All posts by ekharkin

I am an educator and artist, from the west coast. I love teaching and never want to stop learning. Welcome to my beach.

The Pencil Grip Kwik Stix, Solid Tempera Paint


Just like the label says, “Uncap, Twist, & Paint”!  These paints are amazing!!  My students and I love them! Pencil Grip has come out with these amazing solid tempera paints.  They make painting in the classroom so much easier because you don’t need water, brushes, and the clean up is a snap!  You literally just snap the cap back on.

I’m teaching Third Grade this year, and for the past few weeks we have been studying North American Biomes.  As one of our final projects for our unit I wanted the students to each paint the biome that they each had written about.

With only one set of the Kwik Stix I was able to get 28 students all done in one day!   Here are some of their paintings:

image                                                         The Rain Forest

image                                                                  Ocean

image                                                                  Desert

image                                                             and Forest.

My students had so much fun using these paints.  Using Kwik Stix was really easy and mess free.  They really do dry in just seconds!!  I put the set of paints in the middle of a table, and the only instructions I had to give the students was not to press down to hard.  The paints work really well and cover a lot with a light touch.  I highly recommend these paints for all grades, and I know that I will now be getting more sets to use in my classroom!

If you think you might like to try Kwik Stix out, come back and visit me in a few days for a surprise!!!!  Happy Painting!

image  Erin 

New Beginnings

It has been a few months since I lasted posted here on my blog, but in those months I have had a lot of changes happen.  I have a new job, and I’m teaching a new grade level!  I was teaching at a private school for the past 5 years, this would have been my 6th year.  I left for several reasons that I won’t go into in the post, but I will say, that as hard as the decision was to leave my students after the school year had started, it was the right decision for me.  It has changed me back to the person I was, happy, easy going, smiling.  and the best teacher I can be.  I have switched from a private school to a public school and from First Grade to Third Grade, and from one of the most affluent schools in our county to one of the lowest income schools.  I am working with a great new team!  They have, along with everyone at my new school, welcomed me with open arms, and offered help at  every turn along the way.  I am so grateful to be able to have this experience in this district at this school, and in this grade level at this point in my life.

I had been battling myself, and had lost confidence in my teaching at my previous position.  In just a few short weeks in my new position, I have gained it back and have found my love for teaching again.  My love of teaching had never truly left, but my confidence had been lost, well really, taken from me at my previous position  I felt for my previous students and worried for their education because I wasn’t giving them my best.  I know that they are in good hands, and I miss them dearly, but I know that they are in good hands, and are doing really well.

My new students have different struggles than my previous students and from anything that I have ever dealt with before, but I love each and everyone of them.  They were so cute when I first started.  I was the third teacher they have had this year, the original teacher went out on leave before the school year began so the students began the year with a long term sub.  Who within the first few weeks of school was hired full time at another school, so they brought in another long term sub who was to be with the students until the teacher came back, but than the teacher decided to not to come back.   And that is where I come in.  They hired me to start just after Thanksgiving.  So I was with the students just before winter break.  As we were getting ready to go on break that Friday, the students were asking making, “Are you coming back?”  They were so worried that I was not coming back after break.  I told them that I was in for the long run and they were stuck with me until the end of the year!  They all surrounded me and gave me a BIG group hug.

When we came back after the break, my students were so happy to see me!  And I have to say, I’m pretty sure I was MORE happy to see them!!!  I love my new school, I love my new students, and I love my new grade.  I know in my heart that this was the right decision for me to make



Math, Math Glorious Math

Math, Math Glorious Math, the more you learn the better you do!  So play your games at every chance!

This Month we’re coming together to talk… Math Games And Strategies ( hosted by Schroeder Shenanigans in 2nd & Lucky Little Learners — #2Getherwearebetter)


I’m so excited to come back and link up again with the amazing Schroeder Shenanigans in 2nd and Lucky Little Learners because #2getherwearebetter!!! And together we can accomplish so much!!
I love all things Math and am excited to share some of my math activities with you all. Lets jump on board and take this epic ride on the Math wave!

At my school we use Singapore Math, which I really like. Singapore Math allows you to use math concepts from anywhere really to add to your content. Singapore was created in Singapore by researches who studied best math practices and success around the world for a period of 10 years. After gathering all the research they took the best concepts to develop what we call Singapore Math. So essentially it is not founded in Singapore math strategies, but rather the worlds best strategies. With that said, I have worked with several different math program during my time as a teacher, and I feel that knowing and understanding Singapore has allowed me to have a deeper understanding of math that I can enrich other math programs with.
When I explain to parents at the beginning of the year, what Singapore Math is, I say that it is giving the students a deeper, truer understanding of math and math concepts. We don’t cover as much in a year, but we go deeper into the concepts we do cover giving us a fuller understanding. So students might know and memorize their Math Facts, but at the same time they understand what Base 10 is and how it works within Math Facts. They may know that 5+2=7, but they understand that 5 and 2 more is 7, 2 and 5 more is 7, 7 less 5 is 2, and 7 less 2 is 5. They can say, write, and draw it to show understanding.

