Student Gifts to Start the Year

I have been using the same beginning of the year gift for students for years now.  I think it's perfection.

I like to allow my students to keep water bottles at their desks so they can have water as they wish throughout the day.  It's a win-win.  Their brains are quenched and they're not getting up and down constantly.

However, I only allow bottles with pop-up tops.  You know what happens if they bring bottles with screw-off lids.  The moment they take the lid off, someone bumps the bottle and there's water everywhere!

So, I pick the bottles up at The Dollar Tree or Target.  I love these because they're super tall and have handles - perfect for the littles!  However, since they're all matching they can often get mixed up if they're not labeled.

Enter my Cricut.  I use my Cricut Explore to cut student names out of vinyl to apply to the bottles.  As long as they're just handwashed, they seem to last all year long!

This year, I decided to place a few starbursts in the bottom of them with a tag by Applicious Teacher that says "I'm BURSTING with Excitement to Have You in My Class This Year!"

I also tie a little tag to the bottle itself telling them to fill the bottle up and bring back to school! 

It's a super easy, super cheap, super practical gift that my students use daily throughout the year!

Did you know that Cricut is having an amazing back-to-school giveaway for teachers??

Each week for 7 weeks they are picking 10 winners for amazing prize packages!!  Entering is super easy!
You can nominate yourself HERE.  And, you can enter EVERY WEEK!!  If you enter, leave your link below so I can find you and give you a VOTE!  Good Luck!!


Cricut in My Classroom {Classroom Decor Giveaway}

You guys know all about the Cricut machine, right?!  If, somehow, you have no idea what I'm talking about, let me introduce you to this beauty!

It cuts out fonts and designs from my computer.  But, that's not all!  See those pretty pens in the storage department?  It can also DRAW designs or WRITE with fonts from my computer.  Can you imagine the possibilities??  Oh my word!  All of my envelopes are going to be addressed using KG fonts now! <3  Love at first use! :) 

Well, actually it was love at first sight because the machine has a storage spot for every little tool and accessory and that makes this teacher's OCD heart happy, happy, happy!

I thought today I would show you a few ways that I've used my Cricut to help decorate my classroom to create a warm and inviting place for my kiddos.

First up is our "Mon-STAR Masterpiece" wall.  This is our hall display that stays up year-round.  It goes with our classroom monster theme and it makes for an easy-to-change work display.

The frames are from Michael's and I spray painted them to match my classroom.  I used command hooks to hang them with ribbon.  At the bottom of each frame are clothespins covered with washi tape that can easily hold students' work.

In the center of the rows of frames, I knew I wanted a bit of a dramatic heading.  I used scrapbook paper from Hobby Lobby and my Cricut to cut out letters using a fun font on my computer.  Perfection!

I added a few fun pom-pom monsters to tie in our theme and bring a little whimsy to the display.

I'll also give you a glimpse of how I used the Cricut inside of my classroom.  I created this giant pencil from burlap (stuffed with newspaper and painted).  I wanted it to look like the pencil was really writing on the wall, so I used black vinyl to cut the word "WRITE" - a little inspiration near our writing stages display.

Once I saw this quote, I knew I wanted to use it in my classroom and I thought this bulletin board was the perfect location.  Again, I used scrapbook paper from Hobby Lobby and some fun, different fonts.  I stapled the letters to my board and added some other decorations to the corner, knowing that I wanted students' self-portraits to fill the rest of the space.

I think it makes a cozy, warm impression as you walk into our classroom.  We're a family! <3

I actually can't take credit for this fun classroom decor piece.  I have a super talented friend who uses her Cricut to make amazingly, fun and gorgeous projects.  I mean, how FUN is this birthday cake door hanger?  My students have already been SO excited to see it hanging on the door with their names written in the chalk spots on their birthdays!  What CAN'T you do with a little paint and vinyl?? <3

Mr. Madden actually turned a regular trashcan into this masterpiece for our classroom!  I mean, how fun is this trashcan??  A few pvc pipes, large googly eyes, foam teeth, and vinyl circles - amazing transformation! 

