Thursday, August 16, 2018

What Is a Gallery Walk and Why Should I Use One in My Classroom?

The first time I ever heard of a gallery walk was at a collaboration meeting with my fellow sixth grade teachers. I'll be honest...none of us even wanted to be there. It was a cold, December afternoon, and all of us were drained. All we could think of was s.u.r.v.i.v.a.l for the next few days until winter break.
Yet another cause for dread was that we were supposed to share a video of ourselves teaching a lesson. Yep, that's what our administrators had cooked up for our monthly PD session. In December. Before the holidays. During a snowstorm. 

I know what you're thinking--because we were thinking it, too--"What a snoozefest!"

After much hemming and hawing, one brave soul said, "Let's just get this show on the road. I'll go first."

I don't want to be overly dramatic here, but that five-minute snippet of her lesson completely changed how I think about teaching. Seriously!



During those magical few moments, I watched twenty-five sixth graders fully engaged and having fun finding prepositions in sentences. Yes, you read that right--prepositions and fun...together. With sixth graders. In December.

We watched in awe as they read the sentences at each station, conferred with their partner, jotted down their answer, and headed to the next card...smiling!

As soon as the clip was over, we peppered the teacher with questions.

Did you bribe them with money or grades to get them to be that excited? No.

Was that your best-behaved class? No, it was the class with the most behavior challenges.

Were they able to find prepositions on their own when they had to do independent work later? Yes, they seemed to have a better grasp on prepositions than the class that only did independent work.




Well, I was hooked! I had a formal assessment coming up the next week, so I created a figurative language gallery walk just for the occasion. 

Now, I don't mean to brag, but it was one of the best lessons I have ever taught in my life!  Better yet, my principal wrote that it was one of the best lessons HE had ever seen.

But best of all, my students LOVED it and thought it was the best lesson THEY had ever done!

So......

Have I piqued your curiosity yet?

If so, read on!

                                  **************************

First of all, you're probably wondering what exactly IS a gallery walk?  I don't think there's any hard and fast rule, but here's my quick answer...
About once a month, when I want to introduce, review, or reinforce a concept, I usually create a gallery walk for my kids. I try to come up with 18 to 30 different task cards that revolve around the topic.

I then print out the cards (I tend to favor full-size pages) and tape them throughout the hallway. Which brings me to an important point: Why limit yourself to a teeny, tiny space all. day. long when schools have an abundance of unused space for most of the day?

Case in point: Here are the crowded conditions of the typical classroom in my building...


Kids pretty much have to stay in their seats because it's so crowded! Once we get thirty kids in a teeny, tiny room without windows, we can literally feel those brick walls crowding in on us by the end of the day!

So I ask you...

Why wouldn't I want to take advantage of all this lovely space that is virtually unused during class time?


Kids can walk up and down the hall with their partner and quietly discuss the topic at hand. 

I know what you're thinking...

Because I thought it, too...

Don't they goof around if they aren't in the confines of a classroom?

Surprisingly, no.

Here's why:

1. We discuss the expectations FULLY before they are ever set loose. I model behavior that is expected in an art gallery, and I tell them that is what I will see from them as well.

2. They are truly engaged in the learning activity. After sitting in a desk all day, most students are thankful to be able to move around and not be doing another worksheet.

3. This type of activity is beneficial for many different kinds of learners. It's obviously a great choice for kinesthetic learners because they're up and moving, but it's also helpful for those linguistic and interpersonal learners who need to talk things out. Think about the kiddos that generally have behavior issues in your classroom. If you're really honest, they are usually the students who fit the above learning profiles, and they welcome the chance to learn in their own way.


If you'd like to try a gallery walk but you're really not quite sure where to start, I have several available in my TpT store. Once the cards are printed, they can be laminated so you have them ready for years of use! 

Go on and give it a try! You'll thank yourself...and so will your students!






Saturday, August 4, 2018

Back to School Popsicle Bulletin Board

Are you looking for a fun, easy "Getting to Know You" activity AND a quick, low-prep bulletin board? Do I have an idea for you that is totally cool!



