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A Look Back at 2016

People have been crying about 2016 being an awful year. 

Admittedly, it has been quite a year.

I may have spent way too much time on Buzzfeed over winter break...

Anyway, I have neglected my poor, beautiful blog for the last 6 months, so I figured I would write a post reflecting on some of the positive parts of 2016. Since I've been such a blog slacker, I thought a school and personal event from each month seemed fair.

I started incorporating STEM challenges in my classroom in January, and I'm so glad I took the leap! My students last year would get so excited every time they saw "STEM Challenge" written on the daily schedule. It helped build teamwork and creativity with my kids, and also taught them about learning from their mistakes. Plus, they had FUN! 

So maybe we haven't been able to get our hands on the NES Classic (not that it bothers me), but I did order a new cable for the Nintendo 64 back in January. It cost me a whopping $2.75 and it was an amazing purchase! There's no denying that Mario Kart is best enjoyed on a 64. 

How fun is this Valentine's Day interactive writing from First Grader At Last? We worked together to write the steps and supplies and then students had the chance to make their own valentines. So much fun, and oh so cute!

In February I became addicted to Snapchat. Enough said.

March Book Madness is seriously one of my favorite activities from the whole school year! I know lots of teachers incorporate this activity in their own way, but I love giving my students the opportunity to participate with other students from around the world. It's so exciting to check in every week to see which books won and knowing that our vote contributed! The only bummer is that, without fail, we are on spring break for 2 weeks right in the middle of all the excitement. It's still worth it, though!

Also in March, Mrs. B and I went to our first blogger meet-up in French Lick! Luckily, it's only a 2 hour drive from Indy, so it was perfect for us! We had a fabulous time meeting other teachers, learning new things, relaxing, and dressing up in our best 80s gear! 

I love to do fun Earth Day activities with my students (okay, I like to do fun things, in general), so I loved doing Where Does Garbage Go? from Little Kinder Warriors. Students get to make a "tire landfill" (Cheerios in a plastic cup) and then crush them up and mix the dust with Plaster of Paris to make "concrete" to build a road. Engaging and educational! 

O!M!G! One of the best experiences EVER was getting to be a spectator at the Indianapolis finals of American Ninja Warrior! We had to wait out in the cold for 3 hours (in the middle of the night!) just to get in. Once we were in, though, it was amazing! We saw lots of ninja greats and saw a lot of incredible talent! 

End of the year festivities included super fun scrapbooks from Reagan Tunstall and a rock, paper, scissors tournament. The Sprinkle Topped Teacher is brilliant and once I saw her idea, I knew it would be the perfect activity for the last day of school! The kids loved it!

I have wanted to do the Indianapolis Mini 500 half marathon for a few years, but I honestly never thought I could do it. My friend Christina convinced me to try it with her, and I'm so grateful she did!  The two of us did Couch to 5K a few years ago, and it's amazing how far we've come since then! My goal was simply to run the whole thing, which I did, and I could never have imagined how incredible it would feel when I crossed that finish line!

I just have to include this bonus photo for May! Basically everyone on my mom's side of the family is a Cubs fan. You know, the true diehard fans who root for the Cubs year after year for 108 years, even when the Cubs suck. My grandparents live in northern Illinois, so every now we score a big group of tickets and take the train into Chicago for a trip to Wrigley Field. It was exciting to get to go to a Cubs game, but even more exciting that I got to go to a game during the season THEY WON IT ALL!

Well, we were done with school by June, but I did come in on June 1st to clean a few things up for the summer and saw this work of art on my board. I am so blessed to work with a community of teachers I love! I'm not entirely sure why, but one of the 2nd grade teachers at my school came in to my room and drew this graffiti art on my white board. No one could bring themselves to clean it, so it stayed up all summer. #talent

The nice thing about having parents who live at the beach is that you get to hang out at the beach on all your breaks. I was lucky enough to be down there on my birthday this year. Look at that white sand and crystal clear water! 

The one negative thing about being on a balanced calendar is that we technically start school in July. The 2 week fall, winter, and spring breaks make it totally worth it, though! I don't know what it is about Alphablocks, but my students are always enthralled by it. When it takes a million years to pack up at the beginning of the school year, I just put on some Alphablocks to keep the glorified kindergarteners entertained. 

An 8 week summer still gives you plenty of time to travel, which is exactly what I did! I tagged along with my parents to Olympic National Park and had an amazing time! It was absolutely an unforgettable experience! We also got to squeeze in a day at Mt. Rainier, which was a wonderful added bonus!

I scored these awesome finger lights at Walmart last year on clearance. I'm a teacher, so of course I bought a bunch, even though I wasn't 100% sure how I was going to use them. I decided they would be perfect for "Finger Light Friday" instead of "Flashlight Friday" which I had seen floating around. I started Finger Light Friday at the beginning of the year this year, in order to try and add a little spice to reading stamina. My students adore the finger lights and we're in the habit of pulling them out every Friday still!

