Friday, August 15, 2014

Back to School Organization with Avery Products, FREE Binder Covers and a GIVEAWAY

Gearing up for back to school is hard work and it can be seriously stressful. Especially when papers are getting thrown your way all day long. I have a ton of forms, lists, procedural instructions, assessment paperwork and other important information that flows into my classroom for weeks! It all starts with staff meetings and professional development before school begins and it lasts throughout the entire school year. This year I vow to have control over every single important piece of paper. I will know exactly where each important piece of paper is filed for quick easy, and stress-free access at a moment's notice. You can do the same with a little help from Avery products and some really cute FREE editable binder covers from yours truly. 

FREE editable binder covers

When Avery contacted me this summer to share organizational tips and inspiration using their products, I was thrilled. You already know how obsessed I am with Avery labels. I also use their binders, dividers, and binder pockets for quick access to all my essential school documents. Avery generously sent a boatload of materials my way to get started and I went right to town! 

My shipment included several different colors of Avery's Clear Cover Durable View Binders. I like this binder style because they are durable enough to hold up in my kindergarten classroom. I also adore the bright colors! 

FREE editable binder covers

Class Information Binder

Let's begin with my "Class Information" binder. This binder is like my second bible. I have it with me at school each day and I carry it home every night. It contains all of my student contact information, schedules, parent volunteers, calling tree information, and so much more. Organizing this binder was my first priority.
This binder is essentially separated into two parts: school information and student information. I used Avery's 11200 Style Edge Insertable Plastic Dividers. I flip through these pages often and I needed something durable that would hold up for a few year's worth of flipping. I love these dividers because they are made of a lightweight translucent plastic. These will hold up much better than traditional paper dividers. I also love the rounded style of the divider labels and their beautiful bright colors. 

Creating the labels for my dividers was easy with Avery Templates. I was able to design my labels with just a few clicks using their free, Mac-friendly online software.  
tips to help teachers stay organized

The second part of my Class Information binder is dedicated to information about students. I send home a student questionnaire during the first week of school. This form contains parent contact information, allergies information, special family circumstances, and more. I separate this section of my binder by student using Avery's 11129 Ready Index Durable Table of Contents Dividers. These numbered dividers are AWESOME. Like so many teachers, I assign a number to each of my students. That child's information is stored below the corresponding numbered divider. 

teacher organization for back to school

FREE editable binder coversBe Prepared for Extra Practice

When I notice that one student is struggling with a skill or concept that the rest of the class has mastered, I often assign that child extra practice as a homework assignment. The homework isn't intended to be punitive and the last thing I want to do is bog down a struggling student with too much work. Often, these extra practice sheets are just a half page long so the student can gain some quick practice, then get back to enjoying childhood.

I keep all of these half sheets of paper organized using one of Avery's Protect & Store mini binders. It is half the size of a regular binder (only 5.5x8.5") and is the perfect way to store all of those pre-printed half sheets of paper for easy access to my extra practice pages. 

FREE editable binder covers

At my school, proper handwriting formation is a part of the curriculum. If I notice that a child routinely struggles with the same letter, I send home a half sheet of paper with a little extra practice. I go through many of these half sheets in a week, so I have them all prepped and stored in one of my Avery mini-binders. I used Avery's 16180 Write-On Plastic Dividers to separate the binder by letter for quick access. Now if I see that a child needs to work on a certain letter, I can move the practice page out of my binder and into a child's folder within a matter of seconds. 

teacher tips to stay organized this school year

FREE editable binder covers

Easy Assessment Organization

Assessment is a big part of any teacher's life. For Kindergarten teachers, assessments are what we do. I have a separate binder completely dedicated to my student assessments. I use a 1.5" binder, but I usually have a small class (only ten students last year). Most teachers would probably need a 2" or 3" binder to hold all of their assessment materials. 

