30 June 2016

Stop the Summer Slide!

Every parent worries about the dreaded SUMMER SLIDE!  How can we keep our kids learning over the summer without burning them out or driving ourselves crazy?!?  Summer camps are great, and so are workbook pages...but GAMES and COLORING are even better!  I thought I'd share a few ideas I have for elementary and middle school kids today!

Now that I'm a middle school teacher, I don't often create or post things for elementary students anymore.  However, one of my FAVORITE creations is my list of math games you can play at home with manipulatives most people already have at home!  

You can click on the picture below to check it out!

This product has saved teachers a lot of time and they've gotten big thanks from parents who are using these tips!  Here are some product reviews:

"Perfect to give to parents looking for ideas at home!"

"Thank you. The parents and kids loved the games. It helped to enhance my open house night."

"Great resouce. I used it at our Math Night and it was very well received. Thank you!"

You don't need to be a teacher to love these activities!  I have played all of these games at home with my kids and they don't even realize they are practicing math skills :)

Here are 2 FREEBIES for the older kids!  Many middle schoolers struggle with the summer slide, too! We can't forget about them...especially since curriculum moves SO fast in middle school.

These free products help kiddos review the 4 types of sentences and the different types of nouns.  Most ELA teachers in middle school do a super fast review of these topics the first week of school, but they really expect kids to have at least a general idea of these basic ELA topics when they come in.  These FREEBIES are a great way to give your big kids a head start right before heading back to school!  Click on the pictures to grab these from my store today!

Hopefully, you will be able to stave off the dreaded summer slide with help from these activities!  If you are looking for more great FREEBIES, check out the "Summer Slide Linky" going on at The Teaching Bug's blog!

28 June 2016

Tips and Tricks for Mobile Teachers

I teach part-time, which I absolutely LOVE and am not looking to change that fact anytime soon!  However, there are a few downsides to teaching part-time...the most obvious being less $$$.  The other downside is that, in most cases, part-time teachers in middle or high school have to share rooms with other teachers during their planning times.  

I know there are a bunch of us who are struggling with not having our own space.  It can be challenging to be a mobile teacher, but I'll let you in on a secret that I've learned...it can also be awesome!  Here are my tips and tricks for teaching in more than one classroom.

1. Let it go!

Just as Anna and Elsa told us in "Frozen", as a mobile teacher you need to let a lot of things go.  This was the hardest part of mobile teaching for me at first!  I'm a CONTROL FREAK.  Seriously.  Ask anyone I know.  I like things my way.  Plus, as a former elementary teacher, I like my classroom to look good...you know borders, bulletin boards, matchy-matchy, labels, etc.  Most middle school teachers don't bother with that stuff (at least to my extent).  I had to let my control go.  I couldn't expect my partner teachers to jazz up their rooms to make me happier.  I couldn't take over.  I had to let go of the factors that I couldn't control.  It was tough at first, but I got used to it with time and patience.  I found things I could control, like my own procedures, and I asked my partner teachers if I could use a small section of their room to house my classroom necessities such as my turn in bin and extra work bin.  Instead of erasing all of their whiteboard, I found a portable whiteboard to use for my "I can..." statements and assignment book notes, and only used the center of the board where I needed to project lessons:

I trained my students where in the room to find things pertinent to my ELA class...they learned to ignore the social studies or math stuff.  I learned to move my teaching partners' piles to one side because they allowed me to use their desk and other supplies that I didn't have to cart around.  My partner teachers and I figured it out.  We all had to let go of something.  They lost their room during their planning hour; I lost a room of my own.  We all gained something, though, too.  We became friends, I became more laid back, and they became more organized too!

