Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Gone Are the Days

I am a theme queen.

I had a classroom theme long before they were the thing to do.

Don't get me started on my obsession with planning kids birthday parties. I have my little ones' birthday themes planned from now until they are 38.

I SO miss thematic teaching. Sure, I fit the occasional themey-type thing in here and there, but my days of taking down the big ole' tub of "ocean stuff" ended years ago.

I dug all around my hard drive for some pictures of my thematic unit storage. Nothing.

I poked around cyber space. Very little.

As a purger, I got rid of most of my thematic materials. However, I used to love my system for storing them. I would scrounge up copy paper boxes (sturdy, uniform, stackable and free...love, love, love and LOVE). I would then cover them in paper so that they matched and label them with the name of the theme. Inside would house all of my plans and original copies, bulletin board borders (because I changed them ALL monthly...I was so young and energetic back then), thematic books and the rest of the stuff that went with it. It really worked for me and I highly suggest it if you are still lucky enough to teach thematically.

Because you'll only be accessing these items once a year it is best to store them out of the way and save valuable storage real estate for items you need to get at more often.

Below are some ideas for storing your thematic materials. I can't wait to see how y'all store yours.

Be sure to follow my blog and store  and Facebook Page for notification of the FreebiesClick here to access a collection of Teacher Tips or tour my Classroom Makeover here.

Monday, February 27, 2012

The Clutter-Free Classroom Project: Week #8 Challenge

If you are just joining us, you'll want to start here or check out my Clutter-Free Guide to Organizing and Managing Your Classroom.

This week we are going to organize thematic units. This is different from your typical curriculum materials like reading series, math manipulatives and all that good stuff. This is the extra stuff you do. It could be a good old fashioned theme like "St. Patrick's Day" or "farms" or perhaps it may be something more content-related like "biographies" or "Pilgrims."

If you are in need of a system then this is the week to start one.

If you already have everything stored then this is your opportunity to go through, weed out, possibly downsize, maybr relabel...basically just tidy it all up.

Take a good look at the books and materials you have.

Decide what you want to keep and determine if there is anything you can part with.

Consider where you would like to store these materials and figure out how they could best be stored (one box per theme, seasonal items together).

Gather storage containers that will best suit your needs and style (boxes, binders, bins).

On Friday, I'll put up the Linky Party related to this wee Clutter-Free Classroom PROJECT. The Linky will be ongoing and you can always jump in and link up at anytime. If you don't have a blog you can respond to the prompt in the comment section on Friday's post. Below is this week's prompt. Keep these questions in mind as you take your pictures:

  • How do you store your thematic / content area materials?
  • What do you like about this method? What would you change?
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Be sure to follow my blog and store  and Facebook Page for notification of the FreebiesClick here to access a collection of Teacher Tips or tour my Classroom Makeover here.

Sunday, February 26, 2012


I'm keeping it real people.

I often get emails commenting on how I have it all together.

I don't.

Far from it.

I just have some tricks up my sleeve to stay organized and to keep from being overwhelmed with teaching and with life in general.

Because if I don't stay organized and two steps ahead then it's not pretty folks.

So in the interested of full disclosure, I am about to tell you a true story.

And with it comes great appreciation for you.

And with that comes a gift to show my gratitude.

So read on, grab your gift(s) and feel free to laugh at me along the way.

As you all know, I was on vacation last week.

A wonderful, relaxing, much-needed vacation in a warm and sunny place that allowed my to be barefoot most of the week.


Because I am a planner and I like to be organized, I plotted each detail.

I booked the flights.

I booked the car rental.

I packed WAY before I needed to be packed.

Heck, I even left detailed sub plans just incase something (snowstorm, travel problems, my deciding that I loved beach life and never returned to my home state, etc) came up.

I am organized and so well-planned and so gosh darn thorough that I even set my alarm for bright and early last Sunday morning so that I could get up and print our boarding passes at the exact moment the airline allows you to do so 24 hours in advance.

And that's where I was when trouble began.

I was trying to print my boarding passes on the Southwest site and kept getting an error message letting me know that wasn't allowed.

Hmmm....I figured that my clock and their clock weren't in sync and poured more coffee while I waited.

Still didn't work.

So I called the 800 number, gave her my confirmation # and was told that it was for a flight the following Saturday.

I've been known to book each leg separately so I hung up and went to see if I had a different confirmation number.

I saw that the number was correct and tried again.

No luck.

Now I was annoyed with Southwest and called them back.

The call went something like this:

Me: I'm trying to print boarding passes for my flight tomorrow and have been getting an error message.

Southwest Lady: May I have your confirmation number?

Me: (insert 6 letters and numbers)

Southwest Lady: Well I see the problem.

Me: (hopeful this will now be resolved and they will be so sorry for their technical glitch that I'll be moved to first class with endless peanuts and unlimited refills of those shot-sized plastic cups they call refreshments)

Southwest Lady: The problem is that the flight isn't for tomorrow. It was today. And it took off 20 minutes ago.


Needless to say that since it was school vacation week they were sold out and couldn't get us onto another flight until WEDNESDAY! I tried 4 different airports all within 3 hours of here and every Southwest flight to Florida was booked.

Luckily with Southwest you don't lose your money and instead get a credit, but that wasn't going to help the situation at the time.

Jetblue could get us there. Heck we could even have our choice of 4-5 flights that day. If we were willing to pay.

Five roundtrip tickets aren't cheap on a good day.

