Back to School Best Sellers Linky & TpT Sale

On this lovely August eve, I'm linking up with Shelley at  The Write Stuff Teaching for a best sellers linky. Click on the link below to head over and check out a compilation of best sellers from tons of amazing sellers. I just loaded up my TpT cart with a bunch of amazing resources!

Speaking of TpT, did you know that the TpT Back to School Sale is just around the corner? That's right, it's time to get your carts ready for the amazing sale! The sale will be from August 4-5 and I will have everything marked down 20%. When you combine that with the TpT promo code BTS14, you'll be doing some serious saving.

So check out the link, browse through the amazing items, and start stocking up those carts! You'll be ready for back to school in just a few clicks!

Enjoy your last evening in July! 



Pencil Pouches for Chapter Books

Confession: I love to read. I love to read anything, but I especially love children's chapter books. My passion for reading developed at a very young age. I devoured all of The Babysitter's Club, Sweet Valley High, and Nancy Drew books that I could get my hands on. I sometimes think that the reason that I became a teacher would be so that I would have an excuse to indulge my love of children's chapter books. When I first began my AmeriCorps service, the classroom teacher asked me what I would most like to do. I'm sure you aren't surprised that I wanted to jump in to reading groups, literature circles, and anything else that involved the opportunity for passing on my passion for reading.

So to make a long story short shorter than it could be,  I began to stock up on books. Scholastic, with their amazing dollar deals, which used to be a whole lot better, was the quickest way for me to build a collection. At first, I bought about 10 copies of each book so I would have a good selection for guided reading at various levels. I suppose I should mention here that I haven't worked in many schools that rely on a basal. In fact, I was lucky to begin my teaching career in a school where we didn't touch the basal, but instead taught everything with mentor texts and chapter books. It was hard work because I had to create a lot of units on my own, but it made me a better teacher and I honestly loved every second. About five years ago, we divided our students by level, and I had the "high readers". I had 28 students, each brilliant and wonderful and full of love for learning. That year, I did a ton of literature circles, a lot of whole group discussions, and I bought tons of chapter books for discussions that made my head spin. To say that I was impressed would be an understatement. I was able to explore with them, try new ideas and approaches, and they soaked it all up. It was so awesome! 

Needless to say, I've built up quite the collection over the years. Note that this does not include anything from my classroom library because this room simply wouldn't hold both. These are only the books I have multiple copies of: 

So it's an investment, right? I store most of these in Rubbermaid containers at my house and grab what I need when I need it since I've yet to find a classroom that can accommodate this collection. But, when I use them in class, I really want students to keep them in good shape. If all of these were a $1, which you all know they weren't, it would be a decent chunk of change out of my own pocket. I wanted students to hold these, love these, throw sticky notes on them, and dive in to a passion for reading, but I didn't want my books ruined, so I devised a little plan: 

Do these pencil pouches look familiar? Office Depot, baby! 

Look at that, a chapter book just happens to fit in there perfectly! 

Oh, and that little pencil pouch? Just perfect for sticky notes or your current graphic organizer folded in to fourths! 

This little idea has put me at ease when students borrow books. I no longer worry about what will happen to them if they keep them in their desk, as they are well protected! 

This year I bought more pouches in a variety of colors because I wanted to use them for my guided reading groups. I want each group to have a different color pouch. I'm still working on building my collection, as I've already cleared out Office Depot during their $1 sale! 

Just a little idea I thought I'd pass your way! 



Five for Friday - July 25, 2014

It's time for another Five for Friday! I'm loving this link-up with Doodle Bugs Teaching! It's still summer, so this will be more focused on the "summer Mrs. O" :-)

You may have noticed a whole new look to my blog! Megan at A Bird in Hand Designs did a phenomenal job creating a design that totally suits me! I'm now looking fabulous on my blog, TpT, and Facebook! I would highly recommend Megan, who is the Megan of the oh-so-awesome I Teach. What's your superpower?, to anyone that wants a little makeover. I cannot say enough wonderful things about her! 

