The tragedy at Sandy Hook continues to weigh heavy on my mind and in my heart. I can't help thinking about the teachers, the students, and the staff as they now get ready to return to their new building. Another hurdle. How difficult will it be to make things "normal" again? How strong they will have to be to guide those babies through the rest of the school year. My heart goes out to them. I've been wishing there was something I could do. What difference can I make? How can I help?

Here are two ideas that have just touched my heart. Simple. Kind. Thoughtful. Gestures that take nothing for me to do, yet a way that I can feel I gave.

First, Krista of Creative Clips designed this most beautiful clip art. Every penny of her profits will go to Sandy Hook now and forever! I was able to help by simply purchasing this wonderful set for $4. Every time I look at these angels I smile. They really touch my heart.

Click ❤here❤ to purchase your own set of Angels Among Us.

Donna over at Peace, Love, and Learning wrote a lovely post expressing her feelings. She, too, has wanted to reach out to Sandy Hook. She lives 15 minutes from the school and she wrote about the ways the teachers are preparing to return to their new school. Donna and her friend, Karen, came up with a way the sellers of Teachers Pay Teachers can help. PLEASE hop over to her blog and read about her idea of Give Me Five: Teachers Helping Teachers. Here is a way that we can let the teachers of Sandy Hook know that teachers around the country care! I'm so happy to be able to sign up to give my products. 

I hope that my small gestures make a teacher's day a little brighter. A little easier. I wish them all the best as they continue on through the school year. ❤

Amy over at Step into 2nd Grade is hosting the next part of this linky...Downtime...HAHA!! I don't even know what that is anymore! 

Let's see...if I have downtime in 2013 I would like to get back to reading for pleasure. That is one thing I love, but don't do so much anymore. It takes me forever to get through a book. I would also like to get back to crochet. I took up this hobby last year and I really enjoy it. I'm in the middle of this blanket and would love to finish it by NEXT winter!!

I would also like to make a few hats for my new baby nephew, Sebastian. Here is one that is a must have! The pattern and the yarn are here and ready to go! Just need to make the time.

A new yarn shop opened nearby and it's the perfect place to hang out and relax! I would love to get over there. My daughter enjoys crochet, too, so it's a nice hobby to do together. 

Blogging and TpT have taken up most of my downtime lately. I obsess over both and I love working on them, but I would also like to break away from time to time. I hope that I can make that happen though my obsessions have a way of taking over! 

Now for the last day of this linky which is Fitness...don't expect a post! I'm not going to make a resolution to eat right or exercise! I've been there and done that!! 

It's that time of year....New Year's Resolutions! I don't like them! I'm not so good at them! (Is that a bad thing to confess?) I am  a procrastinator which makes it difficult to stay on task with promises made to myself. I manage to get things done though. I am extremely organized which I think helps with my off task behavior. I'm a good multi-tasker, too. I just can't seem to stick to things like diets and exercise or anything else that requires too much routine and structure! With that disclaimer, I will not make any organizational or fitness resolutions....I won't stick to the fitness ones, so I'm not even going to say I will. Why pretend right?? Since I'm pretty organized already I don't think I need to resolve to make any changes there! I did think about some Professional resolutions and Technology resolutions that I would like to accomplish this year! I linked up with some great ladies here at these blogs to share!

Teaching Maddeness

First of all...Professional Growth. I have to say that I'm pretty proud of myself when it comes to professional development. Over the last 23 years, I have tried to stay current on educational research and best practices. I'm not one to repeat the same lessons year after year. (That would actually bore me to tears!) I like to keep things fresh and exciting. I find it sad when I see colleagues copying the same old worksheets, reading the same old books to the kids, and teaching with the same old methods and expecting the same results. Teaching is a profession that is ever changing and growing and staying current is vital to being a good teacher! If you are not already a member of professional organizations, you should join! NCTE and IRA are wonderful groups to follow. Their conferences are outstanding. If you ever get a chance to attend please do so! I also belong to the Florida Reading Association which holds a conference each year in Orlando.

