Thursday, December 31, 2015

Making 2016 AWESOME for others!

Happy New Year, my blogging friends!
It's that time of  year....
Time to think about resolutions for the upcoming year!

One issue I've felt "resolute" about for the past few years is teaching children to be thankful, grateful and generous to others. 

I often feel frustrated, as both a parent and teacher,  with the fact that it tends to feel like our kids are being raised in a generation of "entitlement."

I find myself in a constant struggle trying to teach my own children, in addition to my students, how to GIVE to OTHERS... and think of themselves secondarily.  So as the New Year approaches, I've been thinking about how accomplish these things... and this is one simple activity I have come up with!

...And of course, I want to share it with YOU!

Start 2016 out right with your students by helping them focus on how they can make this year awesome for OTHER people! 

Need a little inspiration?  
Check out this YouTube video by Kid President:

After watching this inspirational video, challenge your kiddos to think of a way they can make the world a better place in 2016.  

Download this little FREEBIE to make the activity a snap! {Just click on the image below for the link!}

Little THINGS can make a difference…
and Little KIDS can too!

Happy New Year!

Oh.. and what better way to celebrate the New Year than by throwing a SALE?!

Click on the button above to go to my TPT store and enjoy a 20% off of all of my products until January 3rd!

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Reflecting on 2015

What?!! It’s the end of the year already?
How did that happen?

My blogging friends Hadar, Traci and Kristin are back with their annual year-end “Reflections” linky.  Join in the fun (by clicking on the image above) as we all review some of the highlights from 2015.

Here are a few of my 2015 highlights….

1.    “Fun Fridays”
If you have followed me for very long on FB, Instagram or here on my blog, you know that one of my professional goals is always to increase student engagement. My dear and brilliant friend, Hope King of Elementary Shenanigans, has been such an inspirational force in challenging me to “Set the Stage 2 Engage” which has turned out to be such a powerful way of engaging students and increasing rigor in my classroom.  Every Friday I try and “flip” my room into a magical place in order to increase engagement and take their learning to a new level!  One of my new favorite Fun Friday’s was geared all around the Frozen theme and learning about the states of matter! 

2.  Purdue Games
Hail! Hail to ole’ Purdue!  Troy and I love our alma mater and we are doing our best at sharing that love with our kiddos!   We take as many road trips as possible to Lafayette for family fun time! 

3.  Spring Teacher Blogger Meet-Up

What a fun time!  I just love planning parties for my 100+ closest blogging buddies!  French Lick 2015 was amazing!  Betcha’ can’t wait to see what we have in store for this March!!!  (Registration opens soon!  Keep your eyes open! You do NOT want to miss it this year!)

4. Vegas Week
How do I even put into words how awesome my week in Vegas was this summer?! The SDE conferences, the annual TPT conference and the biggest teacher blogger meet-up in the country…all in one week! It was truly an awesome week of learning!  Oh…and the BEST part…meeting new friends and spending time with my besties!  I am beyond blessed to call these amazing and brilliant girls my friends! 

5.    Family Vacation
There is nothing better than spending two weeks with the people you love the most in the world!   This summer we enjoyed a week in Disney and an awesome week in Hilton Head.  Ahhh… Take me back to summer, please!

6.  Coaching Cheerleading
Love these girls! Coaching our middle school cheer team the last few years has been so much fun!   (Kinda helps that one of those super cute and talented girls is my daughter!  Love her!)

7.  Kids’ Sports
Whew!  I wonder how many miles I put on my Suburban this year running to and from my kiddos sporting events!  Three kids in middle school sports = Sport Mom Chauffer!

8.   Visiting Ron Clark Academy (RCA)... TWICE!!!
It was truly a dream come true to be able to visit RCA with some of my very best blogger friends in the world!  :)  RCA is truly a magical place.  (Putting the experience in words is very difficult...but you can see my attempt HERE.) But I not only got to visit once this year... I actually was able to take my co-workers to visit Ron Clark Academy in Atlanta, as well later in the year! It was a life-changing experience for us all!  Here is just a peek at some of my RCA fun…
LOVE these girls!

2015 was amazing.  
I am so thankful that God has blessed me 
with an amazing family and such talented 
and wonderful friends.  
I can’t wait to see what 2016 has in store for me! 

Friday, October 9, 2015

Bats! Bats! Bats!

It's that time of year, my friends!
The days are getting "shorter."
The air is getting cooler.
The trees are changing colors.

It's October.

Halloween is right around the corner...

So it's the PERFECT time of year to learn about another nocturnal animal...

That's exactly what we did in my classroom this week!

Check out just a few of the BATTY things we did...

{Included below are some ideas from last year AND some new things I tried this year!}

This is what the kiddos saw as they came down the hall!
{The black material is the new SmartFab fabric-like bulletin board paper they sell at all the teacher supply stores.  It's reusable and costs the same as regular bulletin board paper!}

This is a pic from last year.  Last year I simply turned my doorway into a cave entrance and posted bats around the room.

These pics are from this year.  I flipped the whole room into a bat cave. I decorated my doorway with SmartFab again, and hung more SmartFab on all walls as you entered my room, including SmartFab fabric flaps that came down from the ceiling that kids had to walk through.  I covered most of my classroom walls with black plastic table covers to make it black and dark.   I also covered all class tables, bookshelves, etc. with black table covering.  Then, I put up purple halloween lights to bring a glow to the room. The kids freaked out!  The LOVED it!!!  I wish I had better pics...but only had my  phone camera, so this is the best I could get! 

And, oh yah... I'm fully equipped with a themed costume, like usual!  #yesihaveacostumecloset
Click HERE to getcha' one for about $13!

