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Trainers Warehouse: Product Reviews & Giveaways

As with most teachers, I love using the summer to shop for all of the unique and "teachery" items I can use in my classroom during the upcoming year. From stores, to catalogs, to websites, I always seem to have teaching on my mind and can't wait to see what new and exciting item I can bring to my next group of students.

Imagine my delight when I was approached my Trainers Warehouse to review some products and share a giveaway with you!? I was immediately drawn into their resources that I will highlight below, and be sure to enter the giveaway at the end for your chance to win one of two $25 gift certificates to their site!


Trainers Warehouse may sound like it's geared more for adults, but I was blown away by how many classroom-friendly resources they have. The first product that caught my eye was the Thumball, and I am not sure I need to explain how many hundreds of uses there will be for this in the classroom: from back-to-school icebreakers, to Morning Meeting, to greeting new incoming students, to buddies, and more, this is a great and durable little tool (it's 6" across and plush) that's built to last. There are several versions of Thumballs available, so be sure to read more about them HERE to see which one will suit your classroom's needs best.


I am an advocate for kids using hand fidgets if and when they need them. I posted about a few easy-to-find fidgets on my blog HERE and was impressed by Trainers Warehouse's selection, all priced under $6. They sent me three and each of them was a new design we don't already have in our Fidget Bin. I also found they were not loud or distracting, especially the SwingOs, which was my favorite. Check out all of their fidget designs HERE.


Last, I am *obsessed* with their handheld white boards! The neon colors are so fun and are perfect for group responses, but the quality is what I love the most. These are solid plastic, with a smooth, glossy finish that makes writing on them easy and wiping them off a breeze. You can use either side and they also come in plain white. I look forward to replacing my old Dollar Spot version in my Teacher Time Bin with these snazzy guys!

Be sure to check out all of Trainers Warehouse's wide selection on their website or on Amazon.

And be sure to enter the giveaway below! I will be emailing two winners a $25 gift certificate to Trainers Warehouse to start your new school year off with some fun finds of your choice! Winners will be selected on July 19, so enter soon!

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My Favorite Anti-Bullying Read Alouds

Anti-bullying can be a tricky subject to teach. However your school approaches this topic, I wanted to share some amazing read alouds I have found to deal with this sensitive subject.

If you haven't had the good fortune of reading Trudy Ludwig's books, be sure to check them out anytime a social issue arises in your classroom, or even better, before they do! She is an amazing author and her books really get to the core of bullying, in all of its various forms. In fact, most of my list is comprised of her books, but their content is so varied, it will not sound like a broken record, promise!

Another author whose books are wonderful at dealing with social situations is Kathryn Otoshi, who wrote One, but also Zero and Two. Each confront a common issue that all kids can relate to.

If you're interested in covering these topics more in-depth, I recommend my Anti-Bullying Word Work for work on common vocabulary around this subject. My Interactive Health Notebook also has some wonderful flipables around bullying and positive self-esteem.

To read more about these books, simply click on any of the covers below. Each will link you directly to its page on Amazon where you can preview the inside, read the reviews, and find similar titles. 

Click away here: 


I hope this list gives you lots of ideas for read alouds for any time of year and with the variety of social situations you may experience with your students. Be sure to let me know of any additional titles in the comments below. I would love to add to this collection!

My Favorite Growth Mindset Read Alouds

If you've been following me for a while, you know I am a huge fan of Growth Mindset! Check out many previous posts HERE. I have found, especially in third grade, that this has been a great discussion point throughout the whole year and has shifted the conversations in our classroom to be more about improvement instead of achievement.

I am so excited to be sharing some amazing book titles that can help you continue these discussions all year long with your class. Several great titles I previously included in my Back to School Read Alouds HERE, so be sure to check those out if you haven't.

Continuing in this list are two books by Peter Reynolds, The Dot and Going Places. I just can't get enough of his books, his illustrations, and his powerful, yet kid-friendly messages. I'm including two books that are incredible biographies about people who showed a Growth Mindset in their own lives: Drum Dream Girl and Emmanuel's Dream. And Rosie Revere, while not a biography, is still an engaging tale about never giving up. If you haven't read it before, be sure to read A Perfectly Messed Up Story-- it's a humorous look at "messing up" that I'm sure most of your kids can relate to... I definitely can myself!

