Moving to new site: Giggles and Chalk

Happy 4th of July!  I just love our country and all of the celebrations associated with the love of the good ole' USA- Souza music, sparklers, picnics, family, baseball, parades, and fireworks (as long as they are done when I hit the bed....!).  My aren't we blessed!

I am redirecting traffic to my new blog:  Giggles and Chalk
Why?  Well, it's a long story......  I am still "Mrs. Gillespie", but my marriage is about to be over and done.  Kaput.  Never in a million years thought that would happen.  Seriously.  But it has.  A few months ago, my husband told me he's always been gay.  Shocked me to the absolute core.  We have 4 children!  He is not willing to try and change, work things out somehow, or have any counseling with that goal.  He has insisted on going our separate ways.  We are working together for our wonderful children and he will support me forever if need be.  Let's face it- teachers just don't make much money!  :)

So, that's why it's time for me to change my blog name.  And web address.  It's just a personal thing and it will help me move on.  God has been incredibly faithful through this past year and I know He has great things in store for me.  I am going to put on my big girl panties, slap on my high heels, and invite great and wonderful things into my life. And God will be with me each step of the way. 

So, go ahead and jump on over to Giggles and Chalk and follow me over there.  Good times, I tell you, good times......!!  :)


Compliment Jar

Creating a sense of community is important in the classroom (and in our individual families).  During the year, I helped foster our classroom community through compliments, having a servant's heart towards helping each other, and writing thank you notes to outside helpers.  

I also wanted to give my students a unique end of the year gift.  Like all of you, I don't have much spare time and couldn't devote the hours to the lovely projects out there in Pinterestland!  I turned to technology and created word shapes filled with the compliments of each other.  

During the last 2 weeks of school, I introduced the Compliment Jar!  Actually it was not a jar, but a lovely empty Kleenex box....!  (I came up with the idea kind've quickly, and grabbed what I could find!!!)  I filled a separate bin with cut up scraps of paper for students to use.  It wasn't fancy, but it was the compliments that counted!  I told my students to think of a fellow student and write down a compliment on a piece of paper and fold it into the box.  They were to include the person's name, but NOT their own name.  It was more fun to be anonymous.  As a bonus, I found out which boy was "cute"!

Then during the last week of school, I led the class into a group compliment session.  I gave each student a paper with their classmate's names and instructed them to write a couple of words to describe that classmate next to the classmate's name.  I helped them a bit, writing some examples onto the board.  I told them they couldn't use the same word for every person...and it had to be encouraging and nice.  :)

After awhile, my students asked if they could include my name on their paper.  That touched my heart!  

I collected papers and the Compliment Jar slips and entered the key character words into a site called "wordle".  The words are saved into practically any shape/color you want.  I printed them, signed my name, the date, and our school's name, and placed them into page protectors.  On the last day of school, I called each student up to give them their gift and compliment them in front of their peers.  It was moving and a gift they will hopefully treasure for years to come.  I know some of the students were going to rush home and frame them!

Here is the my wordle from the student's kind words:

It's in the shape of an apple and I had each student sign it for me.  To make it simple (and to decrease any disappointment in the children), I created every one in the same color palette   I made every girl's into a heart shape and every boy's into the United States.  

Here's a link to try it for yourself: wordle

Children and reading

I've been running through my first year teaching, sprinting to the end, and I am now pausing to catch my breath.  School was out 3 weeks ago and I have packed up my classroom (summer school was NOT an option for me, and my room will be used), remodeled my bedroom and family room, and spent time with my kiddos relaxing at the neighborhood pool.  My youngest talked me into buying a family pass and I now know he is a genius.  Let's see, my children can burn energy and enjoy their childhood while trained professionals keep them from drowning, AND I can bring my ever growing stack of books to leisurely read while I even get some badly needed sun?  :)

Oh yes, children and reading~ why are children not reading?  There is no passion.  There are other things to steal their time and children do not see the value in books.  Yes, there are those rare book addicts, but as a general rule, children read in school to get their grade, get by, and move on.  I want more than that for them.  

