Monday, April 29, 2013

Classroom makeover!

Hey there!  I've been a little MIA this past week.  My student teacher is wrapping up her time soon and we are transitioning back to me as "the teacher" and I've been busy getting back into the swing of things.  Just like riding a bike... a little wobbly at first but then it's like you never took a break, LOL!  

As you may know, I've been spending some time making over my room.  It started out as a little side project that I would use in September to spice up the classroom I've been in for the past ten years.  But, I couldn't resist putting up some stuff to see how it looks and I LOVE IT!  Here are some pictures of some of my new stuff.
This is a portion of my new alphabet and number cards.  I made the alphabet cards but bought the number cards from here.  I love them and the feedback from my colleagues has been awesome!

I wish I had taken a picture of the before of this before the makeover.  It is a plastic drawer set.  Each drawer was a different primary color and the main part of it was a bright blue.  I spray painted the whole thing with black gloss.  (It took 2 1/2 cans and I did end up with a bit of a headache!)  Then I used the zebra duct tape on the fronts of the drawers.  I love the finished product!

Another view

I posted about this adorable ottoman a few weeks ago.  I found it at AC Moore.  I found the perfect use for it... my listening center.  All of the books on tape/CD fit perfectly inside and they stay neat and out of sight.

I'm dabbling in Whole Brain Teaching so these are my rules and procedures!  

I'm loving how it is all turning out.  

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

More about Chromebooks...

I went to a quickie training today for the implementation of the new Google Chromebooks that I will have in my classroom next year.  Read my first post here.  It sounds like an exciting venture.  
** Let me preface this post by saying, I am NOT a technology expert.  I am only sharing information that was presented to me and that I have found in my research.**

What the heck is a Chromebook, you ask?  
Well, it is an internet based netbook designed for use with the Google browser Chrome.  (My school is going to be getting 4 in every primary classroom and 5 for every intermediate classroom.  If there are times we need a class set, we will pool all of our Chromebooks to have enough.)

(This is the model we'll be getting--> The Samsung)

Why would you want to have Chromebooks instead of iPads?  
1. It is way cheaper... You can get 2 Chromebooks for the price of 1 iPad.  That means you could afford to put technology into the hands of double the students.  
2. It has an actual keyboard.  With the beginning of so many online assessments being required, students need to be able to type on an actual keyboard.  
3.  It is durable and very light.
4.  It is very individualized and secure with the use of student logins and passwords.  Students can easily access their own work from school or home through Google Drive.  Whereas an iPad that is shared is not able to be individualized for each student.

What are the drawbacks?
The Chrome Web Store does not have as many apps (they are called extensions) as iTunes but, I'm sure as more and more schools adopt Chromebooks, the Chrome Store will be offering more options.   Because it runs on the Chrome OS, it is set up a little different than a Windows or Mac OS.  (To me, it seemed a little like a combo of both.)  It will take some getting used to but, I'd be willing to bet, the kids pick up on it faster than we do.  Another drawback is that Microsoft Office is not used on a Chromebook, it uses Google Docs.  But Google has all of the same types of software and honestly, it's pretty similar in my opinion.  

I'll be getting one to play around with in a few weeks and I'll update you all more on how the process is going.  Thanks for stopping by!

Monday, April 22, 2013

iFaketext and Let's Get Acquainted!

I found this cool tip via pinterest and can't wait to share it with my kiddies tomorrow.  I thought you all might be able to use it too.  

Do your kiddies know more about technology than you do?  Sometimes I think they do...  What better way to reach your student than through texts.  Through the website, you can create images that look just like a real text.  The possibilities are endless...  This is a fake text I made between myself and my student teacher to review place value.

It's pretty easy... Check out Tammy's Tech Tip of the Week.  She gives a tutorial that made it easy to do and gives ideas on how you can use this fun tool in your teaching.  The only thing that threw me for a loop was getting the image to plug into a smart notebook document, which was my plan.  But I figured it out.  After you make your fake text, click on "take a screen shot."  Then click on the image above all the links that are created to get the image of just the text.  Save the image and paste it into whatever format you need.  I hope that makes sense... I'm not the most tech savvy person!  I'd love you to share your suggestions on how to use

I'm also linking up with Latoya for my second Let's Get Acquainted!  

