July 25, 2014


Hey gang!  Guess what . . . I'm not here today!  Catch me over at Blog Hoppin' for my guest post about Classroom Volunteers (thanks for the great idea, Nancy)!  There are some freebies up for grabs and a handful of tips that have worked for me over the years.  Click the button and magically transport yourself to my post!!!

PEN PAL UPDATE - 8/25 (5:00 am PDT)
I didn't get as far as I would have liked before vacation, but I am bringing my computer with me.  I am hoping to get to most of Kinder before this week is out.  However, I am under promising here . . . I want to OVER DELIVER.  Hehehehehe.  If you have questions, shoot me an email :)    

  2. Special Ed - TODAY! COMPLETE!
  3. K - Week of August 4th
  4. 1st - Week of August 4th 
  5. 2nd - Week of August 4th
  6. 3rd - Week of August 4th
  7. 4th - Week of August 4th 
  8. 5th - By Thursday (7/24) COMPLETE!
  9. 6th + 7th + 8th - By Thursday (7/24) COMPLETE!

July 21, 2014


Saturday was totally mind-blowing.  In five short hours the Pen Pal Pair Up opened and shut its doors.  A total of 812 teachers managed to beat the buzzer and signed up for me to play classroom matchmaker.  Looks like I have some serious work to do . . . 406 total pairings to be exact.  

Before I get into the details you need to know . . . I did want to thank everyone for their interest.  Although this take hours and hours for me to do every year, I truly love working to make connections.  

Also, I just have to say this to make myself feel better . . . if you didn't make it in this year, I'm sincerely sorry.  I wish I could match everyone, but there just aren't enough hours in the day :(  However, I will be back around this same time next year for the 4th Annual PPP-UP!  I always give about week's notice prior to the event and announce both the day and the exact time things will get going. Along these same lines, I did want to mention that there has been some chatter over on my Facebook page.  People who didn't get in are trying to find a match on their own via the comments of the Pen Pal Pair Up posts.  You may want to check these out :)  On a final note, if you didn't make it in, you may want to check my blog from time to time.  If emails bounce back or things don't match up during the pairing process, I will do an all-call for teachers who might be interested in specific matches.  

Alright, now that all that is out of the way, we can get down to biz.  I figured I better shed a little light on what's next for all you alls who were able to fill out the Google Form.  I have had a few questions tossed my way, so let me just lay it all out there for ya . . . 
  • How do I know if I got in the pair up? - If you were able to fill out the Google Doc, you are in the mix.  I promised the first 500 in the door would get paired, but I am going to match ALL 812.  Call me crazy . . . but, I'm in this far, right??!
  • When should I expect my match? - With that large of a number, it will take me a while to get to you.  The whole process takes about three weeks.  It takes this long because it looks like this . . . 
The Google Form produces this hot mess.
'Scuze the blurry mess . . . I got rid of your emails :)
These get cut apart (um, thanks MOM . . . she helps me every year). 
Next, I head to my parents' house and use their big table and kitchen counter space.
Mom and I sort the strips by grade level (see top photo below - that's one of the smallest groups!)
I go through and make pairs and she tapes them down on the correct colored strip.
Henry Ford would be darn proud ;)
Finally, I take those pairs and send INDIVIDUAL emails to each match.
That's the part that takes so long, but it will happen.
  • What do I do when I get my match? - When you get an email from me it will introduce you to your partner and give directions.  I ask that you email your match right way so you two can connect {don't worry . . . it repeats all this in the message}.  
  • My partner didn't email me back? - If they don't get back to you within a couple days, try again.  If you don't hear within a week, email me and I'll see what I can do.  I can't make oodles of promises to these folks as most of my pool to pull pairs from will be already gone.  However, I promise to try with all my might.
  • What if I don't hear from you (Teacher Idea Factory)? You will hear from me unless your email was put into the sign up form incorrectly (there are always a handful of these every year)!!!  Remember, it will take a while to contact you due to my stupid wrists (the electronic box and I haven't been getting along as of late).  However, I will give updates on my blog that outline which grade levels have been completed and estimated contact dates.  I WILL GET THROUGH THEM - just stick with me!  However, if your grade level's completed date passes and you haven't heard anything . . . come after me!  I put the first grade level outline down below (it's subject to change at any time, so keep checking).  We are going on vacation later this week for 10 glorious days, so it pushes out some of the dates a bit -- sorry friends, but Seattle and Portland are calling my name :)  
  2. Special Ed - TODAY! COMPLETE!
  3. K - By Thursday (7/24)
  4. 1st - Week of August 4th 
  5. 2nd - Week of August 4th
  6. 3rd - Week of August 4th
  7. 4th - Week of August 4th 
  8. 5th - By Thursday (7/24) COMPLETE!
  9. 6th + 7th + 8th - By Thursday (7/24) COMPLETE!
Once you and your match have connected, the rest is up to you guys.  Work together to create a connection and exchange that works for you.  

