Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Prayers for South Carolina

Having lived most of my life in South Carolina, I am having a hard time lately with the devastation and tragedies that have taken place in my beloved state over the last year.  From the ice storms of the winter of 2014, to the tragedy in Charleston in June, to the devastating flooding that is occurring in and around our capital city this week, we are all heartbroken.  However, what I am most proud of is the fact that the great people of this state all seem to rally together during these difficult times to help out our fellow man.

My daughter came home on Friday for a family weekend.  I'm so thankful that we had this weekend planned and that she made it home safely from Columbia.  She's a student at the University of South Carolina and I just received notice that they have canceled classes through Friday of this week due to the unsafe conditions in the area.  I'm so grateful that she attends a university that puts the safety of its students first.  

Although the city where I teach is safe and the conditions are fine, my county is not completely unaffected.  Because of this, I have been home from school for two days because the buses are unable to travel down roads safely in the outlying areas of the county.  I am grateful for my district leaders. They made the decision to cancel school because many road closures and hazardous conditions make it unsafe for our students to travel to school.  Although it will be difficult to make these days up when the time comes, the safety of our students is more important than later inconveniences.

My Facebook newsfeed is full of unbelievable images of the flooding.  It's heartbreaking.

But, you know what else is flooding my newsfeed?  Images and messages of support.  Bottled water and other supplies are being gathered and distributed to relief efforts.  People across my great state are reaching out to help those less fortunate.

Please keep South Carolina in your thoughts and prayers as we rally to return to a new normal.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Is Handwriting a Lost Art? {Plus a Giveaway}

How do you feel about teaching handwriting? For years, it was removed from our curriculum and it's almost become a lost art. That saddens me. Recently, I started following some beautiful Instagram accounts that have sparked my interest in the art of penmanship. I've never been in love with my own handwriting, but I think it's because I'm always in a hurry to get down my thoughts. I think it's about time to slow down and enjoy the art of hand lettering.

Did you know that BIC is on a mission to save handwriting through its Fight For Your Write initiative? The mission is aimed to educate everyone about the importance of writing by hand, and providing parents and educators with information and activities that encourage and inspire writing. By taking the pledge at www.BICFightForYourWrite.com, you can help join the crusade as well - for every signature collected, BIC will donate a pen or pencil to students in need across the country through their partnership with AdoptAClassroom.org.

I'm happy to partner with BIC to share this information with you! Writing is a critical learning tool for children, and BIC is committed to making sure that schools (and students) are given the tools that they need!

I received this fabulous box full of BIC supplies to check out and I have to say that I LOVE everything.

· BIC® Xtra-Fun pencil, the only #2 pencil with two-toned color barrels.
· BIC® Xtra-Craze™ Mechanical Pencil
· BIC® Brite Liner® Erasable Highlighter
· BIC® Cristal® Stylus
· BIC Atlantis® Ultra Comfort pen.

I love everything included, but I think I'm most in love with the erasable highlighter!  Check it out:

How cool is that?  I know this will come in handy when I'm trying to teach my English Language Learners how to highlight key concepts.  Often students get "highlighter happy" and now we have a way to fix that!  Yay!

Would you like to get your hands on these goodies, too? Enter to win for your own box! Giveaway ends Sunday night at midnight (8/30/15). Best of luck to you! And, keep writing!!!

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Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Make Back to School Special

Just the phrase itself, "Back to School", sends shivers. Doesn’t it? Do you still get so nervous and excited on the night before the first day back that you have a hard time sleeping? I think the reason most of us are a bundle of nerves is because we want to make sure that we cover every detail that first day. Will you remember to go over fire drill procedures before they ring the fire drill? Will you remember to turn in attendance on time? And the most dreaded question…will you send every child home the correct way on that first day of school? Will they get home safely?

Sometimes we, as teachers, are so excited, nervous and filled with anticipation that everything goes “just right” that sometimes we lose what I feel is the most important goal for day one: Does every single student feel loved and appreciated enough to want to come back the next day?

Years ago, I made this my number one priority for day one. What about lesson plans? I didn't keep any for that first day. I simply created a list of the essential items that need to be discussed or completed.
  • Fire drill procedures
  • Transportation details
  • Bathroom procedures
Really, those are the only three things that have to happen. I used to fill the day going over every single procedure: properly writing in agendas, how to have homework on desks in the morning, how to line up for lunch, how to ask to sharpen a pencil, etc. You get the idea, right? BORING. I know that we want to set these procedures in place, but it can wait for another day. Not every little detail needs to be covered on day one. It took years for me to realize this.

I found a way to make my life a little easier by doing a few simple things. First, I found that each student came in with a million school supplies. Some students have their supplies labeled, but most do not. My solution was to grab gigantic, sealable plastic bags (already labeled with each student’s name) and dump all supplies into them. Then I gather them all and put to the side for another day. I allowed my students to use my supplies on day one.

Most students have stories they want to tell you. Let them. This is how you are going to be able to achieve the goal of having them want to come back the next day. So, how are you going to have time for this? Have students create an “All about Me” poster. I had my students partner up for this activity. Once they created the poster, they would share with their partner, and then, if they wanted to, they could share it with the class. Not all students want to share aloud. So, keeping my number one goal in mind, I didn't make them. I did, however, take the time to ask each student questions about his/her poster.

