Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Testing Tuesday: I've got nothin'...

I'll hopefully be back later in the week with some more testing tips and tricks, but the last few days have been hectic (both good and bad) and I haven't had time to blog about testing.  In all honesty, I don't even want to think about it right now!  So...  Check back soon!

PS~  I'm going to a vocab and word work workshop tomorrow, so if I have any cool ideas to share I'll be sure to do so.  It was kind of a last minute sign-up for me, but I'm excited to learn a few new things!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Allow me to have this momentary freak out...

We had an early meeting a few days ago about assessments and got the testing schedule.  We've found in the past few years that most teachers prefer to get all of their reading and math tests completed before spring break.  I must say, I'm one of the ones that prefers this schedule.  It's so nice to be able to leave for our week off and know that assessments are behind us (and that the kids rocked them) and not worry about what's going to happen to their little third grade minds during a week away from school.

I was planning on the first two full weeks of March for testing, so you can expect my surprise when I saw that my class starts reading assessments on February 28th!!!  

*gasps for air*

Yes, we start in February...  As in NEXT MONTH!


My principal told me if I wanted to push it off a week we could make it work, but I think I'm just going to stay with the start date of the 28th and just get it over with.  At that point, a week isn't going to make a huge difference, if anything.  Plus, my student teacher has a unit to teach and I'd like to give her time to get that taught so she can work on her portfolio over the break.  

So, next I decided to calculate how many school days we have until the 28th...


17 DAYS!!!

*right eye begins to twitch*

Between an inservice day, conferences, conference release, and President's day we are down to just 17 school days until we begin testing.

I have a pretty bright class this year (a curse when it comes to scheduling), so I don't think I'm as worried about testing as I've felt in past years.  I'm still freaking out, though, because there's so much to still practice and review.  As my principal reminded us, we've done a great job every year and will continue to do so this year.

On a happy note, our school was recently given a special award for being one of the top scoring schools in the state.  The award is actually based on test scores AND attendance, so it's a pretty cool honor.  We were the only school in our area to get it and one of only 43 other elementary schools in the entire state.  YAY FOR US!!!

No pressure, right!?!  ; )

Friday, January 27, 2012

Fashion Friday: Gap Is Back!

I've been a fan of Gap since elementary school.  I remember getting my first shirt there when we were out of town one summer and the weather was unexpectedly chilly.  Out of necessity my mom bought be a navy long sleeved shirt and complained about how much it cost (it was full price, probably a fall new arrival).  We then got a Gap store here in town shortly after and my mom's friend would take me on shopping sprees there because she didn't yet have any children of her own.  I'd say 3rd and 4th grade were my most fashionable elementary school years as I had pretty much every cute coordinated outfit from there.  Matching shoes and scrunchie?  Heck yeah!  Somewhere in that process I learned how to shop their sales and found how you can score some really amazing deals there.

Gap has remained one of my favorites as I think their stuff is appropriate for pretty much any age.  I think it's all in how you wear their stuff that makes it age appropriate.  I see middle schoolers wearing the same items I have from there and yet it works on both of us.

I've been super disappointed with Gap for a while now...  Everything has been really blah.  I was particularly disappointed with their fall and winter collections this year...  Everything was boring, short, boxy, and unflattering.  No thanks!

I'm so glad to announce, though, that Gap has cute stuff again!   Apparently, they fired their designer last fall, so the spring collection is from their new designer (who I believe used to be a J.Crew, another fave of mine).  I started stumbling upon pics on Pinterest of new Gap items and decided that I'd make a visit last weekend since I had a birthday coupon.  

Oh my goodness!  It was so good to see color in there again!  They still have plenty of neutrals, but they've definitely embraced the brights trend that I've been seeing all over for spring and have paired them really nicely with more neutral items.  I got a lot of good ideas for ways to pair up items I already own.  

Here are a few of my favorites.  If you click the picture you'll be directed to Gap's website where you can see the outfit details.

Monday     Wednesday     Sunday

I broke down and got the pink blazer with my birthday coupon.  I couldn't pass it up and didn't want to risk them not having my size later on!  I have a feeling it's going to get some good wear in the coming months.  I tried on a ton of other items and really could have dropped a lot of money in there, but I decided to show some self-control.  :)  I really felt like their stuff was a lot more flattering than it's been in the past few years.  I fell in love with their new style of jeans, the Sexy Boyfriend, which I also first spotted on Pinterest.  Unfortunately (or fortunately for my wallet) they didn't have the wash I wanted in my size, but I'm pretty sure at some point I am going to track them down when I have another coupon or they're running a good jeans promo.  (I tried the ones in the Wednesday and Sunday photos above, but they were a little too bleachy on the butt.  They had a slightly darker wash that I think would wear more.)  They were super soft and fit me just right, which isn't all that common with me and jeans.  I'm pretty sure it's gonna be a dangerous situation when they have a big spring sale and some of these items go on clearance.  I may go a bit crazy!

