Image Map

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Have you heard the news? 

Click here to visit my TpT store!

The TpT site wide sale is Monday and Tuesday, and my entire store is on sale! Use the code BestYear to get 28% off. 

Oh, and don't forget to enter my giveaway to win $10 to TpT - just in time for the sale! 

Friday, July 29, 2016

Five Reasons Why I'm Excited for the New School Year

This is my last Five for Friday post during the summer. Teachers go back on Monday, and we will be completely starting from scratch since we got new carpet over the summer. Yikes!

That being said, here are five reasons why I'm excited for this school year:

As much as it freaks me out to put my room back together in a week, I am excited to start from scratch! I moved into a room that was completely filled with lots of teacher materials, and everything up on the walls so this is the first time that I'll get to start fresh. 

I've decided to do an ocean theme in my room this year, and since I cannot get into my room here are some things that I'd like to do as I set up my room:

Click the image to view the original source.

Click the image to view the original source. 

Next week I will be in panic mode while I set everything set up, but I am so excited to see how it looks when it's all put together!

This summer I read Explore Like a Pirate, which is about gamifying your classroom. Every Tuesday Rachael at Sweet Sweet Primary hosted a linky where we would post our thoughts about each chapter. This book was so inspiring, and I've come up with a bunch of great ideas for how I can gamify my room. I can't wait to start the new "game" with my students, and share how it goes with all of you!

Check out the old posts below, and make sure you stop by on Tuesday for the last chapter!

I had so much fun with my first giveaway, that I had to have another! Enter ASAP to win a $10 TpT gift card. I will email the winner on August 2nd. 

I'm looking forward to having a sense of purpose again. I love having the opportunity to take a break from work throughout the year, but starting sometime in July I get really bored with summer vacation. I mean, it’s nice to travel and relax, but sitting around with nothing to do too many days in a row really takes its toll on me. I like the feeling of having something to do, and something to keep my brain engaged. It was going all summer anyway, but summer doesn’t bring the same challenges as managing 30 beasts children all at once!

Last but not least, the students! I can't wait to meet my new group of Corriganites, and to see the old ones, too. Especially since I dyed my hair red over the summer, and I can't wait to see their reactions to my new look. 

Click the image to go back to the linky. 

Flash Giveaway!

I am so excited for this 2nd giveaway!

I was not planning on having another one so soon, but can you really ever have too many giveaways? 

This one is short lived - enter ASAP! I will email the winner on August 2nd.

Good luck!

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

The Things I Learned From Having a Difficult Class: The Big Picture

This is the last post in my Things I Learned from Having a Difficult Class Series. It has been a lot of fun sharing things I learned and turning my negative feelings about my past year into positive ones.

Today I'm focusing on the big picture. 

The big picture is... the year will pass. No matter how slowly it seems like its trudging along during the year, it will be over before you know it.

The big picture is... the ones who ask for our love in the least loveable ways need it the most. Remember this when that child is doing something less than loveable!

The big picture is... your students will learn something during the year. Even if it isn't your desired outcome, they will still learn during the year.

The big picture is... your students will be okay. And so will you.

And, if you need some inspiration for the new school year:

Thank you for stopping by to read my tips about dealing with the difficult class each week! I hope that you have an amazingly wonderful class this year, but if you don't that you can use my experience to make yours a better one. Good luck!

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Tools and Treasures: Stockpiling Items and Earning Badges

Thanks for stopping by for Chapter 8 in the Explore Like a Pirate Linky! This week is all about different kinds of items and badges you could use in your gamified classroom. 

Oh my goodness. This chapter was full of so much information! I'll try to keep this post short and sweet. First, Matera describes the two different kinds of badges he uses in his classroom.

Seems easy enough, right? Well, of course there are an infinite number of mini badges that students can earn - you just have to figure out what will be motivating to your students and what is relevant in your classroom!

As interesting as badges are, I have to say that I was much more intrigued by items. 

The items that I think are the most applicable to my 2nd grade class would be battle point items, leveled items, rule benders, temporary modifiers, and player interaction items. I already did some things similar to these items so I think they will be the easiest for me to fully integrate into my class. 

