Friday, May 19, 2017

Harry Potter Home Office



My husband and I moved into a tiny cabin in the woods almost a year ago, and part of the charm of this property was a very old smokehouse located right across the creek from our cabin.


While it looked cute from the outside, the inside was a disaster. 


However, we've never been ones to shy away from a good DIY flip, so we remodeled this space to create our very own Hagrid's hut inspired home office.

Our budget was basically zero for this project, but I went over by about $200 πŸ˜‰ . That's still not bad for a complete room remodel though!


Here's the price breakdown:


Pallet Wood Focal Wall- $0 but hours of work. We got pallets from a friend and used some old barn wood we had lying around our property as well.
You can follow along at BsBookLove on Instagram 


DIY Standing Desk- $12 for the wood from Lowes (**Tip** If you get a piece that has some splits or blemishes in it, they will give it to you at half off)  and the brackets were around $5 each at Lowes. 


Lighting and Lamps - The main light was $50 from Lowes and it included the cool bulbs. The desk lamps are from a discount store (Ross) and were $30 each. We spent around $110 total for lighting and these pieces are SO worth it. They really make the space what it is. 



Office Pegboard - $0 because we found it in our barn and painted it white using leftover paint. We also used scrap wood from the barn to make a huge frame around the pegboard. If you have to buy a pegboard, they are about $15 for a huge sheet. I really want one in my classroom now. 

I stole the huge writing scroll from my classroom and you can see how I made it hang in my classroom here: Harry Potter Classroom. For this space, I didn't need the track ceiling hangers, so I just used regular curtain rod hangers to anchor it to the wall. The roll of paper is from our local newspaper office (they sell these remnants for $5 each!) 


No Harry Potter office would be complete without a little potion mixing and diffusing! I LOVE my little diffuser I ordered from Amazon years ago because it changes all kinds of magical colors and has a nice wood tone to it. 
I couldn't resist adding in my Harry Potter Literary Device Posters to my new work space!


Furniture- The furniture was mostly free except for the two matching chairs which I found at Target for $40 each. If I had been more patient, I could have found some at yard sales or thrift stores, but it's really hard to find a matching set of small chairs, so I gave up and bought the blue ones pictured. 
 I wanted to add some fur elements to bring in a little more Hagrid into the space, so I recycled a fur scarf that I quit wearing. I'm not too proud to say that I found this stool at our local trash dropoff. My husband threatened to drive off if I jumped out to get it, but I called his bluff. ;) I cleaned it and simply took the seat off (it was super easy because it was attached from the bottom with 3 screws), cut the fur scarf into three sections, stapled the fur over the seat, and put the seat back on. It took all of 10 minutes to do. #wifewin 
I made my husband pose so that I could bask in my dumpster diving win. :) 

Pillows- I found every pillow for $3 each in the "new" section of our local Goodwill store. I think they really add some color and softness to the space. 


Miscellaneous- My favorite part of creating this office was adding in little Harry Potter touches without going over-the-top.
I spray painted these toy dragons with copper spray paint then added moss and the finished dragon into this little $2 ornament I found at a local craft store. I can't find these exact ones online, but here are some super cool teardrop ones that would probably look even better! 
Here's what they look like finished! 

I used the leftover dragons to make some magnets by hot gluing magnets to the back of the painted dragons. I used to the left over copper spray paint to recoat these file folders that used to be bright green. I used the leftover moss to make the numbers on the entryway. 
Another cool touch came from these cheap little skeleton keys I found on Amazon. I knew that I wanted to give a nod to the "Keeper of the Keys" so I took chalkboard labels and added the names of some of Hagrid's magical creatures. I also made some really simple artwork with the keys. 
All I did was take an old picture, spray paint it white, and hot glue the keys on there. 
Though it's not pink, I had to add in an umbrella somewhere! 

I made a Harry Potter wreath out of sticks and a hoop from the craft store

I added "The Owlery" to an old mailbox we had and grouped together our collection of birdhouses from around our property. 
I'm so happy to finally have this space finished so that I can get to work creating resources again! 

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Wednesday, May 10, 2017

The Life Changing Magic of Tidying up Your Classroom


The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up Your Classroom

Anytime a book has "life-changing" in the title, it warrants the side-eye from me. Yet, I kept hearing from so many blogs and people that Marie Kondo's book The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up will indeed change your life, so I had to give it read. 

That was three years, financial freedom, a half-size house, and an impending online teaching and traveling sabbatical ago. So yeah, I would definitely say that this book changed my life. 
If you want to see more about our little house, you can look through the pictures here: Making Thoreau Proud. If you want to hear more about how my husband and I are taking an online teaching and travel sabbatical, you can follow along at TeacherTravelSabbatical. We are starting a blog and will have our first post soon! 


