Monday, December 28, 2015

A+ Images FREE t-shirt

Back in July, I was super fortunate to hear about a fabulous promotion being sponsored by A+ Images. They were giving away free t-shirts to teacher bloggers. 
Yep, FREE! 
And the best part? I got to design my t-shirt...any color, images, fonts I wanted. 
Complete creative freedom! 

And at a price tag of $0, who could pass that up? NOT ME!

I logged on, created, ordered, and had my shirt in less than 2 weeks!
Just in time for my BIG trip to Las Vegas for the TPT Conference. 

And several other bloggers took advantage of A+ Images awesome promo. 
It was super helpful to see t-shirts with logos rather than squinting at tiny logos on name badges. 
You could easily spot my logo from across the room. 
(Tara from Tiny Minds at Work, me, Kristen from Teeny Tiny Teacher, and Hadar from Miss Kindergarten)
Go follow A+ Images on INSTAGRAM to stay up to date on future promotions. 
Trust me, you won't want to miss out!

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Haunted Halloween Hop!!!

Fall is in full swing and maybe your planning could use a little perk up!

Well lucky for you, some of your favorite TpT sellers have gotten together to make your Fall a little bit easier to plan with the Haunted Halloween Hop!Haunted Hop

You can score ALL of these goodies!

  Haunted Hop Goodies

Here's what you need to do:

1. Visit each blog on the loop for directions to snag the Secret Word.
Make sure to follow each seller - we'll be checking before we sent out prize packs!
2. Write down each seller's Secret Word on the Cheat Sheet!
Haunted Hop Cheat Sheet
3. Submit all of the secret words on the Google Form {and wait for the prize pack to be emailed to you!}
** Please note: because some of the sellers have secret words waiting for you on their TpT banner, you will need to visit their store using a computer, not a mobile device! **

Are you ready to put all that Halloween candy to a good use?
I was, am, and will be.
That's why I created Math M&M Monsters!

With a snack size M&M candy bag (Halloween portion), students sort and graph their individual bags.

Need some more fun with those candy pieces?
Have your kiddos add groups, compare numbers, and/or create patterns!

Head on over and FOLLOW me in my Teachers Pay Teachers store
DON'T FORGET to write down my Secret Word. 
Remember to view my store from a computer so you can see my banner!

Now, head on over to visit Melissa over at First Grade Smiles to see the amazing goody she's sharing!

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Learn Like A Pirate {Responsibility}

Wow, I certainly fell off the bandwagon with my LLAP posts. 
But! I have a REEALLYY good excuse!
TPT in VEGAS!!!!
I was so focused on getting prepared and ready for my big trip that I ran out of time to write down my thoughts from this awesome chapter on giving classroom responsibilities to your students. 
But before I get too far down that rabbit hole, I do need to give Paul Solarz a HUGE shout-out for answering my questions from my chapter 4 post. Thanks so much for adding some thoughts on how I could change from grade focus to improvement focus in a culture that places a large emphasis on the bottom line (alphabetic or numerical grades). 
Ok, back to chapter 5...
I think chapter 5 starts off with a great quote
"Students must have initiative; they should not be mere imitators. They must learn to think and act for  themselves-and be free." - Cesar Chavez
That's a statement I can get behind! 
I want my kiddos to be independent-thinkers and problem-solvers, not robots that require direction from me in every situation or scenario. There are times and places where those littles can step up and figure out what needs to be done and how to do it. 
Here's the catch: I don't think they need to get a parade every time they take initiative to do something that needs to be done. Put away the ticker-tape and let's teach them that pitching-in is part of being a member of a larger community. A community that needs everyone to participate in order for the classroom to be successful. 
And get this! Students WANT to feel like their role is important! They want to feel needed and relied know it's true! 
I love how Paul lays out how he structures his classroom, so that students CAN have responsibility. Everything from cleaning up materials to time-keepers. He details what jobs are assigned and which are left to collaborative responsibilities - everyone has the opportunity to step-up to do what needs to be done and remind others to pitch-in. He helps them to see when those chances for participation are missed, how to share the responsibility (not hogging the duties), and when a better way would be appropriate. Paul doesn't leave his classroom up to chance, he teaches his students how to help ensure that the environment is fully functional, so he can be the best teacher and they can be the best students possible. 
What I truly LOVE about this concept is that it transfers far beyond the classroom. Teaching students to be active participants in the daily running of classroom will only help them become better citizens in the greater community.
I can't wait to catch up to chapter 6 on Active Learning. 
I'll post soon! 

