Monday, February 23, 2015

Instagram: A Cautionary Tale

If you follow me on Instagram, you know that *something* happened to me earlier this year. I haven't really gone into much detail about what happened, but now I'm ready to share my story.
I love Instagram.

Like L.O.V.E Instagram!

Instagram is my all-time favorite way to connect with my friends in the teaching community. I'm a very visual person, and since I have the attention span of a fruit fly, short photos and captions really pack a punch for me. It's also super easy for me to post and interact with my friends, and it doesn't require a ton of effort on my part to compose a post or thought.

I keep my Instagram account public. Since my ultimate goal is to use the account to promote my teaching, blog, and TpT store, I want people to follow me. I feel like private accounts don't encourage people to follow them. I know that when I happen on a private account, I'm less inclined to request to follow.

I decided early on that I didn't want my Instagram account to be a big sales pitch. I find accounts with that are filled with product photos to be annoying. I want it to include a variety of photos: classroom, blog, TpT products, educational/inspirational quotes, and the occasional funny. I also want my followers to know that I'm a real person with a real family. I love looking at photos of families and the personal events of the people I follow, and I think my followers feel the same way about me.

The problem with a public account is that I'm a very private person. I don't mind spilling my guts about me on the world wide web, but I value my students'  privacy and my own family's privacy This is why you'll never see my students' faces or names on anything I post, nor my husband's or children's names. I call my husband "the hubs," my son "Sly," my oldest daughter "E" or recently I've starting referring to her as "MC" (stands for Middle Child), and the baby doesn't have a nickname yet, although I do call her "Muffin" at home. I've posted photos of my family on Instagram because, let's face it, they're pretty dang cute.

On November 16,  2014, we got our first snow of the season in Wisconsin. I took my girls outside to play in the snow and posted several pictures on Instagram. Here was one of them.
I continued sharing, commenting, and interacting with friends on Instagram, completely oblivious to what was happening without my knowledge…

Then on January 5, 2015, someone left me a random comment on one of my old photos.

At first I didn't even notice it. I saw that someone commented, but I didn't really read it or comprehend what it said.

But a few hours later, for whatever reason, I read it again.
Ummmm… I'm sorry. WHAT?!

I looked up the person who allegedly stole my photo, and found the account was private. I attempted to follow to find out if it was true, but my request was denied. I'm assuming I was blocked because when I tried to search for the account later on, it wasn't coming up on my searches on my phone.

I reached out to a bloggy mommy group that I'm a part of, and they were AMAZING!! Several of them requested to follow the account, and they were almost immediately accepted. Much to my horror, they told me it was true. My sweet girl's photo was on this account. This person STOLE a photo of MY BABY and pretended she was "hers."
NO. She's not your miracle. She is MY miracle!
Violated, sick to my stomach, and straight-up PISSED OFF doesn't even begin to describe how I was feeling. I immediately reported the account and blocked the user, but it just didn't feel like it was enough. One of my sweet bloggy friends commented on the photo to try to stand up for me, but my friend's comment was immediately deleted, and she was booted from the account.

There had to be something else I could do. I want MY PHOTO removed from this account IMMEDIATELY!!! I went to Instagram's website on my computer and after doing much digging, I found a way I could file an official complaint. Let's just say they don't make it easy to report someone…. which I suppose makes sense, or else you'd have people reporting others for the smallest, most insignificant things. But this was NOT a small deal. This was a BIG DEAL. I had to send in a photo of my driver's license to prove I was a real person, as well as numerous screen shots of my account, and screen shots I'd received from friends of the thief's account. After submitting three extensive complaints and waiting one long, agonizing week, my photo was finally removed from the thief's account. Yes, I did receive visual confirmation from my friends who were following the account on my behalf.

In a rush of emotions, I deleted all of the photos of my children and family from my blog/TpT Instagram account that first night I found out. I took a lovely walk down memory lane, deleting over 200 photos from my blog/TpT account. Thankfully, I was smart enough to never include my children's names or any other identifying information, so I don't think I need to worry about identity theft or anything like that. I had a personal, private account that I rarely used, so I decided to start using that account again to share my family photos. Although, as people who follow my blog account were requesting to follow my personal account, I ended up not accepting most of them. I was feeling jaded and scared.

