Top 10 of 2020

One thing I enjoy the most about the end of the year is looking back and finding the best parts of the past 365 days. Obviously, we all know 2020 has been ROUGH. Like most people in the world, I lost a lot. I got dumped (twice), I lost my job, I wasn’t able to go on an international trip I had planned, and I got COVID. This year was easily one of the worst years of my life. That being said, because of all the bad it made me respect the good parts even more. I’m looking back at my top 10 of 2020! (I was going to do the top 20 of 2020 but I’m a realist!)

10. True Team Gymnastics

I love gymnastics. If you’ve been following me the past few years, you know that gymnastics rules my winters. I have been coaching high school gymnastics now for 3 years and love every second of it. Last January, our girls were ranked one of the top 10 teams in the state of Minnesota. Because of that, we got invited to compete in the Minnesota True Team tournament. The top 10 teams in the state are invited to compete. It’s a huge accomplishment for the girls. The girls ended up placing 7th that day. We were so proud of them!

9. State Gymnastics Tournament

In February, our team was able to advance 3 individuals to the state tournament. These 3 girls were able to represent our team with the best individual gymnasts in the state. We had a few falls, and it was a rough day, but they made it to the most important meet of the year which was huge! We stayed in a hotel the night before and had some serious bonding time together. I loved it!

8. Easter

Easter came around the time of lockdown. My family wanted to do something together that was special but also safe. For the first time ever, I “hosted” my family for Easter at my apartment. We ordered take out from Olive Garden (I don’t cook) and we spent the day playing cards together while spending some much needed quality time together. (Something that we hadn’t been able to do in a long time!)

7. Graduate

In May, my baby sister graduated from college! I was so proud of her. She graduated with a 4 year degree in 3 years. She gradated with a Bachelor’s degree in Pastoral Studies. She is an incredible young lady who was able to get a job before she officially graduated. (During this time she also wrote her own devotional book because, why not?)

6. Maid of Honor

My best friend was proposed to back in the spring. She is like a second sister to me. Growing up, we were a few years apart in school but only a year apart in age. Our personalities are 100% the same so we’ve been there for each other through everything! I was so happy for her when I finally got the picture of her ring with no caption. About a month later, she surprised me by asking me to be her maid of honor. I was so honored I started to cry. I’m so excited for October 2nd, 2021 when I can officially do my maid of honor duties.

5. New Job Alert

Thanks to COVID, I was let go from my previous school district last spring. They ended up cutting every nontenured teacher in the district because of budget issues that came along with COVID changes. It was a huge blow and one of the worst days of my life. I was fortunate enough to get hired in August back in the original district I taught in 3 years ago. I am so grateful for that. I love my “new” district. It’s the same district I grew up in and the same district I coach in so it was meant to be!

4. Best Friends Forever

This year has tested the relationships in my life. I have lost friendships and gained deeper friendships. I was dumped by two different guys but I became much closer to another guy in my life. My best friend (not the one who’s getting married) and I have had an interesting relationship these past 5 years. Anyone who knows us, knows how close we are. People are always assuming we’re dating because he’s a guy and I’m a girl and we know everything about the other one. We’ve had some major ups and downs in our friendship but this year made us even tighter than we were before. We have spent so much more time together and talk daily. He is family and I love him to death. Quarantine has shown the both of us how important we are to each other and how we will always be there no matter the circumstance. (He also is the one who gave me COVID so we share that unique experience!😂 )

3. My Students

I love my kids. Anyone who knows me knows how much my students mean to me. The spring was just awful, not being able to see them every day. It was also awful knowing that, because I was cut, I would never be able to see them in person again. Distance learning in the spring really showed me how much the students in my life mean to me. My class this year is just as special. I love each and every one of them so much. (Even the ones that test me on a daily basis!) I have been so impressed with the maturity and flexibility they have shown through this pandemic. My kids this year are so used to change that they can handle literally anything I throw at them. It has also been so refreshing to see how grateful they are for even the smallest of gestures. They’ve lost so much this year as well so they are thankful for things my classes in the past wouldn’t even bat an eye at. As much as distance learning has sucked for students, they have gained so much through this experience that will make them incredible people in the future!

2. Lucy

My baby! ❤️ This year we celebrated her 4th “got ya day!” I love my kitty so much (and I’m not shy about it!) Thanks to COVID and quarantine, I’ve got to spend so much more time with her than I ever have been able to before. Pets are true happiness. I don’t know how I would have survived this year, being locked by myself in my apartment, without her. (I apologize for the Lucy collage I’m about to share!) She is my best friend and I’m not ashamed to say that!

