Friday, June 21, 2013

Do you Gaggle?

Our huge district is notorious for dishing out lots of dough for new initiatives, only to scrap them two or three years later. Among the Reading 3D, Kathy Richardson math assessments, new online attendance system, and new report card, next year we are fully rolling out a program called Gaggle.  

When I wanted to use Remind 101 this school year, I was instructed to "take a look at Gaggle". When I was trying to use Dropbox to access files at school and at home, it was all a sudden blocked. Why? "Because Gaggle does that instead." Needless to say, I was annoyed at this Gaggle, whatever it is. 

UNTILLLLLL we had Gaggle training. Now it's still not my favorite thing, but its tolerable. One annoying thing: it has email capabilities. But we already have school email. So I don't know if I'll need to check both? Or just the gaggle email? 

Annnnyway, here are the cool things I know how to do on Gaggle so far: 

If you use Dropbox, you will like that Gaggle has a "digital locker" where you can store and organize files. Gaggle also allows you to share the files, with different levels of security, with any other user (if I understand this correctly). It's allowed my team and I to quickly share files, some of which were too large to email, such as SMART Notebook files. 

GaggleTube is Gaggle YouTube, but there are no ads or pop-ups over your videos (especially love those at the end, anybody else get sumo wrestlers or bikinis, leading to screaming kiddos?). Videos can be saved into folders, or shared with your students in their accounts. 

There is a blog feature, allowing for a class blog. Pretty simple interface, nothing fancy, but it gets the job done. (So do I still have to keep my wiki updated???) Students can also set up blogs on their accounts, and the trainer was telling us about a teacher who allowed her class to choose any topic for their blog (one was all about cupcakes) but required a certain number of posts per week. That same teacher also required students to provide a set number of constructive comments on other classmates' blogs each week. What a great way to incorporate that critical writing piece in upper grades! Is anybody so brave as to have first graders blog?

My favorite feature about Gaggle (not a first grade feature, being used 2-12) is that students have their own account. Teachers can give assignments online, students turn them in online, students can use Gaggle's word processing or spreadsheet software in case they don't have compatible software at home, students can real-time collaborate on a document, and over their 10 years with Gaggle, students compile a digital portfolio! How cool would that be to look back on? I'm sure my mom has a box of my stuff buried somewhere in the attic, but I don't remember hardly anything I worked on in elementary school. (Not that it would be the same now, by any stretch of the imagination!) I guess the goal of the digital portfolio is that it would provide stunners a unique edge I the college admissions process. College and Career Readiness!

Gaggle is best web-based, but they also have an iPad app, which is great if you want to access your files on a mobile device. I have a whole bunch of Whole Brain Teaching eBooks all set to read on the iPad throughout the summer. Pretty excited to work my way through them!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

I {glittery} heart my LCD Projector!

I don't have an interactive whiteboard. Not yet. 

Buuuuuuut I DO have an LCD projector mounted above my whiteboard!

Lemme tell ya, I LOVE this thing! When the color wheel broke last year (after an earthquake - who knew we had earthquakes in NC?) and it was flashing too much to use it (literally my kids were getting headaches from the colors flashing) I didn't know what to do without it!

  • We love our online timers, that many others have blogged about, like here.
  • We love to use YouTube to introduce new / review old skills.
  • We love to watch DiscoveryEd videos after we've packed up and are waiting for buses to be called.
  • We love to use some things from SmartExchange or online games like on, and we just use the mouse instead of an interactive whiteboard.
  • We love to project the graphic organizers we are about to use and practice filling them in together on the whiteboard.

What I can't WAIT to try next year is this super fun thing:
The way Bouncy Balls is designed, it automatically uses a mouse click to send all the balls flying into the air. They come back down again, but they are all jumbled up. There is a button in the top left of the screen to activate your microphone. WHAT?!
When your microphone is activated, the balls can be sent flying by NOISE. Project this, activate microphone, and I bet we will work quietly!

