Sunday, August 31, 2014

New Look!

Happy Labor Day Weekend! I hope everyone is having a restful few days at home. I have been busy with the start of school, keeping up the house, etc. As many of you know, I have moved schools. Transition is always hard, and this was no exception. It was difficult to say good-bye to all of my co-workers (I got to keep one of them!!!) and my students. It was also pretty difficult to throw away years of clutter and chaos. I wanted to make a fresh start this year, and that included my overcrowded filing cabinets. So much was chunked before, during, and after the move. Since my last post, my classroom is complete. I plan on making pictures tomorrow when I go in to finish up some work from last week (Teachers have it easy, right?!?). I am so proud of one of my bulletin boards and can't wait to show it off. I've also incorporated my love of reading into a cute directional sign. I have one blank wall that needs a bit of color. How do you decorate your larger walls in the classroom? Do you include a bunch of personal touches? Also, how do you decide what you keep and throw away?


I hope you'll come back to visit tomorrow!


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Friday, July 11, 2014

Working on the Blank Slate

I don't know if you've ever felt rushed. Not like, "Oh, I need to hurry," but "OH MY GOSH I HAVE SO MUCH TO DO AND SO LITTLE TIME TO DO IT INNNNN!!!!!!!!!!!" Because that is me, and yes I have thought it and said it in all caps. Every time I walk into my classroom I have to stare at things for an hour before I can finally make up my mind to do something, and then when I decide to get goin', it doesn't work. For example: my first chalk painting experience. I have two bookshelves in my classroom that totally don't go with my color scheme.


I have heard the wonders of chalk paint, so I made up my mind to try mixing my own, based on a formula from a friend (and she's a pro, so I know the result is not because of the paint!). I read and read and read about chalk paint before trying, and supposedly it sticks to anything. Well, I am here to say that it DOES NOT. I spent two hours painting. TWO HOURS. My butt was tired and my knees ached, but I knew I had to finish. After applying my second coat to the last shelf, I went back to the first shelf (which had already dried) and ran my finger along the inside in admiration. This is what happened:

WHAT. THE. MESS. I was in shock. I called my crafty friends, and they, like me, couldn't believe the paint had peeled. Bless their souls, because they both headed my way ASAP and worked with me to scrape the paint from both cabinets. I tried sealing the paint with wax just to make sure that it wasn't a lost cause, but it was no use. The constant push and pull of books would make a mess in no time, so we gave our arms a good workout, and by 8:15 PM, the bookshelves were semi-clean.

In the spirit of being positive, I will say that the day was not a lost cause. I learned a lot about painting. It's not easy, and it's expensive. If you want something done, you need to fully research before beginning. I also learned about a special primer for hard-to-coat surfaces. Before leaving school that night, I slapped some of the primer on the top of the shelf. I knew that if it wouldn't stick, painting was a complete waste of time. After going back this morning to check, it seems as if the primer will work! Believe me, I scraped with everything that was sharp in that classroom and not a speck of paint flecked off. So, I vouch for this.


Next Monday, I will start the painting process again. I am leaving for the beach on Thursday, and won't be back until the next Saturday, so getting this project completed is a must for me! Despite this setback, I have completed one super cute bulletin board! I used a single tissue paper border on the completed side you see completed, and a double tissue paper border on the side that is unfinished. 




My advice is to staple horizontally on the sides, and staple vertically on the top and bottom. Does that make sense? The staples need to fit inside the folds of your ruffle for them not to show. I have lots of work to do before August 5th! Wish me luck!

What are you working on this week?

Have a great weekend!
Holly

Sunday, July 6, 2014

#weread1415

I am running out of time to get things done. When did it become July?!? Seriously, I have so many ideas in my head, and not enough hours to do them. What have I completed?
  • I have finished The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller. It reminded me why I love reading and why I love telling students about books. I got so many wonderful ideas from this lady. I definitely recommend the read!
  • I have read Smitten by Coleen Coble, Diann Hunt, Kristin Billerbeck, and Denise Hunter. I am participating in my church's summer reading challenge and this book jumped out at me. It had a pretty cover, and, well, I like pretty covers. The book wasn't the best I've ever read, but it was light, and fun, and I finished it in record time. 
  • I have cleaned out my closet AND all the other closets belonging to people of this household. It was tedious, but I did it. Sigh of relief that that is over.
  • I organized my bathroom cabinets. Boring. 
  • I have washed enough clothes to sink a ship. I hate washing clothes, but do you know what's worse? FOLDING THEM. I know, I should just hang everything up, but as referenced above, we don't have the closet space for t-shirts, so those go in drawers.
  • I took a mini-vacation with the family to Chattanooga. It was awesome. I cannot wait to get back!
  • I have played, and played, and played with my kids. We have been to our local splash pad, restaurants, the zoo, church, and just about everywhere else in this town. We have read all the books on our bookshelves more than once, and I have taken more than enough pictures. More than anything else I accomplished, this was the best thing I did with my summer! Babies get big quick!
As much as I enjoyed most of the activities listed above, one thing I haven't done much of this summer is organize my classroom. Floors needed to be waxed and furniture arranged before I could move in, so I've done what I could around my house first. Tomorrow begins my complete classroom makeover phase. I'm excited, but I'm also daunted. Blank slates can be a bit intimidating.

