It's WINSday! {North Pole Express Centers}

Are you as excited about a little holiday break as much as me?!  I'm excited about sleeping late, decorating for Christmas, spending time with family, and, of course, eating a little too much.  :)

I'm beginning to realize that my favorite thing in the WORLD is sleeping until about 8:00am.  *Heavenly*

Today, I'm here to give away our NEWEST unit from the Clubhouse.  I am super excited about this one!

We always hold a Polar Express Day at school.  The North Pole is our stopping point after our Christmas Around the World Unit.  We always arrive there on our final day of school before Christmas break.  Students come to school in their pajamas, we read The Polar Express, have our "snow-themed" holiday party, and watch The Polar Express movie.

Well, this year, we're adding some fun learning centers to the mix!  These centers are perfect for differentiating with your little learners too, as they are aligned to common core standards from grades 1-3.  There are 5 literacy centers and 5 math centers - 100 pages in all!  Below is a sneak peek of all of the centers included!

If you'd like to win a copy of these new centers, visit our Facebook Page for the giveaway post.  We'll choose the winner tomorrow night!

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving tomorrow, friends!

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Thankful for Teacher Spouses

Another quick post today {can you tell I'm just trying to get through these last days before Thanksgiving break?} to just share a WONDERFUL little blog post I stumbled upon with you....or with your spouse.

I know I am constantly thankful for my husband.  Teacher spouses really do have to put up with a lot.  They're so wonderful, aren't they?  I know mine doesn't always understand the life of a teacher {even after being married to one for 14 years!}, but he always puts up with me.  And for that, I'm THANKFUL. 

If you have a wonderful spouse, share this little blog post with him/her.

Just be sure that he/she doesn't stop reading...they have to make it all the way to the end. :)  I was impressed that my hubs made it all the way through.  Of course, he could totally relate.  To every single point.  He may have had one or two additions even.  But, in the end, he did say that I'm still pretty kickass.  I'll take that! :)

So is he! 

I hope you're on your last days of work for the week, too, so you can spend some much needed time with those loved ones who put up with the stress of our jobs!

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving full of love and laughter!

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My Truth Monday {Vacation}

A quick post today to link up with Denise over at Sunny Days in Second Grade for

This week we're writing all about our dream vacations...this should be easy!
As you can see, I'm not real picky.  A vacation is a vacation and right now I could really use one! :)  But, if I could choose any tropical destination it would be Bora Bora.  This is why.
One word.  HEAVEN.  One day...

Go link up with Denise and tell us all about your dream vacation!  Speaking of more day until a little break for us.  How about you?

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Budding Blogger Showcase: The Loop

First off, CONGRATULATIONS to Jeanne Bergeron for being the WINSday winner this week!  You'll have an email coming your way soon! :)

 {Email if you would like to be featured}

This week, I'm showcasing a fellow blogger and real-life friend, Shasta Looper over at The Loop.  My school district was lucky enough to have Shasta as a teacher for many years, but she has now moved on to bigger and better things!  She truly is an amazing teacher with so many great ideas and unparalleled dedication!

I'm not just bragging on her and making this stuff up....there IS proof out there!  In 2012, Shasta won the Miliken Educator Award - which is a HUGE deal!!  I'm telling you this because I'm pretty sure she never would! ;)  I could rant and rave over her all day long, but I'll let her tell you a bit more about on!

Hey, ya'll!  Don't you just love Amanda?  I am continually amazed at all the irons she has in the fire and that she is able to maintain a fabulous blog, classroom, TeacherPayTeachers page, and Teacher's Clubhouse and Lighthouse Minds.  Whew!  That exhausts me just to think about it.

I am thrilled to be here on Teaching Maddeness today!  My name is Shasta and I've known Amanda virtually a lot longer than I've known her personally.  We both taught in the same district in South Carolina and I had heard of her through the grapevine - all good I promise!  But, we had never met face to face to my knowledge until a couple of summers ago at the first SC Bloggers Meet Up.