Now my main focus for the upcoming year is on Common Core. CCSS is just starting in my county and I would like to become an "expert" on it. K-2 teachers are trained and implementing it this year and it's expected that grade 3-5 teachers be fully implemented by 2014. I'm not one to wait until something like this is here before I start learning about it. This past summer I was lucky enough to train with a teacher who is an expert in CCSS. She gave me a sneak peek into what I should expect and she's become my "go to" gal!  As part of my own professional development, I want to read and "study" two books that were recommended to me. One is Pathway to Common Core by Lucy Calkins (one of my teaching heros!) and Text Complexity by Douglas Fisher.

I have also started to become familiar with the Standards in 3rd grade and I'm using those to guide my teaching this year. I think I'm off to a good start when it comes to CCSS and I want to continue on this path, so that I am prepared for the "big day"! No surprises for me!

Technology is another part of this linky  and another goal that I have for the upcoming year. At the end of January, my BFF and I are heading to Orlando to attend the Florida Educational Technology Conference. I attended this one a few years back. I'm sure there have been tons of advances in using technology in the classroom since and I hope to walk away with lots of new ideas. Currently in my classroom, I have and use a Promethean board and a document camera. I have access to a laptop cart and the computer lab. One of my tech goals this year is to write a grant to get iPads in my classroom. (If you know of grant opportunities for this please let me know!) Though I LOVE technology, I have to confess that I have not utilized it with the kiddos as much as I know I should. Project based learning is a wonderful way to use technology and I plan on getting back into it when I return from winter break.

I know that these two goals are attainable for me! I love this profession and I want to be the best I can be at it! What are you goals for 2013? There are some wonderful Linkys going on to share your Resolutions! Link up with Amanda at One Extra Degree to share your professional plans and Kathleen at Growing Kinders to showcase your techno goals! You can also head on over to see Amanda at Teaching Maddness and Diane at Teaching with Moxie to link up and share! If we all encourage each other then maybe this year more resolutions can be reached!

❤Happy New Year!!❤

I came across this linky party, hosted by Christina at Bunting, Books, and Bainbridge, and was a little intimidated at first. After all, I've only been blogging since October, did I have enough to consider as my brightest and best in 2012?

I gave it some thought and did come up with a few ideas. Here we go:

The BRIGHTEST part of this year was just getting up the nerve to start Beach Sand and Lesson Plans! It has been a great way to connect with teachers everywhere, from different grade levels, with so many creative ideas! It's unbelievable how much is out there to learn! The collaboration across the web just boggles my mind. I didn't think I had it in me to blog and I was a little afraid that no one would care about what I had to share, but I have to say I have been pleasantly surprised.

My BEST posts include Top 12 in '12 and 12 on the 12th.  It was fun to write these lists, one is my favorites from the past year and one is 12 random pictures from that day. I just love the Linky Parties! There are some that are quite challenging. Being a new blogger, the linkys have been a springboard to posting ideas and a wonderful stepping stone into the bloggy world. I guess that is why I think they are BEST!

A part of my blog that I think is the BEST is the tab titled Good Reads. Keeping up with the latest research in education is vital to being a good teacher, so I included SOME of the professional reads that guide my teaching. I have an obsession for children's books, too! I have started a list of books I use in my classroom. There are at least a thousand more to add!

I have made some BESTIE bloggy friends and am stalking following their wonderful blogs daily. It's just too many to list here, so I started a PINTEREST BOARD to showcase my favorites. You can also take a peek at Blogs I Follow or check out my tab, Blogs I Love to meet some of my new friends.

Another BRIGHT spot in this year was "opening" my TpT store. It's exciting to know that teachers appreciate my products and find them useful for their students! I have also purchased many products from my colleagues. I don't think I'll ever buy teacher resources anyplace else again. TpT has opened a door for teachers to showcase their  strengths, talents, and creativity. I'm proud and pleased to be a part of it!

Now it's your turn! Link up and join this end of year reflection into YOUR best and brightest!

I wanted to wish you all a very Merry Christmas! I am spending my holiday at home with family and friends. Christmas Eve was spent at Mom's enjoying a traditional Italian seafood dinner! It was delicious! Christmas Day will find me home playing with gifts from Santa and just hanging out with my kids and hubby. What are you doing for the holidays? Whatever it is, make it the happiest!
Sandy Hook continues to weigh heavy on my mind as the week continues on. I have spent this week connecting with my students, making them feel loved and safe at school. We have spent the week reading books, making winter crafts, and creating gifts for family and friends. We will celebrate winter with a snowman themed party today. Just getting back to some good ol' FUN!

