Sunday, September 27, 2009

A Few of My Favorite (Teacher) Things

I've been wanting to share some of my classroom organizing tips, and I finally got my ducks in a row enough to remember to take my camera to school so I could snap some pictures to share with you.

This first picture is my classroom set of number magnets. Each child is assigned a number which is purely for organizational purposes. I never refer to the kids by their numbers, which is the first thing that parents worry about when you start assigning numbers to their kids.

I get that. But it's not used in an impersonal way so it's really not an issue.

I have to give credit for this brilliant idea to my friend, Janet. She came up with this and it's being used by quite a few teachers in our school now.

As I mentioned, each student has their own number. When they enter the classroom in the morning, their first job is to move their number magnet to their lunch choice for that day. This enables me to take the lunch count and attendance at the same time and with the same tool.

The kids have two choices for lunch each day. The first choice is assigned the color purple, so I write that choice in purple dry erase marker in the first lunch choice section and that is where they move their magnet if they choose that for lunch. The second choice is assigned the color black, so I write that choice in black and the students move their magnets to that section if that is their choice. Finally, if they brought their lunch from home, they move it to that section.

When they're all done, I know how many students want choice number one, how many want choice number two, and the magnets that are still on their numbers are the students that are absent.

It's brilliant and efficient and I love it. Thank you, Janet.

For this system, I just went to Sam's Club and bought a magnetic white board. I sectioned the boxes off with Vis-a-Vis wet-erase markers. I use these because when I go to erase today's lunch choice and put up tomorrow's lunch choice, the border won't erase with the words. You can still erase those lines, but you need something wet to do so. That way you don't have to redraw the lines every day, and that's a big time saver.

I found the different colored flat glass marbles at Robert's and I hot-glued some strong button magnets to the back. I just used a permanent marker to write the numbers on. If you have students in the primary grades, you might want to go for the larger flat glass marbles, because they're still developing their fine motor skills and all that. And they have sweet little chubby fingers and hands.

These are my bathroom, library, and hall passes. They aren't anything fancy.  I also made little corresponding signs which I adhered to jumbo sized popsicle sticks with packing tape. Whenever a student leaves the room, they have to put the sign that goes with their pass into their number pocket so I know where they are.

They do have to get my permission to leave the room first, but my short-term memory stinks so the signs remind me where the missing students are when I look to their desk and wonder where they are.

When I was teaching before, I had my students put a ginormous rubber spider on their desk when they were at the bathroom. If I were teaching middle school, I would probably do that again, except I'd maybe use fake plastic vomit instead of the spider. I would do that for middle school because you rarely have more than one student out of the room at a time. Elementary school is a different story. 

I got this idea from my Organizational Hero, Peter Peter Pumpkin Eater, who I taught with many years ago. He probably doesn't even remember who I am, but I got scads of anal organizing tips from him. People always ask me why I number my cupboards, and I get that it seems silly, but it can be incredibly helpful when you are asking a student to retrieve something for you and you don't have to waste time trying to describe which cupboard or drawer they can locate an item in. I wouldn't do it for my kitchen cupboards, but in the classroom I wouldn't do it any other way.

Since I first put this post up, I've made new numbers for my cupboards, and you can get some for yourself in this post.

For this last idea I don't have a good picture. But I can tell you what I use these for. I post an agenda on my white board every day because it helps me stay on track and it keeps the kids from constantly asking me what we are going to do next. Many things recur over and over again, so I just typed those things up on the computer, printed them out on white paper, cut them out, adhered them to cardstock, laminated them, and finally I stuck magnets on the back. This way I can just stick the appropriate item up in its place on the agenda, add any details that need to be added, and it saves me lots of time every day.

These are just a few of the things that I do in my classroom to save me time each day.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Soccer Mom in Training

Over the summer we decided to put Stinkerbell in soccer on account of she loves to run so much. So now I'm a soccer mom.

Heh, heh. Sort of. 

I'm sure that real soccer moms would be loathe to claim me among their ranks. When I first signed the Stinkster up to play, I thought to myself  "What's up with those ridiculous knee socks? They're so 70s."

Yes, I did.

And then I found out that the ridiculous knee socks really cover up, get this, shin guards. Who knew?

Turns out those shin guards are preeeetty darn important.

And I've been thinking, since Peanut Head is so handy and the shin guards are there anyway, why not make them work double duty and have Peanut Head install some little GPS beacon alarm thingies in the shin guards.

I know, I know, why? Well, because I think I'm the only mom on the sidelines cheering for my child and alternately interjecting "No Stink! The other way! Run THE OTHER WAY!"

And if she had the GPS beacon alarm thingies, well then I wouldn't have to yell so loud. I could just sit back and watch her abruptly change directions and run the other way, like it was her idea.

It could work. I'm going to have Peanut Head get right on that.

Stinkerbell gets that discombobulation thing from her Mama. I like to run too, and I mostly don't know where I'm going either. But it's so much fun.

Sometimes Stinkerbell gets to be the goalie too, and I'm happy to report that she doesn't seem to need any electronic assistance for that position. True, she doesn't look very alert in this picture, but she's really looking at the goalie vest in awe because she can't believe that she actually gets to be the goalie. She loves being goalie. And Girlfriend knows how to pounce on a ball, let me tell you.

