My Favorite Things Linky & A HUGE Giveaway!!

Every year that I've been teaching (now four), right before school starts, I've spent tons of money on all things back to school.  Of course you need crayons, scissors and glue, but there are things that, especially as a first year teacher, you'd never think of.  I've learned along the way which purchases aren't necessary and which ones I HAVE to have.  

I'm linking up with Amy Labrasciano from Learning Lessons With Mrs. Labrasciano and Mary Church from A Classroom Full of Smiles for a "My Favorite Things" linky where we're sharing our must-haves for starting off the school-year.  You also have the chance to enter to win an AWESOME giveaway package at the bottom of our posts!

So here are the things I HAVE to have:

I use these EVERY.SINGLE.DAY.  I use them to grade, level my reading groups by color, and for color-coding my plans (see below).

I don't know what I ever did without this.  Cutting stations, task cards, booklets, and everything in between is so much faster with this handy little guy.  I loved it so much I went ahead and bought another so I could keep one at school in my classroom and one at home.  No more carrying it back and forth to and from school, and no waiting in line in our school workroom to use a cutter!

I don't know how your school works, but at mine, our laminator is only up and running on Fridays.  If we don't have our items in for lamination by 7:30 a.m. on Friday, we have to wait another week to get them laminated.  :(  Crazy, I know!  In order for me to have the things I need laminated on time, I have one of my very own... Actually, two.  :)  Yes, that's right.  I have one at school and one at home (the 2nd was a gift from the in-laws - I love them!)!

A Teacher Bag

Every year, I find a cute bag, use it and find some fault in it.  This year, I found the ultimate teacher tote.  It's by Thirty-One and it's called The Keep-It Caddy.  

They also have larger utility totes that would probably fit better around your shoulder.  But this one is perfect for my to-be-graded papers and planner.  I love that it has all the compartments on the sides to hold my water bottle, flair pens, post-its, stickers, and EZ grader.

Colorful & Bright Storage/Baskets

I've collected my storage bins, baskets and book bins the past few years from Walmart, Garden Ridge, Dollar Tree, & Really Good Stuff. 

I usually have my tables grouped into 4 cooperative learning groups (green table, pink table, blue table, & orange table).  I got these bins from Walmart and they're where my kiddos store their interactive journals, reading folders, and data binders.  You can see my 3-Drawer Storage Cart spray paint project here.

My books bins and journal baskets are from Really Good Stuff and I really love that they match my color scheme.  Not only are my learning groups color-coded, but my subjects are too.  Our Writing journals are pink, our Math journals are blue, our Science journals are green, and our Social Studies journals are orange.  With my firsties, sometimes it's easier for them to pull out the correct journal when they're color-coded.

Don't you just love all the color?  How can you not be happy each day with all this brightness around you?!

So there you have it - my list of must-haves.  Tell me what's on your list because now you have the chance to cross some things off your wishlist!

Just enter below for a chance to win:

  • Over $350 of Amazon vouchers, 
  • 30 Sit Spots of your choice, & 
  • A Teacher T-shirt!  
I mean, can you believe it?!  This is HUGE!!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Monday Made It: Colored Sterilite Drawers

I'm so excited about my first "Monday Made It" hosted by Tara from 4th Grade Frolics.  You can click on the image below to see more "Monday Made It"s from other creative bloggers!

Because it's only my first "Monday Made It", I'm going to ease into it with 1 project!  Here it is...

As teachers, we all have seen/bought/used these Sterilite 3-Drawer Storage Carts.  I used them this year at each cooperative table group for storing journals, data folders, and library books/reading folders.  They were white and boring and I had to fix it!  

Here they are in all of their boringness:

With a little help of Rustoleum Painter's Touch Ultra Cover Gloss Spray Paint (Colors: Key Lime, Berry Pink, Seaside, & Real Orange), I was able to create these beauties!

I mean, what teacher wouldn't want these in their classroom?!

My kiddos' desks are set up in four cooperative learning groups and each group is assigned a color (Green Table, Pink Table, Blue Table, & Orange Table).  So these are going to look so perfect in my classroom!  I can't wait to get them in my classroom and see it come all together!  

What are you doing to prep for the school year?


