Video of my class

My class was visited by some reporters and we are now online!  My students had great fun viewing themselves today!  Over a month ago, our city's newspaper reporters visited our school and filmed my classroom for about an hour.  The children were wonderful and performed beautifully.  Well, to my surprise, the story is now on their website, along with a print story on the front page!  
My school is a remedial school for students who are behind in reading and math.  We have language arts all morning.  Enjoy!!  :)

click here



I added my Pinterest board to Rachel Lynette's wonderful blog list.  It's a list of teachers who pin MOSTLY free and "full of information" tidbits.  She said (and I 100% agree) there are disturbing numbers of people who are sending out commercials through their pins.  It's ok to have some pins which cost money (let's face it...some of our favorite things are from TPT and they aren't free), but the majority of our pins should be "ready to access, free to the general public" kind of pins.  Can I get an Amen?  :)

Here's the post:


Check it out!  There are many wonderful people to follow......!!!


Class Stationary

Way before I began teaching, I combed through hundreds of books, magazines, and sites for teaching ideas.  One idea I loved from the start was creating a class stationary page.  This page is used for classroom thank-you's, notes from the teacher to a student, or whenever one wants to show off their awesome class!!!  

During the first week of school, I had the children draw themselves in a tiny box.  I told them to draw only their head and to sign their name as well.  Surprisingly, I only had 2 students who needed new boxes to start completely over.  

Here's what you need to do:  cut approximately 3x3 or 2x2 inch squares (one per child, plus you), and find one blank 8x10 paper.  Instruct the children to draw their face and sign their name on their square.  If they draw with a heaver force, it shows up better.  Tape the portraits around the edge of your paper.  When you copy this, you might have to experiment with increasing or decreasing the light/dark option. 

Here's an example of 2 student's self portraits:

Here's our finished product!!  Didn't it turn out cute???  Because I only have 8 students in my morning class, I added myself and a drawing of our school.  If I had a regular class (meaning, more students and they stay with me all day long), I would add them across the top and bottom of the page.  I would also have a heading like "Mrs. Gillespie's class" or something catchy.

Student Wipe-Off Pages

I have been SOOOO busy lately. What teacher isn't? Especially teachers who have children of their own who are also incredibly social and busy bees?  Oh and my golden retriever has been ill.  AAHHH!!  Poor girl.  Anyhow, I have finished 5 weeks of school and the time is flying by (enter airplane sound). 

 I love Pinterest. There, I admitted it. There are so many awesome ideas circling around. It's almost like that fantasy we had as children: you're outside and it is raining candy...just reach up and grab all you want. With Pinterest, you can pin all the ideas you want. For free. Wow.

 Anyhow, I made some "student wipe-off page things" (what do you call them???) from a Pinterest teacher.

It was super easy to make. The only trouble I had was making the duct tape "even" on the front and the back. I eventually gave up on perfection, because guess what? There will be a PAGE in the middle and you won't even see the front vs the back!!   :) 

 Here's what you need: clear report covers (they are very sturdy, unlike page protectors),   1-2 roles of cute duct tape (one roll makes about 12). That's it! 

 These can be used for any worksheet imaginable. Oh, one thing: you need to decide which side you want to remain open. I left one of the small sides open. You could also leave the large side open. It's your choice.

Happy creating!!!


My Classroom Tour

I just love my classroom!  It's cozy and happy.  My school is a remedial school and we focus on phonics (reading) and math.  Because of this, each class has a maximum of 12 students.

I recently took a video of my room for some family members and decided I should share it here on my blog (for no other reason then to keep it in a safe place for myself!).

This is my first classroom and we had strict guidelines to follow: nice and neat; not too much on the walls for those ADHD kiddos. The focus in this school really is catching the students up and returning them to their regular schools...hence the classroom wall regulations...BUT, I managed to add a little of myself into the room anyhow. :)


My new job!!!

I am thrilled to be teaching this fall at a lovely non-profit private school!  I am teaching grade 3 and 4 in the morning for language arts (it's intensive for these kiddos who are behind in their regular schools), 5th grade math in the afternoon, and then back with my 3rd and 4th grade kiddos for unit studies the last hour of the day. 

