Back to School Goals

I've seen the monthly goals floating around for awhile now and I haven't joined in. Back to school time is sort of like New Years, so I'm goal setting with Jessica from I {Heart} Recess!

Personal- I have not been to the gym in a hot minute. I was doing well this last spring. Then summer came and my motivation dwindled. There is a "power sculpt" class that I want to take. I haven't lifted regularly since high school, and I need some more iron in my diet, haha. Classes are at 5:30 a.m. so we'll see if I can get up and going...

Organization- I'm good at putting grades into a paper planner, but that online thing... not so much. Last year, it ended up being a once-twice a semester major upload fiasco. This year, I'll be the gen. ed teacher with many more grades to input. I don't want to put myself back into that headache creating situation again. Once a week (or more) upload, will be much smarter on my part.

Professional- Although I am transitioning to general education, I am still going to finish my Master's in Special Education. I have 4 classes to go (I will finish next June) and a whole portfolio to start. Lord, help me make it through without stressing {and procrastinating} too much!

Students- I really want my students to be excited to learn this year. I've been learning a ton this summer, and I plan on implementing several changes. I hope that these changes excite, engage, and challenge my students.

Motto- Sometimes I bite off a bit more than I can chew. I stress way more than I should. There I days I just need to remember Ps. 139:8-10 & Phil. 4:13 a little bit more.

I had plans to go back into school today, to get things ready, but then the mail arrived....

I partly blame Jivey for her awesome mentor sentences (I now for sure own every book for all 3 mentor sentence packs). I partly blame the gals from Collaboration Cuties for their weekly mentor text linky. But, I mostly blame myself, as I'm weak and I am addicted to children's literature. How could I leave that glorious bundle of books for a day of cleaning and organizing? I started tinkering around with a back to school idea instead.

Guess I'll be productive tomorrow :)


Quick Fix Meal Idea

I cannot believe that August starts this week.
I cannot believe that many of you had to report back today. Cray-to the-z!

In honor of that crazy back to school time, I'm going to share a simple meal idea, that doesn't take too long to fix either. Perfect for this hectic time of year.

Photo by Kraft.
Cheddar Chicken & Potatoes

4 slices of bacon, optional (I usually forget this part, haha)
4 small boneless, skinless chicken breast
1 bag frozen hashbrowns/diced potatoes (I like O'Brien, with the diced peppers)
1-2 c. shredded cheddar cheese
Preferred seasonings for chicken, optional, to taste (season salt, favorite Ms. Dash). 
Preferred seasonings for potatoes (season salt, lemon pepper, anything you'd like). 

To Prepare
Cook bacon until crisp. Remove from skillet; discard bacon grease.

Add chicken to skillet, cook 5 minutes on each side or until done. (I cut up the chicken into small cubes to speed up cooking/make it easier to eat. It's easier to cut once partially cooked, if your starting with frozen chicken).

To speed things up, after starting the chicken, I start heating up the frozen potatoes in another skillet. This takes about 10 minutes too. Or you can heat them up after the chicken is cooked through.

Once all is heated up, place chicken over potatoes, top with desired amount of cheese. If you keep the pan on the burner, the cheese melts well.


This meal is pretty fast, 30 minutes and it's ready. It also makes for great leftovers.

I've really enjoyed this linky this summer and I plan to continue it through Labor Day weekend, even though summer is over for me before then. There have been so many great recipes shared that I haven't had the chance to try yet.

To be able to have them all fit in one place, I created a pinboard of all the recipes linked up this summer. Click the picture below to check out all of the recipes, repin, and follow too! :)

Also, just a heads up. If you aren't following one of my best blogging buddies, Jivey, you should be. And if you haven't "liked" her on Facebook, then you really, really, should. Starting Wednesday, an event you won't want to miss is coming! Click the picture below to like her facebook page!


