Saturday, July 1, 2017

Summer...Summer...Glorious Summer!

Today is July 1st...for our family it's the half way point in summer. So far we've had some great adventures at Lake Tahoe and camping in Gualala on the northern CA coast.  I've taken a break from everything school related, and now I am getting excited about the upcoming year.

As a "teacher-mama" I am always attempting to balance my work and home life. This summer my three boys are 9, 6, and 3years old, and it's been a summer of constant bickering and fighting.  As I write they are mocking each other while they build monsters out of play-doh. 😝 I am so tired of it, I am actually counting down the days til school starts.

Notes for next year: put kids in summer camp more than one week!

As we move into July I'll start my back to school planning. I've got a few things to do that make my WHOLE year easier.  Look for these tips in an upcoming post! 

In honor of July, there is a downloadable July Poster on the Instagram Links page.  Hop over there and check in out.


Monday, December 5, 2016

Best Reward Ever--and it's FREE!

I've seen many teachers post things on social media about "Flashlight Fridays" or something similar to that.  This year, with Halloween being on a Monday, I decided to try something new for the Tuesday after Halloween.  I challenged my class to be awesome on Halloween, and if they were, this would be our reward:

So....I've discovered that kids will do ANYTHING to do their work by flashlight. I have never seen kids so focused and diligent about getting their work done.  It was fun to work by flashlight, and they knew if they were off task, they would lose the lights!


I can't wait to give my kids this reward again! 

~ Lara

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Let's Be Real ~ Classroom Tour in November

Whew, what a crazy few months it has been.  Now that parent conferences, report cards, the super moon, Halloween, the election, and the time change are over, I'm back to share with you.

I love looking at all the classroom pictures before back to school.  So many are just picture perfect.  But, let's be real...a classroom is all about learning and sometimes the cuteness doesn't last.  So, I thought I'd share my classroom this November.  Piles of pillows on the floor, student shoes (I think those are my son's) and all!

After teaching in the oldest classroom in the district for many years, I was one of the lucky teachers that moved into a new wing of classrooms a few years ago. While I didn't miss the leaky roof, moldy carpet, and sloping floor, our new classrooms had some challenging features.  They were designed to match our school (built in the 70's) and have floor to ceiling windows.  One wall is entirely windows, one is 1/2 windows.  The front wall has the cabinets and whiteboard (in pic above) and the back wall has cabinets and the counter for computers. With all that, there is not much wall space for bulletin boards, so I have to be picky about what to put up.  I often hang student work in the windows on a clothesline due to lack of space.

So here we go....

I use the shelves in the front as a classroom library.  My amazing paraprofessional usually teaches at my kidney table during the 50 minutes she is with us each day.

On the other side of the classroom I have a rectangular table that can be used at center time or for students to work at.

The back of the room holds our technology center and one of three places to hang things on the walls.

Super easy birthday chart...take a picture of the kids from each month, cut with a circle punch and done!
Class jobs, rules, calendar, and reminder posters.

And the wall behind my desk.  I use clothespins to hang student work for fast change outs.  I also post a class list in the small area behind my desk.  I have each student's name and picture.  It's big enough to be read from the front of the room and is super handy for subs.  And yes, that pile of crud is my desk....remember we are being real here people.

Math wall at front left of classroom.

Group supplies and chair pockets.  LOVE both of these.  Can't tell you how much time they save since kids aren't looking in their desks for things.

Well there you have it!
Back soon with how I did "Meet the Teacher" and how I am using flexible seating.



Monday, August 1, 2016

Summer Tips and Tricks ~ Part 3

Back to school is looming!  Some schools have already started, and some don't start until after labor day, but I go back to work on August 11th, and kids come on the 17th.  In the final stretch of summer there a a few things I have found make that transition back to the routine of school much smoother.  This is the final post of my three part series, so if you missed the first two, be sure to scroll down and check them out.


So I know you've heard it before, but I can't tell you how much less stressful those first weeks of school are if your kids aren't all groggy and cranky in the mornings. It also helps if you aren't groggy and cranky. ☻ I move bedtimes 15 minutes earlier each week for the two weeks before school starts.  It doesn't seem like much, but I have learned that it makes the kids (and myself) so much happier, and mornings are more peaceful.  This makes for a much calmer, more patient teacher during those first few weeks when you are training many little people in your classroom.


It's tempting to jump right into curriculum, and many of us have no choice as we need to follow district mandated pacing maps, but the most important thing to teach the first few weeks is procedures.  And I mean for EVERYTHING!! 

You will save hundreds of hours of instructional time over the school year if your students can line up, transition between seating locations, or get out materials quickly and efficiently.  Your time at the beginning of the year will more than pay for itself as the year progresses.  I am often asked by my colleagues how I fit it all in, and have time for signing, art, and other fun stuff.  My secret is fast transitions.  I love to make it a game with my kids and use timers or a stopwatch to see how fast we can do it.  If the twenty transitions during my day take only 1 minute instead of 2 or more, I have saved 20 minutes that I can use for something fun.

