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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Back to School Goals 2013 :)

I am linking up with my blogging buddy, Jess, at I {Heart} Recess for her Goals Linky!  
It is always good therapy to set goals and then put them in writing.  
Somehow it makes me more confident that I can accomplish them!  
Personal:  I have been taking kickboxing for a couple years now (love it!) and started karate this past spring too.  My instructor said I should take my yellow belt test in August and I am really nervous! I don't really know exactly what to expect and my friends that have taken one said it is awful.  I was told last week that even though I "know" what I need to for the test, I WILL make a mistake because I will be so exhausted. :(  I guess I can make five mistakes before I fail the test.  Wish me luck!

Organization:  I started organizing my file cabinets this summer and still need to get to organizing my shelves.  There are SO many "teacher resource" books that I need to toss that I have been hanging onto for so long!  I hope I am in the "tossing mood" the day I tackle that job!  Have you experienced tossing moods versus hoarding moods?  I swear it is related to hormones or something!) 

Planning:  I began using Daily 5 (modified for Daily 4) last year and to implement the CAFE the same year was too overwhelming.  Now, I am planning on implementing CAFE this year too and am excited for everything it has to offer!

Professional:  There are so many changes occurring in education and our district.  Last year was particularly rough.  Our APPR binder required 24 "artifacts" following the Danielson rubric for teachers but it just wasn't any "artifacts" that fit each domain.  We had to use two of the three recommended artifacts set by our district.  Seriously, who writes up their entire unit plans for a binder anymore?  It was a ton of busy work in the same year that we were implementing the Common Core that our tests were aligned with in NY last year (with no new materials!).  So, I need to do a better job at just staying positive, take it day by day, and b.r.e.a.t.h.e.

Students:  Be present.   What teacher isn't in a time crunch everyday to fit it all in?  When you have 20+ students who just idolize you and want your undivided attention, it is difficult to divide your time.  However, there are certain "down times" in the day that I try to give them their time to just talk to me and tell their silly stories (they have SO many!).  I tell them some of my silly stories too:)  When I remind myself to do this, I really do a better job at attending to my students and their little everyday moments.  Before I know it, my year with them will be over and I will be shedding tears as I send them on to the next grade. :(

Down time can be during snack time, in the morning when they first get there, at the end of the day getting ready to go home, getting ready for lunch, etc.  If I have "that student" who likes to have my attention ALL the time and doesn't give others a chance, I put a limit on their time.  For example, I might say, "You can have my attention for a personal comment 2x a day."  It shows that I still want to hear what they have to say but they need to share time with others.

Motto:  Just Do What You Do Best.  An anonymous colleague placed this laminated phrase in my mailbox about ten years ago.  It was illustrated with a picture of a girl gardening and I still have it hanging on my file cabinet.  I don't know who gave it to me all those years ago but I remember that I was really overwhelmed at the time.  I was taking graduate classes, buying a home, my puppy died (she was our baby!), and I was crazy busy coaching cheerleading all year.  It really puts things into perspective for me when I stop and think, "Just Do What You Do Best."  No one can ask any more of you.  

The wonderful Melissa at Don't Let the Teacher Stay Up Late is having an amazing giveaway that you don't want to miss!  Check it out!!

Don't forget that Tried It Tuesday is back in full swing 
next week with a new link up every Tuesday!  

What is 'Tried It Tuesday'?
1.  Write a post about any"thing" you have...TRIED!
2.  Describe what worked and maybe what didn't work.
3.  Keep it simple and focus on one general topic. 
You can link another idea next week:)
4.  Link your post to my blog post
Thanks friends!!  I can't wait to see what you have all been up to!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Pin It to Win It Book Bin Label Winners:)

I know I said I would post the winners of my Pin It To Win It for the Owl Book Bin Labels today!  Well, technically it IS still Sunday:)  So sorry for the delay!  We had a super busy weekend of camping, fair, cheerleading performance, and kickboxing show.  The new iPhone is great for doing small things but not so much for writing posts.  
Since I am posting late, I hope it is a consolation to know that I chose NOT one winner, NOT two winners, NOT three winners, but FOUR Winners:)  I said I would choose at least one winner for the owl set and another one would win a custom theme designed for them.  Well, the random number generator came up with these three numbers first and all of the commenters wanted the owl set!

So, on the third try, I came up with a number for a custom theme request!
Congratulations to Carly, Kim, Jessica, and Lauren!!  
UPDATE: Carly and Kim-please email me so I can get your email address.  You are no reply bloggers and I cannot find your emails! Thanks:)
Be sure to check back this week to see another way you could win these labels (or a custom look) for your book bins! :)
Happy Sunday night everyone! 

