Sunday, February 22, 2015

When Inspiration Strikes! My first linkup!

I've decided to try my hand at hosting my first linkup!
This weekly linkup really hits at the heart of my blog... Inspiration. All great ideas are inspired by something. I want to share what inspires my big ideas and I want to hear about yours. It doesn't matter if your idea was a huge success or an epic fail (because we've all been there!) This linkup is about coming together to support each other and share ideas!

My inspiration for this activity came after a LONG day spent researching for a project in one of my masters classes. We were given the task of creating a science or social studies themed unit that was entwined throughout all subjects in a self-contained classroom. WHEW! I was teaching 5th grade at the time and decided to create my unit on the American Revolution. I was scouring the internet for ideas and had never really thought of using YouTube in the classroom before when I stumbled across this gem...

And just like that, from this one little video, the floodgates of inspiration had opened and I was well on my way to creating a unit. (Isn't this video AWESOME?! This video is so good it makes me want to teach 5th grade again!)

I had decided right away that I would use this video to start the unit and again to wrap it up. The first activity I created was for the end of the unit. Students used the video as an example (along with a catchy American Revolution parody I wrote to Maroon 5's Misery) to write their own song parodies. Doing so showed me which students had a good grasp of what the American Revolution was all about and who needed more instruction.
My students were so engaged in this activity they started pairing up to write parodies the second the video ended. They even continued singing the song as they moved on to their next class!
Click on the image below to pick up this activity from my TpT store:

Your Turn: Linking up is simple!

  1. Copy the three images from this post (linkup logo, lightbulb, idea title) to use in your post.
  2. Write a post on your blog about your inspiration for great ideas in your classroom. 
  3. Link your post back here by clicking on the InLinkz button below.
  4. Visit at least 2 others who have linked up and get inspired by their great ideas!

Sunday Scoop & Big News

It's time once again for the Sunday Scoop:
Hopefully today's shoveling endeavor was the last... but this is New England!

Since I'm linking up later in the day today I can proudly say that meal prep for the week is done! Tonight's dinner is in the oven (roasting a chicken), veggies are cut, and meals are planned for the week. Yee-ha!

However, I have not worked on our school's reading celebration for Friday (click {HERE} to see how Battle of the Books is going!). Hoping to find some motivation tonight but the Rangers game is on at 7... decisions, decisions!

Hopefully I will get to write today. I've found some new motivation in the form of a journal I found at Target last week. I always find myself thinking of great writing ideas or just reflecting about the day as I try to fall asleep at night, which has cause a great deal of sleepless nights. I keep this handy journal right next to the bed with a pen ready at all times:

Here's the BIG news: What I'm most excited about this week, is hosting my first linkup!
Inspiration is the core of this blog and I wanted to start a weekly linkup to share what inspires you. Come back tomorrow for the first linkup! I can't think of anything better than starting off the week with a little spark of inspiration!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Spark Student Motivation: Battle of the Books

Today I'm linking up for the first time with Head Over Heels for Teaching for...
 (Yes, I know it's not Saturday, but the topic of this post fits perfectly with this Linkup)

I'm over the moon excited to share an update on our school-wide reading celebration! 
Back in the beginning of January I approached my principal with this crazy idea to host a book competition to get students motivated and excited about reading. Battle of the Books kicked off this month and the hallways and cafeteria are buzzing with discussions about... BOOKS! Even with all this snow outside students are having meaningful conversations about which books in the bracket they like better. Best part of all... they are saying WHY that book is better!

So what is Battle of the Books? It's a sports bracket themed book tournament (wow, that's a mouthful). At the beginning of February, I introduced our book bracket to the school. Students filled out the brackets with their predictions and then the voting began. I used SurveyMonkey for online voting and hosted it at my classroom book blog Dempsey's Donuts. Here's a peek at how our bracket looks now, 3 weeks in:
There have been a few surprising results so far (the 8th graders begged me to put Fault in our Stars in and it fell out in the first round!) And I really thought Pete the Cat would have won over The Cat in the Hat (no offense Dr. Seuss, but Pete is HUGE right now in this house of little readers!)

