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Classroom Websites in a Snap!

Oh the class website.  Sigh.

You’re required to have one, but let’s be honest.  Do many parents ever check it?  My last few years in the classroom, I had a Blogger site for one reason and one reason only.

Follow by email.

Feel like nobody checks your classroom website? Use Blogger and the magical Follow by Email gadget to stay in contact with parents.

Y’all, parents are not going to check to see if you’ve updated your site.  Maybe a few will, but this parent almost never does.  (Hangs head in shame.)  I check it and it’s not updated, so I check again in six months.  Whoops.

I’ve sent home paper newsletters, sent emails, had sites on school pages, but this worked the best.  When parents follow by email, they automatically receive an email when you publish a new post.  Parents have it in their email, but they also know they can go check the site if that email gets buried under a million others.

I’m excited to add Classroom Websites in a Snap to A Bird in Hand Designs.  The designs are $40.  You get to choose from 5 different font combinations and 5 different color palettes.  Your design includes a header, signature, sidebar divider, favicon, mobile responsive template (super important), and installation.

Interested in learning more? Hop on over to A Bird in Hand Designs to read all about it!

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Bathroom Status: Under Control

Two things that no one tells you about teaching: keeping up with your kids and dealing with the bathroom is HARD.

You know it’s harder than it sounds to keep track of your students.  When I taught third and fourth grade, I had two sections with 22 kids each.  People were going to the restroom, the nurse, the library, tutoring, speech, dyslexia intervention, etc. all day long.  That's a lot of coming and going to keep track of and, say, teach at the same time.  However, “umm” is not a very professional answer to “Where is little Johnny right now?”

I also realized I did not care when my kids went to the bathroom.  As long as it wasn’t the middle of a lesson and they weren’t working with a group/partner, it was good.  The only problem is it can’t be good for 14 kids at the same time.

Tired of managing your students' restroom breaks?  Use this chart and some simple ground rules to free yourself from ever hearing, “May I go to the bathroom” again!

After 400 years of teaching (at least it felt that way), I was able to solve both problems with a simple bathroom rule and a chart.

Here’s a picture of my Where Are You? chart in my old classroom:
Tired of managing your students' restroom breaks?  Use this chart and some simple ground rules to free yourself from ever hearing, “May I go to the bathroom” again!

Each student had a class number.  You could put names, but I had two sections and that’s what worked for me.  The last two boxes were the most important: Restroom/Water Girl and Restroom/Water Boy.  Going somewhere? Move your magnet.  Back? Move your magnet.  The end.

I cannot tell you how much easier this made my life.  I could keep track of my people without the constant bathroom/water questions.

When I made my chart, I knew all my Type A friends were going to want to make one that exactly fit their needs AND their classroom theme.  Put up a hot pink and turquoise chart in your super hero themed room?  HECK NO.  (Type B friends-I know you’re laughing at us right now.)

Tired of managing your students' restroom breaks?  Use this chart and some simple ground rules to free yourself from ever hearing, “May I go to the bathroom” again!

You can buy the editable chart here.  There are different layouts with different numbers of boxes.  You can edit the text, fonts, and colors of the grid and background.  There are even a couple of options for background patterns.  I had it printed on 11x17 glossy card stock at Office Max for about $1.50.

As long as you feel comfortable working in PowerPoint, this should be good for you.  I even made a video on how to make the changes.
Tired of managing your students' restroom breaks?  Use this chart and some simple ground rules to free yourself from ever hearing, “May I go to the bathroom” again!

In the spirit of honesty, here are some things that take time to workout:

•You tell students the bathroom rule, but they don’t believe you.

If your kids have never walked out of the room without checking with a teacher, they’re not sure that you’re really telling the truth.  Here’s a chart you can download to send them to.  DON’T TELL THEM THE ANSWER.  They will keep asking your for the next 179 days.  Lovingly tell them to check the rule chart to see if it’s a good time.  Here’s one you can download for free:
Tired of managing your students' restroom breaks?  Use this chart and some simple ground rules to free yourself from ever hearing, “May I go to the bathroom” again!

•Kids come back from the restroom but don’t put their magnet back.

It takes a little time for this to become a habit.  Plus, there is no rage like a nine year old who has been waiting to go to the restroom when she could have gone 10 minutes ago.  Your students will pretty much solve that problem for you.

