How I plan to never pass out math manipulatives again!

One of the things that I KNOW is a huge time suck is passing out math manipulatives.  Counting them out, making sure everyone has what they need and then looking for all the things that are dropped when we aren't supposed to playing with them really eats into the time of the lesson.  Well, I am working on changing that. Enter my table drawers.  OK, I need a much catchier name than that! Anyway, here is my new-to-me organization station for each table.  Ain't it pretty?

Each table has one of these in front of it.  Plus I have an extra one in hopes I can get rid of desks and make 5 smaller groups instead of 4 large groups.  Each organization station (I'm liking that!) has 3 drawers (I found these at Wal-Mart, but I know Target has them, too).  Each drawer will hold math manipulatives, white boards and other items we might need during the day.  I am thinking of putting in bottles of glue, extra pencils and erasers, but I haven't made my mind up fully on that yet.  I may even add some paper in the drawers, but I always have that out and ready for anything we could do.

Here is my top drawer.  Things have been put in there haphazardly for now, as I was in a time crunch when I did this.  So far there is a basket of linking cubes, bags of counters (10 in each bag for now...we will add more later), bags of playing cards, a container of dice and a container of 1's cubes.  I'm hoping the students will choose what they want to use, put it away neatly and keep it organized.  Funny, right?

The middle drawer right now is sad.  It has whiteboards and nothing else.  I don't even have markers in there.  I think the markers will stay at the desks and the kids will be responsible for keeping track of their own special marker.  It could happen.  Last year my kids had their own personal highlighters and they never lost one!  Impressive!  We couldn't keep our crayons, but we never lost a highlighter!

Drawer 3 has some items we will use later.  There are teddy bears (I think I will move those up to drawer 1), tens rods and rulers.  This way almost everything we need is in one place and can easily be reached by the kids.  They will know where to put things away, too!  I think I will assign a table captain each day or week and they will be in charge of keeping it tidy.  We will add items in there as we need them.  I do have some shapes that need to be organized into smaller groups as well as clocks for later.  As I find stuff, I will add it in.  We will see how it works, as it will be a learning process for us all!  

If you're wondering, the tub on top is our recycling bucket. Any paper scraps we have go in there and at the end of the day we dump it into the recycling bin.  It really helps cut down on kids walking back and forth to the bin and leaving a trail of trash along the way.  The students get very insistent that their table mates clean up their mess before going anywhere.  It's quick and accessible for all and makes it much quieter in the room!  It may not be everyone's ideal way of doing things, but it's worked for me!

After working (cleaning) in my room today, I am basically ready to start getting ready for the first day of school.  It feels like there are a million things to do, but it's all the little things that need focus and more than 90 minutes at school.  Next week I will go in for a bit each day and then not go in Friday to enjoy the last day of vacation with my daughter.  Come August 10, it's back to school for us all!  She actually starts that day while it's meeting time for me!  

Here's to a nice weekend relaxing with my little family, trying to stay out of the heat!


Binder Love

In my attempt at uber organization (I'm told by my grade level team that I am very organized as it is), I am embracing the binders even more.  It started about 2 years ago and I am slowly changing and adding more and more binders as the time goes on.  

This is just what I have done at home in the last couple of days.  Some were tweaking things that were in there and others are brand new-to-me thoughts.  I feel better knowing I have all the things that belong together in the same place.  It makes it much easier to find.  I know some people put things in alphabetical order, place it by month or topic.  I have that, too, but the stuff is in binders and put away like that.  

I have all my stuff in 2 places - my file cabinets or my back counter.  In my file cabinets, I have binders by theme (fall, matter, pumpkins, etc) and by theme for our reading program.  Math has been a hot mess!  I had supplemental pages put into file folders and shoved into the box of math lessons.  It was really a disaster.  I have now put them into binders by standards.  4 binders are much easier to deal with than 16 folders of crap!  

On my back counter, I keep my binders that I need every week - my poetry binder, weekly story tests, math skills and teacher stuff that we are supposed to have visible (and never look at until we clean!). I also keep the binders I am using for the themes I am teaching and if I am really prepared, I have the binder out for the themes coming up so I can prepare better.  Yeah, that's why!  You can see some of the binders I left over the summer on the back counter.  

I used to have my teacher binder that had everything in it.  I decided to move the standards out and keep my binder for me.  It might be more useful that way.  I have the standards in a new binder.  I also made a new substitute binder.  I've never had one.  We are supposed to have one, but I never put one together.  Now I will have one when school starts (in 2 weeks!).  

