Happy Saturday!

Flattered, flabbergasted, floored, and flooded with gratitude were all of the ways I felt when both Krista from Teaching MOMster and Cheryl from Techie Turtle Teacher e-mailed me to let me know that they'd nominated me for a Liebster Award, an honor that recognizes newbie teacher-authors and wishes them well as they become a member of the global educational blogging community!

Both women are part of my growing circle of online friends who support, encourage, advise, and collaborate with each other in hopes of making both our personal and professional lives, as well as the lives of our children and students, a whole lot better and brighter!  I liken our group to the quilt circles of frontier times when the pioneer women gathered 'round with their fabric scraps and their sewing baskets, to celebrate, commiserate and comfort each other.  While we bloggers don't actually sew with thread and squares of calico material, we do "stitch" with words, creating lessons, resources, and other materials that we hope will be useful to others either at home or in the classroom.

The Liebtster Award is one of "welcome," and that word describes how I have felt from the very beginning of my blogging life back in November 2013. Sure, I still have huge anxiety whenever I hit "publish," wondering if anyone is even going to read, enjoy, or find value in what I have written.  Opening the pages to your daily "diary of life" is never easy, but the "zing" I get when someone leaves a lovely comment, or adds an idea or entry to their Pinterest board, or purchases and leaves positive feedback on a resource they've purchased from my TpT store, far outweighs the self-doubt now.

I thank you in advance for taking the time to read my ramblings, and hope that if you are like I was for  long time--wanting to start a blog but too afraid to take the leap--that you will find inspiration here.

Krista from Teaching MOMster came up with the following questions for me to answer, and hopefully my honest responses will help you understand more of who I am and what I hold dear in my heart....

1.  How did you come up with the name of your blog?

Stories and Songs in Second Grade describes how I begin each day in my classroom! "Group Soup" begins in our "Story Corner" with a "Teacher Favorite" read aloud--usually an "author study" picture book from my vast collection.  We predict, dicuss, retell, and wonder about the story before I break out my guitar and lead the group in music and movement activities.  We rhyme along to songs like "Down By The Bay" and "I've Been Working On The Railroad" to wake up our brains, get our wiggles out, and have some fun before we head to our literacy stations or small group work.

 Patricia Polacco is one of my favorite author-illustrators, and my class learns
so much from her personal narratives that are rich in tradition, lessons on tolerance, and celebrations of diversity.

2.  What is your favorite sport to watch?

I was a "hockey Mom" for 11 years, and shivered in ice rinks across the Midwest while my son skated competitively for his travel team and high school team.  Now I enjoy college basketball during March Madness tournament play, and cheer for the Detroit Lions during the NFL season because Eamonn works as their Media Information Manager now!

3.  What is the first thing you usually notice about a person?

I look for a smile on their face, and a twinkle in their eye.  Both are signs that they have a sense of humor! 

4.  What would be your dream job and why?

I would love to own a children's bookstore like Meg Ryan's in You've Got Mail.  I could dress up as favorite story characters every day, and share the magic of literature with little ones without having to grade papers or prepare for parent conferences!  I could also host "weekly book parties" with themed snacks and crafts!  How fun would THAT be?!?!

5.   If you were an animal, what would you be and why?

I would most definitely be a dog!  I have raised and loved many over the years, and am currently the Basset Hound Mama of two "seniors" that I rescued from a shelter almost three years ago.  Even though they track mud on my floor, get me up way too early every morning, and rack up some steep vet bills, they are true and loyal companions.  Together we make quite a trio as we waddle through my neighborhood. People almost always smile at us through their car windows, and some even remark, "Who is walking who?"  


6.  What was your favorite book (or series) as a child?

I don't know if I can limit myself to one series or author, but Beverly Cleary's books were delightful!  I also devoured Carolyn Keene's Nancy Drew mysteries when I was younger. I spent many a rainy summer afternoon trying to crack the case with Beth, George, Ned, and Nancy! 

My third grade teacher read E.B. White's Charlotte's Web aloud to us in the spring, and that too was a magical experience.  One of my favorite quotes from the story still rings true today.....

Some people are good friends.
Some are good writers.
Charlotte was both... 

  These are not my nails, but I saw them somewhere online....
and they made me smile!

7.  Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

Because I started teaching later in my life at age 28, I am nowhere near being able to retire soon.  I still have lots of excitement and energy about working with young children, but increasing emphasis on data-driven instruction and "teaching to the test" makes me weary some days.  I often wonder if training new teachers might be something I could do.  I have investigated going back to school to get my doctorate in children's literature, but am not sure I have the patience or the discipline to do "scholarly work."  My friends at school tell me that I should be a literacy coach, or a children's librarian, or a classroom decor consultant!  On the most stressful days, I often just wish to be a beach walker in Naples, Florida where my father and sister both have condos!
8.  If you could have dinner with anybody, past or present, who would it be?  Why?

