Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Things I'm Loving

I got this bad boy at Wally World this weekend.  Oh.  My.
Let me tell you why I love this.
  • For starters, it was under $20.  
  • It's easy to use.  Plug it in, turn it on, wait less than 5 minutes, then begin laminating.
  • The laminating is super sturdy.  I was worried that I'd want the 5 mm pouches, but I think I'm happy with the 3.  It's a little thicker than school lamination but not as thick as an ID card.
  • I can laminate anytime I want!  Summers.  Weekends.  No waiting for the machine at school to take 100 years to heat up, only to see that it's wrinkled or messed up when it feeds through.
I picked it and a pack of 3 mm pouches up and decided to try it out.  I put some book box tags in a pouch, fed them through, and they came out pristine!  I am in love with my new favorite thing!

Monday, April 27, 2015

Manic Monday

This is the Monday to end all Manic Mondays, because it is the beginning of - state testing.  Arrrrrgh!!  I know my kiddos are ready.  We've worked harder than ever, and they have grown so much over this year.  But, the pressure is still there.  Anyone else with me?

The debate over testing isn't new, and it isn't going anywhere anytime soon.  I believe it's an important conversation to have, and I believe educators should be passionate advocates for what's best for our students.  But, right here and right now - we're facing down The Test.

So here's my plan.  Tomorrow morning I'll get up and probably want to throw up.  I'll get to school, exchange knowing glances with my teaching friends, greet my kiddos, listen to the national anthem and recite the pledge.  We'll take some time to review - one LAST time - get watered and bathroomed, and welcome our proctor.

Then, right before I go to get the tests, I'm going to look every one of my students in the eye and tell them how much I love them.  And how proud I am of how they've grown this year.  And remind them that nothing could ever change that.  Because they are people.  Not numbers, not test scores, not percentages, but real, honest-to-goodness, human people with feelings and fears and hopes and dreams and anxieties.  I wish you could see how they congratulate each other when someone masters something they've been working on for a long time.  Or how they oh so patiently coach each other when someone's struggling.  How they just KNOW who needs a little help, who needs a kind word or smile.  There are times when I just stand there in awe of who they are, hoping to one day be the kind of person they are today.  So tomorrow I'll distribute hugs and high fives, and remind them that today is like any other day.  We're going to close our door, get to work, do our best, and know that no matter what happens, we are US, in this together.

To all those testing - hugs!!

Sunday, April 26, 2015

The Sunday Scoop

It's Sunday, and that means it's time for The Sunday Scoop with The Teaching Trio!

Yes, state testing begins tomorrow.  Then we have school-wide STAR testing Thursday and Friday.  And next week will bring the social studies field test.  God bless us, every one!

I am still - STILL - without a washing machine, so it's back to the laundromat I go today.  This is now over two weeks with two teenagers and no machine.  Kill me now.  We have decided that if it's not fixed by Wednesday, we'll just buy a new one. 

I've booked a fall break trip to Disney, and I'm so VERY fortunate that a neighbor and parent of a former student is also a Disney travel specialist!  All I have to do is give her dates and tell her what we want to do, and she handles the rest, for the exact same price as booking it myself.  This is just my second time to DW, so her help is invaluable.  And, y'all, this woman KNOWS Disney.  If you're thinking of planning a trip, check out her Facebook page.  She is the bomb.  (Does anyone say that anymore?)

Last, I've decided to take the plunge and redecorate my room next year.  No, I'm UPdecorating my room.  I'm using a lot of what I've already got, just adding in some new details and colors.  At least that's what I'm telling myself.  I've fallen in love with the Hello, Sunshine collection from Schoolgirl Style, and I love trolling Pinterest for inspiration.  I got a few scores at Hobby Lobby and Dollar Tree yesterday, and I'm excited to do some more planning!

Enjoy your Sunday!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Technology Thursday - See Saw Portfolios

I'm joining the wonderful ladies over at Teaching Trio for their Tech Thursday link up.

I'm planning on blogging more later about student-led conferences, but for now let me just say that I had students lead their parent conferences for the first time this past school year, and I'll never do it any other way.  I'm totally sold. 

One piece that I wanted to perfect for this coming year was to make sure students had really good portfolios to share.  I was so involved in the planning and logistics of the conferences, that the portfolio part got kind of thrown together at the last minute.  As I thought more about the portfolios, I knew I'd prefer to do an electronic portfolio - it was more seamless, easier to keep up with, and could easily follow students from one grade to the next.  I saw Seesaw pop up on a Facebook page, and was SO excited when I downloaded the app and tried it out!

Here's a video that really does a good job of explaining it.

