Friday, January 27, 2012

Jewelry Tree

Okay, I am quite proud of this little project. This was one of those ideas that started small and simple and morphed into something bigger. My husband actually ended up helping me with a lot of it, so it became a joint project.

I had seen some jewelry organizers on Pinterest that involved cabinet knobs attached to a board. I thought they were pretty cute, and started thinking about how I could modify the idea to go with my bathroom. We have a bare tree theme going on in our bathroom, so I suddenly had this picture in my mind of jewelry hanging from tree branches. I sketched it out and showed my husband, and we toyed around with some ideas, like attaching cup hooks to the ends of branches on a tree poster.
Finally, we figured it out. I found this metal tree at Hobby Lobby (and I got it for half off!):

My hubby helped me find a board to mount it on. He helped me get the board ready to paint by cutting it the size I need and using a router to make the edges pretty.

Yay power tools! And yay for husbands who don't mind helping their wives with projects!
After the edges were pretty, I painted the board.

See that nice, professional edge?
I painted it with an acrylic paint, let it dry overnight, and gave it a second coat. This particular type of paint dries flat, so I covered it with a clear spray finish.

It took three coats of the stuff for it to finally coat evenly and give me the shine I wanted, but boy, does it look pretty now!

Between working with the red and clear paints, I was also working on the tree. I liked the original black metal, but our bathroom is mostly red and brown, and I just don't do brown with black most of the time. However, I didn't just want to spray paint the tree, because I thought that would look terrible on the metal. So I bought a hammered metal finish spray paint in a grayish-brown color.

I applied two coats of this, although one probably would have sufficed. I absolutely love the new color, and the finish!

Just look at those shiny, metallic leaves!

After the board was dry, my husband attached some hardware to the back so that I could actually hang the finished piece on the wall.

Finally, I was ready to mount the tree onto the board. My husband pointed out, though, that the tree was made to hang flat against the wall, and asked how I planned to hang jewelry on it if the branches were pressed tightly against the background. We ended up stacking three small washers right behind the hanging holes to make the tree stick out a little from the board.

You can't see it in this picture, but the washers are right underneath the little circle piece on the tree that he is drilling into. He just put the screw through the tree and the washers as he attached it. It's very secure, but it leaves a gap so that I can easily hang jewelry on it.

Here's the finished project:

I love the way the new color of the tree stands out against the rich red background! I love it so much that I would hang it up even if I never put jewelry on it!
This project could be made using all different kinds of metal work, as long as it is intricate enough to give you places to hang your jewelry. If you'd like, it could also be done in a much simpler way, by not painting it and by mounting it to something already finished, like a cute picture or print.

Reading is a Sweet Treat

Time for a new bulletin board already! This month I kept it pretty simple and, yes--sweet. There are book "lollipops" and conversation hearts with reading terms like "title" and "setting".
Even though this is one of the most simple boards I've ever done, I think it has a certain charm to it. :)

Pretty cute, huh?

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Popcorn Writing

I love this activity! I got the original idea for this activity on Pinterest (of course), but modified and expanded it to suit my students and grade level. Basically, this activity is to get students started writing, and help get their creative ideas flowing.

***UPDATE 09/2015: Don't have time to make it yourself? This is now available here in my Teachers Pay Teachers store, with 42 settings and 36 characters!***

Popcorn Writing | Apples to Applique

To start, I came up with a list of 30+ possible characters, ranging from "cowboy" to "monster" to "president", and everything in between. I then came up with a list of the same number of possible settings, again with a great variety, from "the future" to "a foreign country of your choice" to "the zoo".
Next, I cut rough popcorn shapes from yellow and white paper. On each yellow piece, I wrote one character from the list. On each white piece, I wrote one setting.

Popcorn Writing | Apples to Applique

After that was done, I crumpled all of the pieces. It felt a little destructive after I had just gone through all that work, but it was kind-of fun, as well. I wanted the pieces of "popcorn" to have some dimension and I also did not want students to be able to see what they were picking.

Popcorn Writing | Apples to Applique

I know, it looks just like a pile of trash. But that's where this thing comes in:

Popcorn Writing | Apples to Applique

Cute popcorn buckets from Target's dollar section! They're decent-sized plastic containers, perfect for the school room. Throw in the wadded up paper pieces, and suddenly you have a cute little writing center.
If you don't have a Target in your area, or they don't have them (or you're like me and prefer to stay home and avoid the store when possible) get them here:

Popcorn Writing | Apples to Applique

To use, instruct students to pick one white piece and one yellow piece and to write a short story placing that character in that setting. With over 30 characters and 30 settings, there are tons of combinations, so this center can be used again and again.
I think it would also be fun to have two students work together on this, either with each student picking one color, or, for more advanced students, with each student picking two pieces. It could also be used as a small group activity to do an oral chain-storytelling. There are probably other ideas I have not thought of, so if you think of a new way to adapt this activity, please leave a comment and let me know! Enjoy!