In the front of my assessment binder, I once again used Avery's 11129 Ready Index Durable Table of Contents Dividers to create a section for each student within the binder. The set goes up to 31, but I only use 11 of them since I have 11 students enrolled in my class this year.

organize your student assessment tools and data… great tips

Recording sheets for all of my assessments are included behind each students' tab. 

tips to stay organized this school year

The back of my binder contains the materials I use to assess my students. I print all of these materials on cardstock and laminate them so they last through frequent reuse. Avery's 16179 Durable Write-On Plastic Dividers with Pockets were perfect for this task. The plastic pockets are durable and hold all of my materials. I can quickly pull them out without having to open and close the rings on my binder. Every minute counts when I am running assessments and I love how convenient the pockets are. 

great tips for organizing student assessment tools and data

Are you looking to start your own assessment binder but don't know where to begin? 
Here are a few FREE resources from some of my favorite bloggers:

Mandy's Dolch Pre-Primer Word Assessment Pack from A Special Kind of Class
Simply Kinder's Monster Data Book

My assessment sheets are created around my school's kindergarten report card. If you are looking to revamp your schools' report card, this FREE report card template from DeeDee Wills is a great place to start. 

Quick and Easy Access to School Forms

If your school is anything like mine, you probably have a form for EVERYTHING. I gathered copies of the forms I use most often and organized them into an entire binder dedicated to managing all of them. 

FREE editable binder covers

For this project, I used Avery's 81824 Two Pocket Insertable Plastic Dividers. Master copies of each form were placed within the corresponding labeled pocket, and additional copies are stored behind the pocket. I never want to write on my last blank form. By placing master copies in the pockets, I can always be certain that I won't use my master copy by mistake.

tips for organizing all of those school forms

Download Free Editable Binder Covers

Now that you have been treated to a little organizational inspiration, I'm sure you are eager to start organizing all of that paperwork in your classroom so you can start the new school year on the right foot. Get organized in style with my FREE Editable Binder Covers. This freebie includes all of the binder covers I used in my own classroom, coordinating spines, and an editable PowerPoint file. This allows you to design matching covers and spines for all of your classroom needs.

FREE binder covers and coordinating spines to get you organized for Back to School

Click the cover image below to download your FREE Binder Covers!
FREE binder covers and coordinating spines to get you organized for Back to School

Avery Products Giveaway

I have even MORE great news to share with you!
You can enter to WIN some great organizational goodies from Avery.
a Rafflecopter giveaway
*This was a sponsored blog post. I received products and compensation from Avery.
As always, this post reflects my 100% honest opinion :)

FREE binder covers and coordinating spines to get you organized for Back to School

Which Avery products are your favorite to use in the classroom?

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Get Ready for School with the Teacher Style Giveaway!

Summer is quickly coming to an end and I have teamed up with some of my favorite teacher-bloggers to help you go back to school in style - TEACHER STYLE!

April, Melanie, Adrianne, and I have an amazing prize pack lined up for you. Are you ready to hear all the goodies that are up for grabs?!? You are going to LOVE them!

$50 Kate Spade gift card
$50 LOFT gift card
$50 Target gift card

But that's not all! You could also win some very stylish prizes from chic boutiques to help you put your best food forward on those first days back in the classroom.

A trendy chevron tote from Oh Baby Designs
A beautiful infinity scarf from Cents of Style
A "Brave" bracelet (because we all need a little extra bravery when we reenter the classroom) from Lisa Leonard Designs.

Enter to win Kate Spade, Target and LOFT gift cards in the Teacher Style GIVEAWAY!

One lucky winner gets to win it all, so hurry up and enter before time runs out!

  a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wishing you a very STYLISH start to the 2014-2015 school year!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Perfectly Layered Bulletin Board Borders: A Tutorial

Do you love the look of layered borders on a classroom bulletin board but are stumped about how to get them just right? Did you try the "staple and tuck" method, only to end up with creases all over your beautiful borders? Today am thrilled to bring you a video AND photographic tutorial guiding you step-by-step through creating a beautifully layered border for your bulletin boards without having to pull your hair out in frustration. 
Are you ready? Let's do it!

how to layer bulletin board borders like a pro

This tutorial contains photos and videos to deliver the most complete information for your needs. Watch the video and then scroll through the photos in the rest of this post. You will become an expert in creating perfectly layered borders by the time you are finished. 

