Thursday, April 23, 2015

New Blog

Hi everyone!

Thanks for sticking with me in this blogging process! I am moving my blog over to my new site - I hope you join me over there!

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Western Washington Bloggers Meet Up

Well, my Just One Thing this week is very exciting for me. 

Next Saturday I am driving up to Seattle to participate in the Western Washington Blogger Meet Up. I can't wait to meet all of my fellow teacherpreneurs in Washington. I will be able to totally geek out and talk about all the things that make my family's eyes glaze over. So fun!

Just One Thing 3/15

How is your week going? Do you have one thing you would like to share with the world, and by world I mean the very small part of the world that follows this blog. Well, this is your chance. 

Share one thing this week. (Don't worry, you can share another thing next week.) It can be a link to a blog post, a product, a freebie, or even a Facebook post. Anything is fine - this is your chance to share!

Sunday Scoop 3/15

Once again, I am happy to be participating in The Sunday Scoop! This is one of my favorite linky parties because it is so easy to participate in!

Yes, we have entered the testing season. My class will be the first class in our school to take the SBAC test. This is our first year with this new test, and so far I am not impressed. The test is way too hard for third graders. Plus, it is on computers. Our school just got 90 Chromebooks a couple of months ago, and all 15 classes of 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders have been sharing them. Scheduling the tests has been interesting to say the least. 

I have tried to stay positive at school, but I am so frustrated with this stupid test!

We also have all of the other end of trimester assessments we have to do for the school district because if there is anything students need, it is more assessments!

On a more positive note, I am so proud of my wonderful husband. He completed the Portland Shamrock run this morning. He did the 8K, and I could not be more excited for him. This is something he has been working up to for a while. It is so hard to put together time to work out with four kids, but he has shown me that it is possible. 

Now, if you are like me and enjoy these super simple linky parties, you may be interested in linking up with my latest linky: Just One Thing. It is simple, share one thing this week. It can be a link to a blog post about something you are excited about this week, a product, or a funny Facebook post. Anything, but just one thing.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Sunday Scoop March 8th

You can access one of my newest products by clicking the picture below! You do need to have a Google Account to work with it.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Just One Thing - March 7

I thought it would be easy to think of just one thing to share, but it turns out one thing is harder than writing about a lot of things. I feel pressure to have it be good!

Okay, here is my one thing this week.

This week I am missing 2 days of school (one full day and two half days) to work on curriculum development with my third grade team. I, personally, am excited about this because I enjoy collaborating with my team and we don't get a lot of chances to do it in a regular school day.

On the other hand. When we do these collaborations done we only manage to plan for one unit of a subject at the very most - a tiny fraction of what we are actually teaching in the classroom.

Our district doesn't have set curriculum for any subject, so you can imagine the amount of work that goes into getting ready to teach.

Here is what I am wondering this week. If every team in every school is taking these days to plan and getting so little done, is this the best use of our resources?

Click on the picture at the top of the post to visit the linky party and read other bloggers' one thing for this week!

Just One Thing

So... I am totally getting into reading all of the blogs of people who are going to the TpT Convention in Vegas this summer, but there is no way I am going to be able to keep up with all of them until July. I will want to, but life tends to get in the way of me doing what I want to do all the time. (None of my kids care that I would rather read teaching blogs than color with them. And I do mean color with them. I can't read the blogs next to them while they color - I have to physically be coloring too, or it diminishes their enjoyment of the coloring somehow.)

As I was reading tonight it occurred to me that what I needed was a place where I could quickly jump from one blog to the next to see what people were up to. Something like - a linky party!

In keeping with my general feeling of being overwhelmed with too much to do, I decided to make my linky party the most simple linky party ever. Here are the rules...

Grab the picture above and paste it in a new blog post. Then, write about one thing that is on your mind. Maybe it was something great that happened this week. Maybe it was something terrible. Maybe it is a new product you want to share. Maybe it is just some revelation that occurred to you this week. Hopefully you get the idea - anything is fine. As long as it is one thing.

I hope that this is fun for all the other stressed, busy, wonderful teacher-bloggers out there. If I get a good response this week, then we can do it again next week.

