Friday, October 21, 2016

A Magical Experience-Takeaways from RCA

About a week ago I returned from what I consider to be the best school in the world. If you've never heard of the Ron Clark Academy, its a non-profit school in Atlanta, Georgia. The students that attend the school are in grades 5-8. It is a private school and also an educator training center. People come from all over the world to experience RCA. It is unlike any school I have ever been to. You are welcomed with high energy and music, and by the end of your visit you never want to leave.

The energy of the students and staff is contagious. You can't help but constantly smile and look
around at all the details that were put into the school. The feeling you get as you spend time at this school is truly "magical." I will say, that the first day was overwhelming. Thinking about how I was going to implement everything put me at a loss, but the second day things became clearer. The teachers will tell you, "Don't try to go back and implement everything you've seen here." They encouraged us to try one thing at a time. This seemed so much less daunting, thankfully.

I'm not going to tell you every single take-away I had because that would be the longest blog post ever, and lets be real, you probably would stop reading at some point. So, I'm just going to share a few things that really hit home with me. The first
thing came from Kim Bearden, the co-founder of RCA. She hasn't had the easiest life (as you can read about in her book Crash Course: The Life Lessons My Students Taught Me). She was truly transparent, and told us that some days she didn't want to get out of bed. The things she was going through outside of school, made going to school seem daunting. To get through this hard time, she found that drawing on the energy of her students refueled her energy. This allowed her to share with her student the energy she had and this continued to be a cycle. This is what helped her get through the challenging times. We all have days that we don't want to be there or we have challenges outside of school that make the world seem as if its crashing down on us. This is what we have to do! I have been applying this advice this past week and it is amazing how it drives you!

Another thing that is very clear that has been established at RCA are relationships. Mr. Clark and his staff are big on developing strong relationships with the students, their families, and with each other. When relationships are strong, that is when your students will want to learn. They will want to succeed because they know you love them and don't want to let you down. From talking with the students, they know their teachers deeply care for them, so when they get "fussed at," they know the teacher or staff member is doing this out of love and the desire for the student to succeed.

One thing that really resonated with me was the high expectations the teachers have for their students and themselves. I am a firm believer in setting high expectations because your students can and WILL reach them. At RCA, they teach to the top. With the high engagement and rigorous content, their students go above and beyond. I have seen this work in my own classroom. The teachers also are constantly bettering themselves and developing new teaching methods that have yet to be discovered.

The last thing (that I am going to share here) that blew my mind at RCA was the house system. The students come to school and spin a wheel that determines which of the four houses they belong to. This helps them feel a sense of belonging and gives the students an automatic family at RCA. As visiting educators, we were able to choose our house. When we wore our house t-shirts the next day, we felt that we were part of a family. We had an automatic group of people who genuinely care about you and have your back! The cheers, chants, support, and encouragement
the students in the houses gave each other, was extraordinary.

The reason I was able to attend RCA this year is because our school is implementing Ron Clark's Essential 55. We are working on helping our students and ourselves become better human beings. After they leave elementary school, we want our students to succeed and to reach their full potential, and the 55 Essentials can help your students do just that.

I cannot put into words how life changing this experience was. Not only for my teaching practice, but my life as well. I could not stop talking about everything that happened and things that I saw. Its one thing to watch videos on RCA and read other's experiences, but I highly suggest making a trip to RCA for yourself. The tangible magic and excitement is seriously better than going to Disneyland. I came back rejuvenated and ready to get back into my classroom to change lives.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Embracing Flexible Seating

This summer I read many blog posts and articles on the benefits of flexible seating in the classroom. I'm a worrier, so I was a bit worried how my firsties would handle this change of seating. I may have had a few nightmares of having to call 911 because a student fell off a wiggle stool or rolled off a stability ball. Despite my worst fears, I knew this would benefit my students. I looked into the cost of everything I wanted to acquire for my classroom and decided I needed to do it in stages. Our PTA kindly gave us $100 and I was blessed to receive donations through Donor's Choose to help start our flexible seating journey. With these funds, I was able to purchase 4 stability balls, a stability disc, and 6 wiggle stools. I already had 4 bean bags, so that was a plus.

