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Sunday, May 29, 2016

Teacher To Do List

Sooo I've recently found out that my summer classes have been canceled, and that I now have a ton of free time on my hands this summer! Here are some things on my to do list this summer, in addition to sitting around and binge watching Netflix of course.. 

1. Relax

I love Orange is the New Black, but I am super behind! What better way to relax than binge watch Netflix? And of course, you can't forget reading! What books are on your must read list this summer? 

2. Clean

My condo is embarrassingly dirty and gross. I can't wait to get this place back to normal!

P.S. - Luckily, my kitchen isn't this bad. I can't speak for the rest of the house though...

3. Gym

I've been on a big Tabata kick lately, and I love trying new classes at the gym. Tabata is a form of *intense* interval training. Any suggestions for other classes to try? Let me know in the comments!

4. Create

I have a biiiiiig to do list for things to create for my TpT store. On the list are more literature circles, an updated reading log (which will actually get the kiddos reading at home!), and I need to put the finishing touches on some products that include detailed lesson plans. #staytuned

5. Travel

I will never post about upcoming travel plans online, so make sure to check back to read about my exciting adventures this summer! #wanderlust

What should I add to my to do list? Let me know in the comments!

Friday, May 27, 2016

Five for Friday

I can't believe it is already time for another Five for Friday. Here are some highlights from my week!

Summer is finally here!

We made a video about what teachers really do during the summer, and this is how it turned out. The kids absolutely LOVED it, and it was fun to make! 

This summer my school is going to get new carpet, so that means everything needs to be packed up and off the floor. Translation: shove anything and everything into the cabinets. When you run out of room - shove everything on top of the cubbies and on top of the cabinets.

In addition to packing everything up, we had to take all of our bulletin boards down so the walls can get painted. So my room is empty and blank! I guess that means that I can do a completely new room arrangement and color scheme. Hmmmmm.. what do do, what to do.. Stay tuned! 


What better way to start the summer than with the arrival of Stitch Fix?

This was a hard year, but it pushed me to become a better teacher. It made me start thinking of all the things I learned along the way, and how I can't keep them to myself. When you get "that" class, you need all the resources you can get in your toolkit, so I decided to share things I learned over the course of the year about having a difficult class. I initially planned on writing one post, but it started to get super long so I decided to turn it into a summer series! Each week this summer I have a post about one aspect of having a difficult class. My first post went up this past week, and my next post will be on the blog on Wednesday, June 1st. Check back then to get some tips for dealing with the difficult class!

Happy Friday!

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

The Things I've Learned From Having a Difficult Class - Summer Blog Series

I just had that year again. The year where my class was "that" class. The class that the specials teachers dread having. The class that always has people in it observing a student for behavior documentation. The class that makes the office staff cringe when my number shows up on the caller ID because who knows what a kid did this time. The class that makes me learn a whole lot about becoming a better teacher. 

Interestingly enough, the last time I had "that" class was 2 years ago... with this groups older siblings. Luckily, the older siblings were all wonderfully amazing children, who will probably become some of my favorite students of all time - just like these guys. Man, a student (or a group of students) can really make or break you as a teacher!

Immediately after I had that class a few years ago, I felt horrible. I've learned a lot from my own personal experiences, advice from colleagues, and professional development classes I've taken along the way.  I wished that I knew what I know now before I had that class because things would have been so different. I kept thinking things like:

 "If I had known this I would have done... " 

"I wish I had known this when ___ happened..."

"I wish I tried ___ with this kid..." 

"Next time I have 'that' class things will be different!" 
**Be careful with this one because "that" class will be back before you know it!**

It got me thinking about sharing things I learned about how to handle the extremely difficult children in your classroom. Those college courses do NOT prepare you for a difficult class and it can have a huge effect on your health, as well as the "health" of your classroom. I initially planned on writing one blog post about what I learned from having difficult classes, but it ended up being way longer than I anticipated - so I'll be writing a series about this each week over the summer.

Check back June 1st - I'll be writing about how taking care of yourself in the midst of dealing with the craziness students this year. 

Monday, May 23, 2016

Summer(ish) Trip #1 - Catalina Island

I absolutely love Catalina Island. Ever since I first went there in 6th grade, I have absolutely loved this island. I can't put my finger on exactly why I love this place so much.. I just think the whole thing is amazing!

For my 25th birthday, Matt and I took a quick weekend trip there. Here are some of the highlights from our trip:

Casino Point

We started our trip off just walking around and exploring.

That's the Casino in the background

We went on a jeep tour, which took us way up into the mountains. The views were absolutely beautiful!

An early dinner right on the beach.

And then all too quickly, it was over.

Good-bye Catalina.. until next time.

Still on the to do list for Catalina:


Boat tour

Catalina Wine Mixer (just kidding)

Well... not really. That would actually be pretty awesome.

Where are your must go destinations this summer? Let me know in the comments!

Friday, May 20, 2016

Five for Friday

This is my last Friday of the school year, so I HAD to link up again for Five for Friday. Summer is so close.. I can almost taste it! #2moredays

To celebrate my birthday, which was last week, Matt and I went to Catalina Island. It was perfect timing - just enough of a trip to get you through the year and REALLY excited for summer. #2moredays

Check back on Monday to read more about my trip to Catalina Island!

"Once a Corriganite, Always a Corriganite"! I say this to my group every year because they will always be Corriganites and I will always care about them as the years go by, as they switch schools, and as they grow up and move on. My former students never fail to say this to me when they unexpectedly give me hugs in the hallway. It sure makes my teacher heart happy!