This festive bulletin board kit has three levels of prep for your convenience:

*Kickin' It Old School -- Think of Friday afternoon art projects from the 1980s. You have time to gather supplies before class (scrapbook or other colorful paper, tongue depressors or craft sticks, glue, scissors, and tape). These supplies are NOT included in my TpT product--sorry! Your kiddos also have time to select paper, trace patterns, cut, and glue.

It's a great bonding time, and you get to gauge the creativity and fine-motor skills of your new charges. Early finishers can create extra popsicles for a bright, colorful banner for the classroom, too!

*No Frills -- You and your kiddos have a lot of ground to cover, but you'd like to have a quick, simple craftivity to print out and decorate. There is a popsicle pattern all set to print, and the troops just need to decorate with markers, color pencils, etc., and cut out.

*Ain't Nobody Got ANY Time, but I Need a Cute Bulletin Board! -- No worries, we've got you covered! Simply print out the writing page of your choice with the popsicle already printed on it. Kids can complete the writing portion and decorate the popsicle as time allows. They can still be colorful and creative without all the fuss!



The writing portion of the project can also be modified for time. One option is to have students interview each other to find out "COOL" facts about their classmates. (A popsicle partner-up page is also included!) Students then write about their new friend, and if time allows, they can introduce him or her to the class.

If you need a time-saving option, students can write about themselves and maybe share one or two "COOL" facts with the class or a small group.

When students have their writing assignment and popsicle put together, they can be displayed in an eye-POPping fashion! (Sorry, I couldn't resist!)

The letters for "Our Class is Cool!" are provided in the kit--you just need to print out on the paper of your choice. This is what the font looks like...



If you're pressed for time, the heading is also available in rectangular frames so you don't have to cut out around letters. Simply print out on colored paper and use the paper-cutter to cut around the frames. Voila!

Whichever option you choose, your class is sure to have a COOL time! To check out this SWEET resource, click on the picture below...




Happy crafting!



Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Back to School Sale!

Hey, teacher friends!

Whether you teach at a public, private, or home school, you won't want to miss the annual TpT Back to School Sale!


If you're not familiar with Teachers Pay Teachers (TpT), it's a fabulous online marketplace full of time-saving resources for all kinds of educators!

You don't have to pay a membership fee to buy materials, and there are thousands of FREE resources available also!

So come check out the fun and all the great deals!
Don't forget to use the code BTSFRESH at the checkout!

Happy shopping! 


Monday, July 30, 2018

Simple Pork Roast

Do you need a fast, easy, and affordable dinner to throw together during those frantic first days of school--or anytime, for that matter? Well, I have just the thing!

Right now, pork roasts are on sale for $0.99 to 1.99/lb in my neck of the woods. I like to pick up a couple of them at the grocery store when they're at this rock bottom price and put them in the freezer.

When I know I'm going to have a busy day ahead of me, I thaw a roast out the day before, and make sure I have all the ingredients for this simple pork roast crock-pot recipe.

Here is the unlikely cast of characters...

I know. The combination is a little unconventional, but oh my goodness, what flavor they add to a boring pork roast! 

Simple Pork Roast
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 envelope of onion soup mix
1 can Dr. Pepper (Pepsi or Coke would also work) 
   *Note: Two-liter bottles of DP were on sale, so I will just use 1.5 cups.

Spray the trusty crock-pot with cooking spray and place the pork roast fatty-side up. Mix the above ingredients in a bowl, and pour the entire mixture over the roast. Turn the crock-pot on low, and let it work its magic while you're working your magic for the next 8-10 hours!

When you get home from work, simply peel and quarter some potatoes, open a bag of baby carrots, and add those veggies to the roast (and its delectable juices!) in the crock-pot.

After an hour or so, check the potatoes, carrots, and pork to see if they're done. (Potatoes and carrots are done if a fork easily slides into them; pork needs to have an internal temp of at least 160 degrees, juices run clear, and meat is tender.)

I forgot to take a picture of everything at supper the other night, but here's a quick picture of the little Pyrex container I packed for lunch the next day...



