14 July 2017

5 Back to School Outfits for Teachers

Back to school is quickly approaching... and do you know what that means? Back to School SHOPPING!

Now, we all know that when it comes to a teacher's budget we're not working with a lot of money, so places like Target, TJMaxx, Marshall's, etc. are the place to go to spruce up the new school year's wardrobe. I'm very fortunate that the couple schools I work in all have air conditioning, but I know that there are some that are not as lucky (come on administrators, it's 2017!!!)

So, I've compiled a few work-friendly, warm weather, back to school teacher outfits and trends for fall that I found at Target. I've tried my best to link them to the Target website if I could find the item. Hopefully for all the items that I couldn't, you can find them in your local store. (Sorry Canada, I feel for you not having Target) I normally wear a medium or a large depending on how things are made. I'll try to give an idea of how the size fit.

It's kind of hard to tell in the pic, but it is a pinkish color with a white palm kind of detail. I believe it was $27.99 and was the Merona brand. It was the last dress I tried on and I think it was my favorite! It was very lightweight and fit true to size. I thought it was pretty flattering as well. I wore it up on my shoulders, but they styled it as an off the shoulder sleeve. Perfect for after work, right? Check it out here

I loved, loved, loved these two skirts. I didn't buy them, but I am going to be ordering them p.r.o.n.t.o! They fit so well and were comfortable (yay, elastic band!). They're a great length for a teacher. Plus, I'm a sucker for stripes. I didn't particularly love the shirt I picked out to go with them, but it worked. I like to tuck shirts into skirts like this... (a plain ole t-shirt would work on this as well). Here is the floral one and the striped one. I wish I would have seen this one.

Couldn't find this one online, but I'm sure you can find something similar in the store. They had a lot that were this style. There was a slit up the side to the knee, so it was not anything too risque, but I did think it was pretty long for the average person (I'm 5'5"). I do like the elastic in the middle to make it more flattering, but it wasn't my favorite outfit. I do love the print though.

I suppose this is more for a little cooler weather, but the shirt was very lightweight and cool feeling, so it wouldn't be bad on a little warmer days. This is another one of my favorites. I love a crisp white pant with a simple top. So easy, so timeless. Couldn't find it online (aaaaah, Target!!) but hopefully you can or in store!

The last two are not the absolute best choices for teachers to wear to work, but I had to include them! I love the trends!

These shorts are the cutest! It's hard to tell but there are little pineapples on them! Adorable! I saw pineapples EVERYWHERE in Target. Made me want a pina colada. Also, can we talk about this chambray shirt? Nothing could have been more comfortable and softer than this shirt. Go with the half-tuck and maybe a cute green cardigan and voila! shorts are here and I have seen this tee everywhere on everyone and I looooove it!

I love the look of these and the comfort level is fantastic. It's almost romper-like, because there are actually shorts underneath and a dressish, capeish, kind of bottom over top. It's very different, but momma like. Couldn't find the exact one online, but here is a similar one

So, that's it. I wanted to buy it all, but I did not because...
Someday, Target, someday!

09 July 2017

The Teacher's Summer Bucket List

If you're a teacher, chances are summer is your favorite season. Yes, we all love our jobs and working with the kids that we do, but it's also a big relief when the year is over. I don't know about you, but for me it's a time to recuperate, refresh and revitalize myself for the coming school year. I know most teachers do school work during the summer, so I've made a list of things to do during the summer INSTEAD so that you can truly be at your best when it's time to head back.

1. Get a massage.
I know that I can get SUPER stressed during the school year as I imagine most other teachers do as well. I HIGHLY recommend splurging and finding a good masseuse in your area. I tend to get especially tight in my neck and shoulders and love a good deep tissue massage. Heaven!!! Trust me, you will not regret it.

2. Have an entire day that you do not change out of your pajamas and you just Netflix binge.
Some of you may already do this all the time, but there are a lot of teachers who feel guilty on days when they do nothing. I say forget it! Chill, relax, binge. You deserve it! (I do recommend The Walking Dead, The Unbelievable Kimmy Schmidt, Orange is the New Black, and Stranger Things.)