While I fully embraced the KonMari method outlined in the book for our home, my classroom was a different story until spring cleaning fever hit me a few weeks ago. 😱
The life-changing magic of tidying up your classroom
You can follow my classroom at BsBookLove on Instagram 

I worked a little on decluttering and cleaning every day (by little I mean trash cans FULL for two weeks straight), and I can already feel the difference it's making in my classroom as it did in my home. 

How to apply the KonMari method to your classroom:

1. Declutter. I believe that teachers are natural hoarders, and I was no exception. I've tried decluttering in the past, but mental blocks always held me back. "What if I need this one day?" "I could make so and so craft with this!" "This cost too much money to throw away!" and so forth.  This is where The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up excels. The way Kondo explains how the Japanese view objects really hit home for me and allowed me to rewrite the narrative I told myself when trying to declutter. 

*Start with nonsentimental items. Don't go straight for student projects, notes, awards, or books. You have to build up your decluttering muscles before tackling sentimental items. 

*Do one cabinet or drawer at a time. Take EVERYTHING out. This part is very important. Your mind will see a clean slate and will automatically not want to clutter it back up by filling it with junk (This is also how I've saved so much money since reading this book; I think long and hard before buying anything now).

*Declutter as much as possible. As Kondo explains in the book, our need to tidy will continue as long as we allow clutter to live in our lives. It's impossible to keep mountains and mountains of items organized day in and day out. The less you have, the tidier your room will be. 

*When dealing with paper items, discard almost everything. If you are in a paperless classroom, then you are well on your way to achieving this lofty goal! While I grade on Turnitin and use Canvas for assignments, I'm still giving my tests on paper. However, one thing I love about using ZipGrade to grade paper tests is that it scans tests and keeps the "copy" in the app and in the cloud. Therefore, I can scan tests and throw them out right away.
Use digital solutions to cut down on paper clutter


*Throw out PD material that you never used. That PD served you in some way at the time, but if you have never used or reviewed the copies or brochures, they no longer serve a purpose. By getting rid of old material, you will create space for new, better-serving material and ideas to arrive. This rings true for all items in your life which bring me to my hardest category... 

*When cleaning out your bookshelf, ask yourself, "What GPA do I want my bookshelf to have?" For example, we all know those 4.o books that we can't keep on our shelves because they are constantly checked out. These are the ones are worn from so much reading love. These 4.o books bring up our total bookshelf GPA. But what about the lonely classic you keep hanging around because you are hoping you will get a mini you as a student one day (still waiting 10 years later...)? That poor book would be a 4.o on my shelf at home, but it's bringing down my classroom's bookshelf GPA. My students deserve the highest GPA bookshelf I can afford, so I want to keep the best books on the shelf. If my shelf looks empty after I've purged, then so be it. The universe just might fund a book grant for me to fill it back up with 4.o books. :) 

*Get students involved. Cleaning, decluttering, and getting rid of papers in your classroom is a HUGE undertaking, and you shouldn't have to go at it alone. Here is a little freebie I created that both you and your students will love. It says end-of-year, but it can be used any time the cleaning bug hits you! 
Student jobs, End-of-year gifts for students

2. Keep Joy You will need to read the book to get the full explanation of how to be in tune with joyful items, but for most things, this will be obvious. 
The life changing magic of tidying up your classroom
The life changing magic of tidying up your classroom
The life changing magic of tidying up your classroom

*Throw away, donate or recycle all of the things that do not bring you joy (the book reiterates this constantly). 

*Do not transfer your discarded junk on others. Whenever you ask someone if they would like something you want to discard, they feel obliged to take it. It might make you feel better to believe that it will be used, but all you are doing is transferring the burden of an object onto someone else. Instead, put a box outside of your classroom door and send a picture of it to the staff. Tell them that you plan on donating it this evening so come get anything you want before it's gone. If teachers are truly in need of the items, they will make the trip to your room after work. 

*Once you make it to the sentimental items in your room, consider how each item is best honored. If it's truly something precious to you, how should you display it so that it gets the recognition it deserves? Most have heard of the tip to create a feel-good-file for your most thoughtful student notes. However, to take this a step further, I've started taking pictures of these notes (hiding the student's name) and tagging them with a personal hashtag. That way, I can search this hashtag any time I feel like reminiscing. 
Teacher feel-good-file

*Add things in your classroom that make it a more joyful place to be. So far, this post has leaned heavily on getting rid of things in your classroom, but it's also acceptable to add things in that bring you and your students joy. Actually, that is the entire point of the book. You should get rid of things that are weighing you down, causing you guilt, or hindering your best self so that you can highlight and appreciate the things that bring you joy. For me, this is my Harry Potter decorations. This corner of my room is my happy place. 
Harry Potter Classroom
You can read more about my room here: Harry Potterish themed classroom 


3. Organize by Use- Once you have decluttered, it's time to put things back in an orderly way. I personally didn't buy expensive organizing containers to do this because all of my stuff is hidden behind a cabinet. Although, Kondo advises not to be frugal with things if they truly bring you happiness, so if pretty containers are your thing, go for it! I simply grouped things according to their use. You can see in the pictures that I have plenty of open spaces which are waiting for my year-long replacement teacher to use for his or her liking (Not going to lie, I'm feeling super territorial over my room, but I want my students to have an amazing teacher for next year, so I need to leave room for that in my heart ...and shelves).



