Sunday, November 29, 2015

Lessons From Primary to Intermediate

Hello friends! It's Katie from Simply Creative Teaching!
I've been a bit absent for awhile, and I sincerely apologize. If you follow my personal blog, you may know my husband and I moved to Indiana. As a result, I landed a new job at a wonderful school, BUT now I'm a SIXTH GRADE teacher! It's quite the jump for me, considering I spent 4 years in second grade. 

For awhile I had NO idea what I was going to blog about for you wonderful Primary Pack readers. To be honest, I was a little intimidated. I didn't want to let you all down with a post that wasn't helpful to primary teachers. Plus, I kept thinking, I don't have even have cute Pinterest/Blog-worthy pictures to share with you all!

I've decided I'm just going to give you some honest, REAL teacher talk. Nothing super cute. No catchy pictures that are going to blow your mind. Just some TRUTH.

You know when you begin a new year of teaching, you feel refreshed. You feel excited about all of the great plans you have. You promise yourself you're going to do x, y, and z to make your year run smoothly. This year... I did NOT feel that. When I interviewed at my new school, they had two positions: K and 6th. And I prayed and prayed and prayed that IF they offered me a job that I would get K...


I was flattered that I'd come across well enough that I'd somehow convinced my principal into thinking I could teach 6th graders, but to be perfectly honest, thinking about teaching 11 year olds made me want to crawl into a hole. I seriously, without a doubt in my mind, thought I was NOT going to survive this year with big kids.

And I wish I could tell you that once school started everything was all butterflies and unicorns and rainbows... but it wasn't. I cried EVERY SINGLE DAY when I came home that first week of school. 

But now it's December. And you know what? I'm surviving. And, while I still TOTALLY miss the sweet world of primary, I don't cry everyday. I don't hate my job. 

And the kids? Well, they're kinda AWESOME. 

They challenge me to think outside my box of teaching tools. They are SERIOUSLY funny. They are competitive, honest, loud, fun, brave, loyal, sweet, adventurous, smart, creative, and SO much more. And as a result, I'm learning to be more adventurous, creative, loud, fun, and brave.

Over the summer I framed these posters to hang in my classroom because I thought they'd be good reminders for my 6th graders. And you know what? They're good reminders for their teacher, too.
Click the picture for the link to these free posters.
So why did I write this? Honestly, I hope that we can all step outside our comfort zones. Whether you've moved grades or schools or are still teaching the same grade you've always taught, we MUST step outside our comfort zones. Try NEW teaching strategies. Get more CREATIVE. Let your kids be loud and adventurous, and BE LOUD AND ADVENTUROUS WITH THEM! 

Each and every year you teach, make it BETTER and TOTALLY DIFFERENT than the year before. You might cry about changing (like I did still do), but you could also LEARN a whole lot - about yourself AND about your students.
Now Simply Creative Teaching :)

Friday, November 27, 2015


Hi Friends!
It's Amber from A Smiling Teacher!
Did you notice my name change and blog overhaul?! 

I decided at the Teachers Pay Teachers Conference this past summer that I wanted to make a change and everything is finally complete! I am so in LOVE with my design from Alexis at
Laugh, Eat, Learn. She is seriously the best! 
In other news...Happy Black Friday
I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving and were able to spend some quality time with your loved ones.  Are you a Black Friday shopper or do prefer to shop online from the comfort of your home? I didn't go out yet but am thinking about heading out later today. To be honest...I've already done quite a bit of online shopping and the only thing I really want is the laminator from Walmart. Yes, yes, I know I already have one BUT wouldn't it be nice to keep one at school?! I bring mine to school sometimes so that I can have classroom volunteers laminate for me and it's just kind of a pain to transport back and forth. I think it's settled. I MUST have it. 
On another note, this is the time of year that we have to spend a lot of $$ outside of the classroom right?! So, how about winning a bundle of AMAZING classroom resources, so that you have more $$ to spend on your family... or yourself this holiday season??! 
Today is the last day to enter The Primary Pack's Black Friday Giveaway.
We hope YOU are the lucky winner!!