Have you been into Gap since they got in their new stuff?

What are your favorite trends for spring?

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Testing Tuesday: Accommodating Students

I've been pretty busy today and didn't have much time for today's Testing Tuesday.  BUT, I wanted to talk briefly about how to handle difficult testing situations with challenging students.  

We have a good amount of freedom to have students test in various settings around the building.  Students can test with paras and teachers in whatever setting we feel best sets them up for success.  During our six days of testing I usually only have about half of my class in the computer lab with me.  The rest of my students are in other settings where I feel they'll be able to do their best.

The biggest thing is to know what is allowed by your school / district / state.  I'm one of the head assessment people in my building now, so I've been studying up on what is and isn't allowed.  There are a lot of specifics on taking the test itself, but some accommodations are pretty much just good practice in any testing situation.

If you have this freedom, here are a few suggestions on how to set students up for success.

  1. Make sure students are comfortable with the person they're testing with.  Some of my lower students spend a lot of time with some of our paras when they do interventions.  I have to say my paras are the real rock stars and really build great relationships with the kids.  A child will want to perform their best with someone who they know and trust.  I really try to not have my students test with someone they don't have a relationship with.  
  2. Find the time of day when kids are most alert.  It ends up most years that my class tests first thing in the morning.  For most kids this is best, but for some, it's not.  For example, I had a student a few years ago who always had a rough morning getting from home to school in one piece.  Her mom would walk her to class and I could always tell by the looks on their faces how the day had started.  For this student, afternoons were the best times to test.  If the morning was rough it was usually forgotten by the afternoon.  Kids don't test well when their minds are elsewhere.
  3. Give 'em a break!  If your assessments aren't timed (like ours), let you students take their time so that they're more relaxed.  Each part of our tests usually takes the kids only 45 minutes or so, but that can still be a long time to sit and work.  I encourage my students to get up and take a quiet stretch break every few problems.  I also allow my students to bring snacks during testing weeks.  If we test first thing in the morning I encourage them to eat a good breakfast, but allow the kids to enjoy a snack afterwards.  If we test later in the morning I let my kids enjoy their healthy snack before going to the testing rooms.

How do you accommodate students during testing?  

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Keep Calm and Carry On... A Quick Venting Session

Pinned ImageI feel like the last three weeks since Christmas break have been insane!  I think a big factor is that this week will be our first full week of school since before the break.  Amazingly, we haven't had any snow days yet and our days off have all been scheduled.  It's been difficult to get into routines again with short weeks.  I feel bad for my student teacher trying to get into the swing of things as well when we're off schedule so much.  I keep telling her that she's definitely learning the fine art of being flexible!  Hopefully we don't get any snow in the next two weeks as those are full weeks before days off for inservices and conferences.  *sigh*  And all the while, I am trying to get my students ready for assessments in March...  I have a feeling I'm going to need a mental health day when all of this is over!

I have a cheery yellow "Keep Calm and Carry On" sign that I picked up a Target a few years ago hanging on the wall in my bedroom.  I'm pretty sure I need another one to hang behind my desk at school...

Friday, January 20, 2012

Fashion Friday: Stripe Obsessed

I professed my love for pink a couple weeks ago in this post, but I must admit I have another fashion infatuation this spring:  STRIPES!  

I've always loved a good striped top.  I had a navy and white striped shirt from Old Navy back in 8th grade that I literally wore at least twice a week...  Usually one day with jeans and then another day with overalls (yes, overalls).  My love for stripes has remained pretty consistent as my fashion sense has grown.  I really hadn't added many striped items to my closet in a few years until they started popping up again in stores this past fall.  

And now, spring stripes!  I'm really having to exercise some self control when it comes to all of the stripes that are popping up in stores with the new spring clothing collections.

Here are a few new arrivals that I've picked up on sale or with a discount.  Amazingly these are pretty much my only recent clothing purchases.  Do you see a trend here?  All stripes!

Ann Taylor Striped Snap Sleeve Tee - This is actually my very first Ann Taylor purchase.  They were running 40% off last weekend.  It's a little short and wide, but actually pretty flattering.  And the snap detail on the sleeve is ADORABLE!

Gap Striped Colorblock T - I picked this one up right after Christmas with a coupon, but it's already sold out online!  I love the pink and the boat neck.

