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Real Teacher Talk with Sheila Jane Teaching & Easy Teaching Tools: Calm Your Nerves for Back to School

I'm so excited to share with you a new collaboration with my friend Sheila from Sheila Jane Teaching.  If you don't know Sheila, you should!  She so dang positive, genuine, and pretty inspiring. She lives up in Wine Country here in California and is the creative genius behind "The Teach Happy Community."  She offers memberships for teachers to help them avoid teacher burn out, she offers coaching sessions, and has amazing podcasts with your favorite teachers.   You can view my podcast at Episode #3.

So a couple of weeks ago, we chatted about doing a talk show of sorts that focused on real teacher issues without all of the fluff.  I love the teacher community, but sometimes it's so PC that it isn't always realistic to me.  Every Thursday at 6pm PST, we'll be chatting on Periscope, a free app. about real topics.  Make sure to follow us on Instagram and Periscope for updates!
Kristen from Easy Teaching Tools on Instagram
Sheila from Sheila Jane Teaching on Instagram
We've got the same handles/account names for Periscope!

This week, we'll be talking about Back to School Anxiety and our BEST tips to Calm your Nerves for Back to School.  When our scope is over, I'll be sure to upload the video here for you all!

I'm just curious do you get a bit of anxiety about heading back? If so, what do you do to calm your nerves?
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Books Bloggers Love: August

I've teamed up with 11 other teachers to bring you a monthly link up with some of our favorite books.  This month, we're sharing our favorite books for September that we hope you can use in your classroom.  Each month on the 10th, we'll be sharing some of our fave books and giving away 4 copies as well.  How awesome is that?!?!
Last year was the first year I fell in love with filling buckets.  If you haven't heard, being a bucket filler is being someone who does and says kind things.  My kiddos ate this up and wanted to fill as many buckets as they could.
How Full is your Bucket For Kids is the perfect book to introduce at the beginning of the year as you're teaching your students about your class expectations.  
{I'm part of the Amazon affiliates program where I earn a small amount from our purchase}

I didn't know this book would be as big of a hit as it was when I introduced it last year.  I bring all of the kiddos to the carpet and we read this story.  Here's the scoop:

"Through the story of a little boy named Felix, this charming book explains to children how being kind not only helps others, it helps them, too. As he goes about his day, Felix interacts with different people — his sister Anna, his grandfather, other family and friends. Some people are happy, but others are grumpy or sad. Using the metaphor of a bucket and dipper, Felix’ grandfather explains why the happy people make Felix feel good, while the others leave him feeling bad — and how Felix himself is affecting others, whether he means to or not. This beautifully illustrated adaptation takes the original book’s powerful message — that the way we relate to others has a profound effect on every aspect of our lives — and tailors it to a child’s unique needs and level of understanding."

Throughout the book, we talk about ways Felix's bucket was filled and emptied.  At the end of the book, we come up with ways we can fill buckets in our class and at school.  I add their ideas to a  poster that is displayed for the first month of school.  Then, we made this cute craftivity to hang on our clothesline, just in time for Open House night.  Last year, I was running low on time so we just glued the heads onto he writing paper and added the bucket.
Here are a few FREE ideas you can use with this book:
Poster {free poster to display}
Class Book {print out these posters from One Fab Teacher and put into a class book}
Bucket Filler of the Week response {This is a great alternate to a Student of the Week}
Compassion Reading Passages {great to use after reading the book}
Free Compliments {a fun way for kiddos to pass out compliments}

My kiddos took it to another level (I put a quick stop to it) and began calling a few friends "bucket dippers" if they hurt their feelings.  Tears were involved and being called a bucket dipper was not a good thing, according to my 2nd graders.  My advice, prevent this if you can!

I love this book so much that I also purchased the related story!
Each month, we'll be giving away 4 of our favorite books so make sure to enter below.
Want to read about some other great Back to School books?  Click below!
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Back to School {editable} Brochure and a Giveaway

Holy moly, how is Back to School time already approaching?!?!  I feel like we just got out!  This is the first year I haven't had to move classes so I've done a lot of nothing this summer.  All of my teaching stuff and summer crafts are still sitting in a corner in the garage and I'm totally ok with it, especially after this post.

