Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Happy New Year...and a freebie!

Happy 2018!

Just popping in today to dust off the old blog, say Happy New Year, and drop off a quick freebie I made to use with my first graders this week. It's a simple New Year's emergent reader and a Read the Room, Write the Room center. Here's a quick pic I snapped as I was organizing my stuff to load up in my teacher bag (ugh):

If you want to grab the freebie, click on any of the pictures to download it from my TPT shop or just click here. If you do download it, I would love it if you would leave me some kind feedback! :)

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

The Summer Stash: Summer 2017

Hello, beautiful teacher friends! I hope everyone is making the most of these amazing summer days! Somehow-I'm not exactly sure how-my summer is drawing to an end. :( It really flew by this year. I've been gone for the last couple of weeks to conferences and on family vacation (hence the lack of blog updates!) and now it's almost time to head back to reality. And my classroom, which I haven't set foot in since May 31st. (That changes tomorrow...I am hoping to get it all put together in just a day...we'll see if that actually manages to happen!)

I'm popping in today to share some of the things I've picked up this summer and stashed for the upcoming school year. We all do this, right? Start stocking up on things when the goodies start to appear in Target and Hobby Lobby and Michaels and then squirrel them away until we can get in our classrooms? I think it's a universal teacher trait.

This summer I have been good...very, very good. Mostly because our house is on the market and I can't have random piles of teacher stuff hanging out in my office. (That has been the case in summers past for sure!) I have gotten a few things here and there but for the most part I've kept them in the trunk of my car! These were the first things I picked up:

These tubs are giant. I got them at Michael's. I think they are actually beverage containers, but the colors are perfect for my room. I will put them to good use at Open House to hold supplies and then after that we'll see what use I find for them! Speaking of Micheal's...I saw on Instagram that they have more things out now...I'm going to have to go by there to check it out. They also have some amazing planners! I bought this one with a 50% off coupon last month and I am OBSESSED with it:

It has nice monthly spreads as well as weekly handy pockets in the back for storing extra stuff. The brand is Recollections. It is similar to the Happy Planner, which is what I actually went in there to get. I may have spent an embarrassingly long time in the planner aisle going back and forth between all of the options. Ultimately I went with this one because I liked the design of the pages and many of the Happy Planner "extras" will work with this one, too (not insert pages, but pretty much anything else-stickers, etc.). With the coupon I only paid $15...for a year's worth of organization I think that's money well spent!

Here is the majority of my summer stash. See, I told you I've been very good this summer...

Most of this came from Target. I was able to score all of those neon book bins and couldn't believe it. (I even left some one the shelf for the next person, believe it or not!) I also found that cute little easel (which will be put to use at Open House) plus the glitter apple banner and the plan book. I also had to get one of the Mo Willems stuffed animals at Kohl's. I went in there yesterday for something completely unrelated (new pillows, actually) and got completely sidetracked by the Kohl's Cares for Kids display. I only bought Elephant because Little Miss picked him out, but at the last minute threw two of the books in my cart, too. I am still thinking about the rest of the crew (Piggie, Pigeon, Duckling)...I may have to go back over there sometime this week to round them up.

One last picture...this is actually a stash of freebies I got yesterday!

One of the big grocery chains in my area is Kroger. They do a supplies giveaway for teachers every year and it's always awesome! It's stuff we teachers actually need: construction paper, paper towels, soap, sanitizer, tape, bandages, Kleenex, dry erase markers and copy paper. I appreciate it so very much...This stash of goodies usually helps me in that first wave of cleaning when I get back to school to set up my room. So awesome!

That's it! I have barely one trunkload of stuff to take to school tomorrow, which is pretty great for me. I do have an Amazon order coming at the end of the week with some books and Play-Doh...that might be content for another post! (So excited about some new books I've found to add to my back to school reading repertoire!)

What have YOU found while out and about this summer? Anything fun to share?

