Tuesday, July 31, 2012

A Teacher Binder Makeover!

I have always felt that a key tool to being an organized teacher was to have a Teacher Binder! You know, that one binder that has all of the important information you need to have right at your fingertips on a day-to-day basis. I consider my teacher binder like my 3rd arm. And I pride myself on carrying it with me back and forth to meetings, and back and forth to school. It’s perfect for my over prepared, over structured self who needs to constantly plan for and review what I need to do and will be doing in the coming days and weeks of my classroom.

Yet, when I entered the Blogging community, my Teacher Binder Pride starting crumbling! Not only am I not alone in my Teacher Binder creation/obsession, but I realized my teacher binder was the outdated, over simplified version compared to all of my blogging friends!

(Purposefully not inserted photo of my old binder here!)

Yikes! Time for a makeover!

I like to save time creating resources myself when necessary, and luckily for me, I realized there were already dozens of Teacher Binder Resources on TeachersPayTeachers made by other Teacher Binder Lovers!

So here is a glimpse into my new and improved Teacher Binder for the 2012-2013 school year! A combination of my own, and other teacher’s creations for the MOST efficient Binder for me!

The Binder:

1.     First I picked up a traditional 1 1/2 inch binder like this one at Walmart (in pink!)
2.     I purchased a pretty pack of 8 binder tabs like these (again from Walmart!) The tabs came with an easy to follow instruction guide for how to use an online template to type and print your own labels. No chicken scratch in my binder this year!
3.     I used this pink border that perfectly matched my new binder to create my binder cover. I simply inserted the border in a word document and added my name in the center with some cute fonts, courtesy of KevinandAmanda.com!

The Tabs:

1.     Calendar
I stumbled across a LOT of printable calendars online in my searches, until I finally found the perfect one! Check out this FREE monthly calendar from Terri Thornton! I love that it is a generic template that you can customize, and that there is room to write in each day, as well as along the side for To Do's and Notes. And let's not forget to mention the cute rainbow theme. LOVE! 
2.     To Do's
I found this To Do List Template from Farley at  Oh Boy Fourth Grade. (This blog is a must see!) The
template is for a week's time and includes room for a To Do List, Meetings List, Notes, and Next Week's Notes. Aaa-mazing!
3.     Lesson Plans
This is where my week's lesson plans live. Of course the template I have included in my last post has already been modified. Ahh, the joys of summer planning and adjusting!
4.     Centers
This section includes my Center Schedule as well as my center rotation schedule (TBD!)
5.     Curriculum
Not only will this section house all things standards and objectives for my classroom, but also the FREE Curriculum Map found in this bundle by Colleen Zehr that so wonderfully outlines my year planning at a glance!
6.     Cheat Sheets
Here is where those handy dandy IEP Cheat Sheets I created will be. I love that these are a one page reference tool, and that it eliminates me having to bring home stacks of student paperwork each night!  
7.     Parents
I had been searching for a template to use to record my contact and communication time with parents. If you check out my Classroom Miscellaneous Pinterest Board, you'll see a few examples. But I just couldn't seem to find one that was just right for me, so I created my own template! The border in my file is courtesy of Digital Swirls Creations! Click here to download!
8.     Meetings
Last, but not least, space to record and track my Meeting Notes. Check out this FREE Template I'm using from Chloe Campbell!

A special Thanks and Kudos to the teachers on TPT who offered their FREE Downloadable Teacher Binder Resources to help me start off next year in an organized and much more stylish fashion!  

Good Luck creating your own Teacher Binders!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Planning My Way Into Fall

In my former life as an Inclusion Teacher, my Type A Personality was always sharply glaring through my lesson plans.  What do I mean by this? Well, my lesson planning was very prepared, very detailed, and very meticulously constructed. This was in part due to personality, and part strategy, if I may defend myself!

I can’t help it, but I’m just not a “fly by the seat of my pants” kind of girl. I have never been able to just walk into my classroom and “wing it.” I always had to overthink things in advance, and expect the unexpected. And talking through my lessons via a detailed plan really helped me cover all my bases and know best what I was going to do.

So what did my planning look like? Binders and binders filled with 1-2 page lesson plans that were completely scripted out. For very lesson. Yes, it’s true.

If you’re not already thinking I’ve lost my mind, let me point out there were some positives to this:

1.     Anytime I had a substitute, there was no question as to what they were going to do that day, or how to go about doing it.
2.     My scripted plans were a great reference for others and myself. My lessons could easily be shared with colleagues, were set to go for observations, and were perfect for when I wanted to look back over time and remember how I did something in the past.

The problem, as I’m sure you can imagine: This was incredibly time consuming. 

