I joined up with the Teacher Blogger Exchange for a fun Holiday gift exchange!  The theme this year was "My Favorite Things"!
For my partner, Jen from Jen's Kinder Kids, I sent her one of my ultimate favorite things - a Thirty-One bag!  In her email, she said she likes all things polkadot and also monogrammed.  Since I wasn't sure of her middle name, I had her first name embroidered on the bag.
Via www.mythirtyone.com
For my gift, I got a set of goodies from Katie at Adventures of Ms. Smith!  She sent me 4 of her favorite items, and included a cute little tag explaining it all!

  • Fingernail polish - this is currently one of my favorite colors!
  • Lip Gloss - this lip gloss is one of my essentials... and it's only $1 at Target! 
  • Chocolate - I love anything chocolate!  This peppermint kind is one of my favorites during the holiday season.
  • Pens - Since we are both teachers I figured it was only appropriate to include one of my favorite school items.  I love grading papers in all sorts of fun, colorful pens (not just red!)

It was like Katie read my mind - I LOVE all of these goodies, too!

Did you participate in any fun gift exchanges this year?  Maybe you can sign up for Holly Bloggy Christmas next year!

I'm joining up with Christina from Bunting, Books, and Bainbridge for 2012's Blog Best and Brightest linky party!

Most Popular Post
My most popular post is the one I did about Integrated ELD last spring after visiting Myers Elementary in Salem, OR.  This school uses Integrated ELD and OCDE Project GLAD® strategies to teach all students.  They also use the Daily 5 and some teachers were starting Guided Math groups, as well.  It was amazing to see the learning taking place at this school!

Favorite Freebie
Another popular post of mine is my post about Whole Brain Teaching.  I made a freebie of the rules, and included different genders and races to accommodate all classrooms!  And after I posted this, the teacher from those awesome videos emailed me.  I have to admit, I was a little star struck!! I definitely plan to incorporate more WBT strategies in 2013!

Favorite Post
One of my favorite posts is about boosting vocabulary in the classroom.  I shared how I utilize table group names and TPR to teach difficult vocabulary words.

Favorite Product 
My favorite product is my Calendar Starter Set.  The math program at my new school does not have a calendar component, so it is up to me to create one.  I found an old pocket chart in a drawer and have been making calendar pieces each month.  So far, I have 3-D shapes and place value in my TpT store.  I'm working on a time set, as well as a money set.  Those should be out by at least the end of January.

Favorite 2nd Grade Blogs
Now for my favorite bloggers - this year has been so amazing for me since I started my blog.  I joined Teaching Blog Traffic School and met so many other bloggers.  From commenting on blogs, joining linky parties, and participating in fun things, like the Teacher Blogger Gift Exchange and the Product Swap from Mrs. Stanford's Class, I have met even more amazing bloggers!  On my side bar are my absolute besties that I love to chat with online and even text and talk on the phone with some of them!  Here is a list of my must-read 2nd grade blogs:
Falling into First      
What are your favorites from this year?
Last week my colleagues and I did a round robin with Holidays Around the World!  Ms. B did Italy (she studied abroad there!), Mrs. S did Mexico, and I did The Philippines!  85% of our school's population comes from The Philippines, so I felt it was important to include their culture in our studies.

For our Around the World unit, we used Jen Ross's unit from The Teacher's Cauldron.  It was so fun!  It included teacher cheat sheets, a passport, crafts for most countries, a mini book for each student, a world map to color in, and writing sheets.

Since the Philippines is not included in this set, I asked Jen if I could make an Add-on set and she said yes!  You can head to my Google Docs to grab a copy.

I also used Christina Bainbridge's scrapbook freebie.  You can find that in her TpT store here!

I realized that some teacher's would like a stand alone Philippines unit, so I made a little pack, too.  It's originally $2, but will be on sale for $1.50 all week!  It includes teacher directions, a colorful info page, vocab cards, writing pages, a Venn diagram for comparing and contrasting, and an ornament craft.

If you are at work this week, I hope you have an amazing week with your kiddos.  If you are on winter break already like me, enjoy your time off to relax, rest, and plan ahead for an amazing 2013!

First up, congrats to Stephanie from Falling Into First for winning The Together Teacher giveaway!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

To wrap up my gingerbread week, I made my kids a cute gingerbread hunt!  I started doing this when I taught kindergarten in Portland.  The kids LOVE it!

Since my son and daughter have been sick and I had to be out last Friday, my class is doing our gingerbread hunt this week.  But I couldn't wait to show you!