So there you have it, folks! One of my tried-and true-thrifty recipes! I hope it becomes a favorite go-to meal at your house, too!

Monday, July 23, 2018

How to Decorate Your Classroom Without Breaking the Bank: Step Two



Welcome back, friends! 

I'm excited for you to start decorating your classroom, so let's get going!



I am trusting that you did your homework and completed Step One: Determine your color scheme and/or theme.

If so, you get a gold star, and you are ready to roll on today's assignment!

You will need:
A. The writing utensil of your choice
B. Paper of some kind
C. Measuring tape

Can you tell I'm missing school so much that I have taken to writing everything like a multiple choice test???



Anyhow, hop in that car, and head on over to your new digs! Hopefully, you have a key and the custodians aren't waxing the floor...

Once you've safely maneuvered around all the stuff in the halls, you're ready for the next step.


Study your classroom.
I know this sounds weird, but trust me on this. Get out that piece of paper and writing utensil, and just sit in your classroom. No one is going to bother you because:
A. They are still on vacation mode and would not step foot in the building if their life depended on it.
B. They are in the building but are up to their eyeballs in their own bulletin board decorating.
C. They are custodians and are busy waxing the gym floors.


Anyway, you are safe to just sit and take it all in without interruption. While you are peacefully taking in your new surroundings, consider the following:


How many bulletin boards do you have? 
    --Which one of your color scheme hues lends itself to being the best background color for your boards? Doing all or most of your boards with the same color gives the most cohesive flow to the room, but you might want to vary the color depending on the purpose of the board.

--What IS the purpose of each bulletin board going to be? I like to have at least one instructional bulletin board that teaches a concept and one that displays student work. If I'm lucky enough to have more boards, then I like to put up class expectations, Marzano's Levels of Understanding, or something along those lines.

--Measure each bulletin board, write down the measurements on your paper, and keep the paper in your purse or wallet. Just like a bed is the primary focus in a bedroom, bulletin boards are often the biggest splash of color in a classroom. If you find a great source of background color, you can easily check your dimensions to see if it will work on your boards.

While you have that measuring tape handy, you might want to also measure and jot down the dimensions of your door(s), windows, and anything else you might want to decorate.



Are there other areas of wall space that are just begging to be filled?
We've talked before about not overdecorating your space because of attention issues, and because it tends to look busy and messy. But sometimes, there's a great bare expanse that just needs a little something. Take note of that space as well and record those measurements, too.

Are you kind of getting a general idea as to the flow of your room? 

Well...now the fun begins! 

With your measurement list in hand (or wallet or phone), it is time to begin LOOKING for materials in your color scheme. I would recommend shopping for the big areas, such as bulletin boards, first and then fill in with little things later.



Materials for Bulletin Board Backgrounds
--Rolls of colored butcher paper (usually found in the school media center. This is honestly your cheapest source of background and most districts have a wide variety of colors available. Check this out first!)
--Tablecloths.  Whether they are plastic, cloth, or paper, rectangular
 tablecloths can make fantastic backgrounds! Check out party store or Target clearance for these little gems. Garage sales and thrift stores can also be a great place to search.
--Wrapping paper. I check Wal-Mart and Target's clearance aisles for this nearly every time I go there.
--Material. If you find a great sale, material can be a great choice because it can be used year after year. Check out stores like JoAnn Fabrics or Hobby Lobby who offer coupons and great sales. Some stores also offer a teacher discount, so don't be afraid to ask! 
--Wallpaper or contact paper. Leave the backing on so you don't ruin the board, but these are great bargains if you find them on the clearance rack or at a yard sale. Some of the wood grain patterns would be great if you want a Farmhouse or Fixer Upper style!
--Sheets. Sometimes you can find great buys on kids' sheet sets on clearance. These also make great curtains! 

Party supply stores and Oriental Trading are also great places to check out for inexpensive decorating items.

I hope this gives you a good starting place for your decorating adventures! Remember to stick to your color scheme and your budget. 

And whatever you do, have fun!


