Bulletin Board Selfies- FREEBIE!

Students will love to have a "selfie" bulletin board.  Back to School is a great time for students to write All About Me.  Why not add a little fun with it and let students take selfies?  I created this Student Selfie bulletin board set with all of that in mind.  This is a great way to get students excited about writing too.  This is my Labor Day gift to you for FREE!

Everything you need is included in this set.  Just print and go!  

To download Student Selfies, click here.

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Effective School Teams

Great teams do things extremely well!  I am excited about the 2014-15 school year.  On campus this year, I have implemented weekly grade level meetings.  We have always had grade level meetings but this year we are having them weekly instead of every other week.  I have a few new teachers in each grade level plus a new math program.  I snapped a few pictures of a meeting I attended on Friday morning.  Just fyi:  Our meetings are held before the bell rings each morning.  Class begins at 8:00 and our meetings begin at 7:30.  

Meetings are held in a classroom and facilitated by the grade level leaders.  The purpose of the meeting is to have colleagues plan and discuss instructional content.  As principal, I attend the meetings and I'm present to answer any questions or assist in any way.  These meetings are a great time for the grade level teams to collaborate and discuss.  Many teachers can feel isolated from their colleagues.  Building relationships and coming together regularly can help teachers feel bonded.

Whole staff meetings are rare during the school year.  It is actually unnecessary if we have strong teaching teams who meet regularly.  At this particular meeting, the teachers were discussing the math lessons from the week and what to expect in math this next week.  Teacher have their lesson plan template and binders and looked over the lessons for the upcoming week.  

It is critical for teachers to provide feedback and input about how things are going in their classroom.  That builds unity and it creates ownership within the school.  

Did you know if teachers meet regularly it yields an increase in student achievement?  We have seen an increase in student achievement because of the commitment teachers have by coming together and sharing strategies, best practices, and concerns.  Students will not succeed if faced with a  group of teachers who are disjointed, disconnected or dysfunctional.  

I can see the value of teamwork.  I love teachers coming together and having the opportunity to plan for student learning and solve problems together.  How does teaming look in your school?


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Off to a Great School Start: Tips and Tricks

We might have just had the best first week of school ever.  I know I have had a wonderful week.  Yes, I'm tired and looking forward to my three day weekend.  However, I love seeing the students and my school family back together again.   I wanted to share a few tips on how I improved a few things for my campus this year. 

Recess bins are a big help.  These bins are located on the sidewalk by the playground.  Our students have recess after they eat lunch.  The students leave the cafeteria and go straight out to play.  We needed a system to keep up with all the lunch boxes, toys and jackets.  Each teacher has their own bin. When the class lines up to go inside, they check the bin to make sure they have all their items.  No more lost lunch boxes all over the playground!  Genius...
I'm so excited about my latest purchase.  I have stadium seating outside for car dismissal.  Students sit away from the traffic and out of the hot Texas sun and listen for their name to be called.  I love this!  It has made dismissal faster because students are separated by grade level and sitting quietly.  In the past, students were seated on the sidewalk and it was so frustrating because students were not organized and often not paying attention to the adults on duty.
Car tags! My newest creation.  Parents hang these on their mirror inside the car and the adults call the student's name as the car pulls forward.  We can load our campus within 15-20 minutes.  These car tags are free so if you are interested in them just help yourself.

The teacher binders are a big help and being used by all teachers.  I love this too because we are all organized with lesson plans, meeting notes and schedules.  I don't think I could ever not be organized or live without these now.  If you are interested in downloading a copy, head over to my store on Teachers Pay Teachers.

I hope you are having a great start to 2014-15.  If you have tips you want to share, I would love to hear from you.

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Reading Skills and Strategies Campus Wide

On Friday, I finished up the professional development week with a training or refresher on good reading skills and strategies.  All reading teachers and interventionists attended the class on campus.  It was teacher-led class.  Learning from your peers is the most effective way to learn.  Teachers demonstrated how to solve or tackle some of the hardest skills: main idea, summary, inferencing and vocabulary.

The purpose of this training:  I have several new teachers this year and they need exposure to our campus strategies.  Second, to get the campus on the same page or at least each grade level.  In second grade, we are giving exposure to our students and building a foundation with them.   It's not all about STAAR or state assessment.  It's also about building strategies that can last a life time or throughout their educational years.  

