Monday, July 23, 2012

Summer Vacay!

Hi Y'all,

I have just returned from a week on the West Coast. My cousin got married in L.A. last Saturday so we decided to make it a vacation and stay awhile. We were in California for 9 days for a whirlwind tour!  I feel like we never slept, but we had so much fun! We arrived in L.A. on Friday afternoon and headed straight for Beverly Hills where we did some window shopping on Rodeo Dr. (that's all I could afford) and toured a TV Out of the Box Warner Brothers exhibit. That evening we went to Downtown Disney Land to eat dinner at the House of Blues and watch the fireworks. On Saturday morning we drove to Simi Valley to tour the Ronald Raegan Presidential Library. It was amazing! If you're ever in the area it's a must see! That evening, of course, was the wedding for my cousin and his bride-to-be. I was so glad we got to be there for them on their special day. It made me think back to my own wedding day only a year and a half ago. Such an exciting time! On Sunday we toured the Warner Brothers Studio in Burbank. It's a 2 and 1/2 hour tour worth every penny. We had a great tour guide and got to see the sets of Ellen and Big Bang Theory (two of my favorites!) and a whole lot more behind the scenes stuff, including props, movie sets, costumes, etc. After the tour we took in all the sights and sounds of Hollywood. I had been there before but my hubby never had, so it was neat to see it all again with him. That evening we met up with my parents, who were also in town for the wedding, for dinner at the famous chicken dinner restaurant at Knott's Berry Farm. On Monday we took a day to tour some of the more well known beaches around L.A., including Laguna, New Port, Huntington and Venice beaches, ending at Santa Monica Pier, where we ate dinner and took a ride on the ferris wheel.  Are you tired yet!? :)

Well we aren't finished yet! On Tuesday we headed north on the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH), a GORGEOUS, scenic drive with the Pacific ocean on one side of the highway and mountains on the other. We went through Santa Barbara, San Luis Obisbo, and Monterey, among others and toured Hearst Castle near San Simeon. One of my favorite stops along the PCH was at a overlook called Piedras Blancas. Here we saw hundreds of Elephant Seals sunning on the beach and playing in the water. It was an amazing sight and I could have stayed for hours just watching them play and listening to their "barks." Another neat detour from the PCH was a 17 mile drive which took us past beautiful beaches and ended at the Pebble Beach Golf course. My husband enjoyed seeing this as it's one of the more famous golf courses. On Thursday we finally arrived in San Francisco. This was my first time in San Fran! Our first stop was the Golden Gate Bridge where we were awarded an amazing view! When we first got to the bridge we had zero visibility due to the fog, but within 20 minutes the fog cleared and we were able to see the whole bridge. We stayed at the Palace Hotel near Union Square and had a nice evening getting familiar with the area. The next day we hit all the touristy spots, including China Town, Union Square, Fisherman's Wharf, Ghirardelli Square, rode the Cable Cars and saw Lombard St. from a distance, though we didn't drive it. We would love to go back and spend more time in this city. There is so much to explore.

We had an early flight home on Saturday morning and spent all day yesterday recovering from our lack of sleep! Ever heard the saying, "You need a vacation from your vacation!"? Well for us, this was SO true! We went non-stop the whole trip but I wouldn't change a thing! We had so much fun and made so many memories along the way.

Now we are home and reality is setting in... I only have ONE MORE WEEK of summer!  Pre-planning starts next Monday. We do have a week of pre-planning without students but it will be a rude awakening having to set my alarm and get back in the swing of things. Where has the summer gone?!  I feel like I just turned off the lights in my classroom and closed the door on the 2011-2012 school year. Now it's time to start all over again! I'm jealous of all you bloggers who still have several weeks of summer left!

Well, since I shared all about my trip with you guys, I thought it might be nice to give you a visual.  Here are a few of my favorite pics from the trip.  Enjoy!


Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Make it Easy... to pick up and hold

We play group games daily in my class.  Common games you may find us playing are Bingo and Memory.  These games are easy to create for any theme/topic you are teaching.  During a Bingo game, calling cards are placed face down on the table and the game caller gets to pick any card to call out to the players. To play Memory, all cards are placed face down on the table and students take turns flipping 2 cards at a time to find a match.

THE PROBLEM: The problem my students have with playing these games are being able to pick up the cards from the table. They just do not have the fine motor/finger control to be able to pick up thin objects from a flat surface.

THE SOLUTION: My simple solution... clothespins! I found these large clothespins pictured below at Ikea but I'm sure they can be found elsewhere too! I simply attach a clothespin to each card, place them face down on the table and now my students are easily able to lift the cards from the table during game play.

Large clothespins attached to a bingo game from the Unique Learning System curriculum.

During a bingo game, this student easily picks up a calling card from her tray.

Another student picks up a calling card during bingo and flips it over for everyone to see.
This simple adaptation has made many of my games accessible to my students with fine motor difficulties.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The Nest... a theme to tweet about!

First off, I must apologize for being MIA for so long on my blog. I love reading other teacher blogs and catching up with all of you, but when it comes time to post on my own blog, I just don't make the time. Well, I'm back... for today, at least!

I am half way through my summer and have to admit I'm a little bummed.  I had so many plans for classroom projects I wanted to complete over the summer and have not accomplished any of them... yet!  But I still have a few weeks to get busy.  So, to start things off, I'd like to share one project I have in mind... design a new theme for my classroom!  I have never actually used a specific theme for my classroom decor but a teacher friend has inspired me to create one.  Her classroom is all decked out in pirate stuff and it is so cute!  There is so much you can do with a theme!  I think my students would enjoy it and it will give a fresh look to my classroom which I have been in for 7 years now!  It's time for a change.  After searching endlessly on the internet for theme ideas I have finally decided to do a bird theme.  I know, random, right?!  Let's just call it "Mrs. H's Nest."  I have not actually created anything for this theme yet, but have found lots of inspiration pictures.  Here are just a few:

I'd love to create some type of bird mobile to hang from the ceiling.

from The Bump

I absolutely love the mobile below. You can download the free bird sewing pattern from her website.  Hmmm... maybe I could finally learn to sew for this project! :)

Check it out on Spool Sewing.

Here are a few wall or bulletin board displays that I love:

I have the perfect space on my wall to display this bird mural.  It seems pretty straightfoward and easy enough to create.
Found on Pieces of Me.

Mrs. H's class is something to tweet about!
Super cute display from Leslie Ann at Life in First Grade!

And finally, I would absolutely LOVE to have this tree in my classroom.  I can picture white lights hanging from the branches and down the trunk.  The lights could be hooked up to a single pressure switch that my students could turn on and off. 

This was created by Laurie Kessler over at It's Going To Be All Write.

There are so many more pictures I could share, but I think you get the picture.  Hopefully I can incorporate at least a few of these ideas into my classroom decor this year.  Do you use a classroom theme to decorate?  If so, what is your theme and how do you incorporate it into your classroom?  I would love to hear your ideas.