A Bird in Hand Designs

I've officially joined Instagram! I feel like a 90-year old woman trying to figure it all out, but I'm getting there! You can follow me at @mrsoknows!

I loaded up on blue and green items at Big Lots. I found baskets, awesome carpets, and all sorts of other goodies! 

Of course, loading up on stuff means running out of space. Since my shopping trip resulted in an overfilled car, I had to break my promise of staying out of the classroom until August. I arrived at work at 7:10 on Tuesday and left at 4:00. I had to move classrooms this year and once I walked in the room to all of those boxes, there was no way I was leaving until they were unpacked, and I really didn't. I didn't even stop for lunch, so I am getting there.  I also went in on Wednesday and Thursday, so all of a sudden Friday feels like the start of a weekend again. I can't wait to be ready for an official classroom reveal, but I did want to show off my bulletin boards that I finished! 

I'm in a new room and since I have a whole wall of windows, I've lost a bulletin board, which I'm totally sad about. Luckily this large one can be split in two. Every year, it's usually some a shade of blue and a shade of green. This year I did the fadeless paper in nile green and light blue. The fadeless paper was being super finicky so those wrinkles are going to have to work themselves out! I am definitely a Creative Teaching Press girl, using the Dots on Turquoise border with the Poppy Red border underneath (and let me tell you that layering borders…not a blast), and then the Paisley on Brown border. I am very pleased with the end result! 

I've been looking forward to tonight all week. It's Dave time! I am a bit of a Dave Matthews Band fanatic. In my college years, I traveled all over the northeast for shows. Tonight will mark Dave show #19. I will be singing and dancing along, embracing my music-loving, hippy ways! As Dave says, "Celebrate we will, because life is short, but sweet for certain."

Photo from

Photo from



Five for Friday Linky Party July 18th - My First One!

Today I am linking up with Doodle Bugs Teaching for my first Five for Friday. I've been wanting to join this link for awhile and a new blogger friend inspired me to hop on the linky train now! Five for Friday is a weekly link up where you share 5 random things from your week. 

You know that your week is going to be awesome when you open the Sunday paper, peep the store flyers, and find that Office Depot and Office Max are having the same sale, and they just happen to be 1 mile down the road from each other! 25 cents for 4 packs of glue, a pair of scissors (which was great since I think my students ate all of mine last year), and 25 cents for single Sharpies. I use Sharpies for everything so that was the best part of the whole sale for me. These sales make me a happy teacher because they will let teachers exceed their limits times 3, which is why I ended up with 30 new sharpies at each store! Also, the post-its were $1 each, as were the 3-whole punchers. Oh, and the fabric at the top, that's going to be one of my main colors in my classroom this year. I had a 50% off coupon so I had to include it in my bargain Sunday picture! 

I attended my first Virginia Teacher Blogger meet-up! What an awesome, inspiring group of ladies. It was so nice to put a face to the women I've been linking up with and following. Thank you to Nikki from Teaching in Progress for putting our fabulous meet-up together. 

With Pam from S.O.L. Train: Moments That Count in the Classroom and Leslie from Fashionable in First. We're showing off our gifts from our gift swap. I was in need of a new lunch bag so I was glad to grab that and then find out it was filled with multi-colored pens, post-its, and chocolate. It's like it was made with all of my favorite things in mind! 

For our meet-up, each of us brought a gift close to $10, which is never easy for me. Ask me to buy a gift with no limit, I'm your girl, but I have trouble spending under $50 in anything because I keep getting more ideas. Anyway, I totally lucked out at Target and found adorable goodies! I even found masking tape that matched the baskets and pencil cups and used it to tag the pencils, because that was the best idea that I used in my classroom last year. Of course, then I went to Michael's and found some adorable stand-up frames. I've seen these used to label reading centers and other sections in the classroom and had to have some for my room. Then I thought, hey, these would be great in my gift, too and hey, wouldn't some polka dot ribbon be cute to tie it all together? You know what the trouble with Michael's is? If you can think of it, they have it. It's dangerous!  In the end, I went a WEE BIT over, but really, not too bad at all! Honestly! 

