Over The Top Mommy

The Teacher in Me

Non-Candy Valentine’s Day Treats for Kids + Free Printable Pencil Flags

Although Valentine’s Day is traditionally laden with chocolates and sweet treats, there are also so many non-sweet treats available nowadays. As an elementary school teacher, I’m always looking for alternatives to candy that I can give my students either as rewards during the month of February or to put in their Valentine’s Day mailboxes.mini-heart-erasersI found a ton of cute, non-sweet treats like tiny notebooks, mini heart erasers, fun pencils, and a bunch of different Valentine’s stickers. (everyone loves stickers!) I love to give my students valentines-day-non-sweet-treatsTo make the Valentine’s pencils extra fun, I designed a set of purple, hot pink, and red printable “Happy Valentine’s Day” flags to add to them. I printed them on white cardstock so they were sturdy. (You can download these for free at the bottom of this post.)


After printing out the pencil flags, you can cut each one with scissors or a paper cutter.

valentines-flags-1Fold them flag strips and apply pressure to the crease. Next, trim each one to a flag shape. Use a glue stick to fasten each one securely around the top of each pencil. To print out the FREE printable “Happy Valentine’s Day” flags, go here.

valentines-day-flags-3I made a non-candy “treat” bag for each of my students that included a Smile Face Valentine pencil with a flag on it, a couple of Mini Valentine Spiral Notebooks, a handful of Mini Smile Face Erasers, a couple sheets of Mini Heart Big Roll Stickers, and a Tic-Tac-Toe Valentine Sticker Card for each student. I stuck everything into a clear cellophane bag. and tied with some ribbon. I can’t wait to pass them out on Valentine’s Day! Do you send anything special for Valentine’s Day for your child’s classmates?


3 Things To Teach Children About Memorial Day

In honor of Memorial Day, the school I teach at had a very important assembly to honor members of our military and teach the students about the true meaning of Memorial Day. Many of my own students come from homes that might not be knowledgeable about this topic and teach them the most important parts about this day and the reasons behind it.teach-children-to-observe-memorial-day-not-to-observe-itFor my 1st graders. it was easier for me to break it down and teach them 3 main things about Memorial Day that I felt were most important for them to know.

First of all, teach children that we OBSERVE Memorial Day and NOT celebrate it. Too often, the focus becomes on the “celebration” part of a holiday (and day off of school). It’s important to explain to children that it’s OK to enjoy an extra day off of school, such as Memorial Day, but it is not the kind of”holiday” to wish someone a “Happy Memorial Day” or to throw a “Memorial Day Party”.

Second, teach children that it’s OK to acknowledge soldiers and veterans and to thank them for what they’ve done. I taught my students to say, “Thank you for your service” to anyone in their family, their neighborhood, or even out in their community. I also explained that it’s acceptable to acknowledge Memorial day to families who have lost someone in the line of duty because they want to honor the memory of their loved one.

Finally, I discussed what it means to “take a moment of silence” on Memorial Day. Traditionally it’s observed at 3:00 p.m. your local time, but after discussing with my students, I told them that they could observe their “moment of silence” any time during the day if they weren’t able to do so right at 3:00 p.m.home-of-the-free-because-of-the-braveMemorial Day is such an important topic to talk to children about, both at school and at home. Above all, because of the sacrifice our soldiers and their families make, America is the “Home of the Free, because of the Brave!”


Valentine’s Day Math Patterning + Free Printable Activity Sheets

My students know that Valentine’s Day is my most favorite holiday of the year. It’s so much fun to change up some of the Math activities in my classroom each month to go along with the holidays. Patterning is one of the Math activities we work on throughout the school year. At the primary level, patterning is everywhere and there are plenty of opportunities to integrate it into a lot of areas in the classroom. My students get extra giddy when they see the hearts come out because they know it’s that time of year! hearts-with-washiTo create this fun Valentine’s Day patterning activity, I  found the most adorable mini smile face heart erasers on the Oriental Trading Company site’s Valentine section and couldn’t resist. Their little faces are so cute, and look kinda like emoji faces. I also ordered some Valentine’s Day washi tape. To make the activity even more appealing, I utilized a big, red wooden heart that I had at home. This would be something I’d use if I left the activity at an independent center.valentines-day-math-suppliesvalentines-day-math-keyStudents can also just practice the patterning at their desks. Each student gets 3 circles, each one with an “A”, a “B”, and a “C” in the center, to create their “key”. They place a different colored heart eraser in each circle after they decide which ones they want to be each letter in their patterns.valentines-day-math-pattern-key-with-heartsThen they place the rectangular pattern cards out on their desk. Each student receives about 50 heart erasers to work with and they create their own patterns. It keeps them pretty quiet for a short while, which is nice.valentines-day-math-pattern-cardsTo switch it up, they can change around which color heart they place in the key and create new patterns. They LOVE doing this patterning activity!valentines-day-math-patterns-aabbccvalentines-day-mathAs an extension activity, you can also have students draw and illustrate their patterns on a piece of paper.