I got a teeny-tiny bit into school mode 2 weeks ago.  I've decided to change it up a bit this year and created a little pamphlet for the beginning of the year.  It's super concise and lets parents know a bit about our class, curriculum, and some other necessary things.  What I love most is that it's editable, so anyone can use it whatever way fits them best!
I added info about my, my teaching philosophy, our classroom rules, schedule, homework policy, key units we'll be studying, wish list for supplies, and my contact info.  I love that all of the important info is in one place and only used one piece of paper!  We're on a very tight paper budget, so the less paper, the better!

I've teamed up with my friend Amy from Learning Lessons with Mrs. Labrasiano to give away a copy as well as some other fun Back to School Stuff!
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School supplies are selling out in stores across America.  This can only mean one thing - it's time to go back to school.  <insert wailing teachers here> We want to make the summer to fall transition as easy as possible for you so we have 10 bundles of everything included below to give away.

Fern's coloring pack would be great for introducing school staff, meet the teacher night and bell work.  It's important to keep the kids engaged and learning while you attend to parents and incoming students.
The Inspired Owl's Corner is offering an Owl themed or Brightly themed decor set.  I personally use these sets in my class.  They are amazing!!!

Easy Teaching Tool's  is going to make your parent communication a breeze with her back to school pamphlet.  It's a great way to let the parents know what to expect and to ease their worries.

Learning Is Something To Treasure is going out of her way to make your whole year a breeze.  She's giving away mega pack of phonics sorts!!!

A First For Everything has all of your close reading needs for the fall right here in this pack.  Start the students off on the right foot.

Positively Teaching knows how to develop a classroom culture of respect and learning.  She wants to help you do the same thing with her classroom management bundle.

Amy is giving away a Jan Brett pack with lessons and activities for 10 of Jan's books.  Everyone loves to display cute student work.  It's a great way to make admin. happy and the kids ecstatic.

Cassie has everything you will need for sight word centers.  This is a must have for every primary classroom.

We wish you lots of luck in the raffle.  Be sure to check out each person's link to see if they have any other fun give aways going on.

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Why I'll Never be Teacher of the Year

I'm about to do my very first Periscope, eek!  I've put off this new social media platform because I'm horrible as it is trying to balance Instagram, blogging, Facebook, and everything else.  But...I have seen how it can be a useful platform if it's used correctly.  So heck, I'm going to do my best!

I wanted my first scope to be meaningful and I've heard that my story has helped others in the past.  So shoot, why not share it with you all!
Catchy title, right?  In my nine years (going on ten) teaching, I've never been nominated for Teacher of the Year.  It's not because I'm outspoken, sometimes sassy, or a crummy teacher, it's because of the way California and our Teacher Unions operate.  You see, back in 2009, we had horrible budget cuts. Class sizes went up from 20:1 to over 30 students.  As a result, a lot of us tenured teachers lost our jobs.  In my district alone, 400 of us were let go.  I was #199.  How did I get that number, we literally drew straws.  I still can't believe that even happened.

Since then, I have moved just about every year.  I've moved states, districts, and cities to just get my stinkin' foot in the door.  I've taken jobs that I was over qualified for, where I was harassed because I wasn't born in the city I was working in.  I was told horrible things from the Union President.  It was basically hell.  I still have random nightmares about my time there.  But here's the thing, I put up with it all because the bottom line is, I was meant to be a teacher.  When my mom saw my heartbreak and struggle, she suggested I look at other opportunities.  What other options were there?  Since I was little, teaching was it for me.

As tough as teaching has been the last 6 years, I've come away with a lot.  I've seen what works well and what doesn't.  I've taken bits and pieces from each school I've been at and applied them to what I know now.  I'm also so much more appreciative of where I'm teaching today because of the journey it took to get here.

I finally feel like I'm at my forever home.  I'm in a school where I'm challenged, appreciated, respected, and loved.  I'm pushed to do innovative things and use technology in ways I didn't even know were possible.  We have funding for amazing projects and have great parent and administration support.  Now that I'm here, hopefully I'll have the chance to be tenured again and maybe, I'll be eligible for Teacher of the Year...one day.

I've blogged a bit about my teaching journey and even included a great Interview handout for those of you who are in the same boat I was.  Once my scope is over, I'll add it here!  If you've got a question about my journey that I didn't answer on Periscope, please leave them in them in the comments section and I'll get back to you!