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Wednesday, July 18, 2018

How to Decorate Your Classroom Without Breaking the Bank


Happy Wednesday, everyone! Or is it Tuesday? (If you're a teacher, I know you can totally relate to this day-of-the-week dilemma in the middle of summer.) Whatever the day, I'm glad you could join me!

As I took my morning walk around the neighborhood today, I realize that it's beginning to look a lot like back to school time. In my neck of the woods that means the schoolyards are getting gussied up, teachers' cars can be spotted in the parking lots, and the crosswalks are getting a fresh coat of paint.

And now the soles of my walking shoes are also sporting some fresh white paint.


Since I've been around the block a time or two and have the footprints to prove it, I thought I would offer some friendly advice to those of you setting up your classrooms for the first time.

If you read my last post, you know I'm all about saving money. I also like my classroom to be bright, cheerful, and welcoming. Believe it or not, I can accomplish both of those goals without spending a lot of money and so can you.

Make a decorating plan.
I'm sure you've probably heard Benjamin Franklin's quote, "If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail." While you can just accumulate random items and decorate, it will probably lack a cohesive look and you'll likely spend more than you need to. You will feel much more organized if you spend time analyzing what you really need and want for your classroom.



Step One: Develop a color scheme
Just like your home, your classroom will have a more cohesive, put-together look if you stick to two or three dominant colors when you decorate. That's not to say that you can't have items in your room that aren't those colors, but the majority of the room should be for maximum effect. Too many colors can look chaotic and can be distracting for those with focus issues.

If you'd like to do a multi-color scheme such as pastels or rainbow colors, think about using a neutral such as black to anchor all of those hues.

Here are some other considerations when creating your color scheme...

*Is there already a predominant color in the room? 
If you look at the picture above, this classroom had lots of blue in it that I couldn't change. Because blue and gold were our school colors, the trim, bookcases, chairs, etc. were all some shade of blue (not by my choice). That particular year, I decided to go with a "black & bright" theme that wouldn't compete with all the different blue accents.

Another year in that same classroom, I decided to go with muted tones of the school colors. I was loving the Farmhouse look at that time, so I incorporated lots of fabric that complemented the painted trim.

My accents also went with the Farmhouse theme and blue/yellow color scheme...



In yet another classroom, I was stuck with an ugly green counter-top and a huge bright blue cabinet. (Yikes!) I decided to pull things together with a blue and green decorating theme. I used these fans hanging from the ceiling and also as bulletin board accents to help create a balanced look.



In your classroom, do you have elements such as desks, wall color, chairs, etc. that have a dominant color that you can't change? If so, I've found it easier over the years to try to complement that color rather than fight it.

*Do you have a school-wide theme that you need to implement?
If you do, your color scheme might come from that. For example, if your school is doing a bee theme, black and yellow would be an easy fix throughout your room. 

If you have school colors that you like, you might want to incorporate those into your classroom. For example, my new school colors are black and gold. I'm also kind of liking the whole pineapple decorating thing that's going on all over Pinterest this summer. I decided to use both of those ideas to guide my decorating for this year.



These mini posters will make a great bulletin board for my room! I get to weave in the black and gold, plus I get to add a touch of pineapple without committing to a whole room of it. Definitely a win-win!

*Look for an inspiration piece.
Do you have a favorite piece of decor that you just love? Use that as a springboard for coming up with the best colors for your room. For instance, one year I just fell in love with this flag...



It quickly became the focal point of my decorating that year. 

1. The walls of that classroom were ivory already.
2. I used a matching red fabric with ivory polka dots to cover the mini bulletin boards over my windows. (Fabric was found on clearance)
3. I painted some older furniture black and incorporated it into my room. (I already had the paint from previous projects and the wooden furniture was given to me)
4. I found a black and ivory checked wallpaper border in the clearance section of a discount store. 
4. The school's colors at that time were red, white, and black.

Now that sounds like I was quite lucky, and I was, but actually it all came together because I had a PLAN. And because I had a plan, I could focus my attention on gathering items that coordinated with my plan and tune out those that didn't.