And as I transition to my new classroom in the fall, I know that this will need to change. Next year I will just simply need to be more flexible. My day will be more about creating interactive activities that are engaging and that students respond to, than it will be about whether or not my lesson was scripted and executed perfectly according to plan. I also have more adults to collaborate with and more meetings, meaning my planning time will be more limited, and the plan will always be changing to fit the needs of my students.

So does this mean I will toss away my lesson planning obsessiveness? Of course not! Type A Personality, remember?

But, fear not, I will be tweaking my lesson planning!

As I blog hopped around the Internet, I found a lot of teacher planning tools that were similar to this:

A simple, blocked schedule with just enough room to jot down objectives and a few quick notes. I know this plan works for a lot of teachers, but, honestly, it gives me anxiety. So unless I wanted to experience a serious shock to my system transitioning from scripted lessons to a 1X1 square, I knew I had to find something else!

Luckily, I found this planning page from The Ladybug’s Teacher Files!

This is perfect for me! I love that this template shows you a day at a time, not a whole weeks plan or month. This is much more manageable for me, and is also helpful considering my schedule is different each day of the week; a one size fits all schedule just won't work for me. I love the simple schedule outlined on the side to reference, and of course, that there is still room to write for those subjects or activities that may need more then a casual note or two!

<Insert gigantic sigh of relief>

Type A personality gratified, more flexible 2012 teacher in effect!

Here is a peek at my lesson plan template, adapted from the Ladybug's Teacher Files!

 Here's to a better lesson planning year - and to The Ladybug's Teacher Files!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Centering My Instruction

With the onset of my new classroom this fall, I have so much planning and preparation ahead of me still! So, as I slowly but surely tackle each item on my checklist of To Do’s, I figured it would be best to share my completed items as I proudly and gratefully cross them off my list! 

With next year’s self-contained classroom setting, I have been stewing over how I can make sure that I have enough time to teach basic functioning skills as well as academic skills. There is just so little time in my day once all the paraprofessional hours are factored in, specials, break times, etc.

So I chose to tackle the academic content first. And I have decided that what would work best for me is to schedule time for Academic Centers.

Here is the FORMAT for my Centers:

1.     I have created 4 total centers– Math, Word Work, Literacy, Computers.
2.     Centers will run on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays only. I have a cooking curriculum to follow on Mondays, which I know will consume much of the day, and I wanted to leave Friday’s flexible according to what the student’s need that week, field trips, Me Binder time, or anything else that may come up.
3.     I will only run 3 of the 4 centers on a given day, and centers will be 15 minutes each with a 5 minute clean up time at the end. This totals 50 minutes of Academic Center Time on Tuesdays, Wednesday, and Thursdays.

Here is HOW I devised my plan:

My academic centers are 100% centered around student goals listed on their IEP’s. I realized going through the paperwork that the kids had roughly the same goals. So I set to categorizing all of the goals by subject, then by objective, and then listed activities below that would address these subjects and objectives. And wa – lah! Centers! 

Check out My Center Schedule Below! 

Here is WHY I chose to do this:
1.     Setting aside Academic Center time will guarantee that I am spending time in these areas, and on these goals, regardless of my crazy schedule.
2.     This frees up the other time in my day to work on life skills or do whole group academic lessons if I choose to.
3.     I will only have about 8-9 students, and at least 3 adults in the room. This means my centers will only have 2-3 kids in a group with an adult to guide each. With this format, the kids will benefit from the small group instruction and attention.
4.     The centers I will be running will primarily consist of review games. These games give students the opportunity to work with others, take turns, work as a team, etc., all while playing. Center Time will inevitably work on social skills and communication, which are also goals for the kids as well.
5.     I specifically chose NOT to do Math Centers one day, Word Work centers the next, etc. I wanted them to be switched up as much as possible so that I am not subjecting students to an hour of activities in a row that they may not like or that may be a trigger for them. I also think this will help the students to work on transitioning between different activities.  
6.     This center schedule will make it easy for me to prep for the next day’s lesson. I can just look at the day, the objective I wanted to hit, and choose any activity from the bulleted list below. I won’t have that guilt or panic feeling like I haven’t made enough time for a particular area, or have to struggle to remember the last time I reviewed something. These are constantly being rotated with the appropriate time given to each. 

Now that I have a schedule in place, I’ll just have to prep some materials in advance! Thank you Pinterest and Teacher’sPayTeacher’s with their FREE Downloads!

Check out my Pinterest Boards for my new centers!

I hope you find this helpful if you are in the same situation as me! I am also looking for more computer games that will address my math, word work, and literacy objectives, so if you know of any, please share!! Comments make my day!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Teaching Blog Addict Has My Heart

To all of my faithful blogger friends, I am sure you know about Teaching Blog Addict, and I’m sure you are probably just as obsessed as I am. But for those of you who don’t know, sit back, relax, and let me entice you to become a fellow addict!

