Sunday, August 2, 2015

My Tried and True First Day of School Plans {3 Tips for the First Day of School}

I've had a lot of first days of school as a teacher and have learned a few things along the way. Today I am linking up with some amazing teachers to bring you Tried and True First Day of School Plans. Thanks to Chrissie from Undercover Classroom and Sarah from Education Electrification for hosting this link-up. I hope you all get lots of ideas!

I hate icebreakers.  Take a group of kids who have some nervous energy, put them in a room where rules, routines, and expectations have yet to be learned and designate one adult who has yet to establish the teacher look that means business and you have the recipe for chaos. Instead I prefer activities that are calm, fun, and purposeful.

It's important to start the year on a positive note. Here is a collection of my tried and true tips for the first day of school.
  • Reach out to the students and their families before the first day of school. Give them a call to introduce yourself and ask how the child will be going home on the first day. This is especially true with the littlest learners.
  • Send them a note (good old fashion snail mail or an email if you have the address) letting them know what to expect on the first day of school. Tell them where you will meet them and what will happen as soon as they enter the classroom (see below). This will not only cut down on nerves, but will also help your day run smoothly.

  • Have an activity that will last several days and can be done independently so if a situation comes up and your attention is needed it can be their go to project for the week. I have had great success with these "I am a ____ Grader" activity books. You can read about them here: Back to School Activity Booklets for All Grade Levels

  • Get to school early. Allow plenty of extra time so you are not worried about traffic, coffee spills, last minute students added to your roster or any other unplanned distractions. You want to be calm, cool and collected when the littles arrive.

Do you want more fabulous tried and true ideas from other veteran teachers? Be sure to check out the amazing teacher who have linked up their experiences for you. 

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Teacher Recharge Challenge Week 4 {Time Saving Tips for Teachers, Reduce Stress, Get Organized, Prepare for the New Year}

The focus of this site is to help teachers organize and manage their classrooms. Taking some time during the school vacation to get organized at home can greatly reduce your stress level and make your school days much more relaxed. This series contains "challenges" you can do that will become teacher time savers during the school year.

Challenge #4: Explore Freezer Cooking and Make a Menu:

I always enjoyed lots of garden-fresh veggies and grilling in the summer, but as soon as school started those healthy dinners were sadly replaced with lots of takeout meals and pizza boxes. That was until I discovered freezer cooking and was able to plan ahead for the hectic back-to-school season during my slower, laid back summer vacation weeks leading up to it.

Make ahead freezer meals not only save you time, but also lots of money. There are so many recipes out there as well as systems for freezer cooking. 

Here are a few tips for planning your food ahead of time to make the school year less stressful:

  • Many people spend one entire day a month preparing meals to freeze. This is beneficial because you only need to make one big grocery trip (that alone will save you time and money) and spend one day prepping foods, cooking and washing dishes.

  • Some find it nice to team up with friends and each take responsibility for a few meals. Coordinate who will make what so you have variety. Each person prepares enough freezer meals for everyone in the group. For example, you may be responsible for preparing six lasagnas to distribute to five friends, but in return you get five different meals to put in your freezer. For added fun you can plan a potluck where everyone brings a cooked version of their meal to sample as well as the frozen version for friends to take home. This would be great to do with a group of teachers from your school.

  • What I find works very well for me is to make a triple batch of a dinner. We eat one for dinner and freeze two for future nights. This works fantastic because over time I build up a nice collection in the freezer, the inventory rotates frequently and we have meals available for most weeknights.

  • You challenge this week is to explore the idea of freezer cooking, find recipes your family will enjoy, and start stocking your freezer while you have some extra time to make your weeknight’s less stressful when the school year begins.

Feel free to post pictures on social media as you complete the challenges. Use #CFCRechargeChallenge. Do you have any tips for saving time and money on food as a busy teacher?  Add them in the comments below.

Friday, July 31, 2015

The Best Electric Pencil Sharpener for The Classroom {Deals for Teachers, How to Manage Pencils in the Classroom}

I had no intention of writing a blog post today, but when this deal popped up online I absolutely HAD to take a minute to pass it along. 

