Monday, March 31, 2014

Spring Break!

I'll be taking a little break from blogging this week!  It's time to enjoy Spring Break with my family! :)

Friday, March 28, 2014

Five for Friday: March 28

This is it!  The last day and Spring Break is here!  I am so excited!!  This has been a crazy, busy, blessed week!

Here's my 5 for this Friday!

1.  Sometimes just a little email from a parent can really make your week.  I received a sweet email from a parent this week just to say thanks! It honestly made me cry!

2.  My sweet girl wore a University of Louisville shirt for me today.  If you are following the NCAA tournament you know that UK versus U of L tonight and this is a huge in state battle!  This is a hard game for me to choose between.  We live very close to Lexington, but I went to school at U of L!  House divided!  My kids at school know my love for UofL and this sweetie wore her shirt to support my team today!  Love her!  We had to take a selfie! :)

 3.  Kasey's last day! :(  Kasey has been my student teacher since January and her last day was Wednesday.  I miss her like crazy!! She is an amazing teacher and is going to be wonderful teaching LBD!

3.  Another of my sweeties made me a birthday card. :)  It's not my birthday! :)  Made my heart skip a beat, nonetheless!

4.  I've been busy in preparation for Autism Awareness Month in April.  Here is a little screenshot of the work in progress:
A kid friendly Autism Awareness Brochure :)  If you want a copy, head over to my TPT store.

5.  And finally, it's Spring Break!  It is sooooo time for some rest and relaxation!  We're headed to the Smokies this coming week.  The Smoky Mountains are one of my favorite places to visit!  Can't wait to eat at the Old Mill and Apple Barn, do some shopping at the outlets, and enjoy the beauty of the mountains.  I'm praying for warmer weather so we can be out and exploring!

Happy Spring Friends!!!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Social Skills: Zones of Regulation App

Ok...I know it is not Tuesday, but I have a great app to share!

It goes with the curriculum, Zones of Regulation, that I use with my social skills group.  So, without further ado...
Zones of Regulation

The Zones of Regulation app costs $4.99 and it is worth every cent!  I use it with my social group as a review when we have completed a lesson.  The kids were so excited that their Zones were part of an app.  :)  One kid even asked me to write down the name of the app so that she could get it for her home iPad.

The object of the game is to move your avatar through the little city.  You will see blue, green, yellow and red zones and once you enter that "zone" you will be asked a question related to the zone.  You gain points by answering questions correctly and by moving through levels.  It is a great summative assessement to use with your students.  I knew by using the app that the kids know and remember all about what we ahve discussed.  It is difficult to assess social skills, so this is perfect to meet that need.

Try it out!  Let me know what you think?  Are you using Zones?  Do you have any great activities?  I would love to hear about how you use it!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Oh "Appy" Day: Tech on Tuesday-Calculator Apps

There are two calculator apps that I am in love with right now!  

The first one is MyScript Calculator (thanks to my sweet friend Cyndee for showing me this one)!

 I became hooked on this app from the first moment that I touched the screen!  It has an amazing "cool" factor that your students will love.  This calculator app recognizes your handwriting and converts it into script/type and then solves the math equation that you write on the screen.  This app helps to eliminate the need to "learn" to use the calculator. If your student can write numbers then this app can solve the problem!  One of the best features???  It's FREE!!

My second calculator app came out of pure necessity as we are working on fractions in every grade level that I work with right now!  Talk about being sick of fractions! This girl is done!  Anyway, adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing fractions have soooo many rules and processes to remember, but this app can help solve those dilemmas!  
Fraction Calculator Plus FREE is the app you need for teaching fractions.  I have been letting my fifth graders use this app to solve their fraction problems!  My students do know the process for finding the answers to problems involving fractions, but are still having a difficult time simplifying, so I have them work on the problems on paper, then they can use the app to get the answer in the simplest form.  Works perfect!!

Get these great FREE apps today!! 
And join me at this Techie Link Up!

