Sunday, July 13, 2014

IKEA Invasion!

A little over a year ago my husband and I made the decision for me to leave the classroom to come home as we welcomed our second little one. I wasn't sure if I'd be going back to the classroom or if I'd be able to stay home during our little ones' early years, but in faith I packed up some of my stuff but gave everything else away.  God knew what He was doing when He called me home and though it only lasted a year, I'm thankful for the time with my babies.

Having given away most of my stuff I'm starting fresh . . . and that's a GREAT thing.  The downside is that I'm having to spend some moo-lah in order to get my class ready again.  (But oh, do I love the chance to create a uniform theme in my room!  The classroom I dismantled before going home was 11 years worth of collection hodge-podge.)

Today my family and I raided IKEA.  I had 3 things in mind when I went, but I left with a whole lot more.  Wanna see what I scored?

 You know how I know teachers love IKEA?  Well besides all the stuff that my teacher friends and I buy at IKEA, I overheard comments from other shoppers around me that told me that I was not the only teacher shopping there.  I promise I wasn't listening in on other people's conversations, but when you're standing side-by-side with another shopper looking at the same product and they start talking you're gonna hear some stuff, ok?
 No, I don't hang my pants at school!  These hangers are AWESOME for holding chart paper!  The neck of the hanger swivels so you can hang it from any ledge or hook, and the open/close snappy lever design of the hanger makes it really easy to add chart paper or posters while you're teaching.  I got 4 so I can use them while teaching from chart paper and to hang anchor charts around the room.
 These boxes come in several sizes, but I got the medium sized boxes.  They're the perfect size for file folders and gallon sized ziploc bags.  You know what that means, don't you?  File folder games and bagged games/activities!  I've got TONS that need organizing so I got one for Language Arts and one for Math.  They have the clear ones too.
 I stick these on the side of my desk for easy access to paper clips, rubber bands, and whatever else.  The see through lid lets you know what's inside or you can make them all cute with a swatch of fabric or scrapbook paper in the window.  See that heavy duty magnet on the backside?  It's super strong, so don't worry about accidentally knocking the tin off the desk.  It's pretty hard to do that.
 Big, powerful magnets for my magnetic whiteboard.  You know . . . for those times you clip posters, chart paper, or whatever to your board.  The best part of these is the angled top design that makes the magnet go "clip clop" when you press on it.  Press the top of that angled magnet with your finger and the flat part tips open so you can slide your paper right underneath without removing the whole magnet.  It's the little things!
 Uh. . . . 'cause you can never have too many scissors!  Besides, they always go missing, AND they come in 3 different sizes!
 This big ol' plastic tray is supposed to be for flatware in your kitchen, but this baby is going in my top desk drawer to try to organize it!  Maybe things won't go sliding around in there and I'll find things more easily!
 Ok, so here's my idea for this - I want to use this as a dry erase board.This big frame has a plastic (not glass) face, so I'm not worried about it being broken and hurting anyone.  Plus, that makes it super light.  I've already tested it (just in case) and yes, you can use dry erase markers on it.  I'm thinking I can blow up graphic organizers or just put a piece of solid butcher paper inside that can be used when I teach and then used in centers or group activities.  My school has a poster maker, so I want to use that to create templates that can be switched in and out of the frame and used by the kids.
 I used to use these to organize workbooks and notebooks.  This year I got a ton of them so that each student can decorate their own book box.  These cardboard boxes are fairly thick and durable.  Maybe a strip of packaging or duct tape on the bottom to reinforce the closure, but other than that - fold and go! (At $1.49/5 that's about $.30 a box!  Ummm . . . I got 6 sets.  So that's 30.  And if I go back to IKEA I'll probably definitely get more.)
Lastly . . . my little glass spice jars.  SO CUTE!  Tons of uses in the classroom, but I didn't buy these for my classroom per se.  I won't say what I bought them for exactly because that would give away the little surprise.  =)  The uses, however, are endless!  (They also have that flat side at an angle so the jars can stand as you see or slightly tilted for easy access!)

