July 27, 2014

Smooth Sailing Back to School Tips and Giveaways

Hey everyone! I hope you've had a chance to sail over to my friends' blogs and read their advice for smooth sailing into a new year. We want to share our tips, tricks, and some great giveaways to get you on your way to a new (and smooth) year!

For my school year to get off to a smooth start, I always need to have everything ready to go and at my fingertips, so I don't have to lose a moment searching for anything. Here are some of the best ways I have been able to have everything ready and instantly accessible for those beginning weeks:

1. Make Student Supplies Easily Accessible
I like to have all the supplies my students will need during the day right at their fingertips (no roaming around the classroom!!). So last year I tried Student Toolboxes:

These toolboxes hold everything we normally use in a school day and worked like an absolute dream! No supplies were lost, no supplies were put in the wrong places...everything was right where we needed it:

With all student supplies are easily accessible in one places, activities and transitions run more smoothly, leading to increased instructional time. 

2. Number Student Storage Areas
Those of you who have read my blog over the years know I like to use a numbering system. This is an organizational technique that has helped me in so many ways--especially on the first day of school.

My class list tends to be in flux during the first couple of weeks. Students move away over the summer, newcomer EL students arrive in those first weeks (and not necessarily the first day).

With numbers, I am able to set up the whole classroom in advance, without any names, until my students arrive:

This allows me to have all my students' materials right at my fingertips...actually, at their fingertips!
If you are a fan of the numbering system, pre-numbering student areas will allow you to have all student materials and paperwork ready to go for those first days, before your students even arrive.

3. Label EVERYTHING!!!
This probably sounds like an obvious statement, but I have learned over the years that the more I label every single thing in my room, the less I misplace.

This is the case with my teacher toolbox:

Subject area baskets:
and so many other parts of our classroom.

If something is labeled, you will always put it back where it belongs and be able to find it at a moment's notice.

4. Get Ahead on Copying
This is something I have started getting better about more recently, thanks to the incredible units out there on Teachers Pay Teachers. With so many in-depth and long-term resources, it is possible to prepare units well in advance.

I will be copying numerous resources to get my students and I set up for the month of September, allowing me to have all the papers we need at our fingertips.

Here are just a few of my favorites I'm already prepping for September:

The more you have copied and right at your fingertips, the more time you will have to focus on building those crucial classroom routines in the beginning weeks.

5. First Day Organization
And then there's the first day itself.

No matter how long I've taught I still get those jitters...and that leads to a scattered "Um, where were we? What are we doing next?" feeling that I just cannot have on that first day.

So I made a first day of school sheet to keep track all of the important things I would like to remember for the day.

There are places to record the activities and routines I'll cover for each subject, any important notes from parents I meet that morning, dismissal notes for the first day, things to prep for the next day, and more. I'll be keeping this sheet on a clipboard with me throughout the first day.

Please click on the image below if you'd like to download a copy for your big day:
Keeping all important information for the first day of school at your fingertips will keep you on track, allowing you to focus on the most important thing--welcoming your students to a new year!

Now it's time for the giveaways:
To help you sail smoothly into a new school year, I'm giving away a $50 Really Good Stuff eGift Certificate...I know that most of my organization over the years has been thanks to their bright, beautiful bins!!

And here's something really exciting: your entry in this giveaway will also automatically place your name in our collaborative giveaway, where one lucky intermediate teacher can win all of the items featured below (click on the images to take a closer look at the resources you could win):
That's a prize pack of almost $300 in products to get you ready for a new year!

I'm giving away a copy of Spelling With Morphology featuring differentiated spelling lists for an entire school year...just choose the focus for the week, print, and you and your students are ready for meaningful spelling and vocabulary instruction:

I'm also giving away a copy of my schedule signs, one of the easiest ways I keep my class informed and on track. They're totally customizable, so you can create the exact schedule you need:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Be sure to visit my friends' blogs to read their tips and tricks, and all about their giveaways...each blog is giving away $50 in gift cards for a total of $1,000!

For each giveaway you enter at our blogs, you also earn a chance to win the collaborative prize. Best of luck to you all and thanks so much for stopping by! :)

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July 7, 2014

Organizing Running Records

Running Records. Love the assessments, can't stand storing the materials. You should have seen the mess I've had over the years. Oh wait, you can! I have photographic evidence...
(promise not to pin these two pics?)

So I knew this would be the a great project for me to tackle this summer for Tara's Monday Made It:
Since I work with an international class of EL newcomers and mainstream students (all 5th grade) I encounter quite the range of reading levels...so I need both of the benchmark kits for our running record assessments.

But they are just awful.

The folders are jam-packed and totally disorganized. And they have to hold both the fiction and nonfiction materials, which leads to this:
 and this:
(don't pin these either please, HA!)

So I decided to do away with those separate kits and bought a huge file box. I also purchased green and blue hanging files (to keep consistent with the green and blue benchmark kits I used to have). 

Most importantly, I bought enough folders to separate the fiction and nonfiction testing materials for each reading level:

which means I can easily get into each folder and grab exactly what I need:
 (I have these labels to share at the end of this post)

I decided not to make a label for this box (shocking, huh?) as it's pretty obvious what it is. But I did want to adorn it with some necessary information...namely some district charts I tend to misplace each trimester.

