Tales from Outside the Classroom

Mother's Day

Mother's Day is next weekend and I'm on the hunt for ideas on what I'm going to do with my kiddos.  I like to do something simple with the kids that they can take home for their moms or a special woman in their lives.

A few years ago I created this cupcake craftivity and shared it.  It's simple, but it's a cute way that students can write how important their moms are to them.
 I left the template pretty much blank so that students could decorate how they would like.  I love to see the variety of ways they choose to make their "cupcakes".  These sprinkles are adorable.

And these cherries!

You can get this Mother's Day Cupcake Craftivity for free from my TpT store HERE.

I will be letting my students make cards for their moms using Ellison dies.  I'll also be encouraging them to add IOU's the cards.  To see how I made them, click the picture below to head to my post on the Ellison blog.

Happy Mother's Day!

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Airborne Everyday Giveaway

As a Teacher, I need to keep myself as healthy as possible. I recently received a bottle of Airborne ® Everyday ™ multivitamin plus gummies from Airborne to try out and share with you.   I've never used Airborne daily.  My experience was always with the dissolving tablets, so this was a change. I was excited to try these because I'm a big fan of anything gummy.  And, if  I could convince myself that these were the candy gummies I love, maybe I wouldn't eat so many gummies throughout my day.  I sort of buy 5lb. bags of gummies from Costco to keep in my desk, and so I eat them a lot.  

I don't think I can convince myself not to eat the real kind, but these were pretty nice.  They have a great sweet, citrusy flavor when you first eat them.  The flavor goes, and they're a bit more chewy than a normal gummy, but they're good.  I have two kinds of multivitamins in my cabinet that I buy in hopes I'll start taking them in the morning.  Truthfully, though, in the morning the thought of taking a pill is stomach churning.  I like that these don't have to be swallowed, and can be taken at any time without a drink.  

I've tried to keep myself healthy in other ways as well.  I've started to really try to force myself to drink more water.  I drink a lot throughout the day, but generally don't drink too much water.  It's something I'm mentally trying to shift.  Part of the problem is that during the day I don't think about taking drinks, and my water just sits.  Of course, there's also the whole can't-go-to-the-bathroom issue.  So, I'm trying to drink more water in the morning right after I wake up, and then more in the evening.  I was afraid I'd need to get up in the middle of the night, but it's not really been a problem.

I've also started to eat more fruit.  I've always been a big fan of fruit but I don't stay consistent with 
buying fresh fruit and keeping it in the house.  I recently subscribed to a bi-monthly organic produce 
coop through a local farm and it's resulted in me having fresh oranges and apples that I can eat daily.  
For now, my goal is to eat at least either an apple or an orange each day.

The last area I need to tackle is the gym.  I'm always tired, or frustrated, at the end of the day it seems.  Or, I just talk myself out of going to the gym.  I recently expressed this frustration on my Instagram page where I shared the ice cream I purchased that night.  I seem to eat my feelings.  Well, a friend and I got to talking and we're going to try going to the same gym, and go in the morning before work.  I need the accountability to keep me going.  So I hope to start that in the next week or so and that should put me on a great path for the rest of the school year!

What do you do to stay healthy?  Do you want to try the Airborne multivitamin for yourself? I get to give away a bottle of Airborne Everyday Gummies to 3 lucky readers. Leave a comment on this blog post and tell me what you think of Airborne Everyday Gummies and how they can help you better support your immune system.  Winners will be chosen on May 1st.

Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by Airborne Health.  I received products and compensation in 
exchange for this post.  All opinions expressed are my own.

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Do you Audible?

Are you familiar with Audible?
Audible is Amazon's Audiobook company.  They offer over 180,000 titles.  Children's books, young adult fiction, romance, you name it and Audible carries it.

