Monday, October 6, 2014

How to Make a Wooden ABC Sign

We've all been there.

Scrolling through Pinterest, a cute, "easy" project catches our eye, and suddenly, we are off on the DIY train, guns blazing. What we DON'T know is that this point is like the calm before the storm--a moment of pure bliss, as we make a mental list of materials needed for this beautiful, pristine work of art. This stage is denial, the belief that we really can make this super awesome project, when deep down, we know it will possibly be the end of all things sane.

I'm here to tell you that all hope is not lost. 

Not only am I a teacher, but I am a soon to be mother. And when I'm not creating for the classroom, I am in search of the perfect nursery. I am a lover of barn wood and lettered signs, but my patience and wallet disagree. Imagine my surprise when this week, I totally threw together this little ABC wall hanging and DIDN'T SAY ONE BAD WORD THE ENTIRE TIME. And it came from my own imagination. And, I only spent about $20.00.

You guys, it's this easy:
1. Go to Lowe's. In the lumber section, get 2 pieces of 4x6 wood. They should be $4.58 each.

2. Next, go to the picture hanger aisle. Get picture hangers. I bought a pack of 6 for $1.50. They are the kind that look like pointy teeth.

3. Mosey on over to the paint aisle. Get a can of ebony stain. I used Rustoleum, but any ebony will do--half pint is MORE than enough.

4. Next, drive your crafty self to Michael's where you will purchase vinyl letters, hopefully with a 40% off coupon. I used 3 inch, Helvetica in white. They are found in the stencil aisle.

Other things you will need: yardstick, hammer, some type of sponge or paint brush, a bowl of water, and 2 old rags. I won't insult your intelligence by posting photos of those, I assume you are familiar with those items :)

Okay, so this next part is super easy. You will want to shake your stain (shaken, NOT stirred). You are going to drench your rag in the water and wipe down one side of your board so that sucker is soaking wet (I'm talking WET). Next, use your brush to paint stain on the part you have soaked. Quickly after, use your dry rag to wipe off all of the stain. Much of the stain will remain, but it will have a faded look rather than a solid. Repeat this on all surfaces of your board & feel free to repeat on some areas to achieve a darker look. This took me about 15 minutes and my boards looked like this when I was done:
Now for the part I thought would be the deal-breaker. I'll be honest, I was super excited about my vision for this project but I thought this would be the point where I just went clear off the deep end--applying the letters so they were evenly spaced and straight. 

Turns out---EASY. 
1. Mark an inch on either end of the board. This is where your letters will start and end.

2. Starting at one end of the board at your first mark you made, make additional marks every 3 1/2 inches. This will be the parameters for your letters.

3. Lay your yardstick so that its top edge is flush with the top edge of your board. 

4. Keeping the yardstick still (this took occasional repositioning), place the letters in between the 3 1/2 inch marks so the top of the letter touches the yardstick. Repeat on both pieces of wood, with 13 letters on each.

Not exactly scientific, but that's how it's done folks! One last time for your viewing pleasure: 

Happy (no, really) crafting!


Wednesday, October 1, 2014

My Reason

Hello, my friends! Today is the happiest day, because today, October joins us. It is basically the best month. The month of leaves, pumpkin-flavored everything, cooler weather, candy corn...I could go on and on! It is also the beginning of Breast Cancer Awareness month, a cause very close to my heart. This month, a portion of my Teachers Pay Teachers proceeds will be donated to breast cancer research. And this is why:

