Monday, February 24, 2014

Time to do some shopping! - TpT Sitewide Sale

So if you're an avid blog reader like myself then you can't have missed the news...TpT's throwing another big sitewide sale! The sale is Thursday, February 27th through Friday the 28th! Everything in my store that is $2 and up will be marked 20% off! Throw in the promo code TPT3 after that and get a total of 28% off! This is a great chance to grab up some things on the cheap!

To make your shopping a little easier I thought I'd highlight a few things from my store, and show you a few things I have on my own shopping list! 
 By far the number 1 most wish listed item in my store is my best-selling novel study unit for the book Wonder by RJ Palacio. I've written a few posts before about how truly awesome this book is. If you haven't read it, take my word for it and go ahead and buy it now. Then go grab up this 170 page novel unit too! 

I've broken down the chapters and done all the work for you! Tons of great activities to do whole class or in small groups are included as well!

One of my other highly wish listed items is The Book of Awesome Tasks. This is a unique solution for the problem of "too much indoor recess." Simply print double-sided and fold in half to make each student a booklet with 45 highly engaging activities. 
My kids love working in these as a brain break, and it keeps them nice and quiet during indoor recess! Check it out!

I feel like I'd be letting you down if I didn't remind you that this is a great chance to grab up my two newest novel units while the discount is in effect!

Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes is an excellent choice for historical fiction. This unit includes a chapter by chapter breakdown like my other units, several whole group and small group activities, and lots more unique activities to complement the novel or a study of Japan!

Don't miss out on your chance to grab my newest (and probably favorite) unit on the Newbery Award winning book The One and Only Ivan. This is a great piece of fiction that is based on the true story of a gorilla who was kept in a tiny cage in a shopping mall for nearly 30 years. 

The chapter by chapter break down and standard whole and small group activities are complimented by a slew of unique activities for this book, AND a set of lapbook activities. This is an excellent book to use with your kids, and the lapbook is a great addition to a student portfolio or evidence to send home with a kid to show all their learning this year.
I've got some things I'd love to have from other sellers too! Check them out:

I love using task cards with my kids, and I end up making a lot of them for different things. But when someone else has already put together a 50 card set...why do the work when they've done it for you?! These Main Idea task cards from Pinkadots look like they could come in handy!

I Love My Classroom has a great set of figurative language cards as well! The kids can always use practice with this, and I like that the questions are multiple choice. No kid wants to have to write our onomatopoeia as an answer to a task card! ;)

We are just about to begin our Energy and Electricity unit of study, and interactive notebooks are a great way to have kids take notes, store useful information, and stay engaged! This set from I Heart Recess looks like it comes with a lot of great stuff (even a set of task cards!)

Don't forget to go through and leave feedback on any of your old purchases so you can earn that TpT credit and use it along with all the other discounts! 

I'm linking up with a bunch of other teachers involved in the sale! Be sure to check them out! And thanks to Theresa from Pinkadots Elementary for hosting the linky! Also, check out another linky on Mrs. Beattie's Classroom!

Friday, February 14, 2014

Five for Friday in February!

I'm linking up with Doodle Bugs Teaching with a pretty full week of stuff. 

Check it all out below!

We celebrated the 100th day of school this week! I know most intermediate teachers don't celebrate it, but I did teach primary for 10 years! I set up a bunch of different activities and give the kids a bingo-style sheet to keep track of the ones they have completed. Some of the activities are done quickly, and whole class like one of my favorites, "100 seconds of silence!"

Others are meant as more of a brain break, like the "Make a tower from 100 Solo cups." But most of the activities have an academic component to them. There are a few writing choices, and a few math choices. The kids can't complete them all, but it's fun to watch them try.

My favorite option this year was to visit me and let me take their picture using the My Aging Booth app. It makes you look like you're a hundred years old!

My kids are about halfway through our pretty serious Biography Writing project. On Wednesday I introduced the idea of writing a news article about an event from their famous person's life. We talked about how the key to a good news article is that the headline and first paragraph "hook" the reader into wanting to know more. They make the reader ask questions and then want to find the answers in the article. So "Winter Olympics" wouldn't really do that...but "Big Problems in Sochi!" makes you want to know what the problems are.