History Fix- Writing & History Lessons

It's been a lazy, rainy afternoon in the Whitehair household. My to-do list has been a mile long for awhile now, but the weather today made for the perfect accompaniment to a movie afternoon with the hubby, so that's what we did. Now I'm off to try to knock a few things off that list, but not before linking up with Amanda & Stacia for their mentor text linky! {It's Amanda's birthday too, so be sure to head to their blog and leave her some birthday love!}

A quick blip, from my friends at Amazon:
Clover's mom says it isn't safe to cross the fence that segregates their African-American side of town from the white side where Anna lives. But the two girls strike up a friendship, and get around the grown-ups' rules by sitting on top of the fence together.
It's a simple, but powerful story, that opens the door to talking about civil rights and racism.

This last year, one teacher I co-taught with introduced me to WritingFix a website full of great lesson ideas, a few of which we used/tweaked to switch things up. Today, as I was wracking my brain for a book to share, I stumbled upon another part of this website: HistoryFix.

A sister site to WritingFix, HistoryFix combines history topics with potential writing prompts. Almost 30 book and lessons are currently posted. Worth a look during plan times :)The Other Side is included in one of the lesson ideas and can be found here.


Student Motivation Saturday: Brain Breaks

It's been a few weeks since I've joined in with one my blogging buddies, Joanne, for her Student Motivation Saturday linky. Even though I don't post every week, I do read all the ideas posted each week. If you haven't checked out the wealth of information that's been posted you need to!

There are some days, students walk in the door and they are just a wee bit crazy. Other days, no matter how many topics we have to cover in many engaging ways, student come in a bit lethargic.

What to do?

I'm a big fan of brain breaks. Whether it's a quick video usually found on YouTube, or some exercises, a quick minute or two can really change the student's mindset and help motivate students. A change of pace, some movement, and maybe a little laughter can really get things going.

This is all dependent on the type of brain break used. While it can sometimes work to do something fast paced when the students have an over abundance of energy, a few simple stretches to calm them down can help even more. Those days, when the class just seems to have a case of the yawns, a fun upbeat dance might just do the trick better.

During my undergrad, we took a short class for health and movement. Part of the requirements were to create a book of resources for our future classrooms that involved purposeful movement in the classroom (either the energize or to calm students). One resource I found was a free PDF booklet on K-5 Energizers 58 pages of ideas. It's a pretty great resource for when your looking to change things up.

I also love all of the "Just Dance" videos, "The Sid Shuffle" and many other videos that can be found on YouTube. However, you'll have to make sure that YouTube is not blocked at your school. Jivey, has mentioned a website to get around some of the bad stuff on YouTube (i.e. all of the inappropriate ideas/side bar items) by using a website called Safe Share, you just have to copy and paste the video link and it takes care of the rest.

If your looking for ideas for brain breaks or transitions I have many ideas pinned. I've tried to be more vigilant in making sure that all links work.  You can see the board by clicking below.

While your on pinterest, be sure to like the new Collaborative 4-6th Grade pinterest board I am apart of. We are hosting a giveaway with a chance to win a $50 TPT gift certificate! To enter, click on the picture below and follow the instructions there! :)


Pinterest Scavenger Hunt Contest $50 Gift Certificate Prize!

We know that you're thinking about all of the items on your TpT wishlist as you are switching into back-to-school mode. Wouldn't it be nice if you had a TpT gift certificate to use? Well, it's your lucky day! These upper elementary bloggers are going to help foot the bill!

Here is what you need to do to enter for a chance to win a TpT gift certificate:
  • Click the picture above or {here} to take you to our collaborative board.
  • Follow the board.
  • Find the pin description that contains the special code.
  • Enter the code in the Rafflecopter.
  • Easy-peasy!!
  • Contest ends Sunday, July 28th at midnight.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

While your searching for clues, make sure you do some pinning too. Here are a few of my favorite pins this week:

One of my blogging buddies Joanne posted about how she sets up her reading workshop. This post is FULL of ideas. One I am definitely going to implement the first week is this freebie.

Part of back to school will include getting ready for back-to-school night, and I want to have a PowerPoint up and ready in the background. That way parents can be learning more about the classroom while I visit with others, as well as spur the conversation if I find myself at a loss of words.  Here is another amazing freebie I want to use!

Happy pinning & best of luck. Don't forget to follow the 4-6 Board for more wonderful ideas! :)


Throwback Thursday: Abundance of Back To School Ideas!

