Saturday, July 25, 2015

Step Your Game Up #LikeaBOSS TPT Products Musts

I'm back with another post in my Blogger to Blogger Series. Today is all about how to step your game up #LikeaBOSS! If you own a TPT store, then you are a boss and there are some things you should be doing.
(The first post in this series can be found here.)

Here are some quick ideas to consider doing with your products if you are not already:

Tell buyers how they can use your product. To get ideas for writing your terms of use, look at how the sellers you buy from did it.

Make sure to mention:
-Who owns the rights to your work (you)
-Buyers don't have permission to distribute as their own
-Buyers purchased a license for single-classroom use
-Additional licenses should be purchased for multi-classroom use

Put your name ON EVERY PAGE of your product. You can make it 5pt font, or gray vs. black so it is less noticeable, but put your name on it! You can layer it behind text, but on most pages it should be visible. Make sure to lock it down before uploading to your store.

Here's why this is important:
-No one can copy and redistribute your pages as their own
-Buyers know who you are and where to find you when they are in need of more items and forget where they got the one they love so much

*In my periscope about this, someone asked me if they should put their blog/store name or their real name. Another "scoper" commented that they do both, this is an option. I always just use my real name. Your blog/store name may change or be trademarked by someone else, but your birth name never will.

Here's What:
-Thank whoever you bought the font and clipart from (this is required by most clipart/font sellers even when you buy a commercial use license).
-You can put your terms of use here.
-ADVERTISE! This is free advertisement for your store. Add some product pictures and link to correlated products in your store.
-Leave contact information for how they can find you across all social media platforms.
-Write a short personal note about yourself or the product.
-Insert this page right after the title page (not at the very end of the document), so people can't miss it.

My template looks like:

Longer products especially need a table of contents to help buyers navigate. If at all possible, make your table of contents available to buyers before they buy the products. This will eliminate frustrated buyers who thought they were getting something they weren't. A table of contents makes it very clear what is on each page.

Here's where you could include your table of contents (in addition to inside the product):
-TPT description page
-Product preview download
-Product preview images

Captivate buyers with your cover. If someone searches "Grammar Interactive Notebook", and you have one, what is going to make your cover stand out above the rest? The cover image gets them to your store and then your preview and description seal the deal. I have been spending time making over my covers lately and it has really paid off with sales. I have moved to a more clean, easy to read, simple look and have received a great response. Sometimes with too much on a page, people get overwhelmed and keep scrolling.

Not only is the description page of the TPT website your place to really sell your product (which it is, so describe in detail and make it sound great), but it can also be a place to sell you.

Here are some other things to include on your product description page:
-Links to similar products in your store
-Links to find you (Blog, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook)
-Links to specific blog posts where you showed your product in use in your own classroom or gave a more detailed look into the product

Well, there you have it! Step your TPT Teacher-Preneur game up and #BeaBOSS! 

I am still learning myself and would love any tips you have.
Please comment below if I left something out.

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Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Parents Be CRAY! #realtalk & Tips for How To Deal

I realize I have to navigate a fine line with this post, but if Periscope has taught me anything, it's that teachers appreciate realness. Realness helps people identify and leads to real solutions. So let's just get real...parents be cray! 

It's true. 

I came from a school where parents were either highly involved or not involved at all until they thought their child was wronged...then they were. No fun. 

My first year and a half of teaching, I was scared of parents. I didn't want to talk to them, I didn't like that they had so much power (which I was giving them), and I didn't get why they had to be so cray all the time. 

Then, I had my daughter.

My view of parents changed drastically and I soon as I had to give her over to a babysitter, I realized... I be cray too! I got it. 

She is MY child and MY everything. I recognize that to you, she is just another child in your care. I need to be her advocate and I'm the person in her life forever. I'm the one who's been praying for her since before she was born, planning for her future, and investing all I have in her safety and quality of life. Me. Not you. You don't know her or her needs like I do. So just listen to what I have to say and do things they way I want them done...okay?!?

...Whoa! See? That was a whole lot of cray.

But, just because I understand it, doesn't mean I like being on the receiving end of it as a teacher. Here are some tips and revelations that have helped me become a firm force in my partnerships with parents while still building relationships, collaborating, and covering my backside!

