Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Happy New Year! Crafts, Decor, Food, Books, and More!

It's always exciting to ring in a new year. Here are a few New Year sources I have collected (and pinned, of course) over the past few days. Whether you are in search of crafts, decor, food, or reading recommendations, there's a little something here for everyone. :) I've included web links for all images and ideas, so please make sure you visit the original source to pin from there if you see something you like.

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  • Need a thought-provoking calendar accent? This is adorable printable is available for free at Strange & Charmed.

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  • I am pretty excited about this list of reading recommendations for 2015. Huff Post Books has compiled a list of 25 must-reads for the upcoming year, in order of their release dates.

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  • Project Nursery has a great collection of ideas for New Year's Eve props, tasty treats, and decor ideas that are all very family-friendly and budget-consious. I love all of these!

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  • Today's Creative Blog is now featuring a printable 2015 banner that could be used as an accent for a variety of crafts (including wreaths!).

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  • This is an oldie, but a goodie. Check out a Tally Tales original post featuring a cute idea for a kids craft. This self-portrait and New Year's resolution craft is a great way for smaller children to take part in the tradition of making resolutions for the new year. 

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  • Are you a Pillsbury fan? These New Year's Crescent Dippers would be a great, simple way to get children involved in the kitchen today.

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  • I don't know what I would do without the writings of Ann Voskamp. Her blog is such a source of nourishment for my soul. Today, she is providing this awesome free printable that outlines her "25-Point Sanity Manifesto: A Grace Plan." There is so much wisdom here. 

“So you forgot some notes! Fear and old habits and people pressure and your own interior playlist can do that — to all of us. But! When the piece started to fall apart? You fell forward, Hope. You didn’t fret about the music behind you — you focused on the next bar.”
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I hope you have found something helpful here! I wish you a very Happy New Year!

Monday, December 29, 2014

Reveal: Baby Girl Nursery!

I am excited to share pictures of our finished nursery! I started with a color palette of different shades of pink with gold. I wanted to create a soft, feminine, but also classy and glamorous space for our little girl. I'll include details for some items along the way, but feel free to leave questions or comments if you want to know more. :)

The framed letters were a DIY project of mine. If interested, you can access the details to that in the post DIY: Framed Nursery Monogram. I ordered part of the bedding (the bumper, crib sheet, and quilt) through Pottery Barn Kids. The crib skirt is from Target.

This mirror is one of my favorite features in the nursery. It's an antique from my grandparents' house, and it was really a starting point for me when I first began putting the nursery together. My mother made the window treatments for me! The fabric is from Hobby Lobby.
This little nook might be my favorite spot in the room...
 I love the variety in textures and colors here.
This sweet little accent was made by a fellow teacher. She is so creative, and this item fits our little space perfectly!

These storage baskets are perfect for organizing a few necessities. They're sold together as a three-piece set at Babies R Us.
This gold dresser was also a DIY project, and you can learn more about it at Baby Girl Nursery: DIY Dresser Project.
Just a few sweet little details...

 These framed silhouettes were also handmade by a fellow teacher. Aren't they amazing?!?
I hope you've enjoyed our little tour. I'm glad to have this space finished… we are only four weeks away from our due date now! Come on, baby girl! :)

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

A Sweet Christmas Party

My school Christmas party was a bit of a different experience for me this year with students. My classes meet for 45-minute sessions throughout the day. Therefore, my "party" had to be rather short and sweet for each class. Still, I wanted it to be a delightful experience for my students.

The solution? A holiday snack of hot chocolate with marshmallows, candy canes, and cookies. 
One of my fellow teachers shared an awesome hot chocolate-making tip with me: mix chocolate milk with the powdered hot cocoa mix in a crockpot. The combination creates a creamier, fuller flavor than just mixing the powder with water. Not to mention the fact that having that crockpot in your classroom all day makes the room smell amazing!
While the children snacked, I read a classic Christmas text 'Twas the Night Before Christmas aloud to them. This was one of my favorites as a child, and I was pleased to find that my students enjoyed it as well, even if they had heard or read it before. The rhyme throughout the text makes this one a fun, interactive read-aloud.
We didn't have time for a movie, but I did find this brief animated version of the story that fit nicely into our schedule. As with any text/film correlation, we followed the video with a compare-and-contrast discussion.
My older students completed a sequencing exercise to go along with the text. I simply typed the first few stanzas of the poem and then cut the stanzas into individual lines. The students reorganized the lines into the correct sequence of the text.

Last, but not least, I prepared gift boxes with little Christmas prizes (stamps, plastic rings, pencils, candy, etc). The students pulled numbers out of a stocking to determine which gift box they would open to select a Christmas prize.
All in all, I think our little Christmas party was time well spent enjoying Christmas snacks and seasonal literature. 

