Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Putting It Together

Today will basically just be pictures and descriptions of what I got done today. We all like those type of blog posts best anyway, right? Of course right. (Wow! Two musical references in one post already. Only the oober musical theatre nerds will get them.)

This is my Learning Targets pocket chart. I got the idea from The Organized Classroom Blog. Last year I had my objectives on the whiteboard, but not in the pocket chart. This year, they will still be clearly visible, I can still easily refer to them, but they are not going to take up so much space! I need to redo the Science one. It doesn't make sense.

Next to the objectives I put together a little landscape. This is for our Social Studies units. In fifth grade we cover American history from its beginnings to present. My plan is to start off by asking the students what they think the land looked like before people lived on it. My guess is they will add trees and animals. Then we will create Native American settlements, a Colonial town, a town going through the Revolution, the Civil War, etc. I will take pictures for each unit, and we can watch how the landscape, people, and buildings change over time. I need to add border to this board, and then it will be done. I purchased some more of the bubble rainbow border, and it should arrive next week. In keeping with my rainbow theme, I wanted to keep the borders the same inside the classroom to give it a more unified feel.

Whole Brain Teaching! This is the Super Improvers Team, the Five Rules, and the pocket chart for my daily schedule.

Every Student gets a card to hold stickers for improvement in academics and behavior. When they get ten stickers, they move up to the next color level. I'm excited to give this a go. To learn more about it and other WBT ideas, visit here.

And this is just a close up of the rules and the pocket chart.

I got so much accomplished today! I also had a great meeting with my team about literacy. I am excited for this upcoming year. Every day I get a little more done and a little more excited to see those cute faces. 

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Crayon Art

Okay, so we've all seen the plethora of melted crayon art on Pinterest, right? Right. Well, I thought I'd take a whack at it and put something together for my classroom because it works so well with my theme, and it seemed simple enough. I won't take you through all the steps because there are other blogs with better tutorial descriptions. I didn't follow any of those; I just kinda did my own thing.

I started by drawing a light pencil outline of a heart on the edge of the canvas. I sorted the crayons the way I wanted, and then I used a hot glue gun to glue them into place. I ended up using two packs of the 24 count crayons.

I had the brilliant idea to put the canvas in a box to collect the crayon runoff. Otherwise the balcony would have been decorated as well. I used a hair dryer to melt the suckers. I used a combination of hair dryer position as well as holding and tipping the canvas to get the colors to flow in the direction I wanted to. One crayon came off, so I had to heat up the glue gun again to stick her back into place.


I wrote the quote I wanted for my students with sharpie. 

It turned out better than I expected! I'm so excited. Okay! Off to go shopping for more supplies and then back to school for some more organization. Toodles!

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Thrifty Back to School Shopping

Hey guys! Sorry I haven't posted in a few days. I have been very busy working on putting everything in my classroom away. It's been more tiring than I anticipated, but the good news is I only have my filing cabinet and desk drawers left to organize! I also need to have a day where I label every darn thing in my room. This will help me and the students stay more organized. Then I will be able to do fun things like decorating and lesson planning. :) A gal on my team had a great writing idea for the first week of school. I can't wait to share it with you!

I just wanted to show you how much stuff I was able to get for less than $40. You heard me right. Less than $40!!

Here's the haul breakdown: 

30 composition notebooks (50 cents each at Wal Mart)
30 pocket folders, with prongs (15 cents each at Wal Mart)
6 baskets (Dollar Tree)
10 plastic shoebox containers with lids (Dollar Tree)

The composition notebooks will be for interactive notebooks for math, something new I am trying this year. The folders will be for vocabulary words. The baskets hold extra supplies for students like markers, pens, pencils, etc. (Utah doesn't require families to provide supplies for their children, so I like to have extra materials on hand for those kids who don't or can't bring their own stuff.) The shoebox containers now hold my math manipulatives. That was a task and a half getting those things organized!

I will be purchasing more things for school, I am just waiting on some extra funds that should arrive next week. I want to buy more pocket folders and composition notebooks, plus whiteboard markers, Post-its, microfiber cloths for the class iPads....the list goes on and on. 

Stay tuned! 

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Rainbow Shelves!!

