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2014: The year of Balance

Hi friends...I'm declaring 2014 the year of Balance for me.  The word "Balance" sort of covers everything I want to accomplish in the new year and it's something I was obviously lacking this year (I think I've posted like twice all school year!).

Life & Balance//

In 2013, I spent WAY too much time at school, WAY too much time online and not enough time with family and friends or exercising or just relaxing!  

It's so easy for us as teachers to forget ourselves...we are in charge of other peoples children!  Those children are important and we are playing a HUGE role in their lives.  That's a lot of pressure to be an awesome teacher!  My students have so many needs (plus curriculum demands) that I could literally move into my classroom and never leave and I still wouldn't be able to get everything done. 

Just making this list, you can see how much more I need to add to the "in life" column to balance out.  I think the biggest thing is to work smarter.  I'm in the process of making a few products that will make my school life so.much.easier.  I can't wait to see how it works!  

I hope you all have a fun, safe night tonight!  Happy New Year!

Just add dice Sub Tub!

Would you like a sub tub that only needs to be printed once and you can use every time you are out for years to come?

I blogged about my sub tub in the summer.  I was waiting to get to know my kids before making copies for each reading/math group. Well, I got to know my class and more than half of them are non-readers so I threw my plans out the window and decided to start again.  

I was facing multiple meetings in the same week and I didn't want to print a ton of stuff for my sub tub because paper is gold in my school.  I had the idea to fill the sub tub with review games that can be done multiple times.  

Why games?  Games are engaging which is helpful for the sub.  I don't have to make copies every year because the games are laminated.  I know my kids are working on concepts that they need to review.  The best part is after you set it up, all you have to do is add dice! (and writing paper)

I decided make a sub tub for fall, winter, and spring.  Many of the activities are the same just with different graphics to mix it up.  Some of the things change like writing prompts, writing paper, and time fillers.

Here is how I put mine together:
I added a Fall sub tub label.

A variety of math games starting with addition facts all the way up to 3 digit multiplication are included.  I printed the games I wanted for my kids and laminated them.

If I needed to add info for the sub, I just wrote it on a post it.  This one says no regrouping because this group isn't ready for that yet.

I made a labeled folder for each group I have.  Then I just tossed in the games I wanted for each group.  They have 2 or 3 each so they can choose what they want to do with the sub.

I made roll-and-respond reading sheets that can be used with any book.  For writing, I have roll-and-write a story promts, themed paper, and instructions.  Are you noticing a theme?  All you need to add is dice! 

 Finally, I have a few time filler cards that list activities a sub can do with items found around the room so there is no prep for you! 

Science and Social Studies have such a wide range of topics so here is what I do (not included in my sub tub kit but the worksheets are free and can be found on my pinterest board)
Social Studies: I threw 3 sets of scholastic news into a folder.  Each set is clipped together. 
For science, I bought the magic school bus dvd set.  You could throw in some science books you have that you don't typically use or a science weekly reader.  I give my subs the option to do science or social studies...whatever they are most comfortable with! 
I give the sub 3 graphic organzer/response options so he/she can choose how she wants the class to respond depending on the time.  I have this fact book, a bubble map, and a KWL chart.  I did a sample one for the sub to use as a guide with the students.  These can all be found for free on my sub plans pinterest board.

It did take me a little over an hour to set it up between choosing items, printing, laminating, and customizing the time filler cards but I never have to redo it.  When I leave on the last day in June, my fall sub tub is all ready to go for September :)

You can grab your fall sub tub by clicking the picture below! 

Have a great weekend!

Who doesn't love a good deal?!

Hello readers!  Teachers spend WAY too much money on their classrooms and Teachers Notebook & Teachers Pay Teachers don't help because I want to buy SO.MANY.THINGS.  I think I need an intervention!  Since I have a shopping problem when it comes to all things school, it's so nice to save some money.

Did you know that Walmart will donate to your room?  Last year, they donated pumpkins for our pumpkin book reports.
Can't wait to do these again this year!  Original idea can be found here.

