Monday, June 29, 2015

TpT Seller Challenge Week 2: Dare to Dream!

Hello, Everyone!

I'm a little late posting this, but I'm back for week 2 of the TpT Seller Challenge hosted by Teach Create MotivateThird in HollywoodPeppy Zesty Teacherista, and Sparkling in Second. This time, I'm blogging about my hopes and dreams for my TpT store.  I can't believe it's been almost three years since I started my journey on TpT.  It's been a wonderful experience so far and I can't wait to see where the next three years takes me!

So here are some of my BIG DREAMS for my TpT store.

1. Become a better teacher and writer

Working on my store has been some of the best professional development I've ever taken part in.  As a teacher, creating my products has made me consider resources in ways I had never before done.  How do I make sure they are engaging?  How do I make them interactive?  What if a student needs additional challenge? What if s/he needs more support?  As my products have improved, so has my teaching. I'm sure that process will continue as I continue to improve my store.

I've learned a LOT about technology throughout this process.  I'm better at design. I've learned so much from other fantastic teacher-authors here on TpT.  This community is collaboration at it's best! I'm looking forward to learning more as I continue to grow as a teacher.

Because of my store, I'm writing more now than I have in years.  I rediscovered my love of poetry and I know that -- just as I tell my students -- the more I write the better writer I become.

2. Get out of debt

With student loans, credit cards, car payment, and my mortgage, I like most other U.S. consumers struggle with debt.  Sometimes, stretching my teacher paycheck to pay all of the bills was a bit of a challenge.  One of the reasons that I started my store was the vague hope that I'd bring in a little extra money. Well, it is just a little right now, but I have hope!  As my store grows, I hope to pay off some or all of my debt. 

3. Travel

I have a Pinterest Board called Places I'd Love To Go!  Wouldn't it be wonderful if my TpT income allowed me to visit some of them?!

Blarney Castle, Ireland - one of the Places I'd Love To Go!

4. Make Home Improvements

I've got a list of ways I'd like to improve my home: make home repairs; remodel the bathroom and kitchen; add a fence; and create an outdoor living area.  As my store grows, I hope to cross off a few of the items on that list. 

So, that's it.  Not such extraordinary dreams.  Just small things that I can actually see happening (I hope!).

What are your dreams? Make sure you check out the other bloggers to find out what they are working toward. 

Until next time,

Sunday, June 21, 2015

TpT Seller Challenge Week 1: Makeover Madness!

I have so many things on my to-do list for my Teachers pay Teachers store this summer! Luckily, I decided to take part in the TpT Seller Challenge hosted by Teach Create Motivate, Third in Hollywood, Peppy Zesty Teacherista, and Sparkling in Second. The Challenge helped both to motivate me to get started and gave me an idea where to start. I decided to begin by updating my best-selling Poem of the Week products. Because these products are part of a bundle, I needed to update them all at once.  I gave each of the covers a facelift. Since I absolutely love the clip art and font that I used, I didn't see any need to change those, but I did want to make the covers pop more. I also needed to change the logo to match the new one that Blogs Fit for a Queen designed for me! Finally, I made some needed additions and changes to the products themselves.

Here are the details about my Makeover.  

As you can see, I didn't make any major changes to the covers.  I changed some colors. Then, I enlarged the font and the clip art to make the cover more eye-catching and reduce the amount of blank space.

More importantly, I took the opportunity to add two new poems to this packet.  One of the poems, My Friend is Doing Wrong, addresses the issue of peer pressure. Since I had several students who were excusing their own behavior by blaming a classmate, I felt this was a needed topic of discussion. The other poem was written because I welcomed a new student to our class. The New Kid encourages empathy and helps students to think about how they can welcome new students.

 My Science Poems did not need any major revisions. Again, I enlarged the font and clip art to make the cover "pop!" I also corrected the page number locations in my mini-book and added directions for making the book.

I also added some pictures and directions for using the I Can Be a Scientist poem at the beginning of the school year.  