Labor of Love
By Erin Waters
Her slightly pale cheeks give off a rosy glow as the soft pink powder dusts her skin with each gentle stroke of the brush. 
            “Close your eyes,” I tell her, and proceed to swipe her dark eyelashes with a coat of Blackest Black mascara. Her eye twitches, and I barely avoid making a fatal slip that would leave her with a garish line of ebony down her freshly made up cheek.
            “Hold still!” I scold her, and she apologizes, laughing.  I swear, sometimes she is just like a little kid.  But that’s what I love about her.
            As I put the finishing touches on my masterpiece, my mind starts to wander and goes immediately back to a moment in my life that I will never forget.
            I had come home from school in fourth grade an absolute wreck because a boy at my after school latch key program named John had called me fat.  Looking back, I know that it was a typical, fourth grade boy taunt but at that time, such words were catastrophic to my nine-year-old ego.  The instant I got home, I stood in front of the vanity mirror in my room, absolutely disgusted at the reflection staring back at me.  Baby fat clung to my face, making my cheeks look like those of a chipmunk who was storing nuts away for the winter.  In between childhood and puberty, my body was awkward and shapeless, nothing like the other girls in my class who still retained boyish, stick thin figures of childhood. Having recently lost the last of my baby teeth, irregular gaps in my mouth added to my displeasing appearance.  John was right…and not only was I fat, I was the ugliest creature I had ever seen.
       I remember sobbing in my mother’s arms, crying so hard that my words were coming out in staggered gasps and I had trouble breathing.  She whispered words of comfort and reassurance but those did little to soothe my crushed pride.  What she did next, however, was a miracle. 
            Without a word, she produced from the bathroom closet a set of unopened electric curlers I had received from my grandfather the previous Christmas, but due to my hair illiteracy, had never bothered to attempt.  She set about rolling strands of my long hair around the warm coils, all the while attempting to convince me that John was nothing but a rotten little boy.   Who knew, she offered, maybe his insult was really to cover up that he liked me.  Boys would do that, she said, if they had a crush on you. But still, I would have none of it.  If John said I was fat, then I was fat.         
            After a good half an hour her work was done.  As I turned to the mirror, what I saw before me was nothing like the ugly duckling reflection I had seen shortly before.  In place of it was a beautiful girl with gorgeous cascading curls flowing over her shoulders.  Her cheeks were prettily flushed (although from forty-five minutes of crying, nevertheless, she thought it was pretty), and she smiled radiantly. The chipmunk cheeks were still there, as well as the gaps, but this time somehow, they weren’t ugly…they were cute.  I looked like a beauty queen. 
            Now, I sit here and the roles are reversed.  It’s been a month since my mom’s initial diagnosis, and only a week since she underwent a double mastectomy that ultimately saved her life.  Never one to sit out for long, she has her very first visitor coming today and has asked me to help her get ready.  She is unable to lift her arms up past her waist, and I find comfort in helping her.  The last week has been rough for her and she has spent the majority of the time sleeping and trying to get well.  Since her surgery, she has not had the energy or the drive to get ready.  She is strong though, and wishes to appear that way. 
As I spray her hair with a final coat of hair spray, she complains that I use too much, but I don’t mind. She looks in the mirror after I am done, and in her face, I see myself nine years ago on that miraculous day that she made me feel beautiful. 

I wrote this story as a junior in high school. 2 short years later, my mom and best friend was re-diagnosed with the disease that doctors said had less than a 1% chance of returning. I am SO proud and happy to say that my mom is still here with us today. She helped me plan my wedding 2 years ago and is beyond excited to welcome my first baby and her first grandchild at the end of this month. I wish every girl could say the same, but unfortunately, the reality of the disease is real and not everybody is as lucky as my mom. I am happy and honored to support this cause and hopefully have a hand in keeping our mamas around for a long while!

To donate to my personal fundraising efforts this month, click here. Thank you!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

What's the Plan, Stan?

Now that the year is in full swing, I think it's safe to say we all need a little stability in our lives. It's incredible how I live my life in pure, ignorant bliss all Summer, pinning my little life away & storing up ideas that are SURE to make my life a dream come back-to-school time. Then, reality hits. And unfortunately, those perfect little boxed up ideas that looked great on paper (err, my computer screen) are NOT HAPPENING. Real life is tough, man.

My search for the perfect planning template has gone a little like my summer "planning." I find and pin about 10 a week, only to return to them to find that, while pretty, they do me no good. The ratio of cute:practical I have found is somewhere in the neighborhood of 1,000,000,000:1. So, there's that.

