Saturday, April 30, 2016

Handwriting Helpers for Little Writers

Hello Teacher Friends!
Let's talk about HANDWRITING today!
Over the years, I've realized that handwriting instruction can vary widely from district to district. It can even vary from school to school and from teacher to teacher. With all of the technology in today's world, such as the convenient use of keyboards and speech-to-text programs for students, handwriting can sometimes seem like a lost art. 

Where do you stand on the topic of handwriting?
In my eyes, it's extremely important!  Even in our technology-filled world, there will always be a need for quality handwriting skills: a quick note to a spouse or friend, a to-do list, a sticky note reminder, a thank you note, etc. Within the classroom, handwriting is a primary tool of communication. However, as teachers, we often receive little professional training or instruction in interventions for students who struggle with proper handwriting.  Today, I want to share some simple, easy-to-implement ideas, tips, and tricks you can use with your kiddos who struggle with proper handwriting skills and techniques. 
Let's get started!
Proper wrist extension and shoulder stability are necessary for the fine motor movements associated with writing. For students who struggle, try letting them write by laying on the floor, on their tummies.  The student can rest his or her elbows onto the floor to improve shoulder stability.  This is very similar to when a baby does "tummy time" on the floor. The position helps improve sensory input and strengthens the muscles needed for handwriting.
Another idea is to place the paper on top of a 4 to 5 inch binder. Position the binder so that the rings are at the top of the paper and the binder slants towards the child. Rotate the binder at an angle.
The Pencil Grip makes AMAZING pencil grippers! These are a definite staple supply in my classroom for students who struggle with proper pencil grasps.  Yes, there are many different grippers out there, but The Pencil Grip, Inc. is THE source that I trust to use for my kiddos. Their grippers are research based and truly provide the scaffolding support that students need as they adjust their pencil grip to a proper position. The best part about The Pencil Grip's grippers is the options they offer.  They use a 3-step approach to guiding students toward a proper pencil grasp.  This is important to me because in the same way that I would not expect a reader to go from reading 2 words per minute to 50 words per minute in a matter of a week, I do not expect a student to automatically pick up a new habit and suddenly hold his or her pencil correctly.  Baby steps, my friends!  Here's a look at the three main grippers I like to use from The Pencil Grip, Inc.

Step One: The Crossover Grip
This gripper is great to use to help students who want to cross their fingers over one another. The deep finger guards hold the fingers in the correct position.  I find that this gripper is helpful with very stubborn students who need a lot of directed support in understanding where their fingers need to be placed on the pencil.  It's also very comfy!

Step Two: The Pinch Grip
The Pinch Grip is a more gentle guide for proper handwriting positioning.  As you can see, the "cape" design of The Crossover Grip is now eliminated and the "pockets" used to position the fingers is more subtle.  Once I notice improvement in the student's pencil grasp after using The Crossover Grip in Step One, we move onto The Pinch Grip.  They LOVE when they get to "graduate" to a brand new pencil gripper and my kids find this super motivating and exciting! 

Step Three: The Original Pencil Grip
The Original Pencil Grip is the pencil grip you are probably more commonly used to seeing. This helps train students in a traditional tripod grasp and it's truly a great "training" grip for ALL young writers.  Do you have students who will sometimes slip into their "bad habit" pencil grip? Using the Original Pencil Grip on a day to day basis can truly help prevent that "bad habit" grasp from returning.  All of the grips also work wonderfully for students who are both left handed and right handed.

Not sure how to help your students with their pencil grasp? The Pencil Grip, Inc. provides a free download of a wonderful poster to help you understand the differences between a correct and incorrect pencil grasp. You can find this free download by clicking HERE.

As an avid Amazon shopper, I love that I can purchase The Pencil Grip's grippers straight from their Amazon store! Find all of these grips (plus tons more) by clicking HERE or on the picture below:
I don't know about you, but another common handwriting problem is aligning the writing up to start on the left side of the paper.  You know the kids I am talking about. They can be fabulous writers, but by the time they get to the bottom of the page, their essay looks more like a pyramid art project than a paper or journal entry! 
An easy, highly visual aid is to take green highlighting tape (I like to use Washi tape) and stick it vertically along the left side of the paper.  This serves as a visual reminder for students to "start" their writing where the green tape is.  You could even take a green marker and draw a vertical green line down the left side of the paper, too! :)
This year, I have quite a few first graders who just want to write all of their letters BIG! I don't mean that every letter is capitalized, but that their lowercase letters are almost reaching the top sky line. Gahhh, it drives me insane! One visual intervention you can use with these kiddos is to use highlighted writing paper. You can buy pre-printed highlighted writing paper on many websites.....
But, there's just one problem. 
I am cheap.
I'm not afraid to admit it. 
My fix?
Just highlight the page with a highlighter! Yes, it takes a bit longer but after awhile, you can even have the child do this! I actually prefer that because while they are highlighting the lowercase line, it makes them focus on what our intentional goal is - to write our lowercase letters where they should be!
Highlighting the bottom half of the writing line emphasizes where the lowercase letters need to be placed, and helps kids focus on this skill as they are writing. 