Here's what it looked like: 

 Aren't the cups cute? I love when I can make things all matchy, matchy! I got one of those big rubber bands from Office Depot to hold them together. As it turns out, it matched perfectly! The adorable Melissa from Don't Let The Teacher Stay Up Late is now the lucky owner of this set! 

I read a lot during the summer, but usually keep it light with summer reads and memoirs that are quick reads but I read a lot of those the first few weeks of summer vacation and needed something a tad deeper. A friend had recommend Orphan Train to me. What a fantastic recommendation it turned out to be! I would highly recommend this to anyone, even if you aren't normally a historical fiction reader. It was an entire afternoon and whole tissue box kind of book and I loved it! 

Summer is always my time to test out some new recipes. I'm always on the search for crock pot recipes because they are much easier during the week. Last night, I tried a Pulled Pork Recipe from The Country Cook and it was a win! Hooray for recipe success! 

I hope that you enjoyed my first Five for Friday! Enjoy the weekend!



Pick Me! Book Folder Presentation

For years, at the end of the year, I struggled to find something engaging and academic to fill in the last week of school, which for us includes end of year picnics, practice for our fifth grade promotion ceremony, and down time in between. I like to keep lessons and academic activities going right until the last second so that things aren't totally chaotic.

Last year, I came up with the idea of a "Pick Me! Book Folder Presentation". Students are able to choose any book that they have read during the school year, including the chapter books I have read aloud throughout the year. They use the folder to present the book to next year's students. I call it the "Pick Me! Book Folder Presentation" because it's their job to make my future students want to read the book that they are presenting. They are encouraged to be creative, are asked to make their work bright and colorful, and must include the following:
  • The title of the book and author's name the front with an illustration that represents their favorite part from the book. 
  • An interesting book preview on the inside of the folder. Students are asked not to give the ending away, but to write an interesting preview paragraph that will convince the student reading the folder that this could be the best book of their fifth grade year. 
  • Present five parts of the book that they can't resist. This can include the setting, characters that they like, a part that they really enjoyed, anything. They can present this as a list, make a collage, draw pictures, print pictures off of a computer, etc. Creativity is encouraged!
  • Word splash! Students are asked to write down 10-15 words that are related to their story, then go to www. and create a word cloud that they will print and glue into their folder.
  • Extra! Extra! Students have to come up with their own "extra" to include. It can be anything they want, but must represent the book in some way. Past selections have included dog collars to represent a dog character, swords (made out of pipe cleaner) to represent a favorite battle in their story, an additional illustration, a map of the setting, and more. The sky is the limit on this one. 
I have now done this for two years and my students love it! It's a great way to keep them focused and engaged, allow them some creativity, and really sums up a lot of their reading skills and strategies! I do not ask them to put the folders in any certain order, with the exception of the title and author name being on the front with an illustration, and the book preview being somewhere on the inside. 

If you are interested, I have this as a freebie here:

Here are some examples: 

A Dog's Life by Ann M. Martin, 2 different examples: 
                Front of Folder                                                     Inside the Folder

Back of Folder


The Anybodies by N.E. Body
 For this one, she created a diary for her favorite character. Loved it! 

11 Birthdays by Wendy Mass:

Dork Diaries by Rachel Renee Russell:

As you can see, these came out really awesome. What's even better is that they made the perfect display for back to school night!

This year, I am also going to put the books next to each folder presentation on the first day of school, so that students can actually sign the books out on the first day if they want. It's been such a success that I might do these sometime during the year as well, perhaps to allow students to persuade their own classmates to read a book they've read halfway through the year. If they enjoy it and they are engaged, it's definitely worth considering how I can use it more often without overusing it. 

I hope that everyone is enjoying their summer break! We've just finished a family vacation and now I'm enjoying a little down time. With a heat index of 108 predicted, I'm going to stay inside and enjoy the central air today! 


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