Sunday, August 30, 2015

Dollar Store Hack: Using Crates as Bookcases and NOT Ruining Your Books

In ten years of teaching and five different schools (military life), I've only once had enough bookcases for my giant classroom library. The first time I encountered this problem, I bought wire bookcases from Target and aside from the fact that they were less than fun to put together, they did their job. Shortly after that, I found some purple crates, which were much easier to put together.  I began to use them to hold my excess books that didn't fit on the shelves that were in my room. Since then, I've added additional shelves based on my color schemes and additional needs as my library grows and grows because yes, it's super challenging to not order tons and tons of books from Scholastic each month.

The problem I've encountered can be seen in the picture above. Whether it's a wire bookcase or a crate, there are lots of openings, which means that the books don't stand up or fit in the way that they would if you were using a regular wooden bookcase. For those that like things nice and neat like me, this can drive you a little bananas. I often see students attempting to take a book out, and the spine of the book getting stuck in one of the holes, which results in the student forcing it out and is not kind to the spine. So while I bought crates to keep my books safe, I've started to think that they are doing more harm than good. So this year I decided to do something I should have done ten years ago.

Enter the Dollar Store. Don't you just love how the Dollar Store has everything you need/don't need/can find a use for? Well, it turns out that the Dollar Store had just what I needed in the kitchen goods aisle. I present you the Flexible Chopping Mat, in a set of two bright and wonderful colors, one of which just happens to be part of my classroom color scheme. I currently have four crates being used, so I grabbed 4 packs so I could have 4 blue mats.

Back to the classroom I went and the fun began. 

Just $4.00 saved me a lot of money in book replacements and sanity too. It's also more aesthetically pleasing so it's definitely a win, win! Though I didn't use them now, I know those purple ones will come in handy in the future, especially since I still have my purple crates from my early years of teaching. I'm sure I'll use them someday when my theme includes purple again! 

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Setting Clear Behavior Expectations for a Successful School Year

I still remember my first teaching position. I took over a fifth grade class at the end of April. April 26th, 2005 to be exact. To say it was a challenge would be a giant understatement. I'm going to be honest, the first day, I just focused on breathing. I was completely overwhelmed and really had no idea how I was going to add structure to a class who had clearly gone without structure for the majority of their year. After a very chaotic first few days in which I felt quite defeated and had zero control of the class, I went home and wrote down all of my expectations for them. I then thought about how I would present them to the students since standing in front of the room and telling them my rules had clearly not worked. I began to work up different scenarios that my students could engage in, which would allow them to be a little silly, because I needed them on my side, but would also allow me to show them what my expectations were. I went in the next day and started our day by passing out different scenarios of bad behavior. The students acted them out and after each one, we discussed why the behavior was not correct, and then the students reenacted the same scenario with the correct behavior.

Ladies and gentlemen, it worked. The difference between day #1 and day #2 were night and day and every day after that was far better than the first. To be honest, even I was surprised. I learned something extremely valuable that day, that there is serious power in setting clear expectations.

So how hard is it to set clear expectations? Maybe harder than you think. If you consider my story, it wasn't that I didn't tell my students my expectations on the first day. I did. But I didn't show them. Sure, I stood there and talked "at" them about what I wanted them to do, but did I engage them in the conversation? No. Did I ask for their opinions on it? No. Did I involve them in the process of setting these expectations? No. What was different in my second attempt is that I did all of those things.
I not only engaged my students, but I asked them to show me the wrong, identify the right, and show me the appropriate behavior. We then had a huge discussion about what THEY learned and WE listed the classroom expectations that would make THEIR year a success. I made it about THEM, not me. At no point did I alienate them from the process. And you know what? It worked then and it continues to work.

So my advice?
1. Make students feel involved in the process.
2. Allow students to model expected behaviors. This will set the tone for your entire year, so you want the students to be engaged.
3. Write your rules together. Post them in the room after all students have added their signature to the rules that they helped you to create.
4. Present the rules not as a because the teacher said so, but instead as a you have to because you want to learn each day. Make it their non-negotiable, and then make it yours.

Keep in mind, clear expectations aren't just about the first day, they are about holding students responsible for following them every day, and being consistent. If you are not consistent with your expectations, your students won't be consistent with their behavior.