Before letting my students start to choose their own seats, I went back and re-read the rules Kayla Delzer and Angie Olsen implemented with their flexible seating. This helped me come up with my own guidelines. I went over the expectations with my students as the items started to arrive. I modeled how not to treat our new seating, and reminded the students that I could change their seats at any time.

We have been in school for about two and a half weeks now, and I am happy to report that none of my fears have come true. I do want to share with you the benefits that I have seen thus far.

The day we got the first wiggle stool, I let a student try it out who was really struggling to focus and get his work finished. I was amazed, and still am, that he got his work done in the allotted time and I didn't have to prompt him once to get working. I've seen this with many of my other students as well.

I love how excited my kids are about these new options and that I trust them to pick where they will do their best work. I am seeing better focus from all my students who are choosing to use the new seating. I am also seeing students who are excited to come to school, try something new, and be a part of something that will benefit their learning.

I am in the process of writing another Donor's Choose grant to implement more flexible seating. At this point, we don't have tables, standing desks, and a few other things that I have my heart set on implementing this year. Wish me luck! I will continue to update you on the benefits I see through this change. Do you have flexible seating in your classroom? Anything you can't live without? I'd love to hear from you!

Saturday, August 13, 2016

The Best Pencil Sharpener in the World

There are some tools I use in my classroom that I know need to be top notch. I am usually willing to put out serious cash (just don't tell my husband) if it means that this particular thing will last all year and withstand the "caring" hands of my first graders. A pencil sharpener is one of those tools. We all use it daily and so do our students, depending on the rules in your classroom. I usually go through at least one pencil sharpener a year because the motor burns out or some mystery person sticks something in the sharpener that shouldn't be there.

I'm happy to report that I have found a sharpener that works fantastically and lasts longer than JUST one year. AND it doesn't even require the serious cash I'm used to paying for an electric pencil sharpener. This sharpener is made by Classroom Friendly Supplies. It comes in a variety of colors that are sure to match your classroom decor and is under $20. I'm telling you it's worth every penny! I now own two and even take one to church with me to use in my church class. I love that you can control how sharp the pencil gets. (My church class may have had a competition to see who could have the sharpest pencil.) It is light weight, easy for kids to use, and quite simple to clean out. I've also found that there are informative videos on Classroom Friendly Supplies that help you remove a pencil lead step by step. They've seriously thought of everything.

Now, with that all being said, my husband, a mechanical engineer, was curious about how great this sharpener really was. He, being the engineer that he is, played with it, looked inside, played with the parts, and gave it his engineer stamp of approval. He says that it is the greatest engineered pencil sharpener he has ever seen. He has fixed his fair share of my classroom pencil sharpeners over the years, so to hear that, I was and am sold! I may just have every color of this sharpener in my classroom by the end of the year. (As long as I keep it in the budget, according to the hubs!) What's your favorite pencil sharpener? If you haven't tried out "The Best Pencil Sharpener in the World" I would highly recommend adding it to your teacher wish list! You can thank me later. ;)

Friday, June 24, 2016

Mountain State Meet Up & A GIVEAWAY!

Just a few weeks ago I had to privilege to attend the Mountain State Meet-Up! I had never actually
been to a teacher-blogger meet-up so I wasn't quite sure what to expect. I had heard that it was a great way to connect with teachers who live close to you, so I couldn't resist.

As you can imagine, where there are teachers, there is fun, chatter, and friendly faces. I was the only teacher from Utah there, but I'm hoping to talk more into coming with me next year!

We met at The Fox and Hound, a restaurant in CO. We started by mingling and talking with other teachers. We also got to go around to the hosts of our meet-up and talk about social media, TPT, blogging, and some of the strategies we have found that work. We talked about Pinterest, which is where you need to be, if you aren't already. Promoted pins are where its at, and in my experience, you will see serious return on this investment. We also talked a lot about Instagram. This is my favorite form of social media because I am very visual. We talked a lot about lighting, posting pictures with the same filters, and really thinking about who your audience is before posting.

While mingling and eating our lunch, the hosts did a drawing for so many fabulous prizes! I was fortunate enough to win two prizes! I received a TIEKS gift card (if you haven't heard of Tieks, Google it right this instant) and what I hear is the best pencil sharpener in the world, from Classroom Friendly Supplies! There were so many generous companies that donated to our meet up. The prize table alone will make you wish you were there!