I knew that getting that kitten would pay off.

Let the games begin.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Obsolete Too Soon

Peanut Head went camping with the Boy Scouts Friday night so the girls and I decided that we needed a Girls' Night Out. We went out to eat at a chick food joint, then we went sho-hopping. Man, did we have fun. Well I had fun.

And okay, the girls didn't like Pier I Imports, but I got some more of these. I'm so happy because when I first saw them I bought every last one in the store and I would have liked more, so I was elated to see them again.

Now I have a set of 12, plus an extra set in case of breakage. Is that unlucky to have a set of 13? I hope not. I hate bad luck.

Anyway, I'm losing focus here. We went to Barnes & Noble, aka Heaven on Earth, and as we were walking through the parking lot I did my hand wiggle thing where I clutch my babies to me so I can hold their hands and keep them safe from danger and bad people

And then this one, this baby that I carried in my womb, jumped away from me and refused to hold my hand. It seems that she thinks she's a Big Girl and doesn't need her Mama anymore. She's eight! Is she out of her mind?

I told her "Give me your hand this instant or I will give you a big, fat, hairy kiss! On your lips. Right here in public."

And do you know what she did?

She scoffed at me. Scoffed.

Hmph! It sort of made me reflect back to the time when she was two and her baby sister was just a few months old. We were traveling via plane to California, alone because Peanut Head was busy (working, whatever), and I was wrestling with the stroller and car seat while Stinkerbell was strapped to my torso in a front carrier and Zoe Bug was attached to me via leash.

That's right, I am that mom. The one who puts her kids on a leash.

And I don't even want to hear about what a horrible person I am. I have only this to say. Toddlers Run.

That's right. They run and they don't have the same obstacles that we have. They can run under whatever is in their way while you are forced to dodge about, hampered by your slow as molasses reflexes that don't get enough sleep, roundish body that doesn't seem to belong to you anymore, and take a guess who is going to win that race.

Hence the leash.

Now if you don't like leashes, you probably better just click on out of here right now and come back another day, because you are really not going to want to read about what happened with my toddler and her leash.

Go ahead, I'll wait until you're gone.

Okay then, reality is . . .

I have the baby in the front carrier, the toddler is on the leash, we're in the tunnel doo-dad that connects the airport to the plane and I have to put the car seat down and adjust my grip. We're right at the bend in the tunnel, and actually it's about a 90 degree bend, and the toddler starts to run away. 

Not even thinking about it, I yank back on the leash and she slams face first into the tunnel wall that's right around the corner. Oopsie.

Did anyone see that? 

Maybe that's why she won't hold my hand anymore. It's my fault.

I think I'll go make her a t-shirt that says "I Love My Mama!"

I've always wanted to buy a BeDazzler and I have a purpose for it now. Bwah-hah-hah-hah.

Friday, September 11, 2009

White Chocolate Popcorn

Today I want to share a super simple recipe for White Chocolate Popcorn that, I promise you, will make you famous. Or at least get you noticed. Just don't make it on a hot day, or maybe never in Texas would be a good rule of thumb.

Unless you're in air conditioning, then it would probably be okay.

I say this because the magical coating will get all melty and then it'll get all over your hands, which means you'll have to lick it off, and I know you wouldn't do that.

That would be indelicate. 

Anyway, I got this recipe from Melanie-Who-I-Almost-Killed-With-Pie, and she was kind enough to share it with me, even after her near death experience at my house. Oopsie.

Okay, so here's what you need to make this stuff: 1 bag of microwave popcorn and 3 squares off a brick of almond bark. Yes, I know, it's called White Chocolate Popcorn, but I use the words "white chocolate" loosely. It's really just man made chemicals strung together to create a magical experience.

Nothing sinister, just magic.

The first step is to pop the popcorn and pour it into a bowl. Be sure to remove any unpopped kernals.

Then melt the magical ingredient in the microwave and then gently pour it over the popcorn and mix thoroughly, tossing to coat.

Finally, dump the popcorn out onto waxed paper and let it air dry. This is the hardest part. My theory is that it is impossible to let it dry completely without eating at least half of it. I've tested it over and over again, and Every. Single. Time. I cannot leave it alone.

But that's just me. No self control, you know.

Here's the recipe card, not that you need it.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Beaded Lanyard

Check this out. It's my new beaded lanyard for my school ID/key card. Isn't it nifty? I'd like to take the credit for making it, but that goes to my BFF, Janae, aka Girl Genius and Master of Toe Candy

Janae completely designed it, and then handed me beads to string, one at a time, just so I could feel like I was making a contribution.

She's so nice like that. Always thinking about my fragile ego.

Janae works at Robert's and, let me just say this, that's like being a junkie drug dealer, if you know what I mean. Girlfriend should not be around all things crafty because she has no self control.

Which is why she's my BFF.

I love her. And I love my new lanyard. Next she's going to "help" me make a lanyard for every holiday and then probably some that I make up too.

Janae says that I need a lanyard that will go with everything I wear, and I told her that I'm only wearing clothes that match my lanyard.

I hope that's not too limiting.