I am definitely planning on using this next year.  I'll have students archive their work in portfolios, and then they'll share them on iPads with their parents at conference time.  I also love the idea of giving parents access to the portfolios.

How would you use Seesaw in your classroom?

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Test Prep

The Test is next week.  Love it or hate it, it is what it is, and we've been working hard to get ready for it.  Review and prep can get boring, though, so here are a few ways I've found to make it a little less blah.

Grudgeball.  I found the idea (and the pic) at To Engage Them All, and my kids have loved having a different way to practice.  Be sure to visit her blog for the original rules, but here's how I've changed them for my kids:
  • I split them into teams, and I put the team numbers on the board.
  • I project a question and call on one team to answer it.  If they get it right, they get two X's on the board.  If they don't, play passes to the next team, who has 10 seconds to answer (keeps everyone thinking the whole time).  I started out with the original "erase the X" rules, but I think my thirds are a little young to handle it - they were getting upset when another team took their points, so we voted and they chose to change the rules some.
  • If the team gets the correct answer, they can shoot for an extra X.  One of my kids brought in an over-the-door basketball hoop and a ball.  I tape off a place on the floor for them to stand, and they give it a try.  This has absolutely no academic purpose, but it does keep it fun.

Scoot.  This is fun - and quiet.  And cheap.  You just put a different task card on each kid's desk and make sure each one is numbered.  Then you can either make a recording sheet (which is just a sheet with numbered boxes for them to record their answers to each card) or have them use good ole notebook paper.  Each student stands behind his or her desk, you set the timer (I usually do 1 minute), and they have that long to record the answer on their sheet.  When the timer goes off, they scoot to the next desk, and play continues until they're back to their own desk.  I love this because:
  • Everyone already has task cards.  It's so easy to adapt.
  • It's quiet.  I allow zero talking.  They're already so hyper this time of year, this is calming.
  • It's pretty quick.  Minimal prep.
  • And it gets them up and moving.  
Check out the blog post at Task Card Corner - that's where I found the idea and the image.

Kahoot.  This requires a little more prep and available technology, but my kids BEG for Kahoot.  Basically, you upload questions (you can include images, too, which I love), start the game, and kids log on from any type of device - phone, iPad, or laptop.  The question pops up, and the kids have a predetermined amount of time to respond on their devices.  When everyone's answered or when the time's up, the correct answer pops up.  What's really fun is that points are awarded for correct, quick answers, and kids see class standings after every question.  I love this because:
  • It's just cool.  The kids love answering on their devices and seeing the standings pop up.
  • It takes a little time to create the questions, but once you do, they're shareable.  So, you could team up with other teachers to divide and conquer, and then share.
  • I love to let my kids create Kahoot questions.  They write the question and the multiple choice answers that go with.  This is fantastic practice for identifying distractors, since they're actually writing them, thinking about common mistakes kids make.
Tennessee is moving to a new test next year, and I don't think prepping will be as big of a deal - or even possible, outside of familiarity with the test format - so in many ways I'm looking forward to that.  In the meantime, we are reviewing like crazy, and these are my three favorite ways to do it.  I know there are a lot more out there, though.  What do you do to get your kids ready?

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Things I'm Loving

It's Testing Season for us.  TCAP starts next week, and I'm feeling the typical stress that goes with this time of the year.  I've learned that a happy or two can make these next couple of weeks more bearable, so I try to treat myself to a few things that make me smile.  

I was at Core Coach training in Knoxville last weekend and made a new friend who introduced me to these babies.  I immediately fell in love, stopped at Target on the way home and got them.  They write smoothly, have a fine tip, and come in pretty colors.  They're my current favorite pens.  (I also have issues with Papermate Flairs and Frixions.)

This happy was a little pricey, but I tell myself it's an investment.  I ordered an Erin Condren life planner this winter, and I absolutely LOVE it.  So, when I saw that Erin Condren teacher goodies are 25% off, I went ahead and ordered next year's planner and got some coordinating notepads (the one thing I regret not ordering with my life planner).  So pretty.

However.  I had thought about redecorating my room - which is kind of nutso, since I did it two years ago and swore I'd never do it again when I was knee deep in lamination, paint, and clothespins - but decided against it.  When I looked around at all I'd have to change - toolbox!  posters!  bulletin boards!  lanterns! - and thought about the 50 million dabs of hot glue I'd have to jackknife off the walls, I decided against it and used that decision to justify the expense of the Erin Condren planner.  It was a difficult decision, particularly with Schoolgirl Style debuting new themes every day, but one I was comfortable with.

Until this.

