Monday, June 8, 2015

Thinking Outside the Box(es)

I usually save these kinds of posts for New Year's, when I'm turning over a new leaf and my need for organization is at an all-time high, but I've come to realize there is no bad time to talk about being organized.

I follow a lot of home organization blogs, which my husband would argue seems kind of oxy-moronic since our house could use a tad bit more, ahem, order, BUT---the crazy thing is, these blogs are actually helping! Over the past year, I've taken quite a liking to organizing and dare I say, enjoy it, usually. 

So this here today is my attempt at an organization blog entry. First though, I feel the need to warn you, my version is going to be a little less this:

And a little more this:

Fancy, huh?

Today, it's all about the copy paper boxes in the classroom. Now, let me start off by saying that I feel like I have tried every organizational system in the BOOK. Filing cabinets, cute baskets sorted by subject, you get the idea. But nothing has worked. Until copy paper boxes.

Friends, it is as simple as it looks: Every month has a box and every box has a pile of materials inside. At the beginning of every month, I dump that sucker out and begin piecing together my month. Honestly, it's that simple. 

Once I get those piles together (usually by week, so 4 piles to be exact), I sort them into these top of the line organizational drawers:
If I'm feeling extra organized, I'll even have file folders labeled Week 1, Week 2, Week 3, and Week 4---just depends on the month. Down below, I'll file things for the next 2 months that I don't want to forget about once it comes time to implement.

This has been a super system for me, yet it's so easy, a caveman could do it.

**Sidenote---this obviously applies to all hard copies of materials I have. An increasing number of my materials are stored digitally since I have made them or bought them from Teachers Pay Teachers, so these are organized on my computer. HOWEVER, in each monthly box of hard materials, I also include a growing list of digital materials I own that I don't want to forget to use with each month! 

How do you organize materials in your classroom? Please share!

Monday, May 25, 2015

Our Furry Reading Friends

How do you encourage your students to practice reading aloud without feeling silly, getting off-task, or feeling shy?
Perhaps one of my favorite additions ever to the classroom, is the solution to this everlasting problem. Beanie Babies. Yes, those ridiculously overpriced, lovable plush animals have brought such a ray of light to our literacy time in the classroom.

A few months ago, my mom was moving out of our childhood home, and I was tasked with going through and sorting all of the remnants of my childhood bedroom. This resulted in HOURS of reminiscing, took entirely way too long, but was well worth it--for many reasons, but really because of this glorious find----

Immediately, I knew these had to come to school with me. For what? Not sure. Why? I'd figure that out later.

And thus, reading buddies were formed. During stations, I leave a basket of these suckers out and my only rules are these:
1. 1 buddy per student
2. If you have a buddy, its only job is to listen to reading. This is crucial--no somersaults across the carpet, no puppet shows with other buddies (although this will come later for reader's theater--shhh, don't tell them!) get the idea.
3. Treat the buddy kindly. I'm not a hoarder anymore, but I do want these little guys to last!

These are most often used in conjunction with our author station, but can also be used for free reading. The opportunities are endless!

What simple addition has been a pleasant surprise in your classroom?

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Poem in Your Pocket FREEBIE & An Exciting Announcement!

Hi Friends! Long time no blog, but luckily for you, this news is worth waiting for! I am excited to announce the launch of Educents marketplaces! A site that has previously offered seriously discounted deals for teachers will now feature individual storefronts where you can visit your favorite edu-preneurers!

I have been featuring deals and products on Educents for the past few months, and am so excited about the teachers who have come together to offer their products on this wonderful site.

To get started, please visit my storefront HERE where you can find a variety of items that are discounted to celebrate this grand opening!

You can also click the picture below or this link to download my Poem in Your Pocket FREEBIE to celebrate April's Poetry Month and Poem in Your Pocket Day (April 30th).

With this pack, students will create a wearable pocket, write poetry using templates, share original poems, and conduct poetry interviews! Check it out!

One more thing you won't want to miss---until April 12, visit this link for a chance to win $50 in Edubucks! This will buy you a TON, so I urge you to check it out :) Happy exploring!

Educents Marketplace $50 in Edubucks Giveaway #10 - Kinder & First Grade Stores

Monday, October 6, 2014

How to Make a Wooden ABC Sign

We've all been there.

Scrolling through Pinterest, a cute, "easy" project catches our eye, and suddenly, we are off on the DIY train, guns blazing. What we DON'T know is that this point is like the calm before the storm--a moment of pure bliss, as we make a mental list of materials needed for this beautiful, pristine work of art. This stage is denial, the belief that we really can make this super awesome project, when deep down, we know it will possibly be the end of all things sane.

I'm here to tell you that all hope is not lost. 

