How to Use 8.5x11" Digital Papers to make Square Images without Distortion

This is just a quick post addressing the issue of image distortion. Image distortion happens when we stretch or shrink an image, changing its original aspect ratio (i.e. original width x original height). If this ratio is maintained despite enlarging or shrinking an image, then the image will appear normal - just bigger or smaller.

So, when you resize an 8.5x11" image by holding the shift key and dragging its corner larger or smaller, its original aspect ratio will be maintained, and the image will still "look right."
But what about when you need to resize an image and can't maintain its original aspect ratio? What if you have a hundred 8.5x11" digital papers that you'd like to use in square images?
Most of us would try to insert the 8.5x11"image into the 10x10" artboard (or in this case, Powerpoint slide), then stretch the image to fill the white space.
This looks pretty bad.
It does.
Here's a simple (I hope) way to use those portrait- or landscape-orientation (8.5x11") digital papers to make square images without ending up with an image that looks stretched. (It will work best with abstract patterns.)
As a preface to these instructions, I want to add that I'm not sure if these instructions will fall under the umbrella of "altering clipart." For my papers, feel free to alter their size so that they're usable for your project. Just don't stretch them. THAT'S the thing that makes images look bad!

**This tips 'n tricks post is for Microsoft Powerpoint users.**

I made this festive, golden bubbly paper inspired by New Year's Eve...
Golden Bubbly Paper - Grab this FREEBIE Here

but it's 8.5x11". (I did this on purpose because I needed this size for another project.)
BUT, I'm concerned that it won't be usable if the end-user needs it for square images.

So I found a way, and want to share that way with you.
Commence instructions (in Powerpoint 2007):

1. Start a new Powerpoint and resize the slide to desired square size - I like 10x10.
Design Tab-->Page Setup-->Width: 10, Height: 10

2. Insert image --> Search your computer for the desired image, and select Open.

3. Here's my 8.5x11 Landscape orientation bubbles image on a square slide:

Boo. Sad. It doesn't fit.

Here's what it looks like when I try to drag the top and bottom of the image to fit the slide:

Boo. Sad, too, because the bubbles are obviously stretched.
This stretched-looking image is actually not half bad, but not ideal. The aspect ratio has been changed (since I didn't hold down the shift key when I dragged the edges to fit). But some end-users might be peeved by this distortion since they paid good money for gold papers for their New Year's Eve-themed projects. 
Grr. I don't like buying something that I can't use!
So here's a solution that might be pleasing to end-users.

1. Hold down the shift key and drag a corner (any corner) outward to resize it larger. 
In the image below, I'm holding the shift key while dragging the bottom-right corner outward from the image to make it bigger. Holding the shift key maintains the aspect ratio... which is what we want. I didn't fill the slide completely in the image below so you could see how much bigger than the slide that the image will get. 
The image being way bigger than the slide is OK for now. We'll deal with it soon. (And now I'm going to go and fill the rest of the slide.)

2. Now that your square slide is completely filled (or way overfilled I should say), it's time to drag your image to the slide's center. In this particular bubble image, it'll be important to keep the center of the image in the center of the slide, simply because its focus is on this center cluster of bubbles. The grouping of center bubbles should stay in the center, unless you like the off-center look, which is just personal preference. 
If you look closely, you can see the image guide at the top-center of the image aligns with the 0" on the ruler above. This is how I can tell that my image is centered. (Good 'nuff!) 

***EDITED NOTE: At this point, you can save this image as a PDF and the sides will be shaved off automatically. If, however, you're trying to end up with a .png or .jpg image for, say, a sales ad, or a blog image, keep reading for the cropping instructions.********

3. Next we're ready to crop the right and left sides so this image becomes the perfect square that we want. It won't look the same as the original, and that's OK with me as long as the bubbles are not stretched, oblong, and therefore distorted. 
So right-click on the image and choose "Size and Position" like below.
Then you'll get this dialog box where you can play with the cropping of the left, right, top, and bottom sides.
"Size and Position" Dialog Box
I was able to shave off 1.8 " from each of the right and left sides to fill my 10x10" slide perfectly. I had to press the up arrows in the Crop section to achieve this. 
And now my new image, which was once 8.5x11", is now 10x10" and looks like this:

10x10" Square Image After Cropping Sides

Original 8.5x11" Image Before Cropping Sides

The square image looks nice, but is zoomed in (larger) with sides shaved off. This strategy definitely opens doors to the end-user, finally letting them put those abstract patterned, landscape/portrait-oriented digital papers to work in their square sales images, blog images, or what have you. 

