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LaborLESS Bloghop and Gift Card Giveaway!

Hello everyone!
Main Graphic Laborless
It is finally here!

Today I am linking with Laura from Where the Magic Happens, Krista from Teaching Momster, and Lisa from PAWsitively Teaching! I have joined forces once again with my bloggy friends to bring you the best, most amazing giveaway on this Labor Day weekend!

All of us have been thinking about  good ways in which to treat our readers and followers.   We thought hard, and I mean it! Really, really hard… and decided that  we can treat you to our best ideas to work smarter rather than harder… at school and home!

It takes a lot to be a great teacher, the stress, the time, the energy… I could go on and on! But, we also crave time to ourselves and our families.

So here are a few ideas to work smarter, not harder
I have a secret teacher fear that I will forget a child's birthday.

Thus, "The Birthday Committee" is my saving grace.  During the summer I grab as many packs of cheap streamers and birthday pencils as possible and put them, along with one roll of Scotch tape (more than one and you're just asking for trouble) in "The Birthday Box".  Then, during the school year our humanitarian (this is a job on our job board) is in charge of using these supplies to decorate anyone's desk who has a birthday.  They can ask a few friends for help and they become "The Birthday Committee" for the day.  They make sure the birthday kiddo gets a pencil, a decorated desk, a card, and they put a birthday hat on my stuffed animal Kermit.  (He looks so cute in his jaunty hat).  I also have an old trophy given to me long ago that is now our birthday trophy.  It's old and decrepit but the kids love having it on their desk on their special day.

All I have to do is write birthdays down on my calendar and buy stuff for our birthday box. The kids take care of the rest.

So, while you're at the store this summer get some streamers, a plastic box with a lid, some tape, and you're good to go.  Work smarter, not harder baby!
If it's just been one of those days (and you know we'll all have a few), I leave school as soon as humanly possible - making sure I feel at reasonably ready for the next day.  Then, I stop and treat myself on the way home (pumpkin spice latte, frozen yogurt, frappuccino) all while telling myself I totally deserve it and WILL NOT stress about the calories.

Then I do one of two things:
#1 Work out - I always feel better after I do this, but some days I just can't, that's why there are TWO options here.
#2 Order take out, pet the dog, watch reality TV (Dancing with the Stars, The Bachelor/Bachelorette, Project Runway, something else mindless) and nap/go to bed early.
If I choose option 2 too much then I feel gross, but in moderation option 2 is my saving grace!
I am a slow and steady sort of TpT gal.  I always take forever to post new products!  So in classic Katie form I spent an entire year getting these homework packs ready.  They are perfect for students whose parents complain can finish homework in 2 minutes, or say their child is never challenged, or for classes where you have students on a large range of levels.  I also like that the menu system gives students choice and control over their own learning.  I refined these over 7 years and loved them.  Even on years that I didn't use the homework system for everyone, I used it for one or two students who really needed something different and I still use the printables from these homework packs in my own classroom (grades 2-3) all the time. They're my "go to" resource when a student needs a challenge, or just something a little different like a research contract or fun word work activity.  

No onto the amazing giveaway!
Top all these great tips and ideas  with these top-notch prizes!
A $100 gift card to Amazon

A $50 gift card to TpT


2 $25 gift cards to TpT

1 $10 gift card to TpT

Thank you for reading! And now go click away!!  Good luck and happy Labor Day!!!

Teacher Week Friday: My Favorite Subject - Writing!

A few years ago I participated in the Colorado Writing Project as part of my summer PD and it completely changed the way I taught writing.  What went from the lamest subject in my class, turned into the most fun and fulfilling part of my day!  
One of the most important things I learned is the role of the teacher as author.  On the very first day of the year I always show the kids my ever growing collection of writer's notebooks (some cute - shown up front, and some not cute - hidden in back).  

Now I model every part of the writing process and publish new pieces right alongside my kids. I've written stories about my sister screaming through a snorkel (ingeniously titled Screaming Through a Snorkel) after seeing one tiny fish in the ocean, one about passing out at the eye doctor (yep, I can pretty much faint anywhere), another about almost losing my dear dog Lily on a frightful nighttime walk, and the one shown above about being forced to leg wrestle in first grade PE.  This would now be illegal, but in the eighties I guess there were no rules about making two six year olds attempt to flip each other over while on their backs using only their legs while the other students screamed around them in a circle. Can you say SCARRED FOR LIFE?!  
Katie Wood Ray's book has been my "go to" writer's workshop book ever since that summer PD.  I love all the quotes from authors she uses.  
These inspired me to create my own "Think Like and Author, Write Like an Author" bulletin boards.  I love looking for new authors and mentor texts to inspire me and my students as writers.
When I see sweet dedications like the one above it absolutely makes my day!
and seeing students engaged, reading their classmates' stories is the best!  I can't wait for another year of writing, sharing, and learning more about my students from their stories.