New teachers work non-stop, don't they?  At least this one does!  I just finished my first week of teaching and I was simply exhausted this morning!  Whew!  I can tell you that I could feel the weight lift slightly after a successful first day.  When the rubber meets the road and the planning has worked, it's a relief, isn't it?  I can see how the day is going to work and I am successfully putting my giant puzzle together.  Nothin' like a puzzle with no picture, hugh?  :)

I had a great week and I love my class.  They are precious and wonderfully sweet.  They are also funny and I laugh with them a lot.  I love to encourage them and help them figure things out.  They are pumped about my ideas and seem to really love being together.  We are a happy group and I am excited to see them grow over this next year.

My heart is full!  Now to get back to grading and planning for next week...you mean I have to go back and do it all over again next week???????  :)


Book Nook

Time to organize my library! I purchased some super cute teacher labels from Vista Print.  Their shipping is ridiculous, but each package of 420 was around $5.00.  Don't you just love that adorable hedgehog?

I have almost a thousand books.  Yes, it's an addiction.  I want my students to be surrounded by books and WANT to read them.  Know a better way to help them become better readers?  :)  Here's sampling of what I have to organize:

I have more than that, but you get the idea....!  Next stop will be the Dollar store for some cute book bins.  I've been all over Teachers Pay Teachers for some book bin labels.  I don't want something fussy, too young, or boring.  When I find them, I'll print each tag twice so I can put one tag on my bin and one tag on the shelf it belongs.  That will help the kids (and me) know where each bin belongs!

I also made a sign.  I decided to call it my "book nook". 

Yikes.  So much to do, and so little time.....!!  If I were so fortunate as to live by the beach, I'd get even less done!


License and Graduation!!!

My diploma has arrived.  It looks wonderful!  Better yet, I received my Nebraska teaching certificate today.  Yippee!!!  I am now licensed to teach K-8th grade in Nebraska.  Now to find a job.  Sigh.  !

I've been teaching at the Phoenix Academy for the month of June.  Four weeks of summer school is a pretty good amount of time.  It's just enough to gain more experience and earn a little money, but I'll still have the month of July with my kids before school begins once again.  Wouldn't it be great fun to spend the month preparing for my new job?  :)

Summer school at the Phoenix Academy is an awesome learning experience.  Not only have I been trained in Spaulding Phonics, but I have also needed to create lessons for children who struggle mightly with reading and math.  It's a really neat school.  The faculty really care about the kids.  That's what it's all about, isn't it?  Some of my students will enroll in the fall and that makes my heart smile.  I know their needs will be met and they will be able to return to their "regular school" on top of their game.  The holes in their education will be filled. 


My Website

I created my own website as my "online portfolio".  It's so easy, anyone can do it!

Here's my link:  http://amygillespie.weebly.com/

My website contains my resume, letters of reference, student teaching bits, and favorite resources.  I pulled the best anchor charts and photos I could find to show my potential employers. 

Psst...it's also completely free!  Gotta love free!!!

Summer School

My first official job began:  summer school!  I was trained the end of May and began on June 4th.  I am teaching intensive phonics (the Spaulding method) and math for 4 weeks.  It may turn into a full time job this fall (fingers crossed).....the kids are sweet and we are filling their brains with awesome reading tools.  :)   

I still have not heard from any other schools(for the fall)  and I feel a little anxious...I'm the type of person who likes to have all of her ducks lined up nice and neat in a row...!!!  If I do not get a full time job, I'll reapply with the dozen or so districts as a substitute.  I've heard that's the way to go if you can't get on full time.....

Grateful for the part time job and afternoons off.....Hmmmm, this would be great year round!



We've been digging into poetry and have had loads of fun reading them.  After writing our own rhyming poems, we decided to give 2 other poetry forms a try.  The first one is a limerick.  Here is our class limerick poem:
Candy Shop
There once was a girl named Mandy.
And sometimes she ate too much candy.
It was a real treat,
To have something so sweet.
The candy store sure was handy!

