Saturday, December 31, 2011

Best Read Alouds from 2011 #4-6 are numbers 4-6. Only took me a week… here we go.
4. Testing Miss Malarkey by Judy Finchler – a staple if you teach a grade level that requires standardized testing. In Florida our 3rd graders have to pass the FCAT, otherwise they are retained. L The kids know what’s at stake and the time from January to April adds extra stress to our daily routines. I strive to make my class as stress free as possible. I’d rather burden the anxiety behind the FCAT than have my little kiddos upset and anxious. I read this story to the kids when we come back from Christmas break. It’s about a school preparing for a standardized test. It’s light and fluffy and pokes fun at how the adults are acting during this crazy time. It always makes my students feel better. Judy Finchler has a whole series on Miss Malarkey, including “Miss Malarkey Leaves No Reader Behind.” Finchler’s books are relatable for young readers and can be used for several different classroom occasions.  I read “Miss Malarkey Leaves No Reader Behind” during Read Across America week.

5. Butterflies in My Stomach and Other School Hazards by Serge Bloch – If you are an “Idiom Freak,” like myself, this is the book for you. I read this story the first day of school. It’s about this adorable, little boy on his first day of school. He uses idioms to describe his experiences and feelings as the day progresses. My students couldn’t help but giggle throughout the story, and the illustrations are fantastic.  I was down in Fort Myers the first week of break and I found Bloch’s other idiom book, “You Are What You Eat.” Naturally, I bought it because I have no self-control when it comes to books and it’s adorable. Bloch’s books are truly noteworthy.  

6. I Need My Monster by Amanda Noll – The little boy in this book is hilarious! He’s upset because “his monster” is on vacation and he needs someone in his room to keep him in his bed. He starts interviewing all different monsters but none fit the bill. He finds something wrong with each one. After I read this, my kids and I do a writing activity on their perfect monster. Clever, cute, and perfect for the holiday!

7. The Donut Chef by Bob Staake – I found this book on eBay for 50 cents, brand new (and in hardcover J). This was my FIND OF THE YEAR. I just randomly selected this book from my library one day and boy was I surprised! MY KIDS LOVED THIS BOOK. The illustrations are charming and yummy to look at it.  Staake uses modern shapes and BRIGHT COLORS for his illustrations and they work it. The rhythmic text sounds so delightful during a read aloud. A must have for every teacher!!

I hope it doesn't take me another week to get to #10. :)

Friday, December 30, 2011

I'm least I think I am..., that was fast. Just yesterday I was waving my sugar crazed kiddos goodbye and then I blinked. I do miss them terribly... you know that they will have a ton of stories to tell right when they come through the door. Some tales their parents will wish they had never mentioned.

I've been getting things ready for the big week back. We started fractions right before we left so I'm excited to start back with fractions. It's my favorite benchmark in our math curriculum.

Can I just's ridiculously hot here in Florida. Yesterday, was "freezing" according to Florida standards... we dropped down to a staggering 65 degrees, but then today back up to 86. I'm originally from New Jersey so I'm used to frosty holidays, gloves, and snow boots. On Christmas Day, I saw 4 "older" couples walking to the pool in their neon flip flops, carrying their swim tubes. One thought came to my head, "that isn't normal." I just need some cool weather. My sweaters are feeling neglected. Please, someone send me some frigid air!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

I know, I know...totally breaking the rules

I always tell my students to follow the rules, but here I am breaking the infamous blogging rules. My students would have a field day if they knew I was a rule breaker. This is my 3rd post. I'm sorry. I promise no more after this!
I just HAD to spotlight a new and upcoming blog.


Erika over at the honey bunch has started a new blog. Please go and check it out. It's called The Best Endings and its dedicated to books. I'm sold. I'm looking forward to helping Erika out with this new adventure. Literature both inside and outside of the classroom ranks high in my beliefs.

Rock it Erika! Way to go.

A Great Wal-Mart Find

Speaking of Record A Story books, Wal-Mart has them on sale in their Christmas clearance for $8.99. Its from Hallmark and they were originally $28! A good find...

I picked this one up today.

Can't beat after Christmas sales...

Record A Story Books

I was at Books-A-Million the other day and they had their "Record A Story" Christmas books on clearance. I picked one up with an idea for next holiday season to use in my classroom.

Starting after Thanksgiving break, I will send the book home with a different child each night. They will record themselves and family reading the story. They will then pass the book onto another family who will listen to the previous version and then record their own.

