It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!

This is my favorite time of year - the beginning of fall, tax free weekend, back to school shopping, and the excitement of meeting the new teacher and learning which friends will be sharing your classroom! Yesterday I posted pics of my sister's third grade room. Seeing everything all set up and hearing stories about how elated her new students and parents were to be greeted with such an inspiring room and teacher, I felt a little pang in my heart! It is quite bittersweet not to be decorating my own classroom this year! Especially, when lounging in her fabulous reading nook, my mind was flooded with memories of my past classrooms and ideas that I never had the chance to see through. I had always envisioned having an absurdly extensive book collection for my students to read from during free time and intriguing books to check out and take home to read at their leisure. I loved the idea of having personalized library cards posted on the inside of each book jacket, filled with names of former students who had shared the same adventures and fallen in love with the same characters. In the middle of my daydream, I realized that even though I'm unable to see my ideas carried out in my own classroom, I could still create and share for you guys and your little kiddos! So for today's Fabulous Friday Freebie, I present my personalized library cards! Just print them out on 8.5" x 11" heavyweight cardstock, sign your name at the top of each card, cut on the dotted lines, and attach with double sided sticky tape to the inside book jacket! I hope you guys love them!

I have really enjoyed seeing all of your classrooms, playrooms and homeschool setups! You guys are so inspiring! I wanted to jump in on the fun and share pics of my first grade classroom from my very first year of teaching! Enjoy and have a fabulous weekend!

Meet the Teacher!

Tomorrow is "Meet the Teacher" night for my sister. She has been scrambling around like a madwoman for weeks now getting everything prepared for her kiddos to start school next Monday. Her efforts have really paid off! I absolutely love her superstars at the movie theme! Completed with popcorn buckets holding their supplies, movie ticket stub name plates, and (my favorite) a drive-in movie life sized mural in her reading nook, her classroom is an awesome, inspiring space that any student would be excited to learn in and parents proud to send their kids to!

As a special back-to-school gift, I made her business card magnets to pass out tomorrow night when she meets her new students and parents. I thought it would make a fantastic impression and would be a great way for parents to keep her info close-by all year long!

If you know a special teacher that would love to hand out these amazing magnets to their students this year, go to the Pop Heart Press shop to find out how you can customize this awesome teacher's tool to fit any classroom theme!

I also wanted to send out a congratulations to Grace, winner of the postcard giveaway hosted by Primary Graffiti, and a special thank you to Cheryl, superblogger/teacher extraordinaire! I also sent out a coupon code just for the contest participants in the comments section! Check it out now to find what you won!


Fabulous Friday Freebie!

Hey guys! What an amazing, crazy week we've had! Our entire house is covered in dust and debris because... (drum roll please) we just got new windows put in! Ack! We are super excited! You may or may not know that three years ago, Kit and I bought the house that I grew up in from my parents. The first year we worked our little bottoms off tearing down wallpaper, painting, and replacing electrical outlets! Then, I found out I was pregnant... with twins! For the next nine months, the only projects we were able to pull off were putting the nursery and playroom together. Since then, we've repainted the exterior of the house and, just yesterday, finally replaced our awful, dirty, cloudy, mucky, yucky aluminum windows with brand spanking new energy efficient windows! I am in LOVE! Here is a pic of the house the day that we bought it.

And here is a pic of our freshly painted house with new windows! (Please disregard the dying grass! We are currently in one of the longest droughts ever!)

If you are interested in getting new windows and want to learn more, just send me a note! I'll hook you up with this fabulous company so you can learn more about saving on energy costs and, of course, making your house pretty! Bonus: this company also sends all of it's proceeds from recycling your old windows to St. Jude's! Awesome! Even if you're on the fence and/or commitment phobic, just give them a call and for listening to their info, you receive $100 FREE! It doesn't get much better than that!

For now, I'm off to Jason's Deli for dinner with my sister, Jack, and Logan and then the post office to send one lucky someone a custom designed teacher notepad for their birthday. Shh! It's a surprise! But I didn't want to leave you guys out! You can find today's Fabulous Friday Freebie at the Primary Graffiti blog. One lucky reader will win 4 custom designed postcards! Check it out! Contest ends Wednesday and it's super easy to enter your name! Good luck and have a fabulous weekend!


