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Saturday, August 23, 2014

Fight for Your Write

It's no secret that the heart of a teacher is probably made up of sticky notes, colorful crayons & markers, whiteout tape, super sharp pencils, and a blast of glitter. We LOVE school supplies.  So when I was contacted by Bic to see if I would like to receive some of their supplies and write about their newest campaign, I of course said YES!  In addition to their awesome supplies they also have an awesome and inspiring campaign going on right now called "Fight for Your Write".  The goal - to keep encouraging students to WRITE....with their hands!  The art of handwriting is slowly being lost in this day and age of digital technology.  But isn't it still important?

"Writing is an important vehicle for communication 
because it distinguishes us and promotes individuality."

"Writing is also an important learning tool for children. Writing helps kids 
become better readers, boosts their confidence and sparks their creativity."

These two statements are from the Bic's - Fight for Your Write site. And I agree wholeheartedly.  After all, when I first think of even just the 'act' of handwriting, I immediately think of my students. I can tell whose paper is whose simply by looking at their unique handwriting.  Even in the digital world, we are SURROUNDED by handwriting aka fonts. No longer does Times New Roman fit all the needs of a person. Instead, people like Kimberly Geswein (an amazing font creator) can take someone's unique handwriting and create it into a font used by millions.

If we move past just the act of handwriting, we then enter into the world of what we can do with the power of writing. It brings me back to an activity that I did with my class.  There was a school district in another part of the country that decided that their high school students were "too busy" to recite the Pledge of Allegiance anymore.  They just don't have time in their jam packed day.  I showed my students the video of veterans who went to the school board meeting to plead with them to put it back into the school day.  My students were very touched by the video and asked what could they do to help?  I put the question back on them...  After some brainstorming, it was decided that they would write the school board letters imploring them to put the Pledge of Allegiance back into the high school schedule.  I was so proud of them!  They offered suggestions on how they could make this work and asked the school board to think of the veterans.  One student was concerned that their letters wouldn't be read, but another one said it didn't matter.  His comment was "Just knowing we took the time to write on how we feel about this is good enough for me."  :-)  Yep....proud teacher moment.

This year I'm going to encourage my kids to use the power of their writing again. We will find causes that are near and dear to them.  Take time to write letters of appreciate to people and companies.  Rediscover the lost art of sending a thank you letter.  The options are limitless.

And of course, I will do this using my Bic supplies!! hahaha  Their colorful selection of tools is exactly what will help begin the motivation to accomplish our writing goals.  I know from my experience with students that if I give them the opportunity to write in color, their desire increases dramatically.  Worried about mistakes with using tools other than pencil?  Fear not, Bic has white out tape that is easy and mess free to use.  They sent me a variety of tools to use but here are my top three favorites.


1.  The Magic Markers:  These are great for using on your whiteboard. My favorite part? When I erased it didn't leave a residue of color.
2.  Wite-Out: I LOVE white-out tape. So much easier to use then traditional liquid white-out.  And I'm not afraid to hand it over to my students to use.  Plus it doesn't bunch up like other brands I've used.
3.  The multi-color ink pens. I LOVED THESE PENS AS A KID! And they are still awesome. They are going to be perfect for our editing sessions. With all four colors at hand, the students will be able to quickly click from one color to the next to mark up punctuation, capitalization, spelling and grammar.

Guess what?! Because Bic also knows how much a teacher loves school supplies, they have agreed to send you a package of their supplies too.  Head on down below and enter to win a Back to School supply package from Bic yourself. :-)




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Monday, August 18, 2014

Classroom Set-up 2014-2015



I have finally finished my classroom set-up for my 2014-2015 5th grade class and decided to link up with Blog Hoppin Back to School Tour.

Here are some pics - I'll update as the year goes on, as I'm still missing my new rug and I have a ton of desktops in the back of my room that won't be there later.  This year, I continued with my rainbow theme with a touch of technology (desk tags and binders).


The calendar area by my desk.  Around the calendar are all of the students' birthdays using my Free Birthday Labels. 

Here is my desk area with my closet that holds all my teacher resource books, etc. I love my Monday - Friday cart that I got a few years ago at Lowes. Above my desk are my Spanish posters for numbers and colors. Our students have spanish three times a week. 

Another view of my desk area. On my door, I add all my class pictures.  This year is year TEN for me! Crazy. :-) 
Since I teach at a Catholic School, we are required to have a prayer table area.  Here is ours. Above it are my Ten Commandment posters.  Right below the posters I have some hooks - my students create a class rosary each year. Below is a picture from last years class. It turns out beautiful and will follow them through 8th grade where it will eventually be raffled off to one of the students.


