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This is day 1, 2, 3, 4 of my classroom preparation and organization series.If you’re here for the food, you’re in luck, I’ve even tossed in a tasty link today!

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Today we welcomed the new students and families to our school. I have one student who is new to the school this year. She is absolutely adorable. As soon as the Head introduced me, the little girl hopped up from her parents, grabbed my hand and pulled me out of the hall because she was so excited to see the classroom. 

A good start to a new year!

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I still have one project to finish before I show you the big reveal, but here’s a sneak peak of how the classroom looked when I left school today.

Tomorrow is our first day of school. In preparation for the athletic event, I ate a carb-loaded dinner of pasta with avocado cream sauce. It might look strange but it is so creamy and delicious!

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With all the excitement for tomorrow, I’m sure I won’t be able to sleep tonight, but one can wish.

Alright, on to the project of the day!

You know paper mâché, but have you heard of yarn mâché?

I hadn’t either until it exploded all over pinboards on pinterest.

yarn balls

I was instantly hooked on this photo and the simple how-to instructions.

Since I knew these {please read in a British accent} simply wouldn’t go with my home decor, my mind instantly visualized these lovely hanging yarn balls over my classroom desks.

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I prepped my table, blew up differently sized balloons (in retrospect these were much too large), snapped a metal clip to the bottoms of the balloons for a bit of extra weight and got to work.

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I made a mixture of equal amounts school glue and water then dropped my yarn in.

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This was a messy project that the kids would love! I on the other hand got bored after two balloons so called in quits for the day only to return to the project a day later.

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Just for fun, I sprinkled a bit of glitter over the sticky yarn.

I hung the balloons to dry for a week while I was in Budapest. When I returned, some of the balloons had slightly deflated which made for better balloon removal.

A few other yarn balls clung to the deflated balloons for dear life. I even left some balloons inside- these are my favorite.

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All in all, my project didn’t turn out as perfectly as the inspirational photo, but I still love the look of the slightly deformed yarn balls.

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Once the yarn balls were hung to hang and streamers were added, the whole look really came together!

If you’re looking for more pinterest-inspired classroom projects, head over to Jen’s website. She’s sharing her pinterest projects all week this week.

Wish me luck tomorrow! I’m bubbling with excitement and nerves.

Be sure to come back tomorrow to hear about my first day back. I’ll also be sharing (fingers crossed) all of my new school year classroom displays.

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Fast Pockets

This is day three of my classroom preparation and organization series.

Day 1: No-sew radiator slipcover

Day 2: Maintenance-free classroom library

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Ah, library pockets, you organize, display, group, and guide an endless amount of classroom projects, how I love you!

One thing I do not love is your pre-made cost or restrictive sizes.

I also do not love cutting, folding, and gluing homemade versions of you.

Traditional library pockets, I’ve left you for your simple, fast, reusable and homemade cousin… I hope we can still be friends.

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Fast Pockets

Materials

Cardstock

Paper cutter

Laminating sheets

Laminator

Ruler

Exacto knife or box cutter

Procedure

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1. Cut your cardstock to the size you desire. If you feel like making funky shapes, go for it, these pockets are made for you by you, be as creative as you wish!

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2. Fold the cardstock to form a pocket, no need to seal the sides.

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3. Place each pocket in a laminating sheet with plenty of space along the sides.Run the pockets through the laminator, once, twice, three times to really form a firm seal.

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5. Cut around the shape leaving at least 1 cm of lamination on all sides.

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6. Use a ruler to guide your exacto knife along the pocket top you created earlier. Carefully cut the top open to reveal the pockets, just be sure not to go all the way through the cardstock!

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Super simple, huh?

These green pockets are now hanging on my book recommendation display. Each student has a pocket that his or her friends can pop book recommendations into. A fun way to “get mail.”

Tomorrow I’m going to share a pinterest inspired decoration project. Be sure to come back for more!

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This post is day 2 from my weeklong classroom preparation and organization series. To see how I made a simple no-sew slipcover to hide an unsightly classroom radiator, click here.

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For the last three years, I’ve struggled to find a system for arranging my classroom library.

When I first arrived as a teacher at my current school three (!!!) years ago, the classroom library was more a book graveyard than anything. Teachers are unable to throw away books, and before I arrived, every unwanted book found its final resting place in my classroom.

Luckily the head of my school has been very generous and agreed to any and all requests I’ve given to expand our classroom library. Now with a well balanced and engaging selection of books, I’ve moved into stage two of my library struggle: organization and maintenance.

I’ve changed my classroom library every year, yet nothing seamed to work efficiently. The books were always in the wrong places, covers were bent back in an attempt to shove one more book in a too-small space, what was once carefully organized inevitably began to look like a dump.

