Saturday, August 16, 2014

Bright Ideas Blog Hop - A Look at my Newest Favorite Website for the Classroom

I hope everyone is having a great back to school season, or for some of you, that you are continuing to enjoy the lazy days of summer.  Sigh.  I miss summer vacation.

Well, I guess there is no good in wallowing in the delicious happiness I experienced for 6 short weeks this summer.  Time to face reality square in the face…and my reality is, that I have 24 very high-energy 2nd graders waiting for me everyday for the next 165 days. Yes. Yes, I am counting already.

But, I am super excited because I have a huge carrot!  Carrot, as in incentive for my little darlings. We just got a shiny, brand-spanking new computer lab at my school this summer.  I am so excited to dive into technology with my students this year.  But, of course these little guys need guidance…. boundaries, if you will.  Enter my Bright Idea...

which is…

Symbaloo is a free bookmarking site that makes guiding your students to your favorite websites simple and easy.  You do this by creating link boards, called Webmixes.  Here is a recent board I started making for an inquiry project on animals. Nice, simple layout huh?  Super kid friendly.  Also, notice that there is room for like a bazillion links on this Webmix.

Every tile is a link to a website that I have reviewed for appropriate text levels and content.

You can share your webmixes with your students so they can even access sites at home.  You can also easily share with other teachers, or search other Symbaloo users who have already created boards that you like.  Like this…

 I love this Webmix full of Nat Geo books for kids. Awesome. Perfect for our upcoming inquiry unit mentioned earlier.  SCORE!  

Your turn...Type in your topic and see what comes up.  With a quick Webmix search, I found boards dedicated to Native American Webquests and the American Revolution.  I even found this great board full of songs and transitions aimed at Kindergarten.  Ahh, I see the lightbulbs going off.  Symbaloo can even help you with your daily classroom management.

As you can probably see, Symbaloo has the potential to make your computer stations, or visit to your school computer lab, run so much more smoothly.  I hope you are interested enough to explore this Bright Idea further.

If you enjoyed this post and are looking for more,  please consider following my blog, my Pinterest page, and Facebook page.

Take a look below for even more Bright Ideas!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Back to School YouTube Party + GIVEAWAY!

Hi there!  I know I have been seriously MIA again, but I just cannot for the life of me manage BTS and the blogosphere at the same time.  I realize, I am flawed.  I have accepted it, and have learned to work with my deficiencies.  But I am back today for a super special reason.

My super-fantastic blogging friends and I over at the Primary Chalkboard wanted to do something BIG for back to school for you.  I'm talking, B.I.G.  Sooooooo, we decided to throw a party!

A YouTube Back to School Tips Party + Giveaway! 

So how is this going to work?  Well, we are going to be here sharing lots of tips -- organizational, DIY, helpful ideas-- that you can use RIGHT NOW to make your back to school a little easier!


Would anyone like a $100 Amazon Gift Card?  uh?….yah!

What about a $100 TeachersPayTeachers Gift Card?  Yes, please!


A fabulous Michael Kors bag.  

Ok, I am not a "purse" person.  But, even I would die for this bag.

Ok, so yes!  You want in!  I knew you would!  So what do you need to do? 

Did you see that? You can EVEN gain EXTRA entries in the giveaway by watching our videos and entering our SECRET WORDS into the Rafflecopter (but I know you were going to do that anyway, so... 2 birds, 1 stone).  

We will be linking up 5 new videos every day this week... so you can come back, watch, and enter every day!

Alright, so let's get you started here.  How do you manage individual, group, and table materials?  Has management of said materials ever threatened your sanity?

Go grab a cup of Joe, and a notepad, and watch my video below to find out how I solved my own little storage issues!  No worries, I'll wait…..Ok, ready?…..GO!

Yes, I am a total dork.  Who really says the word "bazonkers"? Apparently, just me. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, July 21, 2014

Best. Summer. Ever! My Top 5 Vacation Memories from 2014

Today is my last day of summer vacation.  Sniff, sniff.  It's so hard to say goodbye.

I tried to savor every moment.

Recently, I have begun negotiating.

Dear Summer,

Denial has been my constant companion.

Alas, acceptance has come grudgingly.

But, between you and I, this will be me tomorrow.

Why am I having such a hard time letting go?  

Here are my top 5 summer memories.

1)  On the night of my last day of school, my husband surprised me (and I mean we've been married for 14 years, and he has never done this kind of stuff before…SURPRISED me) with a trip to Puerto Nuevo in Baja California.  I haven't been to Baja in over 9 years since all the scary news reports.  But, everyone said it was over exaggerated and that things have settled down.  So, I anxiously agreed to go. And you know what?  We had a great time!  

2) Doing WHATEVER I want - be it fun, lame, silly, pointless.  It didn't matter because it was what I wanted to do at the time.

Like hiking with my buddy Jack, for instance.  Isn't he cute?

Or, making homemade almond milk.  Why?  Because it's so good, and easy! (and because I paid an arm and a leg for that Vitamix)

I also tried new morning smoothie recipes. (Note to followers;  Watercress in your morning smoothie is NOT advisable.  Bleck!)

3)  We took a family vacation with my Mom, Dad, and sister's family.  We caravanned down to Puerto Penasco, Sonora, Mexico.  It was a loooooong drive at 9 hours, but it was so worth it.  

 A Shell Lover's Dream!

Can't beat spending time with my family.  

4)  I also attended the 1st Annual TPT Seller's Conference in Las Vegas.

I got to meet my Primary Chalkboard family.

