Monday, August 11, 2014

Diggin' Series HUGE Giveaway!

Well, I don't know about you all, but I love myself a good giveaway.  However, this one is a GREAT giveaway!  9 winners.  Awesome gifts.  Amazing Bloggers!  I've been so lucky to learn from all of these great bloggers this summer for everything from classroom management to structuring writer's workshop!  So enter away! 

Are you ready?

 We could hardly wait to end our Diggin’ Series with the BEST giveaway of the season!


Just in case you didn't hear these are our awesome prizes:






Come and join us, as  this is our way to THANK YOU for all your support and friendship! Click below to get started!


Sunday, August 3, 2014

Back to School Parent Resources, Currently, and the TpT Sale!!

School's starting soon!?  We start tomorrow.  I know, who starts students on a Monday?  Poor Kindergartners will be dragging by Wednesday.

One good thing?  It's time for TpT'S Back to School Sale! Click here to view all of the items in my store. 

Well, to help out, I've created a Parent/Volunteer Communication FREEBIE!  Check out how I set mine up.

1. Pick a binder...I wanted my fun Vera Bradley one I got a long time ago, although a front view would be nice for me to slide a cover into, but oh well!

2. Next, print, and 3 hole punch.  I have the Parent Volunteer Sign-Up Sheet out during Ice Cream Social and Meet the Teacher Night.  Then, I fill out the calendar based on their availability.

3. I use dividers with each student's name to make their own place in the binder. Once I pass out the info sheet (or fill it out myself), I put it in the binder.  This helps me keep track of my communication with parents.  Also, if you see the small black squares at the bottom, that's where I record contacting parents for GOOD things!  I want to make a better effort at that, so I thought if there was a spot for it, it would remind me.  

 4. Finally, one activity I have parents do is called The Story of My Child (included in the freebie!).  This is where parents tell me about their child both from an academic standpoint, but also outside of school.  I keep it in the binder so that I am always reminded of the ins and outs of the child.

Here are some other great Back to School Items you might want!  The first is EDITABLE!  It has a TON of different themed postcards for welcoming students to your class, praising them throughout the year, honoring perfect attendance, or just creating your own personalized note to give to students.  


*You decide if you want to mail them or give them to them based on the template you print on the back!*

And here are some resources I use often from the Office perspective, but are great for the classroom, too!

And now to the August Currently by the footloose and fancy free, Farley!  Yes, it's August 3rd, but Friday just was not going to happen!  We were back to school with staff already. :)  

I hope everyone has a terrific Sunday!  Gotta run...and stock up my TpT cart with some good buys!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

4Cs: How to Teach Collaboration

A series on the 4 Cs.

Creativity. Critical Thinking. Communication. Collaboration.  What do these mean in your classroom?  I put them in the shape of a puzzle because it's hard to complete the 21st Century vision without one of these pieces.

For our school, the 4Cs are a part of our district vision.  It's a part of us making our vision come to life in classrooms.  So our next step was asking ourselves how we not only make sure we include the 4 Cs for 21st Century learning in our planning and instruction, but ultimately how we are going teach our students to use them and transfer these skills.  Thus begins my series on the 4Cs and how you can bring them alive in your classroom!  I do not personally have the answers, but I hope that I can summarize what I've learned in other places, from other people, and from professional development.

This Week's Focus:
So I will start with Collaboration, a piece I feel is critical for the start of the school year.  We often incorporate team building components at the start of the school, but we don't intentionally teach students how to collaborate and work together.  We just have them do activities with the hope that it will happen.

As our school dives into PBL and providing our students with more opportunities for critical thinking, a huge piece of this is collaboration.  We have realized that our students are much better prepared for working with their peers when they are taught specific pieces of collaboration and then given opportunities to put them in action.

The #1 Resource I have come across is by Douglas Fisher and Nancy Frye (if you don't know Fisher and Frye, they are the Gradual Release Gurus!).  They write a tremendous article about mini lessons you can use to teach your students how to collaborate and cooperate in group settings.  They divide these lessons into 3 different categories of group work:
• Personal Responsibility
• Respectful Discourse
• Collaborative Problem Solving
 Do you not love these First 20 Days?  Seriously, Fisher and Frye nailed it again.  I strongly urge you to read the article (short and succinct, but rich with content!).  You will be so glad you did - especially before school starts!
This is another graphic they use in the article to get students to see what their contribution is during group work.  Again, just easy-to-use resources.  

 I'd love to hear what others do and use to teach collaboration within your classroom!

Gotta run!

*Credit to Krista Walden from Creative Clips for the puzzle graphic!

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!