This week's topic is Our Classroom! We spend almost as much time there as in our own homes.  It better be a place we like.  This week's task was to pick your three favorite parts of your room.  Let me start off saying that I do check out every other blogger's pictures and most of the time I am jealous with a capital J!  My room seems like a shoebox comparatively speaking.  But, it's mine and has been mine for 10 years.  In my school, we do have a lot of restrictions on how we can set up some types of furniture and we are not allowed to have our own furniture or rug additions anymore.  That is frustrating because so many of your rooms look so homey, but I do the best I can with what I've got.  

1. Our Classroom Library
As a reading specialist, it goes without saying that the classroom library is a very special place.  I LOVE my book browser (the low wooden book holder) because it holds SO much and makes it easy for the kids to flip through books looking at the covers.  The lower level of the browser has bins where students keep their "Zip Bags" (their self-selected reading in 2 gallon zipper baggies).  The ugly metal shelf holds more books of favorite authors and characters, poetry and song books.  The wooden shelf against the wall holds our tons of basal anthologies and guided reading materials.  All of the black baskets on that shelf are leveled reading books.  I always think I have a lot of books but it doesn't look that substantial right now, haha!

2. The Rug

This is my "rug"  (actually the whole classroom is carpeted) but this is the area where most of the magic happens.  I do the bulk of my teaching at the SmartBoard.  I honestly don't remember what it was like to teach without it.  I'm trying out my new jungle theme with my zebra listening center and my newly up cycled draws.  I'll have to do another post about them.  

3. Our Lockers

Like I said, my room is tiny, but I do have a feature I think is unique and nice.  Each student has a locker.  I love that I don't have to see the coats and book bags and other messes.  The kids love them and feel so grown up having their own lockers like big kids.

Thanks for stopping by and I hope you have a great rest of the week!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Hoping on the state blogger bandwagon

It's been just about a month since a started blogging and I keep seeing these cute little state pictures on other bloggers sidebars.  I thought about how cool it was to see where all other bloggers are from.  I'm really learning how cool blogging is for networking possibilities.  It's so neat to be learning for teachers all across the country and beyond.  
So I've added my state button!  I admit I had to debate which state to pick.  I'm a Jersey girl at heart.  I was born and raised in Jersey.  I teach in Jersey, but I've been living in Pennsylvania for 12 years.  After giving it some thought, I went with my roots and where I actually work.  So I guess I'm officially a New Jersey blogger.  
If you haven't already done so, link up with Fifth in the Middle and get your state blog button.  It's also a great way to hook up with other bloggers in your area.
On an unrelated note, I've been glued to the TV tonight watching the manhunt for the Boston Marathon Bomber and am so relieved to read that the good guys have prevailed.  God bless the USA!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Awesome Giveaway!

I just came across an awesome giveaway and just had to share.  
First Grade FairyTales

Congratulations to Kelly over at First Grade Fairytales!  She just reached 400 followers.  (Will that ever be me?)  Check out her page to enter giveaways for some awesome products.  I also discovered some pretty awesome newish blogs.  


After reading everyone's posts about their awesome technology, I've been waiting and hoping my district was going to be the next to get iPads.  And then, we got the news.  We are getting....

Chromebooks... huh?  What the heck are they?  I've been pinning tons of tips and apps for iPads!  


Apparently they are the next big thing... or so I'm told.  I get to go to training next week for implementation for next year.  I'm going to be getting four for my classroom next year.  If anyone has resources that can help me out, I sure would appreciate it.  Pretty much everything I'm seeing is about implementation in secondary classrooms so I'm interested to see how I can make these things work for my first graders.  I'll update you all when I know more myself.