WHY ME?! I've always been a responsible user of the Internet and social media. Heck, I think I even go a lot further than many others to protect the privacy of my students and my own family. How did this thief find me? And how did the person who alerted me to the situation find me??? I decided to reach out to her. For ease of telling this story, let's call her Mary.

I sent Mary a DM, thanking her for searching me out to tell me my photo was stolen. Mary wrote back, saying that she had been following this person for a while because she was touched by her story. But then the details weren't adding up…. the pregnancy photos were a little off. When the baby was born, the baby looked different in every photo. She decided to look into it, by searching the hashtags of the photos on the thief's account. Apparently, this thief uses the same hashtags as the original photos. Mary would search through the hashtagged photos to find the original, and alert them that their photos were stolen. These photos were of both boys and girls, bald babies and babies with lots of hair, babies of any age… It's sickening really. How pathetic is your life that you need to STEAL photos of OTHER PEOPLE'S CHILDREN and pretend the baby is yours? Clearly this person is in serious need of professional therapy. Or a job. Or both.

After going a few weeks without posting any photos of my family, I was so sad. I wasn't being me anymore. How could one person literally steal my joy? I decided I wasn't going to be a victim anymore.  I have a few measures in place, so that hopefully this doesn't happen to me again.

My Advice to Those of You with Public Instagram Accounts

  1. Don't share your kids' names. I know it's fun to create a hashtag with your kid's name, but your child's privacy and safety is worth a million times more than a fun hashtag. We tell our students to keep their information private. Please do the same for your children. When my children turn 18, they can decide what they want their digital footprint to look like.
  2. Don't hashtag your kids' photos AT ALL. That's how I was found. From now on, my personal photos will include a caption from me, and that's it. NO HASHTAGS. And if someone comments on the photo with a hashtag, I delete the comment.
  3. If it's a particularly cute photo, or maybe it has a professional feel, watermark it. I use the app A Beautiful Mess to put my blog name on the photo. Is it distracting? Yes. But again, my children's privacy is more important, and I feel my followers will understand.
So what of the thief's account? Apparently, this would be "her" second account; "she" had already been shut down once before. Sadly, I just can't "drop it and move on." I still have "her" account up on my phone, even though I can't see anything. I'm just waiting for the day that I refresh the page and discover that the account has been shut down. I'm hoping that Mary and others will continue to alert the true owners of the photos on the thief's page, so that the account continues to be reported, blocked, and complaints are filed.

Thank you for reading this post. I know it was long, but I just needed to get it all out there, in hopes to protect you, my friends, and prevent something like this from happening to you.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Interactive Notebooks: Getting Started

 Hi friends! This is the third post of my Interactive Notebook series. Now that we know about my background with INs and have defined what interactive notebooks are, let's get started with using them in the classroom!

The first thing you need to do is figure out what you want your students to learn. 

OK, so I know that kind of sounds like a no-brainer, but establishing your goal(s)/objective(s) for the lesson or unit gives you a clear and focused direction in where you want to go.

I use the EveryDay Math program for teaching math, and I cringe every time I get to my fraction unit. So I've decided to make an IN unit for teaching my students about fractions. I'm going to walk you through my process of establishing my unit objectives.

STEP 1: What does the CCSS standard (or if you're not CCSS, your state or district standard) say your students need to be able to do?

When I read this standard, I'm seeing 3 lesson objectives:

  • Partition circles & rectangles into two, three, or four equal parts and use math words to describe the parts.
  • Describe a whole as two halves, three thirds, or four fourths
  • Recognize that equal parts of identical wholes need not have the same shape.

STEP 2: Look at the your end-of-unit test and see what students will be expected to do.
Some may call this "teaching to the test," but I don't really see it that way. It's unfair to expect a student to take a test on something that they weren't exposed to, and I need to make sure I provide opportunities for my students to practice the skills and concepts they will be assessed on.

