Friday, December 30, 2016

Winter Break

As I wallow at the fact that winter break is quickly coming to a close, I must pause to reflect on all that I've accomplished in these two weeks off.

1. I started and finished a novel (The Only Thing Worse than Witches). 

It's one of the novels for this year's Battle of the Books competition and was a cute, if somewhat predictable story.  I made a novel guide, chronological order sort, and bundle (both products) for purchase on TpT, which you can snag {here}.

I even started a second novel, The Hammer of Thor.  My goal for this novel is the end of January.

2. I dealt with adult matters.  I changed my name with the DMV, bank, and insurance.  I got new credit cards and a new driver's license.  I started an address book and sent out Christmas cards (and letters) in a timely manner.  I paid HOA dues and the mortgage payment ahead of schedule.  I went to the vet with the furballs several times.

3. I started planning a baby shower.  One of my dear friends and bridesmaids is due in early April.  It's her first and a boy, so there's a lot of excitement.  We had lunch to discuss games, themes, invites, etc.  We had a second meal with another friend to continue discussing logistics and planning the event (for early March).  Some days I have more fun party planning and crafting than I do teaching...but oh well.

4. I shopped and saved like a pro!  With six baby showers between now and June, plus five weddings in the upcoming year, we've got a lot of expenses.  Luckily I was able to find some great deals so I can not only be fiscally responsible, but spoil friends in the mean time!  I'm quite fortunate that my grade level splits the cost of work shower gifts, so it's only $5(ish) a person.  I've got a gift wrapped and ready for January's baby shower and another bridal shower in April.  

5. I enjoyed family time.  B and I celebrated Christmas early with his parents and grandma on the 19th.  His mom loved her ornaments.  One I made from filling a plastic (unbreakable) ornament with flower petals from my wedding bouquet.  The other I purchased from {Etsy} with all the family members' names on the outside.  

(Image from seller's shop, not my actual purchase)

His dad got a balls themed golf gift (naturally) and we got his grandma a Starbucks gift card.  We also got his brother and sister in law a restaurant gift card.  Our niece and nephews each got a stuffed toy, a nonfiction book (the teacher in me couldn't resist!) and a craft project to do together.  

We then snuck down to Arizona for a few days to celebrate with my mom, brother, and brother's girlfriend.  I got to have some best friend time because her trip overlapped with mine, spent time in pajamas, bought new tires (yay unexpected adulting!), enjoyed a new restaurant, and went on a day trip to Goldfield Ghost Town.

6. I got caught up on grading and ahead on lesson plans.  This wasn't done in one sitting and was most definitely aided by Panera.  But still, I'll go back to work on Tuesday feeling mostly prepared for the week ahead.

7. I attended a funeral.  A former coworker unexpectedly lost her son and an entire group of us went to be supportive.  2016 certainly claimed a lot of good people.  This wasn't a pleasant or enjoyable task, but it was necessary (and heartbreaking).

8. I cleaned.  I took down Christmas decorations, moved furniture around to make space for our new bedroom set, cleaned out teaching materials, went through craft stuff, went through clothes, made donations of unwanted items, and did lots of laundry.  My loving husband hung our new Batman shelf so I could display our wedding cake topper, toasting flutes, and some of the flowers.

(As an added bonus, that shelf came painted black and was on sale!)

9. I set new years resolutions and began to type about each one.  I'm trying to get back into the habit of blogging, but no promises on it being an every day situation.

10. I enjoyed some down time.  I had shopping time and breakfast dates with friends. I fought this one for couch space on a daily basis.

I watched Netflix, snuggled the pets, did a puzzle with the hubby, watched movies, took bubble baths, enjoyed scented candles, admired our Christmas tree, and napped.  I often neglect to prioritize self-care, which is something I vow to work on in 2017.

While I'm not quite ready to return to work (because really, who is?), I am proud of my winter break accomplishments.  There was a healthy balance of work and play.

Up next? Four days of three dozen ten year olds, then an eagerly awaited weekend.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Back into the swing of things

Sometimes I feel like a hypocrite.

