"I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something that I can do." Helen Keller

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Fran Richardson
Welcome to my blog!I'm a teacher in a beautiful, small, rural town. I moved here a few years ago, but I have taught over 20 years in this same small town that is now my home. My experience is in teaching second, third, and fourth grades with one year in sixth grade. I am always reading, learning, and reflecting on what goes on in my classroom. I love the work that I do with the parents, my fellow teachers, and most all-my students.I hope you will enjoy reading my blog.
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The Scholar, Age 5

The Scholar, Age 5

I'm A Lifelong Learner...

I'm A Lifelong Learner...
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I Still Love Learnin'!

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Monday, September 5, 2011

More PINTEREST Inspired Work: The Teacher’s Closet

For the past month or so, Pinterest has been inspiring me in both my home and my classroom.  The ideas for my classroom are tremendous: centers, boards, lesson plans, and arts and crafts. The ideas for my home have been helpful: recipes for the crockpot,  crafts, organization, and seasonal décor that is easy. Another great thing that I discovered  are all the great clothing ideas that I pin for work outfits that are teacher and budget-friendly. I will admit to a clothing slump of late. My usual school unofficial school uniform is a polo or a plain tee-shirt paired with a cardigan and khaki pants with good hearty teaching shoes that are not always pretty.  Pretty plain, boring stuff. Thanks to Pinterest, I’ve ventured into throwing  on a vintage scarf or costume jewelry and fallen in love with a pair or two of new, stylish, and comfortable Crocs- one pair in animal prints! Jewelry and scarves were not my thing until I saw the many ways I could use the  old pieces  which belonged to  my Mama who always seemed to be stylin’ especially before I came into her life .Smile

My Mama had great style for the  librarian she became and was always looking for a bargain.

mama at unc-chapel hill 1944 My Mama at UNC-Chapel Hill

Mama Christmas 1953 002The necklace she has on I now own. It was a present from her brother James when he was in England.

wall richardson honeymoon pic 001My parents on their honeymoon in Pinehurst, NC in 1956. Check out my Daddy’s shoes!

With style and thrift in mind,  I decided to try my hand at making some scarves using some old clothing or as it’s called “upcycling.” Very budget-friendly to a teacher’s salary while fun to create and more fun to wear.

Here are the results:

VID03047 A skirt that easily converted to a circle scarf.

VID03048A trendy fringe scarf from a well-worn polo shirt

VID03050Another circle scarf made from a pair of shorts with very little sewing.

Proof of how easy it is to do this if I can do it! The plaid scarves I really like for everyday. The fringe scarf I would save for a jeans day or weekend although it would be very easy to make one of these for school colors or some other fun day.  Every time I look at this pink and green creation I am reminded of The Lorax!

You never know what you might see and be inspired by on Pinterest. Check out my boards here: http://pinterest.com/tabkatz/

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Thursday, September 1, 2011


Earlier this week I posted that  Sarah Emerling along with her husband Chris Emerling were both teachers in Aiken County  who were voted Teachers of The Year. ( I would like to point out that this is the second time Sarah has been honored by our school). Sarah “pushes into”  my social studies classes to provide her special education services to our students. And she is also technologically savvySmile . In my haste ( well, it was 5:00 AM), I neglected to see the other story in the Aiken Standard: Busbee Corbett Makes AYP  which mentioned my former teammate Tammy Swartz. Follow the link to find out how my school Busbee Corbett made AYP because of a shared vision of literacy.

