Thursday, July 31, 2014

Tips and Tricks for Going Back to School Without Breaking the Bank

I think we can all agree that going back to school is expensive.  However, it doesn't have to break the bank. :) Today I'm excited to share some tips and tricks that have saved me money over the years during the back to school season.  Hopefully you might find a tip or trick that will help you out this year too!

The biggest thing that has kept my BTS shopping from breaking the bank is setting a budget each year.  I either withdraw that money from the bank and use that cash to do my BTS shopping OR I put the money on a prepaid Visa/MasterCard.  I get a prepaid card when I plan on doing a lot of online shopping.  Occasionally, I'll go over but I really try not to.  My husband is so supportive of my teaching adventures and I feel my BTS budget is generous enough to begin with. 

It's hard to not go crazy when you see crayons,
glue sticks, and scissors at amazing prices.  
However, I started saving a lot more money when I started buying only what I needed.  I don't do a lot of art projects or interactive notebooks, so there is really no reason for me to buy 50 pairs of scissors and hundreds of glue sticks.  Typically, I buy some extra highlighters and crayons for my students to use during my guided reading groups, extra pencils, and extra dry erase markers. I also buy an additional notebook for each of my students because I like to use two notebooks, one for reading and one for writing, and our district supply list only asks for one.  That might sound like a lot but since I'm only buying extras of a few things, I don't spend nearly as much as I did when I bought extras of everything on our supply list. 

This tip is simple, but SO true.  Shop your classroom first. I don't know how many times I've gone to the teacher store for something in August, only to find out that I had what I just bought in my classroom. We also have a donation spot at my school and sometimes I have found what I needed there for free! If you are in search of bigger things, like filing cabinets or furniture, send an email out to your district.  Someone at another school just might want to get rid of theirs. 

When you head out to do your shopping, go with a list or purpose in mind.  I don't know how many times I've picked up a notebook or notepad just because it was cute and then never used it.  The other day I went shopping for book bins at Target and that's all I bought.  Even though I wanted some new Mr. Sketch markers and some Flair pens too. I know I spend a lot more money when I just wonder around the store with no purpose in mind. 

I saved a lot of money the other day when I bought bins for my library because Target had a Cartwheel coupon for them.  I buy ink and laminating pouches on Amazon because they are so much cheaper online.  My local teacher store also has a special day when teachers get discounts on their purchases.  I saw that Big Lots will be doing an educator discount day and Walmart has their teacher rebate this summer.  When I go to buy an extra notebook for each of my students, I search the sale ads to see who has them the cheapest and that's where I buy them. :) Anytime I buy something from Hobby Lobby or Michaels, I always check my phone for coupons.  I actually found a great deal on my new library book bins at Home Depot of all places because I searched and searched online for the best deal. 

The classroom of your dreams, especially if you are a new teacher, isn't built overnight.  It's okay to add things to your classroom as the year goes on and you have the extra funds.  Or if you like having 50 extra pairs of scissors, a 100 extra glue sticks, and 25 extra boxes of crayons to use throughout the year, wait until a few weeks after school starts.  I know Target usually has an AWESOME clearance section after school starts. I've purchased class sets of notebooks for pennies after school starts and I just save them for the next year.  

Craiglist, thrift stores, and garage sales are a great way to get things for your classroom for a great price! I've also scored several wonderful books on clearance this summer at Half Price Books. Our local children's resale shop offers teachers a discount when they purchase books and furniture for their classroom.  Most of my classroom library is from Goodwill.  I've also found used copies of resource/professional books in great condition for a great price online!

My last tip is perhaps the hardest.  Stop comparing your classroom to others because it's not fair. Focus only on the special environment you have created within the four walls of your classroom. 

It's okay if you don't have trendy chevron borders, a ton of Pinterest inspired projects, fadeless bulletin board paper, etc. 

While I have the classroom of my dreams right now, I waited seven years for it.  I inherited every thing I needed for a stars and stripes classroom when I first started teaching.  So that's what I did. All my posters were handmade and I didn't care one bit.  As time went by, I added things here and there to make the room feel more me, even if it wasn't the classroom theme I would have chosen for myself. 

I rocked that stars and stripes theme for four years. Then I used all my blue and red bins and borders to do a primary polka theme before I finally invested last summer in my black and neon bright classroom.  

