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I haven't done a Throwback Thursday in a while!  This one is perfect for Back to School though, so read on!

When I taught second grade, I needed something for my students to do when they first walked into the classroom in the morning.  I wanted it to be meaningful, but not a lot of prep.  I also needed the students to be fairly independent with it, so that I could take care of attendance, lunch count etc.

That's when I created my Writing Journal Prompts!  There is a calendar for each month of the year with 25 prompts - one for every day of the month.  It is un-dated so I can use it from year to year.  For some students, I would hand-write the date on the calendar to make it easier for them to follow.  If there was a holiday, vacation or day off, I would either white-out that day before I made copies or have students cross it off to avoid confusion.

Each month I would create a packet for my students.  I made a cover, a calendar page and enough lined paper for the whole month.  The pictures show the journal spiral-bound, but I would just staple the packets together.  This allowed the students to add extra paper at the end of the month if they needed it.  In September, we would start with a large picture and few lines.  As we went through they year, the picture box would get smaller and there would be more lines.  I eventually wanted more focus on the writing than the picture.

I have to say, this was one of my absolute favorite things I did in my classroom.  I learned a lot about my students and they enjoyed sharing with me!  These Writing Journal Prompts are a best-seller in my store!

It's coming!  It's coming!  Back to School time is on it's way (it might already be here for some of you!).  This time of year is always a mix of emotions for me - excitement, nervousness, anticipation, you know what I mean.  How do I calm those nerves?  Shopping of course! With an infant at home, it's harder for me to go out and peruse the teacher stores.  What's a girl to do?

Educents to the rescue!


 I am so excited to announce that Educents.com is having a HUGE back-to-school blowout sale and I am going to be featured in one of the curriculum bundles! From July 30 - August 2 (Wednesday - Saturday), they are bringing back all of their favorite and most popular bundles for INSTANT download at up to 77% OFF! There is something for everyone and it is their BIGGEST sale of the year! Take a peek into what is on sale! Tell your friends, because there is something for everyone who teaches children in PreK-8th grade!

This first bundle has my BEST-SELLER included!  That's right, you can grab this school-year bundle with my Writing Journal Prompts, as well as 14 other amazing products!

School Year Curriculum Bundle (Grades 2-3) - 74% OFF


Up next is the one that I'm going to grab this year!  I'm new to teaching in the upper grades, so this is going to be a huge help for me!

Complete Full-Year Curriculum Bundle (Grades 6-8) - 77% OFF

Make sure you check out all these other bundles as well!

Preschool Full-Year Curriculum Bundle - 72% OFF


Kindergarten Full-Year Curriculum Bundle - 75% OFF


K-2 The Write Stuff ELA Bundle - 68% OFF


First Grade Literacy Bundle - 74% OFF


Poetry Curriculum & Activities Bundle (Grades 2-6) - 75% OFF


Tricky Math Curriculum Bundle (Grades 3-5) - 69% OFF


Management, Decor & Organization Bundle - 76% OFF


Don't Miss It!

Happy Wednesday!  If you stopped by on Sunday, you saw my review of some pretty awesome Book Bead Bracelets created by the Trashy Crafter.  Now I'm back with the crafter herself, Kim, to share her story!  After you finish reading, be sure to head to Sunday's post to enter to win one of her bracelets!

Books are magical, they give you the ability to go on a jungle safari one minute and a deep see dive with mermaids the next, but what happens when books has gotten lots of love from years of use? The pages get creased, dog-eared and ripped, the bend or even start to fall off.  That’s where my Mom Helen and I come in, and this is where the story of Trashy Crafter begins. 

My name's Kim, and I have pretty much been a crafter since I was old enough to hold scissors in my hand and not eat the Elmer’s glue.  As a little girl I would come home from school each day, and as long as my homework was done I could create crafts all afternoon at my Grandmas house until my Mom and Dad came to pick my sister and I up after work.  My Grandma made beautiful crafts and sold at lots of holiday craft shows, crafting ran in my blood and it was bound to become a part of my life some way or another.

One day while I was in my senior year of college and my Mom and I went to the local thrift store. While there we noticed they had these auction bins out front of the store full of damaged and outdated books.  We found out that when books would not sell at the thrift store because of being damaged or outdated, they auctioned them off, and if the folks sifting through the auction bin thought could not sell the book or it was too damaged it was just thrown away. 