I love reading.  I want my students to love reading.

But sometimes, no often times, I don't make time for reading myself.  Yes, I read emails.  Yes, I read social media.  Yes, I'll flip through magazines on a regular basis.

But reading an actual book from start to finish in a timely manner? That's a rare event...and something I need to work on.

With 2017 looming right around the corner, I thought it'd be a good time to start thinking of some goals.  

By sharing them, I'm more likely to hold myself accountable and actually complete these goals.

Now, that's not a SMART goal, so let's get a little more specific. 

I'd like to tackle 17 novels in 2017, but if I get through one a month, that will suffice.

I'd like to read a mix of professional books, young adult adventures, and books that spark my interest.  Some of them will be the Battle of the Books books since that's starting up in January.

I finished The Only Thing Worse than Witches a few days ago and just posted the novel guide {here} on my TpT site.  The chronological order sort is in progress, as is the bundle guide.

Last night, I started The Hammer of Thor, the sequel to The Sword of Summer which is Rick Riordan's new Norse mythology series.

This book is January's task!

I've taken a few book suggestions from others, but need to prioritize and have the Battle of the Books ones done by the end of March.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Thankful and Grateful

I'm a tad behind on #ThankfulNovember, so let's play catch up.  I slept in and had a nap today, so forgive me in advance for the long post (and wedding day teasers)!

To recap, I've already expressed appreciation for good substitute teachers, personal days, Amazon shopping deals, early voting opportunities, daylight savings time, sleep, field trips, chaperones, crafty friends, good friends, and DIY projects.

I've got a good dozen other days to catalog, so here goes nothing:

(As a side note, I give shout outs to some products and people below.  I was not paid for my opinions, I just give them freely whether or not I'm asked.  These are not paid endorsements.)

1)  My hair dresser and friend Chelsea.  Not only did she create my gorgeous wedding updo, but she gave into my desires and hacked off six inches a week later.  She's amazingly reasonable and if you're in the Las Vegas area, go visit her at {The Salon at Lakeside}.  They even have groupons available!  

2) My wedding coordinator, Lyndsey.  I'm not quite done processing the wedding and the frustrating parts, but she was amazing from start to finish.  Again, if you're in Las Vegas and looking for an event space, {Wedgewood at Stallion Mountain} was simply amazing.

3) The school district.  It's rare for me to praise CCSD considering the shenanigans that have been pulled, but the adjusted contract means I have the entire week of Thanksgiving off.  Hallelujah!

4) Etsy sellers.  There are many things I'm quite crafty at.  Printing thank you cards, etching glass beer mugs, coffee mugs, and making custom stamps are not in that category.  

We ordered our bridal shower thank yous, bridal party thank yous, wedding thank you cards, and other stationary from {MarryGrams}.

Our groomsmen gifts were etched beer mugs from {BlackRockEngraving}.  He was amazingly helpful and from my hometown, which was a fun bonus.  I thanked him (Ben) on his Facebook business page and he responded immediately, inquiring about the wedding and reminding me to tell my momma if she wants to open an Etsy shop (to sell her quilts), he'll help her.  What a stand up guy!

Look how great those mugs look (I assume they were full at one point):

We thanked our make up gurus with these cute mugs from {All That Glitter}.  These mugs were packed full of chocolate and a Sephora gift card, because that's the way to their hearts.

Lastly, our awesome self-inking stamp from {Pretty Sweet Party} has been such a blessing as I'm doing all our wedding thank you cards.  Ours looks like this:

But ya know, with our info on it.

I am a firm believer in supporting small businesses which is why I'm so thankful to these Etsy shops for providing what I needed for my wedding.  It feels nice to support Ben (BlackRock) or Leslie (All That Glitter) rather than some mega corporation.  

5) Small businesses.  I have 3 ({Jamberry}, {Younique}, and {Teachers Pay Teachers}).  Together, they help subsidize the insultingly low paycheck I get for teaching three dozen ten year olds each day.  

