Tuesday, August 26, 2014

15th Year of Teaching Begins with Awesome Resources

I survived my first week back to school and got to meet my new wonderful kiddos! Well it wasn't quite a whole week as we started on Wednesday. This made it a little easier for everyone to get back into the swing of things. I love my work schedule!!! My school will also be celebrating it's 10th year of operation! I've been there from the beginning as a founding teacher and it's been one heck of a roller coaster ride. This will also be my 15th year as a teacher having started this amazing career back in the fall of 2000. So much to celebrate that I came up with a yummy recipe that I just have to share.

I made these cute little no-bake mini-cheesecakes with an 8 oz. container of mascarpone, a sweet and creamy Italian cheese. First I added half of one envelope of gelatin to 1/4 cup of cool water then added in 1/4 cup of boiling water, stirring until dissolved.  (And if you can't find mascarpone just use a regular 8 oz block of cream cheese.)  Next I added 1/2 cup of sugar, 1 teaspoon of vanilla and stirred again. After that I combined this concoction with the mascarpone in a mixing bowl using my blender on low speed, until thoroughly combined. Next I chilled, while they chilled in their cute little Keebler mini graham crusts in the fridge for 2 hours. By the way this recipe makes exactly enough for the six mini crusts that come packaged. After pulling them out of the fridge I topped them with fresh sliced raspberries.  Mmmm! These were so rich in flavor and way creamier than regular cheesecake. Also tested and approved by my biggest fan. (Seriously considering writing a recipe blog one of these days.)

Okay now back to our regularly scheduled programming. I'm linking up for Teacher Week for What Friday so I can share my wonderful resources I use to start off the school year.

 Blog Hoppin What Friday Curriculum & Resources

First I wanted to share a pic of an idea that I used for Meet the Teacher. This was the first time my school or myself participated in this type of event for our school families. Instead of waiting for Back to School Night to roll around my principal decided that it would be nice to hold two informational meetings for parents and students the week before school started. This way they could get to know the teacher and classroom before the school year got under way.  We went over teacher expectations for homework, behavior etc. and parents could see what kind of supplies they could donated for the year.  Somewhere in the back of my mind cluttered with Pinterest images, I came up with this idea. 

The sign didn't come out to great in the photo but says, "Please lend a helping hand and donate what you can." You can get a FREE copy of my sign to print and fold on card stock here. (Anyone else obsessed with chalkboard fonts?) Parents could then write down on a hand what they wanted to donate to our classroom community supplies. I googled hand images and found those you see printed. Some opted to take a photo of the items pictured and get the whole list! Boy am I glad I took the time to take pics while shopping in Target, along with a few screen shots from the web. This has been the best year ever for parents helping out with supply donations! I'm very grateful for their generousity and the pictures helped eliminate confusion about what to get.

Now on to just a few more of my favorite things I use to start the school year off right. Some of these resources I created and some I just picked up at the recent Back to School Sales on Teachers pay Teachers. This is a parent survey I created so I could get to know my students and their need better. I had used other ones in the past, but none of them seemed to have all the questions I wanted so I decided to make my own! My sweet colleague proofread the Spanish side for me as I'm not a native speaker.  I've already got them all back and I'm happy to see parent responses. My fave part that I included was asking parents if they were okay with texts when I needed to send reminders, because I'm not much for chatting on the phone if I can help it. Click the image if you want to get this on TpT.

Help Me Get to Know Your Child A Parent Survey (Spanish Version Included) Back to School

Friends if you haven't jumped on the QR code bandwagon, I implore you to step on! The kids love it and it's easy peasy in terms of teacher prep, because with a little lamination you can re-use the activities time and time again! We had a blast using my old iPhone and a free QR code reader to do this fantastic Let's Tour the Classroom! Scavenger Hunt: A Back to School Activity w/ QR Codes
 by Watson Works.

iPads were still being updated and re-issued at my school, but keeping my old iPhone was the best decision I made as my students and I use it for so much!  There are directions in the activity for a whole group activity or a teams, depending on your resources. I read the first riddle to my students and  showed it on the doc cam, then the students had to guess what the riddle meant and we would go to that location in the classroom with the next game card, and one student got to scan the QR code to check if we were correct. Then on to reading the opposite side for the riddle that would lead us to the next location in the classroom. The kids had a blast doing this scavenger hunt!