At the beginning of the year, I introduced the "book shelf" to my students.  This was a living bulletin board that was to run around the entire perimeter of our room.  The rule was simple: every time a student read a book (anywhere), they were to fill out a "book spine" that included the title of the book and the student's name.  The students were motivated and thrilled.  Their goal was to not only cover our room, but to leak out into the hall, showing the entire school their reading strengths....!  :)

Here is an close up of a section of our book shelf:

My read-alouds to the class were also put up on the wall; the students simply insisted!

As the year progressed, more and more books were read....(including students who were not "officially" in my class, but who were with me for a couple of weeks at a time...they wanted to read and join in the fun!)

Here is where it ended.  We counted over 250 books!  Quite an accomplishment!  Keep in mind, I work in a remedial math and reading school for students who are behind in a normal school setting.  I had a classroom library filled to the brim with over a thousand books, and I created time during the day to simply read.  During independent reading, I let them read anywhere in the room.  I would confer with them about reading, answer questions, and simply let them be.  If we are to teach the importance of reading, yet not allow ample class time to read, what messages are we sending?

Along those lines, I have fallen in love with a new book which is validating my thinking regarding children and reading:

Have you read it?  You must.  It's an easy read.  Curl up on your favorite chair, grab a pencil to mark up all those great points/ideas, and enjoy.  It will inspire you to allow your students to simply read.  Instruct them too, absolutely, but let them choose books and step into the world of adventure.


Valentine's Day rocks

I know I am a day late and a dollar short, but I had GREAT success with my Valentine's Day student gift.  You can use it next year, or for another time (like the end of the year, beginning of the year, etc)

I LOVE Pinterest (you can follow me through my button to your right), because there are SO many valuable hints, ideas, etc from great people!  I saw a pin with a simple rock and 2 googly eyes.  The note included a stamp which said "You Rock".  I thought that was TOO cute!  

Here is my step by step version. 

Materials:  rocks (outside or from a bag)
pink construction paper
note from computer
glue (I used Elmer's) 

I didn't have a stamp, so I created a quick note on the computer.  I added the hearts after I printed it and before I copied it onto pink construction paper:

Here are my rocks.  I had GREAT FUN choosing where to glue the eyeballs.  Hint: choose a fun place like down to one side, etc.  Each rock has it's own personality!

Here is what I gave to my students:

This last one was my favorite.  I kept it.  :)

Needless to say, these were a HUGE hit with not only my class of 3rd and 4th graders, but also to 5th - 8th graders. When I gave some to the older students, their eyes lit up.  I heard thank you many times over.  It's nice to look a student in the face and say, "You Rock!".  That's what I did when I placed one into their hands.  They all beamed in response.  

The eyes stay on pretty good, unless you handle the rock constantly.  I initially tried my hot glue gun, but the eyes peeled off immediately.  Elmer's glue works.  But then, I'm an adult who leaves their rock friends alone.  :)


Preposition FREEBIE

When I was in 4th grade, my teacher MADE us memorize the entire list of prepositions.  I thought she was so mean!  Well guess what?  I still remember them and I happen to also LOVE grammar!  I guess teachers are right after all....  :)

I recently created a preposition list for students and teachers and you can find it here.  It's free and ready for you to download and use!  The link will take you to my little new store on TPT.  Don't you just LOVE that site?  I sure do!


Divisibility Rules

Well, it's my last day off.  Not really, because I have the weekend, but on Monday, it's back to school.  I'm excited, but I do like lounging around with my coffee and slippers in the mornings.

I created a student cheat sheet for divisibility rules today.  You can find it in my TPT (teachers pay teachers) store here.  

I am using student notebooks in math class and this will make a great entry for them.  My students love using their student notebooks to remind them how to complete different math operations.  I happen to be a HUGE believer in anchor charts (documenting learning in general) having a crutch  place to remind yourself how to do things, etc.  The student notebooks came from Runde's Room and you can find it on her TPT page here.  I have tweaked some of the entries to fit the needs of my students, but the product came from her!

Have a great day!  :)


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!

Video of my class