I'm back from the big ISTE conference! I'm still not sure I've processed everything I've seen. I met some incredible people and I fell in love with the city of San Antonio. It's kind of amazing how many bloggers I met while I was there. I'll be posting more pix from those meet-ups really soon.

I have to start blogging about everything I learned before I forget it all y'all! <---like that little Texas twang I added there? Don't worry, it won't last. And really, I didn't hear it all that much while I was there.

I'm starting with something easy to use and share. It's called FutureMe.org
Future Me is a way to send an email to yourself at a pre-determined time in the future. So, I could email myself right now all the things I did and saw in Texas and a year or five years from now I'll get an email from myself in the past!

The concept is cool and all, but how can you use it in your classroom right? Well, I have come up with a few ideas:

In the interest of full disclosure, I can see two potential hang-ups with using the site with early elementary kids. First, they can't type! It's almost painful to watch them hunt and peck to write a simple sentence, let alone compose a lengthly letter to themselves. A parent volunteer might come in handy here. You can have your students write in their writers' notebooks and have a parent, older sibling or student needing service hours type for them at some point.  You can even have the students write their email using any email program to you and you can cut and paste the letters into Future Me for them. Just be sure to have students date the letters so that you can choose an appropriate date to send it to the future.

Secondly, the site isn't specifically designed for children and users can choose for their letters to be displayed randomly on the site as "public but anonymous". Most of those letters are displayed on a separate page though. Any of the above options would help out with that concern.

Despite some of the concerns above, I think the idea is a pretty cool one that can have many educational uses. I emailed them about adding a kid-friendlyversion of the site. Maybe they'll see the potential too!

Yup, I'm in San Antonio, Texas at the big ISTE conference. So far, it's been been a blast. I was super apprehensive about the flight. It's been a long time since I flew on a plane, but it really wasn't too bad. I think I hyped it up so much in my mind, that the actual thing wasn't nearly as bad as I imagined. (I have a bad habit of doing that...)

Kristen from A Day in First Grade was kind enough to pick us up in the airport in Austin and drive us all the way to San Antonio. I had no idea it was so far but we chatted and laughed like old friends the whole way.  I was enthralled by all the things we don't have in Florida, like big giant hay rolls, hills, bulls with massive horns, Sonic and Hobby Lobby! Then we drove to pick up Reagan from Tunstall's Teaching Tidbits. She's just as awesome as you'd imagine.  It was the first time we all met in person, but it really did not feel like it. The night only got better as the fabulous April from A Modern Teacher met us at our hotel. She even brought us a little Welcome to Texas gift! Right at that moment when we were all together, I knew it didn't matter what else happened, this trip was totally worth it. Here we are after a great dinner together.

I'm learning lots and I have tons more pictures to share with even more bloggers I've met up with since I've been here, but I just wanted to check in and say hi from the Lone Star State and I'll see y'all real soon!

I buy a ton of amazing resources from TpT. Seriously, I'd be lost without it, not even speaking just as a seller. But I've found myself running into the same problem over and over. I'll buy an awesome pack of activities that revolve around a particular theme, like a holiday or something seasonal, and then find that I can't use all of the activities because they don't really correlate to what I'm doing at the moment. This is more of a problem in math. I can't put out a center that has them working on telling time or geometry when I haven't taught it yet and then when I am teaching it later in the year I don't want to pull out a center with pumpkins all over it!

So to remedy that, I've started a new series of products called Common Core Essentials. Each pack has activities that are directly correlated to one single Common Core standard so you can be sure that you'll be able to use every piece of the pack when you're teaching that standard, whether it's November or May. They're meant to complement whichever math curriculum you're using, but they're not directly aligned with any certain series.