But let’s get to the real reason we are here, Math Centers & Games!! The fun stuff!! I use many different strategies, but I will show just a few that we have done this year.

image                          imageAbove my students are using Tangrams to create pictures and designs, which help with shapes and spatial reasoning.

  imageimage imageThe students here are completing a puzzle to also help with shapes and spatial reasoning.  The first time my first graders see this puzzle they usually get nervous, and look at me like I’m crazy, but they very quickly become challenged and determined to complete it.

image image

My students love their shapes, and creating.  Here in this activity the students were creating a design.  After they created the design they discussed the attributes and created a math story.  This particular student was working in a group of 4 students.  They made flowers and insects, and created an addition math story, “There are 4 flowers and 2 insects.  There are 2 more flowers than insects, but there are 2 less insects than flowers.”  I love to hear Math talk and conversations!  Don’t you?

image  image Students in these two groups were working on pattern making.

image imageMore patterns!


This friend was working on writing his number.  I made these cards for the students to practice writing their numbers correctly, writing on paper can sometimes be, well, not fun, BUT writing with cars…who doesn’t want to practice!!

I don’t have a picture to share, but this past week we made human number bonds in class and solved them together.  We used hula hops and jump ropes.  We had so much fun making numbers bonds!

I hope that today you found at least one new thing, or learned one new way to use something you are already using in your math class.

Thanks for catching this wave with me today!


1, 2, 3…Classroom Reveal!


Drum Roll Please…. My classroom!! OK, OK, I know, it’s a classroom. I had much bigger plans this year, I have a really cute theme idea. But unfortunately I had some personal things happen towards the end of summer and I was unable to spend the time I wanted in the classroom. So the theme I had will stay in my back pocket until next year! Am I sad I didn’t get to create the dream room I envisioned? Yes, but am I disappointed in the classroom I was able to create?  NO. I think my room came out very cute this year, and I think my students will truly enjoy it and find community within it’s walls.  Here are some pictures of my classroom.


I teach at a Catholic School, so this is my religion wall, it is a place for students to learn the Church seasons, and where we display our religion work and art.


This is our class prayer corner.  The books change through the seasons, and more things are brought in as the students begin to learn about our faith.


This is our classroom library.  As you can see it is not finished.  The white shelves will have leveled books on them, and I have tons of Big Books that will fill up my new Big Book center.  On the A-line shelf I like to change the books monthly.  I am also bringing in little chairs, that I took home this summer to fix from last year.


Aren’t  they just the cutest!  I love these chairs!


Word Wall and Birthday Wall.  I am in the process of redoing the Birthday wall.  I’m not thrilled, and think I want to redo this wall.



Writing Wall.  And yes, I have that many First graders.


This is our Math Wall.  We count how many days we have been in school and learn about place value at the same time.  My students love this wall because they are fully in charge of putting all the parts together and leading the class up at this board.


These are views of my room from across the room.  One thing I think I would like to change is, the carpet.  Right now I have it up front, but what I am thinking I want to do is move it to the center of the room and not necessarily have a direct front of the room.  Something I’m playing with in my head.  My school is a very traditional school, but I would love to show more of me in the classroom layout.

(Update)… I changed the classroom layout!!  I placed the carpet in the center and put groups of 4 around it.  I didn’t want my room to have a central front, I want it to have a free flow to it.  Here are the new pictures!



This is my Hallway wall right outside my classroom.  This is my Insta Art wall, (little hint as to what my theme was going to be).  I love this wall, it will be where the students art is displayed.  I am making punched out hearts which will be given to teachers every month, so that they can bring their student by our class and give hearts to the students.  It will be planned so that all students get hearts!

Thank you for catching the wave and riding with me on this classroom reveal-“board”.   Catch you on the next wave🌴🏄🏼


image   Erin

My Classroom Walls & Me: Bulletin Boards Oh My!!

image Classroom walls, classroom walls what  are we to do?  For most of us we can begin to go back into our classrooms in August, but I think most teachers would agree whether we are in the classroom or not we are thinking about what we want to do with our walls.  I have not had a chance to go into my classroom yet this summer so today I will share with you what I have done in the past and I’ll give you a hint as to what I’m hoping to accomplish with my walls this year.

