Classroom

Summer Time = Get Organized

I completed a huge task this week. My classroom closet is finally organized! I began this project the last day of school and worked diligently on it for several hours the first day of summer break. And then that was it. The gusto of summer time = get organized left and the pleasure of “relaxing” with the kids at home began.

Until this week. My husband was able to stay home with the kids for a few hours one morning and I reluctantly needed to go to school to get a few other odds and ends done. I did those odds and ends, and then tackled the last shelves of the closet. The closet looks great and will hopefully stay that way for awhile! At least until the second day of school…

Here are some before and after pictures:

Before:

All of this came out of the closet. The trick was putting it back in!

 

After:
I can actually see what is inside! Yay!

Now, school is not the only place I have been trying to get organized. This is always an ongoing summer project at home. The problem at home though is as soon as a slave for hours getting one room of the house organized, another is totally destroyed. With two small ones nothing stays organized for long either!

I used the following guidelines to stay organized as much as I can!

  1. Do a little at a time – I work on a nap time schedule when it comes to organizing. Sometimes I only have 20 minutes! However, that is the perfect amount of time for cleaning out a drawer or organizing a shelf. Usually if I just have the goal of clearing just one part, I get into the swing of things and do more than I intended!
  2. Get rid of things you don’t use! – This can be difficult at times. I tend to save things “just in case”. However, when I organize, I try to have the mindset that if I haven’t used it in several months or more, it probably needs to be moved to a new place or trashed.
  3. Take a few extra minutes here and there to maintain the work! – Another one I have trouble with doing consistently! Spending a little time here and there to keep up the organization would save much more time! Easier said than done though…
  4. Don’t be too hard on yourself – You know what? We all do what we can when we can. Sometimes keeping your giant science supply closet organized is NOT top priority. That’s ok. And sometimes snuggling and reading a few books with your toddler needs to happen more an organized sock drawer.

High School Survival Kits

 May has ended and June is in full swing. For many, this means graduations are upon us! Those of you that still teach through June may have a few weeks to go, but no worries, you will get there too! My school ended right before Memorial Day weekend, so I’ve had a few days to rest, readjust and get acclimated to the summer schedule! However, I know how crazy those last weeks of school can be!

Our school’s graduation was on the second to last day. It is typically a big deal for our 8th grade students, since our school does not have its own high school. After graduation, our students scatter to go to the three (or more) different public schools or two different private schools in the area. Although we have small classes (our graduating class this year was under 20 students), these students have been together for most of their elementary and middle school lives! Students are apprehensive and thrilled all at the same time to leave the “comfort” of our school. We celebrate them with a special graduation ceremony with a big party in the gym afterwards!

Because of all the feelings that go along with graduating from our school and moving on to the next phase – high school – I have been putting together small gifts for the students, full of treats and Bible verses. These  “High School Survival Kits” are relatively inexpensive, but I hope students find some comfort and meaning!

High School Survival Kits

I originally found the idea for these kits online somewhere. I can’t remember exactly which, but the ideas were similar to the kits found here and here.

I actually created my own printable card (but I’m sure you could easily find some on etsy!) with the items I had on hand. I included one or two pieces of each item in a clear bag, along with the printable. The sheet had the name of the items and why they were included. I also added a Bible verse to connect to each item. I don’t always use the same items, as some can be easily interchanged for different candy or school supplies. You could easily adapt these kits to be any type of “survival” kit. For example, if you teach 5th grade, it could be a “6th Grade Survival Kit”.

This year I used the following items for my High School Survival Kits:

  • Smarties – To remember to study hard and to make smart decisions (Proverbs 1:7)
  • Piece of Gum – To remind you to stick with it, and that God always sticks with you! (Hebrews 10:23)
  • Hershey’s Kiss – To remind you of God’s love (1 John 4:7)
  • Tootsie Roll – to remind you not to bite off more than you can chew – and if you do, God is still with you! (Psalm 9:9)
  • Rubber Band – To help you stretch  beyond your limits (Philippians 4:13)
  • Pencil – To help you to complete all your tasks (Colossians 3:23)
  • Snickers Bar – To remind you that God has a sense of humor! (John 15:11)

Students typically enjoy the candy inside the most, but my hope is that they will also take the time to look at the Bible verses included. Even if they keep the card at the desk at home, they could refer back to it when needed!

