Saturday, October 25, 2014

A couple ways I've motivated my kids this week.

As usual, it's been a busy week! I'm sharing a couple of the things I've done this week to help Spark Student Motivation. Check in with Joanne over at Head Over Heels for Teaching to see more! 


Recently, I ended up with one of those weird 20 minute blocks to fill due to special events being planned in the middle of my reading block. I've been noticing that some of my kids' book bins have been a little light on back-up books, and that there have been a lot of kids trying to book shop during Read-to-Self. 

I don't allow them to book shop when they're supposed to be reading, so this is a problem. I decided to take advantage of the time by having an old-fashioned Book Look a la Donalyn Miller (The Book Whisperer). If you're not familiar with the concept, it's simple! You select a set of books that you think your kids should read for one reason or another, and your kids sit in a circle passing the books to the left after looking at them for about 45 seconds. By the end of the 20 minutes every kiddo has been exposed to 20+ new book options. At the end of the Book Look I give the kids the opportunity to add the books to their bins if they found one or two that interested them. If two people want a book, we Rock, Paper, Scissors for first dibs. At the end of this Book Look 18 books (all classics that are worth reading no matter who you are!) found their way into a book bin...some with waiting lists attached! 


I've talked recently about one of the cool things going on in my math class, but I haven't talked as much about how much it really motivates my kids. 

In the past I've done Monster Math Battles to cover a lot of different math skills in class. This year I looped up with my kiddos, and even though they begged me to do another Monster Math Tournament, I wanted to do something different. Two of the biggest skills we've covered so far are multi-digit multiplication and long division. This is something the kids just need lots of practice with. 
I've never seen my kids more motivated
to practice math skills!
I knew I wanted to make it more than just boring practice, so that's why I took my Monster Math Battle approach to it, with a twist! I made it a battle between Ninjas and Samurais! My kids love it! They literally beg to see who will be "fighting" the next day. They can't WAIT to do the math problems to find out who wins each battle. They're totally clueless that I'm tricking them into doing the math. There are 5 battles in each pack, and both packs are available as a bundle for $4. If you like the idea, check out my Monster Math Battles, which come with a full 31 battle tournament in a bunch of different skills. 

In other exciting news, my wife and I finally got our printed hard copies of our Adoption profile. We used a website called I am super pleased with the results. The pages are thick, glossy, and very well bound. Honestly, they are of a better quality than the school yearbook! Considering this is probably one of the most important documents I've ever designed in my life...I was really nervous. We actually went with a local printer at first, but were very disappointed. Luckily, the local printer told us we didn't have to pay for the ones they made because that prompted me to try out Mixbook. Now...we just wait for the right birthmother to look through one of these! 

In the meantime...grab this up while you can! It'll only be available for a few more weeks! Many of the products are fall themed, so would be great to use in the coming weeks. 

Monday, October 20, 2014

Monday Made Its for October!

I chiming in with a couple things for Monday Made It again for the first time in a while! Check in with 4th Grade Frolics to see some more!

First up are these Conversation Journals! I'm super proud that I got to use my mitre saw again! I bought it for all the home renovation we've been doing to get the house ready for a baby, and once the renovation was done figured I'd never get a chance to use it again! But it was perfect for cutting these composition books in half. I made up some labels, and that was that.

The kids are going to write to me, and I'll write back to them. So, I have a confession... I made these for one kiddo who really likes to share at all the wrong times. But I didn't want just him to have one and stand out, so I'm introducing it as a new thing that we all do! I think it'll be a great way to get to know my kids better. 

Second is an upcycle, of sorts! Last year I bought myself a fancy Erin Condren Teacher Planner. It was cool, and I was definitely the envy of the faculty lounge...but I found that I never really used the planning pages that much because I plan in Google Docs, and the calendar annoyed me because I had to write in my own dates. So this year I went with a much cheaper calendar book from Target.

But I kept seeing my pretty EC planner sitting in my classroom, and I figured it was kind of a waste to let it just gather dust...and I didn't want to just throw it away... So I went through it page by page and salvaged all the quotes and empty note pages, etc. I put a sheet of colorful paper on the reverse side of the quotes and laminated them together with my home laminator. Now I've got a bunch of sturdy teacher-y bookmarks to share with friends. I laminated the full page quotes as well, and once trimmed I'll have a couple posters to hang in the hall outside my room. I felt much better throwing away the ravaged skeleton of my planner after turning it into some useful things!

And finally, I'm going to share a new TpT product I just added to my store. If you've seen my Monster Math Battles, then maybe you'll be interested to see these!

Now introducing Ninja vs. Samurai Math Battles! These are mini versions of my math battle concept, with 5 battles taking place in each mini-tournament. The battle's victor is determined by who wins the most rounds, with each round being decided by the answer to two math problems. Highest answer wins. 

My kids completed my Monster Math Battles last year, so when I walked to the front of the room at the beginning of math and put the big "Vs." on the board they actually started cheering! Haha. The kids LOVE doing these. They don't even realize that I'll be tricking them into doing 100 multi-digit multiplication problems and 50 long division problems by the time we're done. Each of the tournaments are available in my store for $2.50! Or, buy both tournaments together for $4.00 in a bundle!

And SPEAKING of bundles...if you haven't seen the amazing bundle my buddies put together to help support our adoption journey...check out my last post for lots of details, or head on over to my store and check out the preview! It's a great deal for a great cause!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Best Blogging Buddies Ever! - Our Adoption Bundle

I'm super excited to share about this bundle of goodies my blogging buddies have put together for me! The bundle will only be available for a limited time, and many of the products can only be found in this bundle!

