Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Singing Penguins and Struggling Readers

What do singing penguins and struggling readers have in common you ask?  Keep reading...

Once every few months, my son is in charge of a snack for his preschool class.  Being a first grade teacher and wanting to make everything cute, I usually make a "creation" out of food for his snack.  I have made skeletons out of veggies, turkeys out of melons, cheese and grapes, Christmas trees out of Styrofoam cones and grapes, rainbows and pots of gold out of fruit and marshmallows, etc.  His teachers always tease me and tell me that it is ok to send in plain pretzels or goldfish crackers.  My friend's son also goes to the same preschool and she just rolls her eyes and wonders where in the world I find my time.  The time I brought in little penguins made out of olives and cream cheese, she said "let me guess, these penguins sing, twirl around and explode firecrackers from their beaks."  I just about died laughing!!! 

I forgot to take a picture, but I also had a cheese ball in the shape of an igloo for these little guys!

Hang on...I'm getting to the part where these penguins have something to do with struggling readers. : )

Almost every blog post I write, I feel like I have to come up with this "exploding with fireworks" post that is about glitter, cupcakes, and butterflies so people will read it.  Who wants to read the boring stuff (like the pretzels and goldfish) about struggling readers?  So if you are all about the fluff, stop reading now.  If you would like to hear more about the amazing day and information I learned about this past week, keep on reading!!!

I was blessed to have spent the day with our District Literacy Coach (if you have been with me for a while, you have heard of the Amazing Kate!).  We met to talk about what we can do about those readers who are stuck between DRA levels 3 and 4 (C and D).  WOW, did we get some awesome professional development!!!  We are now armed with some great mini lesson topics and conferring points for kids who are stuck at those lower levels.  Here they are (underlined headings are the big ideas and bullets are the teaching points):

How to Teach "Picture Walks"
• Readers use pictures to tell about the setting.

• Readers use pictures to tell what the character is thinking.

• Readers name the things in the pictures during their picture walk and make it sound like a story.
 How to Teach "One to One (1:1)"

• Readers touch under, not on the word.

• Readers touch under each word to keep their place.

• Readers use phonics to check for 1:1 using letter sounds.

• Readers know that spaces separate words.

• Readers know that words with more syllables need to hold their finger under the word longer/slide finger under the word until the word ends. (ex. The word umbrella would be held longer than pointing to the word is.)
 How to Teach "Look Through the Whole Word"

• The size of the word needs to match the word coming out of the reader’s mouth. (Ex. Umbrella is much longer than the word under.)

• Ending sounds must match the word readers try while reading.

• Middle sounds must match the word readers try while reading.
 Look at the Picture

• Readers name the things in the picture and check with the first letter in the unknown word to see if it makes sense.

• Readers recognize that pictures can have more than one name. (ex. Couch, chair, sofa)

• Readers cross check pictures with letter sounds.

If you made it this far, I hope you enjoyed my singing penguin story as well as the not-as-exciting topic of struggling readers.  : )  I wish you all could meet Kate and enjoy her as much as my coworkers and I do.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Parent Gifts for the Holidays

This is an easy and fairly cheap project to do with your students to give as a gift for their parents.  We ask our local big box hardware store to donate the supplies and they are usually very willing to donate everything we need!

To make the decorative tiles, you will need the following:

6x6 white bathroom wall tile for each child
an assortment of fine and extra fine Sharpie markers
piece of fine sandpaper
clear lacquer spray paint

Lightly (very lightly) sand the tile (this is so the marker will "stick") and wipe it clean with a dry paper towel.  Give each child a piece of paper with a 6x6 square traced on it to use as a practice before they attempt the real thing...there is no turning back once a first grader is armed with a Sharpie!!!!

This is my attempt at making a practice sheet for the example.  Don't laugh at my artistic abilities!

Next, read the kids the riot act about not dropping the tile because the nice folks (over at the store that rhymes with Gnome Sheep-o) only gave us enough for each child to have ONE!  Have the nice little talk about how moms and dads won't be too thrilled if permanent marker gets on their clothes and how the markers are NOT smelly markers and that they should not put them anywhere near their nose.

When the kids are finished, I have them CAREFULLY place the tiles on a large sheet of butcher/bulletin board paper on the floor.  When they all go home for the night, I lightly coat them with the clear sealer.  (Make sure your windows are open and you warn the custodian not to be alarmed when he smells a strong odor coming from your room.)  You may want to clear your senses before you attempt to drive yourself home.  That sealer is wicked strong!!!

