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My Focus for 2017

I've believed for a long time that the key to a happy life is balance. Not letting one thing outweigh others. Making sure to make time for all the things that make you happy, because if you spend your time on only one or two things you love, you'll end up despising them. 

Now, it's SUPER easy for me to say that, but it's actually really HARD for me to do that. I tend to follow whims of passion and moments of inspiration until I look up and realize hours have passed without me focusing on anything else. Then I don't work on that thing for a week, two weeks, a month. Because I've wrung out every idea and ounce of creativity related to it in that inspired session. 

Now that's not necessarily a bad thing. It can actually save a lot of time, instead of spending little bits of time everyday, getting it all done at once can feel great. And I firmly believe that you should take advantage of inspiration because inspiration can turn a chore into a very fulfilling experience. 

However, that said, this tunnel vision of productivity can lead to not having time or energy for other things. Things that NEED to be focused on little bit by little bit EVERY day. Things like running. Things like relationships with family and friends. Even things like TPT or this blog. 

I'm going to build a more consistent blog reader by blogging a little bit, more consistently instead of sitting down and spending twelve hours on my blog then not touching it for two months {NOT saying this happened to me recently or anything!}. 

So my goal for 2017, in teaching, in running, in my relationships, in this blog, is balance. Anytime I start to feel a little burnt out by one area or I am feeling uninspired, step back and do something else. Chance are I've been spending WAY too much time in that one area and I've lost my focus and my inspiration. 

P.S.As a special THANK YOU to my blog readers, I whipped up this New Years Pennant Freebie
I can't wait to hang this pennant in my classroom to greet students on their first day back from break and I can't wait to see how other people use it in theirs! Grab it here!

Winter and Holidays in Kindergarten

Oh hey there! From the little world of Kindergarten! Where germs are a plenty! And, where I with my un-seasoned immune system was sick for, well, a while! But I'm alive and well!

I wanted to share with you all winter and holiday things that have been happening in my classroom. 

We celebrated the beginning of winter this week with all things snow - including these shape snowflakes that I designed to wrap up our math unit on shapes. 
A photo posted by Katie (@voraciousteacher) on

The Shape Snowflakes are a FREEBIE in my store until the end of my vacation so grab them now!

 We also did all things Gingerbread!

We started actually last week by reading Paul Galdone's book. Then this week we continued by reading Jan Brett's Gingerbread Baby, Richard Egielson's The Gingerbread Boy and Gingerbread Cowboy (I really wanted to use Gingerbread Girl too but it's not out yet! I may have pre-ordered it.). As we read each version, we discussed how the books were similar and different. Students then wrote their own page for the story to create our own class book.

Students made their own Gingerbread people using the Gingerbread Glyph from Little Red's Schoolhouse to have them create opinions about the text represented by which colors they chose to use in their gingerbread man (or woman in my case ;)). They came out super cute.

A photo posted by Katie (@voraciousteacher) on
We finished with a little science experiment testing to see if the Gingerbread Man would really dissolve if he fell in the water. He would! I loved hearing their justifications for their predictions and then hearing their observations when he was in the water.

Students created these little reindeer decorations for their families. Let's just say this was an 11th hour project idea (as in I was creating the model for it 20 minutes before they came back from lunch and realizing it left a lot to be desired)! Definitely wasn't quite as cute as I thought it would be but now I know for next year! 

Students filled up the Fuzzy Heart Jar and voted to trade it in for a Holiday Party where they could dress up (other options brainstormed included a field trip to Chuck E Cheese...I quickly explained that we'd have to justify the field trip for being EDUCATIONAL to the principal...sorry Principal for having you ruin all our fun!).

They had quite the list of things they wanted (a tree, presents, maybe even a visit from the man in the big red suit ... kidding.. kind of :p). 

Student: We should have a tree.
Me: Hmm...I could make a paper tree.
Student: No, like a real tree. To put presents under.
Me: Presents?
Student: Yea, the presents you're getting us. {Ahh! Thank you for letting me know!}
Me: So where should I get the tree? It's kinda close to the holidays and most places are sold out.
Student: You can bring in yours.
Me: Then what would I do for a tree?
Student: Buy a new one.

This is an exact transcript of a conversation I had during our brainstorming session. Gotta love kindergarten!
So here was my compromise: the tree we ended up with in the right corner. I called it a "Winter Tree" and their present was a new box of crayons {they are ROUGH on their crayons!}. 

They also read about the three holidays using mini books. I got the top too books from Reading A-Z and the bottom one I found on TPT. It was REALLY hard to find a leveled book on Kwanzaa that was at their reading level. Even this one I had to remove a lot of pages. We read the Kwanzaa book together on the carpet since it was above their reading level, before they went and read the other two books in partnerships. Then they chose a symbol of each holiday to illustrate and write about. 