In the past 5 years I have moved classrooms 4 times, we had construction and growth at my school, and last year I changed grades.  So for me each new year I have really been starting all over from scratch.  Which most of the time was fun in trying to figure out how I would use each wall, and how I could create bulletin boards where there were no walls.  I will show you two of my classrooms in this post.  I will start with my current classroom, and right now my classroom looks like this:

image image image image it’s a blank slate right now.  Where you see the black is an actual bulletin board.  At the end of each school year we have to cove our boards regardless if we leave paper up or not.  My room looks big and awesome in these pictures, but I have 35 students so I really have to think about how to use my walls, I love having interactive walls, but last year I did not have any because where my walls were and the furniture in front of them, they were not easily assessable for students.  Also I have really only two large bulletin boards for student work, and it is very hard to fit 35 students regular size paper up on even just one of those walls.

In the past my bulletin boards were the same in each room.  I would have my Wonderful Writers, Marvelous Math, a math interactive board with calendar and a 100’s chart, also an art wall, and of course ABC’s and a number line.  Now last years classroom I had the largest room but the least wall space so I was not able to have all those walls, and my goal this year is to figure out how to have them.

Here are a few pictures of what my classroom bulletin boards have looked like in the past, the first few are my of my kinder class where I had 22, and the last few are of my First Grade room where I had 35 students:

image image
image image image image image image

I’ve never had a theme to my classroom before, but I have an idea this year, and I think it will jazz up my bulletin boards and make them more fun and interactive with real APPlication to them (hint, hint).  My boards are functional, and I love the bright colors that I use, but it’s time for a change.  So I hope that you come back to visit my blog in September when I reveal my new classroom theme along with my bulletin board makeover!

I find it so interesting to look at other classroom bulletin boards because we can truly see the teachers personality in the walls of their classroom which create their classroom environment, so I hope that you have fun jumping from blog to blog looking at each of our bulletin boards, getting ideas, seeing new things, and making new friends along the way!!  Thank you for visiting my blog 💚💙🏄  I hope you have an epic ride on your blog surf today!



image Erin

Organizing My Classroom Cabinets


So this past school year I looped up with my Kinder class to First Grade.  It was an amazing opportunity to see how my kinder’s adjust to First Grade and an awesome learning and growth opportunity for myself.  The teacher that had been in my classroom before me had moved to be the school Vice Principal.  She is an amazing teacher and a very hard act to follow.  She had been one of our First Grade teachers at our school for about 7 years I believe.

As all teachers know moving an entire classroom is no easy feat.  And moving into the former classroom of your new VP, well… this room along with its contents were her baby.  She was very generous in what she left on loan to me behind in the classroom, but unfortunately not very much space was left for my own things.  This was a problem that I needed to solve.

When I could actually move my belongings, it was the last two days of the school year.  And like most teachers who have moved a classroom after having lived in it for multiple years, you know that this was doable but just the  moving, not necessarily the organizing part!!

Again like most teachers, especially those that are moving classrooms I was planning on going in during the summer to clean and organize all the things left for me and all my things that I moved from my kinder room.  Unfortunately my school was undergoing construction and I was unable to go on campus for safety reasons.

I’m embarrassed to say, but once the school year started I had no time to organize.  Being in a new grade, staying on top of curriculum and grading, was a lot this year.  Every time I opened a cabinet…I just didn’t know where to start.  I knew if I was going to do it right, I really needed to pull everything out and really go through everything.  That couldn’t be done in a day let alone two if I wanted to go in on the weekend.  Which I already was doing, planning and grading almost every weekend.  I didn’t use very much of my own things because they were smushed into the cabinets and I didn’t use all that had been left because my things were smushed in around them and I really didn’t know what all was left in the cabinets for me.  So as the school year came to an end, I planned to stay an extra week to clean and organize, and clean an organize I did!!



The first thing I did, (honest moment, I did not do this by myself, I had a friend helping me!  There was no way I could do this all alone!), was pull everything out of one cabinet, and that took an entire day!!  Yes, I said one!  The art cabinet which had the least of my things.  I wish I had thought at that point to take a photo, because it was so overwhelming!! It took up four tables groups (each table group was four desk).  So as I was pulling things out I divided it into what belonged to me, the school, and the previous teacher.  My things took up two desk, (half a table group).  The items that belong to the school took up one desk, (1/4 of a table group), and the rest belonged to the previous teacher.  Now even though there was a lot, and I didn’t use most of it, I did use some, and quiet a bit of it, I didn’t even know most had been there.  A lot of it was really neat supplies, but it had all belonged to projects the previous teacher had done, and I want to bring me to this team.  So, after I had everything out, I had my team teacher come in and looked at what was there because we share art supplies for First Grade, no matter who purchased it.

My team teacher helped my pick out a few things to keep, and the rest I gave to teachers on campus that could use all the wonderful supplies in their classrooms.  Than I was able to begin putting things back into the cabinet.  As the week went on, I moved from cabinet to cabinet pulling everything out, going through, giving away, and cleaning out.  It felt so good!!  I labeled every box that went back into each cabinet.  Now right now they are labeled with sticky notes, but that’s OK, this is still a work in progress.  I am currently making cute labels to put on each box.  I will share them with you all when they are done, but for now here is how the cabinets look.