At the start of the week, to get my students' creative juices flowing, I had them create this folded house project. My directions were to decorate their house for winter or Christmas or Hanukkah or a combination. We brainstormed things you might see inside and outside a house in the winter and activities kids might do outside in the winter. I heard "build an igloo" and "go skiing" and "make snow angels". We had a chance to "think chilly", even though it was 80 degrees outside. Here are some finished warm winter houses.

This student enjoys art. In her house, she really thought about the details and I especially love her window.

This house was created by one of my boys. I think he added some fun details and I just love  the backyard snowball fight.

Here are the step-by-step folding directions:

I have used this project to create spooky Halloween houses, Thanksgiving houses, and summer houses.

My kids really had a ball this week. They were relaxed, chatting with friends, and having FUN! I guess I met my goal!

Today I whipped up this parts of speech chart. I'm going to have the kids use it to name nouns, verbs, and adjectives from their houses. Click ❆HERE❆ to download a copy.

Looking for a memorable gift for students to give family members? Check out my guest post, Silver Packages, on Sunny Days in Second Grade. Students have to think about what it means to "owe a debt" of gratitude to someone and create a silver package for them. You will love it!

I hope you and your students enjoy these projects!

All weekend I've been trying to wrap my head around the tragedy in Connecticut. I keep thinking of the families left behind and the pain and heartache they must feel. I wouldn't even begin to say "I understand" because I don't. I keep asking, How does something like this happen? Why does this happen? What was so wrong in that young person's life that he thought this was his only recourse? There are no answers, of course. We may never really know for certain. I just know it happened. That's all. It was an unspeakable, evil that entered that school that day and took 26 innocent lives.

As a parent of 2 children, my heart breaks a million times for the parents missing their babies today. How unfair! These families sent their children off to school like we all do on a daily basis. School. A safe place. A home away from home. I think about what the teachers and staff went through on that day. They are all true heroes in my eyes. I know they did everything that was right by those children. They protected them. They told them they loved them. They told them to smile. They made them feel safe even though I'm sure fear ran deep within them. So brave! Everyone at Sandy Hook, children and adults, are my heroes today.

As I enter my classroom today, I will look at my students a little differently. I will think about what truly matters and I will remember that they are someone's baby!

My friend Denise over at Sunny Days in Second Grade wrote a beautiful reflection on this topic. Her words echo my exact thoughts! Give it a read!

If you would like to reach out to the teachers, families, and community of Newtown, you can send cards and letters to:
Sandy Hook Elementary
12 Dickinson Dr.
Sandy Hook, CT 06482

Or send donations to:
Sandy Hook School Support Fund
c/o Newtown Savings Bank
39 Main St.
Newtown, CT 06470

I have a confession to make...I am addicted to Linky Parties!! ("Hi my name is Gina and I'm hooked on Linkys!") I think they are so much fun! I get to meet new bloggers and read what everyone is up to.

Today, Stacy at Simpson's Superstars, is hosting a 12-12-12 party. 

I had to take 12 random photos throughout the day on Dec. 12. 
Here they are:

I knew it was going to be a great day when my bestie, Denise at Sunny Days in Second Grade, sent me an early Christmas present through the pony. The little ornament says "Happiness is sand between your toes!" Perfect for me and my blog. The monkey thing goes way back...I mentioned I liked sock monkeys once...I think that is how it started! LOL! Anyway, she made my day!

I use CAFE and Daily 5 in my class. The students spend a great deal of time reading in their just right books. I thought it would be fun to pull out books with a winter/holiday theme and let the kids read, review, and rate the books during Read to Self. I came up with this anchor chart for their post its. The students helped me come up with the "snowflake ratings". I'll keep this up this month and perhaps into January. 

Here is a student working on words. We have been studying adjectives and the students are illustrating and writing sentences with adjectives that we have studied.

A couple girls are involved in a reading partnership. These smarties are reading The Lemonade War. They  are discussing the pages they read and asking each other "thick" questions that they wrote.

 PTO set up a Holiday gift shop as a fundraiser. We had about 30 minutes to shop.  It was fun helping the kids pick a gift for moms, dads,  siblings, and relatives.

