Tuesday, July 31, 2012

A "Like-able" Giveaway

     During my summer of blog hopping, I've noticed that almost every blogger also has a Facebook page to share extra tidbits, links and other fun stuff with their followers. So, I finally took the leap and started a Facebook page for Peace, Love and Learning. From what I understand, now I need to get some people to "like" it so I can shorten the URL to something more manageable. Well, I'm not above a little bribery incentive to help that happen. So . . . let's have a Giveaway! All you have to do to enter is "like" my new Facebook page. Easy, Peasy!

     What's the prize?  Well, as many of you know, I've been working hard to put together some materials for my new group of kindergartners that really focus on teaching and reinforcing behavioral expectations. Combining two of my favorite things - emergent readers and craftivities - I've created some back to school packets to share with my class. I think they'll be perfect for introducing and reinforcing the rules while fostering emergent literacy skills and having some crafty fun.  3 winners will each win the entire set of what I like to call my "Back to School Bootcamp" series.  Each packet has a full color original emergent reader, a matching b&w student book, a small classroom poster and a cute craftivity. (Some of the packets also have a pocket chart sort.) Take a peek . . .



So, if you think you could use the Bootcamp Series in your classroom this fall, all you have to do is "like" my Facebook page and enter via Rafflecopter down below. The contest ends Friday night at midnight.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
See how long my Facebook page URL is???  Thanks for helping me get rid of that!
Have a great night!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

A Pinterest-ing Request

Just a quickie to let you know about an update.  Now that it's Back to School time, some things that I posted last year are making their rounds on Pinterest.  I've had a bunch of requests for the First Day of School magnets that I posted last year for grades other than just kindergarten. I've updated the file to include preschool, kindergarten, and first grade versions, as well as a "good for any grade" version.  Just have the kids decorate the magnets and cut them out, add a drawing in the little paper, then attach a magnet-backed clothespin to the back.  Voila!  A magnetic clip to hang on the fridge to display their best work.  You can grab a copy down below the picture.  (For some reason, when you preview the file in Google Docs, it looks like there's a wonky gray shadow around the paper, but don't worry, it's not really there when you download it.)  Have a great night!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Better than Bieber!

     He sings. He dances. He makes all the girls swoon. Fans all over the world sit on the edge of their seats waiting for the release of his newest video.  He's all the rage and is stalked online by groupies of all ages.

     Justin? No, Dustin - Dustin Smith, that is. Also known as the Teacher Tipster, Mr. Smith is a favorite of teachers everywhere and he's an absolute genius.  If you've watched his videos, you know that his love of teaching is genuine and he does an amazing job at combining learning and humor, while still showing a clear respect for his students.  In a nutshell, watching him makes you want to become a better teacher, and using his tips helps you get there.  If you haven't discovered him yet, check him out here.

     I've used a bunch of Mr. Smith's tips in my classroom, and I have a few more ready to go for the new year.  If you've read my recent posts, you know that I plan to really focus on the teaching and reteaching of behavioral expectations in the beginning of the year.  To help with this, I can't wait to use Dustin's lesson on teaching self-control using bubbles. First, he blows some bubbles and, as expected, the kids all pop them.  Then, he challenges them to NOT pop the bubbles even if one lands on the tip of their nose. As he says, "Do they want to pop them? Yes- big time. But are they going to pop them? No way." This is such a great way to introduce the concept of self control and launch a discussion about stopping to think before you act. Dustin refers to it as a "bullet" in your year that you can refer back to again and again. "Think about that time when we didn't pop the bubbles..." Genius!  Check it out -

     So, I bought myself a jumbo bottle of bubbles at my favorite place - the Dollar Tree - and made a cute little label to make it an official bottle of "Self Control Bubbles."
     I plan to do the mini-lesson during the first week of school and then have the bottle handy to use as needed throughout the year. I love the idea of having a concrete, visual cue to remind the kids of the concept of self-control.  If you'd like to use the label to make your own official bottle, you can grab a copy down below the picture. (Just pick up a jumbo 32 oz. bottle of bubbles - Dollar Tree has still has piles of them!)
You can grab the label here

     A big thanks to the Teacher Tipster for sharing his ideas, strategies and humor with teachers everywhere. You are truly an inspiration and greatly appreciated. Bieber's got nothing on you, Dustin!

Have a great night, everyone!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Halibut, Marshmallows and a Freebie

No . . . I'm not sharing a gross recipe that combines marshmallows and halibut (thank goodness)!  They are just two unrelated things that I want to chat about. (Warning - this is a really long post but if you hang in until the end there's a freebie and a quick giveaway.)