The rules are as follows:  5 lines; lines 1, 2, and 5 all rhyme; lines 3 and 4 also rhyme.  They loved this!
Here is our class alphabet poem:
Our Class

Notice the rule?  You begin with any letter of the alphabet and create one word per line with the next letter.  Oh, and it needs to "tell a story" or make sense.  Fun times!

The President's

We've been learning about the Presidents and writing about them.  The kids learned a song and like to sing it rather loudly!  :)  You'll find the song in the post below.  Anyhow, here's the anchor chart I made for them:

The end of the song goes like this:  "Thank you God for our 43 presidents; it's for them we pray".  I hope you practice it at home!  Yes, the song will stick in your head, but that's a GOOD thing! 

President's Song

Here is our class singing the President's Song. The recording is not great, but it's the best we could do at this point!
Voice Recorder >>


The White House

We've been studying the White House and our Presidents.  The kiddos are researching some of our Presidents and we are reading about them together.  We took a trip through the White House courtesy of the Google Art Project.  Click  White House Tour  and you can go with us!  Once you are "in", you can zoom in on art and see the origin, name, and other facts.  The site also has multiple famous art museums.  Who needs vacations anymore?  Just kidding.  Enjoy!


Measurement and ME

Our class is taking a wonderfullly refreshing break from regular math.  I can still hear the cheers from the students.  We are embarking on a measurement journey and enjoying ourselves immensely!  On day one, students wandered about the room with their partner, a measuring worksheet, a ruler, and a pencil.  They had the freedom to measure anything they wanted except for the area around the teacher's desks (I had visions of computers flying, papers scattering, and general chaos!).  The students were fabulously behaved and their feedback was very positive.  Hands on activities are so neat, aren't they?

Anyhow, here are the anchor charts I created for our unit.  We refer to them every day!

Gallon Man is very effective.  We can easily tell how many cups are in a pint or quart, how many quarts are in a gallon, and we are even talking about how many pints are in a half gallon!  Thank you, Gallon Man!  I got this idea from Pinterest and simply tweaked it to fit our needs.

We are also memorizing this information!  Up next: metric measurement!  This topic has always confused me, so you can be sure an anchor chart will be made to help cement our knowledge!


St. Paul's Cathedral

We talked about church symbols in religion today, and I took the children on a field trip.  We went to St. Paul's Cathedral in London, England.  Oh, you're right, it wasn't a REAL field trip, just a virtual tour.  The children really enjoyed the spectacular moving images and different views from each part of the massive cathedral.  They noticed different details and all wanted to jump on a plane to actually tour this impressive structure.  All of them begged for the link, so here it is:  http://www.sphericalimages.com/stpauls/
If that doesn't work, here's the link to St. Paul's:  http://www.stpauls.co.uk/  Just click on "visits and events" and then "virtual tour". 
One hint:  you might get dizzy.  :)  You've been warned!  Enjoy!!!


Phonics Anchor Chart

I cannot tell a lie  - I love anchor charts.  No, I REALLY love anchor charts.  I am a visual person, and I think most kids like to see their learning on display as well.   Anchor charts also help me look good, because they remind me of what's what! 

It was actually fun (really?) to study vowel pairs, vowel digraphs, and diphthongs.  I'm not kidding!  I combed through their book to make this chart in order to put all of the information onto one chart.  We had this chart up for 2 weeks and referred to it during each lesson.  One day, we had to identify the long a sound in words and the kiddos were thrown for a loop when there were no vowel pair words.  I pointed to the chart and asked them which sound also makes the long a sound?  The lightbulbs went off in their little brains when they looked at the "ei" vowel digraph.  Gotta love those charts!!!!!  And bonus: they all performed excellently on their phonics test!  :)


Book Review

The 3rd grade class has had lots of fun learning about writing, specifically how to write a Book Review.    We took about two weeks and marched right through all of the steps.  The final products are ready for tomorrow's peer presentations.  I'm looking forward to that!  I think it will be the perfect activity after we come back from our ballpark field trip.  Imagine trying to accomplish a serious math lesson instead!

