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!
(read more)

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!
(read more)

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!
(read more)

May 17, 2014

Getting Things in Order (Keeping Track of Student Papers)

It's another beautiful month of Bright Ideas!

And I'm sharing a little system that helps me get things in order every day. Namely paperwork. Because we all know how quickly paperwork can get out of order, don't we? 

Especially those quick-to-accumulate student papers!

I know there are so many wonderful ways to organize student papers out there, but here are the steps that really help me keep track of everything from my students:

1. Number and Highlight
My students record their class number in the top, right-hand corner of each assignment. They also highlight this number (to make it more visible):

2. Order the Papers
A student collects all of the papers and organizes them in number order. This is done during a transition to a new subject and a friend at their table usually helps them get set up while they sort. They beg me to do this.  :)

3. Pass Paperwork into Color-Coded Bins
The student who has sorted the papers in order drops them into the color-coded bin, for the particular subject we have just covered:
(you can read more about our color system here: Color-Coding the Classroom)

4. Check and Grade
When I'm ready to check and grade the papers, I pull them from the bin. I look for any missing papers (which is really easy to see, since they are in order!).

After correcting, I enter them into my gradebook app, which has my students listed in number order--it literally takes less than a minute to enter all grades!

5. File for Home
Finally I file the papers to send home each week. I use hanging folder labeled with my students numbers. Again, since the papers are all in order, this file just takes a few moments:

And that's it!

Simple, easy-to-manage, and quick!

I hope this was of help if you are looking to tweak your system, or perhaps if you are just starting out in your teaching career :)

Would you like to see some really bright ideas? Of course you would! Just click away on any of these lovely blogs below:

(read more)

May 10, 2014

Keeping it Together with a Classroom Binding Machine

I know I've talked incessantly about my love of binders on here over the years. And, while they are still so appealing in their sleek, organized way...I have found a new true love this year.

My Pro-Click Binding Machine

I first learned about this beautiful tool on Reagan's blog, Tunstall's Teaching Tidbits: How Do You Spell?? (Reagan's blog makes me wish I taught a primary grade every time I read about her incredible ideas!)

I was not asked to advertise this product in any way and you know I only share the things I truly adore with you...and this is definitely one of them!

Maybe I should backtrack a teeny bit. You know those comb-binding machines many schools have? They're nice, but the combs never last. In our class, anyhow. This is a common occurrence over time:

And you know that just means those pages are going to start slipping out. 

Totally frustrating.

Which prompted me to hot glue each of the little combs closed, just so they wouldn't rip off. You can see it in this ancient post here: Publishing Student Books That Last! It worked, but you can imagine how tiresome this became over the years.

Needless to say, I was so excited at the prospect of a new binding machine. AND it was just cheap enough for me to spend some extra cash to get one for my classroom (ie no more waiting in line to bind!). I got my machine on Amazon for about $59 and the spines comes in a box of 45 for about $8.
It is SO worth the money.

Binding is such an easy (and more permanent!) process now. You can put in about 5 sheets at a time, line them up, and slide the lever to punch the holes:

The machine punches all these cool little circles:

Then you just line up the binding and click each one closed (makes a satisfying little snap too!):

And that's that! You have a lovely little book all bound and ready to go!

Do you know what the best part is? The bindings are super-strong and last all school year!

No more twisted and broken combs, no more pages falling out...it's a dream come true! (Can you imagine if a non-educator was reading this post...they'd probably be rolling their eyes! But you get what I mean, right?).

Though I could easily bind everything in sight (because I love it so) I do try to curb it a bit to avoid endless spine-purchasing. I use these for my students' Morphology Dictionaries, data binders, and for their major published writing pieces.

And, in total-un-Kristen-like fashion, I'm actually getting ahead of the game for next year before school's even ended and already prepping our newer Morphology Spelling Dictionaries.

I hope this was of some help if you did not know about this machine! It is simply wonderful for the classroom and would be an even better deal to purchase and share school wide.

Thanks so much for visiting! Happy Mother's Day to all the incredible teacher-mothers out there!!! :)
(read more)