Sunday, August 21, 2016

Meet the Teacher Night Must Have

There is no other sign that summer has come to an end when its time to meet all of your parents and future students. The end of this week was meet the teacher night. It was exciting and nerve wrecking! I don't know about you all, but I was still running around to the last minute. Thank god, I have an extra pair of hands to help me. This year I will be having an intern in the class and so far she is amazing! There is no doubt in my mind that she has a successful path in front of her.

For meet the teacher night, I have found it very helpful to guide parents through the mountain of paperwork they need to fill out at the beginning of every school year. For the past couple of years, I have been doing stations that explain every step of the way. Before, I used to give them all the information they need it in one big folder. I quickly realized that many of them threw out the paper without even reading it. By doing stations, they have to collect the papers and then put them in a folder. This is an efficient way of doing it because it's organized and they know exactly what they will be getting. 

So, let me take you to a walk through of each station!

Station 1: Parent Sign In

I started the first station with a simple sign-in sheet for parents. This lets me know who showed up and who do I need to catch on the first day to give them the paperwork they missed. In addition, the sheets are in clipboards just in case I have to remove them from the table. The clipboard is also useful for parents as a support when they pick up the sheets. A couple of years back, I noticed holes on my sign in sheets and couldn't pinpoint where they were coming from until I saw a parent pick up the sheets and using his hand as a support to write. I was in shock because he could have used any of the tables to sit in. But for some odd reason, they don't sit. So clipboards were the perfect solution!

Station 2: Lend a Helping Hand 

This is one of my favorite stations! I love how it came out, the lights on the board and the black frame really made this part of the room eye catching. In this station, parents have the option to donate classroom supplies. I write the donating supply in a square and number them. If they choose one of the squares they simply match the square number to the sign in sheet and write their child's name. Then they take the square home as a reminder to bring in the supply. Next time, I'm going to add a deadline. I this manner, I can keep track of classroom donations. 

Station 3: Need to Know Now Information

This station is essential. It saves the 1st day or week of school from becoming chaotic! Here parents have to let me know two things: lunch and transportation. First, they need to circle if their child will be getting school lunch or bringing lunch from home. Next, they circle how will their child be getting home. This is important to know because you want the first day of school to go as smooth as possible. Lunch and transportation are two things that if I do not know ahead of time things might get ugly. 

Station 4: Teacher Contact Information

Throughout the year parents want to communicate with the teacher nut sometimes forget how to contact the teacher. This "business" card shows them where and how. I provide my email address and classroom website. I tape to the back a little magnet so they can put it on their refrigerator. I have many parents that tell me throughout the year how much this helps them. And for all of my high tech parents I include a QR code that automatically leads them to our classroom website. 

Station 5 : Important Information

Here parents find school information that is needed throughout the year. I place them in a folder and staple a day of the week that the each form is due by. I try to give these papers is small batches so I can keep track of them as the kids start to bring them in. The folder helps to keep all papers neat and organized. 

Station 6: Thank You For Your Involve-MINT! 

This the last stop for parents! I got this great idea from Learning in Wonderland. Basically, it's a little thank you gift for coming.   

At the end, it was all worth it. I loved how everything came together especially the stations that made those couple of hours run smoothly. If you are planning getting ready for meet and greet , come and grab this pack. Believe me when I say it will make Meet the Teacher Night  a piece of cake. The best thing about this is that you can customize the signs to fit your needs!

Do you have a day where your parents and students come to meet you? I would love to hear all about what you do! Here's a little reminder for your next Meet the Teacher Night!

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Thursday, August 18, 2016

4 Tips for a Nautical Classroom Theme

Heading back to school is always an exciting time for me. One of the many things I look forward to in arranging my classroom and setting up. Even though the process never goes the way I picture it! This year I was fortunate to help my one of my friend set up her classroom and absolutely fell in love with her nautical theme.

For this nautical theme, I used Created Teaching Resource classroom resources to help pull off the theme. The are three main colors I used in her classroom : red, royal blue and cardboard brown. One of the first things I do when setting up a classroom theme is to pick and chose the color and patterns I will be working with. A couple of months, I stumbled upon some great advice about color and pattern mixing that has really helped my classroom themes have that cohesive feeling. Here are some tips:
It's important to understand a little about the different patterns available.

