Saturday, August 17, 2013

Promoting Others

I've never been afraid to toot my own horn about my TeachersPayTeachers products, because I'm proud of what I make.  But I want to use this post to talk about some amazing looking products NOT done by me.  These are the top 10 things (in no particular order) on my TPT wishlist.

(A note:  I don't have my own classroom, which means I haven't narrowed down to grade-specific items.  These are going to be all over the map and will also include clip art.)

1. Emily's Runaway Imagination by Beverly Cleary Novel Study
Everyone knows the incredibly prolific Beverly Cleary - Ramona, Henry Huggins, Dear Mr. Hensha, Ralph S. Mouse.  This book is often overlooked, but the heroine is spunky, the setting is historical, and the adventures are amusing.  Much like The Phantom Tollbooth, this book will be a read-a-loud for me no matter what grade I teach.

2. Genre-of-the-Month Reading Log.
This is one of those ideas that is so simple but so brilliant, I'm a little mad at myself for not thinking of it!  Yes, it's important that kids read every day and read books they're interested in - but they need to try new types too or they'll get stuck in a rut.  The grade level would determine how many books from each genre I want them to read every month, but I will be using this in some way in any grade.

3. Cupcake Fonts
I have made no secret of my love for A Cupcake for the Teacher, and I love love LOVE her adorable collections of fonts she created. 

4. Monster Adjective Glyphs
I've talked about how I'd like to do a monster theme with my kiddos, and I think glyphs are so much fun for younger kids.  It's a more fun way to display and compare data, which is great for those primary grades.

5. Behavior Calendars
I credit this product (and A Cupcake for the Teacher) for introducing me to TPT and getting me started on this blogging/creating ride I've been on for the past year.  These calendars are an adorable way to track specific behavior - okay, so Harry had a bad day, but WHY did he have a bad day? - and you can edit them to your own specific classroom behavior codes.

6. Writing Center Starter Kit
 *Stefon voice* This kit has everything...writing samples, labels, templates.  You can make a whole bulletin board out of it, or, if you have a writing center for your Daily 5/Cafe time, you can put it on a poster board for use over there.

7. Monster Clip Art
The monsters I draw are pretty scary looking, and not in a good way.  If my classroom theme were limited to what I can draw, it'd either be cupcakes or whales.  Thankfully, there are more talented people out their willing to share their monster-drawing gifts with the world.

8. Parent Handbook Flipbook
Parents will need and want some information at their fingertips.  This editable flipbook allows you to put in things such as contact info, grading policy, instructions for sending money to school, daily schedule, etc...

9. The Phantom Tollbooth Challenges
GREAT ideas for a project-based-learning unit on The Phantom Tollbooth.  11 Challenges mean there's something for everyone.

10. Teacher Binder - Quatrefoil theme
I'm about to admit something that is going to make kind of unpopular - I am sick of Chevron!  It is everywhere, and I get tired of seeing it on EVERYTHING.  I'm a big fan of the quatrefoil (and argyle of course!), so when I saw this Teacher Binder kit done with a quatrefoil theme, I flipped!  Turquoise and lavender (two colors I adore) and and cute mix of regular and scripty fonts make this just the bee's knees!

So that's my wishlist for the TPT BTS sale - what's on yours?  Comment below!

Building Character and the BTS Sale

I'm not sure if I've ever expressed this opinion in this setting, but I worry a lot about what we're teaching our children outside of math and reading.  Starting with my generation, there was a lot of "participation trophies" and "you can do anything as long as you try" sort of self-esteem building.  Don't get me wrong, kids and adults alike both need healthy self-esteem.  The problem becomes when we give them too much they haven't earned, like this sketch from Saturday Night Live.  I worry we're raising kids who believe that wanting something is enough to get it, and not focusing on teaching them about how to work for it.  Sure, many schools are cracking down on teaching how kids should treat each other, I see great emotional education at several schools.  But I'm talking about the kind of character that Paul Tough wrote about in the book I reviewed in the last post.  That book really hit some chords for me, because I see a lot of students who have either forgotten or never knew that hard work is what makes things happen.  When I read that book, I was inspired by those character traits he found in his research, and I decided to make some posters for the classroom.

Sure, there are tons of "motivation" posters out there ready for classroom use.  But I find a lot of them cheesy, or the sayings a bit cliche, and I've never seen a poster advertising "Grit" or "Self-Control".  Self control is an especially big thing with me, I've been trying to inculcate that in my students for years now.  So, I give you my latest creation:

The colors aren't cohesive - I opted instead to give them all a diagonally striped border and tie the colors in each individual poster.  I wanted them to stand out from regular classroom decor for me.  However, should someone ask if I can recreate them in their chosen color scheme (I'd probably use different backgrounds, like strips and polka dots & plaid), I'd be more than willing to do that.  I also made them in landscape orientation, in case someone prefers that or only has room for that.

Don't forget, there's a sale going on this weekend for back-to-school.  I believe it's the standard "up to 20% off" with the extra 10% site-wide using the code BTS13.  I didn't put ALL my products on sale, but the ones I did, I put them 20% off.  Combined with the site code, that's a total of 28% off! 

