Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Bluebee Pals: Christmas Gift Idea

OMGoodness?!!  Are you looking for something FUN, EDUCATIONAL, and EXCITING to add to your classroom or home?  I had the pleasure of receiving and reviewing this little guy:
This is Leo the Lion and he's a Bluetooth-enabled, interactive plush toy!  Think cuddly, soft, and precious! He's about 1.5 feet tall.  But Leo goes well beyond your typical dust-collecting stuffed animal!
HE CAN TALK!!! ***gasp***

I remember that Teddy Ruxpin was a big  HUGE deal when I was a kid, and I always felt disappointed that I never got him for Christmas!  (**insert sad face**)

Enter Leo.... this generation's bigger, better, badder talking teddy!
 Here's how he works:

Isn't this a cool toy?  
Think Class Pet/Mascot, Christmas Gift, etc! 
Plus, Bluebee Pals are perfect for students with special needs like autism!

AND, Leo has some pretty awesome friends to choose from!

Bluebee Pals have won NUMEROUS awards:

 Psst....let me let you in on a little secret!  Coming soon are Bluebee Pals for BABIES!  Here's a sneak peek:

Ready to send Santa off to buy a Bluebee Pal for your child or classroom?  Here's the link:

P.S.  I don't think this Bluebee will be hanging out in my classroom anytime soon.  My 8 year old daughter is cuddling Leo as we speak! ;)

Friday, August 28, 2015

Easy Peasy Sanity Savers {Great ideas for new teachers, too!}

Let's face it.  Managing a classroom can be a daunting task.  The more we can do to GET organized and STAY organized day after day, the less stress we'll invite into an already stressful career.  I've learned in ten years of teaching that SIMPLE is better! Here are some easy things you can implement TODAY to save time, energy, and SANITY!

1. Assign student numbers 
I assign students a number according to the alphabetic order of their last names.  I even have this number on their name tags so they constantly see it and remember to use it!

Students must write their numbers on their papers so I can quickly put the papers in order to grade and record them.  I can also quickly see whose paper is missing!

Numbered papers make it easy to file them as well.  Whether you send home papers nightly, or file them away to send home as signed papers, numbering students is a must!

I love this freebie from A Cupcake For the Teacher for calling on students using their numbers!
Keep up with where students are by using their numbers as well.  You can use the numbers year after year!  This idea comes from Spectacular 2nd Grade.
2.  Have a plan for early finishers.
There's nothing worse than early finishers disrupting the class.  The whole group gets thrown off course!  Have a plan in place for your early finishers to work on or do...something productive yet quiet and unobtrusive. 

BOGGLE is a fun activity that encourages students to spell and to work with words.  I've seen many Boggle boards out there, but this use of magnetic letters and washi tape is simply adorable!
I love how Snazzy in Second gives her students differentiated extra work and awards them "Brownie Points" for completing assignments.  She even has a cute freebie you can download to go with your Brownie Points system!
 I have some free "I'm Done, Now What?" task cards in my TPT shop.  Display as few or as many of these as you want on your white board, and students always have a visual of extra activities they can complete!
3.  Give students a "Finish Folder."
All of my students have a Finish Folder in their seat sacks.  This is where unfinished work goes when it's time to move on to our next activity.  I also fill up this folder when they're absent and miss out on lessons.  Students know that this is their FIRST fast finisher activity.  The items in their Finish Folder must be completed!  The Happy Teacher calls it a "Ketchup Folder" and she has a free printable on TPT! Grab it below!

   4.  Have ONE Helper of the Day
I honestly got tired of having 20 different jobs to rotate, explain, and remind students to do day after day.  So I have one new helper EVERY day!  This helper is available to do whatever I ask!  They get special seating privileges, to be the line leader, to choose where they want to sit at lunch, and to pick a friend to help them wipe down the lunch tables after we eat.  I also ask them to do other things as needed...run an errand, pass out or take up papers, water the plants, etc.  We rotate through the leaders every day, so no one gets tired of having the same job.  Plus, I don't have ONE MORE management tool to worry about changing out...a classroom helper chart.  You can go through the alphabet/student numbers as I do.  Or you could put sticks in a jar and choose one helper randomly every day until everyone has had a turn!
  5.  Keep parents informed--consistently.
I'm trying to do a better job of keeping parents informed--in a consistent manner.  This year I created some simple, ink friendly weekly newsletters that are cute and scrappy.  Each Friday, I pull up the following week's newsletter, type in the homework assignments, spelling words, test dates, class news, and other important reminds and copy it front/back.  Then it's ready to send home on Monday.  This process takes me about 5 minutes!  You can check out my editable, pre-dated newsletters here:
 6. Use Nightly Folders.
In the past I've used elaborate folders with lots of headings and sections and I've had trouble keeping up with everything (and have probably confused my parents in the process!).  Now, I use a basic two pocket, three-pronged plastic folder.  I label the front pocket "LEFT AT HOME" (with a left hand image) and the right pocket "SEND RIGHT BACK" (with a right hand image).  There's a zipper pouch in the front for parents to send in money, notes, etc.  I include a copy of that month's Spelling Menu (found in  the packet below):
 I also include a monthly behavior calendar.  A good day gets a sticker... a bad day gets a behavior code.  Parents are asked to initial the calendar each night!  I got my behavior calendars from Jessica Williamson for only $3 and she edits them EVERY year for the new calendar year!  GREAT purchase!
 This is truly the EASIEST, fastest system I've ever tried!  I send home our daily papers each night in the folder.  If I don't have time to grade something, it goes home the next day!  Students know to take their folder out and place it in our basket every morning as soon as they arrive.

