#FavAppFriday: FreshGrade!

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School’s Out for Summer (Pt. 1)

The end of the year...this time of year is like tax season for teachers. It has the lure of being relaxing and easy, but yet it is probably the busiest month of the entire year.

Some feel...



while most feel 


Now trust me—I have had my years when I was good and ready to close up and start again new in a few months.  Pack the boxes, move the furniture, turn in my key and begin the process of relaxation and rejuvenation. Now, not that this is a bad way to feel—and believe me—I fully look forward to having time to reconnect with the children, travel and just plain old do nothing!

But this year was not one of those years.

I really connected with the class this year. I’m not sure why. I don’t know if it is because I was new to the school and they were my only real “friends” in the beginning. Maybe it was  due to the fact that I had a wonderful, supportive group of homeroom parents.  Or maybe it was because I spent a lot of time reflecting and refining my own teaching practices and grew closer to the kids in the process. Whatever the reason, I was not ready for summer to come and was truly enjoying each day I had left with the students.  So when I finally came to the realization that I had to let them go, I started thinking of what I could give them on their last day. You know—that obligatory token present that we as teachers often feel like we have to give them.  Except this year I didn’t feel obligated, but rather I really wanted to give them something they would remember our year by.  I decided very quickly that I didn’t want to spend countless hours shopping around and putting together some token, play on words present—this year I wanted something different. Something that would help them remember their friends, how they grew in 4th grade, and what kind of person they want to be.   **Disclaimer—there is nothing wrong with giving out bubbles and letting your student know that they “blew” you away, or ensuring your students stay “kool” over the summer with a fruity drink!**

So this year I settled on three, fairly inexpensive ideas.  I was nervous that the students would be disappointed at the absence of the typical play-on-words present, but I was sweetly surprised at their enthusiasm for all the projects. The first project we did together.  I will share it in this post—the other two projects I will share in a following post.

I began by asking parents to buy one 8x10 picture frame to send in with their child. (I gave them around two weeks to bring it in. Along with a few reminders along the way.)  I teach ELA only, so I have a total of 42 kids on my roster that I share with a fellow fourth grade teacher.  I ended up purchasing 14 frames the night before we crafted from the local dollar store to have for the students who had not yet brought one in.  

I started by giving each student a table with the names of everyone in the class listed in it. In each box, they were to write one nice remark about each of their classmates—this could be a fun memory, a thanks, or a nice reminder.  I provided some sentence starters that I created that morning to help them write specifically and to help keep them from being general and repetitive. I displayed them on the board using the overhead camera. You could choose to print out for each student and make a two-sided handout comprised of the name table and sentence starters.

 Then they wrote one encouraging sentence about each classmate in the table next to their name.


After turning their tables in for some teacher proofreading, they were let loose to write down each sentence on a pre-cut strip of colored paper. (They wrote the sentence in permanent marker and then the name of the student it was about in pencil on the back) You can organize this process in any way you want, but I pre-cut all the strips to ensure they were the correct width to fit 21 in the 8 by 10 in area. (I believe these strips were about 7 ½ inches long by ½ inches wide.) I had the strips already cut and each table group had a cup with a different color. This way it ensured that all kids would have all the colors in their frames at the end. 

Once all the students were finished writing their sentences on the strips, they passed them out just like Valentine’s’ day cards. They walked around the room and by the end, each student had a colorful pile of comments written all about them. Then they were given a sheet of white computer paper pre-cut to size 8x10 and given the freedom to arrange the strips in whatever order they chose. Once glued, the frames were put back together—ready to take home.  All I heard that final day was how great the students thought this project was and how excited they were to take these home to display. I’d say mission accomplished!



Total Cost:
*frames ($14.00~this is variable depending on how many 
students you have and how many bring in their own frames)
 *construction paper, glue, printer paper (free—school supply)

Time Frame: 2-3 Days
(I did this project in two, 2 hour periods, but you could easily spread 
it out to three days.  We were a little rushed.)