Thank you, in advance, for sharing!

What Excellence Looks Like

A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to travel to San Francisco to visit my sister. The best part was that I was going alone. No kids. If you have ever traveled with kids before, you will understand my excitement.

I was going to fly on Virgin. I had never flown Virgin before, but they were the cheapest option, so there I was.

Right away I could tell that this airline was different. Music was blasting from their terminal. There were flowers on the desk (fake, but still beautiful). It looked like a party - which was a little weird at six in the morning. Plus, and this was the best part, everyone who worked there looked like they were enjoying their jobs. They were happy to help, and went the extra mile to make their customers feel important.

Now, contrast this to the gigantic line of already exhausted travelers waiting to check in with Delta.

But the check-in process wasn't actually what spurred me to write this post. What I want to share actually happened a little later.

I was sitting in my seat in the back of the plane when the announcement that it was time for the safety talk came over the intercom. Instead of having the flight attendants do it, there would be a short video. I remember thinking, "Yeah, right, I am not watching that."

I was picturing bad industrial videos.

Then the music started. The video was like nothing I could have ever imagined. It was clever, fun, and entertaining. It also covered all of the information the boring usual presentations cover.

In case you haven't seen it, here is the video.

The first thing I thought of while watching the video was all of the lucky people who got to work on it. As a teacher, I am always thinking about what jobs my students will someday have. I hope that many of my students get to have creative jobs that allow them to create amazing things. The people who were a part of this video got to do just that from the actors to the choreographers to the director.

The second thing I thought was - anything can be made entertaining and interesting. How many times has a teacher said, "I can't jazz this up - it is just too boring." Well, what could be more boring that explaining to someone how to use a seat belt?!

I have actually been thinking about this video and this blog post for a long time. I wanted to write about something that it very important to me, but something that is hard to articulate. 

One way to say it would be my obsession with excellence. I love it - I think more than most people - and it doesn't even matter what category the excellence comes in.

Let me try to explain.

When I met my husband he was the star of our community college basketball team. He was amazing. He could dunk, rebound, bring the ball down the court, etc... Now, I realize this was just community college, but it was still the star. 

I found this very attractive. He was the best.

Years later, after he had played basketball at a four year college, and again been the star, he was playing chess with his dad. He was kicking his dad's butt, and they were both very good chess players. I got that same rush I had so many years ago watching him excel at basketball. 

I realized that it didn't really matter what he was good at - I just appreciated his excellence at a skill. I don't know if other people feel this way, but I am guessing that most people are attracted to excellence. I don't just mean romantically attracted, but that people just want to be near excellence.

One reason I believe this is that Disneyland is one of the most popular places in the world. And Disney knows excellence. Everything they do is about being the best. Their attention to detail is insane! In their space, Disney is excellence.

I believe that we all have the capacity to be excellent at something, but we don't all reach that potential because we are too scared, too lazy, or don't understand how to make it happen. Unfortunately schools do not teach kids how to recognize their own excellence.

The closest I have come to excellence is teaching. I do not think I am the perfect teacher - yet. I do believe I have the opportunity to become one of the best teachers in the world. When I am working in education I often feel that elusive feeling of flow.

That isn't to say that I don't fall on my face quite often.

But I love it, and working is fun. 

I have a feeling that not many people feel that their jobs are fun. And that makes me really sad. We spend most of our adult lives working. How sad would it be to spend that time doing something you don't like?

I think this is a big reason why I work so hard to help kids enjoy school and learning. I want every student I meet to have the chance to do something they love as an adult. I don't want them to have to take a job they hate just to make enough money to survive. I want them to thrive and strive for excellence. 

It is funny. When I started this post, I didn't know that this is where it would end up. But this is true. The reason I teach is so that I can help children find their way to excellence. 

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Sunday Night Freebie!

I am putting together my resources for next week, and I couldn't find a verb tense chart that I liked. So, of course, I made my own. If you are looking for a verb tense chart for your kids you are welcome to it. It isn't cute, but it does the trick.

This is one of my new products that is made using Google Docs. I am pretty sure you have to have a Google Account to access it, but the good news is that anyone with a Gmail e-mail address already has an account. 