Thank you to all our donors: GoNoodle, Steve Spangle Science, Seat Sack, Aussie Pouch, Classroom Friendly Supplies,, ESGI, Teachers Pay Teachers, Educents, Tallahassee Sunday, C. Jayne Teach, Love & Logic, Heidi Songs, Hue, Fiskars, Sit Spots, Back to the Roots, Syllabuy, KORE, The Wright Stuff Chics, Tieks, Touch Math, L Paull Designs, Science 4 Us, Erin Condren, Scent Co, and Pencil Grips Inc.

Now that you've seen all the cool loot, you have a chance to win some "loot" yourself!  You could win a subscription to and/or a bag from our meet-up with all sorts of goodies that will make your teacher heart happy! Good luck to you! I would highly suggest finding the meet-up nearest you and connecting with other fabulous teachers.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thank you to Ashley, Kristin, Nichole, and Lori for planning the meet-up and making me feel right at home!

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Mystery Mania & a FREEBIE

The last day of school can be a real problem if you don’t have something for your kiddos to do. Trust me, I found this out the hard way. At our school, we have early out on the last day of school. I love to have my kiddos help me clean and organize, so I’m not there until the late hours of the night. Even my first graders can be seriously helpful with some direction, but this can only go on for so long before I have kids running around and acting like crazies!
To prevent the craziness, I love to take my kiddos outside for the first half of the day and do what I call “Mystery Mania.” I start by dividing my kids into nine groups, for the nine “stations” where the students will be solving mysteries. Do the math ahead of time, so when you divide your kiddos up there is only one group at a station at a time. I then print out the cards with the letters A-I and tape them to dowels or skewers. This makes it so I can stick the cards in the ground. Going outside adds a whole other level of excitement to this activity, since it is something out of the norm.
Before heading outside the students will need a pencil, a student paper, and something hard to put under their papers. Then, have your kiddos line up with their groups. Don’t forget to bring the cards attached to the dowels/skewers! Explain to your kiddos that they will be detectives and you need their help solving 9 different mysteries. Each time they think they have solved the mystery, they must bring their paper to you with the solution. I only will check papers if the entire group comes to me at the same time. If the students get the answer correct, I will initial/stamp in the box. If they don’t, I will send them back to try it again. Some students start to get frustrated at the trickier stations, so I tell them to move on and come back to it.

Next, we head outside and I put the cards in the ground. I put them quite far apart, so the students can’t hear each other talking. I remind them that it is a competition, so they will want to keep their ideas within their group.

I will tell you that for my firsties, some of these mysteries are a challenge, but if they persevere, they soon think of the answers. I also encourage the students to talk through their thinking because it tends to spark ideas in their other group members, and they eventually find the answer.
This usually takes us a few hours and challenges my kiddos while being engaging at the same time. When I taught third grade, I did this same activity; and I will tell you, my first graders knock those third graders out of the park. They are so dang smart, it amazes me.
If you’re looking for an activity to do with your class during the end of the school year, try this out, because I’ve made it a FREEBIE just for you! Please let me know what you think, or if you have any questions. For those of you who are out of school, enjoy your summer. For those who are blessed to still be teaching, add this to your repertoire of end of the year activities. Happy Mystery Solving!

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Time Saving Tip for the Busy Teacher, Mom, Whomever

So you know that dreaded feeling of looking in the fridge, only to find that there's NOTHING TO EAT? Well, that happens at my house quite a bit. Not because we don't have money to buy food, we are blessed that we do, but because I LOATHE going grocery shopping. I usually remember that I need to go after work or on the weekend, and ain't nobody got time for that or want to do it then. So, I usually end up picking up Chipotle, or let's be real, my husband picks me up Chipotle, and that's our dinner. Now, there's absolutely nothing wrong with eating Chipotle. The problem is those other meals that need to be eaten during the day. Breakfast and lunch on the go are a real problem when there isn't food in the house. Therefore, I'm grabbing random junk for both meals, or not eating until later. As you can imagine this isn't really working, and me being HANGRY is never pleasant for anyone, particularly my kiddos.

