25 May 2014

Top Ten Things I Want to Do This Summer!

I'm excited to be linking up with Deanna Jump over at Mrs. Jump's Class to bring you the top TEN things I want to do this summer!
As summer approaches, I always find myself making a list of things I really want to accomplish. Usually many of those things involve teaching stuff I want to have ready for next year, but there are some *fun* things I always make time for! In no particular order...here are the top 10 things I want to do this summer!

1. For the last few years, I've not watched ANY of Grey's Anatomy during the regular season. It comes on on Thursday nights, and let's be honest...by Thursdays, I'm completely spent. So summer is the perfect time to catch-up on the entire season! Bonus? You don't have to wait a week to find out what's going to happen next!
2. This is my FIRST summer (in FIVE YEARS!!!)  that I actually know what I'll be teaching next year, and am not moving schools or classrooms! Let me just tell you, I am beyond excited! Knowing what's going on next year, means I can actually spend a little time this summer getting some things organized. I feel like each year, I'm having to find new resources, learn a new curriculum, and so on...so now I want to really go through some of my resources and have a better game plan for next year! Lame? Maybe. Ready to not spend the entire year starting from scratch? YOU BET!!!
3. Since I'll be having a student teacher in the fall, I'm going to make the *Ultimate Student Teacher Resource Binder/Pack/Bundle* Part of it will be for the student teacher, and part of it will be for the mentor teacher. If you've had a student teacher or from your own experiences student teaching, I'd love to know what kinds of things you'd love to see as part of this resource!
4. Perhaps the most exciting thing happening this summer, is that my baby sister is graduating from high school! There's 10 years between us, and I've watched her grow from infancy - sounds silly, but most sibling pairs are too close together to remember seeing the younger truly grow from being a baby. She is my sister, best friend, and such a sweet girl! I'm so happy for her to have reached such a huge milestone, and I can't wait to see what her future holds!
5. I know I'm preaching to the choir, but I struggle to consistently update my blog. Not to mention manage new TpT products, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, and so on. I need to spend the summer formulating a strategic plan on how to manage all of those things, and have consistent posts! I feel like this is way easier said than done.

6. Leisurely Reading - I don't know about you, but I hardly pick up a book during the school year. It's bad. I love reading. I'm one of those people who will start a book, and end up staying up all night long just to finish it. Well, except during the school year. So here's what's on my list:

7. Professional Reading - I'm not going to lie...I really, really, really enjoy reading professional books. It's how I get better at what I do, keep informed, and stay inspired. I really think this is one extremely important way to help beat teacher burnout. I'm constantly trying to perfect my craft, keep current, and try new things. Here's what's on my list:
8. Since we moved to GA two years ago, we've gone tubing every summer, and I absolutely love it! Pretty relaxing, and a really good time! Definitely hoping to be able to go at least once this summer! (This isn't us - just a picture off of the Cool River Tubing Co. website). If you're in Helen (or just a couple hours away like us) it's definitely worth it! Also, buy the push stick - we learned the hard way the first time we went!
9. My least exciting project for the summer is to organize the "Harry Potter Closet" - you know...the one under the stairs? It's a mess. It becomes a catch-all for, well, everything. I swear I clean that thing out once a month (I probably don't). There's shoes, old electronics, craft supplies, papers that need to be filed, candles that I've stocked up on, a few winter coats, wreaths for the door, and probably things I've been looking for and can't find!
10. Last, but not least, I am so looking forward to being able to relax by the pool, and catch some rays (with sunscreen, of course!). Growing up in Florida, and before we moved to GA, I spent nearly everyday soaking up the sun at the beach. It's therapeutic - waves, kids laughing, birds, the salty air. Oh it's heaven just thinking about it. Hmmm...maybe I'll just forget about the first 9 things on my list...you can find me at the pool!

I'd love to know what you're doing this summer!


14 May 2014

Reading..."In the Summertime"

Anyone else finish the song? It's one of my favorites, and it came out before I was even born! HA!

We have 5 days left! OH.EM.GEE! And 2 of those are early release days!

I've been busy getting portfolios ready for next year's teachers, filing papers, sending stuff home, cleaning, and so on. Why do I wait until the last minute to file all those papers? Gross.

In addition, I finished the last DRA for the year! Can I get an AMEN? I have a love-hate relationship with DRAs. I hate the amount of time they take, but I love what I learn about my students, and seeing all their growth. Eh, win some, lose some, right?

Anyway, as I finish the last DRAs for the year, I know that my students will regress a little over the summer, which is always a little heartbreaking, but it happens. While I send home information about continuing to read throughout the summer, and encourage my students to do so, the reality is that many of the won't.