(Feel free to jam while you read.)

Parents, like everyone else on the face of the Earth, don't know your job. Unless they are teachers themselves or know a teacher, they don't get what we do. They don't understand how much time it takes to do everything involved with teaching our class and everything involved with the paperwork of teaching, testing, scoring, etc.

Some parents might continually "ask" you to do things. They might expect you to do these things, but these things might not actually be a part of your job. For example, staying late or coming in early to tutor is not a part of my contract. I might do it, if I have the time and I enjoy both the student and the parent, but I'm not required. You need to know what the school and county requires you to do, so that you know when you are well within your rights to say no (more on that to come).

Another thing I've learned over the years is that nothing is above being questioned. Here are some things to be able to speak to on the fly:

-Why you are a stickler on certain behaviors: Reference county, school, and classroom rules and the importance of those rules

-Why you teach the way you do: Reference research and best practices, as well as school expectations/norms

-Why is your homework is the way it is: Reference how your students learn best and how your HW is incorporated (ex. nightly homework due every day because daily spiral review is important)

Everything else I do is covered by one of my two goals (that are posted in my room) which are to:
1. Create students who are kind, caring, respectful, problem-solvers (basically create better human-beings)
2. Create students who have mastery of the curriculum

If a parent questions a decision, I can usually point to one of these two goals. I respect their position to advocate for and protect their child, but it is my position to advocate for and protect all of the students in my class. I have to think of the whole, not just an individual and these goals help me keep perspective.

This one can be hard, especially for new teachers. It is just flat out awkward to tell a parent to their face what their child is doing wrong. It is so much easier to sugar-coat things and tell a parent that their child "occasionally needs reminders to stay on task" vs. "constantly needs redirection (2-3 times in a 5 minute period) and lacks the ability to maintain focus during independent work time". But, with the first one, parents hear that their child is sometimes having problems and it is easy for them to say, "He is only 8 and he is a boy". With the truth (the second phrase) that includes a quantitative measure, parents are given power. They may not like to hear it and they may not like you for saying it, but they are given the opportunity to step in, intervene, and look for outside help if needed. 

Sugar-coating only makes things easy for you in the moment, not the long-run. This was my issue my first year teaching. I sugar-coated the problem during a parent conference and a week later when the student went off the chain for real, I was in a predicament. I had documentation for my principal to suspend the child because she had been acting up in class frequently. But, I sugar-coated with the parents so they had ammunition to say that it was unfair that their child was getting suspended because if they had known how bad it was they could have prevented it. I doubt they could have, but they were right. They deserved the opportunity to know the truth about their child, even if they didn't want to hear it.

As teachers, we know this is a golden rule for students: no empty threats, no empty promises. It is a way to lose respect and crumble relationships quickly. The same goes for parents.

If you told parents at back to school night that students would be allowed to retest unit tests, then you have to let them do it even if it was open-notes to begin with and you are already behind in pacing.

If you told parents that students would receive a referral with the next poor behavior choice, then do it. They might be happy if you were wishy-washy on this one, but it will come back to bite you when you are sticking to something they don't like. They will most likely say, "But last time you said you were going to give a referral and you didn't, that's not fair". Yes, it happens. Favors can bite you later.

Pick your battles. You don't need to win everything. You have to compromise for the sake of the relationship sometimes. As problems or requests arise, the first thing you need to do is decide if it is worth the fight, sometimes it's better for everyone to just let it go.

Sometimes you just can't give in. Not because you don't want to or because they made you mad, but because it's just not best. You are the advocate for your classroom and you are responsible for each student's learning. Just because the parent insists that you make a student's desk an "island" and deny them recess and center activities because of poor grades doesn't mean you do it. It's not best practice. I appreciate the support of academics, but I'm not doing that. Period.

One time a parent wanted me to call everyday after school to talk about their child's behavior, in addition to the daily behavior chart I was sending home. Ain't nobody got time for that. I have to get my room together, get ready for tomorrow, and pick up my own child from the baby-sitter by a certain time. I realize they felt like this was the best thing for their child, but it was outside of my contract time (hence: Know Your Job) and it was not something I had the time for, which leads us to the next point...

