Friday, December 31, 2010

2010...A Banner Year

Or was it, "the year of the banner?"

My love affair of all things Vista Print is no secret. As I've mentioned before, my motto is, "If it's free it's for me!"

I have such fun designing new things and just about pounce on the mailman when my boxes of goodies arrive. I heart the postcards and shirts and magnets and posters and yard sale signs and key chains and lions and tigers and bears oh my!

But, my mostest favoritest of all the items is the banner.

Oh, the banners! Oh, the possibilities!

Thanks to the free banners, I got to be that over-the-top mother who has banners printed for her kids' birthdays. Because seriously, who does that?
People who get free banners that's who!

Thanks to the free banners, I have recently implemented the all-time-numero-uno-super-bestest thing ever to grace my classroom. Well, next to Find it/Fix it. It's "the clip chart" and you'll have to come back tomorrow (or maybe the next day) to read about that.

And thanks to the free banners, I have made bulletin board creation super quick and simple and yet oh-so-colorful and wonderful and kind of even professional-looking.

A commenter (That's you, Amy) had asked about sign in the center of my board. And I realized that I had never posted about my new addiction to banners as bulletin board time saver accessories. So here goes.
Vista Print is always offering amazing deals that allow you to get a whole heaping helping of freebies for super cheap. Yeah, I know the free and cheap part can be confusing. See, you pay for shipping. Or not. Sometimes, you can can spend $30.00 and get free shipping and up to 10 free items. Those are my favorite promos.


While you can get up to 10 free items, you can only get 1 of each type of item (i.e. post-its, postcards, magnets).


Vista Print views banners that are designed vertical and banners that are designed to print horizontal as two different types of items so you may get one of each.

You can use their easy templates and create major cuteness. Or, you can design and upload your own image. If you do that simply rotate the image 90 degrees and print it as a vertical banner. That way you get 2 horizontal banners in one order.

They fit perfectly in the center of a typical bulletin board with plenty of room to display student work around it.

You could also design just titles for boards and print several onto one banner and cut them apart.

The options are endless and there are lots of creative folks who have uploaded images of what they have made for you to find for inspiration.

As an added bonus, teachers often pop in to comment on the banners. It's nice to have adult contact. :)

FYI: At the time of posting this, the following links were working and offer great deals.
Giving Away the Farm (free shipping with $30.00 purchase)
and this is my personal favorite because it offers FREE 7 DAY SHIPPING with a $30.00 purchase...and uploads count towards the $30.00)

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Intentionally Disheveled

Since I noticed the lovely portrait of me looking all disheveled with my shiny new iPad was appearing in the "people I follow" section of some of your wonderful blogs, I was inspired to put up a new post quickly.

And I figured I would find inspiration in being disheveled to share with you my favorite way to do a bulletin board.

All disheveled-ish.

There was once a time that I made myself crazy trying to create symmetrical, straight boards. I used rulers. I used yard sticks. I even had a little level to aid in my attempts at perfection.

It never worked.

Something would always be off center or at an angle that was a few degrees from where I had wanted it to be.

And it made me crazy to look at it.

I would cringe each time I walked by.

Then I adopted the "just go with it" philosophy and started slanting my letters left and right. I put up the kids' work with a zig and a zag.

And in its own messy way it was perfect.

My new favorite thing to do is to add creative interest by stapling the corners of the papers and adding a little wiggly-wave in the middle.

Isn't it fun?

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Beat the Clock

The first few days of this vacation were lovely in the laziest of ways.

I wore the same pajamas for 48 consecutive hours without shame.

I sat on the floor and played with the littles without ever feeling like there was something else I needed to be doing.

And when they slept I played with my own new toys.

Excuse the bedhead...I would love to wake up with Super Model hair, but there isn't an app for that ;)

Our holiday food traditions include shepard pie on Christmas Eve, egg casserole on Christmas morning and roasted pork and veggies for dinner. This leaves us with tons of reheatable leftovers making the need to cook for several days obsolete.