Even then, there were somethings I did not get rid of simply because they didn't match my black and neon theme. For example, I really wanted to get rid of my red and blue book baskets because they just didn't match.  However, I had already spent enough money on redecorating my classroom. So I waited until this summer and will probably wait to add the cute curtains I've been wanting next summer because book bins aren't cheap. I'm okay with not winning a classroom decor contest anytime soon to keep my checkbook in balance. :)

What about you? How do you try to save money when it comes to Back to School? 

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Back to School Sale and TpT Gift Certificate Giveaway

So apparently it's time for some of you to go back to school.  Apparently some of you have already gone back to school. That's just crazy talk. 

Personally, it looks like Michaels, Target and WalMart threw up in the back of my SantaFe. I'm excited to get my room in order, but I'm also thankful for a few more weeks to finish up my summer to do list.  

Since back to school is literally just around the corner for some of us, I'm throwing a Beat the Back to School Blues Sale!

You can visit my TpT store by clicking {here}.

I have gotten a few questions about my lesson plans and how I tackle back to school with my fourth graders and I'll be posting about that soon. 

I will say that we spend a lot of time getting organized, learning and practicing procedures, building a classroom community, and having fun together that first week of school.  I use my Fabulous Back to School Fun, Cooking Up a Great Year Together and Story of My Name units every single year.  They really do set the tone for a great year together!

To thank all of you for being such loyal and faithful readers, I am giving away two $10 Teachers Pay Teachers gift certificates! You can enter below. I'll choose two winners on Thursday! 
Good luck!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Monday Made It: Coworker Gifts

Hi friends! I'm linking up today with sweet Tara for Monday Made It.  

I don't have any classroom made its to show you because I totally redid my entire classroom last year and I feel that was one huge Monday made it. I only need to change up a few things here and there because I still LOVE it.  As I type this, I realized that I never shared my classroom with you last year.  Never fear, it will happen this year!

My Monday Made It are some simple and inexpensive coworker gifts.  I always like to surprise my coworkers with a little gift at the beginning of the year.  Just something simple and practical to try to get them pumped up for the new year. 

The first option features fun goodies that I found at WalMart. The ribbon is from WalMart as well. Each of these gifts were under $4 each. To allow the layers to stay together, I used tape, which you can see in three of the pictures below.

I gave these beauties to some blogging friends when we met up for lunch and totally forgot to put a tag on them.  However, I think either of these would have been appropriate. 

My second gift idea are the actual gifts I am giving my coworkers. I bought the notepad at Target and the pens at WalMart.  The cost of this gift was under $3 each.  The pink ribbon is from WalMart as well. Again, I used tape to keep everything together.

I have uploaded each of the gift tags from this post to Google Drive.  You can download them here.  
If you don't know how to download and save from Google Drive, check out this tutorial
All you have to do is print, cut, and sign your name on the tag. :)

If you made something for your classroom or your home, go link up for Monday Made It! :)  

I've also made lots of delicious recipes this summer, there were just too many to include in this post.  You can check out my Fourth and Ten in the Kitchen Recipe Recap {here}

If plan on using my gift labels, I'd love to hear about your plans for them in the comments below! 

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Fourth and Ten in the Kitchen

One of my favorite things to do outside of teaching/blogging is spending time in the kitchen. I love to cook and I especially love having more time to do it in the summer.  So I was overjoyed to find the Eating, Drinking, and Linking weekly link up hosted by Christy at Teaching Tales Along the Yellow Brick Road. What a great idea! :)

We eat most of our meals at home, which saves us a lot of money each month.  That's not to say that we don't enjoy a nice dinner out, we do.  We just limit them to once or twice a month.  Since we eat a lot at home, I have lots of recipes to share. :) 

We always seem to have extra bananas left over each week, so I've been making lots of banana breads and muffins this summer.  I often freeze the leftovers, so we can have them for breakfast throughout the week. 

These two recipes have been our favorites, this whole wheat / reduced sugar banana bread and these sour cream banana muffins.  I usually use whole wheat pastry flour or a mix of half white flour and half whole flour in all my baked goods. I also replace the oil with unsweetened apple sauce and sugar with organic honey when I can. I do this on a recipe by recipe basis because for some recipes this switch seems like a good fit and then for others it is not.  

