Monday, November 16, 2015

Gratitude Cards

A few years ago I designed a set of gratitude cards that I use with my students in the days leading up to Thanksgiving break. I ask them each to take a moment to stop and reflect on all they have for which to be grateful...

They always surprise me with how thoughtful and reflective they can be! I tell them not to sign the cards (they tend to be more genuine when the cards are anonymous) and then I create a 'gratitude wall' in the hallway outside of my classroom. Passersby can stop and read all of the lovely sentiments!
If you'd like to print your own gratitude cards, I've created a set of six on a page which can be downloaded here! Use them with your own students or at your Thanksgiving celebration!

I'm grateful for...

-The fact that I've been able to accomplish many of my life goals thus far
-My lovely little home...a dream come true
-My extremely generous family
-Parks and Recreation...laughter really is the best medicine
-Lifelong friends who know the 'real' me
-A career in which I get to make a difference in people's lives, every single day

Friday, October 16, 2015

Teacher Friendly Halloween Costume Ideas

Halloween is one of my favorite holidays as it combines my love of creativity and fashion! Each year I try to make at least part of my costume and often times make two different costumes- one to wear to school and one to wear out and about with friends. Here's a round-up of some of my favorite school appropriate costumes, some of which I've worn during Homecoming Spirit Week in addition to Halloween...

Teacher Costumes

Snow White
DIY Snow White Costume
 This is a costume I keep recycling because I love it so much! I took a yellow skirt that I already owned and paired it with a white collared shirt and red cardigan. For the bodice, I purchased a royal blue tank top from WalMart and hot glued some gold cording onto the tank. I also used red satin ribbon to make the head band and bow.  Read more about how to make this costume here!

 My teacher friend Kelly found an awesome red dress at our local Salvation Army and paired it with a wig and some knee high socks to transform into Annie! Love it!

Cat Lady
This was actually what I wore this year on 'Wacky Wednesday' during Homecoming Spirit Week but it would also make an awesome Halloween costume! I found the cat sweatshirt and elastic waist jeans at Salvation Army then used hot glue and velco strips to add a bunch of stuffed cats that I found at Goodwill. The wig and glasses were on clearance at WalMart after Halloween last year. I purchased a plain white tote bag for $3 at Walmart then used a Sharpie to add the cat motif! Check 'Meowt'!

Elliot & ET
ET and Elliot Costume
One of my FAVORITE costumes!! I wore a red hooded sweatshirt for the 'Elliot' portion of the costume. To create ET, I printed out his face onto cardstock then taped it to a ruler. His 'body' is just a white towel wrapped around a pillow. Everyone at school LOVED this costume!!

Abraham Lincoln
Abe Lincoln Costume Ideas
Pretty self-explanatory! Black jacket, black pants, a stove-pipe hat, and a beard! 
Beard and hat purchased at the Halloween store!

Harry Potter
Harry Potter Costume
Oh man, I had so much fun wearing this costume! I used my faculty graduation gown as my wizard robe and taped a printed out version of the Griffindor logo to the gown. The tie, glasses, and wand came in a kit at the Halloween store and I purchased the wig separately. Add a scar to your forehead and you're ready to make some magic! 

This is another really easy costume! I paired a long skirt (purchased at Goodwill) with a ruffled white shirt (that I already owned) and added a homemade 'Votes for Women' sash! Details on how to make the sash can be found here

Statue of Liberty
This one goes way back to my early years of teaching! I made this costume out of green fabric, some foam (for the headpiece), and a styrofoam cone for the torch! 

I have a couple fun ideas for my costumes this year but you'll have to wait to find out what I'll be! Follow along on my daily adventures in teaching via Instagram

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Critical Thinking Skills Posters

Hello everyone out there in blog-land! It's been a super crazy busy start to this school year so I've been a bit MIA on the blog (but you can find me on Instagram more often)! I have a student teacher this year, I am Junior Class Advisor (and this week is Homecoming week), and I have my normal course load to attend to so my plate has been full! However, I'm here with another set of FREE POSTER PRINTABLES for your classroom!

classroom posters

As a social studies teacher, I'm always seeking ways to work on my students' critical thinking skills. Discussions within my academic department at school lead to the realization that many students lack a basic understanding of what some of this critical thinking terminology means. We ask them to analyze, infer, evaluate, and interpret information and sometimes assume they know what these words mean. Thus, I decided to create a set of four 'CRITICAL THINKING SKILLS' posters to put up front and center in my classroom. This way we can all reference these definitions and examples when working on various tasks during daily lessons!

