Monday, August 26, 2013

TEACHERS: Our Top Pinterest Finds for Back to School

Want to see what we're LOVING for back-to-school on Pinterest? Many of you have been spending the summer gathering all kinds of fun ideas for the school year. We've been trolling the Pinterest boards, and here are some of our favorite finds. (NOTE: We've done our best to give credit to like these ideas back to their creators. Some affiliate links are included-read below to find out more!)

Choice Signs
First Grade Glitter and Giggles: Prevent the laundry-list of questions that follow directions for independent practice with these task cards. Laminate them, add a magnet to the back, and choose the ones appropriate to your lesson. Grab this FREE printable here.

White Board Markers
The Go To Teacher: We've all heard it. "My marker won't work!" "This one is dry!" "This marker doesn't have a lid!" I knew I'd struck gold when I saw this pin. Putting students' names on dry erase markers helps them find theirs, and also holds them accountable for it. You can print out names on Avery labels, cover them with a piece of packing tape, and then leave them in a bucket. It's genius, really.

Ticket Out the Door
Teach-A-Roo: We love using tickets out the door as closure activities, so we think using a board like this is a fantastic idea. It helps you quickly assess student learning and see who has completed the task. On top of that, students get to use post-it notes, and you all know how much I love those! Click here for the FREE Ticket Out the Door printable!

Name Tag Velcro
Elementary Organization: This whole blog has fantastic ideas, but this is the one that caught my eye. If your students are constantly ripping of their name tags from their desks, try securing them with velcro. This also makes it easy for students to move desks. This 15-foot strip of Velcro should be long enough to make 30 name tags, assuming you have 30 students and use 3 inches of tape on each side of the name tag.

Monthly Binders
Elementary Organization: While I was perusing the velcro name tags, I found this. It's a fantastic way of organizing smaller materials for just about anything by month. And more importantly, the binder covers and spines are just adorable. Visit TPT for the FREE spines and covers. I get all of my notebooks from Costco.

Mailbox Binder Clips
Teaching With Love and Laughter: As soon as you assign your students numbers, run copies of alphabetized lists, and set up your mailboxes in alphabetical order, you either get a new students or lose a current students. Isn't that how it always happens every year? Here's a great idea for labeling your mailboxes that can be rearranged easily if necessary. While you're at it, get a few extra binder clips and make a set for a teacher-friend down the hall. 

Notebook Folders
Science Notebooking: If you use any kind of active notebooks in your classroom, you know how often your students lose small pieces that they don't glue into their notebooks immediately. Envelopes come in so many different sizes and colors. I think it's a great idea to put one on the other side of the back cover for students to keep pieces that don't get glued in. My absolute favorite ones are these durable poly string envelopes because they are built to withstand messy and clumsy hands. 

Name Highlighting
Ladybug's Teacher Files: Do you get a lot of "no name" papers turned in? If so, try putting a cup with highlighters next to the area in which students turn in their work. Students have to highlight their name before they turn it in. Click here for the FREE printable!

Birthday Certificates
Erica Bohrer: Add a clear sleeve for each month to your teacher binder for birthday certificates. That way, you can assemble them all at one time so you're not scrambling at the last minute.

Parent Handbook Flipbooks
Just Reed: I absolutely love this flipbook. It includes all of the information that parents need, and it's fun and colorful! You can find the link to the printable here, which includes directions, 40 page titles, and perfectly spaced and customizable templates.

School Forms Checklist
Ginger Snaps: Here's a great parent resource for the first day of school. Send home an envelope with all of the forms that parents need to fill out and return to school, and attach a checklist on the front so that parents make sure they send all of it back. I couldn't find you a printable, but I found a link to the TPT store, which is amazing! She also has an amazing collection of pictures from her classroom. 

Lost and Extra Supplies Labels
Kindergarten Works: We all love it when students bring us treasures, but at some point, you just want your students to be able to figure out where things go and put them there. Grab these FREE lost and extra supply labels here, slap them on some buckets, and let the student responsibility begin.

Door Sign
Crib Tales Photography: I found this amazing classroom (or maybe school?) door, but I have no idea where the school is located. I think it's a fantastic idea to use something like this to remind students that they are responsible for their own choices.

