5 Ways to Make the Most of a TpT Sale

Back to school is upon us.  Maybe you've already started school. (Bless you!) Or maybe you can't get into your room yet---#angryfaceemoji---and you are still making daily trips to Target, Wal-Mart and Staples.... please tell me I am not alone...

 Regardless, the TpT sale is *almost* here and we can finally buy all of those amazing resources sitting in our carts! (Thank goodness!) And since those daily trips to the teacher trap aka Target Dollar Spot have us left with limited funds, here are some tips for getting the most for your money during this year's TpT B2S sale.

Did you know that by simply leaving feedback for previous purchases you can get FREE stuff? If you aren't already doing this (or you haven't in a while), now is the time to go back and earn your credits! But how?
The easiest way I have found is to go to the "My Purchases and Downloads" page.
Click next to "Sort by" and choose "Needs Feedback"

This will organize all of your past purchases by putting the ones you did not provide feedback for at the top (and save you a ton of time trying to sort through!) 
Click on title of the product, rate it and leave a comment! Cha-Ching! You have just earned FREE MONEY!!

You will earn 1 credit per $1 you spent.  If a product was $4.75, you will get five credits.  TpT explains it all on your TpT Credit Balance page where you can also check how many credits you currently have.  For every 100 credits, you can apply $5 towards your next purchase! Don't have 100 credits? No worry!! You can apply less than 100.  For example, 50 credits = $2.50. It is practically free money....and they say nothing in life is free! #nottrue
You may already be looking at your cart but don't forget about items you have on your wish list! If you are anything like me, you have a few hundred products on there but most of them are free.  Don't worry, you don't need to look through every page to find the items you'd like to purchase!
Go to "My Wishlist" and click "Sort By: Price"
This will place all of your FREE wish listed items at beginning and your purchaseable (is that a word?!) ones at the end.  So you will need to get to the end of your wish list to see the resources you want to move to your cart.
If you scroll to the bottom of the page, you can skip through a few pages at a time.  It will still take you a few seconds/minutes depending on how much you have wish listed.  When you get to the final page, your most expensive items will be at the end.

While this isn't *quite* as simple as the first trick, it still eliminates searching through your wish list for paid items.  (I did email TpT about creating an option to sort by price and they said they are going to look into it!)

Now that you have EARNED all of those credits (see #1), what use are they if you don't redeem them? Your "My Cart" page has all the options for applying discounts.  You can redeem all of your credits or just a few.  And if you skipped #1 (shame on you!) there is a link you can click to learn more about TpT Credits.

So this one is pretty subjective because if you don't have any, obviously you cannot apply them.  But if you do, don't forget them! I have had one sitting in the bottom of a backpack for about a year.  I have it in a safe spot to use this time around!

When you are in "My Cart" Redeem a Gift Card is right below "Check Out"! (You would have thought I'd put these steps in order but...nah) Don't forget to click APPLY!

This one may seem like a no brainer.  It's a sale, duh, of course I will remember the code.  But seriously, I have forgotten this more times that I'd like to admit.  With so many amazing stores on sale, and after redeeming gift cards and credits, it is so easy to forget.  So don't make my mistake!
You can find "Apply a Promo Code" right below "Redeem a Gift Card".

Here is a reminder of the code:

What is your favorite sale tip? What product can you not wait to purchase?

Happy shopping!!


My Favorite 1st Week Activities

Back to School time (while slightly depressing) is also so exciting!! I am thrilled to sorta-kinda know what I am doing this year and have a handful of lessons/activites to choose from!  I have already shared a *rough draft* of my first day plans.  I was going to finish out the whole week but decided just to clump all my favorite activities together instead since I will most likely move them around anyway!  I like to have a plethora of options to choose from since you never know what will happen that first week!

Summer Vacation puzzles

After listening to "How I Spent My Summer Vacation", students illustrate something they did on puzzle paper. I encourage them fill the entire page! Then, they cut it out and swap with a friend.  Once they have put their partner's puzzle together, they can share about their summer vacation.
{You can find free puzzle paper here}

This year, I bought actual real puzzles for them to use! They were $12.99 for 24 from Amazon. This eliminates the cutting part (which to be honest takes a long time).  My plan is for this to be an early finisher activity for the first two weeks or so...

