Sunday, August 02, 2015

Back to School 2015 Giveaway

Yep, it's that time again. Teachers go back tomorrow morning!! I can't believe how easy this summer slipped from my fingers. Even after 24 years in the teaching business I still get this anxious feeling in the pit of my stomach when the Great School Machinery begins to turn.

Not sure if you know yet, but Back To School means a huge sale at TeachersPayTeachers. They do this every year to help you get ready for your new kiddos. If you use the code (BTS2015) you will be able to score a whopping 28% off.

I did manage to find time to work on three new TpT products that I am really excited about. The first thing I completed was a total Brain Gem. You know how something just comes to you out of the blue? I love those ideas.

I was thinking of how to get my students more interested in one of our last Social Studies units of the year. We look at Westward Expansion, which I think is pretty cool. The kids are usually in their summer mind mode by now and aren't soaking up any new information. I was tossing around some ideas and suddenly it hit me, "Why not write a Choose Your Own Adventure story?" Do you remember those? I loved them as a kid and could sit for hours flipping back and forth trying new adventures. That's how the Westward Ho! Packet came to be. It has some fun stuff in the full packet. There's a couple of task card sets on Main Idea and Cause and Effect. There's also a ppt presentation to use as a daily writing activity as you study the Oregon Trail.

My next project was something I've been meaning to put together but never had the time. A Grammar Interactive Notebook would be a perfect addition to my class.  I sat down one day and started on it. As I kept working on it, I kept finding more information that was needed in this packet. I had the Common Core standards handy and kept finding new pages that were needed to cover a 3-5 Grammar unit. By the time I got done with this I couldn't believe how many pages were in it. Coming in at Ninety-Two, it is by far my largest single project to date. Check out Interactive Grammar Notebook 3-5

Last, but not least I managed to complete a full year of Mentor Sentence lessons. That's a total of 40 Grammar lessons. If you aren't familiar with Mentor Sentences, check out my post from earlier. A customer had contacted me and asked when I'd be done with a full year of lessons. Since I only had two of the 10 week lessons up, I had no answer for her. So I got to work and found some great Mentor Texts to use for the second half of the year.  Full Year of Mentor Sentences

If you've managed to get this far into my blog post, you are in for a treat.

Tomorrow is the beginning of the annual TpT sale that lasts for only two days. What are you to do after that if you've missed some of your favorite products? Well, I've put together a little Rafflecopter Giveaway to help you out with that. It ends Saturday night (Aug. 8) at 11:59 P.M.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Hope it helps make your week just a little easier.

Leave me a blog post below and let me know what you were able to work on this summer.

Saturday, August 01, 2015

Classroom Makeover 2015!

Our school was downsized this year. On the one hand it is fantastic news. We've been so overcrowded for the past 15 years, it was time. On the other? Lots of changes this year. Including the fact that I got moved to a new room, a lot smaller room. If you know me this is a cause for concern.

I have a LOT of stuff.

After 20 years of teaching you just accumulate things. Things you can't willing part with unless there is a tornado or they are ripped from your fingers by a giant shark. Where am I going to put all this stuff? What do you mean I won't have any handy cupboards underneath a sink to cram place my art supplies in?


So I braved the change and packed up all my stuff at the end of the year. I will sort through it over the summer. Right?

Well, it took forever to get into my new room. First they had to clean all the carpets. That took a really long time. I kept checking with no success. Then the day that they had cleaned my carpet I was at a staff development and was going on vacation the very next day. Then to find out that I couldn't get in  until they finished waxing the floors. Really?

Finally, finally I was able to get in there and get started. I simply had to put some desks out to see if they would all fit in this room. But this is what it looked like the first day I arrived.

A mess.

I came in for a couple of hours every day for a week to go through all those boxes. I threw out a bunch of stuff. I decided that my motto this  year was if I haven't touched it in two years, I don't need it.

The boxes were slowly being emptied and I was arranging the furniture in the room in a hopefully functional way. Can you see on the back  wall how that board is painted black and stenciled with gold? Yeah, those were our old school colors. There was also an original mural painted of a castle to go with our school mascot, the Knight. I had to paint over those with our new school colors.

Then I started getting more relaxed about this new year. After asking the Head Custodian for a second cabinet to store all my math manipulatives in, things were coming together. It was starting to look like a classroom.

But a problem arose. The more days I spent working in my room, the closer the beginning of the new school year approached. Which means more and more colleagues started showing up. They would stop by to chat (read help them move heavy furniture) and I started getting less and less done.

But today I was able to get to a place where I started in on the real grit of teaching. I sat down an opened up my account at Look for this in a different post. It was time to seriously start looking at my daily schedule and think about lesson planning.

Here's how my room looks the day before pre-planning:

Monday, June 29, 2015

How to {ROCK} as a First Year Teacher - Linky Party

It's almost the end of June and I am already thinking about starting a new year. We start in August down here in Georgia, so it's coming sooner than I want.