Color-Coded Workbooks
A Cupcake For the Teacher: If your students have trouble finding their workbooks in their desks, this might be a solution for you! Grab a marker and swipe it across the sides of the book. Instead of asking students to take out their math workbooks (you know, one of the three that have the same color on the cover),

Too Loud App
iTunes: If the noise level in your classroom gets louder than you'd like, this might be a great app for you. It tracks noise and lets you know just how loud it gets. Turn it into a game and give students a target number.

Homework Checklist
MargD Teaching Posters: If you have a parent checking in homework, here's a great resource for you. You can easily see who has turned in homework, and you can keep these as a homework tracker throughout the year. Eliminate embarrassing charts hung in the classroom! Click here for the FREE printable.

Portable Work Box
Mrs. Walker's Frog-Tastic Website: This website has a great list of procedures to teach in the beginning of the year. I love the idea of having a place for students to turn in their work, especially for those that frequently forget to put their name on their paper. This box would also be easy to transport (lunch room, home, car, etc) if necessary. If you keep a running list of worksheets throughout the week, you can copy one for each student and check off what they've completed and turned in.

Sticky Note Holders
Next To Heaven: You know you've come across a great resource when you come across a resource that you wish you would have come up with yourself. I couldn't find any information on the blog, but I did locate a tutorial for you. Isn't your mind just spinning with ideas for these? Click here for the tutorial.

Common Core Notebooks
Sassy In Second: This is my FAVORITE new resource! I bought these for grades K-5, and I'm using them to organize all of my new common core materials. I'll share some information about how I'm using them soon. These packs come with resources that are great for both students and teachers. My favorite part of them is the standards that are formatted for Avery address labels. You can use them to relabel your worksheets, or as labels for filing folders. Click here to find these notebooks on TPT.

IEP Tracker
School Bells N Whistles: I can't seem to get a good picture of it (or a link to a blog), but this is a fabulous one-page IEP tracker for students. You can keep track of your students' accommodations and modifications all in one place. Click here for the FREE TPT download.

What are some of your favorite finds? Are you implementing new management strategies this year? What small changes have you made that make a BIG difference? We'd love to hear what's working for you!

AFFILIATE LINKS: This post contains affiliate links, which means I receive a small commission if you make a purchase using this link. I purchased all of the items myself, and all of the opinions expressed here are my own.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Some of Our Favorite Supplies for Back to School

Furlough days, budget cuts, and increased class sizes have many teachers sending out supply lists this year. Many teachers (and even some districts) have been sending out supply lists from the beginning of time. Many elementary schools pool their supplies together, including those donated by parents. Over the years, I think I've tried just about every brand out there.

We've compiled a list of our favorite school supplies. If you're waiting until the last possible minute to buy supplies this year, here are some supplies to consider.

Hand sanitizer: These individual hand sanitizer holders are great because they clip onto your student's backpack or lunchbox. Encourage your kids to sanitize before they eat, both at recess and at lunch. 

Coloring supplies: Crayola is my favorite brand of markers, and I buy new boxes every year. In my opinion, these last longer than some of the other leading brands. They come in a variety of fun, new colors, but I like to stick to the basics. Did you know that you can't put traditional colored pencils into an electric sharpener? The friction from the blade spinning creates heat, which melts the wax and eventually coats and dulls your blade. This is why I love these twistable colored pencils. Students always have their favorite colors, and when the tip gets flat, it's like it's the end of the world. These prevent whining, wandering around the room looking for a sharp one, and pencil sharpener malfunctions.

White board writing utensils: These are new to me, but apparently they aren't new. They're crayons that you can use on a white board. I was skeptical because I couldn't fathom how they'd work, so I bought them mostly out of curiosity. To my amazement, the feel, look, smell, and write JUST like crayons. They erase easily with a white board eraser, a piece of felt, a paper towel, and with the cloth that comes with it. These might be my new favorite supply this year!

Filing supplies: These are perfect for upper elementary and middle school kids that shuffle around so many papers. I love this particular one because it's affordable, it has 7 pockets, and it's sturdy. Elementary students can use it for unfinished classwork, papers that need to go home to parents, papers that need to go to the teacher, homework to be completed, homework to be turned in, long-term projects, and blank paper. Middle school students can do the same, or they can use one for each subject. This filing system can be used in the classroom and at home, and prevents papers from being stashed in a backpack. This product is so versatile!

