Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Ahhh Sheet!

I am proud to say that I do not have dry erase boards for my students. I have something that I feel is more useful. Sheet protectors.

If you were to walk into my classroom, you'd probably see at least ten sheet protectors on my walls. My students each have two in their binder and one in their desk. Sheet protectors are one amazing product. Seriously. Amazing.

They keep paper clean. They make everything in it shiny (unless you like the matte look. I won't judge.) and organized. They have holes in the side that are PERFECT for sticking pushpins through so you can hang them sideways. I LOVE SHEET PROTECTORS!!!

Back to my wonderful invention. So Each of my students has a clipboard with a sheet protector clipped to it. Inside the sheet protector is a blank piece of paper on one side, and a copy of lines for writing on the other. 

The beauty of this is that they are also able to use this for other things as well. If I want them to work on a worksheet to practice math skills, they can slip it in. I usually use this for practice for minute math before their actual test. They love it because I can give them feedback as they are working before their actual test. I love it because they can get practice in and feel more successful when the actual test comes around two minutes later.

At the end of the year, I let the kids take the sheet protector, their felt square eraser, and their marker home. Next year, we start with a clean sheet protector. I LOVE IT!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Re-Use Crafternoon

My new school is a magnet school for art, technology, and science. And I LOVE that! All three of those things interest me. No wait, they ARE me...well maybe. I like science, I'm just not confident in teaching it. I feel like I'm herding cats when I'm teaching science to my first graders. But I'm learning to let some things go and not be so uptight about it.

Since my last school didn't have any money in the budget for fun, we rarely were able (or even encouraged) to do anything arts based. In fact, I can recall a teacher friend of mine having to sneak it in when a past principal wasn't on campus for fear of being reprimanded...even though it had to do with science curriculum!

So my first adventure in an art project was using some cardboard my mom gave me. She had purchased about 100 new plates for a function last month and the cardboard was between the plates. When I saw them, I thought, "I don't know exactly what I'm going to use that for, but I want them!"

Turns out, my new school has an art room. Did you hear me?! A room dedicated to art! I can take my kids there and be messy! It's fully stocked with every artistic medium you can imagine! I felt very out of place when I was given the key and opened the door. I thought I had to quickly be in and out and would get "caught" taking art supplies for my cardboard project.

I scored big time! I found drawers and drawers FULL of all different colors of tissue paper. Immediately, I knew what we were going to do. Back to school night is next week and my walls are looking bare (waiting for curriculum and a Promethean Board to arrive...STILL). I grabbed green, blue, and two different shades of purple tissue paper. And just for good measure, I snagged some orange just in case. I cut the paper into small squares. I had the kids glue the tissue paper around the edges of the cardboard, making sure not to get the middle (they have a natural line where the bottom of the plate left an indentation).

I then took each kid's picture with the iPad the school allows me to use and printed out the pictures on photo paper. I glued their pictures in the center, used a hole punch at the top, tied some ribbon through the hole, and then hung them from my new Pinhooks. They look amazing!
*I don't post my students' pictures, but please enjoy these cute smiley faces!

Here is my project before I added the blue ribbon:
*I hung this up next to my desk. 

Pretty simple, pretty cheap, and I feel good that my wall is filled! I also feel good that all that cardboard has been saved from the recycling center and may even be saved for years to come (you know how parents are.)!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

QR Codes in the Classroom (A How To)

Ever see a symbol like this around your town or in an ad?
Are you wondering what they are and how to use them? They are everywhere these days! And they can help you in your classroom. I'll walk you through it.

First off, they are called QR codes. And the one above, will link you to my TeachersNotebook store. Let's begin with how to use them. 

If you have a smart phone (i.e. a Blackberry, an iPhone, a Droid), you can go to your app store and download a QR reader app. This app acts as a scanner. When you take a picture of the code, it will link you to whatever the creator would like to see. It could be a website (as the one above), it could be a Twitter or Facebook link, an e-mail, information to an event, or even contact information. I personally have one for when my son and I are at the park and I want to exchange information with a mommy for a future play date. The mom scans my code on my phone and suddenly has my phone number and e-mail loaded into hers! This is so much simpler than carrying around business cards or typing in phone numbers.

These codes can be generated for free and then downloaded onto your computer. You can even create one with a different color and customize picture!

