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Sunday, August 17, 2014

New Product, FREEBIE Highlighted, and Upcoming Sale!

Can teachers ever be shown too much appreciation? I.don'! That's why I created this simple little gift to show my appreciation for the teachers and staff at our school.
You can click here or on the picture above to purchase your template for these. There are five different tag options to choose from, AND I've included an additional free tag that won't be released here on the blog until next fall. So that's really two great products for one low price!

Also, I am incredibly lucky to be featured in this Sunday's TpT newsletter! Each Friday TpT posts the freebies that are going to be highlighted directly on Pinterest, and my sweet friend Michelle let me know that one of my freebies is featured! YEA!

If you want to go grab the freebie for yourself, you can do that by clicking the picture below or right here

And finally, TpT is throwing a SECOND huge site-wide sale to celebrate the back-to-school season! WHAT?!? You heard that correctly! On Wednesday, August 20, TpT will be hosting their second site-wide sale of the month. Many sellers will discount their stores 20% off AND TpT will throw in an additional 10% off when you use the discount code BOOST.

(Thank you to Room 213 for the Sale Banner!)

Go get your carts full! That's what I'm doing! (And make sure to grab your freebie too!)

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Thursday, August 14, 2014

New Teacher Orientation Checklist {FREE}

If your school is like our small school, you begin as a new teacher and are left somewhat on your own. And I don't mean this in a negative way! People are welcoming, but you are left to do your own thing a bit of the time. On one hand, this can be GREAT! But, on the other hand, sometimes it's nice to know what's going on and what the expectations are - particularly when you're the "newbie" in the school.

I recently ran across this "New Teacher Orientation Checklist" when browsing for ideas to show our new staff members. It is truly a resource I wish I would have had each time I've been new in a district. It reminds me of the items I need to have addressed or know about early on. PHEW! What a time saver! I hope it is beneficial for you as well. :)

Click on the graphic to go get your copy!

I hope this is beneficial to you!

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Thursday, August 7, 2014

An Interview with the "Trashy Crafter" {plus a giveaway!}

Recently I was approached by Kim the "Trashy Crafter". She told me she creates jewelry out of old books. In all honesty, I was skeptical. Old books into jewelry?!? But then I checked out her webpage, and WOW! Seriously?! The things this woman can do with previously loved books is simply amazing! I wanted to learn more, and Kim was gracious enough to offer me an interview! 

Read on...

1.     Please tell us a little bit about yourself.

My name is Kim Franklin, I'm better know as the Trashy Crafter, I take damaged and outdated library and thrift store books and repurpose them into unique and beautiful book bead jewelry.  My Mom and I find the books, roll the beads and create the finished pieces together. Aside from recycling books I enjoy dumpster diving and finding furniture that was thrown out, such as book shelves, I take that and make it into art as well and also take old encyclopedia pages and turn them into art as well since they get thrown away so much, but have beautiful images in them. I live in Sunny San Diego, and when I'm not working on my jewelry, selling at a craft show or working on my blog I like to garden, go the thrift store, hang out with my boyfriend or go camping. 

2.     How did you get started creating jewelry from books?

It all started about 4 years ago, My Mom and I were at a thrift store and noticed them throwing hundreds of books away.  What happens is when books are damaged or outdated the thrift store auctions them off in bins, if the people who purchase the book bins has not use for a certain book because its ripped, falling apart or outdated they thrown it away.  My Mom and I were really sad that all these beauty was thrown away, so we took them home and I remembered my 3rd grade teacher Mrs. Bryant, she had taught me how to roll magazine beads, so I thought why not do that with books... and that's how it all got started.... We label each piece of jewelry with what book it is made out of, which is the funnest part! 

3.     What is your favorite children’s book of all time?

My favorite is Hop On Pop, My Grandma got me a Dr. Seuss book club when I was a kid, each month I got a new book in the mail, and I loved Hop on Pop so much so that I continue to read it to this day, I love the silly little stories and rhyming.  What makes me even closer to Dr. Seuss, Mr. Geisel is that I attended the University of California San Diego, he and his wife funded all the money for our library to be built, it is the largest libary on the west coast, and has lots of vaults for highly sensitive old books... best part is it contains pretty much the whole Dr. Sesuss collection of original artwork and books, they display these things often in the Library gallery area, I loved looking at his stuff on the way to study :)

4.     Tell us a funny story that has happened while you were working on your “trashy crafts”.
 This is hard, I have way too many seeing as I trash and dumpster dive so much haha.  Well one time I was downtown at a book auction, the buyers of the bins go through the books very fast and just throw them into the reject bins super fast.  My Mom and I were trying to keep up with their speed and make quick decisions on what books we could rescue (I have very limited space because I have a one bedroom apartment)  I saw a great book that I really wanted and it fell way down to the bottom of the bin, so I tried to reach down and just about fell in and kept getting hit in the head with books... now that I look back it was pretty hilarious haha. 

