Some women collect shoes, I however have a different obsession! When you walk into my classroom one of the first things you will notice is my giant classroom library. I have such a collection that other teachers, and sometimes even the librarian, will come to me looking for books. And while the collection is quite massive now, it certainly has taken time and some creativity to build.


Today I am going to share some of my favorite ways to add to your classroom library, without constantly breaking the bank. 

Before I begin I just want to say that you can have a wonderful classroom without a huge collection of books. Especially if you are just starting out. Your collection can grow with time, and others prefer not to have a large library at all. You do you, no worries! But for me, my library is my pride and joy. 
The most important part is that your students are in a print rich environment, see you modeling your enjoyment and excitement for reading, and have access to a variety of levels and genres of books.



So here we go, let's build you a library!


1) Library Book Sales
Did you know that many public libraries have book sales? They often discard their gently used books (hardback and paperback) throughout the year. Sometimes you have to have a membership to the library but it is worth asking your local library about. I have been known to get hundreds of books for less than $25 at times. 


2) Library
Speaking of the library, sometimes you don't even have to buy the books you need! When I first started teaching I would use my school library and public library a lot more often. Check out a bunch of books at a time on a topic and swap them out when you are ready. Just be sure to let your kids know that these books need to be taken care of extra well ;) Also, if you are looking for seasonal books, try to get there in advance so you have a better selection. 


3) 2nd Hand Shops 
If you have a 2nd & Charles near you, you have to stop by! They allow you to sell your old books (movies, CDs, etc.) and get credit for new ones. If you don't have items you want to sell, you can also just go in and shop. Although the books are gently used, they are a fraction of the price. And let’s be honest, your class is going to use them even more. You can also check consignment shops, Goodwill, the Salvation Army, and even yard sales. 


4) Ask Parents for Donations 
So this one is not something I can necessarily do due to the population of kids I work with (my goal is to get books into their house, not remove any of the few they have), but it is a great option depending on where you work. Ask the families in your classroom to keep you in mind as they clean out their child's bedroom or see books on sale somewhere. Any donations are appreciated. Hey, maybe even your own children have outgrown a few of their books?


5) Scholastic Book Club
The most common way I add books to my classroom library is through Scholastic Book Clubs. Remember getting those flyers with so many fun new books when you were younger? Me too! Just pass out the flyers and have parents send in money, or order online. If they order online they can use their credit or debit cards which makes it even easier for you. Some years you may have better participation than others but it is worth trying with new class. You can use bonus points and coupons to earn TONS of free books and classroom materials.

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Scholastic also has Warehouse Sales where you go into their Book Fair storage buildings and shop right off the racks (with varying discounts and coupons). The one near me holds their sale twice a year. The best part is being able to volunteer to work. I sign up to work for one Saturday during the sale and get “paid” in book vouchers. The sales are usually held before Christmas and the end of the school year so I stock up on inexpensive student gifts for both occasions.



6) Partner with a Church or Other Group/Business
If you know small businesses in your community (and sometimes larger ones), they may be willing to help sponsor your classroom or even school. Nearby churches also sometimes partner with schools so this is something worth looking in to. Even better if they have members who would like to come in and read to students!
Maybe they could raise funds and chip in towards a gift certificate to a book store. Maybe they could go through their own houses to round up used books. Maybe they could host a book drive and get even more of the community involved. Or maybe, they can just make a good old fashioned (tax write off for them) cash donation.

7) Reading A-Z
Have you heard of Reading A-Z? This website has literally thousands of leveled books that you can print to keep in your classroom. I use these books for my small groups, take home books for extra practice, and to build up my classroom library with a certain level or topic if I am lacking. You can print them in color or black and white, in various sizes. I usually print the small “pocket book” size books to save on paper. They also have an online RAZ Kids version where your students can pull the books up on their tablets of laptops for paperless copies of them.



8) Digital Crowd Funding
Create a Donor’s Choose project or Amazon Wish List online listing the materials you would love to have in your classroom. Post the link to this baby on your Facebook page, send it in an email, and share, share, share with friends and family. Who knows, even if someone you know directly isn't able to contribute, they may still have connections with someone who can.