I am sharing a link to view the file. If you would like to make changes, just select "Make a Copy" under the File tab. This will allow you to make your own copy of the file that you can change any way you like.

If you keep the version I share, it will update automatically any time I make changes. 

Have I mentioned how much I love Google?!

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Sunday Scoop!

It has been way too long since I participated in the Sunday Scoop! I love this linky party because it is just so darn easy, and easy is good!

Thank you to the Teaching Trio for hosting! You can check out all the other Sunday Scoopers by clicking the link below!

And here is my Sunday Scoop...

Saturday, February 21, 2015

How to Deal With a Disruptive Student

I am writing this blog post for one specific reason. I needed it. I searched everywhere for information on how to deal with a disruptive student in the elementary classroom. All of the typical vague recommendations came up, but nothing concrete that I could actually use when everything else had failed. 

I had tried redirection. I had tried positive reinforcement. I had tried giving choices. I had tried empathy when I gave consequences. None of it made a difference in the daily struggle.

I had a kid that I am sure many of you are familiar with. He was a sweet boy, but behind academically. He had learned at his previous school that if he misbehaved the teachers left him alone and didn't push him on what he didn't know. His naughtiness was a disguise so that the other kids wouldn't know how much he didn't know. 

The frustrating thing was that he was very smart and capable when he tried.

I have had many students like this, so I am sure that you have had them too. You want to root for them and pull out your hair at the same time.

When our spring conferences came up, I made sure to schedule a conference with his mom. I wasn't sure what the plan would be, but I knew we would have to work together to address this little boy's behavior in class.

I tried searching for ideas. I talked to my principal. I talked to another teacher who had a similar student in her class. I talked to the school counselor. I talked to anyone and everyone.

Here is the plan I came up with (and the plan that you could try too).

1) The good thing about my situation was that I have a really good relationship with my student. I like him and he likes me. I was able to build this up over the past couple of months by constantly reminding him that no matter what he said or did, I still liked him. I paid attention to what he was interested in. I complimented him when he deserved it. I never gave him a consequence without telling him how great I thought he was despite his poor choice.

2) I ran my whole plan past his mom before I explained it to the student. This way if he came home complaining, his mom would understand what we were doing at school. She was also able to explain the plan to him at home - away from his friends.

3) If bad behavior occurs as school, he will go down and work in our school's main office. He won't be in trouble and won't need to talk to the principal or anyone else. He will just be going somewhere he can work without distracting anyone else. This will help him get his work done, and help the other students get their work done as well. When one student is consistently misbehaving it has a huge impact on how well the other students can concentrate.

4) When he has completed his work, he is welcome to come back to the classroom. I will be happy to have him back in class, and we will be starting over. If he needs to return to the office, then he will with his next assignment.

5) Now, if he is able to do his work in the classroom, he will earn a break after each task. This was especially important for my student because he is an ELL kid. (English Language Learner) His poor brain is working so hard in school that it gets worn out. After an assignment is completed he is able to play a game on my laptop. He loves 

At first, I was hesitant to give him this many breaks, but another teacher reported that this is what she has had to do with a similar student. He is working about half the time and having "free" time half the time. I felt like this gave me permission to do this with my student - something I wouldn't have done before.

Well, we are just a couple of days into the plan, and it is working beautifully. My student has worked harder and gotten more done than ever before. Even better, he isn't distracting the other students at all! These have been the best two days of school in a long time. We are all happier.

I am so proud of my little guy. I know that if he keeps this up, he will get to grade level by next year. He deserves to go into fourth grade feeling confident in his abilities.

I hope this helps you if you are searching for a solution to a difficult student. With kids you never know what will work when. There will probably come a time when this plan doesn't work anymore. i will share what I try next and how it works.

I'm Going to Vegas!

I am so excited! Our tickets are bought, our room is booked, and in just a few months we will be in Vegas for the Teachers pay Teachers convention!

I was so bummed when I couldn't go last year. I was too pregnant to fly (and I didn't have the energy to walk down the street let alone go on a trip). 

This year I am not pregnant, and I have tons of energy for taking a trip! I can't wait to meet all of the amazing people I have been reading about and buying products from!

