Monday, August 10, 2015

Free Goodies for Teachers!

I just wanted to give a friendly reminder that you should be sure to go and sign up for a free gift on redditgifts! Every year they host an event where people from all over the place sign up to send teachers a box of goodies. 

I have actually received some pretty cool stuff in the past. It's totally free, you just have to sign up.  Here's some of the stuff I've gotten:

Click here to head on over there now and sign up!

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Light a Fire with a Good Book - and a Huge Giveaway too!

So, as much as I hate to even try to wrap my brain around going back...especially because almost all of my brain is consumed with thinking about my newborn daughter, Amelia...the brutal truth is that it is time to start thinking about the new school year!

Several of us bloggers have come together to give you some awesome ideas for Back to School Books! These books can be used to set up your classroom community, begin a good lesson, or just as a fun read-aloud.

The book I'd like to share with you is The Year of Billy Miller. I read this book to my kids last year at the beginning of the year to help set up expectations during read-alouds for my reader's workshop.

It's a great book for talking about relationships, issues at school, change over time, goal setting, and is perfect for beginning of the year 3rd graders. Billy starts the year in 2nd grade and by the end of the book has finished 2nd grade, so early 3rd graders can relate to character well. Click on the image above to grab this book from Amazon for less than $4!

$2 in my TpT Store!
This is the first chapter book we will read this year, and I use it as the first time to introduce my kids to these Pre-Reading Task Cards I made. It is a great way to get kids thinking about a book before reading, and it gives kids something to connect with during the reading. I use the task cards to play SCOOT the day before I start reading the book. Kids may not travel to all of the cards, but enough to have meaningful conversations about the book with each other after we finish. After we scoot to a bunch of the cards I ask kids to pair up and discuss a card they have been to with a partner. We do this a few times, with different partners, and it serves as a great way to get the kids talking to each other at the beginning of the year as a community - about their learning even!

And have you heard? Teachers Pay Teachers is having a site-wide Back to School Sale August 3rd and 4th, so you will be able to get any product in my store at 28% off using the promo code BTS15!
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We know what else really "lights a fire" in you, and that is fabulous technology! We are giving away a brand new Kindle Fire HD6 to one lucky winner! 
Enter the rafflecopter below by hopping through each of our blogs and entering the secret word that can be found on the tablet in each of our posts. Also make sure to follow our TPT stores because the winner will be announced through a message in your TPT inbox! 

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We are also giving away a $25 gift certificate to Creative Teaching Press!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Good luck! We hope you have a successful start to your school year! 

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Mentor Sentence Freebie for The Name Jar

I made this week of mentor sentence materials for The Name Jar to use in my 4th grade class last year. It's a great book to use at the beginning of the year, and this is a great freebie to give you a chance to see if mentor sentences are right for you and your kids! Click the image on the right to grab the freebie. Enjoy! 

Friday, July 17, 2015

One journey ends and a greater one begins.

So, as many of my readers know, the whole reason I started putting my teaching materials on TpT in the first place was in an effort to make a little money to help with the adoption journey my wife and I have been on.

After years of saving and waiting and worrying...I'm happy to announce that our beautiful daughter, Amelia Erin came into the world on July 6th! AND the papers have been signed and the court hearing has happened, so she is finally ours as legally as she has been ours in our hearts for months now!

It has been one of the most stressful things I've endured in my life, and I can't even begin to express how thankful I am that this part of our journey is coming to an end. 

We set out for St. Louis, MO on July 4th in preparation for the birthmother's induction on the 6th. We were really lucky to be matched with a great set of birth parents that made this decision out of love, and did more than they had to to make her birthday special for us. We were even allowed to be in the delivery room for her birth! After she was cleaned up the hospital provided us with a post partum room and we were able to spend the two nights she stayed in the hospital with her in our room. 

After that we had to wait patiently for our court hearing. We were kind of led astray in our understanding of how long the whole process took, and were really disappointed to learn that our court date wasn't happening until July 15th. So, we sat around in our hotel room for DAYS waiting on our hearing (which took 15 minutes and happened 2 hours late!!!) But eventually the hearing happened and everything worked out!

EXCEPT for the fact that there is this crazy law in place that requires an Interstate Agreement to occur between my home state of PA and MO before our baby is allowed to leave the state of her birth to go home. That paperwork can't be sent off until after the hearing. They have told me that it is going to be at least NEXT Wednesday or Thursday before we get the okay to leave the state with our baby. I've already been here for 13 days, and I have at least another 6 to go. Sigh!