{Click here to order this Pencil Sharper from Amazon}

This is by far the best pencil sharpener for the classroom. It's as quiet as a pencil sharpener can be. It's lightning fast which makes it a  teacher time saver. Best of all it sharpens pencils in a way that provides a perfect point that doesn't easily break.

My former neighbor had one and I always bypassed my sharpener and went next door to use the one in her classroom. She moved to a different school and sadly took it with her. 

I've been wanting to order one of my own for awhile and I'm embarrassed to say that the only reason I finally logged on to do so was because the ridiculous hand held sharpener (you know the ones that don't even catch the shavings) I have been using at home for years (sadly I'm not exaggerating) lost a battle with my daughter's crayons and could no longer be used to (sort of) make a point on a pencil. Seriously, a whittling knife would've worked better.

Imagine my delight when I went to finally order the sharpener I've been coveting for years and noticed it was on sale for 55% off. 

Much like when I finally stopped fighting with the oversized construction paper and bought my fabulous paper sorter, I am sure I will kick myself for not getting this sooner.

And while I'm on the subject you may be interested in checking out my older post with free tips for managing pencils in the classroom.

{This post contains Amazon affiliate links, but was written solely because I truly love this product.}

Once in a Blue Moon...

Monday, July 27, 2015

Back to School Tips, a Freebie and a Giveaway

All of us over at Upper Elementary Snapshots thought it would be fun to have a whole week of giveaways right before the new school year! That's right...a whole week!! We are giving away over $400.00 in prizes including Teachers Pay Teachers Gift Cards...and entering couldn't be easier!

To start off our week, we are going to be linking up all of our blogs just for you, and giving some great "Back-to-School" tips and freebies to help you start your year off right! Here's my tip for you...

You start each new school year organized and ready to go. Your classroom is beautifully decorated and the supplies are shiny and new. You spend the first few weeks having fun getting to know your new students and their families and have successfully created a classroom community. The year is underway!

And then some time goes by and the reality of assessments, a hectic schedule and lots of meetings sets in. The crayons start to break and the pencils are starting to short, but there is a lot to be said about having a room full of students who are familiar with your procedures and routines

The excitement of the new year is replaced with the comfort of familiarity and structure. 

And that's when it happens. A new student is added to your class list. 

Here's the thing about new students. They rarely arrive with lots of notice. In fact, in may schools you may be alerted when you walk through the door on a Monday morning (a wee bit late because of traffic and with coffee spilled on your outfit because its "one of those days). 

A new student's arrival need not be stressful. Simply put together extra bags of all the things you are preparing for your students at the start of the school year and you'll just have to grab a bag if a new student transfers in mid-year.

Be sure to include things like name tags for cubbies, desk plates, a communication folder, journals and notebooks, clothespins or popsicle sticks if you use them for classroom management and any other supplies that are specific to your classroom.

You'll be glad you have these on hand and will be able to focus on welcoming your sweet new friend to the amazing classroom you've created!

And here's my free download for you:
{Click to Access and Download this FREE Resource}
For more tips and FREEBIES, make sure you visit all 12 of our blogs! You can use the links below to help you get there faster.

Also, don't forget to enter for a chance to WIN one of our AWESOME prizes in our "Back to School" Giveaway!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

That's not all!!!  Watch out this whole week for ways to collect even more goodies from all of us at Upper Elementary Snapshots!  We are going to be doing some special promotions through Facebook and Instagram too!  Make sure you follow us to hear all about it!!

{Top image by 3AM Teacher. Also seen in this post: Clipart by Whimsy Clips and Graphics from the Pond and Fonts by Kimberly Geswein}

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Teacher Recharge Challenge Week 3 {Time Saving Tips for Teachers, Reduce Stress, Get Organized, Prepare for the New Year}

The focus of this site is to help teachers organize and manage their classrooms. Taking some time during the school vacation to get organized at home can greatly reduce your stress level and make your school days much more relaxed. This series contains "challenges" you can do that will become teacher time savers during the school year.

