Tuesday, July 22, 2014

10 Ways to Use Walgreens in the Classroom

I've pretty much turned 'Walgreens' into a verb. I'm often asked, "Are you gonna Walgreens that?" I laugh and say, of course!

Walgreens photos are a little treasure I've been addicted to for the past four or five years now. I love printing things for my classroom in color, but ink is just too pricey. So, I started printing the small stuff as 4x6 photos and I now benefit from the glossy color in what I create! They often have 10 cent prints and that's when you put your order in!

Here are 10 ways to use Walgreens' 4x6 prints in your classroom.

1. Name Tags
There are many different name tags out there but making your own allows you to personalize them. You can design them with your class theme, quotes, or add the resources your students need.

My theme this year is superheroes - My kids really need to work on skip counting so I added that on my name tags.


2. Certificates
We have large class sizes at my school and often, one package of certificates isn't enough. They can range from $3-$4 for 25-30 but now I design my own! You can really personalize what the certificate is for based on what you're doing in your classroom.

3. Invitations
My classroom is open to parents. All. The. Time! Additionally, throughout the year, I hold "Parent Universities" or "Coffee Talks". Parents are invited to visit our classroom for a workshop on testing or a specific content area that I feel needs some extra explanation.

4. Incentive "punch" Cards
Each family receives a Parent Involvement (now called my Family Engagement) incentive cards. In an effort to get families more involved, I offer a pizza dinner delivered by me once a family has 10 marks on their card.

I put four cards per print which really maximizes the value when they are 10 cents a print...do the math, that's only $0.90 for 36 incentive cards!

It's a bookmark and a punch card. I use these for my Reading class. When they return to class, I hole punch their cards. After "x" punches, they earn a prize or other praise.

5. Mini Anchor Charts
I needed a compact and quick way for my students to access anchor charts. We start with chart paper in the room but space is limited and I can't have every single one up all the time. I print them at Walgreens and slide them in 4x6 photo albums. My students can quickly access them all in one spot.

6. Scratch Off "Lottery Tickets"
I found this idea on Pinterest and wanted to make it work in my classroom. Printing the tickets as photos eliminated the step of using glue and contact paper. Because it's a photo, the paint will scratch off very easily.

After designing these for our state testing week, I put two on one print. Points earned ranged from 10 to 25. I did have to get enough for 4 days of testing but still, the cost wasn't too bad. The paint had to be applied three times so you can't see through it. Next time, I'll probably use an even lighter shade of gray for the color of font.

7. Tags...any kind you can think of!
You can put 2-6 on a single print, depending on size. Personalizing them makes it even better! As we track our fluency progress this year, I made lightning bolts which will have each student's name. Super simple design!

I downloaded these free Motivational Test Taking Candy Notes from Danielle Mastandrea's TPT store. Printing them as photos made it affordable to the get them in color.

 8. Student Reward Coupons
A while back, I downloaded these fabulous reward coupons as a freebie from Seusstastic Classroom Inspirations blog. Now, they can be purchased through her TPT Store. I kept them in tact but added a colored frame around them.


9. Thank you's
As teachers, we get many drawings and trinkets from our students. I like to give thank you cards. I created some that I can quickly grab, write, and give! Which reminds me, I need to make my super hero thank-you's!

10. Recognition Award "Pins"
Funds got tight at school (imagine that) so we needed an alternative at our awards ceremony. While we usually gave "Smart Cookie" t-shirts to students who Exceeded on assessments, we used these instead. It's no t-shirt, but we had to make do. 

With four to a print, I cut these and super glued them to a clothespin. Students were then "pinned" by the principal and given a certificate for their accomplishments.

This was a similar idea used with a STARS pin.

These are just a few things I print on a regular basis. I'm sure you can think of many more ways to Walgreens it!

*Superhero graphics purchased through Etsy from Partypapercreations, Whitefoxgraphics, and

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

How this teacher got started on Twitter

For a lot of teachers, summer is a time when we get to turn the alarm clock off, make breakfast for our kids, and meet our family/friends for lunch. It can also be when we reflect on the previous year and plan how we will refine the upcoming year.
I am a 3rd grade teacher and will be starting my 11th year. I have always been pretty good with technology and have been blessed to be in a district that has SMART Boards in every classroom. I am a 1-to-1 laptop teacher and enjoy teaching my students how their laptops are a powerful tool for learning. I've come to realize that there are new technologies out there that I know nothing about. In order to give my students what they will need to be successful, I needed to do a little bit of learning myself. So, here I am blogging about Twitter.
If you're looking for ways to network with other educators, Twitter is a perfect place to start. It isn't very intimidating and you really can't mess it up. I started with a Twitter account a couple of years ago but didn't really know how to maximize what it had to offer in terms of teaching. Some teachers steer away from Twitter and understanding hashtags can make one want to forget the whole idea. Like with our students, you need to just jump in and explore what it has to offer!  

I'm excited about this and I'm pretty sure a few of my friends are a little over me going on and on about some new idea I've heard. I want to gather them all together and bring them into this new little world I've found! So, for them, and anyone else out there, here's what I have learned. I have a feeling I am barely scratching the surface and I hope I'm getting this right!