One year I had the kids reorganize the books based on similar themes and genres in hopes that they would take responsibility for the organization of the classroom library. That class cared for the library but the next year’s new class was not invested in the project and took little care to maintain the library.

My project for this summer has been to tackle the library once and for all. Here’s how I’ve finally created an organized, maintenance-free classroom library.

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  1. I decide how I wanted to organize my book shelves and books. I chose to separate the books as follows:P8220867 One bookshelf for fiction books that are not part of a series or we only had one book from the series. P8220868 One bookshelf for fiction which is organized by author and book series (I still need to put a label on the front of the magazine files.) P8220869 One bookshelf for non-fiction and multicultural books.  P8220873 One bookshelf which is shared between poetry, plays and Ancient Roman non-fiction.
  2. After deciding how I wanted to organize my books, I removed all books from the bookshelves then fit each shelf with containers to organize the books in an enticing, forward-facing manner.
  3. Next up, I placed similar books together by theme, genre and favorite authors. This part of the project took me hours as I hummed and hawwed over which box was the best fit for each book. 
  4. Once the books were all organized, I labeled each box with a post-it note and the theme/ genre of the books inside. P8220864
  5. I moved the boxes around a bit until I was happy with the organization then number the boxes chronologically on the post-it notes.
  6. Following that, I counted the number of books in each box and wrote that number on the post-it, too.
  7. Once all book boxes were numbered, labeled and complete with the number of books they contained, I removed the labels and took them to the computer.
  8. I created labels for the boxes including the box number, theme/ genre and an image to match. (I’m happy to share my labels if you e-mail me!) I printed, cut, laminated and stuck the labels on the corresponding boxes. P8220865
  9. Boxes labeled, it was time to label the books. I created book labels for each box including the box number and theme/genre. I printed the descriptions on return-address labels then stuck one label inside each book for the corresponding box. (Again, I’m happy to share.) P8220871 Now that every book is numbered to match a box number, there is no excuse to put books away incorrectly. Just like that, there’s {hopefully} no more confused kids and frustrated teachers!
  10. I then changed my classroom library checkout book to reflect the organizational changes. The book contains space for the child’s name, book title, book box number, date and teacher’s initials (I always sign the books back in.)
  11. Before putting the library into use, I will teach the students about the classroom library as well as important organization procedures. They will learn how to check out books, check them back in and put the books away in the appropriate box.

With my library corner organized, I was able to turn towards creating an enchanting reading environment.

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I found these fantastic lightweight nylon butterflies at a flea market a few weeks ago.

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I had hooks sporadically placed above the library corner then hung the butterflies with fishing wire. I tried to hang the butterflies at different angles and heights to simulate their movements.

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When the wind blows through the doorway, some of the butterflies gently turn and sway. They are so soothing and magical!

If you would like any of the files used to create this library, please either comment below or e-mail me directly. This project took me many hours; I would be happy to spare another teacher from the work!

Please pop bye again tomorrow to see how I make fast and simple library pockets of any shape, size and design.

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No-Sew Slipcover

My summer holiday is officially over.

Although I’ve already put in at least a week of work on my classroom, I’ve still felt like I was on vacation.

Starting tomorrow, it’s back to work for the teachers and assistants at my school and come Thursday, it’s back to school for the kids.

To celebrate the beginning of the new school year, I’m dedicating this week to classroom preparation and organization. Each day I will post a sneak peak into my classroom complete with photos, ideas, and tips for starting the new school year.

If you’re a new teacher, I especially hope you find this week helpful and encouraging. Being a teacher is the most rewarding profession- I am so excited for you and the great adventure you’re about to begin!

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I love that my classroom is bright, colorful and cheerful. One way that I’ve added extra color to the room is through the use of bold, graphic fabrics.

The front of my classroom is a wall of windows with two large radiators. Since radiators aren’t the most attractive sights to be seen,  I’ve created a simple no-sew summertime slipcover* to hide one of the ugly beasts until wintertime.

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I found this fun fabric a couple years ago at IKEA. To get started, place the cut-to-size fabric wrong-side-out over your radiator.

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Using safety pins, create a “seam” between the two layers of fabric. Place the pins close together to prevent gaps. I first pinned the sides then pinned down the top flap.

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Flip the fabric right-side-out and you’re done!

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Crisp, solid, no-sew seams in mere minutes!

*Don’t you worry about fire hazards, I’ll remove the slipcover once the radiators are turned on.

Check back tomorrow to see how I’ve created an enchanting, magical, and maintenance free classroom library.

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Last night was a lot of fun.

My friend Rachel celebrated her birthday with good food, good friends, and lots of good wine. It may have been a late night, and I may have still felt slightly drunk when I woke up this morning, but she is worth celebrating and celebrating right.

