Sunday, July 29, 2012

Pictures and a New Product!

I know it's been a few days BUT I FINALLY have pictures of all my great deals and purchases from the past few days....

Teachers Tools for The Grade is closing their doors on Sunday, June 29th. Such a sad day, one of my favorite stores to stop in and pick up goodies for my classroom! I got some great deals when I was there this past week - 70% off! I purchased a coffee pot for my daughter for only $8, she LOVES it! I got three different bulletin board sets (birthday, manners and weather), a new hand washing poster, birthday crowns, a few different types of bulletin board boarders, tons of stickers, lots of pencils, stamps, stationary, and some spring/Easter window clings for my daughter! I'm hoping to head over to the store one last time to say goodbye and get a few more goodies!

Shopping in Target's Dollar Bins is always a treat - especially when you are 5 hours from home and can find all sorts of goodies! From white boards to flash cards I LOVE all my purchases and my daughter loves her new sandwich cutters!

These are the goodies I got at my local Target! I'm so excited to decorate and hang up my new foam pieces... first I have to figure out how I am going to use them!

After shopping in TWO Targets miles and miles apart this is what I ended up with! I'm so excited to start organizing, hanging and using all these wonderful new supplies.

How could I pass up the opportunity to purchase CRAYOLA Crayons for only 25 cents? What a steal! I saved over $50 on all these and spent under $15!!! LOVE IT!

Between Target, Toys-R-Us and the teacher store in NY that is closing on June 29th (so sad to see them go!) I think I made out pretty well! Have you found any great deals? I'm still trying to locate a few more items - blue and yellow small pocket charts from the dollar bins at Target and the small foam cubes/dice from the Dollar Tree. My local stores don't have either of these items, I'm disappointed and hope I can find at least a few packs of the cubes. Miss. Kindergarten has a GREAT blog post about how she is using these dice  DIY Foam Dice and I know that her ideas would be a great addition to my classroom... now if I can only find these dice!

Since I couldn't find the dice I decided to start working on another project - my Attendance sheets! Every year I make calendars to keep track of my classes attendance. The students sign in each day by moving their names on our class chart (I'll have to get a picture of it once I'm back in the classroom), but I need a way of keeping a record of their attendance. Our office gives us a printout for attendance but the whole class doesn't fit on one page and I find it hard to follow the lines on the pages. That being said I took matters into my own had and I make my own attendance calendars. I usually rush at the end of each month (or a few days into the current month) to try to make my calendars... but the teaching blogging world has inspired me and I actually made ALL my calendars already! I am all set for the whole year, I just have to add my students names! I'm super excited about this!

My calendars are pretty simple and easy to use - all you have to do is add your students names! I never mark off who is present (that would mean WAY to many check marks!) instead I use a red pen to mark who is absent and a blue pen to mark who is present.... OK I start like that in September and by the end of October I am using a pencil so I can easily erase the marks, plus pencils are easier to come by in my classroom!

You can see in the picture above that the calendar clearly has NO SCHOOL marked off on a few days!  I love how neat and clean that looks. Now my packet contains 3 sets of blank calendars with dates and months already filled in BUT there are no days off marked (does that make sense? I didn't mark off NO SCHOOL on any days). The sets that you will get are blank with no graphics, seasonal/holiday themed and pirate themed. I also included the calendar I will be using so you can see what the year would look like with our vacations marked off.

IF you love these calendars but want them to look as pretty as mine with all the vacations and PD days marked off for you please send me a message, include your email address and your school calendar (or the vacation/pd days in a list with what you want them to say), you can also include what theme you want. I hope you enjoy these calendars as much as I do! Stop by my TpT store and check them out: Back to School Monthly Attendance Calendars/Forms If you decide to use these forms please leave some feedback, I'd love to hear what you think and how you use them!

I'm working on my forms for organizing my reading and writing conferences... I hope to have them up and will write about them in the next few days!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Travels, Sales and New Products

I'm back!! Did you miss me? I'm sorry for disappearing on you like that, can you forgive me? You see I had many many many family obligations over the last two weeks which literally took me across the entire east coast of the good ole' U.S. of A. (and Canada too)! From Florida up to Canada my family and traveled. We had a great time and I wish I could have had some friends come do some guest posts, but I had NO idea how to set that any. Anyways, I'm back and I have some great things to share with you!!!

