Saturday, December 31, 2011

Goals for 2012

Happy New Years Eve!  I have been super bloggy lately.  I am taking a break from watching movies (well, it is actually because my iPad battery needs to be charged) I thought I would take a moment to revisit goals that I wrote in August, and add some more.

Disclaimer- to all of my readers.  I am terrible at grammar.  It has never been my strong point, so please don't hold it against me :)

Goals from August 8, 2011
- Updating this blog- I have started so many blogs, but I am going to keep up with this one, I promise! 
I think I have done very well at this one!  I am on blog post 18 (with this one) just since August!)- Finishing my book- I am finally in the last stages of it (I think)
I am bummed about this one.  The company that I was working with decided to go a different route.  So, this will be on the back burner until things change around.- Increasing technology in my classroom- I already have so many ideas on this! Be watching for more blogs over what I am going to do next.
This is a goal that I will continually work on.  Our class has skyped 4 different times so far this year, updated our class blog, and are tweeting. 
 - Be Patient and know that it is going to be a Fantastic year!- I am pretty patient as it is, but this next year is going to be a very different year. With education budget cuts this means an increase in classroom size. I am going to have to be Uber creative, patient, and ready to ask for help. I was able to listen to Dr. Eric Jensen today and he said something very important- when I feel stressed- take action over, write it down for later, or drop it. I have really worked on that this summer, and I will keep working on it this next year!
This is another area that I will continually work on.  I feel confident that I have done well in this area.  

Goals for 2012

1. Balance my checkbook every night!  Sounds easy enough.. right.. WRONG!  I like the rest of America has a problem with spending.  I have already told my husband that this is one of my goals.  I hope that it will also help with our spending.

2. Have I mentioned that I love Pinterest.  This year for Christmas I got a sewing machine.  My husband has been so kind and purchased me so many cool things like a mandolin and a guitar.  As I opened this gift he said "Andrea, don't let this sit and collect dust like the other things that I have given you."  So, with the help of Pinterest and my awesome new sewing machine, I will be creating at least one thing a month!  First up is an apron (material is in the dryer as we speak)

3. Of course I have a weight loss goal.  I of course would like to drop a ton of weight.  I really need to just actually get to the gym (which I love zumba) and STOP the fast food!

I am also going to have 1 goal a month.  A goal that is easily attainable in that month (or at least I think will be attainable)

I have seen several blogs about having a zero spending month.  Zero is pretty huge.  I would love to say that I could do it.. but I know that I can't do that.  At least not in January.  Now, when I say zero spending that does not mean I won't pay my bills for a month.  It does not mean that I will not fill my car up with gas.  Zero spending means I will not spend any money on things that I don't need.  

My Goal for January is to spend no more than $50.

What are your goals?  Do you set your own resolutions?

Happy New Years!

Friday, December 30, 2011

What a Year!

I can't believe that 2011 is ending!  What a year it has been!  

Decided I would do a quick recap of the year (with a few pictures thrown in!) 

I started the year off presenting at the TCEA 2011 conference.  Not only that, but I was honored as one of the 3 finalists for TCEA teacher of the year!

This last summer I had the opportunity to present at my first conferences where I was able to charge consultation fees!  Have I mentioned that I love presenting! I presented in Amarillo, Irving, Austin, and Houston all in a matter of 3 weeks!  I was even able to bring my husband along to the Austin event.  

William started a new job as Executive Chef at Woodhaven Country Club in Fort Worth in June.  It has kept him super busy!  They are filming the second season of Big Rich Texas at the Club, the next season should air in February.

In July I traveled to Kansas with my fabulous Sisterhood of the Traveling Macs to present at Podstock.  Not only is this the coolest conference ever, but there are also the coolest people that go to it!  This year the theme was 50's diner.  Thanks to my mom and a friend I had the coolest poodle skirt!  

Of course the costumes were awesome, but I also helped plan a flashmob.  

Why yes, the Podstock 2012 site is up. This year the theme is 80's yearbook.  I am already working on ideas for a flashmob!

In August, I moved schools and teaching positions.  You can read more about that here.  I have enjoyed my new position, new challenges, and new people.  That doesn't mean that I don't miss my other fantastic friends.  

In October I presented at the State Autism Conference in Houston.  What an awesome experience that was! 