As like so many other teachers, I have a long commute to work each day (almost 30 minutes each way).  I'm often still so wrapped up in the stress of my day that I'm unable to leave work at work.  I started listening to Audible through my phone while driving (it syncs with my car stereo via Bluetooth).  Listening to a book helps me unattach myself from work and the neverending to do list.  It lets me relax before I come home.  I often don't have time to read during the school year and this allows me to catch up with a few of my favorite authors.

There are also a multitude of popular children's books and I'm looking into using it in my classroom as part of my read aloud as the students follow along in their copies.  I think changing it up from time to time helps keep students' interest.  I was super excited to see that they've expanded their books with synchronized images so the books can be shown to students as they are listening.  These are PERFECT for listening centers if you have Kindle Fires or other tablets in your classroom.

Audible has a full year subscription program, and one where you can get two books per month instead of one.  Coupons.com has Audible coupon codes which helps make the price tag a little easier on the budget.  Head on over to Coupons.com to try Audible out for yourself for free!

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Visual Reminders

Hey there!  I'm over on the Ellison Education blog today sharing these simple wristbands that I've started using as a quick way to individualize a bit of my instruction.  It takes me less than three minutes to prep each day.  Click on the picture below to head on over and check it out.

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Unshakeable: Tips, Strategies, Energy, Inspiration

Every year I experience a January slow down.  The cold, snowy, dark weather makes me want to go home after school and cuddle under the electric blanket, and makes me hit the snooze button too many times than I'd like to admit. Then, spring hits and I'm generally feeling a little better except it's so hard to stay after school and get work done when it's absolutely gorgeous outside!  I generally notice a change in the "Miss Maguire" from the first semester me to the second semester me.

The day to day me also varies.  If I have a good day, am excited about what happened, and am in a good mental place, I generally work long hours.  I'm often there till nearly 6 pm trying to get organized or caught up.  If I'm not in a good mental place, a few different things happen:  1) I may leave work pretty quickly and drown my sorrows in Mexican food and margaritas, ice cream and drive thru, or a couple servings of wine. 2) I don't let myself leave because "There's SO MUCH to do!" so instead I sit at my desk on Facebook for the first hour after school trying to let the day go and refocus.  This generally results in me staying for about 7 minutes when I finally unplug.  Or, 3) I go talk to people to destress, come in the room and get stressed out by everything that's staring at me, and leave with the idea that I'll do some of it at home.  Guess what?  None of it gets done when I walk through that door.  So I'm either working all night long trying to catch up, or I leave so quickly and am so unproductive that I just grow my to-do list.  It's a bad cycle and it's one I need to break.

I started reading Unshakeable last weekend and it's already provided me with so much inspiration and tangible ways I can improve my day to day!
Click the image above to buy it in paperback or for Kindle straight from Amazon.

From looking at the table of contents I knew Chapter 2 was one I definitely needed to focus on and begin implementing strategies from right away.  I need to up my productivity, especially knowing the sunshine will be calling my name many, many days in the coming weeks.

One of the things I like most about Unshakeable, and Angela's writing style as an author, is that she provides REAL ideas that you can easily implement into your day to day life.  A couple of points that really hit home with me are detailed below.

Be intentional with your time and go to school to WORK
I am so guilty of having a pretty big to do list of things that I want to get done during my 30 minute lunch and recess break.  I don't get specials every day so I just count on that.  We all know that 30 minutes doesn't mean 30 minutes.  And, 99.9% of the time I choose to eat.  So, my to do list of calls that need to be made during business hours continues to grow.  I'm also big on wanting to check my personal email, my two email accounts for the non-profit I'm in, and Facebook in case something earth shattering has happened and I might not know about it for a few hours. (#FOMO anyone?).  As Angela suggests, I often then get distracted and am just a little bit off for the rest of the day as I'm thinking about whatever else is going on outside of my classroom.  Instead, I need to keep myself offline and focused on work.  I can spend that 10 minutes making copies, or grading a quick task, or organizing a table, or filing assessments, etc.  My personal emails can wait three more hours.  This also means that maybe I give myself one day a week to leaving on time, maybe a day when I have dinner plans, and make those necessary business hour calls and errands on that day.  Then, I still have my evening to relax or work on anything else, but I've actually dwindled down my personal to-do list.

