Wednesday, July 23, 2014

How to Get Started with PBL (Project Based Learning): A Great Dive to Take!

PBL, GBL, IBL, XBL, etc. etc. etc.

There are a ton of acronyms out there for different types of learning formats within the classroom.  Project Based Learning, Problem Based Learning, Game Based Learning, Inquiry Based Learning, and now some are just using XBL to be all encompassing.

At our school, we are coining all of them under the IBL umbrella because our true desire is for these to drive inquiry for students.  With that being said, a major avenue for us to push this inquiry is through Project Based Learning (PBL).  In classrooms where PBL has been utilized, students are challenged to inquire about a topic, teachers state the essential need to knows for the unit, and there is a LOT of voice and choice.

When I came on board, PBL was just starting and I really didn't know much about it.  I had done some engineering units that are very similar, but they were basically planned for me.  So I had to go on a learning journey with PBL.  I'll share that today!

1. PBL in the Elementary Grades: This is a great resource to start with and to continue to come back to.

2. Build your own PBL team.  Even if this isn't a building or district initiative, get one or two other people (your whole grade would be even better) to jump on board with you.  Teamwork is really at the heart of a terrific PBL from the planning process through execution and reflection.  

3. Take FREE classes at These are simple, easy to use 1-week courses that will take maybe 2-3 hours of your time during that week, but they are extremely beneficial.  They are free through a grant and vary by topic.  I just finished one on How to Create a Driving Question.  Next week, I will begin one on how to group students effectively for the units. The image below shows you the different topics that have occurred over the past few weeks, and which one is available to sign up for. 

 4. has great resources.  The Buck Institute has rubrics, planning templates, webinars, articles, and much more to help you along the way.  You WILL want to bookmark this website to go back to.

5. As Nike would say, JUST DO IT!  The best way to learn and reflect is to dive in and get started.

I will share some PBL posters with you at a later date that outline different grade level's projects and how they outlined their project.  

Gotta run!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Wednesday Wonderful with ELs

Happy Hump Day! As some of you know I get the best of both worlds with my job.  I am a half time Assistant Principal and half time EL teacher.  What this means is that I get to keep teaching while being an administrator!  FYI...that's a dream for most administrators.  This summer I've been brushing up on some professional development and diving into a wonderful book of tools to help my ELs be more successful in the classroom. I thought I'd share what I've been learning.

250 and 1,950
Anyone know how these numbers are connected?  Well, it's the differential in time when an EL student is with an actual EL teacher versus how long they are with their classroom teacher.  Wow!  So what I have to say is:  Every teacher is a language teacher!  Or, we have to be a language teacher.  To think that some EL kiddos would only get language related services for 11% of their day seems crazy!

So, this is the reason why I want to share my learning.  We all need great strategies to use for our students in order to give them what they deserve each and every day.

This is a GREAT resource to get started.  It's a bit pricey (Maybe your school can order some with Title III funds?!), but definitely worth it!

There is an entire chapter dedicated to graphic organizers.  What I like about this chapter, though, is that it doesn't just list a bunch of graphic organizers, it categorizes them by need.  As I was thinking about this, I realized that I needed to be a bit more intentional about how I pick the graphic organizers I use for my EL kiddos. I ended up making this bookmark to put in my files and keep with my graphic organizer resources. 

QUESTION 1: What do you want your students to do with the content?
This is the SO IMPORTANT!
• These are the 6 different categories that Rojas uses to divide graphic organizers, and I just love them!  Sometimes I would go to my organizers and pick one that I knew my students already knew how to complete, was familiar, or quite frankly, would be easy and quick.  However, this doesn't help frame thinking for these students, organize their thoughts the best way, or build their content knowledge.  Looking at these 6 categories makes me think about what I really want students to know and understand.

QUESTION 2: Have you modeled this organizer before? 
• The students shouldn't be halted by not knowing how to fill out the organizer.  Make sure you have modeled the organizer before you send them off on their way.  This will ensure that students are talking about the content, not the organizer itself.