Are you guilty of starting the school year with a great handwriting review and lots of practice, but then forgetting to bring it up again throughout the year?
(I'm raising my hand right now.)
Yes, I've "been there, done that" many times before.  Especially in first and second grade, it's easy to do a great review at the beginning of the year and then assume and expect our kids to just "have good handwriting" for the remainder of the year.  But, my friends, that is not how reality works.  Truthfully, we need to be teaching handwriting instruction and practice in a consistent, direct manner throughout the entire year.  Otherwise, we end up with kids who form bad habits that are entirely too difficult to break if we just "let it go" and fail to re-teach and instruct.  Just like we would re-teach a math concept that a child fails on a test we need to be sure that we are consistently providing handwriting instruction to those students who are struggling.

I LOVE using my Handwriting for Beginning Readers practice pack when I am reviewing and re-teaching proper letter formation.  Why do I love it? Because it does not just involve the students "tracing" a word over and over again. Instead, it combines phonics and reading skills at the same time! :) This is a great pack that you could pull out at the beginning of the year, or throughout the year when you need a review with your students. You could also place the pages in sheet protectors and create a "handwriting center" that you can implement all year round! :)

You can find this pack in my TpT store by clicking HERE or on the picture below:

Some students will benefit from getting more sensory feedback as they write.  One idea is to place the paper on top of a sheet of sandpaper. I actually like to use this idea for students who write really lightly on the paper. (So lightly that I find myself squinting my eyes like I am 90 years old because I can barely see the pencil marks!) Do you have writers like that, too?! Have students who write with TOO much pressure? For example, the student is pressing down so hard on the paper that his pencil is always breaking and the writing is SO dark.  For a quick intervention idea, place a carpet square under the paper.  The student HAS to focus on writing lightly so that he or she does not make immediate holes and rips right through the paper. 

The Pencil Grip company also makes an excellent "weighted" pen and pencil.  This is great for students who need more sensory feedback while they are writing. It also helps students who need to continue to strengthen their fingers in order to properly use their fine motor skills. You can find the weighted pen HERE and the weighted pencil HERE

I hope this post gave you some quick but helpful ways to assist your students who struggle with handwriting. Whether it is the students' pencil grasp, fine motor skills, strength, or visual perception while writing, there are SO many things you can do as a classroom teacher to help your students reach handwriting success! 

Thank you so much for stopping by today! 
Happy Learning,

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Work On Writing: Story Puzzles Writing Center

Do you use literacy centers within your classroom? 
As someone who uses The Daily 5 as my "structure and routine" for small group reading, I am always looking for fun and fresh ways to liven up our Work on Writing time! Today, I'd love to share a sweet little writing center that turned into a BIG hit in my room!
 In my classroom, the students who choose to go to Work on Writing can write about whatever they would like.  They can choose to write a letter to mom and dad, write about their day in their journals, start a new story, work on an old story, etc.  They definitely stay BUSY! However...let's face it.  I teach six and seven year olds. Sometimes, they try and try and try...but they wind up in struggle-city figuring out what to write about.  I always like to have some kind of writing "center" or pre-determined option available to my first grade writers. In this way, they can choose to write their own piece, or, they can choose to complete the writing center activity.

Guess what?!
I don't care what they decide - as long as they are WRITING!
Nevertheless, it's not a surprise to me that most of my kids LOVE choosing the writing activity that I put into our Writing Basket.  I swap out this writing activity every 2-3 weeks, depending on how much the kids are eating it up!

