Monday, March 29, 2010

Plastic Drawers - No Mess Monday

Today's No Mess Monday Tip for Classroom Organization is:
Depending on how much you need to sort, plastic drawers could be the perfect solution.  I currently have my math units sorted / stored this way.  Each skill has it's own drawer.  Inside you'll find hardcopies of all of my resources relating to that skill, games that I've made, related children's literature, and my transparencies for teaching that skill.

I really like this method because the drawers slide out all the way.  I can easily carry the drawer to my desk or a table when planning.

I used to store all of my reading materials this way as well.  However, my district adopted a new reading program a couple of years ago and it came with so much stuff!  Come back next Monday to see how I organize those resources.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Scout's Honor

I swear to you I was looking for vegetables.

Honest.  Scout's honor!

I was rummaging through my freezer looking for some healthy, nutrients of the frozen variety.  

That's when I spotted it.  Do you see it?

Let's take a closer look.  I needed to adjust my eyes.  I thought it was a mirage.  Do you recognize that beautiful silver shape?

Someway.  Somehow.  I'm not sure how it happened.  But, there in the depths of my freezer hidden behind the frozen peas were some yummy, delicious Girl Scout Thin Mints that I had not know existed.  Oh, lucky day!

It pays to eat your veggies!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Classroom Storage Boxes: Thrifty Thursday

Today's Thrifty Thursday Tip is:
The photo above shows my classroom shelves.  Normally this is not the view you would see in my classroom because I've covered the open shelves with bulletin board paper because even in all it's organizational glory that you see here, it is still too much visual clutter for me.  But that is another post for another day.


I have a post in my head about covering open shelving.  Stay tuned.

In the meantime.  It's Thrifty Thursday so this entry is about the bargain that is "Free Boxes."

Well, technically one is free and the other is the misuse of government supplies.  

Let's start with the legit freebies: the blue boxes

Each summer the big name stores start to put out their school supplies.  This includes folders and notebooks that are displayed on shelves in sturdy, colorful boxes.  After the folders sell, they crush up the boxes and discard them.  

Unless a teacher swoops in and snatches them up.  

I'm sure I've been mistaken many a time for a Walmart worker as I 'organize' their school supply section, but condensing the half-filled boxes into one box so that I may load my cart with this free cardboard goodness. They are great for sorting books, units, etc.  I've even used them as book boxes for the kids.  I just printed labels and covered over the printing on the box.

Now onto the free depending on your scruples boxes: the plain brown ones

Except they aren't supposed to be brown.

They are supposed to be white.

And red.

And blue.

And they aren't supposed to be plain.

They are supposed to read, "Priority Mail" and "United States Postal Service."

But, if you assemble them inside out (super easy to do) and cut the top flap off they become very sturdy storage boxes for the classroom.

You can actually order these on the post office website and they will deliver them to you.  For free.

I have sent A LOT of packages over the years.  Typically, I purchase boxes to mail out my thematic units, centers and games (insert shameless plug for my business here: and pay our friendly postal workers priority mail prices to deliver them through rain and sleet and snow.  I "could" have used their "free" boxes in those cases, but I didn't.  And so I justify my using the boxes in my classroom as a credit from the post office and that is how I sleep at night.  :)

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

9:02 pee break, 11:26 pee break...

Today's Whatever Wednesday Topic is:
The Bathroom Log

I teach 3rd grade.

That means I am responsible for teaching 25 children an entire school year's worth of state mandated standards by March because even though the school year goes until June, the state feels they should have everything mastered in time for the BIG TEST in March.

My point is, I don't have time to monitor the frequency and time patterns of when my kiddos elect to pee.

Yet, it is another thing we are expected to do.

I created this chart to streamline the process.  I can tell at a glance how many times a child has left to use the bathroom and when they've gone and how long they have gone for.

How's that for data and assessment?

It's a handy little piece of paper.  The children write their number and the time they have left the classroom on the chart.  If it is the 1st trip of the day they write it in box 1.  If it is the 3rd trip of the day it goes in box 3.  When they return they record that time next to the initial time.  If a child is frequently showing up in box 3 or 4 then I can address the situation.  

Good times.

But, if you are required to keep a bathroom log, this could make your life easier.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

What Time is It?