For today's edition of Throwback Thursday I'm going to share one of my favorite posts. This doesn't date back too far, but having come from my first official back to school meeting of the year I thought the topic was perfect. I also love that all of the ideas I'm going to share come from wonderful readers like all of you!

Speaking of back to school... COME BACK TOMORROW... something BIG is coming that you won't want to miss!

From July 11th. In my 300 follower giveaway, I asked that back to school suggestions be left in the comments. I was blown away by the response!

I want to share some of the awesome back to school suggestions you gave during this giveaway. I really wish that I had the opportunity to have about 20 back to school days to incorporate all of the greatness that you have shared! However, since I can't do that, I thought I'd share some of the ideas in hopes that you may be able to incorporate an idea or two!

In no particular order or grade grouping {most of these are copy and pasted suggestions left in the comments}:
  •  "First Day Jitters" was highly suggested, including making Jitter Juice as seen on the Inspired Apple blog
  • "Chrysanthemum"
  • I love to play the human knot with my students at the beginning of the year. Such a cooperative activity :)
  •  "Thank You, Mr. Falker"
  • "Apple Island or the Truth About Teachers." I use this with my fifth grade Language Arts class. Besides being funny, this book contains great examples of figurative language (alliteration, similes, metaphors, personification) and it is terrific to use to teach plot development (rising action, climax, falling action). We refer back to it all year.
  • "How to Be Cool in Third Grade"
  • "The Best School Year Ever"
  • "What I Didn't Do On My Summer Vacation"
  • My favorite picture book that I like to read is "Miss Nelson is Missing". Then, during Halloween, I dress up as Ms. Viola Swamp
  • "A Fine, Fine School" by Sharon Creech
  • My favorite BOY read is "Michael's Golden Rules"
  • One of my favorite stories to read at the beginning of the school year is "Beware of Boys". It is a book about a little boy who outsmarts a wolf who wants to eat him. As a class, we talk about how smart the boy is and turn that into a discussion of just how clever each student in the class is. When working with special education students, I think it is extremely important to make them realize just how smart they really are.
  • "The Golden Rule". Great book about treating others the way you want to be treated- good to set up expectations. :)
  • Since we start on a Thursday I spend the 1st couple of days doing a lot of "Getting to Know You" activities. The kids love them and so do I and it eases us into the school routine. I am also going to try starting to use the "Bucket Filler" system in my room.
  • "The Kissing Hand" is always a good one
  • I really love "Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge"
  • I take pictures of my second graders in a cap and gown to create a "future college grads" bulletin board.
  • I want the students to come up with a goal they want to try to accomplish that year
  • In kinder we must read Miss Bindergarten and The Kissing Hand and First Day Jitters
  • I think one of my favorite back to school books is "This Is The Teacher..." I read it at the end of the week because the last page is all about how the teacher is EXHAUSTED!
  • One of my favorite things to do the first couple days is to take them outside and do some trust activities. One I love is to have them join hands in a circle and number off. The evens lean in, and the odds lean out. They are amazed that they can do it, and it emphasizes that if a good year takes everyone working together. They realize that they work together and be strong, or they all fall.
  • One thing that I have done for Back-to-School, that I feel, has worked really well is to give each of my students an index card. They are to write down 5 questions they have about 5th grade. I collect the cards, shuffle them, and then start going through the questions. It is a great way to get a little insight into my new students...what they are nervous about, what they have heard about 5th grade (and me!), what things in the room have drawn their interest, etc. :) Many of the questions are things that I plan to cover in going over areas of the room and procedures that I want them to follow. I think it gives them a sense of ownership in the process and they pay attention a bit more. Throughout that first week, I pull out a few cards at a time and answer their questions. I really think it set a positive tone for our relationship for the whole year. :) 
  • On the first day of school, I place a half sheet of paper with the first letter of there name written, largely, in black sharpie. There job is to turn it into a picture! These are so neat!
  • I start every year with a stack of books about friendship, respecting our names, how we dress, etc. it sets the expected tone for respect and friendship in our classroom.
  • We had a getting to know you snowball fight (I found this on Pinterest.). The kids loved it so much that they wanted to have one each time we got a new student. 
  • I love to send home a bag with directions at Meet the Teacher night. It is an All About Me bag and the kids put things inside to share about themselves on the first day of school.
  • Spork is a great read aloud book to promote inclusion!
  • My favorite back to school activity is: POP QUIZ!
    I pass our paper and pencils to my students and tell them it's time to get back into the "school mode" with a pop quiz! They all groan and look a little sick :) I show them how to set up their paper and have them number 1-10. Then I ask them ridiculously hard questions about myself. There is almost no way they could know these answers - they just have to guess. It's a really fun activity that lets them get to know random things about me, models for them how I want them to set-up their papers, and the student who gets the most correct wins a prize! I also tell them that this is the hardest quiz they'll take all year because there was no way for them to prepare for it. Then I promise to be their partners for the year and that if they put in the work, I will make sure that they are prepped and ready for each quiz and test they take. The kids LOVE it!