For our holiday party they of course had to create the decorations. I had three stations  - paper chains, snowflakes and paper lanterns. One of my students is really talented at making lanterns so I had her help teach the class. I absolutely loved doing this for a couple reasons.

One, I feel like there isn't a lot of time in my regular everyday schedule for things like this. I know, I teach kindergarten. But the day is so structured that it's hard to find time for activities that allow choice and creativity - unless they're directly connected to the curriculum.

Second, I loved seeing how well they did rotating from center to center.  We even paused in the middle for our morning break and when we came back, they went right back to their station and knew which ones they had left to do. It's these opportunities for independence and student choice that I feel like I haven't been doing enough of in my classroom.

Third, I loved that the lantern idea genuinely came from a student. She was making one during reading (I mean, during free choice) one day and instead of being mad, I was really impressed! She said she had learned from a Youtube video. Being able to then incorporate it into something the whole class was doing and giving her the opportunity to teach others this skill she had learned was clearly empowering for her. I want to be able to give my students these opportunities a lot more often! I also wish there was more time where I could let them explore and demonstrate what they already know, beyond academics. Sigh, things to work on!

A photo posted by Katie (@voraciousteacher) on
And now I am officially on Winter Break and I am SO excited. I'm honestly a little surprised it's already the end of December - they say time flies only when you're having fun! All joking aside, I am having fun, it just takes a lot of energy and I'm looking forward to ten days with no alarms! 

Happy vacation!

Five For Friday 10-14-16

A photo posted by Katie (@voraciousteacher) on

Oh hi there. The dear lovely people who meander over to read my blog. Which I have not posted on in OVER. A. MONTH. I'm sorry. Really. Except I'm not. Because I've had very little time to actually think about you blog, or you dear reader. 

Because at the end of August, five days before Teacher PD Days began, and two days after I had officially declared my classroom decorating done, I got a phone call. From my amazing principal. Asking me if I was still interested in the kindergarten position I had applied to earlier in the summer. 

Um yes!

But SO MUCH WORK later (oh hello, brand new classroom to decorate and organize, and new curriculum to teach, and new assessments to administer and evaluate), here I am. Officially 7 {SEVEN!} weeks into the school year. 

When I get tired, I ask myself if I'm truly content (I am) and I remind myself that this has my dream for 13 years. HALF MY LIFE! So let's just say, yes, it's a lot of work. But teaching kindergarten is also amazing.

Since I switched classrooms, a big part of the transition besides the planning and teaching was decorating, organizing and cleaning my new classroom. I know we teach the kids that when you're done, you've just begun, but two classrooms to decorate = not as fun as it sounds. I'm still rearranging and organizing things in my classroom! 
A photo posted by Katie (@voraciousteacher) on

Friday I got inspired and instead of doing the things I should have been doing, I cleaned and rearranged my classroom. Amazing therapy, people! 
I also have been organizing my teaching materials. At night, my way of procrastinating is making pretty binder covers for them. I know only other teachers will understand this.

 One of the best things in kindergarten is that there are a lot of BRAND,  NEW experiences  for the kids {and for me!}. 
A photo posted by Katie (@voraciousteacher) on

This is my favorite quote from this week.
A photo posted by Katie (@voraciousteacher) on

And this is something I never realized I'd have to teach! Oh, kindergarten!

I received a grant for Osmo kits this summer and my students LOVE using them! It's so hard to find time for extra things like this during the week, but I try to remember to set it up during our dismissal time for kiddos to use. 

I also {somehow} snuck in a half marathon in September where I ran a PR of 1:47 (left), and a marathon last weekend where I ran a PR of 3:46 (right). I'm officially taking a break from training until the beginning of November and instead I'm focusing on recovery and cross training. 

My goal is to post at least once a month from now on out. Fingers crossed I do! Even though I taught technology for two years, in a lot of ways this year feels like my first year of teaching. 

TPT Giveaway Blog Hop!

So excited to be participating in a Blog Hop Giveaway! At each stop YOU have a chance to win a $10 gift card! I know there have been A LOT of last minute purchases I've grabbed from TPT recently and I want to help you out during this exciting but stressful back to school time! 

Click here to enter on Rafflecoptor! 

Click here to head to Laura at Enchanting Elementary for the next stop in the giveaway! When you get back to this post, you'll know you've entered at all the blogs! 

Happy Back to School! 

Five For Friday 8-12-16

I am definitely getting the summer blues! I go back August 29th for two days of teacher meetings then August 31st is our first day of school (which is also a half day - has anyone else had a half day the first day?? I never have and I'm curious to how it will go). I know that's fairly late and I've been super lucky to have such a long summer but it's so hard thinking of setting alarms again!! 