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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

One Family, Two Great Teachers

Sarah and Chris Emerling,  a husband and wife team of teachers in Aiken County, are both nominated for our district's Teacher of The Year. I am lucky enough to work with Sarah. She's inspiring to me because she is always looking for new, fresh ideas to use with her students and works tirelessly to help her students succeed. Apparently this runs in the family! Read about the Emerlings in today's Aiken Standard.
Sunday, August 28, 2011

What I'm Reading Today: AWAKENED by Angela Watson

I am a HUGE fan of Angela Watson (formerly Powell) having followed her website mspowell.com for years and then becoming an even bigger fan after  buying her book, The Cornerstone. I have recommended both her new website The Cornerstone for Teachers and the book The Cornerstone to all first year teachers as a  MUST for setting up the classroom, teaching procedures, and management, but I also feel that many of us struggle with being organized and can always learn something new from her as well ( and I certainly did).

Today I will begin reading her latest book based on the blurb at Amazon:

Do the never-ending pressures of teaching drain you emotionally? Is a lack of resources and support stealing your enthusiasm? Are the small daily hassles adding up and overwhelming you? Effective teaching requires serious mental fortitude. This book will empower you to develop the resilient, flexible, positive mindset you need to:

* Consciously challenge the negative thoughts that discourage you
* Raise your tolerance for frustration so you become less 'disturbable'
* Live beyond your feelings to stay motivated when you don't see results
* Change your perception of setbacks so they feel less stressful
* Let go of unrealistic expectations, standards, and comparisons
* Realize a sense of accomplishment in a job that's truly never done

Awakened provides simple steps to help you feel peaceful and energized, no matter what's happening around you. Drawing upon principles of stress management, cognitive behavioral therapy, spiritual truths, and personal experiences, Awakened helps you develop thought habits that produce an unshakeable sense of contentment, motivation, and purpose. Learn how to renew your mind and take a fresh approach to the challenges of teaching! (from Amazon.com)
Yes, right now I do at times feel drained, emotional,  and exhausted, but I am always quick to point out that often the strain of teaching comes not from the children but from the relationships from other adults we deal with- co-workers, parents, and administrators whether it is consciously done or not on their part. The beginning of school is ALWAYS an adjustment for both the families and students but also teachers. This year we have many new faculty members which means that many roles and relationships have ended or changed. I am the kind of person who loves routine in my work. I love going to the same place seeing the same faces year after year. I find comfort in this arrangement, and it's been successful and soothing to me when the past several years have been a period of great change in my  personal life. It will take some time for me to adjust to what is new in a place that I am so familiar and comfortable with.

I am one who is always looking for new ideas and inspiration so I will report back on my thoughts on Awakened  . I am sure to be encouraged, renewed, and refreshed soon.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Organized Classroom Blog

Head over to  the new The Organized Classroom Blog. Same great ideas with a new look and design just in time for a new school year!:)

Sunday, August 7, 2011

The “Back To School” Best Words To Motivate

A poem by Taylor Mali to inspire and remind teachers of what we do. Enjoy!



Taylor Mali video

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Friday, August 5, 2011

Back To School: Bulletin Boards

My summer is almost over ( sigh). Tuesday is my first official day back at work, but already  I have been  very busy preparing and setting up my classroom  even doing what I can from home with a few quick trips to my classroom. Last week I put my desks into a very simple arrangement while keeping the basic setup the same from last year so there was no need to move the cubbies, computer tables, or my little corner with my computer, my professional books, and files. Because I lucked up and bought two rolling carts that were used in a video store that went out of business last May, I didn’t not have to move and sort my classroom library that has over a thousand books. ( That alone has sometimes taken WEEKS  for me to deal with!) My carts have my books sorted into my social studies units so they are ready to go.  When I got into my classroom, I started working on what will go onto my boards based on how I can use them in instruction.   Because we use anchor charts in our classrooms throughout my school which are based on a balanced literacy model for reading instruction in my district, we do not plaster out walls with store-bought displays as I used to do in years past. My room will be decorative but not finished until the students arrive in about two weeks, and learning begins.