As a bonus, my husband gets to come with me. I am sure he will find plenty to do while I am at the conference... He told me, "The hotel has a gym, so I will probably work out." Yeah, that is what people do when they come to Vegas - workout. I was just teasing him. I am so excited that I am going to the conference, and that we are getting a little trip away from the kids. It has been a long, long time since that has happened!

If you are going to Vegas, leave a comment! I can follow your blog as we get ready for the big trip!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Fraction Number Talk

Today our third grade team went to a special training on teaching fractions for the new SBAC test. It was a pretty fun training, and it was really good to stretch our own thinking about fractions.

My favorite activity was a number talk we did on how to spot fractions. The presenter showed a picture like the one below and first asked us, "Who can spot 1/2?" 

The first couple answers were obvious, but as we pushed further we saw more and more halves. (Hint: change your definition of a whole to see more halves)

Then, she asked about one fourth. We were ready to show our thinking and came up with lots of answers.

Finally, she asked us about four thirds. This one was tough. The key here was that you had to think about a whole in a different way. Can you spot four thirds?

Well, there are many different possibilities, but the one I saw was the blue trapezoid plus the blue triangle. So, the blue trapezoid would be one whole and the triangle would be one third the size of the whole, making it four thirds.

Notice how many math terms I had to share to explain my thinking! That is so good for our kids!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Developmentally Appropriate?

Okay, I have to start by saying that I am a huge fan of Common Core math. I think that while it is hard for adults to understand, it is really built to fit with the way kids think. My third graders are just eating up the Engage New York program. They already understand topics better than my fourth graders did last year. Plus, the models help kids focus on what questions are asking instead of trying to guess the right equation based on a story problem.

That being said, I am struggling with the Common Core approach to reading and writing. I agree that the things it is asking kids to do are good and important, but are they developmentally appropriate? We are working on information writing in class, and the students are asked to research, plan, and write their own information books. They are really struggling with this - all of them. Even my top students are just doing okay with it. I had the same problem with narrative writing last trimester.

Now, of course there is the explanation that I am just not teaching the reading and writing parts correctly. I am fully open to this option, but then my question is... how do I teach it better?

Our school is using Lucy Calkin's new program. I think it is called Writing Pathways. I find that some lessons are very successful, and I will admit the kids are learning a lot. On the other hand, many of the lessons flop and I have to go back and reteach another way. This curriculum was definitely more successful last year with the fourth graders. The third graders this year are really struggling with it. 

It seems like third graders are still struggling to write complete sentences. Adding the complexity this program requires is just sometimes too much for them.

How do you teach writing? Is there something that works really well for third graders? Thank you for sharing!

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Individualized Learning Presentations

Okay, that totally sounds like teacher-speak. Individualized Learning Presentations. This, if you haven't noticed (or aren't looking at this post on my actual website) is the title of the new page of my blog. Here is where it came from...

I don't know about you, but I have lots of different kids in lots of different places in their learning. Some kids pick things up super quickly, while others seem to take months to pick up a new concept. I value both students as learners and want to do what I can to support the growth of these two types of kids. Actually, I have 23 kids in my class, and I have 23 types of kids. They are all individuals - so, that is where the individualized part comes from in the title.

The learning part should be pretty obvious - I want the kids engaging with the material to learn. That is why we go to school, right?!

Finally, presentations. These are literally Google Slides - PowerPoint for Google. The kids click through the presentations and get a lesson - just for them. Unlike a presentation I do for the entire class, they can click through at their own pace - or go back and see a slide again - or skip ahead if they feel confident. These presentations can be shared with the entire class, but they are designed for one student working independently.

Right now I just have one presentation up. That's the bad news. The good news is that it is totally free. I will be charging for the presentations eventually, but for now feel free to download it and use it for as long as you like!

These are Google documents, so the process is a little different than you may be used to with Teacher's pay Teachers or Teacher's Notebook. 

An important difference is that you need to have a Google account to open the file. If you have a g-mail account, then you already have a Google account.

First, click on the link under the picture of the presentation you want. That is easy right now because there is only one presentation. 

