Sunday, April 24, 2016

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Teachers Who Rock: Cailin Hannan on Differentiation

Today I am interviewing my good friend, Cailin Hannan.  She is a model teacher for differentiation in the classroom. Today we talk about the importance of differentiation in the classroom and how she uses it in different subjects.  

Differentiating is so important in education. I know this is a topic you are passionate about. What about differentiation is so crucial to your planning?
In my classroom, as is typical in most, I serve a lot of very diverse learners.  My students come to me at many different levels, sometimes spanning multiple grades.  They also come to me with a variety of skills and interests.  When it comes to meeting every individual student's needs,  while also motivating them individually, this is a huge challenge.  Because of this, when completing my unit and weekly plans, differentiation has to be a focus in all subject areas.  First of all I need to plan assessments that will help me make imperative decisions about differentiation quickly (diagnostics, tickets-out-the-door, etc.).  I first need to think about differentiating based on the student's level of mastery.  I think about the supports some students will need (additional teacher support, regular check-ins, paraphrasing of directions, reading partner, word bank) and extensions for others (what will I do for those who already have mastery and/or finish quickly). I want all students to have the support to show me what they know.  Another element of my plans is differentiating in regard to how the students will show me what they know. All students do not need to complete the same task (choice boards are a great way to make this happen). This is where I take into account the different learning styles and interests. 

How do you differentiate in your reading groups?
I use a diagnostic such as a running record as a starting point for the year and group students at a similar instructional reading level.  I do not like to always keep these groups throughout the year, though.  Obviously they will be flexible as students make progress, but I also like to mix things up and group students in other ways.  For independent reading I like to group students by their interest in a particular genre or author.  All the students have a choice of what they will read independently (which will be on their level) but they get to discuss their common interests with a diverse group during "book clubs."  For students who are struggling with reading I like to group them by the area for which they are struggling.  I have a strategy group that focuses on fluency, and one that focuses on decoding with accuracy.  Students can also be grouped based on the comprehension strategy for which they need the most support.  I encourage independent reading with my readers who struggle in a variety of ways: reading the first chapter of the book with them and discussing all story elements prior to releasing them, allowing them to buddy read and have regular check ins, or allowing them to reread (from a read aloud) a book they enjoyed.  

3. Subjects like science and social studies are harder to differentiate. How do you ensure that the needs of your class are met?
When possible I try to find reading passages and books at a variety of reading levels.  This is not always readily available, so I always plan to meet with particular students who need support prior to them reading for information.  I get them started and then check back in a bit more often than with other students.  I also provide outlines and word banks to help students key in on the most important points while they are reading or during a mini-lesson.  Student projects are completed either using choice boards (for both interest and ability) and collaborative work.  Most of the time groups and partnerships are strategically chosen to help allow students to utilize leadership skills while others can get the support they need.  Lastly, I have a research question that goes with each unit.  As students demonstrate mastery and complete tasks they can work independently (or with others as possible) on "answering" the question.  Their challenge is to try to use a variety of sources and come up with different ways of showing me (and the class) what they know.  Lastly, I really like to do a Jigsaw activity.  This gives every group member a specific role for which they will be an expert.  After working with a group on their specific role the experts move to a new group where they must share their ideas.  This allows for every individual student to participate, but not before getting support from their peers.  

4. Where/how do you get your ideas for differentiation?
My main source of knowledge has been my colleagues throughout the years.  Everybody I have worked with has had great ideas that I become lucky enough to add to my tool box. 

5. How do you manage the classroom with students completing different tasks? How do you ensure they are engaged?
I am constantly working with students and questioning their progress.  I walk the room and keep lots of checklists.  A quick check on a sheet lets me know that a student is progressing, while an anecdotal note on another student lets me know I need to pull them to provide support the following day.  I have more regular check-ins during project and/or independent work with students who have more difficulty with time management.  I also like to have conferences with students or a discussion with my whole class as a reflection after completing tasks/projects.  This will hopefully help me in the future.

