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Back To School On A Budget

Aloha! It's that time of year again. The Back To School shopping frenzy! Sales along with social media can fuel us into a buying craze.

Are you like me buying ALL the things that could be useful for your classroom?  Sometimes I feel like I just buy because I may need it someday or it's really cute.  I need to wear blinders when I walk into Target!!
Bird box dollar spot blindfolded save money

However if you are like me, then you need to be on a Budget. I have my own kids that I have to buy for and their supplies, on top of mine, add up quickly!

Here are a few quick tips to help get you organized so that you are only purchasing what you need for your classroom and yourself.

Quick Tips To Save Money Back To School Shopping School Supplies
Set Your Budget

I think this is the most important thing you can do to keep on track when your shopping begins. Know exactly how much you can spend. If you do this then you won't suddenly be scrambling and wonder where all your money went.
List items needed for Back To School Use Cash

It's an even better idea to have your budget in cash. When the cash is gone, then you are done shopping!

Make A List

This is a simple one. Just make a list of what you absolutely need for your classroom this year. Is it folders for writing, glue sticks or composition books?  How many do you need just for this year?

Classroom supplies list

Take your list with you and stick to it!!  I know it's hard and can be tempting to throw more in your cart, but if you stick to your budget then you might not have sticker shock later. If you find that you need more of an item you can always go back or ask for a donation later.

It can be hard though when you find bargains and can't decide if you need it or not.  I had a tough time at Walmart the other day when I saw these!!

Walmart Bargains Back To School Book Bins

Such a great price, but I wanted 5 sets for my classroom library.   Do I really need new bins? My old bins aren't as colorful and these would brighten up my room! In the end I decided that I would pursue other avenues to see if I could get the funding through my school or a grant. That saved me $50 of my own money that I could put towards my own kiddos.

Shop Online

I love going into the stores to pick out certain items, but if you can find a deal online grab it!
There are tons of bargains out there if you know where to look.  Amazon, Walmart, Target and even Dollar Tree have great bargains online and will even price match!  You can even order online and pick it up for free at the store.

I found this online deal on Glue Sticks and did buy them! They came to about $0.30 a stick.

Glue Sticks Bargains Amazon Best Price
Write A Grant

This one takes some time, but it is a great way to get classroom supplies without you spending all of your own money.  

Grant Writing Fund Projects

Donor's Choose has funded many grants for my classroom from headphones, iPads, books and even art supplies.  I also found that many of my grants were funded quickly when they were for items under $100.  

Write Down Your Purchases

Here is what I do to really keep me in check.  I save my receipts and then write down everything I bought and add it up.

List Budget for purchases to save money

This really puts your spending into perspective! Plus when I save my receipts, it helps to return items I decided I didn't need.  I created the Supply List and Budget Tracker and they have been great to keep me accountable.  You can download them for free in my TpT Shop.

Teachers have the biggest hearts, but one of the smallest paychecks!  I know you want to make that classroom gorgeous and buy ALL THE THINGS, but you still have to take care of your own expenses without going into debt.  

Hopefully following a few of these tips will help you have a more budget friendly Back To School. How do you stick to your Budget? 
I'd love to hear your thoughts with a comment below.



Are You Ready For The First Day Back To School?

Aloha friends!! The summer is quickly slipping away and we are heading into August.  Some of us have a few weeks left to kick back and enjoy the dog days of summer.  But, I know some of you will be heading into your classroom soon!


Are you ready for that first day?  Here is a quick synopsis of my first day. It might give you some ideas if this is your first year teaching or maybe just new to this grade level.

After setting up my classroom I sit down and plan out my first day.  Then I have a tentative plan for the first week.  It really depends on the vibe of my classroom how the rest of the week will look.


That first day can be a crazy one! First off I am usually running on caffeine because I can never sleep the night before! Then all your sweeties show up with their supplies, parents, siblings and lots of questions.  I stand near the door to greet students and families.  I then instruct them to find their name on their desk and follow the directions on the board.


I place a pencil with an eraser and a fun pack or booklet on their desk.  It should be something simple they can work on independently.  This Back To School Booklet has lots of fun activities to keep them engaged while you are helping others and talking with parents. They can work on it throughout the week or when they finish their regular work.


Once parents have left and we are settled a bit more, we gather on the carpet. We play a name game, learn a song and say hello to new and old friends.  We then read some of my favorite Back To School books.
Do Unto Otters is a great book about teaching manners.  I always read Miss Nelson is Missing and tell my class that they need to follow the rules because I  do not want to turn into Viola Swamp!!

We then go over our class rules and discuss why each one is important and how I use my Clip Chart to reward awesome behavior in the class.


We also discuss procedures for bathroom and pencil sharpening.

After our Morning Meeting we usually take a tour of the classroom and talk about what items go in our desks, seat sacks and cubbies.


