Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Outfit Remix: Using What I Have To Dress For School

**Classroom Decor Extravaganza 2013 is being interrupted for a quick teacher clothes post!**

It takes me 15 minutes to get ready in the morning. What I mean by that is: from the time I roll out of bed until the time I get into my car, 15 minutes elapses. I'm pretty proud of that, but what it means is that I don't have a ton of time to get creative with my teacher clothes. 

The other issue is ... purchasing clothes. I *do not* need to spend a bajillion dollars on more clothes, I definitely have enough {that doesn't mean I won't *want* to}. So - I decided that before school starts, I'm going to work on picking one article of clothing, and building different "looks" around it. That way I'll have idea of what to wear before that 15 minute crunch time. 

First up - my white eyelet top. I found this picture in a magazine and thought I could pretty reliably re-create it with things I had in my closet. 


This is what I came up with -- 
Skirt and shoes {Target}, Top and belt {Gap}
Next, I tried on these colored skinny jeans. They were ttiiigggghhhttttt but they went on, with only a few squats {hallelujah}. 

Pants and shoes {American Eagle}, Top and belt {Gap}, Cardigan {Who knows}

 For the last outfit, I kind of liked the idea of adding a collar to the shirt. I don't have a white button-down, so I grabbed one of Mr. BBZ's old ones. The result is kind of bulky, but I don't hate it!

Shoes {Sperry}, Pants {J.Crew}, Top {Gap}, Cardigan {Tommy Hilfiger}

Next up: black cotton dress {which is sort of like cheating, because it goes with everything}. Oh well! 

Monday, July 22, 2013

Update: Getting Ready to Use Lucy Calkins Units of Study

I was excited and delighted when our school purchased the Lucy Calkins Units of study for us - so excited I posted a review on the blog that's been pretty popular, so I know y'all are pretty excited too. :) 

When we purchased the set, I was lucky enough to go to a workshop with Lucy. {Spoiler alert: it was amazing, I highly recommend it.} As a way to share our knowledge, my principal asked those of us who were part of the workshop to share our thoughts on implementing the Lucy Calkins curriculum. We spent a long while digging into the curriculum ourselves and found sooooo much great stuff, I thought I'd share some thoughts here! 

I think it's really important to "root" yourself in WHY you're doing something. This chapter (the whole book is great, but we're going for biggest "bang" for your buck, here) does a really good job of explaining some of the shifts for writing in the Common Core standards, and uses those shifts to really drive home how important writing instruction is in the classroom and throughout the school.

One of the things we discussed as a school team was the idea of protecting your time. Sometimes I feel like I  don't "protect" my writing time in the same way that I protect math, reading and science/social studies time. What I mean by that is that when there are interruptions, I'm far more likely to bump writing and make sure I get to the other subjects. We talked about making our school rule something along the lines of - "I will commit to direct instruction in writing just as often as I have direct instruction in math and reading." Boom. Move writing on up that list. 

I'm telling you, this series is a wealth of knowledge. One of the things that I love are the rubrics, exemplars and continuums. Having a common "bar of excellence" is so important for norming across classrooms and even across grade levels. I recommend "tabbing" {I used post-its, but I'm sure you can come up with something cuter} each of these resources for each of the different types of writing {informational, opinion and narrative}, so you'll have it to refer to late. I've included a brief description of each below. 

The learning progression explains how kids should progress from K to sixth grade {imagine that} in each of the rubric areas {overall, lead, transitions, ending, organization, elaboration, craft, spelling and punctuation}. Super helpful for identifying where kids are and what they need to learn next.

Each type of writing has an on-demand prompt that you can use for pre- or post- assessment. They are general enough to be used as many times as needed - and you don't have to think them up! {HALLELUJAH}

There's also a student checklist for each type, with the standards for that grade level. I love that ALL grade levels are included in this book, because I know I'll have kids above and below grade level. I plan on laminating these for my kids to keep as a reference. That way when it's time to conference with me for the final time, I'll have them self-check and tell me if their checklist lines up with what I think about that writing piece, and I'll know if they're understanding how to develop each row on their rubric.