I made some cute, rhyming cards to hide around the school as your class goes on a hunt to find the missing Gingerbread Man!  Before you go on the hunt, the students will make missing posters to put on display.  The lesson can be about descriptive writing.  I'm not sure about you, but my kids have SUCH a hard time writing descriptively.  We've been working on adjectives for weeks now (Thanks to Kelley Dolling's Gingerbread Adjectives pack! :)

Once you go on the hunt and get back to the classroom, the kids will find the gingerbread man and you can give them ginger snap cookies or actual gingerbread cookies as a treat!  You can also do this freebie writing that I whipped up!

There are 3 options for the writing prompt, so you can choose which one works the best for your class. 

I love that The Gingerbread Man is not Christmas specific, but is still fun and has a holiday feel.  Do you teach with the gingerbread man in December?  

My scholastic box came in!  Yay!  The box FILLED with tons of new gingerbread books!  You see, the gingerbread books I used to have in my classroom library belonged to my old school.  So when I moved, no gingerbreads came with me.  So sad.  They would have loved it here.  But no need to cry, I got new ones!

And what better complements to a bunch of new gingerbread books than some gingerbread activities!

This week in word work we are doing this adorable adjective activity from Kelley at The Teacher Idea Factory.  We'll be doing the craft project on friday, too!

We are also doing this present and past tense verb game that is a freebie from Jen at The Teachers' Cauldron.
And the Christmas Tree sentence fluency game from Michelle at Teach123.

From my friend Reagan at Tunstall's Teaching Tidbits, we are doing her Gingerbread Week pack (perfect title for me, huh?).  I love her gingerbread story graphic organizers!

And I'm throwing in this amazing freebie from Lori from Teaching With Love and Laughter at the end of the week!

What fun activities do you plan to do this week  Any gingerbread goodness?

This time every year I re-evaluate my systems.  Did I train my kids in Daily 5 well enough?  Do they all know the opening and closing day routines without reminders?  Did the changes I made to last year's schedule work well for me and the kids?  In December, I ask these questions and observe.  Then, in January, I make a News Year's resolution to make changes and re-train based on those observations.

So when I had the opportunity to review The Together Teacher by Maia Heyck-Merlin, I knew this gem of a book could help me set up my routines and expectations even better.

In the book, there are twelve chapters, focusing on subjects such as making a calendar, creating organizational systems, establishing solid routines, taking notes at staff meetings and anecdotal records of student behaviors, planning ahead, managing email, cleaning your classroom, organize student "stuff" (backpacks, supplies, etc), and dealing with your mounds of papers that need to be filed, graded, and filled out.  Seriously, this book has it all.

And, it has a CD to boot! It has several templates to use in your classroom that are in Word or Powerpoint, so they are completely editable and customizable for you.  I love that!

This paragraph from the forward really hooked me:
An inveterate organizer, [Maia] crafted minute-by-minute plans for each day, orchestrated routines to keep students on-task, and carefully assigned desks.  She distributed elaborate writing assignments with step-by-step instructions   She constantly circulated among her students, clipboard in hand.  She asked for "exit tickets" at the end of class to track student progress.  She handed out "differentiated homework so students' nightly assignments were customized to reflect precisely where they needed to review or to stretch toward more challenging material.  Maia's relentless consistency made her students feel safe, productive, and self-sufficient.
Now isn't that the classroom we all want?  I feel I am a highly organized teacher and person, but this book really helped me zone in on the areas that I can work on to be even better.  At a Daily 5 workshop last summer, Joan Moser said "Our students deserve the most exquisite instruction and teaching."  It's true!  And this book can help us all get there, just by tweaking systems, routines, and habits.  We all know WHAT to teach (standards) and WHAT to do (best practices), the hard part is HOW to do it.  This book offers some real solutions for finding that how.

So, who wants to read this book?  Enter the rafflecopter below and I will mail you my extra copy from Shelton Interactive! a Rafflecopter giveaway
How many of you participated in Black Friday or Cyber Monday??  I definitely got in some good Christmas shopping from Amazon!


As for teaching materials, I stocked up on some really exciting things from my fellow bloggers and TpT sellers!  I've also linked up with Stephanie from Falling Into First Grade for a fun linky party!

I'm also linking up with all the lovely bloggers over at Blog Hoppin'!