1. Family Love

This year has been amazing for my family reconnecting. 2019 ended with my parents being separated. They had a bad end of the year and we weren’t sure what would happen between them. My sister and my dad had a very strained relationship as well. They could hardly be around each other without the toxicity starting. I was stuck in the middle of it all. We didn’t spend much time together for the longest time because of all the issues we were dealing with. Because of COVID and lockdown, we all really reexamined our relationships with each other. I think we all separately realized how important we were to each other and we wanted that back. It wasn’t easy, and it took months to work through, but we are back to being a strong and happy family of 4. If it wasn’t for the time we had to sit and think about what matters in life, we might not have worked through all of the issues we had going on. As much as COVID and quarantine sucked, this was the best thing that came out of it. I love my family and I love how we are stronger than we have ever been!

We all know 2020 was terrible and I’m so excited for that ball to drop in 6 hours, but I am thankful for the year we had. I’m grateful for the positives that occurred even with the tragedies going on around us. That being said 2021, I’M SO READY FOR YOU!

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NEDA Week 2021

2 years ago I shared a story that is very close to my heart. I talked about my younger sister’s struggle with Anorexia Nervosa and how it has impacted her life and my life. This week is National Eating Disorder Awareness Week so I thought it would be time to share again the battle my … Continue reading NEDA Week 2021

Holiday Week 2020 Style

Well people, we made it to break! (Or if you’re not at break yet, you’re very close!) This is usually my favorite month of the year because of all the activities we do and the projects I have. In fact, my first few posts ever were from December activities that I wanted to share! It’s been hard adjusting to this new normal. This whole month was spent getting used to distance learning rather than enjoying the season. These past 2 days, I wanted to change that. I wanted us to have fun. I wanted to be as creative as possible so my students still felt the fun of the season even though they’re at home.

My favorite Christmas movie of all time is Jim Carrey’s The Grinch. (The reason is because when I was little, I used to look identical to Cindy Lou Who. My parents also used to tell me her character was based on me because our personalities were so similar as well.) I always like to have a whole day centered around Grinch themed activities. I was not letting that go this year.

Yesterday was my Grinch day! We started the day by doing a series of Grinch would you rather questions which were amazing and hilarious! My kids loved it and it was interesting to hear their reasons for their answers. After a little fun, we had to jump into our reading lesson. I love doing the lesson where you listen to “You’re a Mean One Mr. Grinch” and then find similes and metaphors in the song. I’ve done it every year since I started teaching but I had to be creative with it this year.

We have been using Seesaw and Google Meets as our teaching tools. We pretty much are on our Google meeting live all morning while they submit assignments on Seesaw. I created a Seesaw assignment where they first had to highlight the similes and metaphors in the song. I had them highlight in two different colors so I could tell they knew the difference between the two forms of figurative language. After they highlighted, they had to pick one simile or metaphor and then had to decorate their Grinch to represent what they chose. It was very fun to see how creative they were with it.

For math, I made another Seesaw assignment full of Grinch themed word problems. I split them into breakout rooms and let them work on them together in small groups. I organized the groups so they were with kids who were at all levels but who they also felt comfortable with. It was fun to just bounce back and forth between the different rooms and listen to their conversations. The one thing with distance that is lacking is having the opportunity for them to just talk to each other.

Because of our schedule, that was most of the Grinch themed activities we did. We spent the afternoon making our parent gifts (which were adorable snowman ornaments made out of buttons) and catching up on work while students went to their intervention groups. It wasn’t as much as I usually do, but it was something and that’s all I cared about.

Today I wanted to have fun and even though we were distant, I still wore my traditional “day before break candy cane” dress (because that’s fun!)

I wanted to throw them a surprise virtual holiday party. I tried hard to come up with fun activities to do throughout the day to keep them entertained. I wanted them to have a special day because that’s what this day in elementary school is supposed to be. The day before Christmas break is supposed to be full of treats, movies, and presents. I didn’t want them to lose out on their last elementary school holiday party!

We started the day doing a fun little “Guess the Mystery Sound” activity. I had a Google Slides presentation that had them listen to a mystery sound and then guess what they thought each sound was in the Google Meets chat.

We then did a real reading activity to get some sort of school in. We read an article on the science of the snowflake and then discussed different parts of it. (I definitely didn’t spend as much time on it as I should have but at least I can say we did it!) We then moved into our math time. For math, students had a holiday packet that was sent home last week. I put them in breakout rooms with their friends and they got to work through the packet together.

The packet wasn’t math related. It had a bunch of puzzles, mazes, and coloring pages. It was more of a way to allow them to work together again while having fun. Again, it was so fun jumping back and forth between groups. I miss seeing and talking to them so it was nice to have silly little conversations with them in small groups. I even had a competition with a couple of my kids over who could finish a sudoku first, it was a blast!