Today's Teaching Tuesday Idea is:


This easy little project will help all your little friends practice their time telling skills.  

I used speech bubbles, but even a simple post-it would work.  Label the outside of your clock with the appropriate five minute interval.  Point it out and model how to use it as a reference tool.

On a side note: I always found children would get confused on the hour when the minute hand was past the 30 minute mark and especially so as it neared the 12.  I had a lightbulb moment a couple of years ago and it has been easy to explain ever since.  I tell the class to think about their birthday.  Kids LOVE to say they are 7 and a half or 7 and 3/4 because when you are little every fraction of an age counts.  I explain that even though they are getting closer to being 8 (or whatever age) they will be 7 until it is actually their birthday.  I point out that the 12 is like the birthday.  The minute hand may be super close, but it won't be the next hour until it is actually on the 12.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Organizing Puzzles: No-Mess Monday

Today's No Mess Monday Tip for Classroom Organization is:

Puzzles are great.

But they take up space and pieces get lost.  These photos are from my son's playroom at home, but I do the same thing at school.

The photo on the left shows just six of his puzzles.  The boxes are bulky and they had already started to lose their shape.  

This solution is easy.  Just cut the picture off the box and place it into a clear plastic bag with all of it's pieces.  

Although the photo doesn't show it, I usually go one step further in the process.  I like to write a number on the back of the picture and then write that same number on the back of all it's pieces.  That way if a stray piece is found it can be returned to it's bag.    By doing this I was able to fit 12 puzzles into a standard plastic shoe box.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Prepare to Envy Me

See those three faces?  I will preface this by saying that they totally make it all worthwhile.  I adore those little mugs and realize how blessed I am.  

But, man!

Sometimes the reality of  being a mother of three slaps you in the face.


The scene: We were driving to NH to my sister's house to celebrate her birthday.  It's a little over an hour away and the babies are unpredictable travelers.  We were 20 minutes away from her house and approaching one of the nicer Walmarts I have been to.  We were a bit ahead of schedule and I asked if we could stop.  

We are going to Disney World in a few weeks.  Last summer I was wearing, I mean maternity clothes.  I don't even know where my non-maternity, warm weather clothes are.  I've been slowly losing some weight and am hoping that the trend continues so I didn't want to spend a fortune of clothes.  I was hoping I could find a couple of t-shirts that would be suitable.

I've never been accused of being a fashionista.  Still, I was asking to go to Walmart to buy clothes.  Don't get jealous yet.  It gets better.

We schlepped the babies in their bucket seats into the store and plop them into two separate shopping carts.  Hubby (who was not at all thrilled with the fact that we stopped) said he would take our son to find bubbles and told me I had 10 minutes to replenish my wardrobe with cheap garments.

I reflected on shopping trips past as I frantically tossed articles of clothing with labels reading, "Hanes" and "Faded Glory" into my big blue cart.  I longed for a leisurely stroll through Express or the Limited with a Starbucks in hand.  

15 minutes and $30.00 to spend.  It was like a game show.  To add to the stress, the baby I was in charge of was starting to whimper and squirm.  Tick. Tock.  Tick. Tock.

I approached the dressing room.


I approached the rickety cubicles that they try to pass off as a dressing room and was told by a friendly, smocked worker that I was limited to 6 items.  Six!

I had a cart full of randomness in 3 different sizes because I haven't a clue where my post-partum body stands, a baby who was about to blow and a dwindling time limit.  To make matters worse, I needed to prioritize the garments and create a pecking order for trying them on.

I grabbed 6, handed over the rest to be guarded under the watchful eye of the attendant and squeezed into my assigned cubicle with a baby carrier and a squirming infant.

The squirming turned to crying.

The crying turned to screaming.  You know the mouth open, purple face kind.

The screaming served as a beacon for hubby, the boy and the other twin to locate me.

Despite my attempts to tell him to wait, my son was determined to see what was going on.

Did you know 4 year olds could easily crawl under a fitting room door?

They don't leave that way though.  Instead, they leave through the door.  Which they fling open.

While you are changing.  Only my head was in that stage of changing where the shirt covers it and so I didn't notice that the door was wide open and that I was exposed to the world until I had been for a bit.

You may now envy the glamourous life I lead.  