This year, I asked Walmart for some 3 drawer carts.  They no longer donate specific items but they donate gift cards.  I submitted a letter on school letterhead and a donation committee met to decide how much money they will give you (they meet weekly at our local Walmart).  They gave me a $25 gift card.  The had these 3 drawer carts on sale for $8.
I'm not a huge fan of the green but it was the only color on's the campus edition cart and the local university's color is green.  My district colors are green and yellow so this works!  I needed 4 of them so essentially, they donated 3 of the carts.  I'll post about how I'm going to use these later (after I figure it out..too many ideas).  So if you want/need supplies, submit a letter to Walmart! 

And speaking of saving money, have you seen this educents bundle?!  A.M.A.Z.I.N.G.

Click the picture to check it out!

Now it's time to relax before school...have a fantastic Monday friends!

Starting Math Groups

**It's the last day to enter my giveaway!! Make sure you do it before midnight!

I hear from a lot of teachers that they struggle with doing guided math groups.  I LOVE the way my math time runs so I'm going to share with you how I start it.  I have 3 groups (1 per grade level) so I have 3 stations. 
1. Teacher Time (math lesson)
2. Seat Work (independent practice from the math lesson)
3. Game (any sort of activity to work on the current or previous skills)

To get started, you will want to grab my free first week math stations which are on my facebook page.  You will also want to have some games that go along with your first unit and maybe some fact games.

I start math rotations on day 1.  (I take a lot longer to introduce ELA centers).  The first day my students go through 3 rotations of all game like activities.  We begin by talking about staying in your station spot and working the whole time.  We have already talked about being kind and working together earlier in the day.  The talk is quick.

Then I explain each station:
1. Pattern Blocks: "Use the blocks in this bin to make these pictures."

2. Counting Bears: "Use these cards to make a pattern.  Let's look at this one.  The card has the bears in this order: Red, yellow, red, yellow, red...what comes next?  what comes after that?  Perfect!  Copy the pattern and then see how long you can make it!"

3. Snap Cube Counting: "Grab a number card and build a tower with that many cubes." Then I hold up a number and ask what it is and make a tower with that # of cubes.

These are quick and simple enough for young students but still engaging enough for my older students. 

While they do the stations, I walk around and praise them for all good behaviors I see.

Day 2 I add in seat work.  Again, we discuss working the whole time & what to do if you finish early.  I also tell them that I expect them to work quietly.  I show them where the manipulatives are so they can get what they need.  The first seat work tasks are simple like this:
Name In a Ten Frame: first day?
(Click to go to the site)
I also throw in a fact assessment within the first few days.  Again, while they work, I walk around a praise good behavior.  I also go over things I see that we need to correct.  We still do 3 rotations so the kids do 2 games and a seat work activity. I do this again for another day or 2.

On day 4 or 5 (or 6 whenever the kids can play a game and do seat work successfully), I add in the teacher time.  My first session with them is going over expectations for our lesson time.  Th next few sessions, I introduce new math games for the students to use.  Adding new math games quickly gives them a bigger variety of games to play and therefore reduces behavior problems.

If you need 4 groups, add a math fact station.  I would introduce the stations the same way but just adding a day or 2 for this station.

I hope this helps some of you who have wanted to try guided math! If you ever have questions, leave them in the comments or email me!  Those of you that do math groups, what advice would you add or what would you do differently?

First week down & Currently!

My class is so stinkin' cute!  I wish I could show you pictures of them but I can't...confidentiality and all that.  I have 7 boys and 3 girls (for my new followers, it's a special ed room with a limit of 12 students).  They are so well behaved which is a HUGE relief because we had some issues on day 1.  I have a student who is coming from a behavior program and he did NOT want to come to school.  I was handed a note before students even got to school saying that our school resource officer (who is a police officer) had to go to the child's house that morning due to behavior.  I just started laughing (if you don't laugh, you'll cry so laugh!)...what a way to start the year!  He had a ROUGH day.  His meltdown lasted for HOURS and the poor psychologists room was DESTROYED (coffee on the floor, marker and glitter glue all over the walls, chairs thrown, spit in her hair).  He calmed down around 1pm and joined us for the rest of the day and did fine!  He's been fine ever since!  We had a lot of play time this week but we also have math stations fully up and running on the 3rd day of school so it's been a good week :)  I'll post about starting math stations by early next week.

