Tuesday, July 30, 2013

First Day Frenzy-Free on TpT

Free is always good...but especially at the beginning of the school year! As you know, it is almost time to head back to school and I know you are busy planning what you are going to do on the first day of school. In my classes, I like to include cooperative activities that get the kids working together. One of the things that my kids have loved is a game that I call, "First Day Frenzy."

Head over to my TeachersPayTeachers store, Porcupine Press by clicking here. It is a great activity that makes the first day fun, but it can be used for any subject as a review tool. First Day Frenzy is also a great way to fill in unexpected time lapses in your classroom.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Filing Cabinet Make-Over

We've all had them-ugly filing cabinets sitting around. I had an especially ugly, tan two-drawer cabinet sitting behind my desk. With a sudden burst of inspiration, I decided that the ugly cabinet would benefit from a total make-over. It was easy, especially when I had my super-handy husband giving me advice.

The first thing I had to do was to prepare the filing cabinet to be painted. My husband taught me how to use wet sanding paper. I thought you got the paper wet. Seems that wasn't the total story. Here is my first lesson in picture form.

Notice the hose; keep the water flowing while you rub the filing cabinet with a special sandpaper that is meant to use wet. Rough up all the sides and the top. 

Tape the metal on the front. Because I planned to use a fancy paper, I covered up the enter square. 

Then it was time to spray the filing cabinet with a self-etching primer. When you are done, it shouldn't look like this: 

It should look like this:

Let it dry overnight. Wipe it down to brush off any excess primer.

I decided I wanted a pattern on my drawers, I spray painted them pink. 

After they dried completely, I taped them with painter's tape. Then I painted everything dark purple.

This time I didn't wait for the paint to dry completely. I slowly removed the painter's tape. Then I let it dry. Once it dried, my sweet husband helped me put the drawers back into the filing cabinet. 

This is the finished product!

I put it in my classroom today. I love the way it looks!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

I Love TeachersPayTeachers: Here's Why!

A few days ago, I read a well-written article by a kindergarten teacher stating why he didn't care for TeachersPayTeachers. The article was thought-provoking and he made his point quite well. I cannot disagree with his reasons. I started to thing about TpT and came to the realization that I really like the site. I will qualify my feelings with the fact, though I do have a store, that I have made zero dollars off of the site. If fact, I only have two freebies on there right now. So, why do I like it? Well...

I teach in a multi-grade classroom. Sometimes our lessons overlap and we are studying the same thing. I may need a little bit more than I have for one or more levels. A quick on-line check and I almost always find what I want at the appropriate level on TeachersPayTeachers.

My classroom is on a very limited budget. TeachersPayTeachers had a plethora of free downloads in just about any genre you might need. I have downloaded many of them.

Sometimes, my kids just don't get a concept and I am so busy teaching and grading papers for my six grade levels that the idea that I can find materials on TpT is invigorating to a certain degree.

Most of the sellers on TpT are not trying to become millionaires overnight. They price their materials in a range my personal budget can afford. Since I change my curriculum every year because of a rotating schedule, and because I like my ideas to be fresh and new, I am always looking for ideas. The prices really work for me.

It gives teachers an opportunity to earn a little extra (or for some a lot of extra) money. Everyone knows that teachers are worth more than they are paid but budgets at schools are tight. TeachersPayTeachers gives teachers an opportunity to put their hard work to work for them. The idea that teachers must always help each other and give everything away for free is dispelled by other brick and mortar companies who have producing "teacher created" materials for years.

Back to School Ideas, Links and Freebies

It is time to get back into the swing of things at school. Decorating the classroom is a fun activity, especially if you have free resources to us when you start decorating. Here are a few links that will provide you with fun, free materials.

1) Visit Confessions of a Teaching Junkie on Facebook and hit like. You will be able to download a pdf file with fun, colorful door art. Once you hit like, click on Fan Freebies and download the material! If you want to look at it first, visit her blog by clicking here.

2) Avery has some really cute school designs that you can use for free. Click over here and you will find everything from dinosaurs to pencils...Follow the directions to make your classroom labels, complete with words. Save them and copy them off when you are ready.

3) Free ideas that someone else has worked to collect is a wonderful thing. Conversations in Literacy (click here) has collected some great ideas from Pinterest for decorating the classroom.