9) EPIC
Even if you have a huge classroom library, an awesome online resource is Epic. This online FREE platform has thousands of digital children books. This app isn't like some with junky books; the ones available are just like the ones you'd find in your classroom. Some books can even be read aloud to your students through the app. If my grade level (common planning and lesson plans) can't find enough copies of a book at our school to all use, we project one of these on our Smartboards. You can also create and share collections of books based on what you are studying, student interests, or reading abilities. 



10) Take Your Time
Lastly, the best way to build your classroom library is to do it slowly and over time. Believe me, the girl who ate Ramen Noodles far too often my first year of teaching because I spent money on books  instead of groceries! 

Stock up on some class favorites, a variety of fiction and nonfiction topics, and teacher read alouds as you go and interests change. It's better to have books that your students love and read often than thousands no one looks at.

Did I forget anything? What tip do you have to build a classroom library?

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Hello! Wondering what else you can add to your shopping list? How about Dry Erase Tape (or rolls of the contact paper). It is one of my FAVORITE classroom materials and so easy to use. 

Today I rounded up a few must try ideas for your classroom. 
Links are included to make shopping a breeze. Please know that when you purchase from these links I do make some money to help run the blog, at no additional cost to you. See my full discloser statement for more details. Most importantly, I'll only share products I use and love :)


1) Label, Label, Label
Cut strips of Dry Erase Tape to whatever size you need. Add labels to storage boxes, drawers, or shelves. You can easily switch out what you write on each one. I like to use Vis-a-Vis markers rather than dry erase on it so it lasts longer. The dry erase tape also comes in a few different colors which is awesome!



2) Filing Cabinets
I covered the sides of my old rusty cabinet using a roll of self adhesive Dry Erase Contact Paper. Now I can quickly jot a note, etc. as needed. If you have space in your room for your students to be on either side of it, you can also allow them to use it as a word work center or writing surface.


3) Cover your guided reading table (or any table!)
I covered my entire kidney table with a roll of contact paper. I recommend having a friend help you because smoothing out the bubbles takes a bit of work. I left the paper on my table all year long without it peeling up. It did look a bit scratched near the end, but was so worth it! My kids loved having so much space to write. 


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4) Table Spots
If you don't want to cover your whole table, you can also just create small spots like First Grade Fingerprints does. So cute!


5) Games
Use can use dry erase tape to change out words, numbers, vocabulary etc. depending on what you are working on. I know my kids would love this hopscotch idea from The Mitten State Teacher and sight word stacking from OG Tutor. Creating a block tower, like Simple as 1-2-3, is also such a fun idea! The possibilities are endless. 



6) Notes and Inspiration
Place a strip of tape on each child's desk for easy access like Blooming with Mrs. Flores does. As the teacher, you can write encouraging notes for your students, especially on test days or when you know they need that extra boost. Students could also quickly jot down the answer to a question without having to take out large white boards. 


What are your favorite Dry Erase hacks for your classroom?

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The end of the year is within reach (2 more weeks) and we finally got to let loose a little bit now that testing is over. Can I get an amen?! Last week we learned all about camping and I can't wait to share our fun with you.

Please know, this post does contain affiliate links which means that I earn a small amount when you make purchases from some of the links shared on this page. However, my promise to you is that I am only sharing my honest opinions and I will never promote something I do not believe in or love. See my disclaimer page for full details.

We started by brainstorming background knowledge. I split my kids into groups and each had a different topic to discuss. We made an anchor chart and added to it each day as we learned something new. Although I am not an expert camper by any means, I was surprised to learn that the majority of my students had little to no experience with the great outdoors.

If you are looking for camping themed crafts, activities for your classroom, or snacks, this post is for you! Tons of camping themed ideas are shared to help you have an awesome Classroom Campout!

We also read lots of camping and summer camp themed books. Here are few of my favorites. You can click each book image to be taken right to the book on Amazon.