Last month, I introduced a writing center that I called:
Let's just say we are going on Week FOUR with this writing center because it is a HIT!
Here's how it works:

I placed two buckets on our bookshelf. One bucket contains cards with various "settings." The other bucket contains a variety of "character" cards.  The students pick out a Setting card and a Character card.  It's up to them if they want to sift through the buckets to find cards they like, or draw the cards without looking first. :) They LOVE the mystery of not knowing which cards they will pull.
Each "setting" card fits together with a "character" card, creating a storyline for the children to write about!  They think it's SUPER funny when their setting and characters do not "match!"  I have lots of kids who try to come up with the funniest and most random combinations they can, while I have other students who will sift through the buckets to find that "perfect match." (Think: Princess & Castle, Mermaid & Ocean, etc.) Below is a picture of some funny combinations and cards my kids chose to write about:
The kids take their cards back to their seats, grab a piece of story paper, and get started on their new writing creation! They illustrate the setting and character and write a story to match the scene.  So.Much.Fun!!
 The BEST part of this writing center?
It's n...e...v...e...r...e...n...d...i...n...g!
There are SO many combinations of story scenes the kids can create, so once they finish one story, they pull two new cards out of the buckets and begin again! :)
Fun + Engagement + Creativity =
Writing Dreamland!

This writing center also includes a graphic organizer that the students can use to plan or map out their story before they start.  This is also a nice graphic organizer that can be used anytime you work on narrative writing with your students. The setting and character cards also come in both color and black & white. 
 We like to use story paper in my classroom, but the pack also comes with differentiated organizers, writing templates, and differentiated writing paper.  In this way, you can pick and choose which level of writing paper best meets your students needs as a classroom, small group, or individually! 

I know your students will love this writing center as much as mine do. :)
Thanks for letting me share it with you today!

You can check out my Story Puzzles Writing Center in my TpT store by clicking HERE or on the picture below:

Happy Writing!

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

How To Implement Interactive Reading Passages

I often get asked, "What reading materials do you use for your small group instruction? books or passages?"  The answer is both! While I definitely put more books than passages into my students' hands, it is important for young readers to be able to successfully tackle a reading passage.  Of course, as educators, we need to be mindful of when our children are "ready" to be presented with a reading passage. A very young student who is still working on one-to-one correspondence and relying heavily on picture support for every page of the text is not a child we should be giving a reading passage to.  (I will always believe that nothing can replace the importance of putting a quality book into a budding reader's hands.)

"So, why do you create and teach reading skills using passages?"

For starters, reading passages are everywhere! Newspapers, magazines, internet articles, standardized testing, high school and college reading material...I could go on and on. Think of your own life as a teacher. I'm going to bet that at some point in your teaching career, your principal or curriculum director has handed you a page of text to read during a PD day or a workshop. As a result, it is vital that our students practice their reading skills on as many different formats of text as possible.  So, what are some differences in reading a book versus a passage, and why should I implement passages into my instruction?

*There is (usually) less picture support. 
At some point in their lives, readers need to be able to successfully rely less on picture cues and more on the text. Think: chapter books, college reference books, and newspaper articles that only contain one master photograph. For some students, this comes naturally and easily. For other students, this can take some practice and getting used to. 

*Without a heavy amount of picture support, context clues are crucial! 
Let's reflect on this scenario: A young child comes across a difficult word in a book. We'll pretend the sentence is: "The boy felt so gloomy." The child has never heard of the word "gloomy" before. "Can the picture help you figure out what gloomy means?" You ask the child. The child looks at the picture and sees that the boy in the illustration is crying. "I think gloomy means sad," the student says.   Now, let's pretend that same sentence is located in a passage that does not contain the highly supported illustration as the book.  The student has to use other sentences and heavily rely on his or her understanding of the text's events to successfully uncover the definition of "gloomy."  Definitely more of a challenge, right? 

*We can mark up a reading passage.
Sure, we can slather sticky notes all over a book to show our thinking in the margins. We can even place a sheet protector over the page and use a dry erase marker to underline text and make notes.  But there's nothing like being able to freely take a pen, marker, crayon, or pencil to a reading passage and underline, cross out, make comments, draw arrows, and write down reactions to your hearts content! To put it simply, I love using reading passages in my classroom because we can completely tear apart the page (in a GOOD way!)

This past year, I wanted to create some reading passages that helped my students directly interact with a small amount of text - in a BIG way. I needed some reading passages that focused my students' attention on Tier II and Tier III vocabulary, encouraged discussion regarding vocabulary words and context clues, required them to go back into the text to reread and discover information, and of course provided the opportunity to respond in writing to what they just read. 

