28 May 2012
Spring Exhibit was two weeks ago and our theme was ants.  I finally finished putting my Ant Unit together, so I thought I would share the ant themed photos and the link to my Ant Unit.  I am so done with ants!  Unfortunately, it looks like I will have the nasty harvester ants in the gel ant farm for a while.  Click {here} to read about my ant wrangling adventures.  This new gel ant farm was so much easier to get them into.  
My very creative co-workers came up with the ideas for ant faces on the bodies and the "If I Were an Ant" writing prompts.  One of my students wrote, "If I were an ant, a candle would seem like an inferno."  
The page toppers for the "Dear Ant Bully" persuasive letters were inspired by the teachers at Peace, Love, and Kindergarten.  I have included the activity and tracers {here} for free!
Click the cover below to check out my Ant Unit on TpT!

Beth Finke Author Visit

23 May 2012
I was so excited to go to school on Monday.   I had arranged for author Beth Finke to visit our first and second graders.  Beth is the author of Hanni and Beth: Safe and Sound.  It is a wonderful book told from the perspective of a seeing-eye dog, Hanni.  Beth is a charismatic speaker and does a great job answering big questions from little kids.  Of course, she comes with her seeing-eye dog.  I don't know who gets more excited about petting the dog, me or the students!
This was not Beth's first visit to our school.  However, it was her new seeing-eye dog, Whitney's first visit.  On all of her previous trips to my school, Beth brought Hanni, the narrator of the book.  Hanni has since retired and moved away.  I know what you're thinking, but no, she really did retire and lives with a nice couple.   Whitney is a two year old yellow lab and golden retriever mix.  She was born at The Seeing Eye School in Morristown, NJ.
Oh, Whitney!  That beautiful, happy, dog stole the show.  When I first greeted Beth in the main office to escort her to the small gym, I noticed Whitney looking at me and wagging her tail.  Hanni was always all business while wearing her harness.  It was so hard for me not to reach down and pet Whitney, but I reminded myself that you don't pet a service dog while he/she is working.
I guided Beth and Whitney down the hall to the small gym.   Inside, the students were seated nicely awaiting Beth's arrival.  Whitney must have been distracted by all the children, because she almost led Beth into the door divider.  I intervened, and just as I did, Whitney managed to lick a student's face!  Whitney is no Hanni!  Beth informed me that Whitney loves children and that was one thing that would make her lose her focus.  Beth did not seem concerned, apparently there is a learning curve for new seeing-eye dogs.  Darn, I was ready to say, "you know if Whitney does not work out, I will take her."  Throughout the question and answer session, Whitney rolled on her back with her harness on, chewed on her leash, and was just hamming it up for the kids.  Beth managed to get Whitney back on track, though I think the students preferred her goofball antics.  You can click here to read Beth's blog post about her visit.  You can inquire about Beth visiting your school by clicking here!  It was such a great opportunity for my students to meet a real-life author, to talk candidly with someone with a disability, and to see first hand what service dogs can do.

Before the visit, I built students' schema by reading them a book about service dogs called Animals That Help Us: Animals Helping with Special Needs by Claire Oliver.  I also read my students this great book called May I Pet Your Dog? by Stephanie Calmenson.  As a dog owner, I recommend that everyone share this book with children.  I cannot tell you how many times a child will come lunging at my Chihuahua without asking me if he/she can pet him.   I am very lucky that my Chihuahua is not a fear biter, but many are and if he were, that child would be in for a nasty nip on the hand.  This book, also told from a dog's perspective, reviews the importance of asking "May I pet your dog?" The book even briefly touches upon not petting service dogs while they are working.  After the reading, I had my students complete the writing prompt below.  You can click on the picture to download the file from Google Docs.

Or, click the picture below to download the Australian version.

Click on the cover picture below to check out the book.
Again, you can click here to read Beth's blog post about her visit to our school and you can inquire about Beth visiting your school by clicking here

General Information Packet and Take-Home Bags

21 May 2012
I have gotten a few questions about what I give the parents at the beginning of the school year.  I am posting my General Information Packet for you to look through.  I find that creating a packet saves me time because it clearly explains things to the parents.  I don't get notes asking me the same thing over and over.  If I do find myself getting more than one note asking for clarification on something, I make sure to either clarify that in the packet or if it is not already in the packet, I add it to the packet.  I place the packet in a folder (the penny ones from Staples), along with the class list and class directory.  For more of my organizational forms, check out my Back to School Organizational Forms & More packet on Tpt.  I have just added a page to my Back to School Organizational Forms & More that includes a link to bare-bones editable versions of many of the pages.  Please, re-download if you have already purchased this packet.