Okay, enough blabbing from me--are you ready to give it a try? Your first assignment is to come up with the color scheme for your room. Study your classroom for a bit, think of colors you love, possibly look for an inspiration piece, and find out if you have a team or school theme for the year.

Armed with that information, come up with two or three colors that complement each other and stay tuned for Step Two: Gathering Materials.


Until next time!

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Sundays At Home

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Dear New Teachers


Dear New Teachers of 2018,



If I could offer any advice for your first year of teaching, it would be this: Don't go into debt for your job. 

"But wait!" you're probably thinking. "I've got a classroom to decorate, cute teacher clothes to buy, supplies to get, flexible seating to set up..." 

Oh, I know all too well the Siren Song of Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. Just remember though, we're only seeing the highlights of someone's life in those posts. We're not seeing the behind the scenes work and bloopers. We're not seeing the years invested in practicing skills and collecting items. Those images are supposed to inspire us, not expire us! 



For this first year, don't worry too much about room set-up. Your administrators will mostly care that your room is clean and organized, not that it is Pinterest-worthy.

I once read a story about an architect who had designed a new college campus. He was widely criticized when the new school year began and he still hadn't designed any pathways throughout the campus. He wasn't too concerned though because he had a plan. This brilliant thinker waited to see where students naturally traveled throughout the campus, and THEN he had those pathways paved. 

Your classroom is a lot like that architect's college campus. Since you're new to the school, wait to see what the natural flow of your class is before you firmly establish where you want everything. For example, I thought I wanted my desk at the front of the room so I could see everyone's face during independent work time. However, with the advent of Chromebooks in my class, I now want my desk in the back of the room so I can see what everyone's doing! 😉  It's important to stay flexible!


I would also advise keeping your decor simple for a couple of reasons. First, you'll want to establish your own decorating style, and that takes a few years to determine. You don't want to waste lots of time and money buying things that you won't even want in a couple of years. And don't forget that you'll have to find a place to store all of these things...classrooms are notorious for not having lots of storage space! Also, many students come to us with attention or sensory issues, and too many decorations can honestly become a distraction to their learning.

The longer I teach, the more of a minimalist I become. I try to keep my classroom bright and cheerful and free of clutter. At the beginning of the year, I tell my kiddos that I am the most dazzling, unique decoration in the room, so they should always be looking at me. 😘


Speaking of being a human decoration, I would adopt a wait-and-see attitude about your wardrobe for the year. I know, I know, it's so much fun to shop! However, you're new to the school, and you probably don't know how they dress. Sure, it's usually casual business attire, but just how casual and how business are they?

For instance, I've worked in schools where jeans were NEVER allowed unless there was a fundraiser of some kind, and then you had to pay dearly to wear the denim. I've also worked in buildings where you could wear shorts and flip-flops during the warm months. So before you plunk down the hard-earned cash you have yet to get, wear what you wore student teaching and diligently observe what your colleagues wear for the next couple of months. Your checkbook will thank you in the long run.



You will also most likely have school or team apparel that you are expected to wear on Fridays or special days. This really cuts down on the "what to wear" dilemma in the morning, and it can be a huge budget helper since you only need one Friday outfit. You'll come to appreciate those "school uniform" days toward the end of the year!



Best wishes for a great start on your teaching career! Remember that while you're finally living out your career dreams, you'll want to make your financial dreams come true, too. Don't set yourself up for a ride on the struggle bus--that's a ride that can go on for years! Don't ask me how I know...

As a recent college graduate, no one is going to expect you to have lots of money--embrace that! 😃 Never again in your lifetime will it be so socially acceptable to not have money. Enjoy that liberating freedom to its fullest!

So when you meet the Mr. and Mrs. Joneses down the hallway, don't be envious of their classrooms or the things they have. They've had years to accumulate their classroom treasures and hone their decorating skills. Truth be told, they probably wish they didn't have so much stuff!

And while you're walking down that hallway to your humble first classroom, many of them will be envious of you and the blank slate before you that's just waiting to be filled. 


Happy first year!



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