I had already added a poem and stationery to this packet for President's Day.  But I had not uploaded the new version to the Bundle yet.  So, after tweaking the cover page and making some minor changes to the format of my Fourth of July poem, it was ready for an overdue upload.

Just curious, is anyone still in school around the Fourth of July?  I thought the poem would be great to use during a summer reading program or in summer school.  If you have used that one, I'd love to hear how and where. 

Finally, I spent a day upgrading my Fall Poems and Activities.  I added another poem, I Am Thankful, to use before Thanksgiving. I also thought this would be a great opportunity for a poetry connection, so I added some stationery for student poetry writing. One is for an acrostic poem; the other allows for student choice in their poetry writing.

As I was working on this one, it occurred to me that the primary-lined writing paper does not allow much room for our older students' writing. To solve that problem, I added stationery that has single lines for use in 2nd and 3rd grade.

I love the look of my new covers!  I'm also happy I was able to make some much needed changes to the products themselves. Please redownload if you've previously purchased these products from me.  If you don't have any of my Poem of the Week products, I hope you'll consider starting a Poem of the Week program in your classroom. If you need more details, check out my post here.  If you need poems, check out my Poem of the Week products including my freebie, Poem of the Week: Resources for Getting Started.

So, that's it. Now I can cross one thing off my To-Do list!  Yay!

I can't wait for the next challenge from these awesome ladies!

Until then,

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Reflecting on the School Year: 5 Things I Want to Keep

Thursday was my last day with students. It's so hard to say goodbye to my second graders. Realizing that all my chances to reach that difficult student are gone. All my chances to help a struggling reader are behind me.  All the concepts they don't understand will now have to be retaught by next year's teacher.  All my successes seem buried under this year's failures.

During the final month of the school year, I usually find myself reflecting on the past year and making plans for next year.  What could I have done differently?  Why didn't these students make more growth?  Did I meet with my high students enough? And on, and on, and on.  

Can you tell that I'm pretty hard on myself?

For this blog post, I want to focus on the positive.  Some things that I did this year really made a positive impact in my classroom. Since every year brings changes, I want to make sure I keep what works. So these are the 5 things that I want to keep doing - next year and the years after that.

1.  Positive Discipline
Our school started to use Positive Discipline this year to help improve classroom and school-wide behavior. We attended a training before the school year began and then had a follow-up about mid-year. The program teaches teachers to look for the motivation behind student misbehavior and encourages improved behavior through the use of class meetings and social skills instruction.  It de-emphasizes rewards and punishment and increases intrinsic motivation.  I love the way it fosters classroom community and respect for all.

For most of my kids, this program worked wonders. It wasn't perfect, but my students definitely grew in their ability to solve problems and deal with conflict. Even when they made bad choices, they were later able to work through the solutions to their problems in productive ways. They became expert compliment-givers and caring classmates. Our last class meeting had me tearing up as they shared their remembrances of this school year and their hopes for third grade. 

It wasn't a magic bullet. We still had our problems. My most challenging students were slow to adopt the social skills I taught.  I did not always respond to problems in the ways that were recommended in the program. However, I see the potential of this method and I'd like to continue using it. On my own, I plan to continue my professional development in this area by studying this book.

I'm considering hosting an online book study. If you would be interested in participating, please let me know in the comments below.

2.  GoNoodle
OMGosh! If you have not discovered GoNoodle yet, you are in for a treat.  This wonderful, FREE, online resource has brain breaks, movement activities, inside recess, and even yoga!  These activities were eagerly anticipated by my students.  They helped me to provide opportunities for them to "get the wiggles out." Using the activities actually improved on-task behavior and listening.  It was so helpful!  I highly recommend that you check out GoNoodle and register for free before next school year.

Here are some pictures of my kids rocking out with Koo Koo Kangaroo's Pop See Ko 2.0.

3.  Acts of Kindness
This ongoing activity has really helped encourage kindness in my classroom over the past two years. I created my Hearts Full of Kindness activity in response to a very difficult class dynamic.  I won't go into it here, but you can read more about it in a previous post.  Anyway, I needed something to help students just be nice.  The Kindness Cards actually helped a little bit that year, so I expanded the activity and used them again with this class. The students loved them!  They became very conscious of how their behavior affected others and they went out of their way to be kind so that they could earn a kindness card from their friends.  