To read more about these books, simply click on any of the covers below. Each will link you directly to its page on Amazon where you can preview the inside, read the reviews, and find similar titles. 

Click away here: 

Image Map



I hope this list gives you lots of ideas for read alouds for any time of year. Be sure to let me know of any additional titles in the comments below. I would love to add to this collection!

2017 Erin Condren Teacher Planner: Unboxing & Walkthrough


I am beyond thrilled to be reviewing the new 2017-2018 Erin Condren Teacher Lesson Planner with you!

I have been using these planners for the past several years and each year, they get better and better! While the general structure remains the same, there are several amazing updates, including some of my favorites:
  • the thicker paper quality is superb
  • the monthly notes page before the monthly spread
  • more white space
  • communication log built in
  • metallic stickers in lots of smaller, more user-friendly sizes
There are also so many other fun accessories that are now available. Check out the unboxing here:


And for an in-depth walkthrough of the Teacher Lesson Planner, including side-by-side comparisons to last year's, watch below:


If you are new to Erin Condren, sign up to receive your $10 off coupon HERE.

And to check out even more Erin Condren love on my blog, click HERE.

Enjoy this gorgeous new planner and here's wishing you happy planning for the new year!



Writing End-of-Year Brochures to Welcome Next Year's Class

Another fun end-of-year tradition is to have students write to next year's class about the fun and excitement that awaits them in third grade!

This brochure is a great last week activity and allows the whole class to reminisce about the year we experienced together, all of the projects, field trips, guest speakers, units, exciting moments, and more that happened over the past 180 days.


We brainstorm a list on the front board and I let kids dive-in and create this from their heart. While they can introduce themselves, we don't give out class lists until the end of summer, so it isn't addressed to any one second grader in particular.

On the first day of school (sometimes Open House, it depends), I will place these at the incoming third grader's table spots. That way, they have something to read that can get them excited about the year ahead.


The front flap is a fun intro to the grade and the inside flap is an intro to the author. Oftentimes, kids will draw a self-portrait in that box.


The inside three panels cover everything a future third grader can expect to learn and do in their year ahead. The last column is always my favorite, since it is usually about me drinking coffee or loving Disney World.... all cute tips for getting to know the teacher and the classroom better!


I have made these for first through fifth grade and it's available in my TpT Store HERE. I hope you and your students enjoy this walk down memory lane together while thinking about teaching next year's kids all about your classroom and the great experiences that await them!



Smile File Update: Booklet

We ended this year with a mere thirty minutes between saying our goodbyes to our kids and having to leave the building because of the moving and demo work that will all eventually end with us getting a new building in August to start the school year.

It was an insane way to end the school year, but as I have said before, this year's group was truly a gift to me in so many ways, and they handled it all with humor, grace, and a lightness that modeled to me the best way to make do with what we had.

I wanted to continue of all of my end-of-year traditions, despite the chaos, so I had to make adjustments here and there since supplies were low, or in boxes, and a lot of our usual routines had been interrupted.


Smile File is a years-old tradition I didn't want to let go of, but my old method of small slips of paper and stapled folders couldn't quite make the cut with the space and what we had available. I adjusted the file a bit and wanted to share it with you, in case you prefer this method, too!

If you haven't read about Smile File, click HERE. It's a wonderful way for kids to collect messages from everyone- just a sentence or two- about their favorite memories together, a compliment, a wish for the summer, you name it. We spend quite a bit of time moving about the classroom so everyone gets the chance to write something for everyone else. I write some sentence starters and ideas on the front board before we begin, but kids tend to hit a groove about halfway through and their messages to each other always tug at my heartstrings.


The update I made this year is to create a cover for a booklet, not a folder as I've done. Inside, there are five pages (I did multi-color since there was still some left), then it's folded and stapled. It was much easier to keep track of and kids were all still able to write messages to one another.


A fun timer I found was a Tibetan singing bowl HERE that gongs gently every two minutes (there are other versions for one minute HERE and five minutes HERE). I kept it quiet in the room and when we heard the gong, they moved to the next chair to write in that student's Smile File. We took breaks about every five gongs and then went back to work.