Friday, March 21, 2014

Five For Friday: March 21st Edition

It's Friday!!  Why are the longest weeks only four days long?  We missed school on Monday for yet another snow day, but this was a week that Friday couldn't come soon enough!  I think the cold and snow is just getting me down! I am over it!  My kids, thankfully, are great though and I love seeing them everyday! They are the best!!

So this week's top Five:

1.  My daughter went to Battle of the Books...a quick recall type of book battle.  The participants had to read several books (I believe 25 books are on the list) and they are asked different questions about the books.  They play tournament style against the other elementary schools in our district (8 total elementary schools).  Here is their cute little team!  Go LME! My Chloe is the girl in the back row!  Great job kids!

2.  Thursday was a make up the hours evening for teachers.  We had to stay 3 and 1/2 hours later to make up some of the hours we have missed due to snow.  Although staying after school isn't my idea of a fun evening, I did actually have fun and I got to hang with amazing people!! :)  Look at our little staff!! We all fit in the same conference room!
Family Dinner ;)

3.  Math stations are going amazingly in both 3rd and 5th grades!  My coteachers and I have started doing minilessons and math stations.  This has been a great way to differentiate instruction and also allow us to learn what the students know and don't know!  The kids are doing a great job staying on task and are self assessing!  I'm proud of them!  I hope to post about math stations soon!

4.  My kids are doing learning their multiplication facts!! I am so proud!  My resource math class is a group of 6 boys!  It has been a challenge to find something that interests them and helps them learn multiplication facts!  This product has changed the way my boys feel about learning math facts!! They are little math ninjas!! :)  Click the link to go to the TPT seller!

5.  And finally, I get to have my first meeting with the Learning A-Z team!  If you have read my blog for very long then you know how much I love Learning A-Z and their products.  Recently, I was named to the Reading A-Z Advisory Panel!  We have our first meeting in about 30 minutes to learn all about what my duties will be for this! I am beyond thrilled!!

Have a great weekend!!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Oh "Appy" Day: Tech on Tuesday: FarFaria App Review & Giveaway

I was recently contacted by the owners of the app FarFaria and was asked to review their storybook app for the iPad.

FarFaria is an iPad app that provides a story time experiences for children ages 2-9 with more than 600 + children’s stories to choose from, plus 5 new stories are added each week. The app opens up to a fairy tale world complete with different kingdoms to choose from (the kingdoms are all different genres of books).  

Mt. Make Believe is one of the kingdoms that you can choose books from.  There is something for every child, from make believe to animals to fairy tales.

There are also books for the youngest readers.  Preschool Playground contains lots of great books made just for the little preschool tikes!

My favorite features of the app include:
  • More than 600 stories to choose from (there is something for everyone-boys and girls)
  • New stories added every week.
  • Interactive and engaging stories with bright colors and detailed pictures
  • Stories can be read aloud with the Read to Me feature with clear voices and engaging fluency
  • Reading-level badge on every story cover.
  • You can go offline and still read your favorite stories.
  • No ads or hidden fees
While trying out apps to review, I have allowed my very own children (ages 6 and 11) try out each app.  I thought it would be great for you to get a kids opinion on each app that I review.

My 6 year old says, "This is a cool app!  The books are fun to read.  I really like the Animal Kingdom."

My 11 year old says, "I love fairy tales and these are fun to read!  They have a huge selection of books and I love looking for just the right one!"

Classroom Applications:  In my classroom I will using FarFaria during reading resource.  I use a modified Daily 5 schedule during my reading group.  This app is great for Listen to Reading or Read to Self.  The books are highly engaging and interesting.  

The app is free to download and you can read one book a day, but to access all of the books, you must subscribe.  A 6 month subscription is $23.99 (or just $3.99 a month) and so worth every penny!  Want a subscription?  Thanks to the creators of FarFaria, I have one to giveaway!  FarFaria is giving me one 6 month subscription to giveaway to one of you lucky readers!  This is my very first giveaway, friends!! I am so excited about the giveaway, but even more excited about this app!  It is a 5 Star App!!!