Types of Patterns: Movement, Geometric, Small Scale

1.Movement patterns are borders that have your theme picture.

2. Geometric patterns just like the name evoke have geometric designs.

3. Small scale patterns are any pattern that has elements that are small.

Now with that in mind, this is what I do next: 

1. Pick two to three main colors to work with.

2. Keep in mind your main three colors when choosing trim and borders. Use the different type of pattern mention above to guide you when picking patterns for your borders. I usually pick two of the patterns to incorporate into the overall theme and use them frequently in the classroom.

3. Pick two of the main colors in solid colors for your trim or borders patterns to stand out.

4. Bulletin board paper color should be your main colors.

Here are the results of the patterns and colors that I chose for this nautical theme.

This is the view once you come in the room.

This is the central focus of the room. As soon as you come in your eyes are automatically drawn to this wall. 

Here you can see the three main colors and patterns.

Another view of the room. Since her theme was nautical, we decided to do some paper lamps with the main colors.

This is the front of the room and the main teaching area. 

Here you can also see the main colors and pattern for her theme. 

What are some other great tips you have in mind when decorating your classroom?

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Sunday, July 17, 2016

You, Me and TPT Orlando: The Truth

I finally made it to the TPT conference this year!And let me tell you it felt like Christmas morning all over again. After all, you are just in the same room as that blogger that you have been following since forever.  But all in all, I was just a bundle of nerves.  Seeing pictures of the conference the year before, I had some ideas of what was going to happen but the truth is I wasn't sure what to expect. Plus, it takes a while for me to break out of my shell when I meet people especially when I'm in a room with what seemed to be a never ending sea of bloggers. In any case what I got from my first experience just blew me away.

The Store Name

This first part is just a doozie! Did you know that there are more TPT stores that starts with the letter T than any other letter in the alphabet. It's true! When I went to check in, the S to Z line was out of control. It seemed like one those forever line at the supermarket. Then, I find out is because the majority of TPT stores start with the word the. So, if you are ever considering joining TPT as a seller get creative and use any other word except the. Try something that starts with a letter from A-H because that side of the room was pretty lonely. 


Moving on now to the part where reality hit me. TPTers are real people! I know it sounds weird, what else would they be? If you are just like me you follow these people in some type of social media  and interact with them either by liking or commenting on their stuff. And somehow you have made the connection that you know them and you have become the best of buddies. Let me tell you that following them on social media and having them right in front of you are two completely different things. You won't believe how silly this sounds until you go up to one of them. Nevertheless, though they are really remarkable people doing extraordinary things.  

Celebrity TPTers 

This of course leads me to tell you about those celebrity TPTers. In my world these are the people that I go to for inspiration and are rolling high in the teaching world. Here's a best kept secret they are not only willing to take a picture with you, as you can see from all my pictures but, are genuine, authentic people willing to help you. Their sense of camaraderie among each other is beyond real. I must tell you that the biggest thing I took away from this conference besides all the great tips is the power of working together.
And of course, this post wouldn't be complete if  didn't tell you about Tamara Russell over at Tamara is a long time TPTer with the kindest and natural flair to make you laugh while keeping it real. She is a Florida girl that made my experience from turning into a wreck. I recognized her from a mile away the moment I step into the Florida's Blogger Meet Up. I took her away from a crowd of other TPTers just to take a picture and in a blink of an eye we started talking. Suddenly, I realized I was in a captivating yet intriguing conversation that made me at ease. The following night, I ended up not only making a friend but capturing what made me start on this teacher author path.

Free Swag!

Another thing, I  must tell you about is all the marvelous freebies you get! From swag bags, giveaways and food is hard not to say this was one of the many stupendous things of coming to the TPT conference. I felt like it was just raining money especially at the meet ups. And the best part is that, I even won at the Blog Hopping meet up.
 I'm always fussing how I'm just not one of those lucky people like my friend Sasha over at,  who luck seems to find her. I have to go through all of these motions and positive thinking exercises just to recuperate from the fall of losing. But, I finally won! I got these superb bands for kids that love to wiggle when they are sitting down from Aren't they amazing? 