PERFECT for using as an exemplar as we write. I know I'll be storing these either on my computer to project, or possible in hard copy to refer to as we write.

Teacher-created exemplars are a really neat idea. Basically they took the same topic/prompt for each of the three type of writing, and wrote exemplars for every grade level and annotated how each section of the rubric was shown in that piece of writing. So, there's a persuasive piece about football at recess written as the "perfect" K, 1, 2 ... through 6th grade sample. That way we know what to look for in every piece. LOVE IT.

The CD is awesome. It has so many resources - they're all in the book, but they're conveniently in one place where I can print from my computer and/or project without having to lug the book around and scan it.

You also HAVE to have the CD to access the online resource, which I think is interesting.

Resources are organized by type OR by unit of study.

Now it's time to dig in to the real "meat" - the units of study. It'd be crazy to think you could read each one, but a quick perusal will be helpful. I think one of the most important sections is located right inside the front cover of each book. It's a description of each of the three "bends" for each unit as well as a list of what each part of the lesson will focus on.

Okay, okay. I know. It will feel silly. But seriously - if you don't actually TEACH it, how will you know what works and what doesn't?  It's also important to know that the Lucy Calkins books aren't necessarily in a scripted format. They're more narrative, so if you don't try it out, you won't know what feels right and what feels forced. So I straight up sat down in my living room and "taught" my puppy a lesson, just to see how well prepared I was, based on my initial read. It went ... okay. :) I'll get better! 


SO! There you have it - five steps to implementing the Units of Study in your class. Leave me a note about how you're using this awesome resource! 

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Part III: Decorating a small room on a small budget

So far, y'all have seen my new color scheme and pillows, as well as my makeover of the class buckets, pencil holders and bathroom passes. 

Today, I'm going to share the quick update I did on my office chair, the cheap and easy border I made for my bulletin boards as well as some new bean bags I made! 

First, exhibit A - boring old office chair. Nothing wrong with it, of course, I just knew it could be more "fun." I can't resist an easy way to make my room more fun!

I thought about just hot-gluing the new fabric to the existing seat, but at the last minute I decided that I was classier than that. {LOL} So, I flipped that bad boy over, and started hunting for the screws that were supposedly {I read it on Pinterest} on the bottow of this thing, holding it all together. 

I found them, but there was one small problem -- all my screwdrivers looked like this. Pardon my French, but WTH? 

I found another one, but ... why do they make screwdrivers that look like that? #dumb

Annnnnyyywwwaayyy ... I unscrewed all the screws, and the plastic part just pulled off! 

So from there {and I don't have pictures of this part, it's pretty self explanatory}, I just put the fabric on the bottom, and hot glued it in a few strategic areas. I know a lot of tutorials say use a staple gun, but I don't have one ... and I'm not buying one! LOL. So I just glued it, and when I put the plastic right back over it, the plastic was enough to hold it in place. 

The top of the chair was a different story. I pulled and pulled, and looked and look but there wasn't a single screw that would pull off the back panel. It was going to be pretty sad to have a chair with a fun bottom and boring top! 

Then ... genius struck. {If I do say so myself.} I couldn't get the back panel off, but there was a small amount of space between the plastic and the fabric - enough that I could probably "stuff" the fabric inside it, if I could find a tool skinny enough. Enter ... the butter knife. 

LOL! I put the fabric on the top, making sure there was some overlap of the fabric over the plastic. Then I used the knife to wedge the fabric between the plastic and cushion. I trimmed off the edge of the fabric ....

And cleaned up the edges by pushing them into back behind the plastic. Bada-bing, bada-boom ... office chair!! 

And the before / after {with cute burlap polka dot} ... 