And super quick before the Currently portion of the post, did you see my giveaway?  If you haven't go check it ends next Friday!

Okay, now Currently!!  A huge thank you to Farley who does this every.single.month!

A lot of this is self explanatory so I won't elaborate on everything....

Thinking...I have the hardest time setting up literacy centers!  I have no trouble with the math stations.  If you have posted about how you run literacy centers, leave a link to the post in the comments!  I need ideas!

Wanting...laminating pouches.  I ran out half way through laminating visual schedules.  I ordered more from Amazon.  If you have a laminator, don't buy the name brand pouches...the other ones work just as well for about half the price! 

Needing...a break from all this thinking.  I know I'm not alone!  I just can't stop thinking about school!! I'm giving myself a break because it's the first month of school.  I have some amazing ideas that are going to take some work to set up so my goal is to get these things up and running by October.  That's why # 3 of my things for me is getting the room running efficiently.  If I can do it, then the rest of the year should be much easier...that's the plan anyways! 

Have a super relaxing weekend friends!

Back to School Bash!

Hi friends!  To celebrate making it through the first week of school the start of an awesome school year, I'm having a giveaway!  There are 3 different prizes you can win!  

First up is a year long subscription to!  I love love love  I've blogged about it a few times.  You can check out my latest post here.  If you are not completely thrilled with your current plan template, check it out!  There is nothing better than being able to click a button and have all your lessons shift over a day when you have a snow day (or just a few plans moved when you have that assembly that you forgot about!)

Prize #2 is a fabulous pencil sharpener in the color of your choice from Classroom Friendly Supplies.  This comes in pink now!!  I am so jealous that whoever wins this can get it in pink (if he/she wants)...I may have to buy a pink one.  I got this sharpener last year and since using it, we gave away all the other sharpeners we had.  A year later it is quiet and still giving my pencils the perfect point!  What more could you ask for?!
This is mine, clipped on a desk

The last prize is a $10 gift card to Teachers Notebook, Teachers Pay Teachers, or  We all use these sites a lot for our classrooms so who wouldn't want an extra $10 to spend?!

 All 3 winners will also be able to choose any 3 items from my store.  

The giveaway ends Friday, September 13th (Friday the 13th could be a great day for you!)

How do you plan?

'Paperwork is such a great use of my planning time,' said no teacher ever.

I feel like I never have time to plan.  My planning times (the few I had last year) always seem to be spent dealing with meltdowns (of my students and/or co-workers haha) or some other crazy problem or new form we need to fill out.  By the time I did have time to plan, my brain was done.

This summer, I started doing some long range planning and I was using pinterest a lot...the only problem was my boards have too many pins on them!  So I started organizing the instead of Math, I have a board for place value, time and money, multiplication and get the point.  Now, when I go to teach fractions, I have a board with nothing but fraction ideas!  I can also see what topics I need more ideas for.

So organized!
Make sure you follow my boards since I've added a bunch!  
Now that I have my ideas organized, I need a place to write them down.  Enter

I absolutely LOVE  It is so easy to use and it cuts my planning time down a lot...sometimes it cuts my planning time in half!! IN HALF friends! 

Let's back up and I'll show you how I set mine up.

Start by adding a new class/subject/group.  You can choose a new color for each subject which I love.  Then you enter the times you teach that subject each day. If it's the same time every day, you can click the "Copy" link that will copy the same times for all days.  

This is an overview of my classes/schedule.  My school runs on a 6 day schedule which is why there are checkmarks under the 1-6.  We have library on day 1 so there is only checkmark there.  Note the small amount of time I have to teach science and social studies to each of my grade levels :( 

Templates are a nice feature...there are things that happen every day that you don't want to retype.  

This is what my weekly view looks like (with no plans written in).  The crazy part about this is, I'm not even done with adding classes...I have no reading groups scheduled in here yet because I haven't grouped the kids.

