7 Ways to Prepare While Still Relaxing This Summer

As a teacher you know that there is so much to do, all the time...even during the summer!  But you have summers off, right?  (Don't you love when people say that?)

Summer is usually a time when I like to *slowly* check things off my never ending to do list.  But there's also a reason why we have summer vacation...we need (and deserve) time to unwind!  So, I have a few things that will help you prepare for next year that won't even feel like you're prepping!  You can do a little prep while still sitting back and relaxing this summer!

We have everything we need right at our fingertips these days with our phones carrying a wealth of knowledge at the touch of the screen!  If you're like me, then I'm sure you carry your phone with you when you are off to the beach, on vacation, or just relaxing at home.  There are sooooo many things that you can do right from your phone that will help you remain passively active while you soak up some much deserved time for yourself!
An Amazon wishlist is a great way to keep track of supplies, books, and materials that you will need for your classroom next year.  You can also share your wishlist with parents to let them know the things that are helpful to send in and you might have some parents donate some of those materials!
Instagram is like its own little PLC (Personal Learning Community).  I LOVE looking on Instagram for inspiration.  You can search hashtags for whatever you are looking for!  You can easily search for hashtags like: #classroomdecor, #firstdayofschool, #firstweekofschool, #backtoschool...anything that you're looking for is sure to have a hashtag filled with pictures of great ideas for the beginning of the year!  And did you know you can now save pictures for later?  It makes it so easy to sit by the pool and look for ideas and save them for later.  You can go back when you're good and ready to really start your back to school prep.

Start a Pinterest back to school board for all of the ideas that you find while browsing Pinterest real quick at the end of the day...or for like an hour if you get sucked in like I do!!  Saving pins for later is a great way to get some ideas!  It's so easy to search for back to school ideas like decor, Open House ideas, first week of school ideas, and more!  It can be overwhelming sometimes, so only save what you think will be feasible to prepare and execute once the summer is over!  It's easy to get carried away and feel like you're in over your head sometimes, so save what you think will be best for you and your class!
There is a wealth of knowledge and content being sent right to your inbox from your favorite teachers that you might follow on social media!  Check out your favorite bloggers or Instagrammers and see if they have an email list.  The content that is sent right to you is invaluable and can be a great way to get new ideas while simply checking your email!
Just like starting an Amazon wishlist can help you keep track of the materials you'd like for back to school, adding things to your wishlist on Teachers Pay Teachers is a great way to remember the favorite resources you see as you are browsing Instagram, Facebook, or Pinterest.  You can easily save to your wishlist to revisit when you are in back to school mode and ready to purchase!
Check out some of your favorite teachers that you follow and see if they have any webinars or Facebook lives scheduled for the summer.  This is seriously like PD right from the comfort of your own home.  You may even earn PD hours for attending!
I am an excessive note keeper on my phone...honestly, if I don't write something down, it's most likely forgotten.  So I keep a "back to school" note on my phone to keep track of all of the amazing ideas I've gathered.  It's an easy way to look back and see all of the ideas you've been collecting and organize them.  I always like to start with the first week of school....because if you can survive the first week, you're golden!

Summer is YOUR time and sometimes social media can make you feel like you need to be doing more while all you really want to do is sleep!!  Don't feel discouraged when you see teachers on social media prepping for back to school already.  Just save their idea for later while you're enjoying the sun...and maybe a cold drink too!  You deserve it!

Happy, happy summer!

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End of the Year Activities

The end is so close, testing is finally (hopefully) over, and you're getting ready to pack up for the year.  You want to keep your students engaged until the end, but you also want to have fun!  You may have a fun countdown going, a special party planned, a field trip, or an end of the year picnic...but while in the classroom you still want to incorporate meaningful content.

I love to have my students write to future students in my class.  I love to do this because it is a great way to have students reflect on the year and also is a great first day of school activity.  And I'll be honest, it's one less thing to plan for the first day of school.  I also use this writing as my students' end of the year writing sample, so it kills two birds with one stone!

I have had students write letters and draw pictures with their letters, I have also had students create brochures, "All About 4th Grade," and I have also had my kids write to my future students and then use the Audio Boom app to record themselves reading their tips.  This app records the students and then from the computer I am able to take their recording and turn it into a QR code.  It is so easy!  My current students love this because they get to record themselves...and that's awesome!  And on the first day, my new students love this because they get to use the iPads to scan the codes and they also get to hear from former students!

I also love to have my students make something that they can take home with them.  Since their brochure about my classroom stays in school with me, I love to have them make a memory book about their year.  And as a parent, I also love doing this because it's a sweet keepsake to hold on to.

One of my favorite books to make are paper bag books.  They are so easy to make, for kids of any age, and the kids love them!  Have you tried making a paper bag book?  It's as easy as folding and stapling!

This is a great activity to have students complete while you are tying up loose ends in the classroom or finishing end of the year assessments with individual students.

I also love to use the end of the year for fun activities such as Genius Hour.  This will keep your students engaged right to the end and is flexible enough so that it can fit right in to your crazy end of the year schedule when you need them!  I love to use this pack from Literacy for Big Kids for my Genius Hour with my class.