I do want to make one quick disclaimer here.  Please know that it is out of my hands once I pass off the match.  I really do my best to find you a solid partner, but there is no way for me to know if the person on the other end of that Google Form is going to follow through {giving the evil eye here}.   

Is your head spinning yet??  Don't worry . . . it's really easy once you get going. PROMISE :)  I outlined a few ideas and tips to help jump start things for you and your partner. 

  • Set a schedule - I suggest picking out a day every month that you always write.  We are going for the last Tuesday of every month this year.  
  • Parent permission letter - some schools will require a parent permission letter.  I made one for you (just click the picture - I made one for state to state connections as well as overseas matches).  
  • Get it going early - in the past I have waited to get the ball rolling.  I suggest that you DO NOT follow in my footsteps.  We will be kicking it off early this year.  The kids absolutely LOVE getting the letters and if you start around the holidays, that limits the number of exchanges.  

  • Think about shared writing - shared writing is a great way to introduce your classes (especially in the little grades).  When kiddos can't write all that well yet, a group letter provides a great introduction to friendly letter writing and your new crew.  It's an easy way to get the ball rolling.
  • Techy works too -  you don't always have to write snail mail style.  Think about emails and Google Hangouts.  Also, what about creating an electronic book or Power Point presentation?  All of these are fun ways to mix things up and save on postage from time to time :)  
  • Homework option - I run into trouble sometimes around the mid-year mark.  Things really heat up in class and it is SO easy to overlook your poor pen pals.  What about sending the pen pal letter writing home for homework every so often?  Check back later this week and I'll have a freebie homework page for you!
If you are looking for more quick and easy Pen Pal templates and ideas to help simplify the whole process, I do have a packet available if you're interested.  (No pressure though . . . I match ya for free.)  This collection introduces friendly letter writing and offers up oodles of levelized templates (ranging from big dotted lines and ample picture space to smaller big kid lines).  It also provides many "out of the box" ways to connect with classroom pen pals - not just your basic friendly letter.  This packet has over 75 pages of pen pal goodness jammed inside!  Oh, and it's on sale until I type that very last pair up email - a little offering to let y'all know I am good for it :)

Erica Bohrer also has a wonderful friendly letter packet that you can look into!  It uses picture books to introduce the whole process.  Check it out here!!

Alright, my friends.  There it is in a nutshell - the Pen Pal Pair UP process.  If I didn't answer a burning question that you still have, please feel free to email me and ask.  You're never a bother :)  I'll be back soon with a few teacher tips I've picked up over the years as well as that Pen Pal Homework Freebie and an update on the email process.  Here's to a great Monday.  

July 19, 2014


Alright, my friends . . . the time is NOW.  Sign ups for the 3rd Annual Pen Pal Pair Up have officially begun . . . and ended :(  Sorry friends.  See note below.

You may be thinking, "What is this Pair Up nonsense she keeps blabbing on about??!!"  Don't worry . . . I don't fault you for looking at me a little funny (nothing new here), but how about if I explain the whole deal a bit more?

For years I wanted to start up pen pals in my classroom.  However, I never quite knew where to start.  Finding a partner always seemed difficult and, well, it made my head spin a little.  This roadblock was enough to get me to dismiss the notion every year.  Well, that all changed for me two years ago when my friend approached ME about pairing up our classrooms.  She made things SO easy and my kids loved getting letters from their MD pals.  I wanted others to have this same no-brainer opportunity, so I started the Pair Up that same year.  

Now that you know what I am dishin' out you can make the choice to keep reading or bail now :)  However, if you are ready to become a committed pen pal for the upcoming school year, simply click on the Pair Up button below and fill out the Google Doc form ASAP (see the note below).