I hope this is helpful!

I'd love to hear from you in the comments below. Do you run into the issue of needing an image for a project that distorts it? I'd love to hear about your tips and tricks for handling this problem.


Product in this post:

Combining Words Their Way and Daily 5 in 2nd Grade

In Room 32, we do Daily 5 for our literacy block. 
Rather, I should call it a "Daily 5-ish" as I've heard it called in the past.

This post is about how I manage 5 (actually, it's more like 7 currently) different levels of Words Their Way phonics instruction in my classroom each week. I'll definitely write more about my "Daily 5ish" in another post soon.

Back to Words Their Way.
If your reading series doesn't help you by including robust phonics instruction, I recommend researching Words Their Way. It's research-based. By that, I am referring to their placement inventory. I'm no pro at interpreting p-values and r-scores in statistics (did I say that right?), but the short of it is: they've done their homework and they share it with you in the teaching manual. This makes me happy. I like research-based information. I like to be able to backup my decisions with sound reasoning. 

Their placement inventory is a spelling test of 25 words progressing from simple to difficult, from initial and final consonants to Greek and Latin root recognition. They include class composite graphs that I love because they allow me to compare my students side-by-side (which helps with grouping), and see how my class is improving in their phonics skills from one inventory to the next - slow but sure. 
(Some students make enormous leaps that I just can't explain, while others work painstakingly hard on each and every little phonics sound and spelling pattern in order to make growth. Still, there are those students who need repeated review to help them remember phonics rules and hear letter sounds - bless their hearts. You probably have a few of them, too.)

I {giant heart} Words Their Way so much!
I really do.
 I learned about them as a student at Purdue, but didn't have real students to help me put the need for phonics instruction into perspective, so it was just another boring book at that time. But now, as a real teacher, I've had enough students who progress in reading but spell atrociously to convince me that phonics instruction and daily practice with words sorts is an important part of smart, effective, primary instruction (and beyond - but primary is my focus). Those readers who progress but spell atrociously would progress more if they could decode better - something phonics instruction supports.

Two Reasons I love Words Their Way:

1. They've done the thinking for me. 
Aside from the time it takes to score the placement inventory, analyze the scores, make groups, and decide in which stage to begin those groups (usually something that takes me a Saturday and maybe part of Sunday - around 4-5 different times during the school year depending on my curiosity and the students' development), they've done all the thinking for me. After my groups are made, all I need is 12 minutes each week to copy each group's word sort for that week. Considering I'm managing 5 (+2 stragglers) phonics groups, this is relatively little weekly prep. I make double copies and send everyone's sort home with them because families get a little freaked out when there isn't a spelling list they're supposed to practice. 
even as the teacher who streaks into the parking lot 15 minutes before the day begins, I manage to run off my phonics sorts in time.

2. They're organized in a step-by-step way which helps me rest easy.
I progress step-by-step in Words Their Way - at least between reassessments. (Some don't. Some skip around as they see fit for their groups. However your mind & methods work for you is acceptable.) I test, place, and teach for an entire quarter. Then test and place again. Groups are supposed to be fluid so students who catch on quickly can be moved ahead. But I don't shift students around like that. They test. They place. They learn with their group until I retest and re-"place" them again. I think doing 4-5 different test throughout the year provides all the shifting necessary for the different speeds at which students progress.
For example, this week green group does Blue Book Sort 4 (B4). Next week, B5. Then B6. I don't skip. I trust in the authors, that their strategic combinations and comparisons of spelling pattern rules is necessary and beneficial; finding gaps and filling them.
(Ok. I'm really a flexible person but am making myself seem very rigid! If a student needed to be shifted to another group, and it was glaringly obvious, I'd do it. But that hasn't happened yet. But this is why I believe in frequent retesting/regrouping.)

I don't want this post to go too long for you, but I wanted to add how I manage so many different levels (and why I feel 7 levels are necessary for us, at least right now).
First, I introduce everyone's sort on Monday. Since I do Daily 5, I'm able to teach 5 different sorts at my kidney table. On Tuesday-Thursday during Word Work, they practice their sorts (and spelling their words) independently or with a partner per our posted weekly routine. On Friday, I meet them again at my kidney table, and test each different group during each of the five Daily 5 rounds. 