Fortunately, I've found two things that really help motivate my sweets.

First, is Barnes & Nobles' Summer Reading Program. The coolest part? Students can exchange a reading log for a FREE book! It's super easy - students read ANY 8 books they want, and complete the Barnes & Noble reading journal available here. Students then go to any B&N, and turn in the reading journal for their free book from a selection (also listed on the reading journal)! Love it!

I send the link to parents, and send home a copy of the program info and reading journal.

The second program I love is Scholastic's Summer Reading Challenge! This program is free and fun! Two of my faves! It's simple...students read and log their minutes online!

Anytime you go to the Summer Reading Challenge homepage, you're greeted by this beautiful image indicating how many minutes have been logged in the WORLD by students so far since May 5. My kiddos get a kick out of checking this regularly to see how the numbers change! 

Teachers sign their students up, and receive unique user names and passwords for each student. Once you send home the user names and passwords, students can start tracking their minutes. In addition, there's also a parent portal.

Perhaps one of our favorite aspects of this, is that you can see how your school ranks among other schools participating. For privacy reasons, I didn't want to have my school show up, but you can search by individual school and see exactly how many minutes the school has logged, along with their exact rank.

Free, simple, and fun! What's not to love about both of these reading programs!

I'd love to know if you know of any other programs to encourage reading throughout the summer, or if you use one of the programs I listed!

Happy Reading!


Wordless Wednesday - Hallway Display

Happy Hump Day Friends!

If you most know, I have exactly 1 week left with my kiddos! WOWZA!

I'm back today with Miss DeCarbo over at Sugar and Spice for Wordless Wednesday!

I keep seeing such adorable summer bulletin board displays on Pinterest! I even have an entire board dedicated to bulletin boards! However, I don't have a bulletin board outside my classroom. Plus, we have to place student work with commentary in the hallways. 

Anyway, this is what my section of the hall looks like right outside my classroom door. (Don't even get me started on the fact that the small strips of cork board are even! UGH).

I'd love to know if you are required to put certain things in the hallway, or if you're allowed to hang/decorate as you please. 


12 May 2014

Management Monday - Pencils

Button Credits: KG Fonts, Hello Fonts, Melonheadz, Creative Clips

Happy Monday, Friends! 

Today is my second to last Monday of the school year! Say WHAT?!?! I have no idea where this year went...but it's come, and it's just about gone. cray-zee.

Anyway, it's Monday, so that means it's time for Management Monday. Normally, I would save today's topic for a beginning of the year post, however, I keep seeing and talking to teachers who have the same problem. Pencils.

Here are some of the complaints:
  • the pencil monster...you know, constantly having to ask parents for more pencils, beg from your neighbor, or buy them yourself because they just disappear
  • sharpening - right.in.the.middle.of.your.mini-lesson. GAH! 
  • the pencil sharpener keeps breaking
So let me start by telling you that I used this pencil sharpener for my first 3 years teaching. It was $20 and I got it from Staples. Nothing exciting. It never broke. In fact, the only reason I had to buy a new one is because I accidentally left it in my old classroom when I moved. It was a sad, sad day when I realized this.
At the beginning of this year, I had to pick up a new one, and I ended up just grabbing another $20 one at Target. I think I actually got it for like $14-$16 because it was on sale with the rest of the back to school loot.
I've never had a problem with this one either. I do like it a little better than the previous one, just because I don't have to hold it in place to keep it from sliding. Other than that, they both got the job done perfectly, and never failed me.

So what's my secret? I never, ever, without fail let my students sharpen pencils. EVER! I know it sounds silly, but most of my teacher friends go through several sharpeners a year. Now, I know that there's a pencil sharpener out there that teacher's swear by, and I've never used it, so I'm not knocking it if you have one and love it. However, I still hate the idea that students are sharpening pencils in the middle of your lesson, or the day for that matter!

So, why don't my students need to constantly sharpen a pencil? Easy. I start by having Team Supplies. My desks are arranged in groups of four, which means each team has 8 sharpened pencils in their team tubs. I train my kiddos that the points go UP because it keeps the tips from constantly breaking. When a pencil is dull or the tip does break, the pencil goes eraser up. 
Pencils don't ever go in my students' desks. Sounds crazy, but it works. The "Desk Inspector" makes it part of his/her job to ensure that desks are clear of pencils each afternoon. Here's a look at a student's desk sans pencils. It's messy, and there's probably a bit of trash in there, but there aren't any pencils!
Next, each afternoon or every two or three days (yes, we really can go three days with the same pencils!), the Equipment Manager collects all the pencils, places them in the "Please Sharpen" basket,  and then passes pencils from the "Ready to Write" basket back out to team tubs. Then, before I leave, I take about 5 minutes to sharpen a decent supply of pencils to put in the "Ready to Write" basket.
Should a pencil break in the middle of the day, students just grab another one from their team tub. On the off-chance that there aren't any sharpened pencils in their team tub, they grab one from the "Ready to Write" basket.