QUESTION 3: Will students do this independently, with a partner, or in small groups, and WHY?
• I think this is key to an organizer, and I think this decision comes down to what part of the learning process they are in.  If students are trying to learn new content or evaluate a text, partners or small groups might be best so they can learn from each other and bounce ideas off one another.  If you're using it for a prewriting activity or an assessment, it might be best if done individually.

QUESTION 4: Will all students be expected to use the same organizer or will you differentiate for some students?
• Graphic organizers are a great way to differentiate for students.  Maybe your SpEd or EL students will show their learning in a different - perhaps through a graphic organizer.  You'll want to keep the expected content the same, but maybe the way they show it is different.

QUESTION 5: How will you or the students use the information on the organizer?
• You'll want to clarify for students if this is for them to build understanding, show understanding, or assess understanding.

Sorry for all of the text today, but I just wanted to explain why I included these questions for consideration on this bookmark.  Pick up this Freebie in my TpT store, and share with your colleagues.  Remember, every teacher is a language teacher!

Also, a blogger friend is turning 30 and having a big Birthday Bash!  Head over TODAY for her last day to enter her giveaways.  You could win up to $80 in TpT products from different sellers or $100 from Whimsy Clips! She has a bunch of different giveaways from each day this week that end tonight! Head over to enter!

Gotta run, well walk!  (I can't wait until the babe's 4th month appt. to get the approval to run with him!)


Monday, June 30, 2014

Two for Tuesday, July Currently, and USA World Cup Game!

Wow!  This is a HUGE Day!

1. It's my mom's birthday - woot woot!  Go Mom, go!  She is absolutely the best around.  I had to give her a shout out on here.

2. USA World Cup Knock Out Round!  I grew up playing soccer and played in college, so I am loving all of the new bandwagon fans.  No, really, I think it's great that the USMNT (U.S. Men's National Team for those who don't know) is getting all of this exposure.  I Believe That We Will Win...Today!

3. It's Two for Tuesday...which means 2 of my products are 50% off today only!  So here they are:

My (UPDATED) Poetry Unit
It's been updated, revised, remodeled, whatever you want to call it!  It was one of the first units I ever made, and it need an overhaul.  65 pages that cover 7 different poems, writing templates, graphic organizers and guides, classroom posters, and publishing pages for their own Poetry Journal.  It's on sale for just $2.50 today only!

Addition with Regrouping Game
This is my best-selling game, and it's 50% off too!  Just 75 cents today!

Head over to The Teaching Tribune for more great deals!!

4. Oh, and did someone say that it's the first of the month?  That's right!  July Currently with Farley, Farley, Farley!  Happy July everyone! (This means I go back to work in 14 days - yuck!)

5. And it's time to prep for the big game this afternoon!  By that I mean, keep calm and get my red, white, and blue on.  Go USA!


Friday, June 27, 2014

Five for Friday!

It's Friday!  That favorite day of the week...except during the summer! :) I've been up to a lot of different things this week!  

 Hop over to Doodle Bugs and see what everyone else is up to!

First...USA is going through to the knock out round!  Way to go USMNT!  This little guy was dreaming during the game today...

He's saving all of his energy for the next game on July 1!

Okay, this next piece is a bit embarrassing, but I'm so glad I'm FINALLY getting around to it!  So one of the very first things I ever made and put on TpT was my Poetry Unit.  It is still a pretty good seller, but it's needed a facelift and update for a loooooooong (imagine the same voice as gooooooooal) time!  So, this week, I finally got to it!  
This is a picture of my computer screen.  The image on the left is my original.  I'm still working on my cover (tooooo wordy right now), but the facelift is coming along.  I'll be excited to get it finished and send the memo to all my previous buyers! I love when I get surprises that there have been updates/additions to products I've already purchased!

I went into work for a wee bit this week.  One of my goals was to finally organize my files.  My ultimate goal is to color code all of them for different categories (RtI, Discipline, Human Resources, etc.), but I didn't have enough colored file folders at the time.  
They are now alphabetized, and cleaned out.  I forgot to take a picture of ALL the papers I put through the shredder and in the recycling bin, but it was A LOT!  It will be so nice to open my drawers to organized files that I can actually find.
Anyone dream of eating out and cooking gourmet meals during the summer?  I realized that over the summer I usually just eat the same thing, but I get to throw my turkey sandwich on the George Foreman. :)
Oh, and I can still be in my pajamas and watching TV!

