Five for Friday- Tips and Tricks!

Wow, how can we be so ready for Friday after only 12 days of school?
All the more reason to stop and think of some tips or tricks to get you through the day!

How about Five Tips and Tricks?
And linking up with Five for Friday with Doodlebugs!

So, let's get going and see if these tips will help you!
Mind you, these tips are not for your classroom- it's for your sanity. Take care of you.
Seriously, by the time you reach the end of those first two weeks your classroom is already decorated, most lesson plan formats are established, you have begun your routines and discipline plan, so what's left?
Tips and Tricks for Surviving Those First Weeks of School- just some easy tips for busy teachers to get the year started off well on a positive note! Includes a great easy recipe!

Teacher Tip for starting off the year well: Plan!
I know you were thinking about lesson plans when you saw that giant word : PLAN!
I mean all the other things..
Do you gather all your clothes for the week and have them ready on Sunday afternoon? Press everything and hang it with the jewelry and shoes that match. I promise when you get up and get moving on Monday you will love having five outfits hanging there ready to go. And definitely by Thursday when your brain is fried, it will be so nice to have something you can throw on. If you have kids do the same thing with them.
Sometimes I even get six outfits ready in case I decide one of them is ugly later in the week. (It happens!)
Also, plan your week's meals. Do you do this? Write it on a calendar sticking to the refrigerator. When you get home in the afternoon check the menu and start that food prep!
It's so nice not to open the fridge and stand there wondering what on earth we are having for supper! Since my son helps cook at my house it's also great that he checks the menu and starts some of the food prep. 
One last thing, do you schedule your errands? I try to list everything I need to do and then organize it by where I need to go so I can make all my stops in one swoop rather than every single day.
Course this doesn't take into account those emergency runs to Wal-Mart when we have no cat food.....

Teacher Tip for starting off the year: Ready to Eat easy meals!
Okay, here's a truth about us.We sometimes eat out, a lot.
It is just so easy to dash to a restaurant.
However, we can never agree and we spend too much time saying, "What do you want?" Ugh!
So, about six months ago I decided to NEVER eat out anymore (Well, except for one night a week). I plan the weekly menu, shop for that food, leave the menu posted, and whatever it says, that is what we fix. I know you are like me in needing simple prep for food!
Here's a fabulous recipe we tried this week and loved!

Easy recipe for busy teachers: Santa Fe Chicken

Teacher tip for starting off the year right: Let go of the Small Stuff!
Okay, I am going to tell you a little story.
Last week I was in my classroom talking to a group and I heard a little tune play. Then it played again. So, I asked if anyone else heard a phone ringing. One student pointed at another and that student started shaking his head. He was obviously uncomfortable, enough so that I knew he had a phone and it was ringing.

How would you handle this? Our school has a policy about not having phones turned on and the kids are supposed to leave them in their backpacks.
Here's what I said, "Well, check to see if it is an emergency. And then please put it on vibrate."
Guys, the relief on his face was so intense. He thought he was in BIG trouble and I just brushed it off.
Why not?
Everybody- EVERYBODY has a phone now- even students.
Why make a big deal of it? It just stresses me out and the poor kids.
Let it go. (I am not suggesting for one minute that we should ignore school rules, but in this particular case it was truly an accident that his phone was on. There was no point in punishing him.)
How many other things could we just let go of and be so much more calm? 
Well, except coffee. Can't let go of that.

Teacher Tip to start off the year: Leave it at school!
Okay, be honest! Do you drag home a big bag of school work every afternoon?
Stop it.
Those papers will get graded eventually.  When it is time to go home, make sure all parent emails are caught up, get your board ready for the next day, get your purse and lunch box, and go home.
Play with your kids, relax, and spend some time on YOU!
Don't respond to emails.
I have a friend that does not check her school email on the weekends. She had a parent a few months back that emailed her 14 times one weekend. The parent was upset and was sending repeat emails and inquiries. When my friend opened some of the emails on Monday she replied with this, "Mrs. XXXX I do not check my email on the weekend. Saturday is my day with my kids and Sunday is for church." Awesome!
A long time ago I did take things home every afternoon. Here's my bad mother moment. When my son was just learning to talk one phrase he learned was, "Mommy is busy!" He would say this when he saw me with  a grading pen in my hand. That is awful!
I wish I had spent more time with him and less time grading papers!