When a winner is crowned next week, my class will sort through the bracket predictions to see if anyone in our school correctly guessed our favorite book. Any students who did will receive a free book at our next school book fair.
Voting online through our book blog!
Helping the kindergartners vote!
To build student enthusiasm for books even higher, I put together a packet for my colleagues with fun reading activities they can do in their classrooms. You can download it (plus materials for Battle of the Books) {HERE} for free from my TpT store. I'd love to hear if you try this out in your school!
Musical chairs with books!
So far, Battle of the Books is accomplishing exactly what I had set out to do! Stay tuned to see which books make it into the championship round and to see our giant bar graph of voting results my class is currently working on.

Good luck and "May the odds be ever in your favor!"

Friday, February 13, 2015

Presidents Day Activity

Looking for a little something extra for your classroom next week? Check out my new FREE Presidents Day activity! This activity uses 60-second President video clips from PBS LearningMedia to keep students engaged. While watching the videos students answer questions about each President. I used symbaloo to organize links to all video clips used on the worksheet. This can be embedded into your class site or blog and makes it easier for students to navigate through the clips.

You can download the complete worksheet {HERE} from my store on TpT. 
Thanks for checking it out! I hope you all enjoy the long holiday weekend!

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Great Grammar Resource!

I started using a new ELA program this year (Common Core Progress from Sadlier Schools) and I love it. However one area that this program is lacking in is grammar. There is only one page of grammar work in each unit and it is not incorporated into our daily reading. To supplement a colleague showed me this fantastic site NoRedInk that I'm sharing today for...

NoRedInk is an online grammar program that provides students with unique high-interest sentences to correct. Students can manipulate the sentences by correcting capitals, adding or removing punctuation, or highlighting nouns/verbs. This provides an authentic assessment of each student's abilities. Setting up a class and student accounts is free and easy.

What makes NoRedInk different?
Sentences are based on the student's interests! When students first log in they are asked to choose their favorite movies, TV shows, athletes, authors, musicians, and more. They can even type in the names of their friends and pets! Then NoRedInk gives students sentences to correct based on what they are interested in. This keeps students engaged, focused, and on task. (It also causes some giggles while they are working. Who said grammar can't be fun!)

Creating an Assignment:
There are dozens of grammar categories to choose from when creating an assignment, quiz, or pretest for your class. Once you choose a category, you can choose which specific skill within that category you want students to work on.

Student Work:
While students are working on an assignment, NoRedInk offers review lessons if they answer a question incorrectly. It also gives students multiple attempts to answer the question correctly. This helps to empower students and makes them feel successful at each task.

Thanks for stopping by! Don't forget to check out more great tech tips at the Technology Thursday linkup!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Tech Tip - Paperless Reading Logs!

Today I'm linking up for...

I love to read. I love to teach reading. I hate reading logs... with a passion.
To me there is nothing more tedious than correcting reading logs each week. Making sure that students are reading their required amount of minutes/pages, checking to see if parents signed off, and chasing down logs from those students who never hand them in...

Well your days of agonizing over reading logs are over! Say "hello" to!
I have been using Reading-Rewards on and off for 4 years (off because they changed the design of their website and I really didn't like it, but that was over a year ago and their site is much better now!). I've used it with 5th grade, 2nd grade, and now with 4th grade. It is really easy to use and keeps students engaged in their reading homework.

Here's how it works:

1) Go to and sign up for an administrator account. It's FREE (there is a paid yearly subscription for $70 that gives you a few extra perks like more student accounts and the option to give student feedback and quizzes)

2) From your home page, click on "Manage Your Groups" and then click on "Create New Group"

3) Once you've created your group, you can start to add students. Click on "Manage Your Accounts" to get started. I prefer to add student accounts myself. It only takes a few minutes and this way I know their accounts are set up correctly.

4) Click on "Create Reader Account"

And you're now ready to begin paperless reading logs! Reading-Rewards has a great teacher help page {HERE} with videos, getting started guides, and tutorials. Below is a demo video of the teacher(administrator) interface from their site:

I LOVE using Reading-Rewards with my students. In your group "Reading Circle" students can see what everyone in the class is reading. Students can write comments and reviews about their books. They also earn points for every minute they read. Students can cash these points in for classroom rewards that you create! For example one of the rewards in my store right now is a personal hat day for 200 RR miles (points).

