Monday, June 29, 2015

TPT Seller Challenge: Dare to Dream!

This week the TpT Challenge was all about why we joined TpT in the first place. I've been working on this post all week, but this was a surprisingly hectic week with our whole house being torn up for new carpeting, painting the nursery, and a few other things!

Here is my reasoning for why I do TpT, and why I blog at all, actually!

1. Share resources and learn from other teachers: There is something amazing about teachers. Teachers are willing to share and help each other more than any other group of professionals I've seen. When I first started teaching and blogging, it was so wonderful to learn from others, and to get ideas for everything from classroom management to decorating a classroom. I feel like blogging is so great because it's unedited. Teachers are free to share what they do, and explain if it worked or not. Everything I read in books back in the early 2000's seemed stale to me. It was always these magical strategies that worked perfectly in a utopian classroom. Blogging changes that, and people are realistic with their goals and struggles in the classroom. TpT is also like that for me. I'm not a perfect person, and sometimes I'll put up a resource that works great for me, but receive feedback that it didn't work for someone else. I hate it when people feel that way because I don't want to let them down. It actually gives me a great deal of anxiety, and I rush to fix the product in any way I can so I can provide a great product for people. This has actually made me a better teacher, because I'm really thinking through why it didn't work for someone else, and what could I do to make it better and easier to use in the classroom? usually results in a better product that I can use in my own classroom the next time I teach it!

2. Help decrease debt and pay off student loans: I have a lot of student debt. I said it. I went to a private college, law school for a year, and have two masters degrees. Any way that I can supplement my income to help decrease my investment in my education is a plus in my book. I've used my TpT earnings as an allowance, so that I can put my salary towards paying off debt. Since I know I won't win the lottery anytime soon, I wanted to be proactive and do something about it! :)

3. Eventually develop a product line or resource book: One of my major dreams as an educator is to develop something that can be used nationwide. I'm not looking to become "edu-famous", but I would like to feel that I've contributed in a professional way to the incredible community of educators in our nation and world. I truly believe that TpT and Blogging support the idea of a virtual PLC, and we learn best from each other. Teachers are the experts in their field, and with the increasing takeover by publishing companies to control curriculum and education, I think it is absolutely crucial that we support and take care of each other. I think many teachers have a million things they are good at, and a handful of things they are absolutely excellent at. If everyone developed resources, materials, or products that showcase their gifts, I think we would be in a much better place. I also feel like middle-level education is somewhat lacking in resources, materials, and products available for their classroom. My ultimate goal would be to contribute in my own small way to this population with something of value. 

Why do you blog? Why do you put resources on TpT? What's your "end game"? 

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Classroom Management Forms

Yesterday I posted my new Classroom Management Forms pack, which contains all of the forms I use in my classroom to keep things running smoothly and organized. The newest item in that pack is the While You Were Out cover and table, which I decided to have bound in a spiral at Office Depot last night. It was ready to pick up this morning, and I was so excited to go and get it! (I'm a sucker for anything that is bound in a spiral, but these could easily be printed at your school or home and hole punched for a binder).
I chose to have the front cover printed in color and laminated, which was an extra $1.50

I created a document with 130 pages of the While You Were out table, and the cover. 

This gives me enough pages in case I make some insane mistake, and allows for enough room for my 5 preps! (I will be combining some of them onto the same page for this spiral).

My back cover is the 65# Brights, and chose the Cosmic Blue, laminated as well. I also picked the white coil.

Grand total? $21.16, plus 25% off, so $15.87 total! For me, it's totally worth it to have everything in spot, and looking nice and neat!

Here's a mock up I did today just to show you how it works! I am loving this layout, and I felt like I had more than enough room to put all the information I needed to. 

Students can see exactly what they missed, and then I often post more details on my weebly page or echalk page for students to see. Next year, I'll be linking my One Note notebook, where I put my detailed agenda that I project daily to save myself a little bit of time!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

TPT Seller Challenge: Makeover Madness!

First of all, I would like to start off by saying, CONGRATS TO THE NEW DYNASTY,
THE CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS!! :) There was a lot of rally towel swinging and yelling happening in our house last night, and a lot of fireworks being set off in our neighborhood after the Hawks big win last night. What was a great series!