So, after all that rambling, I'm happy to say that I've discovered an alternate way to grocery shop. I got the mail this week and received a post card that actually wasn't a bill or junk. It was a voucher from Wal-Mart for $10 off ordering my groceries online. Now, I know what you're thinking, "I hate grocery shopping at Wal-Mart!" Well I'm right there with you! I do too! I go in, am usually hangry, buy way more chocolate that anyone should ever consume, can't find everything I'm looking for, and leave just wanting to order a pizza or call my hubs to grab Chipotle.

Now the thing that I do LOVE about Wal-Mart are their prices. So, with the voucher in hand, I thought, "Why not try ordering my groceries online? What do I really have to lose?" I'm happy to report that this is now the way I will grocery shop! Being a busy teacher, I rarely have time to cook, let alone the energy to make a meal. This week is the first week in a long time that I have come home, known what I was making, and whipped something up! I even got to eat lunch with my kiddos this week because I FINALLY had a lunch (as they would put it) and didn't have to run out and grab something.

Now I was a little skeptical at first, when I went to pick up my groceries because I couldn't find the pick-up spot. Once I was able to find where I was supposed to be, I simply had to call and let them know I was there. A kind man rolled my groceries out directly to my car and proceeded to load them in my trunk. Talk about some amazing customer service! (Wal-Mart is not paying me to write this by the way, this is my honest opinion!) I'm happy to say that my produce was picked out fantastically, everything I ordered was there, and it was easy peasy lemon squeezy! Oh, and this doesn't cost extra, nor do they accept tips (so I'm told!).

So if I've convinced you to brave Wal-Mart and quit going somewhere expensive to buy your groceries, I have a link that will save you ten dollars just by trying this service: Do yourself a favor, get food in your house without doing much of anything. The ordering online part is simple. You type in what you need, add it to your list, and you are good to go. I will tell you, that you should order your groceries the day before you want to pick them up! I found this out the hard way and was forced to eat Chipotle another night. Oh darn! ;) Have a great week and take one more thing off your to-do list by ordering groceries online!

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Set the Stage to Engage

I have been meaning to write this post for a few weeks, but it just hasn't happened until now. A few weeks ago, I had the privilege to attend the "Get Your Teach On" Conference in Orlando, FL, with Deanna Jump and Hope King. I was like a little kid on Christmas Eve, and could barely sleep the night before. Before I share a few takeaways from the conference, let me just say, it was gold! More dates and locations were just announced, so I would highly suggest getting right on that.

The first thing that I took away from this conference, was to find time to do the extraordinary. You've probably seen teachers like Hope King and Holly Ehle who flip their classrooms. I haven't attempted this yet, but this is one way that you can go above and beyond. These ladies not only transform their classroom to go along with what they are teaching, but they make sure the content is there. There isn't any point to flipping your classroom if the content isn't there! Yes, it makes great pictures for social media, but I'm a big believer in having a purpose for EVERYTHING!

Another thing that I learned was that YOU ultimately are the person who sets the stage. You are the person who shows enthusiasm for a lesson. You are the person who can get your kiddos excited about ANYTHING! I've learned that if I make it applicable to my kiddos and hook them with my intro, that's when the lesson goes well. That's when I have complete engagement, my kiddos think learning is FUN, and they get something out of the lesson that they will continue to remember.

I also took away that you need to be positive. Not only with your kiddos, but with those you work with, and with yourself. Part of keeping others engaged and making people want to pay attention to you is being excited about life AND teaching. Even if you aren't having the best day. Even if you're stuck in a work environment that tears you down. Even if you have THAT kiddo that is driving you crazy, you build report and relationships with everyone. Make it your mission to get to know your students individually. If your kiddos think you hate them, they aren't going to pay much attention to you, or give you an ounce of respect. If you respect them, and take the time to get to know them, THAT is when they will listen to you, stay engaged, and buy in to what you are doing!

Now that I'm off my soap box, I had a blast at this conference. I had never been to Orlando and never
taken a solo vacation, so it was kind of a big deal for me. I ordered room service, read, and enjoyed something out of the norm. I also met some new friends and took pictures with a few people I love. (Side note: Wade King left a selfie on my phone when he was taking a pic of Hope and I, so its only fair that I post it.) I am happy to say that this conference was one that gave me a renewed zeal for teaching and made me want to "set the stage to engage!"