3. Make a must-read list of at least 5-10 good books that you've been meaning to read and devour them.
Or maybe even a better idea, grab a few of your teacher buddies and start a book club. One of my fellow teacher buddies and I did just that last summer. We've been meeting (about 5 of us) once a month for the last year. Each time we rotate who hosts. That person chooses the book. We actually sit and talk about the book for probably about 20 minutes and then just talk, eat, drink, and play games for the other 2 or 3 hours, but it makes for a really fun night. Some of my favorite books in the last couple months have been: A Man Called Ove, anything by Karin Slaughter, Ugly Love (and other Colleen Hoover books) and so many more I can't even remember. I also recommend checking out the website Good Reads for recommendations, reviews, and ratings!

4. Go on a vacation (even if it's in your own backyard).
Even if you can't afford a full out vacation (cause c'mon we're teachers here, let's get real) it's always relaxing and inspiring just to even get away for a day or two. Plan a short weekend trip somewhere within a few hours of where you live. Even if you can't afford to do that, at least Google some fun things within an hour or so around your house that you've never done. Sometimes those little gems are so overlooked! You might be surprised what is in your own backyard.

5. Check out an amusement park or water park.
I will admit I am a total chicken and did not ride my first roller coaster until 2 summers ago...and you know what? I kinda liked it. If you're from the Pittsburgh area you grew up with Kennywood. It's an old-time roller coaster park that helped revolutionize coasters of today. I didn't attempt the big, crazy fast one yet (80 MPH at like 300 ft? ehhhhhh maybe not yet) but I did love the Racer, Jack Rabbit, and the Thunderbolt (all older wooden coasters that aren't quite as high or fast, but still pack a fun punch). On the other hand, I'm a HUUUUUUGE water park fan. Our nearby one (Sandcastle) has some really fun rides and I don't get there as often as I used to a few years ago, but it's one thing I love to do every summer!)

6.Spend as much time as possible with your babies (whether they be human or furry)
Personally, I do not have any children (of the human variety) but I do have a dog and 2 cats who I consider my babies. I try to give them as much attention as possible during the summer. I take my dog out for walks almost daily, take him for car rides when I can, take him for ice cream when we go, etc. (He's so spoiled!!!) We don't try to do it, but our pets and kids don't get quite as much attention from us during the school year as we'd like to give them, so make sure you do as much as possible while you're off. They'll be thankful for the time and memories.

Finally, I'd like to finish by saying you all rock and deserve to let yourself relax in the summer. We have a very hard job that is incredibly demanding. Allow yourself to take the time off and forget about all school related things for awhile. It will still be there when you come back. Your brain, body, and family will thank you.

05 November 2016

Growth Mindset: Teach Your Students to Get Gritty!

Growth Mindset

It's education's newest buzzword (or words?) What is it exactly? My definition of it is a person's way of thinking of their abilities, the perseverance to continue working at hard things, and to always be willing to give something a try, even if it's "scary" because you feel like you might fail. 

The idea was invented by Stanford University Carol Dweck. Click here to check out more about her and her book about growth mindset.

I found a research study that was done regarding all of this very interesting. I highly recommend watching the following video. 

Now, as an educator, how should we use this information in our classrooms?

To start explaining it to students, I think this video would be a great introductory video to get a discussion going. I'd ask students to explain the difference between the two girls' thinking. How many times have they felt this way in class? 

I've shown this video. It's a great thing to do when you notice students are struggling with confidence. All of my students are struggling learners so this is a great lesson.

Before doing watching it, I polled the class. I had them vote whether they believed that people are BORN SMART or BECOME SMART. Then we watched it and discussed. Some of the things we discussed were: What are their reactions when things get hard? Do they give up or push forward with more effort and grit? Why do a lot of people quit? What can they do the next time things get hard?

Another great idea for older students might be to give them this quote and discuss:

Some great growth mindset resources on TPT follow...

Growth Mindset Posters by To the Square Inch

Growth Mindset Unit by Teaching with Hope

Interactive Notebook for Growth Mindset by The Write Stuff

Growth Mindset Craftivity by Runde's Room

Resources for Parents, Teachers, and Students on Growth Mindset by Schoolhouse Diva

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17 September 2016

Why You Should Be Teaching Word Attack Skills and the Resources You Need to Do It!

I don't think it is a stretch to say that every classroom has at least one student who could be considered a struggling reader, even in older grades, or in more affluent areas. For one reason or another, that student has not quite grasped the fundamentals of reading.