Inovart Puzzle-It Blank Puzzles 28 Piece 5-1/2" x 8" - 24 Per Package

Behavior Stories

We ALL know that expectations and routines are what makes the classroom go round.  A few years back I decided to create some stories about fictional students who make positive and negative choices.  We use these stories to jumpstart conversations about behavior, not just in the classroom but all over the school.  This packet includes recess, lunchroom, bathroom, hallway, groups, and homework! You could even have students act out their fictional character to model acceptable and unacceptable behavior!

Mrs. Spitzer's Garden
This is a new one for this year.  I was recommended this book, Mrs. Spitzer's Garden, as a great back to school read aloud.  I immediately bought it from Amazon (because that's what I do when people suggest buying anything school-related).

It is the sweetest, most endearing book.  I may have teared up as I read it to my husband who proceeded to make fun of me.  So of course I had to whip up some activities to go with it.  You can find those here.

Find a Friend

This is one of those simple activities I keep on hand as a filler usually at the end of the day the first week. It lets the kiddos get up and moving after what probably feels like a lifetime of routine and expectation review and practice.

Math Tools Exploration Activities

I was inspired by Amy Lemons for this next activity.  Students just love math manipulatives but let's be honest, some students see them as toys instead of tools.  So I use one of those first days to review how we use each math tool and allow for a few minutes of free exploration before we go over expectations.

Then, to be sure that we are all on the same page, they complete this sort of dos and don'ts.  It is something I like to hang onto for those inevitable slips where Johnny flings a rubber band across the room.  I can pull this out as sort of a contract, if you will, to remind him that I know that he knows he shouldn't be doing that!



You can find these activities and more in my Math Manipulatives packet.

Numbers About Me
Speaking of math, this Math About Me is wonderful! I know there are many versions of Math About Me activities but I love this one because we can look at the 0-99 chart and discuss patterns and uses of this math tool! It is a perfect first week activity because it seems like fun (coloring, answering questions about yourself) but it is a perfect informal assessment of my kiddos math skills.

Trash Can Math

I think I mention this game in pretty much every blog post.  I won't go into details but you need to know it is the best game ever and you should go read about it in the blog post where I do go into details ----here----.

So there ya go, those are my go to activities.  And I am such an expert considering this is my 2nd year as a full time teacher *wink wink*

What are your favorite first week activities?


My First Day Plans

I know many of you are gearing up for back to school night or meet the teacher and even the first day! Here in Pennsylvania, we always start later in August.  Although, it seems to be creeping up earlier and earlier!

My first day with students is August 22nd.  But I have been thinking about it for the past few weeks.  So I made some plans I figured I would share.  I will probably change things up over the next month or even five minutes before the bell rings.  I am more of a "prep for a week" then pick and choose as I go kinda girl.

As you can see, I am not going to dive into procedures right away.  I don't like to teach procedures for a long period of time because I know the kids will check out if I am boring for too long. So I went with a book and some getting to know you activities sprinkled with routines and expectations. 

I actually have some ideas for making teaching procedures more fun but those are still in the works.  How do you make it more engaging?

The final activity on my plans is seriously my favorite.  It gets students up and moving around the room which we all know they need. And it is fun.  And you can do it for just a few minutes or for longer which I love.  I usually spread it over a few days. 

Find my downloadable plans here----> First Day Plans
Once you download, the links you see above will be clickable so you can get all these great resources.

What is your favorite first day activity?

I might be back with the rest of my week plans, or I might not.  We will see how the rest of this month goes ; )


Monday Made It: My First MMI!

I am linking up for the first time with 4th Grade Frolics for Monday Made It.  I could try to explain why I have never Made It to a Monday Made It linky but I will spare you my weak excuses!

This is my first summer ever that I will be returning back to the same place I ended the school year! And, oh, what a feeling it is!  I am so excited to know my space and make it even more my own this year. 
One thing I wanted to do all of last year but couldn't get it together enough to accomplish was get rid of my teacher desk.  I cleaned it out on the last day of school and stuck a sticky note on it to move it out! Since I haven't been back in my room since, I am crossing my fingers that it has magically gone away.  And now I am preparing for life without it with these two extremely unoriginal storage ideas.
First up is the Teacher Tool Box everyone and their brother is making. #bandwagon
I bought this pink one off of Amazon.

Since it is kind of a different size than the ones I have been seeing on Instagram and Pinterest, I decided just to go ahead and make my own labels so I would be sure they fit.