So I saw from Third in Hollywood that they decided to do a TPT Seller Challenge, and I thought this would be a great opportunity to jump on, since I'm heading to the TpT Conference in fabulous Las Vegas in July!

For this week's challenge, we were asked to makeover a product in our store, so I decided on my Reading Project Descriptions and Rubrics. These were definitely due for a facelift!

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Interactive Student Notebooks 2.0

You know I love the ISN, but I wanted to make some changes for next year, in terms of how I organize it and utilize it within the classroom. This post will be chock full of pictures of what it looked like this year, and how it will be changing next year!

Here's an example of my running ISN table of contents from this year, it was great, but I really felt like it lacked some additional organization. I like having the CCSS on the right, and towards the end of the year, I started printing copies of it for students to save time writing in the Table of Contents in their own notebooks.

Here's the ISN TOC for this year! And yes, I've already begun the planning process, in fact, while watching the Blackhawks DOMINATE last night, I ended up planning out the entire year in order to be able to show all of you the new and improved ISN. I also wanted to do this now so that I could relax the rest of the summer. I have two more preps to do this for, but I'm most comfortable with my 8th grade ET class, so this was where I decided to start.  This will be a huge help when I go on maternity leave (if you missed the memo, I'm expecting December 3rd, yay!!), and there will be a clear plan in place for my long term sub.

What's new other than the color scheme?? TABS (more later)! This was something I did with my writer's notebooks for 7th grade this year, and it was such a time saver for my students!

All right, so I took one of my students ISN's from this year (it is AWESOME), and I'll be using it to compare and contrast the new version.

Student Cover: Nothing on this is changing. They must have their name on it (covered on this one), and she used clear packing tape to keep her pictures and decorations safe. I think the personalization is great for students, and gives them ownership.

So off to Target I went today to get my new notebook, and I was oh so excited! As I've said in the past, I highly recommend getting a Mead, 5-Star or equivalent notebook with a sturdy cover. Also, ask students to get COLLEGE RULED instead of wide ruled. The college ruled is just a bit bigger, and students don't need to trim pages to get them in the notebook. This year my students will need a full 5-subject notebook, but in the past a 3 subject has been more than enough. 

Time to decorate!

 Totally stole my students idea and put packing tape over it (which I used to do with my high school assignment notebooks, lol)
 And decided to cover the back with packing tape, too. Why not?
I also threaded a string through the side, not just to look cute, but to make a little bookmark to mark my page in the ISN!

On to the Table of Contents. Here is my students first page from last year. I used to have them divide by quarter, but I don't really see the appeal of this anymore this year.

New Table of Contents

 I decided to break up the notebook into many different sections:

1. Anchor Charts and Data
2. Quarter 1 Literature
3. Quarter 2 Literature
4. Quarter 3 Literature
5. Quarter 4 Literature
6. Reading Conferences/Reflection
7. Grammar Invitations
8. Writing
9. Vocab and Root Word Study
10. Free Writing (Need to add this section in my TOC still)

You'll notice I went through and determined the CCSS the best fit each activity, and while it initially seemed light to me in the lit. section, I had to remind myself that our 8th graders do both Reading and Writing in one 42 minute class period. Basically, each quarter is divided in half, where the first half focuses on literature and the second half on the writing. Also, not every single activity (like group and partner work) ends up in the ISN, so there is a bit of wiggle room. The biggest difference in the ISN for next year is that my students will be recording all of their data, and also keeping a record of their learning styles in their notebook. This will be all at the beginning for them, along with their anchor charts.
The reading conferences and reflection area is a great place for students to track what they are reading, or what they want to talk about when we meet to discuss their books. They can also keep track of their book shopping list and keep a log of what they have read this year and enjoyed.

 I color coded the Grammar Invitations section so I knew which quarter I intended to do each grammar invitation. This may or may not actually happen, so I will not keep this color coded when I print for students.
 This is where it gets boring, and why I put the Vocab and Root Word study at the end. I used to have students keep this work in a manila folder, but it often was lost, or in some cases, taken and copied, from their folders. Not anymore!
After this section is where I'll add the Notes and Free Writing Section.