6. What is your favorite part of teaching?
I love the planning, especially planning pacing for the year or for particular units.  I love to make sure that all the standards fit together in a way that will be engaging and cross-curricular for the students.  Deciding on the perfect activity is also a great part of this job.  Above all I love the students.  I love watching them learn and getting to play a small part in their world for a year.  The connections that I make with them are my favorite part.  

Cailin was recently spotlighted on the Face of Fulton.  Check out this video! 
Face of Fulton, January 2016 from Fulton County Schools on Vimeo.

Want to learn more about Cailin plans her classroom?  Click here.

Friday, March 4, 2016

The Zen of Teaching Poetry

Poetry Month is quickly approaching.  In the midst of cramming for testing you think, 'I hate poetry! Why am I stressing over teaching it?'

Let me solve that problem for you!  I have 3 units designed to specific grade level Common Core standards.  In addition, I have created monthly poetry literacy centers to keep your students enjoying poetry all year.  Each unit has over 170 pages of detailed lesson plans, assessments, student pages, exemplars, and wall display materials.  The lessons provide an essential question, objective, common core standard, procedures, and assessments.  (Keep reading for FREEBIES and to ENTER the GIVEAWAY for a free unit and April Literacy Center!)

I know many of us fear poetry and symbolism, but poetry is so much FUN and it is the perfect outlet for creativity after spending the morning taking a standardized test.  Your students will be engaged, you will have lesson plans taken care of, and ALL of you will be able to have fun, relax, and enjoy finding a new found love of poetry!

Each unit contains: 
- Over 5 WEEKS of  Lesson Plans aligned with reading, grammar, and writing standards.
- A 40 + page Student Handbook that gives visuals for all lessons, handouts, and poetry templates. 
- Rubrics for Research Poem, Unit Portfolio, and Poetry Choice Board.
- Poetry Choice Board Activity
- Poems written by Jessica Zannini 
- Letter and evaluation for sharing poetry portfolios with parents. 
- Quizzes and Unit Test 
- Essential Question Posters
- I Can Statement Posters
- Vocabulary Word Wall Display 
- Suggested Book/Author/Website List 

- Additional Review Lesson on previously taught standards

What people are saying about these units!




Want to learn more about the specific types of poetry taught and standards covered in each unit? Click the images below to go to each product description.

2nd Grade Poetry Unit

3rd Grade Poetry Unit

4th/5th Grade Poetry Unit

March Poetry Literacy Center 

April Poetry Literacy Center 

So now it is time for prizes and freebies!  Want to win a unit?! Pick the grade-level of your choice to enter and win!  Winners will be announced on March 15th on my Facebook page.  And if you want some free poetry resources now, scroll to the bottom of this post to find links.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
a Rafflecopter giveaway
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Want to learn more about teaching poetry?  Check out these blog posts for FREE downloads and more tips on teaching poetry. (Just click the image to learn more.)

5 Poetry Styles That Spark Creativity in Struggling Writers 

How to Teach Poetry (Even if You Hate It!)

If you are looking for even more ideas follow my Poetry Pinterest Board. 

Cover Photo: puckillustrations/Dollar Photo Club 
*(Other photos credited in those specific products or blog posts.)  

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

11 Innovative and Inspiring Teachers You Need to Follow

It's the middle of the year and you know you need to change up your wall displays, but there is so little time with the grading, planning, meetings, and prepping for testing.

You need a great lesson to teach division.  Your kids still aren't getting the steps and your colleagues are stumped too.

You want some new and current books to use for guided reading.

You are new to teaching or just finishing your student teaching and want to get fresh ideas.

If you have questions you want answered...  If you have lessons you need to tweak....  Or if you are just looking for some inspiration about this wonderful career you have chosen, then you HAVE to follow these teachers. Their ideas and inspiration will keep you sailing throughout the entire school year.

