Saturday, July 23, 2016

Back-To-School Money Saving Tips for Teachers and Parents!

I've watched the shows about people who use coupons to the extreme and am in awe of their dedication and consistency.  I wish I could be that kind of money saver, but unfortunately, it just is never going to happen.  However, when it comes to back to school supplies I tap into my inner extreme couponer and start pulling out ads, finding coupons and trying to combine the coupons with the sales.  Teachers and parents spend so much on back to school supplies!  Seriously, I have a list of 22 items for my upcoming first grader and 24 items for my upcoming 3rd grader!  With that in mind I wanted to share a few of my and some of my friends favorite Back-To-School money saving tips!

1)  Big box office supply stores start with their back to school savings in July!  I discovered this by accident a couple of years ago when I was looking up on one of their websites and happened to glance at the weekly ad and saw things for a penny, a nickle and a quarter.  I was like a penny?  No, that can't be right...but it was!  This week alone I was able to get:

*  packs of 3 glue sticks for a penny each
*  70 page notebooks for a penny each
*  packs of 3 pink erasers for a penny each
*  handheld 2 hole sharpeners for you guessed it, a penny each.

Now of course these stores have limits - usually three each but you can go back multiple times, take a friend and some even extend the limits for teachers - just ask.  Some also have a minimum purchase (usually $5) but that can easily be met by the things that are on sale for a dollar apiece that you would be buying anyway (for me this often colored paper or dry erase markers).   I already have next week outlined because they have 2-pocket folders and packs of 100 index cards for $0.01 apiece and colored pencils for $0.50 starting tomorrow! :)

2)  Jameson from Lessons with Coffee suggests going to thrift stores! "There is so much stuff there from rugs, binders, storage options and even fabric for bulletin boards at fractions of the dollar of what you would pay at the bigger stores."  I agree completely!  I have no blinds or any other window covering in my classroom so the sun is always beating in and heating up the room.  I went to a local thrift store and picked up fabric that I fashion curtains out of!  Not only does it cool
the room, but it looks amazing too!  In addition to thrift stores, you can also check out garage/yard sales especially for storage bins and other containers for holding books and supplies.

3) Use teacher discounts and rewards programs.  Multiple stores not only have special discounts for teachers but they also have rewards programs.  Barnes and Noble Bookstores has a teacher discount program as do official teacher stores like Lakeshore Learning.  The major office supply stores like Office Max, Office Depot and Staples have a special teacher rewards program where you earn money back, coupons and other deals on purchases.  Often these discounts can also be combined with coupons so double savings!

4)  Prioritize your shopping list and buy in bulk when possible.  The reality is that as much as we want everything we don't need everything.  When sitting down to figure out what you are going to buy for your classroom, your upcoming school year or for your child(ren)'s up coming school year that sometimes you have to realize that everything is just not possible.  Money is limited and some supplies are more necessary than others.  Figure out what is the most important, most crucial and what is going to have the greatest impact and purchase those things first.  Once you have figured out the most necessary things see if you can buy them in bulk.  While the bigger package is going to be more expensive it will more often than not work out to be cheaper per individual piece than if bought smaller amounts.  Also, don't be afraid to use the store/off-brand for supplies that are "consumable".  A glue stick is a glue stick regardless of what label is on it.  Construction paper is the same paper if it is a store brand or a name brand!

5)  Jamie from Miss Math Dork takes it a step further and encourages you to "Make a budget! Or else it's too easy to keep buying "one more thing". Shop in stores that have a sale going on, and check out thrift shops and yard sales for nice storage options.  I try to buy a little bit at a time all year, and keep it stored until BTS time."  Knowing what you have to spend and setting a limit will not only make you a frugal shopper but will also help you to stick to your list (and you should always make a list)!

6)  Figure out what you already have.  I cannot count the number of times that I have shopped for my classroom, bought something and then when I set-up my room in the fall I find out that not only did I already have it, but in some cases I have it it in abundance.  For example, I found a great deal on index cards, then realized that I had 20 packs stuck in a cupboard in my closet - whoops!  I recommend taking the time to make a list of what you already have. Making a list of what you already have not only keeps you from spending money that you don't need to but it also encourages you to examine what is really essential.  What you do you use a lot of (glue sticks, paper, etc.) and running out of and are there things that you thought would be so great but you never used ... or forgot about?

