Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Getting Back to School Ready...Stress Free


New Year, Where to Start?

Setting up a classroom for the new academic school year can be an overwhelming experience, even for experienced teachers.  There is so much that goes into this preparation, and it can all range from organizing the classroom library,  setting up a filing cabinet according to whatever standards you are using at your school, changing the color scheme of the entire room, gathering resources for the new math curriculum, organizing ELA centers, and the list can go on and on!

A teacher's job is never job. It can never be 100% complete, especially if you left your room in shambles at the end of the year (this teacher). Some teachers might enjoy a few weeks of uninterrupted  mostly relaxing times at the beach with the family or visiting the nearest zoo, but soon after, a teacher's mind gets to work on what to fix, how to improve, and where to get started.

How I left my room at the end of the year 
Out with the Old, in with the New

This will be my fourth year teaching, fourth summer going into a new academic school year, and I still felt like making a 9 page long list of all the things I need to do before my kids come into the classroom. Fortunately, this year will be a little different from all of the others.  I'm not going to have all the time to spend on creating new resources or changing the color scheme of my room because I'm pregnant!!! In the Fall, I'm going to be in my 3rd trimester, so the time is literally ticking down to my sweet baby's arrival.


Prioritizing my Top 5

This year I decided to do something I should have started from year 2.  Make a priority list of no more than 5 things I wanted to achieve. This was my way of throwing away the very long list of to-dos in my head, and really focusing on the most important 5. I'm not a superhero, no matter if my key chain says "Teaching is my Super Strength." With baby preparations and a much more physically tired body, I knew that I needed to slow down.

Time to Make a SHORT List
How to Get Started

The first thing I did was make a list (I love my lists!) of what didn't work the previous year that I would like to change for the new year. My over- achieving teaching instincts wanted to keep adding items to the list, but I had to cut myself off at 5.  I knew those 5 items would have been a challenge on their own!  I couldn't even imagine doing more than those without breaking my back to get it done.  I also didn't want to be burned out before my students showed up. I need to have my energy so they can get excited from my passion about learning!


My List Explained

1. Since I'm going to be very pregnant in the Fall, I thought to move all of my reading books, textbooks, centers, manipulatives, and every thing I need on hand on a daily basis right in front of me.  They used to be tucked stuffed away in my very tiny closet, and I would fight battles to reach some items back there. Some of  my science/math manipulatives were on top of the closet so I needed a step stool to reach them. No step stools for me anymore, so I need to move everything to my empty shelves in the classroom.  Here is probably the most embarrassing, yet real photo I have ever put on the internet.

You've seen it all now. I've got nothing to hide anymore. 


2.  During calendar time, my poor students were stuffed in a corner while we went through our daily calendar time. They were super sweet, so they didn't complain, but I could see the pain in their eyes. This year I plan on switching my calendar wall and writing wall to create more space for my kiddos. I haven't changed the walls yet, but I have already placed the carpet where I would love calendar time to be.

After I move the writing walls, this writing center table will make a lot more sense.  The students will be surrounded by their writing and writing anchor charts while they create their new writing masterpieces. Well, that's the goal anyways. 


Here is where the students will sit for calendar time. This area will be used three times during the day; calendar time, ipad center, and shared writing. The tables will be for our Ipad center during literacy centers time, but for the 15 minutes we do calendar time, it will be a much more convenient space.  I also decided to hold my shared writing time on this carpet as well.  It's so good to get my students up and moving throughout the day, so having this extra space to teach will be very good for all of us.

Shared Writing Space
3. I had interactive notebooks in my first two years of teaching, and I absolutely loved them. I switched to this new school towards the very end of the summer, so I didn't have a lot of time to prepare everything I wanted, so interactive notebooks took a back seat. I definitely regret not having them in my classroom, because I strongly dislike loose leaf papers, and having everything in one notebook for science, social studies, and math made seeing improvement so much easier.

Plus, it was a great portfolio for the parents and students to see after they are done with my class.  I've already purchased the science, social studies, and math interactive units according to the standards I will be teaching (thank you Teachers Pay Teachers Sale!!!!).

4. I'm almost too embarrassed to show you my classroom library. For almost the entire year, a quarter of my library was organized in DRA levels for the student use, but three quarters of my library was left unused, sad, and mistreated. I'm sorry books.  :(

Like I previously mentioned, I came on to this new school very late in the summer and had no time to prep. When I walked in, I had to first take down the blankets of teacher stuff the previous teacher had used, but I also was left with a decent sized, unmarked library. I couldn't get it done last year, but this will be my biggest challenge for the prep week/2 weeks leading up school.






























5. Last year I was moving from high school to first grade. It was a very drastic change, and all of my files were getting scrambled together. The more resources I collected this past year, the worse it got.  It did't help that I got hyperemesis during my pregnancy in the Spring.  I was out for disability, and my room just got messier and messier.