Here are my recommendations:
  • Use some sort of team/group supplies that house pencils in a central location
  • Don't let your students use the pencil sharpener
  • Have a central location for all pencils that need to be sharpened, as well as for pencils that are ready to be used
  • Train your students to know that they don't use the pencil sharpener (students have never even asked!), what to do when they need a sharpened pencil, and what to do with a pencil that needs to be sharpened
  • Have a periodic "10 Second Floor Check" in which students look for "Pencils without a Home" (this will also make your classroom sparkle, and your custodian love you!
Happy Teaching & Pencil Sharpening!


07 May 2014

Wordless Wednesday - Favorite Pens

I don't know about you, but I'm OBSESSED with office supplies. Pens, pencils, file folders, highlighters, markers, crayons, planners...you name it, I probably have it, and want more! Gosh, I sound like Veruca Salt from Willy Wonka!!!

Anyway, I'm linking up with Miss DeCarbo at Sugar and Spice for another Wordless Wednesday!

My favorite pens were on sale last week at Staples for $5!!!! I ended up getting 3 packs for less than the cost of one pack!!!! Holy deal, Batman!!! I shared this deal on Instagram (@truelifeimateacher), and I know lots of other people scooped these up for super cheap, too! 

I'd love to know...what are YOUR favorite pens to use in the classroom?


05 May 2014

Management Monday - Student of the Week

Button Credits: KG Fonts, Hello Fonts, Melonheadz, Creative Clips
This week is all about celebrating those sweet babies in your class! They're all so unique, and as a class, it's so much fun to focus on a different student each week - favorites, family, pictures, treasured items, and so on!

In this post, you'll see how I organize and manage student of the week, as well as, what a typical week looks like as far as celebrating the student of the week is concerned.

First, I call it "student of the week" because it is completely unrelated to behavior, performance, etc...it is truly a chance for the class to learn more about a particular student, and for that student to get time to share with the class.
KG Fonts, Lovin' Lit Frame, Graphics from the Pond Clip Art
Student of the Week is chosen randomly. I have a cup of popsicle sticks that has each student's name on it. On Friday afternoons, we choose the student of the week for the following week. The anticipation, and excitement of not knowing whose name will be pulled is so fun to watch!

I go for "randomly" because behavior seems unfair. Why? Because during any given week, I have more than one student whose behavior would warrant being student of the week. I prefer to just leave it up to chance. Besides, we all make mistakes. All the "bad" kids would have to wait until the end of the year (and might potentially, still NOT deserve to be student of the week), and all the "good" kids would be selected at the beginning of the year. I try to eliminate questions from students and parents about why they weren't chosen. By drawing popsicle sticks, there are no favorites, no good or bad, just good old fashioned fun!
KG Fonts, Lovin' Lit Frame, Graphics from the Pond Clip Art
I have a schedule of events for each day of the week. You can find a more detailed description, the letter I send to parents explaining student of the week, and the "Favorites" page all here.

Monday - Favorites Page and Pictures (Displayed all week on the student of the week board)
Tuesday - Treasure Items
Wednesday - Letter from Home
Thursday - Lunch Buddy
Friday - Student of the Week Certificate

With the exception of Thursdays (which happens during lunch time), we have a dedicated time during morning meeting in which is our Student of the Week's share time. Each of the events listed, takes only about 5 minutes out of our day. Easy.

This year, and last the schedule of events looked a little different, but it took a long time to get through each day, and we just don't have that kind of time in our day. But, I thought I'd share in case you do...

Monday - Favorites Page, Pictures, and Treasured Items
Tuesday - Favorite Book (this was a hot mess - students were bringing in LOOONNNGGG books, that they couldn't read...it was painful)
Wednesday - Letter from Home
Thursday - Lunch Buddy
Friday - Student of the Week Certificate

Honestly, I couldn't sit through another year of second graders reading their favorite book to the class. They tried so hard. The problem was mostly that the other sweets in my class just couldn't sit through a long reading. Just trust me on this one. Unless you're going to be reading the book, and even then it's questionable, at best. In addition, Monday's events were taking forever as well. I needed something that would only take about 5 minutes each day, because that's about the only time I can give to it, plus, the sweets stay focused!
KG Fonts, Lovin' Lit Frame, Graphics from the Pond Clip Art
I do a few things to keep organizing and managing student of the week as easy as possible.

