Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Christmas Tree Hacks

Am I using the term "hacks" correctly?  I try not to use new words if I'm not sure, but my post today is a little more than "DIY fun". 

Last year I went to bed early one night.  I fell asleep and my husband screamed ad yelled for me, called me on my cell phone when I didn't answer, and sent me multiple text messages of "help!" I came running to imagine the worst.  There he was, on the floor and I panicked.  But, like the pain he can be, the reality was he was watering the Christmas tree and he ran out of water.  :/

Here is how I prevented that from ever happening again.  I created a tree watering tube. 

I went to Lowes or Home Depot for 4 feet of tube.  They cut it from a giant spool of tube for you right there.  I made sure to find a tube that was wide enough to insert a funnel in to one end.  Then, I raided the baking drawer in the kitchen for a small funnel. 

Although the end of the funnel fit pretty well in to the tube, I secured it with a little duct tape just to be sure. 

I placed the funnel near where I wanted to water the tree, and inserted the tube between branches, securing the tube to the trunk every few inches with some simple zip ties.  Then, I made sure the tube sat below the top edge of the tree base.  Now, we just fill a cup of water and pour it right in to the funnel. 

My next "hack" has to do with my obsessive urge to make sure things match.  Last week, we set up the tree with our rustic ornaments.  Since last Christmas, though, I finished painting and decorating our living area and the colors are on the creamy/aqua scheme of things.  So, the rustic looked really out of place.  Since we recently set up a family room in the basement, we figured we could set up our fake tree with the rustic ornaments there. 

Then, I went on a mission to find ornaments that would work better with my color scheme and found this picture on Pinterest.  (Here is the website from the pin.)

I LOVE this look. I had to have this color scheme!  Although, I was disappointed when I went to the store to find that most white bauble ornaments were a matte finish and cheap looking.  I ended up at Michaels and bought clear glass ornaments to coat with white and gold paint.  Here are the results:

A few tips, if you want to try this.  You'll need patience.  I sometimes lack this.  Fill the ornament with the color paint you'd like and shake it around.  Empty the leftover paint back in the bottle and sit the ornament upside down to dry and empty for at least 2 days.  I did not do this second part and one week later, I had some  many sad ornaments that needed another shake and dry. 

I didn't have any plastic cups, so I used a shipping box and a box cutter, cut an X and poked the top of the ornament through to hang upside down. 

Here you can see many of my ornaments had extra paint in them.  LOL
Now that I have my ornaments, I needed a garland.  I used red wooden cranberry garland on the rustic tree, which I love because it was simple.  I've looked all over for a simplistic garland to add to my new color scheme.  Found. Absolutely. Nothing.  Why must everything Christmas-y be covered in glitter?  
So I went back to the craft store and bought some cream-colored ribbon to string on a thread.  Here's how my garland turned out:

Happy Holidays!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Leaving schoolwork at school...

Back in March I posted a blog about managing my time throughout the week to make sure I didn't bring any work home over the weekend.  I'm back to report that IT IS WORKING GREAT!  As a matter of fact, I donated my teacher bag and I only bring my lunch box to work each day. 

There is only one exception: Thursday nights.  Thursday nights I bring home anything I may need to complete lesson plans for the following week.  This is usually minimal because I make sure I have a copy of the novel we are reading at home, and many of my other documents are accessible by email.

I'm not saying that I don't ever do work...I mean, sometimes I enjoy creating something fun and new for my classroom, but I don't bring work home (aside from one night of lesson planning). 

Here's how I do it:

1.  I stay after school until 4:30-5:00 each night.  Everyone once in awhile I leave a little earlier, but there are nights when I stay until 5:30.  It all evens out.  During this time I grade papers, make copies, make parent phone calls, send emails, etc.

2.  I immediately enter grades into the online grade book.  If I have to grade an assignment that takes awhile (like essays), I make immediate note of who did not turn in an assignment, and I add the zero in the grade book so kids and parents can see that something is missing.  Then, I am able to grade the papers as the week goes on, and enter the rest of the grades when they are done.  Because I teach three sections of Literacy and have to deal with a LOT of essays, I spend good time with my students doing individual conferences.  This time is valuable to them, but it also familiarizes me with their essay.  So, when it comes time for me to grade the published essay, I've already read their rough draft and reading the published draft goes a lot faster. 

3.  I only make copies after school.  I do this for good reason:  If my teacher friends who share the same machine have time during the school day to make copies, the machine is almost always free after school.    

4.  I don't leave a mess.  I straighten up the main areas of my classroom.  Then, at least once per week I try to straighten up a zone.  I have a table near the entrance to my closet that ends up catching the stuff I move around throughout the week.  I cleaned this table off on Friday and it felt great.  Next week, I hope to remove anything from my closet that I don't need anymore.  I'll let you know how that goes. 

A Little Vignette, if you will:

Three weeks ago, I stared my guided reading lesson plans.  15 different groups at many different levels.  I had 15 different books with 15 different plans.  I worked my tail off making sure I had a rough outline of each of these lessons.  The only thing I had to do was type them up and write up my shared reading plans.  But, I left them at school and didn't realize it until I was at my car and locked out of school.  I sent a quick email to my principal to let her know I left them there, and my normal Thursday night lesson plan email was postponed until I could get back in and have time to type them all up.  Well, I took it all home with me that next day...a Friday...a day when I'm not supposed to bring work home.  But, I had to make up for my mistake.  From the moment I put that stack of lesson plan papers in my car, the GUILT that I have unfinished work to do hit me like crazy.  I can still feel the sweating and shaking like it was yesterday.  I knew that if I didn't do those plans until Sunday, that my entire weekend would be spent with that pile of work staring at me because it was unfinished. 