 Our campus has down-sized to 5 steps when reading a passage.  We had 7 but the state assessment at the end of the year is timed so we eliminated two steps to help save time for students.  All teachers left with a copy of the 5 steps to display in the classroom.

 Teachers were divided into groups.  Group 1 tackled main idea from a Grade 4 STAAR-related passage.  I found the Main Idea poster by Amy Groesbeck.  The posters are a great resource and teaching tool.  As group 1 worked main idea I observed some similar skills but also some differences.  Honestly, there is absolutely nothing wrong with the way a teacher solves a main idea problem.  However, if we all adopt or adapt to one style of teaching, we see more of a common vision on campus.  When students are pulled for reading intervention, it helps if each classroom teaches it in a similar fashion.  This professional development class was all about creating and promoting a coherent literacy instruction of reading skills and strategies.
 Group 2 tackled summary.  Summary takes the longest to solve.  The reason is because students are having to read the entire story and find the beginning, middle and end.  These can be very tricky and time consuming.  The Texas STAAR test only allows 4 hours.  If each story on the test included a summary question, these can eat up their time quickly.  If I had to give any advice, it would be to be unified on the campus when solving a summary-type question.
 Group 3 definitely had the hardest.  Inference is a complex skill and must be taught through explicit modeling and instruction.  It requires students to think at a higher level which makes it a difficult skill for many students.  The only way students will get better at making inferencing is through practice and experiences.  Helping your students understand that information will not always be directly stated; but clues will be provided along the way.  This will improve their skill of making inferences.
Group 4 solved a vocabulary question.  Of the four types we address on Friday, this was the easiest.  However, we found some differences in strategies.  

 The best part of this session was watching teachers teach teachers.  A teacher would get up and model how they solved the question and then we gave feedback.  We had to make compromises along the way.  That's ok.  What works for a fourth grade class is not always going to work for a second grader.  Strategies that align with research-based practices in early reading and literacy have been proven to effective.
 The most positive benefit of teachers teaching teachers is that it makes teaching a public rather than a private practice.  At times, we need to rely on our on experts on the campus instead of always providing outside consultants.  This style of professional development is not new to my campus.  However, if it is to your campus a few tips to get you started.  Your environment needs to be safe and professional.  Teachers need to know it's ok to not agree.  It's ok to share and give suggestions.  The campus needs to be built on trust and promote a level of professionalism.  As  a leader of a campus, be the advocate for supporting teachers in learning from each other.

 Throughout the year, we will continue with more reading skills and strategies.  We will begin to develop a playbook for each grade level.  I'm excited to start this guidebook for teachers.




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Staff Development Day 1

Staff development Day 1 went very well.  My day is not over yet.  I have a board meeting to attend tonight so until then I thought I would share a few pictures from today.  The morning was spent in the auditorium with the superintendent and entire district.  The afternoon is spent on campus in staff meetings.  The first meeting is our "typical" first meeting of procedures, policies and campus information.  Here are a few pictures.  

 Each teacher has their teacher binder with them.  They will bring it to meetings and we will add to it as the year goes on.  If you are interested in starting a binder, you can download it here.  I will give teachers handouts either in person or place in their mailbox.  If it has holes punched in it, then it goes in the binder.

Each teacher has an ipad and they bring it to my meetings.  I do not print the presentation.  They scan the QR code or type in a link to access it.  They follow along with me via the iPad.  Please excuse my messy hair...I have no idea what's up with it. I'm assisting my teacher on scanning the QR code.

I created a popcorn bar for my teachers to enjoy.  I had caramel popcorn and regular popcorn with M&M's and Reese's candy.  Yummy!

 We are all a part of something beautiful.  We all have strengths but we often only see the negative in ourselves.  No one is insignificant in any way.  We all have our differences for a reason.  My weakness may be your strength.  We need to be different to rely on each other.  When we all have different talents we make a very strong team.
I had teachers write their strength on the puzzle piece.  I will link all of these together to show we make a whole.  We all matter.  You are a piece of the puzzle in someone's life.  Bonnie Arbon said, "You may never know where you fit but others will fill the holes in their lives with pieces of you."

 I hope all of you have a wonderful week.


