Monday, August 17, 2015

It's Almost Time!!! Mini Teacher Haul

Hello! It's been a while!  Here in NY, most schools will be starting back next week, so there's one more week to enjoy this beautiful August weather!  I have been hard at work on (sometimes avoiding) my comprehensive exams and trying not to get sucked into school.  It is so easy to spend a whole summer getting ready for next year, but I find that I am more energized and excited for my new crew when I focus on enjoying my time off.

Monday is the BIG day! I plan to submit the first of my two exams and go into school and begin putting my new room together.  The halls are being done this week, so that forces a good timeline. Hopefully, I can put everything I moved to my new room away and make it look presentable for meet and greet on the 31st!  The rumor is that the cleanign crew stacked boxes upon stacks of boxes in my room - YIKES!

Even though I have not been focused on school (or blogs/blogging), I have been doing a bit of school shopping. You know teachers just can't resist! Since my goal is to "spend less, save more," I have been trying really hard to make do with what I have and not get sucked in by every new idea I see. The prospect of going on a sabbatical and not working next year is exciting but daunting. My goal is to save as much as I can this year so we don't feel crunched if I can make it through comps and into my residency. Long story short, here are a few things I have picked up at the Dollar Tree (aka the teacher's best friend) and the Dollar General (i.e. one of the only stores in my town).

From the DT I picked up magazine files and glow sticks.  I decided to go back to magazine files for my student book boxes. They are more compact than the tubs I was using and I learned last year that I still like to keep an eye on what the kids are reading. I had a surprising number of students obsessed with picture books, even in June!  I also picked up some glow sticks.  I like using them as a little gift with jitter glitter and ready confetti at the meet and greet.  They are a prize for finishing a scavenger that engages the family and gets supplies put away! I also bought extras as prizes for either birthdays or giveaways during testing week.

The DT has some really great kids books!  They regularly have National Geographic books. Scholastic has them for several dollars, so this is a great deal!  The almanacs are favorites for the kids and provide great experience with different genres. I had several students into biographies last year, so I picked up a few biographies.   I also found these great science experiment books! I have wanted to have a "Scientist of the Week" for years and I think it'll infuse a bit of science back into school when it is being pushed out by the ELA and math focus. I bought one set for the classroom library and another for a bag that I would send home with the student who is to be the scientist.  Hopefully I can get this together this year!
Finally, I picked up some items from the Dollar General.  They were 90% off! I picked up about four dozen seed packets for Mother's Day presents and gladiolus bulbs for volunteer gifts. We have a building tea for all volunteers and classes are asked to contribute.  These bulbs were 20 cents for six and would make cute gifts wrapped in tissue paper.  I thought we could attach a little paper with "We are so "glad" you are part of a school.  Thank you for helping us "bloom!" I usually feel like a slacker because I avoid volunteering with all of the busyiness at the end of the year, so hopefully we can contribute this year!

Have you picked up any good finds lately?
Best wishes to everyone who is back to school or starting this week!

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

First Finish of Summer - The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

Amazingly, I just finished my first book of the summer.  I am an avid YouTube viewer and The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo was all the rage a couple months ago.  I checked the book out from the library, and it sat around forever - until I started getting emails that other people were on a waiting list at the library and I needed to return the book!

I spent the majority of my day writing math curriculum, so I needed something mindless to do on the muggy New York day. So, I lounged on my couch with the breeze coming through the window (completely neglecting the dozens of other things I should be doing) and read.

I'm not entirely sure what I think of this book.  I chose it because everyone seems to have read it, but I also long to be that organized person - both at home and work.  I guess being told that my classroom is a giant mess because the cleaners stacked everything up also gave me some motivation to read this book.  I was tempted to go in today, but convinced myself that I need to take a break from school...even if my eyes are twitching at the thought of putting that room together!

I digress, I like the message - a tidy space equals a tidy mind.  I have been thinking about how much time I spend cleaning.  My classroom, my home, my car.  I also spend a lot of time putting away, shopping for, and picking out my clothes.  Is this time well spent?  The more I seek out a simple life, the more I think that it isn't.  Don't get me wrong, I love clothes and choosing unique pieces, but I want to spent my time differently. Or at least balance my time differently.