Needless to say my Mom and I were heartbroken that all those beautifully illustrated children’s books were just thrown away… so we grabbed about 25 books each in our arms and took them home.  I was really busy with school at the time, so the books sat in the corner of my room for about 3 months.  I was trying to think of a useful thing to turn the books into when it hit me!  I was very lucky to have a 3rd grade teacher that was very crafty, her name was Mrs. Bryant.  She had taught us how to roll magazines pages into paper beads (I’m sure many of you have done this in girl scouts or grade school).  I made my first few beads and knew from then I was hooked, the most magical part about it to me is that you not only create beautiful, colorful unique beads made from something that was going to be thrown into a landfill, but you know what book or item it was made from!

Everyone has stories, and connects with them so well, the reason we continue to create recycled book beads, map beads and sheet music beads is that when people purchase a set at a local craft show or online they have a story behind what they wear…. Perhaps they went on a road trip across the country, and that map bead bracelet they wear reminds them of the fun they had, or they had a band teacher that taught them to play an instrument, so they give them a sheet music bracelet as a token of appreciation… or even a gift for a mom or teacher that read you a book as a child that connected with you and stayed in your memory to this day.  As humans we all connect universally with stories, and it’s a beautiful thing to throw away, so my Mom and I plan on fighting the good fight and continuing to turn old books into beautiful, wearable works of art.

Our Process:

My Mom Helen and I gather the books from a lot of different places, sometimes we find them in cardboard boxes outside of library’s, in thrift stores on the clearance shelf or in the bins, and even get books, maps or sheet music donated from folks that love and support our mission. Once we gather all of the books we measure and hand cut the book pages into long narrow triangle strips and roll them one at a time onto lollipop sticks.  Once they are on there we coat each bead 3-5 times depending on the thickness of the paper.  Once that is done we spray them with a matte finish and then we start to make them into the finished jewelry.  We purchase damaged necklaces and bracelets from the local thrift store and strip them apart to repurpose the beads.  We create the jewelry with a mixture of the paper book page beads we made along with the repurposed beads. Once that is finished, we hand cut recycled cardboard bracelet holders and place the book labeling on to each set so folks know what book their bracelets were made from.

This week's Monday Made-It is all about recycling containers for your classroom.  I am all about fun baskets and boxes from the teacher stores (and the Target Dollar Spot), but those dollars start to add up!  So I've started taking empty plastic containers from around my house and sprucing them up a bit.
When my sister and I were little, we had this cool kit that allowed us to turn paper into beads.  Anyone else remember these??  I thought it was the coolest thing, however, I'm not the most artistic.  More often than not, I ended up with a glue-y mess.

Kim from the Trashy Crafter, on the other hand, is very artistic!  She makes these beads from recycled books (be still my reading teacher heart)!  How awesome is that?!

Her bracelets even come wrapped in a recycled map!  I'm not going to lie, I didn't open it for a few days because I thought the package looked so cool.

In her Etsy store, you can choose specific books or genres.  I chose Where's Waldo!  I may need to go back for the Harry Potter and Dr. Seuss ones though.

Since the beads are made from paper, I was a little nervous to put the bracelets on.  They are super sturdy though!

I am really looking forward to wearing these at school this fall.  What a great conversation starter they'll be with students and teachers!

Kim makes bracelets, earrings and necklaces.  You can even do a custom order with a book or map that has a special meaning to you!

I'm going to be featuring Kim's story on the blog on Wednesday so make sure you stop by to read it - very inspiring!  She is even going to give away a set of 2 bracelets to one lucky winner!  All you need to do is enter below and I'll announce a winner over the weekend.

Also, Kim is offering my readers a discount in her store this week!  Just use coupon code: tc2014 to get 15% off until the end of the week.

  a Rafflecopter giveaway
It's that time of year again!  Ever since I was a little girl, I've loved back-to-school.  I don't know if it's the anticipation of seeing my friends, the excitement of learning new things or the thought of brand new school supplies.  But, to this day, I get super excited when August starts to roll around.

