Monday, July 22, 2013

Monday Made-It: DIY Workshop Storage


If some were to diagram my life, it seriously would be teaching, reading, crafting, teaching, reading,'s like a never ending cycle that I enjoy! If there is anything I love more that crafting, it's upcycling. I love the idea of improving a recyclable and turning it into something I can use. So for this Made-It Monday, I took Wal-Mart composition notebook boxes which look like this and turned them into something that I could definitely for reader's notebook. I am a middle school teacher, and let me tell you, I am filled with ENVY at the teacher who can have an individual reading box for their students. Unfortunately for me, 120 magazine boxes are just not feasible for me. So, I decided to come up with something else. I had read about Wal-Mart letting teachers take home boxes to use in their classrooms, so went to my local Wal-Mart and they happily obliged.

All I needed was some scrapbook paper and some modge podge and I went to work. I decided to use my classroom color scheme as my inspiration, so they will fit right in. My labels came from the ever-so-fabulous Kristen from Ladybug's Teacher Files.

I liked the idea of adding some ribbon to clean up the lines...and that's about it! I used a hot glue gun for the ribbon. These boxes will fit nicely on my low bookshelf in my classroom, and will hold plenty of notebooks without taking up too much space. They are also fairly sturdy (I chose to reinforce them with packaging tape) so they can be carried my students to their tables.

Thanks Fourth Grade Frolics! That's all for now! Happy crafting!

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Optimum Organization- Google Drive

I hope everyone is loving the summer Optimum Organization series as much as I am! I have some quick thoughts to share with you about how I organize my files on Google Drive. My school district has Gmail as their email provider, so we are able to use the resources supported by Google --which I am very happy about.

Nonetheless, I receive countless documents "shared" with me that I need to keep track of. I also use Google drive to share lesson plans and resources with my PLC to make sure that everyone has the same access to the materials that I do. (After trolling the internet for awesome blog and Pinterest ideas!)

The first thing you will need to do is click on"Drive" at the top of the page. Then, select "My Drive" on the side. From there, you should see a little folder with a plus that looks like this:
From there, you can create a folder. I chose to keep the following folders in "My Drive," but obviously you can choose whatever workers for you!

1. 2012-2013 Information- Includes all the resources that you need to keep on file from last year, but don't necessarily think you will need right away.
2. Behavior Management- I like to keep information on my students on a spreadsheet, which is easily shared with administration.
3. Folders for each unit I will be teaching- For example, I have a folder that says, "Power of Research Resources"
4. Professional Development- I keep certificates and other things that are typically sent to me in an attachment form here.
5. Website- Contains the files I display on my school website
6. Organization Resources- This is filled with many fabulous ideas and resources for keeping everything clean, tidy, and "matchy-matchy" aka...the way I like it.
7. And the wonderful catch-all- Miscellaneous

Once you've set up you're folders, you'll notice that they are all gray. That does not work for me. I have to have some kind of color-coding system in place!

To change the color of your folder,  right-click on the folder, move down to where it says "change color" and select.

I always keep important information in red, my units in green, and behavior in blue (it's calming, right?).

All of these images, I took right from my Google Drive. Thanks for reading, hope it helps! Thank to Kristen from Ladybug's Teacher Files and Elizabeth from Fun in 4B for hosting!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Workshop Wednesday...on a Thursday!

Summer school is in full swing here, so I'm up to my eyes in fingerpaint and hugs..did I mention how crazy different kindergarteners are compared to seventh graders? Anyways, I am in the process of trying to figure out how to implement the readers' and writers' workshop into my middle school classroom. We have 60 minute blocks here, which seems like no time at all! During my student teaching, we practiced the Lucy Calkins' method of workshops, and I absolutely fell in love with it. I decided that I would come up with a small resource list for you of items that I will be using in my classroom. Hopefully this list will eliminate some of the searching!

First, I wouldn't know where to begin with Kristen from Ladybug's Teacher Files. Her items, featured below, really inspired me to make implementing a workshop, a reality.


These board will both be up in my classroom this year. I've decided to use black plastic tablecloths as the background because we do not have black paper available to us at the school.

My school will also be a 1:1 technology school with all of my students receiving a MacBook Air. Because of this, and limited bulletin board space, I've decided to take another hint from Kristen and create my own bulletin boards. I'm using black posterboard and teal duct tape to create spaces for "MacBook Tips & Tricks" and a designated spot for "Anchor Charts." I also have a Common Core Word Wall, a spot for mentor texts, and a student exemplar section. I've have been inspired so much through the anchor charts I see on Pinterest. I was browsing though the TWRCP website, and stumbled across another list of Anchor Charts that I thought you might be interested in:

They have information that is useful for K-8 teachers. Love it! 