This one can be hard, but it is so worth it. Say no when you need to. You need to respect your time and your family.

"Can I volunteer in your room even though I am a nosy parent looking for gossip?"

"Can I chaperone the field trip even though chances are I will "misplace" at least one child in DC?"

"Can you come in before your contract time or stay after to tutor my child for free?"

No, I can't. #sorrynotsorry

Now, this isn't always the case. As teachers, it is our nature to do things that we don't have to do just because we love teaching and we love our students. I mean, my county pays me and then I turn around and blow it all on my classroom. 

Just know that it is okay to say no, you are not a bad person, the choice is yours.

This is not a new tip. Document EVERYTHING: Conversations, phones calls, notes sent to school, notes sent home, grades, informal assessments, behavior, EVERYTHING. For example:

-We have an online gradebook at my school, but I still keep a paper one. It has saved me a couple times.

-Be super specific in your report card comments. Report cards can be subpoenaed by court so keep that in mind. Not necessarily only if a parent is suing you, but also if their is a custody hearing and one parent needs to prove that something from home is affecting a child's performance in school. It's happened.

-Print your emails! Don't trust your email system, if we have learned anything recently it's that a hack can happen...or you could just delete an email when trying to save it. I still have a file an inch wide of emails from one parent 3 years ago. I am definitely keeping those bad boys!

The best way to maintain a good relationship with parents is to keep them in the know. Here's some ideas:

-Send home newsletters with reminders and information

-Set up a class webpage with information they can easily access

-Use Remind to send text alerts

-Set up a class instagram to share pictures throughout the day (I am going to try this for the first time. I am moving to a school with low involvement so I'm hoping that taking to social media will help.)

-Create a private class facebook page

*TIP* If you plan on using any sort of social media for your class, get permission! Get permission from your school admin and from the parents. Even if your school or county sends home a photo release form, you should create your own. Write a quick letter explaining the purpose and benefit of using that social media platform and have parents sign that it is okay for you to post pictures of their child and their child's first name to a private account. an extent. I have found parents can relate to you better when they know more about you. When my parents find out that I have a toddler, they can relate. Most of them have younger children as well or can remember a few years back when their children were that age. I always include a picture of my family in my welcome back letter that I send before Meet the Teacher Day. What I've noticed is that at least half of my parents use my toddler or my dog (I have a boxer) as a springboard to spark a conversation with me. They like to relate. Find something you can use to relate to your parents; maybe it's a sports team, a college, or a hobby.


Before I go, I just want to note that this post is referring to only some parents. Most parents we get are amazing and understanding and respect our time. This is not for them. This post is for the ones that give you a run for your money. I had a student teacher this year and I unofficially mentored a new teacher at my school. It was infuriating to watch parents run over them while they did nothing to stand up for themselves. 

I hope to empower new teachers to know that their classroom is theirs. So- set goals, protect your students, and protect yourself. Image Map

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Is it really an Interactive Notebook? Is it? ....Really?

Hey Y'all! Can we just jump into this thing today? I am super passionate about interactive notebooks and I have some opinions that might ruffle some feathers. I promise I'm not a hater, I just want to share my perspective.

First and foremost, I want to offer tips on how to make interactive notebook (INB) activities run smoother in your classroom. We all know that cutting + gluing + coloring + sorting + following multi-step directions can equal a HOT MESS in the classroom. But, there are many ways to keep the process smooth and focused on the content vs. the finished product of the "cute" activity or the mess.

*Disclaimer: I did a Periscope broadcast on this yesterday and I received such great interaction. My post was definitely enhanced by the participation of all the amazing teachers who watched!

Here's What:

Plan for Time: Be realistic about the amount of time it takes your kiddos to cut, sort, and glue. You don't want your lesson to be taken over by the logisitics of the activity.

For example: If you teach K-3, then multiple flaps on a page are NOT your friend. They look cute, but uh-uh! I have 8 year-olds and it would take them 8-10 minutes just to cut and glue 5+ individual flaps on a page. Nope. Ain't nobody got time for that!

