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Sunday, September 14, 2014

Reading Takes Us Places Bulletin Board

It took me a long time to get my classroom ready this year.  I must have gone into school ten days to just get things organized.  Luckily, I was allowed to teach social studies in my own room this year.  That meant I could finally create a cross-curricular bulletin board.  I decided to combine reading with geography skills.
As someone who has always loved maps (though I am unable to actually get somewhere following one) I had several on hand.  By searching online, I found the "Reading Takes Us Places" themed bulletin board.  Due to social studies, I decided to expand the idea to include a local, national, and world map and then "pin" books to those locations.  I actually wanted students to match the settings of their books with the locations.  I went online to books that I knew I had at school and had a specific setting. I copied, pasted, printed, and then laminated these book covers. I pinned them near their geographic location.  This made a great start of the year conversation starter. 

I had to order a local map online at Amazon.  Newbery Award winning author Jack Gantos, who is originally from our area, was supposed to get a local display. Sadly, I ran out of time but plan to make one for next year. Mr. Gantos has visited our school twice. He is a great speaker and his mother still lives here.
I found a lot of world books that also are set in areas that we study in social studies (geography).
I printed out small pictures of books and laminated them so students could pin them.

 The national U.S. map was the center.  It's funny but I saw a lot of kids just looking at the map and talking about it.  There is just something fascinating about maps that captures something in all of us.
I wish I had more time to spend on book talking all of the books and having students add their books to the board.  Maybe next year, I will put this display in the hallway so we can leave it up!

I then found the actual books from our classroom library to book talk.  These books got immediately checked out!  We did take the bulletin board down early due to our open house this week. I like to do a biopoem t-shirt display so parents can see their student's work.  When we were taking this down, kids wanted to take the maps home.  I did give out the U.S. map as I have more.  I kept the other two maps for future use.  
Here's just a general picture of the room.  We got a new Promethean Board last year. I love it. The ELMO and mounted projector is also a HUGE help.  We are also grateful to have carpeting. It really keeps down the noise and feels more cozy or something.  

The library is again in the process of being reorganized.  This is a huge job but I again have great helpers who are almost finished.  Kids also reorganized and sorted our art boxes. We made space for the social studies textbooks and lost the cart!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

DIY Teaching Binder

I wanted to make a quick binder for all my important school papers.  It would be great to also have something on my desk for subs to use in case of an emergency.  I have a lot of miscellaneous tabs and page dividers but they are all old and dull.  I decided to make my own using supplies I had on hand.
I used a 1-inch Martha Stewart circle punch to cut out tabs from chalkboard paper.  I made two for each tab so I could just glue them together.

Quick and easy

I labeled all the tabs on one side and then ran them through my little Xyron sticker maker.

I then put a colored sheet of paper in old plastic page protectors.  I peeled of the adhesive and stuck each circle on each side of the protector to make a tab.

The final product is easy to adjust based on needs.  Plus, rainbows make me happy.

I used a white Sharpie paint marker to look like chalk!



Sunday, August 3, 2014

Easy Teacher Toolkit

I've seen and admired hundreds of beautiful teacher tool kits on Pinterest and other blogs.  One of my big goals this year is to continue to get more organized at school. I have come a long way.  Last year, I was in three different classrooms! Luckily, this year I will be back in my room most of the day. However, since I will now be teaching social studies in my classroom, I will need to make some more room.  I decided it was finally time to make my own teacher tool kit Learning Curve style!
I purchased my tool kit at Lowes.  I thought it was around $19 but online the price is saying $36.  There are a few models to choose from.  I picked an upright model because desks space is at a premium. 
I search through a lot of "free teacher tool box labels" before I found a plain one I could edit.  I love the chalkboard look but I cannot afford to use that much black ink.  I decided on a dot letter font in rainbow colors. Here is the blog that I adapted my label from:  Thank you!  I don't know how to insert a Microsoft Word file but when I figure it out, I will post it HERE.
I really almost lost my mind trying to figure out the easier way to attach the labels. I ended up doing some inside and some outside but you can't tell in the end.
I dug out my old Xyron to make labels and kept my sanity. Though I now see I doubled "x"ed it. Forgive me!
No, inside was minding numbing. It was so easy to just stick it on the outside and throw some tape over it.

Some crafters paint their toolboxes which looks great. Some people also label the tabs. I sat in front of my toolkit and realized that I could see everything fine. Not that teachers get to sit that much during the day.  Hmm, maybe I should do the labelled tabs?

I am really happy with the final product. I already filled in most of the boxes. I have a lot of school supplies that I have been hoarding since I was in school.  I basically dumped out everything in my desk on the last day of school so it will be really nice not to put all this junk back into the desk!

Thanks to all the other teachers out there who posted about this great idea. I never would have thought this up myself.  I am constantly amazed by all the creativity and genius in the world!

