Sunday, September 6, 2015

RECAP: Wisconsin Teacher Blogger Back to School BASH

A few weeks ago, Jessica from Mrs. Plemons' Kindergarten and I hosted a meet up for Wisconsin bloggers and TpT authors. Honestly, we were just hoping we wouldn't be the only ones in attendance! Haha!! So you can imagine how thrilled we were when we were joined by over 20 other amazing bloggers/TpTers at our event!
After introductions, we got our craft on! Everyone received a bottle of hand sanitizer, and we decorated the bottle with sharpies and ribbon. It was such a sweet and practical gift to take back to our classroom. Take that, Cold and Flu Season!
Along with all the fun and socializing, Jess and I wanted to make sure the event was worthwhile to our blogging and TpT lives. So we created a list of our Top 5 Blogging/TpT Tips and Top 5 Social Media Tips. It was so awesome to have conversations and collaborate with our peers!

Of course there was food:
And we even took a brain break with a Name that GoNoodle Champ contest, sponsored by our friends at GoNoodle!
  Jess and I were so fortunate to be supported by MANY generous donors for our giveaways!

We also had SIX grand prizes, thanks to our amazing donors: Tailwind, Kendra Scott, Teaching in the Tongass, and ESGI.
All in all, we had over $15,000 in giveaway prizes and swag! Everyone left a winner! It was truly an AMAZING outpouring of support for our event!

Our phenomenal group!

Knowing that not all of our friends would be able to join us, we want to give YOU, our awesome readers, to win something as well! We have TWO $25 gift certificates to Teacher Created Resources to give away! Enter through the Rafflecopter below. Giveaway ends at 11:59PM on Friday, September 11th.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

We truly had a blast connecting, collaborating, and sharing with each other. This is definitely going to be an annual event. Will you be joining us next year? We sure hope so!!

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Independent Reading Routines: The Reading Spot

I'm struggling to stay above water at my new school and in my new grade level (YES! Many changes around here, but we'll have to save that story for another day!), but I just HAD to put my school work on hold for a few minutes to share this nugget of AWESOMENESS with you!

My new school is a Teacher's College Reading and Writing Workshop lab school. I am amazed by the amount of trainings and resources we have at our fingertips, and I am beyond excited to jump into the deep end of that pool! But coming from a Daily 5 mindset, there are a few new routines I need to wrap my head around.

I've been meeting with my instructional coach, and we've been discussing establishing routines for independent reading time. Yesterday she suggested that my students choose a "reading spot" and sit that spot for the whole month.

My first thought was, WHAT?! When I did Daily 5, my students chose a new spot for Read to Self every day. Wouldn't I be taking away student choice and ownership?? Besides, everyone needs a change of scenery every now and then. What if they didn't want to sit in that spot the next day? Also I don't have enough reading pillows and carpet squares for everyone to have one. So how will I make the use of those fun reading materials fair?

But, I went along with her suggestion despite my reservations. She's an expert after all, right?

Well, it didn't take me more that 3 minutes of my instructional coach teaching my mini lesson to realize that this idea is GENIUS!
Think about where you read/work at home. I'm usually parked in the same spot on the couch in my living room when I'm reading. Do I find a new spot every time I sit down to read? Usually not... unless one of my kids is being distracting!

We picked students' names at random, they grabbed a reading pillow or carpet square if desired and available, and then chose their spots. I wrote down everyone's spot, even down to what color pillow they will be using. This will be especially helpful if there is a sub in my room and someone tries to pull a fast one :) We practiced several times setting up and cleaning up. My students were able to get ready for reading and clean up in less than 45 seconds for each transition!
There was no arguing over the pillows. There was no racing to sit by certain people. There wasn't any wandering around the room, wondering where to sit. No more wasting time "getting started right away."

They got their book boxes and pillow/carpet square, went to their spots, and got down to business.

In less than 45 seconds.


We were focused on reading during independent reading time. Not trying to hide behind a bookshelf for the 37th time and then me having to talk to the student like it's the first time I've had to tell them that.
I did tell my students that if there was a day that they wanted to sit in their desks instead of their spots, that's fine. So their options are their reading spot or their desks. That's it.

I wrote down the names of the last three students that chose spots. They will go first next month. Each month we will choose a new reading spot.

Semi-permanent reading spots are here to STAY in my classroom! What do you think? Will you give it a try?

