Saturday, August 30, 2014

Five for Friday - Summer Comes to an End

Friday's almost gone and so is summer but I wanted to join Doodle Bugs Teaching for

One of the final classroom touches was to add a curtain panel to cover the open area below my counter workspace. I found a fun black & white dotty fabric at Hobby Lobby and knew it would work well with the other accents around the room.  My sweet hubby even stitched them up for me! I didn't measure too accurately so they were a tad long but it got me through Parent Night (they've since been hemmed so they don't drag on the floor).

Both our Parent Night and Student Open House were held this week.  I have a wonderful group of families and the children are simply ADORABLE!  I continued what has worked really well for me and had the kids do a scavenger hunt around the room when they came for their visit.  Students found their cubbies, where to put lunchboxes, met both teachers, had their picture taken, and much more.  I love the scavenger hunt!  It keeps them just busy enough while they discover our room!

Cooked up several batches of my homemade playdoh for the first day of school!  You can find my favorite recipe and more about playdoh here.

School starts Tuesday so I knew I needed to spend my morning running errands...the bank, shopping at Staples, delivering a bag to the local food pantry, dropping off drycleaning, etc.  I also caught up on the overflowing laundry baskets.
One of the items I picked up at Staples was a set of these colorful ink pens!  I'm so excited to use these in my teacher binder and on my calendar! 
Hope everyone has a wonderful Labor Day weekend and enjoys the last bit of summer! 
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Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Power of Playdoh

I admit it.  I'm a playdoh snob.  I know all about how good playdoh is for kids to work those small muscles and build strength in their hands.  I value the sensory experience a child gets from playing with a mound of colored dough.  Here's the thing's just not happening with this canned stuff in my classroom.  My students don't play with store bought playdoh. I guess they're playdoh snobs, too.
Aside from the fact it's expensive and way too difficult for little hands to work with, I have a few concerns with the extra ingredients of commercial Playdoh.  According to Wikipedia...
Play-Doh's current manufacturer, Hasbro, reveals the compound is primarily a mixture of water, salt, and flour,[2] while its 2004 United States patent indicates it is composed of water, a starch-based binder, a retrogradation inhibitor, salt, lubricant, surfactant, preservative, hardener, humectant, fragrance, and color.[10] A petroleum additive gives the compound a smooth feel, and borax prevents mold from developing.
So I really don't know much about retrogradation inhibitors and surfactants.  Do I want my students kneading it with their hands?  I know it has to be safe since commercial playdoh is non-toxic and made for children but why are those ingredients there in the first place?  
Hmmmmm...maybe those are the ingredients which make commercial playdoh hard and crumbly.  There are no inhibitors or surfactants in my homemade playdoh and my homemade playdoh isn't hard nor crumbly so that must be it. 
My favorite playdoh recipe is simple and contains common household ingredients I can easily pronounce:
  1. Flour
  2. Water
  3. Salt
  4. Cream of Tartar
  5. Vegetable Oil
  6. Food Coloring
I love homemade playdoh because it's soft and easy for tiny hands to squeeze.  It holds together really well so you can form it into balls or make long skinny snakes without it crumbling all over the place.
Each month, I make a couple of batches of playdoh for my class.  I usually stir in the Color of the month from my assortment of food colorings.  I love these gel colors!  They combine well when you're cooking the flour mixture plus they won't spill on your kitchen counters. 
The CLASSIC assorted colors are a must if you want to make your own playdoh.  They are pure and true colors.  I don't have much luck mixing them to create new colors but for basic primary colored playdoh, you just can't go wrong with the Classics.  The NEONs are fun and your students will absolutely love them.  Oh, this is the perfect time of year to check your local Big Lots for the FALL box of food colorings.  Rich, deep colors perfect for making beautiful autumn colored playdoh.
I always double the recipe...and then I make it AGAIN and double it that time, too.  So basically for my class supply, I have four batches of playdoh.  I have tried tripling or quadrupling the recipe all in one pan and trust can't even stir it!  So doubling seems to work best.
Here are my best tips for making your own homemade playdoh...
  • Use plain, all purpose flour
  • Mix the food coloring of your choice with the water BEFORE you add it to the flour mixture.  It just mixes more evenly with the flour this way.
  • Spray the pot with non-stick cooking spray before you start
  • Don't substitute olive oil for the cooking oil.  Trust me on this one.
  • Cook over medium heat & stir constantly.  Don't leave it cooking on the stove while you run in your laundry room, start folding clothes, and forget you're making playdoh. I've probably never done that.
  • You'll know it's done when a huge ball forms and it gets REALLY difficult to stir.
  • Turn out onto waxed paper and let cool.  I usually knead it a bit.
Here are two batches (remember, each was doubled so this is actually FOUR recipes) I made today.
After it's cooled about 10 minutes on the waxed paper, I start dividing it in half, then half again, and so on.  That's how I get a portion for each student to be fairly similar in size. 
Once I have it all divided, I store each child's playdoh ball in a plastic sandwich bag and label it with their name.  This is their playdoh for the entire month. I just think it works better for each child to have their own bag so it's worth the effort to divvy it up.  Not only for cleanliness sake but also it helps teach kids to take care of their playdoh.  If you drop huge chunks on the floor or don't clean your area up, then by the end of the month you might only have a teeny tiny ball of playdoh left to take home.  But at least it wasn't made with any inhibitors or surfactants! 
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Monday, August 25, 2014

