Friday, July 24, 2015

Back to School Series: Teacher Planner

We are now on our final post for the Back to School Series!

Today's post is on something that is VERY important and pretty much a necessity for all teachers!!

What do you use for your teacher planner?
There are so many options out there that sometimes it's really hard to decide!

When I first started teaching, I used Lakeshore Learning's teacher's plan book
The book is always free during their Back to School sale with a purchase of $20 or more. And let me tell you, it is VERY easy to spend $20 at that store!
I used this planner for two years. 
During my third year of teaching, something horrible happened....Lakeshore changed the weekly layout of their planner!!! Instead of the days of the week going in rows, they made them into columns! I know...end of the world for people like me who just HAVE to have the days of the week in rows. 

So...I had to go searching for a different planner to use. 
My school back then used to order planners for their teachers. They had stopped doing that when I joined them, but there were still some extra ones in storage. I was asked if I wanted one and after looking through it, I immediately said yes. 

This was my new planner.
[affiliate: click on image to purchase on Amazon]

It had everything I wanted except for one was HUGE!
If you look at the dimensions on Amazon it says 12.8 by 10.8 inches. 
GIANT I tell you.
So of course it was always sticking out of my teacher bag and somewhat of a hassle to carry around.

So the next year (last school year), I started my search again. 
I think Lakeshore had figured out that teachers like me wanted the old layout back so they had switched their weekly layout back to days of the week being in rows again. 
However, I had seen lots of posts about Erin Condren's teacher planners floating around online. 
Definitely peaked my interest so I nicely convinced the boyfriend to order one for me as our anniversary gift. (silly teacher!)

Well...let me tell you...once you start Erin Condren-ing, you sort of can't go back.
It had everything I wanted in a planner and more. 
One of the best part was so colorful!
(Ask any of my students, they will tell you that Ms. Wu loves colors!)

So when it came to deciding on a planner for this coming school year...
I ended up purchasing another Erin Condren planner. 
Mind you, I did want to try some of the other planners that I've seen floating around on the interwebs like the ones from Modern Teacher or Plum Paper Design but both those planners had their days of the week in columns and not rows. You know me, I just can't have that so I went with Erin Condren again.
And I'm super excited to share that it arrived yesterday!!!

I'm super excited to start filling it out!

What teacher planner do you get?
Thank you, also, for making it through this week and following me along as I blab about back to school!

Just a quick shameless plug...I now have facebook fan page and it needs some fans!
If you enjoyed what you have read so far, please become like my facebook page to get updates when new posts arrive! I will also share posts from other blogs that I find interesting on my facebook fan page too!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Back to School Series: Back to School Shopping

Can't believe you're back for day 4 of the Back to School Series! 
Today we are talking about...back to school shopping!!!

Can I share a secret?
I actually love back to school shopping!
My bank account doesn't of course. 
But it's just a once a year event (yea, right!) so it can handle it. ;)

I just wanted to share some of the things I usually buy every year during back to school shopping. 
I will include prices in red if I happen to know them off the top of my head.
[Disclaimer: all links to Amazon are affliate links.]

Composition Books

Last year, I decided to try using interactive notebooks for Math. 
Boy, were they a hit! The kids absolutely loved having a math notebook so I'm definitely going to do it again this year. Some people use spiral notebooks for interactive notebooks, but I liked using composition books. Composition books are just sturdier and you don't have to worry about a metal spiral coming undone.

I bought my composition books from Staples for 50 cents each. (limit 30)
You can also get them from Target or Walmart for the same price.

Poly Folders

I buy these every year for my homework/communication folder, which I talked about in yesterday's post. Poly folders last way longer than paper folders.

I usually get mine at Office Depot. They are currently on sale for 60 cents each (in store only, not sure about limit). 
I've seen them at Target for 50 cents each but the Office Depot ones seem a little sturdier so I'm okay with paying the extra 10 cents for each.

**I usually also go buy a box of sheet protectors from Costco to put in the folders. Don't have to buy them this year since my new school has already ordered them for me.**

Writing Supplies
(click on image to purchase on Amazon)

For anchor charts....

For the planner...

For writing on papers projected by the document camera...

These are some of the things I always find myself buying every year. 

One last thing...