And finally, while at school I saw this little family of ducklings (there are 5 little guys).  The sad part is that they are currently living in our courtyard which does not have an exit (it's enclosed by classrooms). We are trying to figure out a way to corral them out of the courtyard, through our building, and out to safety without making Mama Duck too upset.  Any ideas?!

Alrighty, well I'm off to a WIDA conference all day today.  Indiana just adopted them, so I need to do some catch up!  I'm hoping they are a positive change for us.

Gotta run!


Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Two for Tuesday: Math Games!

I'm teaming up with over 40 other bloggers (at the time I'm writing this) to offer you 2 products at 50% off!  Stock up now to print and use at the start of the year. :)

Both of my products this week are just 75 cents today!  The first is this math game that covers CCS 1.OA.A.1 - Addition to 20!  Remember, its' just $0.75.

The second one is all about Telling Time (to 5 minutes)  Again, this one is only $0.75 too!  

Pin them now.  Buy them later. Have your new parent volunteers laminate, cut, and prepare!  

Alrighty, I gotta run!  I'll be back later this week about Project Based Learning!


Monday, June 23, 2014

Monday Meet Up

Happy Monday!  I'm linking up with The Teaching Tribune to share a few random facts about myself today.  Hop over to learn about some of your other favorite bloggers!

Anyone else love 4-H, have a large family, or in administration?  Don't forget to come back tomorrow to see which 2 products will be 50% off!  Hint will only be 75 cents!!

Gotta run!


Friday, June 20, 2014

Five for Friday

It's Friday!  Now usually I'm pretty excited about Fridays, but during the summer, sometimes it makes me think about how few Fridays I actually have left...and for, it's only 3 after this (YIKES)!  Here's what I've been up to this week!

Father's Day!  This was the first Father's Day for my wonderful husband.  I often tell people that I've never loved him more than when I watch him with our little boy.  To be truly honest, there is nothing, NOTHING, that I could get him that would come close to how much he means to our little man and me.  So aside from a cheesy frame with a picture, I wanted to do something meaningful.  So...I went to my good friend iMovie.  Well, actually, I've never made an iMovie, but what better way to learn!  

It's only been 3 months, but we have TONS of pictures of the little man.  So, I put together some of our favorites, some that were taken during meaningful times, some that he didn't know I had taken, along with some videos, and put them all to music with text of what little man has learned from his daddy during his short life.  Things like he can trust him, he knows he'll be there for him.  I was really excited to watch it with him on Father's Day morning, and although I wanted to take a picture of the moment, it would have ruined it.  Happy Father's Day, babe.  You deserve it!  

And now, a little less sappy! Well, I'm finally sitting down to truly dive into this book.  I've taken notes in it, skimmed it, and used pieces of it, but I feel like I need to read it front to back and soak it all in.  
Have any of you explored this book?  Thoughts?

PBL Conference!  On Wednesday and Thursday I attended a 2-day conference all about PBL.  It was terrific, and about 10 teachers from my building went too.  It was a great planning time for them.  Teachers were encouraged to pick 1, yes, just 1 standard, and then develop a PBL unit around that 1 standard.  I will continue to share out more, but here are a couple of the brief outlines for their units  (again, I said brief!)

After teams of teachers started working through their units, we then went through the THINK TANK process with a larger group of 10-15 teachers and a facilitator.  This was the process we used to go through their units.  It is a FANTASTIC process, and the teachers were able to gather a lot of new ideas to make even more meaningful connections and understandings for their students.  This protocol, and a lot of other PBL resources, can be found at  

We hired a new superintendent this week!  We really loved our superintendent, who is retiring (and deserves every minute of her relaxing retirement!), so a new person in charge can definitely be a bit scary.  Although she comes with great references and everyone has terrific things to say, the unknown can be a bit nerve wracking.  So I will remember this...

And finally, the rain has stopped!  We have flash flood warnings around here, but I can finally go out with the baby for a walk now that the sun is out.  Peace out, friends!  Have a wonderful weekend.

Gotta run!