If you're interested in more detailed posts about writing in my classroom here's a start. I'm hoping to add lots more this year including revising mini lessons, editing strategies, the road to publishing, and more mentor texts!

I've written more about some of my favorite mentor texts at these posts:
Making Mentor Texts Meaningful and Memorable
Collecting Mentor Texts for Writing

If you're looking for info about a back to school writing activity focused on idea generation check out this post:

If you're working on research or informational writing this post could be helpful (you might have to wade through a few pictures of Lily in her winter coat though):

Thanks to the authors at Blog Hoppin' for helping me get my booty in gear and motivating me to blog for 5 days in a row!  Hurrah!

I have a new job in second grade this year where I'll actually be able to TEACH, not just distract children from jumping on the air conditioner.  I'm excited to take lots of pictures and start posting about TEACHING again.  Hooray!

Teacher Week Thursday: Sanity Savers

Good teacher friends 
sometimes margaritas  
Enough said.

See you tomorrow for my favorite subject to teach!

Teacher Week Wednesday: Classroom Tour

I'm so excited to FINALLY show off my classroom pics (from last year!) and take you on a Classroom Tour as part of Blog Hoppin's Teacher Week!
I doubt I can adequately describe my insane excitement when I found out I had been offered a job in a public school in Michigan last year.  This is something that I had deemed impossible when I moved to Michigan a year earlier, so even getting a follow up call for an interview was mind blowing.
Then when I packed up all of my stuff (with Lily's help of course - can you see those cute bat dog ears peeking up from the backseat?) and took it to this amazing space (just look at those bookshelves!) I could not wait to get started making this room mine!
Think whirlwind of Starbucks, Hobby Lobby, Target, Michaels, on a seemingly endless loop.
I didn't mind all the extra time getting set up.  Lily was with me every day and I couldn't wait to make perfectly covered fabric walls and bookshelf displays that appealed to the eye.
I had been dying to retrieve all my Teacher Quote art out of the plastic bins in my basement and set them free to speak to every little 8 year old within the vicinity of my classroom.  Hooray!  I thought. I will make my room perfect and get ready for another wonderful year!
This euphoria seems so comical now as I think back on my 13th year of teaching.  Let's just say that the bathing in sanitizer and imaginary bees I mentioned in Monday's Fun Fact #2 were just the tip of the iceberg.  I was in for a year my husband and I refer to as "Crazy Sauce" the likes of which I've never experienced before.
Luckily I had amazing colleagues, a fantastic principal who always had just the right thing to say (and sometimes donuts), and a super sweet husband who let me cry and then ordered takeout when I got home. I don't know what I would have done without them! (and of course my beautiful classroom).  Sometimes when everything is Crazy Sauce around you, at least you know you're sitting in a space you love!   

Thanks for checking out my classroom!  Check back tomorrow for Sanity Savers.

Teacher Week Tuesday: Make Ahead Meals

During my first year of teaching my idea of a "Make Ahead Meal" was ordering a $5 pizza from Little Caesars and picking it up on my way home from work.  Awful idea!!  In addition to a very much needed "chocolate drawer" to get me through that first year, I'm pretty sure I'm still working off the 15 pounds I gained from my lack of creativity and will power.
14 years later I still do Thai takeout and the occasional Panera stop after work (a big YUM to their shortbread cookies!), but I've also attempted to master the art of crockpot cooking.  Knowing something is cooking all day and all I have to do is go home, take off the lid and eat it, is the BEST feeling during a long day at school!
My go to site for slow cooker recipes is: 365 Days of Slow Cooking (
She has tons of great ideas for crockpot meals that don't require too many steps.  They're not all 3 ingredient meals, but once you have the basic spices (basil, parsley, garlic powder, onion powder, bouillon) and extra random stuff (powdered milk, instant tapioca) you don't typically have to buy that many items to have an entire recipe ready to go.

These are two of my favorites:
Recipe for Slow Cooker Vegetarian Quinoa Mexican Bowls with Creamy Avocado Sauce #healthyslowcooker #quinoa
#Crockpot #GlutenFree Beef Stroganoff Recipe.  Flavorful, easy, creamy, comforting...a perfect winter evening meal.
My hubby and I have been feeling in the mood for fall recently (I've already made and consumed my allotment of pumpkin chocolate chip cookies for the entire season and don't even get me started on my all consuming excitement for a pumpkin spice latte), so we started looking into some simple casseroles we could make and freeze for the days we don't have time to throw something in the crockpot.  So far this breakfast casserole is our fave.
We add peppers, mushrooms, and onions to the recipe and then watch Netflix while we eat it in our living room and give Lily pets (Fact #1).  This is my definition of a perfect night.  Does that mean I've become boring?  If so, I care not.  Casserole, Netflix, dog snuggling, what could be better?! :)

See you tomorrow for a Classroom Tour! :)