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Spark Student Motivation Saturday (writing journals)!

I am linking up with my BBB, Joanne, at Head Over Heels for Teaching for her Spark Student Motivation Saturdays!  Bloggers share lessons, tips, goodies, etc. that motivate their students.
My student motivation tip is an idea that I implemented last year: 
Decorating and Personalizing Writing Journal Covers

I read about this motivating strategy last summer on Love 4th Grade.  
Decorating and personalizing writing journal covers really gives students ownership of their writing journals and is a fun activity to do the first week of school.  Anything that makes the writing process a little more motivation is great!  I would have to say that students coming to 4th grade complain about writing more than any other activity.  We always talk about why writing might be their least favorite thing to do in school and come to the conclusion that they have not practiced it as much as other skills.  
Who likes to do things that they aren't very good at yet?  
So, in 4th grade, we do A LOT of writing for practice!  
It helps to have this journal "special" since they will be using it so much!

Over the summer, I decorated my own journal as an example for the students.  I cut out images that represent me in some way and added a couple pictures of my family.  Then, I mod podged the cover.
I remember how excited the students were to decorate the journals and see them the next day all mod podged!  Here is a picture of some of the journals last year just before I mod podged them:
This year I think I will also apply a thin coat of varnish over the mod lodge after it dries because on some journals the mod podge started to peel over time.  
I will use varnish from the craft store like this:
I also made this handout describing the decorating notebooks process with a sample picture of mine.  I gave some time to look for pictures from magazines during class but had students finish gathering materials from home for homework.  They loved this!
This handout was great for students to take home and show their parents what they needed to look for and also reminded the students of the directions too:)  Last year I didn't receive any notes or calls with questions from parents on this project.  Always a plus!

Click Here to get your editable copy of the document below for FREE from my TPT store!
This handout is now EDITABLE too!!

I will be announcing the winners of my Pin It To Win It tomorrow!  
Stop by and comment if you would like a chance to win some book bin labels:)

Also, don't forget to enter for your chance to win a $50 TPT gift card by following a new

Here is what you need to do to enter for a chance to win a $50 TpT gift certificate:
  • Click the picture above or {here} to take you to our collaborative board.
  • Follow the board.
  • Find the pin description that contains the special code.
  • Enter the code in the Rafflecopter.
  • Easy-peasy!!
  • Contest ends Sunday, July 28th at midnight.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, July 26, 2013

Pinterest Scavenger Hunt Contest and Favorite Pins Friday!!

I am linking up this Friday with First Grade Parade for Favorite Pins Friday!
What a great way to take a look back and get some new ideas from all the link ups.
Hint: There is a surprise at the end of this post that you won't want to miss...

Pin #1:  It seems like everyone has heard of the awesome behavior beads from Run! Miss Nelson's Got the Camera.  Alison at Rockin' and Lovin' Learnin' designed these Rockin' Behavior Beads!

Pin #2:  This is a tutorial posted in March by Mrs. Stanford's Class but I just found it this week!  It shows you how to lock an iPad to keep a student on a certain activity/app at center time.  I think this would give me the assurance I need for those tech savvy kids when I can't be looking over their shoulder:)

Pin #3: Personalized hand sanitizer bottle DIY from Head Over Heels for Teaching.  
I want to make these for my teacher friends and my daughter's teacher!  

Pin #4:  Box of 150 Children's books for about $34 (after shipping and handling).  AMAZING DEAL!
Pin #5: Here is a Cucumber Salad with just 5 ingredients and 10 minutes of prep time!  Perfect for summertime!  Love!!

Speaking of Pinterest, there is a new Collaborative Board for grades 4-6 Pins set up by the amazing Diane at Fifth in the Middle.  I am a lucky contributor!  

Here is nice surprise for our followers!! :)
We know that you're thinking about all of the items on your TpT wishlist as you are switching into back-to-school mode. Wouldn't it be nice if you had a TpT gift certificate to use? Well, it's your lucky day! These upper elementary bloggers are going to help foot the bill!  

Here is what you need to do to enter for a chance to win a $50 TpT gift certificate:
  • Click the picture above or {here} to take you to our collaborative board.
  • Follow the board.
  • Find the pin description that contains the special code.
  • Enter the code in the Rafflecopter.
  • Easy-peasy!!
  • Contest ends Sunday, July 28th at midnight.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Book Bin Labels (Pin It to Win It)!