7)  Invest in quality versions of the reusable supplies.  While spending a little more on quality will not save you money immediately, it will in the long run.  If you know that you are going to be splitting students up into groups often, invest in some high quality totes so that you have supply boxes ready and able to go.  Since scissors are used constantly, invest in higher quality brands so that they hold up to the constant wear and tear of 100+ students using them in one
day.  Of course, still look for these to be on sale (I just got very high quality 7 - inch scissors on sale for $1 apiece that were regularly $7 each) but be willing to pay a little more for the things that are non-consumable.

I would love to hear your money saving tips!  Please share them below!


Monday, July 18, 2016

Interactive Notebooks - The Perfect Combination of Lecture and Handout Notes!

Lecture notes = stand and deliver in many minds.  Guided (fill-in-the-blank) notes = spoon feeding in other minds.  Neither one is better or worse than the other.  Instead they are structured to meet your students at the place that they are at.  The reality is, though, that in a class of 28 - 35 no one is at the same place.  So how do you meet them where they are at while retaining the flow of the class?  This is a struggle that I have had for the better part of 20 years through a 7 - period day, 6 - period day, trimesters, semesters, block and probably more that I cannot remember!  In addition, we have tried to be more "green" and "paperless" in my district as well which further adds to the struggle when you are trying to not make multi-page handouts that will just be (hopefully) recycled at the end of the semester.  So this year, I am trying  going to pilot something different in one of my classes - Interactive Notebooks - that I think will be the "perfect" marriage between the two methods!  I wanted to share with you why and how I'm going to go about it!

Cut and Paste
1)  Interactive Notebooks help students to stay organized helps them to reference back to old material.  One of my biggest frustrations is when students are trying to find something in a folder that is jam-packed with old assignments, notes, handouts and 1,000 other pieces of paper.  While it is fantastic that they are keeping all of these things, they serve no purpose if they can't find anything in them!  By using an interactive notebook students have all of their notes, IN ORDER, and can actually find them when they need them.  Some teachers also have students number the pages and keep a table of contents (which makes so much sense) so that they know exactly where the material is.  This is a fantastic thing, especially at the secondary level when material spirals and keeps building upon each other.  Although I did not use INB this year, I had a couple of my honor's students
bring out their INB from the previous year (yes they kept them!) to look up previous ideas!

2)  Interactive Notebooks help to hold students accountable for and engage them in their own learning.  With many of guided notes, I find that a few of my students literally only fill-in-the blanks and don't write anything else down.  While this is by far a slim percentage of my students, as a teacher I want to reach them all.  I asked my students why this was and the common response was
that they don't know how to take notes and that they write slow (especially if the blanks are words that they are not familiar with).   INBs allow teachers to go more in-depth and help students to focus in on small pieces of information which leads to students writing more down.  Students also seem to feel more ownership because they can annotate easier and add things around the page.  

Angles of Elevation and Depression
3)  Interactive Notebooks should save paper, resources and time.  Since the interactive notebook pages are smaller and many less pages than traditional notes it should save on both paper and copy machine resources.  Most INB pages can be printed two to a page or are tabs that you can paste into the regular notebook and write under, both of which will save on paper.  Fewer copies means less time at the copy machine which means more time for everything else!  Additionally, since INB pages tend to be shorter, it will be easier to go over them more in-depth with absent students instead of having to wait for them to copy down multiple pages of notes from other students first.  Instead you can create an Interactive Notebook of your own that can act as a key.  This way  absent students can just borrow yours to fill in theirs and you can copy just one or two pages of your notebook if you need to send something home instead of multiple pages.

Similar Triangles Cut and Paste
4)  Interactive Notebooks meet students where they are at.  Interactive notebooks allow students to pick their pace.  If they need more examples, they can write them on the notebook page around the INB paste in.  Or if they want to explain how different ideas tie together, they can write the page number of the related page on the INB page and have quick reference.  Additionally, for those students who have accommodations, INB pages are easily differentiated to meet their needs.  I have even found that when surveyed, my honor's level kids liked the idea.  They stated that sometimes it is nice to have the diagrams done so that they can go further and explore the ideas more in-depth instead of getting bogged down with drawing everything.

Congruent Triangles Cut and Paste
I am going to try out Interactive Notebooks in one or two of my classes for the first couple weeks of school and do traditional guided notes in my other.  After a couple of weeks, I will let my students chose which one they like better.  I suspect it is going to the Interactive Notebooks.  I'll keep you posted!   Click here to get my Interactive Notebook pages on Angles Formed by Parallel Lines for free!   I would love to hear how you use Interactive Notebooks in your classes!  Please share below!  

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