STEM activities are also perfect for the end of the year to keep students engaged because many are quick activities and you may be ready to throw out some materials you are finding stashed away in those cupboards....why not put them to good use?

I hope you have found a few activities that will help you make it through to the end of the year. Something else that will help get you through is a nice, long trip to Target...and we want to help with $100 Target giveaway!  You can enter below, please make sure to complete all entries to be qualified to enter.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

You can find an end of the year brochure and paper bag memory book in my Teachers Pay Teachers store HERE.  You can also enter to win BOTH below!  Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Now you can hop on over to my friend Shaunda from Upper Elementary Adventures to find some more really great end of the year tips!

Happy Teaching!


Don't Break the Bank for Books

I love when my students read high interest books at their independent reading levels. But sometimes it is hard to find enough copies for my small reading groups. I may easily find two or three copies, but I usually need enough for a group of five or six. Over the years I've found a few ways to find enough copies of books without breaking the bank!

Do you send home book orders with your students? If you're not already sending them home, now is the time!!  Click HERE to request what you need to get started!

Scholastic gives you points for every dollar spent each month! With those points you can get free books. That's right, FREE!!! And Scholastic offers a lot of popular books in sets of 6, which are perfect for your small groups! And they always have the best coupons!! So, you can not only use your points, but you practically get $10 in free books every month! I have used Scholastic book orders over the years to really build my classroom library as well as my small sets of books! They also allow parents to order right online, which is so convenient & the kids love when book orders are sent home!! Scholastic always sends a few extra book orders too (okay, sometimes it gets excessive) but I love to use the extras to teach lessons on genre or summarizing.

If you're new and just signing up, ask a teacher friend for their referral code. They'll receive points for referring you. And then you can reach out to others to tell them how amazing book orders are & use your own referral code!

You can grab a free "teacher recommendation" sheet below to send home some of your favorite books offered each month!  You can write write on the slip before copying them or personalize for each student!
This summer, get out those classified ads and check for garage sales! Many times, right in the ad it will state that it is a retiring teacher. I have hit the book (and storage bin) jackpot at retiring teacher garage sales! You may not get a set of books, but you may find some good books to add to your library while you continue to hunt for more to complete the set.

Check for local virtual garage sales on Facebook as well. You can ask within the group for a title you're looking for or keep your eyes open for books your class might enjoy!
If you find a "good" good will, you may hit the jackpot again. But it's hit or miss so it doesn't hurt to call ahead if there's a particular book you are looking for.
I heard about thriftbooks from Katie @teachruncreate on Instagram. Thrift books is a site with cheap new & used books & free shipping on any order over $10. This site is perfect for small sets of books or to round out your incomplete sets!
Are you in a BST teacher group for your area on Facebook? You can ask for titles you are looking for and hopefully someone in your area will have what you need!! You can trade if you have something you are looking to get rid of or just buy at a cheap price!
If you are looking for specific books, call your local library! My library will do a search within our county & gather all copies in one location, I just need to pick them up! No searching or anything, they're right there for me to checkout. Call your library & see what is available. You may be able to find books online easily too!  (But when they are borrowed from my library using my own library card, I do not allow students to bring them home.)

You can also talk to your school librarian as well, there may be copies of the books you're looking for right in the library at your school! When I am looking for specific books our librarian will contact all other libraries at schools in our region. They send them through the region-wide pony mail system & it usually just takes a couple of weeks so I need to prep a bit in advance. Ask your librarian, he/she might be able to contact other schools for what you're looking for!
When you need just a few copies of a book don't be afraid to ask the students in your class if they have copies. They might have a copy at home from an older sibling or maybe they've ordered from previous book orders! I've also had wonderful parents take out books from their local library too! 

And of course...ask other teachers in your building too!! 

I have used all of these methods to help build my classroom library as well as my small sets of books. Thinking and planning ahead & choosing books for small group instruction & book clubs gives you time to prepare & gather the books you need! I hope this was helpful! 

Happy Teaching!

You can check out my book club pack that I use in small groups here.

You might also like to check out these resources...

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End of the Year Reflections

The end is near, my friends! It's so close you can almost taste it! I know you're tired. Like, really tired. Like, end of the year teacher tired. And there's no tired like end of the year teacher tired, am I right?

While the end of the year is exhausting, it's also the perfect time for reflecting. You are probably having your students reflect on their year by creating memory books; reflecting on what they've learned this year, their favorite memories, and the fun they've had. Now it's your turn!

At the end of the year, I like to sit down & reflect on the things that worked, and the things that did not work. Taking the time at the end of the year, even when I'm tired & feel I cannot add one more thing to my to do list, makes it easier for when I'm in full on summer loving-flip flop-mode & it is time to return to the classroom. I make a few lists for myself to reflect on my classroom management strategies, classroom setup, small group management & classroom supplies. This makes the return to school much easier, because let's face it, as much as I think I'll remember the little things, if I don't write it down, it's long gone!
Each group of students is different & because of this, management strategies change from year to year, sometimes even within the year! Take a minute & think about the strategies that were successful throughout the year and even in those last few months, when I'm sure you had to change things up a little bit! Noting changes, strategies, successes, & flops will help as you prepare for next year. And consider what you'll need to get in place for next year; do you need any new supplies, do you need to make any copies? Take care of what you can now, you won't regret it later! 