We will be making starfish ornaments for a winter project exchange. We will make 20 ornaments and write about winter in South Florida.  I send them off to a teacher in Pennsylvania. In exchange, we will get 20 projects back  and information about winter in other areas of the country from the other classes participating. I was working on making the patterns. The kids will paint these brown and add glitter. These look neat after you fold them on the lines....a little 3D. To get this pattern, click {here} to go to my pinterest board.

Later in the day, our read aloud was Snowflake Bentley. If you haven't read this please do! It is the true story of Willie Bentley. He loved snow. He found a way to photograph snowflakes and discovered their beautiful, unique designs.  Snowflakes in Photographs is a book with his snowflake pictures. The kids are amazed at the designs. The book of photographs is a little hard to find, but check out  Better World Books. They sell used books that are usually inexpensive and they offer free shipping. They also donate books for every book purchased. Everyone wins!

We cut out snowflakes after we read about them!

Now I cheated a little (might be part of my addiction LOL!)...this photo was not from the 12th, but from the day before. The kids made these adorable polar bear masks during art. I just loved them. They used paper plates, white tissue paper, a white plastic cup for the nose, and a black pom pom. CUTE!!

For our writing time, the kids wrote lists of "12".  Twelve math problems that equal 12. Twelve favorite foods. Top 12 of 2012. Twelve book characters.  They collaborated and shared during this fun thinking activity.

So that is my December 12, 2012. 
Don't forget to link up!!

Oh, this is a fun one! I am linking up with Kristin and Hadar for this cool 12 in '12 party.

The idea is to list 12 of your favorite things from 2012. 
I have decided to use a few prompts from the Linky Party list and add a few of my own TOPs from the past year:

#12 Top Book Read for Enjoyment:
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
(Just love the author's style)

#11 Top Professional Book Read:
Pathways to the Common Core by Lucy Calkins 
(she is one of my TOP educators to idolize)

#10 Top TV Show
Dance Moms and just about anything on TLC

#9 Top New Thing I Tried This Year
Blogging and creating products for TpT.

#8 Top Blog Post
 Looking back on my short blog career, I have really enjoyed the Currently linky parties. Not only do I have fun filling them in myself and connecting with other bloggers to read theirs, but it has turned into a wonderful monthly writing activity that my students do. 

#7 Top Gift I Received
Without a doubt my MacBook Pro! I LOVE my laptop!
For Mother's Day I was given a Brighton "Mom" bracelet. I'm very sentimental, so anything about my kids I just cherish!

#6 Top Accomplishment
This one goes back to #9. I am very proud of myself for venturing out on this blogging/TpT journey. It keeps me very busy, but the connections I've made have been so valuable. I'm happy that after 20+ years in the classroom I can still feel motivated and excited about teaching!

#5 #4 Top Son & Top Daughter
I have always been proud of my 2 kids, Dane and Lily. First of all (and yes I'm bragging) they are both honor roll students, both love school, both are funny & kind. 
Dane is in middle school this year and it was scary at first for me! LOL! He just rises to every occasion. He takes band everyday and has learned 2 instruments. He is now in the All County Honors Band. He has taken up water polo this year and attends practice 4 days/week. On Thursday, we are putting him on a plane to Colorado Springs to attend the Olympic Development  Program Winter Camp. He will be there for 5 days playing water polo and attending classes. This is the farthest (we are in South Florida) he has been from me! BOO HOO!!
Now my Lily (4th grader) has her wonderful accomplishments, too. Honor roll, student council officer, math club and literacy club member. Outside of school she dances (no I'm not a dance mom! LOL). She attends practice 2 days/week and has many dance outs each month. Her latest and greatest was dancing for the ABC taping of the Disney Christmas Parade. We traveled up to the Magic Kingdom on Nov. 28 and and participated in a parade and the taping for ABC.  Lily's dream is to be a Disney dancer so this was the thrill of a lifetime.
If you watch the parade on Christmas morning she is in the cast of Newsies...a new Disney Broadway play. 

#3 Top Photos
Lily dancing at Disney. Watching her come down Main St. was awesome. Watching her take part in a TV production was even cooler!!

#2 Top Goals for 2013
To continue to provide incredible opportunities for my kids (when we can)
To continue to work on blogging and TpT
Ok I'll say lose weight but  I won't! LOL

#1 Top Word

Back to Top