If you are looking for holiday book suggestions for your children or students, check out "20 Magical Children's Christmas Books to Read Aloud." This list contains some of my personal favorites, but also a few new ones in which I am interested as well. 

Sunday, December 21, 2014

An Update: Settling in with Christmas Break and 35 Weeks Pregnant

Oh, dear, where has the time gone? I honestly cannot account for the past few months and my very infrequent blog posts, other than to say that between a new teaching position this year and preparing for our baby girl (who is scheduled to arrive in just FIVE weeks!) I just haven't been the best blogger. I have had ideas, pictures, and products stacking up to share with you, but it just hasn't happened.

Forgive me.

I can't even guarantee that I will be the most diligent blogger in the near future, either. I have no blogging expectations for my new-mom self. I think it's probably best to have that perspective. I will, however, try to share as much as possible, as often as possible, and I hope you will continue to stop by every now and then to pay me a visit. As for now, we have reached Christmas break, and this mommy-to-be is pretty excited about this little holiday break from the school-day grind! :)

To briefly update you, we are now at 35 weeks in this pregnancy, and I am very eager to meet our sweet baby girl! My most recent belly pic is this one, from 33 weeks. I need to get a more recent picture soon… she has grown a bit in the past two weeks! :)
We have been blessed with several really wonderful showers over the past couple of months. I can't begin to describe how grateful I am that so many friends and relatives have helped us prepare for our baby girl so far. I have been creating a photo book to document the experience so far, and here are a few snippets of that project… Our baby girl has already been showered with so much love!

As you can see, we've been busy! At one point, this was my view of the nursery…
Luckily, we have made some progress toward sorting through the goodies, and you can actually walk into the room now. We are almost finished with the details, and I can't wait to share the finished room with you soon!

Beyond baby news, teaching has been quite a different experience for me this year. While I have previously taught third grade and, most recently, first grade, I am currently teaching reading skills to students of all ages, kindergarten through fifth grade, who display dyslexic tendencies that may inhibit their reading progress. My instruction focuses on multi-sensory reading techniques, such as the Orton Gillingham methodology. I intended to be more diligent in sharing my classroom experiences with you this year, but as many of you fellow teachers know, transition into a new area of teaching can be rather consuming in and of itself. 

I have been gradually developing a variety of phonics-based resources within The Tally Tales TPT store. You are welcome to peruse the product listings within the store. However, I often find it to be helpful to see a bit more detail/description of the products, rather than information available in snippets provided within the TPT listing. Blog posts about products are always helpful to me. I intend to create posts that correspond to each of the new products, just to better explain and share any new developments. (I do have the best of intentions, really.) You may not find each post to be helpful, but if you are looking for resources to support a particular skill, then I hope you will gain something from descriptions of my new products or ideas.

All in all, I think we're a bit caught up now. More to come on baby girl's nursery, TPT products, and new teaching experiences! Check back soon!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

DIY: Framed Nursery Monogram

I have to admit; preparing a baby room has been so much fun for me so far. This little detail was a simple (and cheap!) way to personalize the room for baby girl. I used the following materials: an old frame (which I had on-hand) and three wooden letters (purchased at Hobby Lobby).
I painted the frame gold...
and the letters pink.
Then I used Command tall strips to suspend the letters within the frame on the wall. 
As you can see below, this nursery monogram will be displayed above her crib. I cannot wait to see how it comes together once we finish adding all of the bedding and curtains! What do you think?

Sunday, October 26, 2014

On the Menu: Burger Biscuit Bake Casserole

When I was a child, there was one casserole my mother made that I just loved. Recently, I decided that I needed to attempt to make it myself. After making this casserole for at least thirty years, my mom could recite the recipe by heart. It will be a while before I know it that well, but I was surprised by how simple this dish really is to make. The ingredient list is simple, but this casserole is full of flavor. Give it a try; you won't be disappointed!

1 lb ground beef (I prefer all-natural, hormone-free, but that is a personal preference)
1 onion
1 bell pepper
1 can whole kernel corn
1 can tomato soup
1 can of biscuits
2 tbspWorcestershire sauce

1/4 stick of Butter
Salt (dash)
Pepper (dash)
Oregano (dash)
2 tbsp Sugar

(1) Chop onion and bell pepper into small, fine chunks. Cook chopped ingredients in a tablespoon of butter until they are soft.
(2) Add ground beef to the skillet. Cook along with bell pepper and onion until well done.
(3) Drain the meat mixture and add seasonings and worcestershire sauce to meat.
(4) Then add corn (drained) and tomato soup. Mix all ingredients together.
(5) Spread complete mixture into 9 x 13 inch casserole dish.
(6) Break each biscuit in half and top mixture completely with biscuits.
(7) Cook at 350 degrees until biscuits are done and lightly brown on top.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Baby Girl Nursery: DIY Dresser Project

Since our basement renovation is complete, I can finally focus on our sweet baby girl's nursery. This is a simple dresser project, but I am pleased with the outcome. I started with this old dresser.