Saturday, June 24, 2017

A Post About Printers

Good morning! Today I am typing up a post about printers to share with you. This was inspired by many conversations that I have had with teacher friends (both online and in real life) about printer woes and printer love. Yes, "printer love" is a thing! I have a deep and abiding love for not one, not two, but three printers in my life...haha! I thought I would highlight each one, explain where and why I have it, and detail each one's pros and cons.

But're probably thinking, "Honey, why do you need THREE printers? Isn't that a bit excessive? One printer should do you just fine." Yes, it probably should. However, I consider owning three printers to be an investment in my personal sanity. Also, I am spending less on ink and toner now than I did three or four years ago, yet I'm printing a lot more...and spending a lot less time standing around at the copier.

Here's my breakdown of printers from oldest to newest!

1.) trusty Brother laser printer. I've blogged about this little guy before.
This is an older version of this printer on Amazon. It is a workhorse of a can turn out class sets of documents quickly and efficiently. The best part is, my toner is dirt-cheap. I buy generic brand high-yield toner for between $11-$12 and that lasts me 2-3 months (depending on how much I run). I get about 3,000 prints per toner cartridge. My system is basically to run what I can at work with the limited copy numbers that I have...then print everything else and NOT STRESS ABOUT IT. $11 for toner every couple of months is more than worth it in my sanity. Also, there is something to be said for being able to hit the 'print' button on my computer and letting it print while I go about my business at home, versus having to baby-sit a copier at work.

2.) After I discovered how AMAZING it was to have a black and white printer that worked well, it wasn't long before I began looking for a solution for my color printing needs. Like every teacher, I print a ton of stuff for centers and classroom decorations. We have a color printer in the media center, but it is temperamental to put it mildly. At home, I used to have an inkjet that seemed to drink ink through a straw. I thought I was being savvy by buying my ink at Sam's and I tried to stock up whenever there were good deals on the multipacks. Still, I was shelling out a small fortune for ink that lasted for what seemed like no time at all! It was around this time that I started hearing about HP's Instant Ink program. I'm sure many of you know and participate in it now, but in case you haven't heard about it, here's the scoop. You pay a flat fee per month for your ink. The price levels are tiered and based on the number of pages you print, not how much ink you use. (Think about that for a minute!) I have the most expensive package and pay $9.99 for 300 pages. You can also roll over unused pages, up to 300 pages. I blew through all my prints last month but still have 300 pages left in reserve, so for this month I could print 600 pages if I wanted to for no extra cost. If you DO go over, you pay a small fee per every page you print. (I've only gone over once and it was a tiny amount.) You can track your printing and how many pages you have left through the HP Instant Ink website.

So, I decided I waned to try the HP Instant Ink thing and needed a new printer to replace my inkjet. Since I have been so happy with my Brother printer (which technically is meant for small office use), I decided to look for the equivalent in an HP printer. There are many printers that participate in the Instant Ink program, but I didn't go with the cheapest one. Instead, after consulting many Amazon reviews and feature comparison charts, I chose this one:

It's an OfficeJet Pro 8610. There is a newer model out now but it looks exactly the same. This printer is as amazing for printing items in color as my Brother printer is for printing items in black and white! Now I don't usually print class sets of anything on this printer-I am limited to my number of pages, after all-but I print all of my centers materials, Brag Tags, and anything else I want in color with this printer. It handles large volumes of printing well (it doesn't get hung up mid-print like some of my other HP printers did in the past) and I can also print remotely, which is a handy feature (although I rarely use it because I never can remember what kind of paper I've left in the tray). And perhaps best of all-I NEVER RUN OUT OF INK! The printer communicates with HP when it hits a certain threshold of ink and they immediately ship new cartridges. I get the new cartridges well in advance of when the printer is actually out of ink. (I was super skeptical about this initially-I thought for sure there would be a lag time and I would be left waiting on the postal worker before I could resume printing, but that's not happened once!)

I highly, highly, recommend the HP Instant Ink program. It's awesome and has saved me a ton of money, even when you factor in the cost of the printer. If you're interested, you can check it out through my referral link here:  You get a free month and I get a free month! Also, I've heard that the printers still ship with several months free. You can stack a bunch of those codes and get up to 6 months free! (One more thing: When I bought mine, my "free" months didn't start until I used up all of the starter cartridges that came with the printer. They sent me the new ones in the mail but my subscription didn't start until I installed them. How amazing is that?)

