Monday, July 20, 2015

Monday Made-It

It actually shocks me that this is the first time (this summer) I am linking up with Tara at 4th Grade Frolics.  Normally summer break is my time to get crafty, but I suppose it makes sense because I am changing school curriculum to plan for, new classroom to set up, etc.  Baby steps.

I whipped up this take-home books check-out system one night.  I am happy with the way that it turned out, except for the fact that the glue caused the pockets to bubble up a bit.  Oh well!  I decided to number them (vs. writing my students' names), so I don't have to change it each summer.  Previously, as a Kindergarten teacher, I insisted on using the students' names on everything (since they are usually still learning to write and recognize their names).  Going forward as a first grade teacher, I will be using numbers as often as possible to save time and energy!

These clipboards were a project last summer, but...

...I found two more in my garage that I apparently never finished last summer.  So I broke out the spray paint and mod podge again to bring this project to a close.  Just when I thought I was done, I found two more clipboards in my new classroom when I was unpacking boxes.  *sigh*

I found these wooden strips with clips in the Dollar Spot at Target (a.k.a. Teacher Heaven).  I wasn't sure what I was going to use them for, but I bought them anyway.

Then when I was giving them a cutesy touch at home, I came up with a great idea!  I am going to use them to hang my visual cue cards when I am giving directions.  (If you are not sure what I'm talking about, you can check out Teachers Pay Teachers, as many wonderful educators share them for free there.  Alessia Albanese is one example.)

I made a Super Improvers Wall that you can snag for FREE at my Teachers Pay Teachers store.

My scissors, laminator, and I have been seeing a lot of each other this summer.  A huge "Thank you!" goes out to my mom for helping me cut the last of my cardstock yesterday!  Well, the last of it for now anyway.

Alright, now I'm off to go make one of my most favorite dishes, Ensalada de Patatas - a recipe I stole from my host "mom" in Spain, hehe.  :)  Thanks for stopping by!

Friday, July 17, 2015

Five for Friday and a FREEBIE

Good morning and happy Friday!  I am linking up with Kacey at Doodle Bugs Teaching for her fabulous "Five for Friday" party!

Whole Brain Teaching - ever heard of it?  Are you a WBT teacher?  I am on my own WBT journey and I am looking forward to trying it out with my kiddos in the fall!

Here is my short WBT story:  At the tail end of last school year, an Instructional Methods Coordinator for my previous school district whom I had been collaborating with said to me, "You know Amber, your style of teaching really aligns with Whole Brain Teaching.  There is a first grade teacher over at such-and-such school who uses WBT that you could contact."  I already knew who she was talking about.  :)  It was my teacher friend, Heidi, who you may know from Droppin' Knowledge.  She and I went to grad school together and Heidi was also my long-term sub when I went on maternity leave.  Anyway, I had been intrigued by WBT blog posts, YouTube videos, etc. before, but I decided this was really a sign that I needed to investigate more.  I chatted with Heidi, she recommended the book, Whole Brain Teaching for Challenging Kids (and the Rest of Your Class, Too!) by Chris Biffle, and so I got started.

Shortly after diving into the book, Heidi shared some great news - she was able to get a WBT presenter to come to our school district!  And here's the best part...wait for it...the conference was FREE!

The presenter was fabulous!  I have to tell you:  Even though I was digging WBT as I was reading the book, I was not completely "sold" until the conference.  Now I'm totally pumped to implement (baby steps, of course) WBT into my first grade classroom in the fall!  If you ever get the opportunity to go to a WBT conference, go, go, GO!

(I only took the picture above because I was so happy to be wearing teacher shoes again, LOL.)

So one of the (many) things I will be implementing in the fall that comes from WBT is the "Super Improvers Wall."  (I am also going without Class Dojo, a behavior clip chart, and some other classroom management systems I used to use.  I'm not going to get into the "why" right now though; I'll save that for another post.)  I created a "Super Improvers Wall" that would work for my classroom and you can snag it for FREE in my TPT store.

There are many awesome documents for "Super Improvers Walls" on TPT already, but nothing that was quite right for my classroom.  First, I needed it to be in black and white because, unfortunately, my new school district does not have a color printer, so instead I will be printing on some beautiful Astrobrights paper that I found at Office Max.  Second, I did not want any of the levels to be aligned with intelligence in any way (i.e. - whiz kid, genius, etc.) because a "Super Improvers Wall" is not just for academic performance.  Third, I did not want a theme (i.e. - baseball, space, etc.)  So I came up with my own!  I hope someone out there is able to use it, too.

If by some small chance you were anxiously awaiting my Periscope video last Monday that I talked up on Instagram...I am so sorry it was a fail!  All was well at home, but once I got to school, the red "Broadcast" button was nonexistent.  *sigh*  Not a huge deal, but I do worry that I will never be able to show my classroom progress via Periscope - which I was looking forward to doing.  Some photos will have to do for now.

This was my first major project in my new classroom:  my AMAZING walk-in supply closet!  Love, love, love it!  However, I did not love organizing it.  That took me days and days.  It's certainly not perfect, but it's good enough for the time being.

I just loved how organized these pictures looked with the letter cards, so I had to snap a picture.  (I know, I'm an organizational freak.)  I have mine in order by author's last name.

I know what you're thinking..."Why did she take a picture of an empty space?"  Well, let me tell you!  This is where a huge teacher desk used to be...until our awesome custodian took it away for me.  Yay!  I haven't used a teacher desk in a few years and I've never looked back.  The more space I can make for students, the better.