The posters come in two sizes...a basic 8.5"x11" standard paper size that can be printed on any printer at home or school and a larger 11"x17" which I had printed onto thick photo stock at Staples for a total cost of $8! One of these days I'm going to open up a 'Teachers Pay Teachers' shop but for now, these are FREE, FREE, FREE for you so grab them while you can! Enjoy!

Thursday, August 27, 2015

New Free Classroom Poster Printable

It's 'back to school' time which means it's also time for another FREE CLASSROOM POSTER PRINTABLE! One of my favorite shows of all time is Friday Night Lights and my favorite school counselor is Tami Taylor (a lead character in the show)! In one scene she's giving Tim Riggins (a student) the riot act about why she cares so much about his future...

Friday Night Lights quotes

This inspired me to make a new poster for my classroom that I'm happy to share with all my fellow educators as we head back to fight the good fight every day this school year!

Free Classroom Poster Printables

The 8x10 version of the free printable can be downloaded here.
The 11x17 version can be downloaded here.

I usually have my posters printed inexpensively at Staples on cardstock or a thicker photostock but they can easily be printed right at home or at school on regular paper!

You can find my previous free poster printables here and here! Thank you to all the teachers, counselors, coaches, and support staff out their who make a difference in the lives of kids every day!

Saturday, July 25, 2015

The Invisalign Experience

If you've been a reader of the blog for a little while, you may remember that I wrote a post about my decision to get Invisalign braces back in January. Well, I'm approaching the end of my treatment plan and I thought it would be helpful to share my experiences with Invisalign as well as some helpful tips. Please keep in mind that this post is from a patient's perspective...please consult an orthodontist for medical advice and information!
Invisalign Braces

The Process
Essentially Invisalign straightens teeth through a series of clear plastic trays, each worn for two weeks at a time. Each set of trays is slightly different from the previous set, which slowly shifts your teeth. It is recommended that the trays are worn 20-22 hours a day. Basically they should only be taken out when eating.  I initially went in for a consultation, then another appointment to discuss my treatment plan (they make a digital slideshow of how your teeth will change over the course of treatment). My third visit is where they poured this goopy material into molding trays and had me bite down so they could cast the molds for the trays.

invisalign traysAt my fourth appointment I received my first four sets of trays. This is also the appointment where they may attach 'buttons' to your actual teeth. These are little pieces (not sure of the material but they are the color of my teeth) that are bonded to certain teeth (not all teeth, just the ones that may need to move a bit more) which help the trays have something to grip. I don't have any buttons on my bottom teeth but do have several on my top. The Invisalign trays would be virtually invisible if it weren't for these buttons...I definitely look like I have clear braces because of the buttons. I wish the models in the Invisalign ads had buttons because it would more accurately reflect what many Invisalign users look like!

The Treatment Length
My overall treatment plan will be about a year, seven months of wearing the trays that are moving my teeth, and then four months wearing trays that don't move my teeth but rather set them in place so they don't shift back. Then, I will wear a setting tray at night only (I'm not sure how long, however). I have 17 trays total, which is a relatively short treatment length. I go to see my orthodontist every 8 weeks where he checks progress quickly then gives me my next four sets of trays. After my 17th tray at the end of August, I will have an appointment with my orthodontist where we will discuss whether or not I will need refinements. This essentially means that if either of us are not happy with the movement that my teeth made, a few more sets of trays can be made to further 'tweak' my teeth. I'm hoping I won't need refinements but it seems they are fairly common. Again, you need to wear your trays 20-22 hours per day...the more you wear your trays, the better your results!!

The Pain & Speech
My first days wearing the trays were excruciatingly painful!! I felt as though I had razor blades in my mouth! Granted, teaching is a profession in which I need to speak all day long, so my mouth probably hurt more than it would have if I didn't have to speak so much, but it was SO painful. At day's end, I went immediately to my ortho office and asked for help. The edges of my trays were cutting my tongue and gums and I had read they may be able to file down the edges, which they did. They said I could take an emery board and file down the edges on each of my trays at home if needed in the future. Buying some orthodontic wax to use on the edges of your trays may help, too.

Early on, my mouth was very prone to getting sores on my gums and tongue. I did use Orajel some to help with this. I am happy to say that eventually my mouth became 'seasoned' and the pain in terms of mouth sores and a sensitive tongue subsided. My mouth was used to the trays after about the third set and I haven't really had any pain on my gums since then.

The other type of pain that comes along with using Invisalign is due to your teeth shifting. The first couple days after putting in a new set of trays can sometimes lead to pretty sore teeth. For me, the pain really just depends on which teeth are shifting and by how much. They feel fine when the trays are in my mouth but hurt most when the trays are taken out of my mouth. I try to only eat softer foods during the first couple days of new trays if my teeth are sensitive. Some people can suffer from headaches, too, during this time (luckily I haven't other than the first couple days with my very first set of trays).