Aerie Loose Knit Sweater - I worked at Aerie a couple of times during the holidays and purchased this with my employee discount.  It's also kind of short and wide, but very cute with some slimmer cut jeans.  I have a feeling I'm really going to like it a lot come spring!

I'm also still wishing to add this one from J.Crew to my closet.

Maritime dress
I tried on a blue and white version at the J.Crew Factory store a few weeks ago, but my heart is set on either black and white or navy and white.  I'd been set on getting the navy one, but now that I see how many navy striped items I have, I'm leaning more towards black.  Plus, it would look super cute with my black crochet TOMS.
A lot of people are under the impression that horizontal stripes are unflattering.  This can certainly be true, but if you wear stripes the right way and in the right fit, they can actually be very flattering.  For example, I tried on a great sweater at Ann Taylor that had thick black and white stripes.  The sweater fit really nicely, but the bottom white stripe landed right at the widest part of my hips.  Now, had the black stripe fallen there it would have been fine, but it just didn't quite look its best on me.  Stripes are also good for layering.  Sometimes stripes alone can be a little much, but layered with a great cardigan or jacket they can be really great!
Now here's a look at some of the other striped items in my closet.  I love the fact that I have quite a bit to work with and that I'm getting so much (p)inspiration to rock them in new ways and with different accessories.

I picked up the navy tank at Banana Republic at the beginning of the summer and wore it a TON.  I found the gray version on major clearance later in the fall and decided to add it to my collection as well.  I love how it was a little loose and flowy without being too overwhelming.

This is a Gap sweater from about 2 years ago.  I love the pink and gray rugby stripes!  Gap is usually one of my go-to places for sweaters.  (Except this year when their fall and winter collections kinda sucked.)

Here's an oldie but goodie from AE.  It's at least 3 or 4 years old.  I don't remember how much it was, but I do recall it was super, super cheap.  I love the variety in the stripes and the yellow trim inside always makes me want to pair it with a fun colored tee or tank.

This Aerie tunic was from this past fall.  It's a prime example of how stripes can be much more flattering when layered.  Maybe if I were a few pounds lighter I could pull it off alone, but the length and stripes are a little overwhelming on me.  I pair this one with a jacket or cardigan (and belt it) to tone it down a bit and make it more flattering.

Last fall and spring my color obsession was olive / army green.  I picked this sweater up on sale at Aerie on a great sale (I'm thinking this was in the $10 range) and I wore the heck out of it all spring.  I'm ready for the weather to warm up and to bust this one out again.  

And finally some pics from good 'ol Pinterest!
(All images below are pinned from Pinterest.  Click the pic to view the pin.  From there you can click to find the original website.)

Pinned Image     Pinned Image     Pinned Image     Pinned Image     Pinned Image     Pinned Image     Pinned Image     Pinned Image

What are your fashion obsessions this spring?  
Do you love stripes too?  
Any good finds?

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Work With What You've Got...

Work with what you've got.

I'm trying to adopt this mindset during the new year.  My goal for the next year or year and a half is to save some money to buy a house.  Not impossible, but also not the easiest thing for a single teacher.  In the meantime, I'm also attempting to pay extra on some bills and not spend a lot of extra money.  Have I also mentioned that I'd like to go on a few trips to see friends?  Yeah...  

I think all of the blogs I've added to my Google Reader, plus Pinterest, plus Polyvore have been both good and bad for this.  I'm trying to be more creative with my wardrobe and how I wear my clothes.  I've come to the conclusion that my wardrobe is plenty big enough and that I have plenty to work with already.  But, at the same time, I also see plenty of new things that I want.  That's a big reason why I made my wish list for the new year.  It's my attempt to cut back on unnecessary purchases and focus on the things I really want.

I'm also trying to take on this attitude with school stuff.  As a teacher it can be really hard to do and have all of the things I want for my classroom, especially when most of it is coming out of my own pocket.  Even making your own stuff can get pricey, so I'm working on setting priorities and working with what I already have.  In preparing for my first year of teaching I was working on a very small budget and I somehow made it through.  After five years of teaching I've managed to accumulate a lot of stuff.  Sure there are plenty of things I'd like to have for my students, but at the same time I have a lot around that gets forgotten.

My point is, sometimes we need to get a little bit creative with what's already around.  Whether it be in our wardrobe, our home, or our classroom many of us can get by just fine with the things we have around.

Think creatively.  Think out of the box.  Work with what you've got.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Testing Tuesday: Motivating Students

When it comes to assessments, motivating kids to do their best is a big part of preparing them for the big test.  I think we do a really great job of this in my school.  I've had students come in on the first day of school (two years in a row!) and tell me they were excited to be in third grade because they got to take state assessments!  Yes, seriously!  