Then, I found it. Here she is, folks:

This little gem was shared by teaching guru Cara Carroll over at The First Grade Parade, and adapted by yours truly and I am pretty much in love. Here's why I like LOVE it:

1. It's simple
2. I can see the entire week at a glance
3. It is organized
4. It makes sense!

Cara posted this sometime last year, and boy, talk about a GAME CHANGER. I staple the whole pack together and use the back of the last page for my To-Do list. I know, I'm fancy. 

She just recently posted a newer template, but I still like this one. I have a feeling I won't be straying from this little guy for quite some time. You can grab the editable version here!*

Happy planning, ladies & gents!

*I kept the fonts in the editable version basic so they would translate nicely onto all of your screens. Feel free to change the fonts around like I did in the examples above, because let's be honest---life is more fun with cute fonts! (I used Hello Kelly from here and Happy Solid from here).


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

I Have to Go Back to School...But First, Let Me Take a Selfie

The selfie craze has officially swept the nation, so I see no reason to ignore this as we head into the new school year. Before we begin, let's start this post with a selfie, shall we?
This is my pre-7:00 A.M. selfie, hence the coffee and my expression---we will try again later for a better one. 

In addition to clogging my social media newsfeeds, selfies serve as statements of self-expression and a creative art form that people use to present themselves in a variety of settings, moods and situations. I began thinking about how funny and adorable it would be to see the selfies my students would take, and lo and behold, my back-to-school selfies were born:

This delightful freebie will encourage your students to portray themselves in a variety of settings during the first day or week of school. Throughout the day, students will draw themselves at their desk, reading, at lunch, at recess, and many more settings! This is a great conversation piece students can bring home to show their families, and it is also a great product to have out at Back to School Night so parents can get a glimpse into their child's days at school through their child's eyes.

Best of all, it's FREE! Click here or on the picture above to grab this back-to-school present. 

Have a WONDERFUL year!


Saturday, August 16, 2014

How to Save Your Stations (And Your Sanity!)

It's confession time. I am awesome at making stations. Math, literacy---you name it. I'm even pretty good at remembering to print, laminate, and cut them in time for their debut in the classroom.

Storing them? That's a completely different story. When it comes to saving my station materials in a nice, orderly manner, it's rather embarrassing. Shoving them all in a box is just SO EASY, you guys.

But you know what's not easy? Having to remake half of my materials the following year, and the year after that, because I was too lazy to find a suitable way to organize.

You may be asking, "Well, Erin, what about plastic bins?"
"Have you tried file folders?"
"I looooove using shoe boxes to store mine. Have you tried those?"

Yes. Takes up too much space, pieces fall out and get lost, and nobody has enough shoe boxes for my classroom needs. But thanks for the suggestions! 

At long last...PROBLEM. IS. SOLVED. Introducing, the super organized, only s-l-i-g-h-t-l-y time-consuming (3 steps, people!), station storage solution:

It's as easy as 1, 2, 3. Really:
1. Put pieces in large Ziploc bag.
2. Line left-hand side of bag with duct tape, folding over so both sides are covered.
3. Triple hole punch that bad boy, stick it in a binder, and voila!

This works well for flat pieces, and for stations that require extra materials (dice, markers, etc.), I just attach a tag to the bag for easy assembly. 

This is AWESOME because now, my stations aren't randomly strewn throughout my room AND the binders can be sorted by month/theme and neatly stored on a bookshelf. The trick to this is starting from DAY 1 so you can establish healthy habits for the year. 

I don't remember where I first heard of or saw this idea, but if I ever meet the person who is the brains behind this operation, I will hug and kiss them all over.

Here's to making life easy! Visit the links below for even MORE bright ideas that are sure to save you time, effort, and headaches.

Bright & Organized,
Erin :)


Monday, August 11, 2014

A Shark Week FREEBIE!

All teachers know that kids learn more when they’re excited and engaged. Today a team of bloggers come together to help your students take a BITE out of learning with a theme your students are sure to love!

One way I love to keep my kids engaged in the first grade classroom is to keep things competitive and group-oriented. We all know how those first grade attention spans can wane!