I am a reading specialist who has worked in my current position for six years. I'm really starting to notice that almost all of my students are weak in either phonics or what we call in the education world, "word attack skills". In almost every school that I go into, after second or third grade, reading instruction shifts drastically from phonics-related instruction to comprehension-based instruction. I have mixed emotions about this. On one hand, most students are ready to move on with this shift; however, a few students, usually the kiddos who are referred to me, haven't quite grasped all of it yet. Now, it doesn't take a teacher to realize that if you can't actually READ the words, it's going to make it that much harder to UNDERSTAND the words! This is where many of my kiddos fall into a downward spiral, and it's hard to get them out of it.

My answer? Head back to the basics, review, and FOCUS ON WORD ATTACK SKILLS!!!

I'm going to go out on a limb and guess you don't know what the word impecunious means. You may even not know how to pronounce it. (Not trying to insult your intelligence here... I didn't know what it meant when I looked it up. Kudos for you if you do!)

If you were a child reading and you came to that word in a text, what would you do? If you were a struggling reader, more times than not, you're going to completely skip the word and not give it another thought. Now, as a teacher, how can you change that?

1. Teach prefixes, root words, and suffixes.

Nearly 70% of new words that students will come across in higher-level text will contain a prefix and/or a suffix. I was actually kind of surprised when I read that statistic on a website. Why in the world are we not focusing more on prefixes and suffixes?

Being comfortable with these prefixes and suffixes not only allows them to figure out the word by breaking it down into smaller, more manageable chunks, but it can also help them figure out the meaning of unknown words.

Remember our stumper of a word from earlier, impecunious? It has a prefix AND a suffix. Knowing this allows a reader to further break it down to im/pecuni/ous and even further to im/pe/cu/ni/ous using syllable rules. At least now we're getting somewhere. If a student remembered that im- as a prefix means not and that ous or ious means having, it would be understood that this word meant not having something.

Now, how about we go a step further? It's likely they saw this word used in context. The rest of the sentence or paragraph could help them figure out the meaning.

Imagine this sentence: Growing up in an impecunious household taught Tom the value of money. Given the context, it would be a reasonable guess to assume it meant not having much or being poor. Since the student was able to use prefix and suffix knowledge and context clues all together, the word was attacked and deciphered.

After thinking about all of this for awhile, I had a very specific idea of what I wanted to use with my kiddos. I wasn't finding exactly what I wanted online, so I decided, duh! Make your own! Here's what I came up with...

This is going to be part of a growing bundle. I am working on a suffix edition (coming by September 20th!) and am in the process of designing 2 other products for the bundle.

If you'd just like this first edition, it is available here in my store at TPT.

Each lesson included has a full sheet of text using the words in context to tell a story. Text dependent questions are included as well. 

Sentences are provided for students to practice using context clues to figure out the meaning of the word.

Words are grouped by like prefixes. Students can assess themselves on their knowledge of the words phonetically and semantically. 

Another fun activity that I created goes along with the old Cootie game. (I loved that game!)

Students collect cards to build a bug (prefix, root word, suffix). It does not have to be a real word, but they have to be able to put the three parts together and read it correctly to keep it.

2. Teach Greek and Latin word parts.
Comin' atcha with another statistic here...

Over 60% of our English languages stems from the Greek or Latin language. In science and technology, the figure can rise near 90 PERCENT!!!!

So why should you care as a teacher about this statistic?

Knowing how to pronounce these words or word parts and the meaning of them could be beyond helpful for any child.  I suggest starting slowly (especially in the lower grades) by introducing a few a week. Maybe even make a "Word of the Day" sort of thing out of it. This daily practice and introduction to this whole new side of looking at the English language is critical for word attack and vocabulary.

I found this great website to practice with a fun Greek themed game. Check it out!

Here's another!

3. Don't ASSUME that your students are solid in phonics skills. 

I think as students get into the upper elementary grades it is assumed often that they known letter sounds, vowel variants, blends, etc. I don't have to tell you what happens when you assume something. :)

I'm sometimes slightly alarmed at how poorly some of my students do on a phonics review assessment once they are in the upper elementary grades. I found it often reveals many cracks and holes that NEED to be fixed. Sometimes it is even necessary to go back and review short vowel sounds. It may demeaning to do something like that, but it is critical that they understand the very basics before anything can be built upon it... at least, that is my philosophy.

If you're worried about hurting your students' self-esteem, I have two points I want to make.

1. You are doing this to HELP them. Point that out to them. Make sure they know that you are only doing this work to make sure they understand the basics so that you CAN move on to harder stuff. I find that often when you simply explain to students WHY you are doing what you are doing, they're fine with it.

