31 July 2014

Blogger Product Swap and Review - Number Bonds

One of my favorite parts of having a very small space in the teaching blogging world is that I get to meet some absolutely AMAZING teachers! Teachers who inspire me, encourage me, and provide all kinds of support. Perhaps most important, these teachers are the only ones who know exactly what other teachers experience: the thrill of back-to-school and meeting new students, the disappointment when a student moves, the excitement and nervousness of a field trip, the sadness of the last day of school, the need to go through the one spot at Target every single time I'm there. They get it.
Cara from Creative Playground organized this awesome Blogger Product Swap! I was paired up with Shanon from OCD in First! Shanon is beyond amazing! For starters, her blog is too cute, and don't you just L-O-V-E the name? OCD in First! Makes me smile every time I say it! I mean, what teacher can't relate to being a little OCD every now and again :) Be sure to check out Shanon's blog!
As Shanon and I were talking, and as I was getting to know her through her blog and store, I immediately spotted her Number Bonds product, and I knew it would be the perfect way to get my sweet seconds back into the swing of things after summer. I was so excited to get my hands on this product!!! Can I tell you, it did NOT disappoint! My sweets' first day of school is Monday (the 4th), and I've already got my copies made, and will be using this LOTS in the first week of school.
Shanon really put together an awesome product! There are so many different options with how you can use this in your classroom. One of my favorites is this full-page number bond template she has included. I can totally picture students using manipulatives to actually create the number bonds. Genius, and great for those students who really rely on the manipulatives to grasp math concepts.
Not only that, but this will be a tool I put in my Guided Math tool box to use and refer to throughout the year.

Shanon has also included a variety of options for math centers or workstations. If you use Math Daily 3 in your classroom, you'll love the options Math by Myself, in addition to Math with a Partner. She has included the directions to a fun partner game that students are sure to love!
Check out these options for centers or workstations! Love that Shanon has included an answer key! I'm also thinking that these "Center Time" sheets would be perfect to place in those plastic sleeves and use with either dry erase or Vis-a-Vis markers! Will save on copies :)
 Another one of my favorite components (I think they're all favorites!) are the sheets where students are circling different shapes and make their own number bonds! This makes for perfect differentiation, especially for my sweets who are ready for more of a challenge!
Shanon also has Number Bond Flash Cards in her TpT Store! I'm planning on grabbing these and using them every so often during our Number Talk! What a perfect resource to use during our Number Talks! I can't wait to use it with my sweet seconds! They're going to love it! You can grab it here or by clicking on the picture below!
Be sure to check out these other bloggers and products they reviewed!


28 July 2014

Sneak-a-Peek, Meet the Teacher, Back to School Night, Open House...

My current district calls the time when students and parents come in to meet their new teacher "Sneak-a-Peek," but I know from experience that it's not called that everywhere...some call it Meet the Teacher, Back-to-School Night, Open House...whatever you call it...this post is dedicated to it!
Let's be honest for a second here...I have a love-hate relationship with sneak-a-peek. I love meeting my new students, seeing sweets from last year that stop by to say hello, and chatting with parents. However, there are invariably awkward moments when parents aren't sure what to do, I'm not sure what to do, and your new students are too scared to breathe, much less interact. Plus, put simply, I'm nervous.

My first few years teaching were filled with forms on desks, or in folders, and parents just sort of wandered around wondering what they should do. To remedy this, I decided to use more of a station approach to sneak-a-peek. This way, parents know exactly where to start, and what needs to be accomplished at each stop along the way before leaving. I like it because it eliminates awkwardness, which, I think I've decided is one of the worst feelings in the world.
So what happens at each station, how many stations, and so on? Keep reading friends! From this point forward, I'm just going to tell you exactly how it works in my classroom. But please don't think that this is exactly how it has to work in your classroom. I've made this fit the needs of my classroom, school, and what's important to me.
I always stand by the door to greet parents and students, and point them in the right direction for where to start. Parents start by signing in, and getting a folder with their child's name on it to collect papers as they move throughout the room. And yes, I put an example of what I want on the paper, because well...I'm not going to assume that everyone knows what to do.

Perhaps THE most important thing that happens during sneak-a-peek is finding out how my kiddos will get home on the first day of school, the first week of school, and thereafter. Each day of the first week requires telling me specifically how a student is getting home, because there are always exceptions to what normally happens during the rest of the school year. 

Also, any station that I have parents fill something out, that I want turned in, I place a tray. This way, I don't have parents trying to hand me papers, which I would probably lose.

