Bulletin Board Life Hacks

Hi, Teachers!

How is everyone's year going? I hope it's going well! I've been trying SO many new things this year, and I'm super excited about them. I haven't written much because... well, as you all know, the first month of school takes over your life!!!! But I'm proud to say that I'm finally starting to get back into my routine. Personally, my life has been more crazy than usual because I'm planning a wedding now too! We set our date for July 10th, and I just picked a dress! Once we get a photographer and a DJ, things will be much more smooth sailing from here on out.

Anyway, with things so crazy right now, I am ALL about saving myself TIME. One thing that seems to take up a lot of time are my bulletin boards. I LOVE looking on Pinterest and seeing all the pretty bulletin boards, but I'm not going to lie... planning my strategy groups and assessing students is a much better use of my time. I found the perfect system for saving myself time when it comes to bulletin boards. I have got some really cute ones that don't take time, and I'm going to share them with you today! So without further adeiu, here are my....

BULLETIN BOARD LIFE HACKS FOR THE CREATIVELY-CHALLENGED, BUSY, AND/OR STRESSED TEACHER!


1. Fabric
I cannot stress the importance of fabric here. If you go to JoAnn's Fabrics, you can find TONS of gorgeous fabrics or plain fabrics that are CRAZY cheap. They always have coupons online, so it is not rare that you can get fabric for $1 to $2 per yard. Measure your bulletin board space and back it with fabric. Why does this help? Well, it doesn't fade, so you can use it year after year. I have seen some bulletin boards around my school which have had the same borders and same fabric background for at least 10 years. They still look great! Why spend your time and money on replacing paper and borders them all the time? Pick something you will like color-wise all year, and leave it on forever! 



2. Seasonal changes for outside bulletin boards
I like to change my bulletin boards that are outside of my room once per season. The work I hang outside of my room is either something we are REALLY proud of, or hopefully something interactive. Let me show you what I mean with last year's bulletin boards....

A Word On Third

I start the year with a simple bulletin board. I just post my students' names and the words "We're Happy To 'Bee' In Third Grade." When I'm done with this bulletin board, I PACK IT UP IN A BAG TO USE FOR NEXT YEAR. Yeah, you heard that right! I put all the letters away in a bag, put a small post-it or index card in the bag and write down what's inside of it, and I use it again the following year. This was last year's bulletin board. I've since spruced this year's up with a little bit of tissue paper. I added some tissue paper grass at the bottom and instead of die-cut leaves, I just bunched on tissue paper as leaves again. This tree was actually really easy to make. If you google "tree bulletin board" or input "tree bulletin board" into the search bar on Pinterest, you will find tutorials for sure. It took me 5 minutes to make MAX last year, and I haven't touched it once since.


In the fall, I do the same thing. I take it all out of last year's bag and use it again...

A Word On Third

In the fall, I add some some colored leaves that I got for a dollar in some discount bin (probably from Target). This year, since I don't have die-cut leaves, I may add a bit of colored tissue paper as well. I have the kids work on writing a book recommendation which includes text evidence as part of their reasoning for why it is so awesome. I also require them to be specific about what they like about the author's writing style. This board is now interactive because kids can walk by and check it out and get ideas for what book to read. I will probably add a sign on the wall next to it this year that draws kids' attention to it.


Then winter comes. It's time to change my bulletin board. I pack up my fall bag and get out my winter bag. This is what goes up on my wall...

A Word On Third

In my classroom, we are working hard on our study of immigration by this point in the year. The big project I assign during this unit is for the kids to create family tree posters. They also create family crests. They work REALLY hard on these, so I want to display them. The family trees get posted all around the bulletin board (you can see the corner of one right under my logo), and they are usually so big that I have to travel to across from my bulletin board as well! The nice thing is that since I chose to use a tree in my bulletin board, family TREES still fit with the theme. Phew! I take off the leaves, add some cotton balls, and I'm done. I already have the letters cut and ready to go from year to year. By the way... Dollar Tree sells AWESOME stenciled letters in the teacher section. Get four or five in your favorite color and you're set for the whole year!


Spring time is rolling around. That means one last change. I chose to do a book recommendation again, because why not make things easy on myself? It fits with the curriculum, it's pretty, and it is interactive for the kids in the hallway passing by.