To download the free printables from this activity, go here. As always, I recommend printing these out on white cardstock because it’s sturdier.

I received promotional items in order to write this post. All opinions are 100% my own. 

Back to School Teacher Self-Care with Udderly Smooth® + Enter to Win

Back-to-School is an exciting time of year for parents, students, and teachers! It’s a chance to start fresh and begin another year of learning! back-to-school-is-an-exciting-timePrior to the first day of school, I’ve usually spent several days of my summer break working on my classroom. I always want it to be perfect for my students. There are pencils to sharpen, name tags to personalize, bulletin boards to put up and so more.back-to-school-bulletin-boardsOnce the new school year gets under way, I still find myself spending extra hours after school each week, in my classroom. It just seems like there’s always something that needs to be done.teacher-confession

I have a teacher confession to make: I am so busy trying to get it all done that I’m guilty of not taking care of me. There are actually days when I skip lunch to work in my room or run off homework or cut up paper for an art activity. I guess I have a lot more teacher confessions I could make in addition to that one.self-care-is-importantI’ve read a lot about self-care lately and am learning the importance of doing so. It’s important to take time out for yourself during the workday, even if it’s just 5 or 10 minutes at a time. My skipping lunch to work isn’t something I should be allowing to happen and I’m going to change it, in addition to some other thingsa-special-thank-you-to-udderly-smoothI was so touched when I received a special teacher care package, filled with goodies, from Udderly Smooth®! It was so thoughtful of them to send it to me and several of my teacher friends. Have you heard of their products? They are beyond moisturizing and have the most adorable packaging! I love cows! Also, all of the products are made in the USA!i-love-cowsThe first thing I reached for when I opened the package was the cow stress ball. Stress balls are like the world’s best invention. Kids love them too!  It’s definitely something I will utilize in my classroom often!udderly-smooth-amazing-productsThese products couldn’t have come at a better time because keeping my hands moisturized at work is something else I am totally lagging on. I must wash my hands at least 100 times a day, as I’m always coming in contact with little ones. Ok, that might be a slight exaggeration but keeping my skin moisturized needs to be another priority at work.make-yourself-a-priorityI put together a list of the things I’m going to try to work on this year at school. I’m going to keep this list on my desk as a friendly reminder and daily check list. I’m there to teach, create, and inspire…but I also need to take care of me!

at-school-i-willWhat are some of the things you need to do to take better care of yourself? Maybe you could make a declaration of those things like I did. giveaway-enter-to-win

You can enter to win an Udderly Smooth® gift pack and a $100 Walmart gift card. Just enter below on the Rafflecopter. Good luck everyone!
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Connect with Udderly Smooth® on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

This is not a sponsored post. I received a teacher gift from Udderly Smooth® and was excited to share about it. All opinions are 100% my own. 

Disney Princess: A Magical Pop-Up World Book Review

If you know me, you know I LOVE anything Disney! Anything that’s Disney PRINCESS is even better! When I was asked if I’d like to receive a copy of “Disney Princess: A Magical Pop-Up World Book to review, I answered with a squealing “Yes!” I remember loving pop up books as a kid. There’s just something special about having the pages fold out into something that seems so real. Disney-Princess-Magical-Pop-up-World-coverThis book cover is beautiful and has so much gold detail that it sparkles in the light. The book, itself, is like a piece of art and I was excited to share it with my daughter. Disney-Princess-Magical-Pop-Up-World-SceneAs you flip through each page, you get to experience the intricately designed pop-ups that span through eleven classic films, where you’ll find all of your favorite princesses, as well as some other characters and surprises from stories that Disney fans have enjoyed over the past decades. arielEach of the 27 pop-up scenes folds out into a transformative scene with brilliant colors and classic Disney renderings. On the bottom corner of each page, there’s also a pull-tab flap that you pull down to read the accompanying text for these classic stories. Disney-Priness-Magical-Pop-Up-World-Fun-FactsWhat a special way to experience interactive reading together as a family! My daughter also enjoys reading it to our kitty! disney-princess-a-magical-pop-up-world-read-to-a-kittyHere’s a video showing some of the stories in this book:

Disney Princess: A Magical Pop-Up World” is a special one-of-a-kind keepsake that my daughter will be able to treasure for a lifetime and pass onto her own children. Paper Engineer Matthew Reinhart, has truly captured the magic inside this book! princessesRight now, Insight Editions is offering a Friends & Family discount of 35% off all Insight Editions titles, including this book, to my loyal readers! Just visit their website here and simply use the code IEFRIENDS at check out. disney-princess-a-magical-pop-up-world-book-coverThey have also provided me with one copy of “Disney Princess: A Magical Pop-Up World” to give away to one lucky reader. Enter below on the Rafflecopter. Good luck everyone!

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This is not a sponsored post. I was provided with a copy of this book in order to facilitate this review. All opinions are 100% my own. Some images and video are property of Disney and Insight Editions. 

Spread the Love With SNICKERS® Teacher Emergency Kits! (With Free Printable) #EatASnickers

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser.  All opinions are mine alone. #EatASnickers #CollectiveBias


I absolutely LOVE teaching first grade! My students are so adorable and at that age, they’re like little sponges that soak up just about everything you teach them. Many times, their questions are super random and adorable, too!

i-heart-first-gradeIt takes A LOT of energy and enthusiasm to keep up with my first graders though, especially in the afternoon. I’m pretty powered up in the morning from my coffee, but in the afternoon, I sometimes wish I had a pick me up to get me through to the end of the day. We have a very long stretch from lunch to dismissal and I sometimes feel like I start to “lose my enthuse” when I start to get hungry!

SNICKERS-personality-barsHave you seen these adorable SNICKERS® bars at Walmart yet? They’re in the check out aisle and each one has a different “personality” on the wrapper.

SNICKERS-personality-bars-checkout-aisleSome of the labels are pretty funny. I couldn’t decide which one described me best when I get hungry so I bought them all! I’m pretty sure I’m a “Drama Mama” at all times though, not just when I”m hangry! I took them to my classrom to stock up my desk so when it’s hungry o’ clock, I can sneak bites when my students aren’t looking! Shhh, just don’t tell them. Every SNICKERS® is packed with roasted peanuts, nougat, caramel and milk chocolate and they hit the spot every time.

SNICKERS-Drama-MamaI also decided to spread the love to the other teachers on my grade level because there’s no way I’m the only one experiencing those mid-afternoon pangs of hunger and bouts of energy loss. I put together some “Teacher Emergency Jars” to bring to work and surprise them with.

SNICKERS-teacher-survival-kitHere’s what you’ll need to make your own “Teacher Emergency Jars“:

  • SNICKERS® bars (about 5-7 regular size bars fit in each Mason Jar)
  • 1 Mason jar for each kit you plan to make. I found a super cute one with a brightly colored lid.
  • Decorative ribbon, burlap, or even tulle of your choice. I went with some blue tulle for mine.
  • tape or washi tape
  • “Teacher Emergency Jar” printable (Download yours for FREE by clicking on the image below.) You could also use a handwritten label.teacher-emergency-jar-printable-trio (1)

These are very simple to put together. Here’s how to assemble yours:

  1. Remove the lid from Mason Jar and fill with the SNICKERS® bars.
  2. Print out my printable I printed mine out on cardstock because it’s a little sturdier. You can also make your own, or even hand write something to stick on the jar. Use either tape on the back of it or a couple pieces of washi tape to stick it on the front of the Mason Jar. Don’t worry about the washi tape not looking perfect. It’s supposed to look sporadically placed.
  3. Replace the lid and close up the jar.
  4. Tie some ribbon or tulle around the top of the jar.
  5. Give to those special teachers in your life.

assembling-teacher-emergency-jarI guarantee that any teacher who receives one of these will be appreciate of your thoughtfulness, especially because it includes SNICKERS®!