I'm afraid that part only makes sense to people who know what Daily 5 is!

But something's not adding up, right? You said you taught 7 different groups, didn't you?

Yeah, that's what I said. 
This part gets a little tricky but I think it's necessary. Would it work in every classroom? No. I know my class, though, and I know that my highest groups learn their sort in about 8-10 minutes, and I have an extra 10-12 minutes to kick back, sip coffee, and pin stuff 'til the next Daily 5 round, right?

Yeah right.

What do I do with that extra 10-12 minutes after my high groups finish? Throw in a couple of 1-man groups, i.e. my +2 "stragglers." Right now, one of them is a Level 1 ESL student from China who works hard and is learning fast, is solid on his initial and final consonants, but emerging in his medial short vowel sounds. (Obviously. He doesn't pronounce them the same as us. It's difficult to hear the short i when it sounds like /eeeeee/!) And the other student is below grade level on all accounts. He works hard and wants to catch up, but the fact is, he needs repeated instruction hearing medial short vowel sounds, even as a second grader, even with remediation. They're in roughly the same place, so I give them the same sort each week. My ESL student gets a word sort AND a picture sort to help with his vocabulary. Yep. Two sorts for him. And he learns fast and seems to enjoy it so I don't feel like it's too much.

SALES ALERT: These are my two sweethearts who inspired my Short Vowel Spinner & Tile Activities. They like each other despite their, let's say spirited personalities, so they play these games against each other, and I test them at the end of the week. It pleases me so to see them both hearing medial short vowel sounds, and working at it! 
"Peeg! P-i-i-i-guh!" 
Once they're solid, they can continue on, comparing short and long vowel sounds. 

Do you ever have those challenges in the classroom that hold your heart and your focus and all of your hope? 
Then you know what I'm talkin' about.
I can't wait for their retest!!! EEK! Two more weeks!

OK. I said I wouldn't go crazy and write too much, but I have. 

Stay tuned for more in my Words Their Way series!
Follow me on Bloglovin' to receive these Words Their Way series posts right away.


Products mentioned in this post:

Short a Spinner & Tile Activities
Short e Spinner & Tile Activities
Short i Spinner & Tile Activities
Short o Spinner & Tile Activities
Short u Spinner & Tile Activities

4 Christmas Ornaments for the Elementary Classroom

This week, I'm linking up with the Teaching Trio and their holiday themed Favorite Things Linky. I'm excited to be writing again, and happy to share a few of my favorite things. This month, the theme is
Holiday Things.
My favorite holiday things are:
My daughter's classroom-made Christmas ornaments.
They've added special memories to our tree each year, and from those preschool years?

But this is helpful for me, too, though, as I find myself trying to make Christmas gift plans for my students' families. Scholastic books with a pencil? Nah. (Great gift, but nah.)

So without further ado, my top 3 Favorite Ornaments on our tree:

In 1st place, there's the
 Lil' Fingers Snowmen Ornament. 
I love this ornament because it captures my little girl's hand print and freezes it in time. She may grow, but I'll always have evidence that she was once little. This will be cherished for a long time.

A bunch of bulbs (the ones in the photo are transparent)
Confetti to fill the transparent bulb
White tempera paint for hand prints
Black Tempera paint for snowman features..and I think there's red in there, too
Attached Poem:
These aren't just five snowmen,
As anyone can see.
I made them with my hand,
Which is a part of me.
Now each year when you trim the tree,
You'll look back and recall
Winter of 2013
When my hands were just this small!

In 2nd place, there's the 
Good Ol' Popsicle Stick Picture Frame.
To clarify, I LOVE this one - complete with a Christmas drawing, capturing her beautiful art. No Christmas tree is complete without a popsicle stick frame.

And in 3rd place,
except this is my baby we're talking about so they're all in 1st place, the
Kiddie Painted Light Bulb.
It's an actual light bulb with a copper wire loop fashioned around the light bulb's base - and it was fastened in such a way that I've never had to fix it. 
Which is amazing.
I wish I could explain how it's fastened. There are loops on both ends of the wire, which is looped a few times around the bulb's base. The loops are secured around the wire, and it's shockingly tight enough. 
This is a great ornament craft because it's such a unique canvas for a child's painting. Full disclosure, though, I faintly remember our cousin creating this with our daughter at Thanksgiving a few years ago. The light bulbs would get costly with a whole classroom of kiddos.