These tips have evolved over the course of my ten year career.  They've truly saved me time and energy and freed me up to create, teach, and enjoy my kiddos.  I hope some of these tips and tricks will inspire you!

Monday, August 17, 2015

Back to School SALE

Woot to the Hoot!  TPT will be having one last back to school sale THIS Wednesday 8/19!  Everything in my shop will be 28% off using code MORE15!

Shop by clicking the picture below:

Sunday, August 9, 2015

I Am More Than a Number

I used to be an optimistic, fun-loving, wildly funny and sarcastic person.  I used to see the glass as half full...never half empty.  I used to write poetry and short stories.  I used to live for worship time at church with my brothers and sisters in Christ.  I used to be an individual who was unique and funny and caring and hopeful and life-loving.  

But something changed.
And I became a number.

I became the number on my scale which made me fret.
And the number on the clothing tag--which I SWORE I'd never be.

I became the number of items yet to be crossed off on my 
To Do list.
And the number of messy piles around my house.
And the number of dollars in our checking account.
And the number of dollars on the credit card statement.
And the number of people I'd let down.
And the number of failures I'd had that day.

What started out as fun and exciting (TPT and blogging) turned me into yet another number.
I became the number of cha-chings I heard that day.
And the number of dollars I made that month.
And the number of tax dollars I owed.
And the number of followers I had.
And the number of clicks on my blog.
And the number of Facebook fans I had.
And the number of new products I could produce in a month.
 And the number of people ahead of me in sales.
And the number of stuff I didn't really need but bought anyway because we had a little "extra money".

As I started becoming just a number....I became so much less human.
I didn't laugh as much.
I didn't put my computer down to enjoy my sweet daughter's pleading to play or swim.
I didn't take care of my home and family like I do my "business."
I wasn't proud or thankful for my own accomplishments and milestones because I was always comparing them to someone else and I never, ever measured up.
I didn't even find joy in church or The Word anymore.

And then one day (TODAY, actually), I realized that dadgumit (Southern term there!)  I am MORE THAN A NUMBER!
My life is more than a series of numbers. 

You are more than a number, too.
And I wanted you to know that.
Let's throw out all the numbers.  Let' just be REAL.  Let's enjoy every second we're blessed with.  Let's show our families how much joy they bring us.  Let's squeal and giggle....play in the dirt....and stay off the computer just for the heck of it sometimes.  

Let's be proud of someone else's milestone because they're HUMAN too...they're not that number you see.

Let's bring so much joy and sunshine and love and laughter into our lives that it can't help but encircle the world.
Let's leave the numbers for math class.
Let's just LIVE.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Plants in the Classroom

I've always loved flowers.  As I grew older, I realized a plant didn't have to be blooming to be beautiful.  Foliage is beautiful, too--the colors, the shapes, and the textures of leaves can be as beautiful as a bloom any day!
 I hope to inspire you to incorporate plants in your classroom!

I decided I want to incorporate more plants into our classroom!  Research shows there are some definite benefits to plants in the classroom:
 Here are some of the top plants for the classroom:

 Of course, you'll need to exercise caution when choosing plants for your classroom.

You can extend the learning that takes place in your classroom by including plants!

 Do you have plants in YOUR classroom?  What kinds?

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

EVERYTHING for Open House {Except the Kitchen Sink!}

I've had so much fun setting up my Open House/Meet the Teacher Night!  I made two packets on TPT featuring these materials.  One packet is a bundle that includes my Best-Selling Parent Handbook Flipbook.  The other packet ONLY includes the Open House add-on's....for those who already own the handbook template!  Here's what all I included:
 By the way, the "First Grade Rocks" gift tag you see in the background is a K-5th freebie located HERE!
I love using bright Astrobrights paper for all my forms! :)

 I love that my table tents explain exactly what I need parents to do!  They can circulate around the tables without me standing over them!  I included tons of table tents so you can pick and choose what you want to use!
 These apple crafts will keep kids busy engaged while I'm chatting with their parents.  There's nothing worse than an Open House where your room looks like a tornado has been through because the kids are into E.V.E.R.Y.T.H.I.N.G. #trudat
 I'll be putting out a cute wand from the dollar store at this display to draw the eye to it *wink*
 I've seen a similar poem floating around for a while, but I gave the poem my own unique twist!