Not only am I a teacher, but I am a soon to be mother. And when I'm not creating for the classroom, I am in search of the perfect nursery. I am a lover of barn wood and lettered signs, but my patience and wallet disagree. Imagine my surprise when this week, I totally threw together this little ABC wall hanging and DIDN'T SAY ONE BAD WORD THE ENTIRE TIME. And it came from my own imagination. And, I only spent about $20.00.

You guys, it's this easy:
1. Go to Lowe's. In the lumber section, get 2 pieces of 4x6 wood. They should be $4.58 each.

2. Next, go to the picture hanger aisle. Get picture hangers. I bought a pack of 6 for $1.50. They are the kind that look like pointy teeth.

3. Mosey on over to the paint aisle. Get a can of ebony stain. I used Rustoleum, but any ebony will do--half pint is MORE than enough.

4. Next, drive your crafty self to Michael's where you will purchase vinyl letters, hopefully with a 40% off coupon. I used 3 inch, Helvetica in white. They are found in the stencil aisle.

Other things you will need: yardstick, hammer, some type of sponge or paint brush, a bowl of water, and 2 old rags. I won't insult your intelligence by posting photos of those, I assume you are familiar with those items :)

Okay, so this next part is super easy. You will want to shake your stain (shaken, NOT stirred). You are going to drench your rag in the water and wipe down one side of your board so that sucker is soaking wet (I'm talking WET). Next, use your brush to paint stain on the part you have soaked. Quickly after, use your dry rag to wipe off all of the stain. Much of the stain will remain, but it will have a faded look rather than a solid. Repeat this on all surfaces of your board & feel free to repeat on some areas to achieve a darker look. This took me about 15 minutes and my boards looked like this when I was done:
Now for the part I thought would be the deal-breaker. I'll be honest, I was super excited about my vision for this project but I thought this would be the point where I just went clear off the deep end--applying the letters so they were evenly spaced and straight. 

Turns out---EASY. 
1. Mark an inch on either end of the board. This is where your letters will start and end.

2. Starting at one end of the board at your first mark you made, make additional marks every 3 1/2 inches. This will be the parameters for your letters.

3. Lay your yardstick so that its top edge is flush with the top edge of your board. 

4. Keeping the yardstick still (this took occasional repositioning), place the letters in between the 3 1/2 inch marks so the top of the letter touches the yardstick. Repeat on both pieces of wood, with 13 letters on each.

Not exactly scientific, but that's how it's done folks! One last time for your viewing pleasure: 

Happy (no, really) crafting!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

My Reason

Hello, my friends! Today is the happiest day, because today, October joins us. It is basically the best month. The month of leaves, pumpkin-flavored everything, cooler weather, candy corn...I could go on and on! It is also the beginning of Breast Cancer Awareness month, a cause very close to my heart. This month, a portion of my Teachers Pay Teachers proceeds will be donated to breast cancer research. And this is why:

Labor of Love
By Erin Waters
Her slightly pale cheeks give off a rosy glow as the soft pink powder dusts her skin with each gentle stroke of the brush. 
            “Close your eyes,” I tell her, and proceed to swipe her dark eyelashes with a coat of Blackest Black mascara. Her eye twitches, and I barely avoid making a fatal slip that would leave her with a garish line of ebony down her freshly made up cheek.
            “Hold still!” I scold her, and she apologizes, laughing.  I swear, sometimes she is just like a little kid.  But that’s what I love about her.
            As I put the finishing touches on my masterpiece, my mind starts to wander and goes immediately back to a moment in my life that I will never forget.
            I had come home from school in fourth grade an absolute wreck because a boy at my after school latch key program named John had called me fat.  Looking back, I know that it was a typical, fourth grade boy taunt but at that time, such words were catastrophic to my nine-year-old ego.  The instant I got home, I stood in front of the vanity mirror in my room, absolutely disgusted at the reflection staring back at me.  Baby fat clung to my face, making my cheeks look like those of a chipmunk who was storing nuts away for the winter.  In between childhood and puberty, my body was awkward and shapeless, nothing like the other girls in my class who still retained boyish, stick thin figures of childhood. Having recently lost the last of my baby teeth, irregular gaps in my mouth added to my displeasing appearance.  John was right…and not only was I fat, I was the ugliest creature I had ever seen.
       I remember sobbing in my mother’s arms, crying so hard that my words were coming out in staggered gasps and I had trouble breathing.  She whispered words of comfort and reassurance but those did little to soothe my crushed pride.  What she did next, however, was a miracle. 
            Without a word, she produced from the bathroom closet a set of unopened electric curlers I had received from my grandfather the previous Christmas, but due to my hair illiteracy, had never bothered to attempt.  She set about rolling strands of my long hair around the warm coils, all the while attempting to convince me that John was nothing but a rotten little boy.   Who knew, she offered, maybe his insult was really to cover up that he liked me.  Boys would do that, she said, if they had a crush on you. But still, I would have none of it.  If John said I was fat, then I was fat.         
            After a good half an hour her work was done.  As I turned to the mirror, what I saw before me was nothing like the ugly duckling reflection I had seen shortly before.  In place of it was a beautiful girl with gorgeous cascading curls flowing over her shoulders.  Her cheeks were prettily flushed (although from forty-five minutes of crying, nevertheless, she thought it was pretty), and she smiled radiantly. The chipmunk cheeks were still there, as well as the gaps, but this time somehow, they weren’t ugly…they were cute.  I looked like a beauty queen. 
            Now, I sit here and the roles are reversed.  It’s been a month since my mom’s initial diagnosis, and only a week since she underwent a double mastectomy that ultimately saved her life.  Never one to sit out for long, she has her very first visitor coming today and has asked me to help her get ready.  She is unable to lift her arms up past her waist, and I find comfort in helping her.  The last week has been rough for her and she has spent the majority of the time sleeping and trying to get well.  Since her surgery, she has not had the energy or the drive to get ready.  She is strong though, and wishes to appear that way. 
As I spray her hair with a final coat of hair spray, she complains that I use too much, but I don’t mind. She looks in the mirror after I am done, and in her face, I see myself nine years ago on that miraculous day that she made me feel beautiful. 