Not to long ago I read a blog (sorry I forgot which one, they are all just so wonderful and I blog stalk WAY too many of them) and the wonderful author referenced being forced motivated to go visit Target and Walmart and Dollar stores to get all the latest goodies all the other bloggers have been purchasing... well I got the bug to! While traveling I managed to find lots of stores to stop and get great deals on many things. I couldn't believe that what was sold out in the stores by me was fully available at stores in other parts of the U.S.!! It was great - thank goodness everything fit in my suit case and my car. To top off all my purchases the teacher store right by me is closing it's doors which means 70% off everything! I went to town shopping!! I even purchased a toy coffee pot for my little peanut, I mean it was $8 how could I not!! I got tons of handwriting stickers which I will be using to help make some take home baggie activities (don't worry I'll share once they are done!)... I got posters, boarder paper, stamps, pencils, oh so much stuff! Of course I can't keep myself away and I KNOW I will be going back there before the finally close their doors for good. Now I'd love to post pictures of all my goodies but my princess decided to wake up at 6am come in my room and tell me she was hungry. After having a snack of some cereal she somehow found her way into my bed and fell asleep... I have no intentions of waking her so my camera and it's cord are in my room and I am NOT disturbing her no matter how much you want to see pictures of all my goodies! You will just have to wait.

I've been a busy bee trying to get some stuff up at my TpT store. I got so swept up in all the excitement I've started way to many projects at once and had to take a deep breath and start over. I have two new items I want to share with you. The first is a back to school parent interview. I have been using this parent interview for years with my class and LOVE it. Yes it's a bit long but I use all of the information throughout the year. It includes questions about who lives in your house and how they are related to you and whether or not they have any siblings (this is very helpful information when we get to our social studies family unit). I also included in this packet the sheet I use to make a class contact list. Some of the information all the sheets is repetitive and yes I can find a lot of it in the files BUT I have found errors in the past and like to have all of the information I find important on one sheet that I can quickly access! Click the picture to visit my TpT store and check it out!

The next product I am posting is an alphabet sorting activity. I already have a black and white sorting activity that is a bit challenging. The letters are small and the fonts are a bit challenging. You can check it out here. Knowing this was not a great product for the beginning of the year I decided to make an easier one. I used bright colors and larger fonts. Its a great way to review letters with your students or use as an assessment to see what letters the students recognize and can match correctly. I hope you enjoy it, click the picture to check it out

Well thanks for stopping by, sorry for going on and on... I just had so much to share and tell you!

Monday, July 16, 2012

What Have You Been Up To? I'm joining my FIRST link party!!!!

Vicky over at Traditions, Laughter and Happily Ever After is having a great linky party called: Summer  Plans: What Have You Been Up To? She found me on Facebook and invited me to join her party. I'm super excited because this is my very first time joining a link party (so I hope I do everything right and follow all the directions - you know it's really funny that I say that because it seems that A LOT of new teacher/mommy bloggers are worried about following the rules - I guess that's the teacher in all of us!) Anyways... here's what I've been up to!

As you get to know me better you will come to learn that I am ALWAYS busy... there are very few times that I sit and do nothing, especially during the summer. I have a 3 year old daughter and the thought of keeping her inside doing nothing is just not to pleasing to me, SO I am constantly looking for fun things to do with her. We love to bake and do fun projects together.

Here are the crafts/baking projects we have done this summer:

This is the University of Tampa cake I made for a family friend... she's heading there in a few weeks and asked for this cake for her High School graduation party!


These are the clipboards I made for my fellow Kindergarten teachers for the end of the year... I'm sad I didn't make one for myself, BUT I have plenty of extra supplies so I think I will be making myself one this summer for the fall! I mean who doesn't love a personalized clipboard?


On a rainy day we need to find fun things to do inside... my daughter got this ceramic butterfly kit as a gift and I let her have fun. I'm learning from my 3 year old that things don't have to be perfect or a certain color to be beautiful! I let her paint these butterflies any way she wanted!

Another fun rainy day activity we did was playing with Newspapers... this was the only picture I could snap of her because, while I enjoyed making things with the newspapers she enjoyed crumbling and tearing them apart! It was very entertaining and we were busy for at least an hour making hats, shoes, boats, and even a small hat for her doll.


We were heading out to a family event and I love to bake so I thought, why not spend some quality time with my little one while I baked.... we made cookies! Typically I like to make the dough from scratch but lets be honest, that part isn't much fun for a 3 year old. So I bought some sugar cookie dough from the refrigerated section of our local grocery store and we rolled it out and used lots of fun cookie cutters. After they were cooked and cooled I let my little chef decorate them however she wanted - check out her hand! You know you had fun if you are all messy! The best part was that the family was so supportive and ate the cookies and told my little chef how yummy they were!