It is totally optional, but you can put tiny sticky felt pieces on the four corners on the bottom of the tile so it doesn't scratch tables and things.  Parents LOVE this gift and cherish it for years to come...except for the one single dad that emailed me 3 days after receiving it with a warning to tell other parents not to put it in the dishwasher.  It completely erased the whole entire image that his child put on the tile!!!  I didn't have the heart to tell him it was for decorative purposes only.  LOL

I found some red and green bubble wrap this year that I will wrap the tiles in once they are completely dry.  The kids decorate a white paper lunch bag to use as a gift bag, too!

What do you have your students make for their parents????

I will be back soon with my parent volunteer gift idea that is easy peasy and el-cheapo!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Amazing Sale!

Starting Sunday, November 27th, I will be holding a 20% off sale in my TPT store through Tuesday, November 29th!  If you shop on Monday, enter the code CMS28 to get another 10% off your total purchase!

Some of my more popular items include Mo Willems' extenstion activities for his Pigeon and Elephant and Piggie books, Santa Countdown Craftivity, Conferring Shortcuts, Reading Workshop Printable Sticky Notes, Sight Word packs and Nonsense Word games.

Click {HERE} to go directly to my store!  Happy Shopping!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Secret Santa

Does your staff need a little boost in the culture department?  Do you forget the true meaning of the holidays in the hustle and bustle of things at your school?  You need to participate in a Secret Santa Gift Giving activity!!!  We do this every year in our building and it is so much fun!  Each day you act as Santa to your recipient and give him/her a small $1-$2 gift for four days.  You have to get creative on how you deliver the small gifts so he/she doesn't figure out who you are!  On the final day (usually the day before break) we gather in the media center for a wonderful holiday breakfast before school starts and reveal ourselves to the person we have been showering with gifts all week!  We also give a bigger gift at this time, usually around $10.  Of course, not everyone participates, but it is still a blast!

I have cleaned up (and "fancied") the form that we use and have it as a FREE download for you if you would like to start this awesome tradition with your staff!  Click on the picture below to get your copy!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Candy Corn and Turkey Toes???

Somewhere out there in the world wide web, I stumbled upon Turkey Toes...never to be able to find the exact same one I originally I created my own tag.  What are Turkey Toes, you ask?  Place candy corn in a clear bag and attach the tag with some cute yellow or orange curling ribbon.  I thought it would be an adorable gift for your students or your coworkers!  Click on the labels for your FREE download!


Equals a cute Thanksgiving Treat!!!

If you missed my post about the next set of Conferring Shortcuts you can click {HERE} to go directly to the listing in my TPT shop!

Also...a HUGE favor to ask...I am in the running for an awesome grant opportunity!  I need votes to win!!!!  It literally takes 30 seconds to vote and they won't even send you junk email!  I would appreciate as many votes as you can get for me!!!  November 24th is the last day to vote!  Click {HERE} to vote!  Thanks a million!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

New Conferring Shortcuts! {and winners}

A huge thanks for everyone who entered my Brag Tags giveaway!!!  What a fun giveaway!!!!
The lucky 10 winners have already been contacted by email.

Did you download a set of my FREE Conferring Shortcuts yet?  If you have, and you love them, a new set of 10 are now posted and are $2.00 for a limited time!!!  Click on the picture below to go straight to the listing!

Included in this pack are the first 5 from my original free set and 10 more series books:
Princess Posey
Roscoe Riley Rules
Max Spaniel
Lighthouse Family
Iris and Walter
Moose and Hildy
Frog and Toad

A total of 15 Conferring Shortcuts for only $2.00!  This deal won't last long, so don't delay!

If you aren't familiar with Conferring Shortcuts, and you teach reading using a workshop model or the Daily Five, these are for you!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Have You Heard?

Don't forget to enter my giveaway for some awesome Brag Tags!!!  Find out {HERE} how you can become one of 10 lucky winners!!!  If you already entered earlier in the week, come back to find out how you can earn more entries!!! 

Wednesday, November 9, 2011 Giveaway For 10!

Back in October, I posted about Brag Tags from and how amazing the company and their products are as well as how I use them in my classroom.  You can read it again {HERE} in case you missed it last month. 