This year, I plan on looking at our pacing guide for first grade, and create files that go in that order.  I would love to have my resources flow together and make sense. Last year, I was building my files, and my files were organized based on how I thought the files would make sense together.  This year, I want to organize them in a way that I can move back as I work through the each week.

My sad stack of papers to be filed. These are all leftover from last year. 
This was ineffective for what I desired.

Since I had the files all ready, I simply re-arranged them so I can work from the front to the back. Each drawer has a different subject, with the same filing strategy. 
Can't organize without these! I got both of them from Costco for about $14.

For more back to school fun, you can check out my back to school Lakeshore Haul on youtube! 




I can't wait to show you my classroom when it is nice and pretty. I hope this was helpful for you to focus on what is most important in your classroom. If my embarrassing room pictures scared you, I'm sorry.  I would also love to hear from you, so let me know what your priorities would be in the comments section.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Teaching Ideas for Poetry

In light of literacy week at my school, I will be posting every day my favorite resources and ideas to "improve literacy" in a k-2 classroom. My school is incredibly huge on literacy, and it could be due to the fact that almost 90% of our students are English Language Learners. Since moving to this high ELL population, my teaching strategies have drastically changed, and I would love to share what I've learned.



If you are anything like me, then you hate poems. I know, you're probably thinking, is that allowed for a first grade teacher? I didn't start appreciating poems until I became a teacher. I've become an adamant believer after reading countless literature/research that showed its benefits for literacy in little readers and writers.

Though this post will not highlight why poetry is so important, it will provide simple, easy to use ideas to use with poetry in a primary classroom.

How do you get started?

To start, you will need  a poem. It can be in used in a poetry center, or you can work whole group with it.  If you have RTI groups, then this would be an excellent 10-15 minute addition to your already busy day. Once you have secured your poetry and the logistics of when you will be doing your poetry study, then you are ready to be a poetry teacher rockstar by using the ideas listed below!

1. Predictions from Title: Ask your students what the title is and what their prediction of the poem is. It's very basic, but it can get your students speaking from the get-go.

Speaking stems:
The title of the poem is____
I believe the poem will be about ____ because of the title.
The author's choice of title makes me think that the poem will be about ______

2. Circle words: If your class is learning about the 'th' sound, then ask your students to find and circle all of the 'th' words in the poem. If your class is learning about adjectives, then ask your students to circle all of the adjectives they can find. The ideas are endless with this.

3. Find Repetition: Ask children to find the repetition in a word and circle it. They can then write their own words with those reparative words.

4. Find Rhyme: Invite your students to find the rhyming words. When reading the poem, you can emphasize the rhyming words. Then can then write their own words that rhyme.

5. Create art: When all the word studies, noun phrases, and rhyming words have been analyzed, you can ask the students to create a border for the poem. They can even add an additional picture that goes along with the poem.

6. Class Created Poem: As a class, create a poem that mimics that poem made in class. It can be the same content, different rhyming pattern, or same pattern with different content.

7. Poem in a Shape: During holidays, there are always fun poems that this idea can work well with. For example, when reading a poem about love during Valentine's Day, help the students write the poem in a heart.


If you are looking for a set of poems to use, check out this set for March


Let me know if you have used any of the above, or if there are any other ideas you love to teach during poetry study time! I would love to hear from you!

Until next time!



Thursday, February 11, 2016

Common Core Integrated Writing with Digital Comics for K-12

Texting in the classroom is no fun, but with a piling list of to-dos and standards to teach, that technological hardware you have in your room can be your biggest asset. Not only do tablets, Chrome Books, and smart phones bring total and utter engagement in the classroom, but they also provide an endless supply of knowledge at the tips of your students’ fingertips.  Have I convinced you to use your tech yet? 


Today I want to share an online tool called Make Beliefs Comix.  This easy to use comic creator has build in characters, settings, colors, and bubbles to use.  Thankfully, their options are not so vast that the students are spending an excessive amount of time choosing graphics.  

Teachers have used this tool, myself included, as formative assessment within content subjects.  Especially with the new ELD framework, English Language Learners need more and more exposure to literacy in content subject areas.  This would be a simple way to implement literacy.  



I highly suggest you create your own comic, so that you get a feel of what questions the students might have while they are creating.  To get started, you would need to open an internet browser on your laptop, desktop, or Chromebook. You would also be able to use this on the iPad using the internet browser. 

If students creating a comic as a project within their unit, it would be convenient if they named their comic with that unit name. Make sure you remind your students to type in their name.  If your students are tech savvy and have a little bit more time then you can ask your students to create a 4 panel comic. If not, then the default is a 3 panel comic, which can be the perfect place to begin. 


