Monday, May 2, 2016

TpT Teacher Appreciation Sale!

Happy Teacher Appreciation Week!

How is everyone doing? We have about three and a half weeks left in the school year, and it has certainly been a whirlwind since I've come back from maternity leave! We're using the Digi-ISN's almost daily in class, and it's going so well, I almost can't believe it! Are you ever shocked when lessons/units you plan work?

The most convenient thing is that even when we don't have laptops, I can print off the one or two worksheets we need and put it in the ISN for safekeeping!

Here's an example. We didn't have laptops due to testing, so I printed these off and voila!

We're reading Night in eighth grade, and The Little Prince in seventh grade, and novel studies are my absolute favorite unit for teaching theme and characterization. I love having students study the changes characters make throughout a novel!

In the rest of my seventh grade block, we are studying and analyzing poetry, and it's been a real adventure getting them to dig deeper into some of the poems. I love when they unlock the meaning, it's such a cool moment.

Other than that, I spend most evenings up all night with baby, so I'm dragging most days, but luckily I have an awesome group of students who I definitely missed while I was on leave!

Are you interested in a digital classroom next year? Check out some of my resources during the sale on TpT!

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Creating Assessments that Work

When I reflect at the end of each year, I start by looking back through my lesson planner to see what we accomplished. I always see patterns in the assessments that I choose to use, along with many of the activities we do in class. For example, each quarter my students almost always complete a series of short writing assignments followed by a larger writing assignment and Writer's Workshop, along with a Shared Inquiry/Socratic Seminar. I noticed that I rarely utilize comprehension tests for reading, and the only consistent "test" I use is for word study. But even then, my students are expected to incorporate their required vocabulary into their writing assignments. By the way, I am loving the Townsend Press Vocabulary Series that we are using this year!

So anyway, every year I ask myself, what other types of summative assessments could I be using in class? Would anything be more effective for measuring student mastery? Sometimes I add in an additional assessment in the form of a project, but for the most part, I stick with the same assessments year after year. Why? Because I strongly believe that they work, and if it's working, why change it?

So why do I think these assessments work so well? I'll break it down.

Short Writing Assignments and Writer's Workshop (Covers CCSS Writing, Language, and Speaking/Listening Standards)

1. Teaches smaller grammar skills in chunks.
2. Gives students options for their larger writing piece.
3. Allows for drafting and editing in the smaller writing pieces, with a focus for the editing.
4. Allows for collaboration and discussion, resulting in a final edit for the larger writing piece.
5. Is focused on skills, and ties in the literature or unit focus.

Shared Inquiry/Socratic Seminar (Covers CCSS Reading Literature, Reading Informational Text, Writing, and Speaking/Listening Standards)

1. Uses a "Level 3" question, as I tell my students. Rather than focusing on comprehension, students are answering an open-ended multi-level question that requires textual evidence and support.
2. Students practice writing, reading comprehension, analysis, and speaking and listening skills in the seminar.
3. The written response shows me the depth of their understanding before the discussion, along with specific areas where they may struggle.
4. Students defend their opinion, but they can also change it based on the discussion.
5. Students are in charge of the discussion, and they learn how to be respectful and articulate when speaking.

Socratic Seminar is a key feature in my new Digi-ISN: Novel Study Notebook, which I'll be uploading soon! It's taking longer than I thought, but only because I just keep coming up with more tweaks to make it a fantastic unit to teach my students this upcoming quarter!

What assessments do you use in class that you love? Share in comments below, or over at my FB or Instagram page!

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Top Baby Items for New Moms (and a nursery tour)

**Warning** Not Teaching Related!

As a new mom, and a teacher, I did my research before Gracie arrived to try and have the perfect everything. I checked safety reviews, recommendations from other moms, Pinterest, you name it! Well, now that we are 12 weeks in tomorrow, I wanted to share some of my must-have items that I could not have survived this "Fourth Trimester" without! Note: None of this is sponsored, this is just my personal opinion, though I will link to the products so you can check them out!

1. Ubbi Diaper Pail: No smell! It looks nice, it's sturdy, you can use any type of bag in it, smell! With these, we buy the pet cleanup bags super cheap on amazon and put diapers in them, instead of splurging on expensive arm and hammer ones. 

2. Little Giraffe Blanket: My best friend gave this to me, and it is so soft and cuddly, and small, so my little one can clutch it when we're snuggling. I love silky blankets, and this one is great!

3. Boppy Lounger: I sent my husband out to Target for this one, and it was a life saver! Grace has acid reflux, so being slightly elevated really helps her, plus it was great for interacting with her!
4. Burpy Bib: We need to buy stock in these, and we need about ten more. We have five or six, and we use them constantly. On the plus side, they have a snap and become a bib once baby gets a bit older, so they'll last a long time!
5. Kiinde Bottle Warmer: This easy to use bottle warmer is wonderful, especially at 2am when you can barely keep your eyes open. I struggled with some latching issues, so being able to warm up pumped milk in the middle of the night was great. 
6. City Mini Stroller: We love this stroller! Easy to manuever, easy to close, lightweight, shorter height which is great for me, and moves well in the snow! I can close it up and get it in my Mini Cooper very quickly, which I'm super thankful for when it's freezing outside!
7. Gia Nursing Pillow: So I started out using the "My Brest Friend" which was awesome when she was teeny and we were having latching issues, but when I graduated to the Gia it felt like a release! This one is really comfy, and I might add, comfy to cuddle up and nap with. 