To make matters crazier, my wife really needed to return to PA to go back to work, get our dogs out of boarding (to save us the money, especially now that we have over a week more of hotel bills! Aargh), and was actually called to interview for a better job. So she left about an hour after the hearing to return to PA, leaving me and the baby here in St. Louis until we get the go ahead to leave. As soon as I do, we'll be catching the next flight home! 

In the meantime I'm going a little bit stir crazy here in the hotel room. This should be the perfect time for me to catch up on blogging, put the finishing touches on the 8 different products I have in the works, and start planning for the new school year...except I am so tired! With the normal waking up to feed and change Amelia plus the 3 times I'm waking up each night just to make sure she's still breathing...I'm getting about an hour or two of sleep at a time between 1am and 8am. It'll be nice to get on a sharing system with my wife when I get home!

I'm also definitely stressing out a bit about raising a newborn alone in a hotel room in a strange city with no transportation! Aagh! Luckily I've had the support of my blogging buddies who have given me a little parenting advice and support, AND were kind enough to even send me a surprise dinner today! The hotel has breakfast luckily, but dinners have been interesting. Haha. Luckily, little Amelia has been a great baby so far and hasn't been causing too much trouble. I do wish babies came with built in gauges. A temperature gauge, an energy gauge, a diaper gauge, and a sleep gauge would all be really handy right about now...

Either way, despite the challenges of the journey getting here...I've never been happier in all my life. Every day I've had with Amelia so far has been the biggest blessing in my life, and I can't wait for all the rest to come. 

Sunday, June 21, 2015

A little self promotion!

So...I'm not a fan of these kinds of posts usually...but this post is going to be totally self-promotional. But as a good friend recently reminded me, "There's nothing wrong with letting people know what you have to offer. How else will they know about it?" So I'm going to take a moment to show off some of the new products I've made...but it's for a good reason...

As many of you know, my wife and I have been in the process of adopting our first child. It has turned out to be EXPENSIVE! We've accumulated about $18,000 in debt, drained our savings, and still have more expenses coming...

Now it is kind of hard to believe that we are just 14 days away from the birth of our baby girl! We are beyond excited.

The only reason we've been able to even consider the possibility of adoption is because of the support of purchasers from my TpT store. Every single cent I've made in my store has gone towards our adoption expenses. I have always believed in sharing the hard work I do when I make these products for my own class. I hope you'll find something you like in my store and consider spending a little to help yourself and to help us in the process!

I'm not going to overwhelm you with a detailed explanation of each of the products or a bunch of pictures, but I do want to show off my latest creations! I've included a link to the products below at the bottom of this if one seems interesting to you, I hope you'll go check it out in detail! And thanks for helping me get through this final push of adoption expenses!

Building Catapults Inquiry

Kaboom! Multiply a Fraction by a Whole Number

Ninja vs. Samurai Math Battles - Addition and Subtraction of Mixed Numbers with Regrouping

Variable Equations Word Problems Task Cards

Dream Home/Tiny Home Project Based Learning Project

Mentor Sentences Pack 1 - Five Weeks (Pack 2 and 3 coming soon!)

Word Work Games Bundle

Multiplication Fact Fluency Bump

Monster Math Battles Freebie!

Protractor Practice Task Cards

Planet Research Brochure Activity

Most of the people who purchase things from me probably aren't even aware of the blessing they're bestowing on my wife and I, and I'd never be able to thank them all...but if you're reading this then at least I can thank you! So, thanks so much for your support! 

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Nursery Reveal!

So...I promised I'd return with an update about our nursery for those that are interested.

This is one side of the room. I made the name bunting on the crib myself. The tree is vinyl, and the walls are gray (a bit lighter than they appear in this picture.) We are going for a modern forest theme. 

The animal art above the crib is from Etsy. We're keeping her name secret for now! I also need to add the crib bumpers and a mobile to the crib, but we haven't gotten them yet.

The changing table here next to the crib has a chalkboard above it that I made myself. Her name is written at the top, and I will be updating the chalkboard each month with stats about her. I got the idea from my BBB over at Where the Wild Things Learn. 

These are the built in shelves that were already in the room. We figured they'd be great for diaper and other supply storage for now. 

This is the other side of the room. Obviously we still need a diaper pail, a clothes hamper, etc. But most of the decorating is done! 

I'm really proud of this frame that I made from scratch! The art inside can be changed out with the mini-clothespins. I made the artwork inside myself as well! 

I have been doing stained glass as a hobby now for a couple months, and I made these two stained glass suncatchers for the nursery. I drew the designs myself too!

I made these little felt animals for the room myself, and my wife and I made the terrarium together. 