To check out my General Information Packet, click the cover picture below.  Feel free to use my packet as a guide for creating one for your own classroom.
Click {here} to purchase the editable file from TpT :)

Here is my Back to School Organizational Forms Packet, if you would like to check it out on TpT:

In my general information packet, I explain the take-home bags that I utilize throughout the school year.  I feel that the take-home bags enhance the home-school connection and are a great way to make the students feel special.  The summer is the perfect time of year for teachers to put these bags together.

I have created packets for all of my take home bags except for the Nursery Rhyme Bag.  If I get enough requests for it, I will work on it during the summer.  I will also take requests for other classroom mascot bags.

Click on the covers to check these packets out on TpT!


SkippyJon is available at Kohl's along with his books and a cute bag! 

My free Take-Home Bag Packets:

In the past, I decorated canvas bags or had my grandmother sew a patterned ones for me.  Now, I use these clear totes from  I find they are easier to keep clean and hold up better.  Plus, I like that they have zippers.  Click on the picture below to check them out.
I use a class list record form to keep track of who has what bag.  I put the date the student takes a bag home in the row with his/her name and under the column for the bag title.  I keep this list in the front of my plan book.  I highlight the date when the bag is returned to school.

I have three bags/journals that we share on Mondays: Star of the Week, Scaredy Squirrel,  the Guinea Pig Journal.   I don't do "Show and Tell," instead I have these bags that we share.  The students and parents write in the journals and include photographs.  After the student shares his/her bag, he answers three questions from the crowd. 

We share the Lost Tooth Bag and the Birthday Bag the day the student brings it back.  I ask that they only keep them one to two nights because other students will be needing them.  

I am always the first Star of the Week and I leave my poster up for "Meet the Teacher Night."  This gives the parents an opportunity to learn a bit more about me.  The next Star of the Week is a randomly picked student.  He/she gets the Star of the Week bag on a Thursday night and they return it to school with the completed poster and photos on Monday morning.  They are then the Star of the Week for the entire week. The next Star of the Week is the next student in alphabetical order.  Click {here} to read my complete post on Star of the Week. 

For the classroom mascot, Scaredy Squirrel, I start at the beginning of the alphabet and work back.  The students get Scaredy on Thursday or Friday and return him to school on Monday.  

The Guinea Pig Journal goes home with the guinea pigs for the weekend/holiday.  The parents sign up for a weekend or holiday to take the guinea pigs.  For more information, click {here} for my free Critters in the Classroom packet.

The extra take-home packs, Dr. Seuss and The Nursery Rhyme Bag, go home starting at random points in the alphabet.  Students can choose not to take these bags home and parents can choose to return them to school without completing the activities inside.  These are completely optional bags.  I don't want something that is supposed to be fun, turn into a burden.  However, if a student and family chooses to complete the activities in the bag, the student earns a prize for doing the extra work.  These bags are not shared in class, since the activities are not journal type activities.  

For more detailed posts on my take-home bags and their contents, click {here}!

I hope you found something useful!  As always, you have permission to Pin anything on my blog, as long as you link it back.  If you are done with the school year, enjoy your summer!  In NY we usually go until the end of June.  Our last day is June 22nd!

Trouble Opening TpT Files?

17 May 2012

The top question I get emailed or asked in my Teachers Pay Teachers store: Can you help me?  When I open your file, it shows these black bars.  What do I do?

The number two question/statement:  My computer won't open your product because it says it is corrupted.  What do I do? 

Other common questions/statements: The file is Zipped how do I open it?   When I preview, there are black lines connecting the letters.  Can you email me the PDF?  Why can't you email me the file as a Word Doc?  TpT charged my Pay Pal twice.  What do I do?

The good news is, the answers are simple.   