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Wordless Wednesday: Locker Decor

It's Wordless Wednesday with Miss DeCarbo.  I guess since it's Wordless Wednesday I can't say too much...that's so hard for me.  How do you assign lockers?  Kendra Rester, 2nd grade teacher on my campus, used her Cricut machine and placed students names on the lockers.  This will help names stay beautiful all year.  Take a look!

Head over to Sugar and Spice and see other ideas!


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School Dismissal Color Coded Car Tags-FREEBIE

I'm determined to make school dismissal easier on the staff and parents this year.  Our campus is under construction this year and that only makes dismissal even more difficult.  I usually purchase very expensive car tags but I thought I might could create car tags myself and save the district some money.

I think they turned out great so why not share with you too.  If you would like the packet, just download here.  Please leave feedback and share with your friends on facebook and pinterest.

Our parents drive in different lanes depending on the grade level they are picking up.  This helps the school employees load faster.  I recommend printing on cardstock or heavy paper for durability.


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Creating a Joyful Staff

I am beyond blessed with a wonderful group of people I work beside each day.  Yes, I said "beside." I work right beside them each day.  I maybe the leader of the campus but I share in the workload each day.   My entire campus is amazing.  It is such a blessing to go to a place you enjoy being for 8-10 hours a day.  I have my staff to thank for that.  Throughout the year I will share pictures of my wonderful teachers and staff.  Here are just a few from a team building class last night.

Each year, I try and create a back to school time for me to spend with my leadership team.  The leadership team consists of 8 teachers who are a tremendous asset to the campus...just ask any teacher on their team.  These ladies take on the responsibility of planning every lesson for the grade level or subject area they are assigned.  They know the standards up and down.  They do not have any trouble making a decision for what's best for the students and campus.

Once school gets started, we are rocking and rolling and rarely have extended amounts of quality time for bonding.  So right before school gets started we get together for our annual team building night.  Last night, we did a cooking class.

We had so much fun.  We made lasagna roll-ups, parmesan knots and zucchini ribbon salad.  For dessert, we were served chocolate pot de creme.

Did you know that joyful work places create higher performance levels.  Everyone works together and everyone has a say.  When employees bond together, we form a family connection and build trust with each other.  The best moments at work are not the times when we celebrate our test scores or when the football team wins the game (although those are great) but the everyday things like laughing and sharing together.

I hope you all have a wonderful school year.  Take time to build up your staff.  Celebrate and cherish the time you have each day with them.  No one on your campus is insignificant.  We all have very important roles and it takes every single person to build a successful campus.

To the entire campus at Pittsburg Elementary School...You are so loved.  I can't wait to get started on a new school year.

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No More Messy Desks- Classroom Organization Tool Kit

Having an organized classroom is a must.  As adults, every day more and more information is being thrown at us.  This includes emails, reports, papers to grade, papers to file, progress reports, student data, etc... These may begin to pile up on our desk if we don't deal with it right away.  This will result in us spending too much time on things that are urgent rather than those that are important.

For students, having a messy desk can lead to academics problems.  Students who often forget homework, have messy desks and cannot keep track of their materials and do not have time management skills.  Teachers can help these students by having them follow a routine and provide them with strategies that will keep them organized.

A disorganized student will not take the time to clean out their desk.  Each week set aside time in your class so students can complete this task.  Make it fun.  Have a desk fairy visit the room.

The desk fairy visits the class and checks the desks and awards a student the Clean Desk Award and a small treat.  The teacher encourages a clean desk by leaving a simple reminder note:  "There's a mess in your desk.  Clean it up before the desk fairy comes."

The packet includes posters to display in the classroom.  When students see the poster, it is time to clean.

How does this sound? No more pieces of trash pushed inside the desk.  No more pieces of broken pencils and crayons scattered.  If you want some help with keeping students organized, try the Desk Fairy Tool Kit.

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I live for a big sale!

 Have you heard the news?  Teachers Pay Teachers is having a Huge Back To School Sale (BTS) this week! I live for a big sale.  It runs Monday and Tuesday Only!

My store will be on sale for 20% off.  Everything...every item.  If you use this code: BTS14 at checkout you can save even more!  Use today to get some items on your wish list and then check out on Monday or Tuesday.

Here are some new items I created this summer:


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