Sunday, July 27, 2014

Two Stars and A Wish- Back to School Style

Can you believe back to school time is already here? The sales have already started (and I know we are all excited about the school supply sales...) and I am just shocked. Especially up north. The kids just go out of school at the end of June and they have another month of summer, yet they are all shopping for supplies already! To get everyone geared up with some ideas for the new school year, I am joining in with Mandy from Mandy's Tips for Teachers for Two Stars and a Wish! Two things that REALLY helped me this year and one thing I wanted to improve on. The two stars might not seem that huge in the grand scheme of things, but they really helped me.
First, OVERthink things. Really. Sit down and visualize that first day in your head. Students and parents will be constantly coming into your class all morning. You want to have any and every single thing prepared and be proactive so that your new students are calm and busy while you are welcoming each parent and child into your room. If you look on my student desks you can see that each group has a basket of supplies- pencils, colored pencils, glue, scissors, erasers, pencil sharpeners, anything I know they will need that first day is there. On their desks is a packet of back to school activities. I change it up each year. Some years it is a generic school word search, sometimes I do a word search with the students' names. I also include a coloring page (usually with addition on it), some kind of all about me activity, etc. Just things that they can do independently because you don't want to have chaos on top of the welcome into my classroom chaos. Students can work quietly while you greet new families into your room and get everyone situated. In our school we had to make sure we had certain information from the parents/students so I didn't want to be distracted by a student that needs some glue and then forget to get the information I needed.
My second idea goes along with the first, and you can see it is even the same picture... but if you enlarge the picture and look at where the arrow is pointing, you will see this tip, which involves 3 steps... Step 1: before the first day, when we get our student rosters, I hang up every child's name around the room somewhere. When students come in, I have them find their name and put their backpack and ALL of their supplies by their name. This way people aren't trying to figure out which hook to use, shoving boxes of tissues in the cubbies, and losing supplies before the first week has fully started. Since I have everything the students could need at their desks, they can just drop their stuff by their name until we get it organized. Step 2: I also photocopy a supply list for each student on my list. I write their name at the top so that I can track their supplies. Step 3: Know where all those supplies are going to go before students show up. For example, ALL lined paper goes in the pink tote under my writing table. Pencils go in the plastic drawers. Glue sticks go in a plastic shoe box container. I know this in advance and labeled the spots for everything. Also know what students will need to keep at their desks (notebooks, folders, etc). 

Throughout that first day (while students are working, at lunch, during a designated "collect supplies time"- yes I set time to do that and students color and read) I go through each student's supplies. I cross off everything they brought. (If we required 48 pencils and they brought 36, I cross off the 48 and write 12.)  As supplies come in the next few days, I can pull out the child's list and cross of what they brought me. Anything that is getting put into the class supply (pencils, glue, paper, dry erase markers, index cards, etc.) just gets put away. I take the glue and markers out of the packaging to save space. Anything that is going to the students' desks they take when I am going through their things. Any extras (extra crayons, markers, folders, notebooks, etc) that are NOT class supply get labeled with the student's name and stored for later in the year. If you don't finish this during the day, STAY AFTER. Get it done that first day. Once the supplies are taken care of, it is a HUGE weight lifted off my shoulders. I can't handle having stuff everywhere. So I make it a point to get it done.
And the one thing I had high hopes for... my math journals. I loved these. Really. I just didn't time it all out right. My GOAL was for my students to do one word problem each day in their little journals (I bought composition notebooks when they were on sale and then took them to Office Depot to get cut in half.) They would work on the problem independently for a designated amount of time. Then I would allow them to discuss with their groups. Then we would go over the solution(s) together. My problem was the timing. I just could never figure out the best time to do this. I finally figured it out (fine time to figure it out huh)... after lunch/recess is always a little more chaotic than I would like. Kids are hyped up. I like to have something that will get them right back in the classroom mindset and working. This would be perfect. We went to recess right after lunch so, this is how it would have worked last year had I done it this way. 1. As we are prepping to go to lunch, pass out the problems (which I already had cut apart because there are multiples on the page) and glue. Have students glue in the problem on the page. As they are lining up, put the glue away. Notebooks and pencils are left on their desks. 2. After lunch/recess when we come back in the classroom, students can sit right down to work on their word problems. It gets them right into the classroom mindset and gives the teacher time to get ready to move onto the next activity. 