The other stations really depend on your school, your classroom, and whatever else fits for the evening. I definitely don't try to squeeze in every little thing that I need to give my parents. I try to choose the things that are of top priority. Included in the product are the stations and documents I use exactly. The great thing, is that everything is totally editable. If you only want or need 5 stations - great! Only use five, and change the names and descriptions to suit your needs.
My favorite part of this method is using a checklist. As parents walk in the door I give them one. It's separated into what I need returned that evening, and what papers they should be taking home. It also reminds parents to check their child's take home folder for more information (website permission, picture permission, ABC's of Our Classroom). I don't want to overwhelm parents at sneak-a-peek. I really, really try to just keep it to the necessities.

So, are you ready to get everything together for YOUR (insert whatever you call sneak-a-peek) night? You can click here or on the picture below to grab yours!

For more great ideas, tips, and tricks from True Life I’m a Teacher, be sure to follow me on Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, Bloglovin’ and Teachers Pay Teachers.

27 July 2014

Organization, Classroom Management, and RtI...OH MY!

The Back-to-School season is a bit cray-cray to say the least...feelings of excitement, anticipation, nervousness, and perhaps an impending panic attack. I don't think I've met a teacher yet, who doesn't experience all of those feelings at some point or another during the B2S season, and to be honest, it's my favorite time of the year.

I enjoy going back to work, getting back into a routine (although, I'll miss pajama days on a random Thursday, er, I hope that's not just me), and organizing, arranging, and decorating my classroom. OH, and the back-to-school sections - swoon.

I don't know about you, but my to-do list has roughly 1,748 items on it. Just a little overwhelming. With so much to do, who doesn't love a a few tips and tricks to make life easier?!? So I'm linking up with some fabulous teachers and bloggers who will be sharing "Two Stars and a Wish!"
For my stars, I'm going to share a couple of things that I think will help make your life just a smidgen easier! For my wish, I'm going to share something that I'm really
With so much to get done, I'm constantly writing things down, making notes in my phone, and then I can't find them, because I can't find the sticky note, or whatever. Plus, I'm trying to remember what I need to accomplish at home versus at school, errands I need to run, things to buy...ay - it's just a lot to keep track of. 

For the past couple of years, I've been using a single sheet of paper, with various sections on it. It's where I write down everything and anything related to back-to-school! It stays in my purse, and that way I always have it with me! Easy, and it really helps me manage my time. You can grab a copy here for free, or by clicking on the picture below!
My second star idea is related to classroom management. I love all things related to classroom management, and it's something that I'm constantly evaluating, and learning about. Although my basic beliefs about classroom management have not changed (routines and procedures, baby, routines and procedures), the way in which I motivate my students, and execute the plan does change. 

For the past couple of years, I've strayed from the more tradition list of rules, and have gone for generic expectations that serve as an umbrella under which, most everything else falls. I like this approach because it eliminates the need to create a rule for every little thing, and what's more, is that when you have rules, there tend to be exceptions. With expectations, there are no exceptions. It's always appropriate to be respectful, responsible, and a role model. 

These three expectations, guide everything we do in my classroom. They aren't rules for second grade, they are guiding principles for life. You can grab these for free here or by clicking the picture below.
As a teacher, I'm constantly reflecting and evaluating what I do, how I do it, and areas that I want to improve. This year, I really want to fine tune and become an RtI expert, if you will. "Expert" is probably too strong of a word, but the RtI process is definitely an area of opportunity for me. 

I've worked in 3 different districts, 3 different schools, and 2 different states...and it doesn't seem like anybody has the process straight, or the same answers, which means I just need to improve myself and be more committed to seeking out opportunities to learn. 

I'm asking for your help...do you have a product or resource that has been a lifesaver as far as being able to track and record data. I don't necessarily want something that has specific interventions because those will depend on the student...I need something that can help me organize and keep track of the data.

If you enjoyed this post, consider following me on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest where I frequently post finds, tips, tricks, and star ideas!

For even more star ideas from more than 40 bloggers, please browse through the link-up below, and choose topics that interest you. Thanks for visiting!


12 July 2014

Digging Into - Mentor Texts to Launch Writer's Workshop

Hello Sweet Friends!

There are only 5 more topics to cover in the "Diggin In" series! The only good news here is that there's a HUGE, I mean H-U-G-E giveaway coming! Like, so huge, I wish I could enter it myself. Unfortunately, I can't - which, fortunately for YOU means more chances to win BIG, so you're definitely going to want to stay tuned!
Today, I'm digging into writing! Actually, I'm going to be sharing some of my FAVORITE mentor texts to help launch writing!