TPT Team

There's no doubt that the magic of a TPT conference must come together by team TPT.  Amazing as team TPT might seem from your computer screen they are the real deal. I just found the whole TPT team to be phenomenal!  They are easy to approach and are always there to be a helping hand. It is delightful to know that there's a whole team cheering you on to succeed. I found it shocking how much they want to be part of this teaching world we are part of. They were involved as much as I was in every session. I absolutely admire their efforts in trying to get me in front of a camera! 

Teaching Collides with Business

My TPT conference post wouldn't be complete without telling you what I took away from these two days. A TPT conference is definitely not a teaching conference instead is an event where teaching collides with business. Just like Erin from I'm Loving Lit puts it best , winners are't born, they are self made! And that's the real meaning behind TPT conferences.  The purpose lies in making you the best teacher author there could possibly be by offering you the latest tips on social media, technology and overall product presentation. A big majority of teacher authors are not business people, we are just teachers. Teachers who love to share with the world the discoveries that we are making in our classrooms while dipping our feet in the world of TPT. And just like our students, who are learning how to apply those awesome reading strategies that will make them better readers, we  as teachers are learning how to better serve the needs of our audience. 

And so, there you have it: the real truth behind TPT conferences from a first timer. 
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Saturday, July 9, 2016

Back to School: Summer Projects Week 2

Back to School Summer Challenge Week 2 

This is the second week of my Back to School: Summer Projects. I started this personal challenge in order to get all the projects that I leave off for summer. Also because I'm all over the place with my ideas. I have come to the hard realization that I lack commitment to start and finish something. They are all great ideas but, I hardly ever finish one. When I do, its always in a rush and then I think of the 100 ways I could have done in an efficient way. Moving on forward, I am in a mission to get it all together.

I started the organizing journey with a calendar and after reading 400 ways to get organized I decided to go simple with a plain notebook. Yep! Because, I get to caught up in the pretty Target Dollar Spot To Do List and journals. At the end, I barely get anything done. I decided to skip that and just go straight at it without all the cuteness of notebooks. Even though I'm bummed out about not having a cute to do list, I have gotten things done! And that's what counts, no? 

 I realized that as I sit down to do a daily goal list  the more ideas and projects come up. The list is getting longer day by day. What I find hilarious is that my daily to do list has 50 projects and I only get to scratch off two or three things a day. Many things get carry over but, I must remember I can do anything just not everything.

Project # 7: Sort Books 

Summer Project Challenge: Sort Books

By the way this week's  back to school summer projects have been very hands on. First off, I started the week tackling my classroom. One of the biggest area of improvement is my classroom library. This is just a hot mess! I am ashamed to say that I had to put it aside because between the amount of books and the one million things going on during the school, I became overwhelm. I decided before starting anything in the classroom, I would tackle the classroom library. This upcoming year, I will have more older kids than younger kids. This would be the last three year cycle for most of my students. As I was looking at the books, I wanted to bring in more chapter books and put some picture books away. This was a heavy task all on its own but, manageable at the end of the week. Trying to fix my books led me to a whole research on how to level books and all books things. It got pretty crazy! At the end, I decided to just sort my books by author and then later on move on to leveling them. Leveling is another BIG back to school summer project all of its own. I needed a quick fix for now and something to start with. Here is the process in pictures:

Here are all my books stored in boxes!

I used the floor title to sort. Each tile was a letter.

I used sticky notes until I print my labels for the boos.

Favorite part was seeing the books in some type of order!

Very happy with the outcome so far!

Project # 8: Back to School Medals 

So far the next back to school summer project was a two for one deal. I have been inspired to do a welcome celebration for my classroom. This will be my third year with them and we are sort of over the whole anticipation of the first day back. I want to bring that excitement back by setting the stage! I decided to go for an Olympic welcome back theme. The preparations are still a secret but, I will sure show you the outcome as the time nears. Here's a sneak peak at the medals they will be receiving at the end of the day. I'm stocked to see them wearing these east to do medals. I made one for myself as well. It sure will surprise them! You can grab these east cut and print medals at my store here

Project # 9 Peace Flag 

I had lots of fun making another back to school summer project- the Peace flag. Ever since my training I have been wanting this flag. There are many versions of the peace flag. I decided to go with the dove because it is such a symbolic symbol for peace and it only requires one color. Peace flags can range anywhere from $10.00 to $15.99. Total price for mines was $3.00! 