Once the submission deadline passes, I will work hard to provide you with the best possible pen pal pair up (it takes me a few weeks)!  I will contact you directly with your pen pal's info as soon as I have most of the list compiled.  Unfortunately, I can't make the teacher I paired you with follow through.  However, I will be crossing my fingers, toes, and eyeballs that I made a lucky match :)  

REMEMBER!!  This event is open to all teachers - you do not have to be a blogger to participate!  So, what are you waiting for?  Go on . . . sign up!  I'd love to help ya find a partner.

Also . . . I've had a few questions over the years.  Here are a few that have come up recently.  I'll go ahead and address them for all to see :)
  • How does it work with Kinders? - usually teachers do shared writes most of the year, but it's up to you and your partner.  
  • Which grades do you pair? - it's mainly K-5, but I have done a handful of middle school classrooms in the past (6-8).
  • Do you pair overseas classrooms? - yes, I have done this in the past.  However, I don't make guarantees if you are outside of the USA, but I do try my very best!  Usually these partnerships focus on more techy or online connections.  
  • Do you pair special education classes?  yes, I have in the past.  As long as there is an even number . . . this tends to always work out!
UPDATE (7/19 @ 12:30) - WE ARE FULL :(

If you are still wondering how you are going to manage this whole pen pal deal in your classroom, I did make a Pen Pal Packet for my partner and I to use.  It makes thinks easy as it contains everything you need to start and maintain a long distance classroom connection. If you already purchased this collection . . . hop back over to my shop and re-download this bad boy.  It received a facelift this summer (let's just say my design skills have come a long way)!  It's on sale until I make that final match . . . :)

**If you have additional questions about The Perfect Pen Pal Pair Up 2014, please feel free to contact me (kelleydolling@gmail.com).

***NOTE: The response last year was overwhelming - I received 500 entries in a few hours.  So, if you want in, get in now!!!  I'm going to place the first cap at 500 this year.  If my wrists hold out (stupid tendonitis), I will take the next 100-200 on the list.  So . . . I won't close the sign ups until I hit 700, but I only guarantee the first 500 to get a match.  How's that sound??  Don't get me wrong my friends . . . I am delighted to help, but compiling the list and emailing each pairing takes hours and hours.  I'll be icing those cranky little forearms like crazy . . . PROMISE!

July 17, 2014


OMGOSH, folks . . . did I just type that??  Heaven help me.  BACK TO SCHOOL??!!!  Really?  **sigh**  

I am not ready to drag my bum out of bed before the sun comes up. I'm not ready to have to cut out all fluid intake {aligning yourself with the "bell" is SO hard}. And, I know I'm not ready to give up my 1:30 power nap.  However, is it strange that part of me is REALLY excited about school??  I know.  I know. Don't tell anyone.  We'll just call it "our little secret."

Alright, all silliness aside, I am super excited to bring you an update to my top selling product -- Good Morning Work.  After some serious nudging, I have jumped into producing CCSS 3rd Grade Morning Work.  Oh Lordy!  I am a little out of my comfort zone, but I have oodles of teachers chiming in on this set (thank you so much friends).  So, without further ado, I give you an August Good Morning Work Math collection for the big kids!

This month-long packet is focused on what your new crew should know when they walk in your door that first day.  Not only does it help quickly establish a morning job routine, but it also shows any gaps in learning that you may need to address before jumping into your 3rd grade curriculum.  As the year progresses, the content will get much more rigorous and the font size will slowly get smaller.    

Oh, and I should mention that I always "chunk" my topics.  In other words,  the students will see the same 7-8 standards for 5 days in a row.  I have found that this strategy fosters student independence and allows for concept mastery. 

But, don't take my word for it!  I can't have you jump in sight unseen with these things.  It just ain't my style.  With this said, why don't you try these "tester" pages with your babes for FREE??!! If you like what you see unfold in your classroom, come on back and treat yourself to the whole packet. 

Don't teach 3rd grade??  No worries . . . I have Back to School Morning Work sets for both 1st and 2nd grades!  Holla ;)



Oh, and to add a little fun to the mix, it's Christmas in JULY over at Blog Hoppin' and ALL of these packets (and the bundles) are on sale for 20% off through Friday at midnight.  How ya like them popsicles, my friends??  

Alright, if I don't get off of the electronic box, I won't have a husband come morning.  Thanks so much for taking the time to visit me my friends.  Big hugs and I'll see you soon with the huge Pen Pal Pair Up event (this Saturday to be exact . . . wink . . . wink).