If you would like to see the word problems I used for my math journals, you can click the image below. I am currently working on another set that should be up in the next week or so. Make sure to follow my facebook page to be alerted when I list it since I always give a copy away and list items for 50% off the first 2 days!



For more star ideas, be sure to check out the link up below. I hope these simple ideas can help you get off to a great back to school season!!



Wednesday, July 2, 2014

A little update on me...

Some of you may know, some may not... but I am no longer teaching (at least temporarily). We moved 6 years ago from Buffalo NY to Memphis TN. At the time, it was a good idea. Over the 6 years I have wanted nothing more than to come home. The opportunity came for us to come home, and so we did. So on May 9, I said goodbye to my amazing kids and coworkers and started the long drive the next day (on my birthday... my 30th birthday... what a way to celebrate huh?!).

We have been in Buffalo for almost 2 months now, so I figured it was time to give a small update. The reason I am not currently teaching is because I can't. NY does their licensing a little different I guess. I held an initial license before we moved. In NY, you have 5 years to get 3 years of experience and a Master's degree in order to get your professional license. Well... I got the experience, however never got the Master's degree. I had full intentions of getting it (and still do) but the chance for us to move home happened faster than I expected. I originally thought I would be able to use my out of state license and get a temporary license based on reciprocity. I found out, that is not the case. Because I already held an initial, I am not eligible for anything other than professional. So... here I am.

SOME schools (private/charter/etc) are able to take teachers without their Master's. But they are few and far between. And because there are SO MANY certified but unemployed teachers in this area, most schools just require and hire licensed teachers. So where does that leave me?

Here- working on my mile long to do list for TpT of things that I thought of through the past school year that I wanted to make. Here- blogging (when I can) about things that worked in my classroom. Here- looking for some kind of profession that will work for me for now. And here- attempting to get ahold of NYS dept of ed. so that I can find out if the accelerated Master's program I want to enroll in will count so that I can get my license back.

I did just got some GREAT news though. My students last year ROCKED OUT on the TCAP. I mean... best scores I have ever had!!! AND.... with our new data from the test scores, I am, for the first time ever, rated a 5 teacher!! (A 5 is the highest you can get.) I was a 4 up until this point because they used predicted data based on last year's scores. But with the official scores I am a 5. And our school did AMAZING. I am so proud to say that all the hard work, sweat, tears, that we put into this year paid off.

I have full intentions of going back into the classroom (I am shocked to see myself say this because there were many times this past year I wanted to throw in the towel). But I have no time frame for that. I plan to share things along the way, ideas that I used in my class, ideas that pop into my head for when I have a class again, products, things I learn from my Master's program (once I get there), and more. So I sure hope you all plan to stick with me!

P.S. I am super close to 1,000 TpT followers, I have exceeded that on the blog AND my fb page. So once I get to the 1000 on TpT I am going to plan a giveaway. Just be on the lookout :)

Monday, June 30, 2014

Working with Sentences

Last year, one of the best things happened. We got a reading specialist for the second half of the year. The position became available and one of our amazing 1st grade teachers got it. We were able to send 5 of our children to her. The students that were "bubble".... they could go either way on state testing. I knew who I wanted to send right away. I knew who would benefit from this... and I was right. Because the room was right across the hall from us, and I looked up to this teacher, I would often talk to her about things going on in our class. What worked, what we struggled with, getting advice. And after she had my students, she would tell me how they did or what they needed to work on. And every time there was something they needed to work on, I jumped at the chance to figure something out.