I use a classroom economy & at the end of the year I always copy student check books for the next year so it is one less thing to worry about during the back to school rush!
I also always think about how the classroom setup was beneficial for myself & my students & how I can improve it. Take a quick look around your classroom...is there anything you did NOT use this year? Pack it up, bid it adieu, and send it on its way! If you have not used it recently, you probably will not use it in the future. 

I did a major overhaul in my room over the past few years & getting rid of filing cabinets, old books, shelves & papers that I did not need freed up so much space in my room! I am reclaiming my space. And you know what kids love to take home? Your old stuff! 

After taking a close look at what I can get rid of, I draw out a diagram of how I'd like my classroom set up the next year. This always comes in handy & makes me really think about where & why I place things in my room. I know I will definitely move one of my tables next year, it didn't leave easy access to my whiteboard. And I'll leave my writing center where it is because it gave my students a quiet place to write. And I loved having an open space for class meetings & discussions this year, so I'll be sure to keep that space clear.

Reflecting on how my small groups functioned throughout the year is so important to me. Getting to the point in the year when your groups can basically run themselves is an amazing feeling!! And at the beginning of the year, you sometimes feel like it will never happen! 
Take a few notes; what changes did you make throughout the year & what worked out well for you? I always want to learn from my mistakes & make sure I have the tools I need to make my small groups successful each year. 

The past few years I have worked hard to get a math workshop in place that does not feel like I'm doing math all day (you know that feeling, right?). I will definitely be reflecting on the changes that I made throughout the year to get my math workshop running so smoothly. What works for your small groups & what can you eliminate?
I know how you're feeling right now...where are all the pencils? Seriously, where did they go? The end of the year always means that supplies are running low, just like your tolerance for missing supplies! You may have implemented a new pencil system to alleviate the problem or found a way to store supplies that prevents the ever so imminent supply drought. Write it down! Note what's working, you'll thank yourself later.

I tried to have group pencils this year & each group only had a certain number. It did NOT work. I will definitely be going back to each student being responsible for their own pencils through a pencil challenge; the group challenge was a flop! A big, huge flop!

Keep track of what supplies are low & make a list; add those things to your student supply list for next year. Any supplies that are old, dried out, worn out, or unused...you know who to give them to, the kids!! Their parents will love this reflection process you're doing! 

These are just a few simple things that you can do now to leave you & your room refreshed & ready for a new year.

Here are a few templates to help you get organized as you reflect on what was working for you this year! Click below! I'd love to know if you find these helpful!

Check out more end of the year activities here:



I hope you have a wonderful end of the year! Happy teaching!


Three Ways to Engage at the End of the Year

The end of the year is quickly approaching and as testing comes to a close (FINALLY!) and the weather gets nicer, it becomes more difficult to keep students engaged everyday. Here are three things that I like to do at the end of the year to keep the students engaged while still having fun and learning...
 When the weather is nice, no one wants to be inside and it's hard to keep student's attention. Take your lessons to the sidewalk with chalk! Students can work independently or in groups; give each student a square to work in and chalk becomes way more fun than pencils! This was a lesson on complementary angles that I took my students outside for.  They worked out each problem on the sidewalk and then wrote their answers in their books.  We moved from one square to the next to check friend's work too.  Students were up and moving, loving the outside air, and learning a sometimes difficult concept...win, win, win!!
Anything that you would have students use white boards for, or even paper for that matter, can be done on the sidewalk! And students love showing their friends & families at dismissal the work they'd done on the sidewalk. It's a great way to get outside for some quality learning.  And once it rains, you have a clean slate to start again.

Take your class outside for snack time, read aloud, a little extra playground time, a nature walk...so many possibilities as the weather starts to change.  I know that by this time of year I'm ready to get outside and I'm sure the kids are too!
The end of the year is the perfect time for PBL. A great idea to practice researching and gathering information, reporting and presenting the information is to implement Genius Hour. Genius Hour will give students a chance to report on something that they are passionate about.  And when students are given their choice of topics & projects, they're sure to stay engaged!  My students always LOVE Genius Hour and then they love watching their friends present too.  You can check out a quick video about Genius Hour HERE.
Because, really, who doesn't love a party?  Bribing...I mean, using a behavior incentive...at the end of the year is a great way to keep your class engaged because again, who doesn't want a party! And at the end of the year there are usually lots of popsicle and lemonade breaks already, so why not make it an incentive?  When students are on task, showing their best behavior, working well together, following class and school rules; you can add a letter to your board.  When the word "lemonade" or "popsicle" is complete, have a party!  You can check out this freebie HERE.  There are two choices with this freebie: popsicle and lemonade.  
The end of the year brings so much fun and excitement but it can be overwhelming too, for you and your students!  Make sure to keep your students engaged as you push through to the end of the year!  You can check out other end of the year products I have available in my TpT Store!
I hope you have a wonderful end of the year with new projects, engaging learning, lots of sun, and plenty of fun!

Happy Teaching!

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