Friday, August 24, 2012

The Classroom is Complete!

The classroom is complete!  As you know, there are three ESL teachers sharing two large classrooms this year. I come from the general education elementary classroom.  I have never had to share a space before and was a little unsure of how it would all work out.  After a week of working on the room, I'm really happy with how it turned out.

The first thing the three of us did was divide the room into thirds.  This way we all had our own space.  Then we used the furniture in the room as dividers.  We tried to build the "walls" as high as possible to give each of us a sense of privacy and our own room.  I didn't take pictures of the other two spaces yet. I'm just getting to know my ESL partners and didn't want to invade their space with my flashing camera.  They don't know how many pictures I take and how attached to my camera I am.......yet.

I took the middle space of the rooms.  I had to get a little creative with creating bulletin boards and spaces for student work.  In the picture above, I covered the back of the bookshelves with butcher paper.  I stuck on some border and taaah-da.......there is my alphabet wall.  The two tables in front of the alphabet wall will be used as a writing area/resource area.  The black bins are labeled with the days of the week. This is where I place all my materials that I will need for each day.  In addition, the bins serve as a resource for teaching students the days of the week.  I don't need a poster because I have my bins.  I love things that serve two or more purposes.  I'm also grateful I saved all of my wall hangings from when I taught first grade five years ago!  I'm now pulling it all back out!  If you notice the lower case letters are highlighted on the alphabet strip.  This is because students in first grade, should recognize and be reminded that they should always use lower case letters.  If they aren't doing it, they should be making the transition.

The blackboards are on a sliding system with tracks, kind of like sliding glass doors.  The blackboard is in pretty bad shape.  I'm not sure how often I will use it.  It might just become a space for me to hang posters and anchor charts.  I did add a border to make it more colorful and pretty.  The green carpet was from my third grade classroom.  I think I will do most of my teaching on the carpet.  I actually prefer to sit on the floor and teach in small groups.  I have my mini white boards and clipboards in bins next to the carpet since this is where I will use them most.

This space is where I placed my table so that I could work with small groups.  Do you see the chairs hiding underneath the table?  Gosh, I sit on them and my knees touch my chin!  I would probably be more comfortable kneeling at the table.  I have pretty long legs, so these chairs aren't great for me. I forgot how tiny K and 1 children are!  The large bookshelf on the bottom is covered with table clothes and stores all of the ESL curriculum materials.  We taped the table clothes on after the velcro wasn't really working.  Then we used thumb tacks because the tape wasn't working.  The thumb tacks did the trick.  My ESL partner purchased the table clothes at the Christmas Tree Shop for about $1.50 each.  I am thinking I might also want to cover the two tan bookshelves as well, but I am not sure with what or how. It's difficult to find a pattern and color that will work well with the pink.  The black piece of furniture is a filing cabinet with the drawers removed.  It's turned so the drawer openings are turned down.  This way both myself and my ESL partner have a magnetic board.

Finally, my desk area.  I have two bulletin boards.  They both extend outwards so that they can be larger, but I thought the square was enough.  The bulletin board to the side of my desk will be used as a space to post resources and information for myself.  The bulletin board behind my desk which currently has a few posters hanging will eventually be used to display student work.  The front of my desk has little cutouts of community helpers.  This will be important when I teach this unit.

This is my materials bin.  I will keep pencils, erasers, markers, crayons, highlighters, scissors, glue, and dry erase markers in here.  Where ever I happen to be working in the room, I can just pick up the materials bin and bring it with me.

How are your classrooms coming along?  Students are back to school on Monday.  I can't wait to meet my new, and wonderful ESL students!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Renting Textbooks = Saving Money

I wanted to quickly blog about this great website that a friend told me about.  It's called BookRenter.  I start classes for my Principal Certification on Monday.  I am taking two classes and needed to purchase four books.  I priced the books at the campus bookstore website and the price was over $200.  This was for used books!  Luckily, these days you can rent textbooks.  I am all for this.  I'm still holding on to undergrad books that I wasn't able to sell back, and I haven't looked at them since those early college years.  What a waste!

After being told about BookRenter, I was ecstatic.  I rented three books for $75.  I purchased the fourth book because it was specific to Pennsylvania and was not available to rent.  You can even decide how long you would like to rent the books for.  Because my courses only run for six weeks, it was less expensive than renting the book for the entire semester.

