Saturday, March 28, 2015

Spring Teacher Blogger Meet Up Recap and GIVEAWAY!

I'm so excited to recap my fabulous weekend at the #springteacherbloggermeetup2015 along with all of the other bloggers in attendance! 

AND we're giving you the chance to win one of THREE amazing teacher swag bags! 

On Friday night, I arrived in French Lick and met up with my friends and roommates for the weekend, Tiffany and Brittany. I love these girls and had the best time just hanging out with them. 

We met up with some other friends for dinner and spent the rest of the night putting together these adorable name badges from Schoolgirl Style. Schoolgirl Style also donated the lovely decorations and a gift card for the giveaway! 

The next morning it was time to get ready for the luncheon and meet up with over 100 other teachers!

The set up crew (minus Tiffany and Micah): Brittany, Heather, Holly (amazing host of the event), Amanda, Heidi, me, and Brittany (amazing co-host). 

After lunch, we all helped to complete this INSPIRATIONAL display by writing our names, an adjective to describe us, our favorite subject to teach, and our blog name. Then we took turns sharing in order to get to know everyone in the room. This stayed up all weekend! 

I posted about our teacher tool swap gift exchange {here}. So much FUN! 

Then we had a blogging tips and tricks session and some roundtable discussions. I loved being able to learn from some of the best teachers in the country. I should definitely qualify for some PD points from this afternoon. :)


I loved meeting Dee Dee Wills, and she had some great blogging and teaching tips to share. 

So many wonderful sessions, it was hard to choose!!

Then it was time for the GIVEAWAYS! We had so many generous sponsors for this event. These companies definitely support teachers and the work we do everyday! This is just a sampling of the prizes. There were so many! 

 Seat Sack - They donated three different class sets of products. I so wanted to win!


And many more! You'll definitely have to check out the other posts below to see the other products and the winners! Spoiler alert: I didn't win. I'm the unluckiest person when it comes to drawings! 

But the good news was that no one left empty-handed! After all of the door prizes had been awarded, Holly announced that every attendee would receive some amazing teacher swag!

No attendee will be without a scented writing instrument or sticker thanks to WeVeel/Scentos! Their products are so much fun. Teachers and students love them!! If you've never tried these, you must! These markers are my go-to every day for anchor charts!

Creative Teaching Press donated stickers, magnets, and door prizes from their new line! Be sure to check it out!

We were able to take all of this home in this fabulous Vera Bradley market tote! I am in love with mine! It is perfect for hauling supplies to school and back, and it is SO CUTE! 

 And the biggest surprise - We all got an Erin Condren teacher planner!!!
I have always wanted one! Now I'm not sure how I lived without it. It is the most adorable way to stay organized, and I need all the help I can get. 

You can enter to win your own swag bag by entering the Rafflecopter giveaway at the end of this post. 
Three winners will win all of this: 

If you thought the day ended there, you would be wrong! 
Thanks to Teachers Pay Teachers and GoNoodle, the fun continued well into the night with a PJ Party! 

Have I mentioned that I love these girls??

Heidi and I were in charge of passing out GoNoodle lanyards at the door. Thank you, GoNoodle!!

Obviously we had to get down to some Koo Koo Kangaroo.

The photo booth was hoppin' all night! 

The whole PJ Party group!! What a fun night! 

It was such a wonderful weekend. I hated to see it end. I left feeling inspired and supported, and there is no better feeling. Thank you to our amazing, generous sponsors, our fabulous hostesses, and the inspiring educators who filled the room with passion for this profession. I couldn't have asked for more. 

I'm already looking forward to next year! 

Be sure to check out the other posts below and enter the giveaway!! 

Monday, March 23, 2015

Teacher Tool Gift Exchange

Because blowing up your Instagram feeds last weekend wasn't nearly enough to share everything, my blogging buddies and I are linking up to tell you about the fabulous teacher tools we received in the Teacher Tool Swap part of the #springteacherbloggermeetup2015 weekend! 

