Monday, July 29, 2013

Restyled Stools for my reading table!

When my students come to a guided reading lesson, we sit together at my reading table.  Some people call it a "kidney bean" table.  One of my teammates calls it the "rainbow" table.  Whatever you call, it, it fits five chairs nicely, six chairs if we squeeze.  Some teachers at my school have gone to IKEA and found really cute plastic stools shaped like two cones, point to point.  I looked on the IKEA website, and found THESE.  They would be so CUTE in the blue color in my room!  But, I really like the idea of reusing... you know, going green.  I don't go around hugging trees, but it just makes sense to me.  So I checked on Craig's List and found six bar stools from a family that was moving.  All six for $30!  SOLD!

But wait... much too high for first graders.  And the fabric?  Ew!  So, I picked up some indoor/outdoor fabric at JoAnne's (half off PLUS my teacher discount).  I watched some videos on youtube about recovering bar stools, enlisted my husband to cut the legs, and viola!

Here's how I did it:

Get yourself some tools.  (Please note the $2.99 staple gun from St. Vincent DePaul.  I told you I like the idea of reusing.... OK, and saving money too).  This is all I needed.  Remember, JimDear did the wood cutting with an electric saw.

First, I spread my fabric out.  It comes folded in half, and I left it folded.  The pattern matched on both the top and bottom layers, so I knew I was getting the same design on both layers.  I looked around for something round to trace and choose a cooking pot lid that was 12 inches (the same diameter as the seat on the stool).  I placed the center of the lid over the part of the fabric I wanted to be in the center of the seat.  Then I measured out four inches from the lid all the way around and made dots with a marker.  I wasn't worried about the marker showing.  I knew it would eventually be trimmed off.  If I bothers you, mark a bit farther out and cut inside your markings.

Then I cut the fabric.  I put one circle of fabric right-side-down and put the stool on top of it, centering it just the way I wanted.

(Weird how the people who owned these bar stools for who-knows-how-long, never took the bar code off.)  Anyway, according the youtube video, you should put one staple on each side to start.  Hope you don't mind that I'm going to use the term "side."  I realize that circles don't have "sides," but just go with it, for my sake.

Then I stapled the four "corners."  I know, I know, just go with it!  The photo below has eight evenly spaced staples.

Now that I knew my fabric was held in place on all "sides," I began to work the fabric in between the staples, scrunching it and spreading it out, so that there were no big folds or bunched up spots.  Here is a picture of the bottom with all the staples in it.

The next job is to make sure all the staples are in all the way.  That's what I used my hammer for.  I DO NOT want any student's fingers getting pricked!  The needle-nose pliers was to pull out any staples that went in crooked.  All that was left to do was to trim the extra fabric off.  This picture was taken AFTER I trimmed it. (The dots I made earlier are now gone.)

Done!  I just love it, and I think the kids will be excited to come and read with me at my reading table. Many times when the kids come to sit on the chairs at the table, they sit on their feet or they kneel on the chairs.  I think it's so important for kids to have good posture when they're working at school, especially for reading and writing.  So now, just five more to go!  I don't start school until September, so I know I can do it.  I really didn't take long at all!

One done, five more on the way!

I'd love to hear what your kiddos sit on when you do guided reading lessons.  Feel free to comment!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

My Three Wishes for My Top Dog Students

This year, I am really going to town with the top dog theme.  My school mascot is a husky, but I love ALL dogs.  I found these cute painted portraits in mats at Michael's, along with some simple black frames.  I used stickers from the Dollar Tree to write my three wishes for my students :  Work Hard, Be Nice, Learn Lots.

Every day this past year, I would drive down the little main street in our town.  I would (of course) get the red light at the main intersection.  One day I looked over into a little shop as I waited for the light to turn.  There was a big wooden sign with painted lettering saying:  WORK HARD, BE NICE.  I thought, that would pretty much sum up what I'd like my students to do.  Well, the sign would have looked silly in my classroom, being wooden and HUGE, so I took some butcher paper and made two long strips.  I penciled on bubble letters of the exact saying.  Kids painted them in one day, and I hung them from the ceiling in front of my windows.  I didn't take them down at the end of the year, and they're still up!  I will probably take them down when I get ready for the new school year.  I want to start fresh, and now I have these three great signs to hang up.  

I plan to introduce them to my class and talk about what each one looks like, feels like, and sounds like.  Each student will make a Top Dog Promise to do his/her best on these three big ideas.  Last year my students each colored and signed a paw print, which hung by our class rules.  I can't exactly call these my rules, as our school is involved in PBIS, and so we have a set of school rules.  But I'm going to tell my class that these are the things I expect from them.  Then I'm going to have the class help me decide where to hang them with command strips.  They don't have a stand in the back, but I could put each one on a book stand, if we decide not to put them on the walls.  I'll have to wait and see how the room turns out.  I have a new arrangement this year, and it's hard to picture everything in its place right now, when the room is bare.