First, I make enough copies of the what I need for the entire year + a few extras for new students, lost papers, etc...

  • "Student of the Week" Bag (mine is a stiff plastic bright green "bag" that I got from Michaels - sorry, I forgot to take a picture)
  • Explanation Letter/Schedule of Events
  • Favorites/Get to Know the Student of the Week
  • Certificates (I don't have access to a color printer at school, which means I have to be choosey about what I decide to print in color at home...I printed 1 black and white copy from my school printer, then made copies on neon paper. Still looks cute, but saves me $$$ on ink)
Yes, I've already copied the awards for next year. I'm getting ahead! I haven't copied the explanation and schedule of events letter yet, because I'm not sure if our lunch time is staying the same.

They all go into a file folders, and are easy accessible. Like on my desk, all year long.

Next, I go through the school year, and block out certain weeks that have special activities going on, or are shortened weeks and wouldn't allow the student of the week to have all 5 days of events. Usually, I also block out the week before long breaks (Thanksgiving, Winter, Spring Break, etc...). 

It also depends on how many students you have in your class. I'm flexible here...just do what works best with your class, and your school/district's schedule.

I have a Student of the Week display that stays up all year, and displays the pictures and "Favorites" page for the student of the week. I just took a black piece of poster board, and a colorful topper I found on clearance at Hobby Lobby, and voila - Student of the Week display. Recently, I discovered these babies - they are life changing! How did I not even know they existed before this year???

The last thing to do is decide when you want to start. Typically this is the second or third full week of school. Again, depending on how many students you have in your class, might change when you need to start this.

Ready to celebrate your students? You can find the explanation letter/schedule of events, Get to Know the Student of the Week, and certificates here or by clicking on one of the pictures below!
I'd love to know if you do "Student of the Week" with your class. How does it work? Please share in the comments!

02 May 2014

Five for Friday - May 2nd

This week has been filled with excitement, and I'm back with Doodle Bugs Teaching to share five random highlights from my week!

I counted my chickens before they hatched. Kind of. I was really planning on next year being sort of my "easy" year - not like be a slacker, but just easy compared to the past 4 years in which I've either, moved districts, schools, grades, or classrooms (or all of those), and have felt like I'm just sort of trying to figure things out most of the year. 

Fortunately, I'm not doing any of the above things, but I will be teaching inclusion, and I'll have a student teacher in the fall! Holy exciting! I've taught inclusion before, although the model was only push-in support instead of two full-time teachers co-teaching. So it will be a little different. It will be my first time having a student teacher, and I'm so flattered that my principal asked me! This is my first year at the school, so I really am beyond honored that she asked me! 

I went to Michaels this week to get some brightly colored card stock to print my end of the year awards on, and found this pack of 200 brights! Seriously, I love ALL the colors! Normally, there's always a few blah colors that end up who knows where, but these are all amazing! Plus I had a 40% off coupon + 15% teacher discount! Ummm, yes, please!

I've been busy printing and laminating things for next year because #iwillnotwaitinlineforthelaminator during pre-planning. I've been working on a classroom decor pack for TpT, and I must say I'm even more obsessed with the Chevron Brights than ever! 

These are going to be used for my birthday display. The students will decorate paper cupcakes that will go underneath their birthday month.

No joke, I've hit up the laminator every.day.this.week. I idea that I'm doing a little bit each day, makes it so much easier to cut everything out. I'm really hoping to not have the mile-long stretch of laminating to cut out this year. Dream big, people, dream big.

Last week, I shared a picture of my Erin Condren teacher planner, and shared the link to get $10 off your purchase! Wouldn't you know, someone (thank you whoever you are) used it! I woke up to an email this morning telling me someone used the referral link, and I get $10 off too! 

For the month of May, teacher merchandise is 25% off in celebration of teacher appreciation! Use this link, and you'll get an additional $10 off! What a deal! I just checked out the teacher stuff, and they've added lots of new designs! I'm actually a little sad I already have my planner for next year!

To finish out my top five, I have something totally unrelated to teaching. My sweet doggies. I look forward to seeing their precious faces each day when I get home. No matter how hectic my week is, they are happy to see me. Melt.My.Heart.
Daisy & Dunkin - both were rescues, and we don't really know what they are (other than adorable!)

When the Mr. leaves for work, Dunkin ALWAYS lays in his spot, with his head on the pillow! You can see how thrilled he is to have me disturbing his sleep.

Wednesday night, Dunk decided he was going to lay in my spot, so I just laid my legs on top of him. He didn't even budge! What a moose! 

It's a good thing dogs don't read blogs...I don't even have a recent picture of Toots (she hates her picture being taken)! Clearly, I don't play favorites. Yikes!

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