Putting together end of year student gifts always makes me a bit sad. As happy and excited as I am for summer, it makes me think back to all the good times we had over the past year. I truly consider these littles my kids so it is always sad to see them go!

I hope they like their books this year!

Packing up the room in time for the last day of school is really making it difficult to teach. Well that and the fact that we only have now 2 more days until summer vacation! I just can't stand looking at the blank walls so I keep putting up cute little crafts so we don't have to stare at empty walls all day. I hope it balances out all the packing and cleaning were doing during the day!

How cute are these from Fun in First?

This one has to be my favorite though.

I mean, how darling is this? 

Have you ever heard of Lularoe? One of the teachers at my school held a pop up boutique and I got these cute skirts and dresses that are perfect for teaching! Not too expensive + cute but professional = perfect!

Disclaimer: I never take selfies... especially mirror selfies, so this was a little hard for me. So... don't judge me!

Super comfortable and stretchy pencil skirt. 

Soft and flowy skirt with POCKETS! I'm in love with the pockets. 

Red flowy dress with pockets. Yay, pockets!

We made our writing portfolios this week, which will take all of the fun projects we've done this year home.  They were so excited to see all of their projects again!

Here's how to make them:

1. You will need 1 large brown paper bag.

2. Cut the entire bottom square off. 

3. Staple the bottom together. 

4. Fold the top over. 

5. Cut the inside fold off, so when you open it you can slide word samples in easily.

P.S. Sorry I don't have any pictures.. This can get a little confusing for the kiddos, especially at the end of the year, so I did not have the time to snap pictures of the process. 

Here are some that the students made:

Happy Friday! We can make it until summer.. Hang in there teachers!

Monday, May 16, 2016

Family Engagement

One of the things I really encourage in my classroom is family engagement. This could be volunteering in school, attending events at school, but really what I want the, to do is work with their child at home. I've seen students make a tremendous amount of growth in all areas when families are engaged in their child's education and work with them at home, and I just wish they all knew how important it is! Do you scare them into helping? Gently encourage them to take a greater interest? Bribe them? #justkidding

What I've found from teaching in a Title 1 school with a high percentage of poverty is that families don't know what to do to help, and don't have the self confidence to do anything either. Regardless of the reason, things army getting done at home. So how do we change that?

This picture does not reflect the time and energy invested in this event. I was running super behind setting everything up, and this was the only picture I managed to take of the evening. I guess it shows that these things are time consuming, but absolutely worth it!

I've decided to host little "parent nights" to bring parents together and hold a class to teach them different ways to work with their child at home. I'm going to give you a list of tips to get the most out of your parent night, and if you have any other ideas leave them in the comments below!

Getting parents to attend the event:

1. Sending home flyers is great, but to get even more success I recommend calling parents to personally invite them. You might not have to do this for all parents, but this is a good idea to get the parents that really need to come nut are reluctant for whatever reason.

2. Send home reminders on the date of the event! Tie the note to a backpack, make  a paper bracelet, write it in permanent marker on their child's forehead, whatever you have to do to remind them to show up!

3. People love food, especially if your holding the event during dinner hours. Don't spend your own money - get the food donated! I've held several of these events and we've had donations from Macayos and Little Caesers with plenty of food.

4. Parents are motivated to do things that are important for their child. So, get the kiddos really invested in bringing their parents to the event! Entice them with a little reward such as lunch with the teacher the next day, or my personal favorite - door prizes!

5. Raffle off door prizes. Again, don't spend your own money! Reach out to local businesses and see what donations they would be willing to contribute! I reached out to our church contact at school and asked if she could assist with getting donations, and wow she is amazing! She was able to get 10 $25 gift certificates to Bookmans, so we were able to put together a ton of gift baskets, as well as raffle off gift cards at the end of the event!

Getting the most bang for your buck at the event:

1. Prepare resources. Parents are much more likely to use resources with their child if they have experience using the resources themselves. You can't have experience using something if it isn't prepared, so enlist the help of as many people as you can get to help get everything ready. I would check with the PTA, local church groups, any helpful parents, or student organizations like Student Council or NJHS.

Sample resources:

1st grade to 2nd grade

1st grade to 2nd grade resource bag. 

Sight word game. 

Addition flash cards
Money game
Fluency practice passages - both groups received this, just different leveled passages.

2nd to 3rd grade resources

2nd to 3rd grade resource bag.

A peek inside 

Math games

Place value cards for games

Multisyllabic word game

2. Do the activities and give parents feedback. It can feel strange teaching parents and adults when we're used to working with young ones, but if they've done the activity before there is a greater chance that they will do it again with their child at home. We followed an I do, you do format. My team mate and I would model how to do a running record or play a math or reading game, and then we set the parents free to do the activity with their children. We had a lot of positive feedback with this because parents were able to ask questions if they didn't understand and they could see how the activity was supposed to go.

3. Set a SMART goal. Encourage parents to set a SMART goal for using the resources with their child, or for their child's performance. SMART goals should be Short, Measurable, Academic, Realistic, and Timely. Take fluency for example. If a child is reading 10 words a minute, in 6 weeks it's unlikely that they will be reading 100 words a minute. Something more realistic would be 30 words a minute. You don't want them to set a goal too high because they'll likely be discouraged when their child doesn't reach it and may not be as willing to help again in the future. Which leads to...

4. Follow up with families to see if they met their goal. Following up with families at a later date is another critical part of successful parent nights. Depending on the time of year, it can be a little tricky to do. I did a night for my students going into the next grade, and I probably won't follow up with them since they will no longer by my students next year. However, I will tell the 3rd grade teachers to follow up with the families so they can share successes or concerns they still have.

What should I add to my list? Share your ideas in the comments!