2. Not reviewing the basics and trying to move on when the foundation isn't solid is only going to make their "houses" crumble in the future.

*shoulder shrugs* That's just my way of looking at it.

Let me know what you do to help struggling readers. I'm always looking for new ideas!

15 August 2016

14 Tips to Help Save Your Sanity in the Classroom

Welcome to the VERY LAST STOP on the blog hop. I feel honored! If you stayed this long, you deserve to win something for sure!!!

The beginning of the school year is the time to set routines, teach clear procedures, and organize things so that you don't go absolutely BONKERS by the end of the first month. I like this quote.

August and September are crazy enough, so remembering to keep yourself, the classroom, AND most importantly- the kids on top of things is the best sure fire way to help everything run smoothly.
I've done some research (mostly on Pinterest, my best friend). Here are the best tips I could find to help you not look like this after your first day.

Setting Routines and Procedures

Everyone needs a break after a long, intensive lesson. Let the kids have a few minutes to have fun and relax. Join in with them! Use this cute idea from The Happy Teacher for Brain Breaks. She gives plenty of ideas of things to do and breaks them down in case you don't know what they are. 

I love using task cards in the classroom and when I don't feel like creating my own I go to Rachel Lynette on TpT. She has almost every imaginable topic covered with task cards. Here's her set for teaching classroom procedures. 

Teaching procedures can be a bit of a drag for both you and the students, but the Pinspired Teacher came up with a really cute idea of a way to jazz it up a bit. Go over and check out her "game" that she created to help practice important procedures. 

Many teachers in elementary classrooms use little chants or sayings to gain students' attention. This cute collection of attention grabbers is a good reminder of a few oldies and some different ones that I haven't heard. Check out Mrs. Heeran's Happenings for more ideas!

I love this freebie from Tamara Russell on TpT. It covers 127 (!!!) Classroom Management Questions. No wonder teachers feel completely overwhelmed at the beginning of the year!

Managing Students

Here's a cool alternative to keep students engaged during a lesson when you want to call on them. Instead of using the typical sticks with names on it use this app called Decide Now. Tonya's Treats for Teachers even used it to decide on a classroom reward. Awesome idea and it's FREE!!

A lot of the times when students are working in centers, I will be working with a group of students as well. I've used this idea before, and I think it's a great way to minimize distractions. Teach your students different hand signals to show that they need something. Ashley from One Sharp Bunch has posters available to put up in your room to use as reminders of the signals. I'm so using this one! 

Managing students' desks is a big issue. Here's a great layout that is well thought out from Hannah at The Classroom Key.

Classroom chatter is probably the biggest issue for classroom management. Students should be talking in your classroom, of course about what they are meant to be talking about, but it should also be regulated. Jen Jones from Hello Literacy wrote a blog post about a cute website called Bouncy Balls. The balls or eyeballs bounce more as the noise increases. I'm not sure if it makes a noise once it gets to a certain level (I hope it does), but I have found that these types of visual reminders are great so that you don't have to keep interrupting with reminders to quiet down.

Another idea (which is nothing new) for student behavior is to reward positive behavior instead of always punishing negative behaviors. Hello Educational Psychology 101! The problem is sometimes it can be a pain to come up with fun reinforcers that don't include food. Beth from Adventures of a Schoolmarm has a great blog post about the rewards she uses and how she does so. This is going to be in my classroom this year!


Here's a genius way to use cheap containers to organize base 10 blocks. Thanks to Janaye from Tales of Frogs and Cupcakes for the idea! She mentions she got them from the Dollar Tree. (Excuse me while I go to the nearest one!)

Do you have students who often forget their backpack or are boggled down with too much to carry? Keep an emptied out wipes container next to the door on the wall filled with plastic bags. Thanks to Allie at Scholastic.com for this idea! 

This isn't much of an organizational tip as it is a classroom decoration idea, but I just had to include it because it's so cute! Marsha from Differentiated Kindergarten made this cute DIY table skirt to hide things under her table. How adorbs! This would be cute too as curtains or just a border somewhere in your room. 

I could post about 30 pictures for this next part from Stephany at Primary Possibilities, but I'll pick one that I am going to be using for sure. She did a whole post about things to get at IKEA for your classroom. Sadly, my closest one is about 1 1/2 hours away, but I look forward to a trip there every now and again. I'm going to be on the look out for these to use for station directions. How cute!

