Budding Bloggers Showcase: Teaching in the Tongass

Today is my anniversary (14 years - wow!) so I'm spending some time AWAY from the computer with the hubs, but I have another fantastic blog to showcase for you today!  Read on to find out about the Tongass (I never knew what that was!), a king-style author's chair, a memory binder, and much more!! :)  

So you might be wondering what the Tongass means.  If you didn't already know, the Tongass National Forest is our nation's largest forest and it's located in Southeast Alaska.  It's 17 million acres of rainforest awesomeness and I live smack dab, right in the middle of it all.  This coming fall will be my 6th year teaching 2nd grade in my hometown of Juneau, Alaska.  Check out my blog by clicking the image below:   
Personal life?
I am a wife to a wonderful, handy-man husband, a mother to a 1 year old chunk baby who we nicknamed Cheeks, and we have a yorkie named Buggaboo.  We live in a house built in the 1960s and have been remodeling it for the last 3 years...fun, sweat and tears! Here's one of my favorite pics of Cheeks and I (at his 1 year photo shoot):
What is your favorite subject to teach?
I love teaching 2nd grade. Looove it.  My favorite subject to teach is Writing Workshop.  It is the only subject area my school doesn't have a required curriculum to use, therefore, I have a little more freedom to teach the Common Core how I see fit.  This, to me, means being able to get ideas from Pinterest and buy things on TpT!  I love being able to see the dramatic differences in student writing from the beginning of the year to the end of the year, it's a very rewarding feeling after a lot of hard work on ours and our students' parts, and probably one that keeps me loving my job.  

What would we see if we dropped by your classroom?
If you dropped by my classroom, you would see lots of color, but nothing that matches! I have anchor charts everywhere (organized by subject area of course!) by the end of the year, a bright word wall, a king-style author's chair my husband made, a microfiber chaise lounge chair (I picked up for free from Craigslist!), and a U-shape table where I meet with students and also where I do my own work (I got rid of my teacher desk last year...liberating!).

What do you do when you are having one of "those" days?
If I'm having one of "those" days, I immediately go to my memory binder.  It's full of appreciations that, as our counselor would say, make my heart smile!

What's one teacher resource you can't live without?
One teacher resource I could not live without in my classroom is my volunteers!  Before I had my son, my mom, who is a retired home daycare provider, came in about once a week and volunteered with prep work or helping students, whatever I needed.  Now, she watches Cheeks while I'm at work (Get this: for FREE! Love her!).  I was worried how I was going to leave every day at 3 to be the mom I want to be (we have a union with contract hours 7:30-3:00), but it turned out more than okay.  I'm not sure how it happens, but for one reason or another, I usually end up with lots of adult help.  Those extra eyes, ears and hands make A HUGE DIFFERENCE.  I had a student teacher a couple of years ago, which connected me with her Advisor, who teaches an Introduction to Teaching class where students need to complete 25 hours of classroom time...I was fortunate enough to have 3 college students in my room (that's 75 hours!) this year completing their hours!  2 of them even came in regularly after their hours were completed and continued helping!  I also had a high school student volunteer for an hour every day in the morning, which made Math a breeze!  I had 2 regular parent volunteers that came in and/or worked on projects at home for me.  I keep them busy with everything from copying, working with kids, making bulletin boards, and chaperoning field trips. I'm incredibly grateful and fortunate, especially for the time it allowed me to be with my son instead of working on the weekend.

Give us a glimpse of your teaching style by sharing a brief summary of a favorite classroom activity/project.
My favorite classroom activity is Muffins with Moms and Donuts with Dads.  This is a day where an adult (could be aunts/uncles, grandmas/grandpas, friends, etc.) comes in to visit in the morning.  I hold my Donuts with Dads in December and Muffins with Moms in March (because it is easier to remember!).  I send out an email asking for food/drink/supply donations and usually have more than enough people happy to bring something in.  This year, I even made a little muffin craftivity and donut craftivity for students to do, and they were a hit!
 I start the morning off with a quick welcome and thank you, followed by juice and pastries while the students read to the adults.  There are, of course, students who don't have a family member or friend to partner with...NO BIGGIE! I have extended the invitation to my volunteers who are there for that exact reason! After a while, I pass out crayons and a template with a face/neck for everyone to take turns drawing their partner.  While they draw, they interview one another.  After it looks like most of the drawings are done, students come up in front of the room and introduce "their" adult and tell some things about them.  Then we take a group photo, say thank you and the adults leave.  Altogether, one and a half hours of fun!    