Teacher tip for starting off the year: Focus on yourself and do things that keep you in a positive frame of mind!
Focus on you! We don't do this because we are intent in our mission as teachers. We are dedicated, passionate, and in love with our jobs and kids. But we all need time to just work on our own little selves.
What do you do that is just for you??
For me it's READING (no big surprise there!)
I read Everyday. All the time.
When I walk in the evenings for exercise I am listening to an audio book. I listen to a book in my car while driving to and from school.
 That's my ME time. 

So there is it folks, ways to save your sanity and adjust to your back to school time of year!..Next week will be my five favorite books of the summer!
In the meantime here's my Back to School board on Pinterest. You should take a look and follow this was for even more tips and tricks!


What's Going on in Science Class? Boats!

Welcome to my Wednesday feature about what we are doing in the lab!
This week it's about 
Floating Your Boat!

STEM Challenge: It's an amazing task- get the boat to float and hold weight. Kids absolutely love this challenge! Easy materials and easy prep!

I will just tell you that when my kids come in and see those blue dish pans out they start cheering because they know it is Boat Day!
Every grade level.
Yes, even those sophisticated fifth graders love boats.

STEM Challenge: It's an amazing task- get the boat to float and hold weight. Kids absolutely love this challenge! Easy materials and easy prep!

STEM Challenge: It's an amazing task- get the boat to float and hold weight. Kids absolutely love this challenge! Easy materials and easy prep!

STEM Challenge: It's an amazing task- get the boat to float and hold weight. Kids absolutely love this challenge! Easy materials and easy prep!

Those are just a few created last spring.
Okay, here's the back story.
I saw a photo or a pin or something about building boats using just one supply.
Okay, I thought, that would be easy, but what if I just added some extra things to see how the kids will combine items or use wacky things for the boat.
Really. This was not a Brain Pop moment for me. All I truly did was go through all my supply cabinets and pull out things that might be used.

Then I decided to make it harder than that. (This thought might have been a Brain Pop moment!)
I decided to make the supplies have a cost and the kids would have to work on a budget.
Now, I did this for several reasons. First of all, I know what kids do when you put out a vast array of supplies. They pick some of everything and then try it all. Secondly, they think the endless supply is just that- ENDLESS! So, when something is ruined they just want more. Well, a school teacher's budget does not lend itself well to SEVEN classes using twenty zillion straws and cups, so I settled on prices for everything, gave the kids a cost list, a planning sheet, and we got busy building boats.

STEM Challenge: It's an amazing task- get the boat to float and hold weight. Kids absolutely love this challenge! Easy materials and easy prep!
The most exciting part of this challenge is, of course, testing the boats! The kids all gather around as we start placing weights in the container on the boat. They count out loud and moan when the boat starts taking on water. We keep a list on our board of the highest number of pennies in each class and it is quite competitive.
Last spring when we made boats I had a third grade team make an unsinkable boat. They filled the container with 200+ pennies and it would hold no more, but wouldn't sink. Imagine the irritation this presented to some fifth graders that sunk their boats with 12 pennies.... just sayin'...

It's a fabulous challenge- every kids loves it! The pins on Pinterest of this challenge have been re-pinned almost more than anything else I have ever posted, and it remains the best seller for my little TpT store. It's a task with a budget, easy supplies, easy prep, not so hard clean up, total engagement, and 100% fun!
So, that's what's going on in Science class this week- just a little boat floating (or sinking) and a lot of water and a lot of paper towels. 

Join me next week for more:


The Easiest of Materials- Paper Chains!

Are you ready to tackle a STEM activity?

Do you need easy prep?
Easy directions? Something for teamwork?

I've got you covered with a really, really, really easy STEM task using only ONE supply.
STEM Challenge on Teamwork: Build a paper chain using only one material!