Mylanta, I love it.  It's beautiful.  It's bright and cheery.  I can use my existing yellow and black stuff and incorporate the teal that came with my room in the form of lockers and floor tiles.  And decorating makes me happy.  Sigh.  But.  I'm going to be crazy busy this summer, gone most of June doing social studies standards training across the state.  I already bought the aforementioned planner, and I need to watch the ole budget.  Plus, I need to spend time this summer doing some curriculum mapping and planning to use Engage NY modules for math.

So.  I registered for the giveaway.  If I win, I'll take it as a sign that I need to do it.  If I don't, I'll take it as a sign that I still need to thing about doing it.  

First world problems, people. 

Monday, April 20, 2015

Monday Made It - VIP Table

I'm linking up with Tara at 4th Grade Frolics for this week's Monday Made It!

I saw the idea for having a VIP table somewhere - if it was you, please let me know so I can give credit where credit is due - and I thought it'd be the perfect shot in the arm that my behavior plan needs this time of year.  You know.  When nothing.  Is.  Working.  Anyone else?

I started the year with Class Dojo, and around Christmas time I switched back to the clip chart.  The kids needed a visual reminder of where they were, and it was just more efficient to clip someone up or down than it was to get the iPad, start the app, find the kid, award or detract points, etc.

So, if a kid gets to the top of the clip chart, he or she gets to sit at the VIP table the following day!

All I did is use some existing table space and just pretty it up.  The banner matches the banner on my window treatment.  I found the runner at Hobby Lobby, the flowers are from Dollar Tree and put into a can covered with wrapping paper, the stools are from Ikea (I added the cushioned tops), and the caddy holds lots of fun school supplies.  

In it, I have erasable colored pencils, my favorite Friction pens, mechanical pencils, little Post-Its, pencil grips, scented erasers, and page flags.

I also have my iPads over here.  Kids at the VIP table can listen to kid-friendly music on Pandora with headphones while they do independent work - as long as they can handle it, of course.

Here's one of my sweeties working hard on a test prep activity at the VIP table.

The VIP table has gotten rave reviews from the kids - they tell me that I need to start it at the beginning of the year for next year's kiddos - and they do try really hard to get to the top of the chart so they can sit there.  I've found that more than two at a time back there don't work, so if I have more than two, I just ask the others to wait a day to sit back there.  So far, it hasn't been a problem.

Easy, fun, and inexpensive.  My favorite kind of reward!!

Sunday, April 19, 2015

The Sunday Scoop

I'm joining the linky over at Teaching Trio for this week's Sunday Scoop.

I've taken the plunge and I'm working with a personal trainer, and meal prep is a must for me.  I have NO time during the week to think about what I'm eating, so prepping the week in advance should help.  Follow me on Instagram to see how it goes this afternoon!

I will never again complain about laundry.  Never.  Y'all, I have been without a washer for - count 'em - 11 days!!!  Yesterday, I finally broke down, loaded my car with 8 bags of laundry and headed to the laundromat.  That was a pain in the you-know-what.  Big time.  Hopefully I'll be with a functioning washer by the end of the this week.  I have a feeling there'll be a whole lotta washing going on.

My sweet hubby got me a new Macbook Pro, and the transition from PC hasn't been too hard.  Just a bit of a learning curve.  But, I'm hoping to really dig into Keynote today and see if I can work with it or if I'll have to break down and get Office.  

I spent yesterday cleaning out the flowerbed and sprucing it up, washing the car, sweeping out the garage, toting aforementioned laundry into and out of the laundromat - basically it was a manual labor day.  So, this morning, I'm looking forward to time with TV, Macbook, and coffee.  

Enjoy your Sunday!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Stitch Fix - #5

There is no way I can put into words how much I absolutely adore Stitch Fix.  Just in case you don't know what it is, here's Stitch Fix in a nutshell:

  • Stitch Fix is a personal styling service that's for us "real" people.
  • You set up an account and fill out a fashion profile that tells them all about you - sizes, colors, fit, likes/dislikes, overall style, etc.  I've also set up a Pinterest board for my stylist and linked it to my account, so she can see exactly what I like.
  • You select how often you want to receive a fix - monthly, every other month, etc.
  • You get a little bit of Christmas on your doorstep every time!  Your Stitch Fix box will arrive at your door, and inside you'll find five items wrapped prettily and ready for you to try!  You'll also get a personal note from your stylist, a card with ideas for how to wear each item, and a return bag.
  • You have three days to try on all of your goodies.  If you love it, keep it.  If you don't, just put it in the bag and pop it in the mail back to Stitch Fix.
  • Then, check out.  Each time you get a fix, you'll pay a $20 styling fee.  If you keep ANY item in your fix, your $20 is credited toward the price of that item.  If you keep all 5 items, you get 25% off everything in your box!  
  • As you check out, be sure to leave feedback about each item - what you liked, what you didn't, and why.  As you leave more feedback, your fixes will become even more tailored just for you.
  • One of my favorite things about Stitch Fix is that you can tell your stylist if you're needing something special.  So, if you have a vacation, girls' trip, or important meetings coming up, your stylist can be sure to include items that will work.
I absolutely detest shopping, and I find that I tend to buy the same type of stuff all the time, so Stitch Fix has been a lifesaver.  I only have to buy basics for myself, and I'm trying - and loving - new things that I would've never picked up in the store!