Plan for Mastery: Your goal is for your students to obtain or show mastery of the concept, not create a cute notebook page. Keep that in mind when selecting activities. There are some super cute INB pages floating around on Pinterest, but I know for my classroom it would take way too long to assemble and the academic impact wouldn't match that time commitment.

Get the most bang for your buck!

This goes right along with planning for time. Anything you can do to save minutes during the lesson is GOLD! Some examples are:

-Pre-cut as much as you can before hand
(even if it's just cutting off the edges).

-Walk around and help your students during the cutting or gluing times
(you are assessing them on the content of the activity, not the cutting and gluing).

-Copy on color when possible, this will make directions go faster.
You can say, "Cut the pink piece" or "Glue the yellow piece at the top".

This is where the title comes in. If your students are not INTERACTING with the content, it is not an interactive notebook. If there is no action (hence: interACTive) other than writing, it is not an interactive notebook.

Does gluing in one piece and having students write answers equal an interactive notebook activity?....


That doesn't mean the activity isn't of value or doesn't have a place. It just means that you probably shouldn't label it as an interactive notebook activity in your plans, or call it an interactive notebook when you sell it in your store, or buy it thinking you're getting something your students can hands-on interact with.

That's it.

I'm sure they'll still learn from it.

Yes, the students gain knowledge from simply doing the activity. But how much more powerful is it when they revisit their learning for reference.

The best thing is when a student starts to ask you a question and then stops themselves and says, "Nevermind, that's in my notebook!"


That is so powerful!

They learned it, they created it, they wrote it with their own hands, they remember doing it, and now they can refer to it. They just learned how to be a problem-solver and help themselves. That's a life skill people!

Granted, it does take many times of the teacher reminding them to check their notebooks when they ask questions, but they will get there.

Here are some quick ways to refer to the content:

-2-3 minutes at the beginning of the lesson to review specific pages with a buddy and then share out whole group about what you've been learning

-Send home for homework review and to share with parents (only if you are 100% sure you will get them back)

-Use as a time filler! Need to fill 3-4 minutes before lunch, have them pull out a notebook and interact!

**These tips have caused me to be so much more purposeful. In return, my lessons have run smoother and students have gained more value from our activities!

Let me know what you think!

Comment below or reach out at
(Yup, I'm a dot come now. YAY!)

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Sunday, July 19, 2015

Blogger to Blogger: Basics

I feel like the teacher blogoshpere has absolutely exploded since the TPT conference in Vegas. I didn't go, but somehow even I have been thrust out of my comfort zone and into the world of networking and building relationships. Thanks to Ashley and Angie scoping the whole TPT experience, we at home were motivated to find our tribes. One tribe that I became apart of is the Third Grade Tribe facebook group. I feel like I have been getting to know some of my other "tribesmen" already. I have been able to give advice to teacher-preneurs who are just starting out on TPT (Teachers Pay Teachers) or in the bloggy world and get advice from more experienced "big fish".

All this collaboration and support gave me the idea for a new series:

My goal is to share my journey to help teacher-prenuers who are at the beginning of their own. I am in no way claiming to be an expert or a "big fish" in our online teaching community. I have however been on the scene for a while and I have learned. I've learned from mistakes that have resulted in me still being a lesser-known blogger. I've learned from smart moves that have resulted in the growth of my blog and sale of my products.

I just want to share what I've learned from my journey so far. That's it. I always appreciate when teacher-bloggers are real and I hope to do that for you.

Today I want to talk about the basics of becoming a teacher-preneur in this online-TPT-bloggy-world.

You have to be patient. I have seen so many new bloggers and TPT sellers asking for help because their items aren't selling or no one is visiting their blog. It takes time. You have to build and audience and gain followers by the repeated posting of solid content and/or quality products. It takes time. No one wants to read a blog post you threw together about a topic you're not passionate about just so you can say you blogged today. No one wants to buy a product that you threw together just so you could add a new product to your store. Quantity is not the main idea here, it's quality. It takes time.