We had so many teachers at the meet up this year that we split up into grade level groups. Here is the first grade class photo. :) 

There are some fabulous ladies in this group! 

The amazing Amanda Pauley from Mrs. Pauley's Kindergarten lead the room in a "left, right" game where we passed our gifts around the circle until the end of the story. 

Then we took turns opening our gifts and hearing how each teacher uses the gift in her classroom. 

It was so much fun to see all of the "tools"!

She uses Play Doh in her classroom for her early finishers. They keep a container of it on their desks and can build their sight words with it when they finish their work. Great idea!! 

I didn't think to take a picture of the gift I brought, but Mel D from Seusstastic ended up with my basket of Dollar Tree goodies! I swear that place is a teacher's dream come true. The basket contained student certificates, stickers, bulletin board letters, sentence strips, and more! 

I can't wait to tell you all about the rest of this amazing weekend! 

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Worksheets Don't Grow Dendrites Book Study: Chapter 3

Who doesn't love a good field trip? 

The motto for my school corporation is "Bringing Learning to Life," and to me, there is no better way to do that than through a field trip!

I'll be honest, though. Field trips are also very stressful.

Who forgot their permission slip?
Who hasn't turned in their fee?
Did someone schedule the buses?
Will we be back in time for lunch?
Who forgot to pack their lunch?
How many parents are coming?
Have they all filled out the volunteer application?
Do I have everyone?
Do I still have everyone?
Do I have everyone NOW??

But when we're finally at our destination and experiencing real-life learning, field trips can be magical, meaningful learning experiences for kids.

This was taken at our first grade field trip to a local pumpkin farm this past fall. We had been learning about the lifecycle of a pumpkin and were able to see all of the stages in real life. The kids got to bring home a pumpkin, and they used them to create their pumpkin book characters you saw in my Chapters 1 and 2 post (here). Cross-curricular, hands-on, authentic learning at its finest and well worth all of the work that went into it.

One quote in the Theoretical Framework section of this chapter says, "Field trips, including those that are virtual, enable teachers to create as many authentic, experiential experiences as possible. These spatial memories are embedded in the brain and need no rehearsal (Fogarty, 2001)."

Kids may not be able to tell you anything from your lesson in class yesterday, but they remember every detail from your field trip to the local farm last month (or pumpkin patch in October). Field trips take hands-on learning to the next level.

Another point Tate makes in this chapter is that sometimes a change of scenery is all that is necessary to  "calm students' brains and put the mind in a good state for learning." So your "field trip" can just mean going to a different area of your building or taking a walk outside.

I absolutely cannot wait until it is warm enough to take my class OUTSIDE!! There are picnic tables just down the hill outside our windows that we are dying to use! Being outside also gives them an opportunity to engage in more movement (tactile/kinesthetic learning) than what the classroom allows.

I also took my class on a virtual field trip to Plymouth, Massachusetts via the Scholastic website when we were learning about the First Thanksgiving. Click {here} to check it out. They portray life in a  pilgrim village, their homes, children, Native Americans, the Mayflower, you name it. You and your class can see it all in "real" life without ever having to leave your classroom!

My team and I are planning our next field trip now, and I'm not sure who is more excited - the kids or me!

Thanks for reading! Come back next week for Chapter 4: Games!

And check out all of the other fabulous posts on Mrs. Wills' Kindergarten's blog!

What field trips do you take with your kids?

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Worksheets Don't Grow Dendrites Book Study: Chapters 1 and 2

I'm so excited to be linking up with Elizabeth from Kickin it in Kindergarten for this fabulous book study. 

I finally have a little time to write because this is what it looked like outside my window when I started this post: 

A couple inches down, several more to go. Yuck. I'm over winter. 

But I'm glad to have a little extra time to read and blog today (and probably Friday, too, at this rate). 