Please, do not feel in any way insulted if I or another TpT seller has copy and pasted this post link into an email or comment on TpT.  This is just the easiest and the most effective way for us to help you.  That being said, read below and your problems will be solved!

1.  Black bars - These are showing up because you do not have the most updated version of Adobe Reader installed on your computer or you have a Mac.  If you go to your purchases page (click here), you will see the word  "blurry" flashing.  There is a link there to download the newest version of Adobe for free.  

If you have a Mac, go to your downloads folder.  Open your the file with Adobe, not your default reader.  I have a Mac, so I have this issue also.  

2.  Corrupted Files - Rest assured the file is not corrupted and does not contain a virus.  It probably just was created in a computer with a newer version of Adobe or Word than you have on your computer.  Follow the steps in number one above and it should open fine. 

3.  Thin Black Lines -The black thin lines connecting the letters will not show when you print.  For some reason, they only show up in preview.  Test one page to print and make sure.  
4. Zipped Files - You should be able to just right click a download zip file and it will unzip.  If the file does not unzip, I suggest you read Ashley Hughes' comprehensive post on zipped files.   Just click here.

4.  I am so sorry but sellers cannot email you a Word document or the PDF file and here is why:  
  • The Terms of Use of  purchased clip art and fonts forbid us from sharing any non-pdf files.  Pdf files have locked graphics, therefore you cannot copy the graphic and place it into a new document.
  • If we were to send you a Word file, your computer might not have the same version of Word as ours, you would not have our purchased font installed on your computer, and the margins would most likely be off.  So even if we did send it, it would look totally different than the PDF file and it would take you hours to fix.  Besides that, we might have made the file in Pages, Publisher, Adobe, Power Point, etc.
  • It is not good business.  We work hard creating products and we don't want edited versions/variations of our product out there for free or for sale.  
  • Sellers cannot email you the PDF file.  There have been stories of people scamming TpT authors by contacting them through TpT, asking for files to be emailed to them.  These people had never purchased the file to begin with.  If there is a problem or typo in the PDF, email the author.  The author can update the file and then you can re-download.  An alert will show up on your purchases page, allowing you to re-download. 
5. Any billing questions should go through customer service at TpT.  Sellers do not get paid directly from you, we are paid quarterly from TpT.  We do not have the power to issue refunds.  You can contact customer service by clicking the "Contact Us" link on TpT. 

Thank you for your purchases.  I hope this helped you out with your technical difficulties!  I know that I would be so disappointed if I was unable to open a download.  TpT is full of amazing and authentic teacher created resources!  

Fellow TpT sellers, feel free to send customers the link to this post.  I am happy to help out!

End of the School Year Card and Memory Book

15 May 2012
I know the end of the school year is getting close for many of you.  I go until June 22nd, so I still have a ways to go.  I thought I would tell you about my End of the Year Memory Book and share with you my FREE End of the Year Thank You Card

Here is my End of the Year Student Memory Book! Click on the picture below to check it out on TpT!
I really worked hard on this at the end of last school year and I just ended up finishing it the last week of school!  I spent hours finding the perfect quotes to go with each page.  This year, I added a page for the classroom aide and made the sheets black and white.  So, now the students can color in the clip art.  If you already purchased this packet last year, please re download! 

Here is some of the awesome feedback I am getting for this packet:

Here is my End of the Year Thank You Card!  I cannot take credit for the sweet poem.  I found it online years and years ago and thought it would be perfect for an end of the year card.  To create these cards, I print them on card-stock paper in color.  Then, very close to the last day of school, I type on the inside of each card (I have directions for page set up and printing in the packet).  I also include a "PS- Thanks you for the_____."  Click on the pictures to download your free copy today!  
The font is called Burst My Bubble and can be downloaded free online from multiple sites. 

I hope you enjoy your last few days or weeks of school.  I know I am going to really miss my students. They are all so sweet and really enjoy learning!  I am so proud of them and the growth they have made this year. 

Show Us What You Bought!

07 May 2012
I love a good sale and I thought I would share with you some of the TpT purchases I made during the HUGE Teacher Appreciation Sale.  *I hope you sellers don't mind, but I took the liberty of taking screen shots of your covers.  Click on the covers to hop over to TpT to check out these items.  If you have a blog, feel free to snag my graphic above and include it in a blog post of your shopping finds.