So, how to we get our students motivated?  Here are a few things that we do in our school and in my classroom to help motivate students to do their best on the test.

  1. Track their progress - We have practice tests available online and after each test I have the kids record their score on a graph.  The kids each have a bar graph for reading and math and they fill in the bar for the appropriate test.  I have a big bold line showing where 70% is (passing).  It's a really easy way to track progress and a great visual for students.  It's also a really great thing to show parents at conference!
  2. Offer incentives - To go along with our formatives (practice tests) the students who score an 80% or better on a set number of tests will be able to earn their way into a pizza party after assessments are over.  We can't really do this based on their performance on the real test, but this is something we're doing to get them to do their best on the formatives and hopefully prep them to do their best on the real thing.  After assessments we usually take the kids on a special field trip or do an ice cream party and inflatables at the school.  We can't reward kids based on scores, but this is something we motivate kids with based on their effort.  As long as they do their best and keep a good attitude, they'll get to participate in the celebration!
  3. Pump them up - It's hard to get excited about a test.  I mean, how many of us used to get super excited about taking a test?  Probably none.  Our testing lands at the same time as Dr. Seuss Week so we do a "spirit week" type thing to get the kids excited about assessments.  Each day has a theme:  PJ Day, Dress Your Best for the Test, Silly Socks, Hat Day, etc.  We've even had the high school band and cheerleaders come in for a pep assembly!  We include the younger grades in on all of this, which is why I have kids so excited about testing in third grade.
  4. Inspire them - Our principal used to be a fellow third grade teacher and he would tour the classrooms in the days leading to assessments and give a motivational speech to the kids.  It usually involved a video clip about someone who has overcome difficulty to exceed at something great.  Then, at the end he passes out a colorful sheet of paper with some simple words of wisdom or an inspirational quote.  A lot of the kids keep this paper with them during testing to remind them to keep working even when things get hard.
  5. Give them goodies - As I said, testing is usually kicked off with Dr. Seuss Week.  I've been lucky enough to hit Target's dollar section several times when they've carried Dr. Seuss themed goodies.  For this year I have Dr. Seuss silly bands, erasers, and pencils to give to the students during testing week.  It's a small way that I remind them I care.  For some kids, just looking at an eraser or having a silly band on their wrist reminds them that I believe in them and I know they can do a great job!  In addition, our younger kids write kind letters of encouragement to the older students and deliver them at the beginning of testing.  Some of the kids take their letters to them when they go test to remind them to do their best.  They're usually accompanied with some "Smarties"! :)
Do you do anything special to motivate your students to do their best on state assessments?  I'd love to hear more ideas on ways to pump the kids up for these tests!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

A Day In My Shoes ~ Linky Party!

I stumbled upon this Linky Party hosted by Adventures of a 6th Grade Teacher in my Google Reader.  I thought this was a fun idea.  It's interesting to see how other teachers' days go!

Here is how it works...

1. Right click and save the button above to put in your post. I
suggest also making the picture a link when you add it so others can
easily find the linky party. (I wish I knew how to write the HTML code
to make it a button)
2. Tell us about a typical day in your classroom. You can share as
little or as much as you would like.
3. Link up with Adventures of a 6th Grade Teacher.
4. Visit the other links to see what a day is like in their class!

So...  Here's what a typical school day looks like for me!  (Okay I included the whole day...  Not just the school part of it.)