Happy graduation!

May-hem

We’re here – in the middle of the last few weeks of school. We are in the May-hem month. Does anyone else feel like May is just insane? Not only is everybody anxious (and bonkers) for the end of the school year, there are like 5 billion different activities going on!

School May-hem

Between the last days of April throughout the month of May, our school holds Grandparents Day, multiple concerts and programs, end of year state testing, finals, field days, plus all the rest of the stuff you are supposed to be doing like teaching the children every day.

And that is just what is happening inside the school walls. My husband has final youth group events, high school graduation celebrations, and other random end of year events. My kids, even though they are still small, have a church program, need daycare teacher gifts, and all the sign ups for swimming lessons, camps, and any other activity happening in the summer are going on right now! No wonder my house looks like it does.

Watch This!

When I saw this video by the Holderness Family, I knew I’m not alone in the May-hem of this final month of the school year. And I still love NSYNC. Watch and see!

(If you like this, you should see the other parodies they put together. Awesome!) But we continue to push through because we see the light! In just a few weeks, we will have the freedom of summer time!   So how do we survive the May-hem?

Get to June!

Class Auction Project – Tile Table

Every year our students create class projects to be auctioned off at our annual banquet in order to raise money for the school. The projects vary depending on the class and grade level. This year, there seemed to be a slight mix up in project ideas! With less than 2 weeks from the auction, my class had no project. Uh oh! Nothing like leaving these things to the last minute…

Several ideas were brought up for my class, and we settled on a tile project. We would have students decorate tiles, then place the tiles on a piece of furniture. Sounds great! Except we did not have any small table, shelf or other suitable piece of furniture to use! That same afternoon, I decided to stop at the Goodwill near my house on the way home. Low and behold, one of the first pieces of furniture I found was this perfect little side table! Seems like it was meant to be!

Prepping the table:

The first thing that needed to be done was give the table a good coat of paint. That weekend, I painted the legs and sides with white paint. It took a couple coats, but definitely brightened the table up. I left the table top unpainted to make sure the tiles would stick well.

DIY Tile

We went back and forth on what types of tiles would be best for the table and with the table size, decided to use 2” x 2” tiles. We needed about 80 or so tiles and it worked out for every student to do 3 tiles, leaving some tiles white. For the tile decorating, students used a technique that we found here . Can I just say, this was awesome! All we needed was Sharpies, rubbing alcohol, and paintbrushes.

First, students took their tiles and colored them with the Sharpies. Next, they took a paintbrush, and “painted” with the rubbing alcohol. This process was different for each student. Some used paint strokes, others put drops of alcohol on their tile, and some even figured out they could blow the alcohol across the tiles to make cool designs!

After their beautiful tiles had dried, I used a sealer spray to make sure the Sharpies didn’t rub off on anything. It made my entire classroom stink though, so next time I would probably try to do this outside! After allowing the tiles to dry for a day, I started arranging and gluing the tiles onto the table top. Making sure the tiles were spaced evenly took some time. I glued down an entire column and row to start, making it much easier to place the rest of the tiles.

Finishing:

Because of the coloring on the tiles, we did not want to use rough grout to fill in the rows between the tiles. This would have destroyed the kids’ beautiful designs! Instead we used caulk. And when I say “we”, I mean my dear husband. Seriously, I don’t think I could have finished this project on my own. He delicately caulked the tile area of the table and it looked awesome! He also put the last coats of paint around the top of the table with precision.

It looks beautiful! Now hopefully it will make some big bucks at our auction and be treasured in someone’s home!

Teacher Resolutions

I’m not very big into making New Year’s resolutions. When you’re a teacher, you view the year a little differently… the “New Year” starts in August, or maybe even July, rather than January. Recently though, the conversation of resolutions keeps coming up in online articles, tv shows and even in conversations. It got me thinking about how as teachers, it is pretty cool to be able to “start over” halfway through the school year.