As you may or may not know, my theme this year is rainbow colors. I'm super pumped! I've never done a theme before. (I've never spent two consecutive years teaching even in the same state! My advice to any first year teachers, don't do a theme. You'll worry about it more than other important things. Your first year is about survival. Just make it to the end alive!!) I don't have a reason behind this theme other than I've always loved the sequence of the colors, it's simple, it's aesthetically pleasing, and with all the basic colors of the rainbow supplied by the school in butcher and construction paper, I decided to get it going.

Today's post is a combination of three ideas initially found on Pinterest. First I saw this idea two years ago:

It's from Dandelions and Dragonflies' blog. She has amazing ideas! I love her use of colors, and I love how she used bookshelves to separate and organize table groups. So starting in January this year, I bought five bookshelves, one each month, from Wal Mart. The cheapo kind that only cost about $17.

Then, while on a rare perusal on Pinterest <cough, cough>, I found this idea from Little Lovely Leaders:

She does a rainbow theme and bookshelves, but what caught my eye were the paper trays on each set of shelves. She says she puts the day's papers into the baskets so when it's time to get paper x out for science or math or whatever, they are already at each group. No more wasting time passing out papers! I have to admit, I'm really excited about that!

Then I saw these beauties:

I don't know where they originally came from, so if you know, please tell me so I can give that person credit! Aren't they lovely? 

So, combine all the ideas above and what do you get? 

Yay! I only want five table groups. The school didn't have any purple butcher paper, but I decided purple would be the teacher's color. I'll explain how I made these.

The shelves from Wal Mart are only backed with poster board paper, and only one side is black. I stapled the group color onto the side that would be touching the shelves. I lined up and stapled one side at a time cutting off extra as I went along.

Here's the backing of the first one all finished. It looks orange in the picture, but it's red. It's also very ripply. I don't do perfect, remember?

Then I assembled the shelves.

I nailed the back on and voila!

View from the back. Now it will look more uniform and not have that nasty off-white color on the back.

After I completed the first book shelf, I laid everything else out mass production style and went to town!

Here's another picture. Pay no attention to the binder clip at the bottom of the yellow one. The cheap particle board broke, so I put some Gorilla Glue on the pieces and the binder clip is holding them together until they are dry. And they last one is blue not black. I tried to get a better shot. Oh well!

Yay! The rainbow theme is coming together. I was exhausted today, so this is basically all I accomplished. I was able to clean out my math files, though, so that was good. I hope to get back into the room on Friday for more work! Thanks for reading, and have a great day. :)

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Letter to Myself

Hey! Sorry I haven't been posting. I took the weekend off from technology, which is so nice to do sometimes. My room is being cleaned yesterday and today. Yay! And my grandfather is visiting and spoiling the heck out of me. He's so kind. =)

I thought I'd take a few moments to share with you a letter I wrote to myself about this upcoming school year. It was actually an assignment from the Whole Brain Teaching Book Club. Like I said before, I highly recommend reading the book, being involved with the study, and WBT in general. This letter asked us to reflect on two of the seven common teaching mistakes and how we are going to avoid those mistakes this school year.

Dear Meredith,

I know you were convicted by quite a few of those common teaching mistakes, but let’s zoom in on the two that made you cringe. I know it hurts, but trust me, you’ll be a better teacher for addressing these issues.

First, “disorganized teachers breed chaotic classrooms.” Seriously, shoving papers into cabinets, frantically searching for the lesson plan you spent hours on, wading through the sea of materials on the horseshoe table, it’s all got to stop. Not only does it disrupt the flow of your lessons, but it gives your students permission to disengage.

Second, more time needs to be put into your class outside of class. I know you’re exhausted, I know some days you just have to get out of there, but what are you sacrificing in the process? “If you don’t pay the price before you step into the classroom, you’ll pay the price as you fumble through shoddy lessons.”

Here are a few suggestions to help stop the chaos: Label where everything needs to go, and then put things where they need to be right away. Make an end of the day routine to follow after the students leave, and follow it. Things to include in the routine are writing the next day’s learning targets, getting all materials copied and ready, cleaning your teacher spaces, etc. Meredith, you’re really great at creating organizational routines, but not so great at following through with them. These are small, manageable goals that will keep you feeling confident and keep your challenging students away from “CHALLENGING STUDENT HEAVEN.”

You are a great teacher who loves her children. I know you can be an even better teacher who shows her love by implementing harmony through her organization, hard work outside of school, and follow through.