3.) So, I had dream printers for b&w printing at home as well as color. What more could I need, right? Well, this past year I had to add printer #3 to the school. Here's a little bit of backstory: As long as I've been teaching the school has provided me with a printer in my classroom, but that ended as of this year. We went to a "communal" printer in the workroom...and that just does not work for me. There are times that I need to print something out RIGHT THEN and it's not feasible for me to line up my class to walk down to the workroom every time I need to fetch something out of the printer. I ranted and raved when I found out about this little change at the beginning of the school year last year. Basically, the mister got tired of hearing me complain and he told me to pick out a new printer. I would have liked to get another Brother printer (or simply taken my printer from home to school) but that idea was a bust because our district's technology department would only install certain printers onto the network. To summarize, my hands were tied and I had to purchase one of the printers they would support or go without a printer in my classroom. So this is the printer I ended up with:
This was the only printer on the district's list that was in our price range. All of the other printers were super-duper-office printers with the ability to fax, make mega amounts of copies, and consume way too much space. I was not expecting a whole lot out of this printer, to be honest...but I've been pleasantly surprised! It is a little more fickle than my Brother printer (mostly it's too smart for its own good sometimes and tries to warn me about a potential problem that's not actually a problem) but it prints quickly and can handle double-sided printing no problem. I purchased generic high-yield toner for this one to the tune of about $30 a cartridge. I replaced it once all year long and I printed a good bit on least 4-5 class sets every week plus all of the random single prints that I needed (RTI paperwork, class rosters, etc.). I also learned that it has a lot of toner left even after it starts to send error messages that it is running low. I ordered another toner a few weeks before school let out because it told me I was below 10% left, but it just kept printing!  

I will also say that when I got mine last summer it was much closer to the list price than it is right this second on Amazon. For $80, I would absolutely buy this printer again...I think we paid $120! Eeep! One of my coworkers also purchased this printer and she feels about the same way as I do about it...worth it for the peace of mind it gives us!

Some General Advice About Buying A Printer
If you're in the market for a new printer, turn to Amazon and the product reviews. Read what other people have to say! And then watch the price like a hawk. Amazon will drop their prices to match their competitors' when Staples and Office Depot start having their back-to-school sales, you can expect to see some of the printer prices drop on Amazon, as well. You can also Google "Amazon Price History" and come up with a site like camelcamelcamel that will show you an item's price history. You can see whether it's at a low, average, or high price right now and plan your purchasing accordingly!

So, there you have it! This is everything I know about printers and how I keep myself from stressing about copies and printing! I know some people will say that I'm crazy for having three printers, but I say that the peace of mind and extra free time is worth it. 

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Creating A Summer Vision

Happy...Wednesday? Is that what day it is? I forget in the middle of the summer! Hehe. Today I've been super busy! Little Miss has been at Camp Grandma's for Vacation Bible School, so I've had the house to myself while the mister is at work...sounds peaceful, right? It would be EXCEPT we are currently trying to sell our house, which means a LOT of cleaning and re-cleaning has been taking place. If you've ever tried to sell a home, you know how it goes...the realtor calls wanting to know if they can show the house and OF COURSE you want to say yes because you want someone to buy this house, but then you have to run around like a crazy person swapping out every day towels for "fancy" towels and wiping down the counters with smell-good cleaning stuff and vacuuming the carpet so it will have vaccuum tracks so that MAYBE the people who come look at the house will think we are clean people and not the normal slobs that we are! Hahahaha. Funny because it's true!

Anyway, I'm sitting here at the coffeeshop while our house is being shown. I did a little bit of work while I was here putting together some updated calendars for this year. I'm not quite in fullblown planning mode yet, but one of my big goals for this summer was to put together a cohesive curriculum map for the 2017-2018. Our district provides us maps, which is lovely...only we have a separate one for each subject. Five maps is a bit too many to keep on top of, so I try to combine them down to one single calendar. That also helps us see where we need to focus our time and energy in any given week. If we have five weeks allotted to teaching weather but only one week to teach Ruby Bridges, it's easy to see which standard should get the most focus that week, am I right?