Battle Point Items

Matera uses "battle points", or BP, which are items that students keep in their binder to use in different ways. Some examples he listed were:
  • Using battle points as a tiebreaker (team with the most BP wins the game)
  • Adding up the BP and using it as the team's starting score
  • Using BP for a second chance for a question
  • Using BP as an item block - can't target groups with their items for a given number of rounds
  • Safety net - can't lose items for a given number of grounds
  • Power run - every question after the first question a group gets right is worth double points
  • Trampling - if a group gets a question right they get a private question for themselves
  • Lucky Leprechaun - the winning group finds a pot of gold to earn items

 These are just some options you could use when playing games with battle points. I think for 2nd grade I will call them Game Points (GP) instead of battle points. 

Leveled Items

Matera suggests leveling some of your items as levels 1-3. Level 1 items are easier to get and are therefore worth less, and the rarity and battle points increase as the number does. He describes an Spear, which has various levels. Level 1 Spear is worth 20 BP, Level 2 Spear is worth 35 BP and skips the other teams turn once, Level 3 Spear is worth 80 BP and skips the other teams turn 3 times per game. So much you can do with this! 

Rule Benders Items

You can have a lot of fun with rule bender items! These items give the students the ability to break or bend the rules in their favor. These items could give students the ability to turn something in late, or have the option to redo an assignment. In my class, I think rule benders in the games we play in class will be the best way to use these items, but we'll see how it all plays out this year!

Temporary Modifier Items

These items are based on the "power up" mechanic that Matera described in chapter 7. If you missed it, click here to read about the different game mechanics! 

Some of these items could be in the form of a "spell", meaning you can cast a spell (or a curse) on the other team for a set amount of time that is determined by the item. Some examples were the Perfect Plums, which would earn bonus XP if the team doesn't break the spell by talking out of turn. This sounds like something you would want to cast on your own team, while the Staff of Swief is not. It is a spell that curses one player from another team and assigns them a perfect plum, or they lose all of the teams points! This is annonymous, so it is only revealed that someone has been cursed by the Staff of Sweif, but not who cast the curse. 

Or, you could use these items to earn bonus points for the next 3 questions in a game. 

Player Interaction Items

These items work well with incorporating the social interaction element into the game and would give the power to deflect items and control who they target, prevent the other team from answering a question, or steal items. Sounds fun, right? 

Once you start wrapping your head around the different types of items, use the guiding questions below for determining the best way to use them in your classroom!

In my underwater themed classroom, I've come up with several titles of badges and items. I am focusing more on items at the moment, and I'm sure the badges will come to me soon enough!

Some examples of badges I'm going to use are Captain, Pirate, School of Fish, and Smart as Paint. I haven't decided what they'll be for yet, but I think I'm set on the names!

Some items that I'm going to use in my underwater themed room are going to be the Black Pearl, Conch, and Trident. Again, not sure what they'll do yet.. but I've still got some time to figure it all out!

Thanks for sticking with me to the end of this loooong post! 

Click the image to go back to the linky. A big thank you to Rachael at Sweet Sweet Primary for setting this all up! Make sure you check back next week for Chapter 9 - X Marks the Spot: Finding the Joy in Playful Assessment. Only two more weeks to go!

Monday, July 25, 2016

Mixed up Sentences

It's finally completed! This product has been in the works for a long time. Mixed Up Sentences for the Year (formerly called pocket chart sentences) now includes all 12 months! 
Right now it's discounted to $5 for the first 5 buyers, AND it's on sale for 20% off until July 27th. Grab it while you can!

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Napa Valley and San Francisco

I am so lucky that I was able to spend 10 days in California, with 7 days in Napa Valley and 3 days in San Francisco. If you've never been to either city, I highly recommend planning a trip! 

Napa is well-known for its wine, but it's also really popular for its food! I wrote about some great food I had here.


Friday wasn't super exciting since it was the travel day. We did have a great dinner at Napkins Bar and Grill, though! 

We stayed at the RiverPointe, and how cute are these little cottages?

 I didn't take it apart all week, it was just too cute!


Saturday brought around the local farmers market, where we stocked up on fresh fruits and veggies for the week. I always like to buy local art when I travel, and when I saw these beauties I knew I had to get them.