Teaching Blog Addict (better known as TBA) is one of the first resources I found when I entered the blogging world. How did I find it so quickly? Well, it’s virtually impossible to scour teaching blogs without finding a mention of TBA in almost all of them. Clearly TBA was a popular staple for bloggers, and I needed to be a part of it!  So, I checked it out and became a member, and I am so grateful I did! TBA isn’t named the #1 Teaching Blog on the Web for nothing!

Here are the MANY Reasons I LOVE TBA!

1.     TBA is the “one stop shop” for the vast community of educators in the world. With the hundreds and hundreds of education blogs and resources that exist out there, TBA is your organized filing cabinet of all things education, and all things teaching blogs.

2.     Under the “Blog Hop” tab, you’ll find a sea of teaching blogs, all categorized by grade level or feature. (See! It’s your virtual filing cabinet of resources!) This includes categories for Special Education Blogs (ah-hem, where mine is located!), ELL blogs, and Gifted and Talented Blogs. Any teacher can add their blog under the appropriate category, which I did immediately. This is where my blog gets the most traffic from, so if you have not done this already, you need to ASAP! 

3.     Obsessed with classroom Freebies and downloadable materials like me? Check out the Freebies Link, filtered just for FREE Resources!

4.     Under Expos you’ll find information to participate in Virtual Teaching Expos or online conferences/sessions on a variety of topics. All you have to do is purchase your ticket and log in, and you can participate no matter where you are!

5.     Looking for specific content? Just click on these categorized tabs to link to dozens of strategies and ideas from all different teaching blogs!

6.    TBA has many inspirational and creative authors! As a member, I receive an email each day of the latest posts from different authors. What I love about this is that even though I may not have had much time for “blog hopping” or “blog stalking” that day, I still receive an email of new posts to check out! It’s always nice when the resources and content come to you! 

7.     TBA Links to Pinterest, with over 7,000 followers! This is perfect for me since searching the Pinterest catalogs and obsessively pinning has become a part of my daily routine. Of course, like the blog, boards are categorized by grade level, resources, features…yep, you could spend hours on this Pinterest page!

8.     TBA hosts TONS of Linky Parties: AKA opportunities for teachers to share ideas, discover other blogs, and promote their own blogs. Here's how it works: TBA hosts a topic, and blogs are welcome to link up with their posts. For example, for Freebie Friday (my favorite!) bloggers who posted a recent Freebie on their blog are all welcome to link up! This means if you check out the Freebie Friday on TBA, you see a plethora of blogs with links to their Freebies! Another favorite Linky Party of mine to check out is Giveaway Galore!

9.     TBA has a rewards program! You’ll notice this flag to the left on the website:

If you click on the tab, you accumulate points just for checking out the blog and hopping around! These points are tracked for you and can be cashed in for gift cards to Restaurant.com, Groupon, Starbucks, and Barnes and Nobel!

Once you admit your TBA obsession and shed your guilt, I’m sure you’ll want to openly broadcast your addiction like me! After all, the first step to dealing with your addiction is to admit you have a problem! So if you have a teaching blog, be sure to grab the Teaching Blog Addict Card, Teaching Blog Addict Button, or Teaching Pin Addict Button for your blog!

Begin your addiction by becoming a member today and joining here for FREE!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Versatile Blogger Award

If I wasn’t already excited enough about receiving the One Lovely Blog Award, Karlie from We Are All Special, has awarded me The Versatile Blogger Award! Thank you Thank you Thank you Karlie!! If you haven’t checked out her blog yet, I encourage you to do so! She is admirably a frequent blog poster so I can guarantee you’ll find awesomely new content no matter when you check in! 

The rules for the Versatile Blogger Award are as follows:

1.     Thank the blogger who nominated you (Check!)
2.     Include a link to their blog (Check!)
3.     Include the award image in your post (Check!)
4.     Give 7 random facts about yourself (See Below!)
5.     Nominate 15 other bloggers for the award (See below for my starter list!)
6.     When nominating include a link to their blog (Check!)
7.     Let others know they have bee nominated! (Check!)

Here are my 7 Random Facts!

1.     I danced for over 15 years.
2.     I wear heels to work. Everyday.
3.     I LOVE the beach and summer weather.
4.     I have a slight obsession with fashion, particularly Michael Kors.
5.     I fall victim to guilty pleasure TV – AKA Bravo, MTV, and ABC Family. Yes, it’s true.
6.     I pin hundreds of recipes on Pinterest, yet have not made a single one. (Wishful thinking!)    
7.     I hope to someday own a Boxer puppy!  

Here are some blogs that I am nominating! There are so many with this award already - newbies are tough to find! I'll finish the rest of my 15 at a later date!

Tales From Outside the Classroom

Enjoy! :-)