Friday, March 29, 2013

Bunny Bags! A Spring Tradition in my Class!

Another bunny bag to add to my collection!    
I've been making these cute and easy little bunny bags for the past five or six years as a fun craft for my students before Spring Break.  They are super easy to make, and the kids just go wild over them.  The whole thing only took about 25 minutes to make!  We just used white paper bags, although you could use brown.  I lead the class through the entire process whole group on my Lumens (overhead projector camera), so they could watch me draw the bunny ears first, and then cut them out.  Once everyone had that done,  I did a directed drawing of the bunny's face.  We finished them off with a cotton ball tail glued on the back.  I wish I would have taken pictures of the student samples... they were SO cute!  But, as usual, we were very busy that day, and I didn't think to whip out my camera until all my little kiddos had gone home.  But at least I was able to snap a pic of my bunny... pretty darn cute, right?  And SO easy.

I had also picked up five 6-packs of bubbles, along with some fruit snacks and Dollar Store Easter goodies to make cute little goodie bags for my students, which went into their bunny bags on their way out the door!  Easy, peasy, lemon-squeezy!  Happy Easter, everyone! 

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

JEOPARDY in the classroom!

I love it when I find a great resource that becomes a part of my weekly routine.  Today, I'd like to share one of those resources with you!  It's an online Jeopardy game that I discovered a few years ago.  The games go along with the stories and curriculum taught in our California Treasures Language Arts program, and they're a fun and engaging way for students to wrap up all of the standards they've learned about throughout the week.  
For example, last week's story from the student anthology was Mice and Beans by Pam Munoz Ryan (love this book!)  So I went online to  and clicked her Jeopardy PowerPoint for Mice and Beans.

This is what the Jeopardy game page looks like:

It's a PowerPoint, so the buttons are all interactive.  I use my projector and laptop and project it on the "big screen" so all of my students can see the game board.  After a topic and point value has been selected, it changes to a darker color (very handy!)

My students sit in cooperative groups of 4 (and for 32 students, that makes 8 groups!)  We play this game as a group activity.  Each table group gets a turn.  They get to choose from four topics:  Word Work, Grammar, Comprehension, and Vocabulary.  The questions are taken from the standards that were taught from the Treasures Language Arts program, not direct questions from the story.

For example, here is a question from the Vocabulary category:
(The white bar across the top is the answer - this doesn't flash on the screen until you push the arrow key.)

I usually put the question on the board, have each group "put their heads together" and discuss the possible answer.  It's so great to see them working together in this way.  Usually, the answers are pretty easy to figure out, but every once in a while, there will be two or three students in a group with different opinions on the answer, so they have to work it out until everyone agrees.  Then, I choose one person from the group to give the answer.  If they win, they earn as many points as the question was worth.  It usually takes us about 30 minutes to get through a game, but they LOVE it. 

When it gets down to the last four questions, I will usually have "The Lightning Round", and choose one volunteer from each of the four highest scoring teams.  Then, those three students compete against each other for the overall team winner (which in my class equals a Super Star ticket, and moving up to PURPLE, or Super Star Status, on our classroom chart!)  

It's a fantastic FREE resource, and the PowerPoints can all be edited to meet the needs of your class! 

Thank you, Mrs. Ziruolo! 

Monday, March 25, 2013

Springtime Fun!

So yesterday was my first "official" launch of my TPT store, where I shared my Easter Freebie (available on TPT here:

Today, I'd like to share my "Springtime Fun" unit with you.  It's got some great activities to get your first or second grade students in a cheerful, Springtime mood!  I plan on using this to supplement my Life Science plant unit, and it's got some really adorable, colorful vocabulary cards (thanks to Scrappin' Doodles) that are great for my English Language Learners.

Check it out here:

Here's a little preview of all the goodies you'll get in this download:

My students loved the Springtime compound word matching page.  We used it for our seat work activity yesterday during Literacy Center time.

Sunday, March 24, 2013


To celebrate my "OFFICIAL" opening of my TPT Store today, I am sharing a cute little freebie I've made for Easter.

I plan on sending a few of these pages home for homework this week, and using the rest for seat work on Thursday!  No school on Friday!  Yeah!  Spring Break here I come!

Check it out here:

The Best Ever Behavior Chart

When I first began teaching over ten years ago, I tried just about every trick in the book when it comes to behavior management.  The first year I tried giving stickers on a sticker chart every day.  The second year, I tried the old fashioned name on the board and a check mark.  The third year I started a card pulling system, which actually worked pretty well, but the cards got ripped by the end of the year, so I'd always have to replace them.  Everything I tried was okay for a week or two, but I found most of them very hard to maintain.  If I can't be consistent with something as important as behavior, then it's just not worth it. 