A Word On Third

You can see here that I realized how AWESOME tissue paper is. It's SO much easier to deal with. If you choose to go this route, you can even add some of the display covers of the books your kids choose in the background.


This system works REALLY well for me. I change my bulletin boards four times a year only, and you know what? That's ok. That's enough. Sometimes we have to remind ourselves that we are enough just how we are, and making gorgeous bulletin boards is NOT what makes us a good teacher.



3. Student help
You heard that right! I let my students help me with this, and I have great reasoning for it... it BUILDS MY COMMUNITY. When students create this kind of stuff, it makes them so proud. One thing I like to do is have lunch with a handful of students every couple of weeks. I call it "lunch munch." Sometimes I use this as a reward for my struggling learners who are on behavior plans as well, but no matter what, everyone gets the opportunity to join me for a lunch munch at least once during the year. During lunch munch, I let students help me create the bulletin boards with me. It's really easy to get this done in 20 minutes when you have 4 extra pairs of hands helping you. The kids are excited beyond belief to get to do this as well. It's great for indoor recess days where the kids don't really enjoy recess, but I give kids an option to leave for recess if it's nice out. More often than not, they want to stay. I get to spend some time getting to know my students, we make something together that we're proud of, and the class is always thrilled to see what my lunch munch buddies made when they get back. It's good feelings all around, but it just so happens to be really convenient too. I am so glad I thought of this!



4. Timeless pieces
I am a firm believer that the space for charts and bulletin boards in my room is at a premium, and I do NOT hang stuff up no matter how cute it is UNLESS IT HAS A PURPOSE. That means all of those cute posters I see about reading and character education at the Lakeshore store does not go on my wall. (Nothing wrong with them... I just feel that I use charts so often that they won't fit. I don't want to overwhelm the kids with too much "stuff.")

What I DO do is put timeless pieces on my wall, or switch out anchor charts. Anchor charts are part of teaching, and yes, they take time to make. (On a side note, I suggest checking out the book Smarter Charts... TOTALLY changed my charts for the better). So, one of the bulletin boards on my wall doesn't change much at all from year to year. All of my fellow Responsive Classroom junkies out there will be familiar with "CARES." These are the five skills I really teach into ALL YEAR. I refer to them daily when giving positive reinforcement, reminding my students of things, and redirecting them. I post my hopes and dreams, which stay up all year, right along with my CARES. You can read a bit more about how the CARES values can be connected to literacy curriculum here.

Here's what my bulletin board looks like before we post our hopes and dreams:

A Word On Third

All I have to do each year is swap out the hopes and dreams, and for the first week of school, there is nothing below the words in CARES.


5. Get creative with space
Last but not least, I make use of space I don't "have." I put some clotheslines around my room and clip my student's work to it that I want to display. Here's an example of an old Earth Day display.

A Word On Third

All I do is unclip and re-clip when I switch work out... or when I let the kids switch work out! 


That's all for today, guys. I hope my life hacks help to make your year easier and give you some new ideas. With a small amount of effort in the beginning, you have a very easy system for the rest of the year... and beyond! What bulletin board hacks do you guys use? Comment below!

Celebrating Student Growth

Hi, Teachers!

Today's post is going to be on the shorter side. I'm still trying to get back into the swing of things!

I was thinking about ways to connect with families and simultaneously celebrate students this past week. One thing I love to do is give kids tangible evidence that they did a great job, without making the reward extrinsically motivating. Therefore, an unexpected, simple certificate or happy note fits the bill perfectly. Here's what I've just put up for FREE in my Teachers Pay Teachers Store:


Click on the picture above to be taken to this freebie in my store. There are 2 versions of this (one is color, and one is black and white). There are 4 on one page to make copying easy for you. These are really useful little notes that I send home as much as I can. Believe it or not, I keep track of them. I print out a class list and make sure each student gets at least one of these every month. By tracking how often students get these, I am able to see if I am giving enough attention to all of my students. 

Another thing I do is I make sure to email EVERY. SINGLE. PARENT. within the first 3 weeks of school with happy news and positive things I'm noticing. Establishing parent contact is so important, and making the first few contacts POSITIVE is even more important. If you are the parent of a struggling learner, and all you ever hear from teachers is negative, it's hard to work on a team with teachers. 

