January 26, 2014

Sorting your Scraps! Getting the most from your paper!

A few years ago my principal approached me and told me about a double sided shelf system with bins "YES I'll take it!" was out of my mouth before she could finish. I had added this type of shelving to my someday teacher wish list, admiring them from afar in art supply magazines. I mean it was is an art teachers dream. This handy little system has shallow bins, but I didn't have enough for both sides. No problem, I came up with a solution for the other side.

January 25, 2014

The Art of Education Winter Online Conference Recap

I just wrapped up the Art of Education Winter Online Conference and I am going to breakdown some of the best things I got from the day! I discovered the Art of Education a few years ago and was hooked! It is my go to resource for all things art education. Information is delivered in handy little snippets each day and it is easy to follow along. They offer classes, PD, conferences and founder Jessica Balsley is always there to answer your questions!

First, the conference started with us getting a swag box delivered to our doorstep! I love getting mail and getting conference swag is even better!

January 20, 2014

Pencil Problems...

I have been teaching for 8 years now and the pencil dilemma in my room has finally been resolved! Who would think that the management of a pencil could become such a debacle?
So you may be thinking-What is the big deal? have them bring their own, just give them to them they aren't that expensive, who cares-its just a pencil! 
Michele's Thoughts on Pencils...
1-I hate the sound of  pencil sharpener, absolutely dread it, no one can hear anything when a pencil is being sharpened and pencil sharpening creates a domino effect (just like the kids who have to use the bathroom-once one goes they all need to!)
2-All pencils are not created equally. The cute ones that the kids like work the worst-they draw too dark, leave behind some weird pink/blue/green eraser streak when they erase and that cute sparkly plastic covering-yeah that destroys pencil sharpeners.And lets not even talk about mechanical pencils...
3-My Material Mantra- Only give as much of a material as you are willing to use up and never get back. If I only put out 30 pencils and my students know this, then pencils won't get misplaced or taken. If I put out 100 then I either need to keep track of that many or be okay with losing several pencils over the course of a week. Perhaps pencil thievery isn't an issue at your school and therefore you can just leave pencils out and they do get returned!
First, you have to figure out the best way to get your pencils to your students. I began my career at the high school level where students were responsible for bringing their own pencils and had to trade me something of value if they forgot theirs. It worked because I obnoxiously decorated the pencils with pipe cleaners and feathers.
At the elementary level students can't bring their own pencils, its just too much of a hassle.  I have tried a few distribution systems with the same pencil tagging system. My goal is to make 30 pencils last one month or longer. Keep in mind that I teach nearly 100 students everyday, having sharp pencils when they need them is essential-I can't waste time sharpening or searching for pencils!
As shown above, my pencils are tagged with colored or numbered address labels and wrapped in packaging tape so they last. Students and teachers just know they are mine, and pencils that accidentally walk out of the room are returned to me.
Round #1
My first system involved the students having their own numbered pencil that they would grab from a bucket.This was time consuming and keeping track didn't work so well. I knew I needed to keep track somehow I couldn't let the thieves win!
Round #2
Then I had a revelation. I decided to make a pocket chart, put it on my door and have a numbered spot for each numbered pencil. This system was amazing-easy to see what was missing and students used their classroom numbers-until I got anti-fatigue mats and a few naughty students began poking my mats during whole group with their pencils.
An extremely blurry picture of my pocket system.
Round #3
Finally, I got to my current winning system-if you are keeping track this is 7 years into teaching. The pencils are tagged by color and one of each color(R,Y,B,W) is in a bucket on the table. Each chair on the table is tagged with those colors as well. Each student grabs their pencil (no fighting over the longest, shortest, best eraser, etc) according to their chair. Jobs are also assigned by the chair tag (on the inside and outside of a chair so I can see the chair colors from both sides). The buckets also have an eraser and handheld pencil sharpener. They can sharpen their own pencils or go to the mugs in front of my room and swap them out.  Each year I change the color theme to spice things ups. This year I went with primaries. Pencils are only being touched if they are needed and after whole group. It's someone's job at the table to keep the bucket clean too.
Colored Stars on chairs match students to their pencil and job.

Basic Job Chart
At the end of the month I will replace the pencils if needed. Short pencils get recycled into clay tools or they become dot makers with paint.
So where does one get pencils that sharpen well, don't break easily and don't leave behind eraser marks? Well, at +Staples penny sales in the summer. Yup, get another much needed art room item dirt cheap in the summer. But, I don't just get them because they are dirt cheap, they are actually really good quality pencil. I'll make sure to let you know when they are having their penny sales!