If you are looking for camping themed crafts, activities for your classroom, or snacks, this post is for you! Tons of camping themed ideas are shared to help you have an awesome Classroom Campout!

                                   

Their favorite part was when they got to bring in towels (aka "sleeping bags") and flashlights to read with. Seriously, they would have read all day long if I let them! On the last day I set up a tent and campfire and the kids took turns reading around the fire and inside the tent.

If you are looking for camping themed crafts, activities for your classroom, or snacks, this post is for you! Tons of camping themed ideas are shared to help you have an awesome Classroom Campout!

If you are looking for camping themed crafts, activities for your classroom, or snacks, this post is for you! Tons of camping themed ideas are shared to help you have an awesome Classroom Campout!
If you are looking for camping themed crafts, activities for your classroom, or snacks, this post is for you! Tons of camping themed ideas are shared to help you have an awesome Classroom Campout!

Sidenote, the "campfire" was pretty much like a never ending STEM challenge. I must have built and rebuilt that darn thing 20 times. I used rolled brown paper bags for the logs (and a lot of tape!), construction paper flames, mini glass gems as rocks and to weigh it down, and a shallow pan to put it in. When I create it again next year I am going to try to cover the logs in wood grain contact paper. I also had to tape some of the logs and flames in place so it didn't tip over (can we say real life Jenga?).

We made special snacks two of the days. The first day we made campfires using mini marshmallows as rocks, small and large pretzel sticks as the logs/twigs, and gummy peach candies as the flames of the fire. I also saw online where people used candy corn flames and potato stick twigs but I couldn't find those so we worked with what we had.

If you are looking for camping themed crafts, activities for your classroom, or snacks, this post is for you! Tons of camping themed ideas are shared to help you have an awesome Classroom Campout!
I gave the same ingredients to each child and let them use their imagination to build their campfires. I love how different they each came out! One little one even had marshmallows roasting over her fire.

We also practiced How To Writing and made s'mores. We wrote down our ingredients and the steps to make their treats. They then followed their directions and enjoyed the snacks. Instead of regular marshmallows, I gave each child a spoonful of marshmallow fluff to spread. While it was a little messy (one kid got fluff on his head, don't ask hah), it worked well since we don't have a microwave in the classroom to melt regular ones.

If you are looking for camping themed crafts, activities for your classroom, or snacks, this post is for you! Tons of camping themed ideas are shared to help you have an awesome Classroom Campout!

To tie in art we made Handprint Campfires. First they ripped brown construction paper into logs for their fire. Then, I painted their hands with yellow, orange, and red paint and they stuck it to their paper. You should have heard the giggles from the ticklish paintbrush :)

If you are looking for camping themed crafts, activities for your classroom, or snacks, this post is for you! Tons of camping themed ideas are shared to help you have an awesome Classroom Campout!

While it all looks like fun and games, I swear we did real work too! Students each picked their own animals to research and used classroom books and online sites like Pebble Go to find facts. After they wrote a paragraph, they created talking animals using the ChatterPix Kids app on our iPads.

If you have never used this app before it is AMAZING! Kids took pictures of their animal (or screenshots from an online search), added a mouth, and read their paragraph aloud. The iPad app then makes it look like the animal is talking saying their story. They are also able to save their clip and upload it to our class Seesaw site. Here is one of my little ones' stories.

                                
In writing, I found adorable camping themed napkins from Oriental Trading and stapled blank paper inside. The napkin becomes the book cover. My kids used the napkin books as inspiration for their camping themed stories. So cute!
In math we used mini marshmallows as manipulatives for addition practice and solved camping themed word problems which can be found here.

If you are looking for camping themed crafts, activities for your classroom, or snacks, this post is for you! Tons of camping themed ideas are shared to help you have an awesome Classroom Campout!

For added decorations (and a movement activity), I printed pictures of woodland animals from online. I laminated them and hung them around the room. My kids went on a "Nature Walk" to see how many wild animals they could find. They loved it! They recorded everything they found on a clipboard and blank lined paper.

