Sunday, February 28, 2016

Sharing Sunday - Prepping for Poetry

Poetry month is quickly approaching.  I know many of you are reviewing and squeezing everything in as quickly as possible before testing.  Poetry is a great tool to use to review reading and language standards.  It's also fun to read and write poems.  Here are some poetry resources that I hope will make your planning for the next two months a little easier! Click here to download a pdf with links to all of the resources.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Teachers Who Rock! An Interview with Kelli Alaina Wise


Hello! Hello!  I am so excited to start my new blog series Teachers Who Rock!  My first interview is with the amazing Kelli Alaina Wise.  She graciously took time from her schedule to answer questions that I am sure many of us want to learn.

From amazing lessons to business success, Kelli has definitely rocked it!  Her kind spirit and cheerleading for others has helped many stay focused and motivated.  Her constant challenge to try something new pushed me to focus on my blog and do a 30-day challenge.  As a result, I found that I love blogging and sharing my new finds.

So without further ado, sit back, enjoy your cup/glass of (Fill in the Blank), and get inspired.

What was your inspiration behind your two recent projects - Instagram Insiders and The Goal Diggers Workshop?
The inspiration for allll of my projects as a small biz girl stem from two things. First, I consider what my audience needs and wants the most.  I ask myself questions like: What is it that they’re talking about?  What frustrations are they expressing?  The second thing I think about is what I’m a) capable of providing and b) passionate about creating or offering.
So here’s how these two factors played into the inspiration behind my Instagram Insiders and Goal Diggers projects. The #TeacherpreneurTribe Facebook group is my online family. Evvvverything I do is to help them in some way – through whatever motivation, encouragement, or useful information I can provide to support our community.
Over this past summer, the primary focus of the group was on sharing the best social media strategies to help each other extend our reach online. By surveying the tribe, I learned that the overwhelming interest in the group was to begin focusing on Pinterest. As a result, I prepared a daily challenge (minus weekends) encouraging discussions around Pinteresting topics. Then, as Operation Pinterest Powerhouse was wrapping up, I polled our group again to find out which platform everyone would be most interested in exploring next. 
Again, a huge majority of our tribe members voted for Instagram.  This interest motivated me to take Instagram e-courses on my own and do as much research as possible (while also implementing the strategies I learned for my own account) so that I could provide valuable content for our tribe.  I knew lots of people were really hungry for this knowledge, so I wanted to be able to give them the best strategies that would help them succeed with IG.  Because I’m a lifelong learner at heart and I also looooove both teaching and creating pretty things, organizing the free 25-Day Challenge as well as my Instagram Insiders Mini Course was great fun.  I also reached out to a few teacherpreneurs that I considered to be experts on the platform and asked if I could interview them.  This was also TONS of fun because I love learning from other passionate, super helpful, and amazingly generous teacher friends!
Later on, I approached the Goal Diggers project a little differently than the Instagram challenge and mini course. This time I didn’t survey the tribe.  I just paid close attention to what was going on in the online teacherpreneur world. I noticed that people were really excited about declaring their #olw (One Little Word) to set an intention for their businesses going into the new year.  This made me realize that while it was a fun and useful activity, teacherpreneurs could benefit from more guidance with setting strategic goals and mapping out a clear plan to achieve them. 
So this is how the Goal Diggers workshop was born.  I wanted to provide a free learning opportunity for our tribe members to think more deeply and strategically about their goals and plans for the year while also coming together to support and encourage each other through the process.  I love hosting online events and, of course, creating pretty things… so the workshop and DIY Funbook were a no-brainer for me!  I also added an option to work with me privately for coaching because I know the goal-setting and planning process tend to be easier when you have someone you can trust to walk you through it. (And helping others 1-on-1 to find clarity from within their confusion is one of my favorite things to do!)