How does one keep all these pencils sharp? I am sure we could have a debate about this as well! A few years ago I won the most amazing pencil sharpener ever at the NAEA conference from +WestcottBrand . The Westcott iPoint!!! This particular model automatically takes, sharpens and ejects the pencil back out when it is sharpened. This prevents over-sharpening, not that I let my students anywhere near it. This sharpener can also easily get through 20 un- sharpened pencils without burning out. Just remember not to put colored pencils or those terrible pencils coated in plastic in them! Once I found this pencil sharpener I was hooked, I didn't need to bother trying another brand. I have ordered another one to replace the one I won. They also have a year warranty if yours dies before the school year is up. So if you are sick of battling with sharpeners, this may be worth a try!

Do you have a pencil dilemma in your classroom? How do you handle it? Please share and leave a comment!

*All opinions of the Westcott Sharpener and Staples are my own. I was not compensated for this post. 

January 15, 2014

3 Ways to Save This Week!

Here are  3 ways to save/earn money that won't require clipping coupons!
Up this week are +RetailMeNot , +Swagbucks and +Earndit.
 Retailmenot is a website and an app. This is the place to find thousands of promo codes-you know that little box that comes up before you check out that asks if you have a promo/discount/coupon code ? Ever wonder how to get them? Check out this website! The codes are rated on their success rate, some work and some don't. Just type in the the retailer and try some codes, you may be surprised at these easy savings, even if it is just free shipping! 
  Swagbucks is one of my favorite ways to make and save money. You can make money by performing searches, downloading their search bar, completing polls and surveys, and entering swag codes. You earn points for doing this, points turn into $$. I buy Amazon Gift Cards ($5 for 450 points) and Starbucks gift cards ($5 for 500 points). Points are awarded randomly during searches so it may take a few before you win some points but try each day! I also stop by Swagbucks before I shop on line. I can earn points back on my online purchases if my retailer participates. It's like a cash back program without the credit card! I earned about $20 in points when I bought a new laptop last year but forgot to use it when I bought an iPad this year (ugh!). You can also refer friends. When your friends sign up with your referral code you earn points when they earn points (up to 1000 per referral).
So here is my referral code for you to try it out. Click for my Referral Code!  You can get an additional 70 points when you sign up if you enter MyCreativeNY in the sign up code box when you initially sign up.  Another great thing about Swagbucks is that they don't email you except when you cash in your points, the have a message box on their homepage instead! 
Earndit is a website where you earn points for working out. Points can be used toward mega discounts/freebies on health foods and workout gear. You connect your workout apps to the site and that's it-watch your points come in. You can enter raffles or weekly contests as well for big ticket items. I hook up my Runkeeper app (for my outdoor runs and walks) and Foursquare for my gym workouts. So yes I earn two different ways when I go to the gym-Earndit and Gympact. I just hop on a machine and while I warm up, I check in with foursquare, gym pact and turn on Pandora. I find these programs are a good way to monitor your gym attendance and motivate you a bit as well!

Are there any ways that you save money without clipping coupons? Leave a comment and share! 

January 14, 2014

Glue Bottle Battle 2014!

It's here, that time of year where it is me vs. my glue bottles.
The beginning...
Each summer I head to +Staples and stock up on their glue bottles when they go on sale for a penny or a nickel! As a teacher you can get 25 of them at this price! (I will post more on Staples penny sales later). I use the glue in them for glue practice and then refill them Elmer's Glue All. The Staples glue is a bit runny and can separate but a close second to Elmer's. I know there is a big glue debate in elementary art education-glue sticks or glue bottles? I insist on glue bottles-they stick better, can be used on many different surfaces and are cheaper than glue sticks. I teach my students the glue rules and have a giant anchor chart dedicated to this. My Pre-K and kindergarten students glue skills get put to the test every fall when they complete a glue skills sheet, it uses up the Staples glue and lets me see just how much we need to work on our glue skills. You can find this skill sheet in my TpT store. Get your Glue Skill Sheet here!
How to Use Glue Anchor Chart-Great for the kids and Subs!

