Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Classroom Organization: Managing Student Absences

In my 'Organization in the Secondary Classroom' series, I've written about how I manage the paperwork in my classroom (this post has been viewed an incredible 35,000+ times) and how I tackle lesson planning. Today I'm sharing how I manage student absences!

In a perfect world, none of my students would be absent, but between sickness, field trips, in-school detentions, and plain old 'don't feel like coming to school', it's rare to go a day without having at least one absent student. Before implementing this system, the biggest struggles when dealing with absences was finding an efficient way for students to be responsible for getting the work they missed without the frantic 'what did I miss' just as the rest of the class is getting started on the day's lesson. I've used the following system for several years now and it has worked really well!

First, I have a three-ring binder with dividers for each class period. At the start of every week, I make copies of class rosters and place them in the appropriate sections. Although I always take electronic attendance for the school, I also mark down absences on these paper rosters for my own records. I then record the date and a brief note about the lesson done that period, particularly what was due and what was assigned for homework.

I find it incredibly helpful to be able to pull out this binder and cross reference the dates certain assignments were due or assigned with when particular students were absent. Technically the electronic grade book we use can do this, but it's far more cumbersome to look up information online rather than quickly open my binder. I also use these attendance sheets to record if a student came in tardy, went to the nurse, or any other miscellaneous information. My binder sits on the table in the front of my classroom where I can easily make notes.

Next, either at the end of each class period or at the end of the school day, I look back through my attendance binder and put together the handouts from that day's lesson and a 'cover sheet' that explains what was missed.  I use the cover sheet to record the work that was due the day the student was absent and whether or not they missed a quiz/exam/activity that needs to be made up.

Then the handouts/cover sheets are placed in the 'absent work bin' which is on table in the corner of my classroom. Students know that when they return from an absence, they are to go straight to this bin at the start of class and find their work in the hanging folder labeled with their class period. They read the cover sheet and/or the handouts left for them and then check in with me if they have any questions.

Classroom Organization Student Absences

If the student has in fact missed an assessment or activity that needs to be made up, they fill out their name, activity to be made up, and when they are coming in for make-up on the clip board next to the 'absent work' bin.  This helps me keep track of when certain students are coming in so I can arrange my schedule and holds the student accountable for making up missing assignments in a timely manner.

Once I've explained the purpose and expectations regarding the 'absent work' bin, my students seem to do very well with the autonomy of this system. They can go check the box between classes, at the start of their class period, or really any time that's convenient for them! I've really loved how my attendance binder has allowed me to easily keep track of important data I need readily at my fingertips!

I'd love to know what sorts of ways you've found to keep track of student absences so please leave a comment below or connect with me on Facebook or Instagram!

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Sewing Project: Plaid Tunic Dress

It's been snowing A LOT here in New England which inevitably means lots of snow days and canceled plans. Subsequently, I've been working on little crafty projects around the house including tackling various sewing projects. Enter the Josephine Pattern...

I've used this really versatile pattern from Made By Rae once before but chose to do a tunic length this time around. What's great about this pattern is that there are options for garment length, bust size, and sleeve type, making it easy to create a variety of differing garments that fit lots of body types. Because I'm short, the tunic length worked well as a dress on me! I used a super soft linen/flannel cotton fabric from JoAnn's.

The pleats on the front as well as the gathered sleeves are fun pattern details. I also like how the elastic casing in the back gives a nice fitted look around the waist. This is a good pattern to try if you are an 'advanced beginner' who's looking to stretch your sewing skills as the directions are well written and easy to follow! I'll probably make another one with a light-weight cotton for Spring...assuming Spring actually comes to New England sometime in the near future!

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Review of the IKEA Ektorp Sofa Series

I recently took a little road trip down IKEA (the nearest being 2 hours away) to pick up a second EKTORP sofa! I purchased my first Ektorp two years ago and really love it. In that time I've been asked about the sofa by lots of friends, both online and in real life, so I'm here to give a comprehensive review of my experiences.