Five for Friday! Another Bulletin Board Edition!

Well, it turns out I am now the bulletin board queen at my school.
Not a title I sought,
Just sayin'....

Let me explain more in this edition of Five for Friday!

Thanks Doodle Bugs!
Bulletin Board # 1
So, I had to do one in the hallway!
And I had this idea I totally swiped from a Pinterest pin.
It was a board using the balloons and little house from the movie "Up".
Well, I tried to make the little house of paper.
Epic failure.
It was hopelessly not dimensional and quite ugly. So, I  went to Hobby Lobby to get brick patterned scrapbook paper.
I found that and some corrugated brown scrapbook paper and I was going to make a new house from that, but you know, when you are in Hobby Lobby you have to wander around. And then I found myself staring at these pressed board houses. Just look at the pictures below!
Bulletin Boards Step by Step- Here's a fabulous board that is really easy to put together. It's also three dimensional!
So, here's the step by step of what I did:
1- Gathered supplies, which included the little house, brick paper, and press on letters.
2- Paint the front of the house with mod podge (which is really just white glue with a fancy name).
3- Press the brick paper into place and smooth it out.
4- Repeat this until the little house is wrapped in brick paper.
Now, I did not paint glue on top of the scrapbook paper which would be the normal next step with mod podge, but I didn't want to ruin it by getting the paper too wet. That is sometimes what happens with glue (think of kids and interactive notebooks....)

Bulletin Boards Step by Step- Here's a fabulous board that is really easy to put together. It's also three dimensional!
Moving on-
5- Use a razor blade knife to cut the windows and door openings. The holes were already there and I just cut them open and folded the paper to the inside, spread on a little glue, and used my fingers to smooth it all out. (Pretty impressive for an OCD person that doesn't like to get her hands dirty, I know!)
6-7 - Use strips of brick paper to wrap the chimney and then glue the top onto the little house.
I also added a title to the house with the stick on letters. I just took white paper, stuck on the letters, glued that to a black background and glued it to the front of the house. Since it is the name of my school I left it out of the photos!
8- Staple up cloud background paper onto the bulletin board. I actually purchased this cloud paper, so it was super easy. You could just use blue and glue up some white paper or smear it with chalk.
Add the black rectangles as an imitation skyline. I just cut paper into many shapes and stapled it up!

Bulletin Boards Step by Step- Here's a fabulous board that is really easy to put together. It's also three dimensional!
9- Add balloons. I purchased this pack of balloons already made to save time. The balloons have all of the teacher's names in my school, but you can't see them (I cleverly disguised them with little circles!) I attached strings to each balloon and then gathered the strings into a bunch and stapled that in place.
10- The house was added with hot glue and duck tape. The words have since been changed to say "Are You UP for New Adventures?" and I also added "Let's Do It!"
I know! It's too cute.
You can see why I am now Queen of Bulletin Boards.
(By the way, I spent $6 on the brick paper and little house! Those items were 50% the day I went shopping!)
Bulletin Board #2
I blogged about this one last week, but I did change it slightly.

The original had the posters squeezed together closer and left an empty space in the center and it was bothering me (have I mentioned being OCD?)
So, I just moved the posters over. I love it!

Bulletin Board #3

You can't tell from the photo, but this board is 7 feet long. Actually, all the boards in this post are the same size. The two turquoise colored ones are painted that color. Most of us in my school painted our boards a few summers back and now we never have to hang paper on them! 
Anyway, for the one above I taped together two 12x18 pieces of black construction paper. The word STEM is just giant white letters made from the font "Jokerman". Recognize it? I just used my projector and computer and enlarged it until it fit the paper, cut it out and stapled it up!
The rest is just die-cut letters and black ribbon.
I have no clue what I am going to put in the empty space!
I kinda like them empty!

Are you trying STEM yet?
Go back and read my Summer Series:

And, just because it's also an easy read, try last week's post about the Supplies You need for STEM that can purchased at the Dollar Tree!