The steps are easy:  We chose a book, created a story map, answered specific questions for each of our 3 paragraphs, participated in a peer review, edited, and finally wrote our final draft complete with an illustration (or two).  Whew!  They gave their opinions, talked about what the character learned, and tried not to give away the ending. 

Here is the link for my free download: My Book Review

I melt for student artwork and here are a couple of examples from our final book review:

Leo the Lightning Bug - 3rd grade girl

Diary of a Wimpy Kid - 3rd grade boy

I Love You Blue Kangaroo - 3rd grade girl

Aren't they great?  I'm so proud of them!!!  We're planning on displaying them on our classroom bulletin board which is in the hallway outside of our room.  What's up next?  A Book Report of a non-fiction book!  Let the good times roll!



Yep, I'm bribing the 3rd grade.  I have taken over the class for the month of April.  I think it's ok, bribary that is, - I'm just calling it "rewarding for positive behavior".  :)  

A returning theme during our pursuasive writing unit was an intense desire for a root beer float (yum!).  I decided to use this knowledge to my advantage.  I bought a clear plastic jar and 2 packages of fuzzies at the dollar store (if you're counting, that's 3 bucks!).  I counted the number of student teaching days I have left and counted out enough fuzzies to fill my jar.  The kiddos need about 7 fuzzies per day to have our root beer float party. 

How do you get a fuzzy?  It's basically doing what you should be doing in the first place.  But to spell it out, the CLASS as a whole needs to do one of the following (most of these are available to them multiple times per day): 
1. work quietly during morning work
2. be ready for our lesson quickly (they know what that means on their desk)
3. listen and participate during our lesson
4. line up and walk quietly
5. come back to class quietly and ready to work
6. bathroom break is orderly
7. another teacher compliments the class!
I (or my CT) am impressed with you!

We started this today and the class was really excited.  My jar is on my desk (with only a few lonely fuzzies so far!) and the sign is by our whiteboard in the front of the room.  Fingers crossed!

I'm not looking for perfection, just a little incentive to keep everyone focused during the end of the year.  The class has 17 boys (and 6 girls) and a game of sorts will really help (I hope!).  I'll be so sad to leave them at the end of April!  We really are having such a grand time.....


Gotta love a prefix and suffix!!

I've been completely enjoying my time in 3rd grade.  The kids are a scream!  I've been making anchor charts for them because I'm a visual learner.  I like to see in print what I am learning.  So, I just assume these kids can also benefit - hence the love of anchor charts.  I'm literally obsessed with pinning them on my Pinterest account.  Anyhow, here's my recent anchor chart for our prefix and suffix lessons coming up:

As you can see, I sorta ran out of room with all those suffixes, but it's better in person.  It's just a teaching tool....basically so I don't have to keep writing these things on the board each and every day!  I know my Phonics chart made a real difference with the kiddos, and that's all the proof I need!  It was so handy to scaffold the information from lesson to lesson, and class to class.  Frankly, anchor charts make me feel smarter and also make me look good...Why?   Because all I have to do to remind myself of the answer is LOOK AT THE CHART!  It's all about making things easier for the teacher.  At least, that's what I'm discovering each and every day.


Children and Chores

My student teaching is becoming a reality!  I'll be working among friends at my children's elementary school.  I am thrilled and eager to begin -my last step before becoming an official teacher!!  I will begin in the next couple of weeks.  Yippee!!!!!

I have four children (2 girls and 2 boys), and they have grown up completing various household chores.  I figure they need to learn and I need the help!  Recently, we've all become a bit slack in chore standards and "guess who" has been fixing all the messes!!

So, a chore chart re-do was in order and I just finished it.  I also just finished my little chat with my slaves children about my chore expectations.  We chatted about things like "how to clean up after yourself (ie: bowls go into the dishwasher and don't live on top of the dishwasher waiting for mother to rescue them), pot washer people need to leave the sink clean (ie: don't leave disgusting food debris in the sink!), lunch preparers need to clean up the counter when finished (ie: don't leave the peanut butter knife, jelly globs, and massive amount of crumbs!), etc.  We had fun with it and did not have one eyeball roll.  Progress!