I have been so privileged to be asked to present at these conferences.  I am thankful for a loving husband that supports me in all of my travels.  

Speaking of travels, in November my friend Misty and I went to Canyon to visit my family!  What an adventure that was!  We of course stopped and had TONS of adventures along the way.  

At the first of November, I also participated in my 4th Susan G. Komen 3 Day for the Cure! I love Crewing. 
It has been a year of connections, friends, and family.  I look forward to what this next year will bring! I know that I will be traveling to Chicago in March to present at a conference.  I have also received information from Amarillo about presenting at their summer conference.  

I can't wait to see where my adventures lead next, what people I am able to meet and connect with, and of course meeting with all of my friends that are planted all over the US.  You know who you are!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011


Do you have any school traditions?  I have a few, and I seem to add one a year! A tradition that we had growing up was making ornaments or crafts for 
family members.  I carried this on through college, and when I started teaching I started the ornament tradition.  My first year of teaching I realized that there were many teachers that didn't necessarily fit into a "clique" to join in holiday giving fun.  I was one of those teachers.  Now, I am not upset at all.. I am a little high maintenance :)  I also realized though, that everyone deserves a little something for Christmas.  I was used to making 30-40 ornaments a year anyway for family and friends... so I just multiplied it a little :)  So, 10 years ago, I started making ornaments for every teacher, cafeteria worker, paraprofessional, and janitor that was on campus.  I believe that every person on campus works extremely hard for our students.. just in different ways.  I also believe that the holidays are a great way for us to show our appreciation!  I have made everything from wire ornaments, to bowtie pasta angel, to popsicle stick ornaments.  This year I made snowmen (I think this is my second year to do this.. but I try really hard to not repeat!)  The first set of these (100) had earmuffs on and the second set (100) didn't have earmuffs.  I made enough for my new friends at Elliott.. but I just couldn't leave out out my Stipes friends!

Another one of my traditions (started within the last 5 years) is the handprint shirt.  I know.. I know.. super cheesy.. but I LOVE HANDPRINTS!

Since my classes are usually smaller, the handprint t-shirt is a great addition to my Christmas shirt collection.  These are done with t-shirt puffy paint.  The ornaments are thumbprints!  I always add the year too :)

I have had some help with the next tradition!  I have some amazing people in my PLN! Dyne Smokorowski and I met at Podstock.. and now for the past 2 years have had our classrooms exchanged Holiday Cards.  We also have an afternoon where we have skyped, read a book together, and sang Christmas carols.

So, I end this post with a tradition I hope to start in my classroom.. and eventually in my own home.  Today I received a SUPER special gift from a SUPER special person!  On my doorstep today was a box from Andrea.. not me.. but my most Amazing friend from Kansas!  An amazing friend that has done so many behind the scenes things for me..ones that I will never be able to repay (but hope to pay it forward)  I got an Elf on the Shelf!  You should have seen the happy dance when I opened him!  I can't wait to start this new holiday tradition!
I am so thankful for my parents for helping me start the traditions of crafting and making things from the heart.  I am thankful for students that are willing to continue my tradition of handprint shirts.  I am thankful for Dyane and the best Christmas card exchange.  I am thankful for Andrea for helping me start a brand new tradition!  Thank you all from the bottom of my heart!  

As I pull out all of the materials for all of my traditions.. my husband rolls his eyes and asks me why must I do it all.  I guess I can chalk it up to my OCD.  But it is really for the fact that these things make my heart happy.. and hopefully brings a few smiles to the people around me!

Do you have an classroom traditions?

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Happy Holidays!

Today was finally our Secret Santa reveal at school... so I can finally share all the cools things I did (well, at least I thought they were cool)  I am still up at school working, but I decided to take a break to share some of my stuff :)

Pinterest TOTALLY HAS ME INSPIRED! Can I just say that like 4 more times?

Thank goodness for copy and paste :)

Thank goodness for Pinterest.. because I was am on a budget this year.  Pinterest to the rescue!  I think I will do another blog later on how I use pinterest for not only the crafty ideas.. but also as a great bookmarking site for all those blogs that I follow.  

So.. here are some of my goodies!

