something like this wooden sign art for ages and couldn't resist this one - especially since it was part of a closing down sale and was as cheap as chips!

Love the pattern and colours in these cushions... Now to find somewhere to put them!

$1 Fairy Tale books.  Thinking I should have bought more than one copy of Cinderella... I have a few princesses who will want it in their book boxes. :)

Two new balancing games to add to my fine motor morning group resource stash.

The Day the Crayons Quit and Chrysanthemum have been on my wish list for a long time now. I finally gave in and ordered them from The Book Depository.

Guess who had all of their lesson planning for next week done before she left school on Friday?  This girl!!  Every week I set myself that goal so I can have the weekends to relax but I always seem to find things at school to get done 'right now' which leaves me madly planning on a Sunday afternoon.  This week I decided that time to recharge was more important than the infinite number of little, busywork jobs that could be done in my classroom.  And wouldn't you know it... there was actually plenty of time to get everything done.  I'm crossing my fingers that I can make this a habit! :)

Look at the time... it must be coffee o'clock.  I bought a new book by my favourite author yesterday and I think I might need to spend some time in the fresh air reading.  Link up with Fabulous in First to share your week of random moments, too!

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Cheap & Cheerful Tools for Reading FUN!

I looked around my classroom today as my kidlets were busy with their book boxes and it warmed my heart to see them totally engaged with their reading.  All of them - even my tricky characters - had found themselves a comfortable spot and were absorbed in their books.  At that point, I was completely unnecessary to them and it's the happiest I've been in ages. :) I love that my kidlets love to read, but they don't always start the school year out feeling like that.  I thought I'd share a few DIY tools that I use along the way to keep reading fun and motivation high.

Graphics From the Pond and KG Fonts made this quote look cute!
My kidlets keep their books in cardboard magazine files with personalised labels.  They are always excited to choose new books and treat their book box super carefully - the fact that it's theirs helps to make reading time all the more exciting.  Our classroom library is small but choosing books is always fun!  My kidlets choose a combination of levelled readers, picture books and non-fiction books to keep for the week.

Let's start with the basics - everyone knows that to do your very best reading, you need to wear your reading glasses!  Grab yourself some dollar store sunglasses (from the party loot section), pop the lenses out and you've got yourself some colourful specs.

I'm sure you would have seen these guys on Pinterest - Whisper Phones!  You can grab the pieces of pipe from a hardware store, but I put a request out to see if anyone knew a plumber who had offcuts that I could use.  One of my kidlets had an uncle who not only donated the pipes, but glued them together for me! (I sent a photo home to show what I was hoping to make.)  I just added some rainbow duct tape to pretty them up.

These are great to help with fluency and expression during independent reading time - kidlets can hear their voices even if they are whispering and adjust their tone, pace etc. to make their reading 'sound like a story'.

Next up is an easy idea that can end up being completely free!  Reading Buddies are simply cuddly toys that are available for kidlets to read to.  They just love reading a story to a buddy - again, awesome practice for fluency and expression and a real confidence booster for reluctant readers at the beginning of the year.  I sent a note home to parents last year and within a week had more than 25 gorgeous toys donated for the library, some of them brand new. :)

I use a variety of pointers in Guided Reading to help with tracking and place-keeping, as well for kidlets to point to sight words, punctuation, letters etc.  Most of them I bought from the dollar store!

Craft sticks + googly eyes.

Magic wands.

Magnifying glasses.

Small torches.

I hope that you picked up a few ideas to use. :) Do you have any cheap & cheerful reading tools that you like to use in your classroom?  I'd love hear them! 

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Two for Tuesday! A best seller and a newbie.

Well folks, this will be a super quick post because I am having a moment.  You know, one of these:

That darn grumpy cat always makes me smile!  He just has a way of articulating my thoughts, especially in those moments when I'm being a big baby. :)

I'm stopping by today to share with you the two products that I've marked down to half price for The Teaching Tribune's Two for Tuesday.  Both are card sorting activities with bonus worksheets - one is an old favourite that has been a best seller, and the second is a new one that I'm super excited about!

Sort it Out! Letters Words and Sentences is a really engaging way to teach a very important skill.  With this pack, kidlets will sort cards as either letters, words or sentences - perfect for the pocket chart! - and 'show what they know' with either a cut and paste or written worksheet.  The words and sentences are taken mostly from the Dolch lists so your little learners can decode them.  Once we've done this activity as a whole class and then in small groups, I pop it in the 'fast finishers' basket and it works as a great task to review this skill.