We spent the afternoon having our virtual holiday party! I started the party by having Christmas music playing in the background while they all slowly popped back on to our meeting after lunch. We then played a few different games. I first had them take out a piece of paper and a marker. We did the directed drawing activity where they had to follow my directions on how to draw a snowman while the paper was on their heads. I LOVE this activity and was so happy to be able to share it with them even though they weren’t right with me. I also made another Google slides game where they saw a zoomed in picture of something holiday themed and then had to guess what it was. We then shifted into a few rounds of holiday charades which was super funny. I then had an ugly sweater making contest. I assigned them a blank sweater template on Seesaw and gave them five minutes to create the ugliest sweater they could. We then went through each one and voted on their favorites. My favorite was one with my name on it. I don’t know why but it made me laugh way too hard.

We finished our party by doing a winter themed Kahoot followed by a directed drawing on Arthub of a winter village. It was a nice and fun way to end the day.

Finally, during the day I had my kids go onto PixtonEdu to create their own personalized avatar. I then used those avatars to create our virtual class photo. I know some of you have seen these before! I’ve seen them a few times and thought they were the cutest thing ever. Today I had to do it as a special little surprise to “give” them at the end of the day.

It was for sure not the way I would normally have spent this day but I made the most of it. The best part was how grateful my kids were. They were very appreciative of the activities we were able to do. I know they know this is not how we would normally have celebrated but they were troopers and loved whatever we could do.

I am SO happy to relax for the next two weeks! I know for a fact we will be distance learning for at least another month so I’m ready to have some screen free time and some family time. The best part of today was realizing teaching in 2020 is officially over! 2021 is going to be a much better year, I can feel it. If we made it through teaching in this, we can make it through teaching in anything!!

For more day to day activities and live action, go follow my Instagram page @lifeoftherookieteacher!

Go check out my recent posts!! Blogmas 2020 is almost over 😢 so don’t miss out on our fun 12 days of Christmas would you rather game!!

Distance Learning Take 2

We are officially wrapping up our 3rd week of distance learning round 2 and I have felt so much better about it this time around than I did in the spring!

Don’t get me wrong, I still hate that we have to be distant instead of being at school but we are so much more prepared this time around. Ever since our Welcome Back days the first week of September, we have been preparing our kids for the inevitability of going to distance at some point. From day 1, I told my kids that we wouldn’t know when but we were going to go back to distance learning during the year and we had to be ready. That definitely has helped us be much more successful this time around.

In the spring, we didn’t have a whole lot of rules or expectations for our students and that was the biggest problem. Because it was such a strange time, we had to go with the flow and we couldn’t penalize a student for anything. I had a few students who I wouldn’t see for weeks and I couldn’t do anything about it. On top of that, students knew they wouldn’t be graded on anything so I had kids who flat out refused to do work because why would they? Being so loose on everything made my job incredibly challenging because I couldn’t teach.

I made sure my kids knew that we would be taking this much more seriously this time and learning was going to take place. They have been doing amazing with it! In the spring, we were encouraged to do a Google Meets with our kids once a week to check in. I tried to do one everyday but I couldn’t make it mandatory so only the same ten kids came. This time around, we have to teach live all day on a Google Meets and it’s so much better! Sure, it’s not fun staring at a screen sitting on your computer all day but my kids are in front of me all morning and we are getting things done.

Another helpful thing we’ve been doing this year is posting our daily agendas that are super detailed. We post them every morning at 9:00 and our follow them exactly how they are written. I go through it with them every morning during our morning meeting so they know what is expected of them that day. It has been super helpful keeping them on track while also getting them on our Meets at the correct times.

This is an example of the one I posted today:

The other helpful thing this time around is that our kids actually have binders with assignments for them to do with them at home. In the spring, we were flying by the seat of our pants every week because we had to do everything over Seesaw or Google Classroom. We taught using resources our kids weren’t used to. This time, we get to send things home weekly so our kids are using materials they would be using if we were in person. It reminds them that this is still school.

When we went to distance learning in the spring, I felt a huge disconnect from my class. I thought we had such a great bond all year but, when we left, I lost all connection with them and it killed me. This year, I’ve felt the same with them that I do in the classroom. It makes me so much happier to log on everyday. I actually think I’ve bonded more with this group being online because, at school, we couldn’t do a whole lot of relationship building due to COVID rules and procedures. We were so busy making sure we were at least 6 feet apart at all times, wearing our masks, and following all the new rules that there was no time for fun and I couldn’t play all of my classroom team building games that I have in the past.

