Monday, May 2, 2016

2016 Erin Condren Teacher Planner {Part 2: Walkthrough}

I am so excited to be sharing the insides of the 2016 Erin Condren Teacher Planner with you! I unboxed this beauty, along with several other goodies, a few days ago and you can watch that HERE.

This year's Teacher Planner is similar in format to previous years, which I love since it's a system that has worked for me, but the small design changes they have made in colors and fonts really makes it seem new!

If you have never tried Erin Condren's planner or products, I cannot recommend them highly enough. She has everything from planners to cards to notepads to cell phone covers.... and more! Her paper quality is fantastic and they make great gifts for anyone on your list, including you! Personalization is available on almost every item as well. See more of my posts about Erin Condren HERE.

Without further ado, here is the walkthrough of the 2016 Erin Condren Teacher Planner:

One correction I want to point out: In the video, I mentioned they do not come with Date Dots and I was wrong. After checking, they DO come with stickers for each and every month to put on the circles in the monthly spread. This will add even more beauty to the calendar portions!

These Teacher Planners will launch May 3rd (Teacher Appreciation Day!) HERE.

If you haven't signed up with Erin Condren, you can use my affiliate link HERE for $10 off your first order!

Have a wonderful Teacher Appreciation Week!

Friday, April 29, 2016

2016 Erin Condren Teacher Planner {Part 1: Unboxing}

It's that time of year, again! Amidst all of the craziness of April/May and wrapping up a school year, I was beyond excited to come home today and see a beautiful, pink Erin Condren box on my front porch!

Inside, I was thrilled to find the newest edition of the Erin Condren Teacher Planner, along with several other coordinating goodies.

Just like last year, I will split this review into two parts: the unboxing and a full walkthrough of the planner itself.

Without further ado, here is the unboxing video!

This year's Teacher Planner doesn't release until May 3rd. Until then, you can read up on all of my other Erin Condren posts HERE.

To sign up and receive $10 off your first order, click HERE.

See you soon for the full walkthrough!

Disclaimer: gave me this planner to review, but all opinions are my own. I only promote what I use and love!

Friday, April 1, 2016

Getting Ready for State Tests

State Tests (PARCC this year) are around the corner and I am compiling some things to help my students (and I) get through the long two weeks ahead.

I posted some tips from a few years ago HERE and I am reposting a few of them here, with some added ideas as well.

1. Relaxing Music

We aren't allowed to play music during the test, so I assume you aren't either, but I love having quiet music playing as the kids are coming into the room and getting themselves situated. It's bound to be a time full of nervous energy, so with calming music in the background you can begin to get them relaxed before the long test time ahead. Finds some great artists and stations HERE and HERE.

2. Brain Breaks

We are allowed to take one, 3-minute break during each test, and I plan on taking advantage! I do recommend having some Brain Breaks on hand before the test begins (and then hopefully one in the middle, if it's allowed), but be very selective as to which one(s) you choose. Calming, stretching, massaging breaks will be best and allow kids to get some wiggles out, but in a smooth, centered way. Our tests are all computer-based, so I want them to relax their eyes, stretch out their bodies, and really be able to settle in nicely for the duration of the test. After the tests are complete, though, a dance party is definitely in order ;) Find hundreds of Brain Break ideas HERE.

3. Door Signage

Our class is next to the bathroom, so I want to make sure that everyone knows it needs to be completely quiet when they are in our hallway. I hang this sign on our doorway during each test and then keep it handy for other class assessments we have throughout the year. It's a freebie on Google Docs HERE if you'd like to pick it up for your door.

4. Non-Food Encouragement

I have done food as treats before, but wanted to mix it up a bit to discourage sugar highs at 10am. So, I used a common fun find from the dollar store, glow bracelets, and attached these freebie tags (on Google Docs HERE in two versions: test and PARCC) using double-sided tape. If you have a 2" round punch from my Brain Breaks, use it on these circles! It is a great way to cheer them on, but keeps the energy manageable and the day flowing as normal. Which brings me to....

5. Routines

So technically, this isn't a new thing to do, but I wanted to stress the importance of getting back to the normal routine and structure of the day once the tests are done. We test for the first 60-90 minutes each morning, but that leaves a whole bunch of time in the day where we can do and accomplish a lot of fun things! We're knee-deep in our Animal Research Reports (read more about these through the years HERE), the kids have never been more independent in reading and Daily 5, and we still do have about two months of school left. So, when the tests are done for the day, we immediately turn our attention back to the goodness of school. I have found that this keeps me sane, as well as my students. It also releases a lot of anxiety or worry around the test when it doesn't dominate our thinking for the day. Your testing may be structured differently, but I encourage you to get back to the wonderful routines and systems you have worked so hard to develop with your students as soon as you can!