Monday, April 15, 2013

My version of Literacy Centers

After teaching first grade for 10 years, I've FINALLY found a compromise to make centers/ Daily Five work for me (and our reading series).  
A little background for you... I began my career using a basal anthology.  I hated it!  Then I went back to grad school to get my masters in Reading and Language Arts.  I always loved teaching ELA but, when I spent 4 years studying how to be a great reading teacher, I truly discovered my passion.  It was also at this time when my district began to shift to the Reading and Writing Workshop Models.  I went to training at Columbia and became a loose follower of Lucy Caulkins.  I worked on our district's ELA curriculum team for SO many years as we created a curriculum from scratch.  Fast forward a few more years, and the pendulum shifted again back to a basal anthology.  I resisted this change with everything inside me, but then eventually gave up knowing it was a battle I wouldn't win.  If we were going back to a basal, I was at least going to have a say in which one we picked.  Our district settled on Houghton Mifflin Harcourt's Journeys.  At first I hated it... but then I found ways to still add my style and make it work for me.  
I've always used a kind of hybrid approach to centers.  I've never been able to work with a strict rotation.  Some students always finish first and some just never do!  Sometimes I needed more than 15 minutes with a group, sometimes a group needed less.  I just hated being stuck with a schedule.  I used The Daily Five approach for a few years, but then when we got our basal, I felt like I needed more structure to have students practice the skills they were responsible for during that week.  So my checklist was born.  

Basically, I have two independent checklists (one for my top two reading groups, one for my lower reading groups).  Students choose from the activities on this checklist for their week's independent review.  Any highlighted activities are top priorities.  Each list is differentiated and students' highlighted priorities are differentiated based on their needs.  I've had an excellent response to this format.  The students feel like they have choice and they are working with hands on review activities.  They think they are playing and the time just flies by.  While students work on their independent activities, I pull reading groups for small group instruction.  Many of the activities on this checklist an be found through Dawn at First Grade Shenanigans.  Her work has been a major inspiration in me finding my groove again and beginning to create my own activities and blog while finding myself with Journeys.  
Here are some pictures so you can see some of what goes on during "Checklist Time."  
Students work on a variety of activities including Read to Self,  "ar" sorts, and sight word review.

My student teacher works with a guided reading group while students work on their checklists.

A close up of the differentiated sorts.  

Students work on their checklists on Monday- Thursday.  On Thursday, I collect students folders and mark their completed work.  Any corrections are made Friday morning before our weekly test and I am able to pull RTI groups based on observations and how students did on their checklist activities.  I don't think this is necessarily the best way to do centers but, it's been the best fit for me and my class.  

Let's Get Acquainted!

Hey everyone!  Happy Monday!  Yeah, yeah, I know, but 47 more days for us here in NJ... whoop, whoop!  I am really going to miss this bunch.  They are probably the nicest, most easy going, and independent kiddos I've ever had.  You know what that means... wham-o next year!  ANYWAY!

I'm doing my first link up with Latoya at Flying into First.  This week's topic is the Skittles game.  
Here's the code:
Red- Favorite Ice Cream Flavor
Orange- Favorite Memory from College
Yellow- Favorite Sports Team
Green- Favorite Fast Food Place
Purple- Wild Card(Tell anything about yourself)

Red- My favorite ice cream isn't really ice cream.  I LOVE a gelati from Rita's Water Ice.  My favorite is mint chocolate chip with chocolate custard.  A gelati is the best of both worlds.... mmmm!  I'm thinking I need a Rita's tonight!

Orange-  My favorite college memory.  Oh wow, it's been 15 years but I remember it like it was yesterday.  I have so many great memories.  I guess the one that sticks out the best is the night I got a bid for my sorority Alpha Sigma Alpha.  Being a ASA was one of the highlights of my college years,  it helped shape me into the woman I've become.  Also, if it wasn't for my sisters, I wouldn't have been introduced to the man in my life, my husband of 9 years.  

Yellow- Favorite Sports Team.  I didn't have a choice when I married my sports lovin' hubby.  I had to declare allegiance to his teams.  Now, it's a family affair as my sons have grown into being fans like their daddy.  Even though we live closer to Philly, we are more NY fans!  Football- NY Giants, Baseball- NY Yankees, Hockey- Flyers (only Philly team I can stand).  It's hard to be a NY fan in the Philly area, but we survive!