Here's the assessment I need to use:
When I look at my assessment, I notice my students will have to know/understand the following:

  • Represent fractions as equal parts of a region
  • Represent fractions as equal parts of a collection
  • Compare fractions
  • Solve word problems involving fractions 

STEP 3: Read through lesson(s) you already have, establish their goals/objectives, and decide which ones you'll use, toss, and identify gaps.
I'm not going to bore you with all of the nitty gritty details of my EveryDay Math teacher's manual.  The big thing I noticed is that this unit is seriously lacking in explicit teaching of the CCSS, so I'll have to make sure I beef that up a bit.

STEP 4: Put your goals/objectives in an order that makes sense.
The first thing I make when I'm planning a unit is a Goals/Table of Contents page for my kids to glue in their notebook.
It includes a spot for my student to record the page number, a before learning self-assessment score, and an after learning self-assessment score. Since there are eight goals, this unit will have eight lessons.

Now that I know what I'm teaching, the next step is to figure out how I'm going to teach the lessons. But that's for the next two posts :)

Saturday, February 7, 2015

What Are Interactive Notebooks?

Welcome back! This is the second post of my blog series: The INs and Outs of Interactive Notebooks (pun intended). In this post, I'm going to explain my thoughts on what interactive notebooks are.
An interactive notebook is a place where students can take information supplied from the teacher and merge it with their own thinking. Interactive notebooks differ from traditional note taking, in that they allow students to stop and interact with the new information and receive feedback from the teacher and classmates about their understanding of the new information, instead of just copying down notes from a book or the board and having no clue what they're writing.

Interactive notebooks are divided into two parts:

I call this the Information Side or the Learning Side. This side is teacher directed. It includes the new information the students are learning for the lesson. It can include class notes, notes from a reading or class discussion, handouts, graphic organizers, or visuals (diagrams, charts, graphs, etc.).

I call this the Thinking Side. This side is student directed. It allows the students to take the new information from the input side and apply it in their own way to demonstrate understanding of the new content. This is where the word "interactive" comes into play. Students use thinking strategies to "interact" with the new information. Some activities include: graphic organizers, foldables/flip-flap activities, problem solving, written reflections or opinions, or illustrations.

Here's an example of what my notebooks look like:
Science Interactive Notebook
I like to set up my notebooks with the input (information) side on the right and the output (student thinking) side on the left. I like the visual reminder that students are stopping to back up and think about the new learning.

Some people like the notebooks to work left-to-right, so the input (information) side is on the left and the output (student thinking) side is on the right. The middle school teachers in my district actually don't have a left side/right side. They like to merge the two together. So their kids take notes on both sides of the paper, and when they do the output (student thinking) activities, they draw a box around it. It works for upper grades, as they can't always contain their lesson notes to one page. In my second grade class, I plan my lessons so that I will only need one input page and one output page per lesson. But more on lesson planning in later posts :)

I think there's a common misconception out there that interactive notebooks are simply flip-flap books or foldables glued into a notebook. This couldn't be further from the truth.
Taking notes and summarizing new information is a proven thinking strategy that helps to increase student achievement and retain new information (Classroom Instruction that Works; Marzano, Pickering, & Pollock). When you allow students to take that new information and apply it in their own way, it "cements" the learning in their brains. So do some notebook pages have foldables or lift-the-flap tabs? Yes they do. But they're not the only teaching tools I use to encourage my students to interact with the new content.
I hear a lot of people say, "I just don't have the time to do interactive notebooks in my class. There's too much cutting and gluing."

Guess what?

You don't need to cut and glue a million tiny pieces to effectively use interactive notebooks in your classroom! Flip-flap activities are fun, but let's be honest. If you can achieve the same effect with a worksheet, then why not shrink down the worksheet, trim it, and glue it into the notebook? Example: Math. We just don't have the time for our students to cut out 12 flip-flap practice problems, glue them in their notebooks, and then solve them by writing the answer underneath the flap. In this case, there's nothing wrong with a good old-fashioned worksheet for students to complete to apply the new skill they've learned.
Math Interactive Notbeook. This activity is in my Geometry IN product
Guess what else?