Why early morning can be your most productive time
This, I know.  I learned this my first year teaching when I shared a room with someone I became fast friends with (hi, Kristen!) and a staff that truly became like a family.  The earlier I arrived, the more I got done in the peace and quiet and calm before the storm.  This time of the year I let the snooze take over and the excuses begin and I don't utilize this time that's so important and valuable to me in the fall.  Tomorrow, tomorrow I'll wake up with my 5:00 am.

But first, COFFEE
Another area Angela discusses is having a restful morning time.  This is a practice I discovered myself starting in high school.  I wake up slowly. It has evolved from sitting on the couch and watching an hour of news to laying in bed on Facebook catching up from the night hours and drinking my coffee while checking email.  I need this hour or so to get my mind ready.  I think clearly in the morning and so I'm often preparing a mental checklist for the day, running through special events, meetings, and obligations, and thinking about my lessons.  It helps me focus in on the day and start slowly and confidently.

After the kids leave: do mindless tasks first and stay in motion
This is my #1 takeaway.  I often head for my desk and crash into a heap in my chair.  This leads me to my computer, my work email, and then inevitably my personal email and Facebook.  When I leave my desk, it's to leave for the day.  I often look around the room and realize that I did not lock up the computers I should have, my small group table is disheveled, and Sarah left her backpack at her desk.  I need to hit up my two major problem areas (my two tables) first since clean up generally takes less than 10 minutes.  Then, I need to move my work to one of those tables so I am not looking at my computer and sucked into it.

I'm excited to begin implementing some of these strategies (and so many others that are in the book and not included here).  I know my productivity will improve, and that will help bring down my stress and frustration level.  I'd love to hear other tips you have on keeping productive and not getting distracted by your personal life.  Leave them in the comments and I look forward to reading them.

To follow along with the rest of the book study, head on over to Angela Watson's blog and website, The Cornerstone for Teachers, by clicking the image below.

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Teaching Affixes

Each year I teach affixes throughout the year in context.  However, we also focus on it during our spelling practice throughout the year.  To introduce prefixes, suffixes, and roots, I created this tree and display it as an anchor chart in our classroom above our word wall.

Then, as we come across different affixes, we add them to our word wall.  This keeps them fresh in students' minds throughout the year, and also gives us a place in the classroom to refer back.  When we write them to add to our word wall we generate other words that use the same word part, which really helps activate students' schema.

I was looking for ideas to help students to continue to explore the affixes we've studied.  I especially wanted them to be able to work on this independently during our centers.  I created these affix wheels using my Ellison SuperStar machine.  Click the picture to head over to their site to see more about it.

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Let's Get Organized

This is my second year in third grade, and my first year in this classroom.  I think as common in any new building and grade level, you are constantly reworking your organization systems to find what works best for you and for your physical space.  After receiving some office supplies from Shoplet, and motivation from the growing hours of sunshine each day, I've started reworking some of my storage solutions and I thought I'd share them with you.  I think every teacher is always looking for new ideas for our hoarding problems curriculum storage.

Task cards are my favorite new teaching tool.  I love that they give students practice on necessary skills, but when you use them as a Solve the Room activity, they also get kids up and moving.  I've created a ton of math task cards and am continuing to create more, as we're working through different standards.  Storing those task cards can be tricky, especially if you're using file folders.  I love to store them inside coupon organizers.  That way, you can put multiple sets of cards in each one and separate them with the regular dividers.
This image shows my Fluency Task cards stored in a cute organizer that I got for 25 cents from the Target Dollar Spot's clearance.  That is probably my favorite place to grab them because I can often get them so cheaply.