Lazy! Lazy! Lazy!

And then the leftovers ran out and my pajamas threatened to start walking on their own and I had to give up the lovely lazy ways and that's when the real holiday chaos started.

I mentioned that the tree came down on 12/26 and that the holidays always leave me feeling the need to declutter and reorganize.

And oh, how I've done just that.

I'm playing beat the clock.

As in...beat the trash truck on Thursday.

As in...beat the tax benefit deadline of 12/31 by donating 6 large boxes and counting.

As in...beat the arrival of my mom and dad on Friday so that my uber-organized and clutter-hating mother doesn't need to feel that she has failed me as a parent when she sees the content of every cupboard and closet sprawled about.

It turns out, Santa could have easily skipped landing on our roof because my son is thrilled to be entertaining himself with whatever I am finding in the nooks and crannies of our home.

And on that note, I probably should log off and continue to face the mess I've been making while "cleaning." I do this a few times a year and am truly baffled by the fact that there is more stuff to donate, trash or recycle.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Extreme Makeover...Classroom Edition

Maybe it's the New Year a coming and the desire for a fresh start that it brings.

Perhaps it's the fact that you can only log in so many hours in a jungle themed classroom surrounded by animal prints before you start feeling like you are the lost cast member from Jersey Shore.

I got it in my head that I needed to makeover my classroom.

This isn't a new concept for me. In fact, I typically start from scratch with a new theme for each school year. I have not, however, made over my room midyear.

Oh the excitement.

Surely you have scooted to the edge of your seat in eager anticipation for the unveiling of my new theme. If not, I'll give you a second to get your scoot on. :)

Actually, it's not a theme.

Unless being a crafty Goddess of all things paper and rocking a Cricut is a theme.
I'll explain.

I used to scrapbook. Hubby even let me have an entire room in the house dedicated to my lovely hobby. It rivaled any scrapbooking store with the hundreds of papers and die cuts and funky scissors and stickers. I would spend hours designing layouts and even more hours shopping for supplies.

And then I stopped. knows? I just got busy and stopped making the time.

But, I missed chronicling our family history. So I recently designed a digital album using Photoshop and had it printed through Shutterfly.


That baby is beautiful. It includes hundreds of photos all bound neatly into a hardcover, 12 x 12 album. While I did spend an absurd number of hours working on it, I was able to do so just about anywhere my little MacBook would go. I worked on it in the car, during my lunch, and even in the waiting room of the doctor office. I'm hooked.

There were two problems though. I missed the creative outlet of getting all messy with glue and I have an entire studio stocked with supplies.

And so I've decided to create a bunch of projects for the classroom and thus the idea of a makeover was born. There is no real theme. I'm simply going with bright colors (mostly aqua and lime) accented with black.

I'm looking forward to dusting off the Cricut and having some fun this vacation being creative.

As you can see in the photos, I got a head start on the day before vacation.

I had hoped to get in there this week and do a little work, but a pesky blizzard kept me home yesterday and prevented my free, I mean my parents, from visiting until next weekend.

So into the little basement studio I go with my 5 year old assistant to spend the twins' nap time cutting, adhering, and embellishing some to be determined projects. Stay tuned.

Monday, December 27, 2010

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like...

The OTHER 11 months of the year.

You know the "normal" months.

The months where you don't have access to an abundance of baked goods in the kitchen 24/7.

The months where there isn't a large tree in your living room.

The months where scented candles don't waft evergreen aromas throughout the downstairs.

The months where there are not boxes wrapped in mismatched festive paper cluttering the home.

That's right. I called it clutter.
Because as much as I like to hop on the holiday bandwagon early each year, I am also the first stop to get off.

The tree came down on December 26th. It's not as Grinchy as it sounds. It had been up since the week BEFORE Thanksgiving and it encompassed 50% of our cozy (read: small) living room.