It’s definitly been a hard few weeks, I’m not going to deny that, but it could be so much worse right now. I love my class and we will get through this. The best part is knowing that at some point, we will be back at school which, again, is much better than not going back at all last spring.

Also, can we just take a moment and love the fact that T. Swift just dropped her second album in 6 months? She kills me! I will forever be a huge fan and will never be ashamed of that! Evermore is pure beauty!

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Mystery Science for the WIN

Oh. My. Goodness. This COVID teaching life is no joke. I am EXHAUSTED. I mean, we all know that teaching is exhausting but adding on all of the new rules AND the constant changes, is extra rough.

I’ve learned this year that I have to be okay with not being the best teacher in some areas and accepting that things are going to be hard and different. I will admit that this week was a hard week in many ways. Our school has gone from dropping the bomb that we would be moving to hybrid learning in the elementary schools on Monday, to being told we wouldn’t be given prep time for that transition on Tuesday, to then being told we would not be going to hybrid on Thursday. There is no other way to explain it than to say it was a total mind f**k. On top of that huge confusion, I had parent and student issues going on as well. I honestly can say I know I taught something this week but I don’t really know what.

The thing that got me through this week was my amazing team. This is the first time I feel like I’m on a team where everyone understands each other and is always there for you no matter what. I’m also finally on a team where everyone is a real person. There are no words to explain how helpful that makes everything.

There has been one resource that has truly been a lifesaver for me. If there is one subject I am not good at teaching, it’s science. I have really struggled with that in the past and was really stressing about how I would do it this year since I’m struggling just teaching reading and math.

This year our district is piloting Mystery Science as our science curriculum. For years I have been showing Mystery Doug videos weekly to my classes just for fun. If you’ve never watched these videos, do it! They are usually about 5-10 minutes long and touch on anything and everything kids want to know about. A video might be on how pencils are made, but the videos go way deeper than just that answer. I’ve told my students that every time I watch a video, I learn something new even if I know the answer to the title of the video.

Mystery Doug than evolved into a full fledged science curriculum website known as Mystery Science. (To be honest, I’m not sure what came first Mystery Doug or Mystery Science but I personally heard of Mystery Doug first.) Mystery Science’s website is super easy to follow and teach that literally anyone can do it! Even someone like me who really struggles understanding parts of science in the first place.

All you do is find your grade level standards and there are videos ready to go to show your students. The video goes through a lesson and always has a hands on exploration at the end. My students are starting the year off by learning about energy and electricity. They just completed an activity where they built their own chain reaction machine. It was so cool because they got to learn about energy transfer while also being their own engineers.

The site is so friendly to use that it is PERFECT for a distance learning teacher. My students all have their own Chromebooks so we’ve been practicing on doing lessons completely independently just in case we have to go distance in the future.

I send out a link on Seesaw to the week’s lesson, show them the materials they will need for the exploration, and then set them loose. The lesson videos are 10-30 minutes long and the hands on activities are around 30 minutes long. I’ve really enjoyed watching my kids be totally independent in their learning while navigating the videos and making their projects.

We do every other lesson together as a class so we can have class discussions and I can keep track of their learning. The weeks that they go through the videos on their own, I have a print out of questions they have to answer throughout so I can see later they followed along. (This has prevented my slackers from just clicking through the videos just to get done.)

The other super nice thing about this site is they are always updating it and posting new projects and videos weekly for any grade level. An example this week was that they posted a video on creepy crawly bugs. I sent this video link out to my class today during WIN time as an optional “Friday Fun” activity. They watched a short video and then got to make their own symmetrical centipedes. They LOVED it! It was so fun watching them laugh at the videos and get super into making their own bugs. The best part was that, to them, it was a Friday Fun activity but they were actually doing a science lesson at the same time without even realizing it.

Moral of the story, even if your school has a set science curriculum, go check out Mystery Science’s site. If you subscribe to Mystery Doug’s weekly videos, you get a new free video sent to your email every week followed by extra activities they will randomly post throughout the week. (Like the bug activity from today.) Kids love it and I promise you will to because it is no extra work. It’s actually a nice relaxing time of the week because for a few minutes you can take a breath while they are captivated by the video being shown.

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Merry Halloween

Happy post Halloween week friends. I know Halloween and teaching don’t always go hand in hand but I’ve learned that if you embrace the day for what it is, you can still have a successful day of school. I knew what standards/lessons I had to teach the day of Halloween so I did some major planning on how to make it valuable but fun. (We also had some fun activities mixed in that was just for the excitement of the day!)