To write plans, just click on the subject you want and type.  My favorite FAVORITE part of this is those little options at the bottom.  Apply saves the plan.  Bump pushes the plan to the next time I teach that subject (all future plans get bumped a day too).  Bump back will make the plan earlier.  Extend is for will put the same lesson on the next day for you.  ATTACH FILE!! I can plan from home and attach a file and have access to it at school.  No more emailing myself files!!  You can also roll your plans over year to year so you can keep those files attached to the lessons for future years...what a timesaver!
Notice the tabs at the top....

All of the common core and state standards are uploaded into  When you click the standards button, you can go in and select the standards you are using.  I used this as a resource room teacher and I wanted to be able to create my own (for IEP goals).  I emailed them and they replied immediately saying they would do it.  That feature was available within 2 weeks.  How awesome is that?!

Here is what the plans look like with my 1 plan written in.  You can also view plans by class/subject and day. 

They also have amazing customer service!  A few years ago, I went to print my plans in the 3 seconds I had before my next group of kids and it didn't work so I figured I'd try again after my group.  When I went back to my computer 30 minutes later, I had an email from saying that they saw I had a problem printing (I didn't report anything) and they fixed it for me.  I was blown away...nobody has customer service like that!

Confession: I didn't use last year because my schedule runs on a 15 minute schedule which is CRAZY and my schedule changes every other day it seems like.  My planning didn't work well...I ended up with 3 different planbooks and templates which is not managable at all.  My planning really suffered!  I'm so happy to be back with!  If you have been thinking about doing plans online you should try it!  That first snow day when you can just bump your entire day, you will thank me!!

If you are going back to school Wednesday like me, have a great first week!

Classroom Tour Part 1

I spent a while in my classroom today and finished some small areas.  I still have a bunch of things to do but I'm REALLY trying to not just hide those random piles this year...I know you have those piles too!  I usually just hide them away and then get mad at myself when I find them a month into school.  

Of course, I don't sort through the piles when I find them...I just walk away.  Anyone else do this?

This year will be different!
(I hope)

Anyways, here are the few spots that I've set up so far!

Let's start outside the room where I have 2 bulletin boards

 (Sorry I couldn't stand back far enough to get both in one shot)  I love love LOVE the burlap and orange chevron together.  The little fish and mermaids are from this Schoolgirl Styles collection.  The banner I made.

I put my rules on flags and hung it above the smartboard.  Under the rules I have my homework chart.  Last year, I didn't do homework. This year, I am sending home a small packet each week.  Every night, students have the option to do 3 tasks: Read for 20 minutes, Respond to Reading, and do a math activity from their math bags (more on this later).  They get one star for each task they complete.  I will color the stars that everyone earns during our morning meeting.  If the class meets the weekly goal, they get free time Friday!  This post inspired my homework system.

Under the smartboard I put my math wall.  I only have a few minutes to get through calendar but I wanted to have my class read the date together each day "Today is (day of the week) (Month) (date) (year)".  I put those things on the banner...just to switch it up.  The other cards are days we've been in school, different ways to show a number, comparing 2 numbers, money, rules, more/less, and a fact family.  I have another set of cards that I will rotate in and out throughout the year.  Each day, we will do the date and days we've been in school and 1 or 2 cards.  I put them by the floor because that's where the class will be sitting so it's in their line of sight.  I may decide to project the cards on the smartboard later but for now, I like the idea of them seeing all of them at once.  If you are interested, you can grab them here.

This is my filing cabinet area.  I put the prize box, lollipop tree, and cd player on top.  I know it's not much but it is a completed area :) 

As I finish my areas in my room, I will continue to give you a tour through my room!
I LOVE looking at other people's rooms, don't you?

First Week Math (freebie!)

Hi friends!  I wanted to share with you what I do for math the first week of school before the rest of you go back.  The first week of school is usually a short week for kids in my district.  I use the first few days to teach the rules and routines of the room.  I also want them to get comfortable and make friends.  I don't want anyone worrying about the work being too hard.  Those first days can be rough on kids, especially the shy ones!

During math, I talk to them about math groups and the different centers they will do (Math games, seat work, work with me).  By the time we talk about what math will look like and sound like in the room, we don't have much time left.  I do put them in groups and give them a basket of manipulatives to explore.