Apparently the only thing I did in my personal time in the month of August was watch the Olympics. We watched a lot of Olympics. And apparently I took very few photos of anything besides my classroom in August. I must have been too busy watching the Olympics. 

In September, we began our journey with coding. I can not say enough wonderful things about code.org! I have student partner accounts set up and they have been working their way through course 1. They love it! It's so kid-friendly and it gets them excited about coding! Win-win!

Even though I've lived in Indiana for over 4 years, I had never been to Brown County State Park. So we got up early one morning and headed to check it out. The hiking was nice, but I am definitely looking forward to exploring some other parks once the weather warms back up.

Pumpkins are so much fun! First, I put my students to work and had them gut the pumpkin for me. We did a how-to writing about how to carve a pumpkin. I felt like the emoji design was sheer brilliance, if I do say so myself. Then, a week later, when our pumpkin was beginning to rot and smell terrifying, we collected our trash at lunch and loaded the pumpkin up. 

I'd read Brown Bag Teacher's idea about using a pumpkin to teach about compost and recycling, but never really was sure about digging a hole somewhere at school. Fortunately, we are working on restoring a neglected garden at school, and since I'd been heading that up, I figured I could easily dig a hole there. 

Long story short, we went out to the garden, dug a hole, and put in the pumpkin. You would have thought it was the most thrilling thing in the world! My students still ask about the pumpkin and can't wait till Earth Day to dig it up!

My parents are both volunteers for their local sea turtle watch, and I was lucky enough to be there when they were checking a nest in their section. Some of the turtles didn't make it, but a few of them did! They wait until dark to release the turtles, so we came back later for the release! Aww!!

I planned my first field trip this year! It was a pretty good success, if I do say so myself. I think maybe I'll plan another in the future! It was a lot of work, but it was so worth it! We went to our downtown public library, which has a STEAM learning center for kids. We got to play with the Osmo, program robots, create digital art, and had story time. The robots were definitely the hit of the trip!

Some of my friends were running the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon in November, and some of my training buddies kept asking me why I wasn't running it. "I don't know that I want to run a full marathon," I constantly responded. The marathon came and went and the more I thought about it, the more I thought I could complete a marathon. I told one of my running buddies that I thought I wanted to do a marathon, and she suggested a destination marathon for extra fun. One thing led to another, and I shared that my sister lives in Portland, Oregon, and it turns out the Portland Marathon is at the beginning of my fall break next year AND it was a marathon my friend had been wanting to do. So I took the plunge and signed up! I'm so excited!

Can I just tell you how much fun I have with our classroom elf? So much fun! She gets into all kinds of shenanigans! She's also very tech savvy and likes to change the background on my computer ALL THE TIME. Oh she's so hilarious! One of the best things the elf did this year was bring in a bread maker and ingredients to make bread. The bread turned out great, but unfortunately, some very rude child STOLE the last piece of bread that we had left for the elf. Who steals the elf's bread?! Honestly! The elf was NOT happy. 

We like to play in the snow. Some years we get decent snow in Indiana, but other years we get piddly snow, that isn't even enough to go sledding, let alone build a snowman with! My grandparents live in northern Illinois, so they obviously get plentiful snow! More snow than they know what to do with. We got lucky this Christmas, and there was a good amount of snow when we went up to visit my grandparents for the holidays. My mom and I spent an afternoon at the local snow park going snow tubing! SNOW much fun!


I hope you also had some positive moments in 2016, and I wish everyone a happy New Year!

Five for Friday

This poor blog of mine survives by floating from linky party to linky party. Maybe someday it will turn into a real blog with real posts. For now, though, Five for Friday is better than nothing!

We made it! Our year together in first grade is officially over. I will truly miss my kids, but I am also grateful for the break. This teacher is tired. 

My bus riders asked for a selfie, and the last day of school seemed like a perfectly acceptable occasion.

One of the best things about social media is that I stumble upon so many amazing ideas to try in my classroom. The Sprinkle Topped Teacher is a genius and posted about her Rock Paper Scissors Tournament, so I decided to throw that in on our last day of school. It was a huge hit! This was the final odd vs. the final even. Seriously, you should try it.

Oh. my. goodness. How stinking adorable are these end of the year memory books?! Reagan Tunstall is amazing and so generous, because this is FREE in her Teachers Pay Teachers store! Run and get it NOW!

I LOVE the messages feature on Class Dojo! It's basically like texting your parents without giving out your phone number. You can send photos and cute little Dojo stickers and it's so awesome! This little girl sent me a sticker with Mojo holding a present and then brought me this adorable present the next day! So I sent a photo back! And then my first grader hacked her mom's Dojo and sent me more stickers and a message. Lol!

If you haven't heard of Animoto, you should check it out! It's free for educators and it's SO SIMPLE. Seriously. You choose a theme, a song, and upload your photos. That's it. I have a blog post from last year with more info. It's the easiest way I have found to make a fun end of the year video. Parents love it, and it's simple for me!

Now I'm off to enjoy my summer and spend some time with my family! Happy Friday!