Kiddos entered the room and had 2 different Halloween morning work sheets ready for them to work on. I got these 2 free morning work sheets on TPT. One sheet was a Halloween word search from Melissa Fjal – Tales of Teaching‘s store. There are a ton of free word searches to download but I thought this was the perfect one for the age of my kids. I also had a Halloween secret message sheet for them to fill out that I got from D Conway‘s store. They were both huge hits and kept my kids silent for the first 10 minutes of the day (which they’re supposed to do every other day with their morning work but it’s NEVER silent.)

 

 

We then had our daily morning meeting. We talked about the day and then went around to share what they were going to be for Halloween. I always start the day with a game so they asked if I had a Halloween game for them after they shared their costumes. I had 24 different Halloween charade cards that they got to pick from. We then played rounds of Halloween charades throughout the day. They LOVED this and it was super easy for me to set up.

Reading this week was all about finding the author’s purpose of stories and texts while also talking about similes and metaphors. We read one of my FAVORITE Halloween books, Creepy Carrots by Aaron Reynolds and Peter Brown and found the author’s purpose of the story (which wasn’t too difficult for them but it was fun!)

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After the story we went around the room and completed some Halloween simile and metaphor task cards (that I got for FREE on Teaching with a Mountain View‘s shop ). They thought had so much fun reading all of the different themed cards and totally grasped the different between similes and metaphors.

 

 

Math this week was all about prime numbers and multiplicative comparison stories. I searched the glorious TPT and found a FREE resource that fit BOTH of what we have been working on from I HEART 4th Grade‘s store. It was perfect.

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I am currently teaching grammar to 3 different 4th grade classes and wanted to spice up our lesson on sentence fragments. This was the 3rd time I taught this lesson and wanted to do something similar that I did with my first 2 classes. The first 2 classes did some sentence fragment task cards so I found Halloween sentence fragment task cards for $3.00 on Purple Palmetto‘s store for this group. Once they were done they did a Halloween themed mad lib to practice nouns, verbs, and adjectives.

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Finally, the day ended with the Charlie Brown classic, The Great Pumpkin. I LOVE that movie and show it every year, not just for them, but for me too!

 

 

I also got the pleasure of giving them their second sponsored Scholastic book that came in the mail. They were so excited and grateful for the free gift. Like I said last month, the dollar monthly Scholastic Book Club books are amazing and a blessing. My kids get a free book every month while learning about who their sponsor is and how they are related to me. It was so sweet to see their happy faces. It was the perfect ending to the day.

 

 

I jokingly told them if they brought me candy (specifically Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups) I would give them extra credit. Then this happened today….

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I love my job!

Don’t get me wrong after yesterday I was EXHAUSTED and am so happy it’s the weekend, but I had a blast with the day. I love my class. They make everything much more enjoyable and less stressful. With the end of Halloween means the beginning of my favorite 2 months of the year!! The next couple of months will be filled with so many fun activities and lessons that I can not wait to do and share! To get you all in the mood for the most wonderful time of the year, I’d like to share my wonderful tree that, yes, I put up last night because I love Christmas so much! Happy weekend!

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For more day to day activities and lessons, go follow my class instagram account @lifeoftherookieteacher. You won’t regret it!

 

Second Full Week Complete!

Happy Friday! I think I’m officially labeling Fridays as my posting days. It’s a nice way to rethink about the week while also venting if I need it. It’s also a way for me to relax and decompress.

This week I didn’t go overboard with anything crazy like art projects or special assignments. My main goal for this week was to keep things as consistent and routined as possible. (For myself and the kids.)

Monday started the week strong. My kids came in ready to learn (which still blew my mind) so it was a nice easy way to start the week. The next few days were like that but then Thursday came.

Thursday was the day we had to take our fall reading benchmarks test. The assessment we take is about 40 questions but the poor kids have to read multiple passages (that are not exciting) so it takes up to 2 hours for them to finish. Needless to say, they were not in the learning mood after lunch.

The afternoon on Thursday was the first time this year I started to get frustrated. (Now I know what I’m about to share is literally nothing! I know, I’ve had tough classes in the past! But after having such an incredible 2 weeks of no issues, I was shocked that they weren’t listening and being a bit disrespectful.)  They came back from lunch, and usually they know my expectation is to grab a book and read to self right away (they are amazing at this) but they came back and would not stop talking! I tried to get them to settle down but for some reason it wasn’t sinking in.

For my discipline system I have a “strike” board. If their name is on the strike board by Friday,  they owe me 5 minutes (for each time their name is on the board) of their morning Friday free time. I usually only have to give a single warning for them to settle down, but Thursday it took multiple warnings and a few kids who got official “strikes” for them to calm down.

The rest of the afternoon was just like this. They were so chatty. Luckily they are such good kids that saying they had to write their name on the strike board was enough for them to stop whatever it was they were doing.

