Monday, July 28, 2014

Vocabulary Can Be Fun, Too!

Hello friends.

My name is Cara and I'm a WORD NERD.

I love words.  Everything about them.  I pore over them.  I **try** and make myself more interesting by using those "fun" words in random conversation.  

Words are FUN. 





Fill in the blank here :)

I want my kids to love words as much as I do.  I want to hear them using "big" words in their everyday conversations.  Not that I expect my kids to use insanely challenging vocabulary all the time, but there's no reason they can't "speak smart"!  

Last year one of my goals was to increase my vocabulary instruction.  I wanted it to be more meaningful...more rigorous...more effective.  I did lots of research and bought my most FAVORITE vocabulary resource...

Y'all.  If you haven't read it yet, you MUST.  Seriously.  Completely changed the way I incorporate vocabulary instruction in my classroom.

Of course, I'm still a far way from where I want to be when it comes to vocabulary instruction, but I definitely feel like I'm further than where I was and that's a good thing!

I was able to share some of my most favorite vocabulary activities and ideas when I presented at the I Teach 1st conference in Vegas. {If you're in Franklin TN & Livonia MI, Wisconsin, Arkansas, & Texas,  I'll be coming to see you SOON, too!!!}  Here's one of my most favorite, tried & true, SIMPLE yet effective, vocabulary activities I use every year.

First off, you'll need to start with a book.  For this example, I read The Grumpy Morning.  

From that text, I pulled out 3 words I wanted my kids to learn.  Of course, this book would not be the last time they heard these words.  We incorporated them into various activities over the course of two weeks.  Generally I will introduce about 5-6 new vocabulary words every two weeks.

Before reading the book aloud, I introduce the words to the kids and ask them to predict what those words might mean.  I'll have a few kids help me with this & I'll write their pre-reading predictions on our chart.

When we're all finished with our predictions, I tell the kids that they need to listen for those words in the story and then I start reading. When we come to one of the words, the kids raise their hands and then I call on a few of them to tell me what they think the word means in context.  

Not only do they have to tell me what they think it means, but they have to prove to me why they think it by giving me the context clues.

Y'all.  They LOVE this.

It's SO simple and easy.  And they really, REALLY take to it!!!

At the end of our two week vocabulary unit, I'll "auction" off the chart and let one of the kids take it home.  I know the parents are THRILLED to have giant pieces of butcher paper come home with their kids {can you hear that sarcasm?!?!?! ;)}

Hope y'all can use that idea with your kids this year!!  I think they'll {& YOU!} will LOVE it!!!


By request, I've uploaded my monthly Write the Room and Writing Centers into bundles.  Now you can buy the bunch and save A LOT!

Click on the pics for more info!!!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Flashback Friday....It's My BIRTHDAY!!!!! is my BIRTHDAY!!!  Forget the fact that I'm halfway to Mr. Spouse likes to remind me every chance he gets...but it's my day!!!  I love ANY excuse to celebrate and, well, finally being halfway to 70 sounds like the perfect reason to party!

I want to celebrate with YOU.

Yes, YOU.

So my entire store is 20% off today!!!!

AND....that's not all.

I'm giving away EVERYTHING in my ENTIRE store to one friend today!

But you have to head over to Facebook to enter.

In the meantime, I'm flashing back to an old post I wrote a couple of years ago...all about birthdays!  Pretty fitting, don'tcha think?!?!

originally posted July 25, 2012

Since today is my birthday, I wanted to share with y’all what I do for birthdays in my classroom.  I always hated having a summer birthday when I was growing up…no chance to celebrate at school!  Dangit!!  I know my school babies feel the same way, so it’s important I have a little something for everyone.  Each of my kiddos gets to wear a H-U-G-E birthday button {you can get them at the Dollar Tree…and they’re the size of your head :)  Seriously, though…they remind me of the big ol’ buttons that NKOTB used to sell…I had them ALL.


I adhere ribbon to it so they can wear it like a necklace…SO much easier than sticking them with a pin! 

At the end of the day….after we sing a little “happy birthday” before heading out the door…I hand the birthday baby a birthday bag full of fun little goodies!


The bags matched my theme last year.  The boys got green balloons and the girls got pink.  I just traced a balloon template {freehand…sorry, no tracer!} onto scrapbook paper, typed up a little “happy birthday”, cut, paste, curled, and voila! 