I keep my twitter account focused on education, so I rarely post family related topics. This is a personal preference. I have to think about the fact that I am, or eventually will be, interacting with many professionals from all over.

These little words or phrases that start with a # are like a filter for all tweets with that hashtag. The first one I came across was #Edchat. Initially I thought it was a general hashtag for "education chat," but after some digging, I've learned that it was founded by Shelly Sanchez Terrell (@ShellTerrell), Tom Whitby (@TomWhitby), and Steven Anderson (@Web20classroom). They are people you will want to follow! The range of topics discussed is huge! Check it out! Once you have a Twitter account set up, do a search for the hashtag and you'll see what's being tweeted. You'll find quotes, links to blogs, and informative articles on current topics.

I began by reading through the #edchat tweets and started following people. After you follow someone, they become part of your feed and sometimes they follow you back!

Twitter Chats  
A gold mine, if you ask me! It will be the quickest hour you spend collaborating with others from first year teachers, veterans, administrators and even parents! 

I first noticed posts in my feed starting with "A1, A2, etc" and with the same hashtag. I wasn't sure what was going on so I clicked one of the hashtags that I kept seeing. Low and behold there was a whole Q&A discussion on a specific topic!

Everyone starts by introducing themselves, and the moderator greets you. It's so nice to get that hello! Then, the fist question will be posted. Usually starting with "Q1..." The typical format is you respond with "A1 (your response & hashtag)" The hashtag is given by the moderator. It's that easy! 

Your feed updates with new tweets answering these questions. You can favorite and reply to tweets as the hour goes on. People start following you and you follow them. They start to favorite your tweets and will retweet them. This is how you start networking!  

The first chat I participated in was a New Teachers Chat #ntchat. I am not a new teacher and did mention that but was welcomed by Lisa Dabbs @teachingwthsoul ! The focus (if I remember correctly) was on summer PD and other resources teachers use. There's were so many great responses being tweeted in that 40 mins! The different ideas and instant feedback given was amazing! I feel the best way to stay involved in the discussion and not stray to check out the resources you are getting is to favorite or retweet the ones you want to look at later. Later, just go back to your favorites/tweets, and click those links. Google the sites suggested and bookmark them! (Google Bookmarks has been a new find for me, too!)

To help, this Weekly Twitter Chat Times spreadsheet was shared by Nancy Blair @blairteach and compiled by @thomascmurray , @cevans5095 and @cybraryman1. It includes the days, times, and hashtag to follow. Thanks, for the great resource!

Twitter chats are fun and a plethora of information and resources. Try one out! 

Through these Twitter chats I've found a couple great podcasts that I now listen to. BrandED Radio with and @tonysinanis focuses their podcasts on sharing the wonderful things that are going on in schools. Hearing educators share their stories is inspiring! Often, teachers are hesitant to share the great things they are doing but this is motivating and reminds you that it's ok to shout it from the rooftops!

The Every Classroom Matters show with host, Vicki Davis (@coolcatteacher) is another podcast I have subscribed to. I like Vicki's podcasts because her topics are directed towards busy teachers. They are short but meaningful. Her guests share great ideas and there is a focus on technology, which I love! Her blog, Cool Cat Teacher, is also a great resource.

These podcasts can be heard online by streaming through QuickTime. I downloaded the app iCatcher and from there you can subscribe to your favorite podcasts. Either way, you'll want to sit with a notebook nearby so you can jot down the new ideas you'll hear. 

Warning, you will want to try every new thing you hear about! I had to recently list what my goals are for the upcoming year and which ideas were realistic for my classroom. I have my short term goals set and my 2-year plan developing.  

Like Twitter, I am new to blogging. Please share your comments below. I'd love to hear how you are using social media!

Sunday, June 29, 2014

I Want Some Mo'

-->"Will you every quit?" "No! We want some mo', we want some mo', we want some mo'!"
I could watch Remember the Titans a hundred times, and I probably already have. It's about friendship, leadership, and determination. I used the quote above as a call and response in my classroom. I would call out, "How are you doing out there?" and my class would respond, "We want some mo', we want some mo', we want some mo'!" I think it made them feel strong. Even if at that moment they were struggling, this gave them that feeling of, "I can do this!" 

"Attitude reflects leadership, Captain.”

I believe in this, 100%. As you lead, whether in an official or unofficial position, you must have a genuinely positive attitude if you expect your team to trust and follow you. A leader must show others that they will not be weathered by the storm. You can choose to be positive or negative about the opportunities you are facing. Your choice, whether you like it or not, will affect the people around you. They will choose to stand with you and fight the good fight, join you in the negativity, or steer clear from you as much as possible so not to affect their outlook. I have chosen each of those routes at some point throughout my career. The past couple of years, I have consciously chosen to be positive and steer away from the negativity. I am not perfect but strive to be a better person, leader, and educator.

I have mentored teachers and was the team leader at my first school for a few years. I will be starting my 11th year of teaching and it will be my third year at this amazing school! I have been given the opportunity to be the team leader. I am overwhelmed with excitement! Our team works well together and often it feels like magic. The ideas and discussion that flow through our PLCs is definitely one to brag about. Because of this, my role as team leader will not be one that dictates what we do, nor would I want it be that way. 