The first thing you need to know is that I'm a closet Big Brother fan. It's my summer guilty pleasure, I admit it.  Anyone else?  Well, even if you don't watch the show, you'll understand my extreme reaction to, and subsequent dislike for one of the houseguests.  Twenty-something Danielle is a nurse from Alabama whose incredibly offending strategy is, "I don't want anyone to know I'm in the medical field or that I'm working on three different degrees including a Masters," she confides. "I plan to lie and say I'm someone not that smart like . . . oh . . . maybe a kindergarten teacher. I mean, how can someone who works with Play-Doh all day and reads The Bernstein [sic] Bears be that much of a threat, right?"
I don't even know where to start! I could go on for hours about how incredibly insulting and misguided this ridiculous twit young lady is, but I'll just rant about a few things:
  1. Play-doh all day, really? With increasing curriculum standards and heightened accountability, when was the last time you broke out the play-doh for an all-day fiesta?
  2. Most teachers also have multiple degrees, with many states requiring a Masters within the first few years of teaching.  It's something we do as teachers to hone our craft and become better at what we do, not to wear as a badge or to announce to the world on reality TV.
  3. Ummm. . . It's Berenstain Bears, not Bernstein Bears. If you're going to insult us, at least get it right.
  4. On Sunday's episode, when the houseguest cooking dinner said he was making halibut, Danielle asked, "What's halibut?" Now, I might not be a nurse, but at least I know what halibut is!  (No offense meant toward nurses, I know that they are as hardworking and dedicated as teachers are!)
  5. Lastly, I'd bet my left arm that the love of learning that propelled Danielle to pursue her many degrees was first cultivated by her kindergarten teacher. I'm just saying. . .
Okay, I'm done with the halibut, on to the marshmallows.

Back to school time means teaching and re-teaching rules and procedures to set the expectations for the whole year.  Looking back at the tough year I had with last year's bunch, I'm finding myself wondering if I spent enough time in the beginning of year doing this. I'm going in guns blazing this year, and I'm going to spend a lot more time really focusing on making good choices.  If you're a regular follower, you know that writing my own emergent readers has become quite an obsession a hobby of mine, so I've been working on some to help facilitate this beginning of the year "boot camp."
One thing I want to focus on right away is hallway expectations. Using the well known "Marshmallow Toes" gimmick, I came up with a cute emergent reader to share with my class as we practice walking quietly in the hallway. I also made a matching pocket chart sort and classroom poster to support what we'll learn from the book. Then, I made a matching take home version so the parents can reinforce the expectations at home. (You can grab this freebie down below.) Finally, since we can't play with play-doh all day but we still need a little fun, I created a craftivity (that uses real marshmallows!) to go with it.  I'm excited to use this mini-unit when school starts, and I think it will really help set the tone for the year. You can check it out in my TPT store (here) if you think you'd like to have a fun little boot camp of your own.

Thanks for reading all the way to the end of this really long post. Now for a quick "Halibut and Marshmallows" Give-Away.  I'll send a copy of the Marshmallow Toes packet to the first five people who can name a Big Brother houseguest that I would like to see take Danielle out of the game (any houseguest will do). Make sure you leave your email and no fair repeating a name that someone already answered with!

Have a great day!

Monday, July 16, 2012

The "Craftiness" of Craftivities (and a Freebie)

     As kindergarten teachers, we all know the developmental benefits of doing cutsie crafts in our classrooms. Not only do they strengthen eye-hand coordination and fine motor skills, but they also foster creativity and the ability to concentrate. When I first started teaching kindergarten, our days were filled with cutsie crafts because we knew how important these skills are. Construction paper, glue and paint were tools we used for learning every day.  EVERY day.
     Jump to the present.  Academic objectives and intense curriculums are the standard now and there is little time for crafts, which are now considered frivolous. The same administrators that complain about the penmanship of 2nd graders are raising their eyebrows when they see a room full of kindergartners making construction paper hearts for Valentine's Day.  Everything we do in our classrooms has to support an official learning standard and has to be connected to the curriculum.     
     Enter the newly popular "craftivity."  By combining curriculum content and academic skills (usually writing) with a big dose of cuteness, craftivities are a win-win!  We now have something to say other than "We're working on fine motor skills" when we have to justify the activity to an eyebrow-raising administrator. The craftivity is a sneaky double agent, working in a covert, crafty way to bring back our construction paper and glue!
     I've seen so many cute craftivities (just search Pinterest and you'll be in heaven!) and even created some of my own (stick with me 'til the end of the post for a freebie).  These are some of my favorites that I found while blog hopping that I've either done with my class or plan to do this year:

How cute are these Seuss Week Freebies from Mel at Seusstastic Classroom Inspirations?

And this one from Alisha at the Bubbly Blonde is a great way to kick off the year.

Teri at A Cupcake for the Teacher came up with this tasty treat:

 Jennifer at Herding Kats in Kindergarten is a girl after my heart - We love Mo!