I used a strategy I learned at that conference in Hershey to help the kids write a good opening paragraph. The presenter was William VanCleave. He has a free resource on his website that has a lot of good information in it. The idea I used starts with having the kids make a simple target shaped graphic organizer on their paper.

The kids put the main idea (in this case their person) into the center. Each ring expanding outward is labeled with a category that the previous ring would fit into. 

Once the target is filled, the student starts by writing a sentence using the outside ring first and slowly building up to the reveal of the main idea. I find it to be pretty effective at helping you write an interesting opening paragraph. The kids do need to practice it a little before they get good at it though!

I spent some time working on my upcoming Blogiversary giveaway! The first week of March will mark one year of being part of this great blogging community! 

If you're a blogger and would like to help by donating then shoot me an e-mail!

Yesterday was a Snow Day! I tried to approach it with a happy attitude, but in truth I'm kind of over snow days. Missing school just means rescheduling plans and other stuff. I spent the day lazing about, watching tv, and working on my new upcoming math project. I'm pretty excited about it! I'll be sure to share about it once it's ready.

That's 17" of accumulated snow on our deck...

Finally, we just celebrated Valentine's Day! Our district had ANOTHER 2-hour delay this morning, so school started late again and we missed writing for the 8th time in the last month... 

I gave my kids these "I (heart) being your teacher" valentines and a piece of chocolate. I totally made up the valentines this morning because I couldn't ever make it to the store to get stuff to make cooler ones thanks to the snow. Valentine's is one of two approved holiday parties in my district (the other is Halloween.) So we spent the afternoon partying! We did sneak in a little read-to-self, and about half of math!

This upcoming week is full of activity again! But first, I'm going to try to enjoy my weekend! 

Friday, February 7, 2014

Conference - Day 2, Part 1

Hi all! So, my second day at the PA Department of Ed was chock full of activity! I'll be chunking up some of the cool things I learned and talking about them in later posts after I get a chance to try some of them in my classroom. 

But I wanted to tell you a little about the keynote speaker for the day, Todd Whitaker. He's the author of a ton of books on educational topics, and a professor at Indiana State University. He was a teacher and principal himself, is married to an ex-teacher/principal, and his children are teachers...which always lends credibility to any speaker, in my opinion. 

I found him to be extremely funny and energetic. His jokes were almost irreverent, but not distasteful. I especially liked how open and honest he was with the topics he addressed. The biggest one he focused on quite a bit is almost a taboo topic, and is kind of a hard truth to face...There are great teachers, there are "crummy" teachers (his words), and there are teachers all in between. And every school has all of these, even the great schools have bad teachers in them.

His book, What Great Teachers Do Differently is full of great points. Some of the major points he mentioned aren't things that will shock most teachers, but they are things we might not take the time to think about without someone else saying them to us to get us thinking.

  • He talked about how great teachers get more work and challenges piled on them and poor teachers get less work and no challenges. 
  • He talked a lot about "Shifting the monkey." This means giving some of those challenges to the people who usually whine about them, ignore their whining, and still expect the job to be done well. 
  • He mentioned that programs don't make great schools, great teachers do. 
  • He talked about how the only person in the classroom you can control is yourself. 
  • Show students respect 10 out of 10 days. After all, that's what we expect.
  • Three things a great teacher never does are yell, argue, or use sarcasm. 
  • You only get into as many arguments as you let yourself get into.
  • Take advantage of all the free professional development that twitter has to offer.
  • And finally, the #1 indicator of a school's success is whether the principal solicits teacher input.
The keynote presentation was just the tip of the iceberg for the day. I'll talk more about some of the great ideas for writing from the workshops that followed in future posts!

Getting away for a couple days was great, and I was excited to learn some new things, but for now it's great to be back home!

In other news, I wanted to announce my upcoming Blogiversary Giveaway! Can you believe it? This lil ol' blog of mine is turning 1 year old in just one month! Be sure to check back in a month for a chance to win some great prizes!

I've already got some great prize donations from some of our favorite bloggers, but if you are a grade 3-5 blogger and have a teaching product you'd like to contribute to the giveaway, let me know! 