I have two finished so far and I'm hard at work on the rest. I'm a little obsessed...
I began with the NBT standards because that's what we usually start with. So here's a peek at the first two. Set one is for 2.NBT.1 (which is now technically 2.NBT.A1.1a, 1b, 1c <--no kidding! The standards are slightly renumbered, but more on that in a few days)

And here's a peek at the set for 2.NBT.2. A lot of the elements are similar, but there are a few differences to keep things fresh for you and for the kids, and because different skills just need to be approached and practiced differently.

You can find both in my store at tpt. 2.NBT.1 is HERE and 2.NBT.2 is HERE
They're also both in my blog shop here as well.

My next set of EZ Prep centers is just about ready too. Pretty productive for my first week off! I'm such a nerd. I have always had a real love of creating my own teaching materials, long before my involvement with tpt, so spending my summer working on things like this is actually so much fun for me. I'm going to fit in some reading for pleasure, some relaxation, and some travel. We're actually headed to Texas next week for the big ISTE technology conference. Can't wait to see someplace besides Florida! I'm not the best flyer. It's actually been about 7 years since I was on a plane...but dang it, I'm going to get over this and enjoy this trip! See y'all soon!

Welp, it's here. Summer! I'm not sure it's really settled in yet. I still feel like I'm firmly in teacher mode. What in the world is wrong with me? I am enjoying drinking my morning coffee from a real mug though. That's a real plus. I'm particular about my mugs. Currently I'm in love with my Bodum mugs from Crate & Barrel, they're super light and really keep the coffee hot longer than a regular mug. I'm also currently sporting nasty dragon lady fingernails because I'm long overdue for a fill and half of them are broken or chipped from packing my entire room and balancing it on a 20 inch countertop. Look familiar? 

It was actually a little easier this year because I did a major clean-out and purge in the middle of the year. So anyway, before all this packing up, we had an eventful few days leading up to the end of a great year. I'll do it in pictures. I love seeing into other people's rooms, I'm nosey like that. I have a feeling you're a lot like me. So, let's start with the party. Our last day of school was Thursday, but we have a ginormous school so we all have our parties on different days. Ours was Monday. I like getting it over with and out of the way early. This year I decided to have it outside. We back up to a big, beautiful park and we normally only get to go there for 15 minutes every 3 days, so my kids were super excited to get out there for an hour and a half. It rained for about 5 days straight before the party, but my prayers were answered and on Monday morning the sun was shining. Yahoo!
We just set up some games all along the sidewalk and they played with whatever they darn well felt like playing with! No schedule or rotating or direction. And they loved it! The boys pretty much played kickball the entire time and the girls rotated around all the other games we had out for them. These kids are very active, so I knew that the outdoor party was the way to go for them. We do so many crafty things as part of our normal routine, so I wanted to just be able to let them play and go wild. And they did! And it was awesome. And I probably sweat (sweatted? swat?) enough to fill a gallon bucket. But it was worth it not to have all that craziness in my room because the kids had a blast.

Ok, so the first picture in this block above almost made me cry. I have these two cute little girls who would always belt out the Star Spangled Banner on the announcements into glue-stick microphones with this stance that they thought was very respectful, almost like they're waiting to start a race with one foot out in front of the other. Well, when they started on the last day of school, all of a sudden, the rest of the class spontaneously joined them! I grabbed my phone as soon as I saw it starting to snap a pic and I got the perfect shot! Check out the look on the face of  the little one in green as she realized what was happening. Precious! Then next pic is the gift I gave my team. They seemed to really like them, even though I didn't cute it up with a printed tag or anything. And of course, no year is complete without shaving cream day! Yes, that's a pig. And it's pooping. 

