February 12, 2018

Sending You Love $100 TpT Gift Card Giveaway

Every now and again I share a great giveaway!  This one is one of those!  I've paired up with 10 Teacher/Authors to #SendYoutheLove!  

We are super excited to give you a chance to win a $100 gift card to TpT!  With the sale starting on Wednesday, February 14th, this would be an awesome way to purchase what you need for your classroom!  Join the fun by entering the Rafflecopter below!  

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The winner will be announced on Wednesday, February 14th!  So, check back to find out who wins.  

*This contest is not sponsored by Blogger or TpT.  Winners will receive 10 gift card codes to use on TpT!  

January 30, 2018

5 Steps to Creating a Great Anchor Chart WITH Students

This may be an unpopular view, but I'm anti pre-made anchor charts.  With all the Pinterest charts and materials flying around out there, teachers have begun to loose that one thing that matters-the STUDENTS!  We have the shabby chic classroom that means nothing to students.  We have the Pinterestly perfect accessories and the ultra deluxe bookshelves that make everything Southern Living perfect.  Including our anchor charts.  Anchor charts-a tool to teach children.  A tool for children to use.  A tool that is interactive.  A tool 100% designed to be done with children, in front of children, and have meaning to that child because THEY had the learning presented to them in a way that makes sense.  Anchor chart-NOT a poster made at home by a teacher to make sure their class is Pinterestingly Perfect!  

However, even I recognize the need for a great looking anchor chart every now and again. In the age of the Pinterestingly Perfect anchor chart, there has to be a happy medium.  I also get the main goal of time saving.  However, what I don't agree with is the idea that students are presented the information in poster format and having that called an anchor chart.  So, is there a way to combine them into one.  I think so!  

Step 1

Determine what you want your anchor chart topic to be.  In this case, I was introducing myths to my students.  I wanted to present the facts behind myths to my students.  I started with a large header and went from there.  I had researched the elements of the myth and knew what I wanted the chart to hold. Then I went to designing.  I designed these.  

Step 2

Next, I created a mock-up.  I printed my design in black and white so that I could see how it would fit on the chart paper.  I laid it out with the end in mind-making sure it all fits!  

Step 3

Next I printed the pieces in color and cut them out.  I also clipped them together in the order that I wanted to introduce them to the students.  This way, I was ready and organized for the lesson sharing the elements of the myth.  

Step 4

Present the lesson.  At this point, glue is your best friend.  I kept a picture of the mock-up on my phone so that I always knew what was coming next.  I glued and discussed with the students as we went.  They had lots of questions for each part as we worked, instead of seeing everything at once.  I would have totally lost them the whole lesson with those monsters if I had presented this chart all at once!  They were fascinated with them both!  

These materials will soon be available in my TpT store!

What we ended up with was a great looking Anchor chart that was teacher driven but completed in front of the students.  The students interacted with the material and learned it in a sequence that did not overwhelm them all at once.  Our discussions about each part allowed for the building of the knowledge they needed but, yet, did not give it to them all at once!  

Anyone can develop charts like this.  All you need are some great fonts, some great clipart, and a little bit of time to think it through and type it up-just like any anchor chart you would make without students present.  The difference is, students are present and part of the development when done this way, which deepens their learning!  

I hope this helps you think about how you develop anchor charts with students.  I'd love to hear what you have to say!  Let me know in the comments below!  

This come from my King Midas and The Golden Touch product!  

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January 23, 2018

February Writing Fun: Great Products to Get You through February

Whether you have primary or intermediate students, I know the month of February is packed-each with it's own fun, problems, and issues to cover.  Writing shouldn't be one of them!  I've got you covered!  As you know, I've been talking a lot about writing in my classroom lately.  I've given up the boxed programs for a more "old school" approach-actually TEACHING in CONTEXT!  Imagine that!  Anyways, now that January is heading out the door, I want to cover some of the things I plan to do for February.  Here we go!

