Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Why You Should Go to the TpT Conference!

TpT, Conference, TeachersPayTeachers, Nashville, TpT18
If you've never been to the Teachers Pay Teachers conference, you should think about making the investment to go.  There is so much value in attending that make the commitment of time and money worth it.  I know that's easier said than done, but hear me out.

I talked myself out of going to the first two conferences.  They were in Las Vegas, and I live in Pennsylvania.  I had made only a few hundred dollars on TpT back then.  What would a small seller like me do at a large conference with people who made my yearly income in a day?  Was everyone on the fast-track, while I was moseying along on my own journey?

Teachers are by nature, pretty friendly people

Walking into a pre-conference dinner several years ago, I thought back to a widow who had talked with me about socializing on her own.  She said, "The hardest part of going out is walking through the door.  Once I'm inside, I'm fine."  Those words came back to me as I walked into the dining room.  Glancing around, I saw several people sitting at a table and asked if I could join them.  "Of course!"  That's the way it was, pretty much everywhere.  Once I asked, people said yes.

Teachers are by nature, good about sharing experiences 

The workshops are excellent; there is SO much good information being shared that you will feel like your brain is about to burst. Take notes!  You'll need time to read over and process everything you've heard after you return home.  The information makes you want to jump onto your laptop and start creating, but it can also feel overwhelming.

Teachers are by nature, collaborative

Everywhere you go, you see people talking at tables, grabbing a coffee or a drink, working together on laptops, talking and brainstorming.  The energy is palpable, helped no doubt, by the contagious enthusiasm of all the TpT staff!  You have to see them to believe them.  Cheers, cartwheels, I'm not kidding!

It's easy to assume that these folks were all friends before the conference.  Until you join a group and discover most just met each other.  Or they met the previous year and have stayed in touch through social media.

I have learned so much in the past two years of attending conferences, connecting with other teacher-authors, and learning from people who have paved the way ahead of me.  It's had a big impact on the way I create my products, how I plan my sales, and where I spend my time. And now, whenever I have a question, I just jump into one of the collaborative groups, most formed through the conference, and ask.

My sales have increased exponentially.  That growth has been helped in large part by the relationships I formed that first conference. 

Consider going!  You will be so glad you did!

Sunday, November 26, 2017

All things TpT on sale!

Cyber sale, Carla Fedeler, Comprehension Connection, TpT, Mentoring in the Middle

Take advantage of the Cyber sale Monday and Tuesday to save 20% off all of my products, and many of those in other stores, as well.  Use the code: Cyber17 and TpT adds another 5%.  Not bad!

***Special thanks to Carla Fedeler for creating this great graphic!

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

When you feel like your class is going downhill....

Classroom management, classroom control, out of control classroom
Students are smarter than we think.  They know us.

Better than we think they do.

In the past few weeks, I've had conversations with teachers in my building, who are scratching their heads about why kids aren't following directions the way they'd like.  "You always have such great kids, Marion."

"Yes.  So do you."

Kids don't  always come that way.  Together, we learn how to get there.  We can't fault students for not doing what we need them to do if we don't teach them.  And I'm not just talking about the first or second week of school.  That's a critical time!  But it's not the only time.

Here's what I've noticed about kids....
 Talk to your students.  They know what they need, in order to learn well.  They also know that "knowing it" and "doing it" don' t always go hand-in-hand.  That's where you come in.

I was out of school for three weeks and had a young substitute in for me.  He was right out of school, charming and engaged with the students, good with academics, and apparently, needed stronger classroom management skills.

When I returned to school, teachers kidded me, "Now your kids are behaving more like ours!"  "You've got your work cut out for you!"  

So I had a conversation with the kids.  And they told me exactly what they'd done (that's what I love about teaching 6th graders - they're so honest!)  They knew it wasn't right.  That didn't stop them, because no one held them accountable.

And then, they asked me, "Can you do that thing you do for us?"  They didn't really know what that was, but they liked it better when the adult in the room did "that."  What was it that I did?  Nothing magical; I just held them to clear expectations.
It's tiring to practice behavior!  How many of us were good classroom managers in our first year of teaching?  Not me.  I was terrible!  My jaw was on the floor more times than not, and I didn't know what to do! Up to that point, I had only had my own children as an example, and they never would have talked back or refused to work (or swung from closet doors or slammed glass doors in an attempt to break them) the way those students did.