I've never done end of the year awards before, but I did this year. I looked and looked at different awards but couldn't really find ones that I felt fit my special little group of nuggets. Valerie from Georgia Grown Kinders even made a special award for the little girl who sang the National Anthem every morning.  In the end I went with the Candy Awards from my buddy Reagan at Tunstall's Teaching Tidbits. You can see from their faces - they freakin loved them!
Then we had our "box lunch". Just lunch in the room with boxes as tables, which for some reason is super exciting for them. And then we snuggled up and watched a bit of a movie together. We didn't have a ton of time since it was a half day and we still had more excitement to come!
During the last few minutes of the year on Thursday, we rolled out the red carpet for our principal who is moving to another school. She walked through the entire school and all the kids (all 1200 of them!) were lined up in the hallways to say good bye. I had the pleasure of having her son in my class, so it was definitely a little emotional to see him see his mom being treated like a rock star. Two of my girls had some extra large hands to wave good bye with. There's actually another fun tradition at my school that I didn't capture in a picture, called the Clap-Out. All of the kids in the main building line up in the halls and clap for the 5th graders as they leave our school for the last time. I saw a bunch of my former students at dismissal and was able to give them a hug as they left. Many, many tears. From them. Ok, and me too. I can't help it. I'm a mush-ball. (no picture of me crying. You're welcome)

Then after all that emotional craziness, the kids went home and we collected ourselves and finished packing up the room. On Friday we go in and file the cums, finish any loose ends and have our rooms checked and then we head to a luncheon. This one was fantastic! It was at a local Italian restaurant. Perfect venue, amazing food, lots of fun.

It's hard to believe that next year will be my 20th year in the classroom. I think there should be some type of special award for that. You know, something to keep my mind off how old I actually am to be able to say I've been teaching for 20 years. I kid. Kind of. But not really.

See more great ideas at this fun linky!

How cool is this? A giveaway where everybody wins! Some blog buddies have organized this amazing giveaway and I just had to join in - even though I'm all insane in the membrane right now with tomorrow being the last day of school. It's because I love you. I do. For real. Even a little more than the Swedish Fish I'm currently eating for dinner. But maybe not quite as much as the chocolate-chocolate chip ice cream I'll be having for dessert. But somewhere in the middle for sure. (Did I mention that I'm a stress eater?)

What will you get from all of these lovely ladies? Well, all of this fabulousness!

To receive the Swimming into Summer items, all you need to do is follow ALL of our blogs and come back and fill out our form.  That's it!  Everyone who enters will get amazing items from everyone listed above! So no finger-crossing, well-wishing, praying or buttering-up necessary. You enter - You win. Yay! I love simple. It's really about all I can handle at this point.

You can enter now through Sunday, June 9th.  We'll start sending the bundle of product out on Monday, June 10th.  You can go to each blog, by clicking on the buttons below.

Rowdy in Room 300
A day in first grade
It's LMN Tree
My (Not So) Elementary Life
A Teeny Tiny Teacher
Fern Smith's Classroom Ideas
Sunny Days in Second
Remember, all you need to do to get a present from each blogger above is to follow them and enter using this form.  Following by email counts for me. That's how I follow my favorites so I never miss a post.  And you don't need to fill out the form on each blog, just once on anyone's blog so we know where to send the goodies!

For a long while, I didn't really get Intagram. It kind of annoyed me actually. All I could think was who wanted a bunch of pictures that look like they were taken in 1978? I mean I have actual pictures that WERE taken in 1978 and they are nothing special! So I joined and...meh. I wasn't so impressed. It seemed like the same things I was seeing on Facebook; lots of selfies in bathrooms and cars, drinks I wish I was drinking, toes in the pool, toes in the sand, toes in front the ocean, toes getting a pedicure, toes in cute new sandals...where did this American foot fetish come from, anyway? So I kind of gave up on it.

Then after hearing how people were all in love with Instagram and the young un's were flocking to it and abandoning Facebook, I had to give it another try. I will NOT get old and crusty dang it! I don't want to be like that person who still uses AOL on dial-up when the rest of the world is on wi-fi. (You can see how gracefully I'm accepting my age...) So I created a new account under my blog name, and started to follow other teachers and shebangitty-bang, I was in love. Just.like.that. Seriously. I became an Instagram Junkie overnight, I tell ya! I think I narrowed it down to a few reasons why...