I'm going to use clothespins to display my anchor charts. I'm just hoping that are supply order will be enough to cover chart paper!

I've also decided that I am going to try a DIY book boxes project. Since I am seeing about 120 kids a day, it would be impossible for all my students to have their own box. I'm aiming to collect 30 cereal boxes and modge podge them to match my classroom. Hopefully, about 5 composition books will be able to fit into each, that way I can have a box for every group of students in my class. I'm unsure how this project will go, but I can try!

I'm thinking I'll wrap them in a paper similar to this:

I loved using mentor texts to teach skills during my student teaching, but I was having a hard time finding a comprehensive list of mentor texts (that I have access to), skills, and were an appropriate length. The best list I've found so far, has been put out by Scholastic and is called, "The Common Core State Standards Collections for English Language Arts," but I would much rather have one put together by a teacher...any ideas out there?

My curriculum maps for my county won't be finished until at least August 1st, which gives little time to plan. If it's anything like last year, we will start the year with biographies and autobiographies. I hope we do because that will be a nice transition into setting up our reading notebooks. I'm thinking about making them interactive as many ideas running though my head!

I'd love to hear about how you run your workshop...especially with older grades! 

Thanks to Ideas by Jivey for hosting this Workshop Wednesday! Hope it was useful!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

A Sweet Surprise

The sweet Jamie, over at Sixth Grade Tales, was kind enough to nominate me for a Liebster Award, a blogger to blogger award to recognize new blogs with less than 200 followers. I am so happy that someone is noticing my little pet project. It's always good to get a little appreciation, right? As part of accepting, I have 11 questions that Jamie made up for to answer as a little Q&A and some random facts for you. At the end, I will nominate five more blogs for this award to keep the good vibes going. To accept my nomination, you must answer my 11 questions for you, share about yourself, and nominate fellow new bloggers. Don't forget to contact them!

Jamie's questions for me:

1.  What is your best advice for starting a new school year?

Develop a good organizational system that works for you. Worrying about where things are and how to find something should not be an issue when you have 30+ kiddos.

2.  What is your favorite book for professional development and why?

"When Kids Can't Read" by Kylene Beers has to be my favorite. It is full of strategies, examples, and student work samples to help all students, especially those significantly below grade level.

3.  How do you deal with giving homework? Is it the same each week?

Knowing the students I teach, homework does not get done. Our school assigns very, very little homework due to access issues.

4.  If you weren't a teacher, what profession would you be in?
I would be a designer of some sort...just not fashion!

5.  What is your favorite thing to cook?
My homemade spaghetti sauce --it's a family recipe!

6.  Outside of teaching, what do you like to do for fun?

I love to craft. There is nothing that scrapbook paper and modge podge can't fix!

7. What is your favorite place to shop?
Target...for sure!

8.  What is your favorite educational website?
Oh my, there are too many!

9.  What kind of music do you like to listen to?
I'm not complaining...unless it's country.

10.  What is your favorite television show?
Criminal Minds.

11. What book do you love reading with your students the most?
I love reading The Giver and Number the Stars. I love Lois Lowry!

11 Random Facts about myself:

1. My favorite color is green, but my classroom is blue, white, and black.
2. I love going to baseball games, but I hate watching them on TV.
3. One day, I hope to be an advocate for better educational policies in the government.
4. I love technology, but nothing can replace the way a book feels in your hands.
5. I like to try my hand at cooking new things, but I'm always scared to try them.
6. I'm a Target addict, I always look at their home organization stuff, but sometimes it is just too expensive!
7. I love coffee, but I got way too many coffee cups for Christmas from students!
8. Teaching is the hardest thing I've ever done, but I have loved every minute with my students.
9. I dream that one day I will be able to purchase an older home that I can fix up.
10. Someone once told me that I was too much of an idealist when it came to education, I want to prove them wrong.
11. I think it's really awkward to come up with things that you want other people to know about you!