In the meantime, I've created some items for my two bulletin boards in my classroom, my dry erase board, and my door.Here’s  how the door to my classroom welcomes my students:


When my class comes in each day, they will do a warm-up based on what we did the day before as pencils are sharpened and the restroom is used by those who need to. The warm-up is part of keeping a social studies  interactive notebook. I’ve decided to use the middle part of my dry erase board as the place where we post our interactive note book work each day:


I have  also decided this year to have a focus wall into addition to posting my standards as we are required to do. I have posted essential questions, word walls, and rubrics before, but I like the idea that I could use the bulletin board where my  trade books  which are an integral part of my history  lessons  to serve as both a meeting area and visual  reminder  and focal point for what we are doing that day in class. It is also in the corner away from the door so the students will be facing me so they truly will be focused as the lesson begins. Looking at my standards, I also see how the focus wall will insure that I include elements of social studies literacy such as timelines, maps, and diagrams:

VID02877 VID02882

Finally, I will have  what I am calling a summary wall for the end of the lesson wrap-up. I chose the bulletin board near the door for two reasons: Here will be evidence of our learning, and because it is near the door, it will be easy to add post-its as exit slips as students line up and leave for the day. I have already posted a place where the rubric will be because this is also a requirement when student work is displayed.

Because I am the type of person that I think, reflect, and redo, I am already seeing some things I can improve. I am already realizing  that are some other things that are needed and better ways to use these displays. I will share those  improved displays when they are ready to go.

In the meantime, let’s enjoy these last few days of our summer.Smile

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Saturday, July 30, 2011

Just for Fun: From “Trash” to Treasure

Now that  my summer is winding down, and I will be back to school in another week, I have found TONS of crafts to make from “recycled” items on Pinterest, and   I am  busy trying  out some of these ideas as possible art projects in my social studies classes. For instance, I found directions for making beads made from old magazines and catalogs, and I created a  beaded bracelet. Because I am always looking for ways to make abstract ideas tangible, I am thinking of making “ friendship” bracelets  during our study of William Penn and the Quakers settling Pennsylvania. Did William Penn actually use old magazines to  make and trade beads with Native Americans? Uh-mmm, sources say  “No,” Nerd smilebut one of my goals this year is to bring in more creativity into my lessons while making my lessons a bit more real, and so making and trading beads to create bonds of friendship  as a tangible reminder is a good thing.


Here’s how I created this simple project:  I  cut strips of an old catalog into thin triangles.  ( The wide part  or base was about an inch in this project). Then, I rolled the triangle from the wide end to the smaller  end.  I  added a  little dab of glue ( I used Elmer’s), took a finger and smoothed the glued end,  and voila- a bead. I let the beads dry.

After the beads were dry, I trimmed a few just to make the look a little more uniform. I used  twine to thread my beads and did a spritz of shellac to make it a little more permanent and give my creation a glossy finish.

And here’s my bracelet- nothing fancy but pretty nonetheless:


Thanks for taking a look, and I hope you’ll share some ideas with me on my Pinterest boards.

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Thursday, July 28, 2011

Classroom Set-Up: Personalized by Pinterest

This week I’ve started setting up my classroom,  and this year, thanks to my obsession with Pinterest, I have decided to add some personalized touches to my classroom.Rolling on the floor laughing

Here are some of my recent projects  inspired by some of my pins.


You can download this  wonderful poster from eighteen25. Lots of great ideas there.

Here are some new projects that I have worked on this week.


and a few previously posted.



Check out my classroom boards at Pinterest for the inspiration for these and future projects.

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Monday, July 25, 2011


Because Christmas in July is here, the NEW SCHOOL YEAR can’t be too far behind so it’s time …

to avoid the television because the “back to school” ads like this classic are in full force!Rolling on the floor laughing

Why not celebrate and think of happier times?  My memories of  Christmas in my classroom are all good ones, and by the time December 2011 rolls around, the nationwide heat wave will be in the past, and I’ll be dreaming of a White Christmas.