If you are interested in trying out my Kindness Cards, read my post about my 100 Acts of Kindness Challenge here. Then go to my store to download yours for free.  Here's the link: Hearts Full of Kindness - Encouraging Acts of Kindness in the Classroom.

4.  Math Talks
A math talk is a short (about 10 minutes max.), yet powerful way to help students share strategies, correct mistakes, and teach each other math.  For me, keeping it short is the biggest challenge! Students are presented with a math question or story problem to solve. I would project the problem on our white board and briefly introduce the problem in a way that focuses our learning. Sometimes, we would talk about how to understand the story problem. Sometimes, we would focus on finding and using an effective strategy.  Sometimes we would just share our thinking about the problem. The problem itself can be very specific, like this:

Or, the problem can be very general, like this:
Either way, the focus was not so much on finding a "right" answer, as it was on generating discussions about math that would help students to make connections and deepen their understanding of concepts.  This summer, I plan to create monthly "Math Warm-Up" presentations to facilitate my math talks next year.  I'll let you know once I get them finished and posted in my store.

5.  Poem of the Week
I was in charge of this activity for our grade level this year.  We needed shared reading activities that would give us a lot of learning, but not take up a lot of time.  Poetry was the answer.  We could use it to teach comprehension strategies such as visualization and making connections.  We could use it to teach new vocabulary and the power of word choice in writing. We could use it to help our struggling readers grow in phonemic awareness and phonics. We could discuss how rhythm, rhyme, repetition, and the overall structure of the poem helped our understanding. Through repeated readings, we could practice fluency. So much learning from one page of text!

I wrote many of the poems that we used this year. Nothing felt better than having a second-grader from another class come up to me at recess and let me know how much they liked my poem. My class was actually disappointed when I used a poem I didn't write!  Sharing my poems with our classes gave me the courage to publish them on Teachers pay Teachers.  It's been such a wonderful experience to share my poetry with children.

If you'd like to learn more about implementing a Poem of the Week program, read my blog post here.
If you're interested in my poems, please visit my TpT store and check out my Poem of the Week products

So that's it. These are five of the things that I know I want to continue in my classroom next year.  What worked for you in your classroom?  Please share in the comments below,

Until next time,

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Saying Goodbye to a Retiring Colleague

This week, my school said goodbye to a teacher who has been a member of the faculty for 19 years. Mrs. G. is an amazing Kindergarten teacher, and with her retirement, she is leaving behind a rich legacy of making a difference.

At the party, each grade level took turns presenting her with gifts and letting her know how much she had impacted them and their students.  The fifth grade team presented her with portraits created by students who had been in her Kindergarten class. They remembered her fondly and described their impressions of her through the years.

My own team presented her with a retirement survival kit.  We got the idea from Pinterest and adjusted it to match our needs. Here are some pictures of the basket and the list of goodies it included.

Mrs. G. was a huge help to me when I joined the staff two years ago.  I had a rough time making an adjustment to my new school. I felt lost, out of place, and overwhelmed with a difficult class and too many new requirements.  Mrs. G. proved a steadfast guide through that first rocky year.  She provided a listening ear and good advice. Sometimes, just her cheery greeting as I walked down the hall made all the difference.

When my team asked if I'd write a poem in her honor, I was nervous, but as soon as I thought about all she had meant to me and to my colleagues, the words started to flow.  Here was my part of the gift.

Writing the poem was easy compared to reading it out loud to her and our colleagues.  I was almost in tears by the final line.  I hope she realizes how much she really will be missed.

Did you have to say goodbye to a retiring colleague this year?  What did you and your colleagues do to honor his or her years of service?  Please share your retirement celebration ideas in the comments below.

If you are in need of a gift for a retiring colleague, my poem is available in my TPT store. Click here to check it out.

Until next time,