I've been blogging on and off for about the last 10 years or so as a means to keep in touch with out of town family. My husband and I lived in Seattle, Washington at the time and it was the only way that I could realistically share photos with friends.  No Facebook at that time.    I have started and stopped several blogs over those years, but here recently, I've been primarily dedicated to my "teaching" blog, The Loop.

I've been married to Cheney for the last 15 years.  We met while we were both in Alaska 16 years ago.  He had moved from Greenville, SC and I was teaching Vacation Bible School for the summer.  One car accident, a few shed tears, and it was destined.  After my time in Alaska came to a close in August, I went home to Louisiana and started school again, not thinking twice about him.  On Thanksgiving evening 1996, my phone rang out of the blue and it was Cheney.  He had found my number somewhere and just wanted to call.  Some astronomical phone bills, lots of letters, and one date, we were engaged on a plane somewhere between Baton Rouge, Louisiana and Dallas, Texas.  16 years later and we are still going strong.  We've lived ALL over the US - Alaska, Washington, Louisiana, South Carolina, and now Tennessee.

We are parents to one particularly precious pup, Taku, who was a gift from my favorite principal ever 6 years ago.  He's a rambunctious Jack Russell Terrier that loves nothing more than snuggling up on the sofa under a blanket with his people.

Being that I'm from Louisiana, there is really only one interest that matters and that is LSU football.  I'm a tiger girl, every weekend - even when it is tough.  That usually is when we play Alabama.  I wish that I could say that I LOVE to run, but to be honest, I hate every moment of it until I am finished.  Then, I have the most amazing sense of accomplishment.  So, I love how I feel after I run.  I usually chase that run with a coke or a chocolate chip cookie, so it really negates itself.

This year has brought about A LOT of change for us.  I left the comfort of my classroom and a district that I was comfortable in to step WAY out of the box and become a Master Teacher for the TAP System.  Not only did I move out of the classroom, but I left my state of South Carolina.  I'm much farther from the beach (7.5 hours now) than I'd like to be.  While it has been a different and challenging experience, it has been good overall.  It has been awhile since I've felt that uncomfortable squirm when learning something new or doing something I don't feel like I'm good at, but I've got it in spades now.  Every day I'm faced with new challenges.  The biggest one that I've faced is becoming comfortable with evaluating teachers.  I've never done it before, and it is not easy.  Great empathy for those of you who have been doing it for awhile.  It's definitely different than being in your own classroom.

Technically, this is my 14th year in education.  I started out as a 2nd/3rd grade teacher and I've moved through the ranks of 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th.  I have to say that 5th grade is absolutely my favorite grade to teach.  That was simply because of the content - Social Studies, and my AMAZING team.  Life hasn't been the same since I've left.  I have a hard time choosing a favorite subject to teach, but any opportunity that allowed me to integrate reading, writing, social studies, and costumes was a heavenly day for me.  My team and I would create experiences for our kiddos and we would assume characters.  It was amazing!  I have a trunk full of costumes to prove just how excited I was to do it.

This year, if you popped into my classroom unannounced, I'm not sure what you would find.  I teach one hour of Science (least favorite subject ever) from a rolling cart in another person's classroom.  So you would probably see me scouring the cart looking for materials that I can't find.  Students would be on the floor in groups doing some sort of experimenting or group project and it would be loud - or louder than typically.

My days are SO busy in my new role that I do need something to get me through one of those days quite frequently.  Here lately, it's just been lunch.  Most of my days I am running down the hall with a granola bar or a pocket full of almonds because I'm meeting in a coaching session with a teacher. Or lunch is at the very end of the day because I haven't had a chance to eat.  On a really bad day, it's a red can of Coca-Cola classic.  I know, slay me now.  It's terrible for me and I'm perfectly fine with that.

My must-have teaching resource has to be hands down, my students.  They take me to places, that I wouldn't be able to get to without them.  I always try to give them some sort of ownership in our learning by allowing them to create questions or explore topics.  We then prioritize them based on our learning goals and then tackle them through our lessons. This past week we started our unit on Animal and Plant Adaptations and the questions they were able to come up with blew me away.  We decided to create an expert wall in the classroom for students to have a part in the teaching.  They are so motivated to learn all about their area that it is providing me with an extra dose of energy at the end of a long day.  Truth be told, my iPad is pretty important as well - but I haven't been able to utilize it like I have in the past - new district, limited technology.