Writing is one of those things that is so varied, and is such a broad topic! Also, depending on what curriculum your district or school uses, can be sort of cumbersome to even try and explain. That being said, I thought I'd share my favorite mentor texts that will help launch writer's workshop or writing in general! These mentor texts can be used with ANY curriculum, which is one of the reasons I love them so much! Plus, my kiddos love them from year to year, even though I've taught second and fourth grade!

The books that I'm sharing really focus around getting students to WRITE! Generating ideas of what to write about is probably one of the hardest parts about writing. While I'm launching writer's workshop (which is usually the first 2-4 weeks of school), the focus is narratives and generating ideas. These books are almost all personal narratives, and help in showing students that ideas are all around. Depending on your grade level standards, you can use these again for other mini-lessons. 

The books are in no particular order. Clicking on the cover of the book will take you to Amazon where you can read blurbs and reviews of each book, and order should you think that you'd be able to use it.

Onto the books!
I'd love to know what books you use when launching writer's workshop in the comments section!

As always, check out these other bloggers and what they have to say about writing!


You Oughta Know...

There are thousands, probably millions, actually, of products and apps designed to help teachers. They're not all created equal though, and I don't know about you, but I hate downloading something only to find that it's not what I thought it was, or I wasn't able to utilize it the way I though I'd be able to.

Today, I'm joining with some amazing bloggers to bring you the "You Oughta Know" posts of the month.
Last year, I downloaded this app (which you may or may not have heard about) called Remind 101. Seriously, amazing. I immediately downloaded, and created a space for parents to sign up at our Sneak-a-Peek, and what's better than me loving it? Parents loving it!

What is Remind 101?
Remind 101 is a FREE, safe way for teachers to text parents, and students about assignments, upcoming events, reminders about money, field trips, events, etc...

In the words of the creators, 
"Remind is a free communication platform built for teachers. Our product enables you to safely and efficiently interact with students and parents about important information relating to the classroom and school activities. Remind is safe and easy because teachers can engage students and parents without needing to upload cell phone numbers and without having to give their personal phone numbers out. Remind has already been adopted by more than 15% of the entire K-12 teacher population in the United States and we're growing quickly."
How does it work?
You are assigned a random phone number, and each class you create has a code. Parents and/or students subscribe to a specific class using the code you give them. 

Because I teach second grade, and we are not departmentalized, I had one class for the entire year. (2nd Grade 13-14). For this year, I simply created a new class called 2014-2015, and created a new code.

If you taught middle school, high school, or your school is departmentalized, you can create up to 10 different classes (sections or periods), each having their own unique code in which to subscribe. Your "phone number" doesn't change. Just the code you give out.

Once you have subscribers (I even subscribed myself, so I could see exactly how it works on the recipient's end), you're ready to send messages either via the website or the app (which is also free).

How do I sign up?
It's easy. Simply go to Remind 101, and either sign in (if you already have an account) or sign up for an account.

I'm signed up, now what?
  • Create a class
  • Check out your class code and your phone number
  • Subscribe yourself - this will allow you to send a few messages and actually see what your parents and students would see
  • Create a letter to go home (grab a FREE one below) and connect with parents and students!


Features I L-O-V-E
  • "Schedule" function which allows me to type a message whenever, and schedule it for a certain date and/or time. For example, my planning is at 9:00 in the morning, and I would often type a message during this time, however, I usually didn't want parents getting the message until after school. I was able to schedule the message for the exact time I wanted it to be sent, without actually having to be present at that time to send it.
  • Creating multiple classes - for me this wasn't really necessary, but I love the flexibility should I choose to use it.
  • Choosing select recipients within the subscribers list - if only certain subscribers need to receive a specific message, I can choose only those that I want. by default, your messages will send to all the subscribers for the class you select.
  • The attachment feature - while I've never had a reason to use it, this could be extremely helpful should you need to send out a form, picture, whatever really.
I'm so excited about using Remind 101 in my classroom this year! My hope is that you learned something new, and are able to use this to maximize communication between school and home! 


07 July 2014

Digging Into Next Year - Beginning of the Year

I officially go back to work 3 weeks from today?!? Where has the summer gone? Even more, I usually start going to work in my classroom before we are actually required to report. I'll let you do the math on that one.