I'm including a freebie pack that includes 15 of the behavior scenarios that I've used and were created by a former colleague and I. They cover a number of different areas of the school (assemblies, hallways, cafeteria, etc). I've also added recording pages for students to use during and after they've completed their scenarios. I hope that this will be helpful as you kick off your new year. These are also great to pull out as a refresher after the long winter break, or if you find yourself taking over a classroom at the end of April, like me! :-)

Friday, August 7, 2015

2015 Virginia Teacher Bloggers Meet-Up

Last Friday a group of 30 fabulous Virginia teacher bloggers {including myself!} descended upon the Jefferson Lakeside Country Club for an afternoon of networking, laughs, food, drinks, and some incredible swag and prizes! It was an incredible time, and well worth all of the planning and logistics that went into it. I want to share some of the experience with you!

First of all, I have to tell you how absolutely AMAZING all of our sponsors were to work with. If you are making any back-to-school purchases this year, I really urge you to consider purchasing from these businesses and individuals -- they truly value teachers and aren't afraid to show it!

A HUGE thank you goes especially to Educents (one of THE best companies around!) for helping with the costs of the meetup and providing some FANTASTIC swag! Make sure you check out their new Educents Wallet feature to get all of those resources for your classroom at a steep discount! If you sign-up for a new teacher wallet account you'll receive $10 to spend on your classroom -- who couldn't use $10?!

We had over $4,000 in prizes thanks to these fantastic folks! It was so much fun to see the excitement on each of the winner's faces!

Check our our FANTASTIC sponsors:

And some AMAZING TpT sellers that contributed raffle prizes or digital swag:

[Teaching in the Tongass] [Janiel Wagstaff] [Kimberly Geswein] [Polka Dots & Pals] [Laugh, Eat, Learn Designs] [Whimsy Workshop] [Jewel's School Gems] [The Joy of Teaching] [The Teacher Studio] [KristyBear Designs] [Chalk & Apples] [Teaching in Progress] [There's No Place Like Second Grade]

Also, a GIANT THANK YOU goes out to Sarah from There's No Place Like Second (And now Third!) and Nikki from Teaching in Progress
Sarah worked night and day (seriously, Sarah, did you sleep?) to do everything from gather donations to create adorable name tags and create super cute programs. Sarah was truly the backbone of this meet-up and I hope she knows how much we all appreciated her efforts. And without Nikki, we wouldn't have had such an amazing venue two years in a row. These two ladies rock my world! 

1. Nikki (from Teaching in Progress) and I worked the front table, which meant that we were able to meet and greet each and every teacher blogger. I challenged myself to recognize each face before they reached the table. It was super fun to guess who each person was as they entered! I got them all correct, too! Each person was so impressed by all of the goodies we had for them, especially the awesome name tags that Sarah from There's no Place Like Second Grade (And now Third!)

2 Lunch. The food was fabulous, but I'm talking about the company. I don't think I went a minute without laughter, especially with the crew that was sitting at our table. Carla, Karen, Nikki, Haley, Heather, Erin, Sarah, and I had the BEST time during lunch. In the moments that we weren't being silly, we had great chats about blogging and creating. We had a wonderful time together and it wasn't superficial at all. I consider each of these women my real life friends and I know I can count on them. That's pretty special, y'all!

3. Being in a room with so many talented women. There was a moment where I stopped talking (shocking, I know) and just sat back and took in the fact that I was in a room with so many creative women, all of whom share the same goal of improving education by sharing our ideas, resources, and expertise. In the time that I've been connected to these women, I've learned a ton about creating, teaching, and handling life outside of it all. I'm lucky to be a part of such a knowledgeable, inspiring group and I know that I'll forever be a part of this awesome group, even if I'm not in Virginia forever.


You can see more fun meetup photos by looking at the hashtag #VATeacherBloggersMeet on Instagram, or by looking at the photo album here:

Some of the fantastic Virginia teacher bloggers from the meetup are linking up with Sarah from There's No Place Like Second Grade to share their favorite moments and photo memories from the meetup, as well as share their swag and prizes! Be sure and check-out their posts!

You are next...

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Blogversary Giveaway Day #5

Graphics from LovelytoCU and Megan Favre
Well, it's time to wrap up this wonderful celebration! Thank you to all of you who have stopped by to celebrate with me. I've enjoyed your comments and I appreciate all of your support of Mrs. O "Knows". I hope that you will continue to follow me on this amazing journey. I hope that each of you has a wonderful 2015-2016 year!