What other items are on your classroom wishlist for this holiday season?! Let me tell you about one of my favorite classroom items that I seriously can't get enough of. Honestly, you probably...well DEFINITELY need it too!

I absolutely LOVE my IPEVO document camera!

I've had mine for 3 years and it still works great! One of the best selling features of the IPEVO is the price! These little guys are very affordable compared to other classroom technologies. I bought mine 3 years ago for $85 but they currently have another model for $69 on their website. There are seriously a million and one ways that you can effectively use this tool in the classroom. Today, I'm going to share a few ways that I've used my document camera in my kindergarten classroom. 

1. Read Aloud
The IPEVO is a great tool to enhance your interactive read aloud with your kiddos. By simply placing the book under the camera, students can see the pictures and text in a larger version on your interactive white board. I don't use the IPEVO every time I do a read aloud, but it's a great tool to change it up a bit. We also use the IPEVO for students to read in front of the whole class! This picture is actually a first grader who came down to show off his improved reading skills and read to my kinders! 

2. Writing Workshop
The IPEVO is probably my favorite tool to use during Writing Workshop! I love being able to display student work and using it to discuss strengths, areas for growth, or as an example for my mini-lesson. 

(This little friend only knew a few letters at the beginning of the year....check him out now!! "I was going to McDonald's"). 

3. Interactive Lessons
A document camera makes any lesson that uses a worksheet, MORE interactive and fun! I like to use my IPEVO when we are doing a whole group lesson. Recently we've been learning all about maps. Students have been exploring different types of map and creating their own maps of the classroom, their bedroom and their home. 

We created this map together and then students created their own versions of a classroom map. Students were able to reference the collaborative map
and  follow along much easier because they could actually SEE it!!

Okay, now on to my FAVORITE...

4. Video Calls
My favorite thing about the IPEVO is that you can use it like a regular webcam and make video calls. Want to go on a field trip but can't leave school?! Contact someone and see if they can Skype with your class instead!
Two years ago, I had a student who temporarily moved to China. We were so sad to see her go, but wanted to learn all about her new home. We set up several "Skype dates" and were able to talk with her live.  Of course it was 9 P.M. in China and 9 A.M. for us :) The kids brainstormed questions for her  about the culture and she of course had plenty to share with us.

Do you have a document camera?! If not, add it to your list! If so, comment on how you are using it in your classroom!
Enjoy the rest of your long weekend friends!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Classroom Elves Without Shelves!

Greetings on this day of gratitude, my friends!

Know that I am writing this post between a bites of pumpkin pie!  You are allowed to enjoy dessert as a meal while on  holiday break, you know!  May you count the many blessings in your life on this day of giving thanks!

As I was perusing Pinterest yesterday for holiday activity and lesson ideas, I came upon this post from Erica Bohrer over at Erica's Ed-Ventures that struck a strong chord.  Her idea of introducing "Classroom Kindness Elves" instead of the ever-popular Elf on the Shelf  is a good one, for many reasons.  Mainly though, it promotes not only the importance of compassion, tolerance, empathy, and caring, but teaches students the value of doing good deeds for others.

Kindness elves do not sit on shelves! Instead they help your children at home or students at school do daily good deeds and "pay it forward" during the holiday season!

There is a FREE resource pack in her TpT store {HERE}  that includes everything you need to introduce Kindness Elves to your own students!  Please be sure to leave thoughtful feedback when you download it!

Anna from over at The Imagination Tree, is the original creator of the Kindness Elves concept.  She is a parent who wanted an alternative to Elf on the Shelf for her family, a daily visitor who was more helpful than mischievous.....more nice than naughty.  Her elves are modeled after tomten, which were gnomes or trolls often featured in Scandinavian folklore. Tomten were seen as caretakers of Swedish households, little elf-like creatures who--when treated with respect--did favors and small chores for farmers during the winter solstice and around Christmas-time.

