Monday, July 30, 2012

Free PDF to Word conversion via email

Lately I've found lots of materials, both curriculum and decorative, that I like but would like to modify in someway.  Unfortunately many of them have been PDFs making them difficult to modify.

That was until now!

I found a great site this morning that converts the PDF file to a Word file (I could also open it in Pages on my Macbook) and then emails it too you.  It's completely free and you don't have to register or sign up for anything.

Here is what you'll need to do in order to use this service:

1.) Make sure the PDF file that you want to convert is saved to your computer.

2.) Go HERE to get to the conversion site.

3.) Click on Choose File on the left side of the screen to choose the PDF file on your computer that you want to convert to a Word file.

4.) Enter your email address.

5.) Click on the blue box that says Convert to Word.

6.)  Check your email, open the file and make any changes you'd like!

This site will be getting A LOT of use from me!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Organization Overload! My new teacher toolbox. :-)

I'm sure if you're a teacher and have been on Pinterest lately you've seen the teacher toolboxes made out of hardware organizers from Lowe's.  As soon as I saw the first picture of one I knew I had to have it and ran right out to Lowe's.  It took me forever to find the little suckers.  I thought they would be with the toolboxes or the hardware like screws, nuts, etc. Well, I was wrong.  They were stuck in a tiny part of an aisle in the middle of the store.  But hey, at least I had found what I was looking for!

Once I found them though I had to determine which one I was going to get.  I finally decided to go with the bigger one with 39 drawers.  I figured I would rather get the bigger one and have extra drawers than get the smaller one and not have enough.  Not only that, but the bigger one was only a couple of dollars more than the 22 drawer version.  The 22 drawers is $16.47 and the 39 drawer is $19.96.  If you'd like to see the one that I bought and all of the dimensions, details, etc, you can see it on Lowe's page HERE.

The color is an ugly shade of blue, so I decided to spray paint it a turquoise color to match my classroom. I picked up a can of Valspar spray paint in the color Exotic Sea.  

I took all of the drawers out and started spray painting.  It took 2 coats of spray paint, making sure to get all of the sides and pieces that the drawers slide in.  Here is what it looked like after paint.

Then the project sat for almost 2 weeks.  We had a big birthday party for my daughter that I had to get everything ready for and I had bought her a desk, mirror and chair that she was begging me to finish up making into her a vanity.  I'm so thankful that I waited.  I had been going back and forth on what type of paper to use for the drawers and how to get my labels just right.  Then, I found it.  A pinner on Pinterest posted a link to a blog were the teacher was giving away the cutest clipart labels made specifically for the Stack-On organizer.  They were perfect - already sized, in my classroom colors and they could be personalized.  Here labels were for the 22 drawer Stack-On, which meant I had to print 2 sets of labels.  If you end up doing this project and want the labels, you can find them on Kristen Doyle's Teachers Pay Teachers page HERE.

Her labels are already pre-labeled with many of the common school supply items, so I just left those as is.  I then added extra things that I knew I wanted to store in my teacher toolbox.  I printed them, cut them out and used double-sided tape to attach them to the inside of the drawers.  And here's my final product!

I must say, I really love it!  I can't wait to take it to school this week and fill it up with goodies!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Easy (and cheap!) poster prints for the classroom

I found a quote on Pinterest earlier today that I thought would be perfect to use in my classroom.  Rather than print it out on 8.5 x 11 paper or send it off to be printed and pay upwards of $10 for this one poster alone, I decided to use a site I found several years back.  You can upload a jpeg file, tell the website how many pieces of paper wide and long you want the poster to be and it will divide the poster up and print it out on that many pages.  For instance, I made my poster 3 pieces of paper wide and 3 pieces of paper long.

The pages print with a small white border around each page.  You simply cut part of the borders off, line the pages up and then tape the backs of the pages together.  Then all you have to do is send it through the laminator.  I've used this for many posters in my classroom and I really like it.  I've even blown up rubrics.  I have the Georgia Grade Eight Writing Assessment rubric hanging in my classroom throughout the year.

So, here are a couple of goodies.

First, this is what my poster looks like:

HERE is a link to the PDF file I created where you can print the poster out on 9 pages, trim it and tape it together.

Finally, you can get to the website by going HERE.  The great thing about this site is that you don't have to download anything and it is FREE!