NOW! That was a "major" project (it only took about an hour, woo hoo!). Now for two smaller projects. First, bean bags. I had two bean bags that (to me) were a little flat and didn't match my new color scheme. Fortunately I also had some oilcloth that wasn't quuuiittteee big enough to fit over  the table in my room, so I used it for a new bean bag. It was SUPER simple. I folded it, sewed it into a square(ish) ... and put the filling from the old bean bag into the new one! I will say this ... those little pellets were A. GIANT. PAIN. They got everywhere. And looked like the dehydrated marshmallows that come with hot chocolate {But they weren't.} 

A view of the finished product .... BAM. Done. 

Next up ... border for my bulletin boards. I used a TON of border last year, and pretty much used up my store of "normal" bulletin board border {say that five times fast}. Cheap little ole me didn't really want to go purchase more, so what did I do? I made it out of crepe paper from the dollar store! And I'm SOOOO happy with the result. 

All I did was take two pieces of crepe paper, overlap them, and sew them together. The trick is ... {are you read for this?} .... {probably not} ... 

.... to up the tension setting on your sewing machine! Put that bad boy all the way up to its highest setting. {Mine's 9.} It ruffles it up! ... Voila! I used two packages of two rolls {so four total}, and I have one in reserve in case it's not enough or I think of something else to use it for. 

I told you it was easy. :) Now I'm off to Michael's to use the 20% coupon! {Thank you Instagram friends for the heads up!} 

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Part II: Decorating a Small Room on a Small Budget

I'm still a decorating fool! Last time I introduced my new rug and color scheme - this time I'm here to share a little project I did with these mystery materials ... 

... and a cheap{ish} solution to a big {decorating} problem. If you've been following my Instagram, I bet you can guess the project!! 


SO here we go! Project one: mystery materials. These two are pretty important areas in my classroom - pencil bins and girls' / boys' bathroom passes! I LOVED those vinyl chalkboard labels {$3, OKAY?!}, so I slapped a few on the mason jars and BOOM: 

Next up: bathroom passes. Always a pain, and I am NOT a fan of spending lots of money on something that inevitably gets lost. So I took a little bit of that ADORABLE burlap and polka dot ribbon and some rope, added a chalkboard label and again ... BOOM. Done. I will probably laminate the writing part so it doesn't wash off when it gets wet (I used a chalkboard pen --- soooo much easier than actual chalk). 

Now ... how about that BIG decorating problem? It's definitely the bajillion tubs I have floating around my room, with the four different color schemes I've tried throughout my teaching career. Last year I just went with a "colorful" theme because I had so much going on in my room (#AMIRIGHT?!!)

But this year, as you know, is my "make-my-room-feel-more-homey-I-spend-enough-time-there-that-I-want-it-to-be-a-space-I-like-and-that-kids-feel-comfortable-and-relaxed-in" year (say that five times fast). The primary colors were not doing it for me: 

Plus I had this {ultra-cute, oh my gosh ... but still primary ...} easel. 

The point is: I needed to change the color of those bins, and I didn't have a whoooolllle lotta dollars to spend buying new ones. Enter ... spray paint. I know. It doesn't stick to plastic. BUT! BUT!! After a lot of googling I found out that some smart person over at Krylon had engineered a spray paint that bonds with plastic! And it had great reviews! HALLELUJAH! 

So, I laid them all out on an old plastic tarp we had leftover from painting our living room, and got to work. I was REALLY pleased with the result. There are a few touch-up spots here and there, but overall the paint is sticking and I'm hopeful they'll last in my room. 