Best of luck to your students and you during this testing time!

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Relaxing Classroom Music for Independent Work

Over the years, I have loved having soft music playing in my classroom during independent work time.

I had previously blogged about some classical guitar artists that we enjoy HERE. Be sure you read that post and set up a Pandora/Spotify station with those musicians- you won't be disappointed!

I do pay for the monthly Pandora service and enjoy listening to it both in class and at my house, so it's worth the $3.99/month charge. *I pay for Pandora myself, they do not endorse this post or my blog. There is a free version, but it has commercials, so I never liked the disruption and decided to subscribe. Even if you don't have Pandora, keep reading. These artists have some fantastic work and you can even grab their CD's and downloads on Amazon.

Over the course of the year, and especially now as we head into spring, I like to vary the selection a bit. One of my favorite finds is the genre of Slack-Key Guitar. This is a traditional Hawaiian genre and wow, it is beautiful! Take a peek at this video to see what I mean:

You can hear (and see) that it is beautiful and complex, but also relaxing and calming. I am instantly de-stressed when this channel comes on and I know your kids will love it as much as mine. Plus, because it's Hawaiian, it helps me to stay warm and serene on a snowy March day in Colorado like today!

Some of the artists I enjoy from this channel include:
This is by no means an exhaustive list! I have found even more artists from the Wikipedia article HERE to add depth to my channel and discover even more lovely melodies.

If you don't have access to Pandora, of if it's blocked by your school's internet, there are CD's and online albums you can use/download and I have found that this specific collection is fantastic! You can pick it up on Amazon and listen to sample tracks here:

I hope this genre can give your classroom music some newfound calm and serenity as we head into warmer months and begin to wrap up the school year. Enjoy!

Monday, March 14, 2016

Expanding on Nonfiction Text Features

One of my first resources in my TpT Store was my Nonfiction Text Features packet. This oldie-but-goodie has seen a lot of use over the years and I have found that the combination of the posters, having them accessible on a binder ring, using sticky notes, and thinking about why a feature is used as we go through resources are not only fun and engaging for the kids, but they really help to make these concepts stick.

To read more about the ways I use this packet, click HERE and HERE.

I first created these as our state was moving to more nonfiction-focused reading standards, but I never realized how many text features would need to be highlighted throughout the year! It seems like each year, there are more and more questions asked about text features, and I was finding my original packet was not enough to keep pace.

Therefore, I am excited to say that I have compiled a Part 2 to this resource, full of twelve new text features and still providing all of the great activities from the first packet.

The text features highlighted in the new packet are:

  • pronunciation guide
  • guide words
  • website/ hyperlink
  • title page
  • label
  • icon
  • sidebar
  • appendix
  • title
  • cutaway
  • graphic organizer
  • source

I personally think these packets work best when used together, and with 24, you are still not having to deal with an insane amount. I would highly recommend mixing-and-matching throughout your introduction of these features, since some are more important and frequent than others. In Part 2, I have also included pages with #13-24, so if you ever wanted to use all 24 features for a scavenger hunt or quiz, you can!

These are still wonderful to use with any Scholastic News or Time for Kids weekly magazine, and printing on sticky notes is still such a hands-on and exciting way to look for these features:

All of these Nonfiction Text Feature packets are available in my TpT Store now.

I also have Part 2 on sale for the first week, so if you have previously purchased the Original Set, you can get Part 2 at the discounted bundle price.

Have fun delving in even deeper to these Nonfiction Text Features and have a wonderful week ahead!

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Erin Condren Teacher Planner: Weekly Planning Time-Lapse

You all know how much I love my Erin Condren Teacher Planner. You can find lots of posts about this love HERE.

I have found that ending my Sunday by laying out this initial skeleton plan allows me to get in the right frame of mind once Monday hits. I used to dread laying out each and every detail of the week, only to have to pull out a huge eraser and redo most of Wednesday through Friday-- either because we got too far behind, too far ahead, there was a random fire drill or an assembly... you name it!

Now, my Sunday nights are filled with stickers and minimal writing-- how much more fun is that? I can visually lay out my week, see what goes where, make a few notes of things I will need to prep and check on as the week gets underway, and then fill in the remainder throughout the day and week ahead.

This may sound completely different than how you plan, and that's ok! The beauty of planning (if you have the choice, that is!), is to find a system and a flow that fits you best. What works for me may be a nightmare for someone else. It took me several years of finding the sweet spot that fits my personality, teaching style, and helps me stay sane. Hopefully this can give you some ideas if you're still looking for your own personal planning style!