So who are YOU when you’re hungry? Take the super fun SNICKERS® quiz below to see who you are when you’re hungry. (I took it and got “Drama Mama”! No surprise, right? )

[playbuzz-item url=”https://www.playbuzz.com/joemurphy10/a-who-are-you-when-youre-hungry” info=”true” shares=”false” comments=”false” recommend=”false”]


I’m a Lifestyle Blogger Who Teaches. Does That Make Me a “Teacher Blogger”?

i-teach-tooDid you know, that in addition to being a Southern California lifestyle blogger, I’m a teacher too! Yep, I teach full- time during the regular school year. I’m a first grade teacher. I love first grade! So, if I’m a blogger who teaches, does that make me a “teacher blogger”? It actually doesn’t, but it was a fun thought to ponder.

teacher-bloggers-are-awesomeTeacher bloggers are a totally different breed, as in way awesome! It’s like a whole other world of blogging and for me, it’s so much fun to explore and look through teaching blogs! Not only are teacher bloggers holding it down in the classroom and doing an amazing job teaching, but they’re also producing some crazy creative stuff on their blogs! Did I also mention that a great majority of them are also Teachers Pay Teachers sellers?  If you’re not familiar with what that is, it an online curriculum store that’s like a Disneyland for teachers! Seriously though, teacher bloggers are total rockstars!

getting-inspiredI’ve decided that THIS school year I’m going to attempt to blog a little bit more about teaching! I’m not going to stop doing what I’m doing as a lifestyle blogger, I’m just going to feature some of what I’m trying in my classroom on my blog! I’m been attempting to get some new motivation and inspiration through some of the teacher blogs I’ve been reading. I’ve been searching for ideas I can implement in my own school and classroom. Our school could really use a bit of inspiration right about now!

applesI’m sure it’s no secret that I love Instagram (and Twitter)!  The other night,  I came across this fun activity @farleyfarleyfarley’s Instagram. She’s one of those rockstar teacher bloggers I was talking about earlier. You should go check out her blog! (It’s way adorable!) “Currently” is just a fun way to share about what you’ve got going on right now! Here’s mine:


I feel lucky that I’m actually still on summer break because a lot of other teachers in different parts of the U.S. have already started their new school year! This school year, I’m going to make the biggest effort ever to knock it out of the park for both my students and I! I’ll do my best to “bring it” come August 28! Just you watch!



I Created a Beach-Themed Reading Corner in My Classroom This Year With the Help Of Oriental Trading Company

Although this school year has just begun, it’s already been a great one so far in Room 7! I have 30 bright-eyed, adorable, and very curious first graders in my class! Did I mention how adorable they are? This year, I decided to set up a thematic “Beach” reading corner in my room to get my students extra excited about reading.  Thanks to Oriental Trading Company, it was easy to create one.

setupA photo of my classroom setup in process with my “Beach” Reading Corner in process. I’m obsessed with all of the plush sea animals on the canopy. My favorite is the octopus! It was so much fun to set up my classroom this year. 

Here are the items I ordered from Oriental Trading Company’s online site to create my reading corner:

DIY SunThe DIY Sun was really easy to assemble. How cute is the face? 

I could’ve easily ordered a bunch of other things too but I held back. (maybe next time) Everything was so easy to put together and hang up.  I don’t think my classroom has ever looked this cute before!

surfboard backdrop

What NOT To Do With Your Reading Corner at the Beginning of the School Year

Let’s first talk about what NOT to do with your reading corner at the beginning of the school year. I guess I got so excited about my thematic reading corner and had it all set up and ready to go the first day of school! What I didn’t really think about was the fact that my students might not be ready for IT that soon.  On the first day of school, the worst possible thing happened….someone popped one of the green reading chairs! (Ok maybe that wasn’t the WORST thing that could’ve happened, but it was bad) Yep, it was a little girl in my class and she jumped onto it when my back was turned. I heard the noise of the pop, which was followed by a whole bunch of gasps from other students. It was at that moment that I suddenly remembered how important it was to set up my classroom expectations and review the procedures for the reading corner BEFORE allowing them to use it! I should’ve known better, especially since it’s not my first year teaching. I guess I just got forgot since I was so excited.

reading corner

Establishing Rules and Procedures in the Classroom For the Reading Corner

Before you can utilize your reading corner, it’s very necessary to introduce and review the rules and procedures for how you want the children to behave and use the area. It’s very important to establish your expectations for them and to even do several sessions of practicing WHAT to do. I, often times, find that my own students need a lot more guidance because they come from homes where there is very little structure and many just haven’t learned basic ways to treat things, especially things that belong to others that they may be using. I also find that my students do really well, once I have explained and modeled my expectations and let them practice.

fish collageIt’s also important to build a classroom community and give the students ownership so they feel like it belongs to them. The beginning of first grade is a big change for the students who are coming from kindergarten. I think it’s important to help them feel like our classroom is theirs and the items in our classroom are also theirs to use. The reading corner is a place they can choose to visit when they have finished their work, to read quietly. If they feel it’s theirs, they’ll treat it with respect and use it the right way.