What I am most excited about is being able to have my kids go get something when I need it! Before, I had drawers that were unkept and junky.  I would not trust just any kid to go retrieve a binder clip in fear they might get poked with a safety pin.  This way, everything has a spot (except for safety pins now that I think about it...)

Next up was converting a set of plastic drawers I have had as clothing storage for way longer than any grown adult should.  Instead of going out and buying all new stuff for my classroom, I tried to find things I could get rid of and organize upgrade in my house instead.  So this plastic drawer unit came out of the closet and I found new homes for most of the items within it.

It is kind of hard to tell what the labels say in these pictures because I chose to put them on the inside of the drawers but the top is "needs to be copied" then "needs to be graded". Followed by Monday, Tuesday & Wednesday, Thursday & Friday.

Then the bottom is FILE which needed a big drawer because I am usually super behind on that!

I am going to be honest, this picture is a lie.  It turned out pretty uneven, blotchy and all around sloppy looking. I am a very impatient spray painter.  I left it out in the rain.  I ran out of paint and refused to go buy more. But you know what? It will still get the job done!
This next one is a little bit of a stretch for "made it".  I went to the TpT conference in Orlando this past week and I made some awesome memories with great friends : )
from L to R
Becky from The Class Couple
Lauren from Teaching in Stripes
Cait from Cait's Cool School
Alleah Maree
Lastly, in preparation for back to school, I made a somewhat detailed schedule of my day.  I broke down each subject and laid out how I would like the block of time to go.  I put these in my teacher binder to help with lesson planning!  And of course, I had to make pretty colors : )

Well, that's all I've got for today.  I can't wait to see what others have made.  Do you have any projects you still want to get done before school? I'd love to hear about them!


How I Build Relationships with Weekend Journals

Weekend Journals are a wonderful tool for allowing students to share everything they'd probably rather tell you as soon as they walk in the door on Monday morning but you don't have time to listen to. #sadtruth  

Here are the 3 things I love about weekend journals:
1) Focuses their energy on story-telling through writing about a topic they LOVE to tell about {well, unless they were sick all weekend}
2) I learn SO much about their life outside of school ALL YEAR LONG
3) Morning work on Mondays is consistent, predictable and needs no directions/explanation once it is properly launched

The concept is simple: A journal for students to write in on Monday as morning work. 

The pages in our journals look like this:

I know some teachers may send it home Friday and get parents involved with responding back or whatnot.  I have learned very quickly that many things you send home expecting to get back, you never see again.  At least that is how it is for me.  If the Friday thing works for you, I'd love to hear about it!

I made sure to add detailed instructions with expectations and a checklist on the back.

 I have these copied 2 sided and stapled into a packet for about 15 weeks worth.

  On a good day, I read EVERY.SINGLE.ONE.  Or actually, they read them to me!  On a great day this takes about 20 minutes.  On an off day, closer to 40. Sometimes I have them share with a partner.  Or I pick a few to read to the whole group. It really just depends. I do LOVE hearing all about what they did over the weekend and it really provides insight into their world outside of school.

I try not to mark them up TOO much.  But I do expect them to spell word wall and spelling pattern words correctly.

If you are interested in my weekend journal template, you can find it  FOR FREE in my TPT store right here--->  Weekend Journal Template

What is your favorite tool for getting to know your students? Do you use a journal?


Reflections of a First Year Teacher: 8 Teacher Tips

I am calling these "new" teacher tips since I have no authority to be giving veteran teachers any advice.  However, they just *might* be a nice reminder or even a little laugh for someone who has been in the biz for...I don't know...say 20 years?  This is what I came up with based off of my first permanent teaching year in the classroom.

1) Prioritize
A teacher's to-do list never ends. Once you wrap your head around that, you have to decide what is most important.  Or actually, I will just tell you.  Balance.  Balance is most important.  Don't work on that to do list all weekend thinking you are going to get caught up. You will never be caught up. PERIOD.  What is necessary to get you through your day might be all you get done.  Other days you will run around like the energizer bunny crossing things off left and right.  But it will never be done so don't worry, just choose what is most important for you. {hint: it should not always be school}
To-Do List Pack: Get Organized!

2) Let go
Teaching is messy.  Your classroom will not look like your Pinterest board.  That is A-OK!

So the craft you spent two prep periods cutting out tracers and die-cutting letters for ended up looking like a heap of crumpled paper and crayon shavings. 

Don't cry over spilled glue (once I actually did).