Top Ten Back to School Books

Well, the day has finally come. Today, I will meet the boys' first daycare teacher. I'm nervous and anxious. Will my boys make friends easily? What if I'm not there when they cry? Will the teacher watch them as carefully as I do? Maybe you have kiddos facing their own fears about the first day of school. This is probably the teacher side of me popping out, but I think reading a good book about what we may encounter can be very reassuring. So, I have compiled my top ten list of first day of school books. Try reading these with your kiddos (or by yourself if you're the one fearful of the first day, like me) the nights leading up to the big day. After their first day of school, encourage them to create their own book depicting details of the day's activities and friends they've met. If your kiddo is too young to write, have him/her draw the events while you jot down their words. This is a great way to get your kids to communicate after a long day and would be really great to share with their classmates the following day!

1. The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn
I learned of this book while student teaching in college. One of our shy, quiet students had been walking around with his left hand closed tightly in a fist all day long. All of the sudden, during recess, we noticed him place his hand on his cheek and smile. From the rest of the day forward, he was fine. We couldn't figure out what happened until his mother picked him up that afternoon and explained that she had read to him The Kissing Hand. It made us all cry when we read it for ourselves.

Chester Raccoon doesn't want to go to school, he wants to stay home with his mother. She assures him that he'll love school, with its promise of new friends, new toys, and new books. Even better, she has a special secret that's been in the family for years--the Kissing Hand. Whenever he feels lonely at school, all he has to do is press his hand to his cheek to feel the warmth of his mother's kiss. Chester is so pleased with his Kissing Hand that he, in a genuinely touching moment, gives his mom a Kissing Hand, too, to comfort her when he is away.  

2. The Berenstein Bears Go To School
I just love the Berenstein Bears! They are one of my all-time favorite literary families. Sometimes I think of our family as the Bredimus Bears - Mama Bear, Papa Bear, Brother Bear Jack, and Brother Bear Logan! If only we could live in a treehouse!
Sister Bear is nervous about her first day of school, but overcomes her fears when she learns how fun it can be! 

3. Amelia Bedelia's First Day of School

Who hasn't fallen in love with Amelia Bedelia? I love how silly she is and especially love the play on words in these books. In this story, readers get a chance to meet the young Amelia. Great for upper grade students!

Amelia Bedelia is sure she will love everything about the first day of school. New friends, a new teacher, her own desk, music, books, gym, art, recess, and lunch. Amelia Bedelia can't wait. She takes her learning very seriously and interprets the assignments literally which ends up in hilarity! 

4. Chrysanthemum
Love this story! Makes me think back to one of my favorite first day of school homework assignments. I had the students go home that first night and ask their parents to write down how they decided to name their children - the story behind it, the history, the meaning of their name, etc. The next day I read all of them aloud. The kids loved hearing the stories their parents told and the parents loved sharing with us!

Until Chrysanthemum started kindergarten, she believed her parents when they said her name was perfect. But on the first day of school, Chrysanthemum begins to suspect that her name is far less than perfect, especially when her class dissolves into giggles upon hearing her name read aloud. A mean-spirited classmate, announces that Chrysanthemum's name takes up 13 letters. "That's half the letters in the alphabet!" she adds. Chrysanthemum wilts. Pretty soon the class makes playground threats to "pluck" Chrysanthemum and "smell her." In the end, what sustains Chrysanthemum is the steadfast love and support of her family. 

5. Countdown to Kindergarten
I read this book to the kindergartners that I student taught in college. It was a great opener for setting expectations, offering help, and teaching the students that everyone has been in your shoes (pun intended) at one point.
It's just ten days before kindergarten, and this little girl has heard all there is to know, from a first grader, about what it's going to be like. You can't bring your cat, you can't bring a stuffed animal, and the number one rule? You can't ask anyone for help. Ever. So what do you do when your shoes come untied, if you're the only one in the class who doesn't know how to tie them up again? Days nine, eight, seven and so on bring various shoelace disasters. The girl tangles the laces around her cat by accident; she drenches them with syrup on purpose. If all the girl's fears are for naught, at least they provide her with a conversation opener: at kindergarten, she commiserates with one, then two, then three new friends who can't tie their shoes either.