Now I know coming back in January is not quite like the beginning of the school year, but I see this as a good thing. The students already know the procedures, rules and routines of the day. All the beginning of the school year craziness doesn’t exist in January, so you can actually focus on a few ways to change and improve the classroom, your teaching methods, or just your attitude.

Here are a five New Year’s Teacher Resolutions

1. Get Organized

I always intend to get everything cleaned up and put papers perfectly in the appropriate folder and binder during the summer months. That NEVER happens. When the last day of school rolls around, I’m frantically finishing grades and stuffing things in closets before the cleaning crew needs to come through. If I would simple spend 10 minutes at the end of each week organizing, recycling and putting away materials in their proper places, I would not have this problem. This applies to my home too. Spending a few extra minutes each night or even weekend would go a long way!

2. Don’t grade everything

Let’s face it. Some of the homework we give to students is busy work. Sure it may be helpful or good practice for the students. But is it completely necessary for me to grade every piece of paper the students complete? Absolutely not. Families also appreciate it when their child doesn’t have hours of homework every night. So I plan to be selective with the homework I give, make time in class for students to self check, and not grade everything!

3. Pay more attention to students’ lives – not just their grades

Students love when they are actually heard. I’ve noticed that if I can spend two minutes with a student in a conversation about something other than school work, their attitude changes. Sometimes I get too busy with trying to get things done that I forget to take the time to really talk with my students. A few minutes here and there can make a big impact.

4. Roll with it

During even the most normal school day, things do not go as planned. The copier will break. The administrator will walk into the classroom right as a demonstration for the class failed. The perfectly planned lesson will end up taking half the amount of time as you though. And it’s OK. Getting frustrated or upset only makes my day worse. And if the students see me get flustered, they get flustered too. So when things get a little crazy, I will be flexible. That’s what YouTube is for anyway.

5. Stay Positive

Sounds easy, right? But if you have even worked in education for a fraction of the year, you know how difficult this can be. Student issues, parent problems, colleagues complaining – all of these things can bring me down quite easily. Thinking about one exciting, fun or encouraging thing going into the day makes it that much better walking into my classroom. And when I leave at the end of the school day, reflecting on what went WELL instead of the stresses can make the rest of the night a much more pleasant evening! It takes conscious effort to do this and some days can be extremely difficult – sometimes it means saying a prayer and just giving the problems to God. However, it can make a huge impact on the way I teach!

Even though I wrote these resolutions from a teacher perspective, I think they can apply to all areas of life – inside the classroom and out.

Whatever your resolutions (or if you have any at all), may your new year be full of blessings from God!

Christmas Bulletin Board Round Up

Tis the season to change up the bulletin boards! The first week of December means transforming classrooms for the Christmas season. Teachers at my school were hanging lights, putting up little Christmas trees and displaying shiny stars from the ceilings. Everything looks so festive!

There are lots of ideas floating around for bulletin boards this holiday season. Beautifully decorated, elaborate boards look awesome… but also take hours to put up. I don’t have the time to spend on these, especially when in 3 weeks, they will come right down again!

I like the more practical holiday bulletin boards. Ones that are quick and easy to put up, but still look nicely put together and bring a smile. Here is my Christmas bulletin board round up!

Presents – For God So Loved the World

This board is simple, but truly celebrates the meaning of Christmas. Pieces of wrapping paper and some ribbon can make elegant looking gifts. Adding the John 3:16 verse “For God So Loved the World” emphasizes the gift God gave us at Christmas

Fireplace with Stockings

I have done something similar to this board in the past. Using red bulletin board paper, I created a brick background, then cut construction paper to make the fireplace and flames. You can purchase mini stockings to “hang” by the fire as well. If my class was not too large, I would put small treats in these stockings leading up to Christmas break. The board looked great, and students loved the special Christmas surprises!

 

Snowman Planets are Out of this World!

This is a fun one that combines science with the season. You could even change the wording to “Hope your winter is out of this world” and make this board last all through the winter months. The planets might take a little bit of effort for that realistic look, but it was just too cute to not include!

