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!

Friday, May 8, 2015

Interactive Notebooks: IN Wrap Up

Here we are, at the last post of my Interactive Notebook series.
Thanks for your patience in these last few months, as I've worked through, wrote, and rewrote these posts to be as clear and concise as I could be. I hope that you've had a few "aha" moments throughout this series, and that you've taken away some ideas to use your classroom.

Here are some take aways I'm hoping you've discovered:
Our ultimate goal is to teach students to be independent notetakers and thinkers. Will they be able to do this at the primary level? Most likely not. I'm talking middle school, high school, and even college level. Let's start them young!

The purpose of an interactive notebook is for students to interact with the CONTENT at a high level. Foldables and lift-the-flap tabs are one way you can interact with the new information being taught, but it's not the only way.

The notebook should be a reference tool (input) as well as a place for students to demonstrate their understanding of the new information (output). We are teaching our kids how to take notes from a variety of sources and then apply their learning in a way that makes sense for them to help the new information "stick." This is true engagement!!

You can make your own interactive notebook lessons! Even if you claim to not be tech savvy! You don't even need to create anything. Take a look at this mammals lesson my kiddos did the other day:
Our objective was to learn the characteristics of mammals. First they wrote a few mammals they knew on the Thinking Side. Then, with a partner, they read some pages in our textbook. Next, we worked together to make the list of characteristics on the Learning Side. Then, we watched a video about mammals. While the video was playing, they wrote down the important information from the video. And yes, everyone did this without my prompting. My kids were even asking me to stop the video so they could write down the important vocabulary words. They shared their notes with their neighbor and added more mammals to their "Mammals I Know" lists. Finally, students chose one mammal from the video and wrote at least two reasons why they knew that animal was a mammal.

Could I have created some cutesy foldable? Sure, absolutely! Would it have been necessary? HECK NO!

OK, so I want to try interactive notebooks in my classroom. Where do I start???
My suggestion is to start small. As enthusiastic as you might be about starting to use interactive notebooks, they can get super overwhelming if you don't have a plan. I want you to stick with it for the long haul! When I started using INs in 2012, I chose one subject: science. I picked science because I only have 5 units. I also alternate teaching science and social studies, so when I wasn't teaching science, I had time to plan and prepare for my next unit. If you're thinking math, maybe choose a unit or two to try out the notebooks. Don't pressure yourself into feeling like you need to be using notebooks all day, every day. Once you get the hang of it, then add more units/subjects. I went from just science that first year to using INs in 5 subjects the following year, and I wasn't overwhelmed in the least.

Do you have interactive notebook products in your TpT store?
Yes I do! :) You can find them here! I have a year's worth of phonics INs and a few math units. Currently, my science and social studies units are not for sale, as most of them were created with my teaching teammates during school hours. I have received a few requests for science/social studies units, and I so have them on my "to do" list. A few of you also showed interest in my phases of the moon wheel from a previous post... click HERE to grab it for free :)
Please know that I personally don't use every single component that's in each unit in my classroom. I want my students to write as much as possible, in order for them to have ownership of their notes/notebooks. However, as a TpT seller, I want my units to be "the complete, whole package," so people who've bought my units aren't guessing what my intentions were when I was creating each unit. My interactive notebook units are set up with the Learning Side and the Thinking Side that I've referred through during the entire series. You will NOT find a bazillion little foldables and lift-the-flap tabs in my units.

You've probably seen many other sellers with IN products in their stores. My suggestion is to decide what your learning objectives for your lessons/units are, and then see if those products are a good fit for you. I've noticed that many IN products for sale don't include the Input/Learning Side, so you might have to add that part yourself. Again, remember that the ultimate goal is for our students to learn HOW to take notes and how to interact the new information at a high level to make it their own.

READ: Not just cutesy cut-and-paste projects.

Thank you for coming along on this journey with me! I hope that my interactive notebooks series has inspired you to give them a try in your classroom. Interactive notebooks are a powerful tool in increasing student engagement and accountability in your classroom. As you're working to develop your own lessons and units, if you have a questions, please get in touch with me! I'm happy to help you along the way as you discover the potential of these amazing tools!
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Friday, April 17, 2015

Interactive Notebooks: Why I Don't Grade My Notebooks

Hi everyone! In today's interactive notebook post, we're going to talk about grading the notebooks. Or for me, the lack thereof...
In the traditional sense, I don't grade my notebooks. I don't think it's right to assign students an academic grade for formatting the notebook, cutting on the lines, or coloring/writing neatly. In my district, we score to the standards. If the goal of my lesson is for students to identify characteristics of mammals, then that's what I'm looking for when I'm assessing my students' notebooks.

We are BIG on formative assessments in my district. As my students are working, I'm walking around my classroom and checking out the thinking side of the notebooks. I keep a checklist of the standards we're working on, and I score my students on a 3, 2, 1 scale; the same scale they use to self-assess themselves before and after the lesson. Actually, I don't record the 3s; just the 2s and the 1s, so I know who needs extra practice or reteaching. If the box is blank on my checklist, I know that they've earned a 3.

At the end of a unit, I have multiple formative grades, both from the notebook and from other sources. We take a summative assessment, usually in the form of a test. After the tests are graded, I look at the scores. Anything 80% and above is a 3. If a student's score is below 80%, then I look at the formative scores throughout the grading period and use a trend grading approach. If I notice that the student has mostly 3s, then I would give the student the benefit of the doubt and give a 3 as the final grade for the standard. We all have bad days every now and then, right? If I'm seeing lots of 2s and 1s, along with a low score on the summative assessment, then I give 2 or a 1 for that standard. Students who get 2s and 1s as final score rarely come as a surprise to me due to my formative assessments.

So if I'm not grading my students on neatness, how can I ensure my students put forth their best effort when working in their notebooks? It's simple. My kids need their notebooks. I let my students take their notebooks home a few days before the test to study. If they don't write neatly or have all of the information in their notebooks, then they can't prepare for the test. I do send a note home to families outlining what will be on the test (don't forget, we are second graders after all!), so they have some guidance from me, but the rest is on my students.

I also let my kids use their notebooks when they take tests.


Yes, it's true. My kids can use their notebooks on the test. So there's even more motivation to make sure their notebooks are in tip-top shape.

Here are a few photos of my kids using their notebooks on the test:
Do you see what I see? Yep, they're not even using the notebooks! Why not??? Because they don't need them! Through the learning and application activities, my students have a strong grasp of the skills and standards we've learned. I have seen a few kids paging through their notebooks to confirm their answers, but for the most part, the notebooks don't even get opened.

"Isn't that cheating?" you ask.

I don't think so. My kids worked hard to learn and apply the new information. Why not get rid of that added stress and pressure of taking a test? After all, they are second graders :) And honestly, since I've been formatively assessing my students every step of the way, I already know who's mastered the standards and who hasn't before I even pass out the test.

So what do you think? Let me know in the comments section!
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