It's a great way to promote literacy at home and enhance parent involvement. I'm sure you have heard about this before but I had to share anyway. I'm always looking for new ways to encourage parents to stay active in their child's educational journey.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011


Does anyone have Mimio interactive boards in their classrooms? I have had mine for almost 2 years and I love it. I'm also a certified Mimio Master... which was a great experience. I learned so much on lesson creation and how to hook my students.

Even if you don't have a Mimio board, you can still use their software for free (one of the many reasons why I love Mimio). Click on the picture below to get started.

You do need a key to download the software but I have it and I'd be happy to share. Just comment this post and include your email. The software is totally free and can be used without a Mimio board.

On (a place where teachers post their lessons) my username is tvillacis. I have a ton of lessons on there which can instantly be used in your class!

Please comment if you do have a Mimio or any interactive board in your room. I'd love to get some new ideas!

Technology in my classroom? ABSOLUTELY!

Mimio is the core of my teaching. When my school's FCAT scores came in, I was pulled into the Principal's office and asked what was the contributing factor that made my scores so successful. Without hesitation I replied with "Mimio." Interactive boards stimulate students and engage them in the learning process. Rather than being spectators during a lesson, they are active participants who contribute ideas. I don't know what I would do without my interactive board.

Ok, that's enough lecturing for tonight.

I heart my Mimio. :)

Here are some snapshots of 2 of my Mimio lessons.

Yes! Victory!

I secretly set a silly goal for myself. I wanted 12 followers before 2012 began and I currently have 14. I'm on top on the world....well not quite, but it feels good.

I went into work this morning and took down all my Christmas decorations. A little sad but now my room is back to it's organized, perfect self. There are hearts dangling from my ceiling. Mark said I was a little premature with the Valentine's Day decor but we live in Florida..snowflakes and/or penguins hanging from my ceiling doesn't really jive when it's 85 degrees outside.

Off to go work on my fraction Mimio lesson...

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

11 in 11

Kristen over at "a teeny tiny teacher" is hosting a linky party. I feel as though I am that "dork" not invited to the party but goes as someone's wing man anyway. :) The blogging world is full of friends and tight's hard squeezing in. is my contribution to the party! Enjoy!


11. Favorite Movie You Watched
Super 8 - I was shocked by this movie! When Mark suggested it at the BlockbusterExpress Box, I was less than thrilled. Great, another sci-fi thriller...but I was so wrong. The writing, acting, directing, everything was awesome! Full of adventure and action - a must see.

10. Favorite TV Series
Storage Wars. A little weird I know but I cannot get enough. Although I do get annoyed when they get too ambiguous and price their own findings and inflate the actual worth; however, I don't stop watching. Please tell me I am not alone in this strange obsession.      YUUUUP!

9. Favorite Restaurant
Islamorada Fish Company - it's inside the Bass Pro Shops which we frequently visit thanks to Mark's addiction hobby of fishing. Their grouper sandwich is my best friend and they serve this YUMMY, warm, cinnamon bread when you first sit down. It's a lovely experience.

8. Favorite new thing you tried
This is simple...without a doubt, blogging! At first I was so hesitant. Where to start? Who will read it? Will I ever have more than 10 followers? BUT fears aside, it has been enjoyable and refreshing. In some strange way, it also pushes me to be a better teacher. I'm sure some of you can understand that.

7. Favorite gift you received
Tickets to see Wicked the Musical. Mark scored us front row tickets to the show! I'm beyond excited. We have seen the show before, but I never get tired of incredible music and writing.  I listen to the soundtrack during my 35 minute ride to work at least once a week. It pumps me up and gets my vocal cords going for a day of non-stop talking!

6. Favorite thing you pinned
*Sign* I am not on Pinterest BUT I did employ my mother on Christmas day to invite me and I just awaiting my invitation. :) Pinterest here I come!

5. Favorite blog post
...I would have to say the one on my classroom library. The title of the post says it all.

4. Favorite Accomplishment
My FCAT scores from the end of last year. All my students passed and I was so proud of them. It was a great feeling!

Also buying my first car. It's a 2012 Kia Soul and I bought her all by myself, and I will be making the car payments on her for the next 5 years all by myself!

3. Favorite Picture

I know I have already posted this but it was our first professional photo session together as a family. :)

2. Favorite Memory
Discovery Cove with my sister, Becca. Discovery Cove is a resort in Orlando, FL where you can lay out on the beach, eat until you want to die, and best of all, swim with dolphins! We had a wonderful SISTER day and I adored sharing such a great experience with her.

Becca and I.

