Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Aug Currently & Jersey Girls Teacher Meetup!

This past week has been a whirlwind of happy things.  (Oh, summer, how I love you!)  
I'm linking up with Farley in Oh Boy Fourth Grade! (a little bit late) for an August currently:

First....there was the Jersey Girls Teacher Meetup right in my backyard!  Well, ok.  Not in my backyard.  Actually at the Cheesecake Factory, whose ridiculous yum cannot be duplicated in my backyard.  This was my first teacher/blogger/TpT meetup and it was so much fun!
We talked so much about teaching and TpT, it was like... my peeps!  I have FOUND you!!!

These lovely ladies are (from bottom left, up and around):
Amy from Eclectic Educating
Sue from Science for Kids
Me :)
Maria from Everyone deServes to Learn
Lisa from Bloomabilities/Dandy Doodles
(who is practically my neighbor!  Get out of town!)
Amie from Glitter Meets Glue Designs
Karen from Silly Sam Productions
Maria Whelan from @JerseyTeacher (on Twitter)
Linda from Primary Inspiration
Lauren Kenny
 and Ashley from Anchored in Learning
It was really neat to meet so many teachers from districts all over New Jersey and find out about all of our teaching positions, from kindergarten to first to ESL to basic skills to retired 1st/Reading Recovery and then some... but we all had blogging and TpT in common, along with other things we found out along the way.  Thanks so much to Maria for hosting (and even bringing us all adorable teacher pads)!
Of course, I have also been shopping away at the TPT Back to School SALE, which ends today:

  Good thing my little store is having a great couple of sale days, since I am enjoying shopping at everyone else's!  :)
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Sunday, August 3, 2014

SMARTboard Tutorial: Changing the Name Boxes to Your Students' Names

I have mentioned before how much I LOOOOOOVE creating SMARTboard attendance files. I am super lucky to have a SMARTboard in my classroom.  We do not have them in our Kindergarten rooms, so it's my first graders' first experience with one and doing attendance on the SMARTboard in the mornings (aside from the fact that it's SO easy to see right away who's here and not here)  gives my kids daily practice with handling this giant new tool right from the get-go. 'Cause the thing with the SMARTboard is that sometimes you have to press sort of hard to make it work, and my little guys typically do not think you are allowed to press that hard on a piece of technology.  They need practice to get comfortable moving things around on it, and daily attendance allows for this without the added anxiety of it being an academic activity where they could do something "wrong" and then not want to use the SMARTboard again.  Once they get the hang of this (within just a few days), using the SMARTboard for other activities becomes no sweat!

Of course, SMARTboards have a learning curve for teachers, too.  I remember when I found out that my SMARTboard was coming (but wasn't in my room yet) and I went to a summer PD class offered by my school district on SMARTboards 101 (I also took 102.  Yeah, I was totally a SMARTboard overachiever before I had one, lol).  I sat and watched and took copious notes.  I even got to try a little bit on the one SMARTboard they had in the classroom for demonstration.

But THEN... a month later when my own SMARTboard arrived in my classroom, I felt like I really had no idea what to do with this new and exciting beast of technology which was plopped right in the middle of my nice big whiteboard space (oh.  hmm.  Well, that's... ok....don't complain.)

That was a few years ago, and believe you me, there was a learning curve to actually using it in the classroom.  Now I feel like I have a pretty good handle on it (although I'm sure it has plenty of cool features I have yet to figure out).  I use it a lot, and eventually ventured into making my own SMARTboard attendance to match my classroom owl theme, then others for some of my colleagues' classroom themes, then others by request for TpT or just for fun.

The SMARTboard attendance files available in my store do come with a second slide that gives directions on how to change the names to your own student's names.  However, especially with the learning curve of technology, I thought it might be helpful to include a tutorial here with some screenshots in case you find that more helpful.  So here we go!

Step 1: Open up your new SMARTboard attendance file in SMART Notebook.  If you don't have SMART Notebook software, this file won't work.  My files are for SMARTboards only, not other interactive whiteboards.  I am going to use my Mod Owl themed attendance file, but the tutorial would work the same with any other SMARTboard attendance file of mine.  Here's what it looks like when you open it:

The file comes up in Notebook software.  If you look on the left, there are two slides to this file.  The first one is the attendance file itself.  The second slide is your directions for changing student names.  Just click on that slide if you want to see the written directions that come with the file.  You can print them out if it helps.

Yes, I put this in big red letters.  You want to save the original file so that you always have this blank, unchanged version.  This makes it easy to start over for your next group of kids.  Call it something like "SMARTboard attendance Original" or "SMARTboard attendance Template".

Step 3: Click on one of the owls (or, of course, if you have a different themed file, click on one of the cupcakes or astronauts or sock monkeys... you get the idea).  It will look like this with a dashed box around it.  The box will include both the owl and the word "Name".   Why are they together like that?  Because when your student moves her owl, she will want her name to go along with it.  Then you will know that she is here!