Music has always been a passion and an inspiration for me, so meeting Carole King and/or The Beatles would be the BEST!  I wore grooves in her Tapestry 
album, and music by The Fab Four is cued up on my Pandora station right now!

Yep....I am a self-professed "hippie chick" and a child of the '60s!

9.  What is your favorite season?  Why? 

I love autumn because of the beautiful, vibrant colors it brings, and because it gives me the opportunity to break out my vast collection of boots and sweaters!

It also heralds the beginning of another school year....and who doesn't love the smell of a new box of 64 Crayola crayons (and laminating oodles and oodles of new name tags, bin labels, bulletin board displays, etc.)?

10.  Morning person or night owl?

In my youth, I was a night owl.  Now that I am "47 years away from being 100"--as stated by one of my students--I go to bed early but get up around 
5 a.m. with my dogs.  It is my time to enjoy the quiet of the morning and ease into each new day with a walk, breakfast, and a few cups of coffee!

11.  What is your biggest pet peeve?

It makes me heart-sick that educational practices have moved away from being developmentally appropriate.  I fear that as state legislators push to make learning more "rigorous" and aligned to common standards, that children and teachers are becoming stressed and frustrated.  As an educator of young children, I tend to close my door some days and "push back."  I tell my students to put their workbooks in their desks and take out their crayons, scissors, and glue.  We create instead of regurgitate. 

 Dr. Seuss would be proud of these "birds that live by the lake in Da-Dake!" We made them after reading Oh the Thinks You Can Think

We didn't use any patterns, they had their choice of colors, and our room was a custodian's nightmare when we were done.  I "blessed the mess" though, and saw pure joy in the faces and an artistic spark in the minds of a few children who aren't usually successful with pencil-paper tasks.


Cheryl from Techie Turtle Teacher came up with these questions, and if you are still reading then you deserve a MEDAL!  This post is turning into an autobiographical novel!  HA!  I will now insert lyrics from my mother's favorite Rodger's & Hammerstein musical the King & I for entertainment.  "Getting To Know You," is the song Anna sings when she is introducing herself to the children of Siam in their schoolroom....

Getting to know you,
getting to know all about you.
Getting to like you,
getting to hope you like me.
Getting to know you,
getting to feel free and easy.
Getting to know you,
getting to know what to say!
Haven't you noticed,
suddenly I'm bright and breezy?
Because of all the beautiful and new,
things I'm learning about you.
Day by day...

A modern version of the tune is on the Disney CD entitled For The Children, and  sung by James Taylor.  I play it often, and my class learns to sing happily along!

1. What grade do you teach and why do you love it?

I teach 2nd grade now, but spent many years in 1st, four years in 3rd, 1 year in 5th, and 1 year in 6th.  I love second grade because it is such a bridge year.  The children are more self-sufficient yet they are still innocent and amiable.  I love introducing them to the literature that is "just right" for them to read independently--Henry & Mudge, Frog & Toad, the Magic Tree House mysteries, Amelia Bedelia, and the Arthur series.  I love that most of them are not yet "too cool" to move and groove to music with me.

2. When do you grade papers and plan your lessons?

Sunday afternoons and evenings are usually when I write my lessons, and I try to grade at school during my planning time, computer period or lunch hour.  I never seem to quite get caught up though, and need to start checking more worksheets with my students and sending them right home!  Paperwork is the least favorite part of my job, and I often wish for a personal assistant to do it for me!

3. What is one piece of advice you would share with new teachers?

Remember to stop and smell the roses.....and take the time to really get to know your students.  Let them get to know and trust you.  Talk with them.  Know their family situations.  Be sure they have a snack every day.  Listen when they need to tell you about their hamster that died.  Laugh with them when they tell you that you are "having a bad hair day."  Use humor whenever possible, and don't be afraid to be silly.  Spread a lot of joy.  Know that your classroom might be the only safe, consistent, and structured place in their lives.  Don't be afraid to turn up the music and just dance!


4. Who are your favorite sellers on TpT?

I own an inordinate amount of clip art from Melonheadz, Educlips, DJ Inkers, Teaching in the Tongass, Ashley Hughes, and Creative Clips.  

I also love units by Amy Lemons, Hope King, Surfing Through Second, Farrah Shipley, Miss DeCarbo, Olson's Little Learners, and Heather Perkins--Second Grade Perks.  

I ordered this custom drawing of me, along with the matching border and pennant, from Jen at Teaching in the Tongass during the last big site sale!  It makes my heart happy!

My name is Jennifer....and I am addicted to TpT!  

5. What is your favorite subject to teach?

I love Language Arts.  It is what I was good at when I was in elementary school, and I have always loved connecting books to writing activities.  Math was never easy for me, so I try to incorporate literature into my classroom lessons for it as well....because if you can't read the can't solve it, right?!?!?