Super easy and durable to make. If you want to join in the fun, you will need: 

  1. Blue fabric ( I got less than a yard, I saved the rest for other projects) 
  2. White Acrylic Paint
  3. Dove Stencil ( google dove coloring page and print image in cardstock paper) 
  4. Pencil 
  5. Paint Brush 
  6. Dowel Stick ( not flimsy, just a good weight) 
  7. Super glue 
  8. Stapler 

I have to tell you a secret! I love to eyeball a lot of my back to school summer projects. I'm not one to measure till my second try! Sorry, if I'm not giving you concrete measurements. But, the project itself is not that hard, I promise. 

I purchase at Michael's an American flag and used the stick for my peace flag. The sail from the original flag I used as a template to measure how big I wanted my sail for the peace flag to be. Before cutting print the dove on card stock and cut. I placed it on top of the American flag sail just to make sure it was going to fit and it did! Next, I traced the sail onto my blue fabric. Use a fabric pencil or trace light so you won't see your markings later on.Then, I cut my sail using the markings. I got the dowel stick and stapled the sail to it. Three staples to be exact! After the skeleton of the flag was done, I painted my dove using white acrylic paint. I put on two coats and left it to dry overnight. The next day, I noticed that the flag at the top was coming off. So, I put a little bit of super glue at the top and bottom to make sure it would stick! Voila! I'm a proud owner of a peace flag. 

What back to school summer projects are you working on this summer? 

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Sunday, July 3, 2016

How to Plan for the Year During Summer

Summer days comes with hot rays and sunny days! But if you are teacher, you need to throw Back to School planning into the mix. Before you even start buying all of the things at the Target Dollar Spot try these tips to start planning the school year during summer! 

1. Plan from the inside out

Don't get trapped in buying, there will always be time for that! 
What do you mean ? Easy , start planning the school year during by first thinking of internal stuff like student work, curriculum and activities then work on external stuff like classroom theme, bulletin boards and all things that makes classrooms super cute. Many teachers are consumed in the visual aspect of the classroom it takes up a lot of their time and before you know it's time to teach . Don't get trapped in the cute bulletin board aspect of teaching, there's will be time for that! Don't get me wrong, decorating comes with the job but its not the meat and potato of teaching.  

2. Start with a calendar

Start your planning with a calendar
Before you even print or laminate your life away, planning the school year during summer requires you to have a visual of the school year . We sometimes think we have a lot of time to teach and have time to do all of these wonderful projects but ,the reality is far from this . Once the school year starts is like passing go in that monopoly board . You will always be on the go! Holidays and school celebrations will be here before you know it . And believe it or not, teachers are always celebrating something every month . Don't let these things creep on you . Mark a calendar with important dates to help you visualize and get ready for those dates. 

Here's How To Do It: 

Start with a district calendar . 

Here is my district calendar

This is important because here you will see important dates like days off , testing dates , early release days ,etc. these are things that affect our school day . So, you have to plan accordingly.

Next Google Holidays for the year

Here you will see how you can celebrate everyday of the school year with either official and unofficial holidays. As a teacher this is important to incorporate throughout our lesson plans . You don't want to be known as the teacher that doesn't do any "fun things" in the school year. Parents value holidays because it resembles their schooling experience. Even though times have changed parents do expect to see that holiday project here and there . It also bridges school and community together . 

Print a simple blank calendar with the days. 

I number my weeks one through 42 in the calendar. Is easier for me to remember weeks than actual dates . This helps out for the following year because more or less holidays and school events will fall around the same time .

After you are done labeling your weeks put school wide information and holiday information in the calendar . Now you will have a clear picture of how many days you really have to teach .

3. High Priority / Low Priority

 Planning the school year during summer wouldn't be complete without asking yourself what to tackle first. It's easy to let things rise up to your high priority list especially that first week back . That's why is important to anticipate and get done as many things you know you will be asked to do or want to do the first week back.

A couple of years back I was introduced to the Priority Impact
All the task that come my way get categorized in one of these four squares. 
Matrix Chart . I don't even know if that's the "official name" but if you google it ,Google will know what you are searching for . Basically it's a four square chart that helps you focus and determine what needs to be done first so you can be most effective.