Actually the day after Christmas, we got SNOW here in SC. Nice to think about when the temperatures are 100-plus. All the more reason to stay indoors and check out some COOL ideas.Open-mouthed smile

Charity over at The Organized Classroom Blog is celebrating Merry Christmas in July. Charity has put together some activities from several great blogs showcasing the BEST ideas, and let me mention  that they are all FREEBIES!


Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all!

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Saturday, July 23, 2011


I have stopped pinning for a few minutes  to invite you to check out

my boards over at Pinterest. Over at Michelle's Math in The Middle, there’s a linky party going on! Hot smile  Grab something cool  to drink ( I suggest some sweet  iced tea), stay inside from this triple-digit record heat, and look at all the cool stuff we’ve been pinning this summer!

Have you ever seen a great idea for your classroom and then you forgot later where you saw it? Even with book marks it’s often hard to find what you are looking for.  Pinterest lets you add a “pin” to your toolbar where you can “pin” a picture to any board you create: recipes, home projects, classroom ideas, , books, fashions- you name it. Then,  you have a picture to remind you of where you saw that great idea. But the  other neat thing is you can share your boards with your friends, and anyone else you want to share with publicly so you can follow, share, and repin as much as you desire.

I will give you a quick tip for how I pin ideas. I use Google images, and my searches take me right to photographs for me to choose from. I have come across some awesome projects and ideas for social studies just by doing that.

Finally,  if you want to join your blog   in the party fun,   here’s how to  add your link to join in the party. Here’s what you need to link up:


  1. A teacher blog, where you will write a quick little post telling your readers about this Linky Party ~ {Don't forget to grab the Linky Button on Michelle’s page)
  2. A Pinterest account
  3. The Follow Me on Pinterest Button displayed on your blog

Have fun and get those pins ready!

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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Look Who’s Coming To My Class


After blogging about My Back To School Best , I decided that I need to upgrade my frog. I found this Kermit doll along with this book at Amazon along with several other Muppet characters. For a little frog, Kermit has a lot of dreams, or at  least he did back in the original Muppet Movie. Kermit ( actually this is Jim Henson singing the words of Paul Williams) said it best. Have a listen just in case you forgot:

The Muppet Movie

This has always been a song  that makes me think of  why it’s okay to be called a dreamer:

Have you been half asleep and have you heard voices?
I've heard them calling my name.
Is this the sweet sound that called the young sailors.
The voice might be one and the same.
I've heard it too many times to ignore it.
It's something that I'm supposed to be.

So I am going to encourage my kids this year to be dreamers. Kermit will be our mascot of sorts. He will represent what we want to take hold of ( as in More Than Anything Else).  He will be an example of someone small who has big dreams that call his name, and he will be our model of someone who explores the world around him and beyond to find that dream.

Rainbows are visions, but only illusions,
and rainbows have nothing to hide.
So we've been told and some choose to believe it.
I know they're wrong, wait and see.
Someday we'll find it, the rainbow connection.
The lovers, the dreamers and me.

Thanks, Kermit for reminding me that it’s okay to dream.Smile


Monday, July 18, 2011

My Back To School Best

Last year was the first year I tried this read aloud and comprehension activity, but it will now be a tradition. It really does set the tone for what kind of  deep thinking you are aiming for in a literacy-based classroom.

One of my first read alouds was an old favorite of mine, More Than Anything Else by Marie Bradby. I have read this book for years, but last year was when I “got it”!

PLEASE NOTE: In case, you’ve never read the book, I will only refer to the main character as “the boy”. If you want to know why, you may look at the end of this blog. Smile

During the first week, I read the book,  but what was different this year was that I thought of some lessons I wanted to use after reading Angela Bunyi’s blog at Scholastic on Using Symbolism To Deepen Comprehension and the work of Kelly Gallagher. Skeptics be prepared to be amazed.Smile

I read the book aloud with my fourth grade students. Usually we would  just follow up with some writing response to the read aloud, about our goals-blah, blah, blah, but not this time! I went back to the text, and we looked again at the boy in the story catching a frog and reread and discussed using the pictures and the text the boy playing with the frog. I reread those pages, and we talked about how the frog was slippery, wet, and always on the move,  and the boy had to  carefully hold onto this little animal that he wanted.