So what are my hopes in this role? 

I hope to . . .

~ be positive
~ motivate & support through the opportunities we will face
~ praise & celebrate successes
~ communicate & listen effectively
~ inspire creativity & encourage risks
~ learn from others & try new things 
Team leader or not, these are my goals. I want some mo', I want some mo', I want some mo'!

--> Cheers to a successful 2014-2015 school year!


Saturday, June 14, 2014

360 Degree Math

Summertime is when I get to work! It's finally a chance to look at that list of ideas that had to be put on hold because we just don't have time to make those kinds of changes throughout the year. 

How it started 
I saw the documentary, TEACH, and was interested in 360 Degree Math. My room obviously wasn't set up for this, so I did what any resourceful teacher would do. I laminated some chart paper and stapled it up over bulletin boards! Don't judge me. I really wanted this, so I had to do it! The kids loved it! I have to admit, I didn't follow the 360 format as designed. I started with just having the kids up out of their seats. 

By chance, we were visited by the superintendent and district board members while we were up and working on a Bedtime Math question. It was perfect and they even tweeted about us! 

While planning for the 2014-2015 year, I knew real whiteboards were not an option. I looked into the dry erase panels at Home Depot. After getting permission from the one and only, our head custodian, I was ready to start!

There was a helpful man and he cut the 4'x8', 32 sq. ft Hardboard White Tile Board (about $13 each panel) into four pieces (2'x4'.) Along with some outdoor mounting tape, (about $15) I was ready to go! I ended up buying 3 panels and a roll of the tape. You'll need to measure the length of your wall to see how many panels you'll need. Before going to Home Depot, I knew that I needed one of the 2'x4' pieces cut down to fit a smaller space near the corner of my walls.

I have two large walls that I am using. I put about 8-10 pieces of the tape on the back of the panels and after wiping down the walls, I started sticking them up. 

I added some bulletin board paper above and below. There was a lot of residue and marks on my walls around the laminated chart paper so I went with black paper.

Using electrical tape, I sectioned off the boards evenly. Each student's work space is about 15". I would have liked to make them a little wider, but it just wasn't possible with the wall space I was working with. I added a panel for two more students at the front of the room next to the whiteboard. Depending on class size, the extra students are given work space at the class whiteboard. As explained on the 360 site, the students need a "progress bar", which is the thinner section at the top of each space. For now, slips of paper with the problems are held up with paper clips.

The What
For the "What" of 360 Math, visit their site for a detailed explanation of how to use the boards in a lesson. Although, these boards have been a huge addition to my room in math, they truly are useful in all subjects...like Spelling (below). Getting kids up and moving is important - and mine love it!

For the 2016-2017 school year, I had to take down the black paper. It made the room feel dark and although it hid the marker residue, I needed a change, a more welcoming feel to our room. I lightened up the paper and added clips for the problem slips. 

I also added a border along the bottom and top of the boards with more electrical tape. Because the boards take up so much wall space, I use the area below to hang any anchor charts we made. Oh, and I went with tables! I love love love the tables!

Be amazing!

Sunday, June 8, 2014


Three plus years later, where am I now?

My National Board journey has come to an end but not for too long. I submitted my entries but did not achieve. It did not come as a surprise - imagine how long it took me to admit that. I went into National Board after the most difficult teaching year I ever had. I was ready to call it quits. My district offered NB and backed us with many of the fees. I jumped in ready to learn something new and to be a better teacher.

A better teacher I did become. Unfortunately, during the time I worked on my portfolio, my brother had a stroke and that became a priority for our family. Between taking shifts to be with him at the hospital and rehabilitation, it left me with little time and high emotions. I was also well into my second pregnancy and as any mother-to-be knows, I was exhausted. On the school side of it all, our team decided to departmentalize our third graders. Wow, what a year! I was the writing teacher and taught six sections. I also went on maternity leave during that year. I had many challenges during that time which contributed to a less than a high quality submission and I can own that. Some will say these are excuses. Call them what you want. Believe me, I beat myself up about it enough for the both of us. In an honest reflection, I needed to identify the factors that impacted my results.

I decided to resubmit my entries but ended up going back and forth with it. I had one foot in and one foot out. I quit and started again then quit again. Ultimately, I did not submit any entries. I wasn't ready. Will I try again, yes. When? When the time is right. I have a wonderful support system. My husband is absolutely amazing! Since day one he has backed me up. He takes on the kids and everything else within the house so I could hide out and work on NB. I know that when it's time to start again, I'll be in a better place and still have the support I need. Do I feel like a failure? Yes. How can I not. It is hard for me, maybe all teachers, to start something and not finish. But, I will finish. It's just on pause right now.

I almost forgot about this blog I started, previously called A New Journey. I decided to start blogging again after much talk on Twitter, FB, and listening to some #edchat podcasts. I have a lot of ideas that I think other educators can use and I continuously like to reflect on my teaching so I can improve. We can always be better.

2014-2015 Taking it to the next level!

Digital Portfolio

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