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Daily Lesson Objectives: More Than Just Wallpaper in your Classroom

How many of you display your daily objectives/learning targets in your class?

I'm thinking many of you do. Here's a snippet of my Goals Board. I sectioned off part of my front board with washi tape and put up these cute subject cards. Yes, normally I have goals written on it, but this photo was taken before my Open House last year.
So you have your objectives displayed. But then what? Maybe before your lesson, you read the objective aloud to your students?

I used to do that. And then one day, I took a hard look at my students while I was reading my objective. Guess what I saw?

A whole lot of blank faces. 
Maybe there were two or three kids really listening. You know those few kids. The ones who are angels and are always listening no matter what. But two or three out of 22 students is NOT a good percentage. This was not going to work!

How can I make my lesson objectives board more than just wallpaper in my classroom?

I made a change. I still read my objective to my students. Sometimes I have them read with me. But before I dive into my lesson, I make my students interact with the lesson objective. This makes them active, engaged learners right from the get-go. It also gets them thinking about what they'll be learning during the lesson. Here are some strategies I use when introducing my learning target at the beginning my lesson:
This works great for third grade and up. I tried this with my second graders one year, and while they could do it, it did take them longer than I would've liked. When we are interacting with the goal, I try to keep it short and sweet. But writing the goal helps to solidify it in your students' brains. You can have your students write the goal in their notebooks.

We do a lot of this in my second grade class.  I type up all my unit objectives, and my students glue them their notebooks. We read the learning target together, and then we work to pick out the important words to either highlight or underline. Underlining is faster, but highlighting stands out more. If your kids don't have highlighters (or they lose them like a few of my friends always do), I tell them to use a yellow marker.

This is a great strategy for getting students to think about what they already know about the objective. You can do this a few ways: Thumb up, thumb to the side, thumb down; holding up fingers, or writing in their notebooks. When we use our interactive notebooks, my students give themselves a before learning rating right on the table of contents page in their notebooks. We use a 3, 2, 1 scale, with 3 being "I know many things about the learning target and could teach a friend."

My students are all assigned a "pair share buddy" that sits near them. That way, when it's time to turn and talk, they aren't spending the whole time looking for someone to talk to. Some things partnerships can talk about:
---Read the objective to each other
---Restate the objective in your own words
---What do you already know about the objective?
---What words don't you know? Maybe your partner can tell you what they mean!

These strategies are meant to be a spring board into the rest of your lesson. There are SO many other ways you can activate your students' prior knowledge and prime them for learning after you introduce your learning target. I try to keep this part of my lesson to less than three minutes.

Do your students interact with your learning goals? If not, I encourage you to give it a try this upcoming year!

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Back to School GIVEAWAY!!

I hope you've all been enjoying the lazy days of summer! All good things must come to an end, though, but the GOOD NEWS is that the end of summer means the excitement of going back to school! I truly love Back to School season and getting everything ready for my new group of kiddos! I'm teaming up with some of my sweet friends to make going back to school even more exciting with a GIVEAWAY! Here's what's up for grabs:
Among all the great prizes, the lucky winner will receive the first quarter of my Mighty Math weekly formative assessments. You can choose the first, second, or third grade version. Here's what the second grade version looks like:

Check out who's all participating!

Enter the giveaway through the rafflecopter below. Giveaway ends on Friday!! Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Advice for New Teacher Moms

I'm linking up with Ms. Kerri and her Krazy Klass to share some tips and advice for teachers who are also moms. And if you're not a mom (or a dad!), stay tuned because I have a freebie that could work for everyone at the end!
My kiddos! Sly is 5 years, MC (Middle Child) is 3 years, and Muffin is 10 months.
I have three kids, which means I've been on maternity leave three times. I've heard many stories from teachers across the country about what their schools expect from them while on maternity leave. I am thankful that at my school, they hired a licensed teacher to take my place for up to 12 weeks.