Always wanted to do pen pals in your classroom?
I can help you get started and find you that match!
Come on back and see what it's all about on Saturday (7/19/14)!

July 14, 2014


Hey y'all!  I am poppin' back in to tell you that I am joining forces with my favorite ladies over at Blog Hoppin'.  The crew and I are bringing you a little Christmas in July goodness.  Holy holly berries, folks . . . you don't want to miss this one :)

Here's the plan . . . every couple of days I will put a handful of themed resources on sale.  I will blog about them as well as offer up a freebie associated with one of the packets so you can get a feel for what I've got on the table. Maybe you aren't quite ready to buy yet and that's OKAY {the s-word is still VERY difficult to utter in mid-July}.  Therefore, if just my little freebie is the only thing that floats your boat right now, you can always wish list other items for later sales.  Just a thought . . . it's late so maybe I'm just "running the keys" at this point :)

Today and tomorrow you can snag anything short vowel related from my shop. I figured these collections would provide a great start for first grade teachers (I use these every year with my new crew).  These packets also slide nicely into K classrooms a little later in the year.  On that note, here they are . . . broken down for you a bit . . . 

All About Packets
Each packet has more than 70 pages of short vowel goodness - specific to that letter you are targeting.  We're talking everything from center and whole group games to hands on activities and independent work.  I have found that the kids really seem to grasp the vowels once we transition our way through these. Oh, and each one comes with a related short vowel song from Ron Brown's Intelli-Tunes.  Yup, the MP3s are included!

Here's a little look-see at how short vowels play out in my room :)
If you are interested, click on the images to see more.


Like them all?  You know I have a bundle too.  
It's on sale as well :)

This packet was built with the little guys in mind.  I see it working beautifully in Kinder :)  I teamed up with my pop {Ron Brown's Intelli-Tunes} to create a special short vowel collection centered around a song.  It not only includes an MP3 of his 5 Short Vowels song, but also oodles of related activities that help further your kiddos' phonics studies.

This fun freebie was featured in the newsletter last fall, but I had to make sure that y'all grabbed it.  Stick 'Em Up is a killer cool whole class team game that will not only further your babes' short i word family understanding, but it will also foster teamwork as well. Oh . . . and it's editable.  Therefore, you can loop in any word family you wish to target :)

This game can be as calm or as wild as you like - active or not.  
I prefer to jack it up a bit . . . but, what's new.

Alright, that's it from me tonight.  It's 11:20 here and this girl's eyes are getting heavy.  Thanks for taking the time to pop in.  I will be back in a few days with a new set of goods to showcase and a freebie or two {I promise brand new ones next time}.  

July 13, 2014


I know all you alls are going to be absolutely inundated with Vegas posts over the next few days, but I just can't help myself - I have to do one.  This past week was inspirational and downright life changing.  My head is still spinning from meeting the TPT crew and presenting to the various special events and hanging with dear friends. On that note, I just have to take a moment to share my experience and . . . let's face it . . . attempt to relive it for at least a quick cyber moment.  

I put together a little picture walk for you down below (alright, it's probably more for me . . . but, here is is just the same).  At the VERY end you will find a look-see at what to expect from The Factory in the near future.  

Vegas kicked off with a Blog Hoppin' lunch!
Swoon . . . I heart ya, ladies.
Steph (my rad roomie) and I with an old online pal!
Stacy (so nice to finally meet you my friend).
Simpson's Superstars
Getting ready for the Blogger Meet-Up.
The free swag was unbelievable . . . so was helping my favorite crew!

I met some fast friends at the meet up for sure.
Oregon people are the best . . . I LOVE MY DUCKS :)
Mrs. P's Special Ed Classroom + Journey of a Substitute Teacher
Finally got to meet my TPT Conference presentation partner in the flesh.
The one and only Ryan Van Meter from TPT :)
We have been planning and prepping online for months.
He's such a smart guy and we have become very dear friends.
Got to hang with Holly from GoNoOdle.
This lady is beautiful inside and out.
She is just as amazing as the Brain Breaks she promotes!
What would a trip be without a creepy selfie.
Didn't think I'd post it . . . did you??
You're welcome you guys!
I heart Molly {Lucky to Be in First} +
Christy and Tammy {Fluttering Through First}
The TPT Conference Keynote had me in tears.  It was so motivating.
Here is a view from the cheap seats!
Moments before our big data/search/goals presentation.  
He is hiding his nerves pretty darn well . . . 
I, on the other hand, look like I just ate some bad fish. 
An after shot . . . I am all smiles and feeling relaxed.
Might be that I am hanging on to one of my favorites.
I heart Sarah from Sarah's First Grade Snippets.  
My favorite part of the trip . . . TPT's Post-Conference Happy Hour and this crew.
These SoCal girls are my people.
So glad to be an honorary member of the group :)
Wish I could have hung more that night.
However, my cute shoes ate a hole in my foot and my old butt went to bed.