4) Cute directions for a personalized wreath for your classroom door brought to you by designing my home on a dime...one project at a time. Click here for a how-to!

Win free supplies for your classroom by checking out these sites.

1) Teacher Created Resources has a great giveaway. Click here to sign up to win a free iPad. Recommend your friends and, if a friend wins, you will win a mini iPad. It is a win/win deal.

2) Edutopia is an excellent education site that will help you keep up with everything happening in education. They also have weekly giveaways. Click here to check them out. 

3) Porcupine Press is giving away Reading Stampers, a Science Center and Magnet Rings. Check the give-away out here

Sunday, July 21, 2013


I love getting something free! I am also enjoying the increased activity on my blog. I decided to share two free things with readers over the next two weeks. All my readers have to do is:

1) Follow my blog.
2) Leave a comment on any post on my blog.
3) Email me your address.
4) Like on my Facebook page.

WIN this:

Magnets on rings: great for classroom experiments or student prizes.

AND this:

Critical Thinking Science flip center for grades 3+

AND this:
Cute stampers for reading. 

Entries are easy! Just sign up for my blog using Network Blogs or Google Friends. Visit my Facebook page and click like. Presto! You are entered. Winners will be announced and I will have you email me your address to get the prizes off to you!

Deadline to enter: Friday, August 9 at 12 o'clock noon Pacific Time!!!

#backtoschool #win #freesupplies

Low-cost Supplies

Teachers love a bargain! That's because we spend so much of our own money to make our classrooms a great place to learn. According to the ASCD, one the average, teachers spend $444 per year on their classrooms. If this describes you, then I know you will go to lengths to get the most for your money!

Charity Preston, author of The Organized Classroom blog, took a suggestion from one of her readers and created a page on Facebook where teachers can buy and sell materials to other teachers with the click of the mouse and, for most, a paypal account. Some dealers will accept money orders (I did) but it does slow does the process a bit.

Sell what you don't need and buy what you do. Check out the Used Teaching Treasures Emporium by clicking here. Your pocketbook, and maybe your spouse, will be glad you did! Check it out and join the group!

Friday, July 19, 2013

Back to School

WIN something for your classroom! Before you head to your next back-to-school idea, head over to this post and sign up to win a set of magnet or a science center. Click here.
 Back to school ideas begin here:

During this time of year, I am always looking for activities to use for the first day of school. While my students are having fun, I learn so much about their nature and their character. Here are a few of the activities that I have found around the web so far. Links will be included.

First, for introductions, how about a math review? TeachersPayTeachers seller, Math Coach's Corner, has a freebie that uses math to get the kids moving and talking. Check it out on her website here. Remember to leave a review of her work and, if you have time, check out her other materials. She has some really good stuff on there to help kids learn math.

Teaching and Learning together makes what I would call a "teacher anchor chart" on the first day of school. She writes the words, "What kind of teacher do you want?" in a bubble on a piece of poster board. Then she records their answers. For a peek at what this looks like, click here. She leaves it up all year long.

The "pipe cleaner challenge" gives the teacher a great opportunity to see how the students interact. Divide the class up into even groups and give each group pipe cleaners-the same amount for each group, and a similar-sized piece of aluminum foil. Ask them to collaborate to create an amazing project and then let them do it. For more information, check out Housing a Forest here. You will be able to view project ideas and check out the rest of the blog.

One of my favorite activities, especially since I have a multi-aged group, is to build geodesic domes. The kids are put into groups that involves all the different grades levels. They are given a set of directions and then I observe as they create their domes. I do offer advice when asked, but I offer nothing. This is an idea of what the process looks like:

Supplies include a ruler, newspaper-the double page only-a 1/2 inch dowel, scissors and masking tape. You can use a staple too. You will find a set of directions from PBS if you click here

Monday, July 15, 2013

Whimsical DIY Dresser for the Classroom

With one successful project under my belt, I decided it was time to start another. I had an extra dresser at home. It was brown and ugly. Made out of particle board, it is hard to make it pretty, so...I talked to my husband who wooed me with the words, "maybe we can figure it out together" which easily could have been, I'll tell you how to do it. He made a suggestion or two, and, coupled with my rampant imagination and lack of skill,...well, I really like how it turned out.