In the meantime, I have been in contact with one of the company's owners, Kim.  Let me tell you, she is the sweetest person to deal with and I even had the privilege to talk with her over the phone!  We have teamed up to bring you an amazing giveaway...drumroll please...

Kim from is going to give 10 (yes, 10) teachers 40 Brag Tags and 40 necklace chains each!  Each winner will be able to choose one design (all 40 tags will be the same) to be shipped straight to their doorsteps!  You can browse the tags {HERE}

I love these: also has a new blog that you should check out!  The blog offers teaching ideas, motivational reads, and more.  You can check out their blog {HERE}. should see their very cool newsletter!!!  I just subscribed to it myself.  You can see the newsletter {HERE}.   If you subscribe to the newsletter, promises informational newsletters and only 1-2 times per month so that your inbox won't get cluttered with one more thing.  : )

So do you want to know how to enter this amazing giveaway?  You can have 5+ chances to enter by doing the following: 

1.  Follow What's The Buzz In First
2.  Follow My TPT Store {HERE}
3.  Follow or subscribe by email to imagestuff's blog {HERE}
4.  Become a subscriber to imagestuff's newsletter {HERE}
**5.  EXTRA ENTRY!  Vote for my grant {HERE} (each email you vote with earns another entry!)

(You will need to leave a separate comment for each item you complete to serve as your entries.)
****Please leave your email address with your comments so we can quickly email you to get your mailing address.****

Here are the rules...just because I'm a rule follower...

RULES: Giveaway open to U.S. residents only. Must be 18 yrs or older. Giveaway ends Sunday, November. 13, 2011 at 11:59 PM EST. Rules must be followed. Winners will be selected using and will be emailed no later than Tuesday, November 15th and given 72 hours to respond with a mailing address and your choice of Brag Tag. In the event of no response, no new winners will be chosen. Blogger is not responsible for prize fulfillment. Prize fulfillment comes directly from participating sponsor. By entering this giveaway, you agree to have read these rules.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

What You've Been Waiting For

It's Here!!!

If you read my post last week, you know that I have been working with my District Literacy Coach, Kate (aka Debbie Miller, Donalynn Miller and Kathy Collins all rolled into one) to bring you an amazing resource!!!!  Hold on to your seats...I hope you are just as thrilled as I am when you download your FREE sample!

Here is a little background about how these Conferring Shortcuts came about...
During Reading Workshop or the Daily Five when your kiddos are independently reading and you are going around conferencing with them, do you find yourself doing a "drive-by" conference? 

By a drive-by conference, we mean this:
Teacher "How's it going?"
Child "Good."
Teacher "Can you read a little of your book to me?"
Child {reads}
Teacher "Great, keep up the good work."

During this conference, the teacher listened to the child, gave a compliment and went on to the next child.  Where was the TEACHING in that conference?  Maybe the teacher didn't know how to find a teaching point with the child because she has never read the book herself.  Maybe the 4th grade teacher doesn't know how to conference with a lower-level reader because she has never had to deal with a 4th grader who can only read level J books.

If you have a solid conference with a child about his/her reading, a conference should have:
Research (listen and talk to child)
Decide (what are you going to teach)
Teaching Point/Compliment (actually teach something meaningful)

These Conferencing Shortcuts were developed because Kate was watching teachers struggle with what to teach to their readers during a reading conference.  Conferring Shortcuts were designed to be used with series books like Elephant and Piggie, Commander Toad, Minnie and Moo, Henry and Mudge, etc.

Here is the product description straight from TPT:
Conferring Shortcuts

Reading Workshop Conferring Shortcuts are life savers for busy teachers (if you have plenty time . . .this isn't for you). In the research phase of conferences teachers often struggle with what to confer about. Constantly searching for the perfect teaching point is frustrating especially when you haven't read all the books. So . . . for each series, Conferring Shortcuts suggest 4-5 teaching points that will not only work for any book in the series but will also meet the needs of children at that independent level and be generalizable to their entire reading life. Whether you are using a reading workshop approach like Lucy Calkins or Daily Five, these conferring bites will help guide your one on one time with learners. Each bite is a 2" by 4" label (Avery 5163) that can used inside the cover or on the back of a series book and presto . . .you have a teacher guide OR labels can be adhered to index cards and placed in a 3" by 5" binder for teachers to carry with them as part of their conferring tool kit.