I know not everyone loves the binder system, and that's OK.  I never could organize alphabetically, because that didn't make sense.  I like it by month and the binders just keep things together nicer than a file folder (as long as you put things back in the folder correctly when done!).  Some of my grade level team have followed my lead and are using the binders, but then complain about them.  I remind them I didn't make the do it and there are other ways to do it, so do what works for you!

I will start taking my binders in this week and get them where they need to be.  I am hoping I have made my life a bit easier and more organized and not a bigger mess than it is at times.  It's working for me and that's what matters.  

Happy Organizing!


My favorite teacher shoes!

As teachers, we all know that we are on our feet all day.  I don't know about you, but I am exhausted during the whole month of August and my feet are so tired and achy every night.

I am a flip flop girl.  It's so warm and sunny in SoCal for a big part of the year, that many people are frequently in sandals of some sort.  I am NOT a big shopper, so I don't go out looking for just the right shoes to wear with each outfit.  Heck, I don't even shop for outfits!  My style is more of a piece-it-together-and-hope-it-looks-ok.  Anyway, I used to go to Old Navy and buy every color of their little plastic flip flops.  I wouldn't wear them to school, but I had them.  Then I would buy other cheap nicer looking flip flops to wear to work.  But then my feet would hurt and my hubby would tell me that I was wearing the worst shoes possible.  

Enter my mom.  My mom watches QVC for fun.  She doesn't buy a lot, but she likes to see what they have.  Se had seen a show on some new sandals that were supposed to help you feet, ankles, heels, etc feel better.  She had bought herself a pair to try.  I tried them on one day while we were camping and liked the feel.  About 10 days later, my mom had bought me a pair.  And so began my love of #Vionic shoes.  

There are many styles and types of these shoes, but I have only bought their flip flop sandal type.  In fact, my 7th pair of sandals just came yesterday.  I didn't have a white pair, but I do now!  I figure living in SoCal, we can wear white past Labor Day, as it's still in the 100's thru October many times. 

I thought of getting my shoes out and lining them up, but then I would feel guilty, since they are a little more than I used to spend on shoes.  But I figure I am on my feet a lot and they have really helped my feet and legs to not be so tired at the end of the day.  I have worn them to Disneyworld, LEGOLAND, camping and walking all over the LA Farmer's Market.  The worst thing is dirty feet, which is the same with any flip flop!  I just wash my feet when I get home.  Problem solved. 

Below are the sandals I have now, but I would love to get more.  I might even try their other shoes if I can try them on in person.  I have only ordered off of QVC, but I had a friend buy them at a store in the mall (and she paid a lot more than I do!).
These are my faves for work!

These have been through a lot!  They are actually on my feet right now!

My other faves!

Don't love the sequins like I thought I would.  They get moved and look funky.
These have been through a lot, too, but I love them!

My other every day faves!  See a trend?

My newest addition!  Aren't they pretty?

These are not inexpensive by any means, but I love them so much.  I wish good shoes were not so expensive, but then it goes with the saying that you get what you pay for.  If you love flip flops as much as I do and need/want something with a little more support, I'd give these a try!  I love my #Vionic sandals.  Too bad they don't pay me to write their reviews!  They can pay me in new shoes!  :)  


It's beginning to look like a classroom!

Well, I have officially started heading back into my classroom.  I went in yesterday (Monday) for a couple of hours.  I was pretty aware of what my room would look like, as I was in last week to make some copies and drop a few things off ( you can only keep so much on the kitchen table before you look like a Staples hoarder!).  I had the goal for myself to get my desks arranged.  I did that and then some!  Score one for me! 

Here are some of my desks arranged.  We don't know how many kids we will have.  We should have no more than 24 kids.  When we filled the classes, we all ended up with about 17 - 18 kids per class. There is no way the district will let us keep the classes so small!  I know we will end up collapsing classes, as we are low in 2nd grade (we have 5 classes filled with 17 kids each...can you say combo?). I have my desks situated into 4 groups of 6.  It's not ideal, but I don't want all the group crowded together.  Even now it feels tight.  

Below is my teacher table/reading group table/small group table.  I moved my teacher desk out last year and it was the best thing ever!  I gained extra room in the classroom, though I am a bit more unorganized now.  Behind my chair is the counter.  I have started keeping all my binders of stuff there.  Most of them I use weekly, so they are quite handy.  I really need to figure out what to do with the bulletin board.  I didn't use it last year like I should have.  It's hard to reach and I have to climb onto the counter to put work up or take it down.  I tried the clothespins with the thumb tack on the back and they ALL FELL OFF!  Drove me insane!  It's too large for my board.  Any ideas?