I like to make all these bags at once before the start of the school year.  You know as well as I do that as soon as the school year starts, things get crazy.  Doing everything at the beginning of the year saves me time…and gives me a peace of mind…for the rest of the year.  I always make several extra just incase I get a few new friends throughout the year.  I shop the back to school aisles of Wal Mart for the goodies inside.  Depending on school rules and regulations…and student allergies…I throw in a few little pieces of candy, a bookmark, a Happy Birthday pencil, and crayons.  You can find the crayons at Wal Mart for 50cents a pack right now!!!  HURRY!


The kids LOVE this gift!!!  I also throw in a little birthday certificate into the mix.  Click on the pic to download yours!

Quick, E-A-S-Y, and inexpensive!!!  I love being able to give my kids something I know they’ll put to good use and they couldn’t be more thrilled to be recognized on their special day!!  For my sweeties who celebrate during the summer, we *celebrate* their half birthday during the school year :) 


Thursday, July 24, 2014

Sight Wordle - Simple Sight Word Center

Now that we've talked all about the Writing Center, let's move on over to one of my other favorites...the Sight Word Center.  Do you have a sight word center in your room?  I LOVE mine.  A special little center dedicated to nothing but sight words.  

This center is filled with TONS of options for the kids.  Playdoh & letter stamps, sight word rings & cards, games, sight word books....the list goes on.  I try not to keep out the same choices any longer than 2-3 weeks because, again, the novelty wears off.  I'll always bring back activities at different times of the year, but I like to change it up often to keep the kids engaged and excited.

Here's one of my favorite sight word center activities.  I shared this in Vegas during my "I Know it By Sight" presentation and thought you guys might want to check it out, too!  It's too simple not to try out!

The objective of this activity is to have your kids search for sight words.  I keep my Sight Wordles in a plastic sheet protector and have the kids use their Expo markers to highlight the words they find.

You can do this lots of different ways...

* have the kids search for words they KNOW {this would be great for a quick assessment!}

* have the kids search for SPECIFIC words {great for a review!!!}

*have the kids search for words with 2 letters, 3 letters, etc.

* have the kids search for words that rhyme with __________.

The list goes on....

This is one of my kids' most favorite sight word activities!  You can print off several at a time for more variety.  You can differentiate by lists.  The possibilities are endless!!!

When I taught 2nd grade, we used Wordles for EVERYTHING :)  

Never created one before?!  Here's a little breakdown....

Head to the homepage at WORDLE.NET. and click on the button that says CREATE.

Now you'll come to a screen prompting you to enter your words.  This is where you'll enter the list of words you want to appear in your Wordle.  Just because you type a word in more than once doesn't mean it will show up more than one time.  It will actually make the word LARGER.  SO, you might only want to type in each word once.  Then click "GO".

You'll be redirected to the next page where your Sight Wordle will show up and you'll probably notice that most of your words are missing.  WHAT?!?!?!?  
Don't panic.  Just click on the LANGUAGE tab and select the "DO NOT REMOVE COMMON WORDS" option.

Aha!!!  MUCH better :)

As you can see, the word "THE" is the biggest word on the page.  This is what I was talking about earlier.  I typed that word in several different times when creating my list, so that word appears bigger than the won't show up more than once.  

You can play with the font, layout, and colors by playing around with the tabs.  SO many options!

And there ya have it!  A simple sight word center in just minutes!!!


Hopefully you'l be able to use this little idea in your classroom!!  Like I said, the possibilites are ENDLESS.  You could use this with any subject you teach or any skill you want to reinforce with your kids.  I love me a good Wordle ;)

Today's Christmas in July deal is helping you get ready for the back to school rush!  

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Work on Writing - A Writing Center Makeover

How many of y'all struggle with your writing center?  I know I do.  Every year.  I want my kids to be engaged and excited about every part of the writing process.  I want them to LOVE to write.  I want them to CHOOSE to write when they have free time.  This is not always the case for every child, but I'm DETERMINED that it will be!!!

Writing is a HUGE part of our day.  We write for EVERYTHING.  We have about 30-45 minutes for Writers Workshop...then there's Shared Writing...and of course the Writing Center.  And we're writing in all other academic areas as well.  You'd think it's easy to get 'em excited to pick up their pencils.  