Monday, June 29, 2015

TPT Seller Challenge Week 2: Dare to Dream

Do you have hopes and aspirations for your TPT business? I'm sure the answer is YES! Lots of us do. You may have started your TPT shop as a way to share out the awesome resources you've created, thinking you might make a few bucks to pay back that cute clipart you purchased. Or maybe you thought that TPT would be a great at-home venture while you took care of your children. Whatever your reason for starting, I'm sure you've developed some dreams for what could happen if your shop took off. 

That's the focus of TPT Seller Challenge Week 2 - what are your dreams for your shop? 

My classroom library is already substantial. I can't really complain! But, wouldn't it be amazing if my students had access to a plethora of themes, categories, and types of books? Everything from all the titles of Skippy Jon Jones to Skeletons of Mammals. Poetry, fables, and wordless texts. I love the library, but what if the library was literally in my classroom? Or at least a considerable portion of it? My teacher heart would be HAPPY!

One of the greatest gifts we can give others is our time and resources. That's one of the main reasons I choose the teaching profession. However, there are sooo many other areas of my life that I would LOVE to give my time & resources. Ultimately, it's easier for me to give my time than my money. I stand in the grocery checkout line and wish I had the extra funds to buy a groceries for a young mother who is forced to choose between diapers and vegetables. I wish I could send a middle school neighbor to church camp since his parents can't afford it. I hope that one day I can lessen the burdens of others by contributing to their lives both in my time and my finances. 

Let's face it, I won't be in my 30s forever...I need to be prepared for that moment when retirement is right around the corner. I hope my TPT business can help me save a more generous amount towards retirement so my hardworking husband and I can travel and enjoy those later years. 

What are your hopes and dreams for your TPT business?
Go check out what others have to say by visiting the hostesses' blogs. 

Sunday, June 28, 2015

RoCk your 1st year - tips for beginning teachers

Being a military spouse can be difficult when it comes to teaching! We move A LOT, so that means teaching at new schools in new states with new curriculums and new faces are just a part of my life. It can be overwhelming, but I love the benefits of it far more than the disadvantages. Pair that with the fact that my son is just now entering Kindergarten (this fall) and I've been in and out of the classroom the last 5 years, bouncing between stay-at-home mom and full-time/part-time teacher, I can honestly relate to the feeling of being the newbie on the block. 

This year, I'm headed back to the classroom (FULL-TIME) with lil' guy in tow as I re-enter the world of KINDERGARTEN! I'm a seasoned teacher, but I'll be working in yet another new state, with new curriculum, and new faces. It's like standing on a weird wall between being a knowledgable veteran and the newest teacher there ever was. My teacher toolbag is full of resources, ideas, and whatnot, but I have to adjust to the school culture and learn the ins and outs. 

When Chandra (Teaching with Crayons & Curls) and Lyssa (My Mommy Reads) announced their link up aimed at new teachers, I was super excited to join up and chime in. I thought it would be awesome to share what I practice each time I join a new staff, but I can't wait to read the terrific tips other seasoned teachers are offering. Whether you're a first year teacher or maybe joining a new staff, these tips can go a long way!

Consult your principal - did you know that the term principal (in education) comes from the original job description of the position, principal (or lead) teacher? That's right, principals were considered the lead educator of their schools, the most veteran, the most knowledgable, the most everything. Everyone knows that you should consult your colleagues, especially your grade-level teammates, on ideas, resources, and curriculum implementation, but as new teachers, we often steer clear of the principal's office. We don't want to bug them, appear incompetent, or draw attention to our classrooms for fear that they'll realize that we're...NEW and still figuring things out! I struggle with this, but I remind myself that each principal that has hired me was confident in my ability to make it happen and doesn't want to see me fail! Principals don't want to see you struggle or flounder about when they can help. Seek out their advice, consult their opinion, be comfortable with their feedback. They want you to succeed, because when you're successful, your students are successful!