So I typed up the charts and used a little color-coding to identify the benchmark levels for each grade (the numbers on the left chart are used to enter data online for each level). Then I laminated the charts and velcroed them to the box, so I could grab them when needed:

And I did the same on the other side of the box, for the primary grade levels:

Now I have everything I need, all in one happy, organized box!

If you would like to use the file folder labels, please click on the image below:
This system would also work well for organizing your guided reading materials. Hmmm...I may have just found my next Monday Made It project! 

I hope some of you can use the file, thanks for visiting!
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June 29, 2014

Customize Your Covers on Pinterest

Happy Summer everyone!! I think I can officially say that to all of you now, right? :) And summer freedom means more time to join in with Tara for her weekly Monday Made It, one of the best parts of summer!

So, like any teacher, I have a looooong list of things to work on during the free time of summer. And one of my first tasks was to tackle my boards on Pinterest.

Because I seriously had to be the worst pinner in the world. 

My boards were a mess, my pins were totally intermittent, and I literally cringed every time I looked at my boards.

So I decided to get on track as a pinner by reorganizing my boards and bringing a little cohesion to everything:
I am a HUGE admirer of so many boards that are gorgeously organized, with the perfect photograph chosen as the cover image. But I am not very good about that part, so I went with the other option and designed my own board covers.

I designed all of my covers in Fireworks, a graphics software I use for practically everything I make. But you can also design these covers in Powerpoint (my other true love!) and the steps are as follows:

1. Set Up the Board Image

Open a new file in Powerpoint. Using the Shapes tool, draw a rectangle. I found this excellent site that shares all of the sizes of the various Pinterest features: The Pinterest Cheat Sheet to Image Sizes

The board covers on Pinterest are 217 x 147 pixels...which is roughly 3.01" x 2.04" so I set the rectangle to this size:

2. Text Time
Then I used a couple of textboxes to write the board name. For mine, I left a lot of space on the bottom and I'll explain more about that at the bottom of this post:

3. Take a Picture
Well save it as a picture, really. Use the "Select All" command, then right-click (or control + click on a Mac) to get the "Save as a Picture" option:

4. Name It
Name your new little picture, so it will be ready for uploading:

5. Upload Your Cover
Head into the board you would like to customize first (in this example, I am in my Admire Beautiful Classrooms board). Click on the + sign to add a pin:

Then, click on the arrow for the Your Computer option:

Next, upload the image you created:

Make sure your image is on the board you would like it to appear on:

Then describe the pin...I just give it the name of the board, as it is the new cover for that board:

Edited to add another important step!!!
Much thanks to my sweet friend Diane from Fifth in the Middle who has done this process in the past. Diane tells us that you can link your board itself to the cover images you design.

Simply go to one of your boards and grab the URL of that board:

Then paste that link in the box next to "Source":
Your board cover will now take your fellow pinners right to that board! Thank you so much Diane!!!

All that is left is to set your new image as your board cover:

A couple of things to consider:
  • Branding: If you are a blogger and would like your boards to represent you and your brand, you can use a color scheme that matches your blog. The end result will be a page that looks like your blog and is easily recognized by your readers, which is great for branding.
  • Layout: I am a tad obsessive over these kinds of things, but there is really is a lot you can do with the layout and design of your cover. You can crop the images/graphics for that look everyone loves. You can use a variety of fonts for a fun look, or the same fonts for cohesion. Even of the positioning of the images and text on the cover can have an impact. I left some space at the bottom of my covers so that number of pins text could stand out nicely on its own:

As you can see by my boards (Ladybug's Teacher Files), I still have a lot to learn and a LOT to pin! Do you have any tips you would like to share with us about Pinterest? I would love to learn more from you!
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June 9, 2014

A Parent Volunteer Gift Idea

For the first time EVER I am actually ahead of schedule for my parent volunteer gifts!!! And they are ready just in time for Tara's lovely...
They are also ready for you, in case you would like to use any of the ideas or free files in this post!

So. I am very fortunate to have two room parents who have coordinated all of our major festivities this year...and they have done so much to create those memorable moments for our class. 

I knew I wanted to find a different way to show thanks, so I thought of wrapping up a bit of summer for them!

My sister (Fashion Craze Learning Days) and I had a blast shopping for these. Here are the goodies I found:

Plastic Mason Jar
These are so trendy right now and I was psyched to find some that are dishwasher-safe for my families!

Summer-Themed Gifts
First we gathered summery (is this a word?) gifts for under a dollar each. Can I tell you how much I love the color-scheme of these Kool-Aid packets? These are for the kids in the family:
Iced tea for the adults:
A huge bubble wand:
And one of those wooden plane-things (REMEMBER those?? Takes me back...):
For the larger part of the gift, I also got a few giftcards to the movies:

Mason Jar Label
Here's the best part of the whole gift...I had an excuse to make a new label! I used a simple phrase and design, printed it on cardstock, then taped it to the jar.

Then I made a second little tag with the thank you message for each of my families:
 (I erased the names on the card if it looks a little funny)

And here they are, all ready to go!
They were so much fun to put together!

If you are still in school and would like to try this idea for your volunteers, a complete list of materials is below:

plastic mason jar
bubble wand
Kool-Aid drink packets

wooden airplane-thing
(for lack of the actual name...I'm ready for summer vacation!)

movie giftcards

Thank You Labels and Tags
please click on the image to download for free:
I hope some of you might be able to use these...thanks so much for visiting!
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