My advice is to just do you. Do you and do it well and people will start to notice. I read a piece of advice on one of those "How to Grow Your Blog" websites once that said that you shouldn't even start promoting your blog until you have 5-10 solid posts with content that your audience will want to read. Be patient, you'll get there. I'm still on my way, but I've reached a point where I can look back at where I came from and see the growth I've made. It's taken me time.

TPT, Blogging, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Periscope, OH MY! There are oh so many forms of social media to keep up with. What you will notice is that most top sellers or well-known bloggers have 5 out of the 6, if not all. This took time. I am proud to say that I have all six of these platforms, but I am at different places with each. I've been selling on TPT since 2011, so now I'm making a consistent amount every month that goes a long way and is such a blessing to my family. I've had Pinterest since it was in beta (2011?), so I have a good following and full boards there. I've only been on Instagram for about a year, so I am still adding followers and I think I am starting to get the hang of how to make it work for me. Twitter scares me. I just made an account 3 days ago. LITERALLY, I have on been on Twitter for ONLY 3 DAYS! I am still learning and it is very confusing since I don't have a personal Twitter account. The point to all this is that I didn't decide to open up a TPT store and jump on all the other platforms on the same day. That would be crazy and overwhelming. It takes time.

As a teacher-preneur, you need to focus on what is the most important to you first. I suggest making a list. Want to start making money on TPT first? Well then, my advice to you would be to dedicate time each day to working on and posting quality products in your store. Bundles and bigger documents sell more, but take longer to create. Make a goal. Maybe when you sell a certain amount or get a certain amount of products posted, you will move to the next platform on your list.

Want to start sharing your ideas and get your name known? Then you should start working on a blog first. Take your time to pick a hosting site, set up your blog, and post content that engages your audience. Maybe your goal could be that once you have 7 posts or 10 followers, you'll move on to the next platform on your list. You have to decide what is the most important to you and work it. The rest will come. It takes time.

Research is the best way to learn. Here are some of the ways I have found researching helps me:

Study Tutorials: 
Google and YouTube are your friend. You can learn how to design your blog, use a program to create a product, write a user friendly post, anything. It seems like a no-brainer to google something when you need help, but I just couldn't write a blog post about this topic and not mention it.

Study the platform:
This is where the focus piece really comes in. When you are focusing on mastering one platform at a time, you can really invest in researching it. Here are some examples of what I mean, based on what your focus might be:

-Blog: Read as many blogs as you can. Note how the authors hook their reader and use voice to infuse their personality. Pay attention to the use of images and pictures. How long are the posts that receive the most attention? How often do successful bloggers post?

-TPT: Download products from the top sellers. You can start by downloading and studying their free products, but I really encourage you to buy a product and examine the quality of work expected. How is the product laid out? What is the title page and thank you page like? Do they have a terms of use? What clip art and fonts did they use? Was there a table of contents? You can also look at the descriptions page to study how successful sellers are tagging and describing their products.

-Instagram: Create an account and find other people who share your audience to follow. What types of things are they posting? What is the typical ratio of school to personal to product posts? Make sure to comment on the pictures of the people you follow and leave questions that require a response to spark dialogue.

-Facebook: Like, follow, read posts, comment. Forget (for now) about trying to get the most likes and follows on your page. Focus on building community and engaging in discussions with other teachers through comments. How often do the pages with the most likes post? What are they posting about? What groups are they a part of? Are there groups that you could be a part of?

-Twitter: I am currently in the study phase for twitter. I have a brand new account that has less than 20 followers, but I'm not stressed. I am making sure to log on 2-3 times a day to check out my feed (I followed over 100 amazing teachers that I already knew from the other platforms). I am posting at least one thing a day. I am really just learning how to use the tool effectively. I know that once I catch on to how it's used and make it known to the amazing people who follow me on other platforms, my stats will increase.

-Periscope: Follow, watch, give hearts, and comment. People will start to know you just because your name always pops up on their broadcast or because you are participating in their scope with comments. I've only done 3 scopes so far, but I've already met a handful of people that I've connected with across Facebook and Instagram because we interacted through comments while I was scoping. This is a fantastic way to get started and it is no pressure. If you have the desire to do a broadcast, build your followers and go for it! Someone will watch and the more you broadcast, the more your audience will grow.