It's amazing what a difference you can make with just a little time, paint, and accessories…

And the finished product looks like this…

I added this dainty shelf liner for just a touch of detail inside, and it may quite possibly be my favorite part. 

All in all, I'm very pleased with this little dresser! Baby girl's nursery is off to a good start! 

Monday, October 13, 2014

Basement Renovation: Complete!

I am so happy to share that our basement renovation is officially complete! This has been such a big project, and we are so happy to be living in a renovation-free home at this point. :) Please take a few minutes to view this video and see the room-by-room transformation.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Interrogative Sentences and How to Teach Them: Resources for Young Learners

Teaching the different types of sentences can be quite challenging, especially with young learners. I have found that, despite the use of numerous chants or cheers, and copious amounts of writing practice, many students find it difficult to conceptualize different types of sentences -particularly interrogative sentences. Exclamatory is easy -and fun! Declarative sentences are reliable. Interrogative sentences are challenging. We can tell students all day to pay attention to whether or not a sentence is asking a question, but those of you who teach little ones know that this instruction does not register much understanding at first. Add to that the complexity of reading with respect to prosodic features (aka… paying attention to punctuation and phrasing), and this process can become quite complex for young or struggling readers. 

So these are a few techniques, tips, and resources that I have developed along the way to use with my students. Some of these ideas are my own modifications of instruction I have learned elsewhere (from training or other teachers); some of them are entirely my own. In all, I have found this to be helpful for my students, so hopefully there's something here you can use in your class as well!

To begin, I do explain to my students that interrogative sentences ask questions. To help them better detect those questions when they are not quite to that level of understanding yet, I provide an easy tip: look for a key word at the beginning of the sentence. We call these our question words, because I have them displayed on a large, oversized question mark in my classroom. The concept is simple: if a sentence begins with a question word, it should end with a question mark. I tell students to check our question mark for the first word of the sentence. If they find it, they know that sentence will need a question mark at the end. At first, they depend a lot on our wall reference. Over time, with continued instruction, they develop a better understanding of what it means to ask a question, and they need the reference less and less. 

I will say that the collection on my question mark is not an exhaustive list; there are several missing. These are just some of the most common ones I knew my students would encounter. You may choose to display many more -or less- on your own!
As we continue practicing with these sentences, I begin to implement practice with expression while reading. Look at the sentences below. We began with nothing but the red words. No end marks. First, we read the sentence. We examine the first word (circle it in blue), and the students hunt for the words on our large question mark. If they find the word on the question mark, we then add our own question mark at the end of the sentence. Tip: I keep a fly swatter on hand, and the student that finds the word first on the question mark gets to "splat" it with the fly swatter. 

Next, we talk about how we read sentences that end with a question mark. I model reading a sentence that ends with a period. I draw a straight, flat line under that sentence to represent the tone in my voice, as it does not change. Then, we revisit our interrogative sentence. I read the sentence again, drawing a different black line, which will rise with the last word. Students follow along, watching the line I draw and listening as I read. Then, they practice reading the same way. We do this for every sentence. It's a tedious process, but really, the students love it. I think the lines help them better visualize the changes in their voices as they read. Tip: Add a kinesthetic element to this activity by having students move their hand in a straight line as they read, and then raise their hands as their voices rise toward the end of the sentence. 
For continued application, we play a game of "Mark It!" This is my adapted version of a game known as "Alphabet Prosody" in the text Fifty Nifty Activities for 5 Components and 3 Tiers of Reading Instruction. This activity is a great way to practice fluency with prosodic features while also reinforcing alphabetic knowledge. In "Mark It!" students have to apply what they know about punctuation marks to read letters of the alphabet with expression.

Creating this activity is simple: use popsicle sticks to make a set of alphabet letters as well as several sets of punctuation marks (. ! ?).
To play, each student draws five alphabet letters and five punctuation marks. The student arranges his/her letters and punctuation marks in any pattern or order. Then the student reads each letter with expression according to the punctuation mark that follows it. Each student draws new letters and creates new patters to continue the activity as long as desired.

My students love this activity. It is such a fun way to reinforce the expressions associated with punctuation, and since you only use letters of the alphabet, the reading component of this exercise is not intimidating for young or struggling readers. 
If you don't want to use popsicle sticks, I have an alternate, ready-made version of this activity as well as multiple additional resources available in my new TPT product Writing & Reading Interrogative Sentences: Resources for Young Learners  now available in the Tally Tales TPT store.

See the images below for a quick preview of the goodies available in this new product!