Five roundtrip tickets the day of travel on school vacation week? Let's just say it wasn't cheap. It could have been much much worse, but it wasn't a bargain.

I debated not going. However, my kids would have been crushed. My husband wouldn't have been able to validate taking a week off to hang around the house and he really needed a vacation. My in-laws have been telling me for months how excited they were that we (translation: the 3 grandkids) were coming down. I had bags backed. I had toes pedicured. I decided to just do it.

And we did.

And it was truly the best vacation we've ever taken as a family.

It was relaxing. We were (mostly) unplugged. The weather was awesome. We really and truly enjoyed just spending time together and getting away from the normal chaos and routines.

About halfway through the week, I realized that the trip was only happening in the first place because of Teachers Pay Teachers and the extra income it affords us. However, I am certain that given the circumstances, there is no way the trip would have happened the way it did without TPT and the support I receive from all of you. I have mentioned before that I am truly grateful, but I don't think I can say it enough.

To show my gratitude I am doing the following:

While I do feel that my family needed a vacation, I realize that the daily life we wanted a break from is hectic, but lovely. I know that there are families that need a vacation much much more that we do. Therefore I am "paying it forward" by making a donation to Give Kids the World in your name. The donation will be made in your honor.

I looked through my entire store to pick a product to mark as COMPLETELY FREE as another way of saying thanks. I decided on my Dr. Seuss Writing Packet since so many of you are going to be getting your Seuss on this week and into March. I wanted something applicable to all of the elementary ages and also something that would require very little effort on your part to use. Head on over to my store to download it for free. Again, it's only going to be marked free for a very short time so hurry hurry hurry!

Be sure to follow my blog and store  and Facebook Page for notification of the FreebiesClick here to access a collection of Teacher Tips or tour my Classroom Makeover here.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Back to Reality

Sadly today our vacation is winding down. At this point all we can do is reflect on the memories, plan to transition Back to School, and start saving for the next trip.

In keeping with the week's theme I have some deals of the day to go with those ideas. The following packets are currently on sale for 20% off.

My Memory Book Pack: Great for the end of the year!

My Back-to-School Packet: Because it's never to early to plan ahead

Thanks for traveling with me friends! Thanks also for reading along with the reruns. We'll be back to our regularly scheduled blog with a new season of The Clutter-Free Classroom Project tomorrow!

Be sure to follow my blog and store  and Facebook Page for notification of the FreebiesClick here to access a collection of Teacher Tips or tour my Classroom Makeover here.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Argghhh! Pirates!

I'm super excited about my brand new line of classroom theme and color scheme bundles! My goal was to create a product that provided teachers with everything they would need to put together a beautifully themed and organized classroom at a very low cost. To create the Pirate Theme Classroom look below I simply combined the printables in my packet with some fabric, ribbon, card stock and borders...so cheap and easy! Each low-cost bundle contains 34 classroom essential products (see the full list of items at the bottom of this post). The bundles also include editable files so you may customize them with student names, classroom activities, book titles and more. 

{Click to access and download the Editable Pirate Themed Classroom Bundle}

Included in this Pirate Classroom Theme Bundle you'll receive:
multipurpose labels, nameplates / deskplates, basket labels, team / table numbers, number tags, welcome signs, welcome banner, calendar headings, calendar / date cards, seasons and weather chart, hundred chart, decorative pennant banner, bookmarks, days of the week bin labels, hall passes, classroom job chart, decorative accents for bulletin boards, behavior clip chart, word wall headers, word wall letters, word wall cards, classroom schedule cards, How We Get Home door chart, classroom supply labels, classroom clock telling time helpers, school day tracker, color poster, tooth tally, number posters with ten frames, half-page alphabet cards, alphabet posters with picture cues, binder covers, classroom newsletter template....many of these products are editable with PowerPoint (07 or higher) 


My 20 Page Pirate Themed Classroom Kit is now available in my Teachers Pay Teachers Store. It includes all of the following items shown in the sample pictures below, plus more! Click here to view the kit.

-crumpled up brown paper bags (to look like treasure maps paper)
-sandpaper (available in large sheets)
-”Creepy Cloth
-torn white fabric to look like a sail

-large plastic gems (hotglue onto border)
-beads (hotglue onto border)
-gold coins (hotglue onto border)

-hand-held telescopes
-treasure maps

-Welcome Aboard ____ Grade
-Ahoy, Mateys
-_____ Grade Treasures
-Mr./Mrs. _____’s First Mates
-Anchor’s Away for a Great Year

-Work We Treasure (w/ treasure chest)
-X marks the Spot
-Shiver Me Timbers, This Work is Great
-Blow Me Down Work

-Catch a Good Book
-Set Sail With _____
-Open a Book...Find a Treasure
-Sea of Writers

The Crew
All Hands on Deck

Don’t Rock the Boat
GOLD-en Rules
Catch of the Day
The Captain’s Log

Pirate Grub

-send your welcome letters out as a “message in a bottle” (use plastic so there is no broken glass)

-create a fort as a reading area

-create a deserted island as a reading area

-use an island themed scene setter or shower curtain

-incorporate the Walt Disney quote, ““There is more treasure in books than in all the pirate's loot on Treasure Island.”

-print your classroom rules on a scroll

As always, I love Beth Newingham's Go Big or Go Home approach to taking on a classroom theme.
The next few photos are from her nautical themed classroom.

The next 10 images are from Ms. Callow's classroom.

The following 10 pics are from classrooms in the UK.

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