Grab it today for only $1.50!

My newest product, You've Got Mail, is a medial vowel sorting activity with a cute envelope and post box theme.  

It's got three worksheets as part of the pack - kidlets can colour, write or match to show the correct medial vowel.  Only $1.50 today!

Don't forget to pop over and visit The Teaching Tribune to check out all the other awesome products on sale today.  I've grabbed a few amazing bargains with this linky - can't wait to stock up my cart with some more!

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

What's New with GoNoodle?

Hi all!  Popping in very quickly to share some fun GoNoodle updates.  

Just in case you're not familiar with GoNoodle, here's a super quick explanation: this site will become one of your all time favourite classroom management tools as soon as you use it! :)  GoNoodle is a clever site that allows you to create an account for your class (you can even have multiple class profiles if you need to) through which you can access all sorts of Brain Break clips.  You know that giant list of YouTube links you had saved, or that Pinterest board you've filled with videos to use for those moments during the day when your kidlets need to wiggle? Yep, you won't need to worry about them anymore.  Your class gets to choose a GoNoodle 'champ', who grows bigger and stronger (and cooler!) as you use the Brain Breaks in your classroom.  After a while, your champ will 'max out' and you get to choose a new one. Here's our current champ, McPufferson:

I was already in love with GoNoodle, but when I logged on in the last week of holidays to see what clips were new my devotion grew even stronger.  Guess what?  You can now add your own YouTube clips!  Although the selection already in the GoNoodle catalogue is pretty darn good, there were a few songs and dances that my kidlets loved that weren't on there.  Here's what the screen looks like when you choose 'YouTube' from the menu:

All you have to do is click "add you own YouTube brain break" and paste the URL of the clip you want to add.  Easy peasy!  I added a heap of videos, and not just the 'get up and boogie' type!  I now plan to use GoNoodle for movement breaks, as well as for those Brain Breaks that work as a teaching tool too.  There's so many ditties I use for maths especially - so they were the first ones I added, closely followed by 'Chicka Chicka Boom Boom' and lots of Learning Station and Harry Kindergarten videos that we love to sing and dance to.    As I added them, I marked them as a favourite so they are even easier to find.  Now when I choose my 'favourites' tab I see them all there (along with any of the original GoNoodle videos I'd marked): 

Another great new feature is that your champ now moves up levels based on the number of Brain Breaks you have watched, rather than by their number of minutes. You can see in the first picture above that we are just one clip away from levelling McPufferson up!  This is great if you find that you only have a few minutes in the day to have Brain Breaks, or if you only see groups of children for a short amount of time in the day.  It makes the levels come around a whole heap faster which keeps the kidlets super excited to watch their champ grow.

I use GoNoodle every day - it is seriously awesome for re-energising kidlets when they have been working hard, to provide a learning opportunity during times (like fruit break) that would otherwise be idle chatter, for a few minutes of calming down, or even just as a fun treat.  Of course, we still do lots of screen-less singing and finger plays and I think the kidlets like them even more now because they are such a contrast to GoNoodle.  I love to hear the cheers of 'Yay! A Brain Break!!' when my kidlets see GoNoodle on our IWB screen. :)  

Do you GoNoodle?  

Friday, 18 July 2014

Five for Friday!

Friends, I am tired!  The first week back at school after break really kicked my butt!  We had two full days at a statewide conference and three days back at school for meetings.  In amongst all of that I had a bazillion things that I wanted to do in my classroom... I got about 0.002% of those things done! My Five for Friday this week shares a few things I did complete as well as some random thoughts.

My main goal for the beginning of this term was to have my classroom library reorganised.  That turned out to be A MASSIVE DRAMA! I don't have a heap of space in my classroom so I bought 4 small sets of shelves - that was no big deal. Then came the issue of finding book boxes that would fit on the shelves and would be wide enough for the larger picture books to fit in (some of them are close to 25cm wide!)... as well as being nice, bright colours.  My classroom decor theme is Crayola factory explosion, after all. :)  I scoured the web, visited every store on the coast - and came up with nothing except for small blue, pink and green baskets to store my levelled readers.  I finally ended up buying white baskets and attaching bright labels.  Here's a photo journey of my last two days! 