Slide 10.png

My Shark Week freebie is an old-school game of cat & mouse. Sharks & Minnows is a nostalgic pool game that pits predator against prey. What better way to celebrate Shark Week than to bring this game into the classroom! Students will race from one end of the sea to the other, answering math facts in order to escape the hungry jaws that chase them! 

Click on the picture to download this fabulous freebie!

Be sure to go for a swim in the linky party below. Every blog in the Shark Week Blog Hop features a fishy freebie for you and your students- but hurry! Shark Week only lasts until Sunday, August 17th  : )

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Back-to-School LIFESAVER


 I am so excited to announce that is having a HUGE back-to-school blowout sale and I am going to be featured in one of the curriculum bundles! From July 30 - August 2 (Wednesday - Saturday), they are bringing back all of their favorite and most popular bundles for INSTANT download at up to 77% OFF! There is something for everyone and it is their BIGGEST sale of the year!

First, check out our bundle for ALL GRADES that includes classroom essentials for decor & organization--a must-have for back to school room setup! It is normally $46.00, but it is on sale for 10.99---Seriously, you can't beat that!

Management, Decor & Organization Bundle - 76% OFF


I use quite a few of these items in my room, and had a lot of success with the Attendance Binder I began using last year. It is an awesome way for students to self-manage attendance, as well as practice sight words and math facts at the same time! Check out how we used it in our classroom:

Students use the targeted math fact or sight word as their "password" to sign in every morning. All I have to do is see who hasn't signed in to finish my attendance!

Take a peak into what else is on sale! Tell your friends, because there is something for everyone who teaches children in PreK-8th grade!

Preschool Full-Year Curriculum Bundle - 72% OFF


Kindergarten Full-Year Curriculum Bundle - 75% OFF


K-2 The Write Stuff ELA Bundle - 68% OFF


First Grade Literacy Bundle - 74% OFF


Don't Miss It!


Saturday, May 17, 2014

A Very Hungry Bright Idea

I came across this bright idea a month too late, as our Eric Carle unit was finished. But you bet your bottom dollar I'll be making this bad boy next year--it's too cute not to! I found this lovely and incredibly easy idea when I visited my friend who had just had a baby. Her nursery theme was The Very Hungry Caterpillar and I about died when I saw this guy peeking up at me:
This would be super cute in a story pit or attached to the wall during an Eric Carle unit or even an Eric Carle-themed classroom! Simply glue green paper lanterns together with a red one on the end. Cut out felt or construction paper for the mouth and eyes, and hot glue thick brown pipe cleaners to the head for antenna. Slap the whole thing on a branch, and you've got yourself a Very Hungry Caterpillar! What a GREAT idea! Enjoy :)

For more bright ideas, please visit the link below to find grade-specific posts that strike your fancy!


Saturday, April 12, 2014

Bright Ideas--No More Rummaging!

It's 10:00. Lunch is imminent. You are halfway through a math lesson, then you hear it. Pencils rolling around supply boxes, paper crumpling. The dreaded desk rummaging has begun.
Personally, if I had a dollar for every time one of my students was playing in his or her desk during a lesson, I could retire today a happy girl. Unfortunately, I am in the business of teaching 6 and 7-year olds and this is nothing but a pure fantasy. The reality is, rummagers will be rummagers. Have desk, will fidget.

Enter my super smart cooperating special education teacher, who introduced me to the greatest innovation yet in the world of teaching: The Box Top.

Sometimes, things are just so simple it makes me wonder why I never thought of it. The Box Top changes this:

To this:

Not only does this beautiful piece of cardboard keep hands out of desks, but it also allows for much better organization, in my opinion. Loose scraps, crayons, and supplies do not fall victim to the abyss that is a student's desk, and all of the materials can be accessed in one easy makeshift tray. This also eliminates the endless questions of "Where is my science notebook?" or "Where is my...?" because guess what?! Instead of sifting through a desk until the inside is unrecognizable, you can pull out this handy dandy tray and look in a more civilized fashion.

Easy solutions, people. This is what Bright Ideas and teaching is all about!

To check out another bright idea, please make sure to check out our linky FULL of ideas just waiting to be borrowed. Happy hopping!