Along with making over my classroom, I'm also working on some ideas I got from TBW and Pinterest. I am currently participating in the BlogHoppin2014 challenge, and this whole concept made me wonder why I had never thought about a photo scavenger hunt for my kids. First, I set up a classroom Instagram account (#mrsriversroom). Next, I thought about how I could encourage my students to just get their hands on books. In keeping with the scavenger hunt idea, I came up with this challenge:

The number one priority of this challenge is to have my students looking for books that might normally be outside of their typical reading zone. The second priority is to have them get their hands on books. I know I have a few people asking, "What does that even mean?" I simply want my students to touch books. I figure if they sort through enough, they'll eventually find one that might interest them. 

The rules of this challenge are simple:

  1. Follow #mrsriversroom on Instagram for monthly challenges. (2-3 per month)
  2. Take a picture of you completing the challenge, caption it, then add the hashtags #mrsriversroom and #weread1415.
  3. Completing each challenge earns bonus points and homework passes. 


SOOOOO easy! 

I hope you and your classroom will participate too! Obviously, only the teacher needs to follow my account in order to see the challenges and their deadlines. If you haven't created a classroom Instagram, go ahead and do so. Have your students use your classroom hashtag instead of mine, but keep #weread1415. How cool would it be to show your students that kids across this great nation are all reading?!? 

I will post more about this challenge in the next week or so. Would anyone want to start off with just a small challenge for the teachers? 

Hope your Sunday was wonderful, and here's to a great week!

P.S. If you want to follow my classroom Wordpress blog, click here.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Updates!

I have had an incredibly busy two weeks. My little family of four has made two trips to Tennessee, one to say good-by to a beloved family member, and another to enjoy a mini vacation in Chattanooga. The twins have not been to daycare, because I kinda like having them home with me, and so my house is a wreck. I also have not been able to spend time updating my classroom like I had originally planned. Oh well. Summer is for rest and for fun, and we've had plenty of the latter.

While scrolling through my Google+ today, I noticed a giveaway from Whimsy Workshop. Click on this link to enter the giveaway for a $50 graphics gift card! Just think of all the fun stuff you can create with that! Speaking of creating, I am working on a pennant banner for my classroom door. I bought the basic brights pack (see my previous posts) to make a teacher planner with, and I am using the entire collection for so many things! Thanks to this YouTube video, I have successfully created my first 3 triangles for my banner. Slowly, but surely y'all!

For some reason, the exact video I used will not upload, but below is another helpful link that discusses using colors as a background instead of graphics.


Here is what I have so far:

In case you can't read upside down or sideways, that says 5th. Ha! I have done a few things with backgrounds before, so just a few tips:

1. If you do a patterned background, use a solid or fairly solid and THICK font for your letters. Thin lettering and background patterns make my head hurt. 

2. I have absolutely no idea how to check my specific sizing for things, so when I insert a new graphic (my numbers/letters are not a font, but an image) I move the original off the page, and then size up my new letter to match the old one.

3. I did NOT create new triangles each time. I just moved my numbers off, then clicked on File and Place to find and insert my new image. 

4. I used Photoshop Elements. It is a reasonable price on Amazon.

5. In order to have both the working PDF and the one you are copying to open, you need to click on Window, then Images, then Tile. 

Photoshop is fun and handy, but it can also be a pain, so don't be discouraged if you don't get the hang of it right away. In fact, my husband was unsure of me purchasing it last year, but I have used it multiple times, and I even created our Christmas cards last year using the program, so the money we spent has not been wasted. 

What are you creating for your classroom this summer?

