I'm All About Getting Organized

I'm beginning to see a common theme in my most recent blog posts.  Anyone who knows me wouldn't be surprised, but I love being organized.

For the past few weeks I've been working on my Teacher Planner for next school year.  I've never been 100% happy with the pre-made planners that can be purchased online or in stores and when a teacher friend of mine mentioned that she made her own and took it to Office Max to be spiral bound, I got the inspiration to make my own.  It was my first item on Teachers Pay Teachers and ended up being a big hit.   Throughout this school year, I've definitely learned what worked and what didn't and I've kept a running list of ideas to improve upon for next year.  This new planner is THE BOMB!  In addition, I got some feedback from my co-workers on things they'd like to see in it, all the way from the high school to the elementary level.  A special thanks goes out to my friend, Miss Klohn over at Adventures of 6th Grade Teacher who helped me add some details that would be important for lower grades.  The final product will work for a teacher at any level.

And the best part about it is, it's totally customizable (is that a word?).  I've used Adobe Acrobat X Pro to create a form which allows individuals to type and modify text on every single page.  You can choose to leave pages blank and print them out to hand-write on, or type in text before printing.  You can put the sections in whatever order you want and truly make it your own.  Once you have it exactly how you want it, take it to an office supply store, like Office Max or Office Depot, and have them spiral bind it and add clear covers to the front and back for less than $4.  It has been my favorite classroom tool this year and I'm so excited to share the newest version with you.  Come check it out in my Teachers Pay Teachers store HERE.  I've added a few images (of the 103 included in the final product) to give you an idea of how cute it is.  

Planning for Next Year

Many teachers are unwinding and counting down the days, but one of the most important aspects of our job is to reflect and revamp.  This is the perfect time to look back over the year and decide what worked and what didn't.  What concepts really "stuck" with your students and what concepts need to be taught differently next year to achieve that "stickiness"?  Which units went on too long and which units really needed more time?  What great ideas have you seen this year that you'd like to implement next year?

Taking the time to address these questions and make notes for yourself, will really improve the quality of what you do next year.  Things get stressful when we wait until the last minute to do them, so why not get a head-start now?  You will thank yourself next year...I promise!

In a few months you won't remember all of the stumbling blocks you encountered unless you make notes now.  So, get out the Post-its and start making notes.  Another great idea comes from What the Teacher Wants.

Be sure to check out and download their FREE Planning Ahead List.  I don't know about you, but as a science teacher I always feel like there is something I should be gathering for an upcoming lesson/lab.  To keep items from sneaking up on you, you could insert these planning lists in your Teacher Binder and start working on your prep work a week or two earlier.  This would also be a great To Do list for a teacher's aide.  I try to have a student aide each semester, but there are always days when I can't think of anything for her to do.  This would prevent that and take the stress off of you.

It's also time to start looking back through all of those Pinterest boards.  GO HERE for a step-by-step tutorial on how to print out your Pinterest boards.  Then print out this unit planner sheet (I especially like the last page of the planner) and start organizing your pins for the next school year (by unit).  Gone are the days of remembering you had a great idea from Pinterest AFTER you have finished teaching the unit.  I'm sure I'm not the only one.

This year, I'm going to find a way to incorporate all of those great ideas I've seen on Pinterest into my unit planner.  GO HERE to check out my Create Your Own Teacher Planner on Teachers Pay Teachers.

Just last week, I printed off my 2-page monthly spread calendar and started planning in reverse.  Beginning with the end in mind, especially if you teach in a state standardized assessment grade and content area, is a great approach.

     1.  First, determine when the state assessment is.  How much time do you need to review before that?  That is sacred time that you can't afford to lose, in my opinion, so I get it on the calendar immediately and don't let anything I do alter it.

     2.  Get out your district/school calendar and write in when the grading periods begin and end.  What holidays and planning days are built into the calendar?  How many instructional days do you have before state assessment?  Don't forget to leave some wiggle room for things that come up throughout the year like field trips, assemblies, pep rallies, state assessments in other content areas, early release days, etc...

     3.  Begin mapping out your year-at-a-glance and determine how much time is needed for each unit.  Do you have extra time?  Have you figured in formative (ongoing, throughout the unit) and summative assessments (culminating assessment over the entire unit) to this time frame?  Does your district require you to administer common benchmark assessments throughout the year?

     4.  I highly recommend having at least 2 planning calendars.  I have a monthly calendar and a weekly calendar.  My monthly calendar is used for rough planning and the weekly planner involves more detailed components of my planning.  Included on my weekly calendar are my state standards, unit focus questions, vocabulary students need to be familiar for the unit, and ways to differentiate or modify instruction for lower-level or more gifted students.

I know you want to just kick up your feet at this point and ease up on the homestretch, but before you start working on that tan and the long list of books you want to catch up on, go ahead and do these few simple steps and I promise you will rest much easier this summer.

Hope you all had a wonderful teacher appreciation week and have an even better last few weeks of school.  Love on your kiddos before they leave you.


May Currently

I am linking up with Farley for the May Currently.  I know, I know....a bit late, but I have excuses (just none you will want to hear).

Listening:  A few years ago, my principal had our entire campus doing a study on Ron Clark and his book "The Essential 55".  Most of his stories seemed crazy to me, but I was inspired by his unconventional methods of motivating students (and typically the hardest to reach students).  So, when nothing else is on and I need a little "pick me up", I can count on good ole' Ron Clark.

Loving:  This evening I am heading to the Austin area to take part in a very unique opportunity.  I was chosen by TEA (Texas Education Agency) to serve on a Life Science Standards Setting Committee.  They have been so gracious in taking care of my hotel, travel, and food arrangements (they are even reimbursing my school for the cost of a sub)!  I am excited to see what being on this committee entails (I think I will be deciding what proficiencies new teachers will need to prove their competency in before earning their teaching certificate.)  Very cool.

Thinking:  I have been working on several new products for interactive science notebooks for many weeks now.  I am super-pumped about finishing up my chemistry one and can't wait to publish it in my TpT store (It's a big one!)

Wanting:  My hubby announced to me that for Mother's Day, he wanted to get me an at-home laser hair removal system, so he's been busily researching online.  (By the way, not sure if I should be excited or offended, but either way, I would love to have one.)  I think I've decided on the Tria Laser, which runs around $500.  Anybody out there know anybody who has used it??  I'd love to get some "real people" feedback instead of the online or commercial comments from "actual customers" (I never believe those.)

Needing:  It struck me just yesterday, that I am going to be in a swimsuit next Friday!  Sheer panic!!  Our GT students are doing their culminating activity at Schlitterbahn waterpark in New Braunfels, TX.  Maybe a Moo-Moo will do.

Summer Bucket List:  With all of my recent success on Teachers Pay Teachers, I would really like to take my family on a tropical vacay (complete with my daughters' first plane ride and crystal clear beaches.)  Still going back and forth between a cruise and an all-inclusive resort.  Thoughts?  Ideas?

Teacher Appreciation Week SALE on TpT - May 7-8

As you start counting down the days, reflect on this school year and think about all of the items you've had on your wishlist for next year.  Teacher Appreciation Week is a great time to take advantage of the sale being offered on TeachersPayTeachers.  All items in my store will be 10% off + an additional 10% off when you use the Promo Code: TAD13.

I have many flippables and foldables for interactive science notebooks, with more on the way very soon.

Thanks to all of my loyal followers and bloggy buddies.  I appreciate all of you.

Happy Shopping!