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Book Review

               I’ve long been a voracious reader when it comes to fiction.  I inhale novels in a single day, and when I don’t have a book to read I feel adrift.  It’s an effort, however, to read non-fiction, and I’ve come to a conclusion as to why.  With fiction, I can immerse myself completely in that world, not coming up for the air of reality until I finish the book.  Nonfiction, on the other hand, is educating me, teaching me something that will have real-world application.  As I read, I am taking in the knowledge and applying it to my present or my future, and it takes a lot longer to get through a book that is much shorter than a Harry Potter installment.  Reading fiction is like a vacation, reading non-fiction is taking a class.  As an educator, however, I feel it is important for my own sake, not just for professional development, that I read non-fiction books that will help me help my students.
                A principal I greatly admire is constantly reading articles and books and sharing them not only with her teachers but on the school’s website.  She posted an article written by Paul Tough, which was actually a chapter from one of his books, and after reading the article, I knew the book was something I needed to check out.  It’s called How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character.  The book focuses on non-cognitive skills, things that children do not learn from a math, science, language arts curriculum.  These traits, however, are just as, if not more important in setting a child up for a successful life.
                Tough talked to psychologists, educators, students, and parents to discover why it is that students who seem great on paper fail once they reach college.  He also looked at students whose school records would have you believe they are destined to become derelicts, and how they are succeeding in college where their higher-income peers are floundering.  Key characteristics were found, not unlike the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, that can predict a student’s success far better than a standardized test score.
                Character education has been around since I was in school under the umbrellas of “No Bullying” and “Just Say No”.  It was generally the focus of once-weekly visits from the school counselor, or videos featuring a number of well-known animated characters.  Educators looking to prepare their students beyond mastery of content are now looking at inculcating character education into the daily culture of the school in a completely different way.  Students at the KIPP school are engaging in cognitive behavioral therapy – when they get in trouble, they are encouraged to dialogue about why they behaved that way, what would have been a better alternative, and how they can fix it in the future.  They receive behavior report cards, and the students are using the language in their daily lives.  They are developing traits like grit, and they know what it means and how they build it. 
                Tough doesn’t focus on and outline each of the seven traits that schools like KIPP are focusing on, but his profiles of students who are successful despite their circumstances are illustrators of how these traits come in to play.  Whether you teach at a Title 1 school or an ivy-covered East Coast institution, whether you teach kindergarten or high school, this book is applicable to you, and to every teacher and every student.  I cannot recommend it enough.

Friday, August 2, 2013

August Currently

Time for a Currently from Farley at Oh Boy 4th Grade!

Listening:  I've started a new Bible Study with all this free time I've had (no, that's not sarcasm, I really have very little to do each day).  It's supposed to make reading and reflecting a habit.  I stayed consistent for a whole week but I missed yesterday, so I'm trying to forgive myself and move on.

Loving: If you haven't heard of this book, it's about a couple who being volunteering at a homeless shelter/soup kitchen and meet a homeless man who completely changes their lives.  So touching - I cried big fat baby tears.  It gets me thinking about how I can incorporate service learning into my classroom.  These people gave money, but what really changed their lives was giving of their time and energy.

Thinking:  I watched The Ron Clark Story last night.  He's got these 55 rules for his classes that are great, but at the elementary level that is a LOT to take in and can make the kids feel like the classroom is oppressive.  I kind of like starting out with basic rules and asking the kids to think about what that means.  For example, I can tell kids to respect the teacher, but they will have to write/tell me/show me HOW that gets accomplished with everyday actions.

Wanting: Remember how I said I had a lot of free time?  Well I've started watching Jeopardy, and my mind that is full of useless trivia knows plenty of the answers on the show.  I even looked at sample questions and I'd say I got about 80-85% right.  I have always thought I'd be good on a game show, so the next time Jeopardy has an online test for adults, I'm gonna give it a shot.

Needing:  It's pretty self-explanatory.  I'm getting desperate, people.  In 10 days, the new hires for the district I want are supposed to start their training.  In 21 days, it's Meet the Teacher night.  The first day of school is 25 days away.  Now my district of choice is notorious for last-minute hires, but I'm really starting to lose faith.  None of the other districts I've applied to have even asked me for an interview.  If it doesn't pan out, I'll go back to subbing, but I don't think I've wanted anything as much as I want my own classroom and my own kids.

B2s Must-Haves:
  1. Parent communication is key.  I love love LOVE this foldable for parent information from Just Reed.  It's customizable, so you can put all the information your parents need to know (phone, email, classroom procedures, grading policy, etc...) in one place for them to keep handy. 
  2. When I say pencils, I mean lots of supplies.  I have a ton of school supplies ready to move into my classroom at a moment's notice, but they need to be marked as mine.  They will be the "oops" supplies for students who don't have what they need for the day, and they go back into the correct place (i.e. NOT the student's supply box) when they're done.  I also have a bunch that I will simply add to the student supply area - things that will run out like pencils and glue sticks.  Part of my classroom community is going to be respect for materials and supplies.  They are the tools you need to learn, so treat them kindly.
  3. Blank wall space.  I'm not saying I want my classroom to be completely devoid of decoration but I want to set aside a place for my students work where THEY choose what goes up there.  I've seen lots of ideas - bulletin boards, individual clip boards or clothespins for each student, etc.  I want to show them when they walk in that this classroom is not just mine, it's theirs, and the things they do deserve to be seen and admired.
So that's my August for you.  I'm afraid in the next 3 weeks I will have bitten off all my nails, gained a million pounds stress eating, and had some sort of nervous breakdown waiting for that phone to ring.  Wish me luck!

EDIT:  While commenting on other blogs in the linky, I stumbled across this blog which helps you link up via the state you teach in!  She's even made buttons for everyone!  Find your state, link up, and find other blogs for you!