Today I am double posting!  I'm over at Conversations From The Classroom talking about how to have fun with STEM and writing through the use of one of my products called Love Bug in a Jar   This has always been one of my favorite prompts to write about and I'm sure this year's group won't disappoint!  Check out what I'm sharing if you love this idea-I think you will!

Check it out here!

If that doesn't fit your needs, I have two other great products for Valentines that just might.  Both focus on Valentines but are geared toward text dependent writing prompts.  These are designed to provide practice for your students in the area of reading prompts and, then, having to write with source materials in their pieces.  These are print and go ready too!  One of the things I've done in the past to help cut the copy costs is print the reading pieces on card stock and then laminate them.  This way I can use them over and over again!

Click on the pictures to view these products.  

How about Groundhog's Day!  I've got you covered! This great narrative piece will let kids think about how the groundhog would feel being awaken from a sound sleep to be jolted out into the cold world to see what the weather would be for the next six weeks! Is it me or have you ever really thought about the inaccuracy of that!  The sun has to be out for the groundhog to see his shadow!  Wouldn't that mean spring is on it's way and not more winter!  But, it's a fun tradition and that groundhog lives high on the hog-pun intended!

Check it out here

Right after Valentine's Day, we head into President's Day!  Students would just LOVE writing about a day with any President of their choice.  This can be simply a narrative piece, or, for added bonus, use this document to do some research about a President.  Then, students can use that research to create their day with a President!  How fun is that!

Check this one out here

As February winds up, intermediate students would love to explore the history of snow globes!  Students are provided with three pieces to read and examine.  Once they gather vocabulary, notes, and ideas about the history of the snow globe, students write about their new knowledge.  Then, they get to try their hand at creating their own snow globes!  This was is so, so much fun!

You can find this fun project here! 

Don't forget that the Winter Games are coming!  This product has a little of everything!  Students can do a quick research piece on one of the sports they are interested in.  Once the mini-research is completed, they craft an informative essay as to why that sport is their favorite!  Then, students create a topper to match their choice!  These would look great in anyone's hallway or classroom!  

Find this fun product here!

So, as you can see, I've got you covered for the month of February in writing!  Find them all at my store on TpT!

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January 16, 2018

The Best Way to Build Writers: Modeling, Planning Style!

As I travel through this journey of giving up the boxed writing program, there is one thing I will never give up-MODELING!  Teachers frequently ask me what makes my students become the writers that they are, and that's what I tell them-MODELING!  You have heard it over and over from others I'm sure, but I'm here to tell you, modeling is golden!  It is the very key to successful student writers, with one other thing!


Where does this process start-at the very beginning.  I model how to make a plan first.  This is so incredibly important!  Students need a plan to guide their writing, but it is the first thing that teachers drop.  WHY?!  I have heard everything- students don't know what to do, they don't use their plan, it takes too much time, it's too hard!  UGH!  This is NOT about us, the teacher!  It is about students making their way in writing, with a view of where they are going in their sight!  Give them the opportunity to have success through planning.

So, how do you model this?  Super simple!  The first thing you need to do is decide on what form of planner you want to use.  I am a Hamburger Planner girl myself!

I have used this planner for years with every grade from first through fourth!  I find the idea to be very appealing to students and it is easy to make the parts valuable to students.  The buns go together-this is a MUST!  Students must understand that the top bun and the bottom bun are THE SAME THING!  The focus of the writing goes in each bun.  Where do you get the focus-from the prompt, the assigned topic, or their own personal choice of topic.  That's the joy of the hamburger planner!  You can use it for all styles of writing and for any topic!  Just a little tweaking to make it work across all the platforms and you're good to go!

Next, students will move into the hamburger layers.  This is where you can talk about all kinds of organizational issues.  This is where organization starts after all!  That's one of the very reasons to plan!!  Instead of students jumping all over as the write,  this can be fixed before they write!  Take the time to talk about this during the planning stage.  Then, MODEL it!  Get a copy for yourself and fill it out.  You are going to be using this to guide your way, so fill it out before the students, not before class!  Modeling only works well live.  Give up your idea that it has to be fancy and beautiful because that isn't going to work.  Talk through your thoughts and the why behind what you are writing on the page.  The more you verbalize, the more students will see that you believe in what you are doing-and that means it WORKS!

