23 July 2015

Back to School - Organizing Sneak-a-Peek with Stations (+ a FREEBIE)

Hey Friends! Happy Thursday! I'm really starting to get PUMPED about the new school year! I get to meet my kiddos ONE WEEK from today!

That means it's almost time for sneak-a-peek!

I'm over at The Primary Peach talking about how I organize Sneak-a-Peek, WHY I use stations, HOW it works, and there MAY be a FREEBIE involved :)
What are you waiting for?

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.

16 July 2015

ICYMI - Surviving the Back to School Rush

I've spent about 4 days working in my classroom so far, and I'll definitely be spending a few more days in there next week before teachers officially go back on the 27th.

Today, Andrew spent his day off helping me. His first words as he walked in? "Don't take this the wrong way...but it looks worse!" And ya know what? He's right! It's a process though, right? It always looks worse before it looks better :)

I put him to work, and he sharpened about 587 pencils, hung bulletin board borders, made me laugh, and kept me company. I married a winner for sure. Swoon. While I could dote on my sweet guy for the length of this post, that's not actually what I'm sharing today.

Last summer, I shared some tips for keeping sane during the crazy back to school rush. Well guess what, the rush is upon us (or maybe it's just me), and I thought I'd share the tips again!
There are about 6,395 things to do. I'm not even going to give you examples because I'd probably have a panic attack. The reality is that I can't get EVERYTHING done. I have to pick and choose, and decide what MUST be done prior to Sneak-a-Peek, and the first day of school.

I *try* to just keep one list going so that I don't lose the list, or find the need to make a list for my lists. Here's one I use that you can grab for free :)
Not everything has to be ready for the very first day of school. That's where prioritizing comes in. Decide what HAS to be done, and what can wait.

Here's a look at my math games (not everything is pretty, right?). They are a HOT MESS! But it's not something that I'm even remotely concerned about right now. I don't need them for sneak-a-peek, the first day of school, or even the first couple of weeks of school. (So maybe this is actually the picture from LAST year, but ya'll, I swear they look like this again.)
We say this to our students all the time, right? Well, we probably should take our own advice! 

I am very fortunate that I can get into my classroom prior to when teachers report back, but the school is only open Monday - Thursday during the summer. I know that sounds silly, but I have to make sure I'm not counting on having Fridays to also work in my room.

Part of using your time wisely is knowing what HAS to be done at school, and what you could do at home (if you choose). I don't tend to waste my time cutting out lamination at school. It's one of those mindless activities I don't mind doing while I binge watch an episode or two of something on Netflix. My time would be better spent setting up for Sneak-a-Peek, organizing my classroom library...something I don't want to or can't bring home.
I don't know about you, but I usually have lots of new ideas for the new school year including things I want to buy, decoration ideas, organization ideas, and who knows what else? It's hard to keep up, right?

Something that helps me keep track of all the things I find is by making a Pinterest Board! It's helpful to have one location where I can pin products, ideas, pictures...you name it. Are you following my back-to-school boards? Check them out below:

Follow True Life I'm a Teacher's board Classroom: First Days of School on Pinterest.

Follow True Life I'm a Teacher's board Classroom: Open House/Back to School Night/Conferences on Pinterest.

Follow True Life I'm a Teacher's board Classroom: Decor on Pinterest.

Follow True Life I'm a Teacher's board Classroom: Organization on Pinterest.

Follow True Life I'm a Teacher's board 2015-2016 on Pinterest.
Each new school year there are things I need/want to buy. It might be because something broke (damn you pencil sharpeners), new decor, or just because Target puts out new teachery stuff in their dollar section and I can't resist (damn you, Target - just kidding, I love you.).

Checking weekly ads though is helpful, especially for things like school supplies. Shop around, find a deal, and don't be afraid to ask if they have any specials or discounts for teachers. I don't really use the teacher card often, but B2S is not the time to be shy.
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. 

If you see something you like or need, pop your head inside their classroom, and 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!

Before summer, this was sitting in a TRASH pile in the hall. I mean, I get it - the easel/chalkboard part was look a little sad. But I was fairly certain it was an easy fix so I pushed it to my classroom.
Within 10 minutes the wonky easel was gone, and I had a new to me shelf! Voila! I'm thinking a good sanding, and a fun color will make this shelf pure perfection!
What do you do to help maintain your sanity during back to school?

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.

15 July 2015

Back to School: Read Alouds

Happy Wednesday, Friends! I've been spending lots of time in my classroom this week hoping to have it ready by the time teachers go back on the 27th (of July)! There's just so many meetings and other things to do during pre-planning, I do NOT want to have to still be figuring out where the math manipulatives are going to go!

Anyway, one of my favorite things about the back to school "season" is that some of my absolute FAVORITE read alouds are back to school-type books.

Maybe a more appropriate description is that they're books that help lay the foundation for our classroom. They teach lessons, show characters being themselves, characters being friends, making new friends, and they become part of our class!
I'm over at The Primary Peach today sharing exactly which books build our classroom community.

Be sure to check out my list of 26 (yes, 26) books made the list. Be sure to share your favorite back to school read aloud, and perhaps grab something I left for you :)

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.

14 July 2015

Using Brain Breaks to Get Your Students MOVING!

Anyone else love brain breaks? I know I sure do! I can't imagine the school day without them! They energize, calm, de-stress, and give our brains a break, helping us re-focus so we can carry on with our day.