To begin, you will want to measure all of your classroom bulletin boards ahead of time and pre-cut the desired colors of border to fit each edge. Be sure to add an extra 6" or so onto each strip that you cut. You want to have the extra space for lining up your scallops. Once you are ready, lift one edge of the top layer and place a thin line of hot glue on top of the bottom border. Don't do the whole border. You are just setting this up and the little bit of hot glue will hold your positioning.

tips for creating perfectly layered borders around your classroom bulletin board
An easy way to layer multiple borders around your classroom bulletin board

After a few of the stacked borders are glued in place, flip the entire strip over so you are looking at the back of the borders. Go ahead and lift the entire unglued portion up and place a thin layer of glue along the entire bottom layer then set the lifted piece on top of the glue, being careful to lay the top piece in a straight line. 

An easy way to layer multiple borders around your classroom bulletin board

I know a few people will probably wonder:
"Why on Earth is she flipping the border over? Wouldn't it be easier to just glue the whole thing while looking at the top of the borders?" 

Yes it is possible to do all of the gluing while looking at the colored side of the border. But something about the scallops plays tricks on your eyes and makes it more difficult to ensure that you are applying the top layer in a straight line. I have had far more success flipping the border over to apply the glue. Remember, the look we are trying to achieve is PERFECTLY SPACED LAYERS. 

An easy way to layer multiple borders around your classroom bulletin board

Once you have two layers of border glued together, you can repeat the steps as many times as you desire. Start each new layer face-up and glue 6-8" along one edge to hold your spacing. Then flip the whole thing order and let the straight lines guide you as you glue the rest of the strip. Many of my classroom board have 4-5 layers of border. It works even when you have that many pieces. 

An easy way to layer multiple borders around your classroom bulletin board
An easy way to layer multiple borders around your classroom bulletin board

If you accidentally glue a border crooked or have any other mishaps along the way, just give a gentle tug to separate the glued layers. If you used a thin line of hot glue, they will come apart (even if the glue has dried). Reposition your strips of border and apply a new line of hot glue to re-adhere the strips. This project is very forgiving of mistakes. 

An easy way to layer multiple borders around your classroom bulletin board

Photos and video by BTW Photography. Brian Weitzel from BTW Photography is one of the most talented people I know and I was so pleased to hand the camera off to Brian and his assistant, Eric for this tutorial. Thank you gentlemen!

Hanging Your Perfectly Layered Borders

Once your borders are finished, they are ready to hang! I use staples to attach the pieces just like any other bulletin board. Sections of border that are only a few feet long are very easy to hang. I created several faux-bulletin boards around my classroom and trimmed them with layered border as well. In those spaces, I used hot glue or packing tape to attach the borders to the paper backing. Both adhesives worked just fine.

An easy way to layer multiple borders around your classroom bulletin board

If you find yourself with REALLY long pieces of border (like the ones you see on my classroom alphabet wall), I highly recommend having some friends help you hold the border while you staple it. For this particularly bulletin board, my mom and another teacher at my school held help me lift the the very long section of border without bending and creasing it. Then I grabbed a stapler and quickly attached the layered border to my board while they held it in place. It can be a little stressful to hang pieces of border this big, but don't worry. With help, it look less than 10 minutes to hang the border around my entire bulletin board.

If you look carefully at the birds in my classroom, you will see that the corners are sort of woven together. To achieve this look, I  the border around the bulletin board but did not staple the ends of each strip to the board. The ends of each strip were hot glued together, but they easily tugged apart to separate each layer.  Start from inner layers and weave the edges to create the desired look, applying hot glue to set the corners in place.

tutorial for creating beautifully layered borders around a classroom bulletin board

Where to Shop

I trimmed all of the bulletin boards in my kindergarten classroom with Bordette. I love it because it is bold, cheap, and comes in a rainbow of colors. You can purchase Bordette on Amazon or from Schoolgirl Style. The silhouettes of children playing that are on display in my window, pennant banners in my classroom, and even the sign above my desk that says "Miss Manore" all came from Schoolgirl Style. The Schoolgirl Style online store is the best place to stock up on beautiful decorations and Schoolgirl Style blog provides limitless classroom inspiration.