Friday, March 19, 2010

It's Report Card Day

Better known as "Get the H-E-Double Hockey Sticks out of Dodge Day."  I swear some parents rip open the manilla envelope with one hand while dialing the school number into their cell phones with the other from the comfort of the driver's seat in the car dismissal line.

Report cards traditionally go home on a Friday afternoon.

Without coincidence, our contracts state that we can leave at dismissal on Friday afternoons.

It is with stealth like moves that teachers must commando crawl on their bellies down the corridor (all while dragging their ridiculously oversized bag of teacher-weekend-homework behind them), shimmy past the front office and roll three times to get to their cars unscathed.

Actually, I anticipate that my families will be delighted with their little cherubs this trimester. We've worked hard.  The kiddos have made huge academic gains and their report cards reflect it.  My comments are complimentary and worthy of calling the grandparents in Florida to read them to.  


I'll be in my car by 2:31 p.m.

They are forecasting a 70 degree, sunny day.  After a l-o-n-g workweek and an even l-o-n-g-e-r winter in the northeast you can bet I'll be starting the weekend as early as possible!

Happy Weekend

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Top O The Morning To Ya!

My fellow third grade teacher and I spent yesterday (St. Patrick's Day)  afternoon sorting through math questions and categorizing them by standards.  I pointed out that one benefit to getting old is that we won't need to spend March 18th teaching with a hangover.  

Just trying to stay positive.

There were a few shenanigans at my house though.

My son was giddier for St. Patrick's Day than he was for Christmas.  I was confused by his enthusiasm, but learned that he expected to see a real rainbow and find real gold.  He built a leprechaun trap all by himself.

He added something green and some gold (pennies) to lure the little fellow in.  Then he strategically placed a bit of double-sided tape inside so that the leprechaun would get stuck. Granted, this concept already exists as a rat trap, but he doesn't know that so I was impressed with his original idea.

He decided the front walkway was the ideal location for trapping his victim.  As he put on his shoes he stated, "I'm going to catch me a leprechaun...(insert thoughtful pause and a shrug)...or a cat."  The trap was put down and he then used sidewalk chalk to draw arrows, a rainbow and a leprechaun friend as additional enticement.  

And then he went to bed.

Because they only come when you are sleeping.

I think they have a contract similar to S. Claus.

When morning came he discovered that a leprechaun had in fact been in our house.  The pesky fellow turned his oatmeal and milk green.  He also made us a green cake with rainbow frosting and some gold coin pancakes.  He entertained himself by turning our toilet water green and playing with Camden's toys (only the green ones).  He even worked his magic on Cam's lunch by replacing the lunch I packed with rainbow grilled cheese and some green foods like cucumbers and a green apple.

Upon checking the trap we discovered that he had at one point been caught, but escaped.  His wee little sock was stuck on the tape.  Camden pointed out that he must have "wiggled free and hopped back to Ireland on one foot!"

It was a fun day.  After a l-o-n-g winter, followed by the recent "monsoon of the Northeast" we very much appreciated taking the twins for a walk downtown for a corned beef dinner at our favorite little family restaurant.  Afterwards we came home and enjoyed some green cake with green milk.  

Honestly, I don't care if I know it's only food coloring...I still need to close my eyes to stomach swallowing green milk.

Bulletin Board Backgrounds: Thrifty Thursday

Today's Thrifty Thursday Tip is:
Using Sheets for Bulletin Board Backgrounds

The evolution of my bulletin boards:
I used to buy the rolls of "fadeless paper" from the local teacher store.  

They were expensive.

And despite their name, they faded.  Grrrr!

Then I used the school-supplied rolled paper.  It was free, but it was a pain to work with.

And it faded.

So I moved on to fabric.  I heart using fabric.  It offers great color selection, it bright and can be used over and over and over again.  It's also easy to hang and looks great.  

Initially, I would go to Joanns Fabric and buy it by the yard.  They do have great color selections so I do buy it there if I want something special.

But, for your typical boards that you just want black or red or blue or green or something like that I have an even cheaper option for you.  Twin bed sheets!

Walmart sells flat twin bed sheets in individual packages (meaning without pillowcases and fitted sheets) for a whopping $2.00.  There is more than enough fabric to cover the typical bulletin board and they have a surprising assortment of colors.  

I actually like using the black sheets as a background.  It allows the kiddo's work, borders and lettering to really POP!  