June/July SLANT Box

I am so excited to share with you the SLANT Box (Sending Love Across the Nation to Teachers) that I received from Jenn at 2nd Grade Snickerdoodles!  This month's theme was "Sunshine".

I ripped open the box she sent it in and saw this gem!  My first gift - a cute container that will match my neon room!

Mrs. Dow's little Owls' Nest

I opened up this cute container and right there laying on top is a monogrammed card she's made me!

Mrs. Dow's little Owls' Nest

I opened the card up and see that Jenn has put the "Sunshine" theme in the card!  She's so sweet!

Mrs. Dow's little Owls' Nest

She really took the time to get to know me and what I liked to get my box just right!  

Mrs. Dow's little Owls' Nest

I mean, just look at all of the owl loot!  I got an owl composition book, owl notepad, and owl stickers!  LOVE!  She also included a super adorable tumbler, some colorful binder clips, colorful pens, some post-its & one of my favorite snacks.... RICE KRISPIES TREATS!  Thank you, Jenn!!

I absolutely loved receiving my SLANT box!  But honestly, I have loved buying gifts for the SLANT box I'm sending off today to Martha at 2 Smart Wenches just a little more!

If you're not familiar with what a SLANT box is, visit Jameson's blog at Lessons with Coffee read about it, and sign up for August's SLANT box exchange - deadline to sign up is this Sunday, July 27th!  I've already signed up and can't wait to get to know another teacher across the nation!


Currently July

After wrapping up the school year and packing up my room, I immediately got to work on my blog and TpT store without taking a breath and it caught up to me.  I needed a break so I spent a couple of weeks doing absolutely nothing with the exception of a four-day workshop.  I've been MIA on my little blog the past few weeks but I'm back!  Even though we're seven days into July, I'm still going to put up my Currently July hosted by Lucky to Be in First.  Better late than never, right?  

Mrs. Dow's little Owls' Nest

Listening:  I should get better at this, but during the summer when I wake up, I immediately turn on the TV and turn on the Today Show and pretty much stay in bed until it's over.  Kathy Lee Gifford & Hoda are crazy!

Loving:  Over the weekend, the Mr. and I spent most of our days cleaning and purging our apartment.  We packed his car with a huge load of things (clothing, shoes, pillows, some small kitchen appliances, a television!, etc.) to take to our local Goodwill.  We came back yesterday afternoon and couldn't get over how good it felt!

Thinking:  Tomorrow I start a 3-day math workshop with Kim Sutton & I am soooo excited!  I've gone to her workshops at least 5 times before but each time I go, I always come away with something different to take to my classroom.  If you've never been to one of her workshops, you are missing out!  To learn more, check out her website.

Wanting:  Unless you've been living under a rock, you know that the first annual TpT Seller's Conference is this Friday.  To say that I'm sad that I can't make it is an understatement.  We'll just leave it at that.  :(

Needing:  Like I said before, I took a couple of weeks off of my blog and TpT store to rest up.  But the summer goes by quickly so I need to get as much done on these fronts before school gets started again.  

4th Plans:  The Mr. and I went over to my parents' and got together with my sisters and their boyfriends.  We grilled some burgers and went to their neighborhood park to watch the fireworks show.  We'd never been before and we were amazed.  For such a small community, the show was pretty spectacular!  It sure beat driving to downtown Houston to maybe get a glimpse of some fireworks and then get stuck in hours of traffic.  This will surely be the way to go for years to come!


Let's Talk About Books: Daily 5: Second Edition

It's Tuesday so that means I'm linking up with Deanna Jump again for Book Talk Tuesday!  

I'm sure by now you've all heard that "The 2 Sisters" have come out with their 2nd Edition of The Daily 5.  I read the first edition last summer and I was so excited to implement it in my first grade classroom.  But then with the combination of the busyness (yes, that's a word, I looked it up!) of the beginning of the year, trying to keep my head above water as it was my first year teaching first grade level, and the fact that no one on my team used the Daily 5 meant that my implementation of it went to the back-burner.

Don't get me wrong, I did take bits and pieces of it (Listen to Reading, Read to Self, Word Work) and use it during Literacy Stations when I was doing small-group reading interventions but not how I really wanted to.  We didn't talk about stamina, my kids surely didn't have a choice in what they would do each day - and don't even ask me how many "stations" they got to do each day.