Green- Favorite Fast Food.  I love Wendy's.  Best cheeseburger and fries hands down!

Purple- I am the proud mommy of a bulldog named Otto.  He's my first baby and he makes me smile every day!  Hope you all have a great week!

Friday, April 12, 2013

Five For Friday!

Hi Everyone!  I'm linking up with Doodle Bugs for her "Five For Friday" Linky Party.  

I just wrapped up my first week back after Spring Break and the home stretch of my wonderful student teacher's full-time teaching.  Don't get me wrong... I have enjoyed the experience of working with a wonderful young future teacher, but I LOVE my job and have missed doing it every day.  Next week, we begin transitioning back to me again.  

So here are my five random things... 
I've keep stumbling across this video that is pinned and blogged about so often.  I have watched it over and over and am very intrigued by Whole Brain Teaching.  I have the world's most a-mah-zing group of firsties this year.  And although they require very little classroom management techniques to keep them in check, I thought they would be the greatest guinea pigs to try out the techniques.  (Plus then I will be more used to them before September.)  I gotta admit that when I first watched some of the videos I couldn't help thinking that the teachers kind of seemed like drill sergeants barking orders at new recruits.  But then, I focused on the students and how they were ALL engaged.  WOW!  So I'm going to share the famous video again in case anyone hasn't seen it.  Isn't she the cutest!

Next, I've been doing some redecorating in my classroom with my jungle theme.  At first, I decided I was just going to make and buy some things to spruce up the room and make it more unified.  But then as I was printing and laminating... I couldn't resist... I had to hang some up.  When my students arrived on Thursday morning, my drama queen cutie had this response, "OH. MY. GOODNESS!  Mrs. Grosse you are blowing my mind with all this animal print goodness.  I am gonna stay back next year just so that I can be in this cute room all year."  I wish I could actually duplicate her expression and hand motions.  It was hilarious!!  Here is a link to my new Jungle Alphabet cards in case anyone else was searching for jungle theme items.  

My husband and I are part of a unique club and business.  Beer... I know... gasp!  Over 8 years ago, I bought him a little beer brewing kit for fun.  Now, it has turned into an growing obsession business.  We are working hard to make Broken Goblet Brewing a brand.  If this is up your alley, check it out!

I just have to share the world's most clever centers (no offense, intended to other teacher creators).  When I saw these, I was speechless.  Not only are they adorable, but they are so cleverly created and include suggestions to add dollar store materials to increase the cuteness factor and student engagement.  
They are Tunstall's Teaching Tidbits Picnic Pals Common Core Math and Literacy Centers.  You have to check them out.  My hand is killing me from all of the laminating and cutting, but they are worth every penny.  

Finally, I am psyched for my oldest son's first T Ball game tomorrow.  It should be interesting!  Here's hoping he runs around the bases the right way!  Have a great weekend!  Thanks for stopping by!

Monday, April 8, 2013

Inspiration Monday!

I woke up this morning and did a little blog stalking hopping, hoping it would get me excited to go back to work after a great Spring Break and I found Inspiration Monday over at Fun in First Grade.  So, I'm doing my first link up.  Fingers crossed that I do it correctly!  

How's that for inspiring!  I little Ryan Gossling- "Hey Girl", made just for us!  Who doesn't love a little Teacher Eye Candy on a Monday Morning!  Have a great day!

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Another Spring Freebie!

Well, it's my last day of Spring Break.  The weather here in Pennsylvania is beginning to feel like Spring.  Daffodils are blooming!  So... I should have been weeding my flower beds, but instead I made my next freebie!  Please check it out and any feedback you can provide is SO helpful.
Click here for a link to the product

I have to say that starting this blog has been a really cool experience.  I've gotten to chat with people from all over the country and it's so neat how similar and different we all are.