Click {HERE} to download a copy of a parent handout I created to send home and get students started.

Thanks for stopping by, and don't forget to visit Techie Turtle Teacher for more Tech Tips!

Monday, February 2, 2015

Liebster Award!

I was surprised and thrilled to learn that Chris from The Scoop in Second Grade had nominated me for the Liebster Award.
 It is such a rewarding feeling to know that others are actually reading (and liking!) what you post.  So, without further adieu, here are the questions I was presented with:

Why and how long ago did you start blogging?
   - I actually started this blog back in 2011 for a Masters course in educational technology (and boy has it changed since then!). I used it during the course to communicate with colleagues and reflect on assigned texts. It wasn't until the start of this school year that Smocus Smocus became what it is today. I was inspired to start blogging and selling on TpT by a student in my class last year. Her mother is also a teacher so she knew all about TpT and suggested that I start selling the worksheets I'd made. I started on TpT first, then worked on building this blog. I'm proud of the work I've put into it and I can't wait to see where my blogging adventure takes me!

What one word sums up the heart of your blog and why?
  - INSPIRATION! Inspiration is what drives everything. My biggest inspirations are my three little boys. Their imaginations and enthusiasm can be seen in all that I do. In fact, one of my more recent products "What Does the Text Say" was inspired by their relentless singing of the hit song.

Is there something that you learned late in your blogging journey that you wish you had known before?
   - I feel like I am constantly learning about the blogging world since I'm still relatively new to this scene. One thing I learned just the other day was how to add your link into a blog comment. I had seen everyone else do it but couldn't figure it out for myself. So off to the Google gods I went where I found this handy piece of code:
<a href="">Home</a>  
Just change the website to your blog's and change "Home" to the name of your blog.

What's your favorite pastime other than blogging?
  - Hands down reading and writing! I love discovering new books and authors and getting lost in a novel. Right now I'm reading The Killing Sea, by Richard Lewis. It is a gripping story of survival as children try to reunite with their families in the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami in Indonesia. It's realistic fiction based on the author's firsthand experiences. It is dramatic, heart-wrenching, and inspiring all at the same time. I read a passage to my class this year during a unit in our ELA texts which focused on natural disasters from an informational text point of view. I felt that it was important for my students to understand the effects a tsunami has on the people involved. A few students were misty-eyed at the end... I think they got it.

How many hours per week do you dedicate to your blog?
  - I would probably say 4ish, but if you asked my husband I bet he would say a lot more! Sometimes blogging, lessons planning, and resource creating all blend together.

What category of blog posts do you enjoy the most?
  - I love discovering new literacy resources and I'm a sucker for a good classroom DIY.

Where does your blog inspiration come from?
  - These little guys:

Which post that you've written are you most proud of?
  - So far my favorite post would be the one about Long Division. Math is not my strong suit, so I was really proud of myself when I found a successful way to engage students. Their how-to videos came out great! I can't wait to use them as a resource for next year's 4th graders!

Is there any post that you've been planning to do but you've been postponing?
  - There is a series of posts coming up on my classroom book blog, Dempsey's Donuts, that I'm super excited about! This week we are starting Battle of the Books, a sports bracket style favorite book competition. I can't wait to see how it plays out! My goal is to get students excited about books and having meaningful discussions about the texts. I hope everyone following this blog will join us and grab my free resources for this event on TpT!

What is your favorite aspect of blogging?
  - I love connecting and collaborating with other teachers from around the country. There are so many great resources out there!! I have "met" some great educators so far :)

Which recipe, project, or idea form my blog would you like to try yourself?
  - I like your recent post about daily expectations. The books you created for your students are a great way to keep the communication flowing between home and school!