Index cards: I could write a whole blog post just about index cards, so I'll have to save that for another day. This year, I found these gems hiding on the shelf. They come in a variety of colors, and they would be super easy to make. I bought these because the poly-covers are extremely durable. I often put cards on a ring, but it's not long before the front or back ones start falling off. You can even add a few sticky tabs to section off different sets of flashcards (like I did below).

 Pencils: For the love of pencils, PLEASE don't buy the cheap pencils with hard erasers that crack. The erasers smudge the graphite and rip paper, the shafts crack, and the tips break off. As much as we love donated school supplies, there's nothing worse than cheap pencils. If you really want to make a good impression, I HIGHLY recommend Ticonderoga Dixon #2 pencils. You can buy them in bulk at Costco, and they're really worth the extra price. Your teacher will LOVE you if you bring these in, and you'll earn extra brownie points for sharpening them.

Tabs: These Post-It notes are fantastic because they're a quick way for middle and high school students to label notes, textbooks, and planners. The tabs on the right are a bit more versatile, and are especially wonderful for tabbing important math formulas in textbooks. I picked these up from the Container Store, but I've seen them in a few other places. The little 4-pack on top is from Martha Stewart.

Academic Planner: Most of our middle school students receive planners from school. For our high school students (and our middle school students that thrash their planners), I love these planners from Staples. They have lots of room to write down assignments, events, and reminders, and students can see their whole week (a key element to successfully managing their time). Each month also has a page for keeping track of important reminders. We'll add more about how to use your planner in a different post.

To do list: The only thing I love more than a good to do list is crossing things OFF of a to do list. We get so many phone calls from parents that have arguments over homework on a nightly basis. Creating a to do list is a great technique that visually shows younger kids what they need to do for the evening. They can cross the items off of their list one by one, and it prevents the, "How many more pages do I have to do?" whining. You set the expectation, they complete the work, and you can both feel good when all of the items are crossed off for the day.

Desk organizers: Many of our middle schoolers have desks that look like they've been struck by tornados. For students with piles of papers all over their desk, nightstand, dresser, and various locations throughout the whole house, these are a great way to help them keep their piles neat and orderly. It frees up space on their desk, and it helps prevent papers from being lost. They come in a variety of colors, sizes, and shapes.

Color-coded spiral notebooks and pocket folders: Our 6th graders tend to be at a complete loss with organization. Transitioning from 1 teacher to 5 or more means different rules, different policies, and different procedures. Some teachers require spiral notebooks, others ask for 3-ring binders, and the rest fall somewhere in between "just don't lose this" and "come up with a system that works for you". After the first week of school, students will know which teachers require which supplies. If all of their materials for each class are color-coded, it becomes easier to keep track of all of their materials. We've got more to come about this in an upcoming blog post.

This is not an exhaustive list, by any means, but it's a start. These are items that can be overlooked, but they all caught my eye this week.

Click here to see 5 supplies that your teacher does NOT want you to bring to school.

Happy supply shopping!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

5 Supplies That Your Teacher Does NOT Want At School

As we approach the first day of school, many of you are gathering up your back-to-school ads, piling those adorable kids in the car, and roaming the aisles of your favorite stores in anticipation of a few more quiet moments to yourselves. Finishing a leisurely cup of coffee without hearing, "I'm bored," is on the horizon, and you can almost hear the sound of that first morning bell. Before you get carried away and fill up that cart with all of your back-to-school supplies, please keep us teachers in mind. As I was roaming the aisles at Staples a few weeks ago, I came across some amazing new products that I can't wait to share with you. I also came across some supplies that are sure to end up on any teacher's most-wanted list. So, I present this to you: 5 supplies that your teacher does NOT want at school.

This is not an exhaustive all! These are just a few things that I came across as I was perusing. A few years ago, those "squishies"that came out of the gum ball machines at diners were all the rage. They were these little squishy animals made of rubber that fit on the end of a pencil. They were not an eraser, and the kids were trading them, losing them, and stealing them ALL DAY LONG. Last year, the kids found these erasers that looked like food and were made up of itty bitty parts. It wasn't uncommon to see them spend the first 5 minutes of workshop lining them all up.