My Liebster Nominees are:
Rockin' and Lovin' Learnin'
Life with Middle Schoolers
The Learning Chambers
Creating Lifelong Learners
The Adventures of Room 83

My 11 Questions for my Liebster Nominees:
1. What made you decide you wanted to be a teacher?
2. What was the hardest thing about your first year?
3. The funniest thing a child ever said to me was...
4. If you could change one thing about your school, it would be...
5. What's your favorite hobby?
6. Tell me three things you couldn't live without.
7. Where would you go on your dream vacation?
8. What was the most valuable advice you ever received?
9. What classroom supply will you NOT share with your students?
10. What color pen do you grade with?
11. If someone gave you a grant to help start a school, what would you name it?

Special thanks to Colleen from Tales from the Third Grade, Angelica from Fourth Grade at the Beach
, and Lisa from Grade 4 Buzz for their nominations too! Jamie got to me first, so I decided to go with her questions, but I really appreciate your thoughts!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Optimum Organization

This Tuesday, I'm linking up with my blog-spiration...Ladybug Teacher Files for her Optimum Organization Link-Up. I'm absolutely obsessed with her designs! She is so talented!
I never thought finding classroom bins would be so easy! I had been searching the "regular" teacher websites for book bins for my classroom and all I could find were book bins that were sold in sets of six for about $20. That is way, way too much for this teacher. This past week, I stumbled into The Dollar Tree and found that they have stocked up for back to school....already. Mixed emotions. Anyway, they had these bins guessed it...$1 each. I picked up 25. The cashier looked confused.

I drove home a very happy, and inspired, girl. There is just something I LOVE about the idea of organizing. When I got home, I knew I wanted to create my labels. I didn't really want the ones that I saw online with all of the cutesy clipart because I didn't think my middle grades students would like them. I decided to make these instead.

 My classroom colors are blue, yellow, black and white, so these will work out just perfectly for me! I decided to make primary colors and chevron colors and put them in my TPT store. If you like them, you can check them out HERE.


Monday, July 8, 2013

Monday Made-It: Chevron Wreath Tutorial

I'm super excited to be participating in my first-ever Monday Made-It with Tara over from 4th Grade Frolics. I have been a long time fan of looking at others' (blog stalking) DIY projects and love LOVE love crafting things myself. So here is my first go around at a tutorial. Since chevron is the go-to pattern right now, and I had found fabulous chevron ribbon at Hobby Lobby. I thought I would use that as my inspiration. You obviously can pick out any pattern of ribbon you would like.
Supply List:
1. Blue Chevron Ribbon
2. Black Ribbon
3. Medium foam wreather
4. Yellow flower (I just liked it. :) and other accessories
5. Gray lace ribbon
6. Small pins (must have for working with foam)
7. Hot glue gun (Optional)

The first thing I did was unravel all of the blue ribbon. I decided I wanted it to be two-toned, so I tightly wrapped the ribbon around the foam, securing with pins as needed to keep it tight.
Next, I added the black ribbon at the bottom part of the wreath. My classroom is blue, black, white, and a hint of yellow, so I thought I would make this wreath into a wreath for my door.
Then, I used a small gray lace ribbon to serve as a sort of border for my wreath. I cut it into two pieces and framed the left first. I used the second piece to frame the right and tried to make them meet in the middle.
I used a bright yellow fabric flower to serve as the base of my bow. I chose to pin this in, however, you could use a hot glue gun. I chose to use pins so that I could tuck my left over ribbon behind it to make it look a little more "wreath-ish." I also added some smaller white flowers for decoration.

Using leftover black ribbon, I pinned a little loop at the top to make sure that it hung centered on a door. I love the color scheme, so I think I'm going to keep it on my door until I take it to school in the fall.
Hope you enjoyed my first ever Made-It Monday! Everyone should try making a really is painless and makes a classroom feel a little more like home!

Any questions? Just ask. I'm happy to help anyone!

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Smorgasbord Sunday Link-Up & 100 Follower Giveaway!

This Sunday, I'm linking up with Michelle from Fabulous in First for her Sunday Smorgasbord Linky party. Don't you just love this graphic?

  photo c823e5c9-f7db-47fc-8555-123a065ce95b.jpg

Random thoughts? I always have those. 

Random Thought #1: First, I start summer school tomorrow, and this time around I'm working with itty bitty ELL kindergarteners, which is definitely out of my comfort zone. I work with big, bad middle schoolers, so hand holding is not something that I consider a strong suit. I worked with second graders last summer and loved it, so I'm hoping this year will be more of the same. I have the benefit of working with an absolutely fantastic summer staff full of eager teachers.

Random Thought #2: How am I going to organize my classroom library this year? Last year was my first year at my school and I moved into a classroom with zero books. Yep, zilch. I spent most of the year just getting books together and that was enough of a headache. Moving into a classroom with literally nothing was very stressful. I'm hoping I don't have to switch classrooms this year.