I did get a fourth matching frame (it was a pk of 4).  I'd like to get a matching mat for it and put a picture of the student of the week in it.  Perhaps it could say, "Top Dog."  I also thought of hanging them up in this order with pluses and an equal sign between them:  WORK HARD + BE NICE + LEARN LOTS = TOP DOG.  The TOP DOG pic would be of the student of the week.  What do you think?


P.S.  Take a look at Trixie Woo in this photo bomb!  Yes, Trix, you ARE a top dog too!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The Fabric is UP!

Hi!  I was able to stop in at school yesterday afternoon to put up the fabric on my bulletin boards (walls).  Last year, someone at my school discovered that WalMart was selling fabric, precut in the size we need for the big divider walls in our school.  I already had paper up by that time, so I didn't really think much of it. Here is a picture of the back wall of my room, taken yesterday, before I put the fabric on.

There are eight panels, connected in pairs.  I have the side of the wall with the hinges.  As long as I don't cover over the metal edges without the hinges, the doors can be opened and folded together.  But can I be honest?  We haven't ever had to open the wall for first graders.  We are all self-contained classrooms, so the need hasn't arisen.  We share a common area outside our doors that has tables and chairs, and if we need to meet as a grade (all 100 kids), we move the tables out and have the kids sit there.  So anyway, this summer I got fabric to cover these panels at WalMart.  

These panels are slightly wider than my boards, so I started on the outer edge, and pulled the fabric until it was smooth.  I used a regular stapler.  No special tools required.  Because the fabric was a bit wider than I needed, I was able to pull it across the hinges, hiding them from sight.  I'm pretty happy about that, because I want two panels to make one big board.  Here... take a look at what I mean:

Instead of 8 skinny boards, it looks like four wide boards.  I'm so pleased!  It didn't even take me an hour to put all of these up!  Thank goodness for my height.  I just climbed from a chair onto a desk and that was that!  I called a couple of my teacher friends to say, "I am NEVER using paper again!"  Really!

Monday, July 22, 2013

It's Never Too Late!

It's true!  I didn't even know there were awesome teachers out there sharing their fab ideas with others until this last winter!  And no, I don't live under a rock.  I've just never been tech savvy.  Well, anyway, I'm into it now, and I have a lot of catching up to do!

Last night I made myself a teacher toolbox.  The box is from Home Depot, the craft paper is from Michael's, and the labels are from a great post by Rebecca Rojas TWO YEARS AGO.  You can see her post HERE.  I can't wait to empty my top two desk drawers!  They have cute divider bins in them, but I usually just toss things in together.  I always feel so rushed for time.  One of the things I'm most excited about is separating big and small paper clips.  It's the little things, people!


Anyway, I am quite tall, and bending over to open my desk drawers every five minutes will NOT be missed.  This year I put my desk in front of my windows, looking out into the room.  I know this box will fit perfectly on the windowsill behind me.  I never sit at my desk during the day, anyway.  I left two little drawers unmarked, and I plan to decide on those when I get the box to school.

This afternoon I'm off to my classroom to put up the fabric I bought at WalMart.  I'm also needing to measure the height of my kidney table.  I picked up six old bar stools for $30 total (thank you Craig's List).  I need to know how short my husband should cut the wooden legs for my students.

Being a tall teacher with such young students is tricky.  If I put the table too low, my knees won't fit under it.  You know what would be cool?  Getting one of these for myself...
A kneeling chair!

It would lower my knees, and I'm always leaning over to get closer to the kiddos, anyway.  Does anyone have any experience with one of these?  I'd love to hear your thoughts!  I worry about trying to get up and falling on my face.  YIKES!  

That reminds me of a funny anecdote I read  in an education magazine a few years back.  A second grade teacher was sitting on a bar stool at the front of her classroom, reading aloud.  Without warning, the stool gave a loud crack and broke.  Of course, the teacher fell to the floor.  As she lay there for a moment with her eyes shut, not believing what had just happened, she heard one of her students whisper to a friend, "I think she's dead!" 

Kids say the funniest things!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

A spoonful of BACON helps the broccoli go down...

We're going to my sister's in Milwaukee for a cookout today.  My parents will be there, too.  Sissy asked me to make this "salad" that she's been wanting.  We just call it broccoli salad.  It's made with raw broccoli, red onion, crumbled bacon, and shredded cheddar (hey, this is Wisconsin, people).  The dressing is mayo, cider vinegar, and lots of cracked pepper.
Broccoli Salad

Neither of my kids will eat raw broccoli.  Too bad for them, 'cuz this is soooooooo yumm-O!  Even with the bacon, they won't try it.  My daughter (11) said, "Why waste bacon on a salad?" And once in the McD's drive through, my son (16) said, "Do you think they'll give me couple pieces of bacon for 50 cents?" Yeah, ...NO!

So, daughter ate a slice of BACON plain (no salad) and son made a mega-sammy with ham, salami, and BACON to take to work this afternoon.  Oh well, more salad for us!