I wrote a 20-ish page document I lovingly called "How to Run my Classroom" and gave it to my long-term substitutes. Haha!! I hope I didn't scare them too much! I met with each of them for at least a half-day before my leave to show them around my classroom, meet my students, and answer questions.
Is it hard to completely disconnect? Yes... and no :) Once you're holding your baby, all you'll be thinking about is feeding, diapers, and sleep. If you're trying to manage a baby and a toddler, or in my case last time, I had a kindergartener, a toddler, and a baby, then the days REALLY fly by. I also felt that for 12 weeks, my classroom wasn't mine-- my long term substitute needed to run my class in the ways that worked best for her. And even the best substitute in the world isn't me. No matter what, I would have to change things when I got back. So I let her do her thing, and then I did mine when I got back. Kids are flexible. When they would question me ("That's not how Mrs. _____ did it."), I would reply, "I know. But this is the way we're going to do it now." and my students were fine. I am thankful for AMAZING teammates who know exactly what I want in my classroom and who were willing to help and mentor my long-term substitutes.

My leaves were unpaid, but I could use my sick/personal days to get partially paid. Although you can imagine how many days left I had after 3 children in 5 years... When my MC was born, I sent Sly to daycare for three half-days. When Muffin was born, Sly was in kindergarten and I sent MC to daycare for three full days. I am thankful for an understanding husband and the ability to save money so I could have one-on-one time with my new babies.

What about when it's time to go back?
Two of my maternity leaves were at the very beginning of the school year. Let me tell you, that was HARD! Another teacher set up my classroom. Another teacher built my classroom community. And then here I come waltzing in 12 weeks later, and, "HEY KIDS! I'm your teacher. Now let's get to work!" I remember after my first maternity leave, I looked at a few of my students and had NO IDEA what their names were! That first week I got back, we did a lot of rules, routines, and expectations. Just like it was the beginning of the year. I moved at a faster pace, since it wasn't the beginning of the year and we had curriculum to cover. I did this even when I came back in January after my October baby. If you don't do this, you'll be dealing with behaviors for the rest of the year.

Are you a nursing mama? I was able to successfully pump at work with MC and Muffin. I pumped for 5 months with MC and 7 months with Muffin. I pumped 3 times a day on most days: 9:00 during my prep, 11:45 at lunch, 1:45 at afternoon recess. I let my principal know ahead of time of my plan to pump, and I was on the scheduling committee, so I could make sure I had consistent times every day to pump. I was also able to switch duties with my teammates so that I never had afternoon recess duty.

When I pumped, I only allowed myself to do it for 15 minutes. Some days it was 10 minutes if I was late getting started or needed to stop early. But my LC told me that any amount of time is better than no time :) By law, your place of work needs to give you time to pump, so if you don't have the schedule that I had, talk to your principal/supervisor.
My space was behind my desk.
I don't have a picture of what it actually looked like behind my desk, but let me tell you about it. Under my desk I had a mini fridge. I used a bathroom mat from IKEA to sit on to keep my bum from getting too cold on the tile floor. I originally bought the mats for my students to sit on during Read to Self, but I have five of them, so I felt OK permanently borrowing it from them! I had an outlet back there and kept my pump plugged in all day long. I also brought a Thirty-One thermal lunch tote back and forth every day to transport my milk and my pump parts. When it was time to pump, I pulled my rolling chair out of the way, unfolded and set up my mat, sat down on the floor and got down to business. I liked sitting on the floor. I could be more relaxed and comfortable on the floor.
I learned that little nugget from my LC. Such a time saver!!

I keep my door locked at all times, so when it was time to pump, I would shut off the lights and close the door. Sometimes I would put a sticky note on the handle of my door, OVER the lock, that said "Please don't come in." I only did that when the custodians were around. Don't need them walking in on that!! Make sure you put the note OVER the lock. I've heard of people putting the note on the door and still getting walked in on. If you put it over the lock, they have to move it in order to key in.

Honestly, I didn't mind if adults walked in on me. All of the teachers in my wing knew about my situation. I was well hidden behind my desk, so I would shout "Hello!" when the door opened, so they knew I was in there. I've also participated in quite a few team meetings while pumping! I never had a student walk in on me, but I have had them rattling the door knob and banging on the door. We had several chats about how it wasn't OK to do that. During inside recess, I would retreat to an empty classroom to pump.

Pumping at work definitely takes dedication. Some women can work while they're pumping. I can't. I found that I didn't make as much when I wasn't relaxed. I had to completely shut off my school brain to pump. Yes, it was hard to get back into school mode. And every night, I came home with a mountain of school work to do because I couldn't do it at work. Yes, many times I would get overwhelmed. But I just kept telling myself that I wasn't doing it for me; I was doing it for my baby. And it was only temporary. It also helped to have many supportive coworkers to remind me that I'm a mom first.