If you are looking for camping themed crafts, activities for your classroom, or snacks, this post is for you! Tons of camping themed ideas are shared to help you have an awesome Classroom Campout!
Well, that about sums up our week! We had so much fun and I am glad I could share some new ideas with you.

If you are looking for more ideas, I have an entire Pinterest board for camping themed classroom ideas. Enjoy! Have you had a camping themed unit in your classroom before?

To save these ideas for later, be sure to use the pin below :)



                                                     
Ever have one of those days where you feel like curling up in bed and never leaving? And then....you remember you're a teacher. Ugh! 


Should you take a sick day? What about your students? Certainly they will forget everything you've ever taught them while you're gone. Also, no doubt your room will be destroyed, your team will hate you for being a slacker, and your principal will fire you for being out!

Ok, maybe it's just me who has those last few thoughts... but I have a sneaking suspicion I am not alone. Just in case there are a few others out there debating whether to take a sick day or not...hopefully I can help. 


One of the hardest parts of being out is dealing with the teacher guilt that comes along with it.     
                                                                   #thestruggleisreal 

Near the end of January everything started to hurt and I felt awful. After pushing through for far too many days I accepted defeat when the doctor said I had the flu (and my coworkers kept giving me  the stink eye if my germy self walked near them ;) ). I knew I couldn't infect my students. I HAD to stay home. 

 I seriously did not have the time to hear that! We had just finished middle of they year reading assessments- my kids needed to be in new reading groups ASAP! We had a big staff meeting coming up I certainly couldn't miss. I finally stayed home for 3 days (Tuesday-Thursday) and returned Friday so no one could say I wasn't trying to be there. 

Looking back, that was dumb. I could hardly stand on Friday and I was not an effective teacher. I should have listened to my body and let myself rest a few more days.....but...that darn teacher guilt!

Fast forward a few weeks (while my body never recovered from the first round of flu).... and my world was rocked by a sky high fever, rib bruising cough, and a level of weakness I had never felt before. Yup! I had the flu. AGAIN!

Now you can only imagine the guilt this time when I had just been absent a few weeks before! It was even Valentine's Day. I couldn't miss that right??

Luckily for me however, the presence of the high fever forced me to stay home so I didn't have a choice (and honestly I felt too awful for the guilt to last long). And although I am sure my room was chaotic, they all survived. 

Why is it that as teachers if we have a fever or are vomiting, or some other massively infectious issue, we can justify staying home? But if we can't move or think or function from feeling so icky we still ask all our friends (and Facebook groups) what to do? We know the answer. STAY HOME! We just want someone to alleviate that TEACHER GUILT feeling by giving us permission.

So here it is teacher friends. If you are too sick to stand (with or without fever), if attempting to think makes your head hurt, or if even your pet is disgusted to be near the level of germs you seem to be carrying... STAY HOME! 

If you have a hang nail, a minor headache, just kind of feel blah...I would say try to push through. Although an occasional mental health day may be ok,  we all know that our students learn best from us. It is so important to be at school when we can. Just keep in mind, we are human. We get sick. Pushing ourselves to the max is only going to extend the illness and drag out our recovery process. 
                         

Ok, so now you decide to stay home. The next thought that runs through your mind is sub plans. I swear, there is nothing worse than trying to peak through barely opened eyes to type up sub plans. What other job is this much work to be absent??? 

Well, it's a part of the job no one likes but we all have to deal with.

I am an obsessive planner when I know I am going to be absent ahead of time. I sticky note everything, have 5 page detailed lesson plans, and provide a ton of backup options. When I am too sick to obsess, I need to have an easy to implement game plan. (Throw back to when I had a conference to attend in October.)


For me, I have a google doc template that has all of my notes to the sub like our schedule, classroom info, student info, literacy block/station routines. I simply open up our weekly first grade lesson plan and paste as much content into the template as possible. Of course, more details need to be added and some things aren't sub friendly (like introducing a new skill, or massively involved experiment). But, at least its a starting point. I just reuse the template the next time I am going to be out and change out the lesson details. It saves so much time!