Last, but not least, are you a Teacher's Pay Teacher's Seller?
If you are, then do you ever check your ranking on the seller's list?
Your name can be hard to find, but Colorado Classroom has made an app to help you!
Click right {HERE}!

Have a great weekend!


15 Items You Need from the Dollar Store for STEM

That's right!
Let's save you some money!
I hope you have a Dollar Tree close to your home because this post is dedicated to shopping at that great little market and getting supplies for your STEM and Science classroom! 

Which of those dollar bargains are not really bargains? I'll tell you about those, too!
15 Supplies You Need from the Dollar Store with tips and hints about what not to buy there! Great for Science materials!

One of the things I hear from blog readers, fellow teachers, and just friends is that supplying a science room or STEM lab is costly.
Yes, it can be! But some of the best STEM challenges we have completed were made from straws!
STRAWS and masking tape, TONS of masking tape.

To make my classroom work with a budget in mind I shop at dollar stores, specifically the Dollar Tree. If you don't have one close by try Dollar General, but do some comparison shopping before you purchase things.

Are you ready for 15 ideas for shopping?

Classroom Supplies- It's all about those straws! Great find at the dollar store and so useful for STEM class!


Styrofoam cups. We use these all the time for so many things. I can usually find them in two sizes at the DT. They often have red plastic cups, too, but the package doesn't have many in it and I would need too many packs. Be careful when buying those!


Okay, here's a secret. Wal-mart has packs of 100 straws at a cheaper price. but the DT straws are better. They are longer. So, I buy those instead. We use them every week for something!

The Dollar Store:great place for science supplies including plastic ware and foil sheets. These pre-cut sheets are the easiest ever!


Another secret. These can be costly at Wal-Mart unless you get the WM brand. But the ones at the DT are just as good and less expensive. We use these for storage, projects, water containers, dipping containers, support base, and more.


Oh my goodness, we use foil all the time. I buy the largest roll I can find at WM and it is about $15. It is a heavier quality than the DT, but I have not found that to be important. So, I started getting the foil boxes there. Then I found these foil sheets. They are pre-cut so you can just pull out a sheet for each group. Can you say easy? Saves a little time, too!

The Dollar Store: Did you know you can get foam board for $1 and foam sheets, and modeling dough!!


Did you know you can get this at the DT? At WM it's $3 and at Hobby Lobby it's even more. We use foam board for connectors, bridges, ramps, and other projects.


These are pre-cut foam sheets. They are thin and you might want the thicker kind, but these have worked well for us. A pack has about 5-6 different colors. We use these a lot.


DT has two sizes of cans of play-dough. It is almost always good quality and for what we use it for it has worked fine. I even save the little empty containers in case we ever need them!

Dollar Store finds for your science or STEM class!

Okay, these items are not essential, but just good ideas.

NOTEPADS- I have little pads like these at each workspace. The kids use them often to just jot things down. You can get a pack of 3-4 little notepads at the DT.

LITTLE CARS- Last spring we did a challenge that involved little cars and I found them at WM for 78 cents, but at the DT you can get a pack of 3. If you ever need little cars!

BINDER CLIPS- We have used these in projects and I use them all the time to clip papers together. At Staples a big pack is costly! Course Staples has pretty colors!

FOIL PANS- We have used pans like this for lots of things. Erosion experiments for one thing. You can get all sizes at DT and usually in a pack of 3-4. They make great carrying trays or drip trays, too.

BROOMS- Every lab table in my classroom has its own broom and dustpan. I do not clean up after kids! This year I may get more of these so that every table has 2 sets and I also have 4 large brooms! We are very messy!

Dollar Store finds for your science or STEM class!
SAFETY GOGGLES- I have lots of these and kids love them. LOVE THEM. If you don't have sets ask local businesses for donations (that's where I got mine) or you can get them for $1.

RUBBER GLOVES- I use these yellow ones for cleaning things myself. For the kids, I buy the large packs of latex gloves at WM. Only they are not really latex- they are made of something else. In a pinch, I also swipe them from the custodian closet.....just sayin'

PLASTIC BINS- Of course, you need these! But I bet you already have ten tons of baskets and bins.
Dishpans are another item we use all the time!