Your friend,


Friday, July 19, 2013

Everyday Counts

Our district requires that we do a daily calendar math program called Everyday Counts. While I hated it at first, I have come to love it. Why? Every single day you do a little bit of a math concept, and then you repeat it. Every. Single. Day. And it cements in the kids' heads. I became a believer when we got to our fraction unit. I had been dreading equivalencies because, for some reason, it's a difficult concept. HOWEVER, because we did a daily decimal for every day of the school year (day one being 0.01, day two 0.02, adding a hundredth each day), and that daily decimal required a fraction and a percent equivalent, we zoomed right on through that portion of our fraction unit. Sold. I began to embrace and love EDC. You can add things to it, make it your own, put a concept in they are struggling with to review every day, you name it. I really enjoy teaching it now.

Every month the elements change a little bit. The patterns on the calendar, the fraction of the day, some months we do measurements, some months mean, median, mode, and range, etc. The worst part is setting up the new month's elements. It takes so much time, but then once it's up, you fly through the month. In preparation for this year, I put all the elements for each month into a zippie bag. I sorted, labeled, zipped, and BAM! I'm ready for EDC this year!

This is the box all the stuff and the book comes in. Idk, I thought you might want to see it.

These are the ginormous zippie bags I found while cleaning out a drawer. They used to hold, can you guess?, desk maps, but I have them stored elsewhere. Try as I may, I couldn't get those stickers off. Oh well! Only I'm going to see them.

I labeled each bag with the month name. The envelopes hold the individual calendar pieces.

This is a picture of the process of sorting through all the stuff, making a list of things I needed to photocopy or laminate, cleaning off old writing from last year, etc.

On the back of each piece I wrote the month or months that element would be needed.

I laminated everything so we could write on them with white board markers.

This is the back of the clock. I wrote the month it is used, and I wrote a tip to myself. The book says to cut out clock hands and move them around, but I thought it was easier to just draw them on.

And there they are! Each month has everything I need. The bag in the drawer has extra pieces and the assessment tool.

Aerial shot. As I'm typing this, I wonder why I didn't write the month on the other side so the "desk maps" stickers would face the back. Oh well. I can easily change that, but not tonight!

And just in case you were wondering, here is part of August's set up. Those pieces, apart from the month and days, stay up all year. I didn't set anything else up yet because I haven't decided if I'm going to use the wall space or the whiteboard for the rest of the elements. I've seen it both ways. If you use EDC, how do you set it up?

Thanks for reading! Keep calm. It's the weekend! Although, talking to another teacher today, I was reminded of this meme. During the summer months, time just melds together for teachers. I can't tell if it's the weekend or Wednesday or what! 

Thursday, July 18, 2013


I tried to think of a more clever title. Obviously I failed.

So I did not come up with this method of border storage. The method came from my master teacher, and I have no clue if it was her own idea or another's. I will say I have seen smarter ways of storing borders, but what can you do if you tossed the plastic baggies they came in? Let me show you the ways....

Look at them! All cute in their rolled-up bundles of happiness! (Note: The binder-clipped borders have magnets attached to the back. I didn't want to damage the magnets, so I just clipped them together. That border spent the last two years on my white board segregating the math portion of our day. I haven't decided if I'm going to use it again this year.) Also, my master teacher had TWO of these containers full of borders. I'm okay just having half of a container. I can slowly add more over time. Plus, I rarely switch borders out. This is a good amount for me!

I don't know if they're happy, but I am happy that they are not flying all over the place now. Here's how to do it with the least amount of tears possible. I learned from experience if I don't do it this way every time, frustration will ensue.

First, I sort the border pieces by size.

Then, STARTING WITH THE LONGEST STRIPS FIRST, I roll them together and secure with a rubber band.

Next, I lay the medium pieces on top of each other, longest on the bottom on up until the smallest piece is on top.

Now I stuff them into the rolled-up strips.

Finally, I stick the last two itty-bitty pieces inside. Why save them? As my master teacher says, "You never know when you'll need just that size." She's right!

So here you can see the two bulletin boards on either side of my whiteboard.

I cut and stapled a top sheet onto each board. (I never use the top sheets, so when I saw people on Pinterest talking about how they use bedsheets for their boards, I grabbed my unused linens and put them to use!)

Isn't it pretty? It isn't perfect, I know. But like I said earlier, I don't do perfect.