  • I love the book 'We Share Everything" It is entertaining but has a great message to go with it.
  • My favorite read aloud the first week of kindergarten is A Place Called Kindergarten. It is such a cute book about school not being a scary place but a fun place :)  
  • I LOVE to read "Ramona Quimby, Age 8" to my 3rd graders the first few weeks of school. It is the book where Ramona enter 3rd grade and has all sorts of issues at school. The kids always enjoy it. :c)  {I found out that she was inspired to do this after remembering her third grade teacher reading this same book. Love the tradition!!}
  • One of my favorite books to share with my kiddos is "The Hundred Penny Box". My students use that book to create a penny book-one penny for every year of their life. It's a great way for me to get to know my kiddos at the start of the year.
  •  My favorite read aloud in 4th grade is "The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles" by Julie Andrews Edwards, aka Mary Poppins. It has great description and a lot of teachable moments.
  • I am a special education teacher, working in a full inclusion program with 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th graders. My first few days of school are spent in the students' homeroom classes listening in on what is going on, learning names/faces, and sharing tidbits about myself. I always try to be in each classroom when the teacher is doing their back-to-school activities, so I can participate, too!
  • This year I am using the book "You're Finally Here" by Melanie Watt on the first day!
  • My favorite book to read in the beginning of the year is "Mr. Peabody's Apples" by Madonna. It's a great book to teach kids that things aren't always the way they seem and not to judge a book by it's cover. The kids love the story and enjoy the discussion.
  • For the beginning of the year, creating classroom rules together is a must! I feel that it makes the students more responsible and accountable for their actions. I also do a lot of Kagan team building and class building. 
  • I like to show a PowerPoint with information about me and personal photos of my family and pets. I think it really helps to start building a relationship with them when they know I am a "real" person! Then, I do a writing activity and they can tell me a little about themselves (they all have SO much to share after seeing pictures from my life!). It helps build that connection early and when there is a connection, students will want to work for you even more :)
  • I love Leo the Late Bloomer and they cut out flowers and write on each petal something they want to learn this year.
  • I think the best is teaching the students sign language from the first day on. I teach them the alphabet, and certain words, and then we get started on the learning the Pledge of Allegiance in sign language. It is highly engaging and I use the sign language a lot for classroom management.
  • I send home a "Getting to Know You" bag as homework on the first day of school. I model my own bag and that usually gets the kids excited to go home and create their own bag.
  • One back to school thing that I am going to do this year is read Wonder. What a fabulous book and it fits in great with our character ed. program.
  • I tried something I found in someone's blog...'saving' a gummy worm by getting it into a gummy ring. Great teamwork activity & lets you see who likes to take charge!
  • I love to read "A Bad Case of Stripes" near the beginning of each year to remind kids it's important to be yourself.
  • I always just like to sit in a circle and listen to all sorts of things about my new students. It makes them excited to learn about me and their peers but also keeps them interested because they can share about themselves.
  • I love doing activities related to literature on the first few days of school. Some of my favorites are "The Kissing Hand", "CHRYSANTHEMUM", and "A My Name is Alice".  
  • Some of my favorites are "The Kissing Hand", "First Day Jitters", "Officer Buckle" and "Gloria", "Chrysanthemum", "The Recess Queen", "A Bad Case of Stripes", "Enemy Pie", and "Scaredy Squirrel". I also love to do get-to-know-you activities like Find Someone Who and Kagan's Swap Talk.
  • My favorite back to school read aloud is "A Fine, Fine School" by Sharon Creech. I also read "Amelia Bedelia Goes to School".  
  • My favorite read is "The Best School Year Ever". The students really get a good laugh with what goes on with the Herdman kids. We are also going to create a "Facebook" lapbook which the students will then share with their table group and eventually with the class. 
  • At the beginning of the year I read Dear Mr. Henshaw, great book that leads to character discussions and helps you get to know the kids really quickly, especially empathetic kids and those who have been through divorce or had to move to a new school. While completing 1:1 BOY reading assessments the kids answer the 10 Questions that Mr. Henshaw sends to Leigh Botts. We turn the questions in to an about me booklet that their parents can peruse at open house. The booklets also give you a neat glimpse in to the kids' lives.
  • I think establishing positive relationships with parents is one of the most important things to do at back to school time. I try to send home a positive note or write a positive email or even pick up the phone and call home for each student with something positive to share in the first three weeks of school. It goes a long way toward having successful parent relationships when your first experience with them is a positive one. 
Can you see why I want at least 20 first days... so many great ideas! With school coming ever so soon you, have really got my wheels spinning! Thank you so much and I hope you've all gained an idea or two.