It's hard to believe that there are only 2 months to go until we get to meet our daughter. There's a TON left to do, but at least she has a pretty room to sleep in! 


Sunday, May 10, 2015

Big News!

So...I've been gone for a little while. BUT I've got the best reason ever!

We are soooo excited. Just about 2 more months to wait before we can hold our little girl! We have to stay in MO for a couple weeks after her birth for the interstate paperwork to go through. Living in a hotel for a couple weeks isn't ideal, but it will be worth it!

I'll be sure to post an update soon to show off the nursery that has been taking up all of my time! And I'll also be sure to make an actual blog post soon too!

Friday, March 27, 2015

Monster Math Freebie!

Ever wanted to try out my super cool Monster Math Battle tournaments...but weren't quite sure about it? Well, I made this little freebie just for you. This is a collection of three of my math battles so you can give it a try. 

Not sure what I'm talking about?! Well, you should definitely check these out. I've made several different tournaments where classic movie monster are dueling it out in a math battle! The kids love it, and don't even realize they are getting much needed practice. I also have a couple of different varieties of shorter Ninja vs. Samurai battles!

The tournaments are very reasonably priced, but whether you're ready to purchase a whole tournament or not, I hope you at least enjoy the freebie! 

Monday, March 9, 2015

NAPDS Days 2-3

Day 2 began with a light breakfast followed by an awards ceremony. After the awards, Alex Dixon and her mother took the stage. They shared Alex's story, which is a great example of how having grit can be more important to a child's growth than any other factor. 

The short version of Alex's story is that she suffered a stroke during an emergency brain surgery, which left her with none of her previous academic knowledge. She couldn't remember how to say her name, or even the alphabet. She worked hard to get herself to the point where she is now, an advanced math student who has overcome most of her physical disabilities. She's still working hard to become a better reader, and to regain full use of her right hand, but among other accomplishments, she has passed her high school exit exams. Overall, their presentation served as a great reminder of the power of perseverance.

In the afternoon of day 2 and all of day 3 I was able to go to several sessions, including two on closely related topics that I have dabbled in and have a lot of interest in pursuing further; service learning and Firefox Projects. The ideas of student choice in how they learn, bringing in the community to learn from, and serving the community in some way are all really appealing to me as a teacher.

I'd love to think more on how I can implement some of these concepts into some of the project based learning stuff we already do in my classroom. Have any of you ever done a Foxfire project?

Friday, March 6, 2015


I am very fortunate to have been given the opportunity to attend and present at the National Association for Professional Development Schools conference in Atlanta this year!

My team did a study on the perceived effectiveness of Penn State's preparation of new teachers regarding readiness to teach in classrooms with high diversity. Phwew, that's a mouthful! Basically, we wanted to know if the new teachers who were graduating from Penn State felt ready to teach in a classroom that had cultures different than their own. Our findings were really interesting, but hard to sum up in less than a 45 minute presentation! The basic theme we found was that the interns felt exceptionally well prepared to teach in general, but a little underprepared when it comes to authentic experiences with students in low socioeconomic situations, and with ELL students. 

We were lucky to be given a Thursday presentation slot, so now I get to sit back and enjoy attending all the other presentations!

Thursday's keynote speaker was Ron Clark from the Ron Clark Academy and also known from the movie The Ron Clark Story (where he was played by Matthew Perry)! And yes, I did just type Ron Clark three times in one sentence.

There is no doubt that Ron's presentation was highly engaging. He is full of energy, he's funny, he has a lot of great stories...but I left the conference room with mixed feelings.

Ron had a great analogy when it comes to the different kinds of teachers you find in schools. He described a school as a Fred Flintstone style bus. To keep the bus moving, you have to put your feet down and provide momentum. 

He described four types of teachers; Runners, Joggers, Walkers, and Riders. You've got the runners, who teach above and beyond. These are the people who take on every job, go to every dance recital, stay late, get there early, serve on a million committees...and do it all with a smile. Next, you've got your joggers, people who go above and beyond, usually THINK they are runners, but aren't actually doing everything they possibly could. The walkers are being dragged along by the runners, trying and usually failing to keep up with teaching trends, etc. Finally, the riders are the teachers that are sitting back and waiting it out until their retirements doing the same things they've done for 25 years.

I get the analogy. I've been a runner or a jogger for my entire career. This is where my mixed feelings came in. Ron said every teacher needs to be a runner all the time. If the people in your life aren't helping you run, he said you need to kick them off your bus. He said this applies to fellow teachers, administrators, and even wives and husbands. He said that if teachers on his bus want to jog or walk sometimes that they can get on a different bus...