Monday Made It - Walls & Doors

This week is all about final touches in the classroom, hosting Parent Night, meeting my students at Open House, and working on lesson plans for the first week of school.   I'm joining 4th Grade Frolics linky party to share a glimpse of my walls & door décor.  Be sure to visit Tara's Monday Made It and see more great ideas for Back to School!
Here's my classroom door!  I'm really pleased with the fact this turned out exactly as I envisioned it.  The cheapie Wal-Mart baking sheet is hot-glued to the blue paper.  I wrote each student's name on a cookie diecut I purchased from the school supply store. Easy display to welcome the class to school!

Sorry for the I'm-in-a-hurry-and-only-have-a-cell-phone-to-take-classroom-pictures glare.  This is my color words display. Well, that's pretty obvious, eh?  The black & white polka dot paper is wrapping paper from Hobby Lobby and it coordinates perfectly with my "dotty" theme going on this year.  I think I'm hooked on using wrapping paper for wall displays and bulletin board from now on!  This particular roll had the cutting grids on the backside which made it a breeze to cut a straight line.  Wrapping paper is also much easier to manage than bulletin board paper, plus it's available in a zillion different colors and patterns!

And here's my Word Wall I made for our sight words known as Popcorn Words!  I doubled up the borders with a popcorn print and a dotty teal & white.  I love the combination of these layered borders!  The Word Wall is directly behind my kidney table where I'll do most of my small group instruction.  

That's all the pictures I have today but I've been busy like most of you making nametags, labels, folders, center activities, displays, and so much more!  I'll definitely be back by the end of this week with lots of photos and a classroom tour!

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Monday, August 18, 2014

Monday Made It - Spinning & Pointing

Like everyone else, I've worked on tons of things this past week...printing/laminating/ guided reading binder...eight pages of handouts for a workshop I'm presenting.  Oh, and several loads of laundry! I also have a couple of things to show you for today's Monday Made It hosted by Tara at 4th Grade Frolics
Here's a colorful package of cheap paper plates I bought at IKEA.  Cost me a whopping 49 cents!
I knew immediately I could make several center activities using these plates.   

So, I popped a spinner down in the middle to create a basic Spin & Graph game.  I'll program this one with number stickers (as soon as I can find them in my storage tubs!) and since there were ten plates in the package, I'll also make several spinning games to practice our sight words.
I went to Michaels for cardstock and a photo storage box Friday afternoon.  I came home with a package of dowels,  cute wood cutouts, and another roll of decorative Washi tape. 
There's something therapeutic about wrapping the tape around dowels.  Look how cute these little pointers are!  My favorite is the POPCORN one which will be used to find our Popcorn sight words!  Made it from a pack of cardboard coasters I found at Goodwill. When I bought them I had NO idea what I'd use them for but I love how this project turned out!
Today is our Back to School teacher meeting, level meetings, and staff luncheon.  I can't wait! Hopefully I'll have pictures later this week of a finished classroom!
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Friday, August 15, 2014