They LOVE this and it's a great time for them to make friends in their new class.  Last year, I only had a few kids on the first day so I just let them play together.  This year, my class has doubled in size so I wanted to add some structure to this time.  I made 4 slightly structured activities:
For this, students grab a card with a counting bear pattern on it.  They copy the card and then continue the pattern on their own.  If they run out of cards, they can make a pattern and have a friend continue it.

Here students have a picture of a clock and they make their clock match it. 

My class last year loved snap cubes and they always tried to outbuild each other.  For this center, the students grab a number card and build a snap cube tower with that many cubes.  I included numbers 1-50.

Students make pictures using pattern blocks.  I made 6 pictures for them to copy.  If they finish all 6, they can create their own image with the blocks.

While the class is busy using manipulatives, I can observe them, do 1:1 assessments, or take care of those 19035098 first week tasks that get thrown on my desk.  I love that I don't have to overplan for math that first week because this can be done several times and for varying amounts of time.

Because we are prepping WAY too much getting ready for school, everything but the counting bears activity is in black and white.  I printed mine on colored paper.  If I don't get to laminate them before school, it's not a big deal because I didn't waste much ink or paper.

If this is something that you could use, grab it by clicking the picture below! (It's free)

PS. My goal this school year is to post more blog-only freebies as a thank you to my readers (so make sure you follow if you don't already).  

BTS Shopping Part 2

I had my cart full hours before the TPT sale started and once it did half the items I had in my cart weren't on sale so I looked around and found the most AMAZING items.  I'm actually happy that the original items I wanted weren't on sale now haha.

Click on the pictures to be taken to the item. 
Fall Word Cards {and writing practice}
Last year, I tried to do a typical word didn't work.  Word walls with just text and no visual cues is not-so-great in a room with a range of kids between non-readers and level M.  So I decided to make a picture based word wall.  I grabbed this to add fall words to my wall. 

First Grade Common Core Language Activities & Printables [
I was not prepared to teach the language standards at.all.  I had zero resources and this looked amazing so how could I not buy it?!  I am so relieved to know that I am covered when it comes to the language standards. (She has part 2 coming out in the fall).

The following are ALL from Tracy Tegeler from Creekside Teacher Tales which has become one of my favorite blogs this summer (and now clearly, a favorite TPT seller since I bought half her store).
Find Us Forever Homes (Critically Reading, Analyzing Infor
This will be challenging for my oldest kids because they have to look at info on 4 different pages and decide which family is the best match for the dog.  But this is such an interesting assignment that I doubt anyone will mind working harder. It's not easy finding materials that will push my students without frustrating them...the activities have to be engaging and interesting and I think Tracy's products are PERFECT for that.

Main Idea Practice Pack {Nonfiction Passages}
Finding the main idea and details is a great skill for my younger students...and they all love animals so this is also engaging for them.  She has a winter version of this too which I will probably buy in the future.

Main Idea, Predictions, and Inferences Oh My! (Fiction Reading)
This is my favorite of the reading passages I bought from her today.  It covered so many things that my students with Autism need...and this year more than half my class has Autism.

Back to School Main Idea Practice Pack {Fiction & Nonficti
More main idea passages...these are school themed which is nice because we can all make connections to school. (Do you have those students who insist that they have done NOTHING ever when working on making connections?  Drives me crazy!  One student told me his mom never read to him...his mom is a reading teacher...........)

Cops, Crooks, and Coins: Math Task Cards (Common Core Aligned)
Last year, my students struggled with money.  This year, I'm going to review it early with my 3rd graders and add these to their centers.

Awesome Animal Articles {10 Nonfiction Articles with Activities}
Each year, we study animals in science.  It's in all 3 of my science curriculums. This year, I have 45-60 mins per grade level every 6 days for science AND social studies....that means that I have to teach science and ss to my 1st graders with only 45 minutes every 6 days.  This means that I really have to start doing a lot of my content instruction during guided reading groups...hence the articles.

Animal Wax Museum Project
This is so.freaking.adorable!  If you do an animal research project, buy this now.  I have 2 other projects from different TPT sellers but this one is hands down the best! 

Between these purchases and some projects I've been working on, I feel like I'm pretty prepared for the year.  Now it's time to print all of this out! 

Have fun shopping!!