Sunday, July 31, 2016

TpT Back to School Sale and "On Point" Giveaway!

Two great things are happening at once!  Teachers Pay Teachers is having their August Back to School sale on August 1st and 2nd and I've joined up with Lauralee from
Language Arts Classroom and Julie from Faulkner's Fast Five for a Giveaway from August 1-5!

Go to my TpT store (click here or on the link above) and start there.  Everything is 20% off and when you type in the promo code: Best year (don't forget to do this!) you get an additional 10% off!

Here's the On Point promotion that I'm participating in.  Click on the picture to enter!  And check out the many, many other prize packs there! And there will be a grand prize winner who will receive a TpT swag bag full of goodies, including Starbucks and Target gift cards!

Have a great week, everyone!

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Meet My Shoes - a Technology and Writing challenge!

Back to School, Writing, Get to Know You
There are lots of good Get-to-Know-You activities out there for the beginning of school, but when I heard about this idea from a high school teacher in my district, it sounded like fun!  I like that it's a and different way for students to introduce themselves to the class.  It also combines technology - have your students post it online - and it gives you a first writing sample!  

My students are getting iPads this year and I had hoped they'd have them in time to do this assignment the first week, and then post it on Schoology.  It sounds like iPads won't be in their hands until the 2nd or 3rd week of school, but I think I still want them to do it that way.  I just have to see what technology they'll have available.  But I want them to comment on each other's posts; there are some good lessons about discussion boards and posting that can be covered then, too.
 I made three versions of this graphic organizer - one for Schoology, one for printing and typing on computers, and one for attaching a picture and handwriting their paragraph.
My example:  these are my favorite shoes!  I love that they're sparkly gold and that I can be in them all day!  

Meet My Shoes can be purchased from my TpT store.  Click on the link or the picture at the top and wishlist or buy it for a new, creative way to get to know your kids!

Have a great week!

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Review of And then the Sky Exploded - coming out in October


Teachers: do you love to read books?  Do you want, ahead of time, to read books that will be out on the market within the next year?  One of the best decisions I made was when I recently joined Netgalley, a free site where you can read and review advance copies of books.  Since I spend a fair amount of time reading and I like finding out what's coming out, this seemed like a perfect fit!

My first choice, And Then the Sky Exploded looked like an interesting historical fiction read, so I downloaded it to my iPad and began reading.

There are a number of things I really liked about the book: it's told from two points of view (love that!) Christian and Yuko.  Yuko is a survivor of the bombing of Hiroshima.  Chris, an 8th grader in the United States learns, much to his surprise, that his recently-deceased great-grandfather whom he adored, had been a scientist working on the Manhattan Project.  David Poulsen does an excellent job of capturing Chris as an 8th grader with all the typical challenges of kids his age.  Although I am not very familiar with Japanese culture,  I believe he captures the kindness and politeness that I believe are part of that culture.  Without giving too much away, these two characters come together in a beautifully touching manner. I found the way they came together a little unrealistic, but I'm not sure students reading this would.

This book really held my interest!  My only reservation about it is the amount of swearing in it.  That may be the way some kids talk, but my students (and some of their parents) would not be comfortable with that.  For that reason, I can't recommend it for 6th graders, but I think it would be more appropriate for middle and high school students.

If you teach older students, keep your eye out for this book when it comes out, sometime this Fall!

Saturday, July 16, 2016

New Year, New Me...Tips for Building Your TpT Store from #TpTOrlando2016

I couldn't imagine my brain hurting more than it already did, after attending sessions at the TpT conference in Orlando.  So much to think about!  So much to analyze!  Oh my word, so, soo much to do!

I am so grateful for the folks who took time away from families and work to share solid, constructive ideas so that others, like me, can grow.  I am equally grateful to the many "regular" teachers who shared a smile, a comment, a place at the table, a website, an idea, and friendship.

I went to the conference alone, not knowing a single person.  I came away with new friends, new colleagues and some great memories.  I mean, Rachel Lynette loved my new glasses so much she took a picture of them!  I love that woman!  And not just because we both have curly hair :)  She's got a great sense of humor and she knows what she's talking about.

I heard that sure, success takes a bit of luck.  And maybe an original idea that grows in popularity.  But mostly, it's about establishing yourself as an expert in your field, and then just working harder than the next person.  I heard that over and over again.  Enough that it made me think.

So, here are my suggestions for myself - and for you:
  • Make a plan for what you're going to do this month  
  • Break it down by week and even by day, if you wish
  • Figure out how many hours you have to give to get to your goal

When you sit down to work:
  • Set the timer on your phone for how long you planned for
  • Put your phone on airplane mode
  • If you can't stop playing with your phone, put it behind you somewhere 

  • Spend time building your social media presence, but not more than 20%
  • Focus on just a few sites - you can't do them all
  • Network with other bloggers and TpTers
That's where I'm starting.  How about you?  What suggestions do you have?  How are you planning to step it up a bit?