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Alternate Assessment

In my class on Fridays, we usually sit for about 30 minutes or so, split up into chunks of course, taking tests. As teachers, we are required to take grades, give assessments, and determine if our students are mastering the concepts we teach.

I have never loved tests. When I was little, I was never a great test taker. I have serious test anxiety and dread "test days." So, when I had the idea to create a math assessment for my kiddos out of the norm, I knew it would go over well. Instead of sitting and taking a boring, old paper pencil test, I wanted to get my kids up and moving.

We have been learning about adding ten to and subtracting ten from double-digit numbers. So I made cards that would assess my students knowledge of this. I set them up all around the room and my kiddos did a hunt as their test. It was probably the craziest test they've ever taken. My kiddos were up and around the entire classroom. It wasn't boring, it wasn't normal, but they were excited to take a test. When has that ever happened? So, next time you need to give your kiddos a test, liven it up and make it a scoot, hunt, or something out of the norm.

Here is a FREEBIE, just for you, so you too can change up your way of assessing.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Larry Leprechaun

Just like many of you teachers, a crazy little leprechaun visited our classroom this week. My kiddos came in and were appalled by the mess that this little guy had left. My room was sheer chaos, to say the least. After cleaning up the monstrosity, the kiddos discovered a note left on the board from "Larry Leprechaun." He also left them the first clue to a gold hunt, with some guidelines as they went and found the other clues.

They couldn't help but get loud and crazy, within reason of course, as they hurried about finding the clues. I am sure the classes around us were wondering what was going on in our room. My kiddos would find a clue, wait until the entire class had gathered around, then read each clue together. I've never seen them so engaged during a morning activity. They even said this was "the best morning work ever!"

Once all the clues were found, my class looked through my cupboards, hoping to be the first to discover the gold. One student found it and took two massive handfuls of gold coins. We had to remind our brains what "fair" means. After equally dividing the coins among my kiddos, they could not help but shove chocolate in their mouths. It was a sight to see!

Throughout the day, anything that went wrong, was blamed on Larry Leprechaun. Poor Larry would have been in serious trouble if he had stuck around. :) You can find this Gold Hunt FREEBIE in my TPT store. My kiddos also decided that I look a little bit like a leprechaun. May the luck of the Irish be with you, as we're winding down the last few days before SPRING BREAK!

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Why should you try ESGI

I'm currently thinking back to the beginning of the year when I had loads of assessing to do to determine where my firsties were. All the paperwork, documents, and finding time for it all was beyond overwhelming. I struggled with keeping track of all the papers, making individual flash cards, and graphs for every single one of my students. Well, fast forward to now when a game changer of a software called ESGI has fallen into my lap.

What is ESGI you may be asking? Well it's software that allows you to keep track of all your data in one place and assess your students one on one quickly. I discovered ESGI through periscope and am eternally grateful. No more mess of paperwork, creating graphs, and individual flash cards. This site does all that work for you! It is easy, stress free, and is changing my life already.

I have been using ESGI for about a month now and I can tell you exactly what each student knows and what he or she needs to work on. (Notice I have not assessed every student, I am still currently working on that! Being out for a few days has really hindered getting it done!)

You're probably thinking, "Sign me up! I need a time saver and better way to organize my data!" First, I'll tell you that you can sign up for a 60 day free trial, but I'm telling you that you'll be hooked! So, boy do I have something for you! I have a code that will make this product only $159 for the year instead of $199. If you enter in code: B2186 you will save $40. I am telling you this is worth EVERY SINGLE PENNY! With the amount of time I'm saving, this program is seriously priceless! It has been proven that this site has saved teachers over 400 hours per year! Think of everything you could accomplish with those 400 hours!

ESGI has common core aligned tests already programmed in, but the fabulous thing is that you can upload any test on this site! The possibilities are endless! AND you can share the assessments that you create with your coworkers. AND this data will all be there for the next year teacher. I mean how fabulous would it be to start the year with explicit data to drive what you do with your students?