I'm excited for my rainbow theme! These borders and my rolly-cabinet help add to the colorful atmosphere I want to create.

Today I also sorted all of my Everyday Counts stuff by month. I'm very excited to have everything all ready to go for each new month of instruction. Stay tuned. I hope to share that organization project tomorrow!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Cleaning and Organizing!

Last year I was hired after the school year had started. After applying to over 300 positions in Washington state alone (my home state) and receiving NO offers, I broadened my search nationwide. I used a great site called Teachers-Teachers. I actually got offered two jobs from postings I found on that site, one in Utah and one in Arizona. I accepted the UT just an hour before AZ called. If you are willing to teach anywhere, sign up on that site! It was very useful to me, and I know of several other teachers who found their jobs with Teachers-Teachers.

Anyway, the room I had last year was small, oddly shaped, and contained no exterior windows, which can be a good thing or a bad thing. A teacher on our team retired this year after teaching for 30 years in the same school! His room was the biggest, so I made my claim on that room, and now it's mine! Mwuahahahaha! Idk, I felt like it needed an evil laugh, probably because the new member of our team now has the small, oddly shaped room. Seniority rules!

Last week was the first week I went back in the building. The last week of school I dumped my stuff in my new room, and the week after I helped my former colleague sort through most of his stuff. We got rid of A LOT. I thought going through what he left behind would be simpler than it was. Warning: These next few pictures are not for the faint of heart. Proceed with extreme caution!

These are the bookshelves I combed through:


I found some gems, some great resources to be passed along to fellow teachers, and I threw out a bunch of old, pages missing, falling apart books, and I had a HUGE pile of donation materials. How huge? I'm glad you asked.
AN ENTIRE ROLLY BIN!! Most of it went to the work room, and people have been picking through the collection and taking what they wanted, bless them! The rest will go to a warehouse our district has that is full of teaching supplies. New teachers get to go and take what they want/need.

I filled seven large trash cans (the big ones they keep in the cafeteria) with outdated materials, ripped posters and maps, and other useless items. Teachers have a tendency to be pack rats, but I want to break the cycle! If it wasn't something I would use and I knew someone else couldn't use, I tossed it. I'm sure a thousand craft projects were wasted, but I hate it when I hold onto materials because I think, "Oooh! This will be wonderful for a decoupaged coffee table that doubles as an interesting conversation starter as well as being educational and intriguing reading material..." because years later I find these materials, and let's face it, those craft projects won't get done. My motto? It's all going to end in fire, so let's throw it out! Seriously, if it's not being used, why hold onto it? I do have things I hold onto for sentimental value, but I need to end my rant.

So, after gleaning what I wanted and storing away things NOBODY is using, but the district spent money on it so we have to keep it, I started organizing the student library.
It looks smaller in this picture than it really is. I sorted by fiction/nonfiction. Then the fiction I sorted by genre and hardcover picture books and paperback picture books. We're in fifth grade. If the picture book didn't fit into some other category, is was sorted by hardness of cover. The nonfiction I sorted by history and science units and other categories like animals, biographies, etc.
Ta-da! The before picture is the second one on this post. Big improvement, right? It's not done. A couple bins are overflowing, but two bins don't have any books, so some more shuffling has to get done. I also need to label the bins (Dollar Store) and the books. I need to make sure all the books have my name. I am going to put stickers on the books according to what bin they belong in. For example, Realistic Fiction took up two bins, so I'll have Realistic Fiction 1 and Realistic Fiction 2. With the mailing labels I got for $2 in a clearance cart at Office Depot (be very jealous), I am going to print off the same title as the bin. So Frindle will have a Realistic Fiction 1 label on it and will go back into the Realistic Fiction 1 bin. 

I am going to create a system with clothespins for the students. They will have three clothespins with their student number on it, they will clip the clothespin onto the bin they got the book out of, and hopefully that will help ensure that each book makes it back to its proper place. 

The little bookcase has all my Dear America books on the top shelf. I will need to find a way for the pins to pin to something for people wanting one of those books. The basket at the top will be the book hospital for lost or broken books. 

I'm so happy with all the organization! The other bookshelves are still works in progress. I hope to do a huge classroom reveal in August complete with before and after pictures. Anyway, thanks for reading! Keep calm because the first day of school is five weeks from today. Breathe! It will all get done. :)