2. Organize what and where you can!

As an admitted control freak, I took control where and when I could.  The first thing I did was create a mobile "office".  I used this book cart and transformed it into a mobile supply unit.  First, I made it MINE.  I put pictures of my kids on it and stuck a few Michigan State bumper stickers and magnets on the sides...just like I would've done on my desk or a bulletin board in my own classroom. Next, I made space on the cart for the giant ELA anthologies we use...man are they heavy to push around!  (Make sure your cart has good wheels and steering!) Then, on the backside -I wish I had a picture of that too :( -I used clear bins to organize whiteboard markers, colored pencils, lined paper for writing, post its, etc...anything my students or I may need.  On top of the cart, I kept a supply caddy of glue and scissors for our Interactive Notebooks, and my pink basket.  The pink basket is where I'd put all of the day's copies or any other materials I may need for the day.  I ALWAYS stored my own Interactive Notebook in the basket, too, so I'd always have my master version with me in case a student was absent and needed to copy from it.  
My teacher bag didn't live on the cart...I just put it there for the picture...but it was the second thing I made sure to organize!  In it, I kept different color file folders for each hour, my laptop, student bathroom/locker/media center passes, my own writing utensils, and student treats (pencils, candy, etc.).  In the file folders, I kept student information such as class lists, seating charts, grading sheets, work to be graded, and health alerts.  This bag went to and from each class with me, as well as to and from home each day.  By keeping all of my records in the bag, I always had what I needed.  I protected this bag like I do my purse and wallet!

3. Find SOMEWHERE to call your own!

This isn't always possible, but I was lucky enough to share one of my rooms with a teacher who didn't use much of his storage closet.  He let me set up the walk-in closet as my "office".  I set up a table to use as a desk, brought in my filing cabinet and some book shelves, and a few boxes of random stuff that my husband didn't want in our basement.  This space saved my sanity!  I could copy things ahead of time and use stackable sorters to lay out each week.  Then, each day I just had to grab what I needed from the "Monday" or "Thursday" box and pop it in my pink basket on my cart (which I also parked in there).  I could come in early or stay late and sit at a desk to plan or grade papers, even if he was teaching because the closet had a door.  It was SO much better than trying to plan or grade papers in the teachers' lounge or media center where you are constantly interrupted.  It was also much better than lugging tons of paper and binders to and from school if you have to plan and grade at home.  Be creative, ask around at school if there is an unused closet or office that you can call your own.  My closet was tiny, but it was MINE, and for that I am grateful! 

Don't you just love the novel, Tangerine by Edward Bloor?

4. Be flexible!

This is the biggest tip of all.  As a part-time mobile teacher, you won't be able to do it all.  You won't be able to do it all your way. You won't be able to do it all in your time.  You need to be accepting of the fact that situations may change throughout the year.  Something will come up and your partner teacher will NEED their classroom during their planning hour to sort fundraising supplies or something, and you will need to relocate to the media center for the day.  There will be a schedule change due to testing or an assembly, and you will need to relocate or come in during a different hour for a day.  Don't let changes upset your flow...prepare for flexibility.  That's why I kept everything on a cart or in my bag.  As long as I had those two things, I could literally teach anywhere at any time!

Also, don't be afraid to ask others for their flexibility!  I talked with my principals at the beginning of the year about my planning time.  I asked if I could do most of my planning and grading at home, since I wasn't sure how using the closet was going to work out.  They were fine with that, as long as I got my job done.  Many weeks, I'd spend a few hours at school making copies and planning on one day, then just come in to school during my actual class periods.  Other times, I'd come in during my students' lunch period to meet with students who needed extra help or to make up a test, but then I'd leave to run errands and come back just in time for my classes.  My actual time in the building was fluid.  It worked for me, and most importantly, it worked for my students.  

Now...here's the secret I've learned!

I admit I was freaked out about sharing classrooms at first.  I cried.  I whined to anyone who would listen.  I thought about just going full-time.  But then, I learned the secret.  The secret is that it actually FEELS GOOD to let go!  I didn't spend hours making my bulletin boards look perfect...that time was spent instead with my kids or doing something else non-work related.  I didn't have to spend time cleaning up or re-setting desks at the end of each day...I just walked out of the building!  I didn't  couldn't worry about everything looking perfect...the classrooms I used didn't belong to me.  I cannot tell you how much stress and time letting those things go took off my shoulders.  Mobile teaching allows you to focus more on GOOD TEACHING and less on mundane housekeeping tasks.  And really, isn't that the only thing that matters?  

