Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Shifting Focus

At 4:03 in the morning on May 2nd, my life was forever changed.  I became a mother to the most beautiful baby boy, and since then I have been trying to get into the groove and soak up as many baby cuddles as I can.  I am going to be taking a little break from my online stuff until I feel like I am able to balance it all a bit more without missing out on time with my little guy.  After all, he will only be tiny a little while, and I don't want to regret missing out on time with him because I was "too busy" with other endeavors.  I will hopefully resume blogging soon-ish...  :) Take care, friends! 

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Teacher Care Package Giveaway

Hey, friends!  I am SO excited to be collaborating with some of my favorite intermediate sellers to celebrate YOU, the people in the trenches, paving the way for the next generation of movers and shakers.  Because I am so appreciative of what teachers do on a daily basis, I'm giving away a precious basket of office goodies. (FYI...you MUST be a teacher in the USA or Canada to enter to win.)

In addition to a $25 TpT gift certificate, here's what you'll receive if YOU are the lucky winner:

Isn't it all so pretty?!  I almost wanted to toss a few duplicates into the basket for myself.  :)

I LOVE this little apothecary jar, and this is one thing I DID buy for our home while I was at Target.  I couldn't resist.  The mercury glass... the twine... the cork.  It's all too pretty for words.  It will make the perfect storage container for paper clips or push pins.  Beautiful and functional! 

I LOVE using push pins in my classroom and my home office to add a little extra flair to displays. I love the elegant simplicity of both sets.  I couldn't decide on which I liked more, so you get both!   They would be perfect to mix and match.  Plus, Target has THE cutest corkboards right now!  Run, don't walk.  You will thank me.  :)  I promise.

If you can't tell what the next item is it's a pack of three giant paperclips...perfect for taming paper mountains.   We all teach.  We all have papers to tame and organize, right?!  These are perfect!

You will also receive this set of magnetic clips.  I love the simplicity of the geometric designs.
They are perfect for the classroom or at home, don't you think?!

I am also throwing in a flash drive with some of my favorite products from my TpT shop!

Enter to win the care package in the Rafflecopter below.

If you're interested in entering to win other fabulous prizes, check out the blogs below:

Friday, May 1, 2015

The 2015-2016 Teacher Anchor!

Have you heard of C Jayne Teach?  It's a LOVELY online shop owned by my sweet friend Chandra, and honestly, it has become one of my absolute favorites over the past three years.  For that reason, I am SO excited to share a little bit about the 2015-2016 Teacher Anchor with you today!  It is getting a little bit of a makeover this year, and it is TOO CUTE!  This year, you can still order the "traditional" solid navy or solid red designs, or you can go a different route.  A third option features bold stripes, and YOU get to choose the color!  Plus, you can add your name for personalization!  There are lots of options this year as you will see below.

Here's a little snapshot of my Teacher Anchor.  I chose mint because green makes my heart skip a beat, and as you can see, it perfectly matches my computer background.  That, my friends, makes me incredibly giddy.  :)  It's the little things... right? 

I may be a *tad* partial to mint, but the 2015-2016 Teacher Anchor Binder is now available in twelve gorgeous colors, and it can be personalized with your name.   LOVE!   If you are anything like me, you are probably going to have a difficult time deciding which color you like best because they are all SO stinkin' pretty! I wavered back and forth between ballet pink, honeysuckle, emerald, and mint before making the big decision.  Seriously though, no matter which color you choose (or whether you choose the solid red or navy binder instead), I guarantee you will fall head over heels in love with the binder once it shows up at your doorstep.

If you have ordered the Teacher Anchor in the past, it's important to note a few additional changes that you will notice when you receive your new binder.  For one thing, the striped binder is not as thick as the solid red and navy binders are, but it is every bit as durable.  The Teacher Anchor binders have always been high quality, and the striped binder is no exception.  It is well-made, and it is built to withstand lots of wear and tear.  Swoon... <3 br="">

This is what the cover looks like should you decide to go with the solid design.  It's another beautiful and classy choice.  Again, it really comes down to a matter of personal preference, but it's nice to have more options this year, right?!