Plus, black is slimming.

I'm all for anything that is slimming.  

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Assigning Partners: Whatever Wednesday

Today's Whatever Wednesday Topic is:
The Teams / Partners Chart

Class: (every time I announce any form of collaborative work)  "Can we pick our own partners?"

My internal dialogue: "Hell to the no! I am far to micromanaging to allow that.  When have I ever allowed you to pick your own partners?  Plus, you would most certainly pick the worst possible combination possible."

What I really say: "For this activity I will be assigning partners."

But how?


My kiddos are actually assigned a buddy for most academic areas.  They are even assigned a place to work with that buddy.  This cuts down on transition times and ensures productive teams working in workspaces that best suit them.  I can easily said, "With your reading partner you will...(insert engaging, creative task here)," and they quickly grab what they need and relocate to their "reading work spot" with their "reading buddy."  

There are times when I need to pair them differently and that is where the partner chart is useful.

As I've mentioned before, each of my students is assigned a # for the year.  The cards on the chart are programmed with the numbers.   Each student has 3 number cards (blue, purple and green).  I arrange the chart so that it creates 3 different possible combinations for partner activities.  

I might say, "you will be working with your 'purple partner." 

Student # 6 would look at the chart and find the purple #6 and see that she is assigned to work with purple #13.  

If I said, "You will be working with your blue partner" then she would find the blue # 6 and see that it is matched with student #16.

Oh, wait.

It gets better.

See those cute and colorful sea creatures?  They are not just decorative.  You can use any theme cutouts (or even just letters).  I have 2 rows of each cutout (fish, dolphin, turtle, whale, octopus).  

If I need to put kids into a group of 4 I will say, "You'll be working with your green (or purple or blue) sea creatures."  In this situation our good friend #6 knows she is a whale.  She sees that the other green whales are #s 11, 16 and 7.  

Another little tip is to put those same cutouts onto the tables where you would like the students to work.  It will eliminate the abundance of "where do we go" questions.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Workstation Rotations: Teacher-Tip Tuesday

Today's Teaching Tuesday Idea is:

WorkStation Rotation Chart

One of the hardest tasks as a teacher is managing "centers" or work stations.  I've tried several methods and most work well as long as you take the time to teach the students what your system is.  I especially like this one for two reasons: it's compact (the size of a standard posterboard) and it is easy to see at a glance who should be where.

I have the children work with a partner for literacy centers.  Each pair is assigned a color and I write their names on that colored rectangle in dry erase marker.  The color aligns with a workstation that is designed for two people.  You'll notice that two colors also align with a 2nd center (outer circle).  That is a station that can accomodate up to four students. 

The children work in their assigned center.  I then rotate the wheel one spot and they are on to the next station.  So easy!  

Everything is laminated flat onto the board with the exception of the small circle with the colors.  That is attached with a brad so that it can rotate easily.  

The other added benefit to this is that when I've rearranged my classroom or moved rooms, it is easy to transport.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Filing System - No Mess Monday

Today's No Mess Monday Tip for Classroom Organization is:

Just look at all those beautiful little tabs standing at attention.  Oh, how I heart organization.  

I number my students.  It just makes things easier.  It's especially handy in situations like this where I can reuse things year after year without relabeling them with new names.

I have two sets of file folders.  The yellow ones are my student files.  I keep this in my top desk drawer and can easily drop tardy slips, parent notes, and other important pieces of paper that I want to keep on hand into the folder that belongs to the child.  At the end of the year I just empty them out and they are all set for the fall.

The blue folders are for the days of the month.  There are 31 folders and they are labeled, "1st day of the month, 2nd day of the month, etc."  I use it to store papers that I will need on specific days.  It's perfect for conference notes, meeting agendas, lesson plans, etc.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Daylight Savings

The time change messes with me.

I know that we "fall back" and "spring forward."  I know that the time difference is exactly one hour.  Still, I always struggle to wrap my head around the actuality of it.

I blame technology.

You see, many of our clocks automatically change themselves.  Our atomic alarm clock, computer, cable box, and cell phone all got the memo and responded accordingly.  Other things like the microwave, the kitchen clock, and the center console in my car are a bit slow on the uptake.  Therefore, it is different times in different rooms.  I constantly find myself calculating what time it is today vs what time it would have been if today were yesterday.