Sidenote: The headphones in this last picture are SO adorable and CHEAP. You can find them here: Koss Headphones 

As you can see, my room is far from minimalistic, but the things that are left in here are useful and bring myself or my students joy. Clean classrooms are happy classrooms!!!


This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting my blog! xoxo 



Monday, March 20, 2017

Compliments to give girls that have nothing to do with their physical appearance



This post has been on my heart ever since I finished reading the shocking book, American Girls: Social Media and the Secret Lives of Teenagers by Nancy Jo Sales. This is one of those books that is extremely difficult to read because of its graphic nature, but the content is too important to put down. 



As a high school teacher, I find myself wanting to stay ensconced in naivety where I can pretend that I don't know what occurs in my students' personal lives. I can view them as the innocent, sweet, and full of promise students that they are while they are sitting in the shelter of my classroom.

Nancy Sales, however, does the opposite--by painstakingly interviewing and analyzing teenage girls from Los Angles to Kentucky, she pries deep into the intimate and disturbing secret lives of modern-day American girls. The entire time I read this book, I had an overwhelming sense of sadness for the precious girls that I teach every day. I can remember feeling the pressure to look pretty in school, but for today's girls, this pressure has seeped into every hour of their day because of the constant influence of social media. 

Sales reports, "'Beautiful, 'gorgeous,' 'sexy,' 'hot' are conventional responses to selfies in the culture of social media, responses which many girls seek as they spend minutes or hours of their day preparing themselves to be photographed." 

If you happen to look at a teenager's profile, this fact above is glaringly obvious. When girls post pictures, these are the comments they are getting. When they don't post pictures, they are making these comments on their friends' photos. When they are snooping around celebrity accounts, they are seeing thousands of these comments. It's constant. They can't escape it. Moreover, this pressure of looking pretty and thinking about pretty people may also be detrimental to their education, "Apparently, thinking about being hot makes it hard to think: 'Chronic attention to physical appearance leaves fewer cognitive resources available for other mental and physical activities,' said the APA report" (qtd. in Sales). 

All of this left me wanting to take action. While I know that this issue is insurmountable, I didn't want to add to it. When my female students are seeing picture after picture and comment after comment that reinforce the idea that their self-worth is beauty, I want to be sure that I'm not adding to this pressure. When I reflected on the compliments I pay my female students, I realized that my go-to's are always: "You look pretty today" or "I love how you did your hair" or other things that focus only their physical appearance. 

I know that everyone likes to hear these compliments from time to time when they've put forth an effort to look nice, but there are so many other deserving words of praise that I can give my girls. I have some seriously amazing young women in my classroom who have such a range of talent, and it's time that I remember to focus on those qualities the next time I want to give them a compliment. 

You can download a free printable I made for myself if you too would like some compliment inspiration and reminders for girls. 


Lastly, I want to jump start my compliment train by bragging on a couple of ladies who are doing some epic work when it comes to building up young girls. 

1. Compliment - The tagline for this shop is "We Rise by Lifting Others," and I absolutely love their mission.  This business started as an AVID fundraiser by an English teacher working hard to empower her students.  Her business grew from there and now she donates five percent of every sale to provide deserving smart girls with scholarships. The founder also mentors young female business owners which is a mission that I can fully stand behind (and hope to do myself one day!). 

In addition to all this, the products themselves promote appreciation of the amazing women in our lives. My favorite piece from their product line is this simple gratitude necklace. They have a batch of compliments to choose from, or you can write your own. I think these would be perfect graduation gifts, teacher gifts, and mentor gifts. 


I've partnered up with Compliment to give away one of these necklaces, so please check out the giveaway on my Instagram from 3/20/2017 at 6pm EST- 3/24/2017. The winner will be announced at 4:00 pm EST on Friday!  I'm at BsBookLove if you want to enter!



2. TeachMsTanner - This woman right here is truly an inspiration. The workshops she has for girls at her school are brave and so very important. I could go on and on about the work this teacher does, but it's impossible to paint an accurate picture. Just go follow her, and you will see what I'm talking about. 