How do you manage your time with with 3 boys and a business?
This is a fantastic question!  I’m completely convinced that being a work-from-home mom is one of the most challenging AND rewarding opportunities on the face of the earth.  I can’t even come close to pretending that I’ve got it all figured out!  But I also feel incredibly blessed to have the opportunity to navigate the everyday chaos with my Wise Guys by my side.
It’s similar in a lot of ways to working in the classroom.  No two days are ever the same.  And even when I begin the day with a great plan in place, nothing ever goes entirely as planned.  In fact, I’ve learned to start each day expecting the unexpected. Snow days, sicknesses, and never-ending piles of laundry seem to be par for the course. 
What’s really worked the best for me is to imagine how long I think a business task will take me and then add a considerable amount of “margin” to that expectation.  For example, if I think I’ll need an hour to write a long email, I’ll set aside an hour and a half or even two hours for the task because I’m sure there will be some sort of distraction that will interrupt me.  My work time is super limited because I’m also caring for my infant son during the day, taking care of household chores, and spending time with my older kiddos when they get home from school.  That’s why I have to be realllly efficient with the pockets of work time that I DO get.  I like to plan out my day the night before so that I can hit the ground running as soon as I wake up.  But my plan has to be very loose because, as I said, no two days are alike!  I have to make my plans with the expectation that they won’t play out the way I imagine them in my own little dream world.

As a person with an education background, learning the business tools has been hard for me. What are the most important things you have learned about running a small business?
Learning all the ins and outs of online business is a daunting task for sure!  That’s why I’ve made it my mission to learn what it takes to be successful online so I can shorten the learning curve for my fellow teacherpreneurs.  I believe teachers have sooooo much knowledge, expertise, enthusiasm, and creativity to share with the world. I absolutely love doing anything I possibly can to help make it easier for them to make an impact beyond their own classroom walls.
One of the most important things I’ve learned as an online biz girl is that being a part of a community of like-minded business friends can be crucial to your success.  I’m positive that I would not be in the place that I am today if it weren’t for the guidance of both my business coach and the support and accountability of my mastermind group. 
I also think it takes guts to invest in your business when you’re first starting out because you’re hoping to make money rather than spend it. However, I believe that when you take the time to think strategically about exactly what you need to move your business forward, making a smart investment can pay off in huge dividends.  A wise investment reflects the fact that you truly believe in yourself because it can easily pay for itself when you commit yourself to gaining the knowledge or support that you genuinely need to grow your business.

What advice would you give to teacherpreneurs to stay motivated?

My advice for teacherpreneurs to stay motivated is to find their tribe and stay connected.  When you try to operate your business on your own, it can be a very lonely and isolating experience.  Having friends who “get it,” know what you’re going through, and know how hard you work is priceless!  And I believe two minds are always better than one.  The best decisions I’ve made for my business have ALWAYS come from  discussions I’ve had with my “cheerleaders” who know how to ask me the right questions and help me see the things that I wouldn’t have seen on my own.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Weekly Post for February 26, 2016

What do you plan to do with the extra day that is coming next week.  Leap Day seemed so exciting to me as a kid.  I hope you can fill the day with time for yourself.

Books of the Week
One of the hardest topics for students to get when writing is leaving the reader with a good ending. One of the best authors to use for endings is Mo Willems.  He has a variety of endings that help students understand and model.  There are so many great tools readers and learn from his writing from humor, to quoting, to word choice. But for today I will focus on endings.
1. Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus - Circular Ending.  In this book he returns to the events from the beginning to wrap up the book.
2. Knuffle Bunny Too: A Case of Mistaken Identity. Epilogue.  This book he goes into the future to tell the reader more about the characters.
3. The Duckling Gets a Cookie.  Surprise Edning.  We find that there was a reason the duckling was so quick to share his cookie.

Lesson of the Week
Volume is a concept that works best with building or cooking.  Students have trouble "seeing" that volume is the space inside.  I wrote a post on ways to find volume and provided a free assessment for you to download.  But if you need a hands on way to model volume for students pull out those unifix cubes or legos and let your students build and count.

Fabulous Freebie
Poetry month is quickly approaching.  I love using poetry for teaching word choice.  Several styles of poetry lend themselves to focusing on word choice.  This post on 5 Styles of Poetry to Engage Writers will guide you through the styles of poetry and provides templates for you to use with your students.