Today, I'm going to use my new Spring Interactive Reading Passages to show you the steps I take as I use these passages for instruction within our small reading groups. Here we go!
My fall, winter, and spring passages all contain the same five components:
1) Three Tier II and/or Tier III vocabulary focus words
2) A main photograph (nonfiction passages) or illustration/picture (fiction passages) 
3) Short, manageable, PAIRED reading passages
4) Text Evidence component
5) Written and/or pictorial comprehension response to the passage that is set up to mirror an "Interactive Notebook." 
First, I draw students' attention to the title and the picture/photograph on the page. We predict what we think we will learn or read about in today's passage. Then, we read, locate, and highlight the three focus vocabulary words for the passage.  Hearing, reading, and locating these words within the passage - prior to reading the text - boosts their confidence when they read the passage.  We can focus more on what the words mean and the clues surrounding the word, because the students are less likely to put all of their focus into decoding or laboring over the word when they read.
Depending on the reading level of each group, there are various ways we have read the text.  Sometimes, we follow a "I read, we read, you read" sequence.  Other times, we read the passage together, then they read it with a partner, and read it a third time by themselves. For my higher readers, we may simply whisper read it by ourselves a few times through, while I prompt and assist as needed.

As we read, I draw their attention to the three focus words as we encounter them within the passage. I spend a great deal of time helping the students focus on context clues in order to uncover each word's meaning. As a small group, we also discuss how to use the words in other scenarios and within our everyday lives.  Often, these discussions lead to a more in-depth understanding of the topic and/or the storyline of the passage.  As a teacher, I love having these passages on hand because they not only focus on vocabulary development, but they do not overwhelm my kiddos with TOO many new vocabulary words.  Text that contains little to no new words will not broaden my students' vocabulary or challenge their comprehension.  Text that contains too many new words would completely overwhelm my kiddos and cause their comprehension to shut down.
After we have thoroughly read and discussed the passage, the students complete the text evidence component.  The comprehension skill that the text evidence component addresses varies from passage to passage. Sometimes, it requires the students to go back into the text  and underline the definition of a word. Other times, the student must go back into the text to identify components such as the setting, character, main idea, etc.  I love that this requires students to reread and "prove" their answer.

Finally, the students complete the "interactive notebook" section of the reading passage. Once again, each pack covers a wide variety of comprehension skills. Some of these comprehension skills and strategies include:
*mental images
*main idea and details
*questioning
*vocabulary
*setting/character
*predictions
*inferences
*character traits
*many more!

Want to try a FREE passage out in your classroom? Each of the three packs includes a FREE reading passage in the Preview Downloads. The passage below can be found in the Preview Download of the Spring Edition.  Click HERE or click on the image below:
Grab the entire pack of Spring Interactive Reading Passages by clicking HERE or on the picture below:
The entire BUNDLE pack of all three editions (Fall, Winter, and Spring) can be found HERE.
Do you use reading passages in your classroom? What are some benefits of using reading passages that YOU find helpful? Leave a comment below to share and let us know your favorite reason for using reading passages during your small groups! :)

As always -
Happy Learning,

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Teacher Break! Baby Sawyer's Nursery Pics!

Today, I'm taking a little "teacher break" on my blog to share our sweet baby's nursery pics with you! Those of you who have been following me on my blog and on Instagram have been so supportive of our pregnancy with your sweet thoughts, well wishes, and prayers! Thank you so much! We can't wait for Baby Sawyer to get here so that we can meet him, hold him, and give him tons and tons of love! :) I had SO much fun putting his little nursery together. Let's take a look inside!
I went with a very neutral theme - taupes, creams, and whites. 
Rocking lamb, crib, side table: Pottery Barn
Rug: Hobby Lobby
Light: Restoration Hardware
Glider and Ottoman: Babies R' Us
 Bedding: MoodsStore on Etsy
Prayer Hamper: Pottery Barn
 Rustic Wood Signs: CA Sign Design on Etsy
 My sweet friend and co-worker, Nicole Allison, from Allison's Speech Peeps, photographed all of our maternity pictures! 




 Woodland Arrows - CherryTreeGallery on Etsy
Changing Table - Pottery Barn
Changing Pad Cover - Caden Lane Baby Bedding
 Adventure Awaits Mini Globe: CoryHarrisArt on Etsy
Weston is such a ham in front of the camera! He followed directions like a pro when I told him to look at the ultrasound pic for this photograph ha! 