In theory, I LOVE today.  I love that it will stay light after dinner and we can resume our spring/summer walking rituals.  I love that people will be more chipper because darkness truly sucks the happy out of everyone.  Yet, I'm always thrown for a loop by the shift and usually take until Thursday to get acclimated with the new time.

Kids don't comprehend the fact that way back when farmers needed more light or something like that...I guess I don't comprehend it either.  Since I not only have my own children, but educate others, this effects me greatly.  My son will balk at going to bed before dark.  The twins will fall asleep an hour later, but my alarm clock will still go off at the same time.  Third grade eats lunch at 11:00 a.m. which is arguably brunch, but tomorrow we will eat at what used to be 10:00 a.m.!  Clearly that is breakfast.  I will need to eat two dinners to compensate.

The good news is that I'll get home from work an hour before I would have if we didn't change the clocks.  Yes, I know it's the same amount of working hours, but don't rain on my parade.  Speaking of's pouring.  As in, "build and ark and find a buddy" pouring.  Facebook is all a buzz with people posting about their flooded basements.  I won't be enjoying my extra hour of daylight tonight at dusk because it's looked like dusk since I woke up.

Off to synchronize watches.  Enjoy what's left of the weekend.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Early Bird Catches the Worm

This was our most recent Christmas Card photo.  It's obviously staged, but the events are real.  Life with a 4 year old boy and two infants is chaotic.  As a teacher, I am constantly talking and putting on a show, so my time outside the house is hectic too.  I am not a night owl.  In fact, if it doesn't get done by noon, it just ain't getting done around here.  Therefore, I relish the early morning.

I actually love to get up early.  

Really early.

As in 4 am early.

I realize most of you just shuddered at that thought, but it's a magical time in my house.  I adore my family and love my job, but I am one of those people who needs to be alone at times.  And so 4-6 a.m. is my coffee / blog / scrapbooking / photo editing time.  

Except it seems that being an early bird is a genetic trait because my son also like to rise early.

He could easily be a rooster.  I love the kid, but at 4:30 a.m. he belongs in bed, not hanging out with me.  Yet it's becoming a trend.

The first night he pitter-pattered his way down the stairs he said it was because he "saw a light on."  So I began to work on my computer under the cover of darkness.

The next night he said, "I tiptoed into your room and saw daddy sleeping, but your spot was empty."  Score one for the kid having deductive reasoning skills, but boo-hiss on him crashing my private party.  

The next morning I set up a "fake mommy."  Much like a teenager sneaking out late at night, I rearranged my pillows under the blankets so that in a groggy glance it would appear I would be sleeping.  He stated that he didn't even go into my room because he "smelled coffee" so he knew I was downstairs. It's like living with Sherlock Holmes.

Since I prefer iced coffee anyhow, I brewed it the night before so that no Starbucks aromas would waft their way through the vents and up to his room while he was sleeping.  I was convinced that the fake pillow mommy and scent-free house would outsmart him, but alas he appeared in my darkened office doorway rubbing his groggy little eyes.  He said, "I didn't hear snoring so I knew you were downstairs."  

And that my friends is what we call adding insult to injury.

Happy weekend...regardless of what time you start your day!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Thrifty Thursday

Today's Thrifty Thursday Tip is:

First of all, I just want to scoop up that little boy and cuddle his 2 year old goodness! That's my son (who will start Kindergarten in the fall) helping my prepare for the new school year a couple of summers ago.  Gosh, he was cute...but I digress.

Today’s tip is about saving money.

Not only will this tip save you money, but will also save the parents money.

And it will make your life easier.

Well, sort of.

We used to send out “supply lists” by grade level or classroom.  The families would go to Target or Walmart on Labor Day weekend and fill up a cart with markers and watercolors and notebooks and such as they checked off items from the list.  They would go to the register and hand over $25-40.00 and be on their way.

Then the first day of school came.  And with with it came students dressed in their cute new outfits, carrying their spiffy new backpacks loaded with an array of brand-new supplies.  Then they would all act confused on where to put their lot of goodies.  They would compare eye who got the 64 pack of crayons even though the list clearly said to get the 24 pack.  They would become distracted by the Hello Kitty pencils and the pencil sharpener that also serves as a wind-up toy.  

