Sunday, December 30, 2012

"Give Me Five" - A Way to Help the Sandy Hook Teachers

I haven't blogged since the tragedy in Sandy Hook. I've started to write a few times - to post my 12 in 12; to show a really cute craftivity that I can't wait to do with my class; to share a new set of January Calendar Cards. Each time I've tried, however, I've found that my heart just hasn't been into it.  At all.  I've been feeling almost guilty worrying about what I should add to my math stations next week when the Sandy Hook teachers are facing the overwhelming challenge of getting themselves and their new classrooms ready to welcome their beloved little ones back to school.  I've been stuck in a place somewhere between really wanting to do something to help, but not knowing what to do.

Then I spoke to my oldest friend, Karen, who I've known since we were about 10. Karen's also a teacher and she and I have been partners in crime for years. She's the one that I volunteered with at a special needs camp every summer growing up. She's the one I tasted my first beer with. She's the one my parents caught me on the roof with trying to sneak back into the house. She's the one who got me an interview at the school where I've been teaching at for 14 years now. She's the one I've cried with, laughed with and endured with. She's the one that just reminded me that sometimes the only thing that can comfort you when you face something this tragic is to do something good with it.

So we put our heads together to come up with a plan to help the Sandy Hook teachers.  (A plan which, I have to say, is much better that our infamous Food Fight of 1987 plan...)

The Sandy Hook community has been overwhelmed with donations, both of money and materials. Newtown is making plans on how best to use donations such as these to help in the near future. I think the long term is covered for the teachers having what they need, but what about the short term?  How can we help those teachers and their kids have the least traumatic return to the classroom?  The boxes of donated materials that the teachers have waiting for them are great, but were all selected by somebody else. Especially in a crunch, who knows what we need for our kids better then we do? If it were me, I'd want lessons, station activities, classroom decor, etc. like the ones I used before the tragedy to make things as familiar as possible - the shiny new textbooks can wait. For these teachers to get up and running next week and to just get through the first couple of days seems insurmountable, and having the things that THEY think will best help them do that is crucial.  How can we get materials directly to the teachers as quickly as possible?
After bouncing some ideas around in the TPT forum, we've came up with the "Give Me 5" project.  TPT teachers are signing up to "adopt" the Sandy Hook teachers that teach at the same grade level that they do. The Sandy Hook teachers can then choose any 5 items from each store at their grade level and they will be sent to them via email for immediate download.   Maybe Mrs. Smith thinks a Monster Truck Math game will make her returning first graders smile, or Ms. Jones thinks that turtle name tags will make her kids feel at home. With over 60 TPT teachers signed up already, each Sandy Hook teacher should be able to choose at least 20-30 new goodies for their classroom.  Since Sandy Hook is right down the road from where Karen and I live, we have some contacts in the district who are helping us to make the connections we need to, and we're looking into getting printing and/or laminating donated for the teachers as well.

We know it's not a lot, but it's something we can do to lighten the load of our Sandy Hook counterparts by just a little. By taking some of the prep work and planning off of their plates, we hope to give the Sandy Hook teachers the gift of what they need right now - time to be with their kids and help them heal.

If you're a TPT seller and you'd like to join the project, you can read more about it here or fill out the form to get involved.  We have mostly K-3 teachers signed up and could use some more 4th & 5th grade teachers as well as Specialists (Gym, Art, Music, etc).  We're hoping to get the list of donors to Sandy Hook by Tuesday so the teachers will have some time to choose materials before they start back later in the week. Feel free to grab the graphic if you'd like to pin, blog or post to social media.

Thanks so much to everyone who is getting involved - you guys are awesome!

If you're not a TPT seller but would like to help, we're putting together a way to donate TPT gift certificates. Check back for an update later tonight.

Update 11:30 pm
The number of people who have been emailing about wanting to donate gift certificates has been amazing!  I think we;re going to be able to send a lot of help to the Sandy Hook teachers. We're calling this arm of the project "Honoring Angels" If you'd like to donate a gift certificate, this is the plan we have in place:
Kim, another childhood friend of Karen's who lives in Sandy Hook, is serving as our liaison to the teachers. Kim's children thankfully survived the tragedy and she is very active in the PTO's efforts to get the kids and teachers back to school. She is thrilled about the project and will work with school officials to distribute the gift certificates amongst the teachers.