For my first day back to school I used this wonderful book for my read aloud.

It's one of my favorite mentor texts that I paired  with these awesome resources I got from
Complete NO PREP Reading &Writing Units for 40 Mentor Texts made by Jivey.  In this pack she has wonderful activities and graphic organizers to go with many awesome books I happen to own already. Here are two pages I used with my students on the first day of school. I shrunk them to fit on half sheets, with one page on the front and one page on the back. I didn't want my kiddos to be overwhelmed with writing the first day so I wanted these to be smaller for that reason. I love what these two wrote. One is already super excited to be in my class and wrote she is "3rd grade lover." Too cute!

Finally a picture of some redecorating I did to spruce up my classroom this year. One of my ottoman covers was half-faded due to sun exposure so I put new upostlery fabric covers on both and I saved this shelf from it's lonely existence on my block in a mad dash of curbside shopping. In the last pic is my welcome board for new students where their class numbers are posted with their names on the cute little cameras for free from Carmen Rodriguez on TpT! so they can put them on everything as I love Rick Morris' New Managment tips for keeping all their materials and papers organized!

Happy Back to School to everyone. 
I hope your new school year is a big success!

Monday, August 4, 2014

Back to School Sales Be Poppin' and Teachers Be Shoppin'

It's that time of year when I hit the stores for the best classroom supply sales! And I'm joining up with Kickin' It in Kindergarten for Teachers Be Shoppin' Linky Party


I feel so lucky to have found this awesome website called Passion for Savings that lists all the  Back to Schools sales for each store. But that's not all! You can even make your own shopping list using their website complete with checkmark boxes and coupons you can print from the various retailers. The best part is that you can use this website to compare prices on different items you are looking to purchase. I feel very fortunate to have a decent classroom supplies reimbursement budget at my school, in addition to asking our parent for supply donations if they can afford it, that also go towards their required school support hours. 

In order to fuel up for my first day of the #BacktoSchool shopping challenge 2014 I headed to Del Taco after my dreaded teeth cleaning appointment at the dentist. I always schedule the twice a year cleaning appointments when I'm off work. Luckily no cavities because this scaredy cat  would rather claw her way out of the dentist chair then deal with shots or drills.  Nothin' like a stop at my favorite fast food joint for yummy tacos to erase the jitters. 

Without further ado here are some pictures from the first shopping trip that landed me at Wally World. I was surprised by all the beautiful patterns and designs they had. Admittedly I'm not one to frequent Walmart unless it's back to school sale time, because it's a tad out of the way, and I just find Target to have better election of quality items, and there are tons of them conveniently located nearby my work or home. I bought 23 each of both the spiral themed notebooks, composition books, and colored pencils for my kiddos. I will have to let the first table team ready, get first pick of their items. 

FYI Walmart has a teacher deal through August 15th where they reimburse you 10% of your purchases.

I followed up by stopping at Big Lots for some of my usual faves! Walmart didn't have enough zippered pencil pouches but I knew I could count on Big Lots to have them. I only used the large traditional plastic pencil boxes a few times early in my career and I hated them. Students were always dropping them on the floor, causing the contents to spill, not to mention startling me and interrupting my lessons. I also found they didn't fit well in there desk. For a while I tried the smaller lightweight and narrow pencil boxes that slide and snap, but they would drop too. These take up little space and fit their colored pencils easily. 

Every year I tell my third graders that they are now in the upper/older grades so they get use colored pencils instead of crayons. They are very excited by this special privilege, but little do they know that I can't stand crayons. They are smelly, fragile, and can easily stain things! No thank you. What would I do if I taught younger students? Not sure but all I can say is Egads! Joking aside I have a box for Fun Day Friday time if they want to use them to color, and I don't mind them using markers at all.

