Elementary Box December 2015

Elementary Box December 2015

I was very lucky to receive a free box to review from the Elementary Box subscription service. I love, love, love subscriptions services and probably order more than I need to but this one really excited me. A box devoted strictly to teachers! How awesome is that?

A little info on the service, it is a monthly subscription and it is customized to your specific grade level. So the box I am opening is a 4th grade box but if you teach a different grade your items would be different from mine.

The cost of the subscription is $29 a month, $81 for three months, and $150 for 6 months. Shipping and Handling is free no matter which length of time you select. The longer you subscribe the cheaper the box becomes and the promised value of each box is $40+.

The contents of the box is mostly for use in the classroom, but they also make a point to tuck an item or two into the box for the purpose of pampering an exhausted teacher.

Here are the contents for the 4th Grade December 2015 box!


The first item I took out were Snowman Myface Bulletin Board Accents. I was very happy these accents were winter/seasonal themed as opposed to be holiday themed. As I teach in a very multicultural district I tend to decorate my classroom based on the seasons as opposed to monthly holidays. Plus, a perk to season decor is I only have to decorate three times a year instead of monthly. Plus once you put pictures of your students faces in these they will be adorable. Retail value, $4.99 for 36 accents.


Next was a package of Mini Polar Bear erasers that were just too cute. They are very small so they are more for prizes or rewards as opposed to being longterm useful erasers but children love to receive little trinkets like these. Again, I like that these are winter themed. Retail value, $3.00 for 48 erasers.


I think the idea behind these Tasty Task Idiom, Adages, and Proverb Task Cards is brilliant. It is a pack of 50 two sided cards with a variety of phrases that people use everyday in context based sentences. Then students have to guess was the idiom means. An answer guide is provided so I would make two or three copies and laminate so students would have the ability to self check their answers. It also came with two metal rings so you and make two packs. This would be great for four children to work in groups of two and practice. One can be a reader and the other a guesser. Then the reader can check the answer sheet to confirm if the guesser was correct or not. After three chances the two students would swap roles. This item makes for a super easy learning center or even an activity to work on during a Daily 5 rotation. Retail value, $9.99 for set.


The item I was most excited about was the Exploring Nonfiction set. It contained 24 glossy cards with a high interest nonfiction article on one side and then Common Core aligned questions on the back. The articles include many feature of expository text, such as words in bold print, tables, information charts, titles, subheadings, and the like. These would be perfect for projecting on to your white board and dissecting the text as a whole group, or even making copies of the front and back and using as mini assessments to see if your students are applying the different skills and strategies you are presenting during Daily 5 or reading in general. Retail value, $12.99 for a set of 24 article cards.



The last item in the box was the pampering item for the teacher. This month is was a jar of Hanna Herbals Peppermint Foot Cream.


This is a very thick cream made from peppermint oil, almond oil, jojoba butter, and shea butter. I like that it is all natural ingredients. The smell is wonderful and the peppermint would definitely feel good on tired and achey feet. Retail value, $10.99 from www.etsy.com/shop/HannaHerbalFarms


I have to say I loved this box. I really thought the items inside were incredibly well curated, extremely useful, and things I will incorporate into my classroom almost immediately. I think I will order the three month subscription since $81 is easier to afford than $150 and that brings the per box price down to $27 a box! To order your own visit www.elementarybox.com.

I would love to know what you think of this subscription service.

To see more about this box click the link below:







Classroom Set Up and Tour

Final Classroom Tour

I put a lot of time, work, and love into creating the most comfortable and welcoming classroom possible. Check out my journey from start to finish as I decorate every square inch of my room.

If you want to see more of my teaching videos be sure to check out my YouTube Channel.

Creating a Positive Classroom Environment & Fighting Bullying

Creating a Positive Classroom Environment & Fighting Bullying

Children not only need, but deserve to have a classroom that feels safe and welcoming. Children today can be very mean spirited. I work really hard to create a classroom that is positive with routine and clear guidelines of what is and is not acceptable.  Some years are easier than others. Below you will find a lot of my tips and tricks for setting a good tone to my classroom as well as trying to teach children how to react (or better yet Not react) to bullies.

If you have any suggestions for how you create a great classroom environment I would love to hear from you.