Recipe of the Week
The recipe for this week is a simple one.  It is perfect for those busy nights where you have minimal prep time but want a healthy dinner.
- Flank Steak (marinade or spicing of your choice)  You can cook on a grill or I use a grill pan too.
- Broccoli or Green Beans
- Fruit Side of blueberries and strawberries.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

How Creative Writing Can Build a Love for Writing and Increase Test Scores

I know many of you have a limited writing time and you are pushed to focus on teaching students how to write for that writing assessment.  Making time to teach creative writing can build those writing skills and make writing more fun, and have students perform better on the writing assessments.

Creative writing is fun. It allows for choice and it allows students to try out new things.  When teaching students creative writing it is important to give them time to plan and think about what they are going to write before they start the first sentence.  Mapping out character, setting, and plot can help writers understand what they are going to write.

1. Creating a Character
Creating a character is one of the most important parts of the writing process in fiction. The character is what drives the story and if the readers care about the character they will keep reading.  I tell my students that their character should be a best friend to them.  The character should be someone you know more details about than you would tell.  Writers should know the characters favorite food, color, what they fear, what they love, and much more.  I create a questionnaire with my students each year.  I will give them the name of my character and they ask questions about this person.  I then take the list I created with them and give each of them a list of the questions for them to answer about their character.  Here is a sample of the questionnaire I use. This video can give you more information about developing character.

By taking the time to get to know their characters they are thinking through details before they start writing.  This is a great tool for writing assessments because it gets students in the habit of asking questions and writing the details they know about a topic before they begin drafting.

2. Developing a Setting
Setting is the part many students skip.  They don't think about where and when the story takes place and as a result details jump around and confuse the reader.  To help students fine tune their setting I have them complete several tasks.

Setting Map
With the setting map students draw a map of the world the character lives.  If the story takes place in a specific season, then I have students draw details to show that season.  If the story takes place 150 years ago, students draw the details appropriate to that time period.

This is a lesson I like to do on my Interactive White Board.  I have my students call out questions and I draw as I go.  I also think aloud as I draw the details I don't want to forget and to model how I plan my own writing.

Setting Questions
For the students who need a little more focus or those who don't enjoy drawing, I have them complete these questions. This helps them narrow down when and where the story takes place.

Taking time to plan the setting helps students on writing assessments by making them think about the when and where an event or story takes place.  Students will learn that the action of their writing doesn't take place with a white background.  

3. Mapping Out the Plot
Students get excited, they have a lot of ideas, and they dive right into the writing.  Unfortunately many of them get a few sentences in and get stuck. They aren't sure which path they are taking.  I have two ways I use to help students plan the plot before they tacke the first sentence.

The Writing Guide
This is great for grades 1-3.  I like to use colored pencils to help them learn about new sentences in the lower grades and about paragraph development in other grades.

The Plot Outline
This is great for 4th-6th grade.  They learn about outlining and are able to organize their writing in a way.

Using these two methods are great for the writing assessments because students have tools they can easily recreate to plan their writing.  After practicing this tool all year the students really get in a habit that you will see them using in all genres of writing.

I have all of these prepared and ready for you to download. Use these Writing Guides and Graphic Organizers to get your Writer's Workshop up and running.  

Want to save this post for later?  Pin the image below. 

Want to learn more about running a successful writer's workshop? This post 4 Ways to Run a Successful Writer's Workshop may help. You will also find free conferencing guides and editing checklists.

For more ideas and tips follow me on Pinterest.

Would you like to have 15 + weeks of writing and grammar skills already planned for you? These bundles contain everything (except the published books suggested) to teach writing.  No cutting or pasting needed.  Just print, teach, and inspire writers!  The Fourth and Fifth Grade Bundle will be available April 1st (no joke - hehe). All of these forms PLUS exemplars, detailed lessons, and assessments are included.  OVER 600 PAGES! (Just click the image to learn more and download a preview.) 