You can see from these pics that I'm a vinyl fanatic!  It is by far my favorite material to use, but the Cricut can cut SO much more - cardstock, washi tape, duct tape, aluminum, chipboard, foam, and leather...just to name a few!

I've got a few more projects up my sleeve and I'll be back to show them to you soon!

Did you know that Cricut is having an amazing back-to-school giveaway for teachers??

Each week for 7 weeks they are picking 10 winners for amazing prize packages!!  Entering is super easy!
You can nominate yourself HERE.  If you nominate yourself, comment below so I can find you and VOTE for you!  I'd love to see one of my blog readers WIN!! :)  Trust me, your classroom deserves some Cricut love!


Genre Studies Series: Part 5 {Biographies}

Other Posts in This Series:

While we're learning about non-fiction texts, we delve right into biographies after informational.  Because it's another non-fiction study, it looks very similar to the informational study, in that, I let my students' interests drive their reading.

To begin this unit, I ask students a question - "How does a person become famous?"  or "What makes someone famous?"

They have lots of ideas!  Again, I give them a post-it and they write their answer on this.  I collect them and share them aloud as we sort them onto chart paper.  At the end, we have an Affinity Diagram of reasons why people are famous.

You can see from this chart, that most students think are thinking of athletes or musicians as famous people.  We talk about people we know from each section of this chart.  Then, I introduce "forever famous" vs. "famous right now" to students.  I explain that some people are forever famous because they did something that changed how people live - affected lives so greatly that they are forever famous (inventing light bulbs, helping to end segregation, etc).  While, others, (and I may throw out a musician I loved as a child) are just "right now famous" - I ask students if they've ever heard of that person or can sing any of their songs.  Why or why not?  They catch on pretty quickly!

Then I tell students that we are going to learn about some forever famous people.  Often times, they're not very familiar with most of them, so I'll set out books and give them time to roam the room and browse.

Soon, I'll ask them to write down 3 forever famous people they would like to know more about.  Again, I'll go through my books and books from the library to find and assign books on appropriate levels for each of my students.

Just like with our informational unit, students will be reading and learning on their own independent levels during this unit.  I will pull small groups to work on certain skills or to provide assistance.  We still focus on text features a lot - especially a new one for this unit...timelines!

After reading, learning, taking notes, and becoming experts on their person, we will dive into our Bio-Buddies projects.

Students will create a replica of their famous person in which the shirt opens up to reveal an Important Poem, a timeline, and a report.  I have students write the reports in first person - as if they are the person telling about their lives. 

I do this because these bio-buddies will be used during the celebration of this unit - our Living Museum!

At the end of the unit, we invite families, other classes, administration...anyone that will our classroom to tour our museum.  Students will come to school on that day dressed as their famous person.

Students are assigned a spot to stand (spread out around the classroom and in the hall).  Many of them even strike a pose to represent their famous namesake!  But, they are statues in a museum.

As you can see, they are wearing buttons that I created that say "Press Me."  As visitors tour our museum, they will press these buttons to bring to life any statue that looks interesting.  Once the button is pressed, students come to life and teach the visitor how he/she became famous and what it's important to know about him/her.  Then, they resume statue pose.

This picture shows Betsy Ross coming to life to teach our principal about herself.  Students eat. it. up.  Especially if we have a 5th grade class come to visit.  They LOVE teaching the big kids a thing or two. :)

End of unit celebrations are so important!  Not only do they give students an authentic purpose for their learning, but they let families (including grandparents <3) get a glimpse of our classroom and what happens in it on a daily basis.

If you have questions about our biography unit, feel free to leave them below!  At the end of my genre series, I'll have one last FAQ post to answer any remaining questions about teaching reading through genre studies!

Here are some resources that I created to use during this unit:

This unit has everything I use to create (and grade) the Bio-Buddies Projects, as well as some Timeline practice, Living Museum resources, and more!


Assess Me: Week 3 {This or That}

I'm linking up with Rachel from The Tattooed Teacher today for week 2 of her fun little assessment linky!

This week is all about THIS or THAT.