What is one of your blogging goals for this year?
I am so new to the blogging world (I began in February), that my only goal is to just continue documenting my life.  I love looking back at previous posts and seeing what I was doing just a few months ago...a virtual diary!  I actually never thought I would have as many followers as I have now, and although it's a great feeling, it's sort of weird to know real people read my blog!  A few of them, I consider to be celebrities even, so that's even more weird.  Not that my husband knows who The Fern Smith is, haha!   
If you'd like to know a little more about my hometown, check out my post about life in Juneau by clicking the image of the Northern Lights lighting up the Mendenhall Glacier below:

Revisiting Old Posts: Pet Pals & Long Range Plans

Hi friends!  Just a quick post today to revisit a couple of topics by request.

First up....
Pet Pals Project
{Click here for previous post on topic}

When I first blogged about wanting a partner for this project for the year, I never thought so many people would be interested!  I WISH I could have partnered up with everyone, but of course, that was impossible.  A lot of people were able to reply to others and find partners through the comments, but I've gotten a few emails of people still hoping to get a partner!

If you are interested in a Pet Pals Project with your class and still need a partner, feel free to comment on this post.  It will help if you will include the following information:

1. Your name
2. Your email address (so that an interested partner can contact you directly)
3. Grade You Teach
4. State You Live In

I hope this helps the rest of you find a partner.  It really is a valuable reading/writing project that the kiddos LOVE! :)

Next up....
Long Range Plans
**UPDATE - I have an entire Lesson Plan Series now where you can download my Long Range Plans and much more.  Click HERE to visit that series. **

{Click here for previous post on topic}

When I first posted my LRPs, my hope was to show you how I lay out my year in advance.  If Google Docs was kind and would let me upload WORD documents, I would have gladly posted my WORD doc instead of a PDF.  With that being said, I don't know if my WORD doc would be helpful or not.  I created my LRPs with just a simple table - and LOTS of merging.  If you had my document, you wouldn't be able to "unmerge" {I know that's not really a word} to change it to fit your needs.

BUT, I can share the actual bare-bones template before any of the merging so that you can merge and add your own info.  It will look like this {I didn't save a bare-bones template from this year, so you can see this one is from a few years ago}

This is my first time sharing a "link" on my blog from dropbox, so fingers crossed it works!  Just click the image below to download.

Don't forget to enter my $100 Dream Classroom Giveaway that ends on Sunday!

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$100 Dream Classroom Giveaway!!!

I'm just like you.  I'm spending my summer thinking of how I can turn my room into the "DREAM CLASSROOM."

Some might say I spend more time decorating my classroom than I do my home.  Let's face it, I probably spend more time there, so why not?

Last summer, I completely revamped my classroom.  Yes, I'm one of those "theme" teachers.  I went from a Hollywood theme to a MonSTAR theme.  I crafted all summer long.  You can see pics of last year's classroom here.

It was worth it.  One sweet kiddo came to meet the teacher and exclaimed, "I want my bedroom just like this!"  Worth. Every. Minute.

I want my classroom to be a place that the kids LOVE coming to each and every day.  I want it to feel like a place for THEM!

This summer, I haven't had time to craft it up....and frankly, there's not TOO much that I need to craft.  But, there are some things that I needed to purchase. 

