Saturday, August 31, 2013

Teacher tip :: Shutterfly photo albums

I'm enjoying my final weekend before school starts, and I wanted to share something that I started using last year and ended up just LOVING!  It's an awesome way to connect with parents, and to give them a peek into your classroom.  

I set up an account on Shutterfly and found that it was the perfect way to share photos with parents.  I love the idea of a classroom blog, but I already have this blog and a family blog, so I just can't think of managing another one.  This solution is quick and easy, and my parents really liked it!  Score!

In case you're curious how this works and are wondering how to get it all set up for you (it's super simple!), here are the steps to follow:

1. Create an account on Shutterfly.  I already had an account for my own personal photos, but I used my school e-mail address to create a second account.  This account is only used for school photos.

2. Once you have your account, you can create new folders by uploading photos at any time.  I tried to upload photos once or twice a month to share with parents.  I kept it really simple and used the date as each folder's title. 

3. You will need to get an e-mail address from each parent that would like the photos sent to them.  The address book on Shutterfly is easy to use.  You'll enter each e-mail address, and then I like to put them all in a group so that when I go to share my photos, all I have to do is click on that group and it will include everyone.

4. When you're ready to share your photos, follow these steps!
It will allow you to type a short message to go along with the album you are sharing, and will also send you the same e-mail that it sends to everyone else.  I always liked that because it allowed me to see what the parents were seeing when they got my photo e-mails.

It's all super simple and I got very positive feedback last year from my parents.  They loved it because it gave them a peek at what we were doing at school and they were able to order any of the photos they wanted to keep using their own Shutterfly accounts.  If they don't have their own accounts on Shutterfly, they can still view the photos, but won't be able to save or order them.

I send this form home at the beginning of the year for parents to fill out.  I also make note that they have the option of not having photos of their children posted.  Last year, none of my parents had a problem with fact, every single family wanted the photos shared with them.  
(click the image to grab this from Google Drive)

Shutterfly has no idea who I am. :)  This is not an incentive-driven post.  It's just something that I happen to love, and wish my own kids' teachers would do!  It motivates me to take lots of photos of my students, and is a great way to keep parents connected with what's happening at school.  Win-win!  

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Open House treat for students

I decided yesterday that I wanted my students to have a special treat, just for them, to take home from tonight's open house.  Since I teach at Blue Star Elementary, I stuck with the STAR theme, and made this little treat tag.

And then I just put some starburst candies in a snack-size ziploc bag and stapled the tag to the front.

I put them in a cute basket and will set them out at open house tonight.

Nothing fancy, but I think my new crew will love having a special treat.  And I love any chance that I can remind them that I'm so glad I get to be their teacher!

If you'd like to grab these tags for free, click HERE.  They could easily be used with any treat at any time of the year!

I'm excited to see my bunch tonight and am looking forward to my open house...even though it's an 85 degree, super humid Michigan day, with no air conditioning in my classroom!!  We'll have fun!

Monday, August 26, 2013

48 hours...

48 hours before open house and I decide to repaint my classroom picnic table.  I painted it last-minute last summer to make it fun! (See that brown color??  That's the color it was before.)  The bright color seriously brought this sweet thing back to life!  

BUT...I wasn't smart last summer.  I didn't put anything on it to seal or protect it.  Therefore, it bears scars from matchbox cars, pencil pokes, play food dings, and who knows what else???

 SO...I spent my night painting over those war wounds, and tomorrow I'll seal it. 

Hopefully it will help to protect it this year from my crazy Kindies!!

I just wish I weren't doing this 48 hours before open house.  Oiye.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Books, books, and more books...

Oh. my. word.  I spent yesterday morning and part of today in books up to my eyeballs!  My teacher stash of read-alouds had gotten so unorganized.  Organizing my books was also on my to-do list LAST summer, but I never did it, so it was a MUST before school started this year.  It got so bad that last year I had to get read-alouds from my teaching partner because I know I have this book but I just can't seem to find it anywhere!  Bad.  And, even though I had all of June and July to work on it, OF COURSE I waited until the week before school starts to finally get it done.  BUT....I did it!  Finally!  It's done....well, almost... ;)

This was my mess mid-project yesterday.  Books everywhere!!!

I have this great cabinet that holds all of my read-aloud books.  It closes and the kids know that those books are for my hands only!  I forgot to take a "before" pic, but it was just random places that didn't make any sense or have any order to it at all!  Drove me nuts!