Kindness elves do not sit on shelves! Instead they help your children at home or students at school do daily good deeds and "pay it forward" during the holiday season!

Now, if you've been following my Facebook, Instagram, and blog posts over at Stories and Songs in Second this year, you know that my lively bunch of 27 students has had many behavioral ups-and-downs since we started our learning journey in August.  We are still struggling to stay on track with respectful words and actions even after 66 days of school, and so I am planning to introduce my own pair of Kindness Elves to Room #2 when we get back from Thanksgiving break!

Please understand that I respect and admire all those brave souls who indulge their students in daily Elf on the Shelf antics, but after  complaints from parents four years ago about students suffering from nightmares, not to mention a huge disruption to learning (and a high volume of screeching) when our elf was found twirling at high speed from the ceiling fan after we returned from an afternoon recess, I "retired" Edward to the North Pole for good!  My students now just enjoy the website whenever we have indoor recess and that is enough!

When I started shopping for my Kindness Elves on  The Imagination Tree  Facebook page I sadly discovered that they are completely sold out of the sets pictured above.  But never fear!  You can still find 25 great "good deeds" suggestions for your students {HERE}, and I was able to find these treasures on Amazon! I expect delivery by next Tuesday, Dec. 1st, along with this beautiful picture book written by Astrid Lindgren, the author of Pippi Longstocking

Kindness elves do not sit on shelves! Instead they help your children at home or students at school do daily good deeds and "pay it forward" during the holiday season!

Kindness elves do not sit on shelves! Instead they help your children at home or students at school do daily good deeds and "pay it forward" during the holiday season!

I was so excited to order my Kindness Elves, that I went out to my neighborhood Dollar Tree yesterday and found small baskets and other festive accessories that would make their arrival fun and a little bit magical!  Be sure to follow me on Instagram for updates next week!

I also created this set of posters and desk tags so that one boy and one girl in your class can take turns daily being the class "tomtens!" The stuffed elves can perch on their desks with the tag once you've named them, and the pair of students can then take the lead in doing the daily good deed(s) the group has been assigned!  I even included some friendly letter templates the children can use to write letters to the elves if desired!

You'll find the link to this exclusive freebie {HERE}.  The posters can be printed half-page size to save ink!  I just could not resist using the lovely, Nordic hand-knitted textured and colored papers from Scrapster by Melissa Held Designs and Little Stuff as the backgrounds!

Kindness elves do not sit on shelves! Instead they help your children at home or students at school do daily good deeds and "pay it forward" during the holiday season!

Kindness elves do not sit on shelves! Instead they help your children at home or students at school do daily good deeds and "pay it forward" during the holiday season!

Kindness elves do not sit on shelves! Instead they help your children at home or students at school do daily good deeds and "pay it forward" during the holiday season!

Kindness elves do not sit on shelves! Instead they help your children at home or students at school do daily good deeds and "pay it forward" during the holiday season!

Jan Brett, one of my favorite author/illustrators and features tomten in many of her books.  Christmas Trolls features the twins, Mig and Tig, who learn an important lesson from their new friend Treva about sharing and caring for each other.  Any of these stories would make wonderful mentor texts for your language arts lessons or multicultural holiday study during the month of December, and help your students better understand the giving spirit that defines the true meaning of the season.

This FREE pack of daily notes and reminders from Jen at Teaching in the Tongass will also hopefully help guide my students as they participate in various "random acts of kindness" around our school, our community, and at home throughout the winter months.  

You can even create notes or letters of your own using this FREE clip art set!  
Thank you in advance for leaving thoughtful feedback on both resources!

I also created these three resources last year to help build a more positive classroom community and compliment my unit on Patricia Polacco's holiday books.  They are perfect activities to extend our "elf experience."  Click {HERE} to see them in my store!



Kindness elves do not sit on shelves! Instead they help your children at home or students at school do daily good deeds and "pay it forward" during the holiday season!