After the Farmers Market we wandered around Oxbow Market, and had another great dinner at Kitchen Door. 


Sunday we explored Downtown Napa and ventured to their outlet mall. It was a good thing they had an outlet mall close by, since my Coach sunglasses I got 10 years ago broke. Oh, well. At least I was able to replace them within the hour!

After the outlet mall we headed to a restaurant called Tarla. The restaurants in Napa Valley can do no wrong!


Monday brought about our first wine tasting tour. Our tour guide, Hector, was awesome. We went to 3 wineries, two of which are small while the third was the famous Castello di Amorosa. You can't have a trip to Napa Valley without a trip to Castello di Amorosa!

Before we stopped at any wineries, we took a few pictures with this guy. No trip to Napa is complete without visiting the grape crusher!

We started at a small and inconspicuous winery in a warehouse called Spelletich. I ended up buying a bottle of wine here. 

Our second winery was right around the corner, and they had a little food pairing to go with the wines. Well, it wasn't exactly food.. It was various flavored oils to get the "essence" of food that best pairs with the wine. It wasn't what I expected, but it made the experience even better. This may have been my favorite of the day since they donate 7% to charities. It may not sound like a lot, but it's more than a lot of other places! 

I ended up buying a bottle of wine here, too. 

The third place we went was Castello di Amorosa, which is this gigantic Italian style castle. It was absolutely beautiful, but man was it busy here!

The wine was good, but I did not buy any bottles here. 

I have to say that this was a great first day of wine tasting!


On Tuesday we went on a biking wine tour to three wineries, and biked 18 miles. EIGHTEEN MILES PEOPLE! I hope that burned off some of the calories from all the delicious food I ate this week. 

I didn't take many pictures, but I did stop for a second to snap a quick picture of this grape cluster. Look how big it is! These are Zinfandel, in case you're wondering. 

At the second winery, we did a wine and chocolate tasting. Oh my goodness, if you have never done one of these you are missing out!

This was a tiring day, but well worth it.


Wednesday wasn't that exciting. We planned to go on a walking foodie tour, but it was cancelled because enough people didn't sign up. Boooo! 


Thursday we went on another wine tour to 4 wineries in Sonoma. We ended at one of my favorite wineries, which I visited a few years ago. 


On Friday it was time to say adios to Napa Valley, and helloooo to San Francisco! 


On Saturday we took the ferry over to Sausalito. How gorgeous is this view?


Sunday marked the end of the trip. How is it that June dragged by so slowly, and then this trip was over in the blink of an eye? 

Well, while that fun is now over, you still have a chance to have some and enter the giveaway! 

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

The Things I Learned From Having a Difficult Class: Administration

This is the eighth post in my Things I Learned from Having a Difficult Class Series. Today I'm focusing on communicating with the administration. Next week will be the last post in this series, which will focus on the bigger picture. What kinds of information does the administration need to know about the difficult class?

I was very fortunate to have a supportive administration this past year with my difficult class. I don't know what I would have done if I didn't have people supporting me and my students in a positive and helpful manner. I'm writing this post keeping the fact that my administration had my back, and if they didn't then I may have responded differently. 

Unlike the parents, the administration does not need to hear all the positives. They will want to hear some strengths the child has, but ultimately they need to know the problems that you're seeing in class. Be professional, but don't sugar coat it!

Here are some things to consider when discussing the child/the difficult class with the administration:

  • Interventions you've already done - Make sure you include the date initiated, what the intervention consisted of, the duration, and the results (positive and negative). This could be academic or behavioral, and you will probably want to include both.

  • Communication with the parent - Is the parent aware of the issue? If they're aware are they supportive? Do they see the same things at home? Or, do they even answer the phone calls, emails, notes home, etc? How often do you communicate with the parent? These are all things they'll want to know, so make sure you've at least tried to contact the parent to discuss the issues.

  • The affect it has on the learning environment - When behaviors get severe, it can seriously affect the learning environment. How much time are you spending on only one child? What things have surfaced as a result of this child? Are you able to teach, and are the other children able to learn?