Good luck my mobile teaching friends!  If you've got other tips and tricks, I'd love to hear them!  Please comment below!  

23 June 2016

Starting With the Basics!

I haven't been out of school a week yet, but I'm already thinking of the first week back!  (Do teachers EVER really take a break from planning??)

I'm not certain yet, but it looks like I'll be teaching 8th and 6th grade this year.  I've taught both in the past, so I know what to expect.  Here's what I expect week one: a BIG need to review the basics!

As soon as I've spent a few days going over classroom procedures and getting-to-know-you activities like this ELA Interest Inventory Interview, it will be time to get down to the nitty-gritty basics of ELA.  What I've experienced in the past few years is that students "forget" the most basic of concepts over the summer...or they just say "we never learned that!".  So before I dive into the current grade-level curriculum, I find it super important to spend a few days to a week reviewing the things they should already have mastered.

The first thing I review with my kids is the eight parts of speech.  Even though I KNOW they learn this stuff in elementary school, they seem to come to me with no idea of what nouns and verbs are! So, last year, I developed a product that helped me immensely with such review: a Parts of Speech Mentor Sentences and Proof of Mastery Set.  This is a quick way to review all eight parts of speech, and gives kids a chance to "show what they know". I like to create a packet of all the pages, then glue the entire packet into an Interactive Student Notebook.  (I LOVE using ISNs in my class...it becomes my students #1 resource throughout the year!  If you haven't tried using ISNs DO IT!  Erin at Lovin Lit has some great tutorials!) Here's what a sample sheet looks like:
Here's one with the answers (included in the product)

Here's how I use these sheets to review:
1. I copy all the pages and make a packet with a staple in the top left corner.  (Don't copy back-to-back unless you don't plan to collect the bottom half of the page!)
2. I spend about 10 minutes reviewing one part of speech (I may show a video...I love the Shmoop! series on You Tube or a classic Schoolhouse Rock.  Sometimes, it's just a quick discussion/notetaking lesson)
3. After the mini-lesson, I do the top part of the page WITH my students, preferably on a projector.
4. Now it is the students' turn to show mastery of the part of speech by writing a sentence on the bottom half using the part of the speech of the day.  (I like to have the kids color code what I'm looking for to make for easy grading)
5. Students cut off the bottom portion and turn in for a quick 5 point grade.  

This makes for a super easy review AND a super easy formative assessment for me to see what my kids know, and what gaps they may have.

Click here for a FREE sample of this product. You can try out the pages that review nouns for free!  The entire set looks like this: 
Click the picture to go to my store!
Over the next few weeks, I'll share with you some of the other ways I review with my students at the beginning of the year.  I really believe that (at least) a week of review is necessary to make sure all kids are starting off from a solid foundation.  So much of ELA, especially grammar, builds upon previous knowledge!  You may think you need to dive right into your curriculum, but you will save time later if your students are secure in their basic skills right from the start!

This blog post is linked up with other great ideas based on teacher experiences!  Click the picture below to read more from other fantastic teachers!

02 June 2016

My Summer Bucket List!

Happy Summer!  

Most of the country is already on vacation, but here in Michigan we still have a few weeks left!  June 16 is the magic day for my district...so the countdown is officially ON!  I absolutely love summer, so I've been planning my summer "to do" list for quite some time :).  

Summer in Michigan means great weather (finally!), fun in the water, art fairs galore, berry picking, and time spent "Up North".  (For those not from Michigan, "Up North" means anywhere that has a lake and cottages or camping...many people I know go "Up North", but really head southwest to the Grand Haven area!  Weird, right?)

I'm joining up with Katie at Mind Sparks and some other summer lovin' bloggers to share my "Summer Bucket List"!  So here's my plan to make the most of my time at home and in the sun!