Challenge #3: Get a Jump Start on the Holidays:

I realize it’s July and the holiday season seems so far away, but if you are like most teachers, that hectic holiday season comes at a time when you are already feeling more hectic than you would like. Many “teachery” things such as report cards, progress reports, end of term assessments, and parent teacher conferences also fall at that time of year. And let’s face it, the schedule often goes out the window with assemblies, concerts, and special programs and the kids tend to get a bit more “energetic.” It’s hard to fully enjoy the holiday season if you are juggling that all day and fighting crowds at malls and adding things to your to do list faster than you can cross them off.

That is why this week’s Teacher Recharge Challenge is focused on spending some time preparing for the holidays during the summer. While I don’t suggest putting up your Christmas tree this week, there are plenty of things you can do now to make the holiday season far less stressful and much more enjoyable to you as a teacher when the time comes.

Here are a few tips for planning ahead for the holidays:

  • Create updated mailing labels for your holiday cards. If you prefer to hand-write them, get envelopes and write all the addresses on the cards. If you send photoless cards, or if you like to use a picture taken during the summer months to could even get the cards 100% done and ready to drop in the mail.

  • Make a list of everyone you plan to buy a gift for and jot down some ideas for presents. Doing this now will enable you to find better deals and come up with more thoughtful gifts than a last minute gift card. 

  • Buy (and if you are feeling ambitious) and wrap as many gifts as you can at this time. If you don’t have holiday wrapping paper just buy a solid red, green, blue or a brown craft paper.

  • If you are hosting Thanksgiving you can explore recipes and create a shopping list. Store it digitally in your computer so you don’t lose it.

  • If you’re planning to have a holiday party you can make invitations, plan recipes and decor. 

  • Speaking of know all those Pinterest crafts that you pin and never make? Well, now is a great time to actually make one. 

  • If you give your colleagues or students a small holiday gift you can prepare those now as well.

Feel free to post pictures on social media as you complete the challenges. Use #CFCRechargeChallenge. Do you have any tips for ways to get ahead on the holiday craze? Add them in the comments below.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Teacher Recharge Challenge Week 2 {Time Saving Tips for Teachers, Reduce Stress, Get Organized, Prepare for the New Year}

The focus of this site is to help teachers organize and manage their classrooms. Taking some time during the school vacation to get organized at home can greatly reduce your stress level and make your school days much more relaxed. This series contains "challenges" you can do that will become teacher time savers during the school year.

Challenge 2# Clean Out Your Closet:
Like everything else, clothing can be clutter and the less you have the less you’ll need to manage (or frantically sort through in the morning when you’re already running late for school). Having a few staples (khaki pants, a black skirt, etc) will provide a simple foundation you can build on. This week’s challenge is to get rid of all those extra items of clothing that are cluttering your closet and costing you time in the morning.

Take some time this week to go through each item of clothing you own. Discard the ones that are stained or torn and donate any clothing that is better suited for someone else. If you like to hold on to clothes that you are hoping to fit into I suggest you get a container to store them so they are not mixed in with your other clothes. Having only clothes you love and wear regularly in your rotation will save you so much time each school day.

Here are a few tips for organizing a clothing closet:

  • Work is small chunks. Taking EVERYTHING out of your closet at one time will cause you to be overwhelmed. Instead tackle like items (i.e. shirts, pants, skirts, etc), work to completion and then take on the next category.

  • Have a plan for where the items will go after they are out of your closet. If you plan to donate them have a bag ready and know when and where you will bring them.

  • Set very specific rules. It’s easy to hold onto something because you “may” wear it in the future. Setting non-negotiable rules will help avoid that. 

  • Sometimes just asking yourself these three questions helps: Do I wear this? Do I love it? Would someone else be better off owning it? 

  • Make sure you have a few staples that can be paired with lots of options. Informally inventory what you are keeping so you know what you need to add.