IKEA Ektorp Sofa Review

Here's the lowdown on why I love this sofa series:

1) Affordable price
2) Nicely tailored slipcovers (that don't look like slipcovers) in a variety of colors
3) Slipcovers can be removed & laundered
4) Easy to assemble
5) Good quality that stands the test of time

 The EKTORP series offers a full size sofa, loveseat, arm chair, footstool, and sectional options. I've owned the sofa, footstool, and until recently, two armchairs (which I sold in order to make room for another full size sofa). Each piece of furniture is purchased separately from the slipcovers, allowing you to easily change out the look as well as remove the slipcovers to wash when needed. I haven't had to wash mine yet but I've read lots of other reviews from people who have and say it's quite easy. The slipcovers vary in price depending on the color and material you choose. For the combination I chose I paid $499 for each sofa (without tax).

I chose 'Nordvalla Gray' for my slipcovers because it's dark enough to hide everyday stains and I just really love the color gray! My second choice is the basic white, which I've read is really easily laundered, and this is the least expensive of the slipcover options. What I really like about the slipcovers in addition to their washability, is that they don't look like your typical slipcovers. They are tailored very nicely with a piping detail so they fit the couch frames perfectly. In fact, most people don't even realize they are slipcovers when viewing the set in person. The Nordvalla gray cover is a very thick material, almost denim like, not as soft as the white slipcovers but very durable.

Let's talk assembly...they are SUPER easy to assemble. I put mine together by myself in about 20 minutes (including putting on the cushion covers). The frame comes as one piece, with the back folded down, and the arms and feet are unattached. First you pop up the back of the frame, then attach the arms, then the feet, then add the slipcover to the frame...

Finally, you add the slipcovers to each individual cushion and then you're done! What I like about these covers and cushions, is that they are reversible so you can easily rotate the cushions for even use and wear. Every so often I rotate my cushions so that I don't have a 'dent' in the spots that are sat on most often. I think this has helped keep the life in my cushions. Because I bought my first Ektorp sofa two years ago, I have a side by side comparison of the 2-year old sofa set next to the brand new sofa. The cushions on the new sofa definitely have more 'fluffiness' to them but I'm really pleased with how well the older sofa has held up over time...

The arms of my older sofa don't have any pilling yet, but I would imagine over a longer period of time they might. Also, it's important to note that I don't have any kids or pets jumping on my sofas (other than the occasional visit from friends) every day so my furniture is gently used. However, in all of my research on this series before purchasing, I read countless reviews of people with kids and pets who raved about the durability/washability.

IKEA Ektorp Nordvalla Gray
For further comparison purposes, in the photo above, the sofa on the left is the older one and the one on the right is the brand new sofa. I combined two of the Ektorp sofas in addition to an Ektorp footstool to form my own 'sectional'! I get compliments on the sofas very often from guests visiting my home and many are surprised to learn they are from IKEA! They are comfortable to sit on, not too firm, not too soft. Overall, I highly recommend this affordable, durable, and good-looking furniture set!

Room Source List
Photo frames: IKEA
Teal Pillow Covers: IKEA
Tan pillows: Home Goods
Curtains: IKEA (but I painted on the blue stripes)
Coffee Table: vintage from Goodwill and painted white
Trellis Rug: Rugs USA
Paint Color on Walls: Horizon by Benjamin Moore

Monday, February 16, 2015

Homemade Sugar Lip Scrub

Ever since getting Invisalign I've been suffering from a mild case of chapped lips. After a fruitless attempt at purchasing an inexpensive exfoliant at the drug store, I decided to make my own! I adapted the recipe from this source.

