TEACHER TIMESAVER: HOW TO MAKE LESSON PLANNING EASIER (plus a freebie)

Monday, May 28, 2018
I am always looking for ways to save myself time in my teacher life. One thing that consistently feels like it takes forever is lesson planning. Every week, my team sits down to plan for the upcoming week. For awhile, this became a 2 (or more) hour meeting. Ugh. I love my team, but I don't love making us sit down and lesson plan for that long. Why? Because after we weekly plan, we still have to input our own plans into our teacher planners. Talk about a long process. There had to be a more efficient way.

That's why we started to long-term lesson plan. The time it took us to plan weekly went from several hours to under 1!!  Yes, this does take some time up front. But it's worth it when you think about the time you'll save in the long run.


So, are you ready to start saving time?! Here's how: 
Start by setting up a template that works for you. You'll need a monthly header and a table with the subjects you teach or want to plan for, and the weeks in each month. Not sure how to do this yourself? These monthly planning templates are all ready to go for you with options for 4-8 subjects to plan for OR you can try a printable version of the September Planning Template for free (available at the bottom of this post). 

Now that you have your template set up, you can start inputting your plans for each month. When my team and I are doing this, we put in a general overview for each subject. The overview includes the topic and/or standard we'll be teaching with resources we know we'll be using. We do not include a breakdown for each day of the week in our monthly plans. We save the breakdown for our weekly meetings. 

Once your plans are in your monthly template, you can print or keep it digital for your reference. Every week when my team meets, we refer to our monthly plans. Having this framework helps us hash out each day quickly. It also allows us to come to our meetings prepared with resources we might need for the following week. In addition to coming to meetings prepared, we can also start prepping weeks ahead of time. 


I know that this summer I'll be able to prep for August and September thanks to my Monthly Planning Calendars

Want to try Monthly Planning for one month FREE? Grab a printable version of the September Planning Template by filling out the form below
Need to come back later? Make sure to pin so you can find it when you need it :) 



Send Me the Monthly Planning Freebie

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Have teacher timesaver tips? Feel free to leave them in the comments below :)



AT HOME TEETH WHITENING THAT WORKS & GIVEAWAY

Saturday, April 21, 2018
Hey Teacher Friends,

If there's one thing I know about teachers, it's that we all lead busy lifestyles. Not only do we care for and educate our students all day, but we also do have lives outside of school - believe it or not ;) These past 3 weeks have been the busiest for me in a long time. They consisted of traveling 3 times, writing report cards, and preparing for family events. On top of that, I was drinking my usual 2-3 cups of coffee a day to ensure I had the necessary energy to keep up with my students and busy schedule.

I love coffee. I'm one of those people who really can't function or do anything productive until I've had at least 2 cups. There's only one problem with this... no beautiful white teeth. And it's not just coffee that causes unflattering teeth stains. Did you know that foods like black tea, colored soda, gum, and many others affect the color of your teeth? So even if you get your teacher energy from foods and drinks besides coffee, your teeth can still be affected. 

These are just a few reasons that I was motivated to team up with Smile Brilliant to test the effectiveness of at-home teeth whitening on a busy, coffee-loving teacher. Keep reading to hear about the process and enter a GIVEAWAY!

The Kit
The Smile Brilliant Kit arrives quickly at your doorstep! It's packaged with optimal organization and includes everything you need to create your custom-fit teeth trays right away. The kit also includes simple, step-by-step instructions for taking teeth impressions, sending the impressions back, and the whitening/desensitizing process.

I was so excited to get my kit, I had to snap a picture of it! 

Custom-Fit Trays
When I found out that I'd have to take impressions of my teeth, I felt nervous. I was fairly certain that I would mess this up. However, Smile Brilliant made the process easy to follow. I immediately felt at ease. The kit includes step by step instructions to walk you through exactly how to create the mold. They even include pictures to show what the mold should and should not look like. This was exactly what I needed to ensure I completed the first step accurately. Oh, and get this: they even include extra molds in case you do make a mistake. Phew!