Crockpot Lovin'

Hello friends,

Have you ever had the experience when you go without something, perhaps caffeine, and get jittery? Where you go through with drawls, and your body just seems to revolt against the sudden change in your lifestyle?

The last couple of weeks haven't quite been like that, but it's as close as I can explain to my technology deprivation. I didn't realize how much I've been connected, online, in front of a screen, until I'm suddenly not. I don't have a consistent internet connection at Dad's. My father is old school, and the less screens in your face the better. {Not that I can say that there is too much wrong with that logic.}

Even though I have been a bit disconnected, not keeping up in blog reading as much as I'd like, I have been logging on via my phone and reading all of your comments. I truly have appreciated all of your kind words, kindness, and support. I also appreciate a few of my blogging buddies stepping in and guest blogging for me, Jivey, Amanda, & Joanne! If you have checked out the blogs these ladies' blogs, please click on their names to do so.

Enough of that. Onward to my crockpot lovin' :)

There have been a few times since starting this foodie-linky that I've talked about crockpot liners. A wee bit expensive for my taste, but they are a God-send for those crockpot creations that are notorious for sticking to the sides of the crockpot. I've made many dips, only to forget part way through a party to turn them down or off, and had to let the crockpot soak to get off the caked on remnants.
They can be found at Amazon and some grocery stores. I've found them next to the reynolds wrap, aluminum foil, etc. 

I saw this picture on Pinterest {where else?}

No link just a list of ingredients. So I improvised with my crockpot. 

It's not the prettiest when it comes out of the crockpot, but this concotion tastes pretty darn good and simple. Which is why I left it for my hubby to start up and make while I'm gone. 

Ingredients: no amounts listed, so I just sort of dumped as needed.
Boneless, skinless, chicken breast
1 can. cream of chicken soup
sour cream
instant white rice, optional
crockpot liners, optional

To Make
Layer as follows:
Chicken, bacon. Combine soup and sourcream, layer on the top.
Cook on low for 5-6 hours, until chicken cut through is done.
Prepare instant white rice as directed on box. Serve crockpot contents on top of rice.

The rice really soaks up the sauce well. It's a rich, tasty dish, super simple and hard to mess up. My favorite kind of recipe! :)

Be sure to link up any recipe or foodie find. I'm still catching up on emails and won't be home until later this week. I plan on commenting on all posts, know I do read up all link ups, I just haven't found a good way to comment and leave a link from my phone!


Fabulous Finds From Head Over Heels For Teaching

 Happy Friday Everyone! I'm honored to be a guest blogger for my good friend Christy and her adorable blog! I'm Joanne from Head Over Heel For Teaching and I'll be sharing some fabulous finds from this week's shopping ventures!
Best part....................$1! Yes!

