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Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Thankful, Fabulous Finds, Feedback...and Cyber Monday!!!

There is so much to be thankful for!  
The fabulous Molly at Lucky to be In First is hosting a great linky to reflect on what we are most thankful for.  Link up with her to share what you're most thankful for this year!

I know I am blessed and thank my lucky stars every day!! :)

Next...Fabulous Finds, Feedback, and Cyber Monday TPT Style!
Are you a bargain shopper?  I like to pretend I am, but I am really more all about the convenience factor.  The internet has transformed my shopping!  Since I live in a rural area, my idea of our traditional Black Friday shopping is bonding time with my mom and sisters (I am the middle child...high five to all other middle children out there!).  My sisters live about 90 miles away, so we don't have all three of us together as often as we would like.  We get up at about 4 a.m. on Black Friday and pick up a yummy hot beverage at Tim Horton's.  Then, we head out to the local (small) mall.  I always see a ton of people I know and we just have fun with no real set agenda in mind.  I am done shopping for my kids but need to get a few odds and ends for other family members this Friday. :)

Anyway, speaking of bargain shopping and convenience, who doesn't love Cyber Monday?!?  Of course, TpT is offering site-wide sales from December 2nd-3rd.  All the items in my TpT store will be an additional 20% off and, combined with the TpT discount, that will be 28% off!!

Thank you Gina from Beach Sand and Lesson Plans for the adorable button above!

My winter-themed Monster Fractions set of four math centers will be on sale.  

Check out this fabulous feedback! Thanks, Alison!!  
 The best seller in my store are the Editable Danielson Teacher Evaluation Organizers.

Check out this fabulous feedback!  Thanks, Lori!!  
Lori and Alison, email me at lillycharlie2915@gmail.com for a product of your choice from my store! :)

I am so many items on my wish-list that I am going to snag during this sale!  
Here are a few of the products I can't wait to get!

This pack includes EIGHT centers with 60 pages of fun (aligned to the Common Core, of course!).  WOW!  What a deal!!
 I loved implementing book clubs for the first time in my classroom last year.  I haven't tried them yet this year, but plan to do so after the New Year.  This Complete Guide to Book Clubs by Wild About Fifth Grade will be a great resource to add to my book club files!
 I also can't wait to get this Christmas Literacy Pack by Don't Let the Teacher Stay Up Late!  There are 70 pages of centers addressing skills such as main idea, author's purpose, cause and effect, fact and opinion, sequencing, prefixes, suffixes, synonyms, and antonyms!  Wow!!  These centers may stay around after Christmas too in my classroom. I'm sure the students won't mind!
What is on your wish list?  Check out the other link ups at the bottom of this post for more TpT sale ideas and wish listed items!

If you haven't checked out this giveaway yet at Learning to the Core, head over there now!

Have a blessed Thanksgiving everyone!  :)

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Tried It Tuesday {Personal Goals!}

Yay!!  Today is my Friday!  I am so ready for a much needed break and some quality time with family and friends.  I have big plans for my five days off...catch up on blogging, start some projects for school, catch up on reading, go for our traditional Black Friday shopping with my sisters and mom, karate and kickboxing classes, and decorate for Christmas!!
I just have to get through today. :)

This link up will be open for TWO WEEKS.  There will not be a new Tried It Tuesday next week but feel free to link up anytime this week or next week.  
Also, check back next Tuesday for any new link ups! :)
My Tried It:
Karate Tournament
If you have been reading my blog for awhile, you might remember that I have been taking kickboxing for a couple years and started karate last spring.  You can read more about it here.  This is the first workout routine that I really do love and keeps me going back for more.  Many of my friends have picked up running at some point, but this sums up how I have always felt about that exercise:
I like to challenge myself in all areas of my life and am a goal setter.  Kickboxing and karate fits perfectly into my mindset and need for setting goals for motivation.  For me, kickboxing is probably a better cardio workout, but karate is my favorite if I had to choose between the two.  I think it is because I love the mental challenge and structure of it.  Karate seems like it is just good for my soul.
So, I played around with the idea of trying a kickboxing fight, but didn't know if I was physically and mentally ready for that.  A karate tournament didn't seem as intimidating and point sparring in karate was a great place to start.  I registered for a small tournament and spent all day Saturday at my first ever karate tournament and competed (I had never even been to one before!).  
There is no time like the present, right?  
I registered to compete in sparring and traditional forms for ages 18-34 (I am 35 years old now but the divisions go by how old you are in January of that year).  Since it was a small tournament, there was no novice division for women, and I would be competing against all women in that age group except for black belts.  I am a lowly yellow belt (second belt after white), have only been doing this for a little over 6 months, AND might have to compete against women much younger who are in much better shape, but I went ahead with it!
 So...you're probably wondering how I did, right?  WELL, there were no other women to compete against in my division! :(  That was disappointing, BUT I still learned so much.   I was fascinated watching all the katas performed that day...amazing!  You have to do a "sound off" where you state (