And now for a few tips for making school day mornings easier:
  • Pick out your outfits and prepare the clothes for the week on the weekend. Put together everything you need (top, bottom, undergarments, accessories). This will save “what am I going to wear?” minutes as well as ensuring that what you intend to wear is clean and wrinkle-free. As a bonus this also prevents coming home to a pile of discarded clothes on the bedroom floor that you tried on and didn’t wear that day.

  • Arrange your closet in a manner that makes it easy to find what you need. This could mean by color or by like items being grouped together.

  • If you live in a seasonal climate box up clothes from the off season. Even if your closet is really large you’ll find it easier to get ready for school if your space is simplified.

Feel free to post pictures on social media as you complete the challenges. Use #CFCRechargeChallenge. Do you have any tips to add about cleaning out a clothes closet or getting dressed for school? Add them in the comments below.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Using Binders to Get Ready to Go Back to School {Teacher Tips}

A great, but simple tool for classroom organization and management is a 3-ring binder. They are perfect for organizing your teaching units and lesson plans as well as for creating student portfolios, collecting documents for your Teacher Evidence Binder (ugh, right?), housing meeting notes, and about a million other things.

I always keep lots of binders on hand and repurpose them as needed each year. One thing that drove me crazy was removing the binder inserts (especially after the binders sat in a hot classroom all summer and the plastic started to adhere) because often times they would rip and part of the spine insert would forever live in the bottom of that pouch. 

I don't know why it took me so long to think of this, but when 2 colleagues spotted me doing it and mentioned they thought I was a genius I figured it would be worth sharing.


Over the years I have blogged about some tools that I find to be essential for the classroom. I will now add tweezers to that list. The next time you are out shopping I suggest you snag a pair to leave in your desk drawer. I'm sure you'll find them to be handy.

{Click to Access and Download these Editable Binder Covers}

The binders shown above are from one of my latest creations: Editable Binder Covers. I designed them to include just about any type of image you would need a binder for, but made them editable so that you may title them as needed. For example, a reading themed binder could be labeled as Book Buddies, RTI Reading, Reader's Workshop, Reading Conference Notes, etc. 

{Click to Access and Download these Editable Binder Covers}
I have six different editable sets available:

Click on any of the covers below to go directly to the specific product:

I'm excited to be linking up with lots of talented teachers who are showcasing their back to school items:

Monday, July 6, 2015

MATH WORKSHOP WITH GUIDED MATH TIPS & RESOURCES FOR TEACHERS {Makeover Monday Product Updates, Back to School Resources}

I'm happy to let you know that I've added another resource to the Organization and Management Guide for Math Workshop with Guided Math Instruction Bundle. This is by far my favorite product and the one that I am most proud of. I have used this model in my own classroom for many years with great success and am always so touched to hear that other teachers and their students are benefiting from it as well.

Unlike the previous Makeover Mondays, this isn't a complete remodel (as it wasn't warranted), but instead is the addition of projectable versions of the Rotation Board with student groups as well as the student tasks for each station. All you need to do is type the names and tasks in a text box on Powerpoint and project it for the kids to see.

If you already purchased this product please redownload it to access the free updates. If you haven't purchased it previously you may be interested in grabbing it now while it is temporarily on sale in honor of it being featured as a Makeover Monday Product of the Week.

{Click to Access and Download the Guided Math Bundle} 

Sunday, July 5, 2015

FREE Ultimate School Supply Shopping Guide {Back to School, School Supplies List, Free Printables}

School Supply Shopping List for Teachers

Can you believe the back to school sales have started already and school supplies are now lining the shelves that just recently housed items for summer vacation fun? 

While we just ended the school year less than a week ago and lots of you can relate to the cartoon above, many states have been out for weeks and the 4th of July is an unofficial time to start thinking about the new school year. For that reason I figured now would be a good time to share a free resource I made awhile back that many teachers have found to be very useful. The Ultimate Back to School Supply Checklist is especially handy for new teachers so please feel free to share this FREE resource with anyone you think would benefit from it.

{Click to Access and Download this FREE Resource}

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