My speech was very much impaired for the first several weeks. I had a pretty strong lisp and it was difficult to speak normally. My high school students thought it was pretty hilarious to listen to me trying to deliver serious lessons while sounding like Daffy Duck! I honestly didn't think my speech would go back to normal, but, thankfully it did! So, if you are new to Invisalign, hang in there!! Your speech with return to normal and the pain will subside!

The Maintenance
The trays need to be removed when eating and teeth should be brushed before putting them back in. At the start, I was pretty religious about brushing my teeth after every meal and snack before putting my trays back in but it became difficult with my crazy busy schedule at school and time spent out of the house... I don't always have easy access to a sink. So, I tend to brush when I can but usually just rinse out the trays and my mouth with water before putting the trays back in after eating. All colored liquids (wine, cola, juice, etc.) should be avoided while wearing the trays as they can stain. I tend to drink mostly water but if I'm out having a cocktail or other beverage, I try to order something that isn't dark to I can drink and keep my trays in!

In the evening before bed I brush both my teeth and my trays (and floss of course). I use my regular tooth brush and some tooth paste and give the trays a quick scrub. They can get pretty gross throughout the day so cleaning them is essential. It was also recommended to me to use Polident tablets to soak the trays, particularly toward the end of the two weeks when they start to get really gross. I tried it but have found that scrubbing with the tooth brush/paste is the easiest way to keep the trays clean and fresh.

The Cost
The price can vary greatly depending on provider, treatment length, insurance, etc. My insurance doesn't cover my treatment because it's considered cosmetic and they also don't cover any braces for adults. My treatment price was $5,000 which covers all my visits, the trays, and any refinements I may need at the end. Based on my research, this tends to be the average price of Invisalign treatments. Some orthodontists, including mine, offer payment plans so it's best to consult your specific orthodontist to see what they offer in terms of financing.

The Results
I'll be on my last set of trays in about a month and have seen some great results! I've taken pictures throughout my journey because it can be difficult to see the progress from week to week and it's helpful to compare. My teeth weren't considered 'horrible' by any means, but I had some crowding issues and a really narrow bite.

 Invisalign has been a great choice for me as a 34-year-old. They are a little more inconspicuous than traditional braces and can be removed to eat any and all foods (maybe that's a bad thing?)! In my case, my results have been just as good as if I had traditional braces and I've been able to lead a normal life! Early on, I was fairly self concious about being an adult with a mouth full of braces but after a while I sort of forgot the trays were there & just continued to live life, smiling away!

*Update: These last two images show the final result, a true 'before' and 'after'! After my final set of trays I saw my dentist and he was able to shape a few teeth (particularly my prominent canines) to really perfect my smile!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Flip House #2

I'm SUPER excited to share that I'm in the process of 'flipping' another house! I bought my first 'flip house' back in 2010, spent the summer renovating, and used the profit from the sale to put toward a downpayment on my current home. I've been wanting to jump into another flip for a while now and after searching for over a year, finally found the perfect property...

Isn't she darling?! She's a classic Cape style home that is in pretty great shape, just needs some updating and a little love! Let's take a 'before' tour...

 The Kitchen
My plan for the kitchen includes painting the cabinets white, adding hardware to the cabinet doors, upgrading the appliances, painting the walls a light, bright color, updating the light fixture, and updating the countertops. New flooring will be added throughout the first and second floors, too!

The Dining Room
The dining room is adjacent to the kitchen and it already has updated flooring and a nice brushed nickel light fixture. The color of the walls isn't bad, however, because there were touch-ups needed and I don't know the original wall color, I'll be painting the dining room a new, neutral color. 

The Living Room
OK so the first thing I did in this house was paint over the red walls and the room is so much brighter! The carpet has already been ripped up and new flooring will be put in to match what is already in the dining room. It's a really nice sized room, perfect for lounging with the family (I always imagine who might be living here eventually and it makes me happy to picture a little family enjoying this space)! 

The Half Bathroom
This room is on the main floor and in addition to new paint color on the walls, I'll be updating the mirror, replacing the counter top and faucet, and adding new flooring. I also plan on painting the vanity cabinet (I'm leaning toward a dark gray instead of white...stay tuned)!

The Office
I'm calling this room an 'office' but it's really one of three bedrooms (the only one on the main floor). I've already painted it a nice blue/green/gray color to add a little bit of freshness to the space. The walls were in desperate need of color! The carpet has been ripped out and will be replaced with laminate wood flooring. 