Last year, I sent home what I thought was a typical, short, positive email home for a student who usually struggled in math but was working himself to the limit. The email was probably no more than 5 sentences, but that mother told me that this was the first time her son (who was now in third grade!!!!) had ever had this kind of contact from a teacher. That really stuck out to me, because I work in an AMAZING school with VERY talented teachers. The mother said that she had tears in her eyes from reading the email. This was huge for the student and the mother. It positively reinforced my student working hard despite how difficult the subject matter was for him, and he gained confidence because I was praising the process, not just a final product.

This small email seemed like nothing to me, but when parents receive them, it clearly makes an impact. Ever since that day, I decided to keep track of these emails on a class roster. In fact, I print out a table that looks like a grade book in order to keep track of these along with happy notes and other things. I suggest picking time frames that work for you! If you can handle sending 4 or 5 short emails a week, you can probably hit every student's family with a happy email in a month. Can you imagine getting a monthly email home from your child's teacher with nothing but positivity? That's got to make a parent feel good, and when problems do arise, they know you are on their team.

How do you celebrate your students? Make sure to comment below!

Back To School SALE!

Hi Teachers,

I'm just writing to give you a friendly reminder that now through Thursday, my Back To School Night Presentation is 20% off!


You can click the picture above to download it. Make sure you grab it while you can. Clear it off of those wish lists! And of course, use my Curriculum At A Glance freebie to supplement your presentation.

I hope your Back To School Nights are going well!

Back To School Night Tips and Tricks

Hi, Teachers!

Back To School Night is on Thursday night for me, and aside from making a few copies and moving chairs around on the night of, I feel really good because I am done preparing! You can read an old blog post on my thoughts on Back To School Night here, but I've definitely tweaked my plan a few times since writing it.

As I've mentioned before, I'll be running my Back To School Night as I would a typical Morning Meeting in my classroom, an idea I got from the book Parents & Teachers Working Together by Alive Yang and Carol Davis. After we finish the meeting portion, I'll move right into the rest of my presentation. I'm starting this way because I find it to be so important to help parents and families form relationships with each other, and of course, with me! I promise that if you take the plunge and try this, this will really strengthen your classroom community! It may seem daunting at first, but I guarantee it will make for a smooth rest of the year. Want to read more? Check out the book here:



When parents come in, my first slide of my Back To School Night presentation will be rather short. It will simply welcome them and direct them to read the "Morning Message" on my easel. In that message, I'll ask them to make a name tag for themselves, introduce themselves to someone new, find a seat, and jot any burning questions they have about the year on a post-it to stick to the message. I'll have a page on each seat titled "Our Curriculum At a Glance" so that parents can view what we'll be learning about all year while they wait for everyone to arrive. This is not usually what parents have questions about on Back To School Night, so leaving them this paper to take home and read at their leisure gives me more time during my presentation.

Now it's time to start my "Evening Meeting!"

I get so excited and nervous all at once when we start. I briefly explain the purpose of Morning Meeting, share how it strengthens academic and social/emotional skills and go right into my greeting. Here's what I've decided I'll be doing for my Parent Morning Meeting:

  • Greeting: Interview Greeting - people pair up and have them find out their partner's name, the child's name, their relationship to the child (grandmother, father, etc.), and one thing they like to do with their child. I will write these topics on a piece of construction paper so parents can easily remember what they are supposed to talk about. Then people introduce their partner!
  • Share: Whole Group - people will share one thing they like to do besides doing something with their child. They should share this idea in around 1 - 3 words, but anyone is able to pass if they aren't comfortable sharing.
  • Activity: A Warm Wind Blows - I will start by turning my chair around (making it inaccessible to people in the circle) and saying one fact about myself. For example, I might say "I have dogs at home." Everyone else who agrees with that fact (everyone who has a dog at home) would then stand up and find another seat, just like musical chairs. The person who cannot find a chair is the new person to share a fact. It's short, fun, and gets people noticing the commonalities they have.
  • Morning Message: Read Together - We read the message, I answer questions left on the message that I won't get to during the presentation, and answer the rest during my presentation. We should have a really relaxed and comfortable atmosphere by now!
Now, onto the presentation! I've created a clear, succinct, presentation for myself that will be easy-to-follow, and I figured, why not make it easy-to-edit so you can use it too? No sense in a million people doing the same work! It has a fall chalkboard theme, and it's pretty cute if I do say so myself. I love cute graphics, but I think it's important for presentations to be simple. You don't want to overload your parents' eyes! My room's colors are bright blue and bright green, so I picked colors to match my room. However, you could easily change the font or font colors if you wanted to for your presentation. The font I used is free (for personal use), and I cannot say enough positive things about the creator of the fonts. She is really talented! Check out her fonts here.