Skirts - all the way!  Would actually be dresses, but that wasn't a choice.
Necklaces - statement pieces.  Can you say Betsy Pittard?
JZ - original is always the best.
Gold - you've seen my blog right?  Everything needs a little gold love!
City - I'm pretty sure I would die of boredom in the country. ;)
Online - shopping + pajamas = heaven
Showers - who has time to take a bath these days??
Story Keeper - I'm definitely not an open book unless you know me very, very well.
Homebody - introvert.  enough said.
Breakfast - breakfast for dinner is even better
Neither - I don't drink tea (what kind of southerner am I?) or coffee (what kind of teacher am I?)
Night Owl - I would love to have a job where I could keep my summer schedule - bed at 2am
Done Up - a girl can never be overdressed or overeducated  #truth
Neither - I'm not a fan of storms.  I just don't find them relaxing.  Boo to them both!
Heels - I just love the way I feel in heels.  Again, I wish I had a job where I could wear them every day!
Car - there's just something about road tripping with your favorite tunes blaring and the windows down
Neither - I have no idea what this is about.  It appears to be TV shows.  They're not on Bravo, so...??
Central Air - not an outdoorsy girl.  at all.  there are bugs out there.  I like climate control. :)


2nd Grade Must-Haves {No-Cut Interactive Notebooks & More!}

I'm sure y'all have heard about the BIG TpT sale!  You can bet my entire shop is on sale to help you with your back to school needs!

I've been lucky enough to have taught for 18 years now...all in 2nd grade!  I've kind of figured out what I need and what my must-haves are for this grade and thought I'd share them with you, too!

Here are my TOP "must-haves" to get you through the ENTIRE YEAR of 2nd grade!  Trust me, these help to lessen my stress while making sure students are being taught the skills they need!  I know they will help you out, too!

Let me take you through my day....

These are no-prep, no-copying, routine-oriented, and spiral skills.  The ENTIRE year for under $8.00 (and on SALE NOW)...can't beat it!  

Weekly poems let you hit SO many skills in a short amount of time, but they're usually geared to grades K and 1st.  NOT these!!  Poems perfect for grades 2/3 and daily activities that strengthen reading strategies like making connections, visualizing, inferring, grammar, etc.  I am SO excited about finally having this bundle that has been in my mind for so long!!

Vocabulary - it's the one thing that I know my students need, but have trouble fitting in.  This pack introduces one mystery vocabulary word per week while spiraling context clues, synonyms/antonyms, syllabication, etc.  So much learning in so little time! <3

Two word.  Life-changing.  My school requires us to use interactive notebooks.  I stink at them!  The cutting, folding, and gluing took up all of my instructional time!  So, I came up with a solution!  No-Cut Interactive Notebooks.  Two more words.  Sanity-saving.

Just like vocabulary.  I know problem solving practice is crucial, but when do I fit it in?  The first five-minutes of my math block daily.  With this set, each day of the week hits a separate math domain so that all of the domains are constantly spiraled ALL YEAR LONG.  Holla!!

This was my baby last year.  Math centers with cute but non-seasonal themes that can be used absolutely ANY time of the year, but that review every single 2nd grade math standard. 10 centers for each unit.  Sold!

Stuck on how to spiral Narratives, Opinions, and Expository?  I can help!  This pack has 4 different topics for each month with tons of writing prompts for each that spread across all the genres!  This pack includes task cards, prompt calendars, and shared writing journal fixins'! 

Been trying to differentiate spelling but it was too much work?  I have the solution!  Differentiated lists that follow the same spelling pattern, plus a test format that allows you to give all tests at the SAME time!  This pack has absolutely everything you'll need to keep your students engaged in spelling this year!

Always have those students who finish early?  Often need something to fill those few moments before lunch?  This pack of fun facts will keep EVERYONE engaged and learning at a moment's notice.  My kids ate these up last year and I'm excited to be expanding them to yearlong topics this year!

So, whether you're looking for help with math, reading, spelling, writing, enrichment - or more, hop on over to my store while it's 28% off with code BTS15 and fill up your cart!  Then, teach on!  I hope you have the best school year yet! <3

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