Anyway, while I'm sad that summer is in the home stretch, I'm not going to lie...I LOVE the back-to-school season! I was recently in one of my favorite stores, and nearly everything in the grill, lawn, and patio areas was either already gone, or a clearance item, and I know that means the school supplies are coming!!!
With back-to-school comes a list about 20 miles long...things to arrange, buy, print, copy, laminate, and so on. There is no one easy way to get it all done, but I'm hoping this post will help a little. I'm focusing my post about how to actually get ready for your kiddos. 
I always start by making a list...granted I have about 6 going at one time, but make a list none the less. I add to it as I think of new things, and cross stuff off once I've completed it (duh, right?). If I'm not near my list, I make a note in my phone so I don't forget, and then add it the THE list. Need a list? You can grab mine below.
Once I see everything in one spot, I'm usually able to start prioritizing. You know, which things are the MUST-dos, and which things are the would-be-nice-if-I-can-find-the-time-dos. From there I get to work. This is the first year I'm not setting up a classroom from scratch (PTL!), so I'm pretty good at having to prioritize, because when you're walking in to a blank slate, it's just not all going to get done.  And sometimes, you have to recognize that early on, and come to grips.
So you have your list, you're prioritized, what's next? Well, this depends on your to-do list, really. I generally have one rule of thumb once I'm able to get back into my classroom: don't waste time doing something in your classroom, that you could do at home. For example, if I need to make a sign-in sheet for Sneak-a-Peek, I'm going to do it at home. Why? Because the time I have in my classroom is limited. Things like, making copies, laminating, arranging furniture are things I can only do at school. I bring the laminating home, to cut. What I can do at home, I do at home.
I don't know about you, but I love me some Pinterest! What did we do before Pinterest? I have a Pinterest board dedicated to ideas for the first days of school, as well as a board for the current school year. Each summer, I change the the title of the board to reflect the upcoming school year, and then pin ideas I want to be sure I incorporate. I also pin the links to things I want to purchase (especially, if I'll be buying them online). 
Follow Theresa's board 2014-2015 on Pinterest.

Follow Theresa's board Open House/Back to School Night/Conferences on Pinterest.

Follow Theresa's board First Days of School on Pinterest.

A huge part of going back to school/work is buying stuff. It's a fact of life, and after five years, the Mr. is still shocked each summer when I declare I need a "back-to-school allowance." Let's face it, if I didn't have a budget, I'd spend every dime we had because it's so easy to get carried away. 

Let's say you want new book baskets in your classroom library (something I indeed bought just a couple of days ago). There are lots of different options, at many different price points, and levels of quality. I really, really, really want to splurge on book baskets from ReallyGoodStuff, but I would have been paying nearly $100 and the result? Only 24 baskets (the ones I wanted come in sets of 12, and the price per each basket comes out to about $3.35 or so). I decided I was going to look around at a few different stores. I ended up finding basket for $1.30 a piece at Big Lots, and was able to get 40 of them for just over $55! Essentially, I double what I got, and cut the price in half.

Look at the adds in the paper. Often stores have select items at amazingly low prices (some even just a PENNY) - however, check the fine print. There's usually a minimum purchase required, and a maximum quantity of each item. Once upon a time, if you showed your teacher ID, you could up the quantity, but the rules have change A LOT in the past few years, so do your homework.

Also, find out if your school has an allotment you're allowed to spend on supplies for your classroom. I'm able to buy chart paper and construction paper for the year with the funds my school provides. The answer may very well be a no, however, it's totally worth asking about. Become friends with your bookkeeper :)

It's also really easy to choose a theme a go absolutely nuts with decor items. Buying the packaged sets from school specialty stores/companies are adorable, and the quality if superb, but they're expensive! Plus, if you get tired of something, and want switch it up the following year, you're spending tons and tons of money.

I recommend choosing colors you like, and then adding accent pieces that are inexpensive, and can be easily switched. My classroom has had a teal/aqua/turquoise (umm, could someone please tell me the difference please?), for the last 4 years, and I love it! It's one of my favorite colors. My boarders are black with white polka dots, and teal and white chevron. There are splashes of hot pink, lime green, yellow, purple, and orange. 

This year, I decided to make my own decor items, which you can find in TpT store. I wanted something that went along with the colors I love - it's a collection of various "Chevron Brights" (teal, hot pink, lime green, yellow, purple, and orange) items like supply labels, classroom library labels, alphabets, team signs, calendar cards, shapes, word wall cards, numbers, hall passes, etc...

As teachers start coming back to work in their classrooms, there inevitably are shelves, tables, chairs, desks, supplies, and so on that teachers don't want anymore. Usually, teachers put this stuff in the hallways with signs on them indicating they don't want them anymore. See something you like or need? ASK that it is in fact up for grabs, and then get it to your classroom. Also, my school places supplies that are up for grabs in the teacher work room. If you don't have one at your school, start one! You'd be surprised what will wind up on that table!

I'll be posting ideas for activities with students soon in a separate post! If you're wanting a sneak peek, take a look below!

Don't forget to check out the great ideas and tips these other bloggers have!

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