And that's why I'm so excited about this 2nd Edition of The Daily 5.  "The 2 Sisters" have come back with a few tweaks to the components of Daily 5 that make me feel like this is the year I'm going to have a classroom with independent readers that each have a sense of responsibility & urgency for their reading success.  

No longer do we have to do all 5 choices each day (thank God!) and we have more flexibility on how/when we implement each choice.  I know many teachers structured the Daily 5 to fit the needs of their students/classes but I feel like now that "The Sisters" have acknowledged and even adopted it, I'm a lot less nervous & intimidated by it.  You can get your own copy of The Daily 5: Second Edition on Amazon for less than $23.


I'm only on Chapter 3, but I'm pumped up and excited about the coming year and what my literacy block is going to look like.  Tell me, do you use the Daily 5?  How have you structured it in your classroom?  

If you'd like to read more book reviews from other bloggers, click on the picture at the top of this post (We <3 Books image) and you'll see a healthy list of posts!  


New Blog Design & I Need My Monster!

Here I am again with my 2nd Book Talk Tuesday with Deanna Jump!  

But before I introduce my book for the week, can we please talk about my new blog design?!  I mean, OH.MY.GOSH.  I'm in love.  It's so me, I can't stop coming to my page to look at it.  Kassie at Designs by Kassie did such an amazing job.  I gave her a couple of blogs that I admired, some colors I loved and a million different patterns/elements that I'd like to see in my blog (in my head, there was no way anyone could put it all go together and it still look nice).  But she put it together so beautifully, I couldn't believe it.  You could probably tell her you wanted polka dots, plaid, and stripes in the weirdest color scheme and she could still make it gorgeous.  She was so patient when I was indecisive about options and got images to me super quick.  I don't know how she does it, but I love her!  If you need a little facelift for your blog, she is definitely your girl!  I cannot recommend her enough.  Thank you, Kassie!

So onto my book talk for the week!  My pick for the week is I Need My Monster written by Amanda Noll and illustrated by Howard McWilliam.  

Just from last week's book talk, you should know that I LOVE the illustrations in children's books.  And this book is no exception.  What kid wouldn't love the cover of this book?!  

This story opens with our main character Ethan checking under his bed for his monster.  But when he checks, find a note instead: "Gone fishing.  Back in a week. -Gabe".  You would think any kid would be so relieved they don't have a monster under their bed to scare them and then they could go to sleep soundly.  But for Ethan, that's not the case.  Ethan needs his monster to keep him in bed to keep him imagining all the scary stuff that could happen if he got out of bed.

He missed Gabe's ragged breathing, his nose-whistling, the scrabbling of his uncut claws, and his spooky green ooze.  Many substitute monsters appear but none are good enough for Gabe. 

Herbert was scary but not scary enough for Ethan.  He didn't have claws.  

Ralph's nail polished claws weren't scary enough.  

Cynthia's claws were very scary but when Ethan sees the bow on her tail, he decided he needed a boy monster.  

The fourth monster, Mack looks promising when Ethan sees his claws poke out from under the bed.  But when Mack shows his really long tongue, Ethan falls back with laughter.  (Look at cutie little Ethan here!)

Ethan's feeling really discouraged and thinks he won't be able to get any shut eye for the night.  

When all of a sudden, Ethan hears some creaking under the bed.

It's Gabe!  He's come back from his not-so-fun fishing trip. Gabe then begins with his puddle of drool, trembles the bed while he unfurls his spiked tails, and sharpens his claws on Ethan's bedpost.  

Ethan dives under his covers and pulls them up tight.  He's finally scared enough to stay in bed.  He's going to get a good night's sleep!

We read this book around Halloween time and my kiddos loved it!  We were working on organizing our thoughts in the writing process so we then wrote about our own monsters.  Here's one where I couldn't hold back my laughter.

If you'd like to buy this book, you can get it in hardcover format from Amazon for less than $13.

Check our other book recommendations by fellow bloggers by clicking on the picture below.  You'll see a huge collection of many bloggers' Book Talk Tuesdays.