I got these book boxes (actually, they are called magazine files) from Amazon so that I could {finally} know just where to look for the books I needed.  And I got to work.  When I started, I still wasn't exactly sure of the system that I wanted to use, but I figured out that, for me, it makes the most sense to organize them alphabetically by title.  I most often think of a book by it's title, so this way I'll know just where to look for it.  I also sorted some books out by author or main character (Pigeon, Splat the Cat, etc).

And then there are my holiday and seasonal books.  I actually had organized those at one point....maybe last summer???....and they are stored in a nearby closet because there isn't space for them in my book cabinet.  Which leads to the next discussion of how I probably have way more books than I need.  I parted with some during this process, but obviously have a problem parting with any book that I might want to read again at some point.  I have a very hard time giving books away!

(Total sidenote here, but it makes me think of the stash of board books I have in my basement storage area at home because I will need them for my grandchildren one day, and they are just so gosh darn sweet!  My hubby thinks it's crazy, but he's surrendered.  My kids are 6 and 4, people.  They will NOT be having babies anytime soon...and by soon I mean the next 20 years.  Whatever.) and seasonal books.  They are staying put.  No room for them in the inn.

TRIPLE YIKES.  This here is the full photo of the closet.  I won't be getting to that this summer.  Close the door and forget about it!

 By the time I left yesterday, my chaos had turned to this!
 It's organized and pretty!  Stories just waiting to be enjoyed!  AND, I was able to find so many duplicate copies of books that will find a new home in my reading corner.

Okay, okay, so I do have these {few} books that I still have to find homes for.  Some will go to my reading corner, some to my leveled book cart, and some to the donate pile.  But boy do I feel better about my book situation!

This morning, I added labels to the boxes.

 I do have one theme box for farm books because that is the field trip we take each Spring and I wanted them to be handy come May.  The rest are organized alphabetically.

Phew!  It's done!

What big project did you tackle over the summer that will make your life so much easier this school year???

Sunday, August 18, 2013

TPT Back to School Sale!!

I'm sure you've heard that TPT has a big sale going on!

What a FUN time to load your cart at TPT.  Once August hits, my mind is constantly juggling plans for the year ahead.  This is such an exciting time of year!

Click here if you'd like to head over to my store.  I'll have 20% off everything!

Happy shopping!!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Thursday giveaway??? Yes, please!!

Hi y'all!
(I'm allowed to say that today since I'm teaming up with some fab Texas bloggers for a fun giveaway.)

You know my friend Nicole from Rowdy in Room 300, right?  If not, you definitely should!  I think she's superhuman with the adorable fonts, products, and crafts that she comes up with...and being a mom and teacher on top of it all...but boy do I just love her to pieces!!  She totally inspires and amazes me!

Anyway, she is giving away this adorable children's book, and was so sweet to invite me to be part of the giveaway too!
You can visit her blog to find out more about the book -- it looks like one that your students will love!  She has a freebie on her blog too that you'll want to hop over and grab!!

In addition to the book, there are a few other fun things that you can win too!

Diandra from The Idea Hub is giving away a few back-to-school items. These look awesome for the beginning of the school year!

And I am giving away my new Brown Bear pack.  I am planning to do a more detailed post about it soon, but this will be in my plans during the first few weeks of school, and I'm so excited about it!

What a FUN little surprise on a Thursday, huh?!?  Someone is going to walk away with some great back-to-school resources.
Enter using the rafflecopter below!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Tour My Classroom Tuesday

I'm joining the fun of Blog Hoppin's Teacher Week again today with a tour of my classroom!

I don't start school for three more weeks, so my classroom is pretty bare bones right now.  I do have a 3-day camp for my Kindies this week, so most of the basics are there, but all of my finishing touches won't be in place until closer to the start of the school year.  My class list is bound to change yet before the year begins, so most things don't have names on them yet.

Even though it's not all finished, I'm happy to show you around and give you a tour of my room!

 We call this our "carpet area".  This is where we do most of our whole-group learning.  The calendar gets set up on the bulletin board in the corner, and this is where my projector and screen are.  

This is my small-group, teacher-directed learning area.  I moved the word wall here last year and have the words on magnets so that kids can remove them from the wall and take them to their seats if they'd like to.  Not sure why I'm missing chairs at this table -- my classroom is missing several chairs right now!  I'd love to get stools for this table eventually.  You can see part of my "reading corner" on the right side of the picture and my teacher desk is to the left.