This last year, there was a period of several months where I had to call the office multiple times a day because of one student. The student would have to be removed, and sometimes they would refuse to leave so I would have to take the rest of the class out of the room so they could deal with the student. After that happened several times, I put materials by the door that I could use for an easy math game that we could play anywhere. I had pages and pages of documentation that I had to do each day for one child, and it definitely took its tole on my moral and the learning environment. I always tried to put a positive spin on it when discussing the situation with the administration, but looking back I think it sounded like I was sugar coating it. The next time I'm in this situation, I will be much more direct and keep the issues the main focus - instead of focusing mainly on the positive. 

  • Student achievement - This buzz word will get things done quickly. Hopefully, anyway. If a child banging their head on their desk, throwing classroom furniture, kicking bookshelves, and screaming at anyone and everyone is happening in your room on a daily basis - you better believe these behaviors are affecting their achievement as well as the other kiddos in class. I mean, could you concentrate on your learning and the lesson if that was happening? 

  • Ask for help - This will show that you want to help the child, and administrators may be more willing to listen when they hear that you've tried their suggestions and things have not improved. If they have improved, then even better! Keep doing what you're doing.

What suggestions do you have when dealing with administration? I'm getting a new principal next year so I'd love to hear suggestions! Let me know in the comments. 

Check back next week for my last post in my series - The Things I Learned From Having a Difficult Class!

P.S. - There's still time to enter the giveaway! The winner will be announced on July 24th.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Pulleys, Ropes, and Rigging: Game Mechanics to Outfit any Journey

Thanks for tuning in for the next chapter in Explore Like a Pirate book study! Oh my goodness this chapter has so much good information so I will try to keep this post short and to the point. 

Matera listed 22 different "game mechanics" that you can use in your game. You don't need to include all of these, or everything at the same time - these are just types of mechanics you can use in your game! The mechanics I listed below are the ones that I'm planning to implement in my classroom sometime this year. 

I do a "different" classroom management system each quarter. Really it's the same thing, but the form changes to keep it interesting for the students. XP and Levels seem like an easy place to start, but I feel would be more beneficial towards the end of 2nd grade. I won't introduce these concepts until either 3rd or 4th quarter. I've got some ideas floating around for onboarding, which I'll post about after school starts. 

Similar to XP and Levels, I'm not planning to use the leaderboard or guilds until closer to the end of the school year. I think that would be more appropriate for 2nd graders at that part of the year. As far as achievement goes - I'm planning to use that from the start and throughout the year!

I love the idea of quests, but am not sure how I want that to play into my classroom yet. I think I'd like to try one a semester, or maybe once a quarter, to see how it plays out. I don't want to overwhelm myself with too much! I already use mini games in my classroom, and to read about a few of them click here and here

Have you heard of I hadn't before this chapter, and I think that would be such a fun thing to do with your students! I have no idea how I'm going to use that yet, but I want to try it out. Maybe this could even tie into a special challenge.. I just love how these mechanics can play off each other! 

Here are things to think about/guiding questions as you put these game mechanics to work. 

Setting the Course:

  1. Think back to your story. How can you connect the game mechanic back to your story?
  2. What rules will help the game take shape? Think items and trading.
  3. Think about management. How will you manage all of these elements? When and where do you update XP? Is it tracked physically or digitally? When do special events happen, and are they surprises or something the kids look forward to?


  1. Think about your story - What language can you use to create talk about the mechanic? How will you use the mechanic to drive the story?
  2. Think about your rules for the mechanic. What's the purpose or the mechanic in the game? How important is it? How will it affect the students -more challenging, help struggling students catch up, slow down the top students, or just to add excitement? How can you bend your own rules?
  3. Think about management. How can you build excitement? Who's in control of the mechanic - student, teacher, or game? What classroom activities do you already have in place that could use the mechanic? Which mechanics can play off each other?

This chapter covered A LOT. Only choose one thing at a time to focus on. I already had similar things in place in my classroom, so the thing I'm going to focus on the most this year is... Easter Eggs! I think that will bring a lot of excitement to see where I hide these things. I'm thinking on my classroom website, in newsletters, and in books that I want students to read! Any ideas for where else I could put Easter Eggs? Let me know in the comments!