You don't need even need glue and scissors to use interactive notebooks in your class! Observe:
I'm sorry this pic is so blurry...
In the above example, we were learning about two reading comprehension strategies: Check for Understanding and Backing up to Reread. We defined the strategies on the right (input) and the student drew pictures on the left (output) to help them remember what each strategy meant. There is a writing prompt cut and glued at the bottom of the Thinking Side that says, "I back up and reread when….." That sentence starter could have easily been written by the student at the bottom of the page.

So what do you think? Have I convinced you to give interactive notebooks a try?

Stay tuned, because in my next post, I'm going to explain how to start planning for your first interactive notebook lesson or unit!
Did you miss the previous posts?

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

The INs and Outs: Interactive Notebooks {A Blog Series}

I'm really excited to bring this new blog series to you throughout the month of February:
I've been seeing a lot of posts on blogs and social media, as well as products on Teachers Pay Teachers, and I thought to myself, "Why not throw my opinion out there too?" I've hinted on this blog and on Instagram that we are notebookers in my class, but I really haven't shared my perspective. Until now :) 

I actually started this blog 2.5 years ago to document my journey, successes, and failures with interactive notebooks, but then I ended up posting a bunch of random thoughts about my classroom, teaching, and life in general. So I'm thinking it's time to get back to my roots!

Here's a brief history of my experience with interactive notebooks (INs). In the summer of 2012 I went to a 2 day training with Jane Pollock (co-author of Classroom Instruction that Works, and author of Improving Student Learning One Teacher at a Time, and her book that has most of her information on INs is Minding the Achievement Gap One Classroom at a Time) on how to implement INs. At that time, I was the only K-2 teacher at my school (and perhaps the only one in my district, but I can't remember now) who was on this pilot committee. During the 2012-2013 school year, I used INs in science. One of my teammates was also interested in INs, so we developed lessons & units together and saw AWESOME engagement! We alternate between science and social studies, and I remember how unenthusiastic my students were when we would switch to social studies. That year, I met with the pilot group once a month to share successes and failures, as well as three times that year one-on-one with Janie. Towards the end of the year, my third teammate saw all the amazing things our second graders were learning with the notebooks, she decided to jump on board with us. That summer, I attended another 1 day training with Janie on using INs in the primary classroom.

The following year in 2013-2014, my two teammates and I were so completely sold on INs that we jumped in the deep end of the pool! We used INs in reading, writing, phonics, science, and social studies that year. I also used one in math, while the other two chose not to. Since my district uses a math series (EveryDay Math), I found it to be harder to use an IN in math because we also have student workbooks.

This year (2014-2015), I am continuing to use INs in all subject, but this year, I'm tweaking them to including more engaging application activities for my lessons, specifically in phonics. You may have seen my phonics interactive notebook products in my TpT store. Additionally, I am also writing my Professional Development Plan for my Wisconsin Teaching Licensure on using INs in the classroom, which I will be submitting at the end of this school year.

So, in my opinion, I think I know what I'm talking about :) Am I an Interactive Notebook Queen? Not by a long shot! I still have plenty to learn, and I certainly don't want to come across as a know-it-all snob. My goal is to show you that everyone can create and implement interactive notebooks lessons and units.

So now that you know a little about my background and history with interactive notebooks, here's my plan. For the month of February, I will be sharing 7 additional posts to show how I plan and teach with interactive notebooks. Here's the line up:
PSSST! You're reading the first post in this series right now! :)
I'm not going to set specific dates for each post (in order to retain as much of my sanity as possible!), but I'll be sure to let you know on Facebook and Instagram when a new post goes live.

Do you have anything you've been wondering about interactive notebooks? Leave me a comment, and I'll incorporate your questions into my future posts!