To pick up this freebie for this year (and next!), click HERE.

I hope this update gives you even more ideas for using Smile File in your classroom. Happy end-of-year to you all!




Monthly Thoughts: May


Happy Spring and welcome to May's "Monthly Thoughts"!

Each month this school year, I will be uploading a clickable PDF themed around that month. There will be twenty ideas on that page that will link you to a post, idea, resource, freebie, quote, etc. from my blog or store. Each month will be a new collection of ideas, both old and new, and I hope it will help make the school year and planning easier to navigate.

Be sure to download the calendar page from my TpT Store HERE each month when it's released. It's a clickable PDF, so you will be redirected to my blog, TpT Store, or another website for all of the information when you click the small image.

While I have themed many of the months around holiday items, there are also plenty of ideas geared towards other academic areas, like nonfiction, getting ready for state tests, and more. And if these don't align with your own scope and sequence, hopefully a few can add to your bag of tricks when you do cover those topics in your own classroom.

Today I'm offering the calendar of May, which you can find in my TpT Store HERE.

Monthly Thoughts: May

Click the image to be taken to a free download in my TpT Store

If you're looking for some great end-of-year activities, I've compiled a list of my favorite read alouds an updated my popular Smile File class activity. I'm also sharing gift ideas for students and staff.

As with many of the holidays throughout the year, you can find summer and holiday-themed Word Work and Writing Prompts, as well as QR Codes for math computation practice. There is also a Memorial Day-themed Word Work packet for the upcoming day of remembrance.

There's plenty more, so take your pick and click away to find more information on any and all of the images you see.

Download HERE and enjoy! I hope these ideas will get you excited for the month ahead!


The 2017-2018 Erin Condren Life Planner {Coiled & Hardbound}

I am so excited to be able to share the newest edition of the Erin Condren Life Planner, available for pre-sale today!


I use the Erin Condren Teacher Planner in school, but every night, I rely on my Life Planner to keep me organized for the day and week ahead. I use the 7x9" size and keep it on my counter with a lot of pencil marks, erasures, and sticky notes to try and keep track of my schedule & my little girl's activities. 

The format that I have found works best for me is the hourly-- even though I'm at school for eight hours a day, I find I use up most of the lines with to-do's, activities, meetings, and reminders. My Teacher Planner stays nice and organized, but my Life Planner is the workhorse!

I was thrilled to be asked to share these new designs and features with you, the most exciting of which is the new hardbound Life Planner! More on that soon, but first, my new hourly Life Planner for this summer and next school year:

Coiled Life Planner

I tend to think of years like a teacher, so I love that you can start these in the summer and have one run through the entire school year. Is that just a teacher thing? I noticed right away that the paper was thicker and I am in love! It makes the colors pop even more!


Also new is this small planning page at the end of each month. Four circles, two-columns of lines, and a blank box with a splash of color thrown in-- I love this! Circles can capture words I'm focusing on for the month, lines for quotes, ideas, or a brain dump, and the blank box for doodles, more quotes... this page has a lot of possibilities!


The color scheme matches the upcoming month, so it's a great place to dream and scheme the upcoming 30-ish days.


I am loving the colorful versions of these after going neutral last year. The designs and bright bursts of color across each page was something I missed more than I thought I would. The general design is similar, which is good for a creature of habit like myself. Each day begins at 6am and ends at 7pm, with two lines for each hour and an extra set of blank lines at the bottom. Weeks still run Monday-Sunday and to the left of each week is a box for quotes, stickers, thankful thoughts, etc. and bullet point lines below. 

I'm not joking when I tell you that every part of this page gets used for me each week!

The quotes are beautiful at the start of each month and the new watercolor petal design is very rich and detailed. It's simply stunning in person!




At the end of all of the dates (mine ends in December of 2018), there are lined pages, dot pages, coloring pages, and four pages of stickers. There are still the blank flags, but the three other pages are filled to the brim with metallic multi-purpose stickers. This is a great addition this year!

A pocket at the end holds the included perpetual calendar and the covers are interchangeable, so they fit with my ever-growing collection of beautiful covers I've collected from them over the years.

