Saturday, July 27, 2013

Back To School Beginnings Giveaway

One of my blogging besties, Lyndsey, from A Year Of Many Firsts and I are hosting a fun Back to School giveaway. I just love me some Lyndsey!! From packets to posts, this girl never offers up anything less than AMAZING!

You have the chance to win BOTH of our Back to School packets. You will LOVE these goodies, especially if you LOVE Melonheadz clip art (can you tell we are a teeny bit obsessed!?). Between the two of us, you will be SET for the beginning of the year. 

Here’s what you can win (whoop, whoop!):

  Lyndsey's Back to School packet! It's LOADED with fun first week of school activities. My favorite has to be her Back to School Expert Club!  Learning the rules for school couldn't get any more fun and I know every one of my kids will be eager to prove that they're ready join the first and second grade clubs. 



She has packets for K, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd. Read all about them in more detail here

You can also win one of my Back To School Bash packs! One of the activities included in this pack is an Everyone is SMART lesson which teaches students that we all have strengths, and that we should celebrate them! You can read more about in detail here.

I have Back to School Bash Packs for 2nd and 3rd grade too!

So, what do you have to do to win? Follow the Rafflecopter below to enter:

We will announce the winner on Monday! Good luck!!

Friday, July 26, 2013

First Year Teacher Tips

I'm getting ready to start my 5th year of teaching and had a request to do a post on First Year Teacher Tips. Let me start by saying, I do not by any means consider myself to be a "veteran" teacher. I'm just hoping that I can share some helpful tips of the trade I've pick up along the way with those who are just getting started or those who want to take a trip down memory lane! :)

1. Celebrate Often

First off, CONGRATULATIONS!! You landed your first teaching job! That's EXCITING! You should feel proud. Now before you let your nerves get the best of you, remind yourself that you were chosen for a reason. You have so much to offer and this is just the first of many victories you will be celebrating this first year. You will celebrate the first time you look up and realize you don't have a trail of ducklings behind you wondering what they should be doing next. You'll celebrate making it through your first parent teacher conference week. You'll celebrate making it home before 6:00 PM. So put your party pants on!!

2. Learn The Management Mambo

Classroom management is the system of routines and expectations you've set in your classroom. The better you have taught these routines and expectations, the smoother your classroom will run and the less behavior management issues you will have. Sometimes people mistake behavior management and classroom management for being the same thing. But your behavior management is whatever system you have chosen to track positive and negative behaviors. Classroom management is your kids knowing what they should do first when they enter the classroom in the morning. Knowing how to return books to your classroom library when they are finished with them. Transitioning from the carpet to their desks quickly so you can jump right into the next activity. All of these things are classroom management. 

3. Write Down Routines For E.V.E.R.Y.T.H.I.N.G.

Regardless of whether you're teaching kindergarten or middle school, your students are going to need to know what your expectations are for when they need to use the bathroom. They need to know how to replace a broken pencil. And they definitely need to know what you want them to do when they finish an assignment in half the time you thought it would take them- because if they don't they're going to start bothering everyone around them. Before you can make your routines and expectations clear to your students, you need to be clear on them yourself. So trust me on this, you want to write them down so you don't have to try and make these decisions on the fly. Scholastic has this excellent list of 30 Classroom Procedures that every teacher should plan for to help get you started!

4. Consider Investing In A Lunch Box.

Long hours and short lunch breaks make it easy to start skipping meals or running to your closest fast food joint for your next one. Even if you're not a chef in the kitchen (I know I'm not) bringing food to work with you increases your chances of getting some good food into your body, which is essential to making it through the day!! Just grabbing snack breaks here and there  will keep you going. If my kids are having snack, I try and have a snack. If I get stuck on a phone call during lunch or a meeting after work runs longer than expected (they usually do) I can grab something from my bag and power through!