Preferably, students will have completed a draft of their comic before they get on the computer. When they get on to the site, they have choices for characters, background colors, background setting, thought bubbles, and dialogue bubbles.

When the students feel like they are ready to finalize their comic, have them click the "next" button to the right. 


This will be the finalizing page for the comic. The students will have the chance to review, print, or email. If the students are working with a rubric, then this would be the perfect time for them to check their rubric if they have completed their tasks. 




The final product looks just like a real comic. Hopefully your students enjoy creating online and that it potentially leads them to acquiring digital literacy and content knowledge. Until next time!

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Note to Educators: Fatherless Families are Not "Broken"



Dear fellow educators and friends:

Usually, I like to write about what is going on in the classroom, but today's post is going to be a little bit different. This topic may not apply to you.  If it does, I pray that you receive it well.  Please accept that this post comes from the bottom of my heart to make education a better place. I am not placing judgement on anybody. I simply want to get my thoughts on this topic out there for educators to read and relate back to their students.  


I am here to say that it is not okay to label a family a "broken home" because the father or mother is missing from the picture.   This term, "broken family," is placed on families with divorced parents or if one of the parents is not around. This term has been floating around for a few decades, and this type of label hurts people and places them in a negative category. It is also incorrect on many levels. 


Growing up, all I had was my mom, grandma, and my twin brother. My dad wasn't around, we lived in a poor neighborhood in Los Angeles, and we were learning a new language.  I kept hearing "broken family" while I was growing up in the LAUSD, but those words couldn't have been further from the truth. 


My brother and I were poor, fatherless, and immigrants but we were happy. Those other factors did not describe us nor did they define us.  Our mom and grandma taught us to have manners, hold education in high regards, and to have joy in our hearts.  Not having a father never made our family broken.   


I share this because many educators still believe that kids that are born in these types of situations are at a disadvantage, and that is a fallacy. This is how grit, perseverance, determination to succeed, and will to be on top is created. Take a look at these photos. Those are real families, happy families. I don't see anything broken. Do you?

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Winter in SoCal Blog Hop and FREEBIE


I'd be lying if I said I didn't want a snowy, white Winter.  I see such heavenly photos of deep blankets of snow covering towns, and I get so envious! But then as I walk out the door in the middle of January in shorts and a shirt, I wonder....I may be so lucky to live somewhere where I can go hang out at the beach all year long.

I feel extremely blessed to live in Southern California my entire life!!!  I grew up in Los Angeles, and moved to San Diego to go to UCSD.  Thankfully, I ended up staying in San Diego because I got married to a San Diego native.


All San Diegans know that one of the greatest times to go to Disneyland is during the Winter. The place is always busy, but it seems just a tad less busy during this time.


My next favorite place to visit during the Winter is the San Diego zoo! The animals are so much more alive because it's not so hot! I love seeing the polar bears play with their water ball! I also never have to wait in line for our koala bears!! Talk about being spoiled!


This year my principal hosted our Holiday party outside, and it was the sweetest event. It definitely wasn't cold, but the chill in the air had people a little bit more cozier than usual. I know this wouldn't have been possible if we lived anywhere other than SoCal.


I feel like my next favorite thing to do in SoCal is a brag. I LOVE to go hiking during this time! You know how you get sweaty when it's the summertime? Well during the Winter, you just get warmed up! 


I even got married in the Winter! When we chose the month of our wedding, we knew we wanted a Winter day because it was cheaper and we still got a sunny day! To see more pictures from the January wedding, click here.

I'm going to end the last being a TPT blogger meetup!


I literally just got back from a meet up in Manhattan Beach, and you wouldn't understand how gorgeous the weather was! 

Winter in Southern California is more like Spring in the East Coast, but I wouldn't have it any other way! What is your Winter like? I would love to know! Let me know below in the comments section.

Now.... onto the juicy Winter freebie you've been waiting for!

Click here to download
This free Winter math fact family resource is great for first graders using Go Math or any Common Core curriculum. This is also great for high Kindergarteners or RTI and small group in 2nd grade. If you are looking for printables or worksheets that would allow your students to practice their math fact families, then this is the perfect resource for you!

This resource consists of the following math concepts:
➤Addition and Subtract Fact Family (2 pages)
➤Addition Facts to 20 (1 page)
➤Subtraction Facts to 20 (1 page)





Thank you for visiting my blog! Don't forget to me on bloglovin to for more fun, rigorous math freebies! Also, you are ALMOST finished with the blog hop! Click below for the next blog! 

Next blog!

Monday, January 18, 2016

How to Take Quality Photos of TPT Products



Tpt creators will let you know that creating a product is not the end all of being successful in the TPT world. It takes a lot of work, dedication, and commitment to serving teachers all around the globe. The resources that are created can be the most beneficial and innovative, but if they are not advertised in the Internet world, then they will not gain any success. Ask any teacherpreneur about the hard work they put in creating AND promoting their products! 

