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Thank You Shelley Gray!

It is that time of year when we once again thank the teachers that have influenced us the most. As a teacher and a blog stalker, there are several teachers who have influenced me and have made a difference in my classroom. This year, I want to thank them!


First up is the incredible Shelley Gray! I have been stocking her through Pinterest, Facebook, and Teachers Pay Teachers all year. I have been saving up my pennies to purchase some of her most beloved products that have been raved about by thousands of teachers from around the nation (world?). I am hoping to finally purchase these over the summer and use them in my classroom come fall.

early finisher board


As a first year teacher, I was totally thrown off with my students who always finished early! I had administration and my mentor ask me what do they do when they are done. Ummmmmm…. read a book? I had students ask and I gave them the same answer. They reminded me they don’t have books. We have had this issue of not being able to check out books out of the school library all year long. Ridiculous I know but totally true. So what does a kid do? Cause trouble! What does a teacher do? Search the internet for a solution!

I finally found it! The early finishers board by Shelley Gray! Works for grades K-6 (there are multiple versions).  I have all of the free parts. I have a plan of where it is to go. I have the parts now to make all of the envelopes. Now I just have to finish purchasing the kit over the summer. Its on my list.  Plus she has holiday versions for the board which just stole my heart as it makes for easy decorating.

Oh and I umm may have been hunting clearance racks for extra thick scrapbook paper to make holiday themed pockets. Super easy holiday decorating. SCORE! This is also the answer to my differentiating needs. I work at a Title 1 school where their is no such thing as a student above grade level. I am lucky if I have a child at grade level in my classroom. We made huge strides this year next year we will go further with this bad boy!

multiplication station


While I was drooling over the early finisher board I found the multiplication station. Now multiplication has been the biggest pain in my booty all year long. “What do you mean my sixth graders don’t know what 2×2 is? Are you kidding me? Is candid camera back on air and someone taping my reaction? Anyone know what a product is? How about dividing? Can you divide? Please, please, please tell me you can add and subtract. Some of you can. Really? Only some of you?” This was exactly what was going through my mind about the third week of school.

I made a gumball machine out of a large white sheet of paper and then gave them a timed test once a month while I drilled them 5 minutes a day on basic facts. All year long. Now at the end of the year they can all add, subtract, multiply, and divide but it was painful people. Painful for me and painful for them. I needed something better. Something less me involved. Something the kids could manage themselves. Something I could possibly add in as a center and students could work through it at their own pace.

Enter Shelley’s amazing Multiplication Station! It is perfect for my needs! I am making this over the summer and it will be a center all year long in my classroom. She also has an addition station. I am thinking of adding these so that my students can truly start wherever they need to. I only wish she had a subtraction and division stations.



I love to use the BUILD acronym in my classroom for math centers. My set-up this year failed as I just did not have enough materials prepared. I did not realize how overwhelmed I would get during the school year nor was I prepared to deal with the amount of personal losses that I have. As a result by October I just gave up and put it away. I am hoping to use Shelley Gray‘s Stations as part of L…. Learning Fluency (that is what we called it during my student teaching). At least next year I will have a center that happens all year. That is my goal! Well…. one of them anyways.

gift bag journals


Last up is a great little video that I got by subscribing to Shelley’s newsletter. It is called a gift bag journal and is the best idea ever!!! You can read all about it on her blog, Teaching in the Early Years, or watch it on Youtube. You will want to stock Shelley there and watch her videos. She is an amazing teacher!! My sixth graders love anything that is theirs, unique, and that they made. A notebook, well, it came from Walmart for thirteen cents at the back-to-school sale so why does it matter what happens to it? (That is a direct quote from one of my students this year.)

This they will love and own! We can make these during the first week of school as a class builder. Great way to introduce folding for interactive notebooks (which I use a lot) and it is a great way to teach and practice following directions.



I am going to purchase some command hooks and add one to each side of the bookshelf at each table group (the picture above is from my classroom prior to the start of school 2014). This way they can hang their journals on each side. This will keep them nice and neat. I will be able to see who has their morning work journals out and who needs to get to work. We will need to talk about not tearing them when stacking the chairs.



Thank you Shelley Gray for providing me and so many other teachers with amazing tools in the classroom! You inspire me to be a better teacher!