You can click on the picture above to be taken to this product in my Teachers Pay Teachers Store. This Back To School Night PowerPoint Presentation will save you a LOT of time while working on your behalf to build your classroom community among FAMILIES. Building relationships with and among families is just as important as building them with and among your students. All you have to do is simply input relevant information where it is needed to make a fabulous first impression on your students' families.

The slides included are:

  • A Welcome Slide, visible as families filter into your room with directions on what to do as they wait for others to arrive
  • A Morning Meeting Slide, to preview parents for what they will experience in your parent version of a Morning Meeting (you could delete this or edit it to describe Morning Meeting if you run one in your room but would prefer not to start your night this way) 
  • A Teacher Background Slide
  • A Communication Slide
  • A Class Goals Slide
  • A Behavior Management Slide, editable and complete with Responsive Classroom information pre-loaded, including information about consequences, class rules, etc. 
  • A Special Area Class Schedule Slide
  • A Grade-Specific Slide, used to explain special privileges and activities available to students in your grade level
  • A Classroom Information Slide
  • A Homework Policy Slide
  • A Final Slide, giving your parents directions on what to do as they leave your room (ex: volunteering to be a class parent, checking out student work, etc.)
Are you really interested in this product? If so, I suggest putting it on your wish list on Teachers Pay Teachers, because...




Starting tomorrow, I will be throwing a sale in my store! This product will be available for 20% off from September 8th to September 10th! You can use this year after year, and between my blog posts and the notes I put on the PowerPoint slides, you should be able to use this while putting in minimal effort. Our time is previous! Again, if you're not interested in running a Morning Meeting during your Back To School Night, that's OK too! This presentation works either way.

And, of course, this post wouldn't be complete without a FREEBIE, so here is the Curriculum-At-A-Glance form I will be using during my presentation. It's a great resource to use to supplement your presentation. I find parents want to spend more time talking about how your classroom will run than what you'll be teaching. If you give them this form, they will ask you any questions they have. You can download this editable document on my Teachers Pay Teachers store by clicking on the picture below.


That's all for now! What are you doing for Back To School Night? Comment below!

Teacher Week 2015: Spotlight on SCIENCE!

Hi, Teachers!

Today is the last day of Teacher Week 2015, and the focus of today's post is my favorite subject to teach: SCIENCE!!!!!!!!!!!!


The reason I love science is that it is so hands-on. There are tons of opportunities for inquiry-based teaching and learning, and it is so easy to create cooperative learning groups in science. I LOVE it! LOVE, LOVE, LOVE IT! 

Of course, as the huge animal lover that I am, I get critters involved in my classroom as much as I possibly can. We raise Monarchs in my classroom, and that is something we're doing now! Click the picture below to read my recent post on how to do that if you're interested.


In the late spring, I also raise chicks in my classroom. THEY ARE SO CUTE. I can't even handle it! But more importantly than that, the kids learn a lot about life cycles, birds, and how to care for animals. I recommend doing this, but ONLY IF YOU FIND A RESPONSIBLE FOREVER HOME FOR YOUR CHICKS WHEN THEY HATCH!!!!! I cannot stress that enough. This is a lot of work, but it's worth it. Local farmers are a good place to start.


This little guy is named Flappy. I loved him and totally wanted to keep him, but he wasn't a practical pet for my little apartment. One day I'll have a chicken coop, but not until I own a house! The farmer who has Flappy says he is doing very well. :)

In both my Monarch and Chick units of study, the kids get to observe the caterpillars or chicks/chicken eggs (we candle the eggs so you can see inside!) over time and see how they change. It's really awesome! These are great opportunities to teach kids how to observe. Talk about how scientists only record what they see, but they can write their hypotheses too as long as they differentiate between observations and hypotheses. Model how to draw like a scientist!