And just for fun...I'm linking up with a great Techy Blog that I love!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Oh "Appy" Day: Tech on Tuesday: March 4

Today's app is FREE (Hurry's free for Read Across America Day)!!  And wonderful!!!

When I began this year, I had to buy all new books for my classroom library because I've never had a classroom of my own.  I've always inherited whatever classroom library books were in the library and therefore didn't own many of my own books.  When this year started, I had to stock a whole classroom library.  Most of the books on my shelves come from ebay and from yard sales!  Great books and even better deals!

With that being said, we didn't get into our brand new building until just right before school started.  I put together my library, but I had many more pressing issues to organize and work on to be ready for the first day, so the ole library was thrown together and forgotten about. :(
That is until I found this app and this resource!  Match made in picture book heaven!!

Literacy Leveler is a book leveling app that helps students choose books that are on their reading level.  It gives you information Lexile levels, DRA levels, and Guided Reading levels!  I am so excited about this!  I cannot wait to level all of my library books!  All of this information is at your fingertips when you scan the bar code or type in the ISBN number on the book!

This resource is available on TPT (click the image to be directed to the link).  I recently purchased this beauty and now I'm ready to print and label my book bins!  

I can't wait to share my new and improved library with you guys!! :)

Monday, March 3, 2014

Monthly Meal Planning: It Can Be Done!

In January of this year, I made a resolution to cook more meals at home.  I began researching meal plans online and pulled out my old weekly meal plans.  Weekly meals plans worked for our family in the past, but honestly I hated it.  I needed a plan.  A plan that is easy to manage, easy to stick with and can help us save money.  Here is what I had in mind when I sat down to discover a plan:

1.  Weekly meal planning takes up a lot of time.  I sat down once a week to plan meals and go to the grocery store.  I used to hate grocery shopping and when I had to go weekly...bleck!  Meal planning cannot take up too much time!
2.  We ate out way too much!  I'm talking we would go out to eat at least 4 times a week and some weekends we would eat out both days for each meal!!  That is so embarrassing to say, but I want you to know just what it was like and why we needed to change.  Eating out this much really breaks into the budget.  Meals need to come from our house!
3.  Save money!!  My husband and I faithfully budget for each month and our restaurant budget was OUT OF HAND!  When we looked back at our budget from the past year there were a few months (especially through the summer) that we had spent $500+ and bought groceries on top of that!! OMG!!  That is a lot of money!  Meals need to be easy on the wallet!
4.  Health.  Fast food became a staple around the house and that is not good for anyone.  We had to make some dietary changes.  Meals have to be healthy (or fixed in a healthier way).
5.  I am not a cook.  In fact, I don't even like to cook (but I would like to say that I am getting so much better and I'm starting to enjoy it).  I needed easy meals, people!
6.  We lead a busy life.  Our little family stays super busy.  Joe and I both work full time (and then some) and both kids are involved in extracurricular activities.  Meals have to be quick!

So with all of these thoughts in mind, I set out to make a MONTHLY meal plan work for our family.  I scoured Pinterest and several homemaking/mommy blogger sites until I had gathered enough information to believe that I could meal plan monthly!  You can too!!  I will tell you how and give you the resources you need! :)

First of all, complete a master grocery list.  The master grocery list contains any and all foods and household items that you regularly purchase at the grocery store.

Second, take inventory of cooking supplies and food that you already have in stock in your pantry, fridge and freezer.  There is no need to double buy things you already have.

Next, complete a month long calendar of supper ideas.
     * Note: I only plan supper and breakfast.  My kids and I eat lunch at school and my husband has a separate lunch budget.  He travels daily for work and it is difficult for him to pack a lunch.  He usually eats at the hospital where he works.*

3 months worth of completed supper ideas! :)

My supper ideas all revolve around a theme.
Tuesdays-Mexican or Chinese
Wednesdays-Slow Cooker Meal
Saturdays-Eat Out Day

When I do themes, it makes things more organized in my brain.  It makes me feel like I don't have to come up with 30 different meals, but just 4 types of each meal.  Mostly, this is just a brain trick, but totally works for me! :)  Of course, you can do different themes if you choose to do this.  The themes I chose come from what my family likes to eat and what I know how to cook.