However, the novelty wears off.  I've noticed that when I keep doing the SAME things...keeping out the SAME writing activities....the SAME writing kids take on the "I'm over it" attitude.  And let's be real.  We're the same way.  When we do the SAME exact thing...year after year...the novelty wears off.  We need to change it up to make it exciting for both us AND the kids.  
I feel like I'm always trying to find "one more thing" to add to the writing center.  One more thing to make it fun.  One more thing to make it exciting.  One more thing to keep them engaged.  They need options.  Lots and LOTS of options.  They also need freedom.  The autonomy to choose what they want.  After all, our goal is to instill in them a LOVE of writng, right?!  

Sometimes...a lot of need a nudge.  Most of the time they need a giant PUSH.  Although they have a menu of items from which to choose when they head to the writing center, I still hear the phrase, "I don't know what to write!" from at least one of my sweeties almost  I'm determined to rid their vocabularies of that phrase!

Clearly it was time for a writing center overhaul.  And that's just what I did.  I gave my writing center a little makeover full of activities and prompts to keep them excited about writing.  

Task cards for prompts, books, making lists, writing letters & how-tos, and vocabulary cards, too.  That's my other goal.  Increase vocabulary. And then a few "extra" activities that will be available, as well.   My kids will also be able to choose to write what THEY want.  I just loved the idea of having  a variety choices from which to choose so that the whole "I don't know what to write" becomes non-existent :)

I created this little resource with my 1st grader in mind and knowing how many kids come into Kindergarten at such varying stages of development I knew that differentiation and options with lots of support were necessary.  

My emerging and new-to-writing learners will have writing options that give them the support they need and my more "seasoned" writers will have lots of options as well.  There are ALWAYS kids at the beginning of the year who can do SO much more than their classmates and I wan to keep them excited and engaged, too!  I also love that my first grade friends will be able to utilize this resource to the fullest and offer their friends in need of more support lots of options as well.

The task cards are divided up into different writing genres....lists, writing letters, prompts, making books, and writing expository pieces.  OBVIOUSLY I won't expect Kindergarten friends to do MANY of these activities at the onset of the year.  I will probably choose a couple of task cards for the kids to work from and add more as the year progresses.  However, this will be perfect for my 1st grader!  He's already started on some of these writing activities at home!!  I actually have this little center set up in his room at the moment....he LOVES acting like he's got his very own classroom and I love that he doesn't realize he's learning :)

I LOVE that the little task cards will give them ideas when they just can't think of anything to write.

So far, my son's favorite writing activities are writing lists and letters.  I made a blank list template for him to use so that he can help me with my grocery list every week :)  Nevermind the fact that he's real quick to make his very own grocery list for me.  Bless his heart.  A pantry can only hold so many cookies, kid ;)

He's also diggin'  my little Spin a Sentence and Write About It activities, too.  Anything that involves something that is constantly changing is right up his alley.  Crazy enough, that sweet boy is such a creature of habit.  It's just fun to see him get so excited about writing!  I mean, he's always had this crazy love for learning, but watching him take to these activities has been really cool to see!

I am SO excited to see this writing center in action.  I'm sure I'll be adding even more options as the year goes on.  In the meantime, I'm just pumped to have a head start on the back to school craziness.  

If you're interested in sprucing up your writing center, you can check out this resource by clicking on the pic...

I have a writing center for September and October in the works and *almost* finished, too!

And today's Christmas in July deal brings you two of my favorite alphabet resources!

You can check them out here if you're interested:

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Apples & Freebies!

Not really sure what it is about apples that I love so much, but dang.  I DO.  I love them.  I'll take them anyway I can get them.  I'm kinda like Bubba in Forrest Gump, but instead of being obsessed with shrimp, I'm obsessed with apples.  I even have a board dedicated to them...


Today we're celebrating July birthdays in the family.  Mine included.  You know what that means?!  All the apple pie I can handle.  GET.OUT.RIGHT.NOW!!!!!!

So that got me to thinking about apples in the classroom.  A thematic staple of mine for the last 13 years.  If you've been following this blog for a while, you might remember some of my old posts about apples in the classroom.  If you're just tuning in, I'll go ahead and catch you up to speed.  