I love science. I think it lets the kids see and experience the world in such a special way. I will definitely be writing more posts about science-related ideas in the future, but I NEED A NAP and I still need to go to school! I think I will set my alarm clock for Monday morning when I get home tonight. Ha! What is your favorite subject? Why? Comment below!


Teacher Week 2015: Sanity Savers

Hi, Teachers!

Today's theme is all about saving your sanity. This is a biggie for me! I really believe that taking care of yourself as a person first lets you be a much, much better teacher.


So what are my tips and tricks for making my work life easier? I'll share some! And I'd LOVE to hear yours in the comments, because I definitely will take all the help I can get in this area!

  1. Managing Time Effectively:
    In this blog post, I discussed how I actually have a schedule for writing my lesson plans. I used to run around like a chicken with no head trying to get everything done. As a result, I would do 3 things at once, and they would take 4 times longer than they would have if I did them all alone. This process gave me an end-goal and REALLY helped me to focus and complete what needed to get done.
  2. Developing Personal Routines:
    This might sound silly, but I have many routines that I use that really help me to save time.

    Word Study (Sorts): After giving all of my students Developmental Spelling Assessments and figuring out where they are, I plan for my groups the same way each week. I put sticky notes in my books where there sorts are to make copying easy. I've even written the name of the group and the number of copies I need for each group on the sticky. I leave that part of the sticky on the page when I make copies. Then kids can go in the extra papers bin if they need another copy of their sort and they will know they've found the right one. It also makes storing the sorts easier for me. Because I leave the stickies in the book, I know which sort my kids left off on. I can either copy the next sort or skip one or two if my kids don't need them. I write what they'll be doing in my word study folder and viola! I'm done!
    Word Study (Word Wyall): I also use certain papers every week for teaching the kids their word wall words. I give my kids flash cards they can practice with, make copies of a few games, etc. I have all of these papers copied and stapled together in packets. Each week, I write the words on each page and then make copies of them. It's much easier than grabbing every page every week. It's such a small thing, but it saves me so much time. At the beginning of the year, I make thirty or so copies of these packets and I make more during the year as I need them.
    -Planning: Every time I plan lessons, I copy and paste each individual lesson plan into a document for that unit. For example, the first year that I'm teaching a unit on addition, I have a word file for that. In that file, I copy and paste every lesson I teach in order. The next year, I can look at that file and copy and paste previous lessons into the current year's lesson plans. Of course, there are many times where old lessons need to be tweaked a bit or completely changed depending on my class' needs. So, I copy and paste new lessons in there too. After a few years, I have a really great collection of lessons to pick and choose from. I am always updating these documents, but they help me to see my thinking as years go on. I can look at old lessons and say, "THAT WAS AWFUL LAST YEAR! I'm DEFINITELY not doing that again!" or I can say, "WOW, I did NOT expect that to go over so well. I need to do that this year!" I do this for every subject.
  3. Take breaks:I really find that when I take a break, I am able to tackle the task at hand. I make a point of stopping during lunch, even if it's only for ten minutes in my own classroom. Similarly, I make sure my KIDS take breaks. They really need it! I love the 3rd Grade Thoughts brain breaks, which you can purchase here. You will feel much happier when your kids can focus. I also use the website Go Noodle for both energizing and calming brain breaks. Responsive Classroom has a great YouTube playlist of brain breaks you can use with students here. Check them out! When I started giving my kids breaks, I got through content much faster than I did before, and my blood pressure was much lower. Happy kids = happy teacher!
  4. Get an organizer to house your copies for the week:Getting something like this really helped me. You can buy this one by clicking the picture below. Each drawer is assigned a day, Monday through Friday, and I house all of my copies in there. It saves space and I don't have to look for stuff I've copied. Everything is organized during the week. I actually have a 6 drawer one because I use the last drawer for extra copies or copies of things I will be using soon.


These are my big tips for now! How is your first week going? What do you do to stay afloat? Comment below!

Teacher Week 2015: Classroom Tour

Hi, Teachers!

Today is my big classroom reveal! Wahoo! I've been so excited to write this blog post, but today is the first day of school, and I'm ALREADY pooped! Uh-oh.


As you know if you've been reading my blog, I've linked up with Blog Hoppin' for the 2015 Teacher Week! So, without further adieu... here's my classroom!