First, I primed the entire frame of the dresser with a fantastic product called Gripper by Glidden. It is thick primer that sticks to the wood. Here is a photo of the dresser and the primer.

Once the primer was dry, I was ready for painting. I wanted the body to be a solid color so I could play with the drawers. I chose the "tamest" color-green. It took two coats, but barely used any paint!

I used a spongy roller brush. I touched up the corners with a regular bristle brush. Both washed up with soap and water...and so did I. I used flat, but, if I ever repaint it, it will be glossy.

Finally, I came to the four drawers. I didn't paint them. I used Mod Podge and scrap-booking paper on each drawer. I chose 4 different colors-green, like the dresser, pink, purple and brown. I used brown because I didn't want to introduce a new room color. They all had the exact same design of the alphabet on them. 

First, I cut the paper to fit the drawer. It had to be in two pieces because the drawers were too long for one. I can't seem to find my pictures of the drawers, but when I do, I will add them.

I put a thin layer of Mod Podge over the area one piece of paper would cover. I smoothed it and carefully pressed the paper on to the drawer. I rubbed it, smoothing out any wrinkles. When it was dry, I add the piece on the other side. Both dried and I began adding thin layers of Mod Podge to the top-in all three layers. Each layer dried before I added a new one. It is impossible to keep all the wrinkles out even though I smoothed it and watched it closely. My husband suggested that I thin out some of the glue and use a hypodermic needle to suck up the glue. Poke it gently through the bubble, injecting some of the glue. Smooth it down immediately. That worked with the big bubbles. I could just poke a hole with a pin and press down the small ones. Then I would cover them with Mod Podge. I did one drawer at a time and it worked pretty easily.

Finally, I wanted to add something fun to the drawers, something whimsical. To help me, my husband drilled holes for new drawer knobs. We placed two pieces of painters tape from corner to corner. He drilled where the two pieces crossed to put the hole in the center. We put two fun knobs on two of the drawers. I am currently in search of two different, yet similar, knobs for the other two drawers.

The final project came out pretty cute. Drum roll please....

This whole project only took me half of a day and I love how it ended up. Almost makes me feel like a DIY expert...almost!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Classroom Organization Project One

During the school year, I never seem to have time to even start projects, so I spend my summer making my classroom a better, more organized place. Last year, I watched a video somewhere on the web of an ingenious young teacher who transformed a regular plastic dresser into a classroom tool. This summer, I decided to do my own modified version.

All it took was a clean plastic dresser (mine had been used before-plain and ugly), Mod Podge, a foam brush, pencil, scissors and scrap-booking paper. Here, step-by-step, is how I did it and how you can do it, too.

Step one: Pull out the drawer and set it on a flat surface with the front of the drawer down. slide the piece of scrap-booking paper into the front, inside section of the drawer. Use a pencil and make a pattern-much like you would do grave rubbings or tree rubbings.

Step two: Cut out the piece along the heaviest line-that is the shape you need.

Step three: Now you are ready to add the Mod Podge! Everything you need for step three is shown in the picture.  Gently fold the paper in half and mark the halfway point in pencil on the drawer. Use the foam brush to add a thin coat of Mod Podge to one half of the plastic. Carefully place the paper inside the drawer, lining up your fold with the mark. You do not have a lot of time to move it, so line it up before you press it down. Rub the paper, pressing out bubbles as it dries. Add glue to the second half and lower the paper, pressing it out again. Let it dry completely. 

Step four: Add layers of Mod Podge to the backside of the paper. Press to keep bubbles from forming. Poke tiny holes and press when bubbles won't press down and stay. Rub glue over the section. Be careful when you rub the paper. Press too hard and it will peel off. Let it dry completely between coats. 

Repeat each step for each drawer. I chose not to cover the top of the drawers. In the future, I may add something that identifies the contents once I decide on the use of the drawer set. I am thinking I may use it for art supplies; they are currently in another room.

This is my finished product:

About four or five years ago, I chose three colors for my classroom: Green, Pink and Purple. Each year, I add new elements with the same colors to keep the costs lower. Along with this plastic dresser, I also made a whimsical wooden dresser to store larger items in that also incorporates colors-all three of them. Soon, I will post the creation of my favorite piece of furniture so far!

If you want to check out my favorite piece, click here!