1.  As an ELA teacher and avid reader, summer is my time to catch up on all the new books!  I spent many years as an elementary teacher, so I've read lots of great upper elementary books, but I'm still working my way through middle school reads.  I've been jotting down titles that I see my 8th graders reading all year, so I've got a great list to start with!  Plus, I always do the adult summer reading program at my local library, along with my kids!  I earn a $5 Starbucks gift card for every 5 books I read...that is win-win in my book!
I found a used book sale at the mall!  SCORE!
2. Art fairs are one of my absolute favorite things!  In Michigan, you can usually find one every single week of the summer.  I love wandering with my mom or my friends, looking at how creative other people are!  There's usually live music and outdoor lunches involved, too.  My favorites are Plymouth's "Art in the Park", and the Ann Arbor Art Fairs.

3. I used to go strawberry picking with my grandpa, so this activity holds special memories for me!  Unfortunately, now that school goes so late into June, it's tricky to get strawberry picking these days, even though Belleville, Michigan (one of the largest berry picking areas) is nearby.  Lately, we've done better going blueberry picking near Tawas, Michigan.  My daughter loves picking berries, and we have fun making yummy desserts with them.  Berries are also great frozen in smoothies year round...and you can't beat the price when you pick them yourself!

Our blueberry haul!
Cherry Picking!

4. I extolled upon the virtues of our pool club in a blog post not long ago.  I really can't say how much I love it!  My kids are occupied, I can read or nap in a lounge chair, Jimmy John's delivers...what more can a mom ask for?  Plus, I like mixing up my workouts with some pool laps during adult swim time.  It is amazing how out of breath and sore I get from doing laps!  Swimming is such good exercise!
I can just sit and watch, or read, or nap!
5. OK, here's my dirty parenting secret.  I'm an ELA teacher, but my son HATES writing.  Thankfully, he loves reading, but his writing needs a lot of work.  He's going into 8th grade, and it is really a struggle.  We've had a come to Jesus discussion about how we will be having a writing boot camp this summer in between soccer camps and Boy Scout camps.  He's not thrilled.  I'm sure there will be arguments and stand offs...possibly we will end up with an outside tutor to save our sanity. (Isn't that always the way...kids don't work the same with parents as they do with other adults!)  Wish me luck and patience with this "to do" item!

6. Because of #5, I need the fruity drinks!  We are going to spend a week on the Gulf of Mexico in July...my entire plan for the week is fruity drinks and lounging.  
My view for a week each summer!
7. Even though it's summer, teachers still work, right?!?  Our school will be fully 1-1 tech integrated next year.  I've been using Google Classroom already, but there are SO MANY things I still want to learn!  I've been reading Alice Keeler's Tech for Teachers blog, and playing around with ideas I've seen others using.  If any of you are already doing 1-1 tech, please comment below with blogs and ideas I should look into!  

8. Photo albums are every mom's nemesis right?  How does the time go so quickly?  How did I end up with 10,000 photos on my camera, but zero prints?  I used to be so good about scrapbooking...I have travel albums and baby albums and toddler albums...then, I went back to work and it all. just. stopped.  I put in a ton of time over Christmas break and lowered my expectations.  I'm only 2 years behind now, and I'm only doing Snapfish or Shutterfly albums.  Ain't nobody got time for scrapbookin' no more!

9. We may be the only family in Michigan to not have a cottage...but luckily we do have friends' with them!  (and there are lots of hotels and campgrounds too :)  I love spending time on the lakes and in the small towns around Traverse City, Grand Haven, Tawas, and Petoskey.  As the T-shirts say..."Great Lakes, Great Times"!

Lovin' Lake Life!

10. This should probably be my #1!  I just got started on TpT last August after going to the conference in Vegas.  I have learned sooooooo much from veteran TpTers, blogger friends, and all the groups on Facebook.  I've been creating products slowly, but surely all year, as they fit into my personal curriculum needs.  This summer, I'm hoping to spread into a larger subject and grade range of products and add more Score Four! games and Color By Code activities.  If there is something you see a need for in your classroom, please comment below...I'm happy to take custom order ideas!

 Visit my Store!

Click on the pictures below to snag a freebie and some other fun activities from my TpT store!

Try out one of my Score Four! games at home this summer :)
Math games to play at home with supplies you already have!

Snag this FREE Color By Code!

Click here to get to Mind Sparks to see all the bloggers who have linked up, too!