I am very happy with how my cabinets are now organized, they may not look they way I want just yet, but I did have to put everything in the cabinets before I left the classroom for summer.  So many things will come out and be placed around the room when I set up my classroom for the next school year.  When I am back in the classroom in the fall I will update this post and add more detail on how I organized each cabinet.   This is a work in progress my friends, and will be continued.

Room Mother Gifts

At my school every classroom has two Room Mothers. This year I moved from Kinder to First. My school has two classes per grade level, so I have half of my kinder’s with me this year, and with that, my Room Mom’s have been with me for two years. Last year, like most years, I like to get my Room Mothers a nice key chain, from some place like Coach, or Brighten. I would give the key chain, and maybe a small bag from 31, and in the card I would put, “You hold the Key to your students success.” But because I have had my Room Mom’s for two years, I would like to do something different, and creative. For part of my gift I decided I would make mason jar vases. Here is how I made them:

First I went to Hobby Lobby and bought mason jars, jute, ribbon, flowers, and buttons. At home I already had a glue gun and glue sticks. I was lucky because the day I went to Hobby Lobby their mason jars were 50% off so I bought a lot more than I needed, but I’m sure I’ll find plenty to make with them this summer!


After you have all your supplies it’s time to play.


First you clean the mason jar and dry it. Than I used the jute to wrap around the jar. I used the hot glue for the first few rows around to make sure that it was held in place and than I just pulled the jute tightly around and every few rows I hot glued it down to secure it.



Once you have the jute in place, it’s time to create! I choose to put the chevron print ribbon on, and the burlap flower. Than I put two different buttons in the center of the flower.


I am going to make 2 each, for both my Room Mom’s. Along with these vases filled with fresh flowers, I have ordered them each a bag from 31. I’m not sure what I will fill them with just yet, but I have 2 1/2 weeks to figure it out! I will share everything with you all!

I would love to hear what everyone does for their classroom Room Mothers.

Just One Of Those Days

Have you ever had one of those days or weeks where things feel like they are not going the way you had hoped. That outside forces are pressuring you to do things in such away that you feel like your not you? Your not teaching the way you had hoped, and your worried if your students are learning all they should.

This past week was a struggle, I’m not exactly sure why or if there are words to express, other than, it’s just been one of those weeks.

But than something happened, and this one small thing made the biggest difference not only with me in the classroom, but me in my everyday life. One of my students walked up to me and smiled and said, “I made this for you Ms. Harkin”. It was a folded piece if paper.


As I stood there, she said, “well, open it” with an excited smile on her face. I stood there for a moment thinking, do I have time for this? I knew it would take but a moment to open, I looked up at my class seeing that I was losing their attention, I blinked and looked down again at this folded piece of paper, and opened it. As I read what was inside, I almost began to cry. I looked at my students and thought they are fine, it will only take a clap of my hands or the ring of a bell and they will all look at me again ready to learn. I took a deep breath and sat down, looking up at the student who had written me this card. Looking up at her I said, “Thank You…..Thank You”. She gave me a hug and ran back to her friends.

What took just one moment of slowing down, changed my day from “one of those days”, to a day that changed the way I saw and felt about myself. I had received the gift of seeing myself through the eyes of a student. She had no idea of my own internal struggles that day and week. My own self doubt. My questioning of self. My student had given me a great gift of self awareness. She showed me with her simple gift, how much I do make a difference in the lives of my students. In that one moment I was me again.


Spring Break

This past week of Spring Break has been so much fun.  I went down to Temecula, Shopping and apple pie eating in Julian. image
And Old Town Front Street is always fun! I enjoyed swinging in the hammock while reading a great book.image
All while completly disconnecting and recharging myself to finish out the school year.   This past week of spring break has really given me the time to just really relax and think about how I am as a teacher, how I’m teaching, what has been working, what has not and what do I want to change.  This year has been an amazing ride, and this wave is getting ready to break on the shore, so that it can start all over again!

Holy Thursday

We had such a great day in First Grade today with our 6th Grade Buddies!! We read the story Easter Bunny’s Amazing Day, than wrote our fears down and put them in an egg, and placed the egg in the basket with the Easter Bunny. The Easter Bunny took our fears to Jesus, while we sang songs and colored pictures. Than we went back to the basket and retrieve our eggs, to find that Jesus had taken out our fears and left us each a note! The students were so surprised! It was great to see their faces as they opened their eggs.
The book Easter Bunny’s Amazing Day has a great website to parents and teachers. It is where I got this prayer services and the coloring pages that go with the story.

Happy Easter Everyone!