Tuesday, March 24, 2015

DK Findout!

AMAZING! I found a new resources that I am loving in my classroom!  I was looking for a way to extend out reading and science work on the topic of plants and wanted to use our classroom computers more often.  In my search, I found this AMAZING website!  DK Publishers has created an interactive website that includes SO MANY topics in the elementary curriculum.  The quality and choice is as incredible as it is with the books put out by this publisher!

Image result for DK findout

It looks like you can sign up for the site, but my class was able to navigate it without signing in.  There is a search page – just like an online encyclopedia.

Image result for DK findout

My class explored plants, but this is an image from the solar system page. Image result for DK findout

Almost everything is a clickable link.  Students can access definitions to vocabulary, read, access maps and diagrams, and so much more!  I have just started to explore this site, but it seems like it addresses so many of the CCSS that address technology use in ELA.  It would have great to access on a digital whiteboard!

Check out this amazing resource!

***This post is in no-way sponsored by or affiliated with the company/companies mentioned***

Monday, March 23, 2015

Money Saving Monday–Professional Development

If you are like me, you are a professional development addict!  I love to learn new things – especially when they are taught by other professionals practicing in the field.  Plus, at least where I am, professional development counts in your professional review.  Unfortunately, if your district does not offer staff development opportunities or you are looking for something beyond what your school does, you are going to pay big bucks for it. 

I have found 2 really good sources for free professional development resources.  The first is for professional reading. Stenhouse Publishers offers free previews of new texts that are being published.  This is a fantastic way to preview a professional resources, get some great ideas, and decide if you would like to own it – goodness knows I usually end up buying the book because I enjoy a good-old paper version that I can sticky note and highlight to my heart's content.  You just need to join the site to access the previews of the books.  Click on any book available and you will at least see a chapter, but many have the full text.

The second is edweb.net.  This site offers free webinars to educators. Once you are signed up, you can register to “attend” a webinar that is scheduled or you can review webinars that have already been presented.  After a short quiz, you can print out a certificate that indicates you have attended a 1 hour session.  Love putting these in my PD binder and learning some new things!  Check out the calendar on the website to see the upcoming webinars!



Check out these great resources for some professional resources and development!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Therapy Thursday–Being Enough

Last week, I posted about having priorities and making cuts to increase balance in our teaching lives.  This week I wanted to post about the never-ending quest for teacher perfection! 

  • Do you ever look longingly at the pictures on blogs or Pinterest and despair about creating the “perfect” __________?  I’ve been there and spent hours trying to make or do something because someone else did it and it looked awesome. 
  • Have you ever seen someone’s copies on the copier or heard about an amazing lesson that you just HAD to use in your classroom. Yep!
  • Have you ever thought “Next year, I’m going to…”  Oh, yeah! – I did this one yesterday. I am always convinced I can make everything even better next year.

Leo Babauta, one of my favorite bloggers, blogged about “The Futility of Always Pushing Myself to be More.” This post struck a nerve with me because I feel like we, as teachers, are always pushing ourselves to be better at what we do.  This is often seen as a positive thing, but is it really?  Do we ever think “Hey I’m pretty good at what I do the way I do it?” Not really.  That is why we have new programs every year and are constantly looking for the perfect lesson idea and revamping things over and over. 

However, I am at that point in my career, where I am starting to see things circle back around.  The programs and philosophies I started my career with are coming back – in some cases, we have gone through a couple circles.  Were these ideas ever wrong to begin with?  Did they stop working? Or did we convince ourselves that we weren’t doing something right and had to do it better?  Was the way I did something years ago awful or did it just go out of popularity?

(As an aside, I recently started to go through files from the beginning of my career.  I literally threw away entire file folders without even opening them.  It broke my heart because of the time and effort I put into those items. It’s not that they were worthless or did not meet today’s standards.  I threw them away because the thought of “revamping” the non-digital versions of all those items made me wonder if they were worth keeping.  To integrate them into all the things I have and do just wasn’t worth the stress of thinking about it.)

At some point, I think we need to acknowledge that we are good at what we do – curriculum is not changing THAT much, kids are not changing THAT much. We know what we are doing and we are experts in out fields.  Leo Babauta said that be had to learn about the concept of enough and says that “I became happier with the concept of already being enough.”

I think that we, as teachers, need to realize that we are enough. If we have been hired and employed as teachers, we have proved that we can do our jobs well.  Not that we don’t have to keep up with best practice and make some changes along the way, but we need to be confident that we are good at what we do and our best is good enough.

How are you enough?  What are your strengths?  What do you do well?

Monday, March 16, 2015

Monday Saving Monday

Hello folks! I’m back for another Money Saving Monday!  Where I am, it is almost time to order supplies.  I used to dread ordering supplies because it was hours of looking for items and filling out forms. You wait months to get your supplies and then realize half of what you ordered is not needed or was not worth the expense.  With such tight budgets, it is important we get the most for our supply money and spend wisely. 

The last few years, I have put a bright piece of paper in my planning binder.  As I run out of a supply that I can order or find something that I need, I write it on the paper.  When it comes time to do my order, I have a ready list of the things I really need.  This helps to make sure that I am choosing items that I need and prevents hours of trying to figure out what to order.

Image result for neon paper

Here are some things to keep track of:

  • construction paper
  • paint
  • markers/colored pencils/crayons
  • tape
  • glue
  • post-it notes
  • pens/pencils
  • lined paper
  • folders
  • notebooks
  • binders
  • birthday celebration supplies
  • stickers and rewards
  • Expo/permanent markers

This has made a hectic time of year soooo much easier!  And the nice part is that it takes so little time and is ready for the next year!

What else would you add to the list?