Here's what you'll need to make your own Sugar Lip Scrub:

-3 tablespoons white granulated sugar
-1 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
-3 drops peppermint extract
-2-3 drops of red food coloring
-Small container for storage

Mix everything together in a small bowl. You can play around with the type of oil and the type of extract you use but I chose olive oil and peppermint because they were readily available and relatively inexpensive compared to some of the other choices. I found the small plastic containers in the travel toiletry section at WalMart (2 for $1)...one batch of the scrub will fill two of these small containers. The scrub leaves my lips so soft and tastes yummy, too!!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Craft Club: Valentine Paper Crafts

Today I hosted the second meeting of the Craft Club I started at school! We had a great turnout of students and even a couple teachers came to join the fun! I put together several different paper crafts for us to make! Below is a list of the crafts we made and links to the sources for each so you can make your own! Check out my Pinterest boards for additional craft ideas...

Valentine Craft Ideas

Paper Fortune Cookies

Pop-Up Love Cards

Origami Candy Hearts

Popsicle Stick Puzzles

We used these free printables for our puzzles...

Craft Club has turned out greater than I could have hoped! We sit and chat and interact with one another in a casual and creative atmosphere. It feels great to be able to share my love of crafting with my students!

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Valentine's Day Printables For Teachers

Valentine's Day is coming right up (and so is school vacation...woo hoo) and I usually put a little something together to give to my students and coworkers. Below are some of my favorite simple and inexpensive Valentine ideas I've used in years past to spread a little love and kindness at school!

Starburst Printable
Free Valentine Printables
 'You're a Star' printable was originally found here but this source doesn't seem to be working so you can download the free printable here. Just add some Starburst candy and you're set!

Baggie Topper Printable
teacher valentines
Fill a snack bag with Goldfish crackers or Swedish Fish candy, attach this topper I designed, and give to some happy students! I've created a large version of the printable to attach to the long side of a snack baggie here and a smaller version that can be secured to the short end of a snack baggie here!

Applesauce & Pencil Printables
I'll be giving these little 'Awesome-Sauce' cups to my homeroom students this year! 
And last year I gave them something similar to this:

Because what student doesn't need a new pencil? Printable found here!

Humorous Historical Cards
 If you have a wicked sense of humor and an affinity for all things historical, you might consider giving out these Puritan Valentine cards or these Historical Figure cards...

I gave them out to members of my department at school last year!

Felt Fortune Cookies
 If you're feeling ambitious, you could make these adorable felt fortune cookies...I used pipe cleaners instead of floral wire filled them with Dove chocolates! I'll be making these with my craft club at school this week along with several other Valentine crafts! 

Come follow my Pinterest board for holiday craft ideas!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

I'm a 34-Year-Old with Braces

I finally got braces!!! This has been a decision a decade in the making and today it finally happened and I couldn't be happier! My teeth are certainly not horrible by any stretch of the imagination but I've been self-conscious about my narrow smile, crooked teeth, and prominent canines for most of my adult life. I told a few friends about my decision to get braces and most reactions were to tell me my teeth looked 'fine to them'...I'm sure some were just being kind and others really genuinely didn't see the need.

(Miranda from Sex and the City...another 34-year-old with braces)

I had a consult with my orthodontist over five years ago but in the end I decided it would be too expensive and that braces were a really superficial thing on which to spend my hard-earned money (my dental insurance doesn't cover any part of the cost). But, as time went on, I was still unhappy with what I saw in the mirror and in pictures when I smiled. And so it was this internal struggle with wanting to correct my smile and not wanting to be superficial/financially irresponsible that kept me from the braces. I'm sure none of the 16-year-olds with braces have this same struggle as they are not paying for their braces and it's culturally normal to fix one's smile when you are a teen without seeming superficial.

(My Invisalign trays that I change every two weeks)

Fast forward to a few months ago when I decided life was too short to put off the things you really, really want to do so I finally made the appointment to start the process (again). I had my consult, my appointment to cast my molds, and today I received my first set of Invisalign trays. I chose to go with Invisalign because it was basically the same cost as regular braces, is less noticeable, and the trays can be taken out when eating so no foods are off limits.