Finally, the first day should be fun. Fun? Yes, fun. One of the fun activities that I loved was our snowball fight. Students filled out a simple questionnaire and then crumpled up the paper to make a snowball. They were always puzzled and confused about why they had to crumple up their paper. I would them tell them that I had a big secret. We are going to have a little fun, but that they had to keep that a secret or other people might get jealous! Then, I would throw the first snowball high into the air and yell “Snowball fight!” It was pandemonium, but so fun. Then, I would blow a whistle and the students had to race to pick up the nearest snowball and read the questionnaire aloud to the class. We would have a blast learning a little bit about each other.

Enjoy the first day of school and remember to make sure your students are happy enough to want to return for day two. Then, you can hit them with all of the rules and procedures. :)

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Math Workshop: Building Routines That Last a Year

Hello friends!  I'm so excited to be joining some of my favorite upper elementary blog buddies for a huge link up and GIVEAWAY that you don't want to miss! We are giving away over $1,000 in TpT gift certificates so make sure you enter on each blog.  In addition to that fun, we are each sharing some great Back to School Survival Tips. Hop on through each of our blogs and check out the collection of tips that should get your new year started right!

Have you considered starting a Math Workshop model in your classroom, but just don't know where to start?  I'm going to share some tips to help you start the year off using the workshop model and give you ideas and suggestions about how you can build those routines that will last all year long.
Years ago when I first implemented the workshop model, I was anxious about how to make it work. Often, teachers feel comfortable implementing Reading Workshop and even Writing Workshop, but just don't know how to make this method work for math.  I took the opposite approach.  I tackled Math Workshop head-on FIRST before attempting Reading or Writing Workshop and I never looked back!

Tip #1:  How is it organized?
For me, this meant having my student rotate through a series of 4 stations.  Those 4 stations used the acronym M.A.T.H. to make it simple for students to rotate through each of the letters every day.

Math Facts- This is where I had my students work our daily math spiral review.  They were usually able to complete this part quickly, so when they were finished, they had the opportunity to start their At Your Seat Work.
At Your Seat- This is where my students completed the Independent Practice from the math book.  However, this time could be spent completing any number of activities that need to be completed independently.  I've even used this time to have my students complete Math Menus.  
Teacher Time- This was my small group instruction time. 
Hands On- This is what most think of as real "Stations" or "Centers".  During Hands-On time, students can work on a number of skills (all differentiated) using flashcards, task cards, different technology, math manipulatives, etc.

Tip #2: How do you start?
You have to establish expectations about how to use math materials properly.  I've used a lesson that I called  "Math Tools vs. Math Toys".  For this lesson, I began by placing tubs of math tools (electronic flashcards (like Math Sharks), flashcards, dice, center packets, task cards, etc.) on the group tables.  Before opening the boxes of math tools, we discussed the difference between a math tool and a toy.  I would ask a series of questions including:
  • What do you do with math tools?  
  • How is that different than a toy? 
  • Can I "play" with math tools if I wanted to? (Yes) 
  • Should I "play" with my math tools? (No) 
I had students write what they see as the difference between the two on a sticky note and bring it to a chart labeled "Math Tools vs. Math Toys".   We discussed the students answers.  Then, we began working with math tools "correctly" and then I modeled in an over-the-top silly way using the tools inappropriately.  I usually picked a student who can really "ham it up" with me.  We tossed the dice at each other pretending to have a war.  We took the flash cards and dealt them out like we are playing a game of cards and threw them in the air a bit.  You get the idea.  By taking the time to complete this activity, your students will have a reference whenever you have to revisit the expectations.

Tip #3: How do you organize groups?
This is perhaps one of the most difficult aspects of any classroom workshop model.  I tried many different methods for grouping my students.  However, what I found to be the most effective way to group my students was based on their mathematical needs.  If I had established routines and procedures, then I didn't have to worry about grouping students primarily based on student behavior.   I found that the best way to determine what skills needed to be addressed during small group instruction was by using my Daily Spiral Math Review.  

Since the skills included in this pack are spiraled, and each domain is covered every single week, I was able to narrow down which skills my students needed to review. By using the weekly assessment included, I could track areas of concern for each of my students and then I would group "like" students together based on the skills that they needed to review.

You can try out the first week for free by downloading the product preview for each resource.  You can check them both out by heading {here} or by clicking on the images above.

I hope that you found some tips that can help you get started with Math Workshop in your classroom! The tips can also easily be adapted to any workshop model.

For more tips to add to your survival guide for Back to School, head on over to my friends' blogs to read more!
Before you go, don't forget to enter for your chance to win one of TWO $25 gift certificates to Teachers Pay Teachers!  Each blog is offering the same prize, so make sure you enter on each of our blogs for a better chance at winning. That's right...over $1,000 worth of gift cards will be given.  Hurry, this giveaway ends on August 2nd!  Winners will be announced on each blog and notified by email. Good luck :)

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Saturday, July 25, 2015

Have You Tried Nearpod in the Classroom?