Speaking of summer you create a list for the summer? More importantly, do you have a summer vision? I didn't, really, until this summer. I got the idea from Angela Watson's podcast. (PS: If you don't follow her website or listen to her podcast Truth for Teachers, you should. She's really great and has wonderful ideas about how teachers can be more efficient with their time!) She has a great podcast about maximizing the potential for your summer and I recommend listening to it. After I was reminded about it and went back to listen to it, I was inspired to jot down my own goals and vision for this summer. This is what it looks like:

My vision for the end of the summer is:
1.) to have my fall semester mapped out with complete calendars (hey, that's one thing that's pretty much done!)
2.) to have some routines for working on my TPT projects (because during the school year I find it really hard to find the time for my store)
3.) to have a solid fitness routine in place that includes at least 10+ miles running each week
4.) defined procedures for working at work so I don't end up taking home stuff that I don't want to do at home

I even broke down each week of the summer with specific tasks and focus areas for each week. Now to some this may seem like a real joy-killer. "Who wants to micromanage their summer like that?!", you may be asking. Well, although it seems counterintuitive, this actually has helped me enjoy the last few weeks a lot MORE. Instead of having nagging tasks hanging over me (which, let's face it-without a timeline, I'm very prone to pushing the things I don't want to do 'till the end of summer and then lament that there was 'no time' to get it all done), I have them delegated. There's not too much for any one week! And when I really get down to it, some of the tasks that are on my "must-do" list are things I enjoy (going to the gym, running, working on TPT stuff). If I can accomplish this vision...I will feel like I had a productive, well-spent summer.

If this sounds like something you'd like to try, I HIGHLY suggest listening to Angela's podcast (Season 3 Ep. 20) or checking out her post about sketching out your summer here. I found it to be so inspirational and I think you'll get a lot out of it!

If you decide to try, I'd love to know what you think and what YOUR vision looks like!

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Cactus Classroom Theme

Hey, hey! I hope everyone is having an amazing week! I am definitely enjoying the summertime. It's funny-once I've been out for a few days, my brain wants to start thinking about school again in a fun and creative way. Is anyone else like that?! I love my laidback summer days, but I also enjoy creating things for the upcoming school year and my TPT store. Over the past few weeks, I've been having a lot of fun making classroom theme sets. I change my theme out every 2-3 years, but I have a blast creating new ones every year. Over the next few weeks I'm going to spotlight some of my favorite theme sets in my store! I'm super excited though about the latest one I just uploaded to my store. It's CACTUS THEMED! Have you seen cacti (cactuses?) popping up everywhere? I Hobby Lobby, Marshall's/T.J. Maxx, Target...they are definitely a trend right now! Here is a preview of my set that I made. I am so pleased with how it turned out...I am contemplating changing my own theme this year to match. (And then I remember the hours I spent prepping the black and neon posters last year, and I try to tell myself that I don't NEED a new theme. We'll see which side wins out by the time I go back to work in July!)

Starting with the basics...ABCs and number posters. I started including cursive letters in my sets recently. I don't have to teach cursive, but I can definitely see this theme appealing to teachers who work with slightly older students than I do, so they'll have them if they need them!