You are not charged for shipping. In addition, the company will also pay for shipping when you return the books.  Simple!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

A Binder Costs What?!?!?

I know that I have been blogging a lot about binders lately. However, it's only appropriate since I am trying to organize all of my papers for the beginning of the year.  Smart organization in the beginning, saves time, energy, and frustration later.  Do it right the first time......that's my motto.

When I walk into Staples to buy a new binder, I feel like I'm in teacher heaven!  The entire back wall of Staples is filled from floor to ceiling with colorful, interesting, and organized binders.  It's like a dream.

Today I went to Staples to purchase a new binder to match the color scheme of my assessment binder.  I know, it may be a bit extreme, but it's what I do.  It's what helps me sleep at night.  I stood in the middle of Staples staring at this huge wall of color.  Staring....staring....staring......and my mind started to wonder.  I started thinking about all the binders I could purchase and what they could be used for.  I could get one for student papers, another one for home organization, and what about a purple one for professional development resources.  I started pulling binders off the shelves.  Then I froze.  I was paralyzed, eyes staring blankly, mouth hanging wide open. Panic started to fill my entire body.

These are the next couple of thoughts I had during this moment.
  • "You want me to pay what?"  
  • "$10 for a plastic 2 inch binder?"
  • "This binder better perform magic for $10."
While I was having these thoughts, two women who were mothers were having these same thoughts.  Except, their thoughts were out loud.  The first mother had her 10-year old son with her.  Poor kid. He wanted the fancy blue binder.  She said, "I'm not buying you a $10 binder."  The second mother was looking over a blue brochure trying to identify which binders her son, who was not with her, would need and in what colors.  I'm the person who talks to anyone in a store.  I've had numerous conversations with the grocery store checkout lady about how great greek yogurt is.  Well, when I heard these two women making comments, I couldn't help myself.  First I made the "I know, I can't believe how ridiculously overpriced these binders are" comment to the first mother.  With the second mother, we had a conversation about her blue brochure.  She showed it to me. Inside was a list of all the materials her son would need to start the school year.  He would need four different binders, but not just any binders.  He needed a blue binder, an orange binder, a purple binder, and a red binder.  If those colors could not be purchased than a white binder could be substituted.  She had already ran to Wal-mart and purchased the blue and purple binder.  She couldn't find the other colors, so she stopped at Staples.  She found all the colors she needed, but the problem came when she had to decide what size binder.  See, the school did not specify the size....just the color.  I couldn't help myself and told her I was a teacher and I though the brochure was a little much.  I mean, a binder is a binder.  If you want the binders to match the color you assigned to the subject, place a piece of colored duct tape on it.  That works just as well and is less expensive. She was so stressed. There were so many options.  How could she decide what the teacher wanted.  Note to self: As a teacher, always put yourself in the parents shoes!

Anyway, I felt bad that I couldn't help this mother.  Have you ever realized how many binders there are?  Check it out some time.  There are Durable View, Better View, Economy View, Simply View, and Heavy Duty View binders.  There are EZ-turn, D-Ring, Round Ring, EZD Ring, and Slant-D binders.  There are binders classified by their durability such as Light Use, Frequent Use, and Max Performance.  There are Eco-Conscious and Recycled binders.  There are .5 inch, 1 inch, 1.5 inch, 2 inch, 3 inch, 4 inch, and 5 inch binders.  Every one of those binders are offered in numerous colors. You can imagine the panic in the mother who found an orange binder in just about every one of the choices listed above.  

I went with the 2-inch Heavy Duty, EZD-Ring Binder in Periwinkle.  $10.99 later, I was a happy teacher ready to put together my assessment binder.  See pictures below.  You can download the binder pages at my TPT store.

Assessment Binder Cover Page

Assessment Binder Spine Labels and Divider Labels

Happy teaching and good luck on your search for a great binder!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

The Complete Teacher Binder

Ok, so I wasn't happy with just the Teacher Binder Cover page.  I needed to add some more "organization" to it all.  Last night, I worked on adding the Divider Pages and Binder Tab Labels.  You can find it at my TPT store.  Check it out HERE.