What's that you say? Kids will want to see the balls go flying, and thus will make lots of noise? Hmmm. Must think of a way to manage that.

Here's my game plan, please comment with what you would do:

When introducing Bouncy Balls, we will have 10 seconds to make whatever noise we want and send them flying! Once all the balls have settled onto the ground, we will practice being quiet enough to not disturb them.

Each subsequent time we use Bouncy Balls, we will have 5 seconds to send the balls sky high. After that 5 seconds, we will earn a clip down or a Mighty Oh No for any time that the balls go flying too high during a quiet working time.

"Mighty Oh No"s are part of Whole Brain Teaching's Scoreboard practice. For more FREE information, visit

Do you have an LCD projector in your classroom? (Or an interactive whiteboard?)
What's your favorite tool?

Monday, July 23, 2012

Back to School TO DO

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This is SO me right now! 

I just finished creating and printing my word wall letters (this is gonna be my cutest one yet!)
{polka dots and chevron by Dreamlike Magic}

I love that my vowels are hot pink and my consonants are light green. I know, what happened to green and blue, right? Well this will all be on a blue background thanks to Walmart's super cheap twin sheets. Staple a sheet to the wall, add some border, and you've got another bulletin board!

Then I printed this super cutie:
...still figuring out where it will go.
Laminated? Framed? Plastered on each and every kid's desk and tattooed on my forehead?

In other news...

I had a HUGE moment of panic last night when I looked at a calendar. I know, right? Where did all of my summer go? I fly out SUPER early Wednesday morning to go visit the fam for a week. This will be the longest time that my sweet hubby and I have spent apart since we got married 3 years ago! Maybe that sounds sappy to you, but I love that boy :)
I'll get back next Wednesday, then I start a workshop the following Mon-Thurs. After that, I'm back in my classroom the next Monday, non-stop till school starts!

My summer vacay (at home) only has 5 days left!

Soooo... what's left on my to-do list? (And what can I get done on the plane?)

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A Get-to-know-the-teacher Scavenger Hunt for the first week of school. 

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(Hopefully my sweet mom can help me with this while I'm home!)

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...and last but not least...

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(Hoping mom might be all about this too!)

Too ambitious? PROBABLY! What's left on your back-to-school to-do list?

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Hooray! Classroom Pretty

A couple weeks ago I started thinking about ways to make my classroom PRETTY this year in ways that wouldn't interfere with the function. I considered draping fabric between ceiling tiles:
ceiling fabric
... but decided that would be a LOT of fabric, and a lot of dust in my face as I tried to maneuver the fabric. I thought about a couple other things, but they didn't have quite the dramatic impact I was going for. 

Enter Paper Lanterns:
paper lanterns
paper lanterns <3
Paper Lanterns
love the paper lanterns with the labels attached!  Where could I hang them????

BONUS! Paper lanterns aren't too expensive! I'm doing my classroom in blues and greens (with some pops of pink, because I LOVE pink) so I went in search, internet search, of paper lanterns. Did you know you could buy those things in just about ANY color you can imagine?! Hooray!!!

I looked at two different websites, Luna Bazaar and Paper Lantern Store. They are almost identical, and for no particular reason, I ended up ordering from PLS. No matter which site you use, there are SO many styles and sizes of lanterns, so you can really do whatever you want with these lanterns! 

I ended up ordering 3 green and 3 "turquoise" (I call it blue)lanterns at 12" tall, and then they had these packs of 10 lanterns, 4" tall, for super cheap. See?
All told it cost me $26.13 (incl. shipping) for 26 lanterns!

I can't wait to hang these babies up. The big ones will go over the kid's tables, and somehow they'll have the table numbers on them. The small ones will hang over the classroom library at different heights to create a kind of cloud of color over there. I can't wait to get in my classroom, hang them up, and show y'all some pictures! 

What are you doing to decorate your classroom this year? Do you have a theme or color scheme?