To celebrate, I'm going to share some of my tried and true, tips and tricks for the new school year.

The first tip is an idea that my sister shared with me last year.  She has her students create a summer brochure.  They choose something that had significance to them over the summer, whether it was a trip to Disney World or going to soccer camp or learning how to bake.  There are endless possibilities, but it is something that is special to them.

The brochure works for a variety of age levels and can be easily differentiated.  My sister uses it with her sixth and eighth graders, while I've used it in my fifth grade classroom.  Students could draw/write their brochure or they can type it up on the computer.  This could be a quick 45-minute activity or students could work on it for a few days.  It's up to you!

You can grab this activity here!  It comes with teacher and student directions, as well as templates, graphic organizers, examples and rubrics.

Stay tuned for more back-to-school ideas!
...is beyond words.

Seriously, I've been staring at my pictures for an hour now, trying to put into words the amazingness that happened last week.  I've been looking forward to this conference since it was announced months ago and it surpassed all my expectations.

How do you explain to someone that you are going to "meet" your friends for the first time?  I tried saying they were my online friends, but that made me sound like a geeky 14-year old boy.  There wasn't really a way to explain because no one else really gets it.  

Then I got to Vegas.  Where everyone gets it.  It was so cool to be surrounded (and I mean surrounded) by fellow bloggers and TpT-ers.  We could talk about Paul and powerpoints and clipart all day long!

We (I dragged my husband along) got to Vegas on Wednesday afternoon and, after a  lost luggage debacle, I made it to the blogger meet-up a little late.  The room was packed!  I think even the wonderful women that organized it were overwhelmed by the turn-out!  It was a lot to take in, but I quickly learned that all I needed to do was introduce myself to the person standing next to me.  Then our conversation would take off!

Friday was the big conference day!  Of course, I had to get a picture with the sign.  I love that the hashtag was at the bottom!

We started the day off with a breakfast and some keynote speakers - Paul, Amy, John and Deanna {I don't think last names are necessary here, right?!}.  Amy is absolutely adorable and I wish I got to talk to her more.  Paul is, well, awesome.  Learning about his life story was so interesting.  And his support for teachers is amazing!  I didn't get a picture of Deanna, possibly because her story brought me to tears.  It was wonderful to hear.

I spent all day meeting new friends and chatting with old ones!

Corrina from Surfin Through Second
Jennifer White from First Grade Blue Skies
Kristen from Chalk and Apples
Vera from The Tutu Teacher

 I got to eat lunch with some awesome bloggers inside The Grand Canal Shoppes at the Venetian.  Such a cool place!

Um...this happened.

And what's a party without a little swag??  I picked up some awesome stuff from the blogger meet-up, TpT and the wonderful Melonheadz!

On our last night in Vegas, my husband and I ate dinner at the top of the Stratosphere.  What a beautiful view!

On the (long) plane ride home, I started to go over my notes from each session.  I learned so much!  I am still processing it all and can't wait to share with you!

Deirdre, who is a fellow New England blogger, is hosting a Vegas link-up to share all our pictures and stories!  Come join the fun!

This week we are discussing how to curate a classroom library.  This has always been my favorite part of my classroom, so I am excited to see everyone else's libraries!  I am always looking to improve mine in order to make it the most useful for my students.  Today's book study is hosted by Lessons with Laughter and Being Ladylike.

Lessons with Laughter     

As a teacher, one of my absolute favorite things to do is purchase books for my students to read.  As Miller suggests, I choose books based on my students' interest and reading levels.  I also take into account books that are popular or have won awards.

On the flip-side, I have a very difficult time getting rid of books.  Because, well, they're books!  Miller says we should discard books that are "MUSTIE;" Misleading, Ugly, Superseded, Trivial, Irrelevant or Elsewhere.  She has a point, but I'm still not sure that I can do it!

Last year, I had one of my reading classes do a "genre sort" at the beginning of the school year.   I placed genre posters on desks around the room and then we took ALL the books out of the classroom library.  Students walked around and placed the books with the genre poster that categorized the book.  It got students discussing why books belonged in certain categories.  This also gave me a quick glimpse into what students did and did not know about genre.  And the library was organized in under 45 minutes!