6:20 a.m. - Cell phone alarm goes off.  Snooze.
6:30 a.m. - Cell phone and clock radio alarms go off.  Snooze again.
6:40 a.m. - Yup, both alarms again.  This time I leave the clock radio on and listen to The Bobby Bones Show as I check my e-mail, Facebook, Google Reader, and Words With Friends on my iPod and catch a bit of the early local news on TV.
6:55 a.m. - Drag myself out of bed and to the shower.  Shower, get dressed, basic makeup, and hair all get accomplished in the next half out.
7:30 a.m. - Out the door and off to school!  Finish my makeup at the stoplights!
7:50 a.m. - If time allows, pop into QT for a nice caffeinated beverage!
8:00 a.m. - Arrive at school, sign in, write daily assignments on the board, plug in my laptop and get ready to start the day!
8:10 a.m. - Open the door to greet my students!  Catch up with the other teachers in my hallway (my classroom is in the corner so we're in a high traffic area) and greet everyone!
8:20 a.m. - School officially starts!  Students are working on morning work and the morning announcements are broadcast on TV.  Meanwhile, I take lunch count and attendance and submit it online.
8:30 a.m. - Reading block begins with a short comprehension page (Daily Reading Warm-Ups book).
8:40 a.m. - Vocabulary from Weekly Reader Daily Vocabulary Practice book followed by our Word-a-Day discussion.
8:55 a.m. - Discuss / review / practice language skill for the week.  (Sometimes we watch a Schoolhouse Rock video clip during this time.)
9:05 a.m. - Word wall activity (game or word wall worksheet).
9:15 a.m. - Fluency practice (partner scripts, poetry, reader's theater, fluency phrases, etc.).
9:25 a.m. - Teacher read aloud and discussion.
9:45 a.m. - Restroom and drink break.
9:50 a.m. - Computer or Library (Attempt to get things done.)
10:25 a.m. - PE or Music  (Attempt to get more things done.)
11:00 a.m. - Reading work stations begin.  Our rotations last about 25 minutes and we do two rotations per day.  The students work in groups of 3 or 4 to complete their activities and assignments.
11:55 a.m. - Conclude work stations, punch work station punch cards for students who completed their tasks, and prep for lunch!
12:00 p.m. - Lunchtime!  Catch up on e-mail, check Facebook, Google Reader and EAT!
12:40 p.m. - Pick the kids up from recess and begin MIRP (monitored independent reading practice).  The kids read self-selected books while I pull individuals to read aloud to me for fluency monitoring.
1:00 p.m. - Math begins!  Right now we spend the first 15 minutes or so reviewing our assessment math boxes and practicing tested items (math boxes are their morning work).
1:15 p.m. - Whole group math lesson officially begins. 
2:00 p.m. - Math centers begin!  Students work in groups of 3 or 4 on various tasks.  (My SpEd and gifted students are out of the room during this time.)
2:30 p.m. - Recess!  Yay!  (I have recess duty every third day, so it's not too bad!)
2:45 p.m. - Students return from recess and prepare to go home...  Copy assignments into planners, receive homework for the night, and pack up backpacks.
3:00 p.m. - Test prep stations.  (As explained here.)
3:30 p.m. - First dismissal bell rings.  Students return from test prep stations and get ready to leave!
3:35 p.m. - Dismissal for upper grades!  Send my class off and welcome my group of 3rd grades for after school tutoring aka TAPS (Mon. thru Thurs.).  Our tutoring focuses on assessment skills with two days of reading and two days of math per week for selected students.  I have about 10 kids in my groups for reading and math.
4:35 p.m. - Say farewell to my TAPS kids...  Attempt to stay at school and get stuff done or leave!
5:something p.m. - Get home, make dinner, watch a DVR'ed episode of "The Wonder Years" and have some bonding time with my couch.
7:something p.m. - Either continue bonding time with my TV and couch or get up and go to the Y for a workout.
10:00 p.m. - Start thinking about bed.  Start watching reruns of "Friends" on Nick @ Nite.
10:30 p.m. - Actually start making my way towards getting ready for bed.  Continue spending time with my "Friends."
11:00 p.m. - Final checkup of Facebook, Words With Friends, e-mail, and Google Reader.  Set the sleep timer on "Friends."  Possibly play "Angry Birds" until I can't keep my eyes open any longer.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Loooooong Weekend!

I just wanted to say hi to everyone and wish you all a wonderful long weekend!  (That is, if you're off work on Monday!)  We had an inservice today, so I had some extra time today to get some stuff prepped for the coming weeks.  It felt soooooo good to get a few more things checked off my "to do" list!

I don't really have a whole lot planned for this weekend.  I've had friends in town the past two weeks / weekends, so I haven't had a lot of down time at home to just chill.  I've been fighting a cold since last Friday as well and I think my body is craving some extra rest and relaxation.  I'm hoping to get around to a couple small school-related projects that I got from Pinterest.  If I actually get around to that, I'll be sure to share some pics!  I'm also planning on FINALLY taking down my Christmas decor here at home.  Between my friends and my cold I haven't had the time or energy to get that accomplished yet!

If you're a Target shopper, I wanted to share that their dollar section has some good buys for the classroom right now.  I've noticed the last couple years they bring out a small assortment of school items again during winter.  They had the plastic book / magazine bins (you can see mine in use here and here and in my friend's classroom here), stickers, stamps, notepads, and quite a few other organization  and office supplies.  I've been really good about not spending money on school items the past few months, but I did pick up a few goodies for a buck each:  Pink plastic file organizer, 2 2-packs of file folders, 1 package of stickers, and 3 nonfiction books.