When I go back to work in September, I will not be pumping. #beenthere #donethat #SOoverit! My baby will be a year old, and my plan is to nurse in the morning and at night. But what can I do to make sure I DON'T come home with my school bag bursting at the seams?

I came up with this:
I need to make sure not one second of my prep time is wasted. So I made a schedule of what I am going do and when. This is actually for my schedule last year. I had a prep every day for at least 40 minutes. Every other Monday I had an additional 30 minute guidance prep. Every third Tuesday I had an additional 30 minute Spanish prep. On Thursdays, I had an 80 minute art prep. Every other Friday I had phy ed, which was 40 minutes, in addition to my 40 minute music prep. So those days were a little more loaded than other days.

Do I do all of these things every day? No. I know that things come up. Sometimes I have parents to call or additional meetings to attend. During grading periods, progress reports and report cards need to be completed. But it's a great guide to keep me focused so I'm not wasting 10 minutes of my prep figuring out what to do. Click HERE if you'd like a copy of my "Weekly To Do List." It is editable. You'll need these fonts: KG Skinny Latte, KG Be Still and Know, KG Miss Kindergarten, KG Lego House, KG Always a Good Time. If you use your own fonts, no worries, but some of the formatting will be off.

I love being a teacher. I love being a mom. It definitely is a balancing act to do both well. And having a cleaning lady helps too! What tips do you have for a working teacher mom?

Sunday, June 28, 2015


There have been so many AMAZING blogger meet ups happening over the past few months!  I've been having a serious case of FOMO as I've seen bloggers and TpTers connecting and sharing across the country. So, my friend, Jessica, from Mrs. Plemons' Kindergarten and I decided to host a Blogger Back to School Bash right in our own backyards so we can meet, connect, and collaborate with our Wisconsin blogging friends!
I know what you're thinking... BACK TO SCHOOL?! But we just got out!!!

Since the meet up will be happening in August, our Blogger Back to School Bash will be a great way to get excited about the upcoming school year. You'll also score some SWAG to take back to your classroom!

The plan is to meet up at The Delafield Brewhaus on Saturday, August 15th from noon-4:00.
The Delafield Brewhaus is conveniently located right off of I-94, about halfway between Milwaukee and Madison. We'll meet in the mezzanine to have lunch, give away awesome prizes, and chat and get to know each other in REAL LIFE! You'll also take home a sweet bag of SWAG to start the 2015-2016 off with a BANG! In addition, we are looking into going to a paint bar later in the evening for those who are interested.

To join us, please CLICK HERE!

Please note that you DO NOT have to be from Wisconsin to attend :) Please RSVP by August 1st so we can make sure we have enough goodies for everyone! Our space can only accommodate up to 40 guests, so make sure you sign up right away.

We can't WAIT to see you next month!

Thursday, June 18, 2015

TpT Challenge Week 1: Makeover Madness

I love this challenge put together by Sparkling in Second Grade, Peppy Zesty Teacherista, Teach Create Motivate, and Third in Hollywood! It's just the kick in the pants that I needed to get started on my mile-long To-Do list.

I've had my TpT store for about 2.5 years, and I'd like to think my creative juices have improved over that time. The first big product I made was in March of 2013. I was teaching main idea and determining importance in informational texts, and I was having a really hard time finding texts that were concise yet challenging enough for my second grade kiddos.

So Main Idea Mania was born!

This product is actually my best seller! The content is great, but the fonts, clip art, and graphics were little to be desired. So I gave it a face lift!
AHHH the old cover BURNS MY EYES!! Haha!
If you already own this, please, please, PLEASE redownload it! The content is maybe 90% the same (I did add a new passage about volcanoes and lava!), but with the addition of all the black & white pages, it went from 129 pages to 160 pages! Here's a peek as to what's inside:
---teaching posters for interesting details, important information, wh-questions, main idea, and supporting details
---5 circle maps and coordinating writing paper for each map
---8 nonfiction, single paragraph passages to practice determining Main Idea and Supporting Details
---4 nonfiction, multi-paragraph passages to provide more of a challenge for higher students
---8 graphic organizers to use with any text

Want a closer look? I put together this FREEBIE for you, my awesome friends!

GUESS WHAT?! It's 20% off in my store through tomorrow (Friday, June 19th)! I also may or may not be having a little giveaway over at my Facebook page as well :)

I hope you all love the new version as much as I do!

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