Sunday, November 27, 2016

Wishlists, the Cyber Monday Sale, and a TpT Gift Card Giveaway

I love Teachers pay Teachers!

I've purchased and downloaded so many wonderful resources that I've used in my classroom and to create my own products. There are so many great things to choose from that I always have quite a wish list going! 

Today, I'd like to share with you some of the products I have wish-listed. I'll also share the products in my store that have been wish-listed most often. Make sure you read to the bottom of the post for a chance to enter my TpT Gift Card Giveaway and then hop to the next blog for another chance at winning!

First up - what's on my wish list?

This looks like such a fun way to teach my second-graders about different holidays! Students watch a video that introduces Globe Trot Scott. They then travel with him around the world, collecting letters, learning about different holidays, and creating crafts that become souvenirs of their journey. I can't wait to add this one to my collection of TpT resources!

This looks like an amazing resource! I've been implementing a guided math model in my classroom this year. Organization is definitely a big issue for me. This resource would not only add to my center collection, it would help me organize everything so the students could access it more easily.

I HATE writing sub plans! Nothing is worse than waking up sick and then having to type up something creative and engaging for your kids to do while you're out. This product would make it so much easier for me to call out sick. It has no-prep activities that can be used with any book! The same activities can be used over and over with different books, so students know what to expect. I have got to get this resource!

Now that you know what I want to get, here are my top three most wish-listed products.

Besides being my most wish-listed product, this is also my top seller on TpT. I created it during and after a year that brought me one of my most challenging groups of students. I wanted to find a way to encourage respect, responsibility, and empathy among all my students. I wrote 14 original poems intended to be used as part of a Poem of the Week program. By reading, analyzing, and revisiting these poems, my students gained insight into how their behavior impacts others. The poems have definitely helped me to create a kind and caring classroom environment over the last three years. 

I love to integrate my instruction. Science and poetry may not seem like a natural fit, but I've found poems to be a great way to introduce science concepts and vocabulary. This product includes eight original poems and accompanying activities that will help broaden your students' understanding of science while you teach also support their use of literacy skills.

My third most wish-listed product came about due to a school Science Fair. My class was required to conduct a science fair project and we chose bubbles. After reading, researching, conducting the experiment, and writing about what we learned, I thought this would make a great integrated unit! I included literacy, science, and math in the unit. I also included ideas for a fun art activity. We had lots of fun doing our bubble unit and I know you will enjoy it, too.

Now that you have some ideas for products to add to your cart, I'm happy to announce that TpT will be having a Cyber Sale from Monday, November 28th through Tuesday, November 29th. My entire store will be on sale for 20% off. Many other sellers will be holding sales as well. The best part is that you can save an additional 10% off at checkout when you use the code CYBER2016. I'm planning to get some of the products on my wish list. How about you?

I'd love to help you get the items you've wish-listed. That's why I'm participating in the Blog Hop to give away $10 TpT gift cards! You can enter to win my gift card below. After that, make sure you hop on over to the next blog to enter to win another one!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thanks for entering my giveaway! The winner will be notified by Tuesday morning in time to shop for the sale!

Now, head on over to

to enter the next giveaway!

Good luck and happy shopping!

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Five Tips for Successful Parent Conferences

Our district requires us to have a Parent-Teacher Conference at the end of the first quarter of school. I'm almost done with this year's conferences, so I thought I'd share some tips for making sure they are successful.

Be prepared.

This one seems like a no-brainer, but I can't tell you how many times I've been rushing around trying to find a work sample or print out a report at the last minute. I end up feeling frazzled. That's no way to begin a conference! Prepare for your conferences a day ahead of time. Make sure you have your work samples and test results organized in a folder. Put them in the order you like to share them. Make sure you have a parent conference form partially completed. You can always add notes while the conference is in session, but having an agenda or outline will keep you on track and make sure you won't forget anything.