Erin :)

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Bright Ideas: Simple Guided Reading Organization

Guided Reading is a necessary evil. An enigma. A Catch-22.

I love guided reading and what it does for my students. I enjoy guided reading while I'm doing it, but I'll be really honest here. Sometimes, the anticipation of doing guided reading is enough to send me running and hiding.

This year, it's all about baby steps, folks. Bit by bit, I've slowly picked up the pieces of my guided reading chaos area and transformed it into a place I want to be. Perhaps the most pivotal transformation lies within this simple organizational technique that has, truly, been a lifesaver.

I picked up this little guy in the dollar bin at Target a couple months ago, but these can be found year-round at the Dollar Tree, Walmart, etc. Little did I know I was meeting my new best friend that faithful day in the Target timesuck aisle.

I LOVE that my school has a book room with filing cabinets full of leveled books, and I truly believe the woman who volunteers her time organizing it is an angel sent from earth to make teachers like me try their darndest to be a guided reading guru. What I DON'T love is that in first grade, I have about a baijillion different reading groups, with a bajillion different books and sometimes, I do REALLY awesome things with these books, only to forget about them the next day. Which is where this bad boy comes in:

Every morning, I take 5 minutes (seriously, no more) to fill out an index card out for each book I plan to use during guided reading (usually 2-3 books/groups, depending on the day). I quickly jot down the title, the level, frequent sight words that appear in the book, new vocabulary words, and any teachable moments I see from skimming through the book (making connections, predictions, using pictures for word-solving clues, etc.) Then, I slip the card inside the book until it is time to meet.

After meeting with the group, I slip the card inside the envelope in the correct slot and voila. I'm done.
Yes, I know there are probably neater and cuter ways of storing books, but I find great peace in the fact that further on in the year, I'm able to dip into a certain level and already have a book selection & mini-lesson all set up for my groups. It's the little things, folks!

Now, it's time to head on over to my friend Mary at A Classroom Full of Smiles to hear all about her BRIGHT BULLETIN BOARD IDEAS! You don't want to miss it :)

A Classroom Full of Smiles
Click HERE to check it out!

Also, you can search by topic using the link-up below and move along to any other blog on the blog hop!


Sunday, February 2, 2014

Sunday Fun(?)day

The other day when I was stalking browsing Facebook, I came across this:

It was like the Facebook gods were speaking directly to me. If I had to recreate this meme, it would go a little something like this:
-I Honestly Don't Think It's Physically Possible to Get Out of Bed
-I Honestly Don't Think It's Physically Possible to Get Out of Bed 2.0
-Really. Again? This is Worse Than Yesterday.
-I Can See the Light! I Guess I'll Go to Work Today
-Free At Last!
-Life Is Perfect. This Feeling Can, & Will, Never Go Away

Now, Sunday. Sunday is a two-parter. If you're anything like me, you spend the better part of Sunday basking in the glory that is doing nothing. In my ripe age of 28, I've even started waking up as early as possible so that I can have as many waking hours of nothingness as possible (who am I?!). Life is great, coffee is wonderful, the couch is my oyster. 

Then, 4:00 hits. The witching hour. 

4:00 on Sunday is like standing on the edge of the high dive with zero swimming experience. Everything is fine and dandy, life is whimsical & lovely, and then BAM. All of a sudden, you've forgotten what it feels like to shower first thing in the morning, prepare 3(!) meals a day, and engage in social interaction. All traces of responsibility are nowhere to be found. 

If I'm being honest here, I usually spend 4:00 on wallowing in my Sunday depression, and wait until 5 minutes before my husband says he's ready for bed to fly into a whirlwind of activity. All of a sudden, packing lunches, doing a load of laundry, and laying my outfit out are of utmost importance, and WHERE ARE MY RAIN BOOTS. My tired husband is too nice to leave me in the dust as I wring out any possible remaining waking moments before I lay my sad head down on my pillow.

Finally, it is bed time. I stay on my phone as long as possible (surely there's something I must have missed on Facebook/is it too late for a freak snow storm to close school?/etc.) to avoid sleep. Because sleep=waking up. And waking up the day after Sunday=I Honestly Don't Think It's Physically Possible to Get Out of Bed. Repeat.