And then there were the kids who came to school without supplies...carrying last years backpack...wearing hand-me down clothes.  They lacked the excitement of new supplies and scented markers (even though the list clearly said, “Crayola Washable 12 pack”).  They felt left out.

A few years back we sent home a note with the 2nd graders (I teach 3rd) that read “instead of sending home a supply list, we are requesting that each student send in $15.00.”  We collected it before the summer break, although some families paid the following fall.  We then bought all of the supplies ourselves.

During the summer most stores run weekly sales and offer great deals.  Typically, colored glue sticks and crayons are 20 cents a pack, colored pencils are 50 cents, markers are .88 cents and watercolors are $1.00.  Staples also runs weekly penny sales where we get folders, pencils, pencil sharpeners, hand sanitizer, erasers and more for 1 to 5 cents a pack.  The parents don’t typically do the “grazing” we do and end up spending so much more by buying everything at once.  By shopping the sales I average about $8.00 a child for a year’s worth of supplies.  I should add that I am picky about brands so it’s mainly Crayola.  Roseart and others can be found for even less money!

This leaves me with about $7.00 per child for the remainder of the year.  I use this money to buy the “special” things that I would normally spend my own money on.  Some examples include: T-shirts, photo processing, scrapbook papers for projects, cooking materials, modge Podge, special markers for the writing area, etc.

The added bonus is that I am able to organize the supplies before school starts which makes the first day of school much easier.  The children all have identical supplies so there in no bickering over who really owns the Star Wars pencil with the eraser shaped like yoda.  There is far less distractions throughout the year because a stand issue Ticonderoga number 2 yellow pencil is FAR less exciting than said Star Wars writing tool.  There is a sense of equality and community because the children are not able to define social status by who has the 64 pack of Crayolas with the built in sharpener and who came to school without crayons.

We weren’t sure how this would initially be received by the parents, but I can honestly say that we have received nothing but positive feedback.  We receive many thank you notes, emails and verbal gratitude from families each year and other grade levels have started to do the same thing.  The parents have all said that this method costs them much less money and that they really appreciate not having to take the time to go buy them. 

The only down-side is that you do need to take the time to stalk the sales and gather the supplies.  If you are like me however, you love a bargain and get giddy over shiny new things.  Since most teachers at my school have started to do this we usually send out emails or Facebook updates to let each other know when we find sales.  Also, you should note that Staples ads usually say, "limit one" but that they allow anyone with a teacher card to get 25 at a time.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Must Do / May Do Board -Whatever Wednesday

Today's Whatever Wednesday Topic is:

I wish I could take credit for this.  It has made my role so much easier.  I first saw this in a co-workers classroom.  She found it somewhere else.  Regardless of where it came from, you NEED it!

The "must do / may do" board is exactly what the title says.  It's a visual reminder of what tasks need to be accomplished and what can be done once they are.  I created my board using electrical tape as a divider on my white board.  This allows me to use dry erase markers to record the daily activities.  I printed the subjects on cardstock, laminated them and hot glued magnets on the bag.  This lets me move them around as space is needed.

After I complete a lesson and assign a task I write it on the must-do board.  The children know to reference it when they need a reminder on what to do.  After everything is complete they may select and activity from the "may-do" side of the board.  I don't include activities that would encourage the children to rush through their assignments.  My "may-dos" typically include things like: independent reading, free-choice writing, and math fact practice.

It's a great tool for keeping everyone on track with their assignments and eliminates the "I'm done...What Do I Do Next? Chorus."

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Story Cubes - Teaching Tuesday

Today's Teaching Tuesday Idea is:

I had my class create these story cubes for Open House a couple of years ago and they made a great display.  Each student read a mystery book and completed six activity pages in response to the reading.  You can alter the project to include anything that applies to your grade level. Some ideas include:
  • characters
  • setting
  • problem / solution
  • beginning / middle / end
  • recreate the cover
  • summary
  • facts learned from the book
Google "cube template" to find an outline that works for you.  I made a transparency of a cube template and projected it onto posterboard to create large, sturdy colorful cubes.  It is a bit time-consuming and works best with a hot glue gun so I would suggest having a parent volunteer help. 