As a thank you to my loyal readers and followers, everything will be at least 20% off in my TpT sale from Black Friday until Cyber Monday.

Happy shopping!

6) I'm thankful that so many of our friends and family members were able to celebrate with us at our wedding a few weeks ago.  It was awesome to be surrounded by the people who made us who we are and share our vows in front of friends and family.

7) I'm thankful that we got to spend time with my family after the wedding.  My mom and aunts hosted a brunch the Saturday after the wedding and then we all went out to dinner.  They did tourist-y things in between while I napped.  It was nice to get to squeeze in some extra bonding time because we don't see them often enough!

8) I'm thankful for close friends, both literally and figuratively.  Our power went out on Friday morning, impacting nearly 15,000 residents in our neighborhood.  Luckily Mrs. H wasn't impacted and let me come over and get ready for work because the flashlight feature on my cellphone simply wasn't cutting it.

9) I'm thankful for my students.  Not only were they (mostly) well behaved for their substitute teacher, but I walked back in last Wednesday to this:

Cue all the awws.  One of my students also got me a glittery Batman mug and chocolate.  She definitely knows the way to my heart!

10) I'm also thankful for the new store {Boxed Lunch} and it's amazing assortment of all sorts of fandom things I didn't know I needed (like my new Ravenclaw sweater).  However, they donate food to kids with each purchase, so I don't really feel bad about my impulse shopping.  Plus it was buy one item, get something else 30% off...which is how we ended up with vanilla mango beard oil for B.  He is quite excited about it.

11) Obama and Biden memes.

I'm not ready to accept what's happening politically in our country.  Tears were shed. I'm #stillwithher.  However, these are giving me some hope in the time of darkness...especially when they're Harry Potter themed.

12)  I'm grateful that our teacher gradebook is online.  I graded seven different assignments today (thirty five of each).  I also watched six episodes of Gilmore Girls, took a nap, and walked the pup because balance is important.  I'm grateful that I could enter all these grades at home and it's one less thing to deal with next Monday morning.

13) I'm thankful for opportunities.  With the Read by 3 state grant, I sold my preps to work on professional development and mentor new teachers (and various other tasks).  It's been an adjustment period for sure, but I'm really loving mentoring and working with new teachers.  We unfortunately had one resign due to personal reasons and I wish her the best on her next adventure, but I'm choosing to look at the positives.  I get to sit in on interviews tomorrow to hire a new teacher.  I've never done that before and I think it's kind of nifty!  I'm optimistic we'll find someone to fit into our school community (meaning they must love potlucks, because we do those often!)

I'm thankful that tomorrow I get to sleep in, have a grading party at Panera planned (with gift cards, so I'm not spending money), and visit the post office to drop off our wedding thank you cards and my dress to be cleaned/preserved.  

What are you thankful for?

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Grateful November 7: Reliable Guest Teachers and Personal Days

Good Lord, Monday was a long day.

Thirteen hours of a long day.

But, I'm ready for my work break (to you know, get married).

We have off yesterday (Election Day) and Friday (Veteran's Day), so I took off today (Wednesday), Thursday, next Monday, and next Tuesday.

That meant four days of sub plans and copies to prep.

I'm  not that teacher that just tosses together review sheets and calls it a day. I'm fortunate enough to not know my sub for the four days, but that she's also been in my classroom multiple times this year and knows my expectations.  The kids love her, which is a huge added bonus.  She'll follow my lesson plans and I know my students will actually be learning, which is really what matters.

I also cleaned my desk, which is normally a mild state of chaos.  I thrive well in that creative environment (go right brain!), but know that it's not appropriate to subject guest teachers to that.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Grateful November 8: Early Voting

It's here.  

It's Election Day.

Teachers in my district have the day off of school for voting, which is pretty nifty.  Not to worry, we have an additional sixty four minutes tacked on to each full week of school throughout the year to make up for this "free" day off.

However, I am not headed to the polls today.