We then begin writing in our Writing Journals (composition book) about anything they would like.  We usually discuss some ideas and then I turn on some soothing music and ask them to write for 10-15 minutes. We glue a cover onto our journal, write our names and color it.

About this time it is Recess and I walk my students to the playground early and go over all of the playground rules and where we line up.

For our math time I give them a Math Journal (composition book) and we glue on a cover, write our names and color it.  I then teach them a simple math game they can play with a partner, using a deck of cards. They each draw two cards and add them up.  Whoever has the highest amount keeps all the cards. I ordered playing cards on Amazon for fairly cheap to use throughout the year.

At lunch I walk them down to the cafeteria and I always sit and eat with them.  They really enjoy it and it is a good time to learn a bit more about them personally.

After lunch we have Silent Reading for 10-15 minutes.  I discuss with them my expectations of staying in their spots the whole time and reading.  I place 10-12 books in each of their seat sacks when setting up my classroom.

The rest of the afternoon is spent creating their Surf Buddies or Self Portraits.  They are usually exhausted by this time so letting them have time to create is perfect. You can find this fun freebie in my TpT shop.


During the day I usually throw in a couple of Brain Breaks as well.

I leave plenty of time at the end of the day to teach closing procedures and make sure they take home all papers that need to be signed by parents or guardians. I use a folder that students place all items in to go home.  They return it each day and turn in papers as they come in each morning.  You can grab this surf themed communication set or a free version in my shop as well.


We then line up by buses, pick up and aftercare.  I give them each a high five or hug depending on what they choose.  I make sure all students get to where they need to go, debrief with parents, hug former students and parents and finally take a breath!

Phew! We made it.  That first day is fast and furious, but so important to start the year off right. Once you get past that first day you have a great idea of how to maneuver the rest of the week.

Does your day sound similar to mine?  What else do you do to make your students feel welcome and ready for school?

Whether you are headed back next week or next month I hope you have an amazing first day back!!


Five Simple Ways To Improve Parent Teacher Communication

There are so many important components of running your classroom such as organization, management and building relationships.  One of the most important relationships we can build is that of our home/school connection.  We need those families helping us to bridge our learning from  school to home.

Most parents are so grateful for all that we do, and  can be great partners in our classrooms.  Often times we notify parents only when something is amiss in the classroom or to remind them to turn in their permission slips. With everything we are juggling it can be hard to find the time to communicate with parents in positive ways.
Here are 5 easy ways that you can keep parents in the loop and maintain positive relationships throughout the year.

1. Email

One of the easiest ways to let parents know what's happening is through a weekly email blast. I set up a gmail account specifically for this.  You can add in all of your parent emails and make a group. You can then send out the email highlighting the details for the week.  Here is a link to the google tutorial on how to set it all up and keep your parent emails private. Gmail Tutorial

2. Weekly/Monthly Newsletter
Another easy way to keep parents up to date is with a weekly or monthly newsletter. I have had years where I needed to send weekly letters and others where monthly was ideal. You can use a simple template and update it as you see fit.  This particular template I created in Powerpoint and I just change the text monthly. I use bright colored paper so it is more noticeable in Homework folders.

3. Parent Communication Apps

There are a few apps out there that help teachers communicate with parents.  The most popular are ClassTag, Remind and Class Dojo.  I recently shared a post about ClassTag and the many features it entails.  It is so simple to use, it's free and you can earn rewards for your classroom.
Check out my post HERE or head over to the site and sign up.

4. Classroom Facebook Page

Most of our parents are on Facebook and it makes sense to set up a private group where they can communicate with you, share pictures and reminders of upcoming events. It also makes it easy for them to private message you about any concerns they may have. Make sure to check with your school or district policy as to whether or not you are allowed to share on social media. Remember this is a private group and only parents you invite will have access to the group not your personal page.


5. Personal Phone Calls or Caught Being Good Notes

How often do we find ourselves contacting parents when something negative has happened in class. I think it is so important to make those positive calls or messages.  Take time to pick a few students each week to send home a Caught Being Good Note, phone call or email.  The smallest gestures can have a huge impact on not only your students, but parents.  They will appreciate hearing anything wonderful about their child.

*The above template is in my Free Back To School Communication Pack. Click on the link or picture above to take you to my TpT shop.

These are all simple ideas, that can make a huge impact impact in your classroom.  I hope you have at least gained one new idea. Do you currently use any of these things?  What else have you used that makes communication easy? Leave me a comment below, I'd love to hear your thoughts.


Summer Fun

Aloha Friends!!

I hope you are off to a great summer vacation, and if you are still in the classroom I hope you are enjoying some fun end of the year activities.

I am home for the summer and enjoying some down time. However my internal alarm is still on!!


With some extra time on my hands I have been working on a few fun items.

I have been planning a monthly series of fun Riddle Review Sheets.  I just finished a summer version.


Each page has a different skill and a riddle to decode.  I created a similar pack at Christmas and have a freebie from March if you want to check them out.