For a great idea on how to use this as a math center, go check out this post from Relief Teaching Ideas.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Mystery Word

Here's a fun word-work activity that can quickly be made ahead of time and is virtually free! (Yay free!)
Each student (or group of students, however you want to do it) is given a baggie with a set of letter "tiles"--aka construction paper squares.

The goal is for the students to arrange the tiles to find the Mystery Word.

Simple, right? Now let me tell you how I made several of these ahead of time and was able to keep them organized and remember which words they all were supposed to be. :)
I coded each word with a symbol, like a purple star or a blue dot. On the back of each tile, I wrote the symbol according to which set it belonged to.

See the one upside-down tile? Now if the tiles get scattered all over and mixed up with other sets, I won't get a headache trying to figure out which set they go to. I made six sets of tiles for each mystery word, but each set is on a different color of paper, so multiple students can work on the same word and I won't be stressed when (not if) the tiles get all mixed up.

I store all the tiles in baggies that are also marked with the symbol. And that's it, a word work station put together in no time! I personally divide out the colors into separate baggies the day I'm using that word (although I store them all together when I'm not using them) so that I can just hand a student a baggie and they are ready to get started. To make it even easier on yourself, however, you can just hand a student the whole kit and tell them to take out all of the green tiles and pass the bag on to the next person. I love that they're color-coded so they can all be stored together and I don't have to stand there and tell the students, "You each need to pull out an a, an e, an r, and a d".

Oh, and one more thing. I did make myself a cheat sheet so that I could remember which word was in each bag a few months down the road. :)

Cute Food Stuff

My friend recommended that I add a post about some cute snacks we made for our husbands' poker night a few months ago (back before I started blogging). As I was searching for the pictures, I ran across a few other cute pics of creative food things I've made and thought I would share them all in one post.

First, snacks from Poker Night. I apologize for the poor picture quality; these next two pictures were taken with a cell phone camera.

 The cards are PopTarts with icing. The poker chips are Oreos coated in white dessert topping with icing piped on. They would have been even easier if we had been able to find White Fudge Oreos at the time.

We also made our boys some pool ball cupcakes for Poker Night. Okay, we know they don't have anything to do with poker, but they seemed appropriate for a guys' night. Besides, we had found the idea in a book a while before and had been wanting an excuse to try it.

We actually looked up the proper colors and numbers for each ball on the internet. Do we need a life or what?! We didn't really follow the book's directions, which included using colored sugar and candies; we just used colored icing for everything. I think they turned out well, and apparently the boys did, too. They were all gone rather quickly.

Next is something I made for my college graduation. Little edible graduation caps and diplomas!

The caps consist of a miniature Reese's cup with a square of Ghirardelli chocolate, topped with an M&M and an icing tassel. The diplomas are cookie straws coated in white candy coating. Big pretzel sticks would have worked, too.

I also used them as cake toppers. Love how these turned out! And it's so easy to customize with different school colors. I lucked out and somehow found a whole package of purple M&Ms at my local Walmart--I was so glad to not have to go to a specialty candy store! Most people would probably be able to just find their school colors in any basic bag of M&Ms.

Finally, I know this is completely out of season, but this project is so cute I just had to include it. Just tuck it away in the corner of your mind until next Thanksgiving. Or better yet, pin it on Pinterest and come back to it next fall.

Cute, huh? Sugar cookie with chocolate icing, mini M&Ms for eyes, corner of a Starburst for the beak, candy corn feathers, and icing feet. To make this even easier, you could use small Starbust corners for the feet, too, and not have to pipe any icing! These are fun to make with kids.

There's "Snow" Better Time...

Time to update my bulletin board again! I actually did this before Christmas break, but I have been out of town since, hence, no blogging.

I change my bulletin board so often, and they can be very time consuming to put together, so I wanted to share with you all a system I have come up with. This has been very helpful for me so that I can spend an odd fifteen minutes after school working on the board and put it all away without having a half-finished board hanging around.

First, I cut a piece of background paper large enough to cover my board. Mine is pretty big, so I actually glue two pieces together. (You could tape them and save time). Cutting it the size of the board is probably the most difficult part, even though it's not that hard.

I lay the paper out on the table and add whatever diecuts I have ready that day and glue them on. (Again, tape would be fine. I'm just a fan of glue because then I have a nice finish). I leave it out for a few minutes to dry--or overnight, if I'm working on it at the end of the day--and then just roll the whole thing up and stick it in a cabinet.

Ta-da! It's out of sight and out of mind until you have a few minutes to work on it again. I usually start a new board two or three weeks before I will need it, which gives me plenty of time to put together a fabulous board without having to stay two or three hours after school to do it. Just five minutes here and ten minutes there has it done in plenty of time. Right before I left on Christmas break, I just unrolled my already-finished January display and stuck it up on my board. Finished. No stressing over getting the holiday decorations changed before the visit from district the first week back. This is so simple, I'm surprised I haven't heard of other teachers doing it before.

And here is that January board I've been referring to:

I know you can't tell in the picture, but the chunks of ice the penguins are floating on are white book diecuts, and each one has the name of a children's winter book written on it. This was probably one of my simplest boards to put together, but I like it.