These letter trays have lasted me 9 years in education.  This year, I wanted to try something different and used an old mailbox system.  I'm back to these.  While these look a bit crazy, I promise they're organized.  On the top are two shelves for storage on things I use weekly (my paper newsletter folder, spelling lists, etc.).  The next 5 are each labeled with the day of the week.  In here I put copies I'll need for the week, books I'm going to teach from, or anything else we might need.  On Monday, you can see a piece of brown construction paper.  I use that to divide weeks if I'm ahead on copying- which rarely happens.  The bottom tray collects various things.  Right now it's holding my posters I had to take down for state testing.

These 3-in-1 SuperTab Section Folders are SO COOL!  From the outside, they look like normal file folders.
 However, on the inside, are pockets!
 These are perfect for storing the different items you need for teaching a unit.  Task cards or exit tickets can be stored in the little pocket in the front.  Printables, posters, or lesson plans can be stored in one of the two big pockets.  You can also use the rings on top to secure things you just slide into the file.  Everything you need for one unit in one place- and secured!  I'm going to be using these to reorganize all of my files.

For reading, I teach students from my own homeroom and from another homeroom.  I needed a way to store running records for each of the students in the other room so it was nearby.  This 12-Pocket Stadium File was the perfect solution!  I wrote each student's initials on a SuperTab file folder and placed it into the stadium file.  Both the file folders and the stadium file are thick and sturdy.  I just place the stadium file on a bookshelf behind me and slide it out when I need it.  It takes up such little room, but has room to grow as I add more to it.  I love that everything is now in one place.
While I use these for storing running records, they really can be used to store anything.  They'd be perfect for organizing intervention resources or data.  For small group instructions, they could hold resources for different specific skills for each group.  With 12 slots, there's really so much you could do.

 I'm also a big fan of using binders to store materials.  I don't even want to think about the amount of binders I have or how much I've spent on them.  I have two different cabinets that have binders and books with materials I've collected over the last 10 years.  I also have a bin on the ground behind my desk where I store the binders I use most often while planning.  I love storing papers inside plastic sleeves inside binders because they not only contain everything, but they're easy to then tag and label, or rearrange however you see fit.

I use binders to store my interactive notebook materials.  Each plastic sleeve stores everything for that specific standard.  Here is my math binder, showcasing the amazing 3rd grade INB from Blair Turner.  When I'm planning each week's lessons, I pull out the pages from one sleeve, and plan how I'm going to build my lessons around these.  I love that I know exactly where to find the materials, and they're organized so simply.

I also use binders to store my running record materials.  I use a half inch binder (shown on the left) to store the student materials.  I just used plastic sleeves to slide in the texts.  Then on the right is a 3 inch binder with all of the teaching resources.  The orange papers divide each text within the binder.  In the front of a section is a plastic sleeve with copies of the running record forms, as shown below.  Then, behind that, is the originals and the answer key to the comprehension questions.  When I'm assessing students, I just grab the two binders and I'm ready to go.  I love that everything is in one place and I don't have to worry about file folders!

I hope you've found a couple new ideas that will help you stay organized in your classroom.  Do you have any organization suggestions?  Feel free to leave them in the comments below.  If you're a blogger, I'd love it if you'd like up below.  Please use the button above to link to this post to bring reciprocal traffic to the linky.

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Teaching Elapsed Time- Concretely

My last post showed one way I teach my students to figure out elapsed time.  Today, I'm over at the Ellison Education blog showing how I introduce elapsed time in the beginning.  It's so important to start as concretely as possible, and I love giving my students clocks to do it themselves.  Click the picture below to head on over and see what we did.