Five for Friday - IKEA Shopping

I spent the day at IKEA in downtown Atlanta with three of my teacher buddies!  We laughed a little, shopped, laughed more, lunched at The Varsity, laughed even more, and simply had a wonderful time!  Linking up with Doodle Bugs Teaching for this week's Five for Friday to tell you all about it!
I adore all things that are black & white...a classic combo which works in any décor and belongs in every woman's closet. I had one of these black & white dotty rugs last year and loved how it worked in the classroom.  This year I'm in a bigger room so I needed a larger rug.  Couldn't find anything in a larger size for the right price so I decided to purchase a second dotty one and use them side by side to create the area I want.  The cute dots add a touch of whimsy without overpowering a room with too much color.   It's about 4x6 and costs only $19.99.
Cute containers to store game pieces or center cards.  They would also work for crayons.
Set of three containers with lids $2.99.
Package of 10 colorful paper plates clearance price of just 49 cents!  I'm going to pop a spinner in the middle to use it for center games! These would also make great sorting plates, wouldn't they?
This isn't my first purchase of these great little table top frames but I'm thinking I'll spray paint this pair teal or black to work with my room colors.  I like to use these frames for holding alphabet cards or sight words at my writing center table.  You could also display your table numbers in them. The possibilities are endless!  They're double sided and cost less than a dollar!
This shopping trip  wasn't just for my classroom...had to do a little shopping for the home, too!  I bought 2 sets of sheets...the charcoal queen set was $34.99 and blue king set was $39.99.  I already own some pretty pink floral IKEA sheets and have been thrilled with their quality, comfort, and value.  They don't shrink after washing so they fit the mattress perfect time after time.  

I couldn't resist this adorable cupcake apron!  I enjoy baking sweet treats so this will be fun to wear in the kitchen when I whip up my next batch of goodies!  It's a sturdy cotton and only $7.99.  They also had matching cupcake kitchen towels.  Already regretting I didn't toss a set in my cart.
Thanks for shopping at IKEA with me!  Hope you have a wonderful weekend!  
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Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Wordless Wednesday - ABC Bean Bags

I went to the yard sale of a sweet young lady who was changing careers...
from Special-Ed Teacher to Beautician! 

Found this box of Alphabet Bean Bags BRAND NEW and NEVER USED for only $5!
They usually retail for $39 so I know I got a really great deal!

How would you use these bean bags in your classroom?

Linking up with Second Grade Sugar and Spice for another fun Wordless Wednesday!
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Monday, August 11, 2014

Meet the Teacher

Stephanie at  Falling into First is hosting a Meet the Teacher Blogger PartyIsn't that ideal at Back to School time!  I've been lucky to meet a few teacher bloggers in "real" life and I'm excited to meet even more via this linky party!
Hi Everybody!  I'm Donna! It's nice to meet ya'll!


I would LOVE to be an interior decorator or a home stager!



 "Children don't learn when they're playing", said NO Teacher Ever!

I'm always telling my husband who'd be at my ideal dinner party so this one's easy...
Paul McCartney...Ted Turner...Bill Clinton...Tyler Florence...Howie Long...Bill Gates
Wouldn't that be an interesting mix of people?!?!

"The Quirky Rooster"

   I think it would be great to have the power to make others see things from YOUR perspective so they would know how you feel and why you do what you do.

"Do not the most moving moments of our lives find us all without words."
Marcel Marceau

"These Are The Moments" by Sara Evans (it's also known as "Could Not Ask For More")

I honestly enjoy waking up early.  I get so much done and feel so accomplished!
I joke that by 8am I've done more than some people will do in their whole day.

 I feel like I'm the one & only teacher blogger without a TPT store. Sad face.  But I'm still really new at blogging and feel like that's enough for me to take on right now.  I'm keeping a notebook of product ideas and sketches so I do foresee my own TPT store oneday! 
 I grew up in a small Georgia town where my family owned an old fashioned grocery store. 
Much of my childhood and teen years were spent working alongside my parents, running the cash register, helping make homemade deli salads, weighing fresh ground meat, stocking shelves, handwriting sale signs, and most importantly, learning that success is achieved through hard work. 

Thank you so much for visiting my blog!  I'd be thrilled if you followed me on Bloglovin, too! 

Now, be sure to go meet more teacher bloggers at the Meet the Teacher Party!

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