The page below will appear. This is the "working" version of the Google Slides. Your students will have to click on "Present" under the View tab (the red arrow is pointing to it).

You will notice that you are able to view this presentation, but you can't make any changes to it. If you would like to adjust something, just go into the File tab and select "Make a copy". This will save your own copy of the file. 

If you don't make a copy, then the file will be updated anytime I change it. If you do make a copy, then you will only see your changes.

Well, I hope that this is a helpful resource for you and your students. I am excited to share it with my kids on Tuesday!

Friday, February 13, 2015

First Post From the Chromebook

So, if you read one of my earlier posts, you would have seen that our school recently began using Chromebooks. The good news? They are awesome - so many options for enhancing student learning. The bad news? We only have 90 of them for about 300 kids - maybe even more than that. 

Basically, my class gets the Chromebooks for an hour a day, four days a week. Much more than we had access to computers before, but still not a fully digital classroom by any means.

Anyway, I was so excited about the Chromebooks that I decided to order my own. Thank you, Teachers pay Teachers, for allowing me the financial freedom to order a laptop without worrying about the extra cost.

As I find more things to love about the Chromebooks I will definitely be sharing them here. I will also be blogging a lot more. My old laptop was a Windows computer and it didn't get along very well with Blogger. It made everything much harder.

Here is one thing that I am pretty excited about. It is an app through Google Play called Biodigital Human. It was on a list of great apps for the Chromebook, and it caught my eye because we are currently studying the human body.

This will be so fun for my students to explore. I am always looking for fun activities that the kids can do independently. Plus, who knows? Maybe someone will be motivated to become a doctor or scientists because of what they learn using this app... You never know.

Thanks for reading! Please feel free to comment - about anything. It is wonderful to feel connected to others in this very impersonal digital universe.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

I Love Google Drive!

Last week our school had a short (very short!) training on Google Drive. Our school got 90 Chromebooks and we needed to learn how to use them.

Even though the training was short - it was amazing! I had no idea all of the things we can do in the classroom with Google Drive and Google Classroom! The kids love it, so they are totally engaged and it makes differentiating truly possible.

I am going to share what I am learning - through the training and on my own - in several posts. Here is the first one:

Setting up your Google Drive with Teachers Pay Teachers in mind.

First, you need a Google account. If you have a gmail account - you have a Google account.

Once you sign in to your account you will find a 3 by 3 array in the upper right corner of the Google search page.

Click this array and a menu will pop up. Select "Google Drive".

You will get to a page that looks a little like the one below. If this is your first time in Google Drive you won't have any documents or folders though.

To create a new folder or document, click the red button in the left side of the screen. If you are running the old version of Google Drive (old, like a few weeks ago) the red button will say, "Create". If you are running the new version of Google Drive it will say, "New".

Once you click this button you will see options to create a new folder, Google Docs, Google  Sheets, or Google Slides.

The Google types of documents are just like Office documents, but they have the very important bonus that you have them with you all the time! I love this. I used to constantly e-mail myself stuff. It took forever, and I did not like it! Now, I have everything I work on at home on my school computer. It is wonderful!

Now, just a heads up.

If you are like me, you create a lot of resources for your class and then sell them on TpT. But did you know that if you use any district resources to create what you make, the school district may have legal grounds to claim that product as their own? I don't make enough money for them to be interested yet, but I do plan on that changing eventually. So, I make sure that I don't use any school resources to create my products.

This gets complicated because my school and provided us with Google Education accounts. Anything I create here may be considered "district owned". So, I need to create everything on my personal Google Drive.

The good news is I can "SHARE" anything from my personal drive with my school drive. I wasn't sure exactly how I wanted to do this and keep everything organized. Finally, I just created a folder named, "My Drive" in my personal account. I put everything in that folder - other folders too. Then, I shared the "My Drive" folder with my school account. Now, anything I work on for my personal account will automatically show up in that folder for my school account.

Okay, that is it for now. I don't know that I did the best job explaining it. I find the best way to learn Google Drive is to just jump in. When you get stuck, just "Google" your question. There are tons of resources out there to answer every question you could possibly have.