Friday, March 13, 2015

Teaching Theme

Next week we are going to be focusing on the skill of theme.  I have looked high and low for some good activities for teaching this skills and never realized how challenging it would be to find things.  I have been trying to add some pizzaz to lessons that pretty much ask sstudnets to identify a feature and defend their choices using text evidence.  I found that starting lessons with video clips and images makes these tasks a lilttle more fun and can be transitioned into text.  I had a hard time finding video clips related to theme.  However, I stumbled upon this site:

Valuescom logo

They have amazing, short video clips that connect to a variety of themes.  I plan to use them to kick off my lessons next week.

I am planning to use this sheet from Beth Newingham:

Common Themes in Books

and focus on these videos:

Values change the world
Change the World

Making A Difference
The greatest
The Greatest



After viewing one of the videos, the students are going to choose a theme and record it on their note catcher.  They will then need to defend their thinking with at least two details from the video to support their thinking.  Click on the image below to download your own version of the note catcher.

To find some great picture books for teaching theme, check out my companion blog:


Thursday, March 12, 2015

Therapy Thursday

Yep!  I’m going going to try and do another feature, in addition to Money Saving Monday.  I have been grappling with the beginnings of feeling burned out for a couple years.  Not about working with kids and creating, but about all the other stuff that comes with our jobs – you know.  I have been reading a couple really great blogs on finding balance in life – and that was my word of the year.

One blog I love and find always has great advice is Zen Habits.  Recently, Leo Babauta, the author, wrote a post called “Questions of Priority”. This post had two questions that I think are important to ask as teachers:  "”When you start work, do you start with your most important priority first?”  and “How much of your working time is pent on your priority?”

In teaching, we can’t always build our day around our instructional priority because our jobs and days just do not work that way.  But this post led me to reflect on the fact that my students are my priority. I so often get caught up in all the things that need to get done and the curriculum that needs to be “covered,” forgetting about the fact that I work with kids.  They need me to care about them more than all the other stuff.  This week, I consciously worked to talk with each of my kids and think about how I am reacting to them.  It was an amazing feeling to talk about books and interests, and show that I value their thinking, instead of chugging steadily on to the next lesson.

I also love the blog Be More with Less. This is a blog about simplifying your life to focus on living.  The author, Courtney Carver, had this quote on a recent post:


The message in this post was that we need to make cuts and cut the things that are not important.  When I stopped to think about this, I realized that there are tons of things I do in my classroom that do not really have an impact. They are things I do because someone thought they were a great idea (the math journals that are a headache and take up tons of time cutting and gluing, only to fall apart) or things I thought were soooo cute on Pinterest.  What I sometimes forget about is doing things that have substance and make an impact on student learning.  I have slowly let go of some of the committees that I have been on and spend less time in my classroom (gasp!)  Really, it is okay to work the hours you are supposed to work, as long as you are doing your job well.  I have made it a priority to arrive and leave about a half hour outside of the actual expected hours.

I don’t claim to have any knowledge of therapy, I am only trying to make my life more balance so that I can enjoy what I have and what I do.

What are your priorities?  What can you cut?  How do you balance?

Monday, March 9, 2015

Money Saving Monday

Hello folks! I used to do a feature called “Money Saving Mondays” and, since I have not been posting regularly, it kind of fell through the cracks.  I thought I would resurrect it because it is always nice to keep a little more in our pockets!

Today I wanted to talk about classroom supplies.  You know, all those things you have to run out and pick up so you can pull off the perfect lesson or supplement an activity.  For the last few years, I have been keeping a page of labels in my planning binder.  Whenever I think of something that I need to run out and buy, I write it on a label.  In the fall I put the labels on cute little papers or die cuts for parents to pick up at Meet and Greet, Open House, Conferences, etc.  This saves tons of time and lets parents help out when and where they are able to. 

Image result for mailing labels

Here are some of the things I ask for:

  • large, plain paper plates
  • small, plain paper plates
  • paper towels (the real ones!)
  • cleaning wipes
  • scotch tape
  • lined paper
  • reuse-it hooks – best invention ever!
  • roll of packing tape
  • tissue paper

The response has been amazing!  And the nice part is that it takes so little time and is ready for the next year!

What else would you add to the list?

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Author’s Purpose–Information

Wow!  Two posts in two days!  I can’t lie, I wrote them both and set the post dates.  I’m not avoiding the work I *should* be doing or anything…

My favorite informational author of all time is Gail Gibbons!   She has a book on just about everything and I think her books can be read at almost any elementary grade level.  I am also loving how her style of illustration is evolving.  With all of the digital viewing kids do, I think their idea of what images are interesting is changing and they just don’t gravitate towards the older books.  Here are a few of my favorites:

Product DetailsProduct DetailsProduct DetailsProduct Details

(images from Amazon.com)

I cannot tell you how much I LOVE the work of Dianna Hutts Aston and Sylvia Long!  There books are beautifully written and illustrated.  The lend themselves to teaching so many things!  I also love the description!  The text is written on two different levels – one part is short and more descriptive, then there is additional detail in small writing on the page to give more information.  My students are complete absorbed into listening to these books.  Don’t forget to look inside the front and back covers for a surprise! I see a new one that I need to order!!!

Product DetailsProduct DetailsProduct DetailsProduct DetailsProduct Details

I see these books are available on Kindle, which means they could be projected in the classroom – lots of new options with that! 

The National Geographic Kids Books are fabulous!  They have amazing photographs and sooo many text features. (They are perfect for teaching informational writing and text features, too!)  They are super reasonable through Scholastic, but I have found them at the Dollar Tree, too!

Image result for national geographic kids books       Image result for national geographic kids booksImage result for national geographic kids books lincolnImage result for national geographic kids books science

I also love bringing in cookbooks, gardening books, newspapers, and magazines to share texts that may not really be thought of in the school.

What books do you like to use to teach author’s purpose”"?