Caution: Work Zone

We finally were allowed back in our classrooms this week - although I don't think our principal anticipated how many of us would want to be back. We have twenty-four teachers grades 1-5, and at least six of us showed up and started working on our rooms for a few days this week. A few others stopped in just to grab something too. It is four weeks before school starts, so I kind of understand why she wasn't expecting so many of us, but I have so much to do!

I think I've mentioned it already, but this year I am changing grades and rooms. Lots of work - especially since the room I've been put in has seen a number of teachers in the last few years and has amassed quite the collection of things. We're talking teachers' guides, manipulatives, games, programs, anything and everything under the sun. Other teachers in my building tell me I should keep it, but I ended up getting rid of a lot of it. I don't follow the 'you never know if you could use it' belief system that many teachers do. My thoughts are more along the line of - if you think it's going to be stuffed in the closet (which I don't have) all year long, get rid of it. I did keep a number of things, but only things I know that I'll use.

One thing I found while cleaning/organizing my things...

... one of my little friend's erasers! I had to smile when I found it because I was just posting about it. You'll notice the lovely pencil holes, the chunks missing (from biting it?), and all the pencil marks around the holes. Quite the effective eraser.

This week, I've been working to tackle the ambiance of the room. A fancy word for what I hope will be a fancy room. Below are pictures of what I had to work with. Depending on what side of the room I look at, I feel like I'm in two completely different rooms. This isn't exactly how it started off, but close. We had already taken down some borders and moved desks around by the time I took these pictures.

This side of the room makes me feel like I'm in a different decade! That orange cabinet and that orange counter back... and the red shelves! Yikes! Not to mention the yellow butcher paper everywhere!
Would you have guessed this is part of the same room? Well it is! If I understood the previous teacher correctly, some of these walls were already covered when she got in which is why none of the panels match...

Well, I went in on three days this past week, and I have to say that I didn't get too much done until the last day. The first two days were mostly spent taking things down on one side and debating how much money I want to put into redoing the walls. (In case you are wondering, I found fabric at a amazingly low price - some at Wal-Mart and some at Hobby Lobby - and ended up getting enough for most of the walls.) The last day, I was finally ready to start putting up the fabric on the mismatched wall. My grandma has also been helping me get things ready. She's been tackling those interesting red shelves. In all reality, they may not have been so terrible if they matched the look I am going for.

We've been covering the shelves with wood contact paper. This is where my library will be.
The mismatched wall now matches! I still need to put borders up though. The other wall will have a similar color.
Not much progress here, but you can see the shelves in the background, and we're covering the orange cabinets with the wood contact paper.

I haven't done too much more this week. My poor pup has been sad that I've been at school all day, so when I get home, I spend time with him - or nap. One thing I did do is my school supply list. I'm so excited for it! It's not even that exciting, but I got the idea last year and it was too late to use it. Now I can! I don't know about you, but the kids in my school show up with various combinations of what is written on the school supply list. Just about everyone has something missing. I tried to encourage kids to bring in missing materials, but since it was my first year, I'll admit I wasn't always the most organized with that kind of thing. This year, I'm sending home slips asking parents to send in the missing supplies.

I'm sure this will work better than what I did last year - since I did nothing last year - but we'll see how much better it works. This list is tailored to my school supply list, but if you'd like to use it, feel free! You can download it by clicking here. If you'd like a copy without the little owl, shoot me an email. I made her the other day and think she's so stinkin' cute! She'll be on my name tags, also!

More projects to come! Leave some comment love!

More Summer Projects

Like I mentioned, I've been keeping myself busy this summer by creating little odds and ends for my class. Here are some more of the projects I've been working on.

Last year was my first year implementing the Daily 5 in my room. I loved it, but there were certain choices that ran smoother than others. In my class, the problem choices were Word Work and Read to Someone. Word Work was a pretty easy fix. The kids would all congregate around the 'cool' manipulatives and chat. All I had to do was enforce the rule: only one child per item. This helped them spread out and make better use of their time. Read to Someone was more difficult to fix, and I think the reason is because I didn't hit it hard enough at the beginning of the year. This summer, I made those cute little Check for Understanding check marks that they talk about in the book.
Here it is with our
little classroom owl friend.

I was also inspired by - wait for it - a Pinterest picture I saw online! I know, hard to believe! The original post came from Amanda at One Extra Degree. I just customized it with my own look and feel. The fonts are a big mess of fonts that I've collected over the last two or three years. I'm a font hoarder.

My favorite part about them is that they match my classroom theme! Yes, I'm that obsessive! I backed each of the check marks with some heavy crafting cardstock, and I sent them through the laminator in hopes that they will last just a teensy bit longer! The finished product is adorable! I made one for each of my students. They'll be able to put them in their book boxes. Or I might have them just come and get one when they do Read to Someone. It feels safer to me
My theme is the forest,
but I end up using a lot
of owls and squirrels!
for some reason! You never know what happens in those book boxes! It always feels like everything in there is wrinkled!
I used a bunch of different craft papers
to liven them up a bit!

Cross your fingers for me that they last well into the year - and even into future years. Laminating a bajillion check marks and cutting them out is not the most thrilling activity. I'm super nervous because my friends from last year were very rough on our materials, and since I'm working with the same group of friends (well, only a handful that where in my class last year, but I'm moving up with the grade of students), I can only imagine that it will be the same. :(

The other project that I will post today is a lot simpler, and I love where I got the idea from: my own frustration! :)

I present to you - erasers!