P.S.: After searching online, and a home improvement store, and a craft store, I finally found a good way to organize my dollar store foam letter tiles! Each tray holds one set of capital letters and one set of lowercase. The trays were $2 at Walmart. Can't beat that price! Wish I'd gone there first, but our nearest Walmart is a 30+ minute drive. Good thing I have one near school! 

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Potty! Potty!

So, I know it's not new, but I just read this old post over at The Teacher Wife and it reminded me of how unbelievably MUCH my kiddos last year just "had" to go to the bathroom!

I had 8 girls and 14 boys. If one boy had to go, they ALL had to go. The one or two boys that didn't go then, inevitably had to go 5 minutes later!

In my classroom, each student had a library pocket on their cubby. This is where they kept their punch card (more on this later) and their 3 popsicle sticks. Each stick had that student's number on it, so we knew where it went back at the end of the day.

Students were required to use the restroom as SOON as they finished unpacking and before they started morning work. We also took a whole-class bathroom break right before lunch (and washed our hands). These two counted as "freebies".

Any other time a student needed to use the restroom, they had to give me a popsicle stick. I kept a basket by the door where students turned in sticks. Again, each kiddo had 3 sticks. This is a total of 5, count 'em, FIVE trips to the bathroom! If they had to go again and didn't have a stick, they could go, but they had to clip down.

A bummer: students are not allowed to go ANYwhere without a buddy. Many times my boys would go with a buddy, then get back, and have to go themselves. Why couldn't you just go when you were there a minute ago?!

Speaking of bathrooms and washing hands:

I love it!!!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Letter tiles - CHEAP!

Remember I showed you my Dollar Tree finds the other day?

Well I wanted to tell you a little more about the letter tiles I scored! I recently bought some letter tiles from Lakeshore, but I was a little disappointed at what I got for what I paid and I need to send them back. It was an impulse buy, and I'm never good at that.

However, I got 4 sets of alphabet tiles for a third the price at Dollar Tree! I bought two capital and two lowercase packs. I will keep them at the word work center. Since they are foam, they are also thin enough to put in a pocket chart - I have a couple tabletop pocket charts I snagged at the dollar spot last summer.

Each package has two foam sheets, and the letters are perforated. I was excited and opened them up right away to tear the letters apart... I was a little too excited:
 ...but truly this is EASY to do. DO NOT TEAR THESE APART! After ripping this one, I used scissors to cut along the perforated lines. Honestly, each set has a bajillion e's so we'll be fine without this one.

I was a little bummed when I saw this a:
but this is the only letter that was messed up out of 4 packages. Pretty good for $4!

I can't wait to get something like this to store and organize the letters:

Do you have letter tiles in your classroom? What do your kiddos like to use them for?

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Data, Data, Everywhere! (freebie)

Do you use data in your class?

The word "data" can often instill fear in a teacher's heart; data meetings, data-driven instruction, assessments! I think this is because so often we forget that what we instinctively know about our students IS data, it's just not a number on a graph or a chart.

That's not the "data" that I'm talking about.

I've been seeing more and more about class data walls and a little bit about student data notebooks as I surf pin plan for the coming year. I had a college professor that was CRAZY for these things, but we all just thought he was plain crazy. I mean who has time for that?

I have spent a couple weeks (on and off, I mean, I've got to give the TV my full attention some time!) putting together a word doc of what I might want in a data folder next year.

Download the freebie here and then PLEASE, please, PLEASE let me know what you think!

I would love to hear from some teachers that have done this before. Do you have your students track their progress? How does it work in your classroom?

Friday, July 13, 2012

Dollar Tree DEALS!

Hit up the gym last night (I'm making getting fit my summer "job") and unfortunately for my wallet and my husband, Dollar Tree is NEXT DOOR to the gym. How perfect!

I told myself I was just going in to look, not expecting back to school stuff to already be out. Well, it was, and I spent $30! Wanna see what I scored?