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Using the T-Method for Tricky Measurement Conversions

This year when I was teaching elapsed time, I taught it with the backwards N like I always do, and with timelines.  So many of my kids got it, and rocked it, and moved on through it.  For some of my kids, though, they just couldn't get it.  They couldn't remember what numbers went where, and it just didn't click with them.  So, I had to try something new.  This method worked for them pretty much immediately, so I thought I'd share.  I call it the T-Method because the first thing students do is start out with a lowercase t on their paper.  We also used the same method when we were doing perimeter and needed to add lengths together, or subtract lengths in story problems.

I will say that some of them sound a little bit complicated once you start doing lots of conversions.  However, once students understand it with easier problems, it's really not complicated for them at all.

For problems where the start time and the amount of time that has passed are known the following steps are used.

 First, the start time is included and then the elapsed time is included.  Each side is added independently of each other.  Then, students identify if they need to regroup into a new hour.  I use the term regroup because it's what we use with addition and subtraction and help related it for them.  The final time is then left.

Because we use the language START, CHANGE, END when we are working on addition and subtraction at the beginning of the year, it transfers right over to elapsed time.  Subtraction is done when the end time is given, but either the start time or the time that has passed are not.

 This is also an example of when students are unable to complete each side independently.  Students immediately identify that they cannot do 20-40, and that they need to regroup to continue.  Once they have a new starting time, they can subtract each side and have the missing time.

This is when things get a little tricky.  Upon first looking at this you would think I'd lost my mind.  But here's an example story problem.

Sarah's family was driving across the country on a road trip.  They reached Florida at 2:20 a.m., and immediately went to bed.  They drove for 12 hours and 40 minutes.  What time must they have started their drive?

Because the start is unknown, it's a subtraction problem.  First, students identify that since they traveled after midnight, they have to convert into daytime.  They add 12 hours to the start time.

Once that's completed, they have a new start time.  Now, they are unable to do the minutes, so they again regroup.  Now, again, this seems like a lot of steps and quite complicated. Because it's 12 hours I also talk to my students how that 12 just basically cancels itself out.  But if 11 hours were used in this example, the steps would be used.  Once students have mastered the steps from above, it really is simple for them to add the one additional step.

We also transferred the same steps to adding and subtracting lengths and then converting them.
 Again, each side is done independently of the other until the end when it's analyzed to see if it needs to be regrouped.

While this takes me back to my days in Geometry doing proofs over and over again, that little line in the middle really helps my kids not just carry and borrow between.

If you're looking for additional practice on these skills, check out the products below.

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GRIT: What is it?

I originally heard of Grit during a conference when we were discussing leadership in membership organizations.  Someone shared this Ted Talk from Angela Lee Duckworth.  I immediately thought of my students.
As a former teacher, Duckworth wanted to see what kept students engaged and successful with school.  And what she said made so much sense.  In education classes in college I was always told to encourage students for their effort, instead of their performance.  And I don't think any of us are oblivious to the fact that many teacher-pleasers work hard and give a good effort, and aren't always just the smartest kids in the class.  But it's made me think more in depth about who I am as a teacher, and about grit in general.

Grit is hard to define in just a couple words.  It's that perseverance that you see.  That strength that allows people to overcome difficult times.  That allows them to rise above.  That je ne sais quoi (thank you Google for understanding my very un-French spelling of those sounds to give me that spelling) that makes someone like Michael Jordan go from not being chosen for his high school team, to being one of the best professional basketball players in history.  It's strength, perseverance, stubbornness.  Grit.

Ask any teacher what they think about helicopter parents, and about society in general, and often the response is that we are coddling children too much, and aren't letting them explore and experience enough.  We're so quick to swoop in and protect children from experiencing discomfort or struggles.  I do my best to offer thinking time, and encourage my students to give their best response.  But am I doing enough to strengthen their grittiness?  To keep them moving even when times get tough?  Am I preparing them for a successful life by ensuring their grit grows?  What more can I do in the classroom to help cultivate grit in my students?