I use stickers (found in my Etsy Shop HERE) to streamline the planning process and to avoid rewriting things over and over. I choose two colors that speak to me that week (this week it's starting to look like Spring, so I chose the March colors), and then alternate them for visual interest.

Then, with my trusty pencil, I fill in as much as I know. I will come back and jot things down as they come to me, or if certain to do's pop up, but I leave most of it for when I am at school and "in the zone." There, this is open on my desk and I am constantly jotting, occasionally erasing, and always glancing down at it throughout the day and week.

Enjoy this time lapse and I hope you're having a wonderful week!

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Parent-Teacher Conference Timekeeping

We had Parent-Teacher conferences this week and I forget how exhausting they are! I have a wonderful group of students and parents, but meeting after school and into the evening is tough, especially when I'm usually in yoga pants by 6!

We have a very tight conference schedule and I want to honor parents' time (and my own!) by sticking to the sign-up times. It's easy to get off track and off topic, but I need to remind myself during those types of conversations that it will be a domino effect that will keep me at school later and later, possibly having to reschedule other parents if they have been waiting too long.

Here are a few tricks I use to ensure that we stay on time:

>>>Use a Timer: This has been a great way for me to self-monitor during a conference. We have back-to-back 20-minute time slots, so I use a timer to make sure I am staying within that time frame.

I take conference notes on a Google Doc, so I open a different tab on my browser and set it when we get started with the sound off. I find that using a timer avoids the need to look at a clock or look at my watch, which are all very not-so-subtle body language messages that you probably don't want to be sending to your parents.

If you Google "timer," they have their own that pops up and you can easily turn off the sound.

>>>Set an Agenda: .... and stick to it! I always lay out how the 20 minutes will be split up, either breaking it up by academic subject, the student work or data I need to go through, goals from the student and from parents, etc. I want parents to know what the next 15-20 minutes will entail, so they can be a part of it and I'm not the only one talking the whole time. 

I also have to remember, that while I go through 25-ish of these every conference season, they only have it once, so I want them to be as involved and invested as possible. Many times, I will even allude to what we'll cover in our class' weekly newsletter the Friday before, so they can send me any questions in advance and we can all be on the same page. 

>>>Have Other Parents Help: Even with these two steps, life happens and conferences run over. I do like to remind parents that we need to start and end on time, but when it comes to talking about their child, 20 minutes can be so short! 

I put this sign on the door to have the next parent help in keeping us on track. Because my door is closed, they will simply knock at the start of their session. This is a nice reminder that we need to wrap up since someone else's conference is starting now. 

I have this available for free in Google Docs HERE if you would like to print and laminate for your class door. I will sometimes post a schedule by the door on very busy nights so parents know that the evening is full and time is of the essence.

Parent-Teacher Conferences are definitely a wonderful (yet sometimes stressful!) part of being a teacher, so keeping your sanity through them all is so important. I hope these tips help you to keep better track of time in order to have the most successful meetings yet!

Friday, March 4, 2016

A Fun Twist on Writing Idioms

This year seems to be slipping through my fingertips. I'm not sure if it's because I am only part-time, but my pacing seems off and I've had to readjust a lot as the scheduled time has come and gone for several of our projects.

A recent example of this is my mini-idioms unit I schedule around Valentine's Day. It's a fun way for students to practice these in their writing and we use my Idiom Build-a-Story Cards to get prepped for the holiday. This year, not so lucky.

So, after some readjustment and dropping the character and situation cards, I was still able to incorporate this activity but in a more general way. I'm excited to share this idea with you in case you're in the same boat as me, or are looking for an engaging project for your students during the upcoming testing season (#ick).

I began by printing out the idiom cards only in two ways: one set full-size, which I printed in color, laminated, and placed into binder rings for future reference.

The other way was to print all of the idiom cards onto one page. For this, I adjusted the print settings to print four pages on one sheet. I printed them in black and white and make a class set of copies. I also made a copy for myself for our anchor chart.

We began by cutting and gluing and creating our class anchor chart together. Most of the class had heard of some of these idioms in their life, so we shared together and created some short definitions and shared examples as we worked.

They glued these into their Writer's Notebooks and would use them to write their own examples on the following pages.

I modeled choosing one idiom at a time and writing about three sentences to use their idiom in context with themselves as the main character (which becomes important when we published later).

After meeting with a partner to revise and edit, they chose their favorite two idiom examples.

Publishing was my favorite part!

