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

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

It's Summer! And we are all home...

It's that time of year.  We slowly recover from the last month of school and begin dreaming of those things we are going to do "next year."  In our house, summer means we are ALL home.  My husband is a teacher too, and while it is an amazing gift and blessing to have time as a family...things can get a little crazy being together 24/7.  Hubby teaches middle school, and with all the challenges of those kids, sometimes our own kids are so much harder to deal with. 

The first week or two of break we always head out to our family cabin (also known as super cheap vacation spot--we are both teachers remember?)  The boys spend time running in the woods and playing at the lake while we get a chance to relax without a house full of chores to do.  It's always a great trip and we always have fun.

Then we come home....and we are all on each other's nerves.  Took me 5 years to figure this one out, but since we are on a tight budget, I put the two biggest boys in 1/2 day Lego camps on different weeks!  Then we get quality time with the other two and the big boys don't fight all day.  Success!

This summer I also got the two big boys to peruse Pinterest with me and find a schedule and some activities they liked.  We aren't home everyday, but when we are they need a routine.  When they are busy, I don't have to be the referee so much.  Here is what we came up with.

Sorry for the lousy photos, but we were making notes and I just ran with it.  Yes, I had to resist the urge to make it cute on the computer.

This was really helpful and made everyone less stressed.  It's funny how we do things in our classroom, and then don't do the same things at home.  Kids are kids, and they love structure and routine.  Mine included.  I'll leave you with a pic of the wild three. 

They are rocking the tie dye shirts their awesome Aunti made for them.  Thanks Aunti!!

~ Enjoy the sun!  Lara