You see, that's half the problem right there.  When we offer students criteria and then don't support it with evidence, we are doing the same thing they are when they don't use text evidence.  "It was in my brain." doesn't work when we want them to provide text evidence,  so why would we want that for writing!  Model this step and it will pay off BIG TIME!

An now, for the next best thing to Build Writers-Have honest conversations about what is on the planner.  Yes, that's right.  Ask kids to share and then have an honest conversation about what is on their page.  The key is to wrap it in that general rule of  one positive comment, one suggestion, and one positive comment so that kids are seeing your suggestions as a positive.  Here's a brief example of how this might work:


Student: My bun is Winter Break.  My reason one is Isle Maurada, my reason number two is Disney Cruise, my reason number three is running a race.  My final bun is Winter Break.
Teacher:  I love that you are focusing on your favorite thing on your break, which is your Disney Cruise.  Do you think that your order of these reasons makes sense in the order they are in?  Think like a story from a book.  You're ideas are strong.  What can you do to make it make better sense?
Student:  I could put the Cruise first!!

Yep-that was a real conversation.  By simply allow students to take a minute to think about their planner fixed a major writing problem-organization-BEFORE their draft was written.

I hope this helps you to build confidence in planning and using this as a modeling tool.  Take the time to try it, and stick to that planner for writing.   I'll be back to discuss this very thing, so you can see the sequence of how to model with the planner during the writing process.  Until then, let me know what you think, what your favorite planner is, or any ideas that you might have for modeling writing with students.  I'd love to hear from you in the comments!

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January 9, 2018

I Can't Do This Anymore: Conquering the Current Education System with Christ

Time and time again, I have seen written comments on Facebook that go something like this, "I'm so stressed out!  I just don't think I can do this anymore.", "I love my job, but something has to give.  The hours I put in are ruining my family life, but I have to do it.", or "I want to look for another job BUT the kids, what about the kids?"  Many times they are accompanied with, "Please pray for me.  I know this was what the Lord called me to do, but, I'm not sure anymore!"  If you are a Christian teacher, I know exactly what you are going through.  If you are a Christian teacher, feel free to read on.  If you are not a Christian teacher, feel free to read on, knowing that the following information is being presented as an answer-the ONLY answer as a Christian-is that Jesus is our ONLY answer.  From this we get our every breathe, our every strength, our every answers.  He died for our sins and by accepting Him as our Lord and Savior, we can seek Him out for the very answers within His Word-the Bible.  It is with this true, saving spirit that I proceed in my post-to provide a way from the one and only Way-Jesus!  So, let's go!

First, I'd like to say that I've been there.  I've been in the spot of crying my eyes out daily.  I've been in the spot of HATING my job EVERY SINGLE DAY!  I've been in the spot where I asked my husband if I could quit- just quit-my job!  I've struggled with administration and how to deal with just a plain bad evaluation system that seemed to rob me of everything I am and was! And then THE Lord began to work.  And work He did!  Of course, every person's walk and experience will be different, but I now feel like I'm equipped with some tools that come directly from my Armor of God!  And, when needed, I grab The Armor of God too! But, more on that to come.

So, where did I start.  I started in the pit of defeat, something I never thought I would come out of!  It was in that pit that I began to fight the enemy back.  I would walk the halls in despair, wondering if showing up to a terrible experience every day was even worth it.  Yet, in Church every single Sunday for 7 weeks I had been hearing, "God is Enough!" I would approach the building from afar in dread,  until one day I looked across the empty field, at the building and said out loud, "GOD IS ENOUGH!"  That's when things began to turn inside of me!  GOD IS ENOUGH!  What if, each and every day, we could walk our halls and know that we are walking on Holy Ground because HE is with us, GOD IS ENOUGH!  I spoke it in my classroom when no one was there!  I carried scripture in my pocket to touch and remember GOD IS ENOUGH!  And things began to change!  I began to find JOY again.  No matter what came my way (and there were some VERY bad things that came my way.) Nothing ever job threatening in the fact that I could loose my job, just things that ate at my core as a Christian.  Things that I was technically powerless to do anything about. Yet my JOY returned.  I could smile at these very people who were going out of their way to be evil, and be JOYFUL!  Because, time and time again, I returned to trust the LORD to provide my joy, to make the LORD the focus of my day at my job, and to recognize I was nothing without HIM!  GOD IS ENOUGH!  That's where we all need to start our journey of recovery in a system that is created by the enemy to destroy us.