Here is a picture of their new daily chore chart:

The children are assigned a letter for one week.  On Mondays, they switch to a new letter.  When the children switch every week, they are less bored, the chores are now "fair", and everyone learns how do everything. 

The first chores listed under "A, B, C, and D" are the afternoon chores.  The children begin them about half hour after returning home from school (they need some down time to snack, etc).  Dinner chores are self-explanatory.  Before bed chores are just a gentle reminder for preparing themselves for school.

Here is a picture of their individual name labels which move from one letter to the next each week:

The items under each name are "morning chores".  They never made their bed (yikes! sorry, world!) and so that is why I included it for their morning routine.  It takes 30 seconds, people!  Why make your bed if you don't make it until the afternoon and are messing it up merely a couple of hours later?  The point is...what?

Here are their names above the daily chore chart:

Make sense?  I've always done it this way, and it seems to work really great for everyone.  When my youngest was too little to participate in everyone's chores, I kept him alone in the "D" slot.  It consisted of easier chores he could complete. 

Most of their daily chores take hardly any time.  I would guess the entire thing will take them about 30 minutes each.  Sometimes it will be way less, and there may be days when they have no homework and I need a little more help from them.  I revamped this chore chart to include more things since I will be student teaching and then teaching full-time this fall.  I love working on the house, but I won't have as much time!  The chore chart is easier than waving a white flag or wearing grumpy pants because nobody  helps me.

How old are my children?  Andrew is 16, Linnea is 14, Emily is 12 and Matthew is 10.  Yes, they are old enough to be a major help to our family.  It wasn't always this way.  I remember when Andrew was 6 and it went on down from there.  There were more messes then helpers!!  When the children were little they obviously couldn't help as much, but they did what they could.  I think the key to children doing chores is starting early and keeping it going.  If you ask my children, they'll tell you they've always done chores and they don't really think much about it.  Of course they'd rather NOT (me too!!), but they know I expect it and that's that. 

Saturday chores are a little different.  We clean the house once a week, and I've trained the kids to basically clean the entire house by themselves.  I sit back and eat bon-bons while they slave away.  Just kidding.  I'm usually immersed in some productive activity which goes along with one of their chores.  Here's a look at the Saturday chore list:

We've talked about what each chore means and what the expectations are.  I NEVER expect perfection, just their best.  I can tell if a child is rushing through because they don't care, or if they simply missed something.  I praise often and thank them for helping out.  My 10 year old knows how to clean a bathroom, and that's a beautiful thing!

I have everything in our hallway on our family bulletin board.  It includes both chore lists, a list "To Buy" (I use recycled envelopes mostly), and a list of dinners to make (from ingredients I have on hand).  Each Monday, the names are rotated one space to the right.  The ribbon hanging down in the middle has a pencil tied to it.

If you have any questions, just ask!  How did I figure out what to put on my chore list?  Well, I've tweaked the same chart for years, but it all began with answering this question: What bugs me?  Things on the stairs bug me.  Trash overflowing bugs me.  This chart system is personal to you, so make it your own! 

  • Create a list of what bugs you.  Ask yourself if your children's ages can handle cleaning up these things. 
  • Assign those chores to different "letters" if you have more than one child. 
  • Create a list of morning chores (this was very detailed when the children were small), afternoon chores (this works well with school aged children), and evening "get ready for school" duties.  Or, make a different chore time for your family. 
  • Create a name list/card for each child.  With small children, you can include their picture.
  • Want help on Saturdays?  Or only on Saturdays?  Make a list, divide it up, and begin teaching them how to clean the items on your list. 
  • Change the names every Monday (or pick a different day!). 
  • Make it pretty or leave it plain.  It's totally up to you! 
  • Small children? I used to have pictures to go with each chore, so my pre-readers could remember which chore it was. 
Have fun!!!

Video of my class