Here's my classroom door. As you can see, I decorated with butterflies above my door! That's super typical of me. You can also see my curtain for lock-down drills. 


This is the view from my classroom as soon as you step inside the door. You can see that I've set books out at each table. I introduce my library gradually to my kids, so these are the books they can read from for the first few days. I've also got the scavenger hunts laid out for my kids that I mentioned in this post.


Here's the corner by the sink. You can see my caterpillars in their cage and my empty butterfly cage waiting for some butterflies. Every year I leave my "CARES" up and put our class Hopes & Dreams on them. If you teach your class social skills (which most teachers do), I recommend putting those 5 words up all year and teaching those qualities. I will write a post about that sometime in the future!


I made a simple curtain for above the sink to cover up the yucky storage area I have up there. I also painted the bulletin board above my chalk board and the doors to my over-head storage. You can see m writing chart (that's the pink and green thing!), the expert board (which is currently empty until students file in), and our parking lot. The parking lot is a great classroom management tool. Kids that have questions put their question on a post-it and stick their post-it on the parking lot until I can get to them!


Here I've got my word wall, my writing station, my word study organizers, and my math cart and math bins. I've got a lot of stuff stored in a small amount of space. You can also see my work bag sitting in the "Take a Break" chair, but it's usually in the closet.


Here's most of my classroom library. I am ALWAYS trying to order more books. If you are trying to get your hands on more books for your classroom, I recommend joining Scholastic Book Clubs! You can earn free books for your classroom that way. So far, I've earned hundreds of books. I also have a small group table with crate seats underneath them. The seats hold books that we don't use all year (basically book club books).


Here's my little teaching area. I've left my meeting rules chart out on my chair with my class mascot because I'll be using them first thing today. I've also got my morning message hanging out and waiting for the kids!


You can see the front of my room in the above picture. I've got my morning check in set up on my smart board, our calendar, our weather tracker, and more!


Here's a shot of the door. You can see my class jobs bulletin board and my social studies book shelf. The kids' agendas are also sitting at the end of my writing station table waiting for the kids to take them today. I find that the third graders are always so excited to get their agendas!


So that's that, guys! That's my classroom! I have 23 kids this year, and I can't wait to meet them soon! What does your classroom look like? Make sure you comment below. 

Teacher Week 2015: Make-Ahead Meals

Hi, Teachers!

Today is Day 2 of Teacher Week 2015, and the focus is Make-Ahead Meals!


It is SO HARD to take care of yourself during the first week of school, but it's really important to do. I've been going into my classroom a lot all summer just so I could have more time to myself during the first weeks of school. I'm not the best teacher I can possibly be when I don't pay attention to myself, and I'm sure most of you can relate to that!

Breakfast
Now I don't know about you guys, but I'm NOT a morning person. I wake up early to work out and take care of my dogs, but I don't particularly like doing that so early. I like to set everything up the night before. I pack my lunch, put out my clothes... anything to make the morning easier for myself. Did you know that breakfast is really, really easy to make the night before too? In fact, I will make several breakfasts at the beginning of the week sometimes! As anyone who knows me already knows, I am a huge pumpkin addict all year long. I even put it in my bio! PUMPKIN IS LIFE. Okay, seriously though, one of my favorite breakfasts to make is pumpkin pie oatmeal! It's clean, healthy, and filling!


YUMMMMMMMM. I got this recipe from Skinny Ms. and you can find the recipe by clicking the picture above. The only real difference is that I add no-sugar-added craisins. The best part is that this is made in a slow cooker, and you will have enough to eat all week. Pumpkin is actually an exceptionally healthy food, so it's sooooooo good for you. I add vanilla, pumpkin pie spice, cinnamon, and stevia, and I use whatever non-dairy milk I have on hand. If you make it Sunday, you can pack it up and have at least 5 servings for the week. I usually eat 23049823 portions of whatever I make, but oatmeal always seems to be the exception. It's so filling, I don't always finish it. By the way, I double the recipe on the website!

Also, did you know that you can scramble/fry/poach eggs and they will actually keep in the fridge well? I do that a lot. I heat it up for 30 seconds in my microwave and POOF! My breakfast is mostly ready. Top that off with a banana and/or piece of toast, and I'm done. Eggs and grains in the morning are exceptionally filling breakfasts. I need that if I'm going to teach 25 third graders all day!!