First up... Rice Crispie Treat ornament balls!  My SS could not have chocolate, but her favorite snack was rice crispie treats.  So, made the rice crispie treats formed them into balls (use ALOT of butter on your hands, so it doesn't stick) coat them in sprinkles and add a rolo on top.  I covered my rolos in aluminum foil and stuck them on using a toothpick.

Second item of craftiness, a wooden plaque. I LOVE the storybook creator from Creative Memories.  Found this quote on pinterest and then did my own small scrapbook page on storybook creater.  Printed it off and modge podged it on.  I am not one to give knick knacks (because I personally don't like them much) but I am a SUCKER for a good quote :) My SS is a 1st grade teacher, so I thought this was appropriate.  

Third item (forgot to take a picture) was a cute little notepad, cute little pin, and then some magnets I made by cutting up creative scrapbook paper and modge podging it to the back of a blue stone.  Add a magnet.. and you have a cute little personal touch to a magnetic dry erase board.

My items for the other 2 days was her favorite drink.

Today we revealed, and I have to say that my end gift was AWESOME! I just thought it was SO creative, cute.. and best part.. AFFORDABLE!
What is that cute sign that says happy holidays? Well, it went along with my last gift.  Have I mentioned that I LOVE pinterest.  Found a frame at Wal-Mart, cut out scrapbook paper to fit inside (her favorite color is green) add a couple of dry erase markers... and you have a perfect desk dry erase board.
This is the bucket that my SS got.  It also had some scrapbooking materials and her favorite holiday scent.

I of course had an AWESOME SS that got for me :)  One day I got M&M's (you can't go wrong with chocolate) one day I got a huge bag of skittles.  I also got a cute pez dispenser and super cute little snowman post it note pad.  My favorite gift (other than the sonic gift card and FANTASTIC cup that I got today) was diet dr. pepper.  Diet Dr. Pepper you say.. well.. that is just a drink. I am all about the smiles.  So I walk up to my box one day and I found 3 soda cans in my box.  Each one with a different prescription on it :)

My last little goodie from Pinterest was for our school staff holiday party.  I am on the planning committee.. and I ran across this little gem.  Have you seen the mustaches you add to a stick and have people take pictures with them?  Well.. I found one that had reindeer antlers, reindeer noses, Santa beard, Santa hat, elf hat, elf ears.. and so forth.  I made the props.. and another grade level made the background.  The staff loved coming to have their picture taken!

I hope you all have super safe and happy holidays!  We have one week of school left, and there is SO much to do!  Do you participate in Secret Santa?  What are your favorite gifts to give?

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Unique Curriculum

So, every blog post I always say.. up next is how I organize the Unique Curriculum in my classroom.  I think I have now said that at least 4 times.  Well, guess what! It is a Sunday morning and I am working in my classroom... the first thing I did was take video and pictures of how I organize Unique in my Classroom!  Just like anything, you need to do what is the best for you.  Here is just what I do.  Excuse some of the coughing, got to love the crazy weather change here in Texas right now.

As soon as the Unique Curriculum is posted for the month I print it off.  I have some amazing fairies by the names of Lopez and Lucy that cut it, laminate it, and put it together for me :)  I read through the information and pull out the Big Ideas.  This is posted as soon as you walk in my door.  These are just the big ideas we are going to work on throughout the month.  I pair the big Unique Idea with a picture symbols so my students know what we are talking about also.  Under each category is non-bold and bolded list.  The non-bold is for my level 1 learners and the bolded is for my level 2/3 learners.  I have 5 grade levels in my classroom and I want to make sure that I bump up the rigor and instruction as much as I can.  I also love that Unique also offers State Standards, Instructional Targets, and Scope and Sequence.  I also love that lesson 1 is always going to be a book, lesson 2 is going to be comprehension questions to go with lesson 1 and so on.  So, although the theme changes, the state standards for each lesson doesn't.  When planning for 5 grade levels, this is very helpful!  You cover everything... but don't have to reinvent the wheel to figure out what standard it goes with.  Thanks Unique!

Anyway!  So once I have the curriculum printed it off it goes to my lovely fairies and they cut, paste, laminate, and put it all together.  Before any lamination, however, we LABEL everything!  It might just say  U3 L2 (which stands for Unit 3 Lesson 2)

One of my folders with all of the materials laminated and inside (make sure to read to the very bottom to see some of my other tips.  

