Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Mail Call - Safari Style

A while back I stumbled across a website. This teacher had wonderful ideas and was so generous to share them on her website. One idea in particular got me so excited. Her name is Cindy and her website is the virtual vine. You must check it out and bookmark it. It's an excellent site with wonderful resources for teachers new and old. So the idea that got me so excited was that she was using a mailbox in her classroom. A real mailbox that her husband built a stand for. She uses it to introduce new things in her classroom (ie treats, new books, introduce new themes). I just thought this was genius and I knew I had to have a mailbox for my classroom. I told my husband before I get my first classroom, I must have a mailbox (he's a mailman so it's very fitting)

Well on craigslist last week someone was giving one for free. It was already on a stand. It couldn't be more perfect for my classroom. I picked it up and decided to paint it. Of course it had to go with my safari theme. I went to Walmart and found paint that had been mixed but not purchased so it was discounted 50% (I've heard that Home Depot will sometimes give teachers paint like this for free - you just have to ask) I took a tan/yellowish paint and painted the entire mailbox and stand. I knew I wanted to use a stencil of some sort so the spots were very clean on the edges. I went in search of a think plastic that could be cut into a stencil. The creative hardware lady suggested using a garage sale sign. (what a great idea!) I drew the spots freehand. I then used an exacto knife to cut them out. It made the perfect stencil. I then used a chocolate brown for the spots. I'm very excited how it turned out. I'm not sure what I will use the mailbox for. I love the idea of introducing new themes or even as an agenda box for class meetings. Another thought, in one of the yahoo groups I belong to they have been buzzing about having a mail system within the school. I think that's such a great idea too! I'll keep you posted what I end up using it for.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

File Folder Games

I absolutely love file folder games. There are so many great pros to using file folder games in the classroom. 1. They are super cheap to make 2. Very compact for easy storage 3. Great for centers, quiet time, game days or even for students who finish work early. 4 Wonderful for practicing skills 5. All ages of kids like them and they can be adapted to any level, and the list goes on and on.

SOoooooo.... what are file folder games. They are games that you create using a basic file folder. The game usually involves matching of some sort. They range in all levels of skills and you can find all types of themes from math, basic skills, reading comprehension and more - the possibilities are endless. Typically there are game pieces that you glue directly onto the file folder and there are usually pieces that are loose that the kids match up.

FF games are really easy to make! Several of the big educational publishing companies have resource books on file folder games. Most of them you just cut and glue the game pieces on a file folder - that simple. There are also yahoo groups dedicated to file folder games. Google "file folder games" and you will be amazed at how many free ones there are. But you can make your own using clipart or die cuts. The object of ff games is to create a fun way for students to work and improve on skills. The ff game pictured, I created using File Folder Games CD-2004 and is called Puppy Love. The hearts have pictures of misc items. The dogs have a letter on each ear, these represent the first and last sound of the picture. So for the heart with the queen, you would match up the dog with the q and n on it's ears.

I created a tutorial for creating file folder games with a pouch to store the extra game pieces. I recently saw pouch file folders at the teacher store. They were about 5$ for 3 - yes only 3. Using this tutorial, you can make them for much cheaper. They are perfect for ff games and really help keep them together.

FF games are so much fun to create, here are some helpful tips that I have learned as I create them.
1. Laminate, Laminate, Laminate! This will increase the durability of the game.
2. Don't use glue to stick on your pieces, instead use a tape runner like scrapbookers use. This will eliminate bumps and make your game more "professional" looking.
3. Buy little baggies to keep all the pieces together. (You can find them at Walmart or other craft sores)
4. Label all of the pieces with the game title. This is so helpful when you find a missing piece hiding.
5. On the back of the loose pieces write the correct answer so the students can self check.
6. Use colored file folders, they just look better!

Here are some great ff game books/ websites (in case you don't have that creative bug in you)
CD 2005-Reading and Math
CD 104049 Colorful File Folder Games
My File Folder Games Website
File Folder Heaven

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Cake TV

So yesterday morning, I was flipping through the channels. On the Saturday morning cartoon channels, I found this show called Cake TV. I just had to giggle to myself. I swear as a little girl, I was just like this girl. I was a craft nut! I would come up with all kinds of crazy ideas to make things. I remember designing stationary. I had come up with a technique where I would draw pretty designs with chalk, then spritz them with water and hang them to dry. It really gave a cool look to the paper. I would go around selling them for .25 for 2 sheets and an envelope - and people really bought them. It brought back great memories of what a crazy child I was. But these kids really do make some cute and fun things. Yesterday, they made those cute little soaps. They look like so much fun!! I checked out their website and they have a load of craft ideas. Now you couldn't do all of the ideas with your class, but you may get an idea or two to help decorate your classroom - or even ideas for Christmas gifts. So check out their website and you can see just how silly I was when I was younger.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Postcards, notecards and sticky pads - OH MY!