The Master & Secondary Bedrooms
This house is a traditional Cape style which means the bedrooms on the second floor have angled ceilings. They are both really large rooms, however, so that's an advantage! The bedrooms will both receive new paint on the walls and new carpeting. 

Upstairs Full Bathroom
This is a nice sized room with a full tub/shower. I'll be painting the vanity cabinet but replacing the top and adding a new faucet. Walls will be painted and new flooring added. All of the wood fixtures will be removed and a new towel bar and mirror will be added. 

That brings us to the end of our 'before' tour! I've been very busy over the long weekend, painting, painting, and more painting! When school is over in three weeks, I'll be able to devote all of my time to the house but in the meantime, nights and weekends will suffice! I hope you'll follow along on this little 'Flip House 2' journey! You can find me on Instagram where I post more frequently, too! 

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Romper Style

Apparently rompers are all the rage in fashion right now. I've seen them on adults, teens, and toddlers and have even tried on a few styles. Unfortunately, they definitely don't look good on my short, curvy physic but fortunately I do know they are ADORABLE on 4-year-olds and thus I decided to sew one up for the daughter of one of my best friends...enter the Saffron Romper:

sewing girls romper

How absolutely ADORABLE is this romper?! I had already purchased the fabric combination and was planning on making another pattern but decided I'd like to try something new for summer. I searched for 'easy sewing patterns for girls' online and found a variety of options at Sew Sweet Patterns.

The Saffron Romper pattern required no notions other than thread and an elastic, both of which I had on hand, and the pattern was in PDF format so I just downloaded and printed as soon as I made my purchase! It was a quick afternoon sew and would be a relatively easy pattern for a beginning seamstress to handle (I always just look up tutorials on YouTube if there's a skill I don't understand but his one was pretty straightforward). 

The original romper pattern did not call for two fabrics but I thought the contrasting pink would look nice against the floral pattern and add a little bit of fun to the ruffle and bow areas. Both fabrics were purchased a few months ago at Jo-Ann Fabric.
sewing girls romper pattern
Because this is such a quick and easy sew that requires a small amount of fabric and minimal notions, I will definitely be whipping up a few more of these for all the little girls in my life. I love being an 'auntie' to my friends' kids and thankfully they never object when I use their kids to fulfill my need to sew such cute little outfits!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Social Studies Activities

It's Spring Break! I have a moment to breath and was looking back through recent photos on my phone and on Instagram and thought I'd share a few of my favorite fun activities from my social studies classes!

Key Term Review Egg Hunt
A couple of my classes were scheduled to take exams just before Easter and so I thought I'd make our exam review a bit more fun. If you want to see a room full of teenagers go crazy, tell them you've hidden eggs all around the classroom! In each egg was a key term that the students had to define before they could get their prize. The prizes were mostly stickers, erasers, and coupons for a 'special' pencil (see next picture), but a few had Life Savers (I know, I know...don't reward kids with candy). They had a blast, it got them up and moving out of their seats, and they had to review some main ideas, too!

Personalized Pencils

I posted to above pic on my Instagram account to show the awesome personalized pencils I order each year from Oriental Trading Company. I give them out as prizes or at Christmas or the end of year as presents. The kids think they're funny and they make us all smile! Other phrases I've used include

"Abe Lincoln is my Homeboy"
"Sacagawea is my Homegirl"
"I Heart History"
"I Stole this from Miss Rush" (these were on my personal stash of pencils)

Magic Picture Window

I recently tried a new activity with my classes that I call 'Magic Picture Window' (I learned about this activity last summer at an AP summer institute I attended). I cut small rectangles out of index cards and students use the 'magic picture window' cards to look closely at the details of an image. Above, students are examining a primary source (Paul Revere's etching of the Boston Massacre) by looking at the details of the image that's within the window cut out on the cards. It's a fun way for them to focus on details rather than just the image as a whole.

Document Walk

Another recent social studies lesson that the students enjoy focuses on identifying the differences between primary and secondary sources. We first discuss this definition of each source and then I have students walk around the classroom and examine several items I've placed throughout. Their goal is to decide whether the item is a primary or secondary source and jot down a brief rationale. Some examples of the items I use are a photo of my grandmother when she was 15, a photocopy of my datebook calendar from 5 years ago, an outfit I wore as a baby (they LOVE this one), a copy of an historical fiction novel, a DVD, a text book, a copy of the Declaration of Independence, and a copy of our local newspaper. The items illicit a great discussion as to what makes a source primary versus secondary.