This hangs right next to my classroom door as a sort of "check in/check out" every day.  For the first part of the year I use first names, then I switch to last names, and then to birthdays.  They set on the table by the door each morning, and my students put them in the chart as they enter the room.  It's a super easy way for me to see who is at school and who isn't.

This is the view from my classroom door toward the front of the room.

And this is the view toward the back of the room.  You can see another table in the corner that I use for small groups.  

Here is my teacher desk area.  I finally cleaned out my filing cabinet and organized the shelves behind my desk last week.  It was long overdue.  I still have a few piles of things needing homes, but it's all SO much neater than it was before!

The view toward the back of the room from the front of the room.

My kitchen area for free choice time.  Always a favorite!

My students are the only ones in the building without lockers in the hall.  I have this coat corner area built into my room.  The door leads right out to the playground.  Sometimes I can't handle the mess in this area, but I really do love the convenience of it.

Thanks so much for visiting!  I'll be posting more pics as I add finishing touches to the room!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Meet the Teacher Monday

I'm not quite feeling the back-to-school crunch yet, but I am going to join the fun and link up with Blog Hoppin's Teacher Week!  

Today's topic is great because I have learned so many fun things about the bloggers I love to follow.

1. I am married to my high school sweetheart (he played football and I was a cheerleader....a perfect match!) and we have two awesome kids.  Trey is 6 and entering 1st grade.  Rowan is 4 and will be in pre-school this year.  They are very different -- Trey is reserved and a rule-follower while Rowan is strong-willed and unpredictable -- but they are both equally terrified of dogs!  Silly kids.  John and I feel very blessed!

Ummm....must be time for a family photo because I can't find a nice one of all four of us together!

2. I love breakfast and MUST eat a good breakfast before beginning my day.  My favorite thing to eat for breakfast during the school year is oatmeal.  Filling and delicious!

3. I love the beach and hot summer weather!  Our summer in Michigan this year has been a little on the cool side - like mid-70's.  Really nice for being outside, but not exactly beach weather.  I live about 15 minutes from beautiful Lake Michigan, and I'm hoping that we can fit in a couple beach days yet before we head back to school!

4. I'm a reality TV junkie.  I love Survivor, The Amazing Race, Project Runway, The Voice...the list goes on and on!!

5. I love the movie Girls Just want to Have Fun!  I've loved it since I was young, and still watch my old VHS of it from time to time.

6. My favorite children's book author is Kevin Henkes.  My favorite book of his is probably Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse, but I love all of his books!

7.  I don't spend much time reading aside from blogs, teaching-related books, and the occasional People magazine.  BUT...I read 3 fun novels over the summer and I enjoyed them so much.  Maybe someday when I have more time, reading will become one of my favorite hobbies.

8. Gerber daisies are my favorite flower.  They are so bright and cheerful in their bold, fun colors!

9. I don't care for juice or milk, and I don't drink much water is almost always my beverage of choice!  I LOVE a glass of ice-cold water and bring water with me almost everywhere I go!

10.  I am a fast walker and a loud talker.  I love to sing and my favorite color is green.  I'm suuuuper afraid of mice and bats.  I'm easily excitable, but I also like to think that I'm pretty laid back.  And I'm thankful to have 3 more weeks of summer to enjoy!!

Head on over to Blog Hoppin' to learn about other fun bloggers!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Oh my. Yikes. Bleh.

I've been in my classroom twice over the past few days.  Every time I walk in, I get this feeling.  I'm sure you've had it too.  It's this feeling of OH MY.  And YIKES.  And BLEH.  Because while I really do love all the excitement of back-to-school, I really dislike walking through my classroom door and seeing this table of supplies needing to be put away.

And this counter FULL of books that I hoped would organize themselves over the summer.

And this faded word wall that I promised I'd re-do before August.

So, what do I do when I find myself overwhelmed by my own classroom???
I build towers with my daughter, of course!
 This was the most productive thing I accomplished on yesterday's visit, and the only thing that I started and actually finished.

BLEH.  Double and triple BLEH.

I know that once I finish all of the less fun jobs, I get to move on to the fun stuff!

I have students coming next week for a before-school science camp.  

 Between now and next Tuesday I must. tackle. the. mess.