The Most Awesome Teacher Planner Ever

Teacher Planner

I love Erin Condren. I have been buying her life planners for four years now. Recently I purchased her Teacher Planner and OMG I am in love! It is by far the best planner ever made. If you are a teacher you need to check it out. She thinks of everything. If you want to see it page by page check out the video below.  Also, here is how I set up a weeks lessons.

If you are interested in learning more about this amazing teacher planner click here to see it for yourself!


Apparently, I’m Not Mary Poppins

Apparently, I'm Not Mary Poppins

Apparently, I’m Not Mary Poppins

Today my youngest son, who never gets in trouble, came home with an Oops Slip from his teacher with tears in his eyes. His teacher had yelled at him and made him cry in class because he mumbled, “This sucks,” when she handed him a packet of math papers where each sheet had about 30 problems on a page. It was the second from last day of school for the year and when Casey saw all those math problems that were to keep him busy he genuinely mumbled the words, “This sucks.”

When I first saw the note my immediate response was to laugh. Really? This was worthy of a note home? Then when I found out that she yelled at him and made him cry in class I was kind of angry. I snapped a pic of the note and posted on Facebook with the comment,

“As a teacher in the inner city I wish a kid grumbling over a huge pack of math papers was the extent of my problems.”

I honestly expected others to rally behind me, and I know my coworkers would have. But within a minute or two of the pic being posted my fellow mom bloggers started slamming me. I shrugged my shoulders. Then my own sister slammed me as well. Wow, that caught my attention. I deleted the post from Facebook and texted her.

“You really think this was a big deal? In the past couple of years I have had several children with emotional impairments flip their desks upside down and give me the middle finger. I had a student try to set my classroom bathroom on fire by stuffing toilet paper into the space heater unit. I had a student squat and pee on my carpeting every time he didn’t get his way. I had a student sneak my cell phone and toss it into the toilet. I’ve had subs leave me notes telling me they will never come back. To have a kid tell me something sucks wouldn’t even draw my attention, let alone make me stop and take the time to write a note to send home.”

That was when my sister texted back:

“Yeah, but you work in a totally different situation. It’s like working in a war zone vs. being Mary Poppins. It’s not the same.”

Her words hit me like a brick. I was Mary Poppins once upon a time. I really was. I was young and fresh out of college and believed that all children were sweet and innocent and just a gentle coaxing and a happy smile from me would always keep them on the straight and narrow.

Now, however, I am twenty years in and while I don’t actually work in a war zone there is no denying I have had some truly tough kids over the years. There have been kids who have kept me from falling asleep at night as I tried to figure out the best way to reach them. There have been kids I have cried over because I felt that nothing I did could reach them. There have been kids I worried about when it was time for the weekend and would they have enough food to eat. There have been kids who I went out and purchased clothing for because their families couldn’t afford the uniforms. There have been kids who are so angry and have such a chip on their shoulder you have to stop and pause and think what on earth could have done that to a child not yet ten years old.

I have gone to war with some of my students in an attempt to save them from their own negative opinions about themselves. So have my coworkers. Luckily I have a pretty good group this year, but there are a couple of teachers I work with who are truly deserving of a Silver Star for Bravery in the Face of Adversity. We are in the trenches together and we work to build a family that supports each other when the day is too hard and the tears come or the frustration bubbles over. Still, even if the Mary Poppins shine has been worn off our weary eyes we all know that what we are doing is important.

My job can be exhausting, and yet so incredibly rewarding when they get, they really, really get it! There are days my job makes me want to hit my head against a wall, and then there are the days when one of my students walks up and gives me a hug, not because I need it, but because they do. There are days when I am so tired I have to drag myself into my classroom, and then there are the days when a student will write me a note telling me that I am the best teacher ever and will I please be his teacher next year, too.

Being in the trenches isn’t always easy, but strong bonds are made there. Our students need us. They count on us to be there and provide structure and routine to their days, even the one who peed on my carpet and the one who threw my phone in the toilet. Sometimes the ones who truly drive us crazy are the ones who need us to love them and support them the most.

So does this mean I think my son should be punished for saying “This sucks?” No, not really, but I did tell him that he shouldn’t ever say it again in school. In my classroom this comment sincerely would not have drawn my ire. In my classroom as long as my students aren’t using true vulgarities or racist comments they are allowed to speak freely because so often they just need their voice to be heard regardless of the vocabulary they use.