Let go of the visions you have in your head of beautiful bulletin boards and a calendar that always sports the correct date.  Will you have those moments where it all goes right and the craftivity is beautifully hung with an adorable, pun-ny title?  Yes, you will.  And it will feel great. 

Then a month later, everything starts falling off the door and you are too deep into Christmas Around the World activities to give a hoot about changing out your door d├ęcor.


And for all those times, let go of expectations and remind yourself that you are doing your best.

3) Get to know your colleagues
With any luck, the people you work with will be your greatest support.  I have been blessed with an amazing team of teachers.  I realize this isn't always the case. But still, take the time to get to know the people you work with.  Help them out, lend a hand, thank them for their advice.
Parent Volunteer Appeciation Gift Tags / Cards
These {free} adorable gift tags would be perfect to thank your teacher mentor or teammates.

4) Take it a day at a time

As teachers, we are natural planners.  And we love planners. {Like seriously I never knew a group of people who love planners as much as we do} We plan for the year, for the marking period, for the month, and the week, the hour and sometimes the really intense planners will write a script to the minute!! The big picture is overwhelming. 
If you delve into this all at once, you're more likely to fail. Start small and work your way up more and more everyday!:
I remember in March when we were nearing the last quarter, I started to PANIC. "OMG I still have SO much to still teach these kids!!"  It is intimidating to know you are in charge of preparing them for the next year (and ultimately, life).  But you can't do this unless you are prepared for the day.  Focus on the now, the present, and try not to stress about the end.  Make each day count and it will all come together.
5) Pack a healthy lunch (and snacks)
I am guilty of not following this one.  Once I actually rushed out of lunch so I could get my Sour Patch Kid fix before the kids came in from recess #sorrynotsorry.  You must feed yourself so you can at least have 33% of the energy of those 7 (or 5 or 9 or 11) year olds. And you need to try not to get sick.  But I would put more energy into the eating healthy because you will get sick no matter what.  So in that case, have sub plans ready.
Follow this Pinterest board for Healthy Lunch Ideas
6) Have back up plans
Things will go as planned about 17% of the time.  You can prep your little heart out each any everyday to ensure the most perfect delivery of instruction. Inevitably, technology will stop working, there will be an unannounced fire drill, a kid will puke or the phone won't.stop.ringing.  

Another great find on #zulily! 'Handle Plan B' Wall Sign #zulilyfinds:

In the beginning of the year, I prepped all of my Comprehension Skills Graphic Organizers.  These babies got me through so many times where the copier was jammed or I had to plan for a sub on a whim.  They are great because they go with ANY book.  


I also keep a list of go-to no prep games to play like Sparkle, Stump the Genius or Trash Can Math
{click the link or picture to read more}

My advice: go with the flow, save the perfectly prepped craft for another day and pull out one of your go-to games, books or other easy peasy no prep activities.  You MUST have these stored on a shelf or in the back of your mind and be ready to use at a moments notice.  9 times out of 13 the kids enjoy the back up plan more than your original plan so it really is a win-win.

7) Do not make cupcake promises

I have to be honest, I learned this one while student teaching.  There was a time or two I would mention bringing in cupcakes as a reward or to share for my birthday or because it was Thursday.  Then, I would get home after a long day of teaching and just not feel like it.  I didn't want to bake or go to the store or even move off the couch to plug in my phone.  But I knew that I HAD TO because I PROMISED and I couldn't let the kids down.  So whether it's cupcakes or cookies or candy--whatever--don't make promises you don't feel like (or can't) keep.
8) Give yourself a break
At school: Join in on that brain break! Sit and take deep breaths during your teacher prep. Eat a piece (or 7) of candy after lunch. Let the kids partner read for an extra 10 minutes.  Take them out for extra recess (but make them "earn" it).  Pop on a Magic School Bus.
You can't be a super hero every minute of everyday.
At home: Go home on Friday night and throw your teacher bag in the corner.  Pour your go-to beverage into your favorite glass {mine is white wine in a stemless glass} and eat your favorite snack (mine is chocolate).  Every finished week is a success and you deserve to relax. 

Teachers need to reward themselves, rest and recharge. 
If you are entering your first year, I wish you the best of luck. Whatever the year throws at you, just remember--June always comes : )
What is your favorite piece of advice for a first year (or any year) teacher?

Click here (or on the picture) to read another one of my posts from this series