Another SLIGHT difference is that the planner itself used to have three holes to place directly inside of the binder.  Now it does not.   I don't feel like this is a deal-breaker, but I do want to point it out so you know what you're buying, should you decide to pull the trigger.  I actually have always used my binder independently of my spiral plan book  anyway because I like using it for my evidence binder.  (I live in Ohio, and we have a pretty rigorous process called OTES to measure teacher performance.  This gives my data and evidence a home for my pre-conferences with my principal.) As it turns out, LOTS of teachers were using it outside of the binder and using the binder for student progress monitoring, so I am not alone.  This is helpful for teachers who just want to use the Teacher Anchor without purchasing the binder as well.  

In other news, I  LOVE the slightly metallic polka dots on the cover this year, and I like that Chandra included colored cardstock dividers for different sections of the planner: monthly calendar, weekly calendar, grade book, blackline masters, and the Common Core.  New forms and pages have been added to the planner including more "notes" pages, a professional development planner and log and allergy record to name a few.  It also includes the "student data sheet" on the inside instead of on separate sheets for extra ease of use. 

The next several photographs showcase Chandra's Teacher Anchor.  She went with the navy binder, but you can see that the spiral plan book is gray and navy just like mine.  It does not come in different colors like the binder does, but I think the navy and gray works as a neutral palette.  It looks kind of preppy and classic with any color, in my opinion.  Of course, in my world, leopard print is also a neutral.  I love mixing and matching colors and patterns, personally.  If you don't, you could always choose the navy binder, or you could go with red!  No matter what, I really don't think you can go wrong! 

This snapshot shows one of Chandra's clipboards with one of her striped folders and the inside of the Teacher Binder's spiral plan book.  The boxes are a nice size for sketching out your plans.

Check out this precious tumbler from her new product line!  I love the message.  It says, "You are awesome.  Your students are learning from you.  And today is going to be a good day."  A little positivity can make even the bleakest days just a little better.  So can cute tumblers.

If you are interested in any of the goodies in this post, make sure to head over to C Jayne Teach to check them out.  I always LOVE her products, and now I am a little more prepared for next year!  Considering that I will be starting next school year out as a brand new mommy, that's worth its weight in gold.  Hands down.  Teacher Anchor for the WIN!

Monday, April 27, 2015

Preparing for Maternity Leave!

Oh my stars, friends!  After nine years in the classroom, life is about to change.  After years of investing SO much into other people's kiddos, it's time to divide and conquer.  My due date is SUNDAY, and I am about to have a little peanut of my very own in two weeks (at the very latest).  My maternity leave is quickly approaching.  (As in, I just have to make it through Friday. I think I can...I think I can...) Aside from giving myself pep talks, I have been getting the last few details in order for my long-term sub, and I am excited to show you how I decided to go about organizing resources for her! 

Disclaimer:  I am not saying that this is the ONLY way to do this, nor am I saying it's the BEST way to go about it. Let's face it: I am a soon-to-be first-time mom.  I am a total ROOKIE.  :)  That said, the very OCD side of my personality couldn't just sit back, cross my fingers, and go to a blissfully ignorant place when it came to planning.  My students are definitely "my kids" too, and I definitely wanted to keep the train rolling after I jump off.  :)  Derailing is simply not an option.  So, I planned and planned...and prepped and prepped... and organized... and this is what I came up with.  Maybe it can work for you too!  Especially if you have a touch of OCD as well.  :)

Because I was simultaneously planning my maternity leave, gearing up for state testing (and our Test Prep Blitz), and trying to keep the rigor up while finishing up Wax Museums (all while dealing with never-ending all-day sickness), I decided to utilize Ashleigh's 3rd- 5the Grade Reading Workshop Unit 4 which focuses on mini author studies.  I liked that it would provide a spiral review for my students while maintaining rigor and providing quality lesson plans for my sub (without having to type them out myself).  This is the core of our ELA block.  Of course, the kids will continue reading their main selections, testing, doing their Reading Response Menus for homework, writing, wrapping up Social Studies, and working through their Word Warriors or Affix Avengers spelling lists as well, so I still had plenty of work to do.  Still, the author studies helped me relax a little bit without totally overwhelming myself. 

I corralled all of the books (and other books by the featured authors) into a milk crate so all of the mentor texts were in one place, and I numbered them so that they would correspond with the lesson plans for quick and seamless utilization by the sub. Plus, it will make it easier when I use the resources in the future!  Winning! :)

As you can see, I used neon garage sale dots for labeling purposes.  I used a different color for each week to help organize the sets as well as to differentiate between mentor texts and additional texts by each other.  Once I finished labeling the books, I made copies of each accompanying graphic organizer and put them into file folders with corresponding dots to keep it nice and organized!  After they were labeled, they were filed away in a single drawer.