More to come! Have a great night!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The Power of Expectations

Have you ever listened to This American Life or Radiolab? These are two of my all-time favorite radio shows - and now podcasts. I listen to them while I am working (alone - not while I have kids in the classroom). I constantly learn something new and I am totally blown away.

Well, two of the producers from these shows have started their own show called, Invisibilia. Right now there are only two shows done, but they are both amazing. As in a-ma-zing!

As a preview to their show they actually did a show that aired on This American Life just last week. It was called "Batman". It too, is a-ma-zing!

The show is all about expectations. It turns out that our expectations of a person (or an animal) affects how that person (or animal) performs. You have to listen to the show to get the whole story, but basically if you think a rat will run a maze faster... he will. A lot faster than if you don't think he can do it.

This is not an opinion or an idea - this is a fact.

And it is also true for teachers and their students.

Now, I like to say that I have always believed that my students are all capable of great things. It is actually something I pride myself on, but it isn't true. There have been a few kids that I have put into the "Yeah, you could succeed, but..." category. Not intentionally. Not because I didn't like the kid. But deep down, I don't think I had as much faith in these kids. More often than not... they lived up (or down) to my expectations.

Did I cause this?

Scientists would say... yes.


So, what I am focusing on for the rest of this year is treating every kid like they are the smartest kid in my class. 100% believing that every kid is special and capable of achieving great things. This shouldn't be too hard because it is true. Every child is a miracle to someone. Every child can do great things. Especially when they are expected to.

I will let you know how this goal goes and update you on how my kids are living up to these high expectations!

Saturday, January 17, 2015

We Need To Change

I don't usually post anything controversial or political - on my blog, Facebook, or anywhere. I have just realized that people don't change their minds based on what you tell them, and it really just leads to bad feelings between people who don't agree.

But, tonight, when I signed on to work on a new product I saw a horrible news story. You know those news stories where you wish you really hadn't seen them? Then you feel guilty because you don't want to see the story, and some poor person had to live it. I'm not going to share the story here because it is so horrible. Trust me, you don't want to know.

The story was about a mother who did something terrible to her child. As my own baby lies here sleeping next to me, I can't imagine ever doing anything to cause her pain. Mothers aren't supposed to harm their children. Tragically, some people are sick - there is something wrong that makes them do these horrible things. It is so sad, for everyone.

We see people in the news every day who were struggling. They needed help and they didn't get it, and then something terrible happens.

I don't know about you, but I am tired of it.

We need to take better care of each other. We need to help each other and support each other, without expecting anything in return.

Why don't we take care of each other?

Companies who aren't willing to give their employees sick leave? States trying to pass laws so that certain people can't get married? People willing to kill because someone practices the wrong religion?

I realize this sounds very political, but I am just seeing so much distrust and hate in these acts. Why can't we give others the benefit of the doubt? Why can't we help others when we can - the way we would hope someone would help us when we needed it?

We are all just people. No matter what religion we practice, the color of our skin, or the balance in our checking accounts.

I don't know exactly what I am trying to say. I just feel like I need to get all of this off my chest. In my experience people need two things to thrive. First, they need to feel accepted and loved. Second, they need hope. When either of these things is missing, bad things happen.

As teachers, we are in the business of providing these two things in the classroom. My challenge to you (and myself), is to strive to provide them everywhere we go. Maybe we will be the example the people around us need to change their lives.

I apologize for the preachy tone here. I do not want to lecture anyone. I know that I personally can do so much more than I do now, and I am going to work to do that.

Because I am tired of the alternative.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Back to School

Adorable baby #4
I love my job. I love my job. I love my job. I need to just keep saying it because I have to be honest - I need about another month of winter break! We are a family of night owls and it has been wonderful to roll out of bed around 9. All of us. Even my little baby sleeps in when she can. Plus my older kids are so much fun. 

Do you ever feel like this?

This morning I was even thinking about taking next year off and focusing on my family. I am sure I would regret this decision by August, but maybe not...

I am sure that I will be happy when we get back to school. I adore all the kids in my class and I have some fun new ideas to try out. You will be seeing posts soon!

Anyway, I guess what I am saying is I am loving this break and I wish it could last a little longer. Hopefully I am over that by Sunday night - or Monday morning...