Oh, it's not that the tree that is the problem. It's the fact that 2/3 of the wee ones who take residence here did their best to "undecorate" it daily and eat the needles and ornament hooks which resulted in us needing to fence our tree in with an expandable baby corral. It almost looked as if our tree was a pristine display that we wanted to showcase by the way it was confined to a "no humans allowed" cage.

I am really very festive.

I baked weekly.

I made reindeer food.

I hosted a gingerbread party for 12 kindergarteners.

I crafted.

I wrapped.

I sang Dominic the Donkey in the off key way that only my tone deaf self can do for the better part of December.

We attended gatherings and tree lightings and Polar Express rides and laser light shows set to holiday ditties.

But, come 12/26 I pull the plug.

I pull the plug on the lights and the music and the oven.

I package it all into it's red and green rubbermaid totes and stuff it into the back corner of the basement until next November when I'm feeling "merry" again.

Am I crazy? Does anyone else view the holiday hoopla as festive through 12/25 @ midnight and then view it as clutter and chaos and overload after that?

You know me. I love to organize any day of the year, but there is something about ringing in a New Year that makes me want to purge and clean like no other time.

I hope your holidays were filled with fabulous memories and like our Christmas card said..

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Be Prepared

Some of you are already 2 days into your winter break.

Color me jealous.

Are you wondering when my break starts?

I'll tell you.

It begins on Thursday.

Thursday, December 23rd.

Yeah, the December 23rd that precedes Christmas Eve.

At 3:10 p.m.

I know, right?

Oddly enough, I've managed to keep the chaos to a minimum and have banked two productive days. The key to keeping the sugar plums dancing in their heads at bay is to keep the structure and routines going.

We're hanging in there. I'm actually really impressed with how typical our days feel. I feel like a Grinch for making them draft open responses and solve 3-digit equations while the elves are putting the finishing touches on their loot up at the North Pole, but we can't spare to lose any time.

Even though many of you are chillin' in your jammies and sipping coffee while I'm still in the thick of things, there are others counting down to that last day before break too.

That day is typically a whirlwind of baked goods and gift-wrapped trinkets. Ultimately, someone unexpectedly gives you a gift. You didn't anticipate it and so you have nothing to give back.


Here's my holiday tip for handling such situations. Purchase a few gift cards to Starbucks or Dunkins or whatever local coffee shop allows you to get your caffeine on. Write out a nice, but generic holiday card and slip the gift card inside. If you are presented with an unexpected gift you can reciprocate by quickly sharing the love. If you don't need to distribute them...well, then that is just more coffee for you to enjoy in your pjs next week.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

I had a professor in college who ended every class by saying, "The teacher's greatest obstacle is the clock."

I thought he was nuts.

Now I would like to go back in time and give him a high-five.

Or an "Amen Brother!"

Because it. is. so. true!

It really is hard to fit everything in. I do love having the students illustrate their writing, but sometimes you just can't justify 30 minutes of coloring.

One solution I have found is to add a photo to their work. This is especially useful if they are writing about a school event (field trip, science experiment, math game, etc).

In the photo featured in this post, I took it a step further and used the extra photos as part of my bulletin board title. This can easily be done with straight letters (E, F, H, I, L, T) and with some creativity you could really do any letter. The 3rd through 5th graders at my school get to ride Trikkes in PE. It was a VERY exciting event for them and one that they were really motivated to write about.

I noticed a few other teachers at my school have been using actual photos on their hallway boards this year and I love that! It's so nice to have a little window into their classrooms. As a parent I would be thrilled to have a collection of my child's writing with photos. What a keepsake!

Friday, December 3, 2010

A Bad Case of the Stripes (cute book, cuter bulletin board)

Do not adjust your monitor.

And don't judge my picture-taking abilities.

This photo is intentionally blurry as a result of my mad photoshop skills. I'm crafty like that. I'm just not comfortable putting my little friends' faces online, but I think you can still get the idea.

I loved this bulletin board. It was fun and colorful and easy and included a sample of their work. What's not to love.