The dollar store is great, but don't be fooled! Some things are less expensive at Wal mart or Target!

Now, here are two more giant secrets about the DT.

Don't buy craft sticks there!
That photo is showing you a pack of 80, I think.
Wal-Mart sells a box of 1000 for $4.99. Hobby Lobby also has a box of 1000. Watch the HobLob ads and catch their wooden items at 40% off and you can stock up. You can also use your 40% coupon at HobLob. Get your craft sticks there!
INDEX CARDS- Don't be fooled. These are cheaper at Wal-Mart and thicker cards.

And there you have it! Easy supplies from the dollar store! Best of all, you can add these to a list sent home to parents and they will actually buy this stuff for you because it's only one dollar!
You can also check out my Pinterest board all about classroom supplies!

Happy shopping!


Mad About Science Bulletin Boards!

Let's talk some truth about Bulletin Boards. We all have a love/hate relationship with them, right!
When they are cute as pie we are so proud, but it's the getting it up there on the wall that drives us crazy. Anyway, last winter I made the one below- you might remember reading about it!

Science Bulletin Board! This post tells a way to re-purpose this amazing board. When I took this board down I saved all the pieces and re-used them in another amazing version. Read to see how!

That was done on a hallway bulletin board. Yeah, I know, those are the worst because everybody sees them and they have to be extra, extra cute. So, I blogged all about that one and you can go back and read that if you want to. {HERE} I mean, I included photos and some directions, so bookmark it and read it later.

I have now done the impossible!

I re-purposed that giant board!

You notice I used red letters to let you know this is exciting. It's just what a teacher's heart needs. 

Here's the deal. In May I had to take down that big bulletin board, but I saved parts of it! Yep, carefully removed staples and found a place to store the lady and some of the other parts.

So, this week I decided to get her out and use it in my classroom. Now, it looks a little different..... but it is still pretty darn cute.
Here's part of an old bulletin board that was saved and used in a different way on a new display! Read more to see how this worked!

Above- you can see I recreated the lady scientist with her wild hair and the static shocker thing.
Crazy science lady with wild hair and a lizard on her shoulder! It's part of an old bulletin board that was re-done!

But I also added a lizard on her shoulder!
Adding the butterfly net was the perfect touch for this re-purposed bulletin board! Makes it 3-D, too!

And a butterfly net.

Now, I have no idea what that has to do with anything but there was an empty space in that corner that needed to be filled, so the net worked perfectly. I wrapped masking tape around the handle of the net and then stapled it several times. The net itself is stapled in place and the lady's hand covers the tape. (The net came from the dollar store years ago!)
Of course, every science board needs a bubbling bottle of chemicals! Read more on this post about re-doing a bulletin board!

And I added this adorable little burlap beaker my daughter made for me. I used the bubbles from the original bulletin board to trail up the center of the board.

And then I added some more doodads:

Add a motivational poster set to your science bulletin board! These posters can double as your lab rules!

That's a set of posters I made that use the letters SCIENCE to list some specific and motivational things for kids in class- like Safety is first.
Add some bunting to you science board for some texture and 3-D fun. Read more on this post!

The banner is made from cut-outs I bought in the party supplies at Target. Yeah, I could have made those, but they were already the perfect color on heavyweight paper with a pre-cut string. I just added the letters and stuck it up with push pins. It is a total accident that the diagonal lines on the banner match the posters almost exactly. 

Ta-da! All finished!

Science Bulletin Board! This post tells a way to re-purpose an amazing board. When I took the original board down I saved all the pieces and re-used them in this amazing new version. Read to see how!

And just so you can compare here they are together:
Science Bulletin Board! This post tells a way to re-purpose an amazing board. When I took the original board down I saved all the pieces and re-used them in this amazing new version. Read to see how!

And there is more! Check the image below for some boards you can easily recreate. Just click to see more!

Science Bulletin Board Templates! Includes four templates ready to go!

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