Don't you love the cactus border at the bottom of the posters? I created it using some beautiful clip art from an Etsy shop that I purchased. Here's a close-up:
Here are some more posters: shapes, colors, and a welcome pennant. I'm not even exaggerating when I say that this welcome pennant alone made me start thinking about changing my theme. I could so see it hanging on one of my bulletin boards!
Here's some more organization-ey stuff. Hall passes, name plates, table numbers, and labels. LOTS OF LABELS. I am obsessed with labeling things in my closet. I don't know if I've ever shared a picture of the inside of my closet at school. It is full of clear Sterilite tubs and every single one is labeled. When it's pristine at the beginning of the school year, it makes my heart so happy! (And then the first week of school happens. And then I am stuffing it full with all of the extra supplies my students bring in. Teacher truths!)
Here are a whole bunch of printables for organizing a calendar display and center organization. Now, to be totally honest I haven't done much with calendar math in the past year. It's one of the things I had to put to the side when our math block moved to the afternoon and we dedicated a 45 minute window in the morning to intervention time. It makes me so sad, though, because I LOVE calendar time! I truly believe that the students learn so much from just a few minutes of regular calendar routines every day.
Here are even more printables for the classroom! Schedule cards for the board or a pocket chart...a How Do We Get Home Display...a Classroom Jobs display...clip chart posters...and Where Are We? signs to post outside the classroom door. Speaking of class jobs...that's going to be a whole post next month. We are going to be a Leader in Me school next year and that's one of the things we were challenged to incorporate next year. (Anybody else do Leader in Me? I would love to hear your experiences!)
Okay, now on to the teacher binder stuff. I LOVE my own personal teacher binder. I made it a few years ago and when I say it changed my teaching life I really mean it! Although, to be honest, I don't just have ONE teacher binder. I have the main one that stores all of my planning documents, notes, and a lot of other important papers, but I also have separate binders for data, lesson plans, and parent communication. Each of those topics is so massive I really do need the information organized in a separate binder. Anyway, here is a snapshot of the dividers and binder covers in my cactus set! I started off with the templates I've used for other sets but I was so conflicted because I loved the cactus garden art, too. I started playing around with it and ended up creating two versions. I couldn't decide which one I liked best, so I put them both into my set. There are divider labels/binder covers for every topic under the sun that I could possibly think of. It's a lot!
I also created a bunch of forms for my own binder. Some of them are forms that I send home in my beginning of the year packet. Others are forms just to help me keep organized...and others are informational sheets for substitutes or student teachers (such as info about allergies and safety procedures).
And lastly...I made a whole collection of quote posters. Some of these are based on things that I say ALL THE TIME in my own classroom, such as "You get what you get and you don't pitch a fit!" I understand that in some parts of the country, those words don't rhyme...but here in Georgia, "get" and "fit" rhyme more often than not. I have a friend who teaches in Chicago now who says "You get what you get and you're grateful for it" instead so I included that version also. Take a peek...I am really thrilled with how these came out!
Since I know every teacher's classroom situation is unique, I also included editable templates of all of the teacher binder stuff and decorative files. There's always something I wish were included in decorative files I've purchased...editable templates fix that problem!

Do you want this set for your own classroom? Then hop on over to my TPT store to check it out! You can click on any of the pictures to take you there or just click here.

Thank you for checking out my little blog...Make something wonderful happen today!

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Father's Day Fun

Hey, hey! Today I'm popping in with a quick and easy Father's Day craft idea. I know a lot of us are out by now, but I hear that there are some sweet teachers still teaching through the middle of June! Eeep! (On the other hand, our kids come back August 1st, so I guess it all evens out, doesn't it?) This year I was way ahead of the game and bought my husband all of his Father's Day gifts a while back (okay, it was Memorial Day weekend, but still). I won't give away any of the gifts since there's an off chance he might read this but I don't think it's giving away too much to say that all of the things are going to be Star Wars themed. He loves Star Wars...has since he was a little kid...and I found one thing that was Star Wars related, and that led to another, and then another.

So the inspiration for this card came from his Father's Day gifts! It's an EASY little craft that Little Miss and I put together in about 10 minutes (if that) this afternoon. She helped me make both of the models...aside from the coloring, I did that. (I secretly love coloring! It's so relaxing!)

How cute are these little projects? The caption says "I love you to the moon and back." It's perfect for any daddy figure!

I also loved the sweet little surveys that were circulating for Mother's Day, so I made one for Father's Day, too.

How cute, right? I haven't done the survey yet with Little Miss, but I definitely will before Sunday. Her answers are likely to be hilarious!

