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Saturday, April 19, 2014

Five for Fraturday

I know.
I'm a thief.
I stole that title.
From a dear friend, even.
Hopefully, Kristin does not mind.
She's creative.
Why reinvent the wheel? I say.
I'm joining Doodle Bugs Teaching - FINALLY!

I actually have 5 things to share for the week.
5 things of which I took pictures!
Peeps, that NEVER happens.
Although I took pictures (AND recorded audio... I'm telling you, I was ON it this week people!), I wasn't on time with my post. It's Saturday peeps, not Friday. Someone told me after school Fridays are for enjoying pizza and wine (or diablo margaritas) - I totally agree and digress. The point is, I have a reason, however lame, for "borrowing" Teeny Tiny's creative title.

Here's a bit of my week.
My kiddos have been working hard on some MAJOR CCSS complicated base tens and ones math. We started applying this knowledge to a new math technique in class. Adding a bit of kinesthetic activity to the mix really helped!

I have a lot to say about this - so I'll save it for a later post.

I cannot handle the sound of 30 voices anymore. It's horrible. I think it's because I'm getting old. My patience for that "noise" is rice paper thin! (What's thinner than rice paper? It's more like that thin.)

My friends Christy and Tammy over at Fluttering Through First Grade have the best solution ever in their Listen Up! Auditory Activities. Each and every time we do these, I am provided with the ABSOLUTE BEST - BEST! way to assess their listening and following directions skills ANNNNNNNDDDDDD an extremely peaceful room for a good 10 minutes. 

Seriously. Listen.....
I wish I could say I relaxed, feet up, sipping coffee while the kiddos do this. But I don't. I walk around and marvel. Seriously. These activities are VERY telling. They are the PERFECT thing to share with parents during conferences, too. 

Also... they require QUIET. Ahhhhhhh. 
We were able to pull a few more sight words off our word wall this week. The kiddos are so great at this and LOVE that they do so well with 21 words! I think I enjoy their excitement over taking this "test" more than they do! It's so fabulous.

Some of us are not quite ready for all 21 of the words to come off the board. The word TAKE posed a problem for 8 of them. Honestly, this shocked me. Doing these types of random, off the cuff, types of assessments are my favorite. They don't hurt the kids, take very little time, can be done whole group and totally help guide my instruction.

So - a few of us are heading back to some silent e practice.

Raining Cats and Dogs is one of the kiddos' FAVORITE writing lessons and craftivities. We had a few more kitties this year than last - but the pups still won by a landslide. We are dog people in my room. :)

Looking for an introduction to expressions/idioms? (Awesome ELL writing/grammar support) This little resource is so much fun.
Our house is surrounded by open nature - both behind us and in front of us.

Seemed fabulous to us when we bought the place. Nothing in the way of our view (besides smog). Hills behind us. Mountains in front of us. Perfect.

BUT we are in the way.

We are in the way of nature. Tarantulas, coyotes, snakes, rabbits, gophers, and all sorts of wildlife use those empty fields. They like to go back and forth, to and fro, travel here and there... and we are in.the.way. 

So they go through our yard. 

A lot.


Our dogs are not too fond of this form of nature's traffic. The boxer is always on the lookout for the next intruder. The hound dog looks forward to the next "toy" that rambles in.

They decided to tussle with a skunk this week.

They lost.

So did my house. Those dear pups came INSIDE immediately after their skunk encounter.

I N S I D E!


It was sad.
It was smelly.
It IS everlasting.

So there you have it - the excitement of my week.
How was yours? Anything eventful?

Have a fabulous Easter Sunday peeps! Enjoy your family! Avoid the skunks.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Ditch the File Cabinet! A School Year in BINDERS!

I'm sharing one of my FAVORITE things with you today. In my opinion, it's an essential part of planning and organizing your school year. Best of all, it's SIMPLE!

I'm all about simple.
Like REALLY simple. Clutter and chaos are my enemies.

That's why I LOVE binders.
Nice, shiny white binders - with clear sleeve covers.
And TONS of clear plastic page sleeves inside.

Binders should be called clutter and chaos eliminators.
Wonder who I can call about requesting that name change?

Here are the top 3 reasons why you should also be obsessed with binders.

I loathe file cabinets. I have ONE drawer in a teacher friend's file cabinet. I keep my math  homework in there. Basically it is an out of sight storage container.

That's my drawer there... the one with the dragonfly on it. Keeping my math homework in there is fine. I just grab a stack each week. Then the next week's is automatically in front. There is no sorting through this cabinet trying to find things. I don't ever have to LOOK at what's in there. It was simply the easiest and most out of the way place to store pages that were torn out of 30 books. That's the ONLY way I use a filing cabinet.

File cabinets are great for storing things that you don't need to sort through. Easy access. Minimize chaos. Eliminate clutter.

File cabinets are not very efficient for storing teaching resources. BINDERS are the way to go for those original resources you use year after year. They are extremely effective and highly organized. It is MUCH easier to flip through a binder and see EXACTLY what you are looking for rather than pull file folders in and out of a drawer.

Plan a month at a time. Plan each month around a unifying theme or two to bring cohesiveness to your days and weeks.  This is a perfect way to fit in social studies and science into your busy, busy day. Use a binder of fabulous resources to help with that planning!

Each month should have a binder. Identify that binder by theme - keeping the focus clear and concise. In that binder place everything used during that month for ELA, math, social studies and science that isn't in district curriculum. An entire month's worth of reproducibles/originals in one place. Remember, the key is simplify. Having a BUNCH of binders will hinder your ability to reach that objective.

It's pretty awesome to look in my cabinet and see at a quick glance where I am in the year! 9 months - 9 binders. We are covering weather and matter right now. All that's left is our ocean habitat unit and WE.ARE.DONE! 

Place a copy of each original you use in a plastic sleeve.

Group these sleeves by copying requirements.

Binder Groups
single-sided sheets
two-sided sheets
construction originals
1/2 sheet originals

When it's time to prep for the upcoming month, simply pull out each group. Attach simple instructions for parent helpers so they know exactly what needs to be copied.

Before copying, flip through your pages to be sure you have included/excluded all that is necessary for your kiddos that particular school year. Also, edit your pages. If you find you don't like something, throw it away - remove it from your binder. Keep only what you will use. Simplify!

In prepping for our 1st grade team, I create a copy request that outlines what needs to be done and required quantities for all of us. We have a volunteer program on campus where parents work in our copy/prep room on different jobs left there by teachers. If no volunteers were available or got to the job, it's easy enough for one of us to grab the clipped stack and copy what's outlined. 
The originals never leave their sleeves, so "refiling" is easy. They just get plopped right back into the binder, snap the rings shut and put back on the shelf. Everything stays in pristine condition - no wrinkles, tears or file cabinet snafus. Another month... done!

That's it. Simple. Quick. And an ESSENTIAL part of an organized school year!

Please be sure to follow me on Facebook, my TpT store and this blog so you don't miss any ideas, freebies and teacher resources!

I'm curious. Is this helpful?  Does it suit your style?  How do you organize your year?

For more *Bright Ideas* please check out the links below from 150 different teacher blogs! 

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