Monday, July 25, 2016

Great Read Alouds To Start The Year!

For those of us here in paradise, the start of the new school year is coming quickly.  I have been making my list of all the things I need to get done before the students arrive and all the things I want to make sure happen in the first couple of weeks of school.  I’m finding myself getting a little overwhelmed, so I’m going to ignore that stuff for a little longer!  Instead, I’m focusing on my favorite part of every new school year…picking the books I want to read aloud during the first week.  It’s through our class read alouds that I teach character education and build our classroom community, so it’s something I take seriously and something I LOVE! 

Last year, I found some great books to share with students that were the perfect springboard to conversations about being a good friend and how to make friends.  This year, I hit the bookstore looking for a couple of new titles to add to our repertoire.  I found some that I think will be perfect additions!  These new books address how to handle people who are bossy or make you mad.  I am envisioning the anchor charts we can create and add to during our class meetings, as we solve issues that arise throughout the year. 

My thoughts are coming together around the theme of friendship.  I’ll start with a favorite from last year, Stick and Stone by Beth Ferry and Tom Lichtenheld.   If you haven’t read it, it’s a must have!  Stick and Stone are lonely until Stick saves Stone when someone is picking on him and the two become fast friends.  When trouble strikes again, Stone is persistent in helping his friend.  After reading this one, we’ll generate a chart of “What Makes a Good Friend?” using what we have learned.

Another book I just discovered last year is Peanut Butter and Cupcake by Terry Border.  Peanut Butter is new to town and is trying to make friends.  He has a hard time, until he finally meets Jelly!  This is a good opportunity to build an awareness of how it feels to be the new kid.  We’re going to use this book to role play how to make friends when you are the new person and how to reach out when someone new arrives in class.  This book has some great plays on words, which can be fun to explore in future word work and writing lessons. 

I was excited to find two brand new books this year that are hot off the press!  Bossy Flossy by Paulette Bogan is just like it sounds.  Flossy bosses everyone around until one day she meets a boy who is as bossy as she is, and she discovers she doesn’t like being told what to do.  At the end of the book, there are a few examples of appropriate language students can use in different situations, instead of telling others what to do.  Again, this would be another great chart we could make and build on throughout the year. 

The other book I recently discovered is Horrible Bear by Ame Dyckman.  When the girl’s kite is accidentally broken by Bear, she gets mad and decides he is horrible.  It’s not until she accidentally breaks something of her own that she realizes what Bear did was not intentional, and she shouldn’t be upset with him.  She discovers this a little too late though, because Bear has become angry with her for blaming him.  The book has a cute ending as Bear and the girl are able to “patch things up!” 

This year, I’m thinking of using Bossy Flossy and Horrible Bear as a start to our many conversations about “What you can do if someone.... is bossy, makes you mad, hurts your feelings, calls you a name, takes something from you…”  And whatever other excitement we encounter during our year together! 

I’m on the lookout for other books we can use this year to lend to our conversations about being good friends.  If you have recommendations, please leave a comment below!  Now, I guess I have to get back to my “to do” list!  On second thought, it’s a good day for the beach and all this talk about books makes me want to sit on the sand with my new mystery novel.  My lists will still be there tomorrow!

Monday, July 18, 2016

Summer Camp at Home

Summer Camp at Home: A Solution to the Teacher-Mom Struggle

Tell me I’m not the only one who feels pressured to practice what I preach? At the end of each school year, we send home packets of ideas with our students so that they don’t succumb to the horrifying "SUMMER SLIDE.” 

It’s like the "SUMMER SLIDE” is a monster that is lurking around the corner waiting to pounce the very second you don’t do something educational with your child.  

Now, don’t get me wrong.  My boys and I are enjoying many moments this summer with our feet up, learning through play and imagination, as well as taking many family outings.  And to be honest, I don’t want to coordinate each and every minute of their day.  After all, I spend all school year doing that in my classroom.  I need a break. And my boys need to be able to amuse themselves.  It’s good for all involved.

However, as a teacher AND a mom I know how important it is for children to practice the skills they learned, so they are better prepared to start a new school year.  

