Winning Parent Support BEFORE the School Year Begins

I have been setting up my classroom and creating lesson plans months in advance so that I will be well prepared when school starts. One thing that I ALWAYS make a priority, that many teachers don’t really consider, is communicating with parents and students before school begins- and I’m not talking about just at Open House. I send parents a survey to be emailed back to me or to be brought to Open House. I prefer for the survey to be emailed back to me long before Open House because it helps me to plan my lessons better and be more effective in teaching each student in the way he or she learns. The feedback I have received from parents has been overwhelming. Most parents inform me that no previous teacher has ever sent communication over the summer, and they are very grateful for my proactive approach to make the year as successful as possible for their child. By sending the survey, parent know that I care for their child and I am their child’s advocate. Just by sending a form I have gained their full support. The evidence doesn’t lie. In my nine years of teaching, I have received only 1 complaint. ONE. Owl Survey Top Half

Owl Survey Pic 2

This survey might take time out of my summer, but the dividends are worth more than the time it took to input a few emails.


The pic above is a preview of  the survey. There are 3 pages total. The first page asks for basic information; the second page asks about the student’s learning styles, strengths and weaknesses, and inquires as to what motivates the student; the last page provides blank lines for parents to inform me of anything else they think is necessary. You can download this survey for FREE here.

In addition to communicating with parents, I also begin corresponding with my future students. I send post cards when I go on vacation, send an “About Me” letter with my picture, and I usually send them a small gift in the mail. This year I made bookmarks for all of my students. I think these are soooo cute!!! There are a lot of different stylistic pieces in the bookmarks, so I can’t really do a template for you. But I will tell you what I did.


Book Marks



1. Make long rectangles in the program you are using. I used Microsoft Publisher.

2. For the girl’s bookmark, download the Valentine Doodle Frames from Surfin through Second .  

3. Download “Rebekah’s Birthday” Font from

Kevin and Amanda

4. Download the “funky pink heart” from My Cute Graphics 

I changed the color of the heart to gray.


For the Boys:

1. Make the long rectangle.

2. Download the “Frostbitten Candy Canes” pack for free from Collaboration Cuties

This is the background to the boys’ bookmark.

2. Download “KBZippadeedoodah” font for free from Khrys Bosland here.

3. Download the monsters for free from Creative Clips here.


And that’s it!! All of the clipart/designs are free!

I think my students will like these and may help them get a little more excited about school. Plus when parents see that I am taking the time to makes these for their child, it will just ease their minds even more about having their child in my class.  I think it is harder than ever to be in the field of education. Having parent support and students who are excited to be in your class make it a world easier.  I wish you much success in your Open House and your school year!


First Grade Fun Here We Come!

1st Grade Logo

I am SOOOOO excited!!!! After taking a year off from teaching, I am going back to the classroom!!! I was thankful to have the opportunity to take time off when I needed to, but I am ready to get back to the work I love so much. After just a few months of taking off I knew it was going to be a loooong year; I was already missing the classroom, the students, the camaraderie with other teachers. So when I was offered a position as a first grade teacher, I jumped for joy!! In fact, my new administrator was amused by my excitement. During the summer everyone else is muttering, “Teacher planning… ugh”. I am exclaiming, “Teacher planning… YES!!!”. I even went to the school the day after I signed my contract and began setting up my classroom and perusing the curriculum. Pre-planning officially starts next week, and my classroom is almost finished. I am excited about that because I can actually spend my pre-planning time planning lessons instead of rearranging desks.

I must admit that I am a, ok A LOT nervous about the school year. I am working for a new school (I have known the administrator for ten years, so that is a bonus), I am teaching first grade for the first time, and I took a year off from teaching so I hope I am not rusty. I taught pre-K for eight years, and I loved it. However, I have a (possibly unhealthy) passion for reading research and instruction. For years I have studied Orton Gillingham’s methods of instruction as well as other explicit, systematic phonics programs. So while I am a little nervous about teaching at a new grade level for the first time, I am bubbling with excitement to finally use all of the reading strategies I have studied.

1st Grade Teacher Checklist

To get the year started off right, I focus on classroom organization. This form is one I created a few years ago, and it helps me to be mindful of all of the administrative “stuff” that teachers have to deal with every day. It is available for free on my TPT. There is also an editable version. I would love for you to give feedback as to whether anything might be missing from the list. Also, what are your tips or suggestions for a new, first grade teacher?? Let me know! Thanks! Oh, and Happy Pre-Planning!!!!

Crunch and Munch Words!

This is an excellent strategy for children who have dyslexia. I would even use it for spelling word practice. It needs to be a part of their regular go to strategies.

Do your students get stuck on multi-syllable words?

Do they tend to leave off word endings?

Do your students take the time to read through the WHOLE word?