Discovery Cove

1. Goals for 2012
1. To keep blogging
2. To give my all in every endeavor
3. To be patient and kind in trying situations
4. For all my students to pass the FCAT
5. To get married
6. Join Pinterest!

New Layout!

The new layout has arrived! I love it. A big thanks to Alicia at dreamlikemagic for the layout.

Highlight of my day: getting a blog button..oh, the small things in life.

Have to finish getting ready..meeting my best buddy for lunch..some much needed catching up!

Themes in the Classroom

I know we are only half way through the school year but I'm already thinking about my classroom theme for next year. This was the first year I did a theme and it was a blast.

Step 1: I had to pick a theme. A tall order for someone as indecisive as myself. I have difficulty deciding what to make for dinner. Mark was of true assistance in this step..he wanted a nautical/ocean theme (naturally...considering he likes loves to fish). I on the other hand was hesitant about such a theme. What if the kids aren't thrilled with it? We went back and forth for days but in the end, stuck with nautical.

Step 2: Find decor that matches my theme. THIS WAS MY FAVORITE PART (naturally...considering I like love to shop). It was the beginning of Summer so I was suffering from the "I think I'm married to Donald Trump because I'm feeling richer effect" due to being paid 5 paychecks at once. I went nuts. I ordered anything and everything that had a life preserver or anchor on it. We took daily trips to the teacher store and packages were coming by the droves. It took about 4 days before I filled our office up with boxes and bags. Mark put a halt to step 2 with a glare and a simple "You're done shopping." Ok.....moving on to step 3....

Step 3: Decorate! Not for the faint of heart...this took several 8-9 hour days with both Mark and I working on the room. And let's not forget no air conditioning...and we live in Florida. Also, I should mention the "unique" situation regarding my room ...I have cement blocks for walls, which means you can't staple into the walls. Tape doesn't work either because of the what's left? HOT GLUE..I have to hot glue everything!!! It's a nightmare and each year I add a new "battle wound" to my scar collection. I use fabric to decorate my walls/doors and Mark is the Ying to my Yang in this process. Of course when there is hot glue, fabric, and a ladder involved, an argument always results and someone storms off. Mark took frequent visits to the gas station up the road for "breaks."  Anyone who decorates their classroom knows what I'm talking about. There are high expectations and "visions" that must be duplicated. We always end up laughing about it, but it's a lot of work..

End result? A great looking room (if I do say so myself). My mind is already bubbling with ideas for next year and I think I should start shopping soon so my wallet holds up. :) Mark, don't read the previous sentence!

Take a look at my classroom....

Job Bulletin Board - every student in my class has a job.

AR Bulletin Board - each student has an anchor with their name on it. They move around to the different boats as they progressed to the higher clubs.

Please disregard the Christmas decorations. :)

Well that's my room. What classroom theme do you have? Please comment and share! 

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Food Coma

The shame and guilt are setting in.... too much food.

But so worth it...

Now, I'm shopping on GUILT FREE thanks to a gift card.

Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Best Read Alouds in Room 38 for 2011

I feel very strongly about reading to my students every day. It’s not always easy fitting it into our busy schedule, and there are days where it seems close to impossible, but I fight through the challenges and read to my kiddos on a daily basis.  
I thought I would share a list of my favorite read alouds for 2011. There were new additions, some old classics, and a few student requests that made this list.
1. Sideways Stories from Wayside School by Louis Sachar (chapter book) – I read this book when I was a kid. It makes me giggle every year, and my students’ infectious laughter makes me giggle even more. There are 3 books in this series and I do a read aloud for all 3 books. This series is a must have for any 2nd or 3rd grade teacher. Currently, Scholastic book club is offering the 1st and 2nd books of this series for only a $1.00 a book. I ordered class sets at that fabulous price.
2. Miss Smith Reads Again! by Michael Garland (picture book) – This was realllly hard to pick my favorite Michael Garland book considering I love them all! I have ALL his books and I make sure to conduct read alouds for each one. This book is about a teacher that reads a story to her class and the students get transported into the book. Full of adventure and delightful in every way… also Garland’s illustrations are FAB!
3. James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl (chapter book) – Roald Dahl…need I say more? Dahl’s enchanting words and intriguing characters provide delight for each child.  

Stay tuned for the next 3 books...I’ll have to piece meal this list...too many holiday festivities going on. J

Extreme Makeover Blog Edition

Say goodbye to this layout and design..I will be getting a new layout and a blog button (yes, this thrills me!) in the next few days. Hope everyone is having a great holiday weekend! Off to Mark's parents' house for dinner and 56 rounds of cards. Merry Christmas Tanya.