Hardbound Life Planner

This book is absolutely gorgeous! I received the turquoise and love its simple, but stylish cover design. It is soft with a metallic asterisk in the corner and on the binding there is a small 2017-2018 on the top.


This book has the vertical layout, which divides each day into three parts, You could do a morning, afternoon, evening or what I have done in the past, school, blog, life, in an attempt to keep each category organized. Because the boxes are unlined, there is a lot of creative freedom you have to decorate and fill in these days as you like. I use a lot of stickers in my Teacher Planner and they would also work beautifully in here. Underneath each day four blank lines for any additional notes, to-dos, meal planning, ideas, etc. 

While this is a colorful layout, the colors are more pastel and subdued compared to the coiled Life Planner. This adds to the sophistication, in my opinion, and I would have no problem leaving this out and open for anyone to see-- it's stunning!

The pages are sewn in, not glued, so there's no chance of one slipping out or falling apart during the year. I found that it lay nicely when I opened to the beginning of the year and the ribbon bookmark that is attached helped to keep my place if it does need to be closed. Plus, when closed, you can see that the edge of the pages are also turquoise. I love these extra design details!


The main design theme in the turquoise hardbound Life Planner is the classic Fleur Feliz pattern, but each cover color has its own interior design! Plus, they are available in 5x8" and 8x10", which is the size I have. These are truly beautiful and worth taking a close look at, especially if you are a fan of the vertical layout.

Accessories

As usual, Erin Condren knocks it out of the park when it comes to planner accessories. There are so many options, no matter how you plan, you're bound to find something that can help make the process easier, or at least look fancier.


The dual-tipped marker colors are new and I am amazed how much I have been using these in my classroom since I received the original colors a few months back. The thin side are like Flair tip pens and the thicker side is like a marker, so I use them on student work, making lists, marking off my to do list and more.

Plus, did you see the new sticky notes? I'm dying with excitement! There's a longer lined list that is sticky on about a third of the back, and loads more designs to flag, notetake, and remind all over your planner. I am going to stock up on these for my Teacher Planner, too-- these designs are right up my alley and will get tons of use both in my home and classroom.

A huge thank you to Erin Condren for the chance to sneak a peek at these amazing new designs. They are all available for preorder now, so hopefully you have some 

If you are new to Erin Condren, sign up HERE to receive $10 off your first order. 

To see more about Erin Condren on my blog, click HERE.

For stickers to use with your planner, visit my Etsy Shop HERE.

Happy planning!

Moving Classrooms or Schools? #BestTips from Fellow Teachers

We are moving into a fancy new building in early August.

I know I should be extra-excited about teaching in a building that was built post-1950's. There won't be ugly avocado-green tiles everywhere. Anchor charts will probably stick to the walls. It will be outfitted with top-of-the-line technology and have more than just a few outlets in the classroom. Heck, it will even have an HVAC system that doesn't consist of a temperamental boiler and too-small window A/C units...

... but still...

I will miss that ancient old classroom of mine.

The one I have spent the last 10+ years of my life in. Through apartment living, my first house, my second house, my divorce... everything. This classroom has felt like home.

I'm not naturally a packrat or hoarder. But I am a teacher, so I still find myself falling for the timeless, "What if?" and "Just in case" trap when it comes to materials and supplies.

Movers are coming thirty minutes after the last bell of the school year on May 24th. I have to have my room ready to go so it can be emptied and demo crews can begin their overwhelming job of taking down a building that could have probably doubled as a fallout shelter.

I'm starting to feel overwhelmed, so I turned to you, my beloved readers and partners in this crazy world of teaching, to help me deal with what seems to be an insurmountable task of packing up everything (while the kids are still in school) to get ready for the next school year in a brand new place.

As always, I was floored, grateful, and so incredibly appreciative for your tips, support and "been there, done that" knowledge I could have never navigated myself.

And I can't wait to share these tips with you all, in case we find ourselves in similar positions this May (and subsequently August). To follow along, and even add your tips, head to my Facebook conversation HERE for more.