Be sure to check out my Pinterest board for other ideas on how Kindness Elves can make your classroom a caring and joyful place this winter!  

Invitations by Post, an Etsy shop, also has a great selection of Kindness Elves just waiting to be adopted!

As always, thanks for allowing me to share my ideas and classroom creativity with you!

Warm Regards,

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

How To NEVER Miss A Facebook Post Again!

Hi All!
It's Jenn from

I am here today with a trick tip that will help you with Facebook!

How many times have you logged in and see a post that was for a flash freebie- only to find it was from 2 days ago- yet you NEVER saw it?

Have you ever scrolled your feed to find out someone has something on sale for 50% off...but only for a few more hours?  You check and see the post is from yesterday and you missed it!

How about a great $1 sale day for TODAY ONLY?
Wait- the post is from yesterday!

How did I miss all these posts when I was logged in the same time they were posted?  They never came through my feed!


You can get notifications (just like you do when someone posts something in a group, comments on a picture, shares something on your timeline, etc) when a page you 'like' posts something!

With the holiday season approaching, there are sure to be great ideas, projects, gift ideas, sales, events, etc. that pages you 'like' are sure to post about- and you don't want to miss out!
It will also save you precious more checking in on the pages you 'like' to see if they posted anything- you will be notified if they do!

Continue reading to find out....

I used our Primary Pack Facebook page to show you how to do this!

First you have to 'like' or have already 'liked' the page. 
You will see on the 'liked' button there is a drop down arrow.
Click it:

From the drop-down menu find 'Notifications' and click on it:
 You will be given a 'menu' of what you would like to be notified about.
You can choose 'All Posts' to see everything that page posts, or click 'videos' 'photos' 'links' or 'status updates' (aka a post with no links or 'fluff') to be notified only when those items are posted.
You can also choose to get notified about 'Events' that that page is attending and/or hosting:

Click what you'd like to be notified about and then click 'Done':

The next time that page (or pages) posts something, you will find it under your notifications:

AND if the notifications ever become too much and you want to stop receiving them, just go back in and do the same by 'un-checking' what you had checked!

If you are looking for fun ideas, pins, photos of projects my class completes and more, be sure to stop by my Facebook page!  I have scheduled posts that go out every morning at 5am with great ideas you can easily incorporate into your classroom!

Wishing everyone a very Happy Thanksgiving!
May the things you are most thankful for be around your table as you celebrate & give thanks for what is on the table!

Since I don't post again until the holiday season is nearing an end, I'd also like to wish everyone a happy and healthy holiday season filled with love, joy, fun and family!

Until next post,

Monday, November 23, 2015

Best Christmas Books

It's the most wonderful time of the year! Twinkling white lights on the tree, the little drummer boy on the radio, a gingerbread latte in your coffee cup, and 25 children bouncing off the walls with excitement over Santa's impending arrival. We're in survival mode, here, friends and it's time to pull out the best of the best picture books to keep our kids' attention for the next few weeks.
The books on this list are guaranteed crowd-pleasers. They are our December favorites, and we hope they will become your favorites too! Print this list out and take it to your children's librarian.
(Affiliate links included for your convenience.)

Santa's Stuck by Rhonda Fowler Freene

Click, Clack, Ho! Ho! Ho! by Doreen Cronin

Bear Stays Up for Christmas by Karma Wilson

The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg

Dream Snow by Eric Carle

Olive, the other Reindeer by Vivian Walsh

Mooseltoe by Margi Palatini

Snowmen at Christmas by Caralyn Buehner

Pete the Cat Saves Christmas by Eric Litwin

Llama Llama Holiday Drama by Anna Dewdney

Let's add to the list! What's your favorite holiday read-aloud to share with your little ones this month? Whichever book you choose, have a wonderful holiday season!

Have you joined our Primary Pack Black Friday Linky & Giveaway?! Please enter. We want you to win!