I finally discovered this very simple and effective system for behavior management using a simple, laminated chart and clothespins!  This little gem was a tip from an old assistant principal of mine who once used this in her own classroom.  Here is what mine looks like:
The way it works is very simple.  Every student begins the day on green.  Green equals GOOD behavior, and being on task.  (I usually put all the boys pins on the left and girls on the right, to make it easier for them to find their names).  If a student needs redirecting, I usually give a verbal warning first... but if they continue the negative behavior, they will be asked to "move their pin" to the next color down.  Yellow equals a warning.  This is usually enough to get the students to think about their behavior and make a better choice.  However, there are those few who do not always follow the rules, and in those cases they would be asked to move their pin to RED.  In my classroom, RED equals a loss of recess.  If the negative behavior continues or gets worse, or if they do something very inappropriate (i.e. the "severity clause") then they may need to move their pin down to orange, (which hardly ever happens). 

I've been using this in my second grade classroom for the past four years, and I can't tell you how effective it is!  I have had the best classroom behavior, and I think a large part of it is due to this very simple behavior chart!  I also have the students color their behavior on a calendar they keep in the back of their homework folder each day.  It's part of our daily routine as we pack up to leave each day.  If a student had to "move their pin" to yellow, red, or orange, I will sign their calendar (in ink) and state the reason why. 

Last year, I decided to add a little incentive to those exceptional students who always go above and beyond.  I added PURPLE to the top of the behavior chart, which is for "Super Star Behavior" or doing an exceptional job on homework, classwork, tests, etc.  This has been a huge motivator for my students, and they all get so excited when they get to "move up to purple".  An example would be, "Wow, Julian!  I can tell you really took your time to write your spelling sentences neatly and they are so descriptive!  Great job following directions. Go move up to purple!" 

At the end of each day, I take less than a minute to recognize those special students who moved up to purple by giving them a "Super Star Behavior" ticket.  They can write their name on these and keep them in their desks for a weekly prize drawing.  It's lots of fun, and very easy to implement in the classroom!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Teachers Pay Teachers... my new obsession!

About a year ago, I discovered a little gem on the internet that has totally revolutionized the way I present lessons to my students.  Teachers Pay Teachers (TPT) is gold mine for teachers like me who are tired of photocopying the same old, boring lessons and worksheets.  On this website, teachers are able to create fun, creative, and useful lesson plans that can be purchased for a small amount (most of the units I've bought have been between $3.00-8.00).  Once you find a "Teacher Author" that you like, you can start following them on TPT, so you can be alerted when they have a new lesson or activity for sale.  Every once in a while, you can find some great freebies on there, too! 

I am very excited to begin my own TPT adventure as a seller.  I have been working on a lot of fun units and am hoping to launch my own store on TPT in the beginning of April (I'll be off for Spring Break, so I'm hoping I can use some of my extra time to get things finalized).  I've got a great freebie for weekly spelling practice coming soon, too!  Stay tuned!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The Daily 5 Project - Updating my Classroom Libary and Listening Center!

Earlier this year, I was lucky enough to receive a grant for my classroom.  This grant was to be used for any type of classroom project to enhance student learning.  It was the first-ever grant I've received since I started teaching 10 years ago, so I was very excited to be able to use the money to finally be able to get some of those things that have been on my teacher "wish list" for so long!  I spent the bulk of my money at, and I was able to order over 30 book titles, as well as about 12 books on CD for my listening center! 

I also bought 4 portable CD players for our listening center.  I went with COBY CX-CD114, they are very easy for my students to use and very durable! 

Now, my students are able to update their self-selected "book bags" once a week in our classroom library, where they get to pick 4 "good fit" books that are at their reading level. 

I also rotate about 6-8 students through our listening center each day, so they get the opportunity to listen to a story of their choice at least once a week. 

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Art with Hearts!

I looked high and low on the internet to find a fun, creative way to make some Valentine art for our bulletin boards. I know it's March, but I had to share these beautifully amazing, vibrant, funky hearts painted by my adorable second graders last month. Can you feel the love? I found this great idea on A great website full of art lessons for kids. I was so tickled by the way they came out. Pure love!

Making Lemonade...

Well, I'm finally doing it. After over ten years of teaching, I'm proud to say that I'm officially starting my own classroom blog!  Making Lemonade in Second Grade is going to be my little way of sharing lots of fresh and fun ideas for the classroom.  Because, let's face it...being a teacher is hard work!  Whether it's our large class sizes, state testing, working nights and weekends preparing lessons, grading papers into the wee hours of the night, mounds of paperwork, report cards grades, parent phone calls, etc., it's easy to get overwhelmed.  However, when things get crazy, I choose to take a deep breath, stay positive and "make lemonade" when life gives you lemons.  Know what I mean? 

As for me, I'm a second grade teacher at a great little school located on the gorgeous Central Coast of California. I have teaching experience in all grades from K-8th, although I consider second grade to be my home. It really is my most favorite grade of all. I love everything about it... the kids, the the curriculum, I love it all. I have a large class of 32 students, with the majority of them being English Language Learners. My basic philosophy in the classroom is to make learning fun and meaningful for all students. I work with a fabulous group of teachers, and we are always sharing ideas with each other. I hope to be able to use this blog as a way of sharing many of those ideas plus other little things I've learned along the way. Stay tuned... there's lots more to come!