I got my first fix in November, and I ended up keeping everything in the box.  Each month since, I've kept 2 or 3 items.  But, this month, the entire box was a keeper again!  
 Here's the box.  

 See how pretty it's all wrapped?

 This is the card you get that shows you different ways you can wear each piece.  Your stylist will also tell you how you can pair stuff with pieces from earlier fixes, so I can wear the purple top with the pants from my first fix and the jacket with a skirt from my third fix.

 This is the first top.  I fell in love at first sight, and it was really cute on.

 I loved this top, too!  The bow is my favorite part.  I can wear it alone or with the black blazer.

 I love this purple top!  I wore it today with a black cardigan, but it would be adorable alone or dressed up with the blazer.

I specifically requested a blazer for some meetings I have coming up in June, and this fit absolutely perfectly!

I'm going to be traveling some in June, and Jen, my stylist, found this cross body bag for traveling.  I didn't love the material, but I actually got a better deal if I kept it and got the 25% discount on the whole box, so my daughter scored.

I can't wait until my May fix arrives!  It really is THAT much fun.  If you'd like to try it, click here to use my referral link.  Be sure to let me know what you think! 

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Tech Thursday - Pretty Wallpaper

I'm joining Teaching Trio's Technology Thursday linky party and sharing this resource I just found for prettying up my phone and iPads with cute wallpaper.

First, a confession.  I am an Erin Condren groupie.  I splurged and ordered the Life Planner this year, and it has been one of the best investments I've made.  I've been thinking of ordering the Teacher Planner, and as I was drooling browsing the site, I found this!

Now, I know that wallpaper isn't anything new, but Erin Condren wallpaper is a different story!  I am in love with her cute, colorful designs, and she didn't disappoint.  This is the one I chose.

It's really similar to the cover I picked for my planner, and I just love it.  Downloading is super easy from their site, so head over by clicking here and dress up your technology!

Monday, April 6, 2015

Cute Testing Signs

I'm linking up with Tara at 4th Grade Frolics for a Monday Made It!

Testing season is here - sigh - and with it comes the humdrum of practicing, stressing, practicing, and then stressing some more.

I was in the car on my way from Knoxville to Chattanooga with my husband, and pulled out my laptop to make something, and this idea popped into my mind.  We all have to have testing signs on our doors - why not make them cute, so that they coordinate with classroom decor?

So, I made a basic template, and then customized it with about every popular color combo I could think of.

These are just a few of the color combos I came up with - I ended up with more 40 different color combinations - and I included a grayscale version, too.  Since it didn't take me long to make them - and we all need a little happy at this time of year - I'm making them completely free!  Run over and grab the whole package at my TpT store.

Happy testing!

Sunday, April 5, 2015

The Sunday Scoop

I'm excited to be joining the ladies at Teaching Trio for their Sunday Scoop linky.  Here's what I'm up to today.

Be sure to head on over to their blog to see what everyone else is doing.

Happy Easter!

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Hot Wheels in the Classroom

Welcome to the first of - hopefully - many posts at Read, Run, Teach!

I don't know what it is about this time of year - I guess it's the spring cleaning gene I've got - but I start wanting to clean out cabinets, throw away old curriculum, rearrange furniture, and start planning for the next school year.  Tell me I'm not alone.

Well, when one of our district's reading coaches sent me this link, my wheels immediately started turning about incorporating these STEM activities into my plans for next year!  (No pun intended.  Honestly, I typed it and THEN realized I'd made a funny.)

Y'all.  They will send you a whole Hot Wheels kit for your classroom FOR FREE!!  Free I tell you!  All you have to do is request the classroom kit.  You'll get about 40 cars, plenty of track, videos and lesson plans . . . I don't know why this isn't taking the teaching world by storm.  Hurry on over, though - they're shipping in May, so you'll want to sign up fast.

I teach enrichment for third graders in the mornings, and I will definitely use this as a basis for a unit on physics and engineering next year with them.  We also use Sopris's Read Well curriculum, and there's a unit on Newton's laws of motion and amusement parks, so this would mesh fantastically with that, too.

Tell me - how would you use Hot Wheels in your classroom?

P. S.  Thanks bunches, Mary Allison.  :)