I need to remind myself that where I live and where I work are two different situations and people will approach these situations with different perspectives, and fellow mom bloggers will approach this situation from their own perspective. So even if I get slammed for this post, even if other moms tell me I am wrong, I’m okay with that. My eyes have seen both sides.

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How I Organize My Teacher Desk

Organization is the key to not wasting valuable class time. Every time you have to stop to search for an item you need to continue the flow of the lesson is interrupted and students will begin to goof off.  Here is how I keep my self as organized as possible. Click the video below for some helpful tips that might inspire you to get more organized too!

Common Core – The Death Of Math As We Know It (And Not In A Good Way)

I am a teacher who teaches the new math. Some of the strategies are valid and useful. Some of them I just shake my head at and think “Seriously??” Whether you are a fan of common core or not this post by Christopher De Voss had me in stitches laughing because its true!!

“Daddy, I need your help,” the 7 year old says to me.

“Sure honey…with what?” I respond.

“Homework. Math. I don’t understand it.”

Second grade math. Easy. Addition. Subtraction. Piece. Of. Cake. Now is my chance to look like a Super Hero! Captain Mathman! Super Subtraction-man! The Great Additionanator!

With great pride and bravado I say, “Let’s see what we got going on here. Show me the problem.”

She walks the computer over and stops with a jolt. It’s still plugged into the wall.



That is the very last cute thing of this horrible tale you will read. Proceed at your own risk of hair and brain cell loss.

The 7 year old is frustrated.

“I don’t understand this problem,” she says all cute and doey eyed.

Jenny has 37 nude pictures on her iPhone 18. A hacker steals 19 of the pictures and uploads them to the internet. How many nude…

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Twas the Night Before School Started


Twas the Night Before School Started


This sweet little rhyme was written by a friend and coworker of mine.  Kathy teaches Kindergarten and I have had the pleasure of working with her for several years.  I hope you enjoy poem as much as I did.  Please be sure to leave her a comment at the bottom!


By Katherine Miller
Twas the Night Before School Started

Twas the night before school started, when all through the house
Mrs. Miller was looking for her black and white blouse..
The lesson plans were completed and revised with care,
She wanted to change them; but she didn’t dare.

It’s only 7:00 and she’s ready for bed,
While visions of her Kinders danced in her head.
And finished with the marker she can’t find the cap,
Which she used to write her Back to School Rap.

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
Kyle and Jared were mowing…Oh what did it matter?
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and cried… REMEMBER THE TRASH!

The moon on the breast of the new-trimmed lawn
Gave the lustre of mid-day to squelch my yawn.
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
A reminder that I chose teaching as my career.

With a little prayer, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment God would cause it to stick.
More rapid than eagles His Spirit He came,
And He comforted, and encouraged, and called ME by name!

“Now Kathy! now, Tina! now, Robin and Nicole!
On, Julie! On, Elizabeth! on Jennifer and Joel!
From the Father above! From the Lord of all!
Now have a blessed year! Blessed year to all!

An Open Letter to Campbell Brown from a Teacher on Leave

I would like to applaud Bailey Shawley for writing an amazing response to Campbell Brown. As a teacher I feel the pressures she mentions almost daily. I am tired of hearing on the news from people who have never worked a classroom a single day in their life talk about how ineffective today’s teachers are at their job. Spend a week in my classroom. Then talk to me about effectiveness.

Life Under the Ponytail

Dear Ms. Brown,

I saw your interview with Stephen Colbert. I wish I could have been one of those protesters outside the studio. You see, I don’t support people who are not educational experts attempting to reform or really even discuss education in such a public forum. That may be because I am a teacher.

I am certified by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to teach Secondary English for 99 years; in other words, I have earned my permanent certification. I have a Master of Education plus sixty additional graduate credits. I have been in the trenches for eleven years. In those eleven years, I taught English and reading and remedial reading to students in grades seven, eight, nine, ten, and eleven. I also tutored students who were performing below grade level and who were not proficient on our standardized state assessments. I was considered a teacher leader in my building…

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Dollar Store Pencils Suck & Other Truths About School Supplies

Dollar Store Pencils Suck

It’s that time of year.  Some parents dread it.  Some parents love it.  It’s back to school time.  The days are starting to get a tiny bit shorter.  The Sunday newspaper is a pound heavier from all the flyers and sale papers advertising their deep discounts on everything from pencils to folders, to microwaves and mini fridges.