I try to pick up these little nonfiction books whenever Target carries them.  We're a Literacy First school and we're supposed to have a research station for our students.  These books are great for that.  I usually have the kids fill out a little one-page nonfiction book report (do a Google search for non-fiction book reports and you'll find a ton of goodies).  We're also supposed to have a classroom library of 60% nonfiction.  My classroom library is far FAR from that, but these little books are a great budget friendly addition.  They vary in difficulty, but thankfully, most of the ones I've run across are just right for most of my third graders.  I've probably accumulated 20 - 30 of these books over the past year or so since Literacy First made its way into our lives.

So, what are your weekend plans?  Are you going to be productive, lazy, or both?  

Fashion Friday: Wardrobe Staples

I have a friend that we always joke is stuck in a wardrobe rut...  She's pretty much got the exact same tops, pants, and shoes in various colors.  We always try to encourage her to branch out and try new things, but she's usually a little slow to try out new trends.  

I think we can all be this way when it comes to fashion.  I know I'm this way, particularly when it comes to work clothes.  This time of year I pretty much live in sweaters and cardigan and black pants.  I will admit, there are some items that I definitely think are worth purchasing in multiples.  There's absolutely nothing wrong with having some great wardrobe staples as long as you know how to make them a little more exciting with your jewelry and accessories.  I wanted to share a few of these work-friendly items with you today and some fun ways to dress them up.
Tippi sweater

J.Crew Tippi Sweater - Long story short, it took two tries, but I ended up with a couple of these sweaters when I purchased them on sale before Christmas.  I've been wearing the heck out of these two sweaters (mine are a "heather viridian green" and "bright dahlia") for work and play.  They're pretty lightweight which is great for layering, especially if you have a classroom in which "climate control" is out of your vocabulary.  I've been having fun pairing mine with fun statement necklaces and patterned scarves.  I'm hoping some more colors go on sale soon (I bought my two for less than the regular price of one) so I can stock up on a few more of these lovelies.  

Banana Republic Timeless Crewneck Tee - A while back I ended up going on a quest for good basic short sleeve tees to layer with sweaters and jackets.  I ended up getting this tee in black and white and wear one or both of them at least once or twice a week.

Express Editor Original Pant - I have these in black and gray and they're pretty much my go-to dress pants. In my opinion, Express pants are totally worth the money.  I remember dropping over $100 for two pairs of Express dress pants when I was working an office job in college.  That was a HUGE deal for me and my college student budget at the time, but I still have one of those two pairs today!  (The other I think died in a tragic ripped-waist accident...)  My favorite cut of pants was discontinued a few years ago, but these are the next best thing and are a great staple for work.  

DC Villain Skate Shoe - Yes, skater shoes are a part of my teacher wardrobe!  I'm constantly on the hunt for comfy shoes for work.  I went out last year looking for some comfy black shoes for the cold weather months...  With a budget of $50 - 60.  I found these and gave them a try with my black pants and they passed!  You really can't see the DC logos with my pants covering them and they're seriously my most comfortable pair of shoes!  They're not super super dressy by any means, but they pass the test and are perfect for all day wear.

Now, accessories are the key to making the basics look not so basic.  

I'm quite a big fan of scarves during pretty much any season except summer.  I wouldn't say I have a huge collection of fashion scarves, but I've tried to add really versatile ones to my collection.  Polka dots, floral, stripes, and animal print are all part of my collection.  Most recently I found some basic bright scarves for $4 at the grocery store!  I picked up a few for myself and to give as Christmas gifts and my mom gave me another one as well!  I found this awesome pin on Pinterest on ways to tie fashion scarves.  Gap typically has some good patterned scarves and Forever 21 is usually a good option if you're on a budget.  

I'm also a big fan of jewelry.  I've really been into bold necklaces lately, but I also don't really like to drop a ton of money on my jewelry.  Francesca's sometimes has really good sales on their pieces.  Once again, Forever 21 is great if you're on a budget.  I've been trying to be more creative with my jewelry and have been layering some of my items for more visual interest.  I've also hit the jackpot a few times and scored a couple really great items on clearance at Banana Republic.  Sometimes all a plain outfit needs is a really great necklace to take it from boring to amazing.

What are your wardrobe staples?  Do you have any must-have multiples in your closet?

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Testing Tuesday: Assessment Prep Stations

In preparation for assessment season I'd like to share a few ideas and tips for thing that I do to help prepare my students for their state tests.  We are still going off state standards for the next couple years and will be gradually moving towards Common Core.  I know things will have to change when we make that transition, but I'm not going to think about that quite yet!

A few years ago my two fellow third grade colleagues and I decided to change things up a bit for our state assessment prep.  We don't switch classes for different subjects like some schools do, but we thought that rotating our students and doing test prep groups would be a fun way to mix things up a bit.  Each teacher has unique tips, tricks, and lessons for teaching different skills so it's a nice way to share that with all of the students in our grade level.