Valentine's Day Validations

So we created this blog last summer with the idea of sharing out ideas with fellow educators. We designed, decorated and developed  our site and worked to get it all done. Then you know what happened? It. Sat. Empty.  I was intimidated. I read dozens of blogs on a weekly basis.  I searched ideas all over the web.  But when it came to writing down and sharing my own ideas and inspirations—I was drawing a blank.

So... seven months later, leave it to Valentines’ Day to inspire my first post. I was frantically racing to put together the all so important valentines for my two sons-I went from the print and copy store, bounced on over to the Amazon online cart, then raced to the Target dollar bins just to find myself sitting on Thursday night working away at roughly 30 valentines.


The 14th came and went and the boys were so excited to hand out their creations. (let’s be honest-mine!) We received SO many complements on them and my response every time was “Thanks—but I got the idea from someone else!” (specifically, blogs like Just Another Day in Paradise and Design, Wash, Rinse, Repeat).  I felt guilty every time I said it, like all the work I had done wasn’t justified.  But that’s when I made the connection between the silly valentines and my own classroom.

As teachers, we do a disservice when we feel like we can’t take ideas or lesson from each other. 


We are the most valuable resources! Duh?!  And so it was fitting that my first post would be all about a great lesson I recently taught—that was inspired by another teacher!

I recently set out to tackle the ominous Common Core standard “treatment of themes”.  I found very little available as far as resources go, so I decided to start where I usually do—with a picture book! I started searching the web and came across a lesson by a fellow teacher using two classic books by beloved author Patricia Polacco.  After reading her lesson and realizing how similar the two stories were in regards to various story elements, I was then able to build off of it to create one of my favorite lessons of the year!  Without her great book selection I would never have been able to take the lesson to the next level and to use it teach that ever elusive standard. 



Moral of the story—be open to others ideas and unashamed to build your own beautiful with the help of someone else.  

ThInG yOu!

Science Experiment Packet!

We just posted a new product onto our Teachers Pay Teachers store. This packet features a series of Science Experiments from the Steve Spangler vault, which we highly recommend you checking out here: http://www.stevespanglerscience.com. Within the packet, you'll find directions on how to conduct the experiments, youtube video examples, and recording sheets. Here are a few snapshots:

You can pick this up and more here! Thank you!


So this is our first post. It you're expecting something flashy and grand, prepare to be underwhelmed. This is very anticlimactic and definitely falls along the spectrum of real life. In today's digital world, we live surrounded by everyone's perfect looking photos and picturesque worksheets. Well, as nice as these things look, we have come to realize that this is just not how it always plays out.

What we do know is that we both love teaching in this "real world" and we love touching the lives of students. We have good days which are always sooner or later followed by a bad one and we have just as many downs as ups. We love to engage and excite our students-even if it means being silly on the spot or spending a few extra house at home in preparation.

Who is Thing Me and who is Thing You is for us to know and for you to possibly never find out-- but what you need to know about us is clear.  We love to create mischief (of the wildest kind) and are known for being creative, out of the box thinkers. This doesn't always have to be complicated or over the top--and sometimes it can be done in the simplest of ways. But over our past years in the teaching profession, there is one thing that hinders our ability to teach--and that my friend is competition. We are steadily heading in to a world where the classroom is becoming a breeding ground for comparison and competition. Instead of collaborating and helping each other, we too often find ourselves "one-upping" eaching other and trying to find the next best thing to help us "stand out".

Thing Me and I have decided that over the next year we are going to go out of our way to help others around us--especially each other. We want to reach out to our teammates, other professionals at our school, parents, volunteers and even our custodial staff. Everyone plays a part when it comes to educating our students and when we forget that we take the first step at becoming stagnant and ineffective. Charles Kuralt once said "Good teachers know how to bring out the best in students"--which is completely true. But we can't do that until we work on bringing out the best in each other.  So if you want to embark on this journey with us, the journey to become a better teacher you have to agree to two things--share and support! Share what you find and support those who surround you.