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.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Making My Erin Condren Life Planner Work for Me!

Last year, I started my Erin Condren obsession when I purchased my first Teacher Planner. You can see a walk-though video HERE and I will be updating more information about this year's Teacher Planner next week.

Today, I'm dying to share my newest year-long project, and that is my Erin Condren Life Planner! I debated about purchasing this along with my Teacher Planner, but when I knew I would be a Stay-At-Home-Mom, it was the first thing I ordered to hopefully keep track of all of the spinning plates in the air!

This year, even though I'm heading back to teaching, I happily reordered the planner during their 2014-2015 launch and I am so glad I did. I plan on using both my Teacher Planner and Life Planner and I'm hoping this post can give you some ideas for how you can keep and use both effectively throughout the school year.

The Cover

"Work Hard. Play Hard." are on the first inside pages. Love this planner for all of its inspirational quotes!

My Life Planner and Teacher Planner both have my favorite things listed on the front and I added a vinyl monogram to the back of each that I made with my Silhouette Cameo. I love how it turned out since I love all things monogram!

The covers this year are interchangeable, so you can order several designs and switch them out with your mood-- genius!! I have my eyes set on the turquoise and silver, since that would glam it up from time to time. I do love this cover, though. It's so refreshing to look down and see my most favorite things staring back up at me. It was a lot of fun generating the list and I look forward to rereading it throughout the year when things get challenging or I get too stressed. It's my little reminder sign!

The Inside

I adjusted a LOT on the inside to suit my needs and I love how it turned out!! I bought thin washi tape in a dispenser from Michaels with a coupon and covered up the "Morning", "Day", and "Night" sections, as well as separated the week from the weekends. I changed the colors to match each month and managed to not run out of any colors just yet, so it worked out well!

I renamed the top section "School & Blog" and the middle section "Life". I do NOT use my Life Planner for school, except for jotting down to-do's (that I usually remember after school at 11pm!) and things I need to keep in mind that I otherwise will forget. My "Life" section is all about appointments, to-do's, errands, and the like. Doing this, I am able to maximize my time and do not have to run errands, go to the grocery store, and try to cook each and every night. The bottom section is used for my gratitude lists and mini-journaling, so I didn't title it since it's just for thoughts and thanks throughout the week.

I typically cover the very bottom with colorful washi tape. I love the color and theme that it provides and I found I was never using those lines well anyway. Now, it's a pretty space that sets the tone for the week. I love trying out new patterns and combos of washi tape and stickers together in that spot :)

The other thing I did on each page was highlight the current week on the monthly calendar view. I love being able to quickly find where I am in the big picture of the month. Quick and simple, but effective!

How I Plan

This is a summertime spread, so I don't have it split into "School" and "Life" just yet. I start that in August.

Every Sunday evening, I sit down for the big weekly plan. I always insert everything into my Google Calendar on my phone as they come up during the week. Because events, appointments, and activities get changed and adjusted so much, I never like to plan in hard copy more than one week at a time. Plus, it keeps these events fresh in my mind, and I can only hold about a week's worth at a time (or maybe even less!).

I will bring up my Google Calendar online and begin adding in the appointments to my Life Planner. I use washi tape from craft stores and Etsy to decorate and I always write with a black ballpiont pen and thin Sharpie markers (on the washi and labels only-- it will bleed through the pages otherwise).

I start by adding in main events to the "Life" part and decorate using washi as well (I even have a laundry one that is the only thing that motivates me to tackle the piles, I swear!). I usually cook a LOT on one day of the week and we make meals from that throughout the week, especially our breakfasts and lunches, so planning is incredibly important. It helps me to see what days are empty and what days may be too full. I really try to reach a balance if I can-- our daughter is only three and with working half-time this year, I want to make sure I am still leaving lots of "girl time" for us to share and not just cram it full of to-do's.

School checklists get added as I think of them, or as I think of a product or blog post. I want to give myself reminders to grab pictures and work samples to help me blog, or leave a note to myself to remember to send home an email or handout to so-and-so, etc. Any school-related items I mark under the pink alphabet tape I bought from Etsy. I use camera washi tape from Michaels to remember to take pictures of certain things for blog posts. I seem to have a mind that only remembers important things as I lay down in bed at night, so I will keep this close to my bedstand for those lightbulb moments, too! The "School & Blog" section is basically lists for the "business" part of my life and I love creating the checklists and the sense of accomplishment that comes from crossing them off before I leave for the day :)

The last section is my favorite and is what moves this Life Planner from just a scheduler and checklist system to an actual journal/scrapbook/something special just for me. I sit down every night after our daughter is asleep and before we turn in and reflect on the day. I will then add little bullet points of the cute/funny/happy/silly/etc. moments that make me so grateful and joyous. I have absolutely loved this practice and am amazed how it has transformed this Life Planner in my life. I love looking back in past weeks and remembering the sweet things my daughter said, or a particularly fond moment we shared as a family, and more. At first, I only started by writing three things, but it has blossomed now into tiny writing that often gets squeezed into every available spot. This is my favorite section of my planner and I am so thankful I started this practice (and highly suggest you do, too! It's awesomeness!)