Study a person:
You know there is at least one person that you consider your personal teacher-rockstar. Someone that is a "big fish" and you feel like you've been following forever. Someone who you feel is the definition of success for online teacher-preneurs... Without being creepy- study that person. Keep an eye for them across all platforms to see how often they are blogging, posting new products, or involved with various types of social media on the average day-to-day. Reach out to them with questions and download some of their work. This will help you get a well-rounded idea of what to expect.

Ok, so..this post was a lot longer than I expected it to be when I first sat down. Hopefully you've caught the main idea which is that It.Takes.Time. Absolutely no one became a teacher rockstar overnight. I can guarantee you that long nights, hours of work, and months (if not years) were poured into their labor of love before anyone struck gold. It's no fun to hear, but it's the truth. The silver lining is that while the time is passing, you don't have to just sit around. You can get busy with focusing and researching to achieve your goals.

Thanks for stopping by, I can't wait to talk with you guys more about this next time. I think I'll tackle Pinterest. See you then!

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Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Wordless Wednesday: Where do you get classroom library books?

Where do you get books for your classroom library? I have been addicted to the thrift store lately. There is one near my gym that has AMAZING books in awesome condition and it is just $2.90 for 6 books. Here are some of my recent finds. Summer is always my time to stock up on books for my library. Way back when, I wrote an in-depth post about classroom libraries.

Don't forget to swing by Miss DeCarbo's link-up to see what other people are up to!

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Monday, July 13, 2015

Visit Me at iTeach Third!

Today I am so excited and honored to be blogging at iTeach Third. I wrote all about how homework and homework binders work for me.
(Make sure to read all about it!)

UPDATE!!! The editable version of my homework binder is now available in my TPT Store. Click HERE to check it out!

This post actually fits very well with my Plan-Prep-Teach series about how to prepare during the summer for Back to School. Planning out and creating pages for your homework binder will go a long way to making sure you are ready to roll on the first day.
Check out my other post in this series about planning for guided groups!

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Saturday, July 11, 2015

Engaging Introductions: Hook Them with Life Stories!

Your students love you. By January, they know you better than most of your coworkers. They know how to make you smile, laugh, and yell. They know when your glance from across the room means, "I'm just listening in on your conversation, keep going", and when it means, "You have 5 seconds to sit down and stop that". Yet, to them, you're still an enigma. Sure they may have met your spouse or children, but they are aware that they only know the school you and they are craving to know more.

I have found that when I start a lesson with a personal story, they are hooked. I'm talking silent, engaged, and listening. Boy, do they comprehend and retain when you are telling them a story about how you accidentally hit your neighbor's car. They will still be talking about that in June!

Here's how to do it:
-Don't let them know a lesson is starting. Just start with, "Hey guys, you'll never guess what happened yesterday" or "Did I ever tell you about the time..."
-Don't talk to them in teacher talk. Just sit down and have a conversation with them.
-Be ready to go with the actual lesson, they will try to suck you in with questions, comments, and feedback.

Here's how I've done it:

On the first day of our sequencing unit, I sat down in my rocking chair, looked out at all of the faces staring back at me, and nonchalantly said, "Guys... I hit my neighbor's car yesterday." If only you could have seen the excitement on their faces! It was a mix of "Yay! This isn't a lesson", with "Oooohh, Mrs. Wiggins is gonna be in trouble", and little bit of "Finally, juicy gossip!" I dove into this elaborate story about how I was late from work, ran inside to get my dog, came back out to take him to the park, and accidentally backed into my neighbor from across the street's car. I told them how there was no damage and the only person who saw was my next door neighbor who told me I shouldn't even say anything. Then I was forced with the decision of whether or not to do the right thing. I shared how I called my husband and I was nervous to tell him and then I wanted to wait until he got home to say anything but he convinced me to do the right thing right away, so I took my daughter Gracie with me, and on and on the story went. They were enthralled. Right as I was finishing up, who should walk in but my ESOL teacher, what a coincidence... almost as if it were planned. ;) The kids immediately started shouting out, "Mrs. Wiggins hit a car! Her neighbor told her not to tell!" To which she replied, "Whoa, whoa, one at a time. If you guys are going to tell me this story you will have to sequence it so I can understand."