Hi friends!  So, I blogged about the beginning of my classroom library makeover for Monday Made It this week.  I am making the switch to book bins for the first time and am so excited!  
I think it will really make a difference in having a more organized, appealing library.  
I couldn't find the exact bright, colorful labels I wanted in an owl theme, so I made my own.
I just love the bright colors and think they will go well with my bookcases that I painted black 
(still have two more to go) and the bright colored bins from the Dollar Tree!

I finally finished all the book bin labels and sticker templates to go in the books for easy student returns.
Click on the link above or one of the images below to see the description of this pack on TPT.

If you would like to WIN these labels, Pin one of the images above, leave the URL of your pin in the comment section, and I will choose at least one winner by random number generator sometime this weekend!  We are camping all weekend so sometimes it is tricky to do these things on the iPhone:)

Owls not your thing? 
I will also choose a winner that would like a custom theme!  
I am open to any themes or colors and will choose the first number that comes up of someone who wants a custom theme made too!  It will take me a few days to get the file ready for you:)
So, when you leave the URL of your pin in the comments section, let me know if you would like the owls or a custom theme if you win!
Don't be discouraged if you don't win this time. Be on the lookout for more giveaways coming soon. :)
Thank you for your support friends!!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Optimum Organization (Center Materials)!!

 Organization is something I strive for, however no matter how hard I try, there is ALWAYS something new to organize!  Whether it is new materials or old materials I didn't take the time to put away properly, I just can't seem to keep everything exactly how I want.  Maybe that is a good thing because my materials are always changing?  Yeah, I'll go with that one:)

Today I am linking up a little late with Fun in Room 4B and Ladybug's Teacher Files for their Optimum Organization linky.  There will be a new linkup on Saturday (their LAST one of the summer!).  Be sure to check it out if you strive for organization like me!
This year I started using task cards (see post here) for the first time and placed them in this cart for student access.  I placed reading and writing task cards in the bottom four drawers and math in the top four drawers.  I would really like another one of these from Lakeshore Learning but I don't think they sell it anymore!).  
At first, I placed each center in its own drawer.  The drawers filled up too fast and I needed more space!
So, then I put each center in a folder and taped the laminated cover on the front of the folder.  All the task cards, game materials, directions, answer keys, and student recording sheets go inside.  
This system worked well for keeping everything organized and there were only a few times the students didn't put the items back where they needed to be.  I always pointed it out to the class and made them accountable if they put something back incorrectly to come back and fix it.  This might have taken more time initially than it would have taken ME to fix it, but I think it pays off in the long run!  It is kind of like with my three year old and six year old at home.  I teach them how to "clean up" and this can take a daunting process at times, but in the end I hope that they will learn how to take care of their own belongings and it will become second nature. :)
I like this system rather than storing the small task cards in a separate small container because everything is in one location.  The recording sheets and directions often are full size sheets of paper and I didn't want to have students go to two different locations to find the materials for a center activity.

So, what did I do with the folders once I removed them from the cart?  Nothing other than lay them flat and unorganized in my file cabinet!!  It was a MESS by the end of the year!  So, needless to say, this was my number one item on my to-do list this summer.
I found these beauties in the clearance section at WalMart for $.25 each!
I went back and forth about storing all my center materials in a binder labeled for each section or using my file cabinet.  I thought I could use these binder pouches to store the task cards.  In the end though, 
I decided to store the folders with the center materials in my file cabinet using hanging folders.  
I had a file cabinet that was basically unused once I cleaned out all my old materials from when I taught 6th grade.  I could also have stored the binders in the file cabinet but I wanted the fastest way possible to access my center folders when it was time to make lesson plans and change folders out.  When I use binders, I find that I often place papers near the binder or on top of the binder because it just seems like so much effort to take the binder out, open the binder, find the section, open the binder rings and place my materials in the binder. Then, I have to close the rings, close the binder, and place it back in the file cabinet.  I would have also had to 3 hole punch my materials or use plastic sleeves to organize them and then take the materials and add it to my folders with the cover.  
Whew!!  Yep, I am a little lazy in the binder department:)  
Kudos to all you binder lovers who keep everything organized and put away!
So, for now I have divided the math drawer into sections labeled by each core domain.  
I can already tell that I am going to have to divide it up further into separate standards because I am running out of room quickly.  I will probably label the folders by specific skills rather than 4.OA.A.1 because I do not have all the separate standards memorized (go figure!).
I left all the covers taped on the front so they are ready to go next year and I just pull them out of the hanging file!
I place small task cards or items that all fit in a bag in the $.25 binder pouches.
Shown in picture: Holiday Hoopla math centers by 4th Grade Frolics 
and Fact or Opinion Task Cards by Minds in Bloom

I also started organizing the ELA drawer and labeled those sections by skills for center materials.