Plastic Folder w/ Clasp
This is not an every year buy. Just a one time buy that can last for many years.
I use these as my "first week" folders. 
Since my homework folders are personalized during the first week of school, they aren't ready to start going home yet. 
However, the first week of school is one of the busiest in terms of things getting sent home and coming back to school so I use these "homework" folders from Really Good Stuff as a substitute. Each folder is labeled "first week" and with a number (written on with Sharpie). 
My students are all assigned a student number on the first day of school so they get whichever folder corresponds with that number. After the first week is over and homework folders are ready to go to their owners, the first week folders are returned to me. Having the numbers on the folders definitely help because if you find yourself missing any you know exactly who to go ask. I've used the same set of folders for the past three years and they are still going strong!

What are some things you find yourself buying every year during Back to School shopping?

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Back to School Series: Homework/Communication Folder

So you're back for day 3 eh? Glad you came back!

Today's post is on...

This is something that you can work on putting together before the school year starts. I've actually blogged about this before so I'm not going recreate the wheel and write a brand new entry again. Below is literally a copy and paste from my entry in 2012.


Before I begin, I must give all credit to the original idea to, Ms. Stienstra, my Master Teacher in second grade. She taught me well and really prepared me for my first year of teaching.

Last year, we were the first grade Superstars so we had S.T.A.R. folders. This year, we are the first grade Marvelous Monkeys so of course we need M.O.N.K.E.Y. folders this year!

I know some teachers use binders and other use folders. My master teacher (the Outstanding Owls) used those poly three-prong folders (the plastic kind). I really like them because they are very durable and don't get destroyed easily so I definitely wanted to use it for my own classroom. They definitely survived the entire year of first grade last year!

Here is the cover to our M.O.N.K.E.Y. folders:

Personalized by and for each student! This was one of the first things the students saw when they reached their desks on the first day of school. They got to color this along with their name card that I use for attendance. I collected them, laminated them, and then taped them onto the covers of each folder. In case you were wondering, the students don't receive their MONKEY folders until the second week of school (since I need to you know...apply their personalized cover). During the first week we used first week folders (which I will talk about tomorrow!) which I collected the second week of school to never be seen again until the first week of the next school year.

And now...inside the folder! (in order)
1. empty page protector - for decodables and anything small that might get lost easily.
2. M.O.N.K.E.Y. Rules - picture below

3. Monthly progressing monitoring calendar picture below. I use a clip chart in my classroom and at the end of the day the kids color the color their clip is on in the corresponding day on the calendar. This template was taken from a third grade teacher at my school and then revised for my own classroom.

4. A list of sight words, divided into three sections (we test the kids on sight words every trimester for report cards).
5. A page with all the OCR sound/spelling cards on it which I received at my district's new teacher OCR training. The purpose is for the students to refer to them for spelling help once we have flipped all the cards (around mid-year).
6. Penmanship Chart of uppercase and lowercase letters.
7. The 100 number chart - Mainly for students to use at home when completing their homework but some students like to use this during math lessons.
8. Book Bingo - An optional reading "program". Students get prizes for completing different parts of the bingo card. They have a whole year to complete the card if they want to. And they get a new card once they complete one.
9. Binder paper - Parent communication section if parents want to write notes to me.

The pockets in the folder are also labeled "Return to School" and "Leave at Home".

And that's my class's MONKEY folder! I really love using this sort of homework/communication folder because it really instills a sense of responsibility in my students. Plus I also like how each one is personalized for its owner. When I passed these folders out I pointed out to my students that their names are on the folder and emphasized how the folder belongs to them and not their parents so it is their job to be responsible of it.  During the first couple of weeks when a student doesn't bring his/her MONKEY folder to school and comes to me and tells me their parent forgot it, all I need to do is ask them if the folder belongs to their parent. That's all the reminder they need. And they have been doing a wonderful job being responsible with their MONKEY folder so far!

Quick story to share. One of my five year olds forgot her MONKEY folder at home which also happened to be the same day homework was due. She came to me and took full responsibility and told me that she forgot her folder at home. Her mom emailed me later that morning telling me that she had taken the folder out to sign the homework packet but forgot to put it back into her daughter's backpack.  So even though technically it wasn't my student's fault for not having her MONKEY folder, she still took full responsibility of it because, as she told her mom, the homework and folder belong to her! I think they really get it! :)


What do you use for your homework and/or communication folder?
How do you organize it?

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Back to School Series: First Day Letter

Welcome back for day 2 of the "Back to School Series" posts. Today's entry is going to be on...