I always love a quick, but yet delicious, dinner.  
One of our favorite quick and delicious meals is Maid-Rites.  Maid-Rites aren't quite burgers and they aren't quite sloppy joes. However, they are delicious. This recipe is from one of my favorite bloggers, Iowa Girl Eats.  Everything we make from her site is delicious and usually pretty healthy too.  

We also love pizza.  I pinned this fun deep dish pizza in a casserole dish and knew I had to try it right away.  We had it for dinner this week and loved it! 

Since it uses refrigerated pizza dough, this recipe couldn't have been easier. It came together and minutes and it's perfect for a week night dinner during the school year. 

My husband and I also do our fair share of grilling and we had beer can chicken the other night, which is my FAVORITE way to prepare chicken these days. 

There are lots of recipes and tutorials out there for beer can chicken. We watched this video the first time we made it. You can use root beer or coke as well. I do recommend using a beer can chicken stand for your grill.  We got ours here.  Sometimes the beer/soda cans don't hold up the chicken very well on their own. We also made my favorite green bean recipe to go with it. 

I also use our Crockpot a lot, especially in the 
summer. We love this easy chicken and black bean taco salad from Skinnytaste.  We buy Bolthouse Farm's Cilantro and Avocado Greek Yogurt to go with it. 

As you can see, we cook a lot and have a of great recipes to share! I hope that you found one that you'd like to try. :)

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Behavior Management Link Up

Every so often, I get an email or Facebook message via my blog's Facebook page on classroom management. Often these emails come from sweet teacher friends who are new to fourth grade and are wondering what works and what doesn't work with the upper elementary population.  

I don't claim to be an expert in classroom management but I AM willing to share what has worked in my third and fourth grade classrooms in the past.  Every group is different, so next year it could be possible none of these management strategies work. 

When I taught second and third grade, and even my first year in fourth, I used a clip chart.  

I actually like using a pocket chart with cut outs instead because I always found they were breaking the clips.  I always found the behavior chart to be super motivating with my students.  They loved clipping up, especially if they had a rough start to the day. I love that it really instilled the mind set that they really COULD change their behavior.  If they got to the top of the chart, they put a sticker on their star.  They loved it.  

What I didn't like was how some of my fourth graders got so moody about clipping down.  Fourth grade is when some of your students start experiencing some of those hormonal changes and it was drama city when I asked someone to clip down. It's also hard to have a clip chart when you are departmentalized.  However, I love theses ideas from Christina and Rachelle and would probably use one of them if my teaching partner and I decided to try clip charts again in the future. 

Last year, I shared how  I use the calendar below and coupons in a classroom economy type system. You can find that post here

I really love the coding on this calendar and it's a great way to communicate quickly with parents about their child's behavior.  However, kids are smart.  They purposefully loose them when they get a lot of signatures and are in danger of loosing their bigger reward, such as an extra recess.  I didn't have a backup system and that made things hard when you were figuring out who earned the reward and who didn't. 

This year I plan on binding this cute free calendar from my friend Sarah and at least try to write down which calendars I may have signed that day to have some kind of record myself. 

Shopping for coupons was a little difficult this year.  My partner and I shared coupons and sometimes we ran out of good ones. Sometimes we would forget to go shopping and we found shopping every week was hard.  Luckily, Laura's coupon pack has full page coupons that we could but in a binder. I think that might be easier for us. Additionally, we may choose to go shopping once a month instead and change the value on some of the coupons. :)  If kids carried over a balance of stars/stickers, we just wrote that on the top of their new calendar. Not super pretty, but it worked. 

Now even if you find something you really like that inspires your most students to strive for good behavior, there are always outliers of students where that just doesn't work for them.  So you need to come up with a plan for them, otherwise you'll be trying to put a square peg in a round hole all year and that's no fun. 

For example, one my students used this management system instead.  One of my students really loved to clean and really struggled with his behavior. So if he didn't get his calendar signed, he wanted to sweep the floor at the end of the day. Most of ED students have a behavior plan set in place by their intervention specialist and I don't mess with it, or force them to do my system, because what she does works for them. 

As far as whole group behavior management, I've tried a lot of different whole group incentives. However, I always come back to behavior bingo. 