A Bad Case of the Stripes is a great book. It lends itself to so many discussions and writing activities. I did this the first week of school and since I wasn't yet too familiar with my students' abilities, I kept it simple.

I gave them the prompt of: "Camilla Cream loves lima beans, but I love..."

We used the opportunity to remind them of their second grade skills (webbing, supporting details, etc). Their direction was to select a favorite food and compose a paragraph that stays on topic.

I had taken close-up head shots of each student for an in-class display. I simply photocopied those on an enlarged setting and cut them out. The students used water colors to paint on their stripes and we glued them to the bottom of their writing sample.

I wanted to display the book with it, but hadn't had the time to scan and print the cover.

Remember, this was the first week of school. There is barely time to breathe that week.

I solved my problem by stapling a large ziploc bag to the board and slid the book inside.

I'm SO doing that again with other books.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Plimoth Rocks

I'm tone deaf.

Dogs located several blocks away howl when I sing.

It's such a waste too because I know the lyrics to basically every song ever written.

Simon Cowell would have a field day with me.

And so I live vicariously through my students. Some can sing really well. Others are like me. But, when you are 8 it really doesn't matter because as long as you look cute in a costume on stage Gramma is happy.

I've done many performances over the years. It's stressful. It's time consuming. But, oh my gosh is it rewarding.

I'm so not a sappy individual, but seeing a student on stage beaming with pride and having a blast brings a tear to my eye. To provide a child who struggles academically with an opportunity to shine in front of their family and peers is priceless.

We're all overwhelmed with curriculum and pressure and tests. It can be challenging to justify fitting "something extra" into your already over-scheduled day, but I highly encourage you to find a way to give your kiddos the opportunity to perform.

Over the years I've done elaborate productions. There have been full sets constructed and 1st graders memorizing detailed monologes. Our most recent production was not the case. It was a super simple (though not without stress...there is always stress), highly educational performance. The outcome was the same: proud parents and kids oozing with confidence and a sense of accomplishment.

Last week my kids took part in a performance that I titled, "Plimoth Rocks." It was at the opposite end of the elaborate spectrum. In fact it couldn't have been more simple. The entire 3rd grade stayed on stage throughout (on chorus risers). Everyone had a small narrative. They could read it from a card or memorize it. My partner teacher sat in front of the stage and whispered the names of the kids who needed to come up to the mic when it was their turn. I played DJ.

There was some basic basic in fact that we introduced it the day before of the performance. We collected $3.00 from each child and bought them either a black or a tan tshirt at the craft store and they wore either black or khaki pants. We paired this with macaroni necklaces or paper collars. I hot glued (because not only can I not sing, but I also can't sew) a rectangle of white fabric on the girls' shirts to make "aprons" and cut fringe on the tan tshirts. They looked adorable.

We showed a slide show of pictures from our field trip. iMovie makes it very easy to throw something impressive together in no time. Add some fun music and you've got a show.

I should add that although I played elf #4 in my own 5th grade class play, I have no drama experience. If I can do it then you can do it.

The key for me is that I write my own scripts. It is time-consuming, but doing so allows me to create custom parts for individual children. I play to their personalities and talents. I also like to add fun music.

Because if there is anything Gramma likes more than seeing her little lovey in a cute costume it is seeing that little lovey in a cute costume rocking it out and shaking his groove thing on stage.

When I did a fractured fairy tale production we used Brick House (3 Little Pigs), for Charlotte's Web we used HoeDown Throwdown and for Plimoth Rocks we used classic hits from the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s (Sail Away/Mayflower, Here Comes the Sun/surviving the winter, Lean on Me/Squanto's role in helping the Pilgrims).

Because of time constraints, you do need to tie it in academically. In this case, I included every detail they were required to know into the script. By reading the script over and over and rehearsing together, the children learned all the facts from the unit.

So give it whirl. Have fun with it. Break a leg.


Not literally.

It's how us drama folks speak. ;P