And now for my contribution to the cuteness.  I always start the year with everyone's favorite kindergarten teacher, Miss Bindergarten.  I thought this craftivity would be a good way for me to assess fine motor skills and how well my new class follows directions.  I think they'll also make a super cute bulletin board for Open House. Templates, a writing prompt and step by step picture directions are included. You can grab a copy below the pic if you'd like to give it a try.  I just dare any administrator who walks into your classroom to raise an eyebrow!

Leave a comment if you grab a copy and you'll make my day!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Guest Blogging and Thinking Smarter

Hi everyone!

I just had the privilege of guest blogging for Cynthia over at the 2nd Grade Pad.  She’s doing a series called, “Work Smarter, Not Harder” and she has some really great posts with some great tips!

In my post, I shared the system I use to manage student conferences during Readers’ and Writers’ Workshop. I’ve struggled with the best way to handle the record keeping effectively and efficiently and I finally found a way that really works for me using labels. Pop over to check it out and then come on back for Part 2, posted down below.

Part 2

Now that you know the teacher part of the plan, on to the student “Take-Away.”

To help the kids be accountable for their own learning, they each have a laminated “Strategy Sheet “in their book boxes and writing folders.  When we decide on a strategy to work on, we put a sticky note on the practice side.  When the strategy is mastered, the student gets to move the sticky over to the toolbox side. The sheet looks just like the labels I write on, so the students get a real sense of partnership and gain an ownership of their learning goals.  They get so excited when we decide together that they have mastered a skill!  You can download a copy if you’d like to give it a try:

Once I started this plan in my classroom, I noticed that the kids were really aware of their goals and were able to really focus on them. My principal has a habit of wandering into classrooms and asking the students, “What are you working on today?” Prior to using this system, my kids would always give really vague answers like, “Reading my book” or “Writing a story.” Now they are able to really impress with specific answers like, “Using picture clues to help with tricky words” or “Adding bigger spaces between my words.”

All in all, the system has made record keeping a breeze and has really empowered my students. Can’t beat that! Do you have a system that works well? Leave and comment and share your tips!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Giveaway Winners

    Drum roll, please!  Rafflecopter has just done its job and has randomly selected 3 winners out of almost 2800 entries. If you're one of the lucky winners, you'll be getting an email letting you know how to claim your prizes.  Thanks to everyone who entered and to everyone who donated a prize!  Stay tuned this summer for lots of ideas, teacher tips and freebies . . .

Friday, July 6, 2012

A Pinterest Inspired Science Night

     With the craziness of the end of the year, I didn't have time to write about our last big school event - Science Night. It went so well and I was so proud of my kids that I still wanted to share.  It was a schoolwide event and we all worked hard on special projects then invited the families in to see the discoveries made by their little scientists. 
     In kindergarten, we focused on our Living Things unit, and we shared our observations about our classroom goldfish and our newly sprouted bean plants. We documented everything in our science journals and made some cute crafts to show everything we learned during the unit.  The kids took complete ownership of the process every step of the way, including making their own journals, setting up the fish tank and taking care of the needs of both the plants and the fish.
     First up, meet our fishies - Piggie and Gerald.  (My class was obsessed with Mo Willems this year so it came as no surprise when they voted these names as the winners!)
      Then, we had our sad little bean seeds.  After a comedy of errors (we used the wrong kind of seed, they grew mold when we overwatered them for the weekend, the janitor knocked half of them over and left them on the floor) and 2 replantings, we finally had sprouts just in time for the big night. Our rocky start sure helped the kids understand that scientists learn from their mistakes!
    We posed a scientific question about our living things every day, made predictions about the outcome, then wrote the results in our journals.  What will happen if we add plants to the fish tank?  Why is there mold on our bean seeds? Will Piggie and Gerald act differently if we turn out the lights?  Will they go through a little tunnel? Will the plants grow faster if we cover them with plastic? The excitement the kids showed about this kind of scientic inquiry was amazing and the writing they did in their journals was amazing!
     And now for my favorite part - the crafty, Pinterest-inspired part We made a fish project (inspired by Ashley at The Kinder Wife) and a plant project (inspired by Mrs. Golden at Golden Gang Kindergarten).  Both helped show what we learned and were super cute to boot! Thanks to both teachers for their inspiration.  (Love, love, love Pinterest!) Be sure to check out their blogs for other great ideas.
     Almost all of the families attended the big event and the proud excitement in the eyes of the kids was priceless! I think the whole process really helped set a great foundation for years of scientific thinking to come. I was especially impressed with the elevated level of writing in the kids' journals. Even my most reluctant writers couldn't wait to get started every day!
   I'll leave you with a little teacher tip.  I wanted to have seperate fish and plant journals but didn't want the kids to have two journals to manage.  So instead, we made flip journals.  The plant journal is on one side and if you flip it over the fish journal is on the other side.  It worked really well because the kids each had only one journal to take care of and everything was in one place.