Teacher Binder Cover Page
Teacher Binder Tab Labels

Teacher Binder Divider Pages
Teacher Binder Spine Labels

But don't worry, if you only want the Cover Page and Spine Inserts, you can still download them for free HERE.

I organize my Teacher Binder in a very easy way.  There are a few sections, and I only store the MOST important information that I will need whether I am sitting at my desk, in the teachers lounge, or working from home.

  1. District Information - I keep all district calendars and dates of assessments here.  Anything I get from a professional development, I store in another folder elsewhere.  I might also keep important phone numbers within the district that I may need.
  2. Schedule - I keep my classroom schedule in this section.  My students are pulled throughout the day for services, so I make a master schedule of this and place it here (You can find a picture of what this looks like below).  My Guided Reading group schedule is here.  I keep a master copy of the condensed schedule for Early Dismissal and Delays here. 
  3. Medical Information - In the beginning of the year, I make a list of all students who have special medical needs.  I list their names and what their medical needs are.  
  4. Class Roster - Do I need to explain this?
  5. Pacing Guides - A copy of the state standards are placed in another binder. Here is where I store the pacing guides provided by the district.  This is the key for my lesson plans.
  6. Lesson Plans - I store up to three weeks worth of lesson plans in the my binder.  Then I move them to a larger binder.  I don't want this binder, which I tend to take home with me every night, to become bulky.  
  7. Substitute Information - In the past, teachers were responsible for securing their own subs. I kept a list of all the subs I liked to use with their phone numbers and e-mail addresses.  This year, my district is moving to an automated system.  I don't know much about it yet, but I will keep all phone numbers here.
  8. Other - Anything that I may need but doesn't fit into one of the categories above, here is a space for it.

My Master Schedule - Listed are the students who are pulled out for services.

That's it!  Like I said, my binder is only 1 inch.  I keep just the essentials here.  I think it's important to weed out anything that you won't need on a daily basis or in an emergency.  

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Let the Organizing Begin!

Heading back to school in two weeks means I am getting my folders, binders, and classroom organized. It's one of my favorite parts about back to school. I might have mentioned this before, but in another life, I would have been a professional organizer!

I'm moving in a few weeks, and I have already started packing. Packing up my apartment doesn't just mean placing things in boxes with bubble wrap. Oh no! It means grouping items, wrapping them neatly in newspaper, packing them tightly in a box, and (my favorite part) labeling the box where it should be placed in the new home. All the labels are color coded and placed on two specific places on the box. One label is placed on the side of the box right in the middle. The second is placed on the front of the box in the upper left hand corner. I also try to label what is in the box the best that I can. My office gets a yellow tag, living room is pink, bedroom is orange, basement is purple, attic is brown, closet is green, and kitchen gets a blue label. Then all of those boxes are stacked neatly in my living room and grouped by the colored label. I'm not kidding. Take a look (ALERT: Poor picture quality, taken with my "old school" iPhone 3GS).

As I prepare for the start of school, one item I have to get organized is my Teacher Binder. My Teacher Binder is everything to me.  Without it, I would be completely lost.  In my Teacher Binder, you will find my weekly lesson plans, a class roster, state/core standards, schedules, substitute registry information, medical information, etc.  This year I will be teaching ESL which will require me to pull groups of students from various classrooms throughout the day, so I know it will be critical for me to be organized and know exactly where I need to be and when.  I do not want to be "that" teacher who shows up ten minutes late to pick up her students.

As I work on my Teacher Binder, I will post the downloads to my TPT store. Here is the cover page for my binder this year.  You can find it HERE at my TPT store for free! I will ask that if you download the Teaching Binder Cover Page that you rate my product and leave some feedback.  It would be greatly appreciated!

Teacher Binder with a Jungle Theme

I also finished my desk today.  I really don't have much of a theme this year in my classroom.  I am just working on the classroom being extremely bright and stylish!  I hope you notice those beautiful Mod-Podge drawers in the background, and the Duct Tape project on my desk.

My Teacher Desk

I would love to hear how your organize your lesson plans and such.  Link up and leave some ideas below or on my Facebook page.  

Good luck to you as you start your school year!

And remember.........

Monday, August 13, 2012

The Back to School Unpacking

It was back to school for me today! I finally moved all of my belongings over to my new classroom in my new building. This year I will be a Cheston Elementary School Cougar. I will be teaching ESL this year. From what I understand, the building primarily uses a pull-out approach. There are three ESL teachers in the building, me being one of them.