If parents email or (worse) show up asking for an on-the-spot conference or one with very little preparation time, do your best to schedule it for the next day. I've been known to pretend to have a prior commitment, but you don't have to lie. Just say you are not able to have a conference today and then provide one or more dates and times as alternatives. People don't just drop in to see their doctor, lawyer, or dentist and expect immediate service. Why should we allow them to do so in the school setting? Professionals set appointments for a reason - so they can be informed and prepared for the meeting.

Invite and involve your students. I believe students should have a role in the conference because they are responsible for setting goals, completing work, and being a productive member of the classroom community. Having them there also sends a message that their parents and I are on the same page with regards to the importance of education. We're all on the same team.

I have my kids start the conference by sharing 1 or 2 entries from their math, science, and reading response journals. They also share a writing piece. It's always fun and informative to hear the students explain what we are learning in class. You can also learn a lot about how the parents interact with their children. Some beam with pride and give praise, others are overly critical. It gives you a quick idea about how to approach the information you will need to share. I make sure I provide additional information when needed. I often slip in some praise or comments on areas needing improvement.

Having the student present also provides an opportunity for problem-solving. If the student is having social issues, we can come up with some ideas for making and keeping friends. If the student has behavior problems, we can begin a behavior contract. If the student has academic difficulties, I can suggest ways the parents can help at home. The parents will experience less resistance to this extra work because the student was in on the decision.

Not all of my parents accept the invitation to involve the student in the conference. That's their choice and I absolutely respect that. However, I've always received very positive feedback and results from student-involved conferences. Give them a try.

Talking to parents can be difficult. They are sometimes defensive. Sometimes, they are not receptive to your concerns. Sometimes, it's difficult to get them to attend the conference. We sometimes make assumptions about parents like this:
  • They don't care about their child's behavior.
  • They don't have any respect for you or what you are dealing with.
  • They don't believe anything that puts their child in a bad light.
And sometimes - rarely - that's true. But most of the time, it's not. In my experience, parents from every walk of life have one thing in common: they care about their children and they want them to be successful.

Remember that the parents are not your enemy.  They are there to advocate for their child. That's their job. Don't take things personally (I know that's tough). Make sure you see and acknowledge the whole child. Mix your concerns with plenty of praise and acknowledgment of the good in the child. Never dismiss parent concerns or questions. Listen and problem-solve together. Be clear and professional. You are on the same side - you both want what's best for the child.

Anticipate parent concerns. 

If you have a student in your classroom who is very bright, finishes work quickly and correctly, and works at a high level, chances are the parents are concerned that he/she will be challenged. Instead of waiting for parents to bring that up, weave it into your conversation as you share test results or classwork. Share some of the activities, projects, or materials that you are using to help their child make progress. Parents will appreciate knowing that you have their child's needs in mind and are providing those opportunities for challenge and extension of the learning.

If you have a child who is almost always alone on the playground during recess, be prepared to discuss social issues. Make sure you let parents know that you've noticed and are concerned, as well. We do teach many children who are introverts. They simply are more comfortable being alone. And maybe that's okay. But, as teachers, we need to be aware that being alone is not always a choice. Sometimes it's a result of shyness or not knowing how to join other's play. Sometimes, more seriously, it's the result of bullying. You might bring up the concern first and ask the parent for his/her take on it. They may share information on the child's social history or specific problems with other children that you did not know about. 

Bottom line: Make your parents aware that you know and care about their child as a person. 

Start and end with positives. You never want to start or end on a negative note. You also don't want your conference to be a listing of complaints or things to work on. Find a strength to praise at the beginning of the conference, whether it be academic or social. Let the parents know you are seeing the good in their child. When you mention the behavior or academic difficulty, share how you are addressing the difficulty. Try to focus on just one area that needs improvement. If needed, make a plan for improvement with the parent's help. Then, as you are getting ready to close, make sure you praise another strength. By sandwiching a negative between two positives, you are more likely to make your parents an ally in their child's education.