If you've followed my blog or Instagram for very long, you've probably figured out that I'm all about "Setting the Stage 2 Engage."  {If ya'll want to know more about how to change your teaching 4-EVER (not to mention be eternally inspired!)... then check out my dear friend Hope King's TPT e-book...

Student Engagement: A Guide to Teaching Outside the Box

Seriously people,  this ebook will reinvigorate your teaching! Not only am I having SO MUCH MORE FUN teaching.... but my kiddos are more engaged than ever and I'm able to teach them more rigorous content because of it!   LOVE.LOVE.LOVE this resource!!  GO AND BUY IT NOW! I mean, the girl teaches at Ron Clark Academy, my friends.  
ENOUGH SAID.  #instantinspiration

To start off our unit, we completed the K (what we KNOW) part of of our K-W-L chart!

{Note that I made this K-W-L chart so that I can re-use it each year.  I simply tape on new white rectangular papers to write on each year....then replace them with a new one the next year! #keepinitreal #timesaver]

Then, of course, we complete the W section (what we WANT to know).  That simple intro K-W-L activity got the kiddos SO excited.  I was sincerely surprised at how excited they were to begin our bat investigations.

We began our investigations with THIS little ditty...

Kids Discover Bats! DVD - Product Image

It's an awesome, VERY kiddo-friendly, super informative 22 minute video all about bats.  It was available at my local library, but honestly after using it in my classroom a few years ago, I bought it because I knew I'd want to use it every year.  You can grab it for $13 by clicking on the pic above!

We learned that there are MICROBATS and MEGABATS.  
Megabats are bats that eat fruit.  So of course, during one of our snack times, we had to do THIS little learning activity...

(Just FYI, I used blueberries, pineapples, strawberries and grapes for this!)

We also practiced our measuring skills during math time with this activity...


We also had our local Children's Zoo bring their mobile zoo program to our school to share their "Winged Wonders" program with us.


LOVED it... of course because it was interactive, but MOSTLY because my kiddos (and our first grade class) were blowing the zoo ladies away with big scientific words and things they already had learned.... like "zygodactyl" and "oviparous."  LOL! {Proud teacher moment! I just LOVE it when visitors are blown away at the depth of knowledge that kinders are capable of soaking up!}

We learned about how microbats (insect-eaters) use ECHOLOCATION to locate their prey.  I gathered the kiddos around a round container with water and quickly poked my finger in the middle.  The kiddos watched as the water formed ring after ring that moved from my finger toward the sides of the container...and then "echoed" back to the center.   I explained that bats produce a high-pitched sound that makes a sound-wave that moves out.... and when it "hits" an insect it "echoes" back to the bat, telling them exactly where the insect is located!

Using echolocation, dinner is served!   {QUICK FACT: Bats can eat up to 1,000 insects in one hour!}

Then we took that new little oracle of knowledge and turned it into a game!  We all joined and made a giant circle.  

The kiddos in the circle were the "trees" that served as our game perimeter.   Then I selected a "bat", blindfolded him and placed him in the center of the circle.   I also chose a few "mosquitoes," who were kiddos that I pulled forward from the tree circle and instructed to stand still or move ultra-slowly inside the circle of trees.   To  play, the "bat" called out the word "FOOD."  The "mosquitoes" were instructed that each time they heard the bat call out, they had to quietly echo the word back to the bat, thus simulating ECHOLOCATION.  The bat then kept calling out, listening, and trying to touch ("catch") his dinner.  When the bat "caught" a mosquito, the mosquito then became a tree in the circle.  This was repeated until the bat had eaten all the mosquitoes.  A new bat was then chosen.  :)   SO.MUCH.FUN.   The kids totally "got" echolocation.

We also did a few incredibly fun and hands-on activities that simulated how a momma bat identifies her baby, among hundreds of other bat family babes.    

I chose a momma bat and told her the sound that she needed to both repeat.... AND listen for one of the babies to call out. (You can blindfold the bat if you want to make it harder!)  I had the kiddos again make a circle and had each of them call out an assigned letter sound softly AT THE SAME TIME.  The mother bat (in the middle of the circle) was told (in a whisper) what her baby's "letter name" was...then had to walk around the circle out and listen for HER BABY'S sound/letter... searching for her baby.   We repeated with other students until everyone had a turn to be either the mother or the baby. The kids LOVED this one!  They really had to listen hard as everyone was calling out their own letters/sounds!

We did a similar activity with SMELLS also, since bats can use their sense of smell to locate their young too!   

Last year, I used necklaces made out of yarn and cotton balls and used a variety of food extracts to play this game!  I used black bats with matching scents taped to the wall for the babies!  

This year, I "scented" cotton balls in 8 different scents.  To prep this, I used the flavoring bottles, as seen above, and wet 4 cotton balls per scent and placed them in baggies.  (All 4 "lemon" cotton balls in a baggie together!)  Then I had the kiddos all sit in a circle, and I went around and picked random scented cotton balls and gave one to each student.  Then, I explained that each child needed to go find his/her bat "family" by smelling his/her own scent...and finding other "bats" with the same smell.   EEKS!  I just loved this one!

Check out some of our bat-scented families after this activity!

No bat study is complete without a super cute, themed snack! 

Check out these babies that I whipped up!

Don't you just want to eat them up?!

 And I don't know what it is about this pic that I took.... but it just makes me giggle!!!

OOOH!  And don't miss this awesome little gem that my friend, Deanna Jump, suggested!  It's super catchy... as in CAN'T GET IT OUT OF YOUR HEAD catchy!  LOL

WHEW!  This is post in gettin' long!   I'd better wrap it up!   If you are looking for more incredible BATTY resources, check out these resources that I use every year...

Bats Math and Literacy Fun Aligned with Common Core  

 Have a Blast with Bats! - Literacy and Math Activities