If you want to snag your own copy, I posted it in my TPT shop. All of the masters are included for the rocket ships (either version-one is low prep, the other version is just a teensy bit more cutting) as well as multiple versions of the survey to suit dads, grandpas, or other father-like figures. I also threw in an ABC order and word search activity because I know some are still teaching (or doing summer school, or Vacation Bible School!). If you want to check it out, click the picture below!

Thanks for stopping by!

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Groundhog Day 2017

Hey, hey! What's this? A second blog post? Two in two weeks? Don't get too excited, haha!

This week was all about groundhog fun. As I'm sure you know, Groundhog Day was on Thursday. (Georgia's groundhog, Gen. Lee, did NOT see his shadow...and we always go with what he said over Punxsutawney early spring it is. Although I would love to see some snow, I don't want any snow days to interfere with our February bring on the warmer temps!) This year we decided as a grade level team to spend a week researching groundhogs, storing up facts on the little animals, and then write an informational report. I am so pleased with how everything turned out!

We started the week by frontloading our brains with facts about groundhogs. I made a set of informational posters that I projected on our interactive panel for us to look at as a digital text.

I also printed the posters for kids to look at, but we did more with the digital texts than anything. Side note: I LOVE our new interactive panels. We got them at the beginning of the year and they are so awesome! I can put a PDF file up with no hassle. I can also put the items into the panel's note-taking software and then use annotation tools like highlighters. This panel has changed my teaching life for the better!

Here are the posters all printed you can see, we had a lot of information to look at!

The writing part of this was really interesting. My kids have such diverse needs as writers, and I don't feel like I always address all of their needs like I should during writing time! This week, though, I really felt like they accomplished some excellent writing no matter what their level of writing proficiency might be.  We started with a graphic organizer...

Don't you love looking at first grade writing? Look at how this little friend spelled 'holes!' Love it.

After we did some work with the graphic organizer, we moved to the drafting stage. Now, I'm not going to lie...for some reason this week making the jump from the GO to the "sloppy copy" was a bit...difficult. I had kiddos who wanted to straight up copy everything they put on the GO onto their sloppy copy without converting them to sentences. There was conferencing...a LOT of conferencing...going on in our class this week. Of course, I had some writers who just needed to be let loose and they had amazing, informative pieces by the end of Day 1. For those kiddos, I pulled out some extra pages for their reports. They wrote about what groundhogs eat in detail and completed diagrams. If we'd had time, I might have also encouraged them to do a glossary because I think that would have been a neat component!

Here's how they turned out! They came out so cute that we hung them in the hallway. Funny story: I completely forgot that their groundhogs were supposed to have whiskers. I cut out all of the other pieces but forgot to give them strips of construction paper to make the whiskers. Ooops! Teacher fail! I still think they are really cute, though, and I am so happy with how they progressed from Day 1 of writing to the finished project.

(And yeah, we still have our 100th Day Rock Star guitars hanging up. I couldn't quite bear to take those down yet!)

I made all of the printables and resources for this unit. It's in my TPT shop! If you bought it, I would love to hear how your projects turned out in your classroom. This is definitely something I will do again next year and I will be creating more informational units like this one!

One more picture that has nothing to do with groundhogs...

This is one of the things that is making me happy this week! (Does anyone else listen to the NPR Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast? If not, you should because it's a great way to stay in touch with what's going on in pop culture when you're a teacher and have NO LIFE! Or maybe that's just me? LOL!) At the end of the podcast each week, the hosts share something that is making them happy that week. Well, this week my Read to Self time and reading conferences are making me so happy! I have some little friends who are taking off in reading and it makes my teacher's heart so full! We've been conferencing about picking books that are on our level but that are also INTERESTING to read. This sweetie right here picked up a Jon Klassen book last week (I Want My Hat Back-I love his books because they are funny but easy enough for beginning readers to read) and I told her she could definitely start reading Dr. Seuss on her own. She was so into reading Green Eggs and Ham that she didn't even notice me snapping a picture. This is the magic that is first getting so wrapped up in awesome books that they can finally read themselves!

Have a great week, everyone! If you live in the Southeast, hopefully our groundhog's prediction will be accurate and spring will be here to stay soon. :)