Simple QR Code generator that allows you to plug in even information: Zxing.appspot.com

A slightly more "high tech" QR Code generator that allows you to pick the color: QRStuff.com

If you are looking to track how many people are using your code, for a small fee, you can upgrade from the free membership: beqrious.com

Once you have created your QR Code and saved it to your computer, now the fun begins! 

When I made my "Welcome to Mrs. Magallano's Classroom" newsletter, I made sure to put a QR Code in the front of the newsletter. That code takes the parents to my website. On my website are my procedures, field trip information, donations wish lists, Scholastic order information, about me, and even classroom rules. I also have created a "current events" section where I upload a copy of my newsletter in case parents lose the one I sent home. 

*obviously information has been changed

Since I did this, I have had more parents come up to me with items for donations than when I sent home just a newsletter. I also have more parents contacting me via e-mail as well as asking about things from my "About Me" section. It feels more personal this way.

Not only can I use QR codes for better parent/teacher communication, I can also use them with students inside the classroom. I haven't done this yet, but I plan on it. When I do, I'll be sure to post more about it. My plan is to create QR Codes for the students to scan and explore science websites. They get to use iPads every week. SOoooo....since we are a science and art magnet school, as well as technology, I will print out different QR Codes for different stations for the kids to scan with their iPads. I can't wait! 

Pssst...by the way, the blue QR code will take you to my Teachers Pay Teachers store.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Mo' Pencils Mo' Problems

Well the school year has begun. I have not been posting as much as I would like to. New year, new kids, new school, new classroom, old stresses.

Having been in fifth grade last year, I had forgotten about how much pencils stress me out.

During my first year teaching first grade at my last school, my system was pretty basic. Their pencil was dull, they go and sharpen it. Yeah...dumb idea. As you could've guessed, they broke the electric pencil sharpener. Then they broke the new electric pencil sharpener. Then the custodian decided to dump said new pencil sharpener and ended up also dumping the plastic top that holds pencil sharpener together and it would no longer sharpen. *sigh*

My second year teaching I came up with the amazing idea that if their pencil becomes dull, they replace it with one in a cup labeled "sharp pencils". There were ten pencils at the beginning of the day for such exchanges. At the end of the day, I would sharpen the pencils. I failed to realize that several students brought exciting pencils and arguments would thus ensue the following day as to which pencil belonged to which student. *face slap to forehead*

My third year teaching I had practically given up on pencils and allowed mechanical pencils to enter the room. Little did I realize that first graders do not possess the skills necessary to neither keep needle sharp pencils from bare arms nor keep them from constantly breaking. *tear*

Each subsequent year thereafter pencils have been my biggest nemesis. I remember one year using a red Sharpie to write their numbers on them. That didn't work either.

Last year it wasn't a problem because fifth graders are quite the lofty bunch. They have hoards of writing utensils of all types. And this year I didn't want to come into my new classroom with my old problems. I racked my brain this summer thinking of ways to beat my nemesis.

And then it hit me.

I remembered seeing a system (that may work) years and years ago when I substituted in a first grade classroom. It seems so simple, and yet so brilliant. Here's how it works:

1. Students walk in the room and take a pencil from the "sharp" bucket.

2. They work. Pencil gets dull, they put it in the "dull" bucket.

3. They take a sharp pencil from the "sharp" bucket.

4. At the end of the day, pencil collectors collect ALL the pencils and put them in the "dull" bucket whether they are dull or not.

5. I sharpen them after the kids leave and then put them in the "sharp" bucket.

So far, this system is working. I also have to say at the end of the day, I'm not too stressed about pencils. I have a ridiculously fast pencil sharpener that I bought for $40 at Staples. Yeah, it's THAT good.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Fairy Godmother Has Returned!

My Fairy Godmother returned! It was a shopping MIRACLE I tell you!

I worked retail for 6 1/2 years at an major office supply store and I have NEVER witnessed this retail miracle. Never.


As I was walking through the Martha Stewart Collection at Staples with a friend the other day, we came across a sale to beat all sales. There were coupons in the Martha Stewart Collection section for $2 off any of her labels. I found the cutest labels! And they were only $2. So...as I'm paying for my loot, I dug around in my coin purse to pay the $0.16 sales tax when the cashier hands me the receipt. I paid $0.00 for 36 adorable labels with a receipt to prove it!!! I have gone back the last three days in a row to do the same thing. I feel like I'm robbing them blind with my Martha addiction. So sad that they are only cheating themselves. I plan on going back for more labels.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

The Fairygodmother of Organization Arrived!