For my last resource giveaway, I've got a wonderful math jackpot filled with awesome math resources that you can use throughout the year! This will be one LUCKY winner!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

And we're going to wrap things up the same way that we started them - with some TpT gift cards! I've got two more to giveaway! If you're like me, you are super sad the sale is already over, but hopefully you grabbed lots of wonderful items. I know that I checked out a few times myself! So many wonderful resources, it's so hard to choose when I look at the hundred of items on my wish list! So enter to win one final time, and maybe you'll be the lucky winner of one of these $10 gift cards!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Be sure to keep up with my Facebook page. I just hit 3,000 followers (yippee) and there will definitely be some celebrating going on soon! Thank you again for all of your support of Mrs. O "Knows"!

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Blogversary Giveaway Day #4

Graphics from LovelytoCU and Megan Favre

It's the fourth day of my blogversary celebration and I'm having such fun celebrating with each of you! I hope that you are finding tons of wonderful resources as you browse the daily prizes. I know I've already stocked up on some of these for the back to school season, which is quickly approaching! 
Speaking of which, today's giveaway prize pack has so many prizes that I couldn't fit them all in one picture. It is truly a back to school jackpot in that it includes FABULOUS resources that will start your year off on the right foot! There's an editable flip book, spelling activities for any list, an adorable calendar, interactive foldables that tackle classroom procedures, back to school writing prompts, a fun STEM activity, an IEP/504/RTI input & collaboration pack, and a winner's choice item from a store with tons of goodies! If you win this one, you'll be more than ready to get this wonderful year started! 


a Rafflecopter giveaway

I LOVE Friday dress down days. I have TONS of super cute t-shirts with witty sayings on them and I'm always adding more to my collection. My go-to place for teacher t-shirts is easy to remember because it's called Teacher Shirts and it's by A+ images! It can't get any easier than that! I am constantly checking their site for new designs and they just added some pretty fabulous t-shirts! They have a wide range for many different positions and grade levels and lucky you, I've got a giveaway for one lucky person to win one of these fabulous shirts! The winner can choose any one shirt from their site, up to a $25.00 value. You'll be even more excited for dress down day with one of these adorable shirts! Here's just a few of the designs you will have to choose from and the link if you'd like to see more!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

I've got one more day of celebration coming your way tomorrow! Don't forget to check out the giveaways that are still open for entry in days #1-#3 as well!

Monday, August 3, 2015

Blogversary Celebration Day #3

Graphics from LovelytoCU and Megan Favre

I hope that you are all having as much fun as I am as we celebrate my third blogversary! Thank you all for your comments and congratulations. The fun isn't nearly over, I've still got a few days of giveaways to share with you. Today, the giveaways are focused on two of my favorite things, reading and adorable items from Kasefazem. The reading set below features fantastic reading resources that any teacher would be lucky to have. The reader's theater mega bundle from Mrs. Beers features 15 reader's theater scripts!!! Add that to resources from four other very talented teacher-creators and you've got a prize pack that's worth over $35! So go on and get your entries on, you don't want to miss a chance to win this reading jackpot! 

I found Vanda from Kasefazem a few years ago when I was looking for signs on Etsy and since then I've purchased signs, hallway passes, and even previewed some of her planners for her last year. Each of my secret pals has been given a sign from her, and my principal, who was my secret pal last year, now has a Kasefazem sign hanging from her door. Her signs are really my go to gift because she has tons of different designs and she'll create anything you ask for. Can you tell I think she's pretty amazing? I've been eyeing one of her new products lately and so Vanda was kind enough to go beyond a sign donation for my blogversary and she's letting me giveaway one of her sets of hallway passes, which are so, so amazing! The winner can pick their own design, but here are a couple that she already has created. You can also visit her store at Kasefazem to view more. I am wishing I could enter this wonderful giveaway! 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

That's it for day 3! Don't forget to go back and enter any open giveaways for day #1 and #2 and come back tomorrow for more wonderful giveaways as the blogversary celebration continues!