To take your teeth impressions, you mix two molds together, press them into the impression trays, and bite. I love that the instructions detail how long to keep the molds in for and what it should look/feel like when they're ready to be removed. My impressions were made in less than 10 minutes! Once you make your impression trays, simply put them in the envelope provided and stick them in the mail. Your custom-fit whitening trays arrive within days!



Whitening Trays
A quick note about these whitening trays. I was expecting to get hard, uncomfortable trays (you know, like the retainer trays you got from the dentist after getting your braces off? Ugh!) The whitening trays from Smile Brilliant are the exact opposite! They're comfortable and fit my teeth perfectly. There was no pain or uncomfortable feeling when I wore them at all.

Whitening
Whitening my teeth was so easy to do, even with my busy schedule! Simply insert the whitening gel into your custom-fitted whitening trays and gently place them on your teeth. Again, Smile Brilliant provided clear instructions for how to place the trays in so that the gel covers the area of your teeth that you're trying to whiten. You can leave the trays in for 1-3 hours and continue going about your day. Easy peasy.

Since tooth sensitivity during whitening is common, Smile Brilliant also provides you with desensitizing gel. After cleaning and drying your trays, you insert the desensitizing gel. Just as you did with the whitening process, you place the trays on your teeth. This step only lasts 15-20 minutes. I experienced very minimal sensitivity during this process thanks to this step!


The Results
Oh my goodness, you guys. I did not realize how stained my teeth were before this process. Yikes!  To say I'm thankful for the results is not enough. Here are my before and after shots after 14 days of whitening:
Top: Before Picture; Bottom: After Picture
Overall Review
Whitening my teeth with the Smile Brilliant whitening kit was simple and easy to do. The team was great to work with and their instructions were very helpful! I loved that it fit seamlessly in with my busy schedule of work, family events, and hobbies. You know what I loved even more though? Being able to love my smile again with whiter teeth.

 
 


DISCOUNT AND GIVEAWAY
Giveaway link: www.smilebrilliant.com/g/teachinglittleleaders
Click to view the kit & apply this 15% off discount code at checkout: teachinglittleleaders15
The giveaway is for a $149 Smile Brilliant credit. It is open for 1 week and open to USA, UK, Australia and Canadian residents. 



Tooth Whitening Gel

SPRING ROOM TRANSFORMATION: FREEBIES AND TAKEAWAYS

Friday, March 30, 2018
Hey Teacher Friends,

If you follow me on social media, you might have seen my recent classroom transformation: spring! I've done small room transformations in December with the Polar Express, but this spring, my team and I were determined to do a big one for our kindergarten students. It was such an exciting task, but one that I knew could turn stressful very easily.

Today I'm sharing the components that made up this room transformation, plus a few links to freebies and tips to keep in mind if you're planning a classroom transformation in the near future.


Let's Talk About Planning...
When my team and I decided to do this, we knew ahead of time that our theme for the week was spring. We also knew the content that we wanted to teach for each subject. It just so happened that this was a review week for us. I feel like this made it easier because there was no brand new content involved, and the students were able to help (but more on that later).

Once we knew the skills we'd be reviewing, we were able to create or find resources that were spring themed to use. We added those resources to our planning document.

Prep, Prep, Prep
We knew that prepping everything, from lesson resources to transformation materials, would take time... and we knew that we'd be teacher-tired. For that reason, we set aside planning time during a weekly team meeting to brainstorm what we needed to buy, what we needed to prep, and when we would prep it. I added everything to my free Weekly To Do Lists and separated it out by day.

The plan was to cut out all of the paper we'd be needing by Thursday. Then we'd put a decent chunk of the room transformation decorations up on Friday afternoon after school and leave it up for the entire week after. For me this included the "grass" at the front of the room, the "sun" in the top corner, and the "tree". You can get a look at this process in the video at the bottom of this post.

I got the "garden" for our Mix and Fix Sentence Scramble Center done on Monday morning before the kids got to school.


Here's a look at what the Garden Center looked like up close: 

Making It Interactive
Room transformations can be a lot of work for teachers! Students love to help, so why not let them help with this?? A large chunk of lesson plans from our room transformation week included activities that would display their understanding of a variety of subjects with a spring theme!