Chemis-tree

After seeing this idea on AdventuresinIStem, I knew I could make it my own!This is the board that I actually put up this year. I had a smaller bulletin board to fill and not much time to come up with something. Since our academic theme this year is science, I had to do it! You can print off element cards and copy them in green. I used these here and they worked perfectly! Simply staple them in the shape of your tree! The gold element square cleverly copied in yellow and cut in the shape of a star tops it off. O Chemis-tree, how lovely are your elements!

Hope these ideas inspire you to make your own festive Christmas board!

DIY Costume for Teachers

  Looking for a last minute Halloween costume? I’ve got a great one that came to me last minute that is perfect for any teacher.

Every year at our school, we do a “spirit week”.  Students dress according to a different theme everyday. The class that goes all out and has the most participation and “spirit” wins the “Spirit Sword” (which is a little plastic sword with some ribbon on it. For some reason the kids fight like crazy for it!) Anyway, this year some of the themes included Crazy Hair Day, Patriotic Day and Character Day. For Character Day, students (and teachers) were encouraged to dress up like a character from their favorite movie, tv show or book.

My first thought was to dress up as Belle from Beauty and the Beast. I’ve always wanted to dress up like her, and it is one of my favorite movies. However, finding a big fluffy yellow dress last minute is not an easy thing. I thought about it a little more, and then went to Pinterest.

There were lots of ideas – storybook characters like Grouchy Ladybug, the Rainbow Fish and the Hungry Caterpillar were adorable. All cute, but not for me. There were ideas for being crayons, rock, paper, scissors, or even emojis. And then I saw it: Ms Frizzle! Not only did I grow up watching, The Magic School Bus, I happened to have a stuffed Lizz in my classroom. It was meant to be!

The dress is the most important part of being Ms Frizzle. I happened to have a blue dress that would work perfectly for a costume. I didn’t have a collared shirt to go underneath, so I wore a white, loose-sleeved one that worked well.  So if you want to be Ms. Frizzle, your dress MUST show whatever science subject you are studying! My 6th grade class is studying the planets so obviously I choose to wear Ms. Frizzle’s classic solar system outfit!

I used felt to cut out several stars, some suns, planets and crescent moons. Then I taped them all over my dress, making sure to add little stars to my earrings and planets to the tips of my shoes. I even braided my hair the night before so when I woke up it would have the “frizz” I needed! The finishing touch was

my sidekick Lizz!

Materials I used:

  • Knee length or tea-length dress
  • Tape
  • Felt cut into the shapes you need! The Solar System theme is easy, but you could customize your dress to whatever science subject you are studying! If you need inspiration, check out Monsters and Molecules blog where all “Dresses of the Frizz” are displayed! Amazing!
  • Toy Lizz!

I put this costume together in less than an hour (and that includes the many interruptions from my children!). Even though Magic School Bus is no longer on tv, the kids still knew who I was! Apparently it’s on Netflix… The costume was a big hit! Now if only I had a magic bus that could transport my students to cool places…

 

Saving Sam – A Great First Day Activity

 School started over a week ago for me! I’m just feeling like I’m back into the swing of things. It always takes a little while to get back into the habit of packing my lunch, organizing my lessons and getting my teacher voice back. Those first few days are hard on the vocal cords!

Because those first days of school require SO many instructions and procedures, it can be hard to really get into learning. However, the learning is what we want for our students! Maybe you all make the rules of how to line up for PE super exciting, and going through the weekly schedule extra suspenseful for your students. I, however, tire of those things quickly. But what can you do to shake things up a little?

My students must Save Sam! Saving Sam is a great first (or second or third) day activity for students from upper elementary through high school. I found this activity online (through Pinterest of course) a few years ago and LOVE using it to break up those “instruction” days.

Saving Sam

I’m not sure where I originally saw this activity, but there are many different places on the web that you can find it now. Here is the adapted version that I use in my classroom:

Materials

  • Gummy worm
  • Clear, plastic cup
  • Gummy LifeSaver
  • 2 Paper clips

Instructions

Student are paired up. Once they receive their materials, they must set up Sam as shown below:

The cup is upside down with the gummy Lifesaver underneath. “Sam” is on top of the cup. The students use the paper clips to help Sam!