The chart allows you to reconsider task and it's importance by putting it into four different categories ; low priory - low impact , high priory - low impact , high priority - high impact and low

priory- high impact .

When I first saw this , a light bulb shined over my head! Now every time I have a task I try to mentally place it in one of these categories and work from there . It has definitely taught me how to manage the stress and pace of teaching and put things into perspective -what's really important and what can wait . Definitely a tool I highly recommend you master when 
planning the school year during summer. You can read more about it here, here and here

4. Know Your Curriculum

The worst thing that can ever happen is for you to teach a concept that you have never seen . Or worse , standing in front of a group of children and teaching as you are trying to understand it yourself . Improvising at these times is essential but don't get into the habit of doing that . You are human and is impossible to know everything or for something to slip but, it's not an excused not to be prepared. 

This is my number one website for anything related to MAFS and LAFS.

Is a must if planning for the school year during summer to know ahead what you are going to teach . If you are a first year teacher or don't know what you will be teaching this might be hard . But, get familiar with the standards for each grade level. And as soon as you get that job or know your grade level this definitely needs to be in your high priority list . The most important factor in teaching is knowing what you will teach and how to teach it . Just knowing the big topic is not enough . Now with Common Core and the changes done to standards things are different . It varies from state to state but, definitely teaching with these standards have made the profession get an upgrade . If you live in Florida, I highly recommmend to take a look a This is a great website with a wealth of information for any grade level. There are some really nice features the website offers if you sign up. More on that later this month. 

5. Reflect

As one school year ends and another quickly approaches the first things we want to do as teachers is plan or take a break . But, planning for the school year during summer requires you to reflect at the end or at the beginning of summer break. Why? Well because you still have fresh memories of the year. Every year has its ups and down , planning for back to school can be made easier when we focus on issues that make a significant impact in our classrooms. Here are some questions you want to ask yourself:   

What went right ? 

What went wrong ? 

Did it go wrong because it was poorly executed or the whole idea was just bad ?

 If it was poorly executed what are some steps I can make to improve this ? 

What went wrong that I still want to keep but tweak so it can go right ? 

What went right and what made it successful ? 

 What are some new things  I want to bring in the class ?

What are somethings I want to get rid of in my class ?

What ideas or projects made the most impact ? 

What ideas or project just need a complete make over ?

At the end, getting back to school is filled with excitement and a never ending to do list . Sometimes we get it done other times we don't . Don't let back to school craziness be even more crazy ! What are some ways you plan during summer? 
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Sunday, June 26, 2016

Back to School: Summer Projects Week 1

Summer days are for relaxing and if you are a teacher you can add prepping back to school. This summer, I have decided to be a bit more organized with my time. A couple of days before the last day of school, I decided to count the days of summer vacation. Oh boy, and this where the concept of time hit me! I always knew summer vacation consisted of a couple of months,but didn't know truly we just have nine weeks. I noticed when the time is near to go back to school, I ended up with a whole bunch of incomplete projects and great ideas. Please tell me I'm not alone in this!  And, to make matters worse, I always tell myself that I will complete them during the year but, that doesn't happen! I get swamp with paperwork and other things start to get priority really fast.  This concept was an eye opener that I needed to establish realistic goals or at least finish them. 

This is the cute agenda I purchased. You can get one here.
With this in mind, I purchased a cute agenda and some nice pens and started to jot down goals I would like to get done. The result of this first week truly amazed me! The power of focus and determination truly shined this week! Now, I just need to aim for consistency while having fun under the sun. Because we all know that summer couldn't be complete without a balance of planning, shopping and sunshine. 

 In the light of getting things done, I have challenge myself to complete projects throughout the week to get the ball rolling. So far, I am doing okay, I think! I have completed five and half projects so far. And the reason, I say that because I decided to include organizing my classroom in the mix and this is a never ending project. Nevertheless, I am determined to finish it. Here is my progress! 

Making lessons or activities for the shelf can get overwhelming. In my office I have three bins full of lessons that need to get either cut or laminated. After sorting through the never ending stash I decided to tackle on Botany lessons. The reason for this is because botany is the area that I have the least things for. The kids this year seemed to take a keen interested for botany lessons this year. With the intention of following their interest, I have to get these done. Most of the botany lessons I am laminating are from Montessori from Everyone.