5.     Who was your most inspiring teacher? Why?

I have been very lucky to have lots of wonderful teachers, obviously my 3rd grade teacher Mrs. Bryant is one of many on my list from elementary to college, but the one that really hit me was a french film teacher I had in college his name is Jean-Pierre Gorin, he taught one of the hardest film theory (I double majored in video production and communications) classes, and it was very hard to pass his class.  Anywho he really pushed me to think outside of the box, but the one thing that sticks with me to this day is a speech he made.  On the last day of school he didn't show a movie, didn't teach the typical lesson plan, he just sat on his desk in the front of the class and said if you didn't listen to me all quarter, didn't learn one thing, listen now, this is the one thing I want you to take with you as you graduate from college... "I want you to have passion, it is the most important thing in life, it's a fuel, have passion for what you do, do what you have passion for and your life will be a beautiful ride."  This hit me like a ton of bricks, it has shaped me in unimaginable ways and time and again reminded me to follow my dreams and never ever give up! 

6.     Anything else we should know? 

 My number one goal in life is to inspire people and give them hope, if I can do this for a few people in my lifetime, I have been a raving success! I want people to regain hope, life can knock you down pretty hard and believe me I too have been knocked down, but you much remember that "The tough times make the sweet times even sweeter"!  

If you are at all interested in having a custom order bracelet done with a certain book you love, I really enjoy doing that, just send me an email with what you are looking for we get all our used books from Amazon, I try to pick the most beat up ones and use them.  Thanks for allowing me to share my story Heather!

Now for the best part - the giveaway! Kim has graciously offered to give one lucky winner a FREE set of earrings. You can enter using the Rafflecopter below. Just make sure you are willing to provide us with your mailing address. Oh, and you must be a US or Canadian citizen to enter. {Sorry other friends!} We need to hear back from the winner with their mailing address within 48 hours of us e-mailing; otherwise we will choose a new winner. 

But wait, there's more! Kim is also giving all of my readers a coupon code for 15% off to use in her Etsy shop! Simpy use code tc2014 at checkout. This is great for those of us who want to place a "back to school" jewelry order! {And I plan on purchasing a few items as Christmas gifts because I just love these so much!!}

Here's how you can enter for a pair of FREE earrings. Follow Kim via Facebook, Pinterest, or Instagram (search for user TrashyCrafter).

{And even though I wish I didn't have to say this part, if you win we WILL check to make sure you followed us in the way you stated. Dishonest people are not nice!}

That's it! Now please feel free to enter! =)

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Back to School - Let the FUN Begin!

It's officially that time again! With my new job as elementary principal, I've been back to work for a few days - even though school doesn't officially begin for us until later August. If you follow me on Instagram, you know I've been getting B2S deals in the mail for over a month now!

But this time of year also means there are some GREAT deals coming our way! We all know as educators we spend way too much money out of pocket for our kiddos - either out of necessity or the goodness of our hearts. So why not take advantage of the companies that recognize this and give us a break!

1. Educents is throwing a HUGE back-to-school sale on several different products! The deals will only last from July 30-August 2! You can find my Alphabet Letter Mazes as part of the Kindergarten bundle. This product recently received a face lift, so make sure to check out the FREEBIE of it by clicking on the picture below! {If you like the freebie, make sure to give the entire bundle a try! It's 75% off!!!}

Kindergarten Full-Year Curriculum Bundle - 75% OFF


2. Teachers Pay Teachers is throwing their quarterly sale Monday & Tuesday, August 4 and 5. You can visit my store for the 28% off by clicking here. {Just don't forget to enter code BTS14 at checkout! I've forgotten before, and it's always a bummer!}

3. Wal-Mart is offering 10% e-gift cards on purchases made through July 31st (today).

4. Staples has a 5% back program. (I can't specifically speak to this one since the closest Staples in about three hours from me. Insert.Sad.Face.)

5. Office Depot allows you to earn up to 20% back! (Again, this is another store I hardly ever shop at due to location - 3+ hours...)

6. And finally, yours truly is hosting a giveaway starting right here on the blog. But you will have to come back on Thursday, August 7 to see what it's for! {Unless of course you follow me on Facebook, then you probably already know! =) } 

If you know about some other back to school deals or giveaways, please leave them in the comments below!

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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Departmentalizing Across Grade Levels

This past year our elementary school did something different. We departmentalized across grades. Why, you ask? Because we only have one section of each grade, yet we felt our upper elementary students needed to rotate teachers to prepare them for junior high. That, and the three teachers each had a specialty. 