Posted by on May 4, 2015 in Addition, BUILD, Classroom Management, Multiplication, Teacher Appreciation, Writing | 1 comment

Homework Centers

Yesterday, I had a great guest post on how to create a homework center! Thank you again so much to Dane for writing this for me! This brought back to me a lot of ideas that I have seen and thought about making for my own home but have never done. So I thought I would share with you some more great ideas today.

First up… I love this!!! The colors, the black and white photos of the kids, everything about this is perfect for my home! I have this bench that I got from Ikea…. okay it was a tall skinny shelf that I laid on its side and called it a bench… that I have the boys store their shoes in. THIS would be the perfect command center for the boys at home. Not necessarily a “homework center” as homework would have to take place elsewhere but I love this too much not to share.  You can read more about it at Delightful Order.

homework center



This next one was one idea I saw in a model home.  The house had a split floor plan and in the hallway where the kids bedrooms were there was a built in alcove with a line of built-in desks and cabinets. One space per child bedroom. Loved this idea. We didn’t buy the house and I don’t have room for it in mine but I always loved the idea. It looks very similar to the picture below. You can read more about this picture at This Old House.

long desk



This last idea is more like what I actually have but this one is much nicer and more organized. I have tried cute and organized but then my husband sat me down one day and explained to me that I am the mom of 3 boys. There are no girls in the house. They do not care if it is cute or organized. They just want to know where I want the stuff thrown so they can go off to something more manly. They attempt to humor me but alas they do not enjoy my efforts as I do so I save them for my classroom where all the girls will oooh and aaaah appropriately. I save my home cuteness projects for things that really matter to me. You can see more about this at Smart As That.

homework center



What do you do for a homework center at home? Is there anything that you recommend to your parents ?

Posted by on Apr 11, 2015 in Homework | 0 comments

Creating a Homework Space for Kids

I am currently out prepping my kids for national testing but hope you enjoy these great guest blog posts! Thank you Dane O’Leary for writing this first post!

Post Divider


Having an organized, well-designed home office or personal workspace is important for our efficiency and  productivity. However, the same thing goes for the workspace of our school-age children. Much like a home office for an adult, kids need a space at home that’s optimized for getting homework and important assignments or projects completed, either on their own or with the help of a parent. While it’s possible for kids to spread their textbooks, notebooks, papers, and pencils across their bed to do their work, it’s much more efficient and beneficial to have a designated homework space, something that’s between an adolescent’s home office and a study hall. Here’s how you can create an organized homework area that will help your kids succeed.

Choose the Right Locale

Your kid’s office/study/homework center doesn’t need to be its own room, but it definitely needs to have its own designated space. It’s important for it to be an area of the home with low traffic to minimize distractions and interruptions, but a place that’s close to where parents will be in case assistance is needed. One of the most popular spaces is a built-in desk in the kitchen as this tends to be an area where adults tend to congregate; however, sometimes the kitchen is a high-traffic area, so use your best judgement.

The dining room is another option since it’s usually just off the kitchen and is accessible, but tends to have less foot traffic than other places. If the home has a home office, that’s another possibility, although sometimes the home office can be somewhat secluded, which could make monitoring and quickly offering help more difficult. The most important things to keep in mind are accessibility—making sure you can help with homework when it’s needed—and being able to dedicate a certain amount of space in a room to your kid’s homework headquarters.

The Necessities

Like a home office, the focal point of any homework space will be the desk. It’s important that the desk is the appropriate size for a kid so that he or she can reach everything and comfortably work on tasks while sitting at the desk. This will probably mean buying a desk that’s specifically for children. Another important necessity is lighting; just like a classroom at school, the homework space needs to be well-lit so your kids are able to see what they’re working on. Poor lighting makes you strain your eyes, which can cause headaches. The best solution is to set up the desk near a window so there’s plenty of natural light, but if windows aren’t accessible make sure there’s a desk lamp and overhead ambient lighting to ensure workspace visibility.

Well-Stocked Study Space

Once you have the basics in place, it’s time to ensure productivity by stocking the homework space with everything a kid could need for just about any type of homework assignment. Frequently used supplies like paper, pencils, and paperclips should be accessible and easy to grab while less-used supplies—crayons and markers, scissors, construction paper, tape, glue, and so on—should be stored nearby so they’re still within reach, but not crowding the workspace. Post-Its are good to keep on hand so that you or your child can leave notes to remember due dates or ideas for future reference. It’s also a good idea to include something like a pegboard or corkboard in the homework space so things can be hung or attached on the wall, creating additional storage and organization potential.