I am a rug girl.  I LOVE "meeting on the carpet" with my kiddos.  We sit there a majority of the day.  It's comfy.  It's on their level.  I have them right where I want them and they're focused on me. :)

Unfortunately, my rugs had seen better days.  My GIANT colorful rug had been a rescue from a dumpster several schools ago {cringe}.  My two smaller rugs had been purchased locally and replaced year after year because they were not "school grade" - let's face it....kids are rough!

This year, I am investing in some new carpets and I am going BIG TIME thanks to School Outfitters!

Have you heard of them?  They are an amazing school supply company with SO much to offer....including "heavy duty school grade rugs."  OH YEAH!

So, when they contacted me about hosting a GIVEAWAY (that's right, don't stop reading...you have to make it to the end for that!), I was all over it!  They are offering $100 to the winner of my giveaway, and also gave me $100 to spend on MY classroom.  

I ordered the 6x6 square rug in teal and the 6x6 round rug in red.  Whoop!Whoop! for having my classroom colors!!!  And, the best part???  FREE SHIPPING on both of these rugs! :)  I'm positive that next year, I will NOT need to spend my summer rug shopping!
If you're looking for a rug, check them out - they have all colors, sizes, and styles (solids, patterned, learning rugs, and more!)

There are a few other things that are "must-haves" in my classroom for setting the learning environment that you can pick up from School Outfitters.  Here are some of my TOP "must-haves":

1. Seat Sacks

I could not live without our "chair pockets."  Since my kids sit at tables and don't use their cubbies for storage, our chair pockets are essentials!  Mine have lasted YEARS and have been one of my best classroom investments.

2. Easel
Since my students are usually down on the carpet, we use our easel ALL the time!  It's perfect because I can read big-books on the top, clip my morning message to the top, use the bottom for mini-lessons, and store essentials for those lessons at the back.  It is truly my "hold all" area for mini-lessons!

3. Personal Dry Erase Boards
For those times when students are at their desks, I love to use our personal dry erase boards for instant assessments and feedback.  They're also perfect for students to carry around the room for partner practice and/or group work.  Rarely a day goes by when we don't use these!  School Outfitters has an awesome sale on this set of 24 right now for $34.88 and they ship in 24 hours!  Can't beat that!!

4. Book Display Shelf
If you've seen my classroom library, you know it's a little out-of-hand.  I can't pass up a children's book, or throw any out.  This little book display is perfect for the front of my classroom - a spot away from the classroom library where I can "showcase" important books.  Whether it's books by a particular author we're focusing on, books on a specific topic we're learning about, or books that my students have published themselves - any books that I place on this display are thought of as "special" and fly right off the shelves during independent reading time!  That makes my heart smile, friends. :)

 5. Pocket Chart Mail System
I used to use those big, bulky mailboxes (you know, the wooden cases with a slot for each student?) until I realized how much space it was taking up that I could use for something more valuable for my students.  Then, I discovered this fantastic pocket chart!  Mine is hanging on the back of my classroom door (a space I wouldn't typically use for anything else).  Throughout the week, as I grade papers, I file them in students' pockets.  On Mondays, when we take important papers home, students pull their stack of papers from their pocket to put in their folders.  Easy peasy....hidden and out of the way!

6. Learning Games
So, what did I utilize that space for, once I cleared out that big bulky mailbox system?  Learning games!  These reading games are AMAZING!!!  My kiddos BEG to play them and I use them as a reward a lot of times.  They will do anything to have "game time" - and when "game time" means making inferences and sequencing events, that makes this teacher happy! :)

Now, for the fun part!  Take a look at the School Outfitters website and tell me what ONE thing you would most like to have to complete your DREAM CLASSROOM.  Leave that in a comment below for one entry (remember to leave your email address in the comment, too, so that if you're the winner, I can reach you!)

If you would like additional entries, you can share this giveaway on your blog, Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.  For each social media share, you can get one additional entry - just come back to this post and leave the url for your share (along with your name and email).

Best of luck!  I will pick a winner on Sunday, August 4!  The winner will receive a code for $100 from School Outfitters to purchase items for their own "Dream Classroom!"