I asked the children what was the boy hanging onto and wrote that on a t-chart under  the word tangible  ( which we had already talked about). I asked them what the  boy wanted “more than anything else,” and  most easily  my class said “to learn to read, ’” and so they needed a little  more prompting from me . I showed them the man in the book who can read, and the children then understood it was more than just being able to read, the boy wanted to be like the man- not just a reader but an educator! It was being educated that this boy wanted, and he wanted to  share and pass this education on to others! That was his dream or goal. I wrote  the words dreams/ goals under intangible.

I just so happen to have a stuffed animal- a frog in my classroom. I told them that  I was putting the frog where we could see it to remind us of how the boy in the book wanted his education and also to be a teacher, and he had to hold onto those dreams or goals despite the rather bleak situation he was in at the moment. It may be that you can think of a tangible object that can be a class mascot or symbol for your students as well ( a bird, a seed, a book, a rock).

The next several days we read some other books that had a similar theme. Here are some other  children’s book that follow that idea of having a dream or goal for both children and teachers:

The one Angela Bunyi uses in her lesson is:

How great would this book be to get kids thinking deeply and setting goals for themselves?

The funny thing is once you use this reading strategy with your classes, you will never look at books the same. I dare you to reread the book, Everybody Needs A Rock, and see what I mean.

If you want more ideas on using books to have students think deeply, I recommend that you take a look at  Kelly Gallagher. If you are a teacher of third grade or higher, you can adapt his ideas to your lessons. Don’t let the idea that he has high school in his books intimidate you. You can adjust many of his ideas for younger readers.

His book Deeper Reading is a great resource for reading teachers who teach intermediate, middle and high school students.

Note: The boy in the fictional  story More Than Anything Else is educator Booker T. Washington!Smile



My friend Meredith Landis posted this on her Facebook page:

Question of the Week: Picture books to teach characterization protagonists, antagonists, and changing characters.... Who has ideas?

My vote: An author study of one of my favorites: Eve BuntingRed heart!

I chose three of her many, many books with characters that change in some way with themes that older elementary students can dig deeper into.


Which picture books would you suggest?Smile

Sunday, July 17, 2011

PINTEREST : Projects

Hello. My name is Fran, and I have a problem: PINTEREST!Smile

Actually, my interest in pinning projects has been a Godsend. I grew up drawing, painting, and making crafts daily, and my parents at one time thought I might go into something that was artistic, but it seems like over time, I have deemed those desires to create things counter-productive and wastes of time. To be truthful, it seems as if there was a point when I was in school back in the late 70’s where there was an artistic track and an academic track in education especially in high school.  I believe with the testing mania that has taken over education,  art has been pushed aside. If it’s not tested, we usually don’t do it. Yet listen  to Sir Ken Robinson : Creativity is a skill we need to nurture if we as humans are going to survive.  (Thank goodness for that ancient person who decided fire was a good idea!) There is a human need to create in all of us whether we acknowledge it or not. All the more reason to search for projects that will allow teachers and their students to create. Teachers especially  almost all have that desire: Talk to most teachers, and they will say that we love those few times a year that we get to sit down and just color or make something- and the messier the better for me.

So I am loving the fact that I can create something after finding inspiration!

Here’s what inspired me today:

original read

from The Blue Eyed Owl Boutique

Here’s my own creation made with an apple I stenciled many years ago, a Flip camera, and befunky


READ apple with books_Sepia_1

My READ Poster

Take a look at my Classroom Pinterest and  perhaps you will be inspired to start creating some of your own projects.Smile


"I bear the flame that enlightens the world. I fire the imagination. I give might to dreams and wings to the aspirations of men."
- Marva Collins, from her poem, "I Am Excellence."

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