Right now...
    So about halfway through the year my glue bottles start showing some wear and tear. The heat makes them dry out faster, students forget to close and clean them, and I occasional find a bottle that has been 'fixed' with a pencil. After the students left this week I decided to try an experiment. I came across a pinterest idea that if you lube up the glue caps with oil/grease/Vaseline that it helps prevent clogged glue bottles.
I separated the orange glue tips from the white cap and let them soak in hot soapy water for a bit. I removed any gunk that was in them and cleaned off dried glue (which I lovingly refer to as glue boogers) of the neck of the bottles too. 
I didn't have any Vaseline, but I did have a tube of cherry +Carmex  =)  I figured they are pretty similar and no harm could possible come from this genius swap. I took half the bottles and returned them to my glue bin. The rest of the bottles had their caps lubed up with cherry Carmex! The tube actually worked great I could just squirt the stuff right in there. I made sure to get all the threads with a cotton swab. I marked all these bottles with a green 'x' and returned them to the bin. Now we wait for the results of the Glue Bottle Battle 2014! Results coming soon!

What are your thoughts on glue bottles? Any pointers on keeping yours clog free? Leave a comment below!

January 12, 2014

Free Paper Alert!!

Who doesn't love free paper? Art teachers, parents, couponers!
Head over to Staples and get this coupon! You can get two reams for free if you use two coupons. This is valid in store only and while supplies last. The coupon will print an easy rebate that you can fill out online or use the receipt. You will get a full refund for the purchase price!

Sunday Morning Coupon Ritual!

It's one of my favorite week's at Price Chopper! Doubler Week! In this week's ad there will be two coupon doublers. These will double any $1 coupon to $2 which means some free and cheap items! Now, these coupons are only available in papers you purchase, they are not in the ads in front of the store.
  Don't forget to check the Price Chopper ad or website for coupons that you load to your card (these don't double). 
I start off every Sunday with a big pot of coffee and the local paper. I gather a paper and pen, my coupon binder, my favorite Wescott scissors and any coupons I've collected or printed off through the week. I check the coupons in the paper and see if it is worth buying a second paper. Since there were doublers (that you can only get in the paper, not at the store), I headed to the local gas station and grabbed another paper and local paper that just carries the ad. I ended up with 2 sets of coupons and 4 Price Chopper ads/8 doublers.
Sorting the paper out.
I then clip the coupons together and sort them as I clip to save me some time later. Time is money with couponing and if you don't have an efficient system you won't appreciate or make the savings.
Sorted coupons. I sort according to my binder-Health and beauty, dairy, pantry, deli, produce.
 Once I am done clipping I sort the coupons away in my binder. The whole process to this point should take about an hour and a few cups of coffee! Then I read the ad and write a list of what I need, what is on sale and what I have coupon for that is going to make a good deal. Then I head on over to www.iamthatlady.com , she has helped me save thousands of dollars on groceries with her match ups. I look through the Price Chopper match up and see what I missed and print off some coupons if needed.
I spotted this deal right away. Bumbleebee has a new fresh seafood entree. With the in ad coupon and the coupon that came in the paper you save $5. I picked up the salmon with pesto. It has two servings. I'll let you know how it tastes!
Since there are doublers this week I will stop by the store a few times and get some freebies. I went today to check out unadvertised deals and get the groceries on my list. This whole process without interruptions (making breakfast, doing dishes, letting out the dog, talking with the husband) takes about 3-4 hours including the shopping.I justify this time investment by looking at the money I save as money I earn. I  have a list, coupons and a plan and don't spend money when I don't need to. I will add more savings later this week when I get some freebies.

So here is today's trip. I won't do this every time, but it gives you an idea of how I shop!
2 Powerade (coupon on my FB)
Tuna (SavingStar-will get money in my account later-not included in savings)

Bananas .49/lb
Cilantro- 1.49
Dole chopped salad 1.50 with $1/1 coupon (no longer available) I LOVE THIS SALAD! 

Premio Sausage- 2.88/2 packages- $4 off reduce meat ( sell by Jan. 14th) and 1 .55/1 premio coupon
Bumblebee Salmon- 4.99 after in ad and coupon from today's paper

Pantry (all the inside aisles of the store) 
3 Ragu - 1.24/2- used in ad coupon (.99/1) and a 1.25/2 mfg. coupon. 
8 Progresso Soup- B1G1  .52 each or 8/4.16. Used (3) .50/2 mfg. and a $2/8 SavingStar deposit. 
3 Ronzoni Pasta- 3 boxes for .67 each
Celestial Tea- 1.29 a box. Used .75/1 mfg. that came in today's paper, it will double.
Special K- 1.10- Used .70/1 coupons.com 
2 Uber LaraBars-  .25 for 2. Used 75/2 mfg. and 75/2 SavingsStar
2 Pure Protein Bars- .86/2 . Used $1/2. They were marked down.