I found Behavior Bingo back in the day on Mrs. Gold's website.  It works for me and has worked for most of my classes.  I love it because it doesn't require much extra work for me to have two, since I teach two sections of ELA. I just have two bingo boards. One for the AM and one for the PM. 

This year, I used this one from Ms. Sanchez
I love using Behavior Bingo to reinforce things that my classes struggle with whole group, such as walking quietly in the hallway or transitioning without starting conversations, etc. :) 

I keep two bingo boards in the front of my room. I have a pouch of unearned numbers for each class.  This is where I draw the numbers when they earn numbers.  Each class also has a pouch for their earned numbers, so the numbers aren't picked twice.  

Once one of my classes earns bingo, five in a row or four corners, they earn a reward.  We brainstorm a list of possible rewards and then vote.  The brainstorming allows me to weed out things that just won't work, such as KFC lunches for the whole class, field trips, etc. 

In the past, I've send home letters asking for donations for bigger rewards, like ice cream and root beer float parties.  Typically, if you aren't asking all the time for donations, parents will help out.   

Sometimes your class might earn two bingos quickly, and that's okay.  I just stress during our brainstorming to come up with manageable/free rewards that time, especially if I'm footing the bill. An extra ten minute recess or watching a Magic School Bus while they eat lunch are two suggestions of free to me rewards.

One of my coworkers had a super challenging class this past year and she only had twenty-five numbers on her board.  This made earning a bingo very manageable for her group.  You could do twenty-five squares to start out and then increase the number of squares on their bingo board if you feel 100 off the bat is overwhelming. 

Like I mentioned earlier, this is simply what works for me.  What works for me, might not work for you and your class.  However, the important thing to remember with behavior is that consistency is key. If you want a clip chart to work, make it a point to use it every day! If you don't use it or don't put an emphasis on whatever you are using, your kiddos won't be motivated by it.  I found this to be true on the weeks we would go without coupon shopping.  They weren't motivated to keep clean calendars because we weren't using the coupons to reward them. 

I'm linking up with Miss V's Busy Bees and Ms. D's Corner today.  If you are in need of some behavior management ideas, I highly suggest you check their linky out. I clicked around and found some good ones myself. 

Check out the linky by clicking {here}

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Two for One Tuesday and Wishlist Wednesday

Hi friends! Thanks for your sweet comments on yesterday's post.  I'm heading to school again today to finish sorting my last two tubs of books.  
Then the fun of shopping for new bins/painting my existing library shelving happens. :) 

I wanted to pop in and let you know of some special deals I have going on in my Teachers Pay Teachers store this week. 

Today I am running a special Two for One Deal. 

If you purchase Cooking Up a Great Year 
Together TODAY, you automatically get my School Year Time Capsule file for FREE.  I have edited the product listing for today only to include a zip file that contains both of these products.  Meaning it is VERY important that you not only download but save this purchase to your computer/portable storage drives because tomorrow I will edit the listing again to only have Cooking Up a Great Year.  

Also, so my blog doesn't seem like one long commercial for my TpT store all week, I'm letting you know about this week's Wish List Wednesday deal today. :) 

Starting tomorrow, my Similes and Metaphors Activity Pack with be 30% off.  Similes and Metaphors can be so tricky and this pack really helped my kiddos, and I hope it can help yours too. :)  

Make sure you follow me on Instagram and/or Facebook to be notified of deals like these and some fun giveaways! :)

Monday, July 21, 2014

Classroom in Chaos Day One of Organizing My Classroom Library

Today I went to my classroom for a few hours before a doctor's appointment.  This was the view that greeted me from the door. 

Since my school has tile floors and little built in storage, we have to pack up everything that sits on the floor during the school year.  Which means unpacking/getting ready for the new school year takes longer for me than it did at my previous school that had built in cubbies and storage. When it comes to getting my room ready, I like to go in for a few hours at a time in July and get it done, because my husband usually takes a few days off in early August for our anniversary. :) 

Today my objective was to start organizing and purging my classroom library.   Most of my classroom library is in these six blue totes. 

When I first started teaching, I focused more on quantity of books rather than quality.  I'd go to thrift stores every payday and buy any book I thought might have a Reading Counts test. I'd also ask for gift cards to book stores at Christmas, went to a used bookstore after church each week, and sent home book orders. This certainly allowed me to accumulate A LOT of books throughout the years.  However, there are also A LOT of books that my students just simply aren't reading. 