If you go to the site and create anything you feel like sharing, please come back and post a link to the final product here!  I'd love to see what you create!

Easy Back to School Meal - P.F. Chang's Cashew Chicken

The first couple of days of the school year are usually so hectic that when my husband asks what's for dinner I usually ask him which drive through he feels like visiting.  I try to do some easy meals in the crockpot, but sometimes we want something a little different.  I absolute love P.F. Chang's.  Their Cashew Chicken is my favorite.  And don't even get me going on that sauce they whip up right at your table by adding a spoonful of this and a spoonful of that.  That stuff is yummy drizzled over their rice!

Last night I was craving P.F. Chang's.  The problem is the closest one is almost 90 minutes away.  I immediately started a Google search for mock recipes for the cashew chicken and the sauce.  Every recipe was drastically different than the next, so I decided to just wing it and incorporate some of the ideas I had found online.  We're not back in school yet, but this will be a perfect meal to make in those first days after school starts because you only use 1 pot and 1 pan for the entire meal.

Here's what the ingredients you'll need in order to make this meal:

For Cashew Chicken
- Boneless/skinless chicken breast - about 2 cups cut into chunks ( I used 7 breasts for my family of 4 - hubby and 15 year old can put down some chicken!.  I cut off all of the little fatty pieces.)
- 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil
- sliced onion (I used a frozen mix by Pictsweet)
- sliced bell pepper (this was also in frozen mix by Pictsweet)
-1 can water chestnuts, drained
- Cashews (amount according to your taste.  I added about 1 1/2 cups.)
-1 tablespoon cornstarch
-1/2 cup soy sauce
- 3/4 cup cold water
****You can also add diced celery and mushrooms, but not everyone in my family is a fan of them so I left them out.  If you add them, add about 1 cup of celery and 1 cup of mushrooms.

White Rice

For Special Sauce
-1 1/2 teaspoons Sriracha chili sauce ( The recipes I found called for Sriracha Chili paste, but I couldn't find any.  Picture of what I used below.)
- 4 teaspoons hot mustard (I used Plochman's Chicago Fire.  It's the only one I could find.  It has Tabasco sauce in it.  I think you could probably just add Tabasco sauce to yellow mustard to get the same flavor.)
-3 Tablespoons soy sauce
-1 Tablespoon of white vinegar

Mix cornstarch, soy sauce and cold water and set aside.  You'll need to mix this again right before pouring it in to pan.

Heat oil in a large skillet or wok.  I used a wok I picked up a while back at Wal-mart for less than $20.  it's great for making chicken and stir-fry meals.  If you decide to use celery, add it to hot oil and sauté for about 1 minute.  Add onion and bell pepper to hot oil and cook about 1 minute.  I always have a bag of Pictsweet onion mix in my freezer, so I just picked out enough onions and bell peppers to use.

If you're going to add mushrooms, add them now and cook for about 2 minutes in the hot oil.

Stir your cornstarch mixture again and add it to the vegetables in the hot oil.  Heat it until it is boiling, stirring occasionally so it doesn't stick.

Once boiling, add the chicken and water chestnuts.

Cook until chicken is completely done, stirring occasionally.

Once the chicken is completely cooked, add cashews.

While your chicken is cooking, mix all of the ingredients for your secret sauce.  You can play around with the amount of each ingredient to get your flavor just right.  This is definitely a hot/spicy sauce, so if you like hot and spicy it will be perfect.  If it's too hot, add more vinegar or soy to tone the spiciness down.

You'll also want to use the pot to make enough rice for your family.  We like white rice, but you can use white or brown, just like P.F. Chang's.  I used Uncle Ben's 5 minute white rice.

I like to eat my rice and chicken separately from each other, while my husband likes to dump it into a big mound on his place.  I drizzle the special sauce over my rice, while he pours it over everything. This picture does not do this meal justice.  I couldn't believe how close it was to the actual taste of P.F. Chang's.  I will definitely be making this again in the next few weeks!

Thursday, July 26, 2012


In my last post I promised that I would post instructions for creating a VOCABOPOLY game board and directions for how to play the game. Here's the game board:

**I found my copy of my VOCABOPOLY game today in a stack on my posters looking a little tired.  I will be making new game boards for this school year and will be posting them soon!