     Thanks for sticking with me and making to the end of this VERY long post.  I'm just super proud of the kids and the work they did and I wanted to share it.  I 'd love to hear about any Pinterest inspired science work that you've done in your classroom - leave a comment to inspire us!

     If you haven't entered the HUGE giveaway you still have one day at a shot for some great prizes.  Head right over to to enter.

Have a great night!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

A Birthday Freebie

     My twin sister and I are celebrating our birthday (birthdays?) today so I want to send some happy wishes her way - Happy Birthday, Danni!  I just finished wrapping her presents to bring to our b-day cookout at Mom and Dad's tomorrow and then I watched the fireworks from the screen porch. If you've been a follower since last year, you might remember the story that at as a child, we would always have our family birthday party on the same day that my town had the fireworks.  We grew up a block from the beach, so after a day long cookout, the entire family, all 40 of us, would walk down to the beach to watch the fireworks.  Being the self-absorbed child that I apparently was, I thought the fireworks were for us. I actually thought the whole town was there to celebrate my birthday!  So now, when ever I watch the fireworks, especially when they're held on July 3rd, I always chuckle a little about how pretentious I was.
     Now that you know the story, you can understand that birthdays are pretty important to me. When we celebrate a birthday in my classroom, I try to pass along that same feeling of "Today is all about me!" that I still used to have. One thing that I always make is some kind of crown, hat or badge for the birthday boy/girl to wear.  Because the beginning of the year, "Class of..." badges and the end of the year, "Movin' on..." badges were such a hit with the kids, this year I'm going to make birthday badges. When one of the kiddos is celebrating their birthday, they can decide if they want to make it into a crown, a necklace, a backpack tag or simply wear it as a badge.  You can grab a set down below if you'd like.  I left them in a Word document so you can play with the sizing if you want to.  I'd love to read how you make your kids feel special on their birthdays, so leave a comment if you have an idea to share.

I hope that they help make your kiddos feel as special as I do whenever I see fireworks...

If you haven't entered the big giveaway yet, be sure to check it out here.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

A Huge Celebration Giveaway

Good Morning!
     It's time to celebrate!  As I mentioned in my last post, this weekend marks the one year "Blogiversary" of starting Peace, Love and Learning.  Since I've had such a great year being a part of such an amazing community of teachers and I also just hit 1000 followers, I've decided that it's time to celebrate in a big way. Twenty eight awesome bloggers are helping me to give away some great prizes. (Aren't teachers just the most generous bunch ever?)  The prizes are:
  • The Grand Prize Winner will receive a $50 Shopping Spree from my TPT Store, the entire "Awesome Bloggers" Prize Pack and a $20 Amazon Gift Card
  • The second place winner will win a $20 Shopping Spree from my TPT Store and a $10 Amazon Gift Card
  • The Third Place Winner will win a $20 Shopping Spree from my TPT Store

This is how it will work:
  1. Poke around the prize pack and follow the blogs and TPT stores of all the bloggers that look interesting to you (there are some new bloggers included so let's spread some bloggy love). 
  2. Enter the giveaway using Rafflecopter down below.  This is my first time using Rafflecopter but it seems to be taking Blogland by storm so we'll give it a try.  It may take a little time to explore all of the blogs, but the more following you do, the more entries you can earn and it's a great chance to discover some new blogs. 
  3. If you blog about the giveaway, you'll earn 5 bonus entries - woohoo!
You have a week to enter and winners will be announced next Sunday, July 8th. I'd love it if you left a comment when you enter. Thanks again to all of the awesome bloggers who are participating Good luck everyone!

Awesome Blogger Prize Pack

Brook from Once
Upon A 1st Grade
Kacey from
Doodle Bugs
Karen from
Mrs. Stamp's 
Lacey from
Wild About
from Fluttering
Through 1st Grade
Lori from
Teaching with
Love & Laughter
Tanya from
Mrs. Dwyer's
A+ Firsties
Candace from
005 Watkins
Angela from
Rulin' the Roost
Tangelia from
Buggy in
Donna from
Math Coach's 
Nicole from
Mrs. Rios Teaches
Second Grade
Lauren from
Mom of 3
Linda from
Dana from
Fun in
First Grade
Vicky from Tradi- tions Laughter & Happily Ever After
Alisha from
Steppin' Into
A New Year
Vickie from
Mrs. Plant's
Charlotte from
Charlotte's Clips &
Kindergarten Kids
Danielle from
Teresa from
2nd Grade 
Pig Pen
Jenna from
Swimming Into
Karla from
Life in Special
Shuna from
Pocket Full
of Kinders
Jessica from
Second Grade
Beverly from
3rd Grade
Cynthia from
2nd Grade
Tanja from
Journey of a
Substitute Teacher