One thing we talked about a lot was simple work with sentences. Writing was the weakest area for my students (and always has been)... I am not sure what happens but they get to me in third grade and we are back to the basics of capitalization, punctuation, and just making a logical sentence. We spend a LONG time working on that. Then moving to paragraphs that flow and all follow ONE topic. I swear that is why I have gray hairs. So I thought and thought about what I could do. And it came to me. Work with one sentence a week. Do a couple editing things to the sentence (so students can start to see common mistakes they make, enabling them to peer edit later on), use synonyms and antonyms, expand sentences, identify parts of speech, etc.
We also noticed that students could tell us what a noun was, or what a compound word was... but give them a sentence and ask them to identify these things, and they would just make careless mistakes. I wanted some clear practice. Something that would make them apply themselves. And so we have Sentence a Week. 36 sentences to work with through your school year. This can be used so many ways... morning work, after lunch work (I try to have something for my kids to do when we come in from the cafeteria chaos... this would be perfect), jumpstart your writing time, or even a writing center. I originally was going to just have task 1, task 2, etc but I decided to keep the days of the week, because that is how we function in my class. If you decide to use it in a center or otherwise, you could always just tell students to do Monday and Tuesday activities or something. I just like things to be laid out by day so students know exactly what to do when. It could also be used as a weekly homework thing and instead of a peer editing their work they can edit with a parent.

Here is an example of week 1. It is just a screen shot, but feel free to pull it up on your smartboard to try it (or print it if it works clearly).
If this is something you think you can use, it is 50% off for the rest of today in honor of my June daily deals. You can find it here.

And if you missed out on my daily deals, make sure to "like" my facebook page for announcements of other deals and sales. I don't have as much time to blog as I would like, but it is very easy for me to throw a quick post up on fb!

Sunday, June 29, 2014

HUGE Giveaway!!!!



 Ready for a HUGE giveaway?!?! I have joined in to help Tabitha celebrate reaching 1,000 TpT followers!!

10 winners will each win one of the prize packages listed below. Each package contains a $10 shopping spree to 10 different stores- that a $100 shopping spree and a total of $1000 in products in all!














You can enter right from my page. Best of luck! 


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Planner Happiness

Raise your hand if you love the "school supply" aisle!!! Come on, I know you are all raising your hands. Me too! I have loved this aisle since as far back as I can remember. So when I left my teaching job after this year and moved back home (more on that later), where I can not currently teach, I said I need to find a job that will allow me to feed into my pen and supply obsession. Well, bad news is I haven't found a job yet. Good news is, I found something to fill the void in the school supply area of my life. 
My Erin Condren Life Planner. 
Last year I ordered a teacher planner, which I LOVED. It was my favorite thing in my school bag. In fact, I can't even bring myself to get rid of it! After getting that in, I decided to order a life planner. See, I am really forgetful. I mean, walk out of the room and forget what I went for forgetful. So it was my hope that this life planner would help me remember everything we had going on. Except... I never got it. I never could figure out how to make it work for me. See, I don't look at my days as morning, day, and night like the weekly pages have. I just don't function that way. Especially when my school days consisted of... work all day, do stuff at night. So it went unused for the most part, except for the monthly calendars.

But then... something hit me. I could split these 3 large boxes into 6 small boxes and make it work for me. I have a box for me, my husband, my daughter, fitness, TpT, and blogging (I have a personal blog too). And so it started like this... drawing just a few lines in and boom, perfect... or so I thought.
Then I found this amazing group of people who went ALL OUT with their planners. Washi tape, stickers, the whole nine. And then I was in love. I wanted to figure out how to do something in my life planner that would be cute but still functional. And off to shopping I went... and boy did I shop...


These are some of my favorite pens. Clicking will take you to them on amazon.
I think I am set for a while. (And there is another bucket that has post it notes, a sticker maker, stickers, etc.)

And then I got to decorating. I started with this week. Which is looking like this....

And after this little bit I decided this just wasn't it.  I wanted more. So I went to one of my many blank weeks and messed around with what I wanted to include. And came up with the perfect template for me.

I now have a spot for everything I need to include related to my life. Even if it is a little OCD of me that I had to create a template. :)

Cute, functional, and lets me indulge in office supplies.