As for organization, it’s a good idea to have more than just the desk’s drawers for storing important items. And even a kid will need to “file” things now and again. Binders and folders are perfect for storing studying guides, old tests, class schedules, or the occasional syllabus. There are also stackable trays that are made to be left out on the desk and provide a space-saving alternative to having a stack of completed assignments and a stack of uncompleted assignments taking up surface area.

For extra credit, you could have a comfy armchair or beanbag chair nearby for those times when kids just need to take a breather for a few minutes. You might also consider incorporating speakers for an iPod or a CD player if your kids like to have music playing (at a reasonable volume) in the background while they work, or perhaps just for breaks. Additionally, you may or may not want to include a computer in the equation, but a computer could potentially be a source of distractions due to YouTube and Facebook; take the computer suggestion on a case-by-case basis.

For more design ideas, tip and tricks, head to

Posted by on Apr 10, 2015 in Guest Bloggers, Homework | 1 comment

Compare and Contrast

Tonight’s Anchor Chart is all about skill of compare and contrast. Be sure to read my disclaimer about anchor charts in my previous post.



My students had to compare apples to oranges. We also talked about cliches’ during this lessons. They wrote down what they knew about each and added it to our Venn Diagram. The pink post-its are the differences and the green post-its are the differences. Below we created a chart of clue words to help us identify differences and similarities while we are reading.

To increase the engagement level of my anchor charts like to have my students involved in creating them. One great way to do this is by having each student be assigned to be responsible to contribute a specific piece to the chart. In this case each pair of students had to add either a difference or similarity. Then they had to have a clue word to add to our chart. Each pair will then come to the front of the class to present their piece to the anchor chart.

Note: Whenever my students see the words “compare and contrast” in the directions they draw a tiny Venn Diagram above it. This is a simple way to annotate and ensure they are close reading the directions. I am hoping that this skill pays off for us on the big test in two weeks.

Posted by on Mar 30, 2015 in 6th Grade, Anchor Charts, Language Arts | 1 comment

Dividing with Dangerous Monkeys


This is one of my favorite tools to help guide my students through our lessons. Plus my anchor chart board is just too cute! The black line is a tension rod. I use binder rings to add the charts here once we create them and then my students (or I) flip to the chart we need when we are reviewing. It is such a beautiful system. I have received a TON of complements on this bulletin board and I have big plans for making it even better next year.



I have been so stressed about my first year teaching and trying to keep my head above water that I have not had time to blog or share with you what we have been doing in class. I will admit to be bad at picture taking. I never did finish taking pictures of my classroom. I will try to do better next year.

As I have to have my room stripped bare by the end of next week, I have been giving away our anchor charts. Before I did, I took a picture of each one. We also autographed the back of each one of these.

Now here are my disclaimers. Most of these are not original ideas. I am not sure if any are original. I am famous for googling for anchor charts on a particular subject, jotting down notes and then trying my best to recreate it. I also do not remember the original source. So if this is yours…. YOU ARE AWESOME AND AMAZING!!!! Also let me know so I can add a link to the original source. Also, I cannot draw. Artwork is provided by my talented students.

First up… Every Dangerous Monkey Steals Banana!



Yes! In sixth grade my students are still learning how to divide. I couldn’t believe it either but per the common core they are learning the standard algorithm in sixth grade. My students, however, struggle with all division even in its most simplest of forms. This is by far their most favorite of all of our charts. We had to do a raffle to see who could take this home and my student brought a picture of it hanging up in his room!

In their interactive notebooks, my sweet student who drew our monkey went around the room and drew one for each student who wanted one in their notebooks to help them remember. It took her a LONG time to get everyone a monkey drawn but she did it. Since she is one of my advanced math students this is what she did when she finished early that week. the face has clues to remembering how to do this and I could here her repeating the saying as she was drawing so I knew it was helping her as well.

I wonder what the people grading the standardized tests are going to think when they see a monkey holding a banana next to a division problem? haha! Okay! I am hoping to be back tomorrow with another chart!