During the month I store my materials in a hanging folder box.  Each lesson has its own folder that has all of its materials inside.

So, I have it organized.. I have read over all of the information and it sounds great.. but how in the heck do I actually use it?

Having 5 different grade levels has made it a little tough to get as organized as I like to be, but I finally found what is working for me (okay.. okay.. so it took me to December to get that far)  On my lesson plans I have it broken into whole group, Keller small group, Lopez small group, Lucy small group, and science/social studies.

During my group I am always going to work on IEP's, PCI (our reading) and STAAR-alt objectives (our standardized testing)  Lopez is always going to work on language objectives and Lucy is always going to work on math objectives.  When planning for the week I look at what Unique recommends and use that in my plans.  We rotate groups about every 45 minutes.  This works for me this year because of the staffing I have... but as with anything this could change in a minute :)  I love that Unique has it leveled out for the different expectations of what a Level 1 student will do but also what a Level 2 and 3 student will do.  Thanks again Unique for bumping up my instruction!  So, if my lesson says Lesson 26 my staff knows to get the materials from the pink bucket for lesson 26.  If I am not using a Unique lesson during the group that day I still level out  my personal lesson plans.  Every Thursday, for instance, we work on spelling words for my level 3 students, my level 2 students work on putting the alphabet in order and filling in missing letters, and my level 1 students will participate in alphabet naming. 

Confused yet?  Bored out of your mind for reading the LONGEST blog ever?  If you have questions or want copies of my different materials feel free to email me! 

Other Tips:
-Unique uses alot of paper.  But it is SO beneficial!  So, to cut down on paper I print mine on half sheets.  
-I also do the velcro the SAME way on ALL of my materials!  The male side is on the part that leaves and the female side is the part that stays.  This is a great trick I learned during my student teaching :)  those little pieces I can stick on felt, on the carpet, or other areas to play games
-After a month is over I bag them in ziploc bags and store them away
-books that we used during the month go into our book center or independent work area
-some of the games will go into independent work area

Next blog (or 2) my AWESOME Secret Santa ideas at school using Pinterest and how I changed up my News 2 You. 

Monday, December 5, 2011

What a "Wonder"ful World

This year has been by far one of the craziest years ever!  Yesterday my husband called and asked if I was going to ever be home again.  I of course responded with yes, but I just need to finish a couple more things... give me 30 minutes.  You know that 30 minutes turned into an hour and a half.  I did eventually make it home to enjoy an evening of football and food.

I digress... This year has been a year of changes.  A year of ups and downs.  A year of just needing one thing to get a hold of.   A year of doubting myself if I was differentiating enough to meet the needs of my 5 different grade levels in my classroom.  This weekend I finally found it! I am an AVID user of as my students love it and I can modify and adapt it to all of my different learners.  I had been using and had a small space for it on my calendar area.  This weekend I saw the tweet for Wonder #427 and it all clicked! I am always looking for different ways to introduce topics, make learning exciting and different, and of course differentiate!  Because of this one Wonder my calendar and teaching went from the same old calendar time I have had for the last 5 years to something more inviting, "wonder"ful and different.  Please remember that since I have students that are in 4th and 5th grade I am in charge of STAAR-alt assessment.  Wonder #427 is What is your Favorite Holiday Cookie.

Here is what I did:
-wrote out all of the wonder words
-put picture symbols with some of the more important/easy to remember ones
-My 4th and 5th grade students will have to alphabetize these
-my younger students will participate in reading them
- The picture symbols next to the words, those are also at the bottom in a matching game I create.  
-my non-verbal students will be able to interact with the wonder words by matching picture symbols
-This week we are going to have a cookie exchange and all of my students will get to vote and GRAPH their favorite cookie!

Wow!  That little wonder changed my whole outlook.  It was a reminder that I do know what I am doing.. I do know how to differentiate.. I do know how to meet the needs of all my students.

We started off with the wonder.  Our wonders we use for the whole week.  Today our wonder was... I wonder where we bake cookies?  I was SO IMPRESSED when my students answered with oven, kitchen, stove!
Wow.. way to rock it guys! I love my BUSY BEES!

Some more of my classroom calendar area.

Have you ever just changed one little thing in your classroom... and received a whole different outlook?  Thanks