Enter the guilt.  Enter the conversation in my head that goes a little something like this:  

“Okay Melanie, you should really stop watching Netflix until 1 a.m every night and take a little time to plan some activities for the boys.  They really need to practice math fact fluency.  We aren’t reading enough either.  Oh, and I should also plan something FUN to practice their writing skills.”  

Can any of you teacher-moms out there relate?  

The truth is...I’m MOM.  I’m not their classroom teacher.  They don’t always respond to me and my “great ideas” the way I anticipate.  Especially my oldest one.  He really challenges me to think outside of the box.  To find ways to bring lessons to life.  He actually makes me a better teacher (and sometimes makes me want to pull my hair out...not gonna lie).   

So this summer, I had one of those "great ideas."  I decided to do SUMMER CAMP AT HOME.  I had my boys agree on four themes that interested them, and then we would spend one week learning about each topic.  It was the perfect way to integrate (ahem...SNEAK IN) those math facts, extra reading practice, and writing skills.  They had buy-in because they chose the themes. And I could squelch the guilt and quiet that internal dialogue I mentioned earlier.   

I began by making this calendar and assigning a theme for each week.  Then I printed it out and filled in each box with the activities that we would be doing that day.  Just like a lesson plan book.  

I have to say that Space Week was my favorite, so here are a few of the Pinterest-inspired activities that we did.

We began with the sun, because after all, it is the center of the universe.  The boys and I discussed how the sun is not a solid, but that it is actually a ball of swirling gases.  We  used oil and colored water to create the sun in a bottle.  (Don’t forget to hot glue the cap!)

We discussed the order of the planets and used words such as orbit and rotation.  We discussed the different sizes of the planets and threw in a little measurement lesson.  Their favorite part was when I timed them to see how fast they could put the planets on their correct orbit.  

The next day, we went outside for a quick gravity lesson.  The boys brought along their “moon rocks” and climbed to the top of their swing set.  In an attempt to simulate the surface of the moon, I placed a pan of flour covered in cocoa powder below them on the ground.  The boys tried to predict if the bigger rocks would fall faster or slower than the smaller rocks.  They had so much fun examining the “moon craters” we made in the pan below.  

It seemed appropriate that after learning about gravity, we should try to defy gravity just as a space shuttle does.  We made our own little space shuttles and taped them to a large straw.  We inserted a skinnier straw inside, pointed it to the sky, blew as hard as we could, and off they flew!

I didn’t forget about math!  I simply cut out little paper squares to make rocket ships (nothing fancy).  For my four year old, I quickly wrote numbers or letters on each square.  He practiced number recognition and ordering as well as letter recognition.  For my 7 year old, he assembled his rocket ship by practicing skip counting by 2s, 5s, and 10s as well as place value.

We even squeezed in a little reading with some space books we had around the house.  It was fun to see the boys rediscover these books and read them with a whole new purpose.  The best part was when we took a trip to our local library.  They searched high and low for all the space books they could find.  And to my surprise, the boys were actually excited to write about all of their space discoveries in their very own journals!  

As you can see, the activities that we did weren’t fancy.  They weren’t even time consuming and required very little prep work.  It was just enough to keep their attention and to squeeze in a little learning as well.

For the grand finale, we went on a field trip to the Kennedy Space Center.  We just happened to be there on a day when they had a real rocket launch.  I know not everybody lives here in Florida, so one idea is to schedule a day trip to visit your local planetarium. 

In the end, I just may have gotten more out of SUMMER CAMP AT HOME than my boys did.  
  • It reminded me that not all learning has to be paper and pencil, or even on the computer.  
  • It gave me the opportunity to try out some new lessons and activities to use with my students.
  • Most importantly:  It inspired me to want to create more learning opportunities outside of the classroom this coming school year. 
If you would like some more ideas on how to create your own SUMMER CAMP AT HOME, I’ve already gathered some great ideas on this Pinterest board:  

Click here to get some more ideas!
And now...I'm going to grab a cup of tea and get back to my Netflix.  It is summertime after all!  