Here's the recipe:

4 cups broccoli tips, cut small
1/3 C mayo, mixed with 1 tsp cider vinegar and cracked pepper to taste 

Toss broccoli in dressing.  (Important to toss broccoli BEFORE adding additional ingredients or cheese and onion will clump.  Ew.)

Then add:
1/2 C shredded cheddar
1 Tbs finely chopped red onion
4 slices of thick bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled

Toss and serve.

Happy Sunday!

Friday, July 19, 2013

Wally Online Order Info....oh, look at those great books!

Hey, I have to admit, I got a little distracted with my post yesterday.  It ended up being more about the books than about how easy it is to order them from Wally.  What I SHOULD have shared was that when you order online from them, they send you an e-mail when your order ships to the store and another one when the order is available for pick up at the store.

Here's a tip... only the person whose name is on the order can pick it up.  The first time I ordered, I did it under my husband's name, as he already had an online ordering account with them, and I didn't see a need to make one for myself.  So, I show up at the store, and they won't let me have MY SMOOTHIE MAKER, because HIS name is on the order, not mine.  So, before that happens to you, make sure you put both your names on the account.  Even though I'm a "Catherine," I changed the name on the account to "Jim and Cathy" (as a first name).  So now either one of us can pick up any order we submit. (You can also add an alternate pick up name.)  When I picked up my book order, the Wally associate actually complimented me, "Both names, very smart."  Well, thank you!

Another tip... you have to print out the e-mail that says your order is ready for pick up and TAKE IT WITH YOU!  I usually just print the first page, as it usually has all the necessary info on it.  When you enter the service department, look for a big sign overhead that says "Order Pickup."  DO NOT stand in the line with all the returns!  Yikes!  You could be there forever, just to find out you're in the wrong line.  If there is no one at the order pick up counter, there will be something there to notify an employee of your presence.  I think you push a button on the credit card slider (what's that thing called, anyway?).  Someone will come and help you.  They'll get your order in the back and then open it so you can see everything.  If you decide not to keep something in your order, they will refund your credit card on the spot.  In my recent book order, I accidentally ordered two of the book by Stuart J. Murphy, so I only kept one, and later that day I got an e-mail from Wally showing that the money was refunded to my credit card.  Nice.

So, there you go.  All the information I wanted to share about ordering from Wally.  I just got so excited (and distracted) about the great books!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Ordering Books at Wally Online

I've really enjoyed getting to see new books that other teachers are using in their classrooms.  Usually, during the school year, I'll check Scholastic book clubs first, to see if they offer what I'm looking for.  Hey, any time I can use my bonus points is a good time!  Some of the books I've seen posted about this summer would have been perfect to share with my previous classes!  So, each time another teacher blogged about a great book, and I thought I wanted it, I added it to a list I keep in my "summer ideas for school" notebook.  When I finally had quite a number of them listed, I check out Scholastic, but they didn't have what I was looking for.  I know a lot of people who are HUGE Amazon shoppers, but I've never really been one, so I turned to... you guessed it, "Wally!"

I have had so many good experiences ordering from them online and using "ship to store."  I need to save money whenever and wherever I can, so free shipping is a must.  And who doesn't stop into Wally at least every other week?  Every week?  I suppose it depends on how close the nearest one is.  So, what I LOVE to do is put every book I want in my cart.  Then I see my total.  And then I start eliminating books based on the following criteria:

1.  It just looks really cute.
2.  It's not really a topic I teach about.
3.  I don't know how I'd fit it in.
4.  My class probably will not like it.

And then I order what's left in my cart.  Unfortunately, they didn't have a couple of the titles I was looking for, but still, seven books for about $40.  I think that's pretty reasonable.  Here are the books I chose to use with my math curriculum:

Don't you just love Stuart J. Murphy books?  I'd love to have more, so I bought this one about grouping in tens and ones.  Also, I'm surprised every year by one or two kids who can't master the even/odd numbers. I'm hoping that the characters of Even Steven and Odd Todd will help. On of my first grade team mates and I are going to try to read  math picture books at least three times each week.

Other books that I just had to have include:

I can't believe that I've taught for 15 years, seven of them in first grade, and I have NEVER owned a copy of Where the Wild Things Are?  Unbelievable.  Well, I have it now.  The other four books will help in teaching my class about expectations in first grade.  You might own and use some of these in your classroom already.

Do you know this book?

Hunter's Best Friend at School has been a favorite of mine for several years.  In this book, Hunter and Stripe are best friends.  They do EVERYTHING together, and most things the same.  Except that Stripe is naughty at school.  And he gets Hunter to be naughty, too.  Hunter feels terrible and talks it over with his mom. She suggests that Hunter doesn't have to do everything like Stripe.  Maybe Hunter should try to get Stripe to do what he does, which is behaving.  I bet you can guess how it ends.

Isn't it fun getting ready to go back to school with new ideas?  It's a fresh start every September.  I love it!