Posted by on Mar 29, 2015 in 6th Grade, Anchor Charts, Division, Math | 0 comments

Who is failing?

Hi all!

I am sorry that I have been MIA.  I have felt like the picture below most of this year and have not wanted to whine.

new teacher


I am a perfectionist. I expect a lot of myself. I expect a lot of my students. If my students fail, I feel as if I am failing. And this is where I have been most of the year… feeling as if I have failed. Wondering how I could do better, be better, and then failing again. Time after time.


A wise friend of mine finally said to me… “If your students were failing before you had them, how is it your fault that they are still failing?” I feel like if I am a good teacher, not even a great one, just a good one… I could teach them something. Instead, I feel like my classroom is a battle zone. Each day I pray to win, to gain some ground, to move forward. And some days I do but mostly I fail.


The district average for math at MOY was 39%. My class scored 41%. I am told that this is a huge win but I can’t see it. How can it be a win if they still failed? I will settle for a D. Not even a high D… a low one would work. I am trying hard not to set lofty goals, to see the positive, to move my students forward one step at a time but I am struggling.

And trying not to whine but I am failing at that as well. See why I have been MIA?

Not everything is bad news… my kids can pass the DIBELS Test even my SPED. It took awhile to get the retell thing down but I told them to pretend they were all teenage girls with exciting news and they can’t leave a single detail out. Oh yea! That works! Even on my boys! I have kids talking for the full 60 seconds and still going after the time is up. Yep. They include every detail. My class averages 62 words on retell and a level 4 quality. You can’t touch us there! Even if we aren’t allowed to check out books of the school library… I still got EVERY child to read!

Booyah baby!



This past week was Spring Break. I needed a break. It has been a rough year. Hubby had a heart attack the second week of school and his health has been chaotic to say the least since. His Grandfather passed away and then mine did. We no longer have living grandparents. In-laws have been sick. I have been sick. At least the kids and dog are doing well.

So I spent the week shopping and dreaming of a fresh start for next year. I have learned a lot this year. I have goals for next year and I am hoping for a grade level change. I have had several projects and lessons fail miserably as my kids decided they were too old for them. They humored me and did them anyways but their hearts were not in it. I need a younger grade that will enjoy my creativity more. I should hear back in a few weeks if I get my wish.

I am a reflective teacher. I have learned my strengths and weaknesses.


  • #1 classroom environment…thank you Schoolgirl Style and all my teacher friends!
  • #2 organization
  • #3 building relationships…. I make friends every where and am constantly networking
  • #3 (again) communication… I think this is part of building relationships
  • #4 lesson planning

These are the things that I get compliments on regularly. I would agree that I am good at these things. I am told that I don’t really have a weakness as a teacher just need to tweak somethings to perfection. I would like to disagree.


  • #1 frustration…. This usually happens at the end of the lesson due to classroom behavior issues and so I end up skipping the end of my lesson. I usually say something like “okay. We are done. Put everything away now.” And then take about a minute to cool down and collect myself before giving directions on what to do next.
  • #2 classroom management…. I think I am good at managing my class BUT I have some major classroom behavior issues in my classroom that I do not feel supported in handling. These few students have interrupted every lesson every day for the entire year. I have tried everything. I have asked for help and received very little. I have had people in my room observing the issues live as they happen and it continues. These few students are why my patience is done by the time the lesson is over. I have more than likely redirected these students at least a dozen times, pulled them aside to discuss, taken points, given them cues, and countless other things to try to help them be engaged and not disrupt the others. Only for me to walk to the other side of the room to deal with a different one of these and have the one I just left start acting up again. It’s exhausting.
  • #3 writing objectives…. I hate writing these!!! I know its suppose to help me and my students focus on our learning but I just feel that the degree to which we have to write these is ridiculous. I must have a higher order thinking work in it along with the common core I can statement and then how my students are suppose to demonstrate this in class. Now here is the tricky part… you write your lesson plan. I do, We do, Partner Work, You do…. this is what our school requires. Your objective must include all of this somehow in a single sentence. If, heaven forbid, your object matches exactly the first 3 but not the independent work it doesn’t count. Grrrr! 20 minutes of my day is spent writing objectives on the board for my students to ignore read.
  • #4 Keeping Records…. Does this one surprise you? I have so many issues that are going on that I gave up in September keeping a record of behavior issues. I tried it once using Joy in 6th Grade’s Method and I literally filled in the entire line of codes for my behavior students within the first minute of class. Not my clipboard is more for looks and an accessory to make it appear that I am track things but I am not. I do not.
  • #5 Clipboard Cruising…. So I keep hearing this term in PLC’s. It usually goes something like this “so while you are clipboard cruising you can just add this detail down…. ” Ummm… What in the world is clipboard cruising? Is this the record keeping thing that I am not doing? Oh and I long ago gave up on analyzing student work. It’s depressing.