There are lots of "lists of procedures to teach" out there.  One of my favorites is a free product from Rachel Lynette. You'll find it here.  I LOVE her stuff and if you haven't checked out her TPT store and blog, you should.

Thanks for reading!  A classroom tour is coming soon.

Enjoy! ~ Lara


Monday, July 4, 2016

Easy Kids Coloring Center

So like any kids, a month into summer my boys are needing new things to do.  While we have always had coloring tools around, we have not had a a centrally located place where these tools are out and immediately accessible.  First, my husband was adamant about no plastic storage in the family room.  Second, my youngest is 2 1/2 and anything that is out has to be small child friendly. I decided we needed a storage situation that was easily movable and also decent to look at.

I gathered up all the old school supplies that were left from my kids year in transitional kindergarten and second grade.  All the makers were washable, so I felt okay putting them out where the little one might touch.  Then, I dug around in the garage and found a basket and some clear plastic cups.  Some old magazine holders were perfect to hold the random scratch paper and coloring books I came across, too.

Five minutes later, we had a great set up.

The basket can be easily picked up and moved to the kitchen table if we all want to color, and it still leaves room on the kids table for other activities.

The great thing I discovered after putting this together is that even if the markers don't make it into the cups, they still stay pretty neat in the basket.

And there you have it! Super easy kids coloring station that does not involve any plastic baskets or drawers.

~ Enjoy! Lara

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Summer Tips and Tricks ~ Part 2

So now that we have relaxing and making lists under control, here are two other tips:


I always ask a parent or two to make copies for me during the last month of school.  I have them copy EVERYTHING I know I'm going to need for the next year.  I go through each subject and pull all the masters for the "must do" items--assessments, spelling lists, interactive notebook pages, etc.  If you don't have a volunteer, or your school doesn't allow them to make copies, it's worth going in for a morning in the summer (also if your school allows this) and making the copies yourself.  I always focus on the things I know I am going to use the first week as well.

So why is this important?  Well...remember the first week teachers are back to work, long lines at the copiers, and constant copier breakdowns?  Now you can avoid it!  Happy Day!


Now this may sound like a HUGE task...but it really isn't.  I'm just talking about mapping out when you'll be teaching your major units over the year.  This is a great way to see how they will align with holiday breaks and how you will fit them all in.

I love the year planners by Traci Clausen!  Be sure to check them out in her store (click here).  I chose the excel version and it comes with a ton of different templates to meet your needs.  You can have color or black and white...and add as little or as much detail as you need.

Here is her sample and I was impressed by how easy it was to make mine look the same.

This year our district participated in a "vertical alignment" process to align our ELA curriculum with the new Common Core State Standards.  As part of that process all grades had to map our their year using the same template.  It's not as pretty, but just as functional.  Here is my upcoming year:
Now, you may be thinking why this is important?  First, as I said before, it will ensure you can fit in all your required units and ensure you plan for units to end at major breaks.  In addition, it can help you plan when you'll need to make copies (seriously get a parent to come in once a week for 30 minutes--it's a lifesaver!)  Perhaps most importantly, it acts as a guide as you make detailed plans during the year.  Of course there are going to be things that you have to reteach, or concepts your class aces through...and that is why it's an outline and not locked in stone. This helps you pace your plans and determine what you have time for and when.

Now start thinking about what units are a "must do," what field trips or events you have, and then map around that. This will save you HOURS during the year and ensure that you are giving your students exposure to all the standards at your grade level. More tips to come!  

Enjoy! ~Lara

Friday, June 24, 2016

Summer Tips and Tricks for an Easy Start to the School Year!

If you are like me, you want to do some "school stuff" over the summer, but also want to get in a ton of relaxing and family time.  As teachers and moms we are always balancing something.  Over the summer I'll be highlighting a few things that I have found helpful to do during the summer over the last 16 years of teaching.

Tip #1 ~ RELAX!!!  (Really)

When I first started teaching, I was always working on school stuff. When your kids are at camp, or at a friends (or if you don't have kids) it's easy to end up doing "just a little" work on something related to school.  I learned that I was a much better teacher if I made the effort to set aside time for me during the summer.  Read a trashy magazine from cover to cover, read a non-school related book, go get a pedicure, go out for a glass of wine with a girl friend (or even your hubby), just be sure do set aside specific time that thinking about school is not allowed.


Really...I know teachers are great at this, but sometimes with the busy summer days it's easy to forget great ideas, or end up working on 12 things at once.  And then you go to Target and the Dollar Spot makes you add 12 more projects to what you'd like to get done.  I make two main lists, and I finally got smart and made them on my phone so they are always with me.

First I make a list of things I want to do when the year starts.  These are those "great ideas" you read about on a blog, or something that pops into your head.  Balancing being a mama and teacher means, if I don't write it down, I won't remember it.  Here is my list so far this summer:

I also keep a running list of supplies I need to by.  I just made a big order through my district, and hit the dollar school (hard) so my list is pretty short right now.

Keeping running lists during the summer makes getting supplies easier and helps keep track of those great ideas.

Come back soon for more tips!

~ Enjoy!  Lara