That's not to say I'm not doing my civic duty and voting, but rather I took full advantage of early voting...and it was glorious.

B and I early voted last weekend and then got pretzels at the mall, because that's what adults do.

Instead, today is spent tackling a variety of tasks, including:

1) Finalizing picture details with the photographer
2) Supervising the instillation of a water softener 
3) Cleaning 
4) Make Up Trial (last one!)
5) Discussing the couch re-upholstery project with the handy man
6) Grading
7) Making thank you bags for the Veterans that are coming in this week
8) Laundry
9) Crafting
10) Finalizing and assembling the seating chart for the wedding

Good thing the pup got me up at 3 am today so I could get started on my task list!

Wedding Week Sale!

Today is election day.  Friday is Veteran's Day.  I'm getting married this week.

So...let's have a celebration sale!

My entire {TpT store} is 20% off now through Friday (11.11.16).

Happy shopping!

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Grateful November 6: Daylight Savings Time

Today, plain and simple, I'm grateful for Daylight Savings Time.

As an Arizonian by birth, I'm still not 100% on board with this whole clock changing situation.

But hey, I got a full ten hours of sleep and am feeling ready to conquer the day.

B's in charge of changing all our clocks while I run off to some wedding errands (picking up my dress).

Grateful November 3: Field Trips

We successfully survived our first field trip of the year!

Five classes, twenty chaperones, and 180(ish) excited fifth graders headed to the Henderson Pavillion last week to experience KidsVention.

Prior to the field trip, my students learned about debates, what "pro" and "con" mean, and practiced four debate topics during breakfast.

Careful to steer clear of the current political climate (because it's gotten a bit nasty), the topics were focused on kid-friendly ideas:

1) The United States should end its use of the penny.

2) Students should be required to learn a second language for high school graduation.

3) There should be screen limits for students on school nights.

4) All students participating in sports should earn a trophy.

In class, we talked about how each topic has both pros and cons (because otherwise it'd be a super boring debate).

The kids got clappers at the event, which were promptly confiscated when we got on the bus.  Not to worry, they got them back at the end of the school day.

The event was amazingly well organized, high school students debated with government officials about the four topics, and the whole theme of the event was on the importance of civic responsibility and voting.  

Many of my parent chaperones thanked me for inviting them along.  One described it as a wonderfully safe environment to talk about government because it's been hard to watch the Presidential debates with her children.

After the field trip, our day was devoted to making thank you cards for the chaperones, an empathy lesson from the counselor, and silent reading.

Hooray for field trip days!  

Grateful November 4: Crafty Friends

I've mentioned my love of crafting before and I'm fortunate enough to have friends who don't love to craft, meaning I get to be creative while spending other people's money.  It's truly a win-win situation.

I'm grateful for my friend Mrs. S, a fellow crafter, who let me borrow her circular hole punches for my current project.  This not only saved me forty bucks, but also a trip to the craft store.  

Another work friend, Mrs. H, has started her own Lularoe store and was in need of decorations.  Nothing major, just some small personal touches for when they do their online videos and post pictures.  

Armed with a color scheme and flexible ideas, I headed to the craft store.

Here's what's made so far:

The welcome sign:

I bought the unfinished wood on clearance, cleaned it up, stained it, and added embellished paper flowers.

This will sit on a dark wood stand.

The H:

We were originally going to add pastel pink letters, but I kind of love it as is.  More importantly, so does Mrs. H!

The frames:

(Ignore the Halloween decor in the background.)

They'll display the names of the products and sizes inside of these frames.

The banner:

She wants all the smaller circles to be white, so I've got to fix one of them.  The banner will be 15 pendants long, each one slightly different.  They'll all have gray, green, pink, or wood looks to them.  Each piece is attached to heavy cardboard, so it's nice and sturdy.

I'm finalizing the banner later this week, but other than that, it's done!  

Instead of being reimbursed for the cost of the materials, we're swapping the craft goodies for a new shirt.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Grateful November 5: Amazon

A few days into the Grateful November challenge and things are going well.