Regardless, the great influx of amazing products created and promoted on a daily basis is drastic! Your own posts might get drowned by others' promotions. This means that you have to try to set yourself apart from the rest! The best way to do this is by taking better photos of your products! 

I've written this quick and easy blogpost featuring Instagram photos of professionals that use the tips that I discuss. You don't need to be a professional photographer, but these tips will set you apart from the crowd with whatever little camera experience you may have! Keep reading to see how you can achieve quality photos of your Teachers Pay Teachers resources for your blog, Instagram, or Pinterest. 



Nowadays almost everyone takes photos with their iPhone. If that is the best you can do, then that is perfectly ok! Simply follow the tips with your iPhone.  If you are able, try to invest in a good DSLR. It does not have to be a new one, but make sure you do your research before you buy something. Getting a DSLR will take out some of the guess work of taking photos and up your photo game.  The quality of images they produce is so much higher than a cell phone or regular camera. Mine is an older model Canon T5 Rebel, and I am in love with it. Check it out here.
You do not need this! Start small! 
Keep it simple. 



Most of our products are white pages. A nice  surface is necessary to make those white pages stand out. It can be any color or texture, but it must look clean. If you do not have a surface that is easy to use or photograph, then you can get poster boards of any color from Walmart or Target. Try to stay away from anything sparkly or shiny, as that might reflect the light too much.  I say stay consistent because you want to be able to take photos whenever you want. If you keep the same one, your photos will be more uniform and professional. People will be able to identify your products just by taking a look at your photos. Take a look at some of these Instagram photos by some of my favorite paper goods designers. 

Notice how the grainy wood gives a great texture to the photo. The dark color looks great with the lighter paper color. The photo below also uses this type of composition. 
Rekers Drees Design  always has a beautiful, textured background to bring her designs to life. 



The best, most vital pins on Instagram are ones that do not have a background but focus on the product that is being photographed. Take a look at some of these Instagram shots. They do a great job at capturing the product without having a messy background. Think of it this way, would you want your audience to look at what's in the background or really focus on what you want them to look at? 

I took this photo of one of my products, and I made sure that the entirety of the photo was my product. 
One of my favorite sellers on TpT, Stacey Lloyd, also does a great job of having a clean background. She focused the entire photo on her product, and it looks great! 



Unless your theme is an all white one, then you should make sure your photographs have some pops of color. Having 2-3 colors on each photo would be the perfect amount. Anything more than that would be excessive and messy looking! Your pops of color can be Pens, pencils, background image, pictures on the product, and teacher related props. These Instagram shots do a great job of including those props and colors. 

Michelle Griffo from Apples and ABCs  makes her products look bright and vibrant with reds and purples.  The white paper also contrasts that wood texture fabulously.  


This designer uses colorful washi tape! I know almost every teacher owns at least one of these! 
When I took this photo, I compared it to the previous photo without the crayons. Without the crayons the page didn't look as inviting. It created a brightening effect! 

The best place to get these items would be at a dollar store or the dollar section at Target. They can be reused in different photos, but make sure to not over use the props. They should also be a very small part of the photos. The gold arrow you see is from the dollar section at Target. 



This tip was one of my favorites that Kristen from Easy Teaching Tools taught me!! Kristen, the Instagram teacher queen, noticed that her most commented/liked photos were angle pics. I decided to give it a try on my own Instagram, and I noticed quite a difference! For this you need to get really up close and personal to your product! Make sure your product is flipped the right way though! Here are some favorites from Kristen. 

To get really technical, you can try the rule of thirds. If you google it you will find a bunch of information on it. If there is need, I can write another blog post on this topic. This professional technique drastically makes photos look so much better! 



The best place to take a photo is in front of a window. Make sure that direct sunlight is not hitting the product, but you have soft like coming in. If you live somewhere sunny like me, San Diego REPRESENT, then you can put a see through curtain. You will get a beautiful soft, natural light that makes photos look so much better! Try to stay away from filters, yellow light, and fluorescent light. 

Here is an example of how your "studio" can look. Your job is so much easier when you have big windows to work with. 



Your product probably has more than 4 pages, unfortunately you can not show it all in one photo. You have to choose 2-4 pages to highlight. What is the main focus of your product? What do you want your audience to take away about your product in just one look at a photo? Include those pages only, and do go overboard with overlapping. 

Here is another nugget of gold from Stacey. You can really only see parts of two pages from her product. It looks clean and makes you desire to see more of the product. 

After reading these tips on taking better photographs for your TPT products, I hope you are walking away more motivated and encouraged to take more professional photos! I encourage you to share with your teacher tribes, and let me know if any of these deem useful! 

Find me on Instagram. I would love to be friends! 


Love you all!