Here's how it works...

From January to March for 30 minutes 3 days a week we rotate our classes and do a small mini lesson, game, or review session based on our tested indicators.  We typically do Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday since we have a lot of Mondays and Fridays off this time of year.  It's sometimes hard to eek out an extra 30 minutes from the day, but sometimes other things (like science, SS, and unfortunately writing) sometimes get cut.

Each teacher works on a specific skill each week.  For ease of planning, I teach reading lessons, one of my coworkers teaching reading lessons, and the other alternates between reading and math.  The nice thing about it is that we're teaching one lesson three times...  Just once to each class!

We typically do these stations at the end of the school day, so I try to do activities that are a little exciting and engaging for the students.  I use Quia a lot to create games and other activities for us to do, so that we're not stuck doing another worksheet or practice test.  (I hope to share some of my Quia activities on here soon after I make a few.)

If you have any great tips and tricks on prepping your students for state assessments, please share!  I'd love to get some fresh, new ideas!  :)

Saturday, January 7, 2012

2012... So far.

I must say that so far, 2012 has been a decent year.  We're 7 days into the new year and I really don't have too many complaints so far.

I was able to ring in the new year with some good friends.  One of my besties that moved away a few months ago came back into town for the week between Christmas and New Years, so it was really great to get to spend time with him during my time off.  I went back to work Tuesday for an inservice and then worked with the kids a whole day and a half!  I ended up getting sent to a last minute assessment meeting on Thursday and then took yesterday off because I have another good friend in town this weekend!  I was feeling a little under the weather yesterday, so it worked out well for me to have the day off and have the flexibility to sleep a few extra hours.  We enjoyed a day of going out to lunch, shopping, and then I hosted a Cotton Bowl watching party.  Unfortunately, the football game didn't quite turn out the way I wanted.  I still love my K-State Wildcats,  though, and I am already anxiously awaiting the next season of college football!

Speaking of shopping, you would all be so proud...  I'm 7 days into the new year and I have so far resisted some of the tempting sales that have surrounded me.  I'm trying to stick with this wish list thing and save any extra income (babysitting, eBates cash back, random part-time work) on non-necessities.  January is my birthday month and I do have some good birthday coupons that I may have to let myself use, but I'm hoping maybe for some birthday money to go along with those coupons!

I'd say the worst thing about 2012 so far is the state assessments that are looming on the horizon.  That seems to have been the only topic of discussion brought up at school in the days since we've returned.  Here's the thing about my school...  We're consistently one of the top scoring schools in our state.  Yes, in the whole state.  It's really nice to be in such a high-achieving school, but we have a lot of pressure to continue to do well.  With a new principal and several new teachers this year the pressure is really on to maintain these super high standards.

I'm hoping to have some time soon to talk about state assessment prep and share some ideas of things that we do in my building to help prepare our students.  Third grade is the first year our kids are tested, so we do a lot to help the kids just learn good test taking skills that they will need for the rest of their test taking lives.  But, that's a whole 'nother post and I've got a sushi lunch date I need to get ready for!

Anyway, hopefully 2012 will continue to be a decent year.  I'm hopeful for things to come...  I hope everyone out there in blog world has had a good start to the year as well!  Talk to you all again soon!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Wish Listed Items for Spring

I blogged earlier about the new year and my non-resolutions (AKA suggestions).  One of the things I mentioned was not making purchases that aren't really necessary.  Now, understand my love for shopping and a good sale...  I love clothes, I love accessories, and I love home decor.  Tell me not to buy those things and I'd tell you to shut your face.  But, in an attempt to cut down on the clutter and save some extra money for big things, I've decided to set some priorities and goals for things I really want.  I'm trying to cut out the impulse buys and focus on the things that I really want.  I figure if I set aside some money for wants and stick to these goal items, I will hopefully not waste money on things that are just "okay" just because they're a good deal.  I'm hoping to get things that I love that are also a good deal! 

These are all items for me, but rest assured my wish list for school is in the works.  (We get to fill out a wish list every spring and the office and PTA help purchase items for our classrooms.  I'll be sharing that wish list with everyone in the near future!)  I'm sure this list could go on and on if I let it, but I really tried to cut it down to the things that I really like and want.