I was running out of fun crafts to do so I started to blog hopping and oh my did I find lots of FUN things!! I stumbled upon The Artful Parent and found this fun project to make melted bead sun catchers! Ok so ours didn't come out as pretty as the ones at Artful Parent - but my daughter had fun making it and she LOVES seeing it in our front window!


To keep us nice and cool on hot days we like to make ice pops! I have all these cute ice pop molds BUT this time around I bought a huge pack of small cups and lots of popsicle sticks (all from my dollar store). We made healthy fruit ice pops - and the best part, my daughter thinks she's eating yummy treats and in reality they are healthy yummy treats! I love it! And she LOVES them!!

We did all of those activities within about two weeks - that's how we started our summer break! It was awesome and my daughter loved every minute of it! We also visited the library and signed up for the summer reading club.

We then headed off to Florida to visit my Grandma and my Great Uncle... as well as some other family members. Motivated by all the blogs about organizing I spent the week helping my Grandma organize all her old photos and sort through her shoe collection (I'd say she has at least 1,000 decorative shoes if not more)... Of course it couldn't all be work while in Florida (although I LOVED looking through all the old photos of my dad and his brothers growing up, my grandma and grandpa first meeting, my grandpa in the Army... old photos are history and they are amazing to me!)

In the midst of cleaning and organizing we managed to fit in going to the pool almost every day! As well as visiting Lion Country Safari (this is a tradition in our family since we were little we always go there! We used to visit the orange grove also, but they closed the one by my grandma's house :( so sad!) We also headed south to the Miami Seaquarium which was a lot of fun. I don't have a lot of pictures on my camera (most of them are on my brother's camera) but here is a little snapshot of what we did at the Seaquarium:

We saw the killer whale - dolphin show which was really cool. We also so the Dolphin show. We missed the Flipper show, but somewhere I have a picture from the arena. Supposedly the arena was used to fill most of the Flipper show!! I thought that was pretty cool. My daughter got to feed seals and sea lions (top right picture) she actually held the small feeder fish (which were frozen) and dropped them into the tank. I'm shocked and proud that she did it! It was pretty neat!

We've been busy busy busy and the fun hasn't stopped! We have a family reunion coming up and are hoping to go back down to Florida one more time this summer. Of course I'll be baking away with my daughter and looking for fun crafts/projects to do with her... Anyone have any suggestions?

I'm looking forward to reading about "What you've been up to!"

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Great finds and more organization tips

I've been reading about how everyone is off finding great deals at their local stores and just couldn't resist checking out the local Walmart! I went this this evening and as soon as I walked in I could see the bins lined up down the center aisle... I was so excited, yes I'm going to find great deals tonight! My excitement slowly changed and bin after bin after bin was EMPTY! I couldn't believe my eyes, there was almost nothing left. I was able to snag a few packs of crayola markers, 10 count, in various colors for $0.97 each. I guess I really can't complain since I am currently visiting my grandmother in Florida. I could just see my husbands face as I got home from my trip and started to unpack not clothes but lots and lots of school supplies! I think it would be pretty funny, not sure he would find the humor in it as much as I would. Have you ever gone back to school shopping out of state? Was it on purpose? Or because you happened to be there and just came across some great deals you couldn't pass up? ********** I thought I would continue to share ways that I organize my classrooom... Let me start off by saying that since its summer break I don't have pictures of what my room looks like and I am on my iPad (which is proving to be a bit more challenging than I thought) but once I can get back into my room in August I will get lots of pictures and share them. So I thought I would share how I organize my desk. In my old room I had two desks side by side. One was actually a computer table and the other was more of an office desk than a traditional teacher desk. The computer desk had no drawers and was just as table top, the other desk had a small pencil drawer and then a file drawer under that. The two desks were the same exact height and size. Under the computer table I bought a rolling cart with five drawers - four of them were skinny drawers and the bottom drawer was a larger one. (This year I chose to leave this cart in school and I'm so disappointed because I saw all the great Pins on how all the teachers out there are covering and decorating their plastic drawers.... Totally wish I could be doing that this summer, I may have to do it in September once I can get it home, or stay late at a day or two and decorate it then!) Anyways, each drawer had a label, stickers, birthday/lost tooth rewards, extra bulletin board pieces, post-it notes, reward charts and a few other things. I love this cart because I was able to store so much in it. The top of my desk was my favorite part. On the far left, right next to where the kids homework folders are, I have five black stacking trays - one for each day of the week. As I get copies or notes that need to go home or I finish checking any work I place the items on the correct day of the week and then I always know what needs to go into the kids folders. Next to those I have two metal paper trays. One is labeled: Notes got the teacher and the other is labeled: Extra papers. The second bin becomes my catch all which is great because for the most part I don't end up with lots and lots of papers scattered around on my desk and then once this bin is full I know its time to file everything. I do try to keep up with the filing on a daily basis but sometimes that's just not possible so instead I have a place to keep all my papers until I can file them. I also have a pencil holder filled with markers, another with pens and pencils, and a box with reward stickers. On the teacher side of the desk I usually keep my planner, a calendar, as well as the rest of the office supplies - scissors, staplers, and tape. In my school the kindergarten classes don't have assistants helping but we do get parent volunteers who come in the mornings and hell us go through the folders and stuff homework folders for us. They can also check work if we need the to. Since I had two desks I always made the computer desk esy for my parent helpers to use. They had all the tools they needed to stuff folders and heck the homework packets if I ever neede them to. In the beginning if the year I always typed up a letter of what I expected from my parent helpers and how my folders were organized. I usually taped the letter to the desk since there were sne years I had more than one parent coming to help. This upcoming year I will be in a new room - I have to rethink my organization system and how I set up everything, I'm excited to see how it all turns out. How do you organize your desk. What do you do to organize your students homework and papers that need to be handed out? I csn't wait to read all your ideas! Photobucket