Today was very similar to yesterday. They were high energy and chatty. We had to stop and have a talk about how they had been doing such a great job the first few weeks and how my expectation of them is to continue that since they are more than capable. (I know, they’re 9, they are going to talk and have high energy but just telling them that I was disappointed in the past few days, was enough to get them to settle down.)

I do love this class. So far, I can tell it’s going to be a much easier year than it has been in the past. But they’re kids and I’m a teacher, there will be days that we both drive each other crazy. The last 2 days, were those days. I do love them with all of my heart and I am excited to go back and see them on Monday!

To make today so much better, however I was eligible for an upgrade on my phone, so last weekend I preordered the new iPhone 11 Pro Max. When I came home from work today, there it was sitting in front of my door waiting for me! (I’m a nerd who LOVES Apple and technology, so new Apple products are my toys that make me as excited as a kid on Christmas morning!) It was the best Friday surprise!

Until next week friends!

For more day to day adventures and pictures, go follow my school instagram account @lifeoftherookieteacher!

New Classroom, New Grade, New Challenge!

Uff-dah (yes that is the Minnesotan in me but that is how I feel!) It has been one insane week with some BIG changes!!

Last Friday I posted about finally finishing my classroom but then was hit with the bombshell, someone in our grade level would have to move from 3rd to 4th grade. Well fast forward to Monday and that bombshell hit me especially hard. Because I am the rookie on my team, I drew the short stick and was told by our new principal and superintendent that I would have to be the one to move.

This was a lot to take in! They were both super nice about it when they came to talk/comfort me. They told me that they were going to make this change as easy as possible for me. I told them that I had just finishing moving into my new room (in the 3rd grade wing) 3 days prior so they told me I could stay in that room if I wanted to. Honestly, that day was all a haze. I had originally thought I was going to move over to the empty 4th grade classroom but as the day progressed instead of worrying about the new curriculum and my new students, all I could think about was moving into a new room. I realized my priorities were not in the right spot so I shouldn’t move.

I talked to my 4th grade team about that decision and they told me they would have made the same choice and there was no reason for me to add that stress! Of course other staff in the building didn’t agree with that choice so I was bombarded with non stop opinions for 2 days. I kept hearing from other staff members that parents will be upset and students won’t like “sharing bathrooms and locker areas with 3rd graders.” I get that some families might not be thrilled about the location of the classroom but at the end of the day it’s what happens in the classroom that matters the most. Finally, I told another team mate about the constant “advice” I was receiving and she stopped it in its tracks. She literally saved my sanity!

After all of the drama dust subsided I finally got to meet with some of my new teammates and spent many hours replanning my first few weeks of school. I definitely spent more time at school this week than I had planned (especially considering it was workshop week so I knew I would be there everyday anyways) but I left today feeling like I can do this. I taught 4th grade 2 years ago, so I know what to expect. It’s just sad that I don’t get to work with the same awesome people again. I was also excited to know what I was teaching for once but I guess I’m made for the challenge.

Anyways… after all of that fun stuff I wanted to share my new classroom that was prepped for 3rd grade but was transformed for 4th grade!

First things first, it might look plain but I love to use tables instead of desks. I HATE clutter. Tables don’t completely solve the problem but nothing gets buried inside. They are also a great way to promote groups and collaboration between students throughout the day. I also added little buckets on each table filled with a mix of markers, crayons, colored pencils, and pens. I found these adorable buckets (confetti themed) at Target for only $1.00 a piece. I have 7 tables so I have 7 buckets, each with a sticker number on them so I can have numbered groups.

The front of my room is not the most exciting but I centered it around our reading curriculum. When I thought I would be teaching 3rd grade, I was only going to be teaching reading. I found many word work, spelling, and writing activities on TPT over the summer to go with the curriculum, so I didn’t want them to go to waste. I LOVE the Teacher Resources confetti theme! I used it last year so I built off of it this year. I found those cute confetti circles with positive affirmations. I am BIG on positive mindset in my classroom so they were perfect!

Next is my new reading corner. I don’t have all of the space I would like for this area but I made the most of it! Our school does AR to encourage reading. The school gives away prizes for students when they earn a certain amount of points but to encourage taking AR tests more and having point goals, I have my own point/incentive program. Last year, AR was new to me so I didn’t have much set up. This year I wanted to have a bright and fun display of the points each student has next to a sign of the incentives for each goal. When a student gets 50 points they will get to take a clothes pin (they are all numbered so students find their class number) and clip it to the sign. As they get more points, they get to keep moving their pin. I found these amazing confetti/neon labels for $3.00 on TPT from Cherry Workshop‘s store. I used the signs in this file for many labels around my room.