Sometimes I forget I've had this blog for a while.  2010 to be exact. I don't feel like it's been that long.  I still love blogging just as much today as I did 4 years ago.  That very first year I shared this fun little activity I always do right when we start our apple unit.

I know it's not much to look at now, but it sure does get the job done.  Doesn't Pinterest have a funny way of making us feel like everything we do in the classroom has to be "pinworthy"?!  I wouldn't change a thing about this, thankyouverymuch. ;)

You can read more about that activity HERE and download a fun little free printable to go with it...along with several other FREE apple themed activities.

Just like all of you...and all the teachers before me..we made applesauce that year, too.  HELLO, delicious!  And it's even better over ice cream :)  You can download a free printable recipe in that post, too!

Every year I try to add a little something new to my thematic units.  Maybe after something I pinned....or some great idea I saw on a blog....or {stop the world} after being inspired by the 18 little bodies in my classroom!  

Every year I try a little something new and different.

Like this descriptive writing anchor chart and writing activity we did last year.

We even had an apple tasting party last year after reading all about Sarah Cooley's apple fun in her classroom!

My kids loved this little apple life cycle craftivity we did last year.  They even made in appearance in their end of year portfolio keepsakes!

You can read all about our past year's apple activities by clicking on the "apples" tab over to your right under the "Find What You're Looking For" button.

In the meantime, here are some more links for a few apple themed freebies I think you might like!  If nothing else, you can always just add 'em to your ever growing files :)

A fun little apple themed dice activity...Roll an Apple Tree.

And here's a fun little freebie you might enjoy, too!  Chock full of several different activities your babies might enjoy!!

While we're on the subject of all things apple, it's only fitting that today's Christmas in July deals offer a discount on my apple themed resources!  20% off today only!!

Now it's time to celebrate!!!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Summer Fun...Math Style!

I have to say that I've been blessed with two kids who LOVE to learn.  Trust me when I say that I know this isn't always the case so I am very grateful that {at this moment in time} they love it.   My wish is NOT for them to be at the top of their class{es}, read the best, or anything like that, rather I want them to LOVE school and LOVE to learn.  And so far, thankyouJesus, they do.  

As you can imagine with two little boys who love to learn, we haven't been sitting idly at home doing a whole lotta nothing.  Yes...there are MORE video game moments than I can count....the pool has been their second home....and our neighbor has taken permanent residence at our house...but they've been SO excited to try new "games" and extend their learning while they aren't in the classroom.  I guess the bonus to that is that the majority of the time they don't even realize they're learning!  SCORE!!!

One of our favorite summer games so far has been Math Fact Jenga!  They're finally in the "game phase" of their lives {seems like it took FOREVER for them to get here!!} and they love to play!  
We started out with regular Jenga, but then I decided it was time to amp it up and see if they could rise to a little summer challenge.  Let me just tell you that ANYtime I say the word "challenge", my boys are determined to prove to me that they can rise to the occasion. I shudder to think what this could mean when they're in college {deep breath, mom.  Deep breath.}.

To play Math Fact Jenga at your house...or in your'll need a set of Jenga blocks & peel off stickers {I love my garage sale dots!}

As you can imagine, you play this version very similar to the regular version.  When you find a block you want to strategically move, you have to solve the problem BEFORE you can move it.  If you solve the problem correctly, you move the block.  If you get the problem wrong, the next player has the option to solve and move and you lose a turn.  Then you just keep on playing 'til they all fall down :)

Of course, using math strategies is highly encouraged!  I can already tell a difference in fact fluency with my 1st grader.  He's starting to remember some of the addition problems and he's becoming a much faster player :)  

What I love about using the garage sale dots is that I can change out the facts...or often as possible!  In case you don't know, I am seriously cheap.  I don't like to buy more than what I need or already have.  The sticky dots give me the flexibility to change it up whenever I feel the need.  The possibilities are ENDLESS!  

In other news, today's Christmas in July deal is on two of my FAVORITE math resources!! 

Don't Forget My Number is an awesome number sense packet perfect for starting the year!  It's chock full of number anchor charts, games, and printable activities to reinforce number sense!  It's usually $11, but TODAY ONLY it's on sale for $8!!