But I needed to have stuck to my guns way more than I did.  Oh my....that year!  If only I could do it over!

I'm not suggesting that you need to be a military drill sergeant.  But if you expect kids to come into class and take out a particular resource, you need to insist on it.  And if you want students to work around the room without hanging out with their friends, you need to insist on it.  If you want students to talk quietly with a partner, you need to.... you get the idea.  You can't get so caught up in teaching content that you allow behavior to get worse.  Because if it gets a little worse and you do nothing about it, it's only a matter of time before it goes a little farther.

So, if you're not happy with behavior, stop what you're doing and practice it.  Practice it calmly over several days until students are doing what you want them to do.  It doesn't take a ton of practice.  Kids would rather be doing other things.  But they'll know you're serious about that expectation.
Stay firm.  Stay calm!  Firm.  Calm.  Repeat it to yourself over and over again when you're getting angry.  Firm. Calm.

If students see that their behavior is pushing your buttons, guess what they're going to do?  Yup. That's their job!  Your job is to put up safe, calm boundaries around them so that they can achieve success.

No one expects you to work magic.  And some kids take a really, really, really long time to get there.  But, even though they might not admit it, they prefer feeling the structure of a safe, engaged, relatively quiet classroom.

Have a great week!

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Teach them Context Clues

context clues, reading strategies, interactive notebooks

Learning how to use clues to determine the meaning of unfamiliar words seems like it should be pretty easy.  I mean, authors often provide context clues right in the sentence.  But children who don't understand the process, often don't know what they're looking for.  And teaching them - specifically - what to look for helps them so much.  The more metacognitively aware our students are, the more they assimilate this kind of clue-searching into their daily reading.

There are a lot of ways to teach this concept, and no one system is right.  I've added a couple of anchor charts from Pinterest that I think are worth looking at; you can click on the links to read more.  You can also download this freebie, which uses the IDEAS acronym.
Have a great week!

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

The Thing About Jellyfish

When you open some books, you just read and read.  Some books, you put down.  And for others, you grab a notebook and start jotting down sentences.  Because. They're. Just. That. Good.

This is one of those books.

Part coming-of-age and part science book, this novel takes you on a journey with Suzy as she confronts and tries to make sense out of her former-best-friend's death. 
"It just happened." 
"It was an accident." 

None of that rings true for Suzy.

Imagine a book told from Suzy's point of view, that includes conversations she has with her deceased friend, Franny.  Mix in some wisdom from Mrs. Turston, Suzy's 7th grade Science teacher, in the form of the stages of a science experiment.  Which are metaphors for Suzy's life.  Throw in a lot of information about jellyfish.  And a kid - Suzy - who decides to stop talking.  Add a divorced mom and dad, a brother with his boyfriend, and you have the makings of something that sounds unusual.

It is.  And it's incredibly powerful.

This would make a great read-aloud for students in upper elementary and middle school grades!

I fell in love with novel when I started reading it, and halfway into jotting down my favorite sentences, decided to create a novel study for it, which you can find here.  But this blog post is about more than that.  Just borrow or buy the book and read it.  You'll see why pretty quickly!

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Is it important to teach grammar?

word wall, grammar, spelling
Yes, yes, oh dear heavens, yes!  And not just because I'm old.  But because, in our interest to get kids writing about interesting things, we've gotten sloppy about correcting grammatical mistakes.

Let me rephrase that,  I've gotten sloppy.

Because there are so many.
Correct their spelling and grammar whenever they write?
How often before we feel like we're destroying their little souls?

And yet.
And yet, there has to be a line in the sand.

I will not tolerate "Where you at?"
I know that's becoming part of our language.  I know that language changes regularly and that "sick" means something different today than it did 20 years ago.

I still can't tolerate "Where you at?"

I made up a list of NO EXCUSES words and phrases for my classroom.  You can see the product in my store on TpT.

And if you want to pin this for later, please use this Pinterest-friendly pin!

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Bud, Not Buddy novel study

Bud, Not Buddy novel study
One of the first products I created was this novel study.  Oh, boy, did it need an update!  With a lot more reading comprehension skills and strategies, and some deep-thinking-text-evidence-needing questions, it's a much better product now.

Click here to see a preview on Facebook.  And click here to see the product on TeachersPayTeachers.

Have a good week!