Staples, Office Depot, Office Max, or any other office supply store are a dangerous lot. I immediately feel organized walking down their aisles. I want everything. You would think that having worked in an office supply store for over 6 years would have made me immune to the feeling, but it hasn't. If anything, becoming a teacher has made the pull toward office supplies even greater. Now I have an excuse to want everything in sight.

Now that the beginning of school is a mere week and a half away, I find the calling to shop for supplies   causes me to steer my car in that general direction. I purposely don't write down what I need just so that I can make another trip there for more supplies. Yes, it's that strong.

I recently went to Staples. I needed mailbox cubbies (since my old ones were being used as my new clip chart system) I was appalled at the prices for cardboard mailbox cubbies! $20 for 8! What a ripoff! I could use my Pinterest pinning skills that I've honed and create them out of cereal boxes, but who has the time or energy for that? Not to mention having 30 cereal boxes laying around. Not gonna do it. 

So I caved. I bought the darn mailboxes. 

As I was heading up to the front with my loot, I couldn't help but notice the "shiny shiny" aisle screaming at me to come check out its wares. It was the holy grail of office supplies. The mother of all organization. The fairy godmother of Pinterest. The Martha Stewart Collection.

I had never seen such a prettier blue. It was exactly what I told myself I needed. I neeeeeeed this. It will be perfect for my parent information wall. It will make the disappearing money I'm about to spend on cardboard feel so...much...better. $8 more loaded into my cart and I was on my way to the front.

BUT, Staples was kind enough to have a 15% off coupon (that I had to BUY for $10 last month) that expires in September. They call it a PayPass. It has paid for itself this week alone. So I left paying less and feeling only slightly like I had saved.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Clip Up Clip Down

So I worked all day in my classroom yesterday. And I had one of those "aha!" moments. Don't you just love those? Here's the journey to my "aha!" moment.

Situation: I'm in a new classroom and I need a new behavior chart system. One that focuses on the positive rather than the negative. 

Research: Looking online and talking with friends has made me realize that a "clipping up" system seems to be the best solution. This system is designed for students to start at a neutral starting point (usually a certain color) and work their way up (clipping up) to the top of the chart. Students who make poor choices "clip down" and have consequences. The teacher can have students clip up even after they have clipped down. BTW, it's called "clipping up/down" because students use a clothespin along the side of the chart to track their progress for the day. Each day the clips are returned to the neutral starting point. At the end of the day, students also fill out/color a small chart that they take home to share with their family that shows how they did for the day. A reward can be given to students who clip all the way up the chart. 

Construction Issues: Several online blogs/pins have shown that over time, the laminated papers seem to sag or tear. One teacher put the levels on one side and then students clipped on the other on a ribbon.  This seemed like such a good idea, but where I am currently working, I don't have access to all the fun resources such as construction paper or laminating (or even copying!). It seems to be a ghost town around here! And school starts in TWO WEEKS!!!

Well, I brought my printer from home and decided to create a system based on my ocean/beach/tropical theme and just print out what I needed (I can always laminate later).

AHA! I have two pocket charts that are for file folders. I used to use them to put the students' take home papers in. However, each chart only has ten slots, and due to California budget cuts, I have nearly 30 kids in my class. So I haven't used them in a few years.

However it would be perfect for my new clip up system! It is durable, regular copier paper fits perfectly in them portrait style, and it doesn't take up too much space! Now remember, it isn't laminated yet, but I will probably take a new picture and post it when it's done. 

Thursday, August 2, 2012

I'm Hooked!

Last night as I was doing my nightly pinning on Pinterest, I came across the most amazing new products! They are called Pinhooks and they will make my life easier! I immediately ordered a 40 pack for only $10. Basically, they are pushpins that have a hook on the end of them so that you can hang stuff. They recommend your keys, a leash, or other light weight products. However, the site shows a metal bucket with cute ribbon attached hanging from the hook with a ton of crayons in it. There isn't a weight limit on them, so I'm wondering how much weight I can hang from them? Did I mention they are made in the USA?

These are the colors in the "Dream Pack" I just love that blue!
My plan is to use them for my student work. I figure I can take a binder clip and hook it over the hook and then clip students' work on it. That would be SO much easier than stapling or pushpinning work up. As soon as they arrive, I'll post more information.