To create the game board you will need one piece of poster board, dice, some play money and player game pieces such as small erasers or small shapes cut out of construction paper.  I will give you some links to printable money later in the instructions.  

Since I teach Language Arts, all of my spaces have to do with Language Arts terminology.  These spaces could be easily changed for other subject areas.  There are 2 different types of spaces that students can land on that will require them to draw a card from one of two stacks in the center of the board.  SPELLING BEE (has a little bee) requires the students to spell the vocabulary word correctly.  SENTENCE SHOWDOWN (has a cowboy hat) requires the student to say a sentence that correctly uses the vocabulary word.

I will list what I have in each space starting with the GO space.

- Collect $200 lunch money as you pass GO
- Metaphor Avenue
- Sentence Showdown
- Simile Place
- Spelling Bee
- Sentence Showdown
- Future Tense Avenue
- Spelling Bee
- Present Tense Place
- Past Tense Drive
- In D-Hall Just visiting
- Definition Place
- Sentence Showdown
- Alphabet Alley
- Dictionary Drive
- Spelling Bee
- Adverb Drive
- Sentence Showdown
- Noun Place
- Verb Avenue
- Free Lunch
- Paragraph Place
- Spelling Bee
- Sentence Place
- Word Avenue
- Sentence Showdown
- Pronoun Place
- Preposition Avenue
- Synonym Drive
- Go to D-Hall
- Clause Avenue
- Conjunction Drive
- Sentence Showdown
- Syllable Avenue
- Spelling Bee
- Sentence Showdown
- Singular Avenue
- Spelling Bee
- Plural Avenue

In the center of the game board I have two rectangles.  One says SENTENCE SHOWDOWN and the other says SPELLING BEE.  I used perforated business cards to create the cards to go in these two sections.  The SENTENCE SHOWDOWN cards have SENTENCE SHOWDOWN and a cowboy hat on one side and a vocabulary word and a dollar amount on the other side.  SPELLING BEE cards have SPELLING BEE and a bee on one side and a vocabulary word and dollar amount on the other side.  

Dollar amounts are $1, $5, $10, $20, $50, $100, and $500.

How to play the game:

Each student rolls the dice to determine who goes first.  The student that rolls the highest number goes first and then play moves to the player on the left.  

The first player rolls the dice and moves their game piece the number of spaces that he or she rolled.  

If the player lands on a property, they do nothing.  It's just a free landing spot.

If the player lands on SPELLING BEE, the student to the left of the player picks up a card from the SPELLING BEE stack and reads the work to the student that is in play.  The student that is in play then has to correctly spell the word.  If he or she spells the word correctly, they are to collect the dollar amount listed on the card.  If he or she spells the word incorrectly then they do not collect any money.  The card is placed on the bottom of the stack.

If the player lands on SENTENCE SHOWDOWN, the student that is in play picks up a card from the SENTENCE SHOWDOWN stack and reads the word to the other players.  The student that is at play then must make up a sentence using the word on the card and say the sentence out loud.  It is up to the group of players to determine if the word was used correctly in the sentence.  If the word was used correctly, the player collect the dollar amount listed on the card.  If he or she uses the word incorrectly then they do not collect any money.  The card is placed on the bottom of the stack.

Play continues until time is called by the teacher.

You can print a blank game board with the squares already drawn in by going here.

You can print blank money by going here.

I'd love to hear if you use VOCABOPOLY in your classroom!