You wanna go shopping at IKEA now, don't you?

Hey!  There are tons of other useful things there that I had to tell myself no to, but if you've got stuff you bought from IKEA please share in the comments!  Tell us what you got and how you use it!!!!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Back to School Already?!?!

So . . . after a year off from teaching to be home with my 3 year old and newborn it's time to go back to the classroom.  Although we don't officially start back until the end of July I've been preparing myself for months already.  Go figure!  Why can't I just sit back and enjoy the time I have left at home with my babies?  It's totally me, I know, but I wish I could stretch my time at home out for a little longer!  I know you teacher mamas out there know how I'm feeling.

Well as I get myself ready to get back in the classroom, you'd better believe that I'm busting this baby out!



My friends, I hope you are able to sit back and enjoy the rest of your summer.  I'm going to do my best to try, but after a year out of the classroom I've got a little anxiety over re-acclimating back to the the teaching life.  If you've "been there, done that" and have any advice for me in regards to returning to the classroom feel free to share!  I'm all ears!


Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy New Year!

One of the amazing things about the New Year is that you get this feeling of a blank slate.  The chance to start fresh and doing things differently.  Correct things that need fixing, and fine tune things that were going well.

This is something I love to do with my kids for the New Year.  Like most of you, I teach my kids about New Year Resolutions.  It gives them a chance to focus on bettering themselves.

Remember how we talked about goal setting before?  I made this quick graphic organizer for you to use with your students to set a goal for 2014.  I mean, that's what a resolution is based on after all . . . isn't it?  

Click the picture below to get this freebie.  Or click here to get it from Teachers Notebook.


Have your students identify one goal they have for themselves this year.  You can chose whether you want them to focus on a classroom/school goal or if you want to do a generalized personal goal.  This goes at the top of the ladder.  Then help your students to determine 3 steps that can help them to achieve that goal.  Here's a suggestion:  start with a small, easier step to build momentum.  That one will go in the bottom box of the ladder.  Then build up as you climb the ladder to reach your goal!

Here's an example:


Happy New Year!

I pray that this year is an amazing year for you!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Tuesday Teaching Tip - Designate Spaces


When I found this baby at Costco many years ago I was psyched!  I was sure this thing would help create a little more desk space and organization for me.  You'd think it would, right?

Here's the trick to these great organization tools:  You've got to have a plan and purpose for them if they're going to be used effectively!

As much as I'd like to say that suddenly my desk was clutter free and everything became easy to find that would be a total lie!

The best use I got out of this thing was the file folder sorting rack on top.  I always kept my current skills file folders there for easy reference and activities.  I also kept copies to use for lessons that week.  THAT part I used effectively. (YEA for me!)

The drawers underneath were a totally different story.  I mean, the folder rack on top was a no brainer for me, but I never really decided what I was going to use the drawers underneath for.

Can you guess what I ended up using the drawers for?

Well you know how sometimes you get copies of resources from friends, but you're not ready to use them yet?  And sometimes you have extras of copies you use for your students and you don't want to be wasteful by simply throwing them away?  Oh, and the pieces to centers that you're done with but don't have time to put away right now.  Then there are those papers you get from meetings . . .

Can you see where I'm going with this?

Those wonderful organizational drawers ripe with potential ended up holding random stacks and stacks of papers.  All blended together.  Never to be looked at again until the end of the year (or a teacher work day if you're really lucky).

I ended up bringing this home and passing it on to my husband for his the home office he was organizing for his business.  Let's just say that organization is not exactly his forte, so he's enlisted my help to attack the aftermath of month after month of piles and stacks left unorganized.  I won't subject you to the horror a picture might depict.

Anyways, this is what I ended up doing for him with my organizer:



I used scrapbook paper to create the little labels for each drawer, securing them by folding each over in half with foam tape in between to hold it together to the wire drawer.  I used foam tape because the wire drawer creates a gap in between the top and bottom of the folded paper, so this makes for a cleaner label.  A hot glue gun will work too, but there's a bit too much tension for regular tape to hold it to the drawer.