You're getting an amazing deal...and doing an amazing thing by helping my family grow! It has made me feel super loved by all the friends I've made through blogging, and I can't thank them enough!

So, what's in the bundle? Well, for just $25 you get a bunch of things you can start using in your classroom right now:

Crazy, right?! What a great deal! It comes out to about $1.30 per'll never be able to get these products at that price again. I hope you'll grab it up and spread the word! :)

Thanks so much to my friends who contributed! I bet you recognize these names, but if one or more of them is new to you...go check out their blogs because they are some amazing teachers!

Elementary AMC 
Ideas by Jivey 
Coffee Cups and Lesson Plans 
Fifth in the Middle 
Head Over Heels for Teaching 
Pinkadots Elementary 
I Love My Classroom 
Fourth Grade Flipper 
Collaboration Cuties 
I {heart} Recess 
Teaching with a Touch of Twang 
Teaching Tales Along the Yellow Brick Road 
Where the Wild Things Learn

Friday, October 10, 2014

Five for Friday - 10/10

I'm FINALLY chiming in with a Five for Friday!

I know this excuse is probably getting a little tired, but I've been super busy getting everything ready for our adoption home study. There was a bunch of paperwork to prepare, and of course we had to get our house in order. I have to say, one benefit of this whole process is that my house is now cleaner than it was when we moved into it! The good news is that the home visit for the home study is complete! Our caseworker stopped by last Friday and interviewed us, collected our paperwork, and toured our home. She said that we were more prepared than anyone she's worked with! Hurray! The home study has to be written up by her and submitted, but it is safe to say that we passed! We've already started to get information about some birthmothers, though I must admit the situations we've seen so far have not been a good match for us. 

But, the positive thing is that my home is finally back in order, the construction on the basement and bathroom are totally done, the paperwork is collected, and now we just have to sit and wait for the right birthmother to come along. We'll definitely be learning patience in the coming months! I think the waiting with nothing to make progress on is actually harder  than working on a to-do list of things!

On the school front, we've got a lot going on too! We're studying healthy habits in science right now. I wanted to share this cool game all about the new MyPlate stuff that the government has made to replace the Food Pyramid. It's called Blast Off and it is a great way for kids to practice making healthy food choices.

One of my favorite questions to answer is "What are we reading?" I thought I'd share my plan for our class read alouds. I use my read-alouds as part of my mini-lesson and as models for teaching the CAFE strategies.

We just finished The Year of Billy Miller, and the kids loved it! We'll be finishing up Dear Mr. Henshaw next week, and the kids can't wait to find out what happens. I'll be going a different route with Lulu and the Brontosaurus next. It's a fun book with a unique structure that I hope will serve as a little break after a more serious book. Finally, I'm really anxious to begin our novel study of The Invention of Hugo Cabret

I've also been working on several new things for my Math Workshop that I thought I'd share. The first is our current project based learning project. It's all about making a lemonade stand. The kids have been really enjoying it. The kids have taken the profits from their original stands and built new stands to make Lemonade Empires! We're finishing up the project this week. 

I also made this fun version of the popular game Battleship. The kids play the game just like normal, only the grid where they place their boats is a multiplication table! It has been a great way for them to practice their multiplication facts...something they always seem to need a lot of work on! This game is available in my store for just a buck! Go grab it up!

My PTO has started a new tradition that I'm in love with! Free Coffee Friday! Every Friday morning the PTO sets up a big carafe of coffee with a selection of flavored creamers. It saves me the time of making my own coffee that morning, and the different flavors of creamer are great too. This led to the discovery that most of the people in line before me were mixing their creamer in inefficiently. When I showed them my simple method, they loved I figured I'd share it with you as my latest Lifehack for Teachers!

This year I've been honored with (and I'm not being sarcastic, I really DO see it as an honor) the task of mentoring two first year teachers in my building. It has been great working with them and my yearlong intern from Penn State. I feel like mentoring is a great way to push yourself to stay on top of your game and to push yourself further. I mostly just get to answer a lot of their questions, help them set up their workshops, and I share my lesson plans with them to serve as a guide/starting point. I'll also be doing some Peer Coaching and observing in their classrooms, which I'm really looking forward to. We talked a lot lately about whether our "espoused teaching platform" matches our actual "platform in action." For those that are unfamiliar with that lingo, you probably know it as your "philosophy of education." 

These discussions have made me think a lot about what my espoused platform is (what I SAY I believe about teaching) and what my platform in action is (what I am actually DOING in the classroom). The goal of course is for those two things to match. I think I'm doing a pretty good job with that, but I have definitely had some things to reflect on. Most of my reflections have all gone back to something to do with time. Mainly, could I use my time in better ways? I spend a lot of time making fun math games, making projects for my kids, spicing up our bland science and social studies units, devising interesting writing lessons, and making individualized strategy group plans for reading groups. I believe all of those things are important, but I've started to realize more and more that the work hours I've been imposing on myself for the first 14 years of my career are not reasonable, and will not be realistic once I have a child. 

A professor I know made the point that no other professional
sees more than one client at a time. Doctors see one patient,
and Lawyers see one client, an hour or so at a time. Teachers
see 20-30 at once, all day...and are meeting all of their needs.
So, what's going to give? Will I allow myself to let something give? I've reached that point in my career where I feel relatively confident in my ability to teach well...but I am always trying to be better. It goes against my instinct, but I guess I need to give myself permission sometimes to let something be "good enough" so that I can be sure to take care of the rest of the things in my life! I'm sure this is something all teachers have dealt with. What are your experiences with this? How do you decide when something has to give, or is "good enough?"

Be sure to stop by Doodlebug Teaching to check out the other Five for Fridays!

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