Friday, May 29, 2009

Summer Fitness

For the past two years, the first Monday in June has marked the beginning of a month long, 5 day a week Boot Camp guaranteeing a jump start on summer fitness. Hour long 5:30 am classes filled with hardcore strength training, toning, running, pushups, sprinting, pushups, burpees, pushups, lunges, squats, and (did I mention pushups) had me starting summer break with fitness on my mind.

This year, because of 5 snow days which tacked 5 extra days onto the end of our school year, I decided not to participate in June boot camp. Getting up at 5 so I could make the 5:30 am class, then rushing to get back home, shower, get ready and then race back out the door to get to school was a little hectic. Thinking about having THREE whole weeks of that this year rather that two just made it seem like a stress overload. 

I really enjoy my time in the morning in the classroom before the kids come. I usually arrive by 7:15 which gives me a whole hour before the kids walk through the door. During camp, I could barely make it by 8, which gave me zero time before kid arrival which always meant starting the day a little more stressed. 

I hope that despite not having an organized class that I will still kick my exercise routine into high gear because lately it seems like my sugar addiction has kicked in full gear and some extra pounds have found their way to my buns! Last summer, with the encouragement from my awesome boot camp trainer Daniel, I gave up sugar completely for over 100 days. From about mid July through almost Halloween I did not indulge in any of my sugary favorites. After Christmas I totally fell off that no sugar wagon and I am really hoping to get back on it starting NOW. Perhaps a public pledge will help me stick to it, so here is goes.

I am officially designating tomorrow, May 30th, my first official sugar free day. My goal is to get to my birthday, June 26th without any sugar downfalls. 

The hardest part about giving up sugar is that it means no baking. I am pretty good at resisting temptations, however when I bake that is the big exception. I just can't help having a good lick (or ten) from the bowl and of course I have to try out the goods before I feed them to someone else. I have been so obsessed with trying out new kinds of cake balls, but perhaps I will have to put that on hold for awhile. Last summer I found that once I had been off sugar for awhile, I really stopped craving it. Even now, when I have sugar (and I always have too much) it really makes me feel bad. That should be further incentive to give it up.....we'll see how it goes.....

no more Miss Betty Crocker

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Wishing and Hoping

Sometimes it's fun to shop around and see what products are out there, even if you don't have an immediate plan to make a purchase. I always enjoy looking at the Lakeshore Learning website because I get ideas and sometimes I can duplicate expensive products for a lot less money.
Aren't these cute?

The retail price is $22, but I am certain that with a little creativity they could be made cheaper. Even just with laminated star shaped die cuts in different colors and straws if you want to go a real inexpensive route. I wish I had seen these earlier because my reading group would LOVE something like this. It's just another way to make comprehension strands a little bit more interesting. I do think that these wands would lead to girls playing princess in the classroom, but I would be willing to give it a try....

Lakeshore also offers many book bundles on certain themes/subjects. These are great, but expensive! At a price of $89, this Multicultural Stories Paperback Library offers some great stories that help kids to think about different ways of life. I am planning to take a multicultural literature course as part of my doctoral studies and I am very interested to learn more about this type of literature and find some more good examples to add to my collection. Although bundles like this are great, I find that it is more economical to add to my collection of books little by little with the help of Borders rewards coupons and Scholastic Book Club special coupons and offers.  

Another themed library I found interesting is the Character Building Stories Paperback Library which retails for $79. One area that I never spend enough time on is character building. We have a curriculum that we are supposed to use, but I find the lessons rather boring to teach. The kids like them well enough, but I imagine it would be a lot more fun to learn about positive character traits through stories like these. 

New (to me) Book

I got this book with my April Scholastic book club order and  I really liked it. The story is about a little girl who collects all the spare change she can find in a jumbo sized jar because she is saving up to buy her mom a big comfortable chair.  She shares the story that the home she lived in with her mom and grandma burned down because of a fire and they were left with nothing. They were given many things by kind friends and neighbors, but what the girl wants most for her mom is to have a comfy place to rest after she has worked hard all day. She saves and saves until finally the jar is full and she takes her mom and grandma shopping for the perfect chair that they have been dreaming about. 

My class really enjoyed this story and I am happy to have it as part of my collection.

My school is also putting on a spring book fair and the PTA did a coloring contest for teachers with the grand prize of $100 in books from the fair and two runner up prizes of $50 to spend at the fair. I entered and my fingers are crossed! There is some tough competition....teachers are a creative bunch, but I think I may at least be in the running. The students get to vote and the winners will be announced on Monday. 

...and we celebrate

My wiggly, silly, fun loving reading group has been working super hard all year. The majority of the students in my group began the year reading between 0-3 words/per minute on their Oral Reading Fluency assessment. Results of their latest assessment showed excellent gains with a high score of 45 words/minute (above the first grade end of the year benchmark). Not all of my students made benchmark, but they ALL improved and they now truly see themselves as readers. When I told them that our reading group was almost over they said, "noooooo!"