Our fourth grade teacher is excellent at teaching math and extremely qualified. I love reading and have my Reading Specialist degree. And finally, the 5th grade teacher was perfectly fine setting up the science experiments and doing some extra social studies. (I think we were all pretty excited to give up the subjects we weren't as passionate about, so it worked out well!)

We started planning for this change months before we actually implemented it. There's so much to figure out...classroom schedules, who teaches what, common rules, how to track behavior, how to contact parents, how to switch rooms with the least amount of teaching time lost, similar classroom policies/procedures to make it easier on kids, etc.


  • We all got to teach a subject we love!
  • We had a common prep time each day so we were able to discuss things as needed. We didn't have an "official" time to meet, but knowing that we shared a 30 minute prep each day made our lives a bit easier. 
  • Being able to bounce ideas off two other teachers when you have a student you can't reach was priceless. We all have those "tough cookies", and knowing you had two other people who work with that student every day made it easier to get ideas.
  • It felt like I was working less. I know from an hourly standpoint I truly wasn't, but because I was teaching only subjects that I'm really passionate about my job seemed easier this past year. 
  • Our 6th graders are going to go to middle school better prepared for switching teachers each day.
  • When you have a "tough" class, they rotate between rooms. This helps prevent teacher burnout and gives everyone a break during the day by taking on another class.
  • On the same note, when you have a really large class - they rotate! You don't have to grade papers for that large class in all subjects, just the ones you teach!


  • We had to attend a LOT of special ed and Title I meetings. While this isn't necessarily a bad thing, it didn't dawn on me before we made this change that I would be going to three times the meetings. It was an adjustment.
  • Parents sometimes contacted one of us with a complaint about another. Thankfully we had been upfront with one another at the beginning of the year and said that if we had a parent say anything we were to send them directly to the teacher they had an issue with. It worked out really well for us and we had all issues handled promptly! 
  • Some of the kiddos struggled with switching teachers at the beginning of the year. I had a few 4th graders who would just gawk around my room in awe and not really hear a word I said. Thankfully this ended within about a month, but it did take some getting used to for them and me.
  • You have to get along with all of the people on the team. We had a GREAT team and no problems. :) However, I could see this being an issue if people don't communicate well with one another.
  • You don't get to know the kids as well. But even as I type this, it's not entirely true. Yes, I did not get as much time with this year's 6th grade class as I did last year's. However, in future years every teacher will have an equivalent of a full year with the students - except that year will be spread over three. It will all work out in the end. It just happens that the first year or two I may not know the students as well. (When I was doing research on being departmentalized last year I saw a bunch of research saying that you lose the relationships. I can honestly say that I didn't feel that way! Even though I saw over 50 students each day, I had a good connection with the majority of them. And I think each subsequent year with them would just make it better!) 
  • Scheduling was a bit of a nightmare. We started the year with 60 minute blocks, but found that wasn't enough time. We had to make the entire elementary change their specials schedules so we could change to 90 minute blocks. EEK! It ended up working out just fine, but the point is that you will need to be open and honest to get this to work. And be prepared for some bumps along the way. It took us about two months to have all the kinks worked out, but it was well worth it!

As I look at the above lists, from a length standpoint the cons win (although I did include our "fixes" to each con in this section). This could not be farther from the truth! This was a great system! All three teachers loved it, the students learned to love it (some did gripe a little at the beginning of the year), and we received a BUNCH of positive feedback from parents as well. Yes, it was a learning experience this first year, but we are definitely doing it again next year!

Now I realize this is jut my list of pros and cons. However, I've found a couple other websites that share information on departmentalizing in this way as well. There are real opinions from others teachers! Here they are:

In case you're wondering how we did the switches, here you go:
  • Math, 4th Grade Homeroom (spelling, grammar, social studies)
  • Science, 6th Grade Social Studies, 5th Grade Homeroom (spelling, grammar)
  • Reading, Writing, 6th Grade Homeroom (spelling, grammar)
As I mentioned above, we started the year with 60 minute switches, but found that wasn't working. So we switched to 90 minute classes. All switches took place in the morning before lunch with a 30 minute special class in between them to break the morning up. 

Next year we are changing things up a little bit:
  • 4th Grade Homeroom will teach ALL math & spelling
  • 5th Grade Homeroom will teach ALL science & social studies
  • 6th Grade Homeroom will teach ALL reading, writing, grammar
We will again go with 90 minute blocks in the morning with a 30 minute special in between. This allows each homeroom teacher to have their class all afternoon, and it gives us more flexibility with scheduling specials in the afternoon.

We are really excited to continue this program! The kids love seeing three different teachers each day, and we have received a bunch of positive comments from parents. 