Step 4: To edit the Name, you will need to separate it from the owl picture. To do this, click on the arrow on the top right of the dashed box:

When you click the arrow, a menu will pop up that looks like this:

Select "Group" and then a smaller menu will pop up.  Select "Ungroup".

What that does is to separate the owl graphic from the "Name" text box so that they become two separate things, each in its own box.  It will look like this:
See?  Two boxes with arrows.
Step 5: Click somewhere on the screen outside of the boxes (it has to be somewhere on the attendance picture though, like in the sky, etc.).  This will make box boxes disappear but the owl and "Name" text are still two separate things.  Click on just the "Name" text and a box will appear just around that.
Good news - this is a text box that you can type in!
Step 6: Click in the name box (it is a text box) to erase the word name.  Type in any name you want.
It's my name!
Step 7: Now you want to group the newly added name back together with the owl so that when your student moves her owl, her name will go with it and you will know that she is here.  To do this, we are basically going to follow the ungrouping directions above to regroup the graphic and the text box.
Since your text already has the dashed box around it, hold down the shift key and click on the owl.  You will see both boxes again like before:

Click on either arrow and, like before, select Group, but THIS time instead of selecting UNgroup in the smaller popup menu, select Group.  (So you select Group, Group..)

That's it!  Now Lindsey's name and owl are once again grouped in one box...
... and they can move together up into the tree!
 Step 8: Now you do that for each student that you have in the class (but don't move them into the tree, leave them where they are at the bottom).  Yes, it's a little bit time consuming, but it's not hard and after the first one it will go much faster.  Click - Ungroup - Edit Name - Group  (Done!)
Step 9: BE SURE TO SAVE WITH A DIFFERENT FILE NAME.  I don't want to save over my blank template, so once I have all of my student names in, I save under the year (Such as Attendance 2014-15).  Anytime you need to edit, go ahead.  You can delete whole owls just by clicking on them and then clicking delete.  You can add more by copying any owl and pasting it in (or clicking on the arrow at the top of the box and clicking "Clone").
Step 10:  IMPORTANT!!!  Once your students have moved their owls up in the morning, you can close the file by clicking the red "x" in the top right corner like most programs.  It will ask if you want to save the changes you have made.  DO NOT SAVE!!!  Once my students have moved their owls into the tree, I do not want to save them there for the next day.  I want them to be at the bottom again so they can do it again tomorrow.  So DO NOT save the changes.  Just open your Attendance 2014-15 file again tomorrow and all of your named owls will be waiting at the bottom to start again.
I hope you have found this tutorial helpful.  If you would like a new SMARTboard attendance theme, I sell several in my TpT shop (currently 16 when this post is being published) and am happy to make a customized one if you request it to go with your classroom theme.  Here is a sample of what I have as of August 2014.  Click on either picture to be taken right to the SMARTboard category in my TpT Store:

Have a great school year!!!
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The Perks of Being a Teacher

There are many rewards to being a teacher, no doubt, and many, many of them come from the job itself.  But I am always grateful for the refreshing and recharging break of summer, and the chance to spend time with my own precious hubby and girls.  During the month of July, my girls are each involved in children's theater, and this weekend was each of their full length musicals.

My older daughter as Featured Dancer in The Wiz:

with Handsome Hubs as Featured Dancer/Yellow Brick Road

Center as Featured Dancer/Winged Monkey
And my younger daughter as Pearl the Pirate in Peter Pan Jr.:

Swabbing the deck, me hearty!
I'm so proud of my girls and feel so grateful that my job allows me to do all the crazy transportation (one attends camp in the morning, the other in the afternoon, in different age groups) that goes along with this great summer experience every year.  I've also been busy finishing up a few TpT projects and getting ready for the big sale, being a crazy Type A person home for the summer who is crazily tearing apart our attic, basement, playroom, garage, and little one's room to purge and reorganize (almost done!!!!), and soon we will be heading off for a wonderful Vermont vacation!  Whew, I can't wait! 

In the meantime, enjoy your wonderful summer if you are not already back at school (if you are, Happy New School Year!!!) and don't forget to fill up your cart for the TpT sale!  Click below to head on over:

My newest products are Boho Birds Labels for Math Tools and SMARTboard attendance:

Aren't they pretty?  It was requested by a TpT buyer... and I like it so much I almost want to change my owly classroom theme.  Almost...!!!
Friday, July 25, 2014

Solving the Morning Work HEADACHE!

I have a love/hate relationship with morning work. I love that it is a routine, useful thing for students to do when they are unpacked but others are still coming in.  I love that it's independent and encourages my students to read and follow directions.  I love that it gets my kids settled and ready for the day.  I love that it reviews important concepts.

I hate finding it.