Invisalign braces

The trays just pop right in and out with relative ease. What the ads for Invisalign don't show is that most people have to have these little 'buttons' bonded to their teeth in order for the trays to have something to grab on to when trying to move certain teeth. I had to have several buttons put on my top teeth and they protrude pretty far...not a pretty sight but better than metal braces! The other downside to the trays is that my speech is somewhat impeded. My doctor said I would get used to speaking and the lisp should go away within a couple days! I sure hope so because I talk...a lot...every day... #teacherproblems!!

Invisalign braces

I took this picture this afternoon as soon as I arrived home from the orthodontist. You can't really see the braces, however, it is nearly impossible to smile without opening my mouth a bit or to smile with my mouth closed as the trays prevent me from doing either. I guess I will just always look super happy in my pics (and will have to use awesome filters to mask the braces) for the next year! I'll be sure to post updates as I continue this journey to a better smile!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Book Club Christmas

Friday was the last day of school before heading into our two week Christmas break so my book club ladies (who all teach with me) decided we'd have a little gathering at my place to celebrate the holidays & our friendship before heading our separate ways for vacation! I hosted the gathering because I live only 4 minutes from school which seemed like a convenient place to meet up!

For our gathering I decided to try a recipe for Cranberry Mint Holiday Punch. Three of the ladies in the group are pregnant and I thought this would be a festive and delicious 'mocktail' to serve (I altered the recipe by using a caffeine-free mint tea).  It did not disappoint!

Cranberry Mint Holiday Punch recipe

The green of the mint and lime alongside the red the cranberries makes this so pretty and festive! Some of the other punch recipes I found seemed like they would be far too sweet so I was pleased that the sweetness of this punch can be altered by the amount of seltzer water added to the mix.

Cranberry Mint Holiday Punch recipe

In addition to the preggos, we've got vegan, gluten-free, and Paleo dietary restrictions in the group so finding foods to serve that everyone can eat can sometimes be a challenge! For snacks, I served chocolate caramel pretzel turtles (using gluten-free pretzels) along with dark chocolate-dipped strawberries!

I'm so blessed to have such great colleagues who have also become such great friends! It's nice to have people in my life who 'get' what I do professionally but are also super fun to hang out with! I have no doubt that this little gathering will become an annual tradition we will all look forward to with each passing year! Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Graduation Tassel Christmas Ornament

Christmas has arrived in the land of Crafty Teacher Lady! I spent all day Sunday (and the last two nights) decorating for the holidays!! I'm hosting four separate holiday gatherings between now and New Years and so I want to make my home really special and welcoming to my guests!

I went to my favorite local farm stand to by my tree (fourth year in a row)...they sell such nice looking trees and I like to support local when I can. I plan to do a separate post featuring a little 'holiday home tour' but today I'd like to share a really clever ornament idea that's both easy and meaningful...

Graduation Tassel Christmas Ornament Craft Idea

My graduation tassels (from high school and college) have sat in a storage container basically since the day I graduated as I didn't really have much use of them after the ceremonies! By taking an expensive clear plastic ornament (purchased for $1 at WalMart) and adding my tassels, I now have a meaningful way to display and preserve these mementos.

Here's how to do it:
1) Purchase your clear plastic ornament
2) Remove the top metal piece
3) Remove the metal number from the tassel (it won't fit through the opening and into the ornament)
4) Push the bottom of the tassel into the ornament
5) Punch a small hole in the top of the metal piece (I used a leather belt hole punch purchased at a hardware store but you could use a hammer and nail or drill)
6) Thread the tassel string up through the hole
7) Thread the metal numbers with the tassel string
8) Hand on your tree and let the memories of graduation day flood back into your mind!

The tassel from my high school graduation is extra special to me now since I'm back teaching at my Alma mater! I'm going to share the idea with my senior students since I'm sure their tassels will just end up in storage otherwise! This would make a really great graduation gift, too!