 I've often caught myself only calling on the volunteers.  Those teacher pleasers.  The ones who are always paying attention.  What happens to the rest, though?  They think they can hang out at their desks, disengaged.  They think, "Oh, she's not going to call on me because my hand isn't raised."  They don't think paying attention is important  This is often especially true for those kids who struggle.  They struggle so they disengage because it's hard.  But, because they're disengaged and not paying attention, they aren't learning what they can.  And it becomes a vicious cycle.  Call on non-volunteers.  Use ClassDojo's random feature, pull sticks, or use some of those great tech options to ensure you're reaching everyone.  If students think they're going to get called on, they'll stay more engaged.  They'll volunteer more when they think they know an answer.

As teachers, we're taught to and encourage wait time.  We ask a question and then let it simmer in the air a bit before we start calling students to call on, or ask them to share with each other.  However, I've noticed with myself, that when I call on a student and they don't know an answer, I choose someone else.  Instead, students should be encouraged to spend the time they need to come up with a response.  That pressure with everyone watching, and that silence, is often awkward.  However, students need to be taught to push through those difficult and awkward moments.  They need to be taught to give the best response that they can, even if they need another few seconds to get there.  

In this age of high-stakes testing we're always looking for ways to up the rigor on our classrooms, it seems.  Close reading, with students interacting with rigorous tasks, is now being taught to teachers across the country.  We're being asked to move away from the leveled reading movement, and give students texts that are much higher than their current reading abilities and scaffold students through it.  I have always been a vocal supporter of leveled guided reading and giving students opportunities to navigate their way through texts, however, after hearing Dr. Tim Shanahan speak regarding close reading it makes so much sense.  Students need to struggle with difficult texts.  They need to develop and utilize strategies like looking for keywords in questions to help them with responses to the text.  The same is true in math.  I developed my 3rd grade multi-step story problems for exactly this reason.  Last year, on our state test, my students seemed to shut down.  The questions were hard.  And, even though we had practiced story problems many times, they let the test win.  They didn't give their best effort.  They looked at it and essentially gave up and didn't try.  So, every day students work through a problem.  Sometimes twice a day (once independently and once with a friend), but at least one every day.  I want to encourage them to keep trying new strategies.  To keep working through it.  To be sure they know they can do something, a method, a picture, something, that'll help them push through.  They might not get the answer right, but they worked hard and got an answer.  Sure, the correct answer is important, but so is taking risks and building confidence.

This is not a new concept, but a great reminder.  Students should be encouraged for their effort, and the process of working, instead of just the product.  Students shouldn't just be praised for getting an A, but praised for working hard to get that A.  Just as students should be praised for working hard even if they get a C if they're applying the strategies you've been working on.  Telling students "I can tell you took your time and did your best" is a great way to praise their effort and their work.

Students need to move outside of their comfort zones.  They need to be given a pile of material and create something out of it.  Whether this is a STEM based activity, an arts activity, or generally just being given large product choices to show their learning, students need trial-and-error to figure things out, to figure themselves out, and to grow.  Activities like figuring out which foil boat will hold the most amount of pennies, really help students push through their frustrations, try new ideas, and, often, discover more about themselves.

I've just ordered this book by Paul Tough and look forward to reading it and get more insights on grit.
With that said, I've found biography information that states that he is an author, but I can't find any educational background.  I'll continue looking for additional information from Angela Lee Duckworth as she furthers her research on grit.

If you'd like to read more, here's an article from Scholastic's Parent & ChildEdutopia, the New York Times, and NPR.

Not everyone buys into the Grit mindset, and some valid points are made.  Here's an article that is from The Washington Post, that has value in it's concerns.  While we want to encourage students for their effort, and for continuing to persevere through struggles, we also don't want to be in a society where every child gets a trophy for showing up.  Students also need to see that sometimes their best isn't good enough, and that's okay.  We also need to teach students the value in recognizing when trying new things, rather than sticking with something that isn't successful, is also okay, and is beneficial.

What are your thoughts on grit?

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