Disclaimer: I received my own $100 giftcode from School Outfitters as mentioned in this blog post for hosting this giveaway on my blog. The $100 giftcode being given away in this blog post was also provided by School Outfitters and will be sent to the winner directly. Opinions expressed in this post are 100% my own. I have not been compensated for this post in any other way.

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Come Find Me for an Exclusive Freebie

I'm blogging over at the new blog, Owl-ways Be Inspired, today.  Follow me over there so you can snatch up my exclusive freebie that's only available there...here's a little sneak peek....

It's another Author Signs pack with 10 new authors....
So, what are you waiting for?  Click below and hop on over.  Be sure to comment once you're there to let me know you found me!   Hope you enjoy the freebie!

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Budding Bloggers Showcase: Lucky to Be in First

Hey everyone! I'm Molly and my blog is Lucky to Be in First.  Like so many others, I began blogging after reading countless wonderful ideas from all of the amazing teacher bloggers. I started to think about the ideas and lessons I use in my classroom and thought, "Hey, I can do that too!" So, on a rainy February day over ski week, I started Lucky to Be in First on a whim!

I live in the Bay Area.  In fact, it's the same city I grew up in!  I have the best family in the world! So great that I live just a mile away from my parents and two miles from my sister and her family! All of my aunts, uncles and cousins also live in the same two-square mile radius, too! My boyfriend JB and I spend a lot of time in the City (city with a capital C is San Francisco, by the way!) where he lives.  We love day trips around the Bay, going to Giants games, and checking out new fun places to eat in the City!  Reading, Running and spending time with my family is how I spend a lot of my time! These days, I suppose I could throw in blog stalking, blog writing and creating products for TpT, as well!

 For the past ten years I've been lucky to teach first grade.  When I did my student teaching {with the best master teacher on Earth} I could not imagine teaching another grade.  She showed me the magic of first grade.  It's so incredible to have these little people come to you in September filled with knowledge but not sure how to put it all together yet.  I love that I help them figure it all out by the end! I absolutely love teaching kids to read.  It's such a gift to show them the power of words!

If you popped into my classroom, you would likely hear my class well before stepping into the room! I believe that kids learn a great deal from others.  So, my rule is that they can talk...as long as they're working! I play a ton of music {love Dr. Jean and Kidz Bop!} and I try to get them up movin' and shakin' as much as possible.  I get antsy sitting for a long time, so I can only imagine how tricky it is for squirrelly little bodies! We sing A LOT!

This is one of my faves - Mousercise Time! Does anyone remember working out with Micky Mouse?

As much as we like to boogie, we do get lots of work done! I could not teach without my Elmo Document Camera! It's perfect for showing how to play games, following along in our math books, or just making fun hand puppets on the white board!
After "one of those days," I will usually head to my sister's house to hangout with these crazies! Being around these silly kids reminds me to not take things too seriously! Oh, and a glass doesn't hurt either :) 

My blogging goal this year is to hit 500 followers! Lofty, but it's a goal, right? I also want to continue to develop the unique friendships I've made through this crazy teacher blogging world!

I hope you can head on over and visit me sometime soon!



Do I REALLY Need a Planner? {and A Winner!}

First, up - the WINNER of my OfficeMax Tools for Schools Giveaway {$125+Value} is....
Congrats!!! I have sent an email your way! :)

If you didn't win this giveaway, no worries!  I have another HUGE Back to School Giveaway coming up later in the week!

So, you all know from my last post that I like to be organized.  I'm a natural planner.  So, tell me...

Do I really need one of these {Erin Condren} planners??  I don't really understand how it could be so helpful.  I do not and will not actually hand-write my lesson plans, so I definitely wouldn't use that.  Maybe I need a life planner?  But, that's what my iphone is! lol

I've watched all summer long as you all have waited on the edge of your seats for your planners to arrive and I'm just wondering what all of the excitement is about.  

Convince me.  Why do I need one?  

If you have a blog post that shows the "inside" of your planner and/or how you use it, I would love for you to leave the link.  Thanks, friends!