Are you trying to incorporate more technology in your classroom?  Do you want your lessons to be more interactive?  Then, Nearpod is for you! 
Check out this video from Nearpod to learn more:
Last spring, I shared this with some teachers at my school and they were excited about how it can be used in their classrooms.  I am excited to use Nearpod in my small group instruction.  Since I have the use of 5 iPads, my students can work with me on a skill and can answer questions in their individual iPads.  I'll be able to track their answers and use this to help plan instruction the following week.  
There are many different free "premade" Nearpod lessons that are ready to use!  I've already been saving many different lessons to use with my students this year! 

Why not give Nearpod a try?  

Monday, June 29, 2015

Monday Made It {6/29/15}

Hey friends!  I'm off to my daughter's Freshman Orientation for the University of South Carolina today and we are super excited about what is in store.  I just can't believe the time has come for this major event in her life.  #wheredidthetimego?  If you follow me on Instagram, you have probably seen that hashtag a lot this year.  Before we take off, I'm linking up with one of my VEGAS roommates, Tara!  Are you headed to Vegas this year?  This will be my first time and I can't wait!

Last week, I posted a ton of pictures from Sarah's graduation party and promised to share one of the coolest features of her party this week.  
We had a photo booth set up in the back yard and it was a hit!
 This is my friend, Stacy, who is going to be starting her own teaching blog soon!  Isn't she adorable?

I made the frame.  It's made out of foam board from the Dollar Tree. Below is a little tutorial of how I created it.
Buy two cheap foam boards from the Dollar Tree.
I wanted the rounded edges, so I just found something round to create the curves.
 I had to make several attempts until I found the curve that made me happy.  :)
Then, the fun began.  I bought and FELL IN LOVE WITH a Hot Knife from Hobby Lobby!  Where in the world has this awesome crafting tool been all of my life?  So, let me break this down for you.  That tip gets like super, dooper hot.  Once it does, it cuts through this foam board like butta (you know, butter, but pronounced "butta").
Once all of the corners were cut, I used the first board to line up the second board to create the curve to match the larger board.  You can see in the picture below that I had to make several traced lines to get what I wanted...but that's OK.   You'll see later why it's fine...
Once the two boards are cut, the center has to be removed.  We actually used the center pieces for a display on the front porch.
 Ta-Da!  But, do you see that white?  Yuck.  Have no fear, spray paint is always near!!
Once spray painted, it was perfect!

Originally, I had planned on hanging it from the tree, but because it was foam board, it swayed quite a bit in the breeze.  I think it worked out just fine to have people hold it.  

Now, run...I mean RUN to your nearest craft store and get yourself a Hot Knife! 
Creative Versa-Tool Woodburning Tool Kit with Case
You will be glad you did!
My daughter's birthday was this week and we baked this beautiful cake together.  My husband laughed because she helped bake her own cake.  That's what happens when you are a grown up. She wanted a strawberry cake.  And not one of those "fake" strawberry cakes that uses strawberry Jello.  She would have no part of that!
We started with some fresh strawberries.
Then pureed them.

We added the puree to both the cake mix and the frosting.
It was delicious!
Want to make one of your own?  Here's a recipe:
Sadly, only two Made It's this week.  Next week should be a little better, I hope :)
Have you checked out this week's Monday Made It posts yet? 

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Monday Made It {6/23/15}

Hello from my poor, neglected blog!  It's been over a month since I've posted.  You might say I've been busy...but you could also say that I've been enjoying my summer.  It's a little of both, really. I'm here to share some of the fun things that I created for my daughter's graduation party for Tara's Monday Made It!

Sarah's theme was "Oh, the Places You'll Go!" and we had maps hanging around the house.  We created them using embroidery hoops and old maps.  I love the way they turned out.  You can see them in these two pictures:
 We also took those drink dispensers above and attached them to some wooden logs.  I love the rustic look.  The drink dispensers and tags came from Crate and Barrel and I love them!
Here are some more of the maps near the cake table.  That gorgeous cake was made by a teacher friend (thanks, Julie!) who used to make Sarah's birthday cakes when she was little.  Life is truly full circle sometimes.  Here is a closer look at that cake:
One of my favorite decorations (which is actually still hanging) was the feature wall.
Did you know that you can print black and white pictures from Staples Copy for CHEAP using the Blueprint paper?  You need to print the "Engineering Prints" and you can get an 18"x24" print for around $1.99.  With a few discounts, I got this whole wall printed for about $30.  You can't get a banner printed for that cost and this had such a stronger impact than a much smaller banner would have gotten.
One more decoration was the "Polaroid Picture" banner.
I just printed those on my printer to make them look like Polaroid pictures.  Simple. Cheap.
Finally, this display was in the foyer.  
I spray painted an old suitcase my mother-in-law found at the Habitat Thrift shop.  We decorated it and guests dropped cards in it.  The display on the right was full of treats for our guests to take away. I bought chocolates that looked like globes.  

Next week, I'll show you our photo booth.  Stay tuned!

Have you checked out this week's Monday Made It posts yet?