My blogging goal for the year is really to set up my Teachers Pay Teachers store.  I've got a list of ideas, but I'm not the artsy fartsy type of teacher, so I struggle with creating the cute cover sheets and craftivities that go along with skills.  However, I'm going to bite the bullet and dive in soon.   As far as blogging, if I could just blog one day a week, I'll be happy :)
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It's WINSday! X2

One of the reasons I've been such a bad blogger of late is because I have been busy, busy, busy!!  As if teaching doesn't keep me busy enough, I have been working on a TON of units that have been "in the works" for a while!  I needed to get these off my plate because I have a never-ending list of NEW ideas to start working on, too!

So, here's a look at just a couple of our brand-spankin' new units....and, of course, a chance to WIN them, too!

It's no secret that I LOVE to teach writing.  There's just something about a seven-year-old putting his voice down on paper - and the pride that they have once their hard work is acknowledged.

This little pack is everything you need to have your young authors publish his/her stories and share them with an audience.

It includes publishing pages (story pages, title pages, dedication pages, about the author pages, feedback pages) in both landscape and portrait and full-size and half-size.  It also includes bracelets, necklace tags, and certificates so you can celebrate the new author's accomplishment!  But my favorite pieces are the "sharing bag" pages that let the young authors take their books home to share with families and the Publishing Party pages - students love to show off their work! 

If you'd like to win all of this (and more), just comment on this page to let me know how you feel about teaching writing.  What is your favorite thing, or LEAST favorite thing about it?  I'll pick a winner from the comments and announce on Friday...with a new linky - come join in with your Friday Favorites!


 Right now we are in the middle of our Informational Genre that ties in with our Animal Unit.  I adore this unit and the students learn soooooo much!  This year, we're hosting a ZOO at the end of our unit {kind of like our Living Museum we've done for years} and I can.not.wait!  This little unit was created to help with our zoo...

There are graphic organizers that students will use to create an "exhibit sign."  There are signs for labeling sections of the zoo (either by animal classes or habitats), zoologist nametags (PDF fillables), a diorama project letter and checkbric, zoo invitations (PDF fillables), a reflection, and more!

To win the "It's a Zoo Unit" hop on over to our Facebook page - "like" us and comment on the giveaway post there to win!

I'll be sharing even MORE of our new units later this week! 

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Take Me Back Tuesday

So THANKFUL for Hope for starting up this new little linky.  It's just what I needed to get my bloggin' groove back on!  Plus, I couldn't resist this adorable little "throwback" button!

After digging back through my posts, I decided on this one from way back in had a little of everything from persuasive writing to dictionary skills {guide words} to the beginning of a biography study.

YES!  Friday!!

Is it just me?  Or are 3-day weeks always the longest?

It was great to see my kiddos again though.  Missed them.

One of my little girls was so stinkin' excited to tell me what she got for Christmas.  (or show me)

A monster Tervis just like mine. Pink lid and all.  Mine was a gift from a student.
And a monster shirt.  It was adorable.  Monster face on the front.  Spikes down the back.

And monster socks.  She was so excited!  She's a true Mon-STAR, I tell ya!

Of course, this is the same girl whose mom told me that she comes home from school everyday, changes into her play clothes to go outside to play, then comes back in to play school each night.  But before she does she has to put her "Mrs. Madden" clothes on...the "play" clothes just won't do!!  Hahahaha....she's going to be a teacher.  I just know it!  Not that I used to do that or anything.  ;)

Anyway, it's been a great short (LONG) week.  We've been productive.

Here's a "flashback" of our week...