Rosary created by my class last year. Each student had to decorate a few beads with markers and watercolors. Came out gorgeous!
Student community supplies.  I reuse antibacterial wipe containers to hold pencil cap erasers, clothespins, BINGO chips, etc.  You can download the FREE labels here. At the end of each year, I have students who don't want their old crayons and markers put them in my community pile.  We check to make sure they work and now I have a full stash for anyone who might need them this year.  

This is where I keep the students' morning work folders and other supplies such as regular pencils, clipboards, absent folders, etc. I'm not quite sure what I'm going to do with the open space above it all. Still deciding. On the other side of the bookcases is the library so this helps me separate it and create a "library space."

Here is the entry into the classroom library.  I have almost 3000 books for my students to read and choose from.  I also have ten stability balls in my classroom for students to use. You can read about that here.  Hanging in my library are my genre posters and my common book theme posters


I have a variety of seating options in our library, including this comfy little couch.  :-)


Here is a student work display bulletin board and the computer is for my librarians to handle book checkouts.  

My art supply closet and author's purpose writing posters

This is our back table (complete with stability balls all around it). It also doubles as my classroom bank when needed.  Right now it is full of student supplies that are ready to be assembled and handed out on the first day of school for our iPod Binders.  On the left is our art drying rack. Above that is where I display our schedule for the day in the pocket chart holder. And above that is the "May Do" and "Must Do" list for students.  I do not display a homework board anymore since we are a 1:1 iPad school.  All homework is now displayed on their myHomework app


This year I replaced my standard "We Do" poster with this new bulletin board set that I created. It has over 40 printables for you to pick and choose from.  Next to that on the left are our classroom rules.  Below are my new cubbies that I got from Kohl's and the cubby holders from Amazon.  This is where I am holding our new The Walking Classroom kits and some other odds and ends. On the right of the cubbies is my privacy folders that I got from Really Good Stuff.  

This is where students can get paper, math homework graph paper, correcting pens, staplers, and where they turn in their work.  I have a system on how they turn in their work. You can read about that here

Here is my main white board. 

A view of the classroom from the doorway. 

Another view from the doorway. 


Since we have iPads, I created the students name tags on iPad clipart. :-)

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Old Containers = New Storage

Part of our supply list at school are antibacterial wipes - each year students bring in 3-4 of these containers to help keep our classroom clean.  It's great!  However, when the container is empty the hoarder teacher in me hated to throw it away. So I saved them....  Soon I had a small stash of them.  Eventually I had to start throwing some away because I had an awful lot but I continue to keep about ten of them.

Then last year, as my students were rifling through my basket of string an idea struck me. I HATE how the students would not pull the string from the middle like you are supposed to.  And soon I end up with a mess of string where you couldn't find the end that would easily unravel it all. I tried sticking my string in a crate and putting the end of the string through the holes on the side and it still didn't work.  One day I decided to grab one of the oversized empty Lysol containers and I stuffed a color of string in there.  Voila! It worked!  I soon put all my different colors of string in their own container and the students can easily pull the end of the string that they need to be able to get the correct amount.


Once I did that, I started to quickly find other uses for my containers.  I now use them to hold a bunch of odds and ends such as:

  • clothespins
  • large erasers
  • small eraser caps
  • BINGO markers (chips)
  • Math manipulatives
  • Marbles
  • Use them to collect Boxtops

These containers help me save space while allowing the students to get what they need easily.  Plus, I love the colorful labels I created too.  Which you can get for FREE at my TpT store here.  (Leave some feedback love.) :-)

Do you save these containers?  What do you do with them?

Enjoy!
Katie

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Tieks Review


Have you ever heard of Tieks?!? Well if you've been reading my blog for sometime, of course you have!  You know....my favorite shoes ever!!  As a teacher, we understand the importance of having a comfortable shoe on.  We are on our feet ALL DAY LONG!  So when it comes to picking a shoe, we need one that works.  I am constantly asked if they are worth it.  So I've decided to share my thoughts and story on Tieks for you all and perhaps some of you on the edge will give them a try.  (Disclaimer - No, I don't work for them. I swear, I'm a teacher, living on a teacher salary just like you!  But I believe shout outs are needed when I see a good thing. Now back to our regularly scheduled blog post) ;-)