•You put your magnets in a color pattern.  Someone changes them everyday.

Give up.  I am a super observant person.  My students swapped their magnets out ALL THE TIME, and I never saw one kid do it.  I had to let go on this one.

•But it’s an emergency.

You know what?  Sometimes it is.  But sometimes kids want to go to the bathroom 47 times a day.  If I feel like someone is taking advantage of the system, I gently pull them aside and share my concern  that here may be something wrong if you need to go to the restroom four times in an hour.  I also let them know if it keeps happening, I may need to call mom about getting you to the doctor to make sure nothing is wrong.  That usually takes care of it, though I have had called home two or three times to share my medical concerns.

**Don’t just blow off avoidance though.   Sometimes it is as simple as I don’t feel like doing this assignment or they’re just drunk on new bathroom freedom.  Often, there are some bigger academic or behavioral issues that this is a symptom of.  Solve the bathroom problem but also address the source of these kids' needs.

Got any bathroom management tips for me?  I’d love to hear them!

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Save Your Sanity This School Year

It’s back to school time! Probably my favorite time of the school year.  That glow quickly fades when you get slapped punched in the face with the brutal routine that is ten months of our lives.  And you know what?  When your life is ruled by stress and exhaustion, your teaching is going to suffer.  Here are a few tips sorted by costliness (because hey-we’re teachers, money is a real thing.)

Sanity saving tips for teachers.  Make the school year a little less crazy with these 8 tips.

Who doesn’t love free???  You know what’s free?

Saying no.

I have done this a million times--said yes to things that I did not have the time, energy, or mental resources to manage.  Only when I was running around like a lunatic trying to take care of these things and realized that my family completely hated me because of it did I learn to say no.
Before you say yes (which we all want to do because we want everyone to love us), ask yourself what  the cost is at home.  Then decide if it’s worth it.  I’m not saying you should say no to everything, but be honest with yourself about why you’re doing it and what the cost is to you, your sanity, and your family.

Stop Talking

Y’all, I am a talker.  I know some of you are like me, and some of you are trying to avoid the me’s of the world, so you can get stuff done.  Whichever camp you live in, grab this sign, shut the door, get stuff done, and go home at a decent time.

Sorry! I Can’t Chat.  Print this freebie, hang it on your door, get stuff done.

A cooked chicken

Um, okay.  Seriously, though, you need to have a go to dinner.  Rotisserie chickens are my best friend on crazy days.  My husband travels a good bit, so on days when my he’s gone and my life is only going to get crazier AFTER I leave school, I go for the chicken.
There is a Whole Foods across the street from my school.  I can grab a cooked chicken, some potatoes, and a veggie easy peasy.  It’s a little more than if you were going to cook a normal dinner yourself but the same or even less than eating out.

p.s. Do my kids get tired of this meal?  Yes.  Do I care?  No.  It is my duty to provide them with a healthy meal, and that is where my responsibility ends.

A Teacher Shirt

When you’re having a jeans and t-shirt kind of morning, but it’s actually a school day, these are perfect.  It’s a t-shirt, but it’s professional, y’all.  Throw it on with some black pants, and you’re good to go.  You’re not slacking, you are fully embracing your career through clothing choices.

I love this one from Cents of Style:

Buy it on TPT

I know it adds up, and you could make it yourself (maybe?), and it would probably be amazing.  Or you could buy it on Teachers Pay Teachers and then catch up on The Real Housewives.  Which one sounds more relaxing?

A Charger

Nothing’s worse than getting to school with 10% left on your phone.  Extra bonus?  You’re going to be someone else’s hero when they get to school with a dead battery.  Go ahead and upgrade and get the extra long charger (you’ll thank me later).

Something stupid that makes you happy

I’m pretty sure teachers spend more waking hours at school than at home.  It’s definitely true at the beginning of the school year.  It’s not your home away from home-it is your home.  Several years ago I splurged on this chair from World Market and never regretted it.  It was cute, super comfortable, and reminded me of the good old days when teachers got real chairs.  (Anybody else fighting for a plastic chair that is padded and rolls?  It’s the holy grail of elementary school.)
As much as I love this chair, I can’t find any decent pictures of it, and World Market no longer sells it.