  1. Kwanzaa Unit for Young Learners by Latoya Reed
  2. Techy Santa by Reagan Tunstall
  3. Jingle All the Way - Christmas Math Centers by The Bubbly Blonde
  4. Parts of Speech Mystery Pictures by Mr. Hughes
  5. Subtraction Sleuths by The Teacher's Cauldron
  6. Reindeer Holiday Party Pack by A Modern Teacher
  7. Elf on the Shelf Literacy Unit from Krista Wallden
  8. Baking for Santa by First Grade and Fabulous
  9. The Busy Teacher's Best Friend from Katie King
  10. Jolly Santa Craft from A Cupcake for the Teacher

What goodies did you stock up on?  Only things for December, or things for the whole year?  I'd love to hear about it!

I am over at The Cornerstone for Teachers today, writing about tips for including ELL students in all lessons.  Check it out!

Also, make sure to check out the Cyber Monday sale over at Teachers Pay Teachers.  Today is the last day!

I am joining some of my favorite bloggers for a link up!  All of these stores are participating in the sale.
Congrats to Hilary for winning the comb binder from My Binding!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Even though there was only one winner, we can still get some great ideas from everyone!  I've compiled the list of ways to use a comb binder in the classroom, and I have to say that it is one great list!

  • Class-made books
  • Lesson plan books for yourself, a teacher's aide, or a volunteer
  • Doodle books
  • Student published books
  • Morning work books
  • Student of the Week books
  • "My Letter" books for each letter of the alphabet
  • State books for each State
  • Personal spelling books
  • Sight Word books
  • Fluency Books
  • Song Books
  • Poetry Books
  • Leveled books for students to read
  • Science themed journals
  • Individual writing journals
  • Calendar journals
  • Vocabulary journals
  • Phonics journals
  • Picture dictionaries
  • Student portfolios
  • Handprint Calendars for parent Christmas Gifts
  • Year-long scrap book to keep as a momento at the end fo the year
  • "My Year of Progress" books for parents
I'm throwing a sale in my store today through Wednesday in honor of Thanksgiving! My fall and Thanksgiving items will be 20% off!

You can get my best selling pumpkin science unit

My new Thanksgiving Feast unit

Or my Turkey Talk graphic organizers!

Don't forget about my Pumpkin Chiffon recipe from DeAnne's holiday recipe linky!  There are some Yum-o things added!

I'm over at Classroom DIY this month with a post about making doodle books for a student gift.  You'll want to check it out!
Classroom DIY

To make my doodle book, I used the Paper Monster comb binder from MyBinding.com.  I love it!  It punches up to 8 regular pages at a time, or 1 piece of clear plastic (for a report cover).  It has a tray below that collects the little pieces of paper so it doesn't make a mess.  The handle locks when it's not in use.  It's super lightweight and is easy to store.

Here are all the goodies Tarragon and the My Binding team sent me.  I got the comb binder machine, plastic combs, plastic sheets for report covers, and a pack of textured polkadot paper for report covers, as well.  I got the hook up!  It may have been because they are headquartered in a suburb of my old town: Hillsboro, OR! :)

To use, you insert the paper into the machine and push down on the handle on top to punch.  The stop guide is ajustable, but I just left it alone, since I would be cutting regular-sized copy paper.

Here is my paper, perfectly cut!

I messed up punching my cover and had to re-print it.  That made me mad!

I made sure to stick the paper in ALL the way this time and it cut perfectly.

Now it's time to open the comb.  You stick it on the bottom with the tines (not sure if this is the right word) facing towards you when they open.

Pull the little lever on the right to open the comb.

Insert your paper.  This blue sheet is my back cover.  Push the lever back up to close the comb and take the book off the machine.

Ta-da!  All done!

I also made my teacher assistant a lesson plan book to go with a component of our reading program.  In Houghton Mifflin Reading, the Phonics Library book lessons are in the teacher's manual.  I like to teach these in small groups, not whole class.  I copied each of these lesson plans, added some directions that I pieced together from resources shared with me from my fabulous friends Laura (from Teacher Laura) and Michelle (from Third Grade Al Dente).  Thanks ladies!
Click the picture to download my covers and plans from Google Drive!

I made a 5 day plan.  This will be easy for an aide or parent volunteer to follow.

Here is the inside, copies of the Phonics Library teacher guides, shrunk down to 85% to fit on a regular size page.

There are millions of other things that I plan to comb bind.  You can make: 
  • poetry books for your students
  • vocabulary books 
  • science observation books 
  • monthly writing journals
  • comb bind your lesson plan book 
  • daily plans for a teacher's assistant for RTI or intervention reading groups
Now for all of you - a giveaway to win your very own comb binder!  
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Don't forget, you can tweet or FB share this giveaway everyday for an extra 10 points!  The contest ends next Friday, November 23rd!

I can't wait to see the ideas you come up with for using comb binds in your classroom!