Last, a tribute to my sister on the picture.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Happy Holidays from Penny!

Penny in her Christmas sweater.

O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree

Remember the pine cone craft I mentioned earlier in the month? Well last Monday we started this craft and it exceeded any expectations I had.

After employing Mark to help finish cutting those Mardi Gras necklaces, we finally had everything ready to start. First on our list..we had to paint the pine cones green. I made sure to have newspaper on hand to cover every inch of the students' desks and floors. When I announced that we would be using paint, the children's eyes enlarged. "But Ms. V you HATE paint," they all exclaimed. I don't loathe paint.... well only if it gets on my carpet and stains my desks, but who's watching for all that?

They swore up and down that they would keep the paint on the newspaper and pine cones and they did a great job doing so.

This is what the pine cones looked like during the painting process...

So after painting them, we let them dry. Of course my kiddos were restless during this step. They were DYING to put the "ornaments" on the tree. So after a snack break, we hit the ground running. Each group got 5 bowls containing the different colored beads and a bowl of Tacky Glue (A STAPLE FOR ANY CLASSROOM). It comes in a gold bottle and it's awesome!

Naturally my students suffer from "Too Much Glue" syndrome, which shows in the pictures below but after a night of drying, the glue turned clear.

After 40 minutes, the trees looked BEAUTIFUL. I was so thrilled!

Please excuse the orange mini Post Its. They are not part of the Christmas decor, they simply have the students' names on them to prevent confusion.

Aren't these trees charming? I really fell in love with this craft.

Here is a video too because I felt as though the pictures were not doing justice for these amazing Christmas trees....

Lastly, we took blank CD's and hot glued them to the bottom of the trees to make a tree skirt and glued mini present ornaments on the skirt.

Finished products:

I will for sure do this craft next year. It was relatively inexpensive and a lot of fun. :)

Well I'm off to get some cleaning done. Take care.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Gingerbread it!

I am guilt ridden. I haven't posted in weeks but in my defense it's been an insane few days. Anyone who is a teacher will understand what I'm talking about...there is literally something going on EVERY DAY leading up to Christmas break. It makes for a fun and memorable week with the kids but VERY EXHAUSTING! If I was to close my eyes for more than 5 seconds I know I would fall into a Teacher Coma and may never wake up. ***I wrote this paragraph last Thursday night*** :)'s what has been going on in my room...

Two Fridays ago:

To end our gingerbread unit (SO MUCH FUN by the way) we made gingerbread houses. It was my first year embarking on this fun and sticky endeavor but I am so glad I did it. I am also so glad that I opted to do this activity in the cafeteria because I would still be trying to get all the frosting out of my carpet. I felt terrible for my parents that evening...the kids were covered in frosting and overloaded on sugar. :)

When I first decided on making gingerbread houses, I was brought back to a memory from my elementary school years and how we made gingerbread houses. We used milk cartons as the base of the house and put graham crackers up as walls. So last Monday I had the kids start collecting and saving their mini milk cartons from lunch. Hmmmm, that was enjoyable. *insert sarcasm* Cleaning those cartons were the highlight of my week and without fail, someone always left a tiny puddle of milk at the bottom of their carton which would spill in the bag and make a BIG mess. And let's not forget that the smell of milk (even after only a few hours) is fabulous. The night before gingerbread houses I was on Google (oh imagine that), doing research and brainstorming any issues that may arise the next day. That's really what teaching is...planning and preparing for the worst and trying to figure out all the ways a project or lesson can go wrong. All these different websites were recommending that we hot glue the crackers onto the carton. That didn't interest me because I wanted the crackers to be edible. I was feeling torn and conflicted so I emailed my honorary "Class Mom" for advice. She replied that we could make the entire house out of graham crackers and that she would be happy to cut the crackers and get them all ready. I responded with a "Let me sleep on it," response and went to bed....

....a few hours later (around 1am) I awoke to a strange noise coming from the living room. I went out there and found Penny sitting there surrounded by tiny pieces of milk carton. She found the bag of cleaned milk cartons and DESTROYED EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM. 

Sooo..... Penny made the decision for me. Plan B won....making the houses out of graham crackers....which meant ANOTHER trip to the grocery store for more boxes of graham crackers. I should just set up a cot and live at Wal-mart.

In the end it was all worth it. It was a blast and the students really enjoyed themselves. It was a well deserved break for them. They have been working so hard and after Christmas it’s "GO TIME" in my room for FCAT (a standardized test which my students MUST pass in order to be promoted to 4th grade).