Once you've assessed your students, there is an automatic, editable, parent letter that you can send home to let your parents know where their child is. There are also personalized flash cards that you can print out and send home too, as well as graphs that show the student's progress. I am currently thinking of how much time I spend creating all this for Parent Teacher Conferences, and that alone makes this software worth it!

I have been using ESGI mainly to assess sight words, and I was able to asses way more students in a short time period than ever before.  I cannot even begin to share with you the knowledge this has given me! It is helping me assess quickly and efficiently and allowing me to be a better teacher. I have graphs at the end of my finger tips and flash cards with my student's name printed right on them! No more taking the time to generate all this myself! Don't be like me and waste hours of time testing with pencil and paper when you can sign up for ESGI! You won't regret it!

Click here to learn more about ESGI.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

5 things I LOVE to do for & During Parent-Teacher Conferences

This week is one of those long weeks where I spend more time at school than at home. It's parent-teacher conference week and the 100th day of school just so happens to fall during this week too. So, I'm living one day at a time, and luckily the 100th day comes after conferences. So I'm focusing on the task at hand. With it being conferences and the month of LOVE, I wanted to share with you five things I love to do to prepare for conferences and during conferences.

We all have our own way of doing things that works best for us, and I will admit that my way is a bit over the top. BUT it works for me, and that's why I continue to do it.

The first thing I always do before conferences is plan. I have a created my own little planning sheet for each student. I have found that typing it up goes way quicker than writing. It also saves my hand from being a blue/black mess of ink. I make sure to think about each individual student and take some time to really reflect on what I love about them and things that I would love to see them work toward. This planning, this is key. With 26 sweet firsties, I have to have notes and my thoughts in order or my anxiety kicks in and my words are a disaster. So, that's my first tip! Plan ahead and do it in a way that works for you.

The next four things are included in my planning, but I consider them completely separate. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE to talk about my students strengths. Even those students who are on your last nerve or smacked another kid for "butting" in line, find something kind to say about them. Starting with the positive is the way to go. I know I always love to hear the good things I am doing, but also appreciate constructive criticism, which is my next focus.

Talk about the negatives as "things to work on." We all have them and I'm not one to beat around the bush. I like to be open and honest with parents so they aren't blind sided when the end of the year comes. With some students it may be tricky because you have a student who does wonderfully at everything. I know you can think of something for them to work on too! Even if you have to dig deep, I know you can do it! With many of my firsties, our "things to work on" include fluency, keeping our hands to ourselves, participating more, being on time, etc.

After talking about things to work on, I love to show parents where their child started and where they
are now. It's one thing I absolutely LOVE about first grade. The kiddos make HUGE progress and it blows me away every year. It is also important to remember that even small progress is progress. I have some students who have quadrupled their words per minute and others who have increased by a few words. I tell my kids we are only in competition with ourselves. You can't compare oranges to apples. They aren't the same thing and it just doesn't work that way. We have to focus on the gains our students have made no matter how great or small.

Another thing I make sure to let parents know is how I am differentiating for their child. This is mainly in reading because that is a major focus of first grade, but every parent wants you catering to the needs of their child. No matter how hard this is, I am a firm believer in changing yourself and your teaching to meet every single student's need. At our school, we as a first grade, get to divide into what we like to call "reading groups" for at least 30 minutes, four days a week. We have leveled our students, taking many factors into consideration, and made groups where we can work on sight words, blending, vowels, patterns, fluency, readers theaters, writing, and so many more things. We have found that this works like a charm. Our scores show that this is an effective practice and the kids love getting to do various activities that are catered just to them.

Now I know I said I would only share five things, but I have to say that you must end the conference on a positive note. Tell something else you love about your student. Share why you enjoy having them in your class. Be positive and take the chance to dote on your kiddos. I love to see their beaming smiles as they hear the "good" things they are doing. I often joke with my kiddos that I am going to tell their parents all the bad things. Of course, I am joking, but I had one students say, "What bad things?" with a shocked look on his face.

I actually quite enjoy PTC week and getting to reflect on each individual student. It may take hours of work and an entire weekend, but this is another reason why I teach. I LOVE to see the progress and helping my students gain the confidence to be the best they can be!

