Friday, August 1, 2014

Word Work Centers & A Class Sign {#Create2Educate}

Nothing gets me more excited for the school year then crafting and Back to School Shopping!

So, when Michaels emailed me asking if I could go shopping and make something for my classroom, I jumped at the chance!

My projects of choice: Easy Word Work Centers and a Washi Tape Class Sign!

Word Work Centers

I love providing a variety of activities for students to practice their spelling and/or vocabulary words during Word Work time. I want this time to be fun and engaging, but without enough materials, it can oftentimes become a management nightmare.

Thankfully, I found some simple and (best of all!) cheap solutions to help your students stay working with words!

Each of these supplies cost less than $2! The plastic letters were clearanced for $0.99, the stamps were $1 and the magnetic tins were $1.50. Yahoo!

These will easily make great Word Work Centers! There are duplicate plastic letters so students can make a variety of words, and I can easily store them on a cheap pizza pan or cookie sheet when they aren't in use. Plus, with the see-through top, it's easy to find which tin holds what color letter!

The stamp sets are my favorite! In the past, I separated stamps by letter into drawers (click HERE), and that worked well, but caused traffic jams at the stamp station during Word Work.

This time, I will have kids grab a set of stamps and an individual stamp pad (washable, of course), and head back to their tables to work, freeing up space!

Before I opened the stamps, I took a picture and shrunk it down to 1.5" high. I then printed and taped them to the side of the tin. This way, if a stamp is found, we can easily locate the style without dumping out all of the stamps to look.

I will probably end up storing these on a tin and the stamp pads in a separate bin so I can make sure they are closed tight at the end of each Word Work time.

Washi Tape Class Sign

I am so excited to be job-sharing with a super-talented teacher this year! It's going to be a fabulous year ahead and I wanted to design something that would identify our class and match our color scheme (navy, teal & white-- more pictures soon as we get things up!).

Of course, I had to use washi tape since I am in love with it! I mixed and matched two sets and also bought some large white letters. They didn't have numbers, but no worries since the E can be flipped upside-down to make a 3 :)

I love washi tape because it's thin, easy to move, and comes in so many great colors and styles! I started by placing down strips of alternating tape from the center out. I then folded over the edge and finished it off by taking my darker color and going around the outside to make the edges look nice and neat.

The end product is beautiful and matches my classroom colors perfectly! The white shows through the washi and really makes the designs pop! I will Mod-Podge the tape down after I'm done debating about final placement, then I will glue-gun the letters together and hang it with a ribbon or set it near our window. I am so excited that both our last name initials are included in this, too!

Michaels #Create2Educate Sweepstakes

If you're into creating your own Back to School projects (and who isn't?!), then you'll be excited to learn that Michaels is giving away a $50 Gift Card every day from August 1-15!

Here's how to enter:

  • Create an original back-to-school project and upload a picture of it to Instagram, using #Create2Educate and #sweepstakes.
  • While you’re there, tag @MichaelsStores, too.
  • The contest runs Friday, August 1 through Friday, August 15.
  • A random winner will be selected daily and will receive a $50 gift card to Michaels.

So, head over to Instagram now and check out all of the great #Create2Educate projects to help get you inspired!

Good luck and happy crafting!

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Smooth Sailing Back to School Tips & Giveaways {Erin Condren Teacher Planner}

Thanks for sailing into 3rd Grade Thoughts! I am a huge fan of my Erin Condren Teacher Planner and can't wait to give you some tips and tricks to help make it work for you this school year!

If you don't know about this planner, you can check out my video walk-through HERE to give you a good sense of each of the sections and extras this planner provides. I loved using it, but, like everything, I wanted to adjust a few things to make it work for me. Here are my top tips to help make your Teacher Planner work for you this year!

Tip #1: Change The Birthday Pages

The Erin Condren Teacher Planner comes with two large pages that say "Happy Birthday" on the top and a large section for each month to write in your students' birthdays. While I love celebrating my students' birthdays, I felt this space was wasted considering I have less than 30 students.

My tip? Grab some opaque washi tape (I used glitter since it's so fun!) and cover up the "Happy Birthday" on top. Then, grab some white-out tape to cover up each of the months. Now, you have two pages full of twelve blank categories for you to use as you wish!