Unpacking and Vocabopoly

I can't believe that teachers in my district officially go back to school next Thursday. This summer, just like all of the others since I've been teaching, has flown by. Today I spend about 6 more hours working on my classroom. I was moved to a new classroom on a different hall this year. Thankfully it is actually on the hall that the rest of my grade level share. It's my 9th classroom in 10 years of teaching, so I've grown quite accustomed to the packing/unpacking ritual that I go through each year. However this year is different and I blame it on Pinterest. I have so many ideas for curriculum and how to decorate and organize my room this year - all thanks to Pinterest. In past years I've worked 2-3 hours in my classroom before preplanning starts, but this year I feel compelled to have my classroom completely finished before preplanning. I think it is going to definitely help get the year started in a more positive way. Today I finally finished unpacking my room. Almost everything is in its place, but it still looks very clinical. I have yet to hang all of my decorations, posters, etc. That will come next week. One thing that I made a priority to do this year was to throw out all of the junk and give away everything that was still useful but I no longer needed or wanted. Today I went through my tall wicker laundry basked that I store rolled up posters in. I was so excited to find the VOCABOPOLY game that I created when I was in college. I thought I had lost it in a move between schools. This game was created to meet a course requirement in one of my college Education classes. The objective was to create a game that would be useful in our own classroom. I decided on VOCABOPOLY. The great thing about VOCABOPOLY is that it can be used in any subject area with a few simple changes to the game board. I've always used my copy of VOCABOPOLY as a station activity, so I've never took the time to make more than my original game board that I created 10-11 years ago. I tell you this so that you will excuse the condition of the game board. Part of our gifted program requires that all gifted students in grades 6-8 learn stems. Every other week students get a list of 20 stems, which they have a test on 2 weeks later. The test are cumulative, so I'm always looking for ways to help students study. This game has truly helped students remember their stems! In my next post I will give instructions on how to create a VOCABOPOLY game board and game cards as well as instructions for playing the game.

Annotated Common Core for ELA

I found a great resource back in the spring that I wanted to share with all of you ELA teachers.  There is a company called Secondary Solutions that has created annotations for all of the Common Core Standards for grades 5-12 ELA.  They have a document for each grade level.  When you download your grade level's document you will find that it has each standard listed and then it breaks it down and describes what students actually need to do and know in order to meet the standard.  After Georgia rolled out GPS a few years ago many teachers didn't really know what each standard was actually calling for to be taught.  Secondary Solutions has solved that for Common Core.

By going to this Secondary Solutions link you will find each group of annotated standards from grades 5-12.  You'll be able to download the one that pertains to you.  Get the annotated standards here.

 Secondary Solutions Blog

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

7th Grade ELA Common Core Checklist

I cannot believe, wait....I don't want to believe that teachers have to report back to school next Thursday.  I worked for about seven hours in my classroom yesterday, so I think it's fair to say that summer is pretty much over.

Today I finally got around to completing a task from my summer to-do list - a checklist for 7th Grade ELA Common Core Standards.  I've uploaded it to my TPT store and you can snag a copy by going here.  I hope that some of you find it useful in your classroom this year!

Here's a preview of it:

Saturday, July 14, 2012

60 Sucks!

Well, this isn't exactly something to use in the classroom, however I thought it turned out cute enough to share!  My aunt celebrated her 60th birthday tonight, and I whipped up this little project for her to use as a centerpiece.  This is SUPER EASY to make!!

To make one just like this you will need a glass candle holder ( I bought mine at Walmart for $2.50.  If I would have had time, I would have went to the Dollar Store), a styrofoam ball (I should have bought a smaller one.  I ended up using about 120 suckers instead of the 60 I had planned to use), a bag of Dum Dums, and a hot glue gun.

First, I hot glued the styrofoam ball to the glass candleholder.  Next, I started poking suckers into the styrofoam ball.  It took a little trial and error to find out how close to put them and the styrofoam ball not show.  Thankfully the styrofoam is forgiving!  After I finished covering the ball with suckers, I made a little sign holder using a piece of wire that I covered with zebra print ribbon.  I made the small sign by printing and cutting out ovals, with the last one saying "60 Sucks".

Monday, July 9, 2012

One thing that I have found extremely useful in regards to students remembering ideas and concepts is the use of anchor charts.  These helpful little posters got their name because they are supposed to "anchor" a student's knowledge to that concept.  I use these throughout the year.  I always have students copy the anchor chart to keep in their ELA notebook.

I thought I would share several of the ones that I used at the end of the year last year.  I cut pieces of bulletin board paper if I don't have one of the big chart pads available.  Now, I'm not an elementary teacher, so I don't have perfect handwriting or the best illustrations, but they work.  :-)

Welcome to Simply the Middle.  I'm Amie - a wife, mother of 2, and a middle school ELA teacher.  I will begin my 10th year teaching next month, and I must say, I've already got back to school excitement.  Ok, here is where I need to go ahead and admit that I am an EDUNERD.  Yep an edunerd.  I'm one of those sick teachers that cannot make it 2 weeks into summer break before I'm breaking out the lesson plans and pinning ideas for posters, classroom decorations, and lessons like crazy on Pinterest.  I bet most of you are edunerds, too.

I hope that this blog will be a place we can share ideas and make our jobs easier and more fun.