Happy Wednesday!
Holly

Friday, June 13, 2014

Creating a Teacher Planner (Part 2)

I have already begun work on my teacher planner, and I have had to refresh my memory on how to use Adobe Photoshop. I am LOVING the basic brights bundle I mentioned in my last post. For $20, I got a whole lot of images and clip art to work with. So far, I have created my cover and my lesson plans page. I am not sure exactly what all I will be including, but I know I will have a section for lesson plans, a calendar, student contact information, student health information, grades, and notes.  I would love to make my cover into something hard and durable, I just am not sure how to go about that. I am also not sure where to take my planner to get it bound. Lots of questions, but hopefully someone that is knowledgable will read this post and reply.



So far, I think these look great! Want to know the best part? You can download the lesson plans page for FREE at my TN store! And, as a special for blog readers, the first 75 downloads of my "Student of the Week" chart are free as well! See the links below.




I hope everyone is enjoying their summer. It's already the middle of June...can't believe it! I haven't spent a whole lot of time organizing my classroom, so I need to get there ASAP. When will you start getting things ready? Are you an early bird or do you work better under pressure?

Happy Friday! Have an excellent weekend!
Holly

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Creating a Teacher Planner (Part 1)

I am a sucker for anything office supply related. I love calendars (big or small), planners, pens, markers, decorative paper, etc. I could not believe how many ink pens and Sharpies I had when I recently went through my classroom supplies. It's a bit alarming, actually...but I know I can't be the only one, right?!? RIGHT?!?

Okay, on to the point of this post. I recently decided I must have a good planner for the fall. I have always kept a hard copy of a grade book (I know, so old-fashioned), and a separate copy of lesson plans, and a separate calendar. Last year, I had a binder that did not get opened ONCE. It was super cute, but pretty impractical, because it was too huge to carry around. I found several items that I could buy from Pinterest, but honestly, I can't afford to spend $30-$60 on a glorified notebook. If I had that kind of money, everything Erin Condren made would be owned by moi.

What to do, what. to. do? As stated before in a previous post, my classroom theme this year is candy-related, so I am looking mainly for bright colors, and I'll throw a few pops of candy around the room. I was looking through some favorite blogs of mine, and found a super cute product that had all the colors I wanted on Live. Love. Math. Her post directed me to this TPT store:

Basic Brights Bundle



(From: I teach. What's your super power? Blog link: http://www.teachingsuperpower.com)

I repeat, I DID NOT MAKE THIS BUNDLE! I do not have the time, energy, or know-how. I scrolled through the blog and found some other great stuff, so if you have time, be sure to look through all of her items.

I am going to begin working on my planner, as soon as I get a few other things out of the way, and as soon as I get Microsoft re-uploaded to my computer. Remember that computer crash from April? Yeah, my husband and I have not sat down to install everything again. Maybe this will get me motivated. As I work on my planner, I will upload ideas and photos. I don't know which backgrounds from this mega pack I will be using, but you can be sure there will be quite a few in my planner!

Have you ever created your own planner? How long did it take you?

Happy Wednesday!
Holly


Monday, June 9, 2014

Blank Slate

Ah! The sights, sounds, and smells of a new classroom. I might have mentioned before that my school closed in May. While I totally hate that I will not see my middle schoolers and co-workers in the fall, I am excited that I will be back in 5th grade, and I am even more excited that I get to redecorate a classroom! I know some teachers moan and groan about having to move rooms or redecorate. I rejoice! My husband might tell you that I like spending money (which is probably true), but aside from that, I like seeing what I already have and organizing my things. More importantly, I enjoy revisiting what arrangements and layouts worked best for my students during the school year. I believe if you look at the "redo" process as an opportunity instead of a hassle, it makes things much easier.

This year I will be moving into a classroom that has plenty of storage. Not only do I have a fairly large closet in the back of the room, I also have book shelves under my big window, one large double-door cabinet, multiple smaller cabinets, and built-in shelves. I even have a small closet in the front of my room with built-in shelves that are the perfect size for paper storage! Let me tell ya, after four years of struggling to find space, I am equipped with more than enough this year!

Now, my job is just to turn this blank slate into a masterpiece. Our 4th and 5th grades have decided on a joint candy theme for our hall. My plan is to use bright colors throughout my classroom that can be re-used next year. That way big items like curtains, chair covers, etc., can stay the same, while smaller pieces can be swapped out. I will have candy-ish things on my bulletin boards and doors, but my main colors will be versatile enough to last through theme changes to come. Pinterest has so many ideas that my head and my pin boards are full. I have added a few pictures for you to see the beginning stages. I will be updating throughout on my organization and wall decor, so come back soon!



Do you change themes every year or keep a theme for multiple years? What kind of decorations do you keep in your classroom?

Happy Monday!
Holly