Last year, a friend gave me the great idea to use Vistaprint to print off things for my classroom. I ordered several items including sticky pads, post cards, stamps, note cards and more. All of the stuff was free, and I just had to pay shipping. It was an awesome deal.

Well the VP bug bit again. I recently placed another order. VP has really grown in their selections! They have so many templates that are beautiful to use. So here was my order. I paid a whole 9$ for all this stuff. I will definitely place another order. If you get on VP email list, you will get emails all the time with their freebies.

100 Postcards- to welcome new students to my class.
250 business cards - Free homework pass to be used as an incentiveSticky Notes

Note padNote cards & envelopes

Friday, July 18, 2008

Think outside the box!

I visit teacher stores often. I could honestly spend all day there! I usually don't buy things but rather browse to see what I could make at home for cheaper. I have taught myself to "think outside the box". A few months ago I purchased a clothes rack from IKEA. I had planned on using it as a pocket chart stand. I put it together today to just how sturdy it was. I was honestly blown away at how sturdy it actually was. I bought the rack for a whole 7$, and it really has a cute look to it. The pocket chart stands at teacher stores range from 50$-100$. I love it!! What a savings!! So next time you see something in a store or catalog that you think you just can't live without, challenge yourself to see if you can come up with an idea to use something that is cheaper that still serves the purpose. Think outside the box!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

HTML .. Say What?!?!

Over the summer I took an amazing class, Classroom Management. Part of the class we had to create a classroom management folder including procedures, room arrangement, class schedule, first/second day activities, parent involvement plan, behavior plan, incentives and so much more. I absolutely loved this project. I pretty much started the project as soon as class began. I put so many hours into it and I am super proud of how it turned out. Part of this project, I created a classroom website. I know - I'm a year (2 with my Masters) away from having my own classroom, but I couldn't help it. I must warn you - websites are ADDICTING!! But so much FUN! Here are some tidbits that may help you with yours. I'm using angelfire to host my website. Currently it's free and I get 20 MB of disk space and 1 GB of bandwith. Right now this is plenty for me to build the site and get it set up. I will most likely upgrade when I have my classroom so I can remove the ads. Though the ads really aren't that bad. I highly suggest trying a free website host first and upgrade once you get the hang of it.

Angelfire gives you the option to use one of their templates or write your own HTML. This means that you can purchase those adorable templates and graphics and use them on your website. As I've said before, I use Thistle girl graphics. She just has the cutest stuff and they are very fitting for classroom use. I chose to join her web graphics club, so I still have to write my own HTML (or borrow code) to create my website. But she also offers templates that you just basically plug in your info and all the work is done for you.

So I'm not an HTML buff. Everything I know I've taught myself(with help from tutorials). Once upon a time, I was a computer programmer, so HTML makes sense to me, but I know I have errors in my code. It's ok though, I'm working on it. A site that has really helped is Lissa Explains It All. She is wonderful in her tutorials. The website is geared towards kids, so it makes it easier for us adults to follow along. Another one that I stumbled upon recently was DynamicDrive. They have great codes you can snag.

If your not adventurous enough to use HTML, just use the templates available by the hosting company. Sometimes they have some decent ones. I believe that a plain website is better than NO website! Another option is to use a teacher web hosting company. When I decided to create a website, I ran across several. I didn't really use them, so I can't tell you a whole lot about them. Bloust appeared to be a great site. I didn't really get to much into it, but it offers many resources and tools. Teacher web seems to be really popular. It is already formated for you. You have the option to add your own graphics or use the ones provided. Finally school notes allows you just to post basic notes. It almost appears to be a just a list. Other free website hosting companies (not teacher related) are google page creator, free webs, and geocities.

Whatever route you choose, make your website your own. Websites are a great way to stay connected with parents. Good luck and don't forget to check out my website. (Remember it's a work in progress!)

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Student teachers, are still teachers. Right?

Even though I'm not officially a teacher, I still consider myself a teacher. This fall I will be in an elementary classroom for my field based block. I can't tell you how excited I am!

