Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Lesson Planning Pages

Hey everyone! :)

Today I thought I'd share a little bit about how I plan my week's lessons.  I talked a little bit about it on this post a while back, but I wanted to share my updated planning templates with you.

I liked the old template I used, however, I feel like the easiest way to plan lessons is to type them out- not handwrite them!  That way, if I ever want to reference a lesson, reuse the same lesson plans, or tweak them, it is very easy to find them on the computer and it is also easy to tweak them to reuse them later if you are typing them out.

I've also found that Excel is a sweet way to create a lesson planning page- it is way easier to create a customized table to put all of your day's lessons in- so much easier than using Microsoft Word for the same task.

Here is the lesson planning page I currently use for teaching 5th grade- keep in mind that we are departmentalized here at my school in 5th grade, so I only teach ELA and Social Studies.  This planning page would be perfect for middle school and high school as well.

Here is the lesson planning page I would use if I were teaching elementary (and not departmentalized)- just so that everything could be typed and fit on one page-- for me, keeping everything on one page is the easiest for planning and for keeping track of my lesson each day and what we accomplished! :)

Creating Lesson Planning Pages on Excel are fairly easy, but if you'd like to take the hassle and time right out of it, you can hop on over to my Teachers Pay Teachers Store and purchase both plans on Excel (fully editable and customizable) for only $3! :) 

If you have any great lesson plan organizational tips, please leave a comment below! 

Thanks and have a great day,
Ashley :)

How I Stay Organized- A Peek at My Organizational Binders

I love to be organized!! I think that without organization, there’s no way I’d be able to teach. 

Some people keep everything on their computers- and while I do keep all of my files on my computer- I also like to have a hard copy of things as well- I think this stems from my deep mistrust of computers.  I always think back to Skynet and the Terminator movies ;)

But in all seriousness, I do love to keep a hard copy- this way I don’t have to be logged in to my computer to access all of my data.  And until our school systems and teachers are all doing everything online, there will be hard copies of things you will have to keep track of. 

I do love to create my own binder covers and make them fun- I’m going to have to look at them daily for the next 9 months, so I need them to make me happy!  I created several binder covers (and the matching spine labels- you can’t have a cover without a matching spine label!) that have helped me IMMENSELY throughout the last few years, and now I want to share with you how I organize my teaching life.

Binder #1- The Teacher Organization Binder

I could not live my day-to-day life without this binder.  I literally use it every day!  The sections in this binder are:

To Do Lists- A page for my sticky-notes of my to-dos
Info Lists- Class Lists, Photo Release Lists, Approved Parent Volunteer Lists, etc.
Calendar- A copy of the school calendar- where I write all important dates and meetings down.
Year Long Plans- A copy of our district’s year long plans, broken down by quarter.
Common Core Checklist- A list of all of the year’s Common Core objectives.
IEP Info- A quick reference list of my IEP student’s modifications and needs.
Lesson Plans- A copy of each week’s lesson plans. (I have these templates in my TPT store!)
Meeting Notes- A place to put any notes from school or parent meeting notes- I always know where my notes are- it has come in handy more than a few times!
PLT Meeting Notes- A place to keep notes and records of PLT meetings.
Student Info- I keep a list of my student’s parent contact info here and any allergy info as well.
Lent & Borrowed Items List- A place to keep track of who you’ve lent things to- and who you borrowed stuff from… trust me, you’ll forget if you don’t write it down!

Binder #2- The Gradebook

Now I know many of you, like myself have an online gradebook that you use for all of your grading during the quarter.  However, as wonderful as online gradebooks are, there is always the risk that the data you inputted may not be there later. 

Each quarter, I print my final gradebook so that I have a printed record of each student’s grades throughout the quarter, and this also makes it so much easier when speaking with a parent in a conference to be able to show them their child’s grades in print. 

I also keep track of homework and morning work in a separate section of my gradebook.

Binder #3- Parent Contact Log

This binder is essential.  I have a page for each student in this binder (pictured above) with their name at the top.  Any time I have to contact their parent (with the exception of email), I make a quick note of the date and time I spoke with them or sent them a letter or a discipline referral.  I also write down if they’ve contacted me with a note or a phone call, and will insert the note in the binder behind that child’s paper. 

This helps out so much if you need to go back and check your records if a parent has a concern.  I do not keep track of emails sent and received from parents, because I send and receive about 20-30 parent emails each day.  And I save every email I send and receive so that I have a record of those.  There is no need to write these down, in my opinion.

Binder #4- Reading Assessment Binder

I am mainly a reading teacher, so I like to keep good records on my students.  Here are the tabs in my Reading Binder:
Assessment Info- Benchmark testing data (ie: mClass scores, DRA scores, etc)
Reading Levels- A list of the reading levels of the students in my classroom.
Meeting and Conference Planning- a monthly calendar where I write which students I will be meeting with on what days.
Conference Ideas- Ideas for individual meetings with students and what they need to work on.
Book Clubs- a place to keep the meeting checklists and work from student book clubs I’ve met with each week.
Student Data- any other info or data on my students that I feel is important.
Anecdotal Notes and Labels- a place to keep address labels so that I can jot down something quickly about the student and put it on their conference sheet.