In Germany, the birthday girl or boy is expected to provide birthday treats for their celebrations. Not in my book. I believe a cake should always be provided in honor of the birthday child.

Rich Chocolate Cup Cakes

Makes 21 cup cakes

Ingredients

  • 1  1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup milk

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Line a muffin pan with liners. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cocoa and salt. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well with each addition, then stir in the vanilla. Add the flour mixture alternately with the milk; beat well. Fill the muffin cups 1/2 full.
  3. Bake for 15 to 17 minutes in the preheated oven, or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean. Frost with your favorite frosting when cool.

Once the first tray of 12 cup cakes were in the oven, I mixed 1 heaping Tbsp. of peanut butter in the remaining batter. Variety is the spice of life. Even better if that variety comes in the form of peanut butter. The peanut butter chocolate muffins were even more moist and puffy.

Oh, peanut butter you’re so find, you’re so fine you blow my mind, hey peanut butter, hey, hey, hey peanut butter!

I had plans to make a vanilla butter cream frosting, but the butter wasn’t soft enough and I ran out of time. Luckily the cup cakes were really moist and rich enough without frosting. I still have the bowl of now room temperature butter, vanilla, and salt on the kitchen counter…. I’m thinking butter cream frosted oatmeal in the morning.

We ate dinner at a new restaurant to me. I have lived in Bonn for 2 years and have never heard of the real gem, Der Spanier. A Spanish grocery store by day and packed out restaurant by night, this tapas place is awesome. It kind of has a kanteen feel to it. The walls are lined with oils, spices, wines, and Spanish food products from the store. Rather than a menu, you get up and take your drink from the shelf or cooler and look in the deli-style glass counter for the food. The waiter then takes your order at the table. Basically, you say what you are hungry for and if they have it, it’s yours.

Very laid back. Very strange at first, but it works very well. I wish I knew about this place when my family was visiting last summer. I will definitely go back. The food was outstanding and very affordable.

Speaking of food, here is some of what I ate.

Mushrooms cooked in butter, garlic, herbs and spices.

A group of us shared the seafood platter. Everything was tender and flavorful, but the calamari was the best. As in, the best calamari I have ever eaten. Really. Come to Bonn for the calamari.

Bread, aioli sauce, and many olives were also consumed.

You’ve got to enjoy the communal, family feel of a restaurant where plates are passed and bottles of wine are shared.

After dinner, a local drinking establishment was also visited, at which point I changed from wine and sangria to good ol’ water.

Regardless of my change of drinks, I woke up today, on teacher appreciation day, feeling like a teacher whose body was treated the antonym of  appreciation the prior night.

Luckily, a few cups of green tea, a couple ibuprofen, makeup, and a lovely dress hid all ailments.

Teacher appreciation day started with a presentation first thing in the morning by my students and their parents. They each said something nice about me and presented me with the following work of thoughtful art.

Each child write something they like about me and then added it to a huge canvas which was panted and decorated with little trinkets which the kids thought symbolized me. So sweet. Here are a few of my favorite comments.

The knickknacks they added each had a special meaning, animals because I like them, a flower for my balcony garden, a pile of books for my passion of reading…

A cupcake for my love of cooking….

and a marzipan pig because, “you’re a vegetarian and don’t eat pigs, but you really like sweet food so now you can eat a candy pig.”

I believe it is important to teach reasoning and logic, especially if it justifies eating a huge blob of marzipan.

Don’t worry, I won’t actually eat you or the animal for which you were fashioned.

My assistant also received a similar gift. Here comments were a bit more varied though. From helping me to cutting fruit, my assistant does it all! What can I say, I’m one lucky girl.

Teacher appreciation day continued with assembly, the kids going to German, and then a trip to the neighboring German school to watch their musical of The Pied Piper of Hamlin. You may recall that we spent several weeks studying the story. The play was fantastic. I really enjoyed it as did the kids. Once we were back, it was time for lunch.

Usually, lunch starts at 12:15. The kids who ordered a hot lunch go to the assembly hall and those with packed lunch stay in the classroom with me to eat. Today, parents relieved us of our lunch duties at 12 and did the lunch recess supervision as well. The teachers and assistants all had a full hour lunch break (opposed to the usual half hour.) As if this weren’t good enough, the best part of teacher appreciation day at my school is the buffet lunch the parents provide.

Imagine working at a school where over 35 nationalities are represented. Now, imagine each of those nationalities being represented through food. Not any food, but the best recipe of each region. Now, imagine being able to eat said food for 1 hour. You don’t need to imagine how I felt by the time the bell went. Let’s just say that I was still uncomfortably full when I left school at 4:30.

I had such a lovely day. What can I say? I love being a teacher!

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