As you've seen I've already started to prepare for my future classroom. And I think that I can already call myself a teacher. So...I'm all about places that give discounts to teachers. Here are some places who have allowed me to sign up for the rewards program without having my official teacher credentials. As with anything, it all depends on where you go and who you ask. I would suggest signing up for these reward programs online. You may be asked to provide the school where you teach, I teach prek so I've used this school's name and I've used my university's name. Just be prepared that they may or may not allow you to sign up for the reward card, but the worst they can say is no! (But all of the listed companies have allowed me to sign up, and I'm still in school) And now is a wonderful time to sign up. With back to school upon us, alot of these companies are offering free breakfasts, free supplies, discounts out the wazoo and even classes. So here they go.

Office Max - MaxPerks for Teachers - get reward $$ for every dollar you spend, also get it for recycling ink cartridges. They usually have teacher specials through the summer. Last year they had free and unlimited laminating (it was AMAZING!) but this year it will only be 50% off. They will have other offers. The only way to take advantage of these it to sign up and receive you card.

Office Depot - Star teacher program - Earn cash back with purchases and recycling. Also have a teacher breakfast where teacher's get goodie bags!!

Borders - Teacher program - Receive 20% off of purchases. This one I believe you have to fill out in the store. They allowed me to sign up as a student teacher and use my university name.

Lakeshore Learning - Teacher's Club - Receive 15% off. Also have coupons that you can use when you have a card. Have to sign up in the store.

Michaels - Knack Faculty - Program that offers classes and ideas for your class. Right now they are offering free classes for teachers. I'm not sure if they offer a discount or not, but the classes sound fun.

Scholastic - Book Club - You can't officially sign up for the book club until you are a teacher, but here is an offer for student teachers to sign up and receive points toward your first class.

Here are a few other places to try. I haven't really looked into them too much, but I've heard they offer discounts: Hobby Lobby, Joanns, Kinkos, and 1/2 priced books. It never hurts to ask any store if they offer teacher discounts. Be honest let them know you are a student teacher and most of the time they will say ok and give you the discount.

I hope these work for you! Let me know if you know of any others that I've left off the list.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Girls Day Out!

Today was a great day! My mom and I decided to spend the day together. She needed to head up north to pick up a book for my brother, and I decided to tag along. Right down the street from the bookstore was our brand new Lakeshore Learning that just opened up. I have been dying to go, but with gas prices I was holding out since it's a bit of a drive to get there.

At Barnes & Noble, I found a very interesting book about A.D.D/ A.D.H.D diet. I recently read Jenny McCarthy's book Louder than Words about her autistic son. It was so interesting and so inspiring. I highly recommend it for parents and teachers. For the past few years, I have had this urge and feeling that I am supposed to do something with autism. I can't explain the feeling, it's just very heavy on my heart. I don't have any family members who are autistic, so I'm not sure where the feeling is coming from other than I'm supposed to help through my teaching. After reading McCarthy's book, I'm even more inspired. I won't give all the details, but she was able to help her son dramatically by changing his diet. I believe a diet can help with A.D.D/A.D.H.D students as well. So I found a book called The A.D.D and A.D.H.D. Diet by Rachel Bell and Dr. Howard Peiper. I'm super excited to read it. I will post later on what I thought about it. I also picked up a copy of the TEXES test study guide. I still have a year before I have to take it, but I thought it would be great to get a jump start on it.

As I mentioned Lakeshore Learning was just down the road from the bookstore. It was AMAZING!! They have such great prices compared to the other teacher stores. They are having a huge sale, 20% off of most of the store. I found this great writing center type thing. It's called Write and Publish. It comes with a stand and 24 different activities. I love finding things and reproducing them in my own way, but the stand and the whole set up was way too cool. I gave in and purchased it. I plan on making my own activities to go along with it. I also found this other cool thing. It was for pocket charts. There is a title that goes at the top, like "I know my phone number", then you place a card with the child's name who knows this. I loved the idea, but the things to know were a little bit below the age I want to teach (I want 1st-2nd, maybe 3rd). As I looked around the store- I handed it to my mom and asked her to think of a way we could create something similar. She came up with an even better idea. Since I'm doing a safari theme, she suggested having a tree, called the "I know tree" and use leaves to put what the kids have mastered. I loved the idea!! I purchased a tree bulletin board set and bought several leaves. I plan to laminate them and just write with dry erase makers. I though I could do things like, I know my 2's, I know how to tell time, etc. I decided to call it the knowledge tree instead, but GREAT idea Mom - Thanks :)

It was a great girls day!! I honestly never spend this much time in teacher stores or spend this much money, but everyone is having such great deals, it's really hard to pass them up!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Back to School Finds