I remember the first time I heard about Tieks by Gavrieli. It was from my friend and co-worker, Pina. She came into my classroom raving about how awesome these ballet flats she got were, and how she was ordering at least two more pairs. I was intrigued!  Quickly, I went on their site and researched the shoes.  OMG!  I was in love and hadn't even bought a pair yet.  The colors, oh the beautiful colors are enough to make a teacher's heart beat fast!!  Every color of the rainbow was there - and I wanted every color.  But at that moment, I noticed the price.  Bam! I was brought back to reality with the sticker shock.
My newest pairs. :-)

Price
Let me start by saying I don't EVER spend crazy amounts of money on clothing and shoes.  I shop sales and consignment shops.  I'm a Banana Republic snob, after all, I have their Visa Luxe card....but let's be honest. I reached that status by buying their clothes on sale.  So for me to spend $175 on a pair of shoes, well at that time was just ridiculous.  However, with Pina ordering a pair and another co-worker taking the plunge too - well I just got caught up in the moment.  And to be honest, I've never looked back.  I buy at least one new pair each year for back to school.  This year I got two pairs because my class from last year gave me a gift certificate (SEE - I wear them that much that they noticed!).  But I do get that spending anywhere from $200 - $300 for a pair of ballet shoes is a lot of money.  However, my other shoes (when I do buy them) come from Payless Shoes...and they aren't nearly as comfortable.  And when you really sit down and do the math.....it's not that much.  Let's say on average, I wear a pair of my Tieks 60 days out of the year. That comes out to about $3 PER DAY.  That's worth it to me.

Packaging & Shoes
When your shoes first arrive, they come in a tiny box.  You will find it hard to believe that there are a pair of shoes in this little box.  When you open it, you are greeted by a beautiful Tieks blue box with a flower on top.  Seriously - the packing is gorgeous!  I once had a friend say that Tieks should save the money they spend on packaging and take it off the price of the shoes. I completely disagree!  
The shoes and two carrying bags come inside the box.
I adore the packaging.  When I buy quality shoes, I expect quality packaging and with Tieks, that is what I get.  Besides, their flowers are adorable on my little girls' heads.  ;-)  In addition, they also give you two bags.  One is for your Tieks if you are wearing another pair of shoes, like high heels.  You simply put your folded up Tieks in the bag and throw it in your purse.  The other bag is for when you take your shoes off and put your comfy Tieks on.  I love this! Because there is no way I would put my shoes in my purse without a bag covering them up!!! 


Now the shoes themselves are beautiful.  I own a pair of Cardinal Red, Black, Leopard Print, Silver Lake (Vegan), Tangerine, and Copperhead Snake.  I love every single color I have and they each fit my personality to a T.  My all time favs were the leopard print....until I got my Silver Lake ones last year.  However, this week I just got the Copperhead Snake and they are simply gorgeous!  The pictures on the internet don't do them justice. They are so unique looking!


                          






When you first put the shoes on, they are tight. No doubt about it....borderline a little uncomfortable but no different from any other shoe I've bought before. They just need to be broken in.  I will wear them for a few hours at a time to do it slowly.  Once they have been worn a few times, they fit fine.  Thankfully I'm a size 7 and that is what I always get.  However, my sister is a 6.5 and she also gets the 7.  The fit fine on her too.  Some people I know get the size up and they are too big.  I heard a rumor that if you contact Tieks, they will send you the smaller size that has already been stretched. Not sure if that's true but if you are an in between size it's worth asking.  Which leads me to customer service.... 

Customer Service
Copperhead Snake - By far my most favorite pair ever!
I have NEVER ordered something from online and have received a handwritten note from the company thanking me for my order. Never. Except with my Tieks in which I have received one every time.  The shoe doesn't fit? No problem! I had ordered my mom a pair of these shoes for Mother's Day a couple of years ago (she's a retired nurse so she appreciates a good comfortable shoe too) but I had ordered the wrong size.  When the shoe came in, my mom called Tieks and they told her to hold onto the shoe and they would send the correct size and to just mail the ones she was returning in the box they were sending with prepaid postage. Say what?!? Most places you have to pay to send things back.  Simply put - this company knows what they are doing and appreciate their customers.  With their easy to return policy, they make it so simple to give these shoes a try. If you don't like them, it's a pain free return.  What's not to like about that.? 

The Bottom Line
If you aren't sure about these shoes, I definitely recommend giving them a try.  I think you'll soon be sold like I am.  These are definitely my indulgences each school year and with how hard I work, I think I'm entitled to it (thankfully my husband thinks so too).   As if I wasn't excited enough about going in and setting up my classroom and getting ready for the new year, I get an awesome little package on top of it all.  :-)   

What are you favorite pair of shoes? Share below.  