Want to read more thoughts on HoJo's Teaching Adventures about departmentalizing? This blog post is about how I organized classroom supplies and this one explains one way to organize paperwork and student workbooks. 

Do you departmentalize in this way? If so, I'd love to hear your perspective in the comments below! Do you have further ideas, suggestions, or questions? Ask away!

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Thursday, July 24, 2014

Stomp Out Inappropriate Language

The other day I shared my classroom rules and how I teach them in the first days/weeks of the school year. Today I want to take those one step farther and also show you how I get rid of inappropriate language in my classroom from the first days.

The first day or two is when we discuss the rules and list specific examples of what each rules looks like, sounds like, etc. By the third day I feel I really need to dive into appropriate language for my classroom. I grew up in a home where the words "dummy" and "stupid" were considered cuss words. Likewise, my siblings and I were never allowed to utter the phrase "shut up" without getting in trouble. While it may seem a bit strict, I feel this philosophy also works well in the classroom!

Each year around the third day I tell my students that we are going to "stomp out" the bad words I don't want to hear in my classroom. I always start by saying that we all know the "cuss words" and that we aren't going to say any of those horrible words out loud. So I write "cuss words" on paper - you'll understand why I use paper a little later on in the post. Then I also explain that our classroom has no tolerance for "racial slurs" and I write that on the paper. From there I take a deep breath and ask the students what other words they think might be inappropriate in the classroom. Sometimes it takes them awhile to get going, but by the time we're done we have a pretty good list. {i.e. shut up, stupid, retard, idiot, gay, dumb, knucklehead, loser, sucks, you get the idea...}

I have had a time or two were students have blurted out a completely inappropriate word or phrase. Be ready for that! I've found that a stern look will often stop the gigglers, and I will simply say, "Yes, that is an inappropriate word/phrase. I'm so glad we will not hear it again this year." One time I had to pull a student out into the hall to talk with me after trying to get attention by saying several inappropriate terms, but after our little chat he was good as gold and he learned where my line was! 

Here's a picture of the list I used last year. Yes, I even take a picture of it - so if we need a reminder part way through the year, I can pull it out and reference all the words we "stomped"!

When we are done creating our "list" we then "stomp it out". I literally start taking our large sheet of paper and ripping it into pieces to give each student. Each student gets a piece and we "stomp" it out, rip it up, etc. I've done this "stomping" activity with students in Kindergarten through sixth grade. Yes, the sixth graders rolled their eyes a little, but it still got the point across and they were giggling a little by the end. At the end we made sure all of our pieces ended up in the garbage, which only reinforced my clean room philosophy even more!

It never ceases to amaze me that even months into the school year, the students will correct ME if I utter one of the words we stomped out. --> "Miss Whetham, you just called the book dumb! We stomped that out!" 

I always make a bit deal about my mix-up and tell them we all make mistakes. Then I apologize to the class, and ask them to forgive me. {I feel this shows that I'm human also - and all of us are going to make mistakes from time to time.}

How do you keep the language appropriate in your classroom? I'd love to learn some new strategies! Please let me know in the comments below.

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Sunday, July 20, 2014

School Rules - How to Teach Them to Start the Year Off Right!

I like to keep my classroom rules VERY easy! Typically it's just one rule - be nice or show respect. The K-2 folks get the "be nice" rule, while the older kids get the "show respect" rule.

This rules is then broken up into three main parts.
  • to others
  • to property
  • to yourself

Even though the rule only has one main part (or three smaller ones!), it can still be a challenge for kids to understand. That's why I always go through the rules. The students and I brainstorm what these rules will look and sound like.

Here's the lists that last years 6th graders came up with.

{Pretty sure that should read "keep hands, feet, and objects to yourself!

Not sure how my middle schoolers didn't catch that last year! lol}

Typically we write our ideas on paper that we can save all year. (aka - I can store them in the closet and pull them out whenever the kiddos "forget" how they should be behaving or if we have a bunch of new students join us.) However, last year I wrote them on the whiteboard, left them for about two weeks, and didn't have another problem all year. (Although technically I knew I had taken these pictures and could bring them up again if needed!) =) This year my plan is to put them up on the ActivBoard and pull them up as needed throughout the year. 

I also make sure to refer to these a LOT in those first weeks. Custodians LOVE my room because I expect it to be clean. I tell the students that they are the ones who make the mess, so they are the ones who clean it up! Yes, sometimes they grumble and complain that it's the janitors' jobs - but I always say it's there job to clean up the school, NOT to clean up after little slobs. When I'm strict about the rules from the get-go the students get used to it and it simply becomes a "norm" in my room. It's so great to see students cleaning up by the end of the year without even being asked! Students truly do reach the high standards we set for them. =)

What are your class rules and how do you teach them?

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