I’m not saying buy a chair, but if there is something that’s been in the back of your mind, just do it.  You spend a ton of time in your room.  Make it your happy place.

HP Insta Ink

The best invention EVER.  All of us have been there-printing something late at night (or in the morning) for school, and you run out of ink.  The Worst.  This might cost a little more at first, but if you wait until you need to buy ink, it almost pays for itself.  I bought mine when I needed new color and black ink cartridges.  I spent about $100 on a new printer instead of $70 on ink.  It’s even cheaper on Amazon now.

How does it work?  You sign up for HP Insta Ink and pick your plan.  Your printer is synced with your HP Insta Ink account.  When you start to get low-ish, HP sends you more ink before you even need it.

I have the $4.99 plan for 100 pages a month.  It doesn’t matter if your print in black or color.  You could print 100 pages of borderless, full page color, and you aren’t charged any extra.  If you go over your plan, they just charge you whatever your per page price is plus a penny.  For $60 a year, I never run out of ink and (more importantly) never have to call a neighbor at 10:00 at night so one of my kids can print a school project.

{Sign up here and get a free month.  At least I think so.  That’s what my HP account said would happen if I shared this link.  Let me know if it doesn’t work.}

I hope you have a great back to school season! What are your favorite sanity saving tips?

**This post contains affiliate links.**

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August Desktop Calendar

Happy August to you!  August is always a bittersweet month.  The excitement of a new school year is here, but it also means it’s time to say good buy to spending the lazy days of summer with my girls.

Here’s a dreamy background for your computer.  I love these graphics from Eisfrei.  The fonts are from my FAVORITE font bundle by Nicky Laatz.  Click here or on the image to download.

Happy August!

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{July} Favorites

July is the saddest month to see come and go.  The world is my oyster in June.  Once July wraps up, I know school world begins again.  I 100% love my job, but I don’t love real pants and waking up early.

July has been a blast, though!  Here are some of my favorites for this month.
I decided to reread the Outland series this summer.  Since I read it almost 20 years ago, I’ve pretty much forgotten everything.  Holy time commitment, though.  These books are looooong.  I’ve loved every minute of it though.  I’m on number five and hoping to finish before school starts.

This J Crew Factory dress is my favorite right now.  They usually cycle different colors in seasonally.  I know I’ve seen them plenty of times, but somehow never bought one.  It is perfection.  The knit fabric is a little thicker which gives it smoothing power.  Plus, dress + pockets = perfection.

I got to see so many of my TPT friends in Orlando this month.  Getting to learn with these ladies during the day and catch up at night was amazing.
Me, Melissa from Inspire Me ASAP!, Molly from Lucky to Be in First, Vera from The Tutu Teacher, Jillian from The Starr Spangled Planner, Tessa from Tales From Outside the Classroom, Andrea from Always Kindergarten, Greta from Learning with Mrs. Leeby.

Mango La Croix??? I’m pretty sure this is not new, but somehow it just now made it’s way into my life.  I’m loving this summery flavor.

Time to relax.  I’m not a good relaxer.  I can’t really figure out how to do it at home, but stick me next to a pool with a good book, and I’m a happy girl.  We squeezed in a quick relax/work trip to San Antonio at the JW Marriott.  I got one full day of lazy by the pool with my girls and it was heavenly.

Hope you’ve had a relaxing summer, and you’re rested and recharged for a new school year!

{This post contains Amazon affiliate links to support this girls major font habit.  But you probably already noticed that.}

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Making Room for Independent Reading: Why

I recently had the opportunity to attend the Scholastic Reading Summit in San Antonio.

It was amazing.

If one is ever even remotely near where you live, I would absolutely recommend making the trek.  I had read positive reviews of it, but did not realize there was such a heavy focus on independent reading.  This girl’s teacher heart was so filled to spend the day immersed in talking, listening and thinking about independent reading.

Why you need to make time for independent reading: What the research says about independent reading and the power of motivation in reading.

You have to get people on board with an idea for it to be successful.  So whether you’re trying to convince other teachers at your school, your administration, or even yourself that it’s worth it, here’s some food for thought from the reading summit and my own reading.

Don’t have time for independent reading?  The experts would argue that you actually don’t don’t have time.