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Powerful new Fiction and NonFiction Read-Alouds

There's nothing better than a good book.  Even better than that is a good book that's been recommended by a student!  These two books came with strong recommendations for me to read  "first thing" this summer!

Last year, one of my students had two penpals.  She would often show me their letters, so when she heard me talk about this new book I'd purchased at the end of the year, she grabbed it up immediately. She didn't finish it before school ended, but she bought her own copy to finish. And she bought copies to send to each of her penpals.  How sweet is that?

This would make a wonderful read-aloud on several levels: 
  • It's NONFICTION and that's one genre many of us don't use as frequently for read-alouds. 
  • How much do your students know about ZIMBABWE?
  • The CONTRAST between Caitlin's and Martin's lives is dramatic, and would allow for good exploration about first- and third-world countries
  • The chapters alternate between Martin's and Caitlin's POINT OF VIEW
  • Martin exemplifies GROWTH MINDSET!
  • It could lead your students to find and write to PENPALS 
  • It could lead your students to start a SERVICE project
Caitlin is required to write to a penpal, and she can choose from a long list.  Most kids pick penpals in Europe, but she picks Martin because she knows nothing about Martin.  Martin gets to write back because he's the top student in his class, and only ten students get chosen to have penpals.  Writing back and forth, they forge a friendship that lasts years and changes both of them in ways they never imagined.

Now, being totally honest, I have to admit that Caitlin's affluent lifestyle got on my nerves at times, but I have to remember that she's telling the story from her vantage point as a teenager, not mine as an adult.  And she and her family have hearts for this young man, and went out of their way to help him in ways that took a lot of their time and money. There are some powerful lessons here!

A number of my students raced through this book when I bought it last year.  I didn't get to read it because it was never on the shelf, but I was surprised when I asked students to vote on their favorite books from the year,.  This one came up again and again.  So, into my reading bag it went!

I curled up with this book a couple of mornings ago; it was a rainy day, and I thought I'd read for an hour or so.  Surprise!  I could not put this book down.  Every time I left it to do something, I'd find myself wondering what would happen next.  I finished the book the next day.

There are many things to like about this book.  Serafina is an unusal, likeable, courageous girl who can see things other people tend to overlook.  She lives, hidden from the owners, in the basement of the Biltmore Estate in 1899, so there's lots of good historical fiction (and an element of Downton Abbey-like living from the owners!).  This book is part magical fairy-tale, part historical fiction, part courageous girl wins out in the end.

Children at the Biltmore Estate are going missing, and only Serafina know what's happening.  It has to do with the man in the black cloak who roams the corridors of the great building late at night. Taking every ounce of courage she has, Serafina enters the woods to solve this mystery, the very woods she's been told to stay out of.  

The book is recommended for grades 5-7 and I have to agree.  The fairy-tale spooky part might be too scary for children younger than that.  But I think my sixth graders will love this!  There's just enough suspense to keep them going, and Serafina and Braeden, her friend, make very believable female and male protagonists.

Check these books out if you're looking for a good read for next year!

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

People of Courage (a novel study), Where Complaining Takes Me (formative assessments), and the AT!

I have always been intrigued by people who are willing to stand up for their beliefs, especially when it puts them in harms way.   Teaching students about the world around them means that we need to be careful not to judge other cultures.  That's hard when we are called upon to explain why bad things sometimes happen.  

Thankfully, there are always people to hold up as examples of those who turn bad into good.  After reading about Malala Yousafzai, I knew I had to create novel study for some of my students to learn about this young woman who’s hardly older than they are, who has brought to light some of the inequalities that exist in education for girls in Pakistan.

This was eye-opening for the groups of students who read this book, and they admitted it was one of the best books they'd read all year.  There were lots of good discussions going on when I would drop in on their conversations!  

I'm willingly taking an online Differentiation course with our district.  You know how you get frustrated because you have to take classes in things you think you already do well?  That's how I was.  But I have to admit, the book we're reading has a lot of good information in it, especially practical ways to adjust and adapt.  So I've stopped complaining and gotten to work!

One of the projects I worked on for my classroom had to do with formative assessments.  I only had to create one for the online class, but I like to have a bunch at my fingertips, because I hate wanting to find out where kids are and not having the tools I need.

And so, voila!

My husband took a job last Fall that is very demanding.  Never again will I say a bad word about the Department of Education in our state, when I see the hours that he puts in!  So we try to be intentional about getting away from the house and doing things we love. One of them is hiking, something we don't get to do nearly as much as we'd like.  Saturday, we hiked part of the Appalachian Trail, about an hour from our house.  It was a gorgeous day and the woods were so peaceful!  Just what we needed! 

I hope you had a wonderful 4th of July weekend!