A few pro-tips {HAR HAR}. 
  1. Give yourself enough time, and do it outside. This was definitely a two-day project because of the number of bins, and the smell that comes from the spray paint. I plan on leaving mine outside to air out for at *least* four days. 
  2. Wear gloves and a mask. Painting the outside isn't hard, but when you get to the inside of the bins the spray paint billows up and gets all over you and in your face. I *should* have worn a mask, because I *know* breathing in that spray paint wasn't a good idea. Be ye not so dumb.
  3. Get close to the bins. Keep the paint moving so it doesn't drip, but if you stay too far away you'll waste a TON of paint. Get close enough that you can see it going on in a nice even coat. 
  4. I didn't see a huge difference in the gloss vs. satin finish, but I liked the way the satin coated better, FWIW. 
  5. It does take a LOT of paint. It took a good 2-3 passes on each bin for each to be covered fully. I painted probably 50 bins and the easel with 6-7 cans of paint (I stopped counting after the third trip to get more). Get more than you need and then return the rest. 
WHEW! I'm not done yet! I'll be back soon with more decorating updates, my summer/fall teacher wardrobe annddddd a Lucy Calkins update. :) See you soon! 

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Decorating a Small Classroom on a Small Budget

I've shared several of my small-room solutions and class decorations (here and here), as well as my new bee carpet (which I loved). One thing I didn't LOVVEEE about that carpet was the amount of dirt that was tracked onto it every day, and how the yellow of the carpet showed every little bit of dirt. I even rented a carpet cleaner after one quarter ... but it didn't do much for the look of the carpet. {Anndddd... I might have blown a fuse on that side of the room, rendering the outlets on that side useless for the rest of the year. Ahem.} 

This was when I first got the carpet ... {sniff, sniff}
After watching my precious bee carpet get dirtier and dirtier, I decided I needed to move it to a not-as-high-traffic area and replace our primary lesson carpet. Naturally, I turned to the bajillion Pinterest photographs of classrooms {and got SUPER overwhelmed ... #amIright?!} ... I decided I really wanted to tone down the "THIS IS A KID ROOM!!!" vibe and make my classroom feel more like my home {I'm there more than I'm at my own house ... #againamIright?!}. 

My inspirations were classrooms like Reagan's {click on picture to see more}  ...

... and these images ... 


Then, I found this rug on overstock.com {OY! I got it on sale, but I'm going to have to make it up elsewhere ...}. I loved how this rug had the yellow and blue from my bee rug, but pulled in the red from my desks. Plus, it didn't look so much like I bought it SOLELY for a classroom.

I also fell into deep, deep love with the work of Stephanie Ryan, a beautiful watercolor artist whose work I bought for my moms {my mom and mothers-in-law!} for Mother's Day. I decided  I could use the combination of the rug, the inspiration pictures and Stephanie Ryan's work as the "base" for my classroom decor. 


So I headed off to JoAnn Fabrics, which, can I just say --- totally overwhelming. Way too much stuff. I knew I wanted to pull the colors from the above pictures, but use a variety of patterns and textures so it had depth. {HAHAHAHAHA I'm channeling some HGTV here, can you tell?!}

I wandered around, pulling up these pictures on my phone, hoping I could find something that would work. Finally I settled on these three as a beginning {LOVE that gold polka dot burlap...}

One of the things I knew I needed to do was take care of some of the various pillows I have in the reading nook - they were cute, but didn't go with the whole color palette I have going on. So I headed up to my closest thrift store and bought some $2 pillows. I didn't care how they looked, I just needed cheap filling. 

I placed each of the pillows on top of the inside-out fabric and pinned it on three sides -- 

Then I pulled the pillow out, and popped it in the washer/dryer to get the cooties out, while I sewed three sides. {Oh! I should also mention that I used the gold polka dot burlap on the front-only for the pillows, mainly because it was $12.99 a yard. This budget only allowed for 1/2 a yard of that adorable-ness, so I bought some cheap-o $3/yd. brown cotton quilting fabric for the back. 

When the pillows were dry I flipped the sewed fabric right-side out (so now the seams are on the inside), put the pillow back in, and sewed up the one side I hadn't done before. Bam! Adorable pillows that I love! 

Here's what I have so far --- Cici approved, of course ... (there are some other fun things happening there too ... can't wait to share)! 

Check back later for two of the fun projects I made with these Hobby Lobby supplies ... !

See y'all soon ... 

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