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

PA Department of Ed Annual Conference - Day 1!

Hi all! Just thought I'd check in super quick with how it's going here in Hershey, Pa after my first day at the PDE Annual Conference! I actually drove in last night because we were expected to get hit by an ice storm...and we did! It took 10 minutes just to scrape myself out of my parking spot this morning.

We started the day with a really cool keynote speaker named LeDerick Horne. He talked about his struggles growing up with a disability that was never truly explained to him in school, and talked about the things that eventually led to his success. He's a great example of why it's important to provide our learners with special needs the proper accommodations and the same high expectations that we would have for any other student. He also presented some of his poetry, and told us about the narration he did for this video celebrating the 35th anniversary of IDEA. Great history lesson on IDEA in just 5 minutes, btw! His presentation was a great way to start the day!

These are the two tri-boards I put up for the poster session!
I won't get into my contribution to the conference beyond saying that it went really, really well. There was a lot more interest in my topics of Peer Supports and Improving Inclusive Practices than I thought there would be. I got a lot of compliments about the things that we are doing at my school, and people seemed to be surprised that I was "just" a general ed classroom teacher. Haha. I've already posted a lot about what my class, and what others in my school, have done with increasing our inclusive practices...and to be honest I'm kind of tired of talking about it after today, so I'll move on! But I'm excited to share with the teachers at my school that people from around the state are clearly impressed with all the hard work they are doing!

In addition to everything else today, I attended a workshop on spelling and vocabulary. It was great to hear that a lot of what I'm doing in my classroom is in fact supported by research and gets the approval of my state! I did take a few things away from the workshop that I think I'd like to make sure that I am doing though. Here are the points that stuck in my mind:

1) Never ask your kids "Who knows what this word means?" If you expect them to know it, then why are you teaching it? Chances are they don't know it but will take an incorrect guess that will then be stuck in all their minds! (I KNOW I've been guilty of this one.)

Just for fun, check out the wallpaper
in my room's bathroom! Haha.
2) Just tell them a kid-friendly definition. And these should be picked out and thought up ahead of time. Don't make them look it up, the context will be lost by the time they do that. Give them the short and sweet kid-friendly definition in the moment, then have them look it up later if you want.

3) Don't assign vocabulary words as spelling words. If you're assessing spelling, assess spelling. If you're assessing meaning, assess meaning. It took me the first 7 years of my 13 year career to realize this for some reason...

I was excited to see several books on
mindfulness featured. I promise to write a
post soon about what we're doing with
mindfulness and centering activities soon!
There were a lot of other good points made, a lot of them (like the three above) I felt were things that a lot of educators already know, but served as good reminders.

So now I'm free to roam the Hershey Lodge and sit in my plush Hershey Kiss themed hotel room until tomorrow morning! My contribution to the conference is all done, so tomorrow I get to just sit in on presentations all day! I'll try to share any nuggets of wisdom I gain from them!

I have to say, the conference SWAG(stuff we all get!) leaves a little to be desired! Haha. I remembered when you used to get full samples and books and stuff. I guess it's the recession... The Hershey bar on my pillow is pretty sweet though! (pun intended)

Click here to grab it for 3 clams.
In other news, on our last snow day I was able to put the finishing touches on two new products! The first is my gratitude journal, which has 20 days worth of prompts to help kids think about gratefulness. I'm using it in my class right now, and some of the things the kids write are really endearing.

Grab these for the ridiculously low price of 2 bucks!
You can have these for life...or 4 fried apple pies from
McDonalds for like 5 minutes. Trust me, pick this.
The second is this pack of Clean Desk Notes and Brag tags! There are notes for clean desks AND messy desks! I'm a mean ol' teacher and only leave a piece if candy with the note if the desk is clean. It serves as a great motivator when a kid comes in first thing and sees that jolly rancher on his desk...or NOT on his desk! And I don't feel guilty cause, "Hey! I told you to clean your desk!" Haha. Also, they'll get plenty more chances. I mean, I have to use all the different varieties of the notes! After several clean desk checks the kids can earn the brag tag!

Anyway, that's it til next time! Thanks for reading!
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