“Crunch & Munch” is a great strategy for helping students decode challenging words, especially words with tricky prefixes and suffixes. I find that my younger students, who understand and use the basic decoding strategies (e.g., Beanie Baby strategies), transition to more challenging words and then get STUCK… again. They either give up or end up guessing using whatever few visual clues they can attend to quickly. Too often, the students are not visually monitoring and don’t take the time to read the words all the way through. For my older students, they know their decoding strategies too, but still get stuck on challenging content area vocabulary words, where you can’t just skip or plug in a similar word (I don’t blame…

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Magnifique Shabby Chic Vertical Planter

Shabby Chic Garden Planter  I made two planters like the one at the left for Mother’s Day- one for my mother and the other for my mother-in-law. It was super easy, and I loved the finished project so much that I am going to make one for myself. Even though this is not something you can do in the classroom with your students, I thought I would share because I have had several people (after seeing pictures on Facebook) ask me for the tutorial.





A tarp/ old shower curtain liner

1    8” terracotta pot

4    6” Terracotta pots

1    4.5” Terracotta pot

60” of rebar- I had to get a 10 footer and then cut it in half.

Hacksaw for cutting rebar – Home Depot sells them for about $5


Black Spray Paint

White Spray Paint

Taper Candle


Mod Podge- liquid and spray – I used matte not glossy

White printing paper – thinner is better





Step 1


Lay out your tarp or shower curtain liner to prevent paint from getting on your floors or grass. As you will see in the pictures, I did not do this, and now I have spray paint on my grass. I am not too concerned because it is in the spot where my redneck pool will be set up in a few days so it will be covered. (More on my redneck pool another time).


Step 2


Spray paint all of the terracotta pots black.

Shabby Chick Project Step 1


PLEASE do yourself a favor and spray paint the inside of the pots as well as the outside. My husband tried to get me to skimp on this step to save some spray paint, but I wouldn’t cave! Yes, I know the pots will be filled with soil, but I didn’t want to finish this fabulous project only to have the heinous, orange inside of the pot peeking out at me. Not even a smidgen. How tacky. Paint the inside of the pots. Do it.


Shabby Chick project step 1 b       Make sure you wait for the outside to dry before spraying the inside. I used quick dry spray paint and I only had to wait about 30 minutes.



Step 3


Rub candle wax all over the pots. This is called a “wax resist” technique and it will help when you distress your pots. I had no idea how to rub candle wax on my pots. When I was reading about distressing objects and wax resist, all that was said was, “rub object with candle wax”. Ok, so did that mean I was supposed to melt the wax a little and rub it on or what? I asked my friends on Facebook, and no one knew. I tried to you tube videos… nada. Finally, a friend of mine (who happens to be an art teacher) told me that I was supposed to take a taper candle and rub the end on the pot. So I have included a picture of this step in case you are as craftily challenged as I am.


Shabby Chick Project Step 3 I rubbed the candle under the lip of the pot, on the rim, around the base, and lightly over the entire body of the pot. Basically all over.



Step 4


Now it is time to spray paint the pots white. Inside AND out.


Shabby Chick Project Step 4


Step 5


Sand your pots to get your desired look. Sand the rim, the body, and the base lightly so that the black paint will show through just slightly.



Step 6


Add the labels. This is where you will need to do some Google searching. I searched French Typography and found clipart that I could use. You can also use fonts and clipart on your computer to create your own labels. FontSpace has some really cool fonts that are free and they have French graphics as well. The Graphics Fairy is my favorite though. In fact, I would check here first. She has French fonts and clipart for free. She also gives suggestions on ways to transfer your images.


Once you have your selected art, print them out on white paper. The Graphics Fairy has other suggestions for transferring your art to objects such as a clear paper, but I chose not to do that. I was trying to stay as economical as possible, and so I did not want to purchase special paper. Printer paper worked just fine for me.


After cutting out my labels (I cut as close to the art as I could), I used mod podge liquid to adhere them to the pot. I let them dry and then I sprayed the pot with matte mod podge sealer.


Shabby Chick Project Step 5    This is what you will have when you are finished. I had to go back and add a little more mod podge to make my labels stay down.



Step 7


Cut your rebar with the hacksaw to 5 feet. Insert your rebar into the ground- hammer it in a good bit.


Do a trial run before filling your pots with soil.

Slide your largest pot onto the bar and move it to the bottom. DO NOT PUT SOIL IN YOUR POTS BEFORE YOU SLIDE THEM ON THE REBAR.


Put soil in the largest pot- do not add flowers yet.


Then slide the next largest set of pots- slanting them to the left or right to stagger them. They should sit on the soil of the pot below or just off of the pot. Add soil to each pot after you slide it on.


Finally, add the smallest pot. You may have rebar left at the top. You can add a birdhouse like my mother did, or add a pot with a bowl like my mother-in-law. Or you can cut the rest of the rebar off.


Plant flowers in the open spaces. There you have it! A Magnifique Shabby Chic Planter!


Shabby Chic Garden Planter





Say Cheese!! A Mother’s Day Craft that Mom will Actually LOVE!!

Mother's Day Craft 2


My mother always complains that she doesn’t have enough pictures of the kids.  So one Mother’s Day I decided to change all of that.