Onto shopping day two, which was a few days later since I would be out of town for a bit. Gotta get in those last few vacation fun days before the frenzied work year returns. Well let me tell you this day did not go as planned. I dragged along my partner in crime and we hit the Ikea. I was determined to find an inexpensive and kid friendly table for my classroom as  last school year I was lost without the extra round one I used to have for centers and art time. (It was reclaimed for another new classroom since I had a kidney table already.)

When we got there it was nuts in the place. If you've never been to one it's an experience. It's like being a mouse in a maze, but only this time it was a rat race. When you first enter you go must go up to their second floor showroom, which has all their products set up in small rooms that mimic actual living spaces. Everything appears to be sized for the Munchkins from the Wizard of Oz, and you have to keep moving forward peering into mini-studio apartment like cubicles or if you dare walk into them and test out the furniture. 

The only problem was that there were so many people you could hardly explore anything without being swept up into traffic and pushed through the  one way maze that is designed to make sure you get a look at everything. Upon finishing the second floor maze we saw a sign and the large entrance to their restaurant that said something like "If you spend a $100 dollars, you would be reimbursed or comped for your meals there that day only." WHAAAAT? No wonder the place was jammed with tons of families instead of mostly single Los Anglenos or college students trying to furnish their teeny tiny apartments. 

This guy captures perfectly how it felt to be stuck in IKEA! It's a cute parody song of Owl City's Fire Flies song that I love and he actually filmed this in IKEA until they asked him to leave, lol!

Luckily we finally made it down to the bottom floor where they have another maze through storage and home goods, but this time it is small, as half the floor is the warehouse and check out where we were able to pick up the parts to my table. Initially it could have worked out to be around 30 bucks, (table top was around $15 and legs $3.50 each) but I had to get the adjustable height legs so that it wasn't too tall for my students and their smallish chairs. The legs were now $15 a piece! So I ended up with a fancy a $75 table when I was through. Maybe there will be pictures later on once I put I manage to put it together. 

It was 6:30 already here was no chance we were going to eat in there and we had yet to get to Staples to catch the final sales. I was feeling quite hungry because it was an hour past my usual dinner time and I was craving a yummy carb fest after the workout that was Ikea. We spotted an Olive Garden near the Staples and popped in. The wait was 45 minutes and I had my heart set on a Tour of Italy and breadsticks. I can't believe this happened but next thing you know we were ordering take out for a picnic in the car. We didn't want to go home and eat and head out again.

After a lovely meal of salad, breadsticks, {lasagna, fettuccini alfredo, and chicken parmigiana,} aka Tour of Italy, we tackled Staples, with the two chocolate mousse cakes looming in the near future upon returning home. A sweet reward after lots of teacher shopping but I'll def be back to healthier foods and working out after this delcious splurge! If we weren't picnicking it may have looked like this lol! 

Would you believe my trunk of stuff to take to work this week? It's like teacher hoarderville in there. There's some goodies from the Target dollar deals aisles, table legs, and professional development books in a bag from my Master's and reading conference, plus all the loot I bought above. Don't you just love the Dr. Seuss bags Target offers each year? They are great for students to keep borrowed books in (and besides their clear Ziploc bags need replacing by March) and it makes a great surprise gift for my students for Dr. Seuss week. 

I hope you have a great start to your new school year and that you check out the awesome sale going on over at TpT where Back to School Sales be poppin'. If you click the image below it will take you to my store where you can get up to 28% off my products. Don't forget to use the code BTS14 to get the site wide discount on top of my discount. 

I'm in the middle of trying to update my products to have eye-catching covers, and more color but it doesn't change the great content you might find useful in your classroom. My top seller is my Phonemic Awareness and Decoding Inventory for struggling readers. It gives you all the information and data you need in order to make instructional decisions to benefit your students. Plus it's super easy to give! 

Thanks for stopping by my blog and let me know in the comments about your back to school steal and deals!

#tpt14 tpt14 back to school sale

*Graphic from the wonderful Camping Teacher

*This post contains a few links, none affiliates unless you count my TpT store, and I just dropped a lot of brand names, but I was not compensated for this. I really do just recommend them. Maybe they'll find me, feed me and give me gift cards? A girl can dream. :)