Do you have any tips that help you stay organized and on top of your paperwork? 


Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Spelling Centers

I try to make learning interesting for my middles, but sometimes I miss working with younger kiddos with fine motor skills and arts & crafts.  Yes, I can do arts & crafts with my kids...I just find it much harder to manage the shorter periods and an arts & crafts project.  I'm sure other middle school teachers can relate. 

So, I started making some activities for my friend who teaches in our lower school.  And OMG these turned out great!  She read the book, Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes, where the main character (a mouse named Chrysanthemum) loves her name until others make fun of her, and then had her students share their names using this spelling center.  Here are the results after just doing one part of my spelling center:

Students cut out the letters of their name and glued them to the page.  Each letter has a value, and students were able to create an addition number sentence based on the letters of their names.  She said students really enjoyed this activity, and also loved sharing out their total values. 

This is just an introductory activity to prepare students to work on a similar number sentence activity with their weekly spelling words, or a challenge activity for students to find the highest valued word within a given set of letter tiles.  The weekly spelling list activity allows students to evaluate the "values" of their spelling list with a data collection sheet. 

P.S.  Each of the activities in this spelling center activity have an alternate page for teachers who prefer not to use glue. 

I hope to make more activities like this because I had a TON of fun doing it. 

For a bunch of free spelling center ideas, visit this blog page.

Monday, August 26, 2013

The Evolution of a Classroom in Photos

I'm too tired to explain.  LOL

Click on the first picture, and you'll get to see the larger versions.  I will teach 6th-8th Literacy this year. 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

TpT announced their Back to School Sale

Just an FYI, has announced their back to school sale for August 18-19 (this coming Sunday and Monday)!  Buyers can save up to 28% by using the code: BTS13

Don't miss out!


Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Freebie: Birthday Balloons

I definitely enjoy making stuff to sell on TeachersPayTeachers, but I have to say that I cannot afford the ink, and it is rare that I am able to print at school.  So, whenever I make something adorable, I try to make an inksaver version. 

Here are some free birthday balloons that you can print out on colored card stock and save ink at the same time:


If you can't be kind,...

I heart Pinterest...

I finally went through my school pins and starts creating things I wanted to make for my classroom.  Sometimes I use bits and pieces of items, and sometimes I flat out buy them as-is. 

I wanted to make the If you can't be kind, be quiet sign for my classroom in colors that matched my room.  Here it is (and it will be free forever):

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Do you know about

I didn't know about until earlier this summer.  There are loads of reasons why someone would want to create a binder, but I have decided that each novel unit project will involve research about big topics found in those books. 

I have only completed one binder.  My 7th graders will read Tangerine by Edward Bloor, which has great science topics.  My students will research one of these topics and write a research paper.  They will also present their information to the class. 

Here is a link to my completed binder.

There are a TON of educational binders to peruse.  Let me know if you find any that are awesome!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Double Folders

So, I'm a pinning fanatic, even though I usually end up "window-pinning" instead of actually making the cool things I see. 

And this is why...

I saw this adorable pin that took me to an amazing blog:

Here's the picture from the pin:

Such a great idea!

But, I should have been aware of her MEAD folders because my measly budget didn't quite have MEAD folders in mind.  Especially because I teach up to 99 students per year. 

I could have waited for Office Depot or Staples to have their folder sale, but I have a wee bit of OCD when it comes to things matching, so I figured I would get these items sooner than later and be sure to have color-coded bliss.  I should have thought this through, though, and I don't want to be THAT LADY that returns 200 folders.

So I bought the 15 cent Walmart folders.  I still think it's a great deal.  As soon as I saw them I thought these are perfect because they are already hole-punched!  DUH.  The holes are the opposite of what I need...but I didn't realize this until I got home. 

Here are the folders.  15 cents is still a great deal, especially because the pronged folders were the same price. 

But, if I turn them inside out, the holes are on the outer edge.  oops

I decided to go for it anyway, despite the fact that I know there will be 300 dots all over my floor within the first week of using them.  Anyway, I went to Michaels and bought a nice single hole puncher because the folders didn't fit in to my 3-hole punch.  I made it through roughly 5 folders with the single punch before my strength wore out.  What to do next?

Husband to the rescue! ( <= I told him I was going to write that.)  So far my husband has come in handy at least twice this week.  First, we went to dinner for our 6th anniversary and got in the car to leave and the battery was dead.  This lady's hubby was able to buy a battery and INSTALL it himself with whatever dollar store tools his dad had in the trunk of his car when he came to our rescue! 
Next, he saw me agonizing over this one whole punch as hundreds of folders sit in front of me, and he says, "You know, I have a hole punch at work that does 300 sheets of paper at once." 
1. How did I not know something like this existed in the world?!?! 
2.  I immediately googled it to see how much it would cost me.  But, you already know my folder budget was tight, so $300 for a hole punch is a bit much. 
Do you know what he did?!?!  He borrowed it from work and punched the rest of my folders in less than 30 seconds!

Check this puppy out!

Last night, I put all of my double folders together.  Aside from the holes on the wrong side issue, the Name/Subject label that comes on the label is on the last page.  oops. 

But, here they are!

For 30 cents a piece, I think they look pretty good.  Now I have to figure out how I'm going to organize them.  I only teach middle school Literacy (Reading & Writing), so I think there will be a "Work In Progress" section and I think there will be a "Reference" section that will house things that will stay there all year (like rubrics). 

Anyone have ideas how I can keep these organized?  They will stay in the classroom at all times.  I already have writing folders that are kept separately for finished pieces. 

All ideas are welcomed.