5. Learn Thy Standards

Do the words Common Core ring any bells? Even if you're not in a Common Core state, your state and district has grade level standards that they expect you to be teaching. You can't just bank on the fact that the curriculum manual you were handed at orientation will cover everything. It will help if you have taken the time to read through your standards and continue to revisit them over the course of the year. I like to keep mine printed and in a fun binder for quick reference. 

6. Beat The Paper Trap

The ammount of papers that float around a school on a daily basis is mind boggling. Student work, assessments, notes from families, staff meeting hand outs, fliers to send home - the list goes on and on. Though it may feel obsessive, having a space for every paper to go the moment it leaves your hand will help save your sanity. Click here to read how I work to beat the paper trap. 

7.  DON'T vent on social media

Yes your Facebook and twitter etc are your personal spaces and you should feel free to express yourself freely.  But I strongly caution you against ranting about your work frustrations on social media. You never know who may be reading, or taking a screen shot, of the words you post at the end of a difficult day. Everyone has things they need to vent about, just be smart about how and where you do it.  You don't want parents, co-workers, or principals to read into your words the wrong way.  

8.  Be Intentional With You Room Layout

I spend a lot of time shuffling around my furniture whenever I inherit a new classroom. This is phase one for me in setting up my room. Before any decorating or curriculum prep, I need to have my room laid out. But before you can really set up your space, you need to make decisions about your teaching style. Will you be teaching in small guided reading and math groups? If yes, then you will need to set up a table space where you can work with a group and still be able to see what the rest of your class is doing. Will your students work in centers during the day? Then you will need to make sure they have easy access to the materials they will need and a defined workspace. Traffic flow is very important!

9. Don't Pile Too Much On Your Plate

 Repeat after me, "I can do anything but not everything!"Your first year you may feel pressure to become involved in as many extras as possible because you want show your enthusiasm and support of your new school. This can quickly lead to over commitment. You will already be working in overdrive your first year to handle everything you need to do for your students each day. If you volunteer for too many committees or after school activities, you may find yourself quickly burning out. I advise you to just pick one thing that you're really interested at becoming involved with and sticking with it this year. Another great way to show support is to volunteer to help with an event night. Maybe there is a Literacy Night committee that you're not a part of that requests volunteers to help out with things the night of the event. That's a great way to lend a helping hand and support your school community without over committing yourself to another responsibility that lasts the duration of the year.

10. Keep a Swag Stash. 

Whether it's a drawer, a box, or a high shelf in the closet-  find a place to keep some personal items like:
  •  Advil/Tylenol for headaches
  • Personal hygeine items. (Confession: I have driven to work before only to realize I forgot to put on deodorant!! What!? So now there is always a bar in my swag stash!)
  • Phone/Keys 
  • Extra set of clothing juuust in case... (paint, glue, puke. When working with kids it's all fair game people!)
  • Chocolate. Always Chocolate.
11. Hold Onto Your Lesson Plans

One of the main reasons your first year is so exhausting is you haven't written any lesson plans yet. And now you have to write lots of them! So hold on to them. Yes you will want to continue to add to and evolve your plans each year as your groups change and you find new things to bring to the table. But keeping your initial plans allows you to work smarter and not harder year two...three...four...and onward.

12. Pick a Focus

I'm going on year five and I still struggle with this one. You'll want to do it all - be the best reading teacher, the best math teacher, the best classroom manager that your students have ever known. And you'll want to do it all right off the jump. It's in our nature to want the best for our students. But you really will accomplish a lot more of what you want to do if you set 1-3 long term goals each year. List your goals and space them out so that they're broken into realistic chunks of what you want to accomplish.

13. Find Yo-Self a Support System

 Hopefully you are automatically paired up with a brilliant mentor or  have a rock star team that will have your back!! But all you really need is one person. Find a teaching bestie! Someone you can vent to in confidence, turn to for suggestions and advice, giggle with over the crazy things kids say, and tag team watching your class for you when you just can't hold it until lunch.