I'm so excited to be taking part of an awesome giveaway at Stella's blog, My Kinder Garden.  The giveaway includes 16 1st grade TeachersPayTeachers products from 16 different sellers.  One of the 16 products is my very own 2014-2015 Teacher Planner - Blooming Blossoms (EDITABLE!).  Here's a preview of all 16 products:

When you make your way to My Kinder Garden, you'll be to click on the images and get more information on each product.  Hurry on over and enter!  The giveaway runs through June 14th.


Book Talk Tuesday

I have one more day of school with kiddos and two additional days of inservice and then I'll be kicking off my summer with a nap on the couch!  I can't believe it's only a few days away!

Now that I'll have more time on my hands, I'm going to be joining Deanna Jump for Book Talk Tuesdays this summer.  I'm so excited to share my favorite book discovery from this school year.  Are you ready for it?... It's... Bubba, the Cowboy Prince by Helen Ketteman and illustrated by James Warhola.  I was so in love with this book after reading it aloud to my class that I took it home and read it aloud to my husband! (He so deserves teacher husband of the year!)

Our main feller in this book, Bubba, has an evil stepdaddy and two hateful, lazy stepbrothers who do nothing but boss him around the ranch.  But Bubba doesn't mind too much because he loves ranching.  Sound familiar?  That's right, it's a Texas western twist on the ol' story of Cinderella.

I love the way this book is written because while I was reading this aloud, I couldn't help but read it with a Steel Magnolias accent.  My kiddos were LOV-ING it.  Like, rolling on the floor loving it.  It is such a fun book to read and the illustrations are just so adorable.  I mean, just look at poor Bubba here being bossed my his horrible stepbrothers!

Of course, just like in the story of Cinderella, there is a ball that the whole town in invited to.  Except in this Texas tale, Miz Lurleen, the "purtiest and richest gal in the county" has too much ranch to handle all by her lonesome self and throws a ball to find herself a man that loves ranching and is as cute as a cow's ear.

 Bubba of course is laughed at with just the suggestion that he wants to go to the ball.  Cue his fairy godcow.  That's right.  A fairy godcow.  I mean, really?!  I can't even handle the cuteness.

He makes it to the ball but when his time is up, he goes back to smelling like cow patties and is the dirtiest sight to see.  And that's the moment Miz Lurleen falls in love.  Poor Bubba flees with embarrassment and just as expected leaves his boot behind.  The search is now on for the foot that fits the boot.

Now here's my favorite part - When Bubba finally gets his chance to try on that boot, Miz Lurleen recognizes him by his smell.  She has found her cowboy and they literally ride off into the sunset!  

I can't recommend this book enough.  We used this book to pick out story elements and then to compare/contrast fairy tales.  My kids were begging me to read it over and over again and then took turns checking it out at the library for weeks after.

You can get this hardcover book at Amazon.com for less than $14.  You will not be disappointed! 

Click on the picture below to see other bloggers' Book Talk Tuesday.  And let me know, what was your favorite book discovery you made this year?


New Blogger Here!

I saw this hilarious-but-oh-so-true e-card on Pinterest and immediately showed it to my husband.  He saw it, shook his head up and down VERY agreeably, and said "Yep, so true!"  Now, I know what you're thinking - "Your poor tired husband has to be so glad the school-year is coming to an end!"  But guess what?  He's not the teacher - I am!  And if there's anybody more excited than me that summer is coming, it's most definitely him.  After just a couple of months of marriage, the 2013-2014 school year started and he took over all of the cooking, cleaning, and laundry.  I am one very lucky teacher wife!

I should introduce myself.  My name is Susan Dow and I'm wrapping up my third year in teaching, my first year of teaching 1st grade, and I'm quickly approaching my first year wedding anniversary to my super sweet and supportive husband, Adam. 

I've taught 4th grade bilingual, 3rd grade, and now I'm finishing up my first year in 1st grade.  I can now say that I know what my passion grade is - FIRST GRADE!  My kiddos are so sweet, loving, and so eager to soak everything up.  I absolutely love this age.  I have completely loved this year of teaching and my only regret is that I didn't document it.  Cue my new blog!  

This summer, I hope to get in the habit of writing so that when the school year starts again in the Fall, documenting my experiences with my sweet firsties will be somewhat natural!  I'm excited about my entry into the blogging world and you should be too!  Good things are sure to come!