How I wish I had thought to designate a purpose for these drawers while I still had them in my classroom!

Now if you're thinking what I'm thinking . . . just think of how much more organized you can get if you designated a purpose for other areas or organizing systems and labeled them for clarity!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Past Winter Freebies

Sometimes I forget what I've got out there.  If I forget then you might not even know it's available, right?

Here are some of my past Winter Freebies if you never picked them up the 1st time around!




Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Cute and Crafty

I was flipping through the Parents magazine that just came in the mail last night and saw this really cute idea-

From the January 2014 Parents Magazine

They call them "Jungle Book Ends".  I thought this would be such a cute idea for the classroom, and it's such an easy way to make customized pieces to match your classroom theme!

Basically all you do is attach a plastic to jungle animal to a wood block and paint it.

That's it.

You're done!

How simple is that?  I totally love that you just paint the block and the decorating object the same solid color.  Simple and not overdone . . . and makes it so much easier to fit whatever color scheme you've got going on in your room (if you have one).

You can get the wooden block pieces from anywhere like Lowe's or Home Depot.  I'm sure if you ask nicely they'll even cut those wooden posts to your desired size.  Then you can find the decoration piece at garage sales, Goodwill, craft stores like Michaels, etc.  I've bought those rubbery animals from Hobby Lobby before as decoration for my daughter's birthday party one year and they were pretty inexpensive.  You can use a hot glue gun to attach your decoration, or if you want a really secure hold you might think about drilling up through the wooden block into the decoration and securing with a screw.  That's if you're really, REALLY serious about a good hold!  Then just grab some spray paint (in any color of your choice) and give the book end a good coat.

I rummaged around in my daughter's toy box and found these items as an example of some things you might even use!

This is actually a bath toy we got her from Walmart.  I think it was $1.

Toy bowling ball and pin.  (Do you recognize these, Dana and Katie?  LOL!)

Rubber Ducky

Tea pot and tea cup from her tea set
Uh . . . this is actually my dog's squeaky hamburger to.  I think it was from the Target Dollar section ages ago!
 You get the point.  Have fun!  Be creative!  I'm thinking that a nice coat of silver, gold, or some kind of metallic paint would glam it up if you wanted to do something like this for your office.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Tuesday Teaching Tip - Hook 'em with Highlighters

Have you noticed that anything new or novel has the ability to grab your students' attention?

Ok, so I guess it's not just the kids because I can be like that too.  (Let's be honest . . . we're all like that to some degree.)

I'm not sure what tools and supplies you use in your classroom on a regular basis, but I find that reserving certain supplies for specific activities make my students a little more interested.  For example, I use a special set of colored pencils just for editing writing.  This helps many of my students take a little more interest in the editing step of writing.

Another tool I use for specific assignments are highlighters!

One year I had a parent donate a whole bag full of colored highlighters, so I decided to use these in centers.  It's a quick and easy way to create a literacy center!

Oftentimes I'll make copies of a page in a book or magazine for each student to have their own.  With these pages I assign my students a specific phonetic pattern, sight word list, or spelling pattern to look for.  (Sort of like a highlighter scavenger hunt.)  I write in the directions for the center for students to use the highlighters to find all the assigned words or rules.  Here are some examples of directions I've given:


  1. Highlight all the "the"s in pink, "if"s in blue, and "was" in yellow.  
  2. Highlight all words ending in "ing" in pink and "ed" in yellow.
  3. Highlight all words whose consonant is doubled after adding the suffixes "ed" or "ing".
  4. Highlight all words that have a prefix blue and a suffix pink.
You get the point.  This is a great activity for visual discrimination in text.

An easy way to differentiate this kind of center while having all students concentrate on the same skill is to choose texts that vary in difficulty or amount of print on the page.  Then again, sometimes I even choose texts that are even a little bit above their reading level so that they will focus on the task and not necessarily the actual content itself.

Hope this one helps you create a quick and easy (yet purposeful) center for your students!
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