Today I'd like to express my appreciation to Amazon.

Yes, Amazon.

First, if you aren't using {}, change that immediately.  Amazon will give 0.5% of your spending to the charity of your choice.  You get the warm and fuzzies just for online shopping.  It's truly a win-win situation.

Second, I appreciate a good deal.  Now that I'm a home owner, I get the joy of doing things like buying my own air filters.  After having nose surgery to correct my sinuses, I'm more fully aware of how bothered I am by tiny dust particles crawling up my nose and wreaking havoc on my nasal passages.  This means that we religiously change our air filters every few months.  (I appreciate the pinterest hack of actually writing the date on the filter itself to eliminate the guess work.  We also timed the filters with the HOA payments to make our lives easier.)

These are our favorites:

But man oh man, are they expensive!  Target has them for around twenty five bucks each with Home Depot being slightly cheaper.

Enter Amazon, our digital knight in shining armor.

A six pack of these filters is {on Amazon} for just under sixty bucks.  They also qualify for free shipping, which is an additional bonus.  It's literally half the cost of nearby stores and I don't have to go to Home Depot.  Everybody wins!

What's your favorite Amazon deal?

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Grateful November 2: Good friends

Tonight one of my dear friends and her boyfriend are coming over to help us with a project.

A few weeks ago, we inherited two couches from his parents because they upgraded.  We moved my original couch into the den (because I'm not ready to part with it) and brought in two new (to us) pieces.

I was hesitant at first because the love seat has a broken spring.  However, the living room does look more complete and it's nice to have more seating for when guests come over (you know, like in a week when I get married).  

However, the cushions need new padding and the love seat lacks some structural support.  We looked on Amazon at different "sofa saver" ideas, but want to pick our friends' brains because they've recently reupholstered their (Craig's List) couch.

We found an online store for foam if necessary since Joann's doesn't sell thick enough cushions or polyester batting.  

I'm grateful for friends who will come brainstorm our DIY project strategies and help us with the project.  I'm grateful to his parents for giving us their couches, prolonging our need to buy new furniture for a few years.  I'm grateful for relatively inexpensive fixes that help sustain the life of things.

What are you grateful for?

Has it really been a month?

October, for lack of a better word, was difficult.

Between changes at work and nailing down the last wedding details, I was overwhelmed.  Blogging became the last thing on my mind, which is unfortunate because it's therapeutic.  Thanks loyal readers for sticking with me while I was...

But I'm here and I'm back!

Instead of grouchily reflecting on the past, let's jump forward to November.

For the next twenty minutes or so, it's the first.  For many, that means the first day of the gratitude challenge.

Essentially, bloggers, instagrammers, snapchat-ers, and other social media do-ers, are challenged to find one thing each day to be grateful for.  

Today, the first of November, was rather easy.

1) My students were quite well behaved.  Halloween was on a Monday this year, which meant many of us were dreading the after effects on Tuesday.  

I had four students absent (two of which were pre-excused for doctor's appointments and funerals), meaning I had a cozy group of thirty one ten year olds.  While other classrooms dealt with the range of student emotions (sleep deprived zombies to sugar-fueled hellions), I had a relatively normal day.  We did math. We did some reading.  We talked about Greek and Latin roots. We set norms for debates and students argued about whether or not the US should continue using the penny.  We reviewed Newton's Laws of Motion and took our monthly STAR test data to determine growth on reading levels.  Sure, I came home exhausted, but that's because there are thirty one lively ten year olds for seven hours a day. Compared to the other horror stories I heard at lunch, I'm feeling super fortunate to have a normal day.

2)  We paid for the rest of our wedding.   Ten days guys, ten days.  I know that my credit card will be charged on the wedding day for the other half of the flowers as well as for the hotel rooms, but everything else was paid in full.

3) Our handy man came to do an estimate on a small bathroom remodel project.  We ripped out the outdated medicine cabinets (cough three years ago cough) and he's putting in floating shelves so it looks custom.  