Now, I admit.  This is putting my Type A personality on display for all to see, and some of you may be shaking your heads saying, "No thank you", but this puts my mind at ease.  Chipping away at it just a little bit at a time made it SO manageable too.  Plus, it's pretty, right?!  Well, it stayed pretty until I started stuffing spelling lists, spelling lessons, fluency checks, centers, and other resources into the drawer.  Now it looks more like this:

Just keeping it real, folks!  When you cram 6 weeks of resources into a drawer (just in case), you take what you can get.  It's not all rainbows and colored dots anymore, and I am at peace with it.  I literally crammed it all into one drawer for convenience, and then I labeled the front with colored masking tape.  Nothing super fancy.

Anything that didn't fit inside of the file cabinet is sitting on the file cabinet itself... like my Sub Tub... and a green basket with resources and files that need to be kept at the sub's fingertips.  I keep reusable name tags inside of my Sub Tub at all times.  I used to use the sticky tags for years, but this year, I finally wised up.  I made them for the first day of school, and they have been in the Sub Tub for subs ever since.  Hopefully they will make the first day for our sub even easier...even though she's already been in my classroom a few times working with kids and observing.  :) 

Other than that, I have the mentor text crate on my counter-top next to a few center materials that won't fit in my file drawer for obvious reasons.  (Literally all of my non-essential resources have been packed up to take that off of the sub's plate, and to ensure that she just has to leaf through the materials I leave out.

Aside from the file cabinet, I organized all of my lesson plans and master copies into a big binder so it's all in one place.  (Are you noticing a trend here?!) I tucked a tentative calendar of events in the front pocket as well.

Although I LOVE my Sub Tub to the moon and back, I decided to create a maternity specific binder because WHY NOT?!  The cute clip art makes me happy, and it makes everything a little more festive.  Don't you think!? I am working on finalizing an editable copy right now, so hopefully I will be able to make it available to you soon... you know... when my baby is sleeping or something.  :)  In the meantime, I have it available in my TpT store as a pdf file.  (FYI...once I add the editable version, the price will remain the same.) The New Baby Bin and Maternity Binder is similar to my Sub Tub organizationally, but the design is different.  (I totally need to switch the bin label out now that I think about it!)   I think it would make the perfect gift for an expecting co-worker!  I plan on sending a copy to my friend Rachel who's expecting in August!  Here's a few action shots of the new binder!

As you can see, I am ready to go!  We're just waiting on our little guy to arrive... and hoping he isn't fashionably late.  If he is, he may end up looking a little too much like this:

Good luck to everyone getting ready for maternity leave, and enjoy your time off with your little one!

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Wax Museum: Can I Have Your Autograph?!

Before spring break, my room was brimming with famous Americans for a star-studded event: our Wax Museum Biographies! Regrettably, it's taken me FOREVER to blog about it, but I suppose this is one of those times where I have to shrug my shoulders and say, "It's better late than never, right?"  Pregnancy has been the ultimate game-changer for me this year.  I have learned that I can only do so much, and all in all, that hasn't necessarily been a bad thing.  It's just made it a little more difficult to keep up with my online world... this blog and TpT.  As my due date approaches next Sunday (what?!) I am super excited to settle into my new "normal" and HOPEFULLY settle back into a more regular blogging routine this summer.  Fingers crossed! 

At any rate, here are some snapshots from our big event!  As you can see, my kiddos got really into character again this year.  I LOVE seeing what they come up with, and I absolutely LOVE reading their reports!  This is always one of those projects that makes me realize how far my students have grown, and this year, since I had this group last year as third graders and again this year as fourth graders, the growth is even more obvious and glorious.  I could brag on them forever, but I will spare you, and I will shower you with photos instead!

In addition to their costumes, my students bring props to help bring their person to "life".  Some of them even go the extra mile to create trifold or poster displays to support their speeches.

Have YOU ever had a wax museum with your kiddos?!  I am telling you, it is one of the most engaging ways to hook your students and help them realize just how rewarding research can be.  Plus, it's such a great way to invite other students into your classroom to give your students a real audience!

Plus, when their writing matches the attention to detail that they put into their costumes, you know you've struck a nerve with them.  :)  Here's just one example to give you an idea of what I mean:

As you can see, this is the kind of project that teacher dreams are made of.