Check it out:
The Rainbow Clouds with Fruit Loops were actually a math game. You can find further explanation and a template for the cloud in this blog post from Housing a Forest. Check out this close up picture from one of my students working on this activity: 

These flowers were part of a science review lesson. We talked about the parts of a flower. Students put the flower together. Then they used these labels (printed on bright paper), tape, and string to label the parts.
These word family butterflies were such a fun student-led activity. I gave students anchor chart paper and they worked in groups to write words from different word families. Then they chose a word family and generated words (or nonsense words) for the "family" of their choosing on this free butterfly template from Randi at the Teaching It With Class blog. Check out this close up below:

Finishing Touches: 
A few finishing touches to our room transformation were the umbrellas (my FAVORITE part), bright tablecloths, and some writing themed snacks for our celebration. The umbrellas and tablecloths were from 5 Below.

Have Fun! 
Like I said... room transformations are a lot of work. If you're stressed, the kids will be too. If you're having fun, so will your kids. Why stress it? Embrace the work and do it for the kids. I had a blast and I know my kids did too. That made it all worth it.

Here's a video look at the process of setting up the room transformation throughout the week. You'll be able to see a few more details that I wasn't able to capture in the pictures... plus a look at how it all came together for a Writer's Picnic Celebration at the end of the week :) Click here or the picture to view the video

Looking to tie it all together with more spring activity fun? Here are Spring Centers that are just right for K:


I hope this gave you some ideas and courage to try a room transformation! If you have any other tips, please share with us in the comments below!




3 FREE WAYS TO PRACTICE SELF-CARE

Thursday, March 15, 2018
Hello busy teacher friend,

Self- care is a popular topic among teachers recently. That's probably because as educators, we're constantly giving all of ourselves to the amazing little people around us daily that when we do have down time, we don't know how to use it! Let's face it, as amazing as our job is, it can also be completely exhausting. Because I am so passionate about being a teacher, it can sometimes be difficult to step away and find the time I need for myself. Yes, there are always items on all of our to-do lists, but what good are you to family, friends, or your students if all you ever do is focus on work and you never take time for you?

As I began winter break in December, one of my resolutions was to be more intentional about self-care. Here are 3 totally free self-care activities I put in my planner weekly.

ST. PATRICK'S DAY COUNTING MATS FOR TEEN NUMBERS

Friday, March 2, 2018
Happy March, teacher friends!

That's right, it's already March. I can't believe it either. It feels like we blinked and February was over. Today I'm sharing a fun, simple, free activity that's perfect for this month!

My students love anything themed and I love when they get to practice growing their number sense. I also love it when activities can be combined with anything that develops their fine motor skills. Counting mats are a great combination for this kind of practice! Your students will love these free St. Patrick's Day Teen Number Counting Mats. They'll be an exciting addition to your math lessons or hands-on center this month.

Grab this FREE activity and read about the various ways you can use them in your classroom over at The Kindergarten Connection

VALENTINE'S DAY COUNTING CENTERS

Sunday, February 4, 2018
Confession time: Incorporating themed centers is not one of my strengths. I tend to stick to what works. That doesn't mean that I use the same centers over and over. I have a center organization system that works and a sufficient amount of activities, they're just not always themed. My themed centers for the year can fit into one plastic bin.

Why does this bother me? Well, this year my team has tried to stick to a weekly theme. And you know what? The kids LOVE themes. We try to immerse the students in it entirely across subject areas. A few weeks ago our theme was penguins. We read penguin books, learned about the life cycle of a penguin, and even made our greeting for Morning Meeting: Waddle Like a Penguin.

Knowing that incorporating a theme into as many aspects of our day as possible helps keep my students engaged and excited about learning, has made me realize that I need more themed activities for our centers.

Valentine's Day is coming up and I've been working hard to add themed activities to our learning fun. From Valentine's Day STEM (written for The Kindergarten Connection) to a Cards Writing Center, and now Counting Centers for Math! The following 3 activities are ideal for students to practice identifying, representing, and writing numbers 1-20.