Katie

Monday, August 4, 2014

Classroom Economy: Student Paychecks


I've been teaching for ten years and have been doing a classroom economy since my second year.  I fondly remember my own fourth grade teacher having classroom cash and thinking how cool it was.  As the years have gone on, my classroom economy has become more complex (not in terms of work for me) to imitate the real world for my students.

The Classroom Bank
One of their (and their parents!) all time FAVORITE elements of my classroom economy are the paychecks they earn.  Yep, that's right.  They earn paychecks that look like a real check!  This allows me to add the element of banking to my classroom economy.  We go over how checks work, what all those numbers mean, and I even invite a guest speaker into my classroom from a bank to answer the students questions.  We use the online platform called My Kids Bank which is FREE!  You can easily create accounts for all your students, create bankers, do direct deposits and more. It is such as awesome resource that I'm in awe that it is FREE.

The paychecks that my students earn not only look like real checks but they also have taxes taken out....just like real life!!  This adds a whole new teachable element which allows me to talk about with my kids.  What taxes pay for, who gets the money, why do we pay them...etc.  It's an eye opener for many of them.  :-)

In the beginning, I would spend quite a bit of time doing payroll.  It really became time consuming because I wanted my students to have accurate YTD information (especially for when tax season came around).  After some wasted time, I knew I had to find a new way to do payroll that wouldn't take me more than 3 minutes. I searched high and low and was unable to find what I needed.  So I finally sat down with a friend of mine and created exactly what I needed.  Enter my mail merge and spreadsheet using Excel and Word!  This handy tool allows me to easily input each students name, what pay period it is (which will automatically calculate the YTD information), and their pay.  After I enter that information, the formulas automatically calculate the taxes that are taken out which is about 25% of their pay.  :-)
Sample Paycheck

I'm happy to share this awesome spreadsheet and mail merge with you through my TpT store!  The zip file also includes an easy tutorial video to walk you through how to run your own classroom payroll.

Do you have a classroom economy?  What are some special ways you make it more real?

Enjoy!

Katie

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Books, Beaches, and Summer




Hi Everyone!  I'm super excited to be participating in this blog hop with my fellow California bloggers.  Be sure to hit up each one and like their blog to be entered to win a one of four $25 gift cards to Teachers Pay Teachers!!!  Pffftttt - that's right! You read that correctly - $25 can be yours just for going around and liking each blog and while you're at it - collecting some fabulous freebies.  Well worth the effort in my opinion. :-)  Especially since the Teacher Pay Teacher sale is going on when the winners will be announced.

I don't know about you, but I've been enjoying this summer and catching up on some reading. From pleasure reading to professional development, I've been getting it all covered.....in between running after my little ones of course.

My current book that I'm reading for school is called, What's Under Your Cape? and it's by a fellow blogger, Barbara Gruener.  So far, I'm loving it!  It's all about building character within your students.

I'm also enjoying 32 Third Graders and One Class Bunny by Phillip Done.  I've read this one before, but it's always fun to read again.  So many funny stories I can relate to.

In addition to those books, I have a few more that I like to keep by my bedside.  :-)  Of course, with all those, I have to have a way to keep my place as I switch between each one.  So I created these cute little beach themed book marks and I'm happy to share them with you all.



Print out a class set and hand them out to your students!  You can get them here.

Now it's time to Surf On!  Head on over to Miss Kindergarten featuring my bloggy friend, Hadar.
Photobucket


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Sunday, July 27, 2014

Seven Tips for New Teachers

Often I hear from other people who are pursuing a career in teaching.  Their questions are usually always the same.
  1. How did you become a teacher?
  2. Are there days you regret your decision?
  3. What do you love about teaching?
  4. Do you have any tips for a new teacher?
I love writing them back and sharing my story.  I too, remember being that "person" who dreamed of becoming a teacher. I remember cruising through teacher forum boards (A to Z Teacher forum and Proteacher were my favs!) and looking at different teacher websites (this was before blogs were a hit).  