 Donalyn Miller points out in Reading in the Wild that we should discard of books in our libraries that are:  MUSTIE;" Misleading, Ugly,Superseded, Trivial, Irrelevant or Elsewhere.

That's what I focused on today.  I started looking through my books as I was unpacking them today with MUSTIE in mind.  

This summer I want to totally revamp how my classroom library is set up.  Previously, it was by level with a separate section for popular chapter books.  Which made it really difficult for my avid readers last year to find books that interest them.
I polled last years students on how I should organize my library and they overwhelmingly chose by genre/book series.  

With my new organization method in mind, I started creating piles of related books/genre piles around my room.  I put all MUSTIE books in a big pile as well.  For me, MUSTIE books are any books I've NEVER seen a child read since I bought it, books that aren't relevant to my age group (Clifford, Franklin, Easy Readers, etc.), or in need of serious repair.  I plan on donating all MUSTIE books to a teacher who could use them. :)

Since I have so many books, it was a bit of an overwhelming task.  I was able to unpack three of my totes before I had to leave to go to the eye doctor. 

As you can see, it's quite a mess BUT this messy process is helping me weed out those MUSTIE books and giving me a good idea of what categories and genres to use when organizing my library for my students. 

After my eye doctor's appointment, I headed to Dollar Tree and Big Lots to look for possible book bins.  

Previously, I used these GLES boxes from Ikea. Which I really liked but all mine are blue and red and really don't go with my classroom color scheme, which is bright pink, blue, and green with black accents. They do come in bright green now, which could work. 

The clear bin is from Big Lots and the green and pink ones are from Dollar Tree.  I only bought one of each and will try them out in my classroom the next time I head in to see which one will work best. :)

I'll continue to check in as my room starts to come together.  

Before I go, let's chat! How do you organize your classroom library? Is it easy for you to part with books from your classroom library?

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Encouraging Shy/Reluctant Students to Share: A Bright Idea

Hello! I am so excited to be part of another Bright Ideas link up.  I missed out on the last few few, but I'm so excited to be linking up with again this month.  I got a sneak peak at few of the topics and boy are you guys in for a treat! :)

My bright idea is something that worked for me this year when it came to getting my more shy, reserved, and more introverted students to share in class.  Since I'm more introverted in nature myself and would have hated my teacher to call on me without my hand up when I was in fourth grade. So naturally, I'm not a huge fan of pulling sticks to call on students or calling on them randomly if they haven't volunteered to share something. So often my shy, reserved, and introverted friends just sit politely and smile in class, but they rarely volunteer to contribute to whole class discussions. 

However, one day I did something simple while my students were working on an independent task that got my shy/introverted students eager and willing to share their thinking/answers AND it also let me give ALL my students some immediate feedback about their work.  Plus, it didn't require any materials or resources that I didn't have in my classroom already. All I needed was a marker! 

One day, as my students were working, I randomly picked up a marker and put a smiley face next to answers that were correct or on partially completed answers that were on the right track. 

Since I was using the sheet above as a review for state testing, we checked our answers together. When I asked my students to share their answers, I was surprised when some of my quiet, more reserved students eagerly raised their hand to share.  It was if that smiley face sent the message to them subconsciously that it was okay to raise their hand and share their answer.  They knew they were on the right track and it was safe to share. 

I continued taking a marker around with me whenever my students were working on their independent work.  When I saw any of my students, especially my shy friends, had a correct answer or were on their way to getting there, I put a smiley face on their paper to let them know they were on the right track.  

As  time passed, I noticed not only where my quiet/reserved students sharing answers in class more, so were my ED students.  For those of you who don't know, I teach students with emotional and behavioral disorders.  Often if they are called on and their answer is wrong, they shut down and will go weeks without volunteering to share again.  

I used this smiley system throughout the last quarter of school and it really made a huge difference with my class.  Towards the end of the year, many of my sweet more reserved/unsure of themselves students were volunteering to share more often, even when there wasn't a smiley face on their paper.  Plus I was able to get lots of immediate feedback to my students on their independent work.  

If you enjoyed this bright idea, please consider 
following me me on FacebookInstagram, or Teachers Pay Teachers for more great ideas. 

To keep searching for even more bright ideas from lots of great bloggers, please browse through the link-up below. 

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