Our "pinspiration":

He's getting started on it this week and it "won't be much".  He's employed with a handy man company (so he's licensed and insured), but does side jobs for teachers at a discount.  He's done a few other small house projects for us and even shows us the receipts as proof for what he charges for materials.  

What I'm not grateful for? Insomnia.  I sometimes (often) struggle to turn off my brain.  I graded papers. I read another chapter of a professional read (which can be dry at times).  I'm still wide awake, which is unfortunate because I have to help lead a presentation in 7 hours. 

What are you grateful for today?

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Hello October

I blinked and it's October.  Granted, Las Vegas lacks the gorgeous changing leaves that most other places enjoy, but it's starting to feel like fall.

September was a whirlwind.

At work, everything still seems to be in an adjustment phase.  I'm still getting used to not having prep every day. I'm frustrated that our paperwork wasn't processed in time and the earliest I'll see my overtime is October (8 weeks after I started earning it).  It's a lot of extra work with no financial incentive and that's rough.

Mrs. H and I are still very committed to our curriculum units.  We're integrating reading, writing, social studies, and language arts.  Ms. C will be joining us soon because it's an intense workload and we appreciate the extra help.  I love what we're teaching and our students are having some amazing conversations centered around their analytical thinking and research.

It's also something new and there are kinks.  Some have offered constructive, precise, helpful feedback and that's always welcomed.  Some prefer the snide comments to everyone but us and well, that's not helpful.  But, at the end of the day, I'm immensely proud of how we've combined multiple subjects to provide a well balanced education.

For example, they've learned about human migration theories from reading multiple sources (and taking Cornell notes as a strategy to zoom in on main ideas, supporting details, evidence, vocabulary, and summarizing).  From there, they are researching different Native American regions (Pacific Northwest, Southwest, Plains, and Eastern Woodlands) to analyze human environment interactions.  This coincides with the STEM challenge they've been working on with building different homes.  Next week they'll make a flipbook on their region, share with others, and read (literature) folk tales from their region.  The lesson will transition into finding facts in the fiction, then creating a narrative as if they were in that region (using facts for historical accuracy).  They've already learned how to write an informational paragraph (lead, topic sentence, main ideas) and citing (reference materials).  We've read picture books from each region and looked at the different land forms.  In art, they're making dream catchers and music is starting them on Navajo flutes (after their October performance).  They're excited about what we're doing.  Most of the teachers are excited about what we're doing.  Admin is excited.  But there's always the grouchy ones who find fault in everything but their own work...

The long hours are hard, but the payoff is rewarding. I'm hoping things will lighten up in mid October when we have a third person on the planning team. 

Wedding planning is about done.  We've picked our cake (and cupcakes).  Our ring bearer gift is here.  His groomsmen gifts are ordered and by the magical coincidences of the universe, the Etsy seller is near my mom and we're saving a bundle on shipping costs.  Our  bachelor & bachelorette parties are coming up this month and I'm being surprised by the events of the evening.  My bestie is flying in to celebrate and we're going to get her dress fitted that am (because that's not something I want to rush in November).  We've clarified details with the venue, have over half of our reply cards back (they're due mid October), purchased Blue Man Group tickets for my family (for the day after the wedding), and are almost done with the favors.  We're off to the court house in a few hours to pick up our marriage license and then to the bank for the wedding loan.  I've got a few more logistical things to figure out and another hair trial to do, but we're pretty set. 

Seriously, the long engagement was the way to go! I haven't felt pressured or rushed on any aspect of the wedding.  I've enjoyed the planning and that's how it should be.

September also brought a baby shower, time with friends, date night, our Reading Ranger Rodeo, and some routine house work and maintenance (hello new AC motor!).

Looking ahead to October, we've got three bridal showers at work (one of them being mine!), a friend's engagement shower, friends' birthdays, and some relaxing time.


Sunday, September 18, 2016

Classroom Set Up

Tomorrow may mark the fifteenth day of school (and the start of week number four), but it's time to take a sneak peek into my classroom and all the prep that went into the first days of school.