The first day of school is always a hectic one. You can't wait to meet your students. Your students can't wait to meet you. And of course, the parents can't wait to meet you too. 

Besides spending a day (or half day in my case this year) with your new students, you probably also receive a packet of stuff to send home from the school. That packet of stuff is very important, but the one thing that most parents are probably looking forward to reading the most is your first day letter. It's not only your first piece of communication with the families of your students, it also gives the parents an idea of what to expect for the upcoming school year. This is a very important piece of document, my friend. It must be thought out well!

Here are some of the things I include in my first day letter:
*Introduce Myself
*School Schedule
*Necessary Supplies (and Wishlist)
*Food Allergies
*Class Website
*Upcoming Important Dates
*Contact Information

I also include a mini permission slip that allows me to post student pictures and videos on my class website, and a quick volunteering survey for parents to fill out so that I can get an idea of what my volunteer pool will be like when I decide on my volunteer roles for the year.

I know it's all really logistics and stuff, but what you include in your first day letter shows the parents what is most important to you in order to make the year a successful year. Sure, a lot of it is in a parent or school handbook, but when the teacher puts it in his/her own letter, it just emphasizes how important those topics really are and how much the parents should pay attention to them.

The nice thing about the first day letter is that once you create one, you are pretty much set for every year as long as you don't change schools. And this is also a piece of document that you can have done in the summer before the school year even starts. You will probably have to change small tidbits in your letter every year, but you don't have to create from scratch again. In fact, what I end up changing the most every year are the images I use in my letter so that it matches with my classroom theme. 

Unfortunately for me, I am at a new school this year, so there are still pieces of my letter that are not done yet since I need to wait to find out what the school policies are. But I am sharing my first day letter from 2012 below for you to download and use as a reference to help you get started on your own. Click the screenshot below to see it!

Hope this information was helpful! 
Do you include the same topics in your first day letter?
Do you think there are any other topics that should be included in the letter?
I would love to hear your thoughts! :)

Monday, July 20, 2015

Back to School Series: Class Websites

Welcome to my new blog!! I'm so excited to start blogging on "Ms. Wu Teaches"!!!
To start off the celebration of my blog makeover I've decided to do a week of back to school posts!!

I know we don't really want to be thinking about going back to school, but unfortunately some of us have to. My new classroom will finally be open to me after next week so I sort of consider summer as coming to an end. Major sadness, but I'm also super excited to get started working on my classroom. I usually only get a week to work on my setting up my classroom. But this year I get two weeks!!! Yay!

The little things, right? help get myself back into school mode, I thought I'd write some posts about getting ready for school. So every post this week will be about something related to getting ready for the first week of school.

Alrighty, let's get started shall we? Today's post is going to be about....

Do you have a class website?

Depending on your parent community, the internet is a great way to communicate with them! 
I know it sounds a bit intimidating...making a class website??? 
But they are actually quite easy to set up! I guarantee it! I use mine to post announcements, newsletters (eliminates paper newsletters!), share pictures and videos of the students, provide volunteer signups, and more! You don't need to know anything about creating things or any html coding. All you need is to find the right server for you.

Below are some of the different websites host that you can use. They are all very user friendly and provide a variety of ways to help you get started to designing your class website. 

(Disclaimer: I have not been contacted by any of these sites to advertise for them. This is simply me sharing me own two cents.)

I always knew Shutterfly as a place to get photos printed, but had no idea that you could also make websites until I started my student teaching. My master teacher was creating her first class website and showed me her Shutterfly website. Of course that meant that I was going to make my own once I got my own classroom!

Click on the screenshot below to see my class website for when I taught second grade!

Looks fancy, right? The thing is...I didn't create the background layout or design out of scratch! Shutterfly had plenty of templates to choose from! I simply chose the template and layout I wanted and worked from there! It was VERY easy to use. If you are worried about privacy, you can also make your website password protected and share the password with your parents in your first day letter or at Back to School night so that only parents from your class can access the site. My site was originally password protected because I would upload pictures and videos of the students on to it. However, I've taken the password away and just privated the "pictures" tab so that you can take a look through my site. 

Speaking of pictures...I think one of the best advantages of using Shutterfly for your class website is that parents can directly order prints of any pictures you upload onto the site. I thought that was pretty cool since many people already have Shutterfly accounts for printing photos or photo gifts. I honestly don't know if any parents ever did order any prints, but my room parent gave me a personalized photo mug for my end of year gift that was ordered through Shutterfly so that function was put to use at least once!