Back to school season is in full swing. The past few days I have visited some of my favorite stores for deals: Target, Dollar Tree, Big Lots and Walmart. I have found some pretty cool things. If you haven't made your way to the Target 1$ spot - you must go. They have great teacher supplies. I have found the following (all for 1 buck). Pocket charts, self inking stamps, counter, helper chart, awards, bookmarks, sticky notes, sticky flags, puzzles, stickers, a teacher bell, accordion folders, and so much more. My 2 favorite finds there are 1 - the pocket charts and 2- the little farm animals. I purchased some of the pocket charts last year during back to school and I was excited that they brought them back. They are very small charts, but can be used for many things. You could use them in centers for chart work (poetry, sentences, sight words and the list goes on), schedule chart, center assignments, cooperative group assignments, the possibilities are endless. Even though they are small, I love that I can print things directly from the computer and use with them. My 2nd favorite the small animals were 50 farm animals in a small plastic pouch. They are the perfect size to use as manipulatives for math, games, counting, etc. Very cute stuff!!
I sold one of my textbooks and made a few bucks. I decided I would stop by my local teacher store to see if I could find any good deals or anything to go with my new theme. I spent some time picking and putting back. I can't find exactly what I'm looking for. Every bulletin board set I found seemed to have something wrong with it - it had monkeys, jungle was written on it or the animals look funny. Anyways I managed to find a few bulletin board trims and a few other tidbits. As I got in line the girl rang me up. I saw a sign that said Terrific Tuesdays where certain items would be on sale each Tue. I asked her what would be on sale next Tues. She had to search around but finally found the listing for next Tues. Now she already rang me up and I was about to hand her my cash, when she announced it would be trims(buy 1 get 1 free). Wouldn't that be my luck. Well I asked if it was too late to take the trims off, so I could come back and get them while they were on sale. She was so sweet and not only took them off, but offered to save them behind the counter for me until Tuesday. Teacher Heaven rocks!! If you have one near you, check out their Terrific Tuesday specials!
Some of the other places I listed had some good deals too!
Big Lots - teacher awards, teacher plan books (I picked one of these up), pencils, sticks and other cute trinkets. All were around 1$
Dollar Tree - teacher awards, stickers, bulletin board trims, and I found these really cool word wall spinners (similar to these). The children spin and do different activities using the word wall. Would make a great center!
I got to work on my website today as well. It consumed most of my morning! I'm having trouble with formatting but got quite a bit done today.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Busy, busy, busy Summer!

This has been such an eventful summer - and we aren't even at the mid-point yet. I've gotten so many things done for my future classroom and I have found some amazing finds!! I've finally decided on a classroom theme. It's my 5th theme (and I don't even have a classroom yet). Drum roll please..... I've decided on a safari theme, not a jungle theme but an African safari theme. I plan to have animals like lions, zebras, giraffes, hippos and rhinos. I found adorable web graphics at Thistle Girl Designs. She has amazing clip art!!I loved them so much, I joined the club (totally worth it). I also created my own website, Mrs. Estupinan's Explorers. I think it will be a great tool to help keep my parents informed and involved in my classroom. One of my summer projects is to update it with teacher resources and have it all ready to plug my classroom information in. I will keep you updated on my progress. I'm really excited about my theme. I think it is going to be fun to decorate with it. I know I'm starting early (I don't graduate until Dec '09) but I want to be prepared as possible. I've even found some great things for my reading area. A few weekends ago we went to this enormous flea market close to San Antonio, called Bussey's Flea Market. It has about 500 vendors and I can't wait to go back. There I found a giant leopard print throw pillow, a leopard back rest pillow, an over sized stuffed leopard, crocodile and giraffe. I think they are going to be adorable and perfect for the kids to snuggle up with.
Besides finding a theme, website and now blog, I've also managed to knock out 2 more classes this summer. I took Classroom Management and Physics. I loved my CM class and had an amazing teacher. I learned so much in such a short time. Physics was a challenge but I managed to get great grades in both of them.
In May I was selected as a Rockefeller Brother Fund fellow. It is a very prestigious award. I was 1 of 25 students chosen across the United States. What an HONOR!!! We will receive funds to pay for our Masters. As part of the program, this summer I had to work with children in some sort of aspect. I decided to have a computer class at my local library. Our theme is comic books. We have learned some amazing computer applications and we are writing our own comic books. It has been an absolute blast!
So as you see, I have been busy, busy, busy!! But I wouldn't have it any other way! So far it has been such a fun and rewarding summer!!