Finally, I added the side tabs this year for extra organization:

Here's a smattering of the activities we used in the ISN this year that were super valuable:
Smashbook for Night. Using my own unit, along with the Smashbook project from Tales of Teaching in Heels, this unit was a bigger success than usual!

More of the smashbook!

Grammar Invitation Anchor Charts for Commas (more coming this summer as I finish creating them!)

Freebie from Tales of Teaching in Heels again!

 Poetry analysis sheet from Holocaust unit

 Invitation to Write and Express Lane Edit

Argumentative Unit Group Assignment (Forensic Argument)

 Close reading on Walt Whitman Free in my store!

Vital Vocabulary 

Edgar Allan Poe analysis!

I'm beyond excited to try out this *new* system next year and see how the changes work in my classroom. I'm toying with the idea of having them put EVERYTHING in their notebook at the beginning of the year. My ideal world would include all of my handouts being bound into a spiral that I can just pass out to my students, but for now gluing them into notebooks will have to do! 

For those of you who may find the ISN daunting, the best advice I have is to just jump in and try it. You'll find a way that works for you, and it may be totally different from every other teacher who uses it. That's OK! 

Friday, June 5, 2015

Year-End Round Up!

Over the next week or so, I'm going to talk in depth about some of the things that worked really well for me this year in terms of instruction, building relationships, classroom management, technology, and of course, organization! I couldn't wait to share these, so I had to give a brief overview today!


ISN's: Not a new topic for me, but we did a bit more with it this year, and I was pleased with the results!

Writer's Notebooks and Grammar Invitations: Yes! I'm going to talk more about the writer's notebooks, and the grammar invitations, at long last!

Writer's Workshop: This strategy grew and blossomed this year, and I really enjoyed the results!

Paper Annotation and Checklists: When there isn't time for a full blown workshop, this was a great way for students to self-check their work and take ownership to understand what and how they wrote!

Genius Hour: Oh, genius hour, how I loved thee. As did the students. Can't wait to talk about this one!

Reading Conferences: Want to really know what books to have your students read? (Hint: don't just give them a list based on their lexile score)


Edmodo: Still kickin'. Still the absolute best way to communicate with students.

One Note: I hadn't used it in years, and I was hesitant because I'm such an apple snob. Guess what, it's still amazing!

Weebly: Students blogged about their progress this year, and took amazing ownership of the process.

Padlet: Online bulletin board, so many ways to incorporate into your lessons.

Class Gmail Account: Talk about a nice way to keep track of student progress!


Classroom Calendars and CONSTANT reminders: I was absolutely obnoxious this year about reminding my students when things were due. Obnoxious. It worked for the most part!

While You Were Out Binder:  I had a lot of chronically absent students this year, this saved me so much time explaining myself over and over (when I remembered to do it!)

Intelliscanner (Classroom Library): I was so faithful with this system this year and only had ONE, yes, ONE missing book from my classroom library at the end of the year. It's a miracle!

Monday, February 16, 2015

My Beef with the ISN

Well...I've hit a crossroads. I LOVE my ISN, and it's been absolutely amazing for keeping students organized in the classroom, but lately I feel like we are just putting in worksheets...something that could be easily done in a binder, or in a workbook. I would love to be able to have all my materials copied and bound for each student in my class at the beginning of the year in one workbook for them, but that's just unreasonable. That is one of the things I love about the ISN...if I add something in at the last minute, we throw it in the notebook and glue it in.

I guess my guilt is coming from seeing all of the absolutely adorable foldables and things that people sell on TpT. They just look so cute, and my notebooks look so boring and serious. I tried the foldable thing two years ago with my 7th graders, and it turned into a nightmare. "Where do I cut this?" "I glued it all down on accident!", "I messed up, I need another copy!" The whole period turned into gluing in some complex foldable instead of doing the lesson. What's a crafty heart to do? This also begs the question, does it have to be cutesy and clever to be engaging?

The beginning of our notebooks are always the same:

Anchor Charts and Strategy Modeling. My 7th and 8th graders have guides for close reading, the fiction and non-fiction keys, and two model close reads that we did as a class. They also have the Notice and Note Signposts, along with Types of Questions.

Here's how my notebooks usually go for each unit:

New Knowledge Questions: these are a must. They come in and complete two each day for the bellringer, and a student walks around and stamps them in when they're done. It's great, and it gives students those key terms and vocabulary essential for the unit.