I split mine up by left and right sides. On the left side are school-related lists I want to accomplish through the year, like books to read, projects to do, and Publishing Parties to host. On the right side are blog and TpT items I want to be sure I share with you all.

Tip #2: Use Washi Tape to Show Different Grading Periods

I love this tip! Washi tape is available at any craft store, Etsy, and even Walmart! Choose different colors and use them to separate the pages in your Lesson Plan pages by quarter/trimester/semester. We are on trimesters, so I chose three tapes and folded them over each page. Because washi tape is so thin, it won't bulk up your pages and will make it easy to see where you are in the year (and how much longer you have in the grading period to cover certain things!).

Tip #3: Use Printed Schedule Headers to Save Time

Like many of you, my schedule is set at the beginning of the year so the top headers in my Teacher Planner stay the same week after week. Because of that, I was getting tired of rewriting my schedule and times over and over again.

Solution: create a PowerPoint file that holds three weeks at a time! Now, I just print, cut, and attach with double-sided tape to the top of each week. Now, my lesson pages look uniform and easy for me and/or a substitute to read. Since I am only teaching half-time ELA this year, I took the last two columns to make "to do" sections, separated by a thin piece of washi tape.

You can see how the folded washi tape from Tip #2 looks in this picture, too!
If you're interested in these headers, I would love to offer you the freebie on Google Docs HERE! I made the top edges curved for you since I like that look better, and because it's in PowerPoint, you can adjust the colors and fonts to suit your own needs!! *For personal use only, please*

Click on the image below to download:

Tip #4: Use Stickers to Organize Each Month by Topic

I love the included stickers that are provided with the planners, and while I will use them for events on the monthly spread, I also like to use them when setting up the monthly notes.

On the back of each monthly spread are two notes pages. I color-coordinate my subjects and used similar colored labels from Erin Condren to divide up these pages. Here, I will brainstorm and plan all of the nitty-gritty details I want to make sure I hit during the month. This can range from spelling units to Publishing Parties to certain assessments. I will also include names of books I want to remember to read and themes I want to hit-- pretty much anything! I will start thinking about this over the summer and then add to it throughout the year, crossing things off as I go to make sure I hit them all. This has also been a great way for me to ensure I am doing the ideas I see on Pinterest, blogs, Instagram, and more. I'm always guilty of "Pinning and Forgetting" so hopefully this will help alleviate some of that!

I hope these tips helped get you excited to use your Erin Condren Teacher Planner, or any other lesson planner you're using this year!

If you'd like $10 off of your order from Erin Condren, click HERE to sign up and a code will be emailed to you!

The Giveaways

Exciting news: It's pretty obvious I love Erin Condren planners and I am thrilled to be offering you the chance to win a $50 Erin Condren Gift Card! You can use this for any item in her store, from the Teacher Planner to Life Planner, and more!

Your entries here will also qualify you for the Collaborative Giveaway where one lucky winner will win nearly $300 worth of intermediate products for back to school! Check out the amazing products below and click on any product to see more details!

I will be offering my best-selling Brain Breaks for the Classroom and my QR Critters Reading Bundle, full of 130+ fiction and nonfiction reading response questions you can use all year long!

Click on any of the giveaway resources below to see more information!


The Rules:

  • This giveaway is open to teachers only in honor of Back to School time and to celebrate their hard work and dedication. Thank you, teachers!!
  • The giveaway will end on August 2nd and two names will be drawn. One name will be the winner of the Erin Condren gift card and the other will be entered to win the Collaborative Giveaway. Winners will be notified via email and announced on my Facebook page.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Stop by each of these blogs, read my friends' tips, and see all of the amazing giveaways they are sharing, too! Remember, each giveaway not only enters you to win that blogger's $50 prize, it also puts you in the running to be the Collaborative Giveaway winner!

Happy Back to School season, friends!!

Disclaimer: is donating the gift card for this event, but all planners were purchased by me. Links to above are my affiliate links. All opinions are my own and I only promote what I use and love!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Assembling Brain Breaks the Fast & Easy Way!