6. Wemberly Worried
A book for the constant worrywart. Perfect for someone like me! Wemberly is a little neurotic, but lovable at the same time. In the end, she finds a friend and is able to worry a little less.
Wemberly the mouse worries about everything: big things, like whether her parents might disappear in the middle of the night; little things, like whether she'll spill grape juice on her toy rabbit, Petal; and things in between, like whether she might shrink in the bathtub. What she is more worried about than anything else, however, is her first day at school. "What if no one else has spots? What if no one else wears stripes? What if no one else brings a doll? What if the teacher is mean? What if the room smells bad?" Happily, Miss Peachum introduces her to a kindred spirit right away. Jewel doesn't have spots, but she is wearing stripes and holding a doll. As Wemberly plays with her new friend, she still worries, but no more than usual. ("And sometimes even less.")

7. Mrs. Bindergarten Gets Ready For Kindergarten
An abiding admirer of alliteration am I. And also of this awesome book! Great read for kindergartners/first graders learning about the alphabet and alliteration. An abundance of amazing activities to accompany this album can I actualize!

On the first day of kindergarten, Miss Bindergarten must prepare her classroom for her beloved students. This noble, whimsical teacher greets her dark, summertime-empty classroom with an explosion of color--a bouquet of fall leaves, a goldfish, rolled-up posters, and shoeboxes full of no-doubt-delightful surprises. Meanwhile, her young students get ready, too: "Adam Krupp wakes up. Brenda Heath brushes her teeth.Christopher Beaker finds his sneaker." Author Joseph Slate matches each animal character with a letter of the alphabet, and readers can flip to the back to discover that Adam is an alligator, Brenda is a beaver, and Christopher is a cat--and so on, through the more obscure animals such as the quokka and the Uakari monkey. Youngsters will relish the scenes of school preparation, adorned by rhyming text: a mother iguana dragging her son Ian Lowe (who cries "I won't go!") out the front door, and the little vole Vicki Densel biting her pencil. And of course Miss Bindergarten is the kindergarten teacher we either remember fondly or wish we had. The final back-to-school classroom scene explodes with love and pride and the smell of freshly sharpened pencils.

8. The Night Before Kindergarten
A great story that follows the rhythm of the well-known tale, "T'was the Night Before Christmas". I love books that rhyme and the kids like a twist on the classic.
'Twas the night before kindergarten, and as they prepared,
kids were excited, and a little bit scared.
It's the first day of school! Join the kids as they prepare for kindergarten, packing school supplies, posing for pictures, and the hardest part of all-saying goodbye to Mom and Dad. But maybe it won't be so hard once they discover just how much fun kindergarten really is!

9. Kindergarten Rocks
Great example of how older siblings can bring comfort to fearful students. If able, have an older brother, sister or cousin read this to your kiddo. The kids just might feel a little better learning from the experiences of a peer.
Dexter Dugan is about to start kindergarten, and his stuffed dog, Rufus, "is an eensy teensy beensy bit scared" about it. Thankfully, Dex's third-grader sister, Jessie, sees that her brother is really the scared one and sets about cheerfully reassuring her sibling: "Don't worry, kindergarten rocks," says a cartoon bubble extending from Jessie. Dex's first-person narration maintains his false bravado. "I got Jessie to help me make a list of things Rufus was scared about. I'm not worried, though." The interplay of Dex's narrative, which addresses readers directly, and his cartoon-bubble exchanges with his sister respectfully and humorously covers a new student's cornucopia of concerns. The illustrations of Dex enjoying himself at school will reassure even the most fearful of the pre-kindergarten set.

10. First Day Jitters
A wonderful read for a first time teacher dealing with first day jitters, as well as for students to help illustrate that adults get nervous too, but it usually works out just fine!
A fresh twist on an annual crisis suffered by millions: the arrival of that dreaded day when school starts. The alarm rings, but Sarah Jane Hartwell just burrows deeper into her covers, announcing that shes not going, wailing ``I dont know anybody, and it will be hard, and . . . I just hate it, that's all.'' Finally, Mr. Hartwell firmly orders her down to breakfast, puts her in the car and drops her off to join the children flooding through the school doors. Aside from a few hints for the sharp-eyed, it artfully sets viewers up for the climactic revelation that Sarah Jane is not a student, but a teacher.

Originally Published 8.26.2010