As a teacher I have to admit that I love school shopping.  I feel no shame in admitting I am a total nerd when it comes to brand new pencils, crayons that are new in the box, clean and crisp lined paper, and three ring binders that are mark free.  Because I teach in a poorer school district I work ten times as hard to score the really good deals because not only am I buying for my own two boys but I am also buying for 30 students that will show up to my room in September, most of them without the necessary supplies they will need to be successful.  I actually take my boys with me when I run to Staples or Office Max so not only can I buy 10 two pocket folders for 5 cents each, but so can my 13 year old and this year my 6 year was handed a pile of folders so he could check out too!!  Then the next day we drove back to the store and did it all over again!

After 20 years working in a classroom I have made a serious observation about school supplies.  Here it is.  Ready?  NOT ALL SCHOOL SUPPLIES ARE CREATED EQUAL.  I kid you not.  In fact, some of them are absolute crap.

I always feel terrible for the handful of kids who do show up to school with the supplies they got at the dollar store.  They are proud of their new stuff, but that pride doesn’t last long.  All too soon they are frustrated.  For the record I have nothing against dollar stores.  As a teacher I shop there frequently!  However, their school supplies suck.

First off, the pencils from the dollar store don’t sharpen.  Honest to god.  I have personally sharpened hundreds of dollar store pencils only to have them time and time again come to a wood point, not a lead point.  The leads are almost always off center and no matter how you try to sharpen it you just won’t get a pointy lead.  Or we run into the other problem of the lead inside the pencil being broken in multiple places.  When you shake the pencil it actually rattles!  So you sharpen the pencil and the lead falls out.  You sharpen it again and the next point falls out.  By the time the child finishes sharpening his or her pencil the once new pencil is now about three inches long.

As a teacher I can recommend Ticonderoga as the best of the best, but I will be the first to admit they are too expensive.  So stick with Dixon pencils, Staples brand, Office Max brand, and even the Target Up and Up pencils.  I know for a fact these pencils all work fabulously.

24 CrayonsNext is crayons.  Again, dollar store crayons are horrible.  They are just like the two waxy crayons you get with a kids menu at a restaurant.  Those crayons don’t color as much as they crumble and leave colored chunks behind it.  Now imagine having a box of 64 of those lousy crayons.

Every single store right now has Crayola 24 count crayons for .50 cents a box.  Do your kid a favor and spend $2 to buy four boxes.  One box for fall, a new box for winter, one for spring, and one for home for homework.  Having 24 colors of really good crayons is worth a lot more than having 64 crayons that don’t work.

I have learned another secret about crayons.  Rose Art crayons, in my opinion, color nicer than Crayola but the wax is too soft.  The soft wax makes for prettier coloring, but the heat of the child’s hand will eventually cause the crayon to break and children hate broken crayons.Washable Markers

When it comes to markers I can say with certainty that there really is only one good choice and that’s the Crayola Washable Markers.  Yes, the regular Crayola ones are on sale right now $1 a box and the Washables are still $3.99 a box, but the Washables really do wash out.  It is heartbreaking to see marker stains on brand new uniforms in September, or on new clothes that were supposed to last all year.  Splurging for the more expensive markers will save you a fortune on clothing costs down the road.

Many schools today now request that you send in Dry Erase markers because a lot of the math programs and phonics programs rely on each child having their own white board.  Before you think this blog post was sponsored by Crayola, I would like to point out that I actually hate Crayola Dry Erase markers.  They don’t erase!!

Expo Dry EraseThe best in this category is hands down Expo Low Odor Dry Erase markers.  PLEASE make sure you get “low odor” ones.  Traditional dry erase markers are a lot like rubber cement.  If you breath the fumes for too long you start to get high.  Last year I had about a dozen students at once using the regular markers because we had run out of the low odor ones.  After about ten minutes of breathing those fumes several kids started complaining of a headache and my ADHD kids went into full hyper mode.  That day after work I ran to the store to by more odorless ones!Child Scissors

Finally, my last item of note are children’s’ scissors.  Here it really doesn’t matter what brand you purchase just as long as they have metal blades.  You can buy metal safety scissors just as easily as plastic safety scissors.  Often the plastic scissors tear the paper as opposed to cutting it.



One last word of advice.  If you can afford to buy an extra pack of crayons or markers for a teacher, please do so.  In the past few years it seems the news and social media have really put a target on teachers but it would shock most people I think if they knew just how much of our income we reinvested back into our classrooms.
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