The building is pretty old so there is no air conditioning. My nephew Donavin and I sweated it out in a 90 degree room. While I have been pretty spoiled over the past couple of years in a building that was completely gutted and renovated with A/C, I am kind of excited to get back to my "roots". My "roots" are Scott School in Harrisburg, PA. It's the kinda school with hot, humid, heat and critters that crawl around and might surprise you from time to time. It's the building where you don't bring any food into the room for fear it might be gone or nibbled on overnight.

The two other teachers and I are sharing two classrooms. The two classrooms have a divider that can be opened and closed as needed. We will keep the divider open and share these two large classrooms. We are pretty lucky to have such a large space. I have never shared a classroom before, so I am excited to see the results once we have it all set up. Here are the BEFORE photos.

Now, don't panic.  That's not all my stuff.  Remember I am sharing the room with two other teachers!  There is so much we can do with this space.  Wait for the AFTER photos!

Today, I worked on unpacking and putting things away in my desk. I wanted a desktop organizer.  When I went to Target, everything was silver, black, or tan.  Since I don't work in a business office, I wanted something with a bit more flavor.  For some reason, I am really into the bright colors this year.  It really isn't like me, but it's fun.  I've been wanting to do a project with duct tape, but I wasn't sure what.  Finally, something!  Donavin picked out the bright pink duct tape, and I picked out the lamp.  The lamp was my splurge item this year.  It wasn't a good deal, but it was on sale!

Duct Tape Project

What can you do with duct tape?

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Crayola Cups....Share Ideas!

I love the clearance section of any store. I get all giddy when I see a good deal. However, it has to be a good deal. I once got a $125 dress for $5. That's a deal! I once got a pair of $60 heels for $6. That's a deal! I once found a $250 Cricut cutter for $200. Not a deal!

Today at Wal-mart, I found these little treasures!  They were 89 cents each in the clearance section.  I bought one of each color.  I wanted to buy more, but they weren't that great of a deal!  When something is on clearance, I want it to be dirt cheap!

Crayola Crayon Cups
Sorry for the picture quality.  It was taken with my iPhone in my kitchen, as you can tell from the George Foreman Grill in the background!  
Now, I have these great materials, what do I do with them besides the obvious of using them to hold crayons?  If you have any ideas, please post them below or on my Facebook page.

Well I'm off to bed.  I'm picking up my moving man, aka my nephew Donavin, and moving into my new classroom tomorrow at 8am!  I will post "before" pictures.

Friday, August 10, 2012

I'm Addicted to Hobbies!

I am a hobbyaddict.  For those of you who know me well, know exactly what I am talking about. My parents can probably speak to this best.  Hobbyaddict is not a real word.  I already tried googling it. But it's a word that describes me very well.

I am known to try a new "hobby" and then a few months later, never talk about it again.  Let me list them for you.

  • Vegetarian - yes, I considered this to be a hobby.  In high school, for a short time, I lived off of white rice until I crumpled at Wendy's for a cheeseburger.
  • Guitar - I did this for a few months after college.  I had to get a guitar for Christmas.  The only thing I learned during my short days of playing was how to play a random string of notes that had my cat hiding underneath the couch.
  • Witches and Witchcraft - This was interesting.  I also read a lot about psychics and mediums. I read so many books on the topic I thought I could predict my own future. 
  • Cupcakes - Still a hobby that I love to do, but boy did I dedicate a lot of time and money into this one.  
  • Running - So I might not have ever been a marathon runner, but I have many cute Nike running shorts to show that this was once a hobby.
  • Clean Eating - This was a fad just this summer.  I was eating only raw food.  I once again couldn't hold out and treated myself to some Rita's Italian Ice.
  • Photography - Still love taking pictures.  My camera is always at my side.  However, there was a time that I was entering photo contests and taking picture of random trees and calling it "art".
  • Painting - I have no business being a painter, but I do have tons of paint and paint brushes stored at my apartment.
Ok, so maybe these aren't all hobbies.  Maybe the more appropriate term for these tasks are fads.  I once thought my parents weren't supportive of the new hobbies I had taken on.  I saw the eye rolls.  But, as an adult I now completely understand. They knew, just as I do now, that it will be my interest for a few months at most before I move onto the next thing.  And just in case they are reading this, my parents always supported my crazy hobbies.  I know that one day when I have children, I will be repaid.