Like most supply lists, ours includes this item - my arch nemesis. Those pink erasers make me miserable. My friends see them as their own little space to graffiti. They poke holes in them, they draw designs on them, they poke holes to create designs on them! They color them with permanent markers. And worst of all, they play with them! I can't tell you how many times a week I have to take erasers away from my friends! One day, I was so frustrated with one of my little friends that I took his away permanently. He never used it for erasing so I didn't see the point of him having it. Maybe that's terrible, but that's what happened. In my rage, I did the unthinkable! I became one of my little friends and started playing with it myself! I cut it into tiny pieces! Well, just four. After I did it, I looked at the pieces and thought, 'hm, I kind of like these!'

That's right, just by cutting it up, that annoying pink eraser turned into four tiny, less distracting erasers. I snuck the pieces into the supply baskets at one of my more rowdy tables, and, low and behold, my friends started using the erasers - to erase! I was amazed! It was marvelous! It really was, especially since we had one friend in the room that liked to chew erasers off of pencil tops. Actually, it was the same friend that inspired me to take his eraser and cut it up into pieces! Anyway, gone were the endless requests for erasers because the students started using the erasers that they had and just chose not to use!

Point of the story - I was at Target the other day and I saw that these guys were on sale. I know they're on the school supply list and my friends will bring them in, but you
never know how quickly erasers will go or how students will use them. Or how many friends will actually read the school supply list. So I decided to buy a handful, about 2 bucks worth, and cut them up. I also found some of those eraser caps at the Dollar Store for, well obviously, $1. I got a few of those as options, too. I'm hoping that if I offer them as a choice in my room my friends will stop stealing them from each other and complaining that they lost theirs or that so-and-so stole theirs out of their desk.

Truly, I don't know why I do it because they'll just find something else to complain about, but I do. I can't resist!

Finally, I'm leaving you with a picture of my adorable puppy, Murphy. Blogging is not his favorite. I moved my computer into my craft room - I'm notorious for using it on the couch and laying there for several hours. It only encourages blog hopping for hours. Murphy likes it better when I use my computer on the couch, though, so he can lounge, too.

Look out for my next post. I'm hoping to start a blog 'series' about tips for first year teachers from someone who just went through it all! Happy Tuesday Wednesday! (The Bachelorette finale has been throwing me off all week. The normal episodes are on Mondays, but the finale was on Sunday, so I feel like I'm a day behind.)


Cabin Summer Fever

I don't know about everyone else, but as a second year teacher, being locked out of my classroom has been one of the most torturous experiences of my life. Okay, I'll try not to be too dramatic, but, in all seriousness, it has been incredibly difficult. Aside from the fact that I feel like there is so much more I can do for my students than whatever it was I did last year - it truly was a blur - I'm changing grades and changing rooms. There is so much I could be doing if only I was allowed in my school. Other teachers who I've Facebook stalked kept up with over the summer have talked about how they feel miserable because they went to the store and caved and purchased school supplies. I laugh when I see Facebook statuses to that effect. If only they knew how few days into summer it was when I first started hitting up stores for school things. Truth be told, it's all I can do to make myself feel useful. I even taught summer school to try to quell the feeling, but nothing.

If I were to pretend I joined a Teacher's Anonymous group this summer (think AA), then Pinterest would have been my Sponsor, doing it's best to keep me out of the classroom. We've become best friends, and I'm going to try to post some of the projects that I've done thanks to Pinterest's help to keep my teaching withdrawal under control. Without further adieu, I present to you my story sticks!

These story sticks are inspired by this post over at Sarcasm 101. I skipped the painting and bought colored popsicle sticks. Painting the sticks would be a great idea if you are looking for a way to fill some time with kiddos, but I just wanted to get mine created. I settled on using many of the characters, plots, settings, and extra items from the original post and added some of my own. Throughout the school year, we may add new sticks to the collection based on books that we read in class.

These sticks will be in my 'writing center' for Daily 5. I don't have an area where my friends are required to sit when they do Work on Writing, but I will have an area where I keep items like this to inspire writing ideas. When my friends are having trouble coming up with an idea of what to write about, they'll be able to randomly chose one popsicle stick of each color and create a story using those ideas.

The yellow sticks have characters on them, the red ones have a problem, the green ones have a setting, and the blue ones are sort of a mystery item that my friends can incorporate into the story however they would like.

I'd love to think of a way to create sticks like this to inspire my friends to write non-fiction works. Common core - and with it, my district - is very heavily focused on making sure that students are able to write informative pieces. Maybe I could do one color as text type (list, recipe, directions, letter, information, brochure, advertisement, etc.), one color can be audience (kids, adults, students, teachers, etc.), and one color can be subject. I'll have to keep thinking and see if I can work anything out. If you have any ideas, shout them out in the comments!

Keep watching for more of my summer projects.

First Post ... Newbie Blog Hop

1.  what state you are in
I am currently taking up residence in Illinois. 

2.  your current teaching position
This year I will be teaching a third grade ESL class.

3.  your teaching experience
This year will be my second year teaching. I am lucky enough to be at the same school again, although I will be changing grades (and rooms). Last year, I taught a second grade ESL class. I'm very thrilled to be heading into this year a lot more organized, and I am cautiously excited to have some of my students from last year back in my class again.

4.  when you started blogging
It may look like I am just starting blogging with this post, but I've actually been blogging for a bit now... just under different names. Picking a teaching blog name is tough stuff. I've also had a cupcake blog in the past. Baking is my other true love, although cooking is quickly picking up steam.

5.  share a blogging tip / blogging resource
Find a blog design website that has free or inexpensive templates. Uploading a template onto your blog may seem like an unnecessary thing, but it's really motivated me to get started with my blogging, and when I am surfing through blogs, I'm much more likely to spend time at one that is nice and designed than one that just uses a basic blogger template. I'd like to get my own customized blog one day, but I'm trying to be smart and wait until I have some actual followers. Hopefully, one day that will happen!

Follow past the cut to see everyone in the blog hop!