I've seen a lot of very cool classroom libraries out there.

Nevertheless, these are all elementary libraries. I want to sort by genre, and I know my labels won't have any (overly) cutesy clipart...but I just think that there is something about an organized library that makes kids want to go and pick up a book! Suggestions? Hints? I'd love them. I need to go get bins as well.

Random Thought #3: Erin's giveaway is just too awesome! As a way to say thank you to all of my new followers I'm giving away a "You Pick Three" (like Panera...yum) deal at my store. Any three items can be yours. Enter below! 
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Have a great Sunday! 

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Summer Planning Giveaway C-1

Can it get any better than a giveaway where everyone wins? I don't think so! Erin from I'm Lovin' Lit has graciously set this up to give everyone a head start on their summer planning!

My code word is "chairbacks." Be sure to follow me on Blog Lovin' by clicking on the button to your right. You may also follow me on Teachers Pay Teachers by clicking here. Then you will need to click on the red star.

Here are more pictures of the Back to School item I'll be donating. Who wouldn't want their first week activities planned? :)

My middle school teaching friends must also be interested in getting even more of their planning out of the way. I recently finished 100 CCSS-aligned writing morning work activities. Short and sweet (and rigorous and relevant) they are perfect for the 1-hour blocks we get with our students. Check it out here:

Looking for some tips and tricks, maybe a cheat sheet? Click here!

Good luck at your next stop, and thanks for stopping by!


Thursday, July 4, 2013

Thursday Throw-Down

It's time for the first Thursday-Throw Down with Erin from I'm Lovin' Lit. I'm so excited for the opportunity to link-up with her. She has been so helpful with offering advice and suggestions to help me get my blog started. I really consider her lessons a standard for what middle grades learning should look like! Anyway, now that my gushing is over, our first "Throw Down" is all about what makes learning interactive.

By far my favorite activity we did in my class this year was a mock trial. My seventh graders struggle to get out of that middle school mind-set and experience a new point of view (but what middle schooler doesn't?) So, we took on to perform a mock trial based on the ever-popular book The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by Jon Sciezka.

Now, most of what I saw out there for mock trials based on fairy tales were either for very little kids, highly scripted, or just irrelevant. This was the first time my kids had ever done something like this, so I didn't want to jump straight into a trial based on a more serious issue. I remember doing a mock trial based off the novel The Lottery Rose by Irene Hunt which centered around child abuse, so I knew I couldn't start with something like that.  As far as time, I decided to spend a week on this project. Three days of prep work, and two days for the actual trial. But first, they needed to hear the story read a loud to wouldn't believe how into picture books they still are! From there, we voted to assign roles, lawyers, Al T. Wolf, etc. Every single student had a role. I even had kids making props and drawing Wanted Posters my exploratory class at the end of the day.

I ended up videotaping the actual trial to show parents at my school's Family Education Night. They loved it. I had some kids go on camera to say why they liked the mock trial, and I had one lawyer say on camera, "It's nice to take a break from learning and do something that's the real world." I think it's funny how they still believe that they are two separate things. Did she forget that she wrote  5 paragraph opening and closing statements that effectively argued her points?

Nonetheless, they work that each student produced from this week was incredible. Students who were had chronic missing work disease were mysteriously cured for this week. I got my feet wet this year with using mock trials in the classroom, and I will certainly be creating more for next year. I turned this project into a unit on TPT and it makes me so happy to see how the students in other classrooms are finding the same joy in this activity as well!

What activities were memorable for year this year?

Thanks for a great first Throw Down Thursday!

Monday, July 1, 2013

It's Time for Another....MANIC MONDAY & a Flash Sale!

Is it time for another Manic Monday? I already can't believe that it's July! It's time for another link up with Charity Preston over at the fabulous website Classroom Freebies.

This week, I hope I am sharing something that will be useful to you as you begin to try to "plan" the upcoming year. If you're anything like me, you like to begin with the end in mind and sticking a yearly planner in your teacher binder helps to do just that. I use it to remind me which topics and standards I should be teaching in order to stay on track with my district's curriculum maps. Just click on the "Yearly Planner" picture, and it's all yours!

Hope this is useful!

Next on the agenda...a flash sale! For my small, but loyal audience! I'm offering 20% off my store for the next 24 hours!

Check out my store, Write in the Middle, and maybe you can find something to help inspire to to organize for the upcoming year!