8. Fisher Price Rock and Play: It was New Years Eve, Gracie was spazzing out, and I ran to Target to pick up this gem. It was seriously a life saver. She calmed down immediately, and she's been napping in it ever since, right now in fact!

9. Skip Hop Onesies: Next time around, if there is a next time, we will be getting just these. The side snaps make them so easy to put on, and they have the flip over cuffs so baby doesn't scratch his/her face! Plus, they're adorable!

10. Burts Bees Diaper Cream: Cream to Powder: This stuff is awesome! It's nice and creamy, doesn't leave a residue, and really protects against diaper rash!

Here's our nursery! We went with a "Neverland" theme, and it's such a cozy room to hang out in with Gracie. I hung out there before she came, too!

This is the Raskog cart from IKEA, and we have it in the kitchen too. Above is a utility bar and cups from IKEA as well. We keep extra wipes, creams, lotions, and odds and ends in here!

 Then we have the Hemnes dresser from IKEA, with the changing pad on top. Above are the RIBBA wall shelves, which they changed to the Mosslanda. They are great! We used this for the bookshelf wall, too!

Munchkin contour changing pad, iHome, and her own "Tick Tock"

Top Left Drawers: Extra diaper pail garbage bags, samples, and pacifiers, then washcloths, and cloth diaper inserts. 

Middle Left Drawer: Hats, headbands, swaddle blankets, and socks!

Bottom Left Drawer: extra sheets, blankets, and swaddle blankets (we have way too many)

Top right drawers: Disposable diapers, burp cloths, changing pads, and waste bags for diapers

Middle Right Drawer: Pants, Shoes, and a Yoda Hooded Towel :)

Bottom Left Drawer: Bath stuff, sample bottles, and more blankets!

Closet: 8 Cube Closet Maid organizer from Target, Laundry Bag from The Land of Nod

Yes, I hang all of her clothes. Yes, it's a pain. I had to justify the insane amount of baby hangers I bought when I was 8 months pregnant. :) In the top bins I have clothes for 9+ months, a bin with clothes of 3-9 months, and a bin of Newborn clothes she grew out of already. On the right are dolls I've purchased, including the Grace American Girl of the Year doll to give to her in the future!

This bag from the Land of Nod is AWESOME for baby laundry. And we have the Ubbi next to it, near the changing pad!

Close up of the cube. Inside the bins are extra toys, toddler food gear, and safety stuff for baby proofing! I also have a box where I keep keepsakes, like her coming home stuff, a newborn diaper, gifts, and cards.

Curtains and grey roller shade from IKEA
This is the Kendall low profile crib from PB Kids, I love it since I'm a shorty. I also hung lights from IKEA to complete the Neverland theme, and made a mobile using my silhouette with Peter Pan images.

We bought the glider from Buy Buy Baby as a floor sample and the Teepee is the first thing we purchased for the nursery at the Land of Nod Outlet! Did you know that Spring now offers items from The Land of Nod, with free shipping? Go check them out! I really wanted a little table to keep next to the glider, and a bin of toys underneath that we use a lot!
My favorite wall is our bookshelf wall, using the ledges I mentioned above from IKEA. I love it, and I stare at it a lot because, well, books. :)
 Finally, to tie this into education somehow, these are my favorite baby books! The Look Look! Series by Peter Linenthal is awesome for babies because it's high contrast. She lights up when she looks at them!

And, picture for cuteness :)  I just love this little munchkin!

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Digital Learning Day 2016: Meet Students Where They're At!

Digital Learning Day 2016--Why Should You Try Something New? Because Your Students Will Thank You.

My students thank me all the time for the new “stuff” we are doing this year. Go ahead--take the plunge! Believe me, if you have access to any sort of technology (even one device), then do it. That one tablet or laptop can open up a window to a universe of instructional opportunities. Your students will want to get to that tech center. 

Digital Learning Day, February 17, 2016, is ultimately about bringing equal opportunity to our classrooms, regardless of location or socioeconomic status. It is about the importance of having access to Wi-Fi and up-to-date technology in our schools. Many schools have technology that is not working or that is out-of-date. State and local governments are now focusing on getting it all fixed so that our school children can succeed in the 21st century.

Here's the challenge--On February 17, 2016, try a new lesson that focuses on discovery, analysis, and exploration. Give your students the gift of a new opportunity by using Google Classroom, MS OneDrive, or an App. And don’t forget to share what you are doing in your classroom on social media to celebrate Digital Learning Day with #futureready. To help you get started, we’ve teamed up to share an amazing selection of blog posts and classroom activities that are designed to propel you and your students into your digital learning adventure.