It wasn't until I started a Bible Study at Church that brought me to the next level of spiritual understanding.  It was ordained that God brought along The Armor of God by Priscilla Shirer. (Affiliate Link) At the very beginning of this study, Shirer shared The Enemy's Strategies (here is a beautiful print of these strategies) and almost immediately I saw IT ! I saw IT!  I saw that my job was on his list of things to destroy-and he has been for YEARS!  I saw that I was just small potatoes in the big stew of destruction-and it OPENED MY EYES!  So, take a minute and go check out that beautiful print before reading on!  See if you can see it?  If not, I'll be right here, ready to go with what I saw!

I guess you're back by now!  Did you see IT?  The it I saw was my teaching career ALL OVER THAT PAGE!  My passion, my calling, my focus, my identity, my confidence, my heart, my relationships, my purity, my contentment was ALL OVER THAT PAGE!  Teaching is who we are!  Teaching goes way past the normal job expectations into our very being-and the enemy was right there attacking every part of who I was!  It even crept into my family because I was constantly a hot mess all over my family!  He was manipulating me within the system and I could not escape!  Or could I!

As I walked through that study I began to peel off the layer upon layer of beat down I was taking and could see, clearly, that God had a different plan for me!  This is NOT the part where I tell you I quit my job and am doing something even better.  This is the part where I tell you that I still walk into that same building every day, with JOY!  That God is ENOUGH every single day and that victory is had through this each time I choose to let God be ENOUGH and put on my armor!  Yes, this system is broken and defeated, yet God still has me here, teaching my students!  The difference is, I'm no longer a slave to it!  I can honestly say, I have been set free from the slavery of the education system, yet I am still inside it!  It is so difficult to explain because it is spiritual freedom, and that's from within.  Word upon Word upon Word flowed from the wisdom in this study that broke down the walls and caused me to be FREE because I repositioned myself to be in line with God, and not with the broke system.  I stopped being angry at people, and started calling out the enemy who was behind the plans to begin with!  Now, this is not perfect, I am still human after all!  But I am FREE!  I can walk within the plan that God has for my life-to teach children who need love and caring and great teachers-and feel peace and joy.  I can be who He needs me to be-focused on Him and not my circumstances!

Honestly, if you take one thing away from this post I hope upon hope that it is that God is ENOUGH!  That we are part of system but the LORD is the ONLY solutions to this system-for it is already defeated!  We just have to walk in it, in victory, with Jesus!  That's the Good News of how we, the Christian teachers, battle the current system with Christ!

Let me know what you think!  Let me know what victories you have had in this system by following Christ!  And, above all, PRAY!  In another great study I did, I grabbed this little nugget-Pray is not emotional-it is PRE-WORK!  So, get your pre-work on!  And, wear that Armor God gave you!

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January 2, 2018

STEM Mistakes that I Made

It is important to know that in STEM activities, you can frequently make mistakes that you are not counting on.  Here are some STEM errors that I made that can help you out in your experiences with STEM!  

  Underestimating the Science 

Data from New Year's Noisemaker STEM showing that changing the groupings made less noise than preplanning the groupings.  