There is a clear connection between motivation to read and performance.  We have to give kids the time and space and access to develop that.

 I really think Jan Richardson says it best, though.

There’s no free love argument going on with independent reading.  Research shows over and over again that students in classroom with dedicated time for independent reading perform better.

It’s time to get educated!  Here are some articles to arm yourself with on the value of self selected reading and independent reading:

I’ve Got Research. Yes I Do. I’ve Got Research. How About You? by Donalyn Miller

Creating Classroom Cultures That Foster Reading Motivation by Linda Gambrell

The Impact of Trade Books on Reading Achievement from Booksource

The Joy and Power of Reading: A Summary of Research and Expert Opinion from Scholastic

Out of the Shadow of SSR: Real Teachers’ Classroom Independent Reading Practice by Sherry Sanden

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Blog Baby Blog Week 5: So You’ve Got a Slider

Hey hey! This week’s post is focused on making the most of your slider.  Want more Blog Baby Blog?  Catch up on Weeks 1-4 here:

Tips and tricks for making the most of your blog slider.

Know Your Slider Size

One of the most important things to do is to make sure you’re creating an image that is the correct size.  Nothing’s sadder than a cut off or pixelated image.  Do you have a blogger template from Georgia Lou Studios?  Hop over here to check your sizing for some of the most popular templates.

Don’t have a GLS template or your GLS template is not listed on that page?  If you have a Mac, use CMD Shift 4 to grab a screenshot of an image in your slider.  Open the screenshot in Pixlr (Pixlr.com-->Launch Web Apps-->Pixlr Editor-->Open image.)  The first option on the image dropdown is image size.  Now you know what you’re working with.

Grab Your Readers’ Attention

Grab your readers’ attention by designing a bright, eye catching image.  Consider using stock photos or styled stock photos for high quality images.

For this image, I used a stock photo from Deposit Photos. To keep the photo from taking over the text, I did two things.  First, I put a light blue layer on top of the photo and make it pretty transparent. That softened the photo.  Then I added a transparent white rectangle to put my text on.  You still get the idea of the shovel, but my text is clearly visible.

For this image, I used a styled stock photo that I purchased from Etsy.  I added some quick text, the printable I was sharing in the post, my watermark, and boom.  I’ve got a slider image.
Want to see a little cheat I use to make my stock photos work for me?  Watch this tutorial.  I used Photoshop.  You could probably do this with Pixlr or PicMonkey.

Insert Your Slide Correctly

If you have a slider that is the full width of your blog, you want to make sure the images aren’t pixelated.  Even if you make them using the correct dimensions, they can still end up fuzzy.  If you have a template from Georgia Lou Studios, make sure to choose original size when you add the image.  It will look huge in your post area, but your template will automatically size it down to fit in the post.

Hide Your Slider

You’ve made this beautiful slider, but now you’re going to want to hide it from your post.

What? Why?
Your slider image looks so nice that people are going to want to pin it, and you don’t want that.  A horizontal layout does not work well on Pinterest.  Your readers don’t care about that though.  Good post + pretty picture = pin.  Add your image first, but hide it using this trick.

•Switch to HTML view

•Delete the first line of code
<div class="separator" style="clear: both; text-align: center;">

•Replace it with this line:
<div class="separator" style="clear: both; display: none; text-align: center;">

Now your slider image is first (necessary for your template to pull it) but it’s not visible to your readers.

Two Birds, One Stone(ish)

While you’re making that lovely slider image, you might as well make a good pinable image while you’re working.  It takes a bit of time when you first start, but after a while, you’ll get in the habit of it.
Here’s how each of the slider images I shared earlier were rearranged to become optimized for Pinterest:

Slider Options

Unless you’re on Wordpress, you’ve been pretty much stuck with the first image/featured post combo.  There are other sliders available for blogger, but they’re kind of buggy and slow.  Heather recently released a tutorial on how to use a slider that goes to a post on your blog or anywhere else (think Page on your blog, label, your TPT store.)

You can check out the tutorial here: Use Slider with Random Images Instead of Posts

**This involves DELETING your current slider gadget.  This cannot be added back in later with out installing a new template, so be sure to back up your template first in case you change your mind later on!!

Any other tips for making the most of your slider?

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