But I finally got up my mojo and went in to school a few times to print, laminate and cut all my decorations! 

Then I started to put some of my decorations up in my classroom! 

See the bench?? I pinned about how I wanted to create this in May! Now I'm deciding whether I want a cushion or not...hmm. 

I'm super excited to be linking up with Allie from The Gypsy Teacher for her birthday give away! (Happy Birthday Allie!). On Sunday, every half hour on her Facebook page, Allie will be sharing a Flash Freebie from a whole range of TPT Sellers! My Flash Freebie will be Sunday at 11 am EST! I cannot wait to celebrate Allie's birthday with these Flash Freebies! 

I have been updating some products and creating some new TPT products before the school year really starts. 
I'm super excited to have updated my Book Quotes! Grab it HERE. I used this when I worked in a middle school and it was one of my favorite parts of my classroom! 
AND I updated my STEM/Maker Space Challenges with a new cover, new instructions and 3 new challenges! Grab it HERE!
I also added a free Learning Goals sign! This product includes signs for specific content areas as well as for grades K-6! Super excited to use these in my own classroom and wanted to share with everyone else!  

I'm at the end of week 8 for marathon training...that means I'm halfway through training! I've had some slight foot pain but with foam rolling and yoga I'm determined to heal and continue training. The humidity though has been really hard! This past week it was RAINING and I was STILL sweating in the rain! 

Five for Friday 7-22-16

I created my Classroom Letter Labels and added them to my Teachers Pay Teachers Store! I'm so excited for this product because it is something I plan to use in MY classroom! And with 9 designs I'm all set for at least a few years! ;) Plus it's only $3 (and the product is 67 pages y'all!).

I also created a Classroom Number Labels set with matching designs…I personally plan on using the numbers for labeling the computers. Now I just need to decided which design will match my class decor this year.
And if you want BOTH and want to save some moola (I mean, me. I love saving money!) then you can grab the Classroom Labels Bundle I created for just $5.

I am SO excited to use Brag Tags in my classroom this year! If you haven’t heard of Brag Tags head to Lucky Little Learners post HERE. I first heard of brag tags from Angie from Lucky Little Learners and Ashley from Schroeder’s Shenanigans in Second. Since I’m a specials teacher, instead of having a necklace for each student, students will receive brag tags thought class then add their name under the larger brag tag on the Brag Tag display wall. I created this set of Tech Brag Tags to use in my computer lab as well as larger versions of the Brag Tags for my wall display and a “Brag Tags” letters for a sign. Grab them HERE from TpT!

A photo posted by Katie (@voraciousteacher) on
I finally spray painted my Teacher Toolbox! I bought this 
Plastic Storage Cabinet from Amazon way back LAST year.  I finally painted it using 
Krylon Black Spray Paint and it looks kind of dreary now but when I add the colorful labels I'm hopeful the black will look more neutral! Being a specials teacher, having community supplies has been a LIFE SAVER! The students take such pride in knowing where the supplies are and they are fascinated with all the little drawers! If I become a classroom teacher, I'm bringing this toolbox with me because community supplies are AWESOME!

I decided to do a check in on my Summer To Do's and here's how I'm doing so far!

 I’m rocking it with my decorations goals (plus I even did some extra things like turned some of my decorations into TpT products!). Hooray! Wait…Maybe I shouldn’t celebrate JUST yet.
Nope, you’re not mistaken. My Lessons and Curriculum to do's are: Exactly. the. same. Oh boy. I did read a bit of the Responsive Classroom book but I am NO WHERE close to my other goals. Let’s look at it this way: now that my brain has had a rest, and I was able to get most of my classroom decoration planning done, I can focus on my Lessons and Curriculum to do's! [But creating decorations is so FUN! Sigh].

 I'm five weeks into marathon training and I love looking at my paces for workouts now and seeing how far I've come. Something I wrote in my 
Believe Training Journal  recently was "Progress is possible. Progress is possibility." Sometimes I get caught up in the whirlwind of "where is this leading me? I'm putting in this effort. Is it even getting me anywhere?" I get too focused on the end goal and fail to see how each little bit slowly adds up to progress and that progress leads to possibilities I only dreamed of before. I think I'm reaching a point in my training where I've been tracking it for a while and I can look back and say "Wow. I've come far. Long runs, and speed work and cross training DOES pay off." And it's similar to teaching. Sometimes it can feel as if the daily effort being put in isn't leading anywhere but when I pause to look back, I realize how far I’ve come and how each effort lead to larger changes. Okay. Reflective rant completed. :) 

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