At least 4-5 passages to use with Close Reading, SOAPstone, or a TP-CASTT. We also use these passages for Shared Inquiry (socratic seminar), or for modeling for a writing lesson.

My latest issue is that since we were given a bazillion worksheets and graphic organizers with our text, I feel like I'll be reinventing the wheel if I don't use them. Now, don't get me wrong, I don't use half of them, and my 8th graders last year rebelled against me when they saw yet another: "Reading: Reread and Read Ahead" handout. Pearson is not especially awesome at differentiating their handouts. Each selection has the same exact types of handouts: Vocab Warm-Up, Model Selection, Reading: , Enrichment, Grammar, and Literary Analysis. I try to spice it up with the occasional plot chart, two column-notes, etc... but sometimes I feel like I'm in graphic organizer overload. 

I have a SIP day tomorrow, but when I get back to school on Wednesday, I'll post some pics of some of our notebooks for you to see.

I have so many strategies I want to try that I keep forgetting about, so I'm ditching my current 30-day challenge of "Tackling my To-Do List", in favor of a new one.

  • Organize all of the strategies I want to try out in my classroom that I have pinned on Pinterest, learned at an inservice day, or seen in workshops and books that I like.
  • Create a chart, listing what they might work best for.
  • Organize ALL of the files on my computer, and tag them (thank you Mac), so that I can find them.

Here's my starting list of strategies I want to try:

Incredible Shrinking Notes
Writing Long Off A Post-It 

My favorite strategies that I learned at the IAGC Gifted Conference!

From Jim Curry:


  1.  LB: What did you like best?
  2. □ Tell me what you liked best about your product.
     NT: What might you do next time?□ Tell me what you might do differently next time. How would you change your product. Would you add or subtract
    something? GB: How did you go beyond?
    • □  Did you go beyond... Add a border Add graphics or pictures Add intricate details Do further research Use creative skill to add something new
    • □  Create a poster to put in the room for self-reflection
    • □  Have them talk about quality work with each other, in partners or small groups, or the teacher
    • □  "I'm going to be walking around as you're working, and asking you questions". - Like Project Runway with Tim Gunn
All of the writing strategies that Jim Delisle talked about, which are available in his book: Building Strong Writers in Middle School: Classroom-ready activities that inspire creativity and support core standards, by Deb Delisle and Jim Delisle.

These include: Quotes from the Sages, Quotes from the Ages, Be the Philosopher, Poems to Ponder, 55 Word Short Stories, and So, Are You? These all require students to go deeper with their writing, which is great, especially for Narrative Non-Fiction writing!

Finally, everything I learned from Bob Iseminger. I mean everything. He was my second to last presentation for the day, and at the end of the session, we were only about halfway through his presentation. Lucky for us, the lady scheduled after him cancelled because she was ill, so we asked him if we could just continue with him. He obliged, and it was absolutely fantastic! He focused on using Creativity in Common Core lessons, and it was so refreshing!

Side Note: I was incredibly annoyed for most of the day at the amount of people just openly talking and chatting, even if they were sitting in the front row, literally two feet from the speaker. Is it just me, or does this just seem downright rude? Or others who were texting on their cell phones the whole time? I wouldn't stand for that in my classroom, and I can't imagine the speakers appreciated it. Our districts pay for us to attend these conferences, or in some cases we pay out of pocket. As someone who definitely has hyperacusis or auditory sensitivity, I would really prefer if the people around it didn't ruin it for me. This has been an issue for my entire life, and I apologize if you meet me and see me uncomfortably squirming in a crowded room or a movie theater because I can literally hear everything. I can hear you opening your skittles box...I can hear them falling all over the floor, I can hear you lean over and crinkle in your seat, I can also hear you sucking on your popcorn directly behind me, or smacking your gum. Believe me, if I could just "tune it out", as my husband suggests, I would be so much happier in my daily life, but I just can't. Tapping your foot on the other end of the row? Yep, I can hear that too. 

©2013-2015 SuperRenders

The positive? This also is a superpower for me in the classroom. I always know exactly who is talking without turning around, or chewing gum, or preparing to throw a wad of paper across the room. :)