Photo Credit in Header: karendaev/Dollar Photo Club 

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Friday, February 19, 2016

Weekly Post for February 19, 2016

I am sure many of you are coming off a 4-day week (which probably has you more tired that a 5 day week).  If you are super lucky then you have enjoyed a full week off.  My house has been full of sickness this week.  I think my kiddos have made up for 2 years of nothing major in 5 days. I am ready for warm days now!

Book of the Week
Today I am going back to one of my favorite books.  The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo is one I have read aloud every single year.  I've read it to 2nd graders and 5th graders, boys, and girls...they all loved it.  I have recommended it to other teachers who quickly came back for more suggestions because their class loved the book.  If you want to teach theme, if you want to have your students on the edge of their seats, if you love beautiful pictures, and if you want a book YOU will enjoy reading again and again, then this is the book for you.  (NOTE: Have your school librarian hold all copies of the book in the library for your class.  I guarantee you students will ask to go to the library to check it out the day you start it.) Here is a website on more stuff to use with the book.

Lesson of the Week
Today's lesson focuses on getting the Writer's Workshop time organized.  One of the things my students had the hardest time with was knowing when and how to conference.  After taking time to teach students about conferencing with the teacher and conferencing with peers we had more time on task and more engaging conferences.  This post contains a free download of conferencing forms.

Fabulous Freebie
This week's freebie is 5 Science Prompts. These prompts encourage students to think outside of the box.  Click here to get your free download.

Recipe of the Week
This Stuffed Chicken Recipe from is my husband's favorite.  We skip the breading part and it is still super yummy. This quick recipe has minimal prep time.  I like to add some broccoli or corn as a side.

Want to save these ideas?  Pin this!

Saturday, February 13, 2016

For the Love of Haikus

For the Love of Haikus has moved.  Click HERE to access your FREE download and read more about using haikus in the classroom.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Weekly Notes for February 12, 2016

Happy Friday!  I hope you had a great week.  I am currently watching the snow fall out the window. I am loving it because I get to see the pretty snow, but it won't stick to the roads, so I can still get out and about. I am so ready for those warm days and longer daylight hours (only 30 days to go, but who's counting)! So here we go with another week of "notes" from the portable.

Book of the Week
The Crossover by Kwame Alexander
I have fallen in love twice this year already.  The first time with Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan and the second time with the Crossover by Kwame Alexander.  If you teach boys... If you teach kids who like basketball... If you teach kids who don't like poetry... If you teach kids who like kids... Basically, if you teach 3-8th grade, then you HAVE to put this book in your kids hands.  A wonderful combination of basketball, poetry, family, friends, and growing up.  This book has it all and your students will be anxiously awaiting the arrival of his new book coming out this year.  These poems are perfect for fluency.  Have kids rehearse them and read them aloud to the class.  This one simple strategy will cover fluency standards, speaking and listening standards, and comprehension standards. This is one I will read again and again!

Lessons of the Week
I love teaching area.  I think it is a skill that so many students can master quickly and it helps them build confidence.  By starting with counting squares and building to applying multiplication skills, students get to show understanding at their own pace.  The other thing I love about area is I can tell students numerous ways in which I use area in my day to day life (and I'm not an architect).  I use area when plotting my garden.  I use my understanding of area when moving and placing my furniture (at home and in the classroom). There are many different (and fun) ways to have students practice area understanding.  This area blog post provides more information on area, a performance assessment, and you can download a FREE practice page to assess your students understanding of area.

This week I am also featuring a February Poetry Literacy Center.  I love using poems in my literacy centers.  Most of the ELA standards can be taught using poetry and I don't have students complaining that they didn't have time to read everything during the literacy center time.

Fabulous Freebie
Want some great social studies prompts to assess your students' understanding of important topics? This post has topics that you can use.  Students have to explain how things would be different if certain events in history had a different outcome.

Recipe of the Week
I have been on a making bread kick lately and this Rosemary Bread has been my treat this week. Paired with an evening drink, I feel a little like I can have restaurant quality in my own home. No babysitter needed or high chairs with two toddlers at a restaurant.