Alright, that's it from my trip.  Thanks for humoring me, folks.  I am still in awe over the adventures that were had this past week.  TPT nailed their first conference - a HUGE thank you to TPT's Amy and Karen for putting their heart and souls into this thing.  I will definitely be making the trip out to Sin City again next year . . . let the countdown begin . . . #TpTvegas15!!!

Oh . . . if you weren't able to attend the TPT Conference this year, our handouts are still available for FREE in all of our stores.  Ryan and I put together a great little collection that provides oodles of insider tips on data, search, and goals.  Pop on over and grab it.  

Here's what's on the horizon from Teacher Idea Factory.  Although my store has been fairly quiet as of late, I have been working this summer!  Two are finished and the other two are more than half way there.  Look for these to pop up soon!  
We are running with a Rock Star Student theme this year . . . hence the top two!
I am almost finished updating my Pen Pals/Friendly Letter Writing Packet
And, I am coming out with CCSS 3rd Grade Morning Work.
There will be freebies linked to these too!!!

Also, this year's Pen Pal Pair Up will go live at the end of this week (cough . . . cough . . . Saturday).  Be sure you get in quickly as space is limited to the first 500-600 sign ups. I know that this figure seems large, but it only takes about 6-8 hours to fill.  Watch for more details on the exact time the sign ups will begin later this week.

Okay . . . I am out of here. Thanks again for taking the time to pop in today.  I'll see you very soon with something from above!

July 7, 2014


Howdy friends.  It has been a whirlwind over here.  How is it already July 7th? Hey, SUMMER . . . slow down!  Anyway, I have been a huge slacker in the bloggy department as of late, but I will be better after Vegas.  I just felt like I haven't had much to say . . . SHOCKING, I know.  I have been working my tail off and finished three packets in the past week and a handful of freebies.  Things are really shaping up nicely for a late-summer run on the Factory.  Stick with me folks . . . it will heat up here soon :)

With this said, I wanted to quickly check in and let you know that I will indeed be hosting the Pen Pal Pair Up again this year.  I have received quite a few emails asking if I will be rolling with it again and we aim to please over here at The Factory :) Hopefully my temperamental wrists will cooperate . . . the left has been acting up as of late and I'm giving it the evil eye as I type! 

I soooo love the new Miss Kindergarten font from KG!

Look for sign ups to open late next week - I am starting the process a little earlier this year to keep it separate from the back to school chaos that will hit in August.  It will also allow me to spread the typing out a bit in an effort to keep the rotten no-good tendonitis at bay!!! 

The slots fill quickly (I take the first 500-700 teachers . . . we shall see how many I am game for), so be ready to jump on board!  I promise to give you a little notice before I post the sign up doc.  This will give a fair "heads up" to all who might be interested.

For those of you who don't know what the Pen Pal Pair Up is all about, I find another classroom/teacher to match you up with for the year.  In essence, I take the "finding" and "connecting" part out of the process for you . . . your class just has to take the time to write :)  It's a great way to work in geography and friendly letter writing.  Oh, and you don't have to be a blogger to participate.  I mostly pair up teachers K-6 (although I have found matches for some 7th and 8th in the past two rounds).

In the meantime, I am working on updating my Pen Pals/Friendly Letter Writing Packet.  It needs a little face-lift {my skills have developed over the years . . . hehehe}.  If you already bought it, the new version will be ready for you to re-download by early August.    

Alright, that's it from me.  I am off to pack for Vegas.  I went a little crazy in the shopping department . . . shhhhh . . . don't tell my husband.  But, in my defense, I needed a new dress for presenting at the TPT Conference (okay . . . so I bought two . . . but, I just left the plural part out).  Can't wait to see all of my friends, make some new ones, and hang with my super rad roommie . . . 

It's a tradition for the two of us to cause trouble in Vegas!
I HEART FALLING INTO FIRST . . . see you very soon, Steph :)

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