5 Ways to Make the Most of a TpT Sale

Sunday, July 31, 2016

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

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

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

Thursday, July 21, 2016
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 ; )

Reflections of a First Year Teacher: What Worked

Wednesday, July 20, 2016
I learned more than ever this first year of teaching.
It was exciting, overwhelming and exhausting {to say the least!}

  But I made it!

In a year that sometimes felt like a sea of bad days swallowing me whole, these were the things that kept me afloat.  I know things will come up and I will tweak and I will make changes to fit my students' needs.  But now that my first year is done, finite, over--I *finally* have a foundation to build upon. And I cannot even put into words how goooooood that feels!


The first 24 weeks of the year I had 1 helper, a "Star of the Week" if you will, who did #allthejobs and it went great!
 I know a lot of teachers who got tired of keeping up with a job chart and have gone this route.  I really have no complaints about having just one helper--it works!  But after each kiddo had a turn, I knew I wanted to switch it up.

So the Job Fair was born!

I started with creating a presentation outlining all of the jobs in the classroom and the expectations for each one.  We use "Stahl Stars" as part of our positive behavior system so I incorporated those as incentive for meeting/exceeding job expectations.

I threatened   kindly warned that they could be transferred to a different job if they weren't keeping up or I might even fire them Donald Trump style! (Only kidding, I avoid bringing up that name at all costs.)

  I created enough jobs for each student because I want everyone to have a role in helping our class function better. At this point in the year, I knew what I needed help with and was tired of doing on my own (see: writing the daily lunch choices)

After the job fair, students had to fill out applications.  We talked a bit about how to write convincing reasons and not just "I think it will be fun".  I have to be honest, the reasons weren't that great despite our conversation.  That first round, students kept their job for about a month and a half.  I didn't originally plan for how long they would have a job, I just kind of felt out how it was going.  

The second time they applied for jobs, their reasons were SO much better.  Their persuasive writing had improved immensely which made me so happy! I wish I would've saved some of these but I gave them all back before snapping a picture.  #darnitanyhow #nextyeargoals

Pen Pals

Having a pen pal in elementary school is a memory that will stick with me forever.  My aunt kept in touch with her pen pal (from New Zealand) into adulthood and they ended up vacationing together! So I put it out there on Instagram that we were in search of pen pals and
Lovein2nd answered our call!

She and her 2nd graders reside in Iowa.  My kiddos were over the moon when we looked it up on Google Maps (and some of them claimed to have been there before-ha!).  While we only corresponded a handful of times, I will never forget the excitement of those first letters.  I started tearing up while thinking about how this might be the most memorable part of 2nd grade.

(I think I may have gotten giddier than my students when I found this in my mailbox)

Providing such an authentic reason to write was very special! While there has been such a shift towards technology that has greatly affected the ways in which we communicate, I am definitely a fan of keeping it old school (at least once in awhile!)  A text will eventually get deleted (or disappear when you drop your phone in the toilet) and a letter can last forever!!

Weekend Journals

Speaking of writing, a year long constant in my classroom is Weekend Journals.  I wrote a blog post about how I use them to get to know my students better.  You can read more about that here.  My weekend journal template is a freebie on TpT.  Click the picture to download!

Word Work
This may be a weird statement but: I LOVE WORD WORK! Seriously, my favorite center to prep. I bought the infamous 10 drawer rolling cart and had my students assemble. 
(Who said I don't do STEM?)

  I love that students get the choice and I actually enjoy prepping all of the centers. Call me strange but every time I stored a center for next year, my heart sang a little bit and now I have a seriously awesome start to next year for word work ideas. 

Here are three favorites of my students:

(I have regular ole paper ones, not these fancy plastic, I think I must purchase)
1 X Letter and Number Stencil Sets - Sizes 8, 10, 20, 30mm - Assorted Colors

Anything with fun markers (I CANNOT wait to use these new Ice Cream Mr. Sketch's)

Vowel Team centers

I am SO excited to have finished all of the Long Vowel teams! I am excited for my students to learn and practice in a consistent and engaging way! Since the activities repeat for each vowel team, they will definitely build independence!

Hand Signals
Classroom management made its way onto my "Room for Improvement" post (that one is still in draft : / ).  But not because I did everything wrong.  There were definitely strategies that worked out fabulously and hand signals were one of those.  My kids LOVED them.  I didn't even plan on mentioning them the first day or two of school but I had them displayed and kids IMMEDIATELY started to use them.  So much, in fact, that I hadn't even learned the signals myself.
Non-Verbal Hand Signal Posters {A Classroom Managment Tool}
These FREE hand signals by Jessica Travis will transform your classroom!

What worked best for you this past school year? What might you change up?  I will be back to talk about my areas for improvement in the next installment of "Reflections of a First Year Teacher"

Monday Made It: My First MMI!

Monday, July 18, 2016
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!

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