Maria Manore from Kinder-Craze

Find out More

Have a question about something you saw in my classroom? 
You will find answers in one of these blog posts:

Take a Tour of My Classroom

Take a peek into every nook and cranny of my kindergarten classroom with my 2013 classroom tour. You will also find a shopping list so you can track down materials to recreate my space in your own learning environment.  

Spray Painted File Cabinets

Fans always ask about my bright yellow file cabinets. I painted them. Read more to discover step by step directions and essential tools for painting your own cabinets.

Silhouettes of Children Playing

Don't you just love the beautiful silhouettes that are displayed above my classroom windows? These cuties can be found throughout the room. Read all about them in this blog post

Brightly Colored Alphabet Wall

The alphabet wall you see behind me is part of the Letter of the Week study we do in my classroom. Each letter is a collage of pictures beginning with that sound. Discover how I use the alphabet wall in the classroom and download a FREE template to help you create your own alphabet wall. 

Word Wall Printables

The brightly colored cards you see beside the letters on my alphabet wall are kindergarten sight words. The alphabet wall in my classroom doubles as our word wall. Read more about how I use color to help students master sight words and download FREE sight word labels to create your own word wall cards.  

Shelf Storage Bins and Labels

Aren't the brightly colored bins not the shelf behind me beautiful? They are my favorite way to store all of those necessary teacher materials and they look so much nicer than stacks of paper. Read all about how I stay organized with Classroom Supply Labels and storage bins in this blog post

Share Your Thoughts

Before you go, I would love to hear what you think! Would you like to see more tutorials like this one? Do you have any specific projects that you would like to see me present on? Do you enjoy blog posts with video or would you prefer that I just stick to the basics of text and photos?

 I create all of my content with you, the readers, in mind. Please take a moment to leave a comment telling me what kind of content you prefer.
Thank you so much. xoxo

Sunday, August 10, 2014

My Classroom Wasn't Ready (And it was OK)

Friends, I have confession to share with you today. It's about my classroom.
You know… my beautiful classroom.

Last year, it wasn't ready on the first day of school.

Oh it was pretty and lanterns were hanging. And people walked in the room and gushed about how lovely it was. But it wasn't READY. I didn't even have an alphabet posted. Or numbers, for that matter. There were so many factors involved with moving into our new building that my school could not control and so many changes I had to make along the way. The result? An incomplete classroom. And a very sad teacher. Each time there was a new setback (and there were many, many setbacks) I found myself in tears because my classroom would not be complete by the first day of school.

But you know what? It was ok.
My students learned, I finished decorating the classroom slightly behind schedule, and we all loved the classroom a little more as a result of the delay.

a kindergarten classroom transformation during the school year

The above photo was taken during my students first few days in the classroom. We were just getting started with daily 5. The space above my whiteboard for showcasing the alphabet was still a work in progress, there were no number cards displayed on my freshly painted cabinet, and "classroom rules" poster wasn't hanging beside my framed subway art. Despite being in the midst of an incomplete classroom, every child had a book box and was engaged in learning. The decorations are wonderful, but at the end of the day, it's the engagement with new knowledge that really matters.

By now, you probably know every well-decorated detail of my kindergarten classroom. Today I invite you to join me for a behind the scenes peek into our days working and playing inside my incomplete classroom during the first weeks of school.