Bulletin Boards

These are a huge deal at my school.  Having a well put together bulletin board is a point of pride and my classroom boards are no exception.

I pattern mixed with chevron and polka dots, but still think the work looks. 

I decided this would be my Reading Rangers board and added red accents.

The top sheet is a guide that reminds students of how the colored dots coincide with Reading Rangers.  With this program, students read within their ZPD (zone of proximal development) and increasingly tackle more complex texts. The envelopes hold tickets and they fill them out as they complete their individual goals.  

The other bulletin board in my room is complimentary colors, but chevron with a solid.

This  is where we'll hang our anchor charts, so we can "anchor" our learning.


I struggled to perfectly match the grays, but I think it's close enough.

The outside board has overlapping post cards to make a border.  

Since fabric can be expensive, my teacher hack is to use a flat sheet and cut off extra.  Works like a charm! 

Since I have so many students, I took over space beyond the bulletin board to fit everyone's work.  

It's still strange to see my new future last name. I won't be changing it on this blog, my teacher twitter account, or on my {Teachers pay Teachers} store, but everywhere else my last name will be changed.

My students are calling me by both last names, I've changed it with Scholastic book orders, and I made new business cards, but I won't jump through the school district's hoops until summer break.


We're expected to display our learning standards, so I might as well make the space cute. 

I also have space for our "ten for ten" checklist.  Every time students earn a perfect 10 in specials, I write the date in the box.  When ten are filled, students get a bonus recess.  (They've already earned their first one, which we took indoors due to the weather.)

Below is a classroom motto, then below that is space for the standards. 

Missing Work

Absenteeism can be a problem and after a few years, it was time for some new absent folders. The paper folders just won't do, so I snagged a few bright yellow plastic folders from Target:

I'm working on  being more explicit with my students, so I tweaked the folders to have very clear instructions:

So far it's working!  For a class of 35, I have 5 folders.  I hope I'm never missing more than 5 students at a time!  In terms of procedures, the missing student's fellow table mates are responsible for completing the folders and filling in the student upon his or her return to the classroom.

Work to Finish

In elementary school, we often use the same passage for several days, or make work double sided and need to return to it later.  For this reason, I make work to finish folders.

Again, using the same plastic folders as above,  each student now has a space to keep his or her work.  For most students, this is manageable.  Every year I have a few that really struggle with organization and need more support in keeping materials together.

As a side note, buying plastic ones means I can reuse them for several years before I have to replace them, which is good for my back to school shopping budget.

Class Decor

I've tried to keep the decorating of my classroom to a minimum, but there are still a few places that I've added some personal touches.  I'm in my room a lot so I want to like what I see.

The crayon wreath I made last year didn't survive the summer heat, so I found a wooden one at Target that was much easier to recreate.  I had the Harry Potter inspired sign from years ago just hanging out in a box, so I brought it into the classroom.  The tissue box is a plain wooden one that I added scrapbook paper to and then taped over.  It's held up to a few years of student use.

I found the board in the dollar spot of Target (although it was one of those weird items that's $3) and had a friend vinyl cut the letters for me.

Class Information

Instead of doing the standard "meet the teacher" letter that parents always use, as a grade level we switched it up and made flip books:

Forty of them.   Students were excited!  This was a download from TpT and before we cut them, each page had 2.  They are pretty easy to assemble and I'm sure would have gone much quicker if we didn't all try to copy at once and use four different colors.  Lessons for next time.

I also dedicated the space behind my teacher desk to be class information and a reference space:

Specials schedules, GATE time (although this year it's push in and called Project Based Learning), and more is easily accessible for me, the students, and substitutes.  I'm all for making everyone's job easier.  

Through the power of caffeine, DVDs, B's help, and sheer determination (cough stubbornness), my classroom went from this:

To this:  

 (Yes, the table cloth is totally a strategic move so I can hide things under my teacher prep table.  As a bonus, it was on sale at Target.)

 Ready or not, here they come!