I bought these mini confetti labels from amazon for $6.99. They come in a pack of 30 and I love them for my lunch count/attendance taker. I used them last year as well. It’s a quick and easy way for me to see what the lunch count is and if anyone is absent. Last year I struggled with organizing papers for each subject that was handed in throughout the day. This year I decided to buy these drawers from Target for $9.99 each (not the cheapest but worth it) and label them for each subject. This way when my students hand things in, they will already be sorted by subject for me. I also wanted to spruce up my dull walls (I like to put fabric in the background to brighten things up but the walls are so high in this new room that I can’t reach the top) so I put up these 3 positive mindset posters from the teacher store Lakeshore Learning. I love their messages but I also find them super cute!

The back of my room is my favorite. Again, most of these are all from the confetti themed section found at Teacher Resources (also their store on Amazon.) My schedule was made using the neon labels I bought on TPT that also had the signs I used for my AR display. I love the teacher hack of using a push pin wall to display student work in a quick and easy way. I hot glued a push pin to the back of a clothes pin and a number tag to the front of the clothes pin to make the mounts. That is all the work I have to do there. Now as the year goes on when we have a project, I won’t have to waste time stapling or taping up their work because they can easily do it! Growing up with a teacher mom, I would usually be the one to put up and display her students’ work. I hated it and it easily became my biggest pet peeve. So seriously, this is my favorite time saver!

 

Oh man it has definitely been a week and the kids aren’t even here yet. I’m just hoping it’s all is up hill from here. To help take care of with my newly added stress, I got a sweet little surprise today. I have one student this year that I also had in my class last year. Luckily, she was one of my all time favorites! Today I got a sweet little gift and card from her saying she was excited to have me again. It’s those little things that make all the difference! I seriously started to cry when it showed up at school today! Now to enjoy the last official weekend before the year begins.

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SCHOOL’S OUT FOR SUMMER

I am pumped! Today has been an emotional day for sure. I was so excited for this day to come but when I was sitting in my room with my kiddos the last 5 minutes of the day, I realized I didn’t want them to leave. It has been such a great and amazing year.

We started the day off by moving all of our tables into one giant table. I wanted us to be together as a group for our last day instead of separated by 5 different tables. They came in and it was very chaotic (just as expected.) I had a mini word search for them to work on as something to do but most of them didn’t find that to be as exciting as laughing and talking with the rest of their friends, which is understandable. By the time they settled down we came to make a circle at the front of the classroom for our last morning meeting together.

During the meeting we did an activity that we did on the first day of school. The activity is one of my favorites that involves toilet paper (which they find to be hilarious!) I pass around rolls of toilet paper and they are told to take 1-3 pieces. (Some versions of this activity say to have them take as many as they want without telling them what it’s for but I found with 3rd graders, that was too much to handle.) On the first day of school they had to then tell myself and the class that many things about themselves, today they had to share that many memories/favorite things about 3rd grade. It was super sweet. Most of them took it pretty seriously and had some really good answers. We had some funny moments that came back up as well. It was nice for me to get a flashback of the year to remember what all happened.

I then had them go back to their spots and take out something to write with. I gave them each a blank piece of printer paper and told them to write their name in the middle and circle it. We then spent the next 15 minutes passing each sheet around the table so each student could write something nice on everyone’s piece of paper. It could be something they liked about that person, a nice memory, or a kind word. Again, most of them took this seriously and loved it. (Yes a few tried to be “funny” or “too cool” for the activity but the nice thing was that the rest of the class didn’t feed into any of that.)

Once we finished I read the great book Last Day Blues by Julia Danneberg and then we went to play outside. They went straight to specials and I took out their end of the year gifts to put at their spots. I found a pack of 24 “80’s style” sunglasses on amazon for $16.47 (prime) and  24 jump ropes for $39.75 (prime) and put together a little message to go with it. Props to Pinterest’s help on this one. I wrote each of them their own personalized card and put in the message “you shined so bright this year, now it’s time to jump into summer” into each one. (Hence the sunglasses and the jump ropes….not original, I know but easy!) Because they are sweet 8 and 9 year olds, they LOVED it!

To end the day I had put together a slideshow/video of our year together. I love taking pictures of everything we do throughout the year because I love looking back at the memories and how much they’ve grown. I also love putting it together into one movie to share with all of the families. We watched our slideshow and then took some final end of the year class pictures.