HOLY COW!  Can I honestly tell you this was a HUGE error that I made with STEM!  I had no idea when I started that there was way more science hidden in these than the surface level activities that I designed to do.  Suddenly, right in front of me, there was science I did not imagine within these activities.  For instance, when I was creating the New Year's Noisemakers, I obviously hit the science of sound.  However, suddenly, out of nowhere, comes VARIABLES!  I wasn't even thinking about this science at all-and it's actually one of the harder things for kids to see in experiments!  Not in STEM!  We were suddenly creating new groups and discovering new things about groupings of students and their noisemakers!  By doing this, we exposed that by changing the groupings, we flatlined on noise making.  The variable of similar groupings did not produce the sound vibrations that were produced in the differentiation of design that the original groups did!  And that was just the beginning of missed sciences!  So, lesson to learn-be prepared to pick out science features that you can cover with students as they are engineering and while you are testing their products.  It is there-you just have to look!  

Crafting instead of STEM

This STEM was fun and had lots of science, BUT it was a little too much for one teacher to handle!

In my Snowman Skiing STEM, I quickly discovered that the crafting overwhelmed the STEM process.  It's not that the snowmen weren't needed-they were!  However, I didn't need to put as much time into creating them as I did.  Next time, I'd get parent volunteers in to help with the entire process if I used hot glue again-or even better, I'd just get the right glue!  Then the kids could do it all!  Make sure you truly examine how much crafting is present because it can get in the way of what you planned for in your STEM.  You want their minds to be focused there, not so much on the craft of it all! 

Providing a Model 

This works both ways.  It is key that you examine the STEM you are working with and decide if a model is a good idea.  For instance, I really thought a basic model in the New Year's Noisemakers would not be needed.  However, I got a lot of similar ideas, many of which ended up being cup shakers and rain stick "style" noisemakers.  When I do this again next year, I will share some "models".  I will simply show them musical instruments during the planning stage as well as the video.  This way, it will broaden their "model" view and allow for more variety.  It is very important to weigh the model idea.  Giving too much information in our model presentation can also guide them too much.  So, be careful-but think it through too! 

Ignoring a Kid Solution

Open space at the bottom allowed the snowmen to ski correctly.

This happened during my Snowman Skiing STEM.  I couldn't figure out how to get those snowmen to ski onto the "snow" surface at the bottom.  They just kept falling over.  However, it never dawned on me until days later, during Winter Break, that the students had already solved this problem-in the pre-testing stage!  Over and over their snowmen simply skied down their slopes.  I literally woke up in the night with the realization that they had a solution to MY problem-that was really THEIR problem to solve-IF I HAD JUST ASKED!  I need to be asking students during the testing stage rather than dictating the things we are doing.  A deep thought to ponder!   

My plan caused the snowmen to fall over!  

Not Providing Time to Reflect

I had ever intention of reflecting on my STEMS.  I even built this into my products.  But intentions are not always matched.  You see, it was before break...yadah, yadah, yadah...  Why did I even listen to my own excuses!  This is so vital to their growth in this system, and yet, I talked myself out of it!  Reflecting allows students, just like us, the adults, to grow.  However, it comes natural to us.  Not so much for them!  I skipped this vital opportunity for students to grow and change.  So, I hear by pledge unto myself that I won't do this again!  Let them have that time!  It's key!  

I hope this will help guide you in not making the mistakes I have made so far.  I will say, it truly is an amazing process to engage in within your classroom setting.  There is usually little set-up and take down. Plus, the kids are so involved in it that they will think of things you never have and create things you've never imagined within these activities in your classroom!  I am currently awaiting the arrival of this book:

(Affiliate Link http://amzn.to/2C8Oknl )

I'm super excited to see what's inside.  Once I get going, I'll post a good review!  I'd love to hear what mistakes you have made of what books you use for STEM!  Drop me a comment to let me know!  

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December 26, 2017

Giving Up The Writing Program: What I'm Doing Instead

Throughout your teaching life, you will have moments of discovery-about who you are and what you truly believe as a teacher.  I've had a number of those through my career.  The first one was that I would switch from the traditional method of reading and become a more "Balanced" Literacy Instructor.  Not in the sense that is today's "Balanced" Literacy (Which is a farce-but that's another blog post!) Another was when I discovered that I was truly a great writing instructor-because I loved to write and I learned from the very best!  Karen Padgett-may your retired teacher time be the VERY BEST, wherever you are!  Yes, I learned from a very wise and knowledgable peer!  Not some crazy writing program that everyone hates-but REAL teaching!  REAL TEACHING!  