Thank you so much for stopping by and letting me press "pause" on "School Life" today! :) 
I had so much fun sharing Sawyer's nursery with you and cannot wait to introduce you to him someday soon! :) 

Love,

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Maternity Leave Planning & Organization

I am officially on maternity leave! I can't believe we are only a couple weeks shy of holding our precious baby boy in our arms.  I cannot wait to meet him and become a family of three!  (Three and a half, if you count our dog!). 
I was definitely teary eyed as I said goodbye to every one of my first graders Friday afternoon.  I hugged them tight and told them one by one that I loved them as they piled out of my classroom door.  Then, as I gathered my bags and ultimately left my classroom to another teacher for the rest of the year, I prayed for each of them - that God would watch over my students and keep them safe, and thanked Him for sending us a wonderful maternity sub that will be taking care of my sweet first graders for this final grading period.

If you've followed my blog at all over the past six years, you know a few things about me:
*I'm obsessed with organization
*I'm a little bit OCD about planning, prepping, and routines (Okay, sometimes a lot...)
*I consider teaching much more than a job - It is a calling and passion that I dearly love! :)

It's probably no surprise that planning for maternity leave was a task I went a little overboard in. No, everything I'm about to show you is not mandated by my district.  In fact, I think one week of full plans is really all that is required in my school. However, after being organization-obsessed for the past eight years, I knew that in order to fully enjoy my maternity leave and be at peace with leaving my sweet babies for the rest of the year, I needed to plan for maternity leave "my way." Today, I'm going to lay out everything that I did to prepare for maternity leave and help out my maternity sub in order to make the transition to our classroom smooth and easy. I'm hoping that this blog post might help other teachers who are prepping for maternity leave, too! :)  Here we go!
The first thing I did was organize and create a Maternity Sub Binder.  I purchased Kellie McHaffie's Long-Term Sub Binder (EDITABLE) on TpT.  After researching and looking at tons of maternity binders and long-term sub binders on TpT, I loved Kellie's version because of the editable features and the variety of templates she had to choose from within the pack. I did not fill out every form that she includes, and I did add my own pages of information, as needed.  (Due to the binder containing confidential information about my school and students, I do not have pictures of the inside of my binder available.) Below is a list of the main pages and sections I included for my sub:
*Daily Schedule and Monthly Calendar overview
*Subject by Subject procedures, routines, and exceptions
*Student Information - I wrote a blurb about each student's academics and behavior
*School Information (phone numbers, maps, drills/safety, etc.)
*Classroom Behavior and Positive Reinforcement procedures
*Parent Info (volunteers, phone numbers, field trip chaperone info, etc.)
*Overview of topics to teach for each month
*Websites and Passwords the sub will need
*Photo Tour (I included pictures of the inside of my cupboards/cabinets and what materials can be found throughout the room.)
I used tubs to organize each week's materials.  These "tubs" are actually the drawers that come from those 10 drawer rolling carts so many teachers love! You can find them on Amazon by clicking HERE.

I completely planned out and made copies for the first two weeks of my maternity leave, which begins March 28th  (This coming week is our school's spring break.). This includes daily, detailed lesson plans and everything the sub and students will need each day.
(An example page of my daily, detailed lesson plans for the first two weeks. Text has been blurred for confidentiality.) :)
For Week 1, I pulled guided reading books for small group reading.  I labeled each pack of books with the group's coordinating color and what Daily 5 round the group meets during. Because this is her first week doing small groups, I chose guided reading book packs from our school's book room that came with a Teacher's Guide. I thought this would be a nice way for her to quickly scan and implement a scripted lesson plan, if that was something she wanted.  For Week 2, I copied and planned reading passages for her to use in our small groups.  This way, she gets a taste of using both guided reading books and passages during her first two weeks.  After that, she can pick and choose what she would like to pull for small groups, because she will have a good understanding of each group's capabilities and levels. 