A few years ago, I was just searching for brain breaks on YouTube, and then bookmarking them on my computer so I could have them up quickly. The problem, was that sometimes YouTube was blocked by our district, and sometimes it wasn't, which meant we couldn't always get a brain break when we needed one.

And then, I heard about GoNoodle (cue Hallelujah Chorus)! Seriously. If you're not already using GoNoodle, no worries, and keep reading!

So, first things first, you need to sign up (but don't worry, it's FREE!). There is a paid version, GoNoodle Plus, that gets you access to even more brain breaks, which eventually I might try. For now, the free version has everything we need and more!

Sign up here or click the picture below!
If you're a non-teacher reading this, but have kids, SIGN-UP! You'll be able to keep your kids having fun, and busy for hours! This is also a FANTASTIC resource for homeschoolers! They need brain breaks, too, right?
I definitely recommend searching through GoNoodle, and watching as many of the brain breaks as you can to get a feel for what you and your class can do. Use the "Demo Class" though, so you're not actually growing your Champ under your new class. They'll be so sad if they miss their Champ growing.
To keep things easy, I name my class by the current school year. I'd never be able to keep up with anything else.

If you're school departmentalizes, or you're a specialist, you can name the class otherwise. For example, if I was the music teacher, I might name a class by grade, then teacher's last name (2nd Grade - Copeland). It'd make it easy to switch to whatever class I was seeing at the time.
How cute are these Champs? And the names? Hilarious. I choose the first Champ, just so we can get started on the very first day of school without ANY delays.
Your new class is now ready to go. The Champs are always giving some silly little saying or "fact" that the kids get a kick out of!

From here though, I'd recommend heading back to your demo class so that you can actually see some of brain breaks. To do that, just click on "Dashboard" > Demo Class.
Once you're within your Demo Class, you'll see a few different options at the top of the screen.
Once you've seen some brain breaks with your class, they'll definitely have favorites! You may also have some favorites of your own that you want to incorporate regularly throughout the day.

Do you already GoNoodle? I'd love to know what your favorite brain break is!

Are you planning on using GoNoodle for the first time this year? I'd love to know what you're most excited about! Sign up here!

Whether you already GoNoodle, or you're just signing up, I created a a list of rules my class follows as it pertains to brain breaks, as well as a list of some of our favorites! Grab them here or by clicking on either of the pictures below. Enjoy!

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.

13 July 2015

Using Class Journals During Work on Writing

I went to my classroom for the first time this summer last Thursday, and I was absolutely exhausted afterward. My fabulous co-teacher and I had a goal to get all of the furniture arranged by the time we left for the day, and it ain't pretty...but we got it done!

Here's a quick look at a before and after (we had a partition between our rooms that we opened up to have one large room since we'll be co-teaching):
Like I said, it's not pretty, but now that the furniture is in place, we can start getting things organized, put away, and DECORATING!!! I can't wait to show you all that we have planned!

Today I'm not talking about classroom (although there will be a post dedicated to my 2015-2016 classroom soon enough) arrangement, organization, and decor. I'm talking about WRITING! Specifically, using class writing journals during Work on Writing.
Writing is tough. I've taught 2nd and 4th grades, and both grades struggle with writing. I'm going to assume it's not just those grades those.

I've learned that the more opportunities student have to write, the better! My students get lots of opportunities throughout the day to write --- morning work, writer's workshop and work on writing have big writing focuses, while other subject areas incorporate writing as well.

Work on Writing is one of the components of Daily 5. During this time, students can continue to work on something they were writing as part of writer's workshop, they can choose to start something completely new, choose from an idea bank (poem, song, rap, letter, postcard, list, etc...), or they can choose from one of our Class Journals.
Our class journals are by far the most popular choice during work on writing! There have been FIGHTS over these things. Ok, maybe not fights, but there's certainly a little disappointment when all the journals have been scooped up, and a student has to wait for the next round of D5, before being able to choose a class journal.

In the past, I've had about 10 class journals that basically stay the same throughout the entire year. Eventually, the kids get bored with them. This year, I decided to create class journal topics that cover the 3 different genres of writing we teach: narrative, informational, and opinion. Plus, an additional fictional narrative set of class journals for more "creative writing."
Since we start with narrative writing, I'm starting with the narrative class journals, although by the time the 3rd nine weeks rolls around, students will be able to choose across different genres, which I'm hoping will help keep the genres we're not currently focusing on fresh in their minds.

I chose the first 3 topics that will be in the work on writing area, but students will be able to vote on other topics they want to have included. I started by laminating the covers for 2 reasons --- first they'll hold up better, but the best reason is that it means I can just peal them off the cover at the end of the year, and use them again next year! #savethecoloredink!!!Here's what they look like:
I'm using composition notebooks because I think they hold up a little better than spirals, but it's just a matter of personal preference.

Next, I used REAL glue (not the stick kind) and glued on the covers (you could also use hot glue if you laminated them), as well as the "ideas" and "word ideas" page.

Each "ideas" page has a few sentence starters, as well as words students may either want to know how to spell, or that might help get those creative juices flowing! I left blank spaces because students will want to know how to spell other words that might pertain to a specific location, school, or just commonality among your students (Six Flags Over GA), that don't necessarily pertain to every single classroom.
Included in each class journal writing genre are 10 topics, plus a blank cover that can be used to create your own topics, or that the class can add. By the time we add in opinion topics, we'd have 30 different journals though, and I think that might be a tad overwhelming. I'm thinking 5-7 journals in each genre is plenty, hence the voting.
If you're planning on using class journals, I made this cute label for the container where we house our class journals. You can grab it for FREE :)

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.
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