I did find the whole talking to your things to tell them how helpful or good they are to be a bit much.  I also have mixed feeling about only keeping things that you truly love.  I have lots of things that I like, especially clothes.  If I get rid of everything I just like or are just useful, I don't think I would be able to make any outfits.  I also like home d├ęcor.  Not that I love everything I have, but I put up/out things because they suit by design aesthetic.

While I feel the tone of the book is a bit too out there, I generally think that the author has many good points.  I am glad that I read the book.  I am also glad that it was a pretty quick read.  Am I going to begin the process, as the author outlines?  Probably not, but I am working hard to cut back on spending and clean out this summer!

A few of my favorite quotes:
"In essence, tidying ought to be the act of restoring balance among people, their possessions, and the house they live in."p. 190

"...pour your time and passion into what brings you the most joy, your mission in life." p. 204

So, if you are looking for inspiration to simplify or get your home in order, check out this fast read!  What are you reading this summer?


Sunday, July 5, 2015

Classroom Improvements Linky

Well I have enjoyed my first real week of summer!  Our last day was on June 26th, but I needed an extra half day to finished moving my classroom.  It was a super quick move - nothing to box because I was only moving two doors down.  Last week was mostly devoted to recovering from a challenging year and spending some time getting my house into order.  It is amazing how many things get neglected during the school year! 

Even though I have been thinking about school as little as possible, I saw this link up and decided to join in. I'm linking up with Ashley and Angie for July's Together We Are Better.  This month is about what we are going to be improving this upcoming year.  I have been thinking about (Sorry no pictures, but I took very few last year and my room is completely packed for the summer!): 

1. Room Set-up
I am soooo happy to be replacing old desks with brand new tables and chairs! Part of me cringes at the thought of now having to deal with all of the kids' things that went in the desks and the fear that I can not regroup kiddos based on groups that work well together.  The other part of my knows that I will have more space and the classroom will be more streamlined with tables.

Generally, figuring out where all my stuff should go shouldn't be too hard since the set-up of the room is about the same.  However, now that I will have tables, I have to think about managing everything that went in the kids' desks. Here's what I'm thinking, based on how I used tables way back when I taught first grade:

  • Book boxes/Writing boxes - I had book boxes this last year and stopped using them around mid-year.  I did this because most of my students were reading a chapter book or two, making the book boxes a bit much for such small books.  However, I realized that I could not check up on what the kids were reading as easily.  Even thought the kids said they did not feel I should use book boxes when I poled the class at the end of the year, I think I will bring them back for teacher reasons. 
  • I would also like to add student writing folders and notebooks to these boxes. We started with Lucy Calkins this year and reading and writing felt very unconnected.  It may also be because I taught reading and my co-teacher taught writing, so they really were separated.  I hesitated to pull writing into reading time because the kids were on writing overload by the time they finished with their hour.  I would like to bring reading and writing back together when I begin to teach on my own again next year.
  • Table Baskets - I used to have a basket in the center of the tables to hold student Finish and WIP folders.  I am not sure if I can fit tool boxes in here as well or if I need a separate storage area.
  • Math Baskets - to store our two math books and folders.
  • Folder containers - I think that I will have specific containers for content area folders, since we use them so rarely.
  • Ugh - Spelling books - maybe another basket?  An cursive books?  Maybe the Finish Folders?  I have to think about this a bit more. It may come to me in the moment the first week of school.

2. Classroom Library
Ahh!  My long-suffering library.  Moving between grades and moving classroom has taken its toll on my poor book collection.  In first and second grade, I had a leveled library and a class library with picture books that I did not feel it was necessary to level.  When I first moved to third grade, I didn't have time nor did I think it was a good idea to level my books.  After bumping down to second grade, where I was again using level books, I had a different take when I returned to third grade this past year and leveled all the chapter books. This caused more issues that I ever thought.  Mainly, students and parents became *way* too focused on levels.  After poling the kids, I have decided to regroup my books by interest and remove many of the books that were either too young or were not of interest - the kids helped me with this during the last week.  I want to make book choice a strong focus the first week of school in the next year. Now, I just need to re-label the books and baskets and maybe decide on some different ways to store the books.