14. Take Your Work For A Joy Ride 

I can't tell you how many times I lug home a bag full of papers only to leave them in the backseat un-touched until I get back to school again the next day. I know how hard it can be to just step away but you have to do it. Make plans with people to do things that you love. It's easier to walk away when you have committed to something and would be letting others down if you bailed.

15. Ch-ch-ch Changes

 It's okay to admit that maybe the current seating arrangement that you spent hours strategically plotting in an effort to separate your talkers is not in fact actually working that well. Take a deep breath, grab a piece of chocolate from the swag stash, and try a new arrangement. Are you hating your behavior management system, the one with the three colored cards that your entire team uses but just isn't jiving with your crew? Don't be afraid to try something new that works better for you. At the end of the day you have to do what's best for you and your class and it's okay to switch things up. Kids are way more adaptable to change then us adults are, and far more forgiving.

16. Buy Oranges (In Bulk)

Everyday you will enter a room full of  new germs who will try like clockwork to take you out right before parent teacher conference week.  So take your vitamin C, make sure you're getting enough sleep, and Lysol like crazy.

17. Maximize Your Wall Space

Don't feel compelled to cover every inch of your classroom walls with stuff before the first day of school. You should look at your walls as a teaching aide that is with you all day everyday! Post things that your students will refer to throughout the day to help reinforce what you've taught them. Anchor charts, word walls, focus walls - all of these are things your students will refer back to and utilize even when you're working with a small group or helping out the kid who tied their shoelaces to their chair during snack. (Been there, done that.) These items should find their way onto your walls over time as they're taught. Rules, calenders, schedule cards are all things kids will refer too during the day. But if you start the year with everything you're going to teach already hung up, it can be overstimulating. Also, you want to save space to display student work!

18. Friend The Janitor and The Secretary

Trust me on this one. These are the people that will help your life go round at work and you will want to make fast friends with them! Show genuine appreciation for all that they do. I mean, would you really want to tackle the surprise that first grader left on the bathroom floor? Or be on the front lines for every parent phone call that comes in during the day? Daily thank you's plus a cupcake on a birthday or holidays go a long way. I'm just sayin'.

19. Be Thrifty

All the awesome things you see in veteran teacher rooms that make you green with envy, they didn't get there overnight. Rugs, iPads, book bins for every student, pillows, chair pockets, ginormous libraries-  you don't need it ALL to start. It's easy to blow through your life savings with one trip through the Lakeshore catalog if you're not careful. You can find baskets and bins galore at The Dollar Tree. Donors Choose can help you start to bring some of those fun extras into your room. You can also score some good finds by browsing sites like Craigslist and typing "classroom" into the search engine. One thing you might want to consider investing in year one - mailboxes. You will use mailboxes every year again and again so it is worth it to purchase a sturdy set.

20.  Just Keep Swimming...

Some days the score board will read Students: 17 Teacher: 0 and all the tricks that you swore were up your sleeves that morning still won't save you. Go to sleep at least an hour earlier than usual that night. And just remind yourself, tomorrow is a new day! My first year was long. At times it was overwhelming. The thought, "What have I gotten myself into," may have crossed my mind a time or two ten. But you didn't get into this line of work because you thought it was going to be easy. You got into it because you knew you'd get to effect lives for the better, everyday. So pace yourself, and enjoy the ride! Experience is the best education. I learned more my first week in the classroom than I did my first year at college and you will too!!

 {This is a picture of me my first year! There will always be a special place in my heart for this first class of mine!!}

What is your best tip for first year teachers? 

Saturday, July 20, 2013


I think I'm finally caught up on sleep after the Sin City shenanigans and blogger meetup this week!! This was my second year attending the event and I was so excited to spend the whole trip hanging out with a bunch of ladies that have grown to be such good friends of mine over the past year!