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Blogversary Celebration Day #2

Graphics from LovelytoCU and Megan Favre

It's time for day #2 of my Blogversary Celebration! Today is a treat for everyone! Being a fifth grade teacher, the primary grades can be a puzzle to me. The talented teachers below are the experts and their creations are primary perfect! If you win, you will truly be hitting the primary jackpot! The second giveaway of today's celebration is one of my favorite items in my classroom, a Classroom Friendly Supplies sharpener! This sharpener is AMAZING! If you want to read all about my love for it, check out my blog post, The Greatest Pencil Sharpener EVER! The winner can pick one of the amazing colors they offer. But I'll warn you, you'll never look at any sharpener the same after you have one. It's THAT awesome! 

Ready to enter? Of course you are! 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thank you for celebrating with me! Come back tomorrow for another day of celebrating and don't forget to check out the day #1 celebration if you haven't already!

Saturday, August 1, 2015

August Currently - Breaking the Blogging Rules

If you are a Seinfeld fan, you will understand that I would say "hello August" in the same way that Seinfeld says, "Hello Newman" as in, I'm not entirely thrilled that August has already arrived. However, I am thrilled to link up with Farley from Oh' Boy 4th Grade for my favorite monthly linky. I'm even breaking the unspoken rules of blogging with two posts in one day for this one. I can't miss Currently, even if I am in the middle of my Blogversary Giveaway! So here we go! 

Listening: Each night I watch Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives. Then I wonder why I'm starving and searching through my cupboards for food at midnight.

Loving: I'm off for a week with the hubby and then I have to start setting my room up on the 10th. Well, I don't have to, but I'd better do it because I know I'll feel a whole lot better if I do. I plan to enjoy our time this week without too much "I have to do school work" interruptions.

Thinking: Who am I kidding? I am already thinking about school, even if I don't want to be. I'm now fighting an August battle with my brain. One part of me wants to start planning, the other part of me really wants to sit back and relax and enjoy what's left of the summer.

Wanting: Working out and eating well have not been the name of my summer game. I MUST get back to business once school starts and get back to a routine.

Needing: I do have just two items that I really want to have finished before the sale, but if they aren't, well, they aren't. Ideally they will be done in time for the sale, but we shall see how that goes!

B2S Rack: I want to surprise my teammate with little things throughout the year that make her smile. She is the best teammate ever and I want to brighten her days to show her how special she is to me!

Ok, that's my currently! What are you currently up to? Head over to Oh' Boy 4th Grade to find out what other teacher bloggers are up to this month!

It's My Blogversary - Celebration Day #1

Graphics from LovelytoCU and Megan Favre

It's hard to believe that I began this blogging journey three years ago. I'm not sure where the time has gone! It seems fitting that I'd be kicking off my celebration right after a fabulous Virginia Teacher Blogger Meet-Up yesterday. I'll share more details of our fabulous day soon, but as I looked around the room, I thought about how amazing the teacher blogger journey has been for me. I've met and interacted with so many talented and creative teachers, and I hope that they know that each of them has contributed to my journey in some way. This summer, I've been working hard to give some old TpT products a makeover and as I have, I've started to realize how much I've learned from others and how much I truly appreciate them. But there's another group of people that I am grateful for, and that group is you, my dear followers, who have helped my little blog grow to more than 500 followers. I know that some of you follow me on a number of social media pages, and I am just flabbergasted by the love. Thank you for listening to what I have to say and following me as I continue this wonderful journey as a teacher, a teacher-blogger, and a teacher resource creator. I have so much love for everyone that has come in to my life as a result of this journey, and I want to show my appreciation! I've got some fabulous giveaways up my sleeve over the next several days. Let's get the party started!

The first giveaway today is a wonderful group of fifth grade products from some of my favorite fifth grade teacher authors. Each of the creators in this group has fabulous fifth grade products that I use in my own fifth grade classroom.

Enter the Rafflecopter below to enter for your chance to win these amazing fifth grade resources! 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Also, I don't know if you've heard, but something exciting is coming your way in just two days!!

My entire store will definitely be on sale so that you can get the maximum discount. But, wouldn't it be great to save and shop for free? Well, I'm going to add three $10 TpT Gift Certificates to today's giveaways (one $10 per winner). But hurry to enter, as the Rafflecopter will close on Monday at midnight so that you will be able to use your certificate during the sale. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thank you again for being amazing! Don't forget to come back tomorrow for day #2 of celebrations!