If you've purchased my best-selling Brain Breaks for the Classroom (or any of its holiday variations), you'll know that before you can use them, there is some assembly required. Good news? Once assembled, they last for years and years. Bad news? If you don't have the right tools, assembly can be the worst part of your day.... which is no way to spend your time!!

I wanted to share some simple ways to make Brain Breaks assembly as quick and painless as possible!


  • Brain Breaks from my TpT Store
  • 2" punch for the Brain Breaks and descriptions
  • 2 1/2" punch for the background disc (or the Studio file HERE for your Silhouette cutter)
  • laminator
  • glue gun
  • popsicle sticks
  • scissors
  • a good movie to watch during the lamination cutting phase
  • Brain Breaks bucket

I found my punches at Michaels and they are wonderful. High-quality and small enough that they don't take up too much room. They are currently on sale for 40% off, but they often run coupons in their app and in Sunday papers for 40% off an item, so keep your eyes peeled for those.

Quick Note: I noticed that my Brain Breaks were a good fit, but not a *perfect* fit. Turns out they were 0.02" off..... so if you downloaded them prior to this morning (7/24/14), you can redownload the perfect fit if you're crazy particular like me. The old fit still works, so if you can't/don't want to reprint, you don't have to and it will be fine :)

When you print the Brain Breaks, be sure you are choosing "Actual Size" on your print options (highlighted above). Sometimes my printer defaults to "Fit" or other options, but that will skew the measurements, which you don't want.

After they print, get to punching! You can use a paper cutter or scissors to cut out the strips of Brain Breaks. I then will flip the punch over to make sure I don't chop off any part of the disc. Punch out the circles one at a time so it doesn't jam and so you can ensure each one is cut correctly.

It takes some time, but *WOW* is it easier than trying to cut around each circle! Do the same for the descriptions and at the end you will have a nice stack of all of your discs and a hand that isn't cramped :)

Now it's time to cut the construction paper disc that will fit in between the title disc and description disc to make it more sturdy. You can choose to skip this part, but I like the look of it. Plus, I will choose different colors for different sets. Some of you have done different colors for different types of breaks (energizing, calming, partner, etc.), and I like to do different colors for the different holiday versions so I can quickly add and remove them from the bucket throughout the year.

The punch I like from Michaels only comes in 2 1/2", which is a 1/4" border around the disc. I like a smaller border, personally, and I also like to work less, so I used my Silhouette Cameo to help with this one! I made 2 1/4" circles and while I was punching, it was cutting out construction paper. Here's a photo comparing the two sizes:

If you have a Silhouette and would like the Studio file, download it from Google Docs HERE. If you have another cutting machine, just create a whole bunch of 2 1/4" circles and watch it do the work!

Now it's time to laminate. I always use a bit of double-sided tape to connect the title disc to the construction paper. The description I laminate on its own. I bought a Scotch thermal laminator from Walmart several years back and it's awesome! Sheets can be expensive, but Sam's has great deals and occasionally Amazon will, too.

Quick Tip: If you use sheets like I do, spread out the construction paper discs so they aren't too close. Otherwise, the lamination might not "stick" as well.

This is the only time you'll need scissors, and it's pretty easy (and if you're like me and *love* cutting lamination, it could also be fun!). Get comfy and put on your favorite show while you start cutting these circles out. Good news? Because it's lamination it goes fast and you don't have to be perfect since it's clear. Bad news? There are still a lot of them...

After they are all cut out, fire up your glue gun and get your popsicle sticks ready. Some of you use different color and/or different sizes of popsicle sticks to indicate the type of Brain Break, which is genius!!

I always glue the title circle down first. Then, I'll put a *lot* of glue on the back of the description because I want it to stick all year long. So far, my original set is still going strong three years later! Squeeze tightly together, then set it into your Brain Breaks bucket and keep gluing.

At the end, you will have an absolutely beautiful collection of perfectly-cut Brain Breaks for you and your students to enjoy for many years to come!

I hope this was helpful in getting your Brain Breaks set up for the upcoming school year! Remember to redownload them if you have previously purchased them to get the most precise 2" size.

To see all of my Brain Breaks, click HERE to head to my TpT Store.

3rd Grade Thoughts - Widget
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