I wrote this story as a junior in high school. 2 short years later, my mom and best friend was re-diagnosed with the disease that doctors said had less than a 1% chance of returning. I am SO proud and happy to say that my mom is still here with us today. She helped me plan my wedding 2 years ago and is beyond excited to welcome my first baby and her first grandchild at the end of this month. I wish every girl could say the same, but unfortunately, the reality of the disease is real and not everybody is as lucky as my mom. I am happy and honored to support this cause and hopefully have a hand in keeping our mamas around for a long while!

To donate to my personal fundraising efforts this month, click here. Thank you!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

What's the Plan, Stan?

Now that the year is in full swing, I think it's safe to say we all need a little stability in our lives. It's incredible how I live my life in pure, ignorant bliss all Summer, pinning my little life away & storing up ideas that are SURE to make my life a dream come back-to-school time. Then, reality hits. And unfortunately, those perfect little boxed up ideas that looked great on paper (err, my computer screen) are NOT HAPPENING. Real life is tough, man.

My search for the perfect planning template has gone a little like my summer "planning." I find and pin about 10 a week, only to return to them to find that, while pretty, they do me no good. The ratio of cute:practical I have found is somewhere in the neighborhood of 1,000,000,000:1. So, there's that.

Then, I found it. Here she is, folks:

This little gem was shared by teaching guru Cara Carroll over at The First Grade Parade, and adapted by yours truly and I am pretty much in love. Here's why I like LOVE it:

1. It's simple
2. I can see the entire week at a glance
3. It is organized
4. It makes sense!

Cara posted this sometime last year, and boy, talk about a GAME CHANGER. I staple the whole pack together and use the back of the last page for my To-Do list. I know, I'm fancy. 

She just recently posted a newer template, but I still like this one. I have a feeling I won't be straying from this little guy for quite some time. You can grab the editable version here!*

Happy planning, ladies & gents!

*I kept the fonts in the editable version basic so they would translate nicely onto all of your screens. Feel free to change the fonts around like I did in the examples above, because let's be honest---life is more fun with cute fonts! (I used Hello Kelly from here and Happy Solid from here).

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

I Have to Go Back to School...But First, Let Me Take a Selfie

The selfie craze has officially swept the nation, so I see no reason to ignore this as we head into the new school year. Before we begin, let's start this post with a selfie, shall we?
This is my pre-7:00 A.M. selfie, hence the coffee and my expression---we will try again later for a better one. 

In addition to clogging my social media newsfeeds, selfies serve as statements of self-expression and a creative art form that people use to present themselves in a variety of settings, moods and situations. I began thinking about how funny and adorable it would be to see the selfies my students would take, and lo and behold, my back-to-school selfies were born:

This delightful freebie will encourage your students to portray themselves in a variety of settings during the first day or week of school. Throughout the day, students will draw themselves at their desk, reading, at lunch, at recess, and many more settings! This is a great conversation piece students can bring home to show their families, and it is also a great product to have out at Back to School Night so parents can get a glimpse into their child's days at school through their child's eyes.

Best of all, it's FREE! Click here or on the picture above to grab this back-to-school present. 

Have a WONDERFUL year!