Speak Up! - being a new teacher can be overwhelming, there is a ton of information thrown in your face and sometimes you feel like you're barely treading water. It's OK! If you feel like you're drowning, you don't know why a certain technique isn't working, you don't know where to look for resources, your management style isn't clicking with certain students, don't be afraid to admit you're struggling. We've all been there, even those teachers that seem to have it ALL TOGETHER, were first year teachers or have had those times where nothing seemed to be going their way. Chat with other teachers, be honest with them about your struggles/concerns. Even teachers in other grades can offer you sound advice. Heck, they might even come to your classroom to observe and help implement more effective practices, walk you through a computer program, or give you resources. 

Get Involved! - one of the easiest ways to join your school's team is to get involved in extracurricular teams/committees. I've been on social committees, school improvement teams, student support groups, and Art Show committees. Joining these groups often builds relationships with teachers/support staff/school personnel that you don't get a chance to interact with often. For example, one of my very BEST friends was introduced to me, 10 years ago, in a New Teacher meeting in my principal's office. She was teaching 4th grade and I was teaching Pre-K. We taught in totally opposite ends of the school, but we shared a commonality of being first year teachers and joining our school's Social committee, which gave us the opportunity to connect outside of the instructional day. Another advantage joining extracurricular teams/committees is that you often get the chance to interact with students in different classes or grade-levels. This really pays big dividends when you see them during the school day or in the chance that you become their have an established relationship. 

Recreate the wheel - I have to admit, I am so guilty of this. I need an idea or resource; rather than asking others if they have something I can use, I create something (often spending loads of time and money). Now, don't get me wrong, creating is amazing, I love it. However, before you start, ask around, see if someone has something you can use. You could save yourself time and money, which are precious commodities as a first year teacher!

Close your door - sometimes we get intimidated by other teachers' classrooms. Ms. Veteran's class is soooo quiet and all on task. Mr. Fun's class is so creative and they always have the best projects. Mrs. Master Teacher does everything right and her class is consistently exceeding expectations. First off, let me start by saying that we all started somewhere, all teachers were once 1st year educators and had to learn through trial & error. Nobody just magically became this amazing teacher that you see today! Secondly, when we become intimated by what we perceive as other teacher's perfection, we can draw in on ourselves as a way to hide or protect our perceived weaknesses. DON'T! Keep that classroom door open, let other teachers observe your teaching style, your procedures, your students. You might be surprised by what those teachers have to say!!! I, once, thought that my classroom was too loud and I'd constantly remind them to lower their voices, even though they were working in collaborative groups. I thought other teachers would think my kiddos were off task and not learning. Shockingly, during a staff meeting, another teacher (not one I interacted with often) praised my classroom management style and instructional methods, saying that she was encouraged by seeing a new teacher (it wasn't my first year, but I WAS young and new to the school) using collaborative groups in math and that she was going to try to do that same. That floored me!!! She was a veteran educator who I thought would be very critical of my attempts (insert eye-roll and a snide remark "she'll learn"), but I was absolutely WRONG! Keep that door open, you could be inadvertenly teaching others. 

Cut yourself some slack - it's your first year! Perfection is rarely obtainable! Just try your best, utilize your resources, be open to feedback, and maybe have an adult beverage every once in awhile. 

Head on over to Teaching with Crayons and Curls and My Mommy Reads for more tips for beginning teachers from some amazing bloggers. 
Teaching with Crayons and Curls
My Mommy Reads

Friday, June 26, 2015

TPT Seller Challenge: Week 1

I'm a little late to the show (due to traveling), but I'm linking up with these 4 fabulous ladies, Third in Hollywood, Teach Create Motivate, Sparkling in Second, & Peppy Zesty Teacherista, for their TPT Seller Challenge. 
What a wonderful way to get me motivated this summer and focus on being a better creator/blogger/seller. And I being introduced to some fabulous sellers!!!