To get the ball rolling I thought I'd link up with the incredible Chandra at Teaching with Crayons and Curls to share what I think every first year teacher needs to ROCK it!


* Finding a veteran teacher to befriend will help you tremendously. They have been in your shoes before and they have survived. Sitting down with them and talking through their process for pacing out the curriculum is going to be very beneficial. And they probably have some tricks up their sleeves on how to cover those awkward moments or pitfalls sure to pop up.

* Technology is NOT your friend. It may look all shiny and new and promise to save you HOURS of your time. But it will go down, it will freeze up, it will cause a power failure on the very last day of school. Grades are too important to trust to this finicky friend. I write everything down in an old school gradebook and then transfer to the school's suggested electronic filing system.

* Breathe. Deep. Then breathe again. As soon as that morning bell goes off they will come whether you are ready or not. If you breathe then you'll have time to remember that you are strong and can face what is about to come. Even if you forget what you were saying or drop your coffee all down your front, it will be okay. You still have tomorrow to fix any mistakes. So breathe.

 * To this day I am still afraid of parents. They make me nervous, but you can't avoid them. They are your direct line to sanity this year. Make sure to build a relationship with them from the start. Always begin with something positive before you ask them to help you keep their child awake all day in class.

* Best advice my professor ever gave me during student teaching. You can not be their friend and then turn around to take away recess from them when they aren't behaving. It just creates more headaches for you. They will trust you more if they understand you are coming from a place of authority. It's okay to have fun with them and laugh, but remember that you are the adult and will have to put on the Big Pants sometime this year.

* You are going to wear many hats this year. Teacher, parent, counselor, nurse, and coach. You are always on. Remember that you are trying to compete with SpongeBob and video games for their attention. You will need to sing, dance, and act all day. Just remember you are a Triple Threat and you can do this!

Good luck with your first year and try not to overload on Pinterest. A lot of that stuff won't pass fire codes.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Wagons Ho! Oregon Trail

I'm so excited to have finished this newest TpT product. I had a ton of fun creating it because it brought me back to my childhood curled up on the couch with a good book. I used to love reading those Choose Your Own Adventure stories. I could spend hours flipping back and forth between the pages. If I made the wrong choice I could just go back to the last page and try again. Such fun getting lost in the stories where I was boss.

When I was trying to figure out how to approach my next product I thought it would be a perfect vehicle for such a try out. Why not combine history with a little interaction?

I found this site where it would help you format your Choose Your Own idea. inklestudios was easy to use but I definitely suggest walking through the tutorial first. That was a big help in figuring out how it all works. Once you are done you can have your book formatted for use with tablets and such and it was only $10.

I had to find some other stuff to go with this idea, so I put together some task cards and a daily writing project that followed the Choose Your Own story. There are Main Idea question cards and Cause and Effect cards that take situations from the story and ask you to answer questions about them.

The daily writing  project also takes events from the story. There are twelve stops along the way out west. You would provide each student with a little journal (paper folded and stapled) to use throughout the project. You share one slide on the powerpoint each day. There is a prompt for students to respond to. I've provided a rubric to go along with it. You can print out a copy for the students so they know how this project will be graded if you like.

So, if you have to teach Westward Expansion at all, may I proudly present

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Organizing Math Stations

Hey there, I am linking up with one of my favorite blogs of all times, The Primary Peach, to bring you a Sunday organizational tip.

If you're like me and have finally caught up with the digital age you have all of your files on your computer now. Our school lets us directly connect to the office printer so that we can send the stuff that we need printed off multiple times right to the 'big' printer and not have to waste the ink on our classroom printers. This is so helpful when you forget are planning for the week. I can send it immediately to the printer and just walk over and pick it up. So quick!

To get back to my point, I began to realize that I have not opened my filing cabinet files for at least two years. Everything I use is on the shared drive whenever I need it.

Another problem I had was trying to keep my math stations organized. They were everywhere. I tried to keep them in a fun fabric drawer like thing I found at Walmart, but they always got mixed up and I could never find what I was looking for when it came time to switch out the stations. I needed a way to keep them in order by subject.

So guess what I did? I went through my entire Language Arts and Math drawers and threw everything away. Yep, I did it! It was so freeing. I had things from when I first started teaching first grade in there from 1995. It was time. Total purge.

Now I had a space in the room where I could coordinate math stations by strand. I put each station into a folder inside of a gallon Ziploc bag so I could grab it when I need it. If you looked inside you'd see all of the Place Value games together, all the Multiplication stations in one place, and all of the Geometry ideas close by.

I am fully advocating the need to go through you filing cabinet and purging stuff you haven't even set eyes on in the past year or so. Then you can use that empty storage unit however you want. Believe me, it's a wonderful feeling!

P.S. I left my Social studies and Science drawers alone because some of that stuff is hard to find on line.

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

TER 2015 - Conference Do's and Don'ts

I was just thinking about something. The Educator's Room Conference is only two months away. I need to start getting ready. There are several things I want to do before the big day arrives. Just to keep my self sane, I am putting together a list of Conference Do's and Don'ts. Hopefully you can get some use out of them as well.