We finished up our persuasive writing unit with these book review displays.  Students each chose their favorite book to create a new book cover for.  They had to write a summary of the book, rate it, and create a new front cover (with title, author and an illustration of their favorite part of the book).
Then they created their face and hands to hold the book as if they were reading.  I love their creativity.  Some of them just couldn't get the hands on correctly, but that's part of the reason why I love them...their uniqueness! This one is from my ESL student.  She has come such a long way!!
Finally, they tried to persuade others walking down the hall to read THEIR chosen book by adding a speech bubble.  I wish I had zoomed in on some of those.  They literally tried to stop the people with "Hey!  You!  Yeah, You!"  or "Dude, come here!"  So funny.  I love when their voice shines!

The template for these are in the Persuasive Writing Unit from Teacher's Clubhouse.  You can snatch it up at our new TpT shop if you have a gift certificate from there, too!  Come follow us!

We also finished up our dictionary study with those guide word bees I threw in a post a over the holidays.  Cute!  And they did SUCH a GOOD job!!  We actually played Dictionary Hop & Write and then I had them use the guide words on their game card for this project.  Then had to think of four entry words that would come between their guide words.
We started preparing to dive into our Biography study next week.  I can NOT wait.  This is always one of my FAVORITE units with our Living Museum celebration at the end!

We started by talking about what makes a person famous.  Students wrote their ideas on post-its and we created an affinity diagram with them.

Notice most students know that special talents (like singing, dancing, sports) help people become famous but there were very few who knew of other ways (such as inventions, discoveries, leadership).  I'll definitely have more to share later in this unit about the exciting things we do, but here's a little sneak peek for you.  {Unit available HERE)

Show the blog world what you've been up to this week.  That is if you weren't still enjoying your nice, relaxing vacay.  I don't want to see any pics of you lounging around in your PJs.  That would make me jealous!  Very jealous! :)  Just copy the button at the top of this page to your blog post and link up below!

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Budding Blogger Showcase: What I Have Learned

Hi, I'm Jessica from What I Have Learned.

I live in California and with my husband and two rambunctious sons.  Don't boys have so much energy?!?!  

I currently teach second grade, but have taught all grades, K-5 within the past fourteen years.  People sometimes ask me which grade is my favorite, and, well . . . each one has it's pluses and minuses, it's quirks, and it's light bulb moments.  I'm loving where I'm at right now.

I love teaching math and reading, the core subjects.  Scaffolding the learning within these areas and then watching how students make sense and find patterns is AMAZING!  I love being able to take them from point A to point B and see their growth along the way.  I "move" my students and I love watching their growth.  Writing is kinda fun, too.  I'm not that into social studies and science, which is why I like to find interesting things for the students to do in those content areas

Right now, if you popped into my classroom, you’d see students seeing all different kinds of things.  I’m a firm believer in differentiating instruction and giving students what they need to succeed.  That doesn’t mean everyone does the same thing at the same time.  Quite the opposite.  I do small groups for almost everything and students are hard at work on their own learning goals.

What gets me through one of “those” days?  Those days  . . . come farther and farther apart the more you’ve been teaching.  Knowing that it’s just a day and that tomorrow is another day.  Sometimes it’s just one of those years, it seems.  Routine and schedule get me through the day and week.  Having clear expectations for my students and myself.  Not trying to do it all, but realizing that despite my best effort, things do go wrong, but students still learn.

What can I not live without?  My laptop.  It is by far my most important teaching resource right now, in terms of planning, finding other resources, and teaching.  I am a technology person, always trying to figure out how to make something better and doing it more efficiently.

One of my favorite classroom activities that we did this year was actually done by my student teacher.  She had to teach an art lesson.  I found one on Pinterest, where students paint leaves with corks, making them a circle.

 The art lesson was great, but the day after, was even better.  We counted our circles and I challenged table groups to figure out how many circles each table group had by adding all the individual circles together.

It make a great math problem.  We then added up all the table groups to find out how many circles we had as a whole class.  I love making math meaningful for the students.  

My blogging goal for this year is to be more consistent.  Don’t we all want more consistency in our lives?  Now that we’re though the beginning of the year, I really want to put some time and effort into this blog to share all the great things we’re doing in our room!

Thank you for taking the time to read through this and get to know me better.  Grab a cup of coffee, come for a visit and see What I Have Learned.

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