I hate that I am super well-planned and usually have all of my copying, etc., done for my lessons done with plenty of time to spare, but that there is no particular morning work that I use (other than random things that fit what I'm teaching), so I spend more time looking for and deciding on THAT than actual lessons.  I don't want to spend time on morning work.  I want to spend the 5 free minutes I have before the kids come connecting with my friends and colleagues since we don't have common lunches or prep times.  And because I like them.  And it relaxes me and makes me happy, and what better way to greet my kiddos?

Here is me thinking about morning work:
Ow.  My head.
Here's the thing.  I have lots of great review worksheets that I can use as morning work.  I can also whip up a mean set of morning work boxes in no time.  But WHY?

Of course each year is different, but I essentially teach the same concepts around the same time each year.  So WHY am I spending time choosing and re-choosing morning work every day of every year?  It makes no sense.  And so... 

It was a major goal of mine this summer to create morning work that I can use OVER AND OVER each year.  I wanted it to be relevant and cover a variety of topics so that I am not digging for morning work to review math one day, word study the next, and so on.  And heck, make it Common Core based, because I teach in a CC state.  And so it begins!  

Enter... Morning Stretch!

I'm super excited about it!  Here are a few sample pages:

You may notice that each page has a blank face that asks how students feel today.  That's because I want to know.  (My tagline is "Taking care of little minds and hearts").  There's a story behind this.  When I used to throw together morning work boxes, I'd sometimes throw that "How are you feeling?" space in there because it was easy.  (Yes, I said it.)  It was one less problem I had to make up or spelling feature to work out.  BUT... it often turned out to be the most informative piece of their morning work.  When a student is angry or sad when they walk in the door, we are sometimes too busy with kid stories and lunch money and library books and emails from parents and the office to notice right away (Again.. I said it.  Teacher truth.).  I quickly found that this little box of feelings gave me incredibly important insight into my kiddies' hearts.  And so.  It stays.

I am really happy Morning Stretch!  You can find it in my TpT store here - Morning Stretch September

Here's a sneak peek at October!

Do you have morning work headaches?

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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Wordless Wednesday! July 23: The BIGGER, the Better!

Today I'm linking up with Miss DeCarbo at Sugar and Spice for Wordless Wednesday!

This picture is a little old, before I got cutie patootie owl schedule cards to match my theme, but I digress... I have always liked using magnetic numbers to show the date.  I think they look neater than writing, and let's be real... anything to save me a minute writing on the board every day?  I'll take it!  I also sometimes use the set of magnetic numbers for math demonstrations, etc.

The only problem with my board numbers was that they were way too SMALL.  I am really lucky to have a big classroom, and I want to make sure that the kids can see the date easily, as they have to write it relatively often.  Same goes for math demos... bigger is definitely better.  So I finally bit the bullet this summer and ordered THESE:

It's Lakeshore's GIANT Magnetic Numbers & Operations Kit.  I ordered it for $29.99.  I love that it comes with counters and symbols along with the numbers.  Perfect!  And it's BIG! 

What are you looking to improve around your classroom this year?

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Saturday, July 19, 2014

A Teacherly Initiation

A year in the life of a teacher (add hubby and kids and TpT shop) is pretty busy and crazy, so it can be hard to remember what on earth I was doing last summer (or yesterday), but one of the very memorable things I did just about a year ago was begin my lil TpT shop!
Back then, I didn't have a nice, round logo (well, no one did... the site used square logos.  Remember?) or even exactly the same store name, but I did have ideas and the will to learn.  Fast forward a year and now my hubby are lucky enough to reap some rewards from my TpT earnings, including replacing these babies which have been with us since we first got married 16 years ago!
Oh, friends, you have served me well.  Well, mostly.  Other than the fact that for about two years now I have had to run loads through the dryer twice to actually get them dry.  But I can't complain, you have been there for me.  I hope the guys from Home Depot who hauled you away have big plans for you (or at least organ donation for your parts).

It was time.  Hubby and I brought the girls to Home Depot, and all of the appliances that light up and sing and do fancy things like... um... make ice... kept the girls occupied while we took care of ordering our new W/D set.  We had researched at home so it was pretty easy.  

Fast forward about a week to delivery day... they arrived, knocked on the door, and... the heavens opened.  I kid you not, it went from a perfectly sunny day to a horrendous rainstorm with thunder and lightning.  My hubby went out to the truck and he and the guys were stranded there!

But the heroes of Home Depot and my Handsome Hubs made it happen (thank you SO much, guys!), and here are my huge and lovely new washer and dryer!
Thank you, Tpt!!!!
 So where's the teacherly initiation in all of this?  My first wash load was... drumroll... MY CHAIR POCKETS!  I can't believe I could fit them all in one load and still have so much space! What!

Friends, I have never SEEN those suckers come out so CLEAN.  EVER!
I couldn't put them in the dryer, so here they are, all perty and clean and hanging on my lil drying rack. 
I am pretty much in awe of my new W/D and the fact that I was able to buy them with TpT earnings.  So glad I took that plunge a year ago!  Ready to jump in with your own store?  Click HERE!  Thank you, TpT!

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