For original label file, please visit: 

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Painting Rainbows

I am the first one to admit that I am a "bad" painter.There is actually a museum of bad art:
 However, for some reason I can't stop painting.  I love to begin and get into painting but I can never really "finish" them.  When I get the itch to paint, I have to scratch it.  My oils are buried in the garage and I didn't really fell like setting up an easel so I turned to watercolor. 
I got these water soluble pencils years ago.  I love them but I always too much water and drown out the colors.
I had two sets of watercolors: translucent and opaque.  I activated them by putting a few drops of water on each pigment pan.  I remember teaching kids how to do that when I was an art teacher.  They always seemed surprised by how much easier than is that jamming a wet brush into a dry pan. 

I had a couple of really heavy pieces of watercolor paper already cut from a big sheet.  I remembered all the cold pressed and hot pressed sheets I used to keep on hand when I first started painting at 15.  None of it was cheap.

After making a couple of random rainbow studies, I was out of paper.  I think that I'll end of cutting up the paper and maybe making the painters into tags.  Or I might collage on top of the paper.  Whatever. It doesn't matter. It is art for art's sake.  I feel like I haven't been very productive this summer. No scrapbooks completed or school decorations.  Yet I have about a month and I am finding inspiration everywhere!
My niece Sydney and I took this selfie at Sea Base.  We loved the color scheme.  My classroom theme is tie-dye rainbows so I was thinking this would be a cool idea for a bulletin board!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Juicing Wheatgrass without a Juicer

Only a few weeks ago, I ordered wheat grass seeds from Amazon.  I actually got them for free from my Bing Reward points. (I do Bing searches everyday and then I get a $5 Amazon gift card for every 450 points.) The seeds came quickly.  I used organic soil and washed out an old ceramic pot.  I soaked the seeds for a day and then planted them.  I covered the pot with a sheet of plastic wrap. The seeds spouted very quickly and turned into a beautiful plant.  However, I wanted to juice the wheat grass for the health benefits.  

I looked at many hand crank juicer models.  The cheapest was still about $40 so I looked into alternatives. I saw the idea of just using a mortal and pestle and loved it. I do not want another useless gadget cluttering up my house.  When the wheat grass was about five or six inches, I grabbed a handful and cut it.  

I rinsed the wheat grass out in the sink.  Check for mold if you are in a humid climate.  I started pounding the wheat grass using my marble mortar and pestle.  I have a wooden one also but the marble on seems to work better and quicker.  I kept pounding until I had a mush-like texture.

After pounding and pounding, I then squeezed the pulp to get the juice out into a glass.  You can also add water to the mix.  You do not get a whole lot of liquid from the grass.

I read that people can have a bad reaction from too much wheat grass at one time so I took a small shot.  Guess what it tasted like? GRASS!  It wasn't a horrible taste but I chased it with some water.  I didn't have any adverse results.  I did feel good but I had also been to the gym and started new vitamins so I can't say it was directly related to the wheat grass.  I feel like I am going to be doing a lot of juicing today because the remaining wheat grass seems to be turning yellow.  I have more seeds so I'll plant another crop soon.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Bug and Garden Party

Jackson and Sydney's party was a great success!  Although the day started out hot and sunny, there was a sudden rain storm right during the cake.  Luckily, the tents did not blow away.
Here the favors for babies and small kids. Looking back the buckets were cute but filling them got expensive.  All of the favors were from Dollar Tree.  We basically stocked them with bug houses, magnifying glasses, bubbles, water guns, and candy.  For the two baby guests I bought stuffed bugs for them.  We also had some glow sticks and wands in each basket.  I was careful to avoid anything that kids could choke on.  I did add the tissue paper flowers, stickers, and wrote each child's name with a white Sharpie paint marker.  
My sister did the food table inside due to the heat and humidity outside.  Many of the decorations are from the Dollar Tree and Dollar General.

We had two tents. During the storm, the wind was so strong that they were in danger of blowing away.

Pool area

This was a Pinterest idea that my sister saw.  Mama C. brought the two hardback books for guests to write a special message for each of the kids.  Many people also have the teacher sign the book at the start or end of each school year.  Then, when the child graduates, the parents present the book.  As you can see, we tried to have bugs and flowers everywhere to stay with the theme.

Jackson's bug cake

Cake display table.  I described how I made the photo display in the decorations post.

Sydney's flower cake

My sister got ten helium balloons and I tied regular balloon where I could.  

Jackie with mama and daddy.  He grew four inches in one year!

Jackson and Jackson are ready to do the pinata.

Ah, Syd loves her auntie Uno!

Pap, Mimi, Jackson, and Jackson

Aunt Bonnie made the daisy crown.  It was a hit.  As Syd was trying to blow out her first birthday candle, the wind really started.  Soon after, it started to pour.

We moved present opening to the inside.

Finally, the pinata!

There was a water balloon and shaving cream battle while we were inside doing presents.  (So that's where all the guys were!)  We ended up skipping the games due to the storm.  However, Jackie reported that he had a great time. He also wanted to have a party the next day.  He will have to wait until Halloween for his next awesome party.