Who says you can't cheat in school?

Come on over to my TPT store {HERE} to download the FREE sample and start changing the way you confer with kids.  If you download the sample, don't forget to follow my store so you don't miss any more Conferring Shortcut Series Labels.  Kate has over 50 already made and almost ready to be posted in sets of 10.  Please spread the word to your coworkers and blogging friends about this amazing resource!  If you have any suggestions for more Series Shortcuts, please leave me a comment.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Christmas is Around the Corner!

Halloween was only a few days ago, but if you step into any store...Christmas is (and has been) coming as fast as lightning!  Poor usually gets one lonely end cap shelf and Christmas explodes into aisles and aisles!

Well, I have a great excuse that I am posting about Christmas today!  I have less than 30 days to get pieces prepped and ready for our Countdown Santas!  They go home with the kids on November 30th so they can countdown to Christmas!  Parents LOVE this activity and I even do it with my 3 and 4 year olds at home!  It is a great visual and even practices counting backwards!  Bonus!

If you are interested in my Countdown Santa, please click on the picture!

Another fun activity I do in December is to make the EASIEST ornaments with my students.  You need sticky back foam (I find it at pretty much any craft store), glitter, sequins, small foam shapes, pieces of pipe cleaner, small pom poms, etc.

Leaving the backing on the sticky foam, cut shapes with a die cut machine.  We have an Ellison Die collection at my school and I usually go with the classic Christmas Tree for this project.

Have the kids peel off the backing to expose the sticky side.  Let them decorate it until their heart is content.  I like to already have their name and year written with a Sharpie on the back side before they start.

Next, sprinkle glitter (doesn't matter which color(s) you choose) all over the child's tree to cover the leftover stickiness.  I like to do this over a paper plate so I can reuse the excess.  Tap off the excess and you are done! 

Sometimes I add a magnet to the back, or a string (after I hole punch a small hole in the top) to complete the project.

Easy and cheap!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Blogs on Fire...and an update

Holy Cow!  My inbox was burning up today!!!  Holly over at Crisscross Applesauce awarded me the Blog on Fire Award!!!  She is a crack-up and if you haven't checked her out yet, you have got to get over there!

So here are the rules...I'm supposed to tell you 7 things about me and nominate 7 other blogs...

1.  My husband and I have the same first name!  Crazy, right?  When I was pregnant with my kids, the joke was that we would name them the same, too!

2.  I met my husband in the local hardware store where I worked in high school.  He was the customer, and I was working in the electrical department!  He proposed in a hot air balloon 2 years later and we have now been married for 11 years!

3.  I drove a minivan for 2 years and HATED every minute of it!!!  I hear you either love it or hate it...just got rid of it last week and couldn't be happier.  Moved on to a diesel VW Passat that gets 700 miles to the tank!!!!

4.  Ever done the True Colors test where you find your personality and the personalities of your coworkers?  I'm the ONLY "Green" on my whole staff!!!!  I'm a thinker...I have to really digest information before I can act...thinking of 7 things about me is HARD!

5.  I am a music fanatic!  I went to my first concert when I was 3 years old.  My mom and dad took me to the Moody Blues.  I was hooked and went every year after until I went off to college.  Believe it or not, my iPod has everything from Frank Sinatra to Jay-Z to Kenny Chesney to The Black Eyed Peas to Dave Matthews.  Rolling Stone is my favorite magazine.

6.  I HATE cooking!

7.  And here is the biggie...can't even believe I am going to admit this...I have a blog and a TPT store and my husband has NO IDEA!  I am keeping it a secret because I am earning a little extra cash on TPT.  I plan on using my profits to take the "fam" on a nice vacation and I want it to be a huge surprise.  My husband has been on disability for over a year and it is tough living on a teacher salary + a disabled income.  By the time I earn enough money to get a jet plane in the air to go farther than the next state with my family of four, we might be 4 years older, but it will be sooooo worth it!  If you buy something from my TPT store, you can feel good knowing you are helping to send me on a long awaited vacation.  LOL    

Ok...and now I have to think of just 7 amazing blogs...this will be tough...the "Green" in me needs to think a little longer...stay tuned...

Oh...and the update...Kate is working round the clock to roll out the AMAZING idea we have in store for you.  I promise, we haven't forgot...