If you'd like to donate a certificate, you can do the following:
1. Log on to TPT and purchase a gift certificate in the amount of your choosing.
2. Download your certificate and email it to Karen at
3. Karen will send the certificates to Kim for the PTO to distribute to the teachers. (She will cc you so can be sure your certificate went through).

Please contact Karen at the above email address if you have any questions.
Thanks again for supporting this project!!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Sleep Tight Little Ones . . .

Today was Kindergarten Pajama Day in my school. We've been participating in Scholastic's Pajama Project and the kids have been bringing in pajamas to donate to children in need. We got to present our efforts at a school assembly, and all 87 kindergartners stood before the whole school in their jammies and sang a cute little song about pajamas. As I watched with pride as my adorable fleece-wearing kiddos sang their little 5-year old hearts out I thought, "It just doesn't get any cuter than this!"

We returned to our classroom and the kids cuddled on the rug for a special "Bedtime Story" and we all felt very warm, cozy and safe in our little kindergarten cocoon. Eager eyes and shining faces joined with good friends and a favorite story to create a very magical moment, full of joy and innocence.  All was right with our world and I thought, "It just doesn't get any better than this!"

And then the world shook.

Word started to trickle in about the horrific school shooting that had just occurred a few towns over from us in Newtown.  The details were slow to reach us, but as they did, tears were shed and hearts were broken for the victims of this senseless tragedy. How do you wrap your head around something so gut-wrenching? How do you acknowledge that there's an entire class of kindergartners, a class just like yours, that will never sing or dance or dream again?  Looking at my sweet, sweet babies, wearing their princess nightgowns and monster truck pjs, I just couldn't do it. I don't know if I ever will. I thought to myself, "It just doesn't get any sadder than this."

So we danced. A lot. I cranked up a little Carly Rae Jepsen and we twirled and bounced and spun and jumped. We held hands and sang loudly and off key. We danced until the kids all fell down laughing. As I looked around at the precious little ones that I get to love, laugh and learn with every day, I promised myself that I will always do whatever I can to keep them safe. No matter what. I promised myself that if needed, I would have the courage to be as brave as the teachers in Newtown were today. No matter what.

I hugged my kids a littler tighter than usual when they left today and I wished them all the sweetest of dreams. To our neighbors in Newtown - I wish you all healing and peace. To the shining lights lost today - Sleep Tight Little Ones . . .
sleep tight little ones
This beautiful graphic is by Nikki at Melonheadz!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

December Calendar Cards and a Review

How on earth is it December?  November was so crazy with Hurricane Sandy, report card assessments and parent conferences that it was such a blur!  Things are not likely to slow down in December, either, are they? Those visions of sugarplums are bound to pop up and make us all a little cray-cray.  Only 15 school days until Winter Break!

I got a Christmas present a little early this year when a big box arrived in my classroom. A few weeks ago, Kayla from asked if I would provide some honest feedback on the site in exchange for a store credit. Shopping on someone else's dime - how could I resist?

The website was super easy to navigate and I especially liked how you can sort by grade level. After I filtered for kindergarten, I was like a kid in a candy store trying to choose from all kinds of goodies. The prices were super reasonable and I ended up with more items than I thought I would. Take a look at what I picked:
1 Wipe-Off Chart Handwriting Paper
2 Roll & Learn Pocket Cubes (I've wanted these forever!)
3 Plastic Game Spinners (LOVE!)
4 Chart Rings (so I can hang two things on the same chart stand)
5 Homework Helper Alphabet Gr Pk-1

Checkout was easy and quick and followup emails let me know when my order was processed and when it shipped. Within days I had my goodies! The nice people at MPM are offering 10% off for the first 10 customers who use this link.  Happy Shopping!

If you've been using my calendar cards, here's the set for December. They use an ABB pattern and there are cards for the major holidays.

I'm also sharing a little number writing calendar activity I do each month with the kids. There are three different number writing sheets so you can choose the one(s) that work best for your kiddos. I have them glue the calendar picture onto the top half of a 12x18 piece of construction paper and then glue the calendar underneath. It's great for them to take home to hang on the fridge. Enjoy!

Comments make me smile,