The reading passages I pulled and copied for my groups during Week 2 come from the following packs in my TpT Store:
Fluency Spinners: Vowel Teams & Diphthongs (These are currently being used by my struggling readers.)
Here is a picture of what my desk looked like as I left my classroom on Friday! Everything for Week 1 is set up for her.  
I also put together a little Welcome Basket for my maternity sub! It includes a candle, Stress Relief Aveeno lotion, a travel coffee mug, Burt's Bees chapstick, chocolate, and a welcome letter. :) I hope it makes her feel at home in our room!
For Week 3, all copies are made for the week.  This week, instead of writing detailed daily plans, I simply filled out the typical lesson plan format that I use for myself.  By this time, my sub will understand our weekly routine and will be in full swing! :) The only things that are not planned or copied for Week 3 is our weekly newsletter and small group reading plans. 
*Please Note, I do not have this lesson plan format or template available for download or purchase at this time. You can find similar lesson plan templates by clicking HERE.
Every two weeks, I switch what is put inside of our Daily 5 Word Work Bins. These materials are also included in Week 3's tub, since she will need to swap out the activity. (For the first two weeks, I have placed stamps and ink pads in our bins.)  During Week 3, my students will be using my Word Work Wheels to practice their trick words.  You can find these super fun and versatile Word Work Wheels HERE.  You can also read more about how I organize my Word Work bins by clicking HERE.
Week 4's tub includes copies for everything except our weekly newsletter and small reading groups.  For this week, I did not write out any plans.  This will be the first week the sub will need to "plan" for the week, however, all materials and copies have been pulled and made in advance. :) 
In addition to my four weekly tubs, I also put together four more tubs: Quarter 4 Assessments, May Curriculum and Units, May Math Games, and Word Work.
My district uses Standards Based Report Cards, so we have pre-established, non-negotiable assessments that we have to give during each quarter.  This can be super confusing to a sub or a new teacher.  In order to help her out, I copied all of the assessments that need to be given during the fourth grading period.  Entering our standards based grades can be even more confusing, due to the way we grade assessments. Before I left, I entered all of the assessments, or "assignments", into Progress Book (the grading system we use).  In that way, my sub just needs to grade the assessments and enter each child's grade in the computer.  (She doesn't have to worry about setting up the assignment, naming it, entering it correctly, etc.)  :)
After the four weeks of copies and activities I laid out, my class is fully on their own! :) In the May tub, I put single copies of units, activities, printable, and packs for "optional curriculum." Of course, my amazing first grade team will be there for anything she might need! :) We do not do weekly planning in my building, but we do meet once a month for a grade level meeting (in addition to data meetings) to make sure everyone has what they need and knows which core standards and concepts we are to teach during each nine week period.
I was blessed in that my sub was able to observe our room for a couple days prior to taking over next week.  She loves our See, Think, Wonder Write morning work routine and wished to continue that throughout the year! Yay!! I LOVE this morning work activity, which encourages critical and creative thinking - and my kids love it as well! Every student is capable and able to complete the morning work, so it makes planning easy-cheesy!
You can find more information about my See Think Wonder Write morning work by clicking HERE.
The one thing I did make copies of for the month of May is our weekly Reading Logs. This is part of our core classroom routine, so I knew it would be important that the kids and families continue their nightly reading habits.  :) You can find my Reading Logs pack by clicking HERE.
Before we left for Spring Break, we learned our new April math games. This included our Independent Math Games and our partner math games.  When my students return from spring break, they will be able to pick up where we left off and work on their math games during our Small Group Math Routine.  For May's math games, I pre-filled baggies that include all of the May math centers that the sub can teach my students.  
The May Math Games tub includes my May Write On Wipe Off Math Games and Centers. You can find these differentiated, independent math games by clicking HERE.
Interested in organizing your math centers for the entire year? Find the bundle HERE.
The Word Work tub contains a bunch of activities and materials she can choose from to add to our word work bins during the last month of school.
Sight Word flash cards are labeled and ready for small groups!
During Week 1, the kids will be focusing on Opinion Writing. Anchor charts have been pre-made and hung up so that they are ready for her writing lessons. :)
I pre-filled a jump drive that includes tons of passages, packs, units, and files she will need or can choose from throughout the grading period (if she wants). Also included:
*Weekly Newsletter Template
*Weekly Lesson Plan Template
*Smart Board files for Daily 5, Small Group Math Centers, and Foundations (phonics)
*Master copies of Assessments and Units for Quarter 4
*Current DRA and Fluency Levels for students
*Lots of other goodies she may want! :)
I placed all the bins above our cubbies so that they are ready to go!
Now do you believe that I am a bit OCD about organization?!?! ;)

And that, my sweet teacher-friends, wraps up how I planned for my very first maternity leave! I hope it gives other soon-to-be-mamas some tips & tricks for a carefree leave. If you're not going on maternity leave, perhaps it gives you some organizational ideas for general sub planning! 
As for me, at 37 weeks pregnant, I am going to put my feet up and enjoy some much needed rest and relaxation before our sweet Baby Sawyer makes his arrival into the world!