Sarah Cooley's (First Last!Pigeon Perfect A Mo Willems Activity Pack.   I was going to save this adorable packet for next year, but I noticed it has a lettering writing activity that would tie in nicely with my Letter Writing Unit.  I know I will be teaching right up until the end of school (June 22), so I still have time.
While I was on the Mo Willems kick, I picked up Hope King's (Second Grade ShenanigansKnuffle Bunny: A Book Series Study.  It is sooo freaking cute!!!

Update!  Through Sarah's link up, I found The Duckling Gets a Cookie by Randi of Teach it With Class.  Her unit is adorable!!!  

Most of you know that I am in the middle of an ant unit and I found this cute and fun math center to do this week with the kids in my pal, Cheryl Saoud's store (Primary Graffiti).

Next year, we are going to have to display our essential questions for students and administrators to see. So, I purchased my sweet friend, Anna Brantely's (Crazy for FirstFirst Grade Common Core Essential Questions.  She is going to be so mad that I bought this from her, but her time is valuable and I feel bad asking for things.  <3 you Anna!!!

These two items, I snagged at the last sale and I did not get a chance to share about them.

The ever talented and fabulous Rachelle (Ru Shell) Smith of What the Teacher Wants has this great Handwriting Fairy Packet.  I am so into "fairies" in the classroom.  There is the desk fairy (click here for my freebie), the Tooth Fairy, and the Leprechaun.  This packet was PERFECT and it fit in well with my letter writing unit.  The kids loved it.

I bought this product by Kathleen Pederson (Growing Kinders) and I use it all the time as a morning job.  Just last week, it was a life-saver when I needed just a few more minutes to finish cutting something.  I told my students to add more details to their drawings.  How cute is their work?

After blog hopping, I went back and bought even more! I am a shopper.  For example, right now my new obsession is, because I have the Amazon Prime and get everything in around two days.  I order everything and anything from them!!  I also love The LOFT and probably own every dress they sell.

Oh, I talk about shopping forever, but back to my point!  Here are my new finds:

This packet is by a Canadian seller, Natalie Lamont.  It is perfect for our geometry unit.  I was in such a rush to buy it that I accidentally bought the Canadian version where "color" is spelled "colour."  Natalie was nice enough to contact me before I contacted her about it.  She is so on top of things!  This is seriously cute and so thorough!

This packet is by the so sweet Becca Sutton, of Teaching First.  My district utilizes Handwriting Without Tears, but I always need extra practice sheets.  I am going to copy these and really drill in how to form letters next year.  I like Handwriting Without Tears' language, but I am not a fan of the "no top line."  So I think I will just expose them to both.  In real life, there is a top line.  

I love The Digital Bakeshop and to be honest I really want to keep her items all to myself.  She has a TpT store now and her stuff is just so cute.  My firsties loved my Pirate Math Centers this year and I think I want to expand upon them and create a literacy unit.  So I purchased this adorable clip art set and background papers.

My firsties are loving my unit on ants, so I thought I would follow up with a unit on insects in general.  Next, year I think I will do this the other way around.  Deanna Jump has an adorable Insect Unit and everything she makes is just amazing.  I adore her and her work.

Here are two more awesome packets by one of my blogging BFF's, Anna Brantley:
I like the clear visuals in her Common Core & More Word Wall for First Grade.  I am going to find a way to display these next to my Essential Questions.
When I taught second grade, I always did a math journal and thought it was a great idea.  I never got around to making something cutesy for first grade.  Now I don't have to!  Love this complete set.  

In case you were wondering- Yes, I go through a lot of laminating!  I have my own laminator at home and at school.  It got too hard carrying it back and forth.  My GCB model has been discontinued, but I think this is the updated version.  Click on the pictures to check it out.  I always order the 3 mil. refill laminating sheets from Amazon.  I love laminating.  Sad, but it relaxes me!

Happy Shopping and Teacher Appreciation Week to you!
I appreciate you and hope that you look through the 28 free items in my TpT store!  Or check out all my freebie posts on this blog, by clicking the "free downloads" tag to the left.

I added a Linky Tool, so that you can link up!  

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