Junto Society Meeting
Social Studies Lesson Ideas

One of my FAVORITE transition lessons between our unit on the American Revolution and our unit on the 'New Nation', is an activity based on Benjamin Franklin's Junto Society. The Junto was Franklin's social networking group in Philadelphia. The members of his group met once a week at a local pub and discussed a variety of topics meant for 'mutual improvement'. He created a list of discussion questions of which the group was to chat about at their meetings. So, for our lesson, I have the students read 10 of Franklin's questions, figure out what he is asking, re-word the question into friendlier language, and then respond. We then have our own Junto Society meeting at which we drink tea and snack on colonial-inspired dishes. I bring the tea, the kids bring the snacks. It's quite fun and we get to discuss what's going on in their lives and in the world around us! And isn't that the goal of social studies curriculum? 

What about you? 
Have you done any fun social studies lessons with your students?

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Classroom Organization: Managing Student Absences

In my 'Organization in the Secondary Classroom' series, I've written about how I manage the paperwork in my classroom (this post has been viewed an incredible 81,000+ times) and how I tackle lesson planning. Today I'm sharing how I manage student absences!

*Update: Due to multiple requests, the two forms I use that are mentioned in this post can be downloaded and amended to meet your specific needs here.

In a perfect world, none of my students would be absent, but between sickness, field trips, in-school detentions, and plain old 'don't feel like coming to school', it's rare to go a day without having at least one absent student. Before implementing this system, the biggest struggles when dealing with absences was finding an efficient way for students to be responsible for getting the work they missed without the frantic 'what did I miss' just as the rest of the class is getting started on the day's lesson. I've used the following system for several years now and it has worked really well!

First, I have a three-ring binder with dividers for each class period. At the start of every week, I make copies of class rosters and place them in the appropriate sections. Although I always take electronic attendance for the school, I also mark down absences on these paper rosters for my own records. I then record the date and a brief note about the lesson done that period, particularly what was due and what was assigned for homework.

I find it incredibly helpful to be able to pull out this binder and cross reference the dates certain assignments were due or assigned with when particular students were absent. Technically the electronic grade book we use can do this, but it's far more cumbersome to look up information online rather than quickly open my binder. I also use these attendance sheets to record if a student came in tardy, went to the nurse, or any other miscellaneous information. My binder sits on the table in the front of my classroom where I can easily make notes.

Next, either at the end of each class period or at the end of the school day, I look back through my attendance binder and put together the handouts from that day's lesson and a 'cover sheet' that explains what was missed.  I use the cover sheet to record the work that was due the day the student was absent and whether or not they missed a quiz/exam/activity that needs to be made up.

Then the handouts/cover sheets are placed in the 'absent work bin' which is on table in the corner of my classroom. Students know that when they return from an absence, they are to go straight to this bin at the start of class and find their work in the hanging folder labeled with their class period. They read the cover sheet and/or the handouts left for them and then check in with me if they have any questions.

Classroom Organization Student Absences

If the student has in fact missed an assessment or activity that needs to be made up, they fill out their name, activity to be made up, and when they are coming in for make-up on the clip board next to the 'absent work' bin.  This helps me keep track of when certain students are coming in so I can arrange my schedule and holds the student accountable for making up missing assignments in a timely manner. You can download a copy of the sign up sheet I use here and amend it to fit your needs.

Once I've explained the purpose and expectations regarding the 'absent work' bin, my students seem to do very well with the autonomy of this system. They can go check the box between classes, at the start of their class period, or really any time that's convenient for them! I've really loved how my attendance binder has allowed me to easily keep track of important data I need readily at my fingertips!

I'd love to know what sorts of ways you've found to keep track of student absences so please leave a comment below or connect with me on Facebook or Instagram!

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Sewing Project: Plaid Tunic Dress

It's been snowing A LOT here in New England which inevitably means lots of snow days and canceled plans. Subsequently, I've been working on little crafty projects around the house including tackling various sewing projects. Enter the Josephine Pattern...

I've used this really versatile pattern from Made By Rae once before but chose to do a tunic length this time around. What's great about this pattern is that there are options for garment length, bust size, and sleeve type, making it easy to create a variety of differing garments that fit lots of body types. Because I'm short, the tunic length worked well as a dress on me! I used a super soft linen/flannel cotton fabric from JoAnn's.

The pleats on the front as well as the gathered sleeves are fun pattern details. I also like how the elastic casing in the back gives a nice fitted look around the waist. This is a good pattern to try if you are an 'advanced beginner' who's looking to stretch your sewing skills as the directions are well written and easy to follow! I'll probably make another one with a light-weight cotton for Spring...assuming Spring actually comes to New England sometime in the near future!