Follow me on Pinterest for more Teaching Ideas.

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Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

4 Weeks of February Learning Fun

I can feel that spring is just around the corner.  But first we have to get through the dreaded February. The cold days, the teasing warm days, and the last few weeks of dark evenings. To help you make it through this month, I created a poetry literacy center full of fun activities that will have your bulletin boards teaming with student work and your students engaged in writing, experimenting, and researching!

This literacy center allows you to choose the method that works best for your students.  A choice board, activity board, and task cards are included.

Below you will see how each week is organized and what standards and skills are covered during that week.  Click here to download a preview.

Want to pin this for later?  Click below. 

Friday, February 5, 2016

Weekly Notes for February 5, 2016

Happy February!  Can you believe it's already February? Time is flying again.  I am so glad you joined me for another week of Weekly Notes.  Let's get started!

Book of the Week
This week the book I want to share is the Nation Book Award Winner - Dancing on the Edge by Han Nolan.  The characters is this book are very different from the ones in most books.  The beginning was a little slow and I wasn't 100% sure where this book was heading, but I am so glad I stuck with it.  The last part of the book was fabulous and the conversations were so real.  The characters were so alive at the end that I felt they were in the room with me.

Lesson of the Week
Are you looking for ways to build your student's content area vocabulary?  This post will give ideas on getting students up and learning new terms.

Fabulous Freebie
Are you looking for poems to use this month?  I have 4 poems that are featured in this month's edition of A Poem Each Week.  You can access the FREE February A Poem Week here. 

Recipe of the Week
This Spicy Turkey and Green Bean Stir Fry from the Food Network is wonderful.  The kids love it and there is always plenty of leftovers for my husband and I to have lunch for the next day.  Super easy to make and one that the kids can help cook.

Want to save these ideas for later? Pin the image below. 

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Currently - February

Today I am linking up again with Farley for Currently February.  I can't believe it is already February.  I hope that Groundhog predicts and early spring today! I also want to wish my parents Happy Anniversary today. And my sister and brother-in-law a Happy Anniversary on Sunday.  This is definitely the month of love for my family.

Listening/Watching: I finished watching Parenthood in December.  I loved it so much that nothing I watched held my attention longer than 5 minutes.  This past week I discovered Broadchurch on Netflix. It is a murder mystery. (**And after the latest episode I think I'm done with this one. I think I'll go back and rewatch Parenthood.)

Loving: The other day on the way to take my kids to preschool we listened to Alt Nation.  (Love that my kiddos get my music) and we heard Nothing But Thieves cover of Where is My Mind.  I fell in love from the first note.  The kids did too and my 3-year-old asked later if we could listen to the "Mind" song again.  It was an exclusive song and we can't find it anywhere.  I HAVE to find it somewhere! 

Thinking: That Groundhog better have good results to or else! I'm so tired of cold, wet, gray days! My family loves the outdoors, but all of the "winter bugs" have taken over with lots of sickness.  I have never been more ready for summer.  We all desperately need days where we only see the inside of the house to sleep.  

Wanting:  A Horse!  I've asked for a horse since I was little.  I recently started riding again and my daughter has started riding too. My little, no-fear, child has already started posting.  Although we only ride once a week and don't own a horse (we do by heart just not financially), it is so much fun for all 3 of us.  

Needing:  To take some stuff off my plate.  I am sure I don't need to explain more as we all need to start doing this one! 

Swooning: The Crossover by Kwame Alexander.  I love, love, love this book. The words, the rhythm, the characters, all of it!  It is a combination of family, friends, basketball, and poetry.  I promise your kids will love it.  The words literally dance on the page.  

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Sweet Treats on the Primary Peach

Happy Groundhog Day everyone!  I am hoping for a sign of spring to come soon.  I need warm, sunny days in the forecast soon.  I am tired of hibernating.

Today I am sharing some great freebies on the Primary Peach.  Please hop on over to download some great treats for February.