1. Teaching With a Mountain View
Mary from Teaching With a Mountain View is such a calm soul. She would have been a perfect teacher for me.  I went to her presentation in Vegas and learned so much from her journey.  Her soft voice is calming and inspiring.  The way she presents herself in presentations and through her products and social media, you feel like she is already a friend.  Your students will love her products and they will definitely make your teaching life easier.  The blog posts she shares give a variety of ways to teach.
TPT Store

2. An Apple For The Teacher
Kelly from An Apple for the Teacher is a mom of 6 boys.  Yes, you heard me right.  She has 6 boys. She has to be a super woman.  She has taught 3rd -7th grade.  Her blog is full of great ideas to use in the classroom.  Follow her on Facebook to see how she uses her ideas in the classroom, as well as, find great tools she shares.  She has a wealth of knowledge and knows great ideas.  You won't have to search far to find great ideas for your lesson plans.
TPT Store:

3. Blair Turner
Blair Turner's style is amazing.  She has mastered the art of knowing her talents and exploring ways to engage students.  Her blog provides multiple ideas on teaching lessons and tips for teachers on better instruction practices.  Her creative eye will help you organize and design your classroom and find ways to improve that class newsletter.
TPT Store:

4. Kelli Alaina Wise
Wise is such a great last name for Kelli.  Her patience and guidance in sharing with others is amazing.  If you want ways to set goals for your classroom or to learn how to use Instagram to share what is happening with parents, then you need to check out her tips and tools.  You can also find great freebies and writing graphic organizers in her TPT store.  If you follow her on Instagram you will find many inspiring quotes that speak the heart of what teachers do. One of the things I want to do beyond teaching is to become a writer.  Her Goal Diggers Fun Book helped me map out a plan to write and send manuscripts to agents.  I'm hoping with her guidance 2016 will be the year!
TPT Store

5. More Than a Worksheet
Sarah from More Than a Worksheet is a STEM expert.  Her lessons tailored to STEM activities are so exciting and engaging.  Your students can learn how to make Snowball Slingers and Candy Heart Chutes.  You will love her blog posts and lessons.  You can sign up for her Daily Creative Thinking Newsletter when you visit her blog.
TPT Store

6. Angela Watson
Angela Watson is a master of many things.  Her tips on working smarter, saving time, and classroom management are a MUST for both new and veteran teachers.  Her podcast let you be inspired on the go.  It's perfect for the mornings you want to get inspired and in the afternoons on the those days that you just want to scream.  She has a plethora of free items on her blog to get your started.  If you want a go-to place to get answers on teaching issues,  The Cornerstone for Teachers is the perfect place.
TPT Store:

7. Chris Kesler
Are you looking for upper elementary and middle school science? Well look no further!  Chris Kesler has lab bundles, unit studies, and board games to help your students have fun while learning important standards.  From learning about science day demos to interactive science notebooks, he has you covered.
TPT Store:

8. Keeping Up With Mrs. Harris
Talk about organization!  Meghan from Keeping Up with Mrs. Harris is so organized.  I have learned so much from her Plan With Me Sunday series on getting organized for the week.  The amazing products in her store range from lap books to math games.  Her new products for the Google Classroom are fantastic.  Check out her blog for tons of tips for RTI and managing your time in the classroom.
TPT Store:

9. Erin Stephen - Snazzy in Second
If you are looking for great wall displays, fun games, or a great craftivity, then Erin from Snazzy in Second has you covered.  Your students will have fun learning and your walls will provide the answers for many student questions.
TPT Store

10. Hello Literacy
I love the style of Jen from Hello Literacy.  She has a variety of resources to enhance your literacy lessons and centers.  She's great at professional development and I love following her through her travels.  She is definitely bringing change to education.  From fun fonts to close reading passage, your class will be prepared for fun.  Her venture into periscope has brought professional development to your sofa.
TPT Store

11. Mandy's Tips 4 Teachers
Mandy from Mandy's Tips 4 Teachers has a wealth of knowledge.  Her blog is a go to place for ideas on teaching math and finding differentiated strategies.  Her math and differentiated ELA posts and resources will have your students engaged and you enjoying teaching. Her writing style makes you feel as though she is talking with you while you plan.
TPT Store:

And if you want to keep up with me, Jessica Zannini from Notes from the Portable, as I share more about my journey through blogging, teaching, parenting, creating, and writing follow the links below.
TPT Store

Cover Photo: michaeljung/Dollar Photo Club

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.