Here's the back cabinet of crap!  It is more organized, even though it may not look like it!  I have 2 sliding cabinet doors.  I don't know what they use to "clean" them, but they are horrible for writing on them.  BUT, I am thinking of using them as my weekly objective/skills wall.  I am working it out in my head right now.  If I do it, I can put the spelling and sight words there, the skills we are working on, etc and have more room on the front board for writing stuff or having my anchor charts up.  It's a work in progress!  

This is my carpet area.  Right now it's the place where the chairs go at the end of the year and do not move until I move them back to the desks.  I doubt they were moved to clean the carpets!  Nothing else was moved, so why move the chairs?  Anyway, on the board behind the chairs is where I have had my calendar.  I did have it on the other wall, but it seemed too out of sight, out of mind.  Having it where it is now, my kids seemed to use it more for reference.  I have had more on it in the past, with wipe off cards for the date, number of the day, etc.  I am going to move things around a bit, so they are in a pile off to the side.  I am not sure what the other board will be for.  I have some ideas for it, but what you can't see is there is a big metal built into the wall box just to the right of the picture.  I don't know why it's there (the custodian said it's so we have a place to put our purses...they never gave me the key for it, so I have no idea what's in there!).  Again, it's still a work in progress...the thought process!  

I went in today and didn't work on any of those areas!  I was working on organizing and sorting my math manipulatives.  The big drawer things are going to be used for each group to keep their manipulatives in, along with other things we will use during the year that I don't want to have to pass out all the time.  According to our math guru, I am not supposed to tell the kids what they need to use, but let them decide for themselves what tools they feel are the best.  Um, ok, yeah, whatever. So I will see how this goes.  It cleaned out my cabinets, that's for sure!  

I don't think I am going in tomorrow, as I have a ton to work on at home.  I am updating some things, cleaning out some things and reorganizing others.  I took all my math supplemental stuff and am putting it together in binders.  4 binders is much nicer than lots of random file folders!  We will see how it all goes come the new school year.  

We have 2 weeks until our Back to School Night and I feel more prepared than I have in a long time. I have worked more on my planning this summer, but it's the other stuff that's stressing me out.  In fact, the back to school dreams/nightmares are already starting!  Yikes!  Time to add some sleepytime tea to my nightly routine again!  Time to get back to work and find the other side of my desk!  Happy planning!


It's the most wonderful time of the year!

I don't know about you, but the summer has flown by.  In just 2 short weeks, we will back into the swing of things with school.  I have been working a bit here and there to get things done, but as it gets closer, I feel the stress, even though I feel quite prepared.  I have my year mapped out like always, but there are a lot of unknowns that freak me out a little.  I keep telling myself to relax, but let's be honest, I can't do that.  It's a problem I have had forever and I don't think it'll ever change. 

I have most, if not all, of my back to school shopping done.  I hit up Staples the first week they had their back to school sale.  The deals were not as great as last year, but hubby knows just to pay the bill when it comes.  He's a good guy!  I have enough crayons, notebooks and folders for 30 kids.  I hope it isn't that many, but you never know.  I have been to Target a bit to look at things, but the last time I was at my store, they didn't have their BTS stuff out (I can't believe I haven't been to Target in like 2 weeks...what is wrong with me?).  The dollar bins have had a few things, but I have tried to limit my spending a little. 

Tomorrow I will begin going in and setting up my room.  They have cleaned it (or as clean as it's going to get, which isn't great), so I can now put it back together.  My daughter is very excited to go with me tomorrow and help rearrange my desks and start putting things together.  The rest of the week she has an art camp, so it'll just be me working.  I've kept most things on the walls the same, so it's up and ready to go.  I do need to change a couple walls, but nothing major. 

Homework folders, math journals, reading folders, poetry folders and writing notebooks are ready to go!  Labeled, sheet protectored (yes, I made it up!) and ready for up to 24 kiddos!  I'm being optimistic, even though that is nothing like me!  I am sure changes will be happening within the first few weeks of school, but that's the way things roll where I work.  I try to roll with the changes, but it's hard for me.  I am trying not to think about it and enjoy the rest of the break! 

Tomorrow I will try and post some before pictures and then get my after pictures up right before school starts.