3. Daily 5 Update
I let go of much of D5 over the last two years and regret it big time!  I would like to restructure my classroom and storage so that it is conducive to this framework again.  I want to set up space for spelling materials, instead of relying on the spelling workbooks.  I want to set up a writing area instead of only focusing on Calkins. Most of all, I want to have my decor reflect the principles of D5 again - bulletin boards, center board organizer, student materials.

I could list so much more, but it is best to think small so that things stay manageable.  I am determined to keep my teaching life more simple this coming year!

What are your classroom improvements?  Check out this great link up!


Friday, June 26, 2015

TpT Seller Challenge WEEK 2: Dare to Dream

I'm linking with Sparkling in Second, Teach Create Motivate, Third in Hollywood, and the Peppy Zesty Teacherista for Week 2 of the TpT Seller Challenge: Dare to Dream!  What a fantastic idea!!! In this week's challenge, we are asked to blog about our hopes and dreams for our TpT Store. (Last week was a product makeover challenge.  Since we just ended school Thursday and I am still packing my room, there just hasn’t been enough time in the day Winking smile. Maybe next week!) Here are my hopes and dreams:


1. My Doctorate!  - Yes, I am almost there!!!  I have been committed to doing this in the most sane way possible. The tuition bills are pretty big, but so far my very sllllooooowwww progress has helped this to work!  I would love to be able to put some of my TPT money towards this life goal.

2. My Little House – My husband and I have lived in our little house for 13 years this fall.  We have paid down half of our loan (ugh! That interest!) and ideally, I would love to put more funds towards that.  I yearn for financial freedom!

3. Shopping Addition! – This is actually what I use most of my TPT earnings for.  I know that I have a little bit on my PayPal account and usually support other TPTers.  Occasionally, I make purchases of gently used clothing from my favorite online consignment store – ThredUp (This is my referral link:  If you use it to make a purchase, we both get $10!).

My store have been a bit neglected this year.  Hopefully I will find some time this summer to make updates and add some fun new products that I have started!

Have a great one!

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

What Will You Be Reading This Summer?

Lori, over at Conversations in Literacy, wrote a post about what she will be readign this summer!  I am sure there are a few blog-book clubs out there, but to be honest, I just can’t keep up with them.  They usually start while I am still in school and then I feel guilty for getting behind…so I think it is best to just work at my own pace.

Here’s what I’m reading this summer:

Image result for lucy calkins units of study grade 3

Lucy Calkins Units of Study for 3rd Grade - My district adopted Calkins this year and it was a rough start.  These books are PACKED with lesson models and resources.  I don’t think we even scraped the surface with what we were able to try due to the sheer volume of content and change to our program.  My goal is to REALLY read through the units and block out some long-range plans

Image result for daily 5 second edition

Oh, Daily 5, how I missed you this year!  I bought the second edition of the book and especially wanted to update my math system.  I have yet to read it Sad smile!   I team taught this year and had a couple student teachers and a variety of other circumstances that changed how I typically do things.  I found that my classroom just didn’t work the way I wanted it to this year and my instruction and management suffered in my opinion.  I am returning to D5 next year, as I found that my classroom just didn’t “work” without having it firmly in place.  Sometimes, what works works and change is not necessary.  You live, you learn! 

Image result for Literacy playbook

I have wanted to read this book FOREVER!  I saw the author at a workshop last year and loved the premise.  It is very similar to the Calkins apporach for writing and I am excited about finding some new ideas.

Image result for 100 minutes

This is ANOTHER book I bought this year and have not even cracked yet!  The premise is that centers are great, but what is realistic.  Again, looking forward to expanding my thinking.

These are the professional books I really want to read this summer.  I could add a dozen or so to the list, but that would stress me out, so I won’t!