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Planning for a New Year {Long Range Plans}

 **UPDATE** You can now find an EDITABLE version of my Long Range Plans, Planning Calendar, and more in my newer Lesson Plan Series!

What is the first thing you do to prepare for a new school year?

Me?  I have to have a plan.

My husband says I kill all of the fun in things by overplanning.  What can I say?  I like to have a plan!  Even if I don't always stick to it, it's good to know that you have a plan to fall back on. :)

I actually start working on my long range plans in the spring of each year.  I posted my plans last year and have received many emails about this year's plans, so here they are!

I'm not sure how much help they will be since they're not "editable" but sometimes it just helps to see others' plans to get you pointed in the right direction.  Just click on the image below to open up the file.

I simply use Microsoft Word to create my LRP's.  It's just a table that I have painstakingly merged the cells of to meet my needs.  Yes, the process is very tedious and monotonous, but in the end, having my year laid on in this format is worth it!  My LRP's go in the back of my lesson plan notebook for easy reference.

In the front of that notebook, I have my "Planning Calendar" - this is a calendar of the year so that I can see the units (above) at a month's glance, as well as seeing other important school stuff - district dates, grade level duties, team birthdays, special holidays, etc.  I also add my "flexible" read-aloud focuses for each month at the top in the "special notes" sections.  Click below to see the full file.

I'll be back soon to show you a glimpse of my full lesson plan notebook, but I hope seeing the "plan" helps a bit.  What is your one organizational tool that helps you start the year on the right foot?

Don't forget to enter my Office Max Tools for Schools Giveaway {$125+Value} - I'll post the winner TOMORROW!

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7 Habits Song {Adele} + NonFiction Text Features Rap

First, if you didn't enter the giveaway from yesterday's post...do it NOW by clicking the image below!

As I have mentioned, I spent this week teaching some workshops at my school's Summer Academy.  My absolute FAVORITE thing about teaching workshops is learning from the teachers who attend!!

I thought I would share a couple of my favorite new things with you.  If you've followed my blog for a bit, you already know how much I L-O-V-E music.  It's rare when I don't have music playing in the background at any given moment and my classroom is no different. 

I especially love when I find "cool" music for the classroom.  You know, not lyrics to the tune of "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" {although, I use those, too!!}, but songs that are written to pop tunes that the kiddos LOVE.

Well, check this out!  My school does the 7 Habits and I've heard some songs to go along with them, but was never super impressed with any of them....until NOW!

This is a middle-schooler, Jannah Bolin, singing a 7 Habits song to Adele.....y'all - she's going to be famous one day!  AMAZING!!
Nothing gave me chills this past year like listening to my little kiddos sing Adele from our Kidz Bop CD, so you can bet I'm teaching them this song early in the year!

I also LOVE some rap!  What can I say...I'm an early 90s girl! :)  This is a super cute NonFiction Text Features Rap that my sweet friend, Kristen, who presented with me at the workshops shared.  I have never used it in my class, but I thought it was super cute.  I'll be using it this year!

My very first linky party when I created my blog last summer was all about music to use in the classroom.  I still refer back to that linky party to get great song ideas.  You can visit it here.

Have you found any NEW FAVORITE songs that you just love for your classroom?  I'd love to hear about them so I can add them to my ever-growing list!

Off for a little lunch downtown with my mom and then we're hitting the gym!  See ya tomorrow!

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$125+ Back to School Giveaway

It is that time of year.

I've seen your pictures on Instagram.

I've read your blog posts about your shopping sprees.

Back to school sales are in full swing.

I haven't been in the mood to shop for back-to-school until recently.  I like to pretend that summer will go on forever.  But, the reality is that some of us only have a few weeks {or less!} until the new school year will begin!

So, with that thought floating in my head, I, too, have started to make my lists of what I need for the new school year.