{Genre posters courtesy of Ginger Snaps}

This year, one of my plans is to sit down with my reading classes to discuss library expectations.  I did this every year in second grade, but assumed that students knew my rules in 5th grade.  I think it's important to make it a discussion, rather than a lecture.  We need to let students know that it is their library too.

To follow up my genre sort activity, I plan to spend a few weeks teaching genre and characteristics.  Miller also offers a "guess my genre" activity.  She places a tub of books in front of small groups of students.  Based on what they've learned, the students need to figure out which genre the books are.

What does your classroom library look like?  How do you organize it?  How do you introduce your students to it?  Share your ideas by linking up below!

Since it is Tuesday, I am joining up with Ramona Recommends' Picture Book Tour!  She wants us to share picture books from our traveling destinations or hometowns.  Such a great idea for summer!

Whenever I travel, I try to pick up a picture book about my destination.  I want to share my experiences and other cultures with my students, especially those who don't have the opportunity to do so with their own families.  

My first book, however, is from my own state.  I chose the story, The Brass Ring, by Nancy Tafuri.  It is a beautifully written and illustrated story about how a young girl is now old enough to ride The Flying Horse Carousel, which is located in Rhode Island.  This carousel is unique because it is the oldest operating platform carousel in America.

Last year, I took part in a collaborative blogging project, organized by Growing Book by Book, called Booking Across the USA.  I put together a packet to accompany the book, but it can also be used on its own.

Click here to grab this freebie!

I hope Courtney continues this linky all summer long because I have a few trips planned and I"ll be picking up some new books for sure!

One of those trips is Vegas, Baby!  I'm leaving tomorrow to head out west to attend the TpT conference and I am so excited!  To celebrate, my store is on sale for the rest of the week!

Do you ever get positively giddy about something?  It happens to me.  Kinda a lot.  Especially when organization and binders come into play.  I was exploring Pinterest the other day and I stumbled upon Ladybugs Teacher Files' (love that girl!) post about her All-in-One Teacher Binder.   Kristen's post then led me to Kindergarten Works post about HER teacher planning binder.  

Seriously, I was in heaven.  And I knew that I needed to stop all other projects in order to make my own teacher binder.  So this is my Monday Made-It project!
I have jumped on the Melonheadz bandwagon in a BIG way, so you might see a theme to my binder.  I started with a cute cover with my name is at the top.

Teacher organization is so important. See how this teacher planner is organized to include everything for the school year.

Then I created labeled tabs to go on the side.  I'm not going to lie, these took me a long time to do.  I am a bit a lot OCD and needed them to be exactly perfect.  I printed out circles, cut them out and taped them to the back of each divider page.  I then laminated the whole page for durability.

My labels include: schedules, calendar, plans, notes, grades, data, curriculum, and contacts. In the past, I have had separate binders for each of these.  This year, I am trying to keep everything together so that I have it all at my fingertips when I need it.  This past year, I've found myself running back to my classroom during meetings because I forgot something.

Here are a few of the sections in action.

I am not a fan of store-bought plan books.  They just don't work for me.  Instead, I create my own template based on my schedule.  I type up a basic outline of my classes and then hand-write my plans in.  You can check out my editable plan book pages here.  This also allows me the flexibility of changing my schedule if I need to.

In fifth grade, our classes are departmentalized so we share all of our students.  We have meetings throughout the week to discuss their progress.  So this year I am keeping my basic data altogether.  I will teach reading and writing, but have different students in those classes.  I made myself a reading data page and a writing page.  There is room for 3 students on each page and I will copy them back to back.  This is just a quick overview glimpse of each student.

I also wanted to have our curriculum and the CCSS at my fingertips.  I typed up an outline of our year for the subjects that I am teaching (although it will probably change).  I also added in "I Can" statements to follow our curriculum.
At the end, I made a parent contacts section.  I have two cards per page and will copy these back to back as well.  It has student name and birthday, as well as parent phone numbers and emails.  At the bottom, I made a log for when I contact the parent.

I'm pretty excited about this binder and I hope that it works for me. If not, you'll see a new Monday Made-It post in the future!  Now that I have finished this, I should probably go pack for Vegas.  I leave in less than 48 hours!
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