 There's nothing worse than having 25 boxes of crayons, 50 notebooks, 200 pencils, and more dumped on your floor or on a table.  Let students and parents HELP you with the supply sorting by labeling your bins (I've included over 20 labels!)
Let's face it....you may not like how I've worded something, or you may just have your own information to convey.  I've conveniently included an editable version of almost everything so you can give it your own spin!

You can buy the bundle (which includes all of the above PLUS my best-selling parent handbook) HERE:

If you already own the parent handbook and don't want to repurchase it, you can buy just the Open House add-on's here:

Enjoy your Open House!!

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Classroom Reveal: 2015-2016

AHHH!  The big day is FINALLY here...the classroom reveal!  This year I created an Apple Decor theme set to decorate my classroom.  It involves color (green, red,  yellow, pink, and turquoise) + Patterns with a subtle infusion of apples!  It's the perfect environment for my first grade classroom!

First I'll give y'all an overall view, and then I'll hone in on a few details!
Many people have asked me if I painted the room.  No, it was already painted that way.  This was previously the 3K room but is now the room for first grade.  This building houses Pre-K, K, and now 1st, and each room and hallway in the building is painted like grass and sky.  I chose to paint have hubby paint all the furniture Ceylon Cream to tone down the walls a bit.  I didn't want the furniture competing with the other colors! 

Speaking of hubby....he worked so hard this summer!!  He actually sewed my valance for me, painted all of my furniture, spent about 4 hours steam cleaning my carpet, washed the windows, installed new mini blinds, AND painted the ceiling a bright white for me.  He truly went above and beyond!  I am blessed!! Several parent volunteers installed bright fluorescent lights donated by Walmart....so my room is bright and airy!  It's quite stunning!

Creating some apple lanterns to hang above my desk was a must!
 I also made some inspirational prints and put them in rustic chalk-painted frames.

You can find my mega Apple Decor bundle here:

My birthday board is one of my favorite parts of the room.  I found this fabulous cupcake garland on Etsy, and I created Astrobrights colored card stock cupcakes and candles to highlight student birthdays!
 I also love the red and turquoise Dollar Tree tubs I picked up for organizing my classroom supplies.  I shared these labels as a freebie a while back!

         Students are sure to love my classroom library.  I made book  basket labels that are attached to my Dollar Tree book tubs with velcro.  As I changed out books throughout the year, I can just remove a label and add the correct label!

You can purchase the book labels here:

My classroom writing center is OFF THE CHAIN.  I can just imagine the SQUEALS I'm going to hear the first day of school!
I spent my whole summer creating writing center activities and I bundled them here:

I'm in LOVE with my desk! I purchased it from a retiring insurance agent.  It's an antique that is well built and beautiful!  Hubby painted it Ceylon Cream and I fancied it up with some tassels purchased from Schoolgirl Style!  The cushions came from Marshall's and will be used for reading spots around the room.
And of course I had to create the perfect workstation behind my desk to organize all my goodies...and to inspire me a bit!
The "Keep Calm and Teach On" print is from my Desk Decor packet.  I'll be working on other similar packets later!
The monthly binder covers for organizing your curriculum materials are a FREEBIE I shared a while  back.  Grab them here:

One thing my kiddos always love is my Question of the Day.  The first day of school I take the students pictures with a fake  mustache on.  I've decided to take a thumbs up pic for YES and a thumbs down pic for NO this year and make the magnet reversible.  Students read the question and vote in the morning "Yes" or "No."  It's so much fun to watch them progress from being unable to read the question to reading it fluently as the year progresses.
You can find my QOD bundle here.  It's mainly black and white so it's very good on ink!
I'll have a follow-up post after school starts to demonstrate the board in action!

A classroom can never have too much inspiration!  I found these goodies at Hobby Lobby.

 I found these adorable buckets already numbered for my tables at Target.  And I bought a classroom supply of Neat Seats for just $6 each from Michelle Oakes!

I love how my small group table turned out!  We used tablecloth-type fabric (felt on the back side, vinyl on the front side) from Hobby Lobby.  Hubby stapled it under the table!
 I plan to bring in a lot more plants and plant-based learning experiences and crafts this year!  I just love how home-like a few plants make the space feel!

And this is my check in station.  It has a basket for students to turn in their nightly folders, freshly sharpened pencils in a Target vintage pencil mason jar, our QOD board, and baskets labeled 1, 2, 3 (purchased at Target) for table activities, books to browse, etc.
My black director's chair is beside this table, and my teachers' manuals are housed in metal cut-out book bins in a sunny yellow color (purchased from Target).
It also includes baskets of spelling centers at the bottom!

My main bulletin board for Back to School is a Bucket Fillers Display complete with components from my best-selling Bucket Filler Brigade unit.

 I got a pack of the small card stock triangles from Hobby Lobby.  They're perfect for a quick and easy bunting.  I got the puffy tissue accents on the corner of the bulletin board from Hobby Lobby as well, and I ordered the borders from Schoolgirlstyle.com.

Hmmm...I think that's about it!  Let me know what inspires you!  I can't wait to see everyone else's classroom reveals on FB, IG, and Bloglovin!  

Y'all have a blessed year!