My recipes come from a few different places:
1.  My brain-These are just the old standby meals that are easy to fix and most everyone knows how to make them.  This includes burgers, tacos, spaghetti, most breakfast foods, pizza, etc...
2.  Pinterest! Most of my recipes come straight from Pinterest!  It is the best cookbook there is and my Food board keeps all of my favorites ready for me to look up.  Most nights you will find me in the kitchen with my iPad by my side reading recipes and cooking away! ;)  Follow my FOOD board on Pinterest.
3.  Magazines-I don't subscribe to any particular magazine, but sometimes in the line at the grocery store something will catch my eye and I'll buy the magazine for the recipe.

Finally, the grocery shopping!!  This is the big part...we budget between $400-500 a month for groceries.  This means I budget shop, use coupons on what I can, and shop in bulk.  I grocery shop on the first weekend of each month and only make two stops...Costco and Kroger.  I use the master grocery list to check off any ingredients I need to make the recipes I have chosen.

At Costco, I buy everything that I can in bulk, such as pasta, fresh meat, bread, canned goods, spices, cereal, cereal bars, crackers, etc.
At Kroger, I buy what I cannot find at Costco.  Recipe specific ingredients usually come from Kroger, since Costco doesn't carry small quantities of anything. :)
There are obviously items that run out quickly around our house and I have to make intermittent trips to the grocery, but I go in with a list and a budget.  I go straight for what I'm after and only use the money that is left in the grocery budget after the big first of the month purchase.  We usually have to make about 2 extra trips to Kroger for milk and fresh fruit and vegetables.

This is our 3rd month on the monthly meal plan and it is fitting each of the needs that I outlined at the beginning of this post.  In January, we spent less than $150 at restaurants.  This is such a big difference from our previous habits!

I really hope you are inspired to monthly meal plan.  This has made our lives so much easier, healthier, and easy on the pocketbook!  Please, leave a comment or question if you have any.  This is only a brief version of the whole monthly meal plan process and I want to help in any way that I can!
I am including a free download of my master grocery lists, theme list and a planning calendar!  Click the image below to download!

And finally as a bonus for all of my lovely readers...I am posting my March monthly meal plan WITH links to the recipes that I have found via Pinterest!  Click on the calendar image below to download this month's meal plan!  I've done all of the work for you (well aside from the actual cooking)!!  Enjoy!

Enjoy!  Leave me a comment and let me know how I can help! ;)

Sunday, March 2, 2014

March Currently!

It's March!  I'm a day late, but still linking up with my favorite linky party, Farley's Currently!

Listening:  The dishwasher has run non-stop today thanks to the hubby!  He keeps filling it up every time we have another meal.  I like it!! :)

Loving:  I really cannot say enough about my new school and how much I love it there!  It is proving to be an awesome place for kids (and adults) to learn and grow! 

Thinking:  KY is on the brink of another round of winter weather! :( Boo!! I am so ready for spring, but tonight we are supposed to get 4-8 inches of snow.  While it does snow in Kentucky in the winter, this winter the snow has been a bit on the excessive side.  I love a snow day, but I also love warm weather and swimming pools! Bring on summer!!

Wanting: It's been several weeks (maybe even a month) since I've been to Target!  I'm having withdrawl symptoms!  Someone!  Quick!!  Take me to the big, red Bullseye!!

Needing:  I could ALWAYS use a vacation!  This cold weather is making me dream of warm sand and sunny beaches.  I am incredibly jealous of my other teacher blogger buddies posting pics of near 80 degree weather and sunny days.  I've even seen flip flops, people!! I need vitamin D in a bad way!!

????????:  Do you know what Diet Coke is the answer to?  Scroll on down to find out!

No Diet Coke, pop, soda, cola...not even a drip drop since December 31!!  Woooooo!  New Years resolution going strong!