Saturday, January 31, 2015

WW: Valentine's Day Homework for Parents

Hey everyone! This month, the Weekend Warriors are bringing you some super sweet Valentine's Day ideas!
Every year around this time, I give my students' grown ups homework. The kids are SO excited to take the homework home for someone else :)

Their assignment? Make their kiddo a valentine. I love how this project brings home to school. I give them a giant heart cut out of tagboard, and the rest is up to them. I encourage them to decorate, write messages, use pictures, etc. The grown ups always rise to the occasion!

I don't have many examples to share because mine are due back next week, but here are a few of the ones that came back early. I've covered up the kids' photos, so trust me, they're so much cuter in person!!

This was a first for me: this family used magazine clippings! Very cool, just like their child :)

You should see the smiles my students have when they see their hearts! I hang them up above each student's coat hook in the hallway. They're such a happy reminder of the kids and families we teachers are entrusted with every day. I'll update this post next week once I get them all back and hang them up :)

I've had quite a few students and parents tell me that they still have the heart years after they've left second grade. This is truly a homework "assignment" that everyone LOVES!

Want to see some more LOVELY ideas? Check out these ladies' blogs below!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Organizing Your Classroom Library

I'm so excited to be hoppin' along with my Primary Powers gals for this super fun Organization blog hop.
I will be the first to admit, organization is NOT the name of my game. Observe…
OMG. Did I really just admit to this on the world wide web? Classic case of "Do as I say, not as I do" for my students.

Anyhoo, I do my best to keep all my students' supplies organized. One area that is a MUST for organization is my classroom library. I have 3 areas of books in my classroom for my students.

I have two display shelves that I switch out monthly. One of the shelves I use for seasonal books, and the other one has books related to the science or social studies topic we are learning about. I also put our class books here.
The shelves are looking a little bare because my kiddos have scooped up the books and put them in their book boxes :)
We use F&P levels at my school, so on the counter by my windows, I have a bin for each reading level in my classroom.
While my kids all know their independent reading levels, I don't what them to solely rely on their level when choosing books to read. Therefore, most of my books are organized by either genre, series or author.
The smaller black shelf has all of my chapter books on it. These bins I scored from Walmart several years ago, and they're perfect for chapter books!

I have two taller bookshelves that hold my magazines, fiction, and nonfiction books.
So how do I keep all these books in the right bins? I thought that my students would just know that a Magic Treehouse book went in the Magic Treehouse bin, but I was finding books all over the place! So last year I overhauled my entire library and numbered every. single. book. All I can say is THANK GOODNESS for AMAZING parent volunteers!! On the label of each bin there is a number, and I put a rummage sale dot sticker on each book to match the bin. So if someone finds a #14 book laying around, they know to put it in the #14 bin. Problem solved!

I'm guessing I'm in the extreme minority with a hippo themed room, so I've made my classroom library labels a little more generic as a freebie. It's an editable document, so all you'll have to do is type in what you want each of your bins to be called. The labels fit perfectly in the Really Good Stuff label holders, if you have them. For my bins that don't have these label holders, I just covered the entire label with clear packaging tape.

That's all for now! Hop on over to see Deirdre at A Burst of First for your next classroom organization tip!

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

One Little Word for 2015

I'm excited to join forces with the Primary Powers' super girls to share my New Year's Resolution. One Word for 2015. Are you ready?
Aside from being Super Mom and Super Teacher, I have a lot of things I want to do: blog, create products, start an Etsy store… except there aren't 57 hours in a day. I can't do it all. So what's most important?

My family.
I posted something on Instagram earlier this week: accept that "good enough" is really good enough. I was surprised and encouraged by the amount of positive feedback I got. Let's be real for a second: we all work our you-know-whats off. I'm not going to bring 4 hours worth of work home every night anymore, and I'm not going to beat myself up for not doing so. I will work as hard as I can when I'm at work, and then I will come home to be with my family.
I don't want my kids to look back at their childhood and remember their mom behind a computer screen.

So, friends, you might not see a whole lot of me on this blog in 2015 (I do post frequently to Instagram though). It's not because I don't want to be here. In fact, I have a list a mile long of blog posts I want to write. I just want to be present with my family more. They're only little for so long. And I'm going to soak up every second.


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