I always end my conferences by emphasizing the good qualities of the child and why I am happy to have him/her in my class this year. It's not always easy to do, but remember: we praise the qualities we want to encourage in our students.  You may find that your students do better after they've heard that you like them.

So, those are my tips for successful Parent-Teacher Conferences. What are yours? Please share in the comments or on my Facebook page.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Five for Fraturday - Halloween Week


Very tired.

Very, very tired.

Wow. This week has been draining. Parent conferences all day Monday (yes, Halloween was a workday for us) and on Tuesday afternoon. Children on sugar. Report cards and Sub plans. In-service training for Letterland. Vocabulary parade and movie afternoon. All of this in just one week. For the second Friday in a row, I fell asleep on the couch before 8:00. Seriously, it's no wonder I'm single. The only people I'm awake to see are children, their parents, and my fellow teachers. Lol!

On that note, here's a taste of my busy week.

I did my civic duty this week. No matter how you feel about this election or the candidates, I think it's important to have your say about who will run this country for the next four years. Local elections, in particular, are so important to schools and the community. As teachers, we need to exert our influence in one of the best ways we can - by voting for those who support public education and teachers. I'm crossing my fingers and hoping that everything turns out for the best.

I scored some cute mini erasers on clearance at Target's dollar spot this week. These erasers will be fun to use for math problem-solving activities. It's always a good idea to check out the dollar spot after a holiday. Even if you can't use the holiday-themed items this year, you will have them for next year's holiday - and at a pretty significant discount.

I love Jigsaw activities. In a Jigsaw activity, partners work together to learn about a topic. After reading and discussing the topic, they team up with new partners to "teach" others what they have learned. This week, I used the activity to help students learn about citizenship. After posing the question, "What does a good citizen do?" I assigned partners and gave half the class one book about helping in their community, while the other half read about electing a president. These seemingly unrelated books taught about different aspects of citizenship. During the first stage of the activity, the partners read and discussed their own books. After about 15 minutes, the students came back to the carpet. Because this was the first time we had done a Jigsaw this year, I did not split up the partners for the second half of the activity. Instead, the partnerships became teams of four. Each partnership needed to teach the other partnership what they had learned about citizenship. The activity was very engaging throughout and I had a great time walking around the room listening to the rich discussions students had. 

Reading under a table makes learning fun. 
Students were completely engaged. These two didn't even notice that I took their picture.

The discussions were on task and expanded student's understanding.

I love it when one student plays "the teacher."

If you haven't tried a Jigsaw activity before, I highly recommend trying one. Students love teaching each other what they have learned!

Vocabulary Parade!  We had a wonderful time sharing our words and their meaning with creative costumes and a parade at our Academic Celebration. Our vocabulary parade was based on the book, Miss Alaineus: A Vocabulary Disaster by Debra Frasier.

For my word and costume, I decided not to stray too far from what I know. I'm a poet, so I chose poet as my word. I printed off mini-versions of some of my poems and glued them to two cardboard file box tops. A little decorative duct tape made great shoulder straps. My friend, Becky loaned me a beret she had made. Costume - done. I wish I had taken pictures of my kids' costumes; from a "delicious" cupcake to a trash bag "fruit" bowl to an explanation of "potassium" and its sources to a "stealth"-y ninja, my students (and their parents) were very clever and creative!

Movie afternoon! After a fun - and very long - day on Friday, my colleagues and I put in a couple of hours supervising our 2nd grade movie afternoon fundraiser. We showed The Peanuts Movie. I had never seen it before. It was super cute and the kids - even those who had seen it before - loved it! I usually don't mind movie day, because it's fun to see the kids sprawled out on the carpet with their pillows, blankets, and stuffed animals. Some fall asleep. Some get all giggly. Some can't settle at all and never stop moving. Hmmm. They might be like that in class, too. Lol.

That's it for this week. Thanks to Doodle Bugs Teaching for letting me link up. Make sure you check out the other great posts in this week's Five for Friday linky!