Before I have all of you all thinking that teachers don't like fun things, let me throw in a disclaimer here. Most teachers that I know LOOOOOVE school supplies. Most teachers that I know are just as excited that school is starting as you are. Most teachers that I know love to see the joy on kids' faces when they are excited about anything school-related. However, most teachers that I know run a tight ship in the classroom, and they work hard to create a stimulating an exciting, yet controlled, learning environment for your children. This means eliminating unnecessary distractions, which is ultimately why all 5 of these items made it on my list. 

Without further ado, here are the 5 supplies that your teacher does NOT want at school.

Supply #1: scented gel pen and notepad

Yes, this notebook is adorable. However, students do not need to bring their own notebooks to school. Most kids keep these in their desks, and write or doodle while they are supposed to either be listening or working independently. Some kids use these to write notes, and some kids will attempt to take these out of someone else's desk. There's nothing worse than trying to run a small group and hearing, "Give it back!" from across the room.

If your kids absolutely must have this, encourage them to keep it in their nightstand or at their desk at home. Journaling is a GREAT activity for kids to do at home.

Supply #2: decorative pens

Yes, these pens are adorable. They are so adorable, in fact, that they are more of a toy than a writing tool. Most kids don't use pens in the classroom, and if they do, they are supplied by the teacher. Kids will take these from each other, compete with one another over who has the cooler pen, and write on their desks with these. It's sad, but it's true.

If your kids absolutely must have these, keep them at home and use them as a homework reward. Or, encourage your kids to write their hearts out in a journal at home. The rules for their super- secret, exclusive club aren't going to write themselves, and they can use these pens to draft their club's constitution in their scented notebooks!

Supply #3: eraser rings

Yes, these erasers are adorable. I mean, an eraser that you can wear helps you keep track of it, right? Wrong! These erasers aren't all. It's difficult enough for some kids to erase using their pencil, so imagine having to flip your hand over to do it. The surface area on these erasers is too large to erase a small area without erasing all around it at the same time. Like the pens, these become more of a toy, and they are likely to be stolen in addition to being a distraction.

If your kids absolutely must have these, bury them on the bottom of the cart and dispose of them while they're not looking; chances are they won't remember them amidst all of their excitement with their other supplies. If they do recognize that they're missing, blame it on the cashier, and tell them they're all sold out if you can't avoid "going back" to find them. 

Supply #4: pencil stackers erasers

Yes, these erasers are adorable. You get to stack up the components and build your own FLOWER! Although these seem like a lot of fun, they really weigh down your pencil, making it harder for students (especially those with fine motor challenges) to write. These have the same potential distractions as the supplies above.

If your kids absolutely must have these, save them a rainy day (STAR testing, the last week before a vacation, their birthday, etc) or use them as a homework incentive. Give one leaf after spelling homework is complete, a petal after they practice their math facts, and so on and so forth. I actually bought these for myself to use as incentives for 2 of my reluctant writers. #guilty

Supply #5: twist it erasers

(say it with me) Yes, these erasers are adorable. They're bendable, they're cute, and you can even cut them up to share with your friends! However, these end up all over the floor, they're extremely difficult to erase with for little hands, and--yep, you guessed it--distracting! 

If your kids absolutely must have these, please ask them to use them at home. If they leave them whole, they will be less likely to lose little pieces, and they might even make homework time more fun. I bought these to keep in my office so that I can remind my kids that everyone makes mistakes, and that making mistakes is part of learning new things. #guiltytwotimes 

There you have it. This is by no means an exhaustive list. I dug a little deeper with some of my teacher friends, and here are a few items they would add to the list:
  • Hot Cheetos (and other foods that get all over their fingers)
  • Silly Bands (and other collective bracelets or necklaces)
  • Money that isn't for lunch, the book fair, or a school activity (if you send cash to school, PLEASE put it in an envelope with their name and what it's for)
  • Party favors (such as Valentines) that need to be assembled at school
  • Shoes that they cannot tie independently
  • Belts that they cannot buckle or pants that they cannot zip/button
  • Pencil sharpeners (especially the ones without canisters for the shavings)
  • Mechanical pencils
Teachers are excited to go back to school, and have eagerly been planning all kinds of fun get-to-know-you activities for the first days of school. It's likely that they've spent the summer searching for new ideas, revamping their plans to include the new common core standards, and setting up their classrooms. Teachers are excited to meet their new, eager students, and I know that they appreciate you keeping these items at home.

Click here to see our FAVORITE school supplies (and how you can get them at a discounted price).