These are coasters that I made for my mother about a year ago, and I think they turned out great! When the glass is on the coaster, and the condensation drips down, it does not mess up the picture AT ALL. What a neat way to capture memories and yet be functional at the same time. Did I mention they were so CHEAP to make!? Here’s what I did.


Step 1:

Buy tiles of your choice at your local home improvement store. I chose white tiles because the pictures had a white border, and no one would notice if I messed up!!


Plus it looks more like a polaroid which I think is cool. I have even seen people write the date or the event at the bottom of the tile, but I have heard mixed reviews about doing this so I decided to leave it off. I bought 1 dozen tiles at Home Depot for $0.50 each, a total of $6.00.  I only made 10 coasters, but I wanted a few extra for practice.



Step 2:


Choose your photos and print them out at CVS using their fantastic photo center. 

I LRed heartVE the photo options at CVS.  You don’t have to have the photos on a disk, nor do they even have to be your own photos. You can print photos from your Facebook that you have uploaded or have been tagged in, and you can print out photos from your friend’s Facebook pages. And now CVS has an app where you can upload your pics from the comfort of your own home and pick them up the same day in the store. This saves so much timeClock.  This is the link to the CVS Photo Shop .

I printed out 4 x 6 prints, which were $0.19 each; and since they were so cheap, I opted for double prints. In case I made a mistake, I had the assurance of a backup picture. So for less than $4.00 I had twenty pictures printed in excellent quality.

Total So Far: $10.00


Step 3:


Cut photos and prearrange on tile before you start spraying clear adhesive spray.  After I do a practice, dry run with the photos and the tiles, I set the photos aside and begin spraying each tile with Mod Podge.

Mod Podge I bought my spray at Michael’s for about $7.00; I used Mod Podge Matte Acrylic Sealer. I use matte because the glossy spray makes it hard to see the photos.  Spray each tile and then place the picture down on the tile where you want it. You have a few seconds Clock of wiggle room before the picture sticks.  Allow for pictures to adhere and spray to dry. I usually wait at least 30 minutes. Clock


Step 4:


Re-spray the tiles and photos again. This seals the picture from the outside and prevents water stains on your picture. Allow to dry, and you are finished!


The total cost of this project is $17.00, and you can use the Mod Podge Spray for many more projects.  This is such a winner. Every time my mother has guests over, people comment about how much they like the coasters, and she gets to show off her beautiful family. Personalized, functional, cheap. This makes for the perfect mother’s day gift!





Cute (and CHEAP) Mother’s Day Gifts for Students to Make

Mothers Day is fast approaching, and this year I can’t wait! Being the end of the school year, it usually means I am frazzled with end of the year parties, awards, and records. How in the world am I going to squeeze in a craft that will be meaningful and be appreciated, not just tossed in the garbage when the kids aren’t looking? The last few years have gone very well, and I wanted to share what has worked for my classroom.

mothers day flower handprints

1. Handprint Flowers. I found this cute idea at The Trendy Treehouse . This is especially a great Mother’s Day craft for children who are younger. Moms just LOVE handprints!! Paint the hands various colors; imprint them on the construction paper; add stems, bows, and hearts in the middle. Takes only a few minutes and requires materials you probably already have on hand. I take an extra step and have them laminated. This has been a favorite for years.


When you thought I wasn't looking                                    cupcake card

2. Mother’s Day Poem and Cupcake Party! This poem always brings tears to my eyes. You can snag it and other great (and FREE) Mother’s Day resources over at Happy Home Fairy. In conjunction with this poem, I have my students help in decorating cupcakes for their mother. The moms are invited to a cupcake party where they are presented with the student decorated cupcake, th poem, the flower hand-print painting, and the class performs for them. The students might sing a song or recite a poem. It is the end of the year, and this is a great time for students to show what they have learned. The card goes perfectly with the poem and can be found at Disney Family. The instructions say to use it as a magnet card, but I use construction paper and let the students decorate the cupcakes before gluing them down to the accordion card.


Sillhouette Craft


3. Silhouette Craft- This is one that I did a few years ago, and it is a lot easier than it seems. I do NOT try to have students stand still while I trace their profiles on a sheet of paper. I take digital pictures of student profiles. Then I print and cut at home. It saves A LOT of class time, and I can focus more on instruction. 

1st: Have students stand sideways and take a picture. The closer you can get to their profile the better.

2nd: Upload photo, re-size, and print out. It should be printed to the ideal size you want. If that is not possible, enlarge it on a copy machine.

3rd. Cut out profile. Trace on a black sheet of construction paper. (Using white colored pencil has always worked best for me).

4th: Paste profile down to card-stock with student’s name printed on it.

5th: Laminate!!

I also recommend using different color backgrounds from scrapbook paper and different color silhouettes. Play with it and see what you like best.


Those are my top Mother’s Day gifts to create in the classroom. What are your favorites? Do you do something for Father’s Day as well? Would love to hear about it!