In true Pinterest addict fashion, I've grabbed some pins to show and tell.
Click the image to be directed the Pinterest and the website it originated from.
  • Vanessa Floral Duvet from Pottery Barn - I love PB, so it really is probably a good thing that the nearest stores are about 2 1/2 hours away from me.  I have a thing for bedding from there and when I saw it in the store I fell in love.  I'm holding out for a sale or some sort of discount.  
Pinned Image     Pinned Image
  • Nice brown purse - I've recently become obsessed with the idea that I need a nice brown purse.  I love the Coach one that Tara from Mix & Match Fashion is always rocking, but alas, it's no longer available. I've seen some nice ones from Coach and Fossil, but I'm gonna have to love it (and keep it for years to come) to pay those kinds of prices.  
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  • J.Crew Maritime Dress - This is one clothing item that I really want to add to my closet and may end of being my first wish list purchase.  I've been a little obsessed with it lately.  I'm loving the stripe trend that I keep seeing and I love versatile dresses.  Once again, I'm hoping for a good promo and discount, but this one of the few clothing items I've seen that I really want to have.
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  • Sperry Top-Siders - I live nowhere near a body of water, but I've fallen in love with these boat shoes.  I have yet to decide which pair I want, but I would really like a pair for spring.  A few of the ones I've looked at could be really cute with the dress from J.Crew.
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What are your money saving techniques?  
How do you balance saving money without depriving yourself of things you want?
Do you have any items on your spring wish list?

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Hitting the Ground Running

I just woke up from a 2 1/2 hour nap!  Today was my first day back to work...  We had a building inservice and work time in our classrooms, but it apparently wore me out.  I laid down on my couch to watch some reruns of "What Not to Wear" in hopes of resting up to go workout later and here I am several hours later!

My first day back was a busy one...  My student teacher officially started, I found out I'm getting a new student tomorrow, and we had it pounded into our heads that state assessments are 34 (school) days away!  Aggghhhhhhhh!

We really do come back from Christmas break ready to rock and roll.  It's crunch time for us and the pressure is on!  I'm hopeful that this semester is going to be a good one and that having another teacher is the room is going to be a great asset in prepping the kids for state assessments.

It's go time!

Monday, January 2, 2012

New Year...

Everyone in the blog world has been posting about new year's resolutions...  I'm not really against resolutions, but how many people set all these resolutions and then abandon them by March?  Yeah, most people.  In my somewhat pessimistic fashion, I am not going to tell you about my resolutions, but about a few things that I am going to make a better effort to do.  I feel like a resolution is more of a firm goal.  These things are more along the lines of things I am suggesting to myself for living.  You get it, right?

  1. Stay on top of things at school.  I feel like this comes and goes and this year has more or less been fairly good so far.  I hate feeling behind and overwhelmed with school stuff, but I know that's just the way it is sometimes.  I've been fairly well organized this year and have been better at planning ahead than I've been in the past.  There's always room for improvement, but I at least want to maintain.
  2. Workout more.  Okay, I know, this sounds like a resolution.  Pretty much until school started I worked out 3 - 5 times a week.  Working out is my way to relax and have some "me" time.  I've not been as good about it this school year, especially since I've taken on after school tutoring 4 days a week and that adds an extra hour to my workday.  I haven't been too worried about my lack of exercise since I've actually lost some weight since August, but I do want to get back into good habits at the gym.  It's my way to de-stress and unwind after a busy day at school and I should definitely do that more often!
  3. Buy only what I really want / need.  One of my projects over the break has been cleaning out my bedroom and closet.  I didn't get to the basement yet, but I've already weeded through quite a bit.  I'm trying to save money to buy a house in a year or so, travel to see friends, and pay extra on my car and student loans, so I am really trying to cut back on my extra spending.  If you've followed me for a while, you may have noticed that I like shopping.  A LOT.  I decided today to make a list of the items I really want (some are on the sort of pricey side) and make these my goal items that I am going to save and allow myself to purchase.  I'm thinking I'll write about these things in a later post.
  4. Make the things I find on Pinterest.  I've pinned so many recipes, craft ideas, classroom ideas, and other great things and I've probably put into action less than 10 of these awesome ideas.  I'm not looking to tackle anything huge, but just to try some of the cool things I've found.  Maybe I'll start off by at least printing some of the printables I've found...  That's an easy start.
  5. Finish organizing my classroom.  I've made several attempts to get organized and I'm really organized in some areas, but not in others.  I'd really like to get some of this done this semester so that I can start of next school year ready to roll.  I have so many resources and I want to have them all in order so that I can use them to the benefit of my students.  My files are in need of some help, as well as my giant "to file" basket that seems to keep growing.
I hope everyone had a safe and happy new year!  I've really enjoyed blogging and I am thankful for all of the people who have started following me.  I'm excited for things to come and sharing with you all during 2012!  Stay tuned!