Snips, Snails, & Teacher Tales

Monday, July 11, 2016


Update From Orlando:
Be sure to join us tonight at the Florida Welcome Social in the Dolp The swag bags are packed and we are ready to have some fun. Be sure to download a QR code reader so you can win our Planning in Paradise Tree (valued over $150!) 
*Chilis *iTunes *Micheals *Target *Sephora *Starbucks *Bath and Body *Dunkin Donuts *Barnes and Noble

We will also be giving away a $50 Staples Gift Card at Alexis' (Math Mojo) lunch session on Finding your Niche on TpT. Be sure to stop by and mention our blog to enter. 

Follow all our fun on instagram with #planninginparadise #2016tptflsocial  #tptorlando16
instagram @planninginparadise 

Are you going to the TpT Conference this year? 

The gals here at Planning in Paradise are going and we are SUPER excited about it! There are a 5 main reasons that we love attending the TpT Conference. (And we have attended Every. Single. Year.)
1. This year it is in ORLANDO!!! Whoop! Whoop!! That means we don't have to travel all the way across the country like we have the past 2 years.
2. We get to see all of our teacher friends from around the world that we usually only get to talk to through email, blogging, and messaging.
3. The TpT Conference sessions inspire us. Some of them are very hands on and we are able to take what we learned and apply it immediately.
4. We also love having the opportunity to talk with TpT headquarters about specific changes, news, and upgrades being made to the company.
5. This is perhaps one of the most important reasons we love going...........We have the chance to network and meet TONS of new educators on the same path that we are.

This year I am co-hosting the Florida Welcome Social along with several of my Florida Blogging Buddies. This event is totally FREE. It is Tuesday, July 12th in the Dolphin Conference Room at 6:30pm.

If you plan on attending the TpT Conference, this event will be sure to relax any of your pre-conference jitters! Or maybe you are a teacher who will be at the Sawn and Dolphin for a whole other Conference.  Either way, we welcome you to this event!  There are Swag Bags full of AWESOME goodies for the first 500 people to arrive. Here are a few pictures of a few of the items that will be inside the bags:
Assorted full size Clipboards

Life Cycle of A Moth kits by Safari LTD
Book Bags by Seat Sack


Sticky Notes

Sticky Note Holders

Bookmarks and Paperclips

Nail Files


$$ Lottery Tickets $$

 This FABULOUS clipart set from Educlips:

Other items inside the Swag Bags include folders, hand soaps, pens, markers, and more!

On top of those 500 Swag bags that we are giving away, we also have a TON of awesome Raffle prizes. In order to win a raffle prize you will need a QR code reader on your phone. There are lots of free QR readers in the Ap store.
Some of the Raffle Prizes include: a laminator, Origami Necklaces, Planners, Rodan and Fields skin care items, TpT make overs, TPT gift certificates, Clip Art gift certificates, A Florida palm tree basket with a beach towel AND over $100 to various shopping stores (Micheals, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Starbucks, Bath and Body Works, etc.), T-Shirts, 12 Week Fit Teacher Challenge packages, Jewelry, Professional head shots by Full of Smiles Photography, Journals, Teacher Cups, and much much more!!!

We would love for you to join us at this event! Just head over to our Florida Social FB page and click "join". Then print out your name tags using the link in the "files" section of the FB page.

That's it! Easy Peasy!! All of us here at Planning in Paradise look forward to meeting you!!

Monday, July 4, 2016

Creating the Perfect Reading Spot!

As a Kindergarten and First Grade teacher I have the very important job of teaching my students how to read. If you are a teacher of young children, you know that there are a few ways we teach students to "read." One is to "read" the pictures to tell the story. Another way is to "read" the pictures to tell the story you know. The other is to read the author's words to tell the story. Not only do we teach these young 5, 6 and 7 year olds to read - but we also want them to LOVE to read! I make it my mission each and every year to come up with that "perfect reading spot" in the booknook area of my classroom where the children WANT to be with their book! Here are a few of mine that I have used in my classroom. Maybe they will give you a little inspiration as you return to the classroom and begin setting it up!

Just Like Home!

If you would like a few more ideas click on this link here!  As you can see, there are so many fun ways to create that perfect reading spot! Thanks for visiting today and before you go, I would LOVE to give away my Reading Workshop Posters from my store. I created them to help teach students and hold them accountable for book talks after reading. They really work! 
Would you like a set? All you need to do is be one of the first 5 comments AND tell me who your favorite children's book is! Don't forget to leave me your email address too - so I know where to send the file.