 

The goal of this activity is for students to get the “life preserver” out from under the “boat” and onto Sam. Now, when I say onto Sam, I don’t mean just resting on top. Every time I do this, students immediately think they just have to get the lifesaver out from under the cup. Nope. Get it ON the worm. Students might think it isn’t possible, but it is! It just takes a little extra work! Any time someone touches any part with their hands, that group must begin again. If Sam or the life preserver hit the floor or desk, they also must start over.

End Results

Success!

After about 10 minutes, some students are successful, and some are not. Some groups tried the same thing over and over, while others continually changed their approach That’s ok! I actually don’t care if they truly “Save Sam” or not. The point of this activity is to learn to work together in order to solve a problem. In my classroom, I often challenge students to come up with a solution to an activity on their own. Often times, their original idea may not work and they must adapt and try something else. Also, there is no one right way to complete the task! Students can be successful using a variety of methods and learn to think differently about the scenario.

Saving Sam fits perfectly into my mini lesson of how we will be doing science in my classroom for the year! It can be used as a first day (or week) activity in order to bring up those points I mentioned. You can also use it anytime throughout the year to work on problem solving skills in a fun way. 

 

Bulletin Boards – Brilliant or a Bust?

With school just a couple weeks away, I have been focusing on putting my bulletin boards together. The plan for this is usually to make as many pieces as possible at home, so when I do get the chance to get into my classroom, I can grab my stapler and go to town! (That is, if my children that I must take with me are occupied enough. And my stapler actually has staples in it. And I manage to remember to take all the pieces I need.) It’s always a good plan…

I will admit, once the school year starts, I am terrible at changing bulletin boards. I just forget! Summer always brings good intentions and great ideas: big plans to have awesome, interactive bulletin boards for students in my class. But, then I get involved with the activities, lessons and assessments throughout the year and don’t have much extra time and energy for the boards. And so these plans go from being brilliant to being a bust.

 

School Theme

I have one large bulletin board in my classroom that I divide into two or three sections, depending on the year. One of the sections is for our school spiritual theme. I keep this one up year round. This means, I usually put a good amount of effort into it before school starts so it actually looks good! Our spiritual theme this year is Fruit of the Spirit, so here is what I came up with. I enjoyed putting together all the different fruits!

 

Student Work

Another section is used for displaying student work. I put a poster or two up at the start (since I don’t have any student work to display yet!) and then as we do projects, put them up. I do change this throughout the year, but probably still not as much as I should.

All three boards. The posters will soon be replaced with student work!

The Third One…

 

The third section is where I always think “I’ll do better with it this year!” Well, this is my 8th year teaching, and I’m pretty sure I get worse changing those boards. One year I did a “Scientist of the Month” section where students learned facts about a different scientist. That one was pretty successful! It had QR codes students could use and occasionally I would include an extra credit question about that scientist. Two years in a row I thought I would keep up with a “Science in the News” board where I would post articles and news of current science events. Fail. Both years. I think I changed it once. Or maybe there was just nothing happening in science those years!

This year, I am hoping to pilot Chromebooks in my classroom (more on that later). So, because of my lack of board-changing abilities and necessity to emphasize digital citizenship even more, I decided to do a “THINK” board. I had seen this on Pinterest a few times and we even had different mini posters and sheets that had similar ideas on them displayed in several classrooms. I think reminding students the importance of thinking before posting, videoing, tweeting, etc. is necessary more than ever! And the words are not only true with social media, but with the words we speak as well. So I’m hoping that my “brilliant” bulletin board will be a hit. It’s already better on my end because it will be applicable throughout the year!

 

With my classroom boards complete for the school year, I can move on to other things! (Like actually lesson planning…) We do have a few other bulletin boards in the hallway that I will have to create this year. It is the big science fair year at our school = lots more work for me! Also, the teachers will be looking at curriculum more closely to make sure we are aligning to the newest standards. Anyway, I may have to post a few more sciencey bulletin boards as I create them for our hallways throughout the year!