DO (Definitely Do)
* Make some business cards. They don't need to be too fancy, just your name and blog or email for contact information. You never know where new friendships are going to lead! Office Depot sells plenty of options and  your Word programs are usually set up to coordinate with them.
* Make sure you have all of your conference documents in hand. Print out the schedule of the day and the confirmation email to show at the Registration Booth.
* Get there early. Not only to start the day off, but also for the sessions. You don't want all the good seats taken before you make your grand entrance, do you? Being early also affords you some time to check things out. Where are the bathrooms, what kind of concession food will be on hand, will you need to go off site to get something good, are there any vendors present, and the layout of the rooms so you can find your sessions quickly. Wouldn't want to miss anything.
* Bring something to write with (two of them won't hurt either) and to write on. After previewing the sessions, I can already tell that the ideas will just be flowing and you will want to record those that you want to bring back to try out in your own classroom.
* Since I'm on the subject, preview the sessions. Check out the speakers websites and any pertinent information they are already sharing about their talks. This way you will be well informed on the day so that your brain can be thinking of how to best make use of the information instead of, "Huh? What was that? What does she mean?"
* Talk to people. This is called Networking. You will be pleasantly surprised to meet someone who flew all the way from California, or is here from your own backyard. Talking to them can open up new understanding, or even better opportunities. I hung out with some great people at another conference in February and a GA collaborative blog blossomed from there. Talk to others. They are there for the same reason you are.
* If you are attending with other friends, or colleagues, set up a meeting spot for getting back together later. A familiar spot like the entrance is an easy place to remember. This way you have someone to talk to at lunch or dinner.

DON'T (Stay Away)
*You don't want to leave with any questions. Talk to the others who attended your sessions. Ask them to help you understand difficult materials. Make a note of your questions, maybe you can email the speakers after the conference if you aren't able to catch them there.
* Try to do it all. Give your self some down time to let your brain process all the goodness you've crammed into it from your sessions.
* Neglect your Instagram account. Take tons of pictures! They are great reminders once the whirlwind of the day is done.

Are you getting excited as well?

I will be finalizing my sessions next month, so make sure you stay tuned for that!

Monday, April 27, 2015

The Educator's Room Conference is Coming to Atlanta!

Hey there, it's Gary again. The 4th grade teacher from Metro Atlanta.  From 2009 to now, I've had some major changes brought to my life through this little blog of mine. I've gone from a avid scrapbooker to a TeachersPayTeachers designer to a blog collaborator. It's never a dull moment around here. Which brings me to my reason for today's post.

Just thought I'd drop in and let you know about a little secret.

There's a really great opportunity coming to town for educators. The Educator's Room is a collaborative blog started in 2012 by Frachesca Warren to bring news about what's going on in today's classroom by the people who know, the teachers! Their blog covers topics that encompass all aspects of the teaching world, from instructional strategies, to legal matters, and opinions about current practices. You should give it a shout. I've already got my eye on the "Teacher Branding" article. I never thought that I need to live my brand as a teacher. I thought we were all doing the same thing, how am I different than the herd?

On July 17th (a Friday), they are going to bring their first ever conference of amazing speakers to the hallowed halls of the AMA Executive Center. The title for the conference is "Empowering Teachers as the Experts." Isn't that just thrilling? It is a one day event with several breakout sessions offered throughout the day. I can't believe how many different topics they will have on hand in the given time. The list of content is mind-boggling. Besides the usual Reading, Math, and Literacy, there are sessions on student behavior, classroom management, educational technology, and my newest interest branding.

And guess what? I've been invited to become part of the Blogger Brigade! Don't you just love that name???? I am very interested in seeing what is happening on the front lines of education. I am already feeling a shift in methods as our school embraces the new BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) movement this year. My students definitely jumped at the chance to bring in their devices. We had some talks about how and why to use them. Unfortunately, I've already had to remove some devices for a time to help them learn the proper use of electronics in the classroom. I am not downhearted by this, though. The outlets this brings into the classroom are endless, but still need to be handled appropriately. I know I will find some answers at the TEC2015.

Here's a little teaser from the list of scheduled events:
* Zap! Bam! Boom!  Math Strategies that Work with Felicia Young
* Building a Classroom Culture with Danquel Williams
* Gamification and Learning: Why our Education model must change with Cari Harris
* All Students are Motivated, are You? with Linda Darcy
* Guided Math: Meeting the Needs of All with Mandy Gregory
* Empowering Struggling Readers with Dr. Shakenya Harris-Jackson

WAAAY too many good ones to get them all in. I am going to have such a hard time trying to figure out which sessions to attend. But that's going to be all the more fun. This way the time between now and July will pass quickly as I juggle my decisions back and forth. Several of the sessions are repeaters, so if you can't get into it at one time, there's another chance later in the day.

This is an opportunity not to be missed! So head on over to The Educator's Room website and check out all the details coming to Atlanta this summer. Can't wait to see you there.