Brace yourself before viewing the next photo.

Aghh!  This is a "before" shot of the take-home books.  Well, that's not entirely true.  They were in tubs, but I needed them to be organized, so I started over.

Ahhh!  Much better.  Obviously I'm not done with this area of the classroom, but at least it's now functional.

Our classroom library was another project that literally took days and day to organize.  It's not quite done (I still have to hang the lantern and give it some cute touches, but it's good enough to snap a picture.)

As of yesterday, I now have access to my new work e-mail.  Yippee!

I was super excited when I found these bright colored bendy straws at Target!  I know most teachers usually have a cup similar to this one full of water, tea, or whatever you drink to stay hydrated throughout the day, so maybe you'll find this as a useful tip.  These bendy straws don't break!  I swore to myself a few weeks back that I was no longer going to invest money in cups that required straws because I always end up breaking the straws.  Well - that's no longer an issue.  Now run to Target...for the fifth time this week.  ;)

As I mentioned earlier in this (what is turning out to be a long) post, my new school district does not have a color printer, which - by the way - is about the only negative thing I have discovered so far.  So I started looking into what it would cost me to print in color at Office Max.  Do you see that price?  $14.75 for 25 copies.  That doesn't work for me.  Bummer.

Then, I recently learned about HP Instant Ink.  Have you heard of this wonderful program!?  I first learned about it when Aly from Just a Primary Girl was talking about it during a Periscope video and all these other teachers were writing comments about how awesome the program is, so I was interested right away.  Then, before I had a chance to investigate for myself, I read a conversation on the First Grade Tribe Facebook page about it...and then I was sold!  I mentioned it to my sweet hubby and you know what he did?  He ordered me a HP printer that day for my upcoming birthday!

So this guy should be arriving soon:

It is affordable, wireless, prints in color, scans, copies, will print on cardstock, and (this is the best part) if you enroll in the Instant Ink program, HP knows when you are running low on ink and they ship it to your house!  There are different levels to the ink program, so you can choose one that works for your budget.  I've been reading from teachers that they pay as little as $5 per month and it's more than enough.  I'm so excited, can you tell!?  

Alright, that's all I've got for ya.  Thanks for stopping by!

Sunday, July 12, 2015

My First Periscope - Classroom Progress

Okay people, I'm doing it!  I'm going to attempt my first Periscope tomorrow (Monday) at 10:00am (central time)!

I will be showing you my new home-away-from-home (i.e. - my new first grade classroom).  Although I have to warn you, I have not gotten too far, despite the fact that I have been going in there almost every weekday since last school year ended.  It is AMAZING how long it can take to clean, organize, go through materials, etc.  Anyway, my beautiful walk-in supply closet is looking good and my classroom library is getting there, so I'll start with those two areas.

Thanks for the support on Instagram when I threw out the idea and I hope YOU will join me tomorrow!

Oh, you can find me on Periscope @MrsAmberUnger.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

You All Got Me Thinking...

I may not have gone to the TPT Conference in Las Vegas, but I sort of felt like I was there as I followed so many of you on Instagram.  Thank you for all your positive and uplifting energy!

I have been thinking a lot lately about myself as a blogger and TPT'er...wondering, "Why have I not become the blogger and TPT seller that I wanted to become?"  So I started to think about what has happened in my life in the last 8 years:

undergrad school
student teaching
met my boyfriend / later-to-be-husband
job searching
moved in with my boyfriend
long-term subbing position
job searching (again)
first full-time position (Kindergarten)
wedding planning
grad school
on-the-job student teaching
changed teaching positions (ESL)
became a mommy
planning team for a brand new public charter school
changed teaching positions and schools (Kindergarten)
job searching (again)
changed grade levels, schools, and school districts

And that's where I am at now, but oh-so-HAPPY about it!

When I list it out like that, it makes me realize that I haven't exactly had all the free time in the world...and I guess that makes me feel a bit better.  I also realize that I will not become the blogger and TPT seller of my dreams this summer or this upcoming school year either - and that is okay!  This summer, I will be enjoying my time setting up my new classroom and preparing for my upcoming grade level change (Kindergarten to first grade).  In the fall, I will be starting my dream job in the school district in which I live (yay!), so I will be busy getting used to all the changes.

My goal is next summer.  Next summer I should have time to focus on blogging, creating, and selling.  My husband and I recently had a conversation about turning our (unused) loft into a play space for our son and turning this quaint area in our condo into my very own teacher office space.  My sweet hubby said I can decorate it any way I want.  I'm so pumped for that!

So I guess the key word is "yet."  I haven't become the blogger and TPT seller that I set out to be...yet.  :)

I recently saw a quote on someone's Instagram that totally made sense for me at this point in my life.  It said something like, "You can only be happy when you stop comparing yourself to others."  So many of YOU are such fabulous bloggers, TPT sellers, Instagramers, etc.  I don't know how you do it and I applaud you!  But I am going to try my best to stop comparing and feel content that I will get where I want to be when the time is right for me and my family.  :)

For now, I will blog when I am able...though (side note) that may be difficult, since I keep getting this message on my home computer (I am on my husband's computer at the moment):

What's the deal?  Anybody know?  I used to blog on my previous work computer, which I loved, but had to turn it back into my previous school district in June.  *tear*  So this is a new problem.  Any help would be appreciated!

Well, if you actually took the time to read all this, thanks!  #hugstoyou

I plan to soon write a blog post about the awesome Whole Brain Teaching conference that I went to yesterday, so please stay tuned!