As far as me and my story, I think I knew I wanted to be a teacher since I was a child.  I was the student who would beg my teachers for their old teacher manuals and play "school" at home forcing my younger brother to be my "student".  I would set-up my desk in my room with all my school supplies laid out.  When back to school time came around, I LOVED looking at the ads.  New school supplies gave me a thrill (and still do to this day!)   I forgot about my desire well into my early 20's.  I had a great job as a hotel sales manager (which I loved!) and was very happy doing what I was doing.  But I knew I wanted to go back to school and get my degree. It wasn't until one day I was in an office supply store and happened to walk down the teacher aisle that I knew that was what I wanted! haha  Seeing all the teacher supplies brought back all the old feelings I had when I was a kid. I've never looked back. I finished my degree (while working full-time) in 1.5 years and landed my first teaching job after completing my student teaching.  A teacher had retired in late November and I was hired on to take over his 5th grade class. That first year taught me more than I think a typical first year would have.  Since I was taking over for a veteran teacher, that particular class' parents were all over me.  I had one particular difficult one who would drag me into the principal's office multiple times that year.  Thankfully I had a VERY supportive principal who backed me up.  I learned many many things that year.  Since then, I have taught 9 years of 5th and 1 year of 4th.  I love it. Of course you have hard days - I won't lie.  Society attitudes towards teachers, parents behavior, and the amount of work that is put on teachers nowadays is unreal.  But if it's your passion you can overcome that.   I don't regret a single day that I switched my career from hotel management to teaching.  




But if I could give some tips to the new teachers that I have learned over the years, this would be it.


  1. Document. Everything. If you are having issues with students (whether behavior or academically) you need documentation to back you up.  It will make the meetings that you have to better assist the student much easier when you have concrete proof to match up with what you are witnessing in the class.
  2. KEEP PARENTS INFORMED!  Yes, you may think that your weekly newsletter is enough. Or perhaps your class website is sufficient.  Or the fact that you send home all the work each week with grades listed, should keep parents up to date on their child's progress. But the fact of the matter is, it doesn't.   I'm not knocking parents for this. Perhaps they are working full-time, have multiple children.....whatever. I don't care what their excuse is.  The fact of the matter is, you will make your job MUCH easier if you just keep them informed.  I'm lucky to work at a school where parents (and students) have access to the grade book. They can simply sign in and see what the grades are.  I tell them in the beginning of the year, that they should be signing in at least bi-weekly if not weekly.  That there should be NO SURPRISED come report card time.  But perhaps you don't have that ability with your system.  Find one that you can use to send home progress reports. I did so bi-weekly back in my first year of teaching and I will tell you, parents appreciated it.  And not just with grades....keep them informed of behavior too.  (Here is a link to an old blog post that I did about my weekly cover sheets.)
  3. Add one new cool thing to your curriculum each year.  When you first start teaching, it is beyond overwhelming when you are faced with teaching multiple subjects.  You feel this need to try and make every lesson fun. But let's be honest. That is not necessarily realistic!  Sometimes, you are going to have a very dry lesson.  That's okay.  But as the years go on, try to add at least one cool lesson plan into each subject.  I love doing projects with my kids. And for the most part - they too love them. They help teach a regular concept but in a fun way.  I don't necessarily do every thing I've created every single year.  I look at my current group of students and determine what's best for them.  But at least I know, I do have some fun stuff up my sleeve. Look for ideas on other teacher blogs (and of course, mine). ;-)
  4. You will hear this piece of advice from practically every single teacher.  And it is so true.  MAKE FRIENDS WITH THE OFFICE STAFF AND JANITORIAL STAFF. These two groups of people run the school.  No. Really. They do!  And you want them on your side.  Don't look down your nose at them. Because when the time comes and you need them, you want to know they are there for you. 
  5. Take time for you.  Your first year of teaching (and second and third!) will feel like never-ending hours.  And rightfully so. You will be planning, grading, communicating all year long.  But make sure you take time for you.  Mark on the calendar 3-4 nights AT LEAST that you will go home and not touch a single piece of work.  It can wait. And you will get it done another day. 
  6. Know when to ask for help.  Get volunteers in your classroom to assist with changing up bulletin boards, running centers - whatever! Don't be afraid to have someone in your room.  
  7. Find creative ways to get supplies for your classroom.  Send out requests to parents - often they want to help out but don't know what you need.  Have a wish list available to them all year long.  Utilize websites such as Donor's Choose (if your a public school teacher) or Adopt a Classroom (they accept private school teachers).  Share your needs with friends and family through social media.  Ask companies - you never know what they can provide you.  Hit up things such as Freecycle, eBay and Craigslist to find gently used items.  (I have either bought or been given over 1500 books for my classroom library by using these resources at a fraction of the cost!)  Don't be afraid to ask for discounts. Tell them you are a teacher.  I have an awesome co-worker who hits up garage sales.  She makes sure she tells them she's a teacher and more often than not, she gets many items for FREE or at a ridiculously discounted price. 
What would you add to my list of tips?  Share below.

Katie Lyon
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