Adding Trees and a Number Line

By the first week of school, I had completed two of the black vinyl trees on my walls, but a lot of blank space still remained that I wanted to fill with two more decorative trees. I was also eager to put a sign on the door to the restroom and finally hang a number line in the classroom. It took a few weeks, but that corner of the classroom finally came together.
a kindergarten classroom transformation during the school year

Completing the Window Decorations

Another big project to tackle was the completion of my classroom window decorations. By the first day of school, but boards above my winders were complete and included silhouettes of children playing (available from Schoolgirl Style), but the windows themselves needed a little pizzaz. I added rainbow pennants and a striped border above each window (also from Schoolgirl Style.) The finished result was perfect - just slightly behind schedule. 

a kindergarten classroom transformation during the school year

Alphabet, Numbers and Calendar Finishing Touches

Of all the items missing from my classroom, the missing alphabet saddened me the most. Here you can see one of my students working on a puzzle to sequence numbers and the alphabet is completely missing from the classroom.
kindergarten classroom decorations completed during the school year

The alphabet display was my biggest priority to complete as quickly as I could once students entered the classroom. I don't have an actual bulletin board above my whiteboard, so I needed to construct a space on the wall to resemble one. Below, you can see another photo from the first week of Read to SElf. Note that the mock bulletin board was slowly coming together. 

kindergarten classroom decorations completed during the school year

My calendar area and number display also needed a lot of work to fine-tune once students were in the classroom.  It wasn't long before those details were complete as well.

kindergarten classroom decorations completed during the school year

Updating the Classroom Library

Of all the projects in my kindergarten classroom, updating my classroom library was the most time consuming. In late October, I added a few decorative touches to my IKEA bench. I used black ribbon to fasten the cushion in place so it wouldn't slide around each time someone sat on the bench. I also added a strip of magenta ribbon to the front of each box to give the bench a little added POP.

The real task lay in labeling my classroom library. Prior to the first day of school, I made sure all of the books were sorted, leveled and arranged in my brand new colorful bins. The books were even labeled from my first attempt at library organization several years ago. 

I had a vision for how I wanted my new library to look, complete with new box labels and coordinating book labels. I knew this was going to be a big project to take on from scratch and I had a lot of other things going on (you know, things like lesson planning, teaching, maintaining the blog and spending time with my boyfriend/fiancĂ©) so this task took a long time to complete. Students were given access to the library and they were well-trained in how to care for it. The library stayed in great shape, even without any book labels. Slowly, new labels were added to the books and library bins throughout the year. 

It took seven long months but by April, my library was finally complete! 
kindergarten classroom decorations completed during the school year

The Classroom as a Work-in-Progress

Starting out the school year with an incomplete classroom is definitely not the ideal. It was stressful, frustrating, and left me feeling like I had failed. But you know what? It was ok. My students thought the classroom was beautiful from the moment they stepped through the door. I told my class (as I always do) that I worked hard to make the classroom a really fun place for us to learn each day and I asked the each student to please do their best to take care of our classroom. I even made it into a rule

I have never taught a group of students that was more in love with their classroom. They knew I was working hard to make it even more beautiful for all of us. Each time I added something new, my class noticed. They actually came into the classroom each day and immediately searched for new decorations. They noticed even the smallest of details and loved every single one of them. When we did  art projects, the children always proudly talked about how it was THEIR turn to make new decorations for our classroom. 

This kindergarten classroom wasn't completely decorated during the first week of school and it was ok. Blog post shows the transformation.

Looking Ahead to This Year

This year, my classroom will be 100% ready for my students when school begins. I taught summer school classes in my room throughout the summer so the decor stayed pretty much intact. The only thing that was truly shuffled around was the furniture.

This is how the classroom looked when I stepped in the door to begin setting up. As every teacher knows, being able to keep my walls decorated throughout the summer is truly a blessing and I won't start the year in tears because my classroom will be all set and ready to go. But if it gets to be crunch time and you find your classroom far from where you hoped it would be, don't fret! Just keep working on all of those details during the school year and your students will love the classroom (and you) all the more for it.

Are you following Kinder-Craze on Instagam? Come follow along to see sneak peeks of my upcoming projects and life behind the screen.

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