Lunch
My favorite trick for making lunches for the week is making extra dinners and relying on the leftovers as lunch. It's more interesting than a boring sandwich or salad every day. Don't get me wrong, though, I love sandwiches and salads! I'll share another easy one, because every teacher loves easy in September! I love this soup. I make corn muffins to go with it sometimes, and I'll eat it with avocado. HEAVEN. SO GOOD. AHHH. A few years ago, I found this online and added it to my and Mr. Word On Third's shared google doc full of recipes. If this is your recipe, I apologize for not giving you credit! Let me know if it's yours and I'll add your link happily.

This recipe makes everyone happy. My mom asks me to make this for her and give it to her as a gift on holidays/birthdays! It's really a crowd-pleaser. It is meatless, but you could easily add sausage or shredded chicken. I find that with all the beans, you really don't need it to feel full, but I get that not everyone else is vegetarian!

Vegetarian Taco Soup
 Ingredients:
  • 1-2 tablespoon olive or coconut oil
  • 1 small onion (diced)
  • 1 jalapeno (seeds & ribs removed, diced)
  • 1 zucchini (chopped into small squares)
  • 1 green pepper (chopped)
  • 1 clove garlic (finely minced-I used my garlic press)
  • 2 cups or 1 can black beans (drained & rinsed if canned)
  • 2 cups or 1 can pinto beans (drained & rinsed if canned)
  • 2 cups or 1 can kidney beans (drained & rinsed if canned)
  • 1 28-ounce can fire-roasted tomatoes
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon dried dill
  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 ears corn (I used canned corn-I think 2 cans)
  • grated cheddar or monterey jack cheese, sour cream, and chopped cilantro (if desired)
Directions:
Step 1

Preheat the oil over medium heat in a medium pan. Sauté the onion, pepper, zucchini, and jalapeno until softened and the onion is translucent. Add the garlic and sauté for an additional 30 seconds. Add the chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder, dill, paprika, and cumin and cook for another 30 seconds.

Step 2

While the onion mixture is cooking, place the beans, canned tomatoes, and broth into a 4-6 quart slow-cooker. Add the onion mixture and stir to combine. Cook on high for 3 hours or low for 6 hours.

Step 3

Just before serving, add the corn kernels, parsley, and cilantro. Cover and heat through for 15 minutes. Add salt to taste. Serve with tortilla chips, grated cheese, sour cream, and more chopped cilantro if desired. AND FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, HAVE IT WITH CORN BREAD.


NOM. NOM. NOM. So good. Go make it. Go make it right now. You'll thank me later!


Dinner:
Dinner is usually when I get creative in the kitchen.... but NOT IN SEPTEMBER! I love to make chili and ratatouille in huge batches and freeze them before school starts. I'll do this all year on weekends to make the weeks easier for myself. If I eat this once or twice a week for a few weeks, I'm a very happy camper. Since summer in New Jersey has so many delicious veggies, I'll share my recipe for ratatouille.

Ingredients:
6 green peppers, diced
5 onions, cut into strips
2 medium zucchinis, cut into thin coins
1 large eggplant, diced
8 tomatoes, sliced into 8ish "smiles" (As in, cut the tomatoes in half, then cut those halves into semi-circles. Does that make sense? Whatever, it's not that important.)
basil, oregano, parsley to taste (probably about tablespoon-ish each)
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1-2 tbsp olive oil

Directions:
SUPER DUPER easy. This whole recipe is really only chopping. All you do is put some olive oil on the bottom of a big pan, add your garlic for a few seconds, and then add the peppers and onions. Then after the onions start turning translucent and the peppers are getting softer (this is exact, can you tell?), add the rest of your veggies and spices. Mix it around and it's ready when your tomatoes don't really resemble tomatoes anymore. The veggies break down and make an awesome veggie sauce. You don't need any broth or water at all. Just make sure the bottom of your pan doesn't burn. You can eat ratatouille over whole wheat pasta or spaghetti squash for a super healthy meal. It freezes really well. I'd say this batch probably makes about 6-8 servings or so.


So, those are my GO-TO meals to keep my head from falling off during September! Do you have any favorites? Comment below! I hope this post gave you some ideas for keeping your sanity over the next month!