Next project is my new approach in merging  science standards in my current grade level and Montessorify them. I don't even know if that's even a word but, you get it. Since, I work in a public Montessori school there's always this struggle of getting the "public school work" and doing the Montessori work. My inspiration for this comes from the language towers and the lack of space and storage I have. I feel I never have enough space in my class or in my house to store lessons individually. In order to solve this issue, I decided to store the cards inside the plastic container that is used to house all of the language work. It works great and it serves its purpose. These science task cards is all about vocabulary. The kids here will be matching science vocabulary words to its meaning. I just finished the first unit out of five. Progress is progress!  

The third project is one I'm really excited to be implementing next school year. Again is another attempt to merge the standards with Montessori. This one is all about Primary Resources. Our focus this year will be our state and the US. Gathering all of these pictures and information serves a dual purpose. First , I finally have a place where I can put all of these things I have collected throughout the years. And trust me I do have a lot! Every time I travel I like to collect all of these educational souvenirs but never know how to put them together to make a lesson out of it. Second, I'm hitting multiple standards because the kids will have to analyze these sources and write about them. I'm still working out the specifics but for now we have a lesson.

And of course, all of these primary resources need some cute wooden boxes to hold all the cards. I decided to make these boxes because I love that natural feel that the wood brings into the class and it matches the traditional Montessori materials. I have built so many of these boxes this past week!  The cohesive look of the wooden shelf is going to make the shelf looking inviting and beautiful. I decided I need to put those high school wood shop class skills to practice! Below you will find some of these boxes in action in my class. The kids really find it comfortable and easy to put things away and get it off the shelf. 

 But really its so hard to find wooden baskets and storage materials. And as much as I love the Dollar Tree plastic containers, the feeling and aesthetics is not the same as wood. I highly recommend visiting your local Goodwill stores to find super cheap wooden basket and trays.
I have scored some really sweet deals. These wooden baskets and trays I found a couple of weeks ago total cost was $5.00 for the whole thing. I couldn't believe it!   I try to go at least once every two months. I noticed that by this time, I see different items on display. I have also build some positive relationship with the staff that works there. That's how many times I go there! The lady already knows me and what I'm looking for. She keeps an eye out and sometimes saves somethings for me. She is the sweetest thing ever. 

For the fear of not finding anything at Target, I had to get my hands on one of these pencils banner. Last year, I made it to late and was left with nothing. Seeing all of the Target items and the uses for them made me go early this year. This pencil banner is perfect for this year because I will be teaching FOURTH grade! I know its crazy. The move from lower elementary to upper elementary has been crazy but yet super fun! Going back to the upper grades brings a new sense of excitement. Anyways, so the pencil banner is perfect because fourth grade is all about writing. I purchased also these felt adhesive letters that are super easy to stick to the pencil. I purchased three packs of the pencil banner and felt letters. The banner will say " We have the write stuff". I'm going to be using it as a header for a bulletin board that you can see as soon as you come in the room. 

 On a side note, Target this year has really stepped up their teacher products. I always get trapped in the cuteness and modern look of their teacher products. This year the trend for cute desk storage among other things seems to be the trend.

And last but not least, my classroom.  This year the school moved to a new building. This mean new classroom and new space. I love my new classroom but dislike very much the moving process. After a week worth of work, all my boxes are finally in the new room. You never know how many things you have until is time to pack up. I already starting going through the boxes and realized that somethings need to be updated or thrown out. I don't know how I accumulated so many things throughout the school year. Therefore, the process of cleaning and organizing always gets extended. One of my major challenge is paper ! Something that I have to tackle next year. As you can see no teacher storage anywhere! My goal is to embrace community storage of materials and share space. Hopefully, this will keep me organized. 
After spend countless hours, I was able to set up a layout of the room. Opening up all the boxes made me realize that just like my summer projects I have a couple classroom projects that need to be completed. So, my next projects will definitely address some of these halfway done projects and ideas of mine.

For now, I'm proud of the progress I have made. I'm definitely taking the right steps to a productive summer.  The amount of things needed to get ready for back to school seems like a never ending list. But on the positive breaking down big tasks into small tasks have really worked out for me. I'm still having under the sun while getting ready for the new adventures that await me next year in fourth grade. How are you handling the back to school fever over the summer? 

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