When Office Max contacted me and asked if I would like to receive one of their "Tools for Schools" teacher care packages to review on my blog, I jumped at the chance.  You're a teacher....you know how we feel about school supplies....a whole "teacher care package" of them??  YES, PLEASE! :)

So, I was super excited when I came home from teaching my workshop yesterday to find a BOX sitting in our den.  Yep, just like Christmas morning! :)

Inside, was ALL of the essentials that a teacher needs to get the school year started off right!  Is that a beautiful sight or what??
1) An Electric Pencil Sharpener
2) Scissors
3) 18 pads of colored post-its
4) 12 blue ink gel pens
5) 12 PaperMate purple pens
6) 150 colored paper clips
7) 36 small binder clips
8) 10 bright-colored liquid highlighters
9) 36 #2 pencils
10) $50 OfficeMax Giftcard

That's right!!  OfficeMax also included a $50 giftcard in the package so teachers can shop for the goodies that they need specifically for their classroom!!  WOOHOO!!

That $50 will go a L-O-N-G way in helping me get the other supplies I need!  I'm thinking lots of CARDSTOCK and LAMINATION for all of the games and activities I need to print soon!

Here's the BEST part about this post....OfficeMax has reserved a "Tools for Schools" teacher care package for one of my blog readers!!!!!!!!!!!!  That's right one of you will win this same package {over $125 value}.  

To win, just comment below to tell me one of the following:

1) Have you ever attended the OfficeMax Teacher Appreciation Event?  What did you love about it?
2) How would you spend the $50 OfficeMax giftcard? 

I'm crossing my fingers for YOU!  Just comment below and I'll pick a winner using the random generator and post on Tuesday!  GOOD LUCK!!

**UPDATE: This GIVEAWAY has ENDED... CONGRATULATIONS to REBECCA for winning!!  I have sent an email your way and your OfficeMax Tools for Schools package will be shipped soon!**

OfficeMax LOVES Teachers: Check out these other FAB Deals from OfficeMax!

Teacher Appreciation Days at OfficeMax
To help teachers stock up and save on much-needed supplies, OfficeMax is hosting its special, three-day Teacher Appreciation Days events where teachers receive 25% off their purchase of hundreds of essential classroom supplies, exclusive coupons and other great values, increased purchase limits just for teachers and a free reusable tote. To participate, teachers can join OfficeMax’s MaxPerks Rewards for Teachers program at no charge either in-store or online at officemaxperks.com. Visit
www.officemax.com/celebrateteachers for details on Teacher Appreciation Days events in your community or others across the country.

Save on School Supply Purchases at OfficeMax
·       OfficeMax is providing big deals on education essentials and more throughout the season, offering 25-cent, 50-cent and $1 value deals on a variety of supplies, including markers, notebooks, glue, scissors and more. Visit OfficeMax’s back-to-school web page at www.officemax.com/backtoschool to shop or search by zip code for in-store and online promotions.
·       Teachers also receive special discounts at the OfficeMax Print Center in-stores nationwide and can select from one of two bundles including:
o   Teacher Value Bundle includes 100 B&W copies, 1 poster (18” x 24”), 3 feet of lamination and 50 business/event cards for $19.99 ($60 value)
o   Teacher Premium Bundle includes 50 color copies, 2 posters (18” x 24”), 3 feet of lamination, 50 business/event cards and a teacher planner for $29.99 ($100 value)

OfficeMax’s A Day Made Better Support for Teachers
OfficeMax is hosting its annual A Day Made Better In-Store School Supply Drive where community members can donate much-needed supplies for local teachers. OfficeMax associates will donate the collected supplies to local schools on October 1 during the annual A Day Made Better events
in which OfficeMax associates surprise 1,000 teachers in their classrooms with a total of $1 million worth of OfficeMax-donated school supplies. Learn more about A Day Made Better at www.adaymadebetter.com

Disclaimer: I received the school supplies and gift card mentioned in this post from OfficeMax in order to facilitate my review. The items featured in this giveaway are also provided by OfficeMax and will be sent to the winner directly. Opinions expressed in this post are 100% my own. I have not been compensated for this post in any other way.

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