And I want to add one more:
Totally Awesome Cookie Cutter School Picture Ornament...
...with options to hang on tree or stick on the 'fridge.

We (or rather I and a volunteer) made these ornaments for the kids last year. It's a Pinterest idea, but I can't find the link back to that pin.
Cookie Cutters
Scrapbook paper (I bought a bunch of glitter papers)
Ribbon (to decorate around the perimeter of the cookie cutter)
Magnetic tape
Glue gun (and burnt fingers)
The perseverance of a... teacher
High tolerance volunteer
And totally awesome school photos 

I know you love mine

I haven't decided, but I'd really like to NOT make these this year. The idea is cute, but unless you're a perfect craftsman (or woman), they're labor intensive. I guess the Pinterest idea was more for home crafts. 
Yay ambitious me!

This year, I'm leaning toward #1 on my Favorite Things list above, OR #2 because popsicle stick gifts are sweet. 

I hope you enjoyed my addition to My Favorite Things: Holiday Edition, and are walking away with some classroom holiday craft/gift ideas!

My Top 3 Wishlisted Products on TPT

Hi everyone!

It's been a while. I've taken a break from blogging to focus on teaching, but am writing now to advertise TPT's sitewide sale November 30-December 1. Get up to 28% off on purchases when you use the promo code: SMILE at checkout. 

But if you're like me, you feel too busy for shopping.
Anything that expedites the browsing process is appreciated.
I'm joining a linkup hosted by Jen over at Teaching in the Tongass
view my top 3 wishlisted TPT products and their specific feedback

60 Stitched Texture Frames
True to Scale Printable Rulers
Task Card Cheaters
Now, hop back to Jen's page and shop the dozens of other high-quality teacher-authors and clipartists. This is a brilliant idea by Jen, and I will be utilizing it to expedite my own shopping tomorrow!


TpT Back to School 2015-16 Link Up

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Hi Friends
Tomorrow starts Teachers Pay Teachers' 2015-16 Back to School sitewide sale.
Swing by and fill your shopping carts in preparation for the sale. My cart has quite a few products already!
You'll get 20% off plus another 10% off at checkout when you remember to enter the code:
Some people opt to set their entire store to a certain dollar amount - I'm one of them. I will be setting my entire store to $2 for the sale. Use the coupon code at checkout for an additional 10% off!

I've linked up with other primary teachers to showcase a couple of our Back to School products. I'm contributing the following: 
True to Scale Printable Rulers
There are teachers who use these for clipart on documents that they create, and there are teachers who use these True-to-Scale printable rulers for classroom activities, too. They can be sent home with homework and for projects. I even used one to help me center the images and text on a printable booklet I was creating! 
(I think my 2 year old took my actual ruler and I could only find this set's test prints to use!)
 Also, since this set includes black & white images in addition to the color images, they are economical to print. 

Another Back to School product that has been helpful for teachers are
Task Card Cheaters
Teachers use these as quick-print task cards for classroom centers and labels. They come in a rainbow of colors, but are most helpful because they include black and white for economical printing. 

2015-16 is sure to be a successful year, full of successful teaching moments. 
Let's make it a good one!

Black Friday in July $3 Clipart LinkUp

Hi everyone.
I'm joining up with the Teacher Clipartists for a $3 BLACK FRIDAY in JULY SALE
this Friday,
July 24th!
I'm really excited about this sale because, like so many of you, I'm crazy about clipart! AND, despite the fact that I create a lot of my own clipart, as a curriculum developer, I also need to buy a lot of clipart. So I'll definitely be there, too!

I'm contributing the following:

Stitched Texture Frames 
Digital Papers Bundle
using the same color palette for each set 
 Ruler Bundle
One set prints true-to-scale for classroom use
The other set is solid OR translucent in a rainbow of colors
for product use
Texture Frame bundle in a variety of textures:
Terry Cloth, Wood Grain, & Crinkle Paper

Check out the list of contributed products below.
You can also go to
and search:
for the same list
Cheers and have fun this Black Friday in July!

Christmas in July Dollar Deals Going on Now

Hi there, friends. Brenda over at Primary Inspired has organized a Christmas in July Dollar Deals Sale! It's going on today, July 19th through Tuesday, July 21st. This sale includes LOTS of great teaching materials, helping teachers stock up on needed items for the school year.