In the end I was happy with how my little library turned out... but there were a few moments of crankiness in the mix!  I sorted my books into a few categories - readers are in baskets of two levels each and I have a basket each for Mem Fox, Dr. Seuss, Pamela Allen and Jez Alborough.  There's two non-fiction baskets and the other six I labelled just as picture books - because I ran out of time! :)  In the next few weeks I can sort and label the random other baskets.  I also need a rug and a few more decorations... but I'm not sure that those things will help the kidlets to be better readers. :)

Although the library took a heap of time (in the scarce free time we had this week!), I also managed to get new desk labels printed - using the same scrappy kids as I did on my kidlets' book box labels.  I matched each kidlet to a scrappy kid from Mel's 100 Scrappy Kids pack and use their clipart image for anything personalised I create for them!

I got my new chair set up (the metal stool from Ikea I had been using was ruining my back), and re-aligned my SitSpots.

I also threw a my reading pointers and glasses into a new basket I grabbed.  I plan to keep this on my teaching table instead of hunting around for things before guided reading time.  I need to add our sight words on rings and a 'talking stick'.  Anything else that you think is vital to have in a guided reading basket? 

The glasses are just dollar store sunglasses with the lenses popped out.  Kidlets are so much more focussed when they have their 'reading glasses' on! :)

I went to a Whole Brain Teaching workshop at the conference we went to earlier in the week.  I've been using a few WBT techniques with my kidlets - Teach, OK and Mirror mostly - but came away from the workshop super excited to more consciously implement WBT in my classroom.  I don't have a photo for this - how sad!  I've ordered Chris Biffle's book, but if you are a whole brain teacher and can point me in the best direction for resources/articles to read or could share some advice with me I'd love to hear from you.

Have you seen Abby's Pretty Little Printables?  They are just gorgeous, and I particularly loved this quote from the pack:

I have the talent of putting words together effectively (especially for comedic value), combined with the habit of making quick judgements... totally fine if my opinion is positive but it can get me into trouble if I've decided I don't like something.  When I saw this quote again (it's one of my favourites!) I was reminded to always be careful with my words.  Thanks Abby! (Click on the image to read her post.)

When I got home this afternoon I was totally exhausted!  After an accidental 20 minute snooze on the couch, I had a hot shower (it's freezing here today!) and settled in for a relaxing night.  I made sure to light my tealight candles - my favourite Friday night ritual.

Something about the soft light makes me feel so much more calm.  What's your go-to relaxation trick?

Hmmm... I don't think I should admit to watching 'I Wanna Marry Harry' two Five for Fridays in a row, so let's just say I'm finishing up this post to go and read War & Peace. :)  

Happy weekend!

Friday, 11 July 2014

Five for Friday!

I guess if it's Friday that means that holidays are almost over! :( Next week we have student free days, but after that it will be back to the grindstone.  Luckily, today also means that it's time for Five for Friday! Here's my random moments from a lazy week.

Speaking of lazy... I have been spending a lot of time on my couch this week.  Staying up late watching movies, then relaxing with a coffee after a sleep in each morning.  I didn't want to share a photo of my couch (that would be weird), but here's what I spent a good chunk of my time watching just yesterday:

I love, love, love Anne of Green Gables - but she is a real time investment!  Seven-ish hours of serious watching to get the whole story done! :)

I went into my classroom this week, hoping to get some organising done.  FAIL!  I think all I did was make an even bigger mess... and made myself stressed that my new library furniture hasn't arrived yet.  

I ended up piling all the books in boxes (apart from the few you see here) and crossing my fingers that the selves will get here asap!

I did get one thing done - one of my bulletin boards was changed over to display our word family ribbons.

I hot glued the cards from Marsha's word families galore pack onto coloured ribbons and display them on the wall after we've learnt all about each word family.  We move the ribbons around the room as needed during the week's activities before they go on the wall.  The bonus is that they are so easy to pack away and store because they are all glued together.

One of my goals this winter break was to get some resources ready for the start of term - particularly for those kidlets who needed a little extra practice with some important concepts.  I made lots of reading fluency games, some maths activities, and today made up these cute mailboxes and envelope cards for sorting CVC words by medial vowel sound.

My kidlets are going to love it!!  I called this pack You've Got Mail - it's even got a few worksheets to use as a record of student learning.

Winter in Queensland is gorgeous - during my lazy days I've spent some time reading in the sun and looking at this view.

Has anyone seen this show?  Usually I am a huge fan of cheesy reality TV, but even this one makes me cringe.

A bunch of us Aussie bloggers were chatting about how much we would love to be in Vegas this week, hanging out and having fun at the TpT conference.  Every time I check Instagram I have major FOMO, so I've started saving towards next year!! :)  If you're there or going soon, I hope you are having an amazing time!  As for me - I'll stay here and relax on the couch...