I am going to miss my class so much! We’ve had our struggles, oh yes, but they were all sweet and kindhearted and that is something I will truly miss. They have been such an incredible group of kids who cared so much about everyone else. My one goal when the year starts is to make them all love to be at school and today I got to see that I accomplished that. One of my boys who has never been afraid to tell me he hates school told me today he was very sad that school was over and that he would really miss me. He followed that up with a hug and I almost started to cry. It was everything I had worked so hard for. It’s those moments that make it all worth it.

That being said, I am very happy it is summer! I am EXHAUSTED and ready to sleep, read, swim, eat, and do whatever else I want to do when I want to do it. Tonight I plan on binging on pizza and having a nice cold one as my reward for making it through! Happy summer to my fellow teachers who are on their breaks and to all of my friends still in school, keep plugging through, you are AMAZING!!

As for me, peace out to year 2! I am so excited for year 3!!

BINGO, Kickball, and Officially Published

Happy Friday friends!!! More like FINALLY FRIDAY!! Holy cow this last month of school is a marathon and we’re ALL feeling it.

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Today we had an early release for students so we could have a professional development afternoon. Because of that, we all tried to make today a fun day. We started the day with school wide BINGO. We’ve had a school wide goal since the beginning of the school year to read 25,000 books by the end of the year. We reached that back in February so we bumped the goal to 50,000. We have benchmark prizes throughout and BINGO was the prize for reaching 44,000. [[Super fun right!? Well it was at first….

Every Friday we have some “Friday free choice” time right away in the morning for about 20ish minutes to start the day. Because BINGO started right at the start of the day, we didn’t get time to do our free choice time. My kids were upset about this and didn’t understand why they couldn’t have both. Really?

When we started to play BINGO my class was the first 3rd grade class to get a BINGO so we won a class prize from the principals. Sometime in the next few weeks they’ll be taking my class outside to play some kickball. When my students found out this was the prize, half of my class threw a fit because they don’t like kickball. Who doesn’t want to get out of class on a nice spring day to play kickball!? Honestly it blew my mind. I was livid with how they were reacting. Oh my goodness, seriously.

After BINGO we finished a math test and then we watched Because of Winn-Dixie because we finished the book. A few of my highly emotional students (who work with our school social workers multiple times a day) were crying because they didn’t feel like watching a movie today. Ummmmmmmm what!? What 8 year old doesn’t want to watch a movie in school!? Oh my goodness I almost lost it.

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Majority of my class was super awesome during BINGO and during the movie but it’s those handful of 3-4 that ruin my mood because there has to be a problem with everything. I can’t win with them.

A super positive side about today though was that we finally got our published books in the mail. A few weeks ago my class created our own book. A friend of mine told me about this awesome company called Student Treasures. What the company does is it sends a teacher a book making kit for their class. In the kit there is a full list of instructions and order forms to send home. You come up with an idea on what you want to write about and go from there. One teacher I know made a class cookbook and another made their own “I survived” story. The site also has a ton of ideas and examples of different class books that have been made. Once the whole process is completed on the teachers end, the whole kit gets sent back and the company does all of the publishing! A few weeks later the books arrive and they are amazing!

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My class recently read the Wayside School series by Louis Sacher. We decided to base our book off of that series by making our own wacky and crazy stories. Each student wrote a chapter about themselves. They got to come up with a silly story about what they might do in our class and illustrate a picture to go with it. Today the books came!

The title of our book was Upside Down Stories From Becker Intermediate School. They turned out so cute and the kiddos were so excited. The book comes with a dedication page and a “meet the authors” page. My kids were adorable on their dedication. We talked together as a class and came up with two different dedications. The first was they wanted to dedicate our book to another 3rd grade teacher, the one who originally gave me the idea because she did it with her class. The second dedication was “to all of the sick.” They wanted to bring some cheer to anyone who isn’t feeling that great. They want anyone out there to have a good laugh because that makes everyone feel better. I was so proud when they decided on their two dedications. I had nothing to do with what they wanted.

 

At the beginning of our book I wrote a little introduction with the chapters for each student but the rest is all them! I am including examples from the different chapters in our book because I find them super cute and innocent.

 

It was a super fun process to build our class relationship. We decided on commonalities for our fake class like a common class discipline system and the name of the school principal. A lot of them decided to include other classmates in their stories (I told them as long as it was appropriate and they got permission from the other student, they could include whatever they wanted.) Overall, it was such a fun process. I HIGHLY recommend looking into Student Treasures next school year. It’s probably a little too late at this point of the year because it takes some time for the books to get back to you, but I think it is something every class should participate in.

Oh man, the end of the year cannot come soon enough. I love my class but MY GOODNESS they are losing their minds! Here’s to all of you teachers out there who understand the May feels.

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For more day to day activities and projects, go follow my class instagram page @lifeoftherookieteacher!