This post contains affiliate links, but opinions are all my own. 
Thank you for supporting my teaching blog! 


Thursday, March 2, 2017

Spring Activities for Secondary English Language Arts



I have such mixed emotions about spring this year. I've been spoiled most of my teaching career by using all 8+ of our built-in snow days, but we've had such an abnormally mild winter here in East Tennessee, that I keep looking for white snow instead of yellow daffodils. Sigh. I'm hoping that sharing these ideas will put be into the spring spirit. πŸ˜€ 🌸🌞

Spring Activities for High School and Middle School ELA Students: 

1. Take Learning Outside:

* Read outside. Around this time of year, my students start asking if they can read outside. I try to say yes when it's appropriate. Simply a change in environment can wake up groggy brains and give energy to class discussions.

*Work on procedural/ explanatory writing by having students use elements from nature to build a mini hut. You can read all about this activity here, but the main premise is this: Students think they are clear in their writing until someone else tries to follow their directions. I use this outdoor activity when I teach the hut building chapter of Lord of the Flies, but it can be used as a stand-alone writing activity or with any story in which the character needs to build a shelter for survival (think Hatchet, Island of the Blue Dolphin, etc. )



*Use sidewalk chalk as a novel writing tool. The possibilities are endless with sidewalk chalk, but as I was brainstorming ideas for this post, I came across some little kids using chalk to learn out the human body and this immediately made me think of Danielle Knight's Life Size Body Biography Character Analysis. This would be a super fun outdoor group assignment (though I would probably just have my students draw a body shape rather do the outline for various spring fever reasons πŸ˜‘)

2. Sring Egg Symbolism: This is my go-to activity to use before Good Friday or spring break. Students can focus some of their warm-weather energy into coloring while still digging deep into the text. You can find a template and model paragraph in my store here: Sring Egg Symbolism 
If you are in need of the history version as well, you can find that in my husband's store: Historical Figure Egg
Be sure to follow me on Instagram for all kinds of English teacher collaboration @BsBookLove

Into the Wild and Thoreau Eggs *swoon*

3. Poetry: National Poetry month takes place in April, so spring is a perfect time to incorporate a little more poetry into your lessons.

*Limerick summaries and concept work- Limericks are silly little poems that provide a fun way to practice summarizing skills or concept explanations around St. Patrick's day (or any time really!).

I have provided you some my own examples here:
 A summary of my favorite Harry Potter book! Can you guess which one!? 
 Link to informational text I used for this summary: St. Patrick's Day: Facts, Myths, and Traditions
A funny grammar limerick 

All of my newsletter subscribers will be receiving these examples and student self-checking worksheet for free. Be sure to sign up here for your own set! 

* Haiku word work, mood, and imagery using Storybird- I mention Storybird in so many of my posts because this is my absolute favorite site for creative assignments! You can do so much with Storybird, but here is a specific example for spring. Based on whichever concept you are working on at the time, have students create a Haiku (3 non-rhyming lines with 5 syllables, 7 syllables and 5 syllables) that contains this concept within the lines.
A spring imagery Haiku example

Storybird provides the pictures and words, so it's a fun challenge to piece them all together!
You can find my full instructions on how to create a puzzle poem on Storybird here:


4. Yeats in Ireland- A great listening tool to use in the spring is a Rick Steve's podcast in which he has native speakers recite Yeats' poetry and discuss the must-see Yeats' landmarks Ireland. My students really get into podcasts, so I love finding relevant episodes to use in class! This assignment combines listening skills, informational text, and geography! 


5. Earth Day:

* Argumentative, problem/solution, or informational writing. Earth day presents a perfect time to implement some real-world writing and reading that students can relate to. Newsela has an entire text set section of climate related articles for student leveled reading.

*"Thanatopsis"- When I teach American literature, I really love incorporating the poem "Thanatopsis" around Earth Day because its theme is all about returning to earth when we pass. Though it might seem like a morbid topic, I have my students incorporate some STEM skills by coming up with environmentally friendly burial solutions.  

6. Using Dr. Suess in Read Across America Day - March 2 is a fun day to add in scaffolding pictures books with older students. I have used many pictures books for differenct concepts, but my favorite is The Butter Battle Book. It's so perfect for political satire!
Be sure to follow me on Instagram for all kinds of English teacher collaboration @BsBookLove

I hope that these ideas bring a little spring inspriation into your classroom! Enjoy this season with your students, and enjoy your spring break even more. ;) My husband, dog, and I are going to be camping at Skidaway Island State Park in Savannah, Ga. What are your plans!? Leave a comment and let me know!

Pictures from our first camping trip at Skidaway about 4 years ago:
 Our old camper we dubbed "The Jones" because he was beat all to hell but could hold a lot of beverages. ;) Ha! Cheers to spring!