Disclaimer: This cycle has nothing to do with my feelings about my job & students (both of which & whom I love more than anything) & more about my inability to fully embrace adulthood. Maybe one day.*

*Maybe not.

Erin :)


Sunday, January 26, 2014

Chance of a Lifetime (Or...Monthtime?)

Let's talk resolutions. It's a good news/bad news situation over here for me. Bad news first---I've been an awful blogger for the past week (maybe 2). Started strong, but had a relapse. My bad!
Good news--I have been doing a fantastic job keeping ahead of the game at school. So good, in fact, that I am all planned & ready to go for February. Yes, you heard me right! February, meet your match.
Because I am feeling so great about this, and because my blogging has been less than stellar lately, I have a special giveaway. Readers, I'd like to introduce you to my (and your!) new best friend:
Included in this beauty, you will find:
  • Literacy Stations
  • Math Stations
  • Word Wall Words
  • Morning Work
  • Interactive Poetry & Activities
  • Science Experiments & Activities
  • Read-Alouds & Activities
  • Classroom games
  • 100th Day Pack

To win this steal of a deal, simply enter the Rafflecopter below.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck! :)


Sunday, January 12, 2014

I Have a Dream...

I don't even know where to start with this post.

           Teaching about Martin Luther King, Jr. is one of my favorite things about my job, hands down. One might think that it would be a fine line to walk dealing with such young students, but in all honesty, it is their youthful bliss to ignorance of the past that makes this such a rewarding unit to teach. Every year, the kids are purely blown away and appalled at the laws and conditions that existed way before they can even fathom. 
           It's hard for them to imagine such social norms when they live in a 21st century world where race is becoming more and more insignificant. What they can fathom; however, is the atrocity of the inequitable laws that affected so many. I wish I could capture their faces, expressions, and questions every time I introduce them to the world pre-Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The world (today and long ago) could learn a lot from these open-minded, innocent souls!
            Recently, I was tutoring a little one, and we were reading this Reading A-Z book about George Washington Carver. We came to multiple points in the book that highlight George's struggle to get an education based on his race, and this sweet little boy looked up at me with wide eyes and said, "I can't believe this actually happened! It's so weird!" It's so refreshing to witness such a blank slate at work, and it gives me hope for the generation that we are teaching. Brings tears to my eyes!
            With that being said, it is very important to me to use every minute & every second of our social studies block this month to communicate Dr. King's message to my students. We focus a lot on his "I Have a Dream" speech and use this opportunity to discuss ways in which they want to change the world for the better. This might be my favorite project we do all year:

While teaching in such a military-heavy community, this dream tugs extremely at my heartstrings. 

To create this project, I take photographs of the students and encourage them to show me their best "thinking pose" and snap away. Once the photos are printed, we cut along the outline (sometimes I utilize my fabulous parent volunteers for this task) and glue onto a piece of black construction paper. Then, I print copies of  this thinking bubble and the students write their dream for the world. Click below for  copy:

 I wish I had an entire album dedicated to the dreams of my students, but I promise you that if you do this with your own, you will be rewarded year after year. Enjoy and may peace be with you!

To download my entire MLK pack, please visit my TPT store here.

Erin :)

Credits: Thinking bubble from Krista Wallden; Font from Kimberly Geswein

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Go Mrs. Waters, It's Your Birthday!

Okay, so I will be the first to admit---I LOVE birthdays! I will also be the first to admit...I also love my own birthday. I have slowly trained introduced my husband to the joy of the celebration of birthdays, so it should be no surprise that I am gearing up for a blog-worthy birthday celebration as well! Because I am so fortunate to be alive on this earth for yet another day of birth celebration, I wanted to share the wealth with you all! Behold, my 28th birthday sale at my Teachers Pay Teachers store! This also doubles as a back-to-school blues sale, so it's all in all a great situation :)

I highly recommend you check out my most favorite item in my store, and also my best-seller. This little product has been an absolute life-saver in my guided reading groups. Check it out!

Happy birthday to me! 

Erin :)

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