This is the big 'no duh'. It's all pictures. Big pictures with cool effects and captions! It's quick and easy to scroll through and see what's going on with my friends. It comes up and refreshes instantly, unlike Facebook that kind of takes forever and a day to load on my phone. And once I'm on I don't have to make any decisions or look for anyone or read notifications, it's all right there waiting for me. There are notifications if someone new is following you or liked or commented on one of your pix, but they're quick and easy to scroll through. And if you don't click on them, the notification icon disappears in a few seconds so it's not in your way or sitting there mocking you because you haven't clicked it yet.
Well, at least not yet anyway. I'm not distracted by the miracle cure for every disease ever that can be found in a little bean from the rainforest. And I'm not haunted by forty-seven shoes in my sidebar because I looked up "flip-flops" once. My scrolling is not interrupted by what Dr. Oz thinks I should eat or the fact that I can earn my Masters degree from home in my pajamas in 48 hours. I do see some bloggers and tpt'ers teasing or promoting items or blog posts, and personally I'm cool with that because I'm on Instagram for that reason, to see what's going on in my bloggy friends' classrooms and I get a little peek into their "real" lives too. So if you follow me on Instagram, you'll get lots of shots of what's going on in school, classroom projects, a teaser every now and then about what's coming up on the blog or what I'm working on, mixed in with a little of my ridiculously low-key personal life. I'll spare you the pix of me blogging from the couch, but we do go to some cool places from time to time too. Like last week, for example...

When I'm wrong, I admit it. Usually. But not always. But this time I was wrong about the photo effects. There are so many cool apps that let you turn your pictures into little works of art. It's so much more than the filters that come with Instagram which, to me,  make your pictures look like you just found them in an old box in the garage. Personally, I'm loving Instacollage and Beautiful Mess right now.

Here's one of my biggies. On Facebook, if I like a company or joke or picture, it tells the whole wide world! I realize that "Denise likes Dove Chocolates" then "Denise likes Weight Watchers" are kind of contradictory, but whatev. I don't need everyone I know to know I'm a big, crazy mess who can't decide between chocolate and a lettuce leaf. It's also better that I don't know what some of my friends "like" either, if you know what I mean. The privacy settings seem to change every 15 seconds or so, so I can't even count on that keeping my secrets safe. During the election, I "liked' both candidates just so that I could see what both were saying. I didn't really like-like one of them, but Facebook told the whole world I did and that made for some interesting conversations at work! "You like HIM?? I can't believe it!" Womp. Womp.

This is probably my number one reason for loving Instagram. If I follow someone I actually get to SEE their stuff! Imagine that! Facebook has done some strange things with their algorithms and things so that even if you "liked" the page of a company, they won't necessarily show up in your feed! It kind of leaves people with a page for their business (like mine for SunnyDays) scrambling to keep people engaged with their page so you keep seeing them in your feed. Or worse yet, we are sometimes paying for posts to show up for you. Me no likey so much, so that's a big plus for Instagram right there. Everyone I'm following shows up no matter what.

I think one of the biggest reasons I became a convert is that for now at least, Instagram seems so much less commercial and personal. Like leaving New York City and moving to a quaint little New England town. It's more relaxed and calm. <--crap, maybe I am getting old. Also, focusing on following other teachers was a big factor for me. There are so many bloggers on Instagram, just check out their blog to see if they have a link or search them out once you're on. I've also found some by reading comments on pictures and then clicking on their name to follow. Be sure to check out #TeacherTalkTuesday too. It's a great linky started by Rachelle and Michelle. There are lots of other features, like picture challenges and the hashtag thing (both real and for fun) that could take up a whole 'nother post. But once you start playing around you just kind of get it.

If you're on, let's connect. You can find me here. I can't promise I won't ever take a "toe" picture though. I do have pretty good feet and it's a shame to keep them hidden from the world...

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