Here are your Top 15 Tips for moving to a new classroom/school/building:


1. NUMBER YOUR BOXES
Several of you mentioned doing this, and I'll be honest, this NEVER once entered my mind! Steph S. suggested,
"number your boxes then keep a sheet of what is in box 1, box 2 etc."
Numbering these boxes can help alleviate headaches if one (or more) box goes missing during the move. You can address it as it happens, not when you suddenly notice a unit has gone missing when you're prepping it in December.

2. TOSS WHAT YOU HAVEN'T USED IN 2-3 YEARS
I get this, I really do. But a part of my teacher brain is always hard-wired in the what-if's, so tossing whole chunks of materials can be challenging. But, truth be told, if it hasn't been touched in the past three years, it's time to go. I am realizing the freedom in this step, actually. It frees me up to focus on the projects, curriculum, and materials I DO love, so I don't always have these shadow materials lurking and reminding me of what I could/should/would teach...

3. DECLUTTER FIRST & GO DIGITAL
In my rush to toss everything into a box before the deadline, I can completely see myself skipping this step, The procrastinator in me thinks I can just declutter when I'm in my new room..... FALSE! I should know me better than this! I still have boxes I haven't sorted through in my house from the old house, so what makes me think my classroom would be different? The other tip I'm working on is moving anything into a PDF that I still have in hard-copy. Some of our district curriculum I was able to scan and save in my computer, so I don't need to keep the bulky stack of papers. Plus, it's also easier to find in my computer.

4. MAKE AN INVENTORY
Knowing what is in each box can help when it comes time to unpack, sort, organize, and wrap your mind around the new classroom and school year. This doesn't have to be anything extensive, but can help immensely come August. You all suggested making a spreadsheet or list to make sure every box is accounted. It also helps when prioritizing which boxes get opened first.

5. LABEL WELL
Our movers are providing labels, but they are about 2x3" and all one color (so they know what wing to deliver them), This is not the most helpful system once you get them to your classroom, so label each box well to ensure your unpacking is as streamlined as it can be. Meg B. wrote,
"I made box labels on bright blue paper with my name... I also made a spreadsheet, numbered the boxes, and typed what was in each one so I would know if anything was missing when I unpacked." 
Gigantic Sharpies are perfect for this, and use them in several different colors because...

6. COLOR-CODING IS YOUR FRIEND
I am a huge fan of color coding in my teaching (read more HERE), so it makes perfect sense to incorporate this strategy in moving. Tara S. shared another very helpful strategy about using color duct tape:
"Pick a colored duct tape to use on must-have boxes. Wrap the tape all the way around the box. Labels are great, but if you can't see the label, it's no help."
I love this! Using different colored Sharpies for different categories can also help when moving boxes to certain areas of the class for unpacking. Charlene B. even packs using a special color box:
"I have a green box [packed with what is needed for the first week of school], all the others are brown."
In a sea of brown boxes, all of these strategies will help your must-have boxes stand out from the rest.

7. ORGANIZE BOXES BY MONTH & CATEGORY
I am in love with these free month labels HERE. They are clear, colorful, and very useful when it comes to organizing your materials by month. Tammy K. shared that she organizes this way:
"I organize everything by month, categories, and I number my book bins. That way, if I don't have time to unpack all the boxes, I would be able to find the boxes I need to start the year."

8. STORE IT ALL IN CLEAR PLASTIC BINS
Brooke B. shared this strategy and it is pretty consistent with my current classroom storage. She wrote,
"I live like I'm moving. This means I store everything in clear plastic bins that I can access easily through the year and they stack neatly when I move classrooms."
I love these bins from Sterelite because they are inexpensive and readily available at Target and Walmart. They are on a shelf in my class, so they don't get a lot of abuse, but it's definitely easy to find what I need and they are easy to label for any purpose: month, subject, etc.

9. MAKE YOUR BOX #1 A PRIORITY
Many of you suggested this and I am so grateful for the tips! Several of you said to pack staplers, name tags, tape, paper, pencils, everything you need to make sure the first day goes smoothly, just in case. I love this, since Michelle M. shared that,
"We moved into a new building and couldn't move in the first couple of days due to [a] fire inspection. Meet the Teacher was in the hallway because rooms were a mess. We set up classes [over the weekend]."
Her experience reminds me that we never know what August will hold, and it's better to be overly organized than scrambling at the last second!