Click the image to go back to the linky. Check back next Tuesday for Chapter 8 - Tools and Treasures: Stockpiling Items, and Earning Badges. A big shout out to Rachael at Sweet Sweet Primary for hosting the linky!

P.S. - You can still enter the giveaway! Help me celebrate my 1 year blogging anniversary by entering below. The winner will be announced on July 24th!

Friday, July 15, 2016

Five Amazing Dinners in Napa Valley

Today I'm linking up with Kacey at Doodlebugs Teaching for Five for Friday. This past week I've been in Napa Valley, and I'm sharing five amazing dinners I've had here.

Our first night in Napa we went to a restaurant called Napkins Bar and Grill. Oh my goodness, this place was so good! We were able to sit outside on their patio to hear the free concert across the street in the park, which was an added bonus to the beautiful 75 or so degree weather. 

We started out with the lamb sliders. I normally don't do lamb, or sliders, but I decided to try new things while in Napa. I'm sure glad I did because they were delicious!

I tried one of their daily specials, which was Spinach and Ricotta Ravioli. It was probably the best ravioli I've ever had. 

My mom ordered the scallops, which were absolutely amazing. I was lucky, because I was able to try one and it was cooked to perfection.

All in all, this trip started out pretty good.. to say the least. 

On our second day in Napa we went to a restaurant called Kitchen Door. It's in this place called Oxbow Public Market, and it basically has a bunch of small restaurants and stores together in an open area. It was completely packed, so we chose this restaurant because it sounded good, and was also out of the hustle and bustle inside the main market. 

We started out with the Shrimp Tostada Salad, which did not look like a salad at all. That's okay, because it was delicious. 

I ordered the Korean Style Short Ribs, which I've never had before. I'm glad I tried it, because it was amazing! It came with bacon fried rice, and honestly, can you go wrong with bacon?

For dessert we split the lemon cheesecake. I usually don't go for lemon flavored desserts, but I may need to start now. What have I been missing out on?

We decided to try a new type of cuisine. With all the foodies in Napa, this is definitely the place to try something new! So we tried "Greek Turkish Fusion" and ended up at Tarla.

We ordered the Baba Ghanoush as an appetizer, which was good. I forgot to take a picture of it. My bad. 

I ordered the Turkish Beef Meatballs. I normally wouldn't order something like this, but in the spirit of trying new foods I ordered something I typically don't eat. This was really good! It even had baked kale, which I figured I would hate, but it tasted much better than I expected it to. 

My mom ordered Lamb Tenderloin, which she gave a good review. For dessert we split Coppa Crema Pistachio, which was gelato, and I forgot to take picture of this too. I was really slacking with the photos at this meal! I promised myself that I would be better about taking pictures of the delicious food at the next meal.

After a day of biking around to different wineries, we were craving Italian food! On our way to the bike tour shop, we passed Il Posto, so we figured we'd stop there on the way back to the hotel. 

We started with the sauteed calamari, which was different from calamari that I'm used to having - fried with sauce on the side. This one was sauteed in marinara sauce, and it even had Italian sausage mixed in, too. Something different, but definitely something good!

I have never had gnocchi. Well, gnocchi that I haven't made, and I don't make it the traditional way. It came with pork and veggies, and was amazing. I need to learn how to make it this way!

My mom ordered their special for the night, which was a vegetarian lasagna. She was between this and the Eggplant Parmesan, and this was so good so I think she was happy with her choice!

After biking 18 miles with Napa Valley Bike Tours, this was exactly what we needed. 

Have you ever heard of Fogo de Chao? Well Galpao Gaucho  is a similar restaurant. They've got a great salad bar, as well as people that walk around offering various pieces of cooked meats. 

You have to have some greens before eating a ton of steaks and other meats, right?

I couldn't tell you which was which, only that they were all amazing. That's all that really matters, right?

And of course we had to go for another dessert. I've got a lot of running ahead of me to burn off all these calories!

And now after a week of eating and drinking good wine, I will probably not need to eat again until I go back to school. 

Click the image to go back to the linky.

P.S. Help me celebrate 1 year of blogging and TpTing by entering my giveaway!