Eat at 3 Michelin Star - Joel Robuchon's restaurant.

And spend some much needed alone time with my husband.

5)  Yesterday, I returned from my most recent memorable vacation adventure.  Our annual family campout and reunion in San Onofre, California.  Surfing, sun, laughing, dolphins, and just plain ole' relaxing with my extended family.  

Ok, so there you have it.  Now, you know why I feel like this!

And probably look like this.

You would too, if you had to go back to this tomorrow.  Ugh!

I will leave that story for another day.  Carry on, friends, and enjoy every minute!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Currently - July!

July sure made its way here in a hurry.  Oh, slow down Mr. Summer!  

I'm linking up with Farley from Oh Boy 4th Grade to bring you this month's Currently.

Listening:  I just downloaded Coldplay's new album from iTunes and I LOVE it.  I love everything they do though.  "Magic" is definitely one of my favorite songs.

Loving:  I adore having nowhere to be, and nothing to do.  (Well that is a half-lie because I have a million things I SHOULD be doing.  But, the beauty of summer is that I can choose when to do them.)

Thinking:  See "Loving" 

Wanting:  Ok, I am heading to Las Vegas in about 10 days to meet up at the big TPT conference, and I wanted to drop 50 pounds a few pounds before I meet all those amazing bloggers. Well, I have been successful in the past with low carb diets, but hated having restrictions on fruits and vegetables.  I mean,'s fruit and vegetables people.  They should be unlimited.  So, a few months back I switched to a Paleo-ish type diet.  It allows you to pretty much eat any nuts, seeds, vegetables and fruit that you like, skip out on the grains (ok) , dairy (not happening), sugar (had to, but went kicking and screaming)- and then you try to make sure you get enough protein.  I didn't realize until I tracked my eating habits that I was not getting enough protein everyday.  Ok, so 2 months into this I have figured out that I cannot have unlimited fruit because it makes me hungry (blood sugar spikes…grrr).  Bummer.  But, right now it is crunch time with T minus 10 days and counting, and just having that in the back of my head is making me want to eat massive quantities of bread with lots of butter.  I will try to fight the good fight because so far I have lost 18 pounds this year, and I never want to go back... Not even for bread and butter.

Needing:  I had laminate flooring put in when we moved into our new home in October of last year.  Well, long story short -  I have planks sliding around this way and that.  Home Depot and their contractor have agreed to redo my floor on their dime, and I have decided that I want a whole new floor.  This whole thing was actually a blessing in disguise because the flooring I choose was a nightmare.  It turned out "cherrier" than I wanted and it is shiny - which means that it. shows. every. little. thing.  It drives me crazy!  I want to get a hand scraped floor with a low shine finish, but need my mom (who is a retired interior decorator) to help me pick it out.  I don't trust myself with these types of big decisions.

4th Plans:  Friends, family, food, and fireworks!  Can't wait.

Hope everyone is having a great summer.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Wrapping Up a Great Year and Wordle Bookmarks!

My last day of school was on Tuesday, and I have to say that I just had my best year of teaching ever.  I LOVED my 1st/2nd grade combo class.  Over the course of the year, I saw kids become readers, and kids who came in as "readers" become true thinkers of text.  Our class discussions were rich and meaningful, and because my students were chosen for their ability to work independently, I was able to differentiate my instruction more than ever, and saw amazing growth in my students.  It was teaching Nirvana.  So, it was with a heavy heart, but with a smile on my face, that I said goodbye to my little darlings on Tuesday.  Sigh.

We spent our last few days celebrating all of our hard work.  This year I used the balloon popping idea, and my students really loved it.  We popped one balloon every day for the last 7 days of school.  It really built up a good amount of anticipation, and kept everyone's behavior on track.  Click on the pic below to get some idea of how to put your own balloon countdown together from my friend Jessica, over at First Grade Nest.

We also worked on our End of the Year Memory Books.  These came out beautifully, and kept my students content and busy for the last two weeks of school.  My students took a lot of pride in their books, and were so proud to carry their little suitcases out of the door on the last day of school.

I did something a little bit different this year, and put a Wordle cloud in their book.  I had never made one of these for my students before, and they just loved it, and kept thanking me.  It was so sweet.  The week before, the kids played SCOOT and left one adjective describing each person on that person's paper. (Amber Polk at The Adventures of a Polka-Dotted Teacher has a form that you could use to gather words for each student - SCOOT style!)  I used those papers (and added a word or two of my own) to make each child's cloud.  Then, I just printed it out on some white card stock. It was super easy, and didn't take as much time as I had feared. Here are some pics of their finished books.

I loved all the labels this student used in her writing.

Brag Alert! My heart burst with pride when I read this from the book pictured below, " I loved that Mrs. Rios made all of us thinking readers." Mission accomplished!

Selfishly, the "My Teacher" is my favorite page.  I love to read what the kids say about our year together. 

Ok, I know this post is already running long.  But, it is about to get even longer.  As I was putting the Wordle clouds together.  I had an epiphany.  I purchased chapter books for all of my students as an end of the year gift, and I thought, how great would it be if they had a Wordle bookmark?  So, I set off to see if I could do it, and it was super easy!  I don't have a template, but here is how I put them together.

The strategically placed heart above is to spare you from having to look at my broken thumbnail.  I swear I broke every nail on my hands the last week of school.  End of the Year is Brutal!

Whew!  That's it! I hope everyone who is already on vacation is enjoying some well-deserved rest.  For  those of you who are still teaching, hang in there!


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