Saturday, January 23, 2016

A Short, but Long Week

With Monday being Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Tuesday a professional day, this was a short week for me. Despite being only three days, this week seemed longer then ever. It may have something to do with the fact that I have been getting up between 4:30 and 5 a.m. to workout with my friend. That could be the reason, but I'm not quite sure. :)

When we have a short week, I hesitate to teach something completely new because our curriculum is set up for a five day week. So, I looked over my standards and thought, "How can I make the most of my time these three short days?" I decided that for Language Arts we would focus on researching and writing a research report. My kiddos can never get enough writing practice!

Anytime we research I attempt to make it about a topic that will keep my students fully engaged. So, because I LOVE Polar Bears and my kids seem to like anything I like, we researched polar bears. We read an article I purchased from TPT and my sweet kiddos began taking notes. We discussed why having a few reliable sources is beneficial too. The kids started to notice the same facts throughout our reading and I was impressed.

We also used World Book Online for Kids and read one of the fabulous National Geographic Books for Kids on Polar Bears. I think the pictures are really what mesmerized them, but they continued commenting that they LOVED this.

Once our notes were complete, we wrote the first three paragraphs together. You may be
thinking,"That many paragraphs in first grade???" Well, I believe in pushing my students and setting my expectations high, and you better believe they meet and even exceed my expectations.

My kiddos wrote the last three paragraphs on their own, with my help and support of course. They turned out fantastic. I did find that we need to focus on starting a paragraph with a main idea and using supporting facts throughout the rest of the paragraph, but I love finding something we can improve on.

To celebrate finishing our Polar Bear Reports, we did a fabulous directed drawing of a polar bear from the fabulous Jennifer White over at First Grade Blue Skies. They turned out pretty dang cute, if I do say so myself. I did have a few brightly colored polar bears, but my kiddos told me they were magical polar bears. How can you say no to a magical polar bear?

The creative liberties they take anytime we do art, showcases their personalities perfectly! One student (picture near the top) said his polar bear was wet. They all decided my polar bear drawing looked sad because my polar bear was a cub who lost its Mama! These kiddos crack me up and help me remember why I do what I do!

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Plans and Goals for 2016
I am beyond ecstatic to say that I'm linking up with the fabulous Angie Olsen and Ashley Schroeder today to talk about plans and goals. I am also SUPER excited that it's a new year. New years make me think of new beginnings, which leads me into goal setting and planning. 2015 was one of the hardest years of my life. I will spare you the details, but let's just say, it was rough. So, here's to hoping my planning and goal setting will make 2016, 200 times better than this past year!

My first goal is to strive for progress NOT perfection. Hi, my name is Brynn, and I'm a perfectionist. Perfectionism is a blessing and a curse. It pushes me to be better, but also makes me my own worst critic. I used to be a lot worse. My first year of teaching I would cut something out and if it wasn't up to my standards of "perfect," I would throw it away and start again. Extreme? YES! I am not near as bad now, but my goal for this year is to focus on my progress not perfection!

The next goal/plan I have for myself is to BE ME! When I started blogging and creating products for TPT, I thought, "No one will read what I have to say. No one is interested in little old me. I can't create products like so and so, or blog as often as so and so." Well, guess what? It doesn't matter because I am me, and no one else is! I have to be myself, do what I can do, and know that is all that matters. I love people who are genuine and authentic, and those people aren't afraid to be vulnerable and BE THEMSELVES. So that's my plan and I'm sticking to it!

My last goal/plan is to make me a priority. I promise I am not trying to sound selfish here! BUT, as my friend Rachael would put it, "You must take care of the golden goose!" I have really struggled with health this past year. I was not taking care of me. I was staying up late putting time into things for teaching, but was compromising my sanity and health. Was it really worth doing that? Now that I'm looking back on it, I can say no, but at the time it seemed as if I had to do it.

So this year, I am taking time for me, because if I don't, how can I take care of all the other people who depend on me? My plan to accomplish this is to exercise daily (and not beat myself up if it doesn't happen), get enough sleep (8-10 hours), do things to help me relax, and eat things that will help me stay healthy! That sounds like a lot, but I know when I do those things, I am my BEST me.

So here's to sticking to my plan/goals and making 2016 a year where I am the best Brynn I can be!