6. What is your favorite dinner recipe?

My favorite dinner recipe is to.....GO OUT!  I have never been very inclined in the culinary arts, and don't often cook big meals for myself.  On family holidays, I get assigned easy things like "pick up a pie from the bakery," and "bring the bread and rolls," or "toss the salad!"

  7. How do you spend your weekends?

I spend my weekends decompressing and relaxing after the school week.  Sometimes, I like to meet friends for breakfast or go shopping. My sister, Jackie, and I often will meet for dinner or brunch. When the weather is nice, I stroll the trails at the local metropark.  When my son, Eamonn, is in town, we meet for lunch.  Next weekend, I will enjoy some mother-daughter time on Hayley's college campus and help hostess her senior capstone project and attend her sorority tea.

  8. What is your favorite season?
Fall rates #1 in my book of seasons (see above for the reasons), but I enjoy summer too! I spend a lot of time at poolside with friends and enjoy attending summer concerts.

9. Share a technology resource that you love using in your classroom.

My district is  currently in the midst of a digital initiative to get Chrome Books, so I do not have any 1:1 devices in my classroom yet.  We do have Smart Boards though, and I use Brain Pop Jr., Discovery Learning, and YouTube videos quite often to appeal to the visual and audio learners in my class. I recently joined an online blogger group that is really invested in learning more about Google for Educators, and I hope to become more tech savvy as a result!

10. If you could have an unlimited stock of one school supply for your classroom, what would it be?

Post-it notes of all shapes and sizes!  We use them to chart our reading schema, graph our choices, respond to text, record questions, etc.  My students LOVE the giant ones, and created charts that described how leprechauns look, act, and sound yesterday afternoon.  Pre-writing is WAY more fun when you have your own bright yellow and very big post-it!?

11. What is your typical bedtime on a school night?

Unless I am working on a big TpT product or blog post deadline, I usually "hit the hay" before 10 p.m. Keeping up with a roomful of 7 & 8-year-olds gets more exhausting--both physically and mentally--as I age, so plenty of rest is needed for my weary mind and body!  I had to chuckle the other day when I bent down to tie shoes for a little guy and he exclaimed, "Mrs. R.!  I think I just heard your bones creak in your knees!"  I told him that when the time comes, he will be the first person to push me down the hallway in my wheelchair!

Whew!  Now that you are on "information overload" about me, it is time to 

reveal my list of Liebster Award winners!  Ladies and gentleman,  drum roll please!


This post made me laugh out loud! Enjoy the ideas and thoughts that are shared with lots of wit and common sense!



This blog is very new, but is written with great energy and enthusiasm!
Emmy has lots of diverse teaching experience, having taught at many different grade levels!


2nd Grade Snickerdoodles

Jenn has been teaching for 17 years, and shares some wonderful resources and ways to manage technology in her post!  Check out her Computer Lab "Menus" that she uses to identify specific skills and activities that each student 
needs to work on!


Smart Kids

Jayne is a veteran Kindergarten teacher who shares a wealth of good information about ESGI assessments to track student progress and growth!  She also hosts a Blogger Buddies linky on Wednesday for primary teachers to "hold hands, stick together, and help each other work smarter!"


Reading With Mrs. D.

This Canadian blogger shares practical, purposeful, fun, and kid-friendly learning activities she that she uses in her classroom.  I appreciate her straightforward style, and I especially like all of the photos she includes, and need to remember to do more of 
the same in my posts!

My questions for these fellow educators to answer follow:

1.  Who was your favorite teacher?  How have they influenced your teaching today?

2.   What is the best part of your teaching day?

3.  What is the worst part of your teaching day?

4.  What are your hobbies, or how do you unwind after working all week?

5.  How do you spend your summers?

6.  What type of adult literature do you like to read when you have time?

7.  What new instructional practice have you found success with?

8.  Do you love and use technology in your classroom, or are you sometimes intimidate or frustrated by it?

9.  What is your favorite type of treat to eat?

10.  What is the most exotic place that you have traveled to?

11.  Do you have pets?  If so, what kind?

As always, thanks for your time and readership!  I hope that you will visit the blogs I've recommended and begin following them!   We get such a "kick" when the number of page "views" goes up, and are truly grateful for your support!

I will be back tomorrow with a Blogger Buddy post for Smart Ideas about Angie over at Olson's Little Learners and the "Brag Tags" she sells in her TPT store!  They have improved behavior in my classroom immensely since we've come back from winter break!

If you like the graphics I've used in my post headers today, be sure to visit these TPT stores and "follow" these sellers!  All three offer frequent FREEBIES
and create consistent, high-quality products!

Until then, keep calm and teach on!


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