So, when I found myself saying this, I was completely SHOCKED- "I don't know how to teach writing anymore!"  Yes, I said that-because I didn't.  You see, I've been bogged down in writing programs-Lucy Calkins, Write Traits, Top Score, Making Meaning Writing-you name it, it's come my way.  In that moment I realized I needed to STOP THE MADNESS and go back to the Karen Padgett way of life-write every week with a purpose!  Just Write! (Oh, wait, that was ANOTHER program I tried!)  

Here's how this breaks down day by day:

On Monday you introduce the prompt and plan.  That's it.  The key to this method is in the simplicity of each day.  When students get overwhelmed, they don't produce the writing you expect.  That is what I have learned over the years of teaching writing-small chunks for small kids produced the best results.  And so does planning!  So many people skip this part but it is the KEY to excellent results.  It takes the ideas for writing from higher order thinking to the knowledge level.  (Read more about it here!)  So, planning is KEY!

Tuesday is modeling day for the teacher and writing day for the kids.  Again, I take this in small chunks.  I start with proposing a grabber, or introduction, statement.  Here is something to keep in mind-kids WILL copy you.  That's what modeling is-the opportunity to show a technique.  If they copy it, so what!  Really, I mean that!  They will eventually venture off into something different-I PROMISE!  What you are doing is loading their tool kits with ideas.  You just have to remember that your introduction statement is no different than a list of ideas you would put in a writer's notebook.  Once I get the introduction started, I form my three ideas and add those to my paragraph.  I finish with a strong closing-again, a modeling technique that allows kids to grow their tool kits.  Then, I give students the time to write their introduction-and that's it!  And, yes, I do this week after week!  

Wednesday arrives with a little more writing.  I will often model my opening of the second paragraph.  Then I continue to write while students write their second and, many times, third paragraphs.  This is where I should take a moment and talk about the end of each writing period.  Students are always sharing throughout this process, in the form of the last 5 minutes of the writing period.  During this time I provide specific feedback as to what students have done correct in their writing.  I also provide ways to boost their writing.  This is the specifics of paint a picture with your words, using figurative language, boosting strong verbs, and any other opportunities that present themselves.  I always phrase these things in positives, such as, "One way to strengthen your writing would be...".  This allows students the opportunity to change their writing and for others to apply this same idea.  Many times, I open the writing period with this same technique.  

Thursday arrives as a time to complete any of the remaining body of the essay.  Again, I start with a quick modeling of what I am working on within my own writing.  Do not underestimate this part!  The more we model writing, the better it is for students.  And, it actually improves our own writing!  If we can grow as writers, we can help students grow!  Depending on the process we are at in writing, I may even model my conclusion.  This is where it gets tricky.  You don't want to jump into the conclusion until you are sure that you have modeled it time and again.  But, if we are on a short week, or Friday is heavy, then I will model this process at this stage.  

And, finally, FRIDAY!  As I just said above, on Friday we work to complete the conclusion.  This should always include a restate of the topic, followed by a reminder of the information inside for an expository or informational and an opinion piece.  For narrative, you are looking for a wrap of the ideas, the solution, and a lesson learned.  Model, model, model these ideas!  In addition to this, it is very important for students to then edit their work.  They need to read it out loud to others and check for spelling and grammar throughout the week.  

I am actually super excited to be going back to this method and seeing what my students can do.  Yes, by the end of all of this we will be moving into how to add information from readings into our work to get ready for fourth grade! But, this is where we are going to go  from where we have been!  No more programs, no more jumping around with ideas or things that are taught.  Just modeling, embedding instruction in real learning, and letting kids learn how to REALLY write!  Here's where I'm starting!  

You can find this in my Teachers Pay Teachers store and it will soon be part of my January Writing Prompt Bundle!  I hope you join me in this simplification of writing program, because it WORKS!  Let me know what works for you!  I'd love to hear your ideas!  

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