10. KEEP THE REALLY IMPORTANT THINGS AT HOME
Our movers come to the old school on the last day and move things to the new building that we won't have access to until August. Because of that, I am going to be following your suggestions to bring the really important things home. I'm planning on bringing my personal items, my book bins, my colorful carts, and a box full of first week activities and storing it in my garage all summer. I may even do clipboards and personal white boards so, if all else fails, we can have hard writing surfaces and even work outside.

11. MOVE YOUR AUGUST BOX LAST
I had never thought of this, but Kasey H. suggested,
"Move your August- October-ish stuff LAST so it will be easy to get to."
Of course, that was completely the opposite of how I was planning on moving, but it makes all the sense in the world! Why would I want my May things to be the first thing I unpack? So smart, and paired with the color coding and other strategies, it will make it all that much easier.

12. USE PARENT & STUDENT VOLUNTEERS
Stephanie S. suggested this and I totally agree! The advantage of teaching third is that you can recruit former students to help and they are willing and able! Former students also have the advantage of knowing you, your classroom, and how you organize things. We also have a very helpful and amazing parent volunteer network, so come August, I will be enlisting their help to organize and unpack. For me, it also creates extra accountability when packing. If others are helping, I want to be sure I am organized and decluttered so we can all be as efficient as possible.

13. PLAN OUT YOUR NEW CLASSROOM
I plan on sketching out my room and where things will go over the summer, probably several hundred times! Having NEVER switched rooms for the past ten years, this will definitely be a challenge. Plus, our new room will have more windows, fewer shelves for storage, and more flexible seating options. It's going to be an adjustment, but the more I can visualize it now, the more goal-oriented I can be when we get into the rooms in August.

14. TAKE PICTURES OF YOUR OLD CLASSROOM
I swear I have this classroom burned into my brain, but I know when it comes down to crunch time, my brain will be blank. Taking lots of pictures now can help ensure that the areas I've relied upon for years can still have a place in the new room. And, if I have the help of volunteers, they can see the vision that we're working toward.

15. DON'T WORRY ABOUT DECORATING
In fact, don't worry about a lot. Time will take care of all of it, and your authenticity through the process will help everybody feel at ease. Instead, why not hang up some of these cute signs and/or caution tape? It took a year or more to build this new school. Give it some time before it reflects who  you and your students truly are. Christy S. shared:
"Print signs that say Under Construction - Waiting for Student Work or Waiting for First Students to Make it Home. This will take pressure off of you. The parents and students will love it because it means you are all about the kids."


And when August rolls around and we finally get access to our classrooms again, Jessica W. reminds us to take unpacking "one box at a time." It will take time, energy, effort, and a whole lot of patience to get our new rooms to the places we want, but I have no doubt that in the end, this will be a positive move that will benefit more than just our students.

What other tips would you add to this list? Please share them in the comments and/or in our Facebook conversation HERE.

Best of luck to you all!


Teacher Appreciation Week Giveaways!

This celebration always seems to come at the right time-- we're out of school at the end of May and I am feeling both rushed to get everything done and the need to slow down and savor these last few weeks with this year's group. It is always such a great reminder in the midst of all of this to remember that we are indeed appreciated, not just this week, but all year long, by our students, our colleagues, our community, and by each other. I hope you get the chance to feel that appreciation and gratitude this week, no matter what the to-do lists are saying and what deadlines are approaching.


In order to help with that, I am so excited to offer several giveaways to two of my favorite stores: Teachers Pay Teachers and Erin Condren!

By entering below, you are getting the chance to win one of two $25 gift cards to Teachers Pay Teachers for any item(s) of your choice! You are also getting the chance to win one of two "Lead" Designer Totes from Erin Condren.


There are lots of easy ways to enter for one of these four prizes. I'll choose four winners Sunday, May 7th. Be sure to spread the word to your other teacher friends and colleagues. Thank you for the work you do and the support you give in your classroom and beyond. Feel the love this week and know you are making a difference each and every day to your students and your community!

Best of luck!

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