I now nominate the following 11 bloggers for the Liebster Award:
Jessica @ Butterflies and Daydreams
Lynn @ Camping Teacher
Lucy @ Beyond Imagination
Kim @ English, Oh My!
Erin @ Mrs. Beer's Language Arts Class
Kay @ Teaching on the Sunny Side
Chandra @ Teaching with Crayons and Curls
Melody @ Polka Dot Thoughts
Tiffany @ Two Techie Teachers
Brittany @ Two Techie Teachers
Megan @ A Bird In Hand Designs (I know she technically has a few too many followers for a Liebster award, but her designs are awesome and need to be shared! She designed this blog!)

Now that you've been nominated, you must do the following to receive your award:
  1. In your post, link back to me, the blogger who nominated you, as a thank you and a 'shout out.'.
  2. Answer the 11 questions I answered above.
  3. Nominate 11 bloggers that have less than 200 followers. You may give them 11 questions or they can answer the same questions you did.
  4. Let your nominees know they've been nominated and provide them with a link back to your post so that they can accept.
  5. Send your nominator a link to your post so (s)he can learn more about you as well. (You can just put your post link in the comments below.)
Whew, that's it! The hardest part of this post was finding new bloggers to nominate. There are so many great blogs out there! Thanks again to Chris @ The Scoop In Second for the nomination.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Currently February

It's time again to link up with Oh Boy 4th Grade for Currently February!

* I love me some snow!! (My hubby says that's because I usually don't have to shovel it. He's the best!) The blizzard dumped 2+ feet on us last week and now it looks like we will be getting 8-16 inches tomorrow! There's nothing better than cozying up with a good book or watching the snow fall with my boys.

* Thinking about my school reading celebration starting tomorrow! I've been working hard to create some events that will get kids excited about reading and talking about books. First up, and lasting all month, is Battle of the Books! It's a sports bracket style competition where student's vote weekly for their favorite books. By February 27th we will have our winner. I started hanging up a giant bracket in the cafeteria on Friday afternoon (not quite finished yet, working on a title banner) and was pleasantly surprised when the boys basketball team stopped in to check it out. They were arguing about which books were best and why! Here's a preview of the unfinished bracket:
I tried to match up texts that were similar in genre or theme. It should make for some interesting discussions! Our school is PK-8, so the left side of the bracket is the East Coast elementary texts while the right side represents the West Coast Middle Texts (yes I know I've got my east and west coasts backwards, lol). Students will receive paper brackets tomorrow to make predictions and winning brackets will receive a free book at our next book fair!

Students will be voting online at my new classroom book blog (I designed it myself! It was my first attempt so it's nothing too spectacular but I'm pretty proud of it). Come check it out and follow along as we find out our school's favorite book! (The first post for voting will be tomorrow)
If your interested in trying this out in your school, then stop by my TpT store to get my Battle of the Books brackets, a tutorial on Accelerated Reader quizzes, and more activities to celebrate reading. {It's FREE} I would love to see which books come out on top at other schools!

* Back to this month's currently... I'm wanting to visit the Book Barn today. They are a local second hand book store with fabulous finds and they are having their annual sale this weekend!!

* My Hubby's birthday is today so it's time to bake a cake!!

* I am definitely not a pageant girl, but if I was I would be the Queen of Disney! I love everything about Disney and can't wait to bring the boys again. I drove my hubby nuts planning our trip last February. It's so much fun making dinner reservations and planning out which parks and shows to see. We used to go every winter when I was a kid and now that I'm married with my own kids we have been 3 times. (Overall I think I've been around 30 times!! Only once to Disneyland though...)
My best tip... Don't bring your own stroller! I've always been so worried about damaging our Double Baby Jogger that we have never taken it to Disney. Instead I wear our little guy in a wrap or carrier through the airport while the big ones walk. We rent a stroller ahead of time from Orlando Stroller Rentals. They have Baby Joggers and they deliver right to your hotel. Your stroller is waiting at the hotel's front desk when you arrive and you leave it at the front desk when you check out! We have used them all 3 times and they have been fantastic! Reasonably priced and great service!

By the way... I decided to join everyone and have a Superbowl Sale today! Stop by my store for 20% off everything!

Sorry for such a long post, but there is just so much to talk about! Thanks for stopping by!