Dairy and Frozen
Gardein Chick Fingers- Marked down to 2.83, had $1/1 coupons.com 

3 Arm and Hammer Laundry Soaps- 1.32 each. Used $1/3 from A&H website and doubler
this sale cycles maybe every 8-10 weeks.I only use this soap and stock up on when it goes on sale. I now have 4 bottles of it. 
2 A&H dryer sheets- 1.98/2 used $1/2 from A&H website and doubler. 
2 Windex Touch up- $3/2. Used B1G1 mfg. from today's paper. Its a new product and I am curious to see how it works. 

I will be getting another $3.94 in savings in my SavingStar account.
Later this week I plan on stocking up on 
Yoplait Greek Yogurt 10/$10- Use (2) $1/5 and doublers plus $1 SavingStar- 10 for $5. 
Another Bumblee Seafood Entree
Mrs. T Pierogies - 3 boxes for $4 with $1/3 and doubler 
Dole Jarred Fruit- .50 each with $1/1 and doubler

Overall my 3 hours of work will save me about $90 this week, or about $30/hour. When you look at the money you save as money you earn you can justify the few hours a week!
Let me know your questions and comments!

January 9, 2014

In my pockets...

Yes, I think this will be a regular feature.  At the end of the day I pulled all of this out of one pocket. Let's not talk about my apron or what comes out of my washer and dryer when I forget to check the pockets.
Yes, that is a needle tool/glue booger picker. 

January 8, 2014

3 ways to save this week-No Scissors Needed

I love saving money and the easier it is the better. Each week I am going to tell you ways to save money on things you already buy and it won't require clipping coupons! Clipping coupons is one of many ways to save money, but its not realistic for everyone, so here are some scissor-free options! 

1- SavingStar-Save money at your grocery store with +SavingStar !Sign up for free, load your store cards use the website or app to save coupons to your account. Go about your normal grocery shopping and watch the savings add up! You can 'stack' coupons as well, so if you have a coupon for the same item you saved in this account you get both! You can receive your payment several ways including Amazon.com, Paypal, your bank account, or make a donation to the American Forests!They have other ways to save on the website as well like cash back and toolbars, I haven't used them but based on my past experiences with this company they are legit and worthwhile!
2-Price Chopper App-I assume most of my readers are local and have a Price Chopper grocery store near them. If you do, check out their website or coupon app(there are 2 apps in the app store-get the Mercatus USA one). You will need your advantage card to do this. Log in and check out the savings! There are coupons just for you, store coupons and manufacturer's coupons, just save them to your account and they will automatically deduct when you buy the product on your next shopping trip. Your savings will be tracked on the receipt with a trip savings and year to date savings. You can stack coupons with your store coupons as well. If you have then app, its handy to pull it up in the store while you shop or if you forget your Advantage Card!  Not near a Price Chopper? Search and see if your local grocer offers a similar website or app!
3-Pact App (formally Gym Pact)- Do you workout, eat veggies or keep a food journal? If so, check out +GymPact  ! I discovered this amazing app last year and it has helped get me to the gym each week. This small little start up had the genius idea of betting on how often you would actually go to the gym. You will need a smartphone for this app. Login and make your pact-how many days you will go to the gym this week and how much you will pay if you miss it ($5 minimum). Once you set it you can't change it. When you work out at the gym, outside or in your home just check in to the app and log a 30 minute workout. Meet your pact goal and earn a few bucks back-the more you go the more you earn! I have paid off a few months of my gym membership this year with this app.  What a great way to stick to a New Year's resolution! And new this past week you can make a pact to eat 'x' amount of veggies and/or log your food diary with the My Fitness Pal app which links to +GymPact . I am currently doing all 3, but since I can set how many times I do something I can ease into. I will let you know the result from all three GymPact items this week. Are you interested? I can give you $5 headstart to your pact if you follow this link http://fb-1480431.gym.pact.com  (only works on mobile). Make sure to use my referral-you will get $5-if not you get $0 =(

So LogIn and try out these easy paperless options! Let me know how it goes and always leave a comment if you have questions or comments!
How do you save money without clipping coupons?

January 7, 2014

It's here, I am really doing this! I have decided to start a blog to bring together all the things that I do and am involved in. I have so much information and many ideas to share I simply can't contain it anymore!
  So here it is, my little corner of the blogging world, my creative corner. You are going to find my ideas on art education, my artwork, deal getting tips and some DIY projects I work on in my free time. So follow me here, I'll be posting a few times week, find my facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/CreativeCornerNY), on instagram (michelegorham) or on twitter (@mycornerny ).

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