If you're looking for a quick read that will affirm what you are already doing and give you some great ideas on how to improve, Worksheets Don't Grow Dendrites by Marcia L. Tate is the book for you. In the Introduction, she gives examples of two teachers who teach the same content but in opposing ways, pointing out that the one who uses movement, engagement, and ownership will yield better results from students than the teacher who simply reads from the textbook. 

Chapter 1: Brainstorming and Discussion opens with a rhyme from one of Tate's other books: 
"They can't talk in class. 
They can't talk in the hall.
They can't talk in the cafeteria.
They can't talk at all."

As my school's Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) coach, I can relate to this rhyme. When my team and I were creating our school-wide expectations, we struggled to strike a balance at first between being respectful of other classes and being mindful of the needs of students as individuals. We eventually decided to expect a Level 0 (silent) voice in the hall (impossible after lunch and recess but not too bad other times), a Level 1 (whisper) in the restroom, and a Level 2 (table talk) in the cafeteria. And my classroom has a range of all three levels throughout the day, even a little more of Level 3 (outside) than I would like lately! It has always been important to me to allow as much collaboration as possible in my room, and my kids love it. 

My kids are professionals at Turn & Talk. It's how we begin our reading block every morning. It's how they get to share their ideas for writing and then their rough drafts. It's something we would all miss if we left it out of our day, and it may be one of the most important things we do all day. 

When we are on the carpet, the red row turns to the yellow row and talks first, and the green row turns to the blue row and talks first. When both partners have shared, they turn back to face me so I know they're ready to share out. 

I also try to use the Whole Brain Teaching strategy "Teach-OK" to have my kids teach each other what they just learned. So after I introduce something, I say, "Teach!" and they say, "OK!" and turn to their neighbors and say what they just learned. I am able to assess whether or not they understood what I just taught in a matter of seconds, and they love being the teacher! 

And as part of our calendar/spiral review each day, I give them an answer, and they have to write the question. At first, this was SO HARD for them. But they have gotten so good at it. They can even anticipate what I'm going to say if someone's question isn't specific enough, and they try to come up with questions that no one else will think of. Ahh love it. 

Each chapter provides some examples of instructional strategies that can be used at most grade levels, and there are definitely some I want to use more often in my room. But my big takeaway is to keep letting kids talk! :) 

If you've ever been nervous that your principal is going to walk in when your class is doing an art project, you're not alone. But you will feel better after reading Chapter 2: Drawing and Artwork. 

I want to copy the "Why" section of this chapter and hang it up by my desk so I can remember that art is important, and I should never be afraid to let my kids draw, color, and paint! 

One of my favorite ways to teach visualization and retelling is with this "Stop and Draw" retelling activity (I didn't use the actual directions on the page). I read a book without showing them the illustrations and ask them to stop and draw at selected points. Then they use their drawings to retell the story to a partner. 

We begin writing projects by brainstorming. We usually use a graphic organizer, and I encourage them to add illustrations as they are coming up with their ideas. We also use my Finish the Picture Writing Prompts almost weekly, and I am always impressed with their creativity. 

And we add art projects/craftivities to the pieces we publish, which is even an Indiana College and Career standard: 1.SL.4.2 Add drawings or other visual displays, such as pictures and objects, when sharing information to clarify ideas, thoughts, and feelings. 


And can we talk about how much first graders love to paint? We paint apples in September to go with our apple opinions after tasting different colored apples. They had a homework project in October to turn their pumpkin into their favorite book character, and most of them chose to paint their pumpkins. We also painted Christmas lights in December to accompany a "You Light Up Our Classroom" writing. In January we q-tip painted snowmen to enhance our how-to pieces about building snowmen. They turned out to be beautiful and meaningful to my kids. 

Next year I want to paint more often. They absolutely love it, and their personalities shine through their artwork. They are also learning valuable design skills that may help them in a future career. 

I am loving this book so far! I hope you are, too. And even more, I love that I have a schedule to follow. Without deadlines, I can't get anything done! 

Come back for Chapter 3: Field Trips this weekend!