I also have a drawer (it's not cute, don't judge!) where I keep a stack of extra worksheets and activities that a sub could pull from if they need extra work.


While I prefer to try to stick as close to the original lesson plan as possible, others have more generic lesson plans prepared that cover review skills. You can find TONS of Sub Tubs and pre-made lesson plans online. My sweet coworker has folders prepared with plans and materials, complete with sticky notes, for up to 5 days. All she needs to do to be out is to find a sub and ask one of us to take out a folder. I am so jealous that she is this prepared!


Find what works for you. Do you want generic plans? Do you want to try to stick as close to the preplanned lesson as possible? Just make sure you have someone you can go to that will pull out whatever materials you ask for and can print sub plans for you. My entire team has been out sick with the flu this month at some point, and I KNOW we wouldn't have made it through without each other.


If you decide to stay home, get rest. Seriously, shut down the computer, stop looking on Pinterest for teaching ideas, quit texting the sub to see if everything is going ok....REST! Also, it's unacceptable to catch up on chores and cleaning (unless you are de-germ-ifying). This is not a vacation. You are sick. 

Find your favorite blanket, movies, box of tissues, and chicken noodle soup. We all know how much work it is to be out. Treat it as the rare occasion it is and try to get well. Pushing ourselves is only going to make it worse.

Now I say all of these things knowing that it feels impossible to shut my own teacher brain off. However, when I finally gave myself permission to heal this last time, I did in fact get better. Imagine that! 

I hope that if you are sick you can give yourself permission to be human and stay home. Have a game plan ahead of time so it doesn't feel as overwhelming. Know that when you return your classroom and students will still be there. Yes, there may be a mess. Half of the things you put on your sub plan won't be done and you'll wonder what they did all day. It's ok. Honestly, they survived, and so did you! 

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At my school we are only allowed to have two celebrations per year, once before Winter Break, and once at the end of the school year. However, I am all about sneaking in fun and celebrations wherever I can. I strongly believe in rigorous content and not filling my day with fluff.....but occasionally first graders need a chance to be 6 years old. Am I right?


So this year we are putting an educational spin on our Valentine cards! I teach in a Title 1 school and while some students can afford to bring cards in, many others can't. With this approach I can ensure that everyone takes home something special for less than $1 total! For the whole class! #teacherwin

I first began using Napkin Books years ago and it is one of my favorite ways to inspire my students to write. I have blogged all about them here. Today I am going to show you how to use simple decorative napkins as a meaningful way to spread kindness and celebrate the occasion.






First, you will need a pack of Valentine themed napkins. I like to buy my napkins at Dollar Tree or craft stores (with a 50% off coupon). I also like to stock up after each holiday when things are on clearance to save for the following year. Yes, I am a crazy lady napkin hoarder.


Pass out a stack of blank paper to each child, I use white copy paper. For example, if you have 18 students in your class, every child receives 17 pieces of paper. If you have 25 students, pass out 24 to each child. I pre-cut the paper to match the size of my napkins (or slightly smaller so I can fit two to a page).




Have each child write one student name per piece of paper. I find this process easier if I call out one name at a time, spell it out loud for students, and they write it as I spell. This way, all names are spelled correctly and we don't forget anyone.


Next, give students time to write one compliment on every piece of paper about the person whose name is on it. This could be something they love about that person, a strength that they see in them, or a general compliment.

This step may have to be broken down into small chunks throughout the week, especially if you have a large class.



Once everyone finishes writing their compliments, students will pass out the pages to the child they wrote about. At the end, everyone will have a pile of notes from every person in the class.

I simply staple the pages into a Valentine themed napkin and ta-daaaaa! Instant book!

These messages are much more personal than a box of pre-packaged cards. Plus, students have the opportunity to practice writing and being kind. Win win!

If you prefer to have lines already on your paper or a template for your struggling writers, I do have a set of Valentine Napkin Book writing prompts with over 45 prompts about love, kindness, friendship, Valentine traditions, and more! Just click one of the images below to see what's included.




What's your favorite way to spice up a classroom tradition like Valentine cards?

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