I'm contributing the following materials:
True-to-Scale Printable Classroom Rulers (Color & Black/White included)
Stick Kid Sweeties Clipart
for sprucing up those newsletters and parent communications
Rainbow Ruler Clipart - Solids & Translucents
(The translucents really are slightly transparent like the real thing)
Two-digit Subtraction task cards that
include many scaffolding questions to help undo misconceptions in emerging learners

To see the complete list of contributing partners, please click the promotion image at the top or follow this link:
Primary Inspired Christmas in July Dollar Deals Going on Now

Thanks for stopping by and I hope you enjoy your Dollar Deal Holiday in July!

Reading Workshop Unit 5: Series Reading and Cross-Genre Reading Clubs

Click this image to start at the beginning of our book study.

Hi everyone!

This summer I teamed up with some fellow second grade bloggers to review Lucy Calkins’ A Curricular Plan for the Reading Workshop: Grade 2 (2011). We each took one unit. I was assigned the task of reviewing Unit 5: Series Reading and Cross-Genre Reading Clubs. If you’d like to read through our entire book review, click the image at the top to start from the beginning. Click 3rd Grade Pad's button at the bottom to jump to the next unit’s review.

I hope our book review inspires ideas for your literacy teaching!


Unit 5 in Calkins’ A Curricular Plan for the Reading Workshop; Grade 2 talks about the benefits of using series reading and reading clubs in our teaching bag o' tricks. She begins by saying that students benefit from reading series books because of the familiar characters, places, and similar events that occur (p. 82). When students read about familiar characters, and often similar plots, their prediction skills strengthen, and thus their reading comprehension skills. She also says that reading multiple books in a series sets students up for reading longer, multichapter novels which lends to increased reading stamina. She claims that these factors together will provide the support and practice necessary to increase a student’s independent reading level.

Calkins suggests using reading clubs with reading series. She says that in a group of, say, 6 students, two students could read one book from a series, while another student reads a different book, and 3 others read yet another book – all from the same series. She says that students do not need to read the same book at the same time to have a fruitful discussion about the characters, events, and the series as a whole.

One suggestion of hers raises concern for me. She suggests that students use Sticky Notes to jot down questions about the characters and plot as they read, and this is simply too much for some second graders, especially beginning-of-year second graders. I recommend a lot of work leading up to this requirement: like minilessons that model questioning, that model writing questions about books, and that model saving questions for a later time; minilessons that model an answer that’s been found, and minilessons that discuss how the new information changes what was once believed about a book or character. It would be too much to ask some second graders to write down questions about a character or book as they read it without the proper preteaching and modeling. With proper modeling, this is a wonderful requirement to implement! Since Calkins recommends using the first book in a series as a read-aloud to scaffold beginners, it would be prudent to include character trait analysis, questioning, and question recording as minilessons during that time.

Regarding character traits, during this scaffolding read-aloud time, teach students to look for patterns in character traits. For example, Junie B. Jones dislikes Meaning Jim very much. Meanie Jim is not very nice to her. Students should look for character trait patterns to learn who their character is for the most part. Once students feel that they know a character, they should look for inconsistencies that they encounter about that character. This is where the rich comprehension work will be done. Students should avoid making sweeping generalizations about a character because people are not the same all of the time. For example, to say that Meanie Jim is mean to Junie B all the time would be false – he isn’t mean to her all of the time. In fact, on Valentine’s Day, Meanie Jim is strangely nice to Junie B, which is really unexpected! Inconsistencies like these should raise questions in students, who should then persevere in their reading and group discussion, exploring the reasons behind the inconsistencies that they encounter. Why is Meanie Jim being nice to Junie B on Valentine’s Day? This is a discussion I’d love to be apart of!

These recommendations summarize the main points of Unit 5. In this unit, Calkins suggests a genre-oriented approach to book clubs as well, to help readers find patterns and inconsistencies among books of the same genre. She covers this point very briefly, however, and focuses most of her points on the benefits and justification of series reading with book clubs.

I hope this glimpse into Unit 5 of Lucy Calkins’ A Curricular Plan for the Reading Workshop; Grade 2 has left you thinking about your literacy block. Do you emphasize series reading? Book clubs? What are some shining Aha! moments that you’ve witnessed once students became questioners of inconsistencies?

Please click the link below to read the review of Unit 6 by Debbie Watson from 3rd Grade Pad! Coming to you on Friday, July 10th.