I was really pumped by Week 1's challenge. 
I've been wanting to re-do one of my very first products, but ran out of time when I was overhauling a handful of my products this past winter. This was the PERFECT opportunity to give that original a beautiful facelift and work on it's "insides" as well. 

Let's review what it use to look like (briefly)...
Pretty basic cover
 Generic vowel pair cards
Non-uniformed clipart (literally pulled from various sources on web)
In total, the entire product was 10 pages, including vowel pair descriptions/information sheet, game instruction and cards, and answer key. To say it was basic is a HUGE understatement. I'm kinda embarrassed that I even put that up on TPT, BUT you've always got to start somewhere and THIS was my somewhere. It gave me a beginning and I'm proud of that!

But there is always room for improvement and here it is...
I love the more colorful clipart, game sample images, and specific description of what this product provides. I think it gives potential buyers a better idea of what they're considering. 
The informational/vowel pair description pages have been cleaned up for ease of reading!
Super helpful if volunteers or parents are working with your students!!!
The original game (Memory) has gotten an upgrade with awesome clipart and bigger cards. 
Picture puzzles were added for additional independent practice. 
Group fun with BINGO was a must add to this product. 

10 pages turned into 30 pages!
Tons of more activities that share corresponding clipart and easy set-up. 

AANNNDDD, I'm going to leave this at it's original price of $2.00 until the end of the TPT Seller Challenge! If you already own, just simply redownload!
Once the challenge ends, the price will be more reflective of the product's new page and quality count. 

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Learn Like A Pirate {Improvement vs. Grade Focus}

Let me start by saying that I wasn't too intrigued by Chapter 4 of Learn Like A Pirate at first. The subtitle is Improvement Focus vs. Grade Focus. Yeah, I know about the difference, so let's just hurry on through this chapter so I can get to the next. 

BUT, boy am I glad that I didn't just thumb through these pages. 

Paul makes a bold statement "When students focus on grades rather than learning, extrinsic motivation drives their performance. In addition, their emotional well-being is often tied to those grades. Well-meaning parents then perpetuate the belief that grades matter above all else, because that was their school experience."

Friends! That just slapped us right in our faces!!! When we, as teachers and parents, praise or scold children for their letter/number grades, we are contributing to this HUGE problem of creating students who only care about the final result, not the journey or process! Students look to us for guidance and we're just reinforcing that A is better than C and 100 is the top of the tops. How in the world is Bobby or Katie going to feel when they get a D or 70???? The pits I tell ya, the pits!  

Week 4 of LLAP book study has left me with some looming questions. Questions, I wish I could just sit down and discuss with Paul, himself. 

He tells us to downplay grades (external motivation) and shift priority to personal improvement (internal motivation). His class DOES receive report cards, but Paul doesn't grade his students' work or projects and only gives a hand-full of tests/quizzes. 

Okay Mr. Solarz, how in the world do you manage to get around those pesky requirements of having a certain number of grades in our grade book each quarter? 

How do you "prove" to your administration that the grades on those report cards are truly indicative of your students' performance?

Let's move on: Paul offers us some great advice in how to provide A+ (disregard the grade association here) feedback to our students since giving numerical grades is going to drastically decrease. 
1) Praise them! Let them know how proud you are of them for all their successes AND those mistakes. Even when they make mistakes, they took a risk and that's awesome!
2) Speak to students in a present or future tense. This allows them to see the feedback as constructive and they're able to change it next time. 

Additionally, there are great tips on improving student behavior through Paul's 3-step management system (Warning, Behavior Point, Work-It-Out). I love how each step involves some sort of conferring with students, not just a dolling out of infractions and flipping of cards. I love the Work-It-Out think sheet idea!

How could I implement a Work-It-Out think sheet in Kindergarten? What might one look like?

It's so important to remember that "no mistake in class should cause tears" (thanks for that reminder, Paul). 

As I continued reading, I found that even the statements about improving results and retention, independent thinking, and critical peer feedback were completely appropriate and applicable to younger learners. Tweak and adjust to fit their developmental levels and watch them become self-driven learners who know that the task is never truly finished and opportunities for improvement are just around the corner.