I arrived on Monday and met up with one of my roomies, Kelley (Teacher Idea Factory) at the airport. We met for the first time in Vegas last year and this year. I absolutely LOVE this girl!! Over the past year she's gone from being one of my favorite bloggers to one of my favorite friends and I was so looking forward to hanging out again during the trip! Our other roomie was our friend Melissa!! (She's one 1/2 of  Lesson Plan SOS ) She's a total sweetheart who keeps it real and I was looking forward to spending more than just an evening with her this year! The three of us chatted it up for about half an hour in the airport before finally deciding, perhaps we should make our way to our glorious 1,200 sq. ft. suite at the Venitian....

                                 {I may or may not have almost knocked that entire Queen Of The Desert display over. Thanks for looking our Melissa!! Haha!}

But not before we made a pit-spot for lunch at I <3 Burgers. I did indeed HEART me one of their big delicious burgers along with their dessert worthy sweet potato and cinnamon fries!


I was a little in awe of our room. Just imagine, three girls and ALL their STUFF rooming together with so much space we could each occupy our own little section of the room with plenty of space left over. There was even a color printer in the room. Don't think we didn't contemplate prepping a unit or two ;)

We were on the 11th floor - just check out our killer view that Kelley caught on Instagram! Hahaha!! 

We quickly decided that a day at the pool in a private cabana was a MUST - so bright and early the next morning we headed down to claim our little slice of poolside heaven for the day! We were joined by some more sweet friends that we'd been itchin to hang out with - Kristen (A Teeny Tiny Teacher)  Hadar (Miss Kindergarten) and Christy (Crayons and Whimsy). Kelley and I had met Hadar for dinner once a few months ago, but it was so much more fun getting to spend a whole day hanging out with her! Kristen is just as adorable and fun in real life as she is on her blog. After talking for months online it was SO NICE to be able to hang out in person!! They introduced us to Christy who is also a California blogger (Melissa and I were totally outnumbered by these Cali gals) and she is the real deal yall, you gotta check out her blog! We talked, snacked, swam, and soaked up the sun  all. day. long. 
Not sure I can ever enjoy a pool the same way again after all this fancy fun!!

We met up with another mutual friend, Tanja (Journey of a Substitute Teacher), before heading over to the meetup. Yup, big hugs all around when this lady joined up with us!

When we got upstairs the first thing I noticed was there were way more people than the year before. Bloggers and lots of fabulous blog followers all gathered together in one busy buzzing room! I got to catch up with some of my very favorite ladies- Rachelle, Cheryl, and DeeDee!

                                                                    I adore these girls!!

I'm glad somebody was remembering to take pictures since all I did was talk- ha!

 Love this lady!! Another friendship made this year!

 Even The King couldn't keep away from the Shenanigans ;)

 We also got to meet Amy and John from TPT!! I can't tell you how awesome I thought it was that they flew in from NY for this event. Like I told John that night, TPT is by nature an online business, so it's really nice to be able to shake hands with them in person and just say THANK YOU for brining this blessing that is TPT into so many lives! They went out of their way to connect with members of the TPT community which makes me even more proud to be part of the outstanding organization!!

A room FULL of bloggers!! Holla! How many do you recognize? :)

A big thank you to the uber talented photographer Natalie from What The Teacher Wants who snapped some of amazing photos from the event and was willing to share!!

{Christy, Melissa, Me, Hadar, Teeny, Kelley, Tanja}

The night ended with one last dinner with these fabulous ladies!!

Kelley, Melissa, and I still had half a day together before we had to drag our butts to the airport and say goodbye. We made the most of it by grabbing one last de-licous meal at Serendipitys (If you have a sweet tooth like me then this place is a must go in Vegas...just sayin!) and stinking a few last poses together on the strip.

Two nights was NOT enough time to play!! I miss my sweet friends already and wish they all lived much closer. This is officially my new favorite summer tradition. #Vegas2014...who's coming with!?

Monday, July 15, 2013

First Week Of School Activities {1st, 2nd, 3rd}

The first week of school is still over a month away for me. But after July 4th I can't shake that feeling that the new school year is already nipping on my heels, even if it's technically still weeks away. {Does anyone else feel like that too...!?} I recently purchased a clipart bundles from one of my favorites- Melonheadz - that was just perfect for pne of my all time favorite first week of school activities!!