The new hobby that I have recently taken on is one that I saw on Pinterest. It's called Mod Podging.  Have you ever used mod podge? It's by far, the best tool a crafter could have in their toolbox.  It's AMAZING!  

I have two of those Sterling drawer storage bins that I keep in my classroom and store all of my stickers, markers, and other random items.  It was pretty beat up after seven years.  I saw on Pinterest you can use mod podge to attach scrapbook paper to it and make it look pretty.  

I also have a box that was given as a gift.  The box wasn't the gift.  That would be silly.  The gift was the four bottles of wine in the box.  After the wine was gone, I couldn't decide what to do with the box.  So, just as I do with shoe boxes, I stored it in my closet in case I would ever need it.  Along came mod podge, and the box turned into a fantastic, stylish box that I can store my fancy, shiny bracelets in.  I'm currently using an old perfume box to store them in so this is a major upgrade.

What do you think of the before and after photos?

If you are like me, then you are a messy crafter.  I'm the teacher that leaves school every day with her hands covered in magic marker.  I wear a lot of black dress clothes which is great for showing chalk dust handprints.  I am not any neater when it comes to mod podging either. I was covered in the sticky glue.  To keep you cleaner and more patient, here are some tips:
  • Cut all of the pieces you will need from the scrapbook paper first.
  • You will need a credit card to smooth out the bubbles once you apply the mod podge.  Use an old gift card that has expired.  Mine was ruined from the glue.
  • Have a paper towel handy to wipe your hands of mod podge.  Don't worry, it peels off of your skin once dry.
  • Cover your work area with wax paper.  If your item gets glued to it, it easily peels off.
  • Don't worry about making mistakes.  Mod podge dries clear.
  • If it's your first time using the product, be patient and take your time.  Both of my projects took a lot of time. However, it's getting easier and quicker with each project.
  • Foam brushes work really well for applying mod podge.  Bonus: they're inexpensive.
All three projects cost a total that was less than $10.  The Mod Podge can be bought at any craft store. I bought mine at Hobby Lobby for $4.99.  The entire jar lasted through all projects.  The cheapest scrapbook paper I have found was also at Hobby Lobby for $0.59 per sheet. Buy the large pieces of paper, and not the standard size.  Hobby Lobby also runs great sales that will help you save money.

The only real hobby I have ever stuck with is teaching.  I guess I'm pretty lucky to have turned a hobby into a career.  Teaching: My hobby, My Career, My Passion!

Happy Mod Podging!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Blogstorm, Blogsnob, Blogophobia

Blogosphere - The internet blogging community.

It's out there.  It's huge!  

When I first started blogging, I thought each blogger just posted their thoughts, feelings, and ideas on a website for all to read.  This is true.  But really, it's so much more than that.  There is a whole BLOGOSPHERE out there.  As I started to read other blogs and really get into what blogging was all about, I realized that blogging is a hobby, a lifestyle, a way of life. 

Yes, I am a blogger (a person who blogs). I write posts (individual articles that make up a blog) as often as I can. Piles of Pencils is an Edu-blog (an education oriented blog). I am not yet a blogoholic (addicted to blogging). My blogiversary (my blog birthday) is next July. I was recently introduced to blog hopping (jumping from one blog to another). 

These are all terms that bloggers used. You can find more blog terms here. You may be shocked by how many terms are out there that are associated with blogging.  I told you, it's much more than just an online journal.  

Third Grade is the Place for Me is hosting a Newbies Bloggers Blog Hop for new bloggers.  It helps new bloggers connect and network.  There are so many great blogs out there, and this is a great way to learn more about it.  

Part of linking up to other bloggers, is to share a little bit about yourself.  

1. What state are you in?  Pennsylvania
2. Your current teaching position. ESL (English as a Second Language)
3. Your teaching experience. Three years in 1st Grade. Four years in 3rd grade.
4. When you started blogging. I started blogging just a few weeks ago!
5. Share a blogging tip.  A great way to network is to leave comments and ask questions on other blogs.

I hope you link up and continue blog hopping with other educators!  Good Luck!