Throughout the year, I played many games with this group and offerred many incentives because they are still primarily externally motivated and just now, at the end of first grade, beginning to make that crossover into being self managers and intrinsically motivated and responsible. One of their favorite games was the chance to earn points towards a special celebration. The first time they needed 100 points, then 200, and finally 300 points to earn their last celebration. Because reading is in the morning our celebratory snack typically consists of juice boxes and Nutrigrain bars, but they are toally pumped for it. This time they selected fruit roll ups and juice boxes. 

Because I am SO proud, that is exactly what they are gettting, so tomorrow.....


I wrote a letter to each student (well it's the same letter for everyone, but I hand addressed and signed them...) and I am giving each student the letter enclosed with a photo of us together. In the letter I expressed how happy I am to have had them in my group this year and how PROUD I am of how hard they have worked.

Of all the groups I have ever taught, I have become particularly attached to this group. Perhaps it is because I know how much they need the support and encouragement. Also, I have had my fair share of frustration with this group which in the long run has futher endeared them to my heart. Although they don't always listen and they sure have a hard time sitting and STAYING on their bottoms, they have given me so many happy memories to take with me and I will remember this group throughout my career. 

Wednesday, May 27, 2009


I really have a lot of fun trying to learn how to add cool things to my blog. I have been experimenting a bit with the layout and background design and I am pretty happy with how sneakerteacher is looking these days.

I saw this cool slide show effect on another blog and thought I would try to see if I could figure out how to add it to mine. Yay!

I wanted to revisit some of the great books that I have read in the past year.


and some current first grade favorites...

Little Miss America

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Donors Choose

I submitted another proposal to Donors Choose several months back and it will expire in 5 days. I got a little bit of funding ($121), but about $410 is still needed in order to have the order fulfilled. I feel very privileged to have gotten two other proposals funded in the past, yet I always get my hopes up when I submit a new proposal and can't help wanting it to be funded as well.

This proposal was for some math materials that I wanted to help my students who are less likely to "just get it" when it come to math instruction. I really wanted them to be able to picture the concepts and to be able to relate the content concepts to real life. 

One of the items that I REALLY wanted is the Literature-Based Math Centers - Complete Set.  I saw this set online and immediately added it to my proposal list because it looks great...perfect activities for a parent helper or small group. The cost of this set is $149 , so it is not exactly something I would just go out and purchase myself, but it sure does look cool!
I will keep my fingers crossed...with the understanding that everyone is experiencing tough times right now and I am lucky to have a JOB nevermind the gift of more materials to use in the classroom. 

Tuesday, May 5, 2009


It's Teacher Appreciation Week and I have to say, I do feel appreciated. 

Apples from my students! How sweet!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Husband Crafts

Guess I'm not the only crafty one in the family. We had this wreath on our side door and after trimming some bushes this afternoon, my husband added some flowers to it. How cute!

For the Love of Cake!

Usually I like to promote ideas of how to stay healthy, but I'll admit, I do have an obsession with baking. I got this idea from Bakerella.

I don't know her, but I want to BE her. She makes the most amazing creations that not only look like art, but based on  the recipe I tried, taste AMAZING!

 The pictures below are of her "Cake Balls." I made them with carrot cake and cream cheese frosting this time and I have also made them with vanilla cake and vanilla frosting as well as chocolate cake with vanilla frosting. 

Bake a cake in a 9X13 inch pan according to the directions. Let it cool and then crumble it.

Add a can of frosting (any flavor you like). If you make your own frosting use 2 cups.

The cake and frosting mix to become a thick, sticky "batter." Roll the batter into small balls. I think of them as dessert meatballs. The batter gets all over your hands, so I find it helpful to wash your hands frequently. When they are a little damp, the batter does not stick as much and it's easier to roll the balls.
Place the balls on a cookie sheet lined with wax paper and freeze.
Once the balls are frozen, they get dipped in melted chocolate. I tried semi sweet morsels and those worked well, but I found the baking chocolate that comes in round discs to be much easier. These melt great in the microwave which I found easier than using a double boiler. 

I just used a spoon to dip each ball in the melted chocolate and then I put them back on the wax paper. The type of chocolate shown hardens within minutes.

I really liked the chocolate cake balls a lot, but the carrot cake kind came out good too. It just depends on what your favorite cake/frosting combo is. There are also lots of different colors of melting chocolate that you can purchase at a store like Michael's Arts and Crafts or JoAnn Fabrics, so you can make them look really cute for a baby shower, birthday, or any other special occasion. The colors are usually vanilla flavored, but I also saw peanut butter ones which I am thinking would go great with chocolate cake. 

It is also fun to add some color with sprinkles or cake decoration when the chocolate is still melty. 

Check out Bakerella's site and you will be astounded at her variations and how talented she is! Cake balls are the easier version, but she also does cake pops and cupcake pops.


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