Binder #5-  Notes for my Teacher

I love when my students are thoughtful enough to take the time to write me a note or draw me a picture.  But if you’re like me, once you put one drawing up, 10 more students have drawn you something to put up as well.  As sweet as this is, after awhile, your wall is littered with drawings.  When do you take them down? Do you throw them away after you have? 

I saw this idea and I put it into place last year- and I LOVE IT!!  I made a “Notes for My Teacher” binder, and put clear plastic protector sheets in it.  Any time a student draws me a picture or writes me a note, I make a big deal about it, thank them for it and tell them I am putting it in my special notes binder.  I do it in front of them so that they know I am keeping it.  It still makes them feel special, and you do not have a wall of drawings falling off every day.

Also, at the end of the year, you can go through and clean out that binder and use it again next year.  If a student spent a lot of time on something or you have something sentimental in the binder you can keep it instead of wondering where it went. 

I hope this peek into my organizational binders has helped!  I urge you to create your own binders (or revamp the ones you currently have) to help keep yourself organized. 

I have all of the above mentioned binder covers will be for sale soon in my Teachers Pay Teachers Store individually and I am selling them as a pack together (for a discounted price).  Visit my store if you’d like to see these guys!

Have a great day,

Ashley J

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Making Your Own Digital Designs (and Binder Covers) is Easier than You Think!

Have you ever looked at another teacher’s organized binders (in person or online) and thought, “they must be so creative- their stuff always looks put together and so cute!”

Some of you know that a lot of people purchase these items on Teachers Pay Teachers, Teacher’s Notebook, or another site that sells digital items.  It is also possible to find some items for free on these sites or directly on teacher blogs, just like mine. 

A lot of these digital goodies are designed using Photoshop and other Adobe design programs.  Although these are wonderful (and I do own some Adobe programs, including Photoshop myself), they are also extremely expensive.  Most of the creating I do is done in Photoshop, but occasionally I do dabble with Microsoft Word. :)

Today, I’d like to show you how to create your own really cute, customized binders, labels, etc. for a relatively low cost- and best of all, it will be just what YOU want, not what someone else has designed.

Microsoft Word is a very versatile program- you can do SO many things with it!  At first it may be weird to use it to design graphic items if all you’ve ever done is type on it- but once you get used to it, you will find your freedom and be able to create some amazing things!

In today’s post, I’d like to show you how to create an easy binder cover.  

Creating a Custom Binder Cover:

1.  First, you will need a digital paper.  Think of it as a cute scrapbooking paper for your page.  You can Google Free Digital Papers to find some to download, go to TPT and do the same, or your can download the papers from my store for free today. 

2.  Open up a blank Word Document.  Go to Insert, then Picture (from file).  Find wherever you just saved the digital paper and click “open.” 

3.  You should now see the digital paper in the middle of your Word Document.  It should look something like this:


4.  This is important:  make sure your digital paper is highlighted (the dots are on the corners of it), and then find your Picture Tools.  You should see a picture of a dog with some lines through it.  Click on that- a drop-down box should pop up.  Now click “in front of text.”   This will allow you to move and enlarge the paper.

5.  Next, drag the corners of your digital paper until it fills all of the white part of your paper. It should look like this:

6.  At this point, to create something cute, but basic, go to your AutoShapes (under the Insert tab).  Under Basic Shapes, choose the “sticker” you’d like to put your title on.  I usually opt for the rounded square- kinda classy, but not crazy and not boring.  Drag that shape onto the middle of the page.  Move it around to wherever you like it.  Here’s what mine looks like:

7.  Next, you can play with the border line of the sticker you just put down and even the middle of the sticker color.  You can also layer another sticker on the page to give you some depth.  Here are some ideas: 

The Top Left corner I just increased the border thickness.  The one below it I changed the border color and the fill color.  For the two on the right, I actually created another sticker and put it on top of the other sticker already there.  Then I changed the fill and border colors of each.   Pick whichever style you like best.

8.  To add a title to the cover, click “Insert” then “Text Box.”  Type in your text.  You may then need to make the Text box have “no fill” and the border have “no fill” as well.  Play around with the text until you have it to your liking and drag it into the exact center of the sticker box.   Here’s what my final binder cover looks like:

10.  Print it out in color, and you’re ready to go!

Note:  If you’re like me and have to have a matching spine label to go with it, no problem, just repeat the process, but this time, turn the new document to “landscape” and your paper will be read for the spine label.  Just remember that you will need to make it very thin.  Here is my example below:

I just used the green dot on the top of the image to rotate it around, then used the cropping tool to crop the paper image. 

You can use this same technique to create anything!  Hope this gives you lots of new ideas and inspiration!  Happy creating! J

PS- I have lots of fun papers in my Teachers Pay Teachers Store- check them out!