These are the things I want to work on next year along with a few other things that I have in the works to share with all of you. I want to focus on the positive. To move forward. No matter how tough this year has been I LOVE TEACHING!!!

See ya soon!


Posted by on Mar 22, 2015 in 6th Grade | 1 comment

The Story Behind the Logo

My sweet friend over at Art with Jenny started a great post all about the story behind the logo. I thought it would be a fun way to start off the New Year! You can find her story HERE.

story behind the logo_logo.028

The first question to ask/answer is personal picture or no. I chose not to use a picture of me as part of my logo for several reasons. I value my privacy a lot! I prefer to remain semi-anonymous as I feel that it allows me to be more creative and more open when I write. I have never shared this before but I spent a majority of my life in protective foster care. Protective meaning I moved to a new place every 30 days. As an adult, I wanted to maintain this boundary and not let those who may want to know where I am easily find me or my children. I know nothing would come of it now but it is just that I don’t want to share any part of my life with them. Not even my blog.



You are going to have to forgive me for the very bad picture above. I should have asked Lorrea for a copy of this but I did not. So I too a screen shot and tried to erase the background! HA! Now you all know I am not the designer just the project manager over at Honey Bunch Blog Designs. I can’t design to save my life!! Ask Erika… she has seen my designs. Poor thing!

This logo was designed to represent several different things in one. The chalkboard… is for the teacher. At the time I started this blog I was dreaming of the day when I would have a classroom of my own. Now I do! The graduation cap represents my path to achieving this dream… graduate school. The book is because not only is reading a passion of mine and my family but also because for many years I homeschooled my children. The football is to represent my three boys…. all whom love it football.

The colors black and white are my FAVORITE! One day, one of my sister-in-laws came over to my home and told me that I cannot have everything in my house be black and white. I needed some color. So I humored her and added 2 red pillows to the couches. Then came a red pitcher for the pot shelf in the kitchen and the rest became history. My home, my classroom, and my wardrobe were forever altered from just black and white to include some red.

I also see things in black and white. I told one of my co-workers that I have a hard time seeing gray and as a result have gotten myself into a lot of trouble over the years. I have hurt people unintentionally simply because I do not understand what they are telling me when they speak gray. I had this same issue with my co-worker who I am great friends with now. I told her that I need steps to get to gray. If you give me the steps…. I can do it! She now warns me when she is “talking gray” so I know when to ask for clarification. My husbby says I am comfortable living in black and white as that is how I speak and think.

French Swirl Tree Red and Black

The tree became the main part of my logo. It is everywhere! I love this little tree. It is a little bit girly like me with it swirls and polka dots but not too much… just enough. The represents my love of the outdoors. Trees and lake have always made me feel safe and at home. It also represents the family I have always wanted. I remember in school being asked to make a family tree…. I ended up in tears. I still do to this day as I had no clue who to put on there. I heard stories of who my father was but never knew for certain until my teens. My mother never told me who she really was. I found out at the social security office when I got married that what I thought her name was… wasn’t correct. It was all part of the abuse cycle. All I wanted was a family like other kids had. A place to belong and someone to belong too. As my husband says… I have that now… I am just the top of the tree. It still makes me sad as I so want to be in the center but I never will be.

The font comes from my wedding. I did a lot of work with monograms for our wedding. I wanted everyone to be included and feel important. My husband would later adopt my three children but at the time I wanted them to be a part of the marriage. So I had all of our initials on the cake, tables, and all over the place. It actually ended up creating my first collection of things as my sister-in-law (yes… the same one!) decided I should start collecting P’s.  And so I have. The first letters are a little girly and bigger than the rest to symbolize this.

So there you have it… the story behind the design. What is your story?

Posted by on Jan 9, 2015 in About Me | 1 comment

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