Tonight I made a very cool discovery!  I found Granny Goes to School's Blog.  She is celebrating her 500th follower with two massive giveaways.  Head on over there to check out her blog and enter her giveaway.  Good luck to you and me too!

Have a great week!

Saturday, April 6, 2013

I'm just WILD about this theme!

Since January, I have had the pleasure of mentoring and working with a wonderful student teacher.  Ms. D has enormous potential and I have enjoyed getting to work with her.  After working with her, to be ready to take on the class on her own, she was ready to jump in with both feet.  Once I wasn't teaching anymore, it left me thinking... "Now what do I do?"  Ms. D. was doing well on her own and of course I was giving her feedback and support daily, but she didn't need me as much as I wished she did- a mixed blessing to be sure!  I do have a bit of a reputation in my school as being a bit of a control freak particular about how my classroom runs.  Now I know we all have our OCD tendencies, but it's always been hard for me to sit back and allow someone else to work with my kiddos.  I always end up interjecting, not that that's always a bad thing but, some other teachers may view that as threatening, even though I don't intend it to be.  But, I didn't need to interject (often) and I was feeling like I wasn't needed.  

Anyway... back to my reason to post... Once I wasn't teaching full-time I started to get really bored and started daydreaming about all the things that I never get to do because there's just never enough time.  For years, I've looked at pictures many of your blogs with your wonderfully themed rooms.  There's been a little green monster of jealousy lingering on my shoulder, for what seems like forever.  So now that I had this time (no papers to check at night, tests to grade, or lesson plans to write), I had time to plan out my perfect themed room.  I've always had a little wild side, plus I had acquired a few cute store-bought monkey items over the years.  So it just seemed logical to go with a jungle theme.  

I started teaching myself how to make items like the ones on TPT.  I notice my techniques improving with every new item.  Of course I purchased more than a few, too.  Then I started seeing animal print everywhere.  On a recent trip to AC Moore, I found these treasures.  They are storage ottomans.  And here's the best part... I got them for about $5 a piece.... SCORE!  I love sales, plus 25% off coupon and teacher rewards.  Woo Hoo!  

Now I need some ideas... what to do with them and should I go back and try to find some more?  

If you are planning a jungle theme for your room, check out my TPT store.  I'm really making things for myself but figure if I like them, maybe someone else might, too.  So they are available for you to purchase.  I hope you have a great rest of the weekend.  Thanks for stopping by!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

My first freebie!

Hey everyone!  I'm offering my VERY FIRST freebie!  I'm SO excited!  I would appreciate any feedback anyone has to offer since this is one of my first products ever!  Thanks!


Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Baby Blogger... Lessons Learned

Just when I thought I was starting to get the hang of this blogging thing... Wham! My laptop crashed!  Thankfully, my wonderful brother in law is a Mac Specialist and was able to hook me up with a new, larger hard drive.  YAY!  But... I lost so much of my work.  After a mini-lecture  talk, I promised to always back up my work.  So... I signed up for  From now on I will be saving all of my files for home and work to their website.  And I can see so many benefits now.  I can start a project at home and continue it at work.  I can take pictures on my iPhone and send them to my iPad or any computer.  I can't wait to really see the benefits!

Now to continue floundering as a baby blogger!  I FINALLY figured out how to make my button.  I think it's a pretty good first attempt.  It needs some tweaking but, it'll do for now.  

Monday, April 1, 2013

Brownie Points!

My student teacher made a reward system similar to this one.  Our kiddies are loving working toward their reward!  Since it's so cute and is working so well, I may have to make one for myself for next year!
From First Grader, at last

Spring Break... ahhh!

So, I found and purchased a Blogging 101 video from Teaching Blog Addict.  I'm playing around with what I am learning to jazz up my blog and figure out how this all works.  I'm on Spring Break this week and I'm determined to learn all I can.  So here are my goals for this break.
1. Spend time with my boys, since my big kindergarten boy goes back to school tomorrow.
2. Tackle Mt. Laundry
3. Clean out the boys messy bedroom
4. Make and post some products to TPT.
5. Figure out this blogging stuff.