I'm sure this system will be tweaked over the years and I still have a lot left to organize, but I am happy with the start I have made.  If I can get everything organized to START the school year, it will make planning and getting those materials out so much faster during the busy year!  

Don't forget to check out Fun in Room 4B's giveaway for $100 in materials from School Outfitters!! Wow!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Monday Made It (Beginning of Classroom Library Makeover!)

I was pretty productive this week, knocking items off my to-do list at home and school!  
My home to-do list items that I accomplished were organizing areas in my home that have needed it for a long time, so I didn't really "make" anything.  
But I have some projects that I have been working on for school!  
I am excited to share them with you for 4th Grade Frolics Monday Made It.  
I just love Mondays over the summer and Tara's linky!  Everyone is so creative and inspiring!
I have desperately been needing a way to keep track of the blogging world to-do list.  
I can't seem to keep straight all the linky parties, the giveaways I donate to, and posting links on Pinterest, Facebook, and so on.  
When I saw this product, I knew I could use it!
Okay, so I didn't make it...but I printed it and stuck it in this handy binder.  
I'd have to say that I "made" a way to organize my blogging! :)  

Here is a page to keep track of giveaways.  There is a new page for each month of the calendar.
Here is a page to keep track of linky parties for the month.
Here is the first calendar page for each month.  The little squares on each date are to check if the post is scheduled and for status updates for Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter.
I found these two bookcases this summer at two different garage sales!  They are both very sturdy and have real wood.  I bought a cheap bookcase at a department store last summer for $15.  Well, a student sat on the top of it and it broke.  Good bookcases are SO expensive and I was on the lookout for some good garage sale finds that I could spruce up.
This one was $7:

This one was $10.  A father made it from his daughter's old bedroom furniture set!

I already have two other mismatched bookcases in my classroom, and knew that I wanted to paint all of them the same color.  I decided to go with black because I bought some bright book bins at the Dollar Tree and I knew they would look striking against the black! :)
First, I primed both bookcases.

 I love using these little 4" rollers for jobs like this.
Then, I painted them black.  They each took two coats of black.

 I had my 6 year old stand here so you could see how tall the bookcase is. :)
Don't they look better?  I think it looks much more upper elementary appropriate in black.
I can't wait to put my colorful bins on them but need to put a coat of polyurethane on the shelves.
I may even add some fun, bright scrapbook paper to these bookcases or the two I still need to paint in my classroom once I can get back in there.  
I found some bins at the Dollar Tree for $1 each and knew they would make great book bins!  
I have never had book bins in my library before and am so excited for the change.  
Since I am sticking with my owl theme for another year, I had my heart set on owl book bin labels.
I searched and searched but couldn't find what I really wanted that I could customize.
So, I made my own!!  You can find them here on TPT.
Here is a preview of what they will look like. 

 These are not laminated yet, but I wanted to see how they look on the bins.  
I plan on laminating the labels and applying them with double sided tape.
The owl graphics by Digital Potpourri are so bright and colorful.  
They are just what I was looking for!
I hope my students remember where to return the books that they borrow, but, in case they forget, each book will have a label to help ensure it goes back in the right place!  
(Help is the key word...hopefully, my classroom librarians will be right on top of keeping it organized!).  
Here are the labels I printed for Realistic Fiction so far.  I used Avery address labels 8160.
On a final note, yesterday we went blueberry picking.  
There was finally a break in the heat and it was cloudy.  Perfect day to pick some blueberries! 
We picked a combined 12.5 pounds. :)
One bucket is my 6 year old daughter's, one is my husband's, and the other is mine.   
Guess who picked the most? 
Yep, me!  Not gonna lie.  That was pretty satisfying.  
My husband and I compete over little things like that.  
Of course, to rub it in a little more, I pointed out that I also took time to take pictures while picking AND he dumped my three year old's bucket in with his (not that it was much...buy hey!). 
I told him he didn't have a prayer because I am so used to multitasking that I can just do my tasks "super fast"!  Haha!!  
I have yet to meet a man that can multitask like the women I know can. :)  Sorry guys!

Don't forget to go back often this week and check out all the Monday Made Its!!