HEART ENGINEERS: VALENTINE'S DAY STEM ACTIVITIES

Tuesday, January 23, 2018
It's time for another holiday teacher friends and that means even more themed fun! What's better for Valentine's Day than hearts? My kindergarteners absolutely love anything that has to do with building so on this special holiday, I combine STEM fun with all things hearts. Your kids will love these Heart Engineering STEM Activities that come with free printable recording sheets to help your students extend their learning.
These activities are a great addition to your math, science, or Valentine's Day Party plans. I hope you and your students have fun exploring, playing, and learning!

Grab the FREE printable and learn about these Heart Engineering Activities over at The Kindergarten Connection


WRITERS WRITE CARDS CENTER

Sunday, January 14, 2018
Alright teacher friends, I don't know about you but sometimes I really struggle to come up with a variety centers for my kiddos. This is especially true for our writing center. I have several go-to activities that they love. There is a center organization system in place and activities are rotated so they're not doing the same thing all the time but it still feels repetitive to me. I would love for them to be exposed to different kinds of writing that are simple to complete for them and simple to set up for me.

This is the thought that made me decide to create templates for different kinds of writing we all do in real, every day life. With Valentine's Day coming up, cards seemed like the perfect first center to try.

DIARY OF A TEACHER ON BREAK

Wednesday, December 27, 2017
Hey teacher friends,

Raise your hand if you have not taken nearly enough time for yourself in the past (and by past I mean recent present). Are you raising your hand? I am. I've spent way too much time working this year, and while I'm proud of my accomplishments and the growth I see in my students because of it, I also know that focusing on work as much as I have is not healthy.
As I left school for winter break last week, I promised myself that I would not spend my entire break working. In fact, call me crazy, but I am not doing any school work this break. I am blogging and I am working on my TPT business a tad, but still definitely not full time. I am incredibly grateful to have a full 2 weeks off and intend to make the most of it. I asked teachers on Instagram this question to the right... and of course I didn't think to share the results on this blog in time.. but I do remember that most teachers selected "catch up on work" in this poll. 

I did not write this post to share every detail of my break with you. I wrote it to be honest about that fact that teachers NEED breaks. We need periods of time where we don't focus on work and we do enjoy our time off. I wrote it to hopefully inspire other teachers to do the same. If you're like me and struggle to keep a healthy work-life balance, I hope this post inspires you to get started. If you've been trying to be more intentional about taking time for you and for self-care, then please share in the comments how! I'm sure we'd all love to get more ideas on how we can better take care of ourselves :) Teachers are human too and we need rest.

TEACHING IN DECEMBER: MAKING IT MAGICAL AND MEANINGFUL {plus some freebies}

Sunday, December 17, 2017
Happy December, teacher friends!

I know that December can be a very busy time, not just at home, but also at school. But can I just state something... I love teaching in December. Yes, our students might be a tad chatty. Yes, we have deadlines to meet and prepping to get done for when we get back from break. So yes... this month can be stressful. Until I take a step back and think about those sweet little ones we are so blessed to teach every single day.

This time of the year is incredibly magical to them. We truly are fortunate to get to teach during this special time. We have an opportunity. We get to create an environment that incorporates the magic of  the holiday season and academic skills. And that's exactly what I strive to do during December. Here's how:

ORGANIZING CENTERS TO MAXIMIZE STUDENT INDEPENDENCE

Saturday, December 2, 2017
Hey Teacher Friends!

There are so many amazing ways to organize centers, but it's important to find a system that works for you. True Teacher Confession Time: When I first started centers in my classroom (as a first year teacher) I was so lost. The idea of my students rotating around the room, where to store centers, how students would get them ... I just couldn't wrap my head around it all! As a result, my centers definitely were not as efficient and effective as they could have been.
Looking back, I'm glad I had this experience, because it allowed me to develop a system that really works for me and my students. Today I'm going to share how my center system increases student independence in my classroom .... and I teach Kindergarten, by the way.
Just because they're my favorite... I'm going to show you my Math Centers in this post (but my Literacy Centers work exactly the same).

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