I WANT to be a runner all the time. And I really try to run as much as possible. But I also have to recognize that my life has to consist of more than just my teaching. I invest much more time into my teaching than I think is healthy already! I love my kiddos, and I value them more than most other things in my life. But I do have other things in my life that also deserve my time and attention.

I also don't have the resources that Ron seems to have. He mentioned several lessons that he did with his kids, most of which seemed to be highly dependent on a gimmick of some sort that's purpose was to increase student engagement. Will I steal some of these ideas to do as a special activity? Absolutely, yes! I loved his ideas. But I simply can't afford to go out and buy 20 lab coats and goggles or 20 pairs of sunglasses or whatever material for 180 days of school, 5 subjects a day... And I don't feel it is reasonable to expect me to do that.

He also focused a LOT on how his methods impacted his state test scores. It really turned me off that he put so much effort into talking about test scores because I felt like he was validating them as a viable measure of teacher effectiveness...which they aren't.

On the other side of things, he did say some things that I think are very reasonable. Don't sit on your stool. If kids are in the classroom, you aren't on a chair. Move around. Smile. Do something that engages the kids as much as possible. Have high expectations for your kids and hold them to them. Don't "wussify" them. Teach to the top, not the middle. Don't spread poison in your school. Administration should celebrate their runners a bit more and get rid of the riders.

All in all, I enjoyed his presentation, and whether I'm fully on board with all of his thinking or did get me thinking. I wish I had the $700 it takes to visit his school for two days so that I could make a better judgement. 

Have any of you had the opportunity to hear him speak or visit his Academy? I'd love to hear your comments!

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Our experience with MobyMax - plus, win a free year!

I was recently given the opportunity to try out MobyMax with my class. I have to admit that I hadn't heard of the site before, so I was anxious to see what it was all about!

They have a great introductory video on their site, but I'm going to point out some of the features I really liked. Check it out and if you like what you see, enter my drawing below for your chance to win a free year subscription for your class!

The subjects section gives you a good idea of the types of material the site covers. Each of these buttons will take the kids to a placement test, followed by practice with those skills. 
A lot of my kids felt that the placement tests were a little long, but I noticed that many of them completed the placement test and went immediately into the practice. The Fact Master activity is really informative to me as a teacher, because it is really easy to have the kids go through several facts in a short amount of time, and the site tracks it all for you. And unlike flash cards, every kid is actively engaged because no partners are needed!

My kids really like the Vocabulary section too, because they love learning new words.

 The classroom tools section has some really cool features too. The Messenger app lets kids send you messages directly from their account to you. The Wall is a place where you can post things for your kids to check out, like polls, messages, or assignments. 

 The next section is a lot of fun. "Vibes" can be assigned to kids for working hard, or even for being off task. It's a great way to give a little reminder or a little praise privately. My kids' favorite section was the Games section, of course. The Games section comes with a little feature that makes it really great, and makes the Subjects section more important to the kids. Basically, the kids add time to their game timer by completing sections in the Subjects area! So for every set number of minutes a kid is working on math facts, she is also earning herself a set number of minutes of game time. The amounts earned versus work put in or all adjustable too!

MobyMax is definitely worth checking out. In addition to the times that I have planned for my kids to do a particular activity on the site, my kids often choose to use it during recess on days when we can't go outside! Enter my raffle below for your chance to get a year's subscription free for your class!

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Monday, February 23, 2015

It's a Super Hero Sale!

TeachersPayTeachers is having a quick, one-day sale on Wednesday! Several TpT teacher-authors will have their stores at 20% off. Combined with the additional 10% off when you enter code HEROES at checkout, that's some super savings!

We want to help you find "heroic" products that have helped others in their classrooms. I've received a lot of wonderful feedback on my novel units. 

All of my novel units come with chapter by chapter break downs, with comprehension and inferencing questions, vocabulary, and any instances of figurative language that was used. They each include a multitude of extra activities that can be done with the book as well. 

I wanted to share this particular bit of feedback with you that I received for my Invention of Hugo Cabret Novel Unit. It really made my day! 

If you happen to be reading this Christine P., e-mail me your choice of one product from my store as a thank you for taking the time to write such a great feedback!

Click {here} to go check out my other novel study units. There's also a link at the top of my blog that will let you get a quick glance at which titles I have made units for.

Browse around the linky for other "heroic" products, or feel free to grab the graphic and link up your own!

Link-Up Steps

  1. Link to a post containing one heroic product and its feedback. Use the graphic if you wish. (No direct links to stores or products, please.)
  2. Include the linky button and link it back to this post so others may find great "heroic" products.

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