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Bulletin Boards

I'm excited to be teaming up with some of my friends to talk to you about bulletin boards.  Some may disagree, but I really think bulletin boards can set the tone and theme of your classroom.  Noone wants to come in and look at some haphazardly bulletin board with some faded paper thrown up with some wrinkled borders that were found on the free table in the teacher's lounge.

Truth, if I wasn't a teacher, I'd most definitely be an interior designer.  I believe that your walls should be visually pleasing, be neat, and have a purpose.  And, if you're going to spend a good majority of your day in your classroom, why not make it something you love!

 When I posted about using sheets from Target on my Instagram a few weeks ago, people couldn't believe it.  But it's really the best thing ever.  Heck, fabric and cloth shower curtains work just as well!  I love them because they're so much easier to put up on your own.
 The picture above is of two shower curtains my mom was getting rid of.  I snagged them up!  If I was going to redo my writing wall, I'd love the shower curtain below!

In the past, I always used butcher paper to make my little palm trees.  There's nothing wrong with butcher paper, but I think the fabric makes it so much prettier.
I have always loved bright colors but never had a clear vision for using them because I was always moving classes, or grades, or schools and never had adequate time to get a classroom ready.  Just two years ago, I was hired THE day school started!  Last year, I had plenty of time to get my room ready. Having more time made me love my room and not try and redecorate or rearrange things and let me really focus on teaching.

This year, I'm changing out this wall because during the middle of the year, the IT department graciously added routers (or something) in each of our rooms.  Unfortunately, all of the equipment went straight down the middle of this bulletin board.  The paper got all crumply and it never looked right again.  This month, I purchased these XL twin sheets to replace it with the border below.

We are lucky to have glass windows so I'll add pop-up bulletin boards throughout the year with my favorite colors.  I love this one from my Instagram Resource because it's so happy!
If I have a busy background, I add a single color to even things out.

Years ago, we were required to use a process grid to go with our Open Court Reading Series.  It has stuck with me ever since because it's so powerful.  I love this bulletin board because it's interactive and gets a lot of use!  Kiddos refer to it all of the time throughout the week.  I added a turquoise  border to pretty it up and divided the sections with washi tape. So easy!

We do weekly writing process pieces so it's important that I'm able to change out our writing easily.


I promise you, the following idea may or may not blow your mind.  Every time I post a photo of student work with this bulletin board, just about a bazillion people have questions about how these little memory books work.  I've posted about them a few times, so check out how to make them here.
I got smart two years ago and posted these below our whiteboard so my kiddos could hang up their own work.  Brilliant, I know!  Just make sure you teach your kiddos the procedure for hanging up work and you're good-to--go!
We add monthly reflection writing, thematic activities, and art.  It's such an easy way to display work I'm telling you!

These file folders work perfectly.  They come in a set of 50.  Figure you have 25 kids, cut each folder in half.  These babies will last you 4 years if my math is correct!
I'd love to hear from you.  Which bulletin board trick do you already use or can't wait to implement?

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My Future's So Bright, I Have to Wear Shades Craftivity {FREEBIE}

Are you looking for a fun way to spruce up your bare bulletin boards at the beginning of the year?  At the beginning of the year, it's essential to set a positive tone, right away.  I love to do that in many ways.  One of my favorite ways is to take a photo of kiddos on the very first day and do this fun craftivity.  Who doesn't love a photo?

We have Back to School Night on the 3rd day of school so this is always a crowd pleaser for the parents!

Quick Tip #1: Hang up a rug or a blanket as your backdrop.  This sign is from my End of the Year Bundle.

How to Use this Craft:
-Take a 4x6 photo of each kiddo (color photos look best, but black and white is fun with colored sunglasses)
-Print out the colored sunglasses
-Let students pick their glasses and glue onto the photo
-Pass out the writing paper (there are 2 different line options to choose from)
-Have students write a goal or two that they have for the year
-Glue the photo and writing onto bright paper for a POP of color

Quick Tip #2:
If I have time, I love to have a little gift for my kiddos on the first day.  It lets them know I care about them and am excited for the upcoming year.  This by no means is necessary.  I bought a 6 pack of neon sunglasses at the 99cent store for just 99 cents.  What a deal!  I added this little {freebie} tag to them and passed them out at the end of the day.  Our class looked pretty awesome walking to pick up with our neon shades on!

I hope your kiddos have as much fun with the creativity as mine do!
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