PS- To get some really awesome fonts, check out Fonts for Peas and Miss Tiina's Free Fonts.

If you are not really the creative type, please see my store for a set of pre-made binder covers!! :)

Monday, March 10, 2014

Digital Papers Now for Sale!

I’ve just uploaded some awesome polka-dot digital papers to my Teachers Pay Teachers store.  These are perfect for any of your digital designs- including creating your very own notebook covers! 

The first set is a colorful set with seven different dot papers (including the yellow in the background):

 The second set is a neon dot on white and a black and white polka dot paper as well- they coordinate well! :)  The pictures below did not turn out as well- the papers you get are crisp and clear! :) 

They are a great deal at only a few dollars per set- so check them out!

Ps- stay tuned for a future post about how to create your own Binder Covers to help you stay organized!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

STEM Economy Simulation Unit

This year, I’ve challenged myself to make Social Studies more fun.  There are so many wonderful things you can do to breathe life into a subject that many just pull out a textbook for!

During first quarter, according to North Carolina Essential Standards, we were to teach a unit on Economy.  Being in Wake County, we have access to online curriculum that is already developed for us.  While the Social Studies curriculum is becoming better and better, I still like to put my own spin on it and be creative to help my students truly enjoy learning. 

I created a short Economy Simulation Unit for my students- to meet all of the standards, along with teaching them real-life skills and we also had a little fun along the way!

First, we talked about all of the different bills and payments that their parents pay each month.  Then, I had them choose (from a list I created) education, a job, a place to live, car, bills, extras, etc.  Basically, having them choose what their life could look like.  However, attached to these choices were dollar amounts.  Whichever job they chose gave them a certain income per month.  They then would have to pay bills from this amount.  Almost like a way more realistic MASH (Mansion, Apartment, Shack, House- who remembers that game?!? ;)

My kiddos had so much fun choosing these “grown up” things and then we talked about the hard part- making sure you have enough money to cover all of your bills, and then paying the bills themselves.  I gave them a Transaction Register Sheet (just like in a checkbook) and had them fill it out as they filled out their checks.  They would make a payment to the company by placing a filled-out check in an envelope with the company’s name on it. 

Of course I modeled (several times) how to properly fill out a check and a Transaction Register Sheet.  I was worried that it might be too difficult for my 5th graders to do all of this, but the really rose to the occasion!

But of course, what would life be without a curve ball or two?  To make this simulation a little more interesting, I also allowed each student to choose 2-3 Entertainment Cards after all of their bills were paid.  I had anything from free entertainment (hanging out with friends) to expensive entertainment (going to a concert). 

I also then made them choose 2 Fate Cards.  These Fate Cards were to help simulate real life situations- anything from a friend being able to fix your car for free, having to buy a new tire for your car, or your car breaking down and having to spend over $300 to get it fixed. 

I think the most interesting thing to me was how the students chose the entertainment cards and how they made their original choices for cars, homes, etc.  Some students chose the most expensive of everything, but quickly saw that wasn’t going to work on their smaller income.  Some students were more conservative with their choices and chose the cheapest of each choice.  And surprisingly, many students chose the free Entertainment Cards- when there were many really good choices for fun entertainment!

I also included a reflection portion on the back of the foldable- I wanted my students to think about the simulation as a whole, their choices and how that relates to real-life.  I used the Icons of Depth and Complexity to guide my questions and I love how they turned out!  (If you are not familiar with the Icons of Depth and Complexity, please visit JTaylor Education to find out more- they are life changing!)

This was such a fun Simulation Unit for me and for my students.  One of my girls told me that she didn’t really like Social Studies until this year- a really cool compliment, and who knows, maybe it will inspire her to realize a passion for something!

I’ve put my Economy Simulation Unit for sale in my TeachersPay Teachers Store- it’s full of ALL of the documents you’ll need to do this simulation in your classroom.   Enjoy!

J Ashley

Saturday, October 26, 2013

I have created a Teachers Pay Teachers store!! To access my paid and FREE items quickly, you can save it to your favorites! :)

Thanks and have a great weekend,
Ashley :)

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Opinion Essay Unit

For a class that I took recently with a coworker and friend of mine, we had to come up with a way to incorporate more technology (specifically iPads) into our classroom.  We then had to come up with a final project that uses the iPads.

Of course we decided to go crazy and revamp a unit I had already done and change it into the 7E lesson plan model.  We are a STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Mathmatics) School and our lessons are mainly inquiry-based (that is our goal at this time).  I love inquiry-based learning and have become a big fan of the 7E lesson plan model.  If you are not familiar with it, you can view the framework for a 7E lesson HERE.

So, with that said, my friend and I put together our project.  I thought I would share it with you-all too! :)

This is a 5th grade Unit for an Opinion Essay, aligned to Common Core Standards.  Start with the first link (which is the unit plan) and then you can find all of the handouts and teacher and student examples below.  Thanks for reading! :)

Unit Plan & Printables:

Everything can now be found on my new Teachers Pay Teachers store for FREE!