Clockwise from top left:

  • Two puzzles in the frame to make this from
  • A clipboard to fancy up a la pinterest
  • Two mini dry erase boards - each day of the week I will put one spelling word on each, with the magnet letters scrambled up. Two words per day for five days will be all 10 spelling words throughout the week! (Not my original idea...)
  • Die cut letters in a beautiful turqoise that will go SO well with my classroom theme. 
  • 3D plastic stickers in an ocean theme - I'm not big on stickers but I am beginning to hoard them in preparation for using these awesome Friday journals.
  • A Lei to wear during Guided Reading - when I wear the lei, kiddos can't interrupt me.
  • Photo albums (4x6) to put kiddos pictures and names in like this
  • Library pockets - I had such a hard time finding these last year so I seriously bought 9 packs of 10 - I have enough for at least three years. My name is Mrs. Newman, and I am a hoarder.
  • Money Matching game - no specific purpose for these yet but I love to use flashcards in the hall during bathroom breaks
  • Cardstock coins (I bought these last year but I can't find them! aaah!) to make posters like these AMAZING ones
  • A pizza pan to fancy up a la pinterest (but I bought a round one instead)
  • Foam letter tiles (I bought two yellow capital sets and two blue lowercase sets.) More on these below.
I can't wait to get started on my classroom - but I can't get in until August 13th. For now, I'll just have to settle for doing these little projects at home!

Have you found any good deals yet?

Saturday, February 25, 2012


After our tornadic winds yesterday, and my first EVER tornado drill in my entire life (I grew up in Jersey, y'all) I am glad for the weekend.

Yesterday was the kind of day where I wrote three office referrals before 9am, left my classroom crying in the afternoon (thanks to my amazing and wonderful assistant who visits during math), found out after school a coworker's cancer has come back and it's baaad, and called a friend to cry and she had literally JUST tripped and broken her foot. Haven't we all had those kind of days?

Today is a sleeping in - cruising Pinterest for sinful dessert recipes to take to dinner tonight, and installing myself on the couch!

In case you feel like I glossed over my coworker who has cancer - that's a whole 'nother post.

All that to say... My math Write-The-Room centers on TpT have been selling like hotcakes!Well, maybe not hotcakes, but better than I ever expected. I luuuuuuve TpT. Where has it been all my life?

Coming soon: Leprechaun WTR! Here's a sneak preview:

My TpT Store
It will be posted by Wednesday, no later. First 5 comments get a free one!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Classroom Calendar

So here's my calendar in all its glory:
(You can tell I took this picture a couple of days ago!)
Calendar just might be my FAVORITE part of the day! There are so many things you can incorporate into calendar time - the usual patterns, counting to 180, etc. But do you incorporate even & odd numbers? Place value? Music? I loooove calendar time. Maybe I love it most of all b/c it's predicatble for the kiddos, it's an easy way to start the day and get into the routine, and you never really have to prepare for it!

Last year at our school there was a big push in K-1 to cut down on calendar time. Our block went from 30 minutes (which included songs, poem of the week in my class, some movement/dancing to get ready for the day, etc.) to 10 minutes. I was pretty bummed, I mean calendar was so fun! Cut it by two-thirds?

This year, when setting up my calendar, I took a much more minimal approach. I decided to start with the bare minimum and see what I had time for, and then add more stuff in if we were having extra time each day. I guess I kind of set it up backwards and upside-down, but now I know to think about this for next year. We start each day with the actual calendar grid. We talk about the month, day of the week, and date. We discuss the pattern and where I should stick the number onto the calendar. Then we put a straw in the pace value pocket chart for the number of days we have been in school. Lastly we go through that $1 Spot pocket chart and fill in the information to match the calendar and the number of days of school. I LOVE that I color-coded that thing, it makes it so much easier for my friends to understand where the numbers come from when we write the date shorthand (like 10-16-11).

I think in the 2nd quarter I want to add tally marks for the days of school. I have always done this in the past. I know they didn't fully understand the tallies last year in kinder, but I was at least giving them the foundation and exposing them to math concepts. Will firsties understand tallies if we do it every day?

What does your calendar board/block look like?