I know how much my students love solving new riddles, so I really enjoyed putting this together.
You can click on the picture to  pick it up in my TpT shop.

If you just need a little something to use with your class these last few weeks or if your teaching summer school, this would be a great resource to have on hand.

I also created a Word Search that I used with my class and have uploaded it in my shop as a freebie.
It also includes another Ocean Themed Word Search and a challenge activity to go with it.  Summer time and the ocean are two of my favorite things and I'm sure you will enjoy using them with your class! 

Summertime is such an important time for us to recoup and gain back our teaching stamina for the fall.  If you are already soaking up the sun, I hope you enjoy every minute! 

Happy Summer! 



Using Classtag For Parent Communication

Aloha Friends! I hope your holidays have been fabulous and restful.  We all need to recoup and prepare for the year ahead.

Something I strive to work on each year is my classroom organization.  I recently was told about a new app to help with parent communication called ClassTag.

There are other apps out there that I have tried and they all seem to have faded from my use. Most were great for a particular purpose such as messaging or posting photos.  However, I'm really excited about using ClassTag and all the features it has to offer.
This app has everything you need to keep parents in the loop and even has a few extras to make it even more fun to use.

The layout is very intuitive.

Start out by simply adding in all your class information. The app will send out invites for parents to sign up and communicate all through the app.  You can then send out weekly newsletters, events, volunteer requests, conferences and even upload photos to share with families.


The app also gives you incentives to use it.  You are rewarded with coins to receive gifts for your classroom. Who doesn't love free stuff for your classroom?


On top of all that it even gives you weekly stats on which parents are using the app and who has received the information.  It will let you know if you have hard to reach parents and give you alternative methods for communicating with them such as sending home a paper copy of your newsletter.

It even sends your parents a weekly summary.

Apparently the app was created by former teachers and they seem to have dialed in everything you need to up your parent communication.

I think it's an awesome way to organize and have everything in one place. Head over to ClassTag right now and sign up.  I would greatly appreciate you using my link so I can earn coins for my class as well.

Hopefully this app can help you start the year off with one more tool for your classroom.



Freebie Friday

Aloha friends!! How was your Thanksgiving? I really enjoyed the time off and cooking with my family. This year I made Prime Rib.  It was delicious and so decadent!

Are you ready to hit the Black Friday sales today?  I'm not a fan of the crowds, but good luck if you head out.  I think I am going to stay in and be crafty.

I just wanted to share a fun freebie center I created for you to use in your class this coming month.




My kids always need to review nouns so I whipped up this Christmas themed center.  I love the graphics by From The Pond! I just had to use them in something creative.

Simply download it, print and enjoy using it in your class this season. Please leave a review and let me know what you think.

If you like it then check out my Santa's On His Way Literacy Centers.  I have just updated them to include 4 new centers.





I have included a Black and White version if you want to save on ink or print on colored card stock. My class always loves new centers and I can't wait to share these with them.

Mahalo for stopping by and I hope you enjoy your freebie.


Math Tools For Your 2nd Grade Classroom

Aloha friends!! I know many of you are off to a great start and your school year is in full swing! Many of you are returning to your previous position, but I know some of you may be new to 2nd grade this year.

It's so exciting to venture into a new grade and curriculum.  It definitely keeps us busy and always looking for new ways and ideas to keep our lessons flowing and kiddos engaged.

Last year I had two new colleagues who were brand new to 2nd grade.  It was fun to collaborate and share ideas.  They came to me quite often and asked how I was teaching a certain lesson and what materials I was using.  Quite often I realized they did not have any resources to draw from since they were new to the grade level.  We shared as much as we could between our classrooms.

After teaching 2nd grade for 21 years I had purchased, collected or created many of the resources that I was using in my classroom, especially in math. It can be overwhelming for a new teacher to see all that I had and not be able to purchase it or create it.  So I decided to put together a toolkit for them.

Are you a new teacher who needs a variety of math manipulatives?  This pack has TONS of printable items for your classroom. Print, laminate and use immediately. Great for first and third grade too!

We went through many of the lessons in our math curriculum and I discussed with them what materials I used quite a bit of.  I then recreated them in a simple format so they could print and use them as needed.




When all was said and done there were close to 300 pages of manipulatives, templates and posters!!
The paper coins are set up so you can print double sided and have them with a front and back.  The red and yellow counters are the same.

All are easy to print and can be used immediately or can be laminated to use all year long. You can even print on Astrobright paper to add some color.

I think this is a great way to get started without breaking the bank.  If this is something you could use in your classroom, hop on over to my TpT shop and check it out!!


One last thing that I wanted to share.  I revamped a math freebie from a few years back. These poem posters have been great to use in my class for money recognition.




 Just click on any of the pictures to grab them in my TpT shop.

I hope these items will be helpful for your upcoming school year. If there is anything that you think I should add to this toolkit please let me know!


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