What's sequence?

Finally one kid raised their hand and asked. Once they found out all it was, was putting events in order, all the hands were back in the air. We called on one person at a time to tell one part, in order, until the entire story was told. You better believe they were quick to jump in if someone went out of order and say, "You're not going in sequence, that didn't happen next, you're skipping things, it's not in sequence!" My kids this year remembered what sequencing was more than any other group of kiddos I've had, and of course they never forgot how I messed up and hit a car.

Main Idea:
(Ok, so this story has to do with a car too. I never picked up on the pattern until now...)
When our reading lesson started, I was messing around with the Promethean like I always do and the students were shocked when a picture of a crumpled car appeared. I said, "You'll never believe what happened". By then, all my students were quiet, still, and on the edge of their seat. "Mr. Wiggins got in a car accident", I said. Of course craziness broke out for a couple of seconds, but once I reassured them he was okay, I went back to my hook. I started telling them how we need to buy a new car because the old one was totaled and we had been looking for over a week. I acted frustrated as I told them how Mr. Wiggins wanted a car with tinted windows, shiny rims, built in DVD players, and air conditioned seats. I told the kids how all these things were just details. Tinted windows and rims won't get you to work, a car will. We talked about how the car was the main thing he needed, the most important thing, and everything else was just a detail.

This example actually stuck pretty well for them. Of course they had trouble applying the skill of finding main idea to text, but they could always tell me what it was!

Compare and Contrast:
My students are obsessed with Sophia-Grace (my two-year-old). They love hearing stories about her, they beg me to bring her in, and sheer pandemonium breaks out when my computer wallpaper shows up on the Promethean board and they see the picture of her in the snow. So, I knew she would make for a great hook.

I read my students an article about baby tigers (they love anything with glossy pictures) and then we started talking about the interesting things we learned. At the time, my daughter was 18 months and we had just read some cool things 18 month tiger cubs could do. I pointed this out to my kids and said, "Do you realize I am still cutting up Gracie's chicken nuggets at 18 months while tiger cubs can stalk, catch, and kill their own prey?


They were excited and began telling me other things that Gracie and the tigers did differently. I just so happened to have a cute Gracie video pulled up on my computer and I let them watch her run across a soccer field after a ball. They loved it! I also just happened to have a video of baby tiger cubs playing and running pulled up. We watched that too. They were so enthralled and were coming up with ways Gracie and the tigers were similar and different.

Finally I said, "Whoa, you guys are on fire! We need to write this down! Who can record our thoughts on the Promethean?" I picked a student "randomly" and we had a quick conversation as a class about how we were going to organize our thoughts. Two minutes in, someone came up with a Venn diagram and the ball was rolling.

Hooking your students with personal stories is really win-win. Not only can you ensure that they will be paying attention, but you will be building relationships as well. There aren't many things you can do to build relationships with every student in your class at once, but this sure works.

Do I always tell the truth? No. I'll admit it. Sometimes I fudge stories or steal a friend's story to make a point, but that's okay, we both enjoy it. Is this something that you've tried in your classroom? Leave me a comment to let me know! I'm always looking for more ideas!

Friday, July 3, 2015

Plan. Prep. Teach. GUIDED GROUPS {Summer B2S Tips}

We are oh so lucky to be teachers because we get the whole summer off, free of any kind of work at all! In fact, be real...that's the real reason any of us became teachers in the first place...

You have no idea (actually, you probably do) how tempting it is to punch someone in the face when they say things like this to me. First of all, I do more work in the 10 months school is in session than you do all year. Honestly, I probably do the same amount of work AT HOME during the school year that you do AT WORK in a full year. Second, I do not have summers "off" from work. Sure, there are meetings, PD, and various other things I will have to attend, but the bottom line is if I don't plan, prep, and research over the summer I will drown in August. Fast.