I've used Shutterfly to make my class website for three years. This year, I decided to try out a different server after seeing some other class websites out there. I had heard about two other different servers out there...Weebly and Wix, so I decided to take a look at both of them before choosing which one. 

Weebly vs. Wix

Working with both of these sites definitely felt like moving up a level from Shutterfly. While still pretty user-friendly, I definitely had to fiddle around with both Wix and Weebly before I was able to create something that I somewhat liked. They both have way more options than Shutterfly in terms of designs and layouts. You also have more options for customizations like fonts and other apps that can be used on the sites. 

I eventually ended up choosing Wix for my class site server simply because I was able to figure that one out first, but Weebly is a server I may try next time! 

Below are screenshots of what I was able to create from both servers.

I only got as far as to creating an about page on Weebly so that's all you get to see. Click the screenshot below to see it in more detail.

Wix is the server I ended up choosing for this coming school year so it is more complete. It's obviously still in the works though, but go ahead and click the screenshot below to visit it!

So there you have it! Now you know about three different servers you can go to for creating a class website! I know I didn't go into too much detail about each server simply because I feel like you really have to try it and fiddle with it yourself to get to know it. If you are a beginner with fairly little experience blogging or just with technology, I would recommend starting with Shutterfly first.

Besides the three mentioned, there are some other servers out there that I haven't tried like Teacher Web (paid service with a 30 day free trial) and Google Sites (linked to your Google/Gmail account. I have used it for my teaching portfolio, but not for a class website). I would love to hear your thoughts about those if you have used them before.

Of course, the best thing about these servers, besides Teacher Web, is that they are all FREE! We love to hear the word free, right? ;)

Do you have a class website? Which server do you use?
If you haven't created a class website before, are you going to try to create one now???
Leave a comment with your answers! :D

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Blog Makeover!!!

Do you notice anything different about the blog?? It received a full on makeover!!! Hooray!!!

Since I am about to enter my third school (really???) in my teaching career, I thought it would be a good idea to give the blog design a nice makeover. I also needed to change my blog name to something more general since my grade level has continued to change. So, say good-bye to "Diary of a First Grade Teacher" and "Diary of a Second Grade Teacher" and hello to "Ms. Wu Teaches"!!!!

Where did the name come from, you ask??
(I know it sounds a bit strange and almost grammatically incorrect.)
Well, my blog address is actually so I thought, why not use that for my blog name? Just changed the "teach" to "teaches" just to make it more grammatically correct, even if it still sounds strange. 

So we are now onto a new era of blogging. I'm hoping this makeover will reinvigorate me into becoming a better blogger since I know I've been slacking these last couple of years. I even failed miserably with keeping up with the Daily 5 book study that I tried to be a part of....T_T

Of course, I can't thank Kristin from Teaching in a Nutshells Design enough for this awesome blog design! Definitely go check out her work if you ever want to get a blog started or want to give your blog a makeover.

She has her own blog too, so definitely go check that out!

Okay, that's it for now!! 
Come back and visit next week!
This reinvigorated blogger has something planned for next week. 
Expect some massive blogging!!! :D

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Something NEW is Coming...!!!

Something special is happening to the blog. Check back again soon to find out what it is!!!! :D

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

July Currently

It's July! That means it's time for another Currently! Yay!

Rizzoli & Isles's newest episode. Who's watching the show too??

Well I don't think this one needs any explaining...
I'm still waking up early but at least I can stay in bed for as long as I want!

The boyfriend and I are leaving for SoCal tomorrow! We are going to hit Disneyland and Universal Studios and come home with empty wallets! @@

No longer a want because I just got myself one! It's been burning hot this week and I've already had one this week!

New school, new program, and new grade level means I need to plan, plan, plan!!
I was very fortunate to be able to meet with my new team last week and got an idea of what to expect next year so I have something to work with! Trying to find myself a teacher planner so I can get started with that. I had an Erin Condren planner last school year and have used the Lakeshore ones in the years past. Want to try a different one out this year. Suggestions?

All Star...
This needed some thinking...
I've been told I give good gifts, probably because I'm all about sentimental value so I try to make my gifts have that. Of course, when Pinterest showed up, my gifts started to get way more creative looking!

In other exciting blog has finally reached 200 followers on Bloglovin'! Only took what...3 years?? Must be because I've been doing more blogging recently. Let's hope I can keep it up! :)