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Organizing Data

I was reading many posts this past week about how to organize data and keep your files together. I wanted to share with you the various methods I've used to keep my students data. I don't have any pictures yet as I'm just starting out with blogging and learning as I go. When I can figure out how to do that I'll add some on!

My first year:
When I first started teaching I used a binder. I had two binders, one for Writing and one for Reading. Each student had their own tab and I kept important assessments (alphabet recognition, running records) in the binder. I also keep all my conference notes for each student. Back then I just used lined paper for my conference notes and didn't have much of a system for conferencing. I loved using the binder because everything was right there BUT by the end of the year my binder was overflowing with data and was bursting - literally pages were falling out and I could not longer open and close the binder to remove important papers without risking everything ending up on the floor! Oh was it a mess. As messy as it was this was still one of my favorite ways to organize data. I used this system for two years!

The middle years:
After using the binder method for two years I moved on to a folder system. I did this for two reasons 1) I was tired of all the papers falling out by the end of the year and 2) I was co-teaching which meant we would both need access to the students files at any given time and having a binder just wasn't going to work. So I started using folders. This method worked pretty well. Each student had a folder with their name on it. On the inside of the folder I put two labels - Writing Conferences and Reading Conferences. As I met with the students I could just pull out their folder and see their progress. I like to have my folders in alphabetical order so that I can easily pull one out during conference time. To help maintain this order my co-teacher labeled each folder with a number next to their names! It was very helpful. My first year using the folder system I had a wonderful pocket chart on loan from a friend of mine. It was brightly colored and I was able to put two or three folders in each pocket for easy access. It was magnetic and was able to hang on the door to our bathroom. I really loved this chart! Unfortunately she needed the chart back.... so I ended up using one of the plastic folder/magazine holders I had. I liked that when I was conferencing with my students I had all of their work right in front of me - both reading and writing! By this time I had streamlined my conference note system (I will share that another day!) so each student had one sheet per month which cut down A LOT on the papers!

My current organization system:
This year I will no longer be co-teaching and will be back in a room on my own. I will most likely stick with the folder system BUT I do all of my conference notes in google documents! I love it!! I find that my notes are neater and I conference much quicker this way because I type a lot faster than I can write. I'm thinking that once a month I will print out my notes and add them to the folders.

Aside from organizing my conference note/running records I also maintain large file folders for each student. I collect all their published writing pieces and save them. At the end of the year I bundle them up and send them home. I think it makes a nice gift to the parents to see how far their child has come since September. I also pick and choose some other drawings throughout the year to save to add to their end of the year gift to their parents. In these portfolios I also keep their ECAM (math assessment) as well as the formal Writing Assessment we do.

I'd love to hear from you - what types of assessments do you use? How do you organize your data and conference notes? Photobucket