If you'd like to start at the beginning of the hop, click below to start all over again!

06 August 2016

11 Ways To Use Duct Tape In Your Classroom Like the MacGyver of Teaching

So if you were born before the '90's, you're probably familiar with the T.V. show MacGyver. The one where the main character, MacGyver, could get anyone out of any predicament, usually by using duct tape in some way.

Remember this guy? He worked wonders.

Well, I like to think of teachers as their own kind of MacGyver. Teachers are the most genius people on the planet when it comes to using simple, household items to perform a different task than what they were initially intended for. I mean, we're working with REALLY, REALLY limited budgets here. Can I get a hell yeah?

I decided to collect all the genius ideas I was able to find on the good 'ole trusty interwebs via different blogs and Pinterest. Here is a collection of all the genius, MacGyvery ways to use handy, dandy duct tape in your classroom. I tried to do my research to the best of my ability to find the original posts so that I could give credit.

Decoration Purposes

Look at this cute clipboard that a fellow blogger, Marie, made for her classroom. I'm a sucker for animal prints.

Taken from The Hands-On Teacher
See her original blog post

Another option is to change out your students' desks. This would especially be good if yours have some fugly colors. I love what Jodi did with hers. It would especially be great if you have a themed classroom and could find some that matched your theme. Side note: She had a great tip that vegetable oil or vinegar helps take off any messy residue left over after taking duct tape off of things!

Taken from The Clutter-Free Classroom
See her post here

Organizational Purposes

Ok, now, this next one made me do one of those head slap moments like when you say to yourself, "Why didn't I think of that?"

I work currently in three different private schools, but I am hired by a public school agency... it's confusing, I won't get into it. Anyway, I use www.readinga-z.com A LOT! When I came across this idea on Pinterest my heart grew three sizes just like the Grinch! I am SOOO doing this. 

Taken from Wicked Fun in First Grade
See her original post here
She used different duct tape to organize all of her books by level. Looooooove. Then she added the same tape to a bin so that kids could easily put them back in the right bin. Not only does it help organize the books, but it helps keep them together better since they are printed. Genius.

To go along the same idea, use duct tape to organize different subject notebooks and folders. This is something that would be very easy for students to do to help keep their lockers, desks or cubbies organized. Everything is color coded. The red notebook and red folder are for reading. The green notebook and green folder are for math, etc. Easy peasy.

Taken from Cleverly Inspired
See her original post here

Also very similar, instead of plain ole colors, jazz up your reading groups with duct tape patterns like Tara West.

Taken from Little Minds at Work
See her original post here

Here's another GENIUS idea. Tape a large straw (think milkshake straws) to students' desks so that they can keep their pencil inside when not using it to help with all of the "I can't find my pencil!" complaints.

Couldn't find original post. Let me know if you find it.

Another idea for pencils is to wrap some of the duct tape around the pencil to show which are yours to help students to return them. (We can wish, right?)

Couldn't find original post. Let me know if you find it.

Misc. Uses

Some children don't understand what "personal space" means. I've seen teacher do this as well around their teacher desk to show a "No Children" boundary for little ones. The blog that I found this on was for Special Ed., so this would work great for kids who are autistic and need that visual reminder of where they need to stay. 

Taken from A Special Sparkle
See the original post here

I've always wanted to make these for my classrooms. I am a reading specialist, so I'm constantly working on letter sounds and phonics related activities. I need to get my butt in gear with these pronto! (The duct tape is just decorative pretty much)

Taken from Make Take Teach
See the original post here

I recently went to a conference where I received a TON of great ideas and tips (which is going to be a WHOLE other blog post that I'm going to do soon) but this was one of them. I'm thinking of having kids make these as well so that we can organize their things in the classrooms. This would also work great with the previous idea of labeling folders for reading groups.

Taken from Classroom DIY
See the original post here

So here is a good idea for all of your summer beverage holders. These would work great if you had students' desks in groups or at a center to organize materials. So, get to drinking!

Taken from Classroom DIY
See the original post here

I hope this post helped to inspire you. I'm sure that you've seen all the different kinds of duct tape that have been out now for a few years. I've found them at pretty much any store from Dollar Tree, Dollar General, Target, Wal-Mart, Michaels, Jo Ann Fabrics, Hobby Lobby, AC Moore, etc. 

If you have made anything for your classroom with duct tape or use one of these ideas to make something, please leave a comment and a picture below. I'd LOVE to see it!