Splash Into Summer is a fun little packet full of printable math practice pages!  Perfect for the summer between K-1 or great for starting out the first few weeks of first grade!  It's usually $7, but TODAY ONLY it's on sale for $5!!

I'll be giving BOTH of these packets away today on my FB page, so if you're not a fan already, head on over, click "like" & "get notifications" and enter to win!!

Friday, July 18, 2014

The Last 22 Days {In Pictures}

I've been spending the last couple of days recuperating.  It's been a loooooooong month.  In the best way possible.  

Around the end of June, we drove 19ish hours to Indiana and stayed a few days with our family.

A few days after we got there, I drove a couple of hours to meet up with some of my favorite friends for our annual (6 hour) lunch.  

(left to right... Amanda from One Extra Degree,  Michelle from Fabulous in First, and Abby and Faith from The Inspired Apple}

A few days after that, we all hopped back in the Kia and headed north to Michigan...another 3ish hours...and stayed a few days for our annual July 4th festivities.  SO.MUCH.FUN!!

When everyone was headed back to Indiana, Mr. Spouse and I detoured to the airport and headed west to Vegas.  Praise the Lord we flew for that trip!!  

We stayed in Vegas for about 6 days and almost couldn't come home because that city took all our money :) 

We flew back to Michigan.

Then drove 3 more hours to pick up the boys in Indiana.

And after taking a day to rest, we loaded everything up and started our 2-day trek back to Texas.  


All that to be said, it really has been an AMAZING month!!!!  Busy, yes.  But WONDERFUL!

Now I'm gonna back it up a little bit and try to highlight my stay in Vegas.  

I was so excited...and so very, very present at the I Teach 1st conference.  I ripped the band-aid off my first day there and got 4 of my presentations out of the way.  I met the kindest, most fantastic teachers!!!!  They were so sweet and put my anxious little heart right at ease.  PTL. 
I had the BEST time with these ladies!!!

My family came to Vegas, too.  They're 12 kinds of fun and I had a blast spending time with them, too!  

And did I tell y'all that my brother proposed to his girlfriend while we were there?!!?  He DID!!!  And we were all there to see it go down!  We went down to Fremont Street on Tuesday night and he had all of us girls take a picture together.  While Mr. Spouse was snapping away, my brother got down on one knee behind us....

Then we all moved out of the way and his girlfriend was in shock!

It was so perfect and I loved getting to be part of it!

The rest of the week in Vegas was equally as perfect.  I had SUCH a great time at the Teacher/Blogger Meet up on Wednesday.  It was a madhouse. An absolute madhouse.  But I mean that in the best way possible!  The energy was palpable.  It was like a going to a high school reunion with 700 of your closest {blogging} friends :)  I was so excited to meet so many talented and amazing teachers/bloggers.  I really can't articulate how amazing it was!  You'll just have to come next year so you can see for yourself :)

One of the best things about being in Vegas was having Mr. Spouse there with me. I love that man.  And I know we've been celebrating our anniversary like it's 1999, but we went ahead and continued those festivities at dinner while we were there.  If you love sushi, Sushi Samba is the BEST!!!  SO good!!!

We ended the week on a high note, for sure.  The TpT conference was everything I hoped it would be...and then some.  My dear friend, Deanna, gave the most heartfelt and inspiring keynote speeches.  I've heard her story a million times, but hearing her tell it to a crowd of 800 people was indescribable.  I love that girl.  

I was so excited to meet Paul {TpT founder} and Amy.  How do you say "thank you" to someone who has literally help change your life both personally and professionally?!?!!  You don't.  You just hug it out and hope he knows how grateful I am for his genius.

My favorite thing about Vegas was spending it with these girls.

These people are #mytribe.  

I love them.  They are crazy.  And amazing.  And ALWAYS there for me.  We're always there for each other.  Hands down, these friendships are the best thing about my blogging/TpT journey.  I mean, how could I NOT love these faces?!?!?!??!

Now that you've made it through the LONGEST.POST.EVER, you can head on over to my little shop for a freebie!

I actually had these in my store since starting TpT back in 2010, but I deactivated it last year to update the fonts and graphics.  I never got around to it until just a few days ago, so it's back up and ready to download for FREE!!!

And here's today's Christmas in July deal!  

Don't forget to follow me on FB to keep up with all the latest freebies, sales, and ideas!!