I don't know about you, but I can't turn my brain off. Even when I'm relaxing, scrolling through Pinterest, the vast majority of my feed is school stuff. The first thing I do every morning (before I get out of bed because I'm super lazy and like to procrastinate in the morning) is check my email and scroll through my update email from Bloglovin' to see what all of you are up to. Lately, I have been really into posts about how to use my summer purposefully. What can I do over the summer to ease the inevitable back to school chaos? Sure, I have my own plan. I just want to make sure I'm not missing anything. I did find some great posts about this here, here, and here. Then I thought, "Why not share my own plans?" I mean the more information out there the better, right?

So, I decided to start a new summer series called, "PLAN.PREP.TEACH.", about all the ways we could prepare for back to school during the summer, if we so choose. Today's post is all about preparing for guided groups.
(UPDATE: Also in this series: Homework & HW Binder Organization)

What groups will you have?
At my old school (read about my decision to switch schools here), we had groups for guided reading, guided math, word study, core extension (LA), and core extension (Math). Oh, and we also had groups for a once-weekly encore switch up among the grade-level. There is no question as to why all of my groups had to be planned out or students would get lost.

At my new school, it seems like I will need groups for guided reading and guided math ONLY (big sigh of relief). My new school is Title 1, so we have a lot of additional support. During my guided reading block, I will only have 1 group, for 30 minutes. I will have a reading specialist, reading assistant, and ESOL teacher that will push in for those 30 minutes and pull their groups. So, for 30 minutes, every student in my class is engaged in a small guided reading group and when the team leaves, I have my whole class back. I am so excited to teach in this model, it is actually the reason that compelled me to interview in the first place. But as you can imagine, I have a lot of reworking to do. For example, I have used Daily 5 for the past 4 1/2 years but I'm not sure I will need that anymore...hmmmm, lot's of things to think about.

Also, I will have a Title 1 math teacher push in 3 times a week during my math block. I can't wait for this because reading is my thing, not math, so I will take any help I can get! I just need to plan on what groups she will pull.

When will you see your groups?
I used to make a schedule that looked like this:

I know, I know, it is not truly Daily 5 if you tell them what centers to go to and take away their choice. Honestly, the choice of centers just did not work for me. They have choice when they get there of what to read, or what to write, or what word work activity to do, they just can't choose their center. I have had way too many student behavior issues and mean-girl drama over the years to deal with that. So I don't, and my centers run smoothly.

For reading this year, I will only need to see my one group during the alotted 30 minutes that I have "the team" in my room. Simple.

For math, my lowest group will need to be seen every day. I figure I can pull them on the days when I don't have the Title 1 math teacher, and she can pull them when she is in the classroom. My second lowest will need to be pulled 3-4 times a week and my highest two only 2-3 times. I plan on doing math workshop for only 2 centers a day this year, so I can really go in depth with the groups I am pulling.

I have been doing math workshop for the past 5 years, but in many different forms. This year, I think I am going back to the M.A.T.H. set-up since I will have fewer students and can have only 4 centers. The acronym (in my classroom) stands for: Meet the Teacher (guided groups), At Your Seat (independent work/task cards), Technology (computers, iPads, or Smart Board), and Hands-On (fact fluency games).

I like the super cute set-up below from The Teaching Sweet Shoppe.

What will you call your groups?
Ok, this may seem like a silly thing to plan ahead, but you quickly run out of group names when you are trying to juggle 6 different groupings like I was at my old school. I had colors, fruit, animals, you name it!

This year, I really want to do a teamwork/sports theme, so I decided to name my guided groups after NFL, NBA, and MLB teams. To help cut down on August prep, I already made posters for the groups that I can print on cardstock, laminate, and hang on the wall so I can quickly switch up groupings using a dry-erase marker. I uploaded these posters here for FREE if you are interested.

How will you track progress?
I like to create my own anecdotal notes forms so I can include only the information that I think is important. I create different forms every year. Sometimes I bundle them into prong folders by group and sometimes I throw them into a binder alphabetically by student. Either way, if you are like me, this is the perfect time to get creating. These forms will be the last on your list once school starts.

If you can answer all of the questions above, then you are in good shape. Please comment with your thoughts and advice, I know you guys have more amazing ideas that I haven't yet stumbled upon. See you next time!