Motivating and Keeping Students Accountable Using the Plush Clown Fish

I am SO happy that I decided to order a dozen of the Plush Clown Fish for my classroom this year.  I’m using the fish to motivate my students in the classroom and also as a way to hold them accountable for staying on task.

plush clown fish

sit in a reading chair

Each morning, I have 12 glitter clothespins clipped to 12 of the fish on the wall. When the students arrive at school, they look to see who has a clip and those are the students who will have the privilege of “reading with a fish” that day and having them on their desk. ONE of the 12 students is also the student who gets to sit in the reading chair that day.Students may read with a fish on the carpet, they may also read with a fish at their desk.

fish netWherever they choose to read, they are held accountable in the sense that if I see them off task or playing around, I take the fish away and move to glitter clip to another student’s name for the day. (When that happens, they get really sad). It’s adorable to see them reading with the fish. Never underestimate the power of a stuffed animal with a first grader!

reading with fishshe's readingThe students actually say that their fish help them read better! 

reading chairThe reading chair is the most sought-after seat in room 7! 

I am so excited to see how much growth my students make this year and how well they progress in their academics. It already seems like my Beach Reading Corner is keeping them motivated and I have Oriental Trading Company to thank for helping me out with that!

Disclosure: I received products from Oriental Trading Company in order to write my review. No other compensation was received. All opinions are 100% my own. 

b4 Hand Sanitizers Are a Teacher’s Best Friend!

Disclosure: I received b4 products to write a review about. No other compensation was received. All opinion are my own. 

Back to school time is very exciting for me as a teacher! I get to decorate my classroom and plan another exciting school year of learning activities, but the best part is meeting my new students on the first day of class!

keep calm After teaching for so many years and having my share of illnesses, I’ve learned the importance of making extra efforts to sanitize my classroom and my own hands, especially while I’m around the kids. I love each and every one of them and give out lots of hugs on a daily basis, I just don’t love what different germs get brought to school with them.

photo-328The playground is so much fun but such a breeding ground for germs! 

When the people over at b4 asked if I’d like to try some of their hand sanitizer products, I was quick to respond with a “yes!“.  After having an awful flu last year, I’m taking back-to-school seriously this year, including being more pro-active about sanitizing! This year, I actually wrote b4 products into my lesson plans! Ok, that was a joke, but seriously, my b4 packets sit right on top of my desk!

photo-325b4 is a hand sanitizer that refreshes and cleans all while giving back to the community. b4’s purpose is to change lives through charitable giving. Yes, that’s right — b4 gives back, which is what I love most about them! b4 gives 50 percent of all profits from sales to children-focused causes. The profits are donated through The Midway Foundation and more than $1.3 million has already been donated to 150 organizations.

I received an envelope filled with several packets of  individual hand sanitizer packets, as well as some big boxes of  them. The fact that the individual packets came in several different colors was just an added bonus. Everyone loves a rainbow!

photo-327Here are some highlights about b4 Products:

  • The b4 hand sanitizer is specially formulated to kill 99.9% of germs and bacteria
  • Each single-use gel hand sanitizer is packaged in eye-popping, bold colors
  • Hand sanitizer packets can be co-branded – b4 works with companies to customize colors, logos, etc.
  • b4 hand sanitizer moisturizes hands with Vitamin E and aloe
  • All b4 products are made in the USA
  • b4 is a triclosan-free hand sanitizer

Not only did I use several of these during my first week back teaching, but I also packed a box of b4 in Emi’s backpack on her first day of school.  I’m sure she’ll be excited to share with all of her friends!

photo-326Check out all of the b4 products on their site. They are so convenient and can just be thrown into your purse or a backpack. Right now you can receive 15% off your order when you place your order online, using. the code “b4health” Orders over $35 receive free shipping.  Also, starting September 20, you’ll be able to purchase b4 products at Staples.

B4 Sanitizer 07

I love supporting companies like b4 that give back to others!

I’ve now added b4 to my teacher necessities  list!