 {First off, can we take a moment to check out my new chevron borders in was love at first sight I tell you!!}

The original idea was inspired by Howard Gardner's Theories of Multiple Intelligences and the belief that as humans we all have strengths and weaknesses in different areas. I have converted his eight domains into kid friendly language: Word Smart, Music Smart, Body Smart, Art Smart, Number Smart, Self Smart, Team Smart, and Nature Smart.  I begin by reading the following story I wrote to my new class. In the story, the little girl is sad on the first day of school because someone told her only smart kids can go to school, and she doesn't feel smart. Her teacher assures her everyone is smart, then proceeds to introduce her to her classmates and share their different types of smart.  

After the story we have lots of discussion about which smarts we can also relate to. I give the kids a sticky note and have them write their names on it. Then I tell them to pick one type of smart that they feel they relate to most and stick their sticky note underneath it.

The main idea of this lesson is to show the kids that everyone has strengths they can feel proud of and show them that "book smart" isn't the only type of smart that is valued. Students will also complete a short writing piece about the smart they select. When they finish their writing they are given one of these bracelets to wear proudly around the school!

This is a printable I plan to frame and hang in my room as a reminder of this lesson all year!

Feel free to gab and download for your room too, here.

I have lots of other first week of school activities available in my  Back to School Bash Packs.
I have packs for first, second, and third grade!!!

 Each pack contains a variation of the following...


 Now friends I'm taking off to pack for little trip I have planned to hot and sunny LAS VEGAS!!! 

I'll be meeting up with a whole bunch of sweet blogging friends this week!! You know I will blog all about it when I get back BUT in the meantime, you can catch sneak peeks of the excursions in Sin City on my Instagram account each day! :)

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Throw Back Thursday and July 4th Sale

For this week's 4th of July Throwback Thursday I went looking for my most Patriotic post. Since I don't teach during the summer month's, I went for my PRESIDENTIAL post from February! It's got freebies, a song, and one of my most favorite packs!!


{FYI police and FBI, the above finger prints are not actually mine. They're  Google image and for all I know they belong to America's Most Wanted}

I betcha I'm not the only one who could list these qualifications on this application, right!?

This is just one of the activities my kiddos will be doing this up-coming week during our Presidents Day studies. Presidents Day is only a week away. I know because I've had that day circled and decorated on my calendar for weeks because I am flying East for a much anticipated girls weekend!! But before I jet off I will be using this pack to teach my kiddos more about George, Abe, The White House, The Secret Service, How to Become The President and Election Day.

This is a peek at just some of the ideas in this new pack. I tried to keep the focus on those Common Core Standards that we all know and love but in a way that's still packed with fun hands on activities. If that sounds like your style too then take a better look at the whole thing in my TPT shop. If you like what you see, I've got it on sale for 20% off today!!

I've also got these Presidential Work Work Freebies for you to grab that go right along with the unit!!

 Finally, I've got a pretty rockin' song and video to compliment our Presidents Day studies from Harry Kindergarten on You Tube. My kids still ask me to listen to his MLK song at least twice a week.

Sometimes I feel like Social Studies and Science get short changed a bit in the primary grades. When it does it's a shame because it's such high interest stuff for our little learners!! Take this sweet writing sample from one of my ELL kiddos. Sure it's spelled all kinds of wrong but the point is he produced this at the writing station this week completely from memory. And why?  Because he was SO into our MLK studies a few weeks ago!!!

"Hi. I am Martin Luther King Jr and I have a dream that my four little children won't be judged by the color of their skin"
This just makes my teacher heart burst with happiness!! And this is why I will continue to feed their noggins with oddles and oddles of quality Science and Social Studies info :)


And if you made it to the end I just want to let you know that I'm putting my 4 top four best sellers in my TPT shop on sale for the 4th!!

I hope you all have a festive and safe 4th with your friends & families!!!