 First up are these mini composition notebooks with sticky notes from Target. I only bought a few for a small group, but I'm hoping to score a class set if they get marked down to 50 cents. I like the way the sticky note is divided into lined paper and graph paper (great for area and perimeter, then explain their thinking!)
  I love using accordion files to organize my center materials or games, but this fashionable one from Target definitely caught my eye! I'm using it for my new Synonym Work Mats.
I also found these "diamond" clips at Target! Aren't they cute? I'm not positive how I will use them, but I had to get them! (maybe to hold papers) 

These colorful clips are from Dollar Tree. I plan to use these on my "clothesline" where I showcase my students' work. 
Yes, that is "FASHION" duct tape!!! Love the cheetah and zebra print! $1 at Dollar Tree! I used a piece and it's pretty sticky, so it will definitely hold!  
My friend Melissa told me about this find-2 gallon bags at Dollar Tree. Unfortunately, I only found one box, but I plan to use them to hold books to go back and forth from home to school. Be on the look out! 
This next one was a joke I played on my boys! hehe It's no tear toilet paper! LOL! (You can see the texture of the paper by looking at the picture). My son was able to tear it, but after using it, came to me and asked where did I get that terrible toilet paper? He said it was very rough and could barely get it off the roll! He also added it felt like a dryer sheet! Great joke! (Located in the toy section at Dollar Tree). Caution: The lady at Dollar Tree warned me this joke could backfire! :O)
Score! This decorative pillow was $1 at Hobby Lobby! I was able to get two of them! 90% off! 
This next treasure I found at Office Depot in their clearance section. There are so many possibilities for these pencil cut-outs! I'll probably use them for writing: a bulletin board, stages of the writing process, or decorate the front of their writing folder. Regularly $5.99, marked down to $1! 
I hope you found some deals you can go snag! All of these items were purchased this week, so most stores should still have them available.
Thank you Christy for having me as a guest today! 



A back to school gift idea {brought to you by a guest blogger!!}

Hi there!!

I'm so excited to be here!  I'm Amanda from Collaboration Cuties and I am guest blogging for Christy today!

Collaboration Cuties
Since we go back to school in less than 2 weeks I am in that mode of trying to get everything organized and ready since I know that our preplanning days will have many meetings.

How many of you spent your summer doing staff development through Pinterest?  I did!  I don't know if I even pinned anything that WASN'T education related all summer.  Well, I did pin some things for my daughter's 9th birthday, so I guess I did take a small break.  ;O)

I found an idea that I liked that I wanted to share today.  Usually, I don't get my children's teachers a back to school gift, but this year, my daughter is starting 4th grade, which is the grade I teach.  So, I thought it might be cute to get her teacher a small gift since we are good friends, too, and I can talk about it here on Christy's blog, since she won't see it!!  :O)

I saw this pin originally:
I thought it was adorable because it's the "old" aluminum lunch box that were all the rage when I was a kid.  And, I just got my son a Batman one for pre-k and they had all of the fun ones I loved when I was a kid!

But, anytime I get a plant, it usually dies or it means I need to replant it and I don't want her to have to worry about having to do that the first week or so of school.  So, then I came across THIS pin!

I thought this was adorable and would be the perfect use of an aluminum lunch box!  Here are some things I am going to stock it with (this is based on what I know about my friend):

I'm going to stock it with her favorite chocolates!!

Flair pens that will hopefully make writing in these much more fun!

Her favorite gum!

Probably a blend of Starbucks coffee because I know that she loves it, or a gift card for a cup of coffee.

That may be all that I can get in there.  If not, I'm sure I'll find more things to stuff in, like Post Its, cute clips, and the school supply list could go on and on!

So, these are my thoughts for a possible back to school gift.  I think it would be cute to get for my team, too, but I think that could get expensive.  I'll have to do something on a smaller scale for my team.  AND, I am still working on welcome back treats for my students, but you'll have to stop by our blog in the next week or so once I've made them to check out what I came up with!

I have tons more of cute back to school pins that I will share on Friday, too, but I have no doubt that you've probably been pinning them too!  What did we ever do without Pinterest?

A great big thank you to Christy for having me today!!!
:O) Amanda

Oh, and make sure to check out our 1000 bloglovin follower giveaway going on at our blog!!  :O)