Have you tried Erin Condren before? Thinking about it but haven't purchased yet? If you use this link and sign up for their newsletter and promotions, you will receive an email within about 48 hours for $10 off your first purchase. (From reading, it seems that because of the new 2015 life planners coming out and the mass amount of orders, the codes aren't being sent quickly, but be patient, and persistent with their customer service. They will make sure you get the code. Just save the referral link in case they ask for it.)


Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Weekly Math Mania

Ok friends... I am trying to get things back in order here. I really am. But I am really far behind, at life, in general! We moved back to our hometown and a lot of stuff has been going on. I am currently out of the classroom and am unable to teach until I get my Master's degree. It was heartbreaking news for me when I found this out (LONG story) but I am hoping that things will work out for me, one way or another. I am in the process of getting started on a Master's program (pending it is an approved program) and am trying to decide what to do outside of teaching. But in the meantime, I have been cranking away at this to do list for things I wanted to create but never had time to really do it.
This one is my BIGGEST and (personally think) best product yet. For the past few years (pre TpT time for me... as in, before I knew it even existed), a friend and I have been saying we really need something that our students could work on daily or weekly where they reviewed all their math skills. Because they would master something, and then could apply it beyond the basics... but when it came back to the basics, they had no clue what to do. For example, place value. They would perfect identifying the place, the value, and even number forms. But then it would just vanish. And so I started by putting review questions on every test I made. And eventually the review section would get larger and larger. Finally, I had the idea to make something students can do weekly. And after months and months of work, my Weekly Math Mania was complete!

Now, there are a ton of ways this can be used. As I was working through it, the way I would use it was that students would get a sheet each week. They would complete 4 boxes a day as part of their morning work routine. By Friday, the entire sheet would be done and it would have only taken just a few minutes a day. It could also be done in a math center, early finisher work, homework, etc. My kids LOVED our morning work routine because there was a lot going on and they got a lot done in a little time. And it was probably the best 30 minutes to start a day ever. Every child in my class felt successful because of the variety of things they did. Anyways... back to Math Mania.
Each week there are 20 questions. And the boxes are all related. So box 1 is always going to be related to place value, for example. And box 10 will always be a word problem. Not only will this bring routine for your students but it will help you to reteach and preteach different skills. Think about it. Let's use rounding, for example. It may not come up for a couple months in your curriculum. But it shows up every single week in one way or another on Math Mania. So, the first few times, your students struggle. But as you go over the problem, you are doing a mini lesson on how to round. Now, a few months later, rounding comes up in your curriculum. And most of your students already know how to do it! You can focus on higher level questions, pulling small groups, or just spending less time on it than you would have without this set. And now, when rounding is finished, typically some students would forget how to do it without constant use of it. You can be sure that they will continue practicing with it because it will show up every week on Math Mania. No need to stress about forgetting the basics.

If you want to look further into this, try it out for free for two weeks, or just want to get a closer look at the questions, I have a freebie sample available in my store for you to download.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Educents Deal for my Readers

Hey everyone! I don't have a whole lot of time to post these days as we are trying to get settled into our new house but I couldn't pass up this chance to share an amazing deal with you!

This weekend (through the 26th), Educents is offering my readers an additional 10% off their purchase AND free shipping!!! Educents has never offered free shipping before so this is huge! There are great deals for every grade level.

Here are just a couple of the deals.
This kinder Summer Learning Fun is on sale for 70% off at $14.99! That is HUGE. I think it would be great for parents to do with their own children and it looks like it is full of great summer bridge activities. If only Payton were just a teeeeeeny bit older!
This next one is for $10 off an Are You Ready game from Lakshore. I would have LOVED to have this game for my last week or two with my kids. Kinda like are you smarter than... my kids would have LOVED to prove they were ready for 4th grade. It can also be used at home as a summer bridge activity.
And these ones are just amazing for little kids. Payton has most of these puzzles and LOVES them. They are on sale for 27% off (prices range).

I have gotten a few things from educents and have never been disappointed. If you are interested in browsing their deals, clicking any of the images will take you to their site. Below is the coupon code that you can use for an extra 10% off and free shipping!! Happy shopping!

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