Monday, March 24, 2014

Spring Blogger Meet Up

I told you on Friday that I would be going to the Spring Blogger Meet Up on Saturday, and it was AMAZING!

I have to admit, I was pretty starstruck being in the same room as Dana from Common to the Core and Mel D from Seusstastic, not to mention listening to them give blogging tips!! I have followed those two wonderful ladies for what seems like forever now, so it was awesome seeing them in person. They, along with Mr. Greg and Holly Ehle (our fabulous hostess) lead a great "blogging tips and tricks" session. 

That alone was worth the drive, but there was so much more! I couldn't stay for the whole weekend, but I was able to attend the luncheon, teacher tool swap, and blogging tips and tricks session. Check it out! 

Had to snap this pic (my light was red!) as I was pulling into the resort. 

Melanie from Schoolgirl Style donated all of the cute signs, name tags, and poms! So cute!

 Holly put this whole incredible event together, and she is the absolute sweetest person (not to mention an amazing event planner)! Here she is being Oprah and giving away all of the fabulous prizes from our generous sponsors. 
All I could think about at this point was the Dane Cook Humpback Whale sketch (warning: bad language!). 

It was AWESOME!!

See?? Every attendee received everything in my right hand, and my "humpback whale" was a Class Pack of Crayola Dry Erase Crayons!! Thank you, Crayola

Scentos donated these brand-new, not-even-in-the-stores-yet packs of their scented markers! AND multi-colored scented pens that won't be released until later this month! They are amazing. My three year old wasn't happy when I wouldn't let her have them. Sorry, Love. These babies are going to get me through a week of extended days next week! 

All of these wonderful companies made for some very happy teachers! 
Thank you, Vera BradleyJamberry NailsErin Condren (designing a Life Planner is on my list this week), Scentos, and Kaeden Books

But my favorite part of the day was reconnecting with a teacher friend from college, Brittany Banister, and meeting her crew of teacher friends, TiffanyJena, and Lindsey! Thanks so much for letting me be a part of your team for the day, ladies! You're all amazing! :) 

What a great way to kick off Spring Break! 

Look for another post coming soon with exciting information about how YOU can benefit from this amazing event! 

Friday, March 21, 2014

Five for Friday: My First Week Back!

I'm linking up with Doodle Bugs Teaching for this week's Five for Friday! What a week it has been!

I was an absolute nervous wreck on Monday morning. We're talking Janice-breathing-into-a-paper-bag-and-choking-on-the-receipt kind of anxiety. It was my first day back since August! But, my wonderful coworkers surprised me with a little pick-me-up. I have a *slight* addiction to Diet Mt. Dew, and that totes adorbs bag was filled with deliciousness. 

{Just so we're clear, I don't actually say, "totes adorbs," in real life, but I do type it on occasion.  According to this post, though, I don't actually have to stop saying it (or typing it) for another year.}


My first day back went VERY well, and it was St. Patrick's Day! I had my kids do a little "I'm lucky because…" writing. We started with brainstorming with an idea web, then used our ideas to write rough drafts, and ended up with these: 

We used paper from Stephanie Stewart's Leapin' Leprechauns pack, and made some shamrocks to accompany them. We need to work on sentence structure and a less-is-more attitude about exclamation points, but otherwise, they did a great job! I especially love the "I have a good life!" closing. :) 

A very nasty stomach bug is going around my school (and everywhere I think), so these have been my best friends this week. 

Thankfully my in-laws have been watching my little loves at my house this week, so every day I came home, immediately changed, and washed my hands up to my elbows before holding my girls. Then I wiped down my phone and anything else that could be harboring germs. I didn't want to take any chances! I'm really hoping these next nine days away will give the virus a chance to die once and for all. 

I found out this week that I have been selected as a presenter at my district's eRevolution Conference this summer! I'll be presenting about using Kidblog with kids of all ages. If you'll be in the southern Indiana area this summer, you should definitely plan to attend. Registration should begin soon! 

And finally, I'm officially on Spring Break, and I'm SO EXCITED about the Spring Blogger Meet-Up in French Lick tomorrow! Holly Ehle from Mrs. Ehle's Kindergarten Connections has absolutely outdone herself planning a fabulous event, and I can't wait to meet the 50+ other teachers and bloggers! 

That wraps up my week! Happy Spring, everyone! 

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Anchor Charts: Low Tech, High Impact

I've been visiting my classroom once a week after school for the past couple of weeks to try to wrap my brain around the fact that I will be back there soon.

Every day.

As the teacher.

Keep in mind that I have only taught this class for eight days this entire year.

EIGHT. As in the first three days and the following week. I'm hoping I remember all of their names. Did I mention we also have a new (to us) principal this year?

So much learning has taken place in Room 1 that I was overwhelmed when I walked in. And I know how much learning has happened because my wonderful sub created anchor charts with my students throughout the year and plastered them all over my walls. If you are new to anchor charts, check out this blog post for some tips.

During my first year of teaching, I didn't understand the value of being able to refer back to our learning at any point in the year. Honestly, it's a miracle I survived that year. I still get emails from job search websites if that gives you any indication of my desperation. But as time went on, and my skills improved, I began using anchor charts without really knowing it. My second year of teaching was also my second year teaching kindergarten (bless you, kindergarten teachers, by the way), and I created letter charts with my class each week and hung them on the clothesline across my wall of windows. I don't know if the kids ever looked at them again, but they were there.

It really wasn't until my fifth year of teaching that I began using anchor charts with intention. That year I read The Daily Five and The CAFE Book, which transformed my literacy instruction completely. I'll never go back to traditional stations. Side note: Did you know there is a second edition??

 Sorry for the terrible picture quality. These were my Daily Five charts from last year. 

Now, in my seventh year, I create anchor charts for EVERYTHING and refer to them as often as possible. I have learned that many of my learners need the visual cues to trigger their memories. I'll post pictures of some math charts soon, but I took a few pictures of the reading/writing/grammar charts that my sub has created and posted in my room to share with you.

We've all pinned the world's cutest anchor charts created by such fabulous and artistic teachers like Cara Carroll, but mine will never be so cute. The point is, it doesn't matter how cute they are. What matters is that they are created WITH the kids (you can go back and "cute them up" later if you want to), and you refer back to them often to help trigger their memories from your original lessons. I organized my room this year so the kids know to look on one bulletin board for math charts, another for writing, etc. so they are not just scattered all over the room.

This is posted in my classroom reading area. 

Don't mind my archaic student computers in front of the writing board.
The "What Writer's Write" pencil is Cara Carroll's idea. 

OK, how genius is this?! It's hard to tell from the picture, but my sub taped transparency sheets over the Character, Setting, and Plot areas so she can write with dry erase markers for each story they're reading without having to create a new chart. LOVE IT! 

With so much emphasis on technology, it's easy to forget sometimes that we can still make a huge impact on learning "the old fashioned way." Yes, I could create charts on my interactive whiteboard (and there are definitely times when I do), but then they wouldn't be readily accessible for the student who struggles to remember that a caption gives information about a photograph while another forgot how to write an opinion. Anchor charts allow my students to access information when they need it while still remaining independent.

I could have every piece of cutting edge technology out there at my disposal (how awesome would that be?!), and I would still need my chart paper, easel, and scented markers. Keep calm and chart on, friends.

Want to make your own "Keep Calm" poster? Check out the Keep Calm-O-Matic, one of the many useful resources I've discovered through Twitter!