At the end of the day, I will also fill in the black spaces of the day with stickers from craft stores and Etsy. I love finding quotes on Pinterest and printing those out as well. The spaces are 1.5" x 1.9", so you can shrink down any favorite Pin to fit, so they can inspire you in hard copy form!


I hope this gave you a good idea of how to use your Life Planner for something other than scheduling appointments during your day. I am looking forward to using mine this year alongside my Teacher Planner (more on that one soon!) and know there are a million (at least!) more uses than the ones I've shown you, including meal plans, fitness, etc. Try looking on Pinterest for inspiration and if you're on Instagram, be sure to check out #teachersobsessedwithplanners for ways some of us use our planners throughout the year.

If you're new to Erin Condren, you can sign up for an account through my affiliate link and earn $10 off your first order! An email will come to your inbox with the code and that way you can try a planner at a discount, which is always a good thing :)

I'm linking up with my friend Tara's Monday Made It! Be sure to head over to see all of the other amazing projects your favorite teacher friends are creating this week :)

Off to jot down my daily gratitudes....

Friday, July 11, 2014

Morning Meeting: Updated Packet

If you have followed my blog from the beginning, you will know that one of my most favorite parts of the day is Morning Meeting. It is a time each day, as soon as the morning begins, for us to gather and share and get our day started off on the right foot.

I first posted about Morning Meeting in June of 2012 and that post (found HERE) is still full of tons of ideas about how Morning Meeting is led in my classroom and the different components that make up this seven to ten-minute chunk of our day.

It's amazing how much Morning Meeting hasn't changed for me in the ten-ish years I have been teaching! I feel as though I have had to revamp pretty much everything else (either because I wanted to or had to for district mandates), yet these first few minutes of each and every day stayed surprisingly consistent year-to-year.

I wanted to take some time this summer to revisit Morning Meeting and compile all of my thoughts and resources into one place. I am incredibly excited about the update to my Morning Meeting Packet, especially because now it includes a short E-book all about the how and why I use Morning Meeting:

Inside, I have tried to share all that I have experimented with and used to help give you loads of ideas for your own classroom. There are helpful tips on setting up Morning Meeting, a sample two-week schedule for getting Morning Meeting off and running, ways to keep in interesting, and loads more to help make a classroom meeting work for you.

It is in PDF format with clickable links throughout to make it easy for you to navigate. Another idea is printing it out and for about $4, taking it to your local office supply shop to have it spiral bound. If you're like me and still appreciate the hard copy of things, this is money well-spent since you can write all over it and highlight key point you want to remember. Here's a quick video flip-through of the one I had spiral-bound:

The posters in this packet also got a makeover with lots of additional color choices and new clip art. The colors now match the rest of my classroom decor in chevron, found in my store HERE. There are pre-made signs, editable signs (you'll need PowerPoint for these) so you can adjust the agenda to fit your class' needs, and small labels for your own class bucket and/or meeting supplies.

There are still the 7+ pages of question strips and editable strips for you to write your own as well. These are the same as in my original packet.

Now, you'll now be completely set to implement a Morning Meeting in your classroom for this upcoming school year! I hope you enjoy the light summer reading in the e-book and the updated signs and materials to coordinate with your classroom theme. Let me know if you have any questions and I hope you enjoy this packet! To pick up this packet (on SALE!) from my store, click HERE.

It's been a while since I've done a giveaway and I'd like to get this into someone's hands lickety-split! Just enter using the Rafflecopter below and I will announce the winner on my Facebook page on Sunday! Good luck!!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, July 7, 2014

Exciting News!

Whew! I am so excited to be back in blogging world! I have been hanging out these past few weeks (month?) on Facebook and Instagram, but I was hanging back from posting too many things over here.

Why? Well, I have some exciting news that I had to keep under wraps for a while. And if you know me, you know I have *zero* poker face (even online!), so it was easier for me to not blog until everything was official :)

The exciting news: I'm headed back to my third grade classroom!! {Woo hoo!!}

As many of you know, I took a leave last year to spend with our toddler daughter. Life was rushing by too fast and I was working way too much. I was a teacher first and mom second (wife third?), so things definitely needed to change.

Spending last year away from the classroom was amazing, but also left me with a huge hole in my heart. I love and adore teaching, my teammates, my school, my classroom, everything that I had spent the past eight years calling my "home away from home" but I knew I just couldn't go back to the full-time challenge again.

Thankfully, my principal came to the rescue and offered me my favorite 3rd grade position, half-time, teaching ELA! Um..... dream job!

So of course I accepted and have never been happier. I feel I've spent the better part of these past however many years on either end of the spectrum: either all teaching or all family, and this position allows me to hang out in the balance, loving each and every part of my day :)

I will be back later this week to talk all about my newly-updated Morning Meeting Packet, now including a 30+ page E-book, and my newest organizational tool(s) to keep this year together: my Erin Condren planners.

Feels great to be back and I hope you are all enjoying this summertime and soaking in all of the sun and relaxation you can!

3rd Grade Thoughts - Widget
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