I placed these on a table for open house, but they also look great hanging from the ceiling as well.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Unfinished Work Boxes - No Mess Monday

Today's No Mess Monday Tip for Classroom Organization is:

Over the years I tried a few different approaches to managing the work that students had not finished.  Many teachers will have children keep a folder of work in progress activities.  The problem with that is that it is "out of site and out of mind."  

A few years ago my husband rescued a paper sorter from his office and brought it to my classroom.  I already had one that I used as a mailbox, but wasn't about to pass up this treasure.  That's when I had a lightbulb moment and my "unfinished work boxes" were born.

Here's how it works:
  • Each student is assigned a box which is labeled with his/her number.
  • If we are working on a whole-class ongoing project, I will collect the student work and hold onto it until the next time we are going to work on it.  However, if the children have not completed work during the allotted time I tell them to "put it into your unfinished box."  
  • The students will then slide their assignment into their box until a time arises when they can finish it.  

I love this system because it allows me to tell at a glance who is falling behind on classwork.  I can easily see who has work to complete and who has A LOT of work to complete. I can also tell when children are making "may do" choices when they should be doing their unfinished work from the "must do" board.

I find it beneficial to have everything in one place.  My "late finishers" are often my more disorganized students.  In the past, I would need to spend time helping them find their missing assignments before they could finish it.  Now it's all in one central location.  

We empty the boxes at the end of each week.  This may mean that I invite the children to come in before school, stay after school or else I'll send it home to be completed on the weekend.  

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Ready, Set, Blog...

It's amazing how a whole lot of nothing can equal crazy busy.

I've been a teacher, a wifey, a mommy, a "working mommy," a homemaker, etc. for several years now and it's been an enjoyable and fairly easy gig.  Throw in a couple of adorable twin baby girlies into the mix and WOW! Life gets busy.

It's kind of like living in the movie Groundhog Day.  I get up, hit the ground running, go through a series of hugs, cuddles, lesson plan executions, read alouds, correcting, meal making, bottle-feeding, lunch-packing, dish-washing, the "occasional" running of a vacuumn or passing of a broom, bath, pjs, bedtime stories and crash for another day.  After logging in a bit of sleep it starts all over.

I'm not complaining.  It's great.  I'm in a very good place and while my house could be cleaner and I wouldn't turn away anyone who wanted to send me off on my own for an afternoon at a spa, bookstore, Starbucks or any other equally delightful sanctuary, I'm absolutely content. 

Honestly, I just want time to stand still.  I love my class.  I love my son's preschool.  I love the fact that the babies are so cuddly and squishy and I'll even admit that I love that they aren't mobile because just the thought of two babies crawling in different directions exhausts me.
I love that we are so close to spring and that some of the things that bring me such simple pleasures (open-toed shoes, fresh air blowing the curtains, capris, iced coffee, grills, walks after dinner and the like) are within reach.  Seriously.   Time can stand still.  Life is good.  It's just super busy.

The one thing that keeps my head above water is my routines.  I have specific days assigned to lesson planning, copying/prepping materials, writing my newsletter, changing bulletin boards, etc.  At home the same days are reserved for laundry, grocery shopping, bill paying etc.  It's rigid, but it works for me.

And so I have developed a routine for my blog.  I have so many things that I want to blog about (as well as the usual sprinkling of randomness that defines me) and it can be overwhelming.  So I have come up with a routine to keep me focused and committed.  Below is my "weekly blog menu."  

No Mess Monday: 
Mondays are dedicated to one of my favorite things: Classroom Organization.

Teaching Tuesday:
Tuesdays will be all about project ideas, creative lessons and such.

Whatever Wednesday:
As the title implies, Wednesdays are reserved for whatever I feel like writing about.

Thrifty Thursday:
Thursdays will focus on another favorite topic of mine: bargains! Oh, how I love me a deal!

Featured Friday:
I'm most excited about Fridays.  I love sharing my ideas, but I also love snagging great ideas from other teachers.  On Fridays I will feature coworkers and cyber-friends best practices, ideas and thoughts on teaching.

I'll add in other randomness as it hits me.  I babble.  It's my nature.

I'm also planning on making this blog chock-full of photos and videos.

Just for fun I'll toss in some giveaways and freebies.

And let's be honest...there needs to be some shameless self-promotion.  What's a blog without shameless self-promotion.

I'm ready to hit the ground running on this project.  We start Monday.  Who's coming?