I used color printouts of their school pictures and they used those as their base for illustrating. They showed themselves living out the idiom as it meant literally and figuratively. So, presenting in front of the class with butterflies in their stomach, or getting ready for the party and jumping over a moon. They turned out so stinking cute!

I compiled all of them into a class book and had the kiddos sign the cover. This will live in our "Class Publications" book bin that has a class-made book from nearly all of my years of teaching. It's always a popular choice during DEAR time.

Enjoy this activity and pick up my Idiom pack HERE. Have a great weekend!

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Planning The Week In My Erin Condren Teacher Planner With Planner Stickers

Many of you know how much I love my Erin Condren Teacher Planner. You can check out many past posts and freebies HERE. I have been posting a few layouts on Instagram and I wanted to take a few pictures this weekend to walk you through how I use the planner as well as the icon stickers found in my Etsy Store.

I have this great Carry-All Clutch from Erin Condren that I use to store all of my planning materials. I use the smaller size to hold all of my sheets of stickers, washi tape, Sharpie pen, and subject holders. I'm a huge Ticonderoga pencil fan, too, but leave those outside of the clutch so pencil marks don't get everywhere.

I will typiclly set up a few weeks at a time with these subject labels and washi tape. I purchased this thin purple washi tape at Michaels (it was a part of a set of thin tapes) and use Avery 8195 labels for the top. I also have some freebie subject templates HERE, if you're interested!

Our specials schedule doesn't change each week and I got so tired of rewriting Art, Music, and PE over and over, that was the original inspiration for my planner stickers. I use these stickers to take up less space and remind me where we're heading each day. The colors don't mean anything specific, I just choose two that make me happy that week.

I wish I could say there's a method to this madness, but there isn't. So much is repeated each week, so I have the same stickers marking their place, with the exceptions and notes that come up. I job-share and teach literacy only, so that's why I have so much "To Do & Plan" space. I will use that space to mark out things to Print and Copy, people to Call and Email, things to remember to send home in the Newsletter (house icon), and who I need to email for Mystery Reader for the next week. These lists accumulate through the week and I will cross/check them off when they're done, so they usually aren't day-specific.

This was a tricky one to blog about since I have to respect student privacy, but I started to pencil in some of the details of my week. Obviously, this is not a super-detailed planning system that I have, but this works beautifully as a big-picture view of the week. Especially with job-sharing, time goes fast and I want to make sure I am accomplishing as much as possible while I am at school, so my half-time doesn't become a full-time+ job.... that's a work in progress, of course! I find that leaving this open at my desk with the icons as the skeleton, I can pencil in the details (and erase/move when needed) throughout the week to stay organized.

To see more of my layouts, both at the beginning and end of the week, be sure to follow me on Instagram.

If you haven't shopped with Erin Condren and would like a coupon for $10 off your first order, click HERE to get signed up!

To start shopping my icon stickers on Etsy, click HERE. Use coupon code FREESHIP30 for free shipping on orders over $30!

Have a wonderful long weekend and happy planning!

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Technology Resources for the New Year

Happy New Year! I love this time of year in the classroom-- kids are into the routine, you can really start digging into the good stuff, and the ideas of resolutions and goal-setting are a perfect segue into the rest of the year!

I am excited to be sharing some technology resources you can use with your students this New Year:


This is a great video put together by BrainPOP because it describes how other countries around the world celebrate their new year. Other religions and cultures are described (including Chinese New Year) and BrainPOP always does a great job with follow-up quizzes and worksheets. As of this writing, it wasn't free, but they will often offer it for free as the holiday gets closer, so keep your eyes peeled if you don't have a subscription.

Check it out HERE.

Crayola Fireworks Spectacular

This is a fun site by Crayola that allows kids to create their own fireworks show! There are fireworks to preview, then they can drag them along the timer on the bottom to wherever they would like them to appear in the show. At the end, they can Start the Show and enjoy their own New Year's celebration!

To design a show, click HERE.

YouTube: Squirrel's New Year's Resolution

This is a great read-aloud (similar to Reading Rainbow style) about how Squirrel learns to create a New Year's resolution. Watching this is an easy and engaging way to start the conversation in your class.

New Year's Crossword

This activity can be done on the computer or printed off. I love the computer version, though, since it will highlight any incorrect letter in red (see image above). There are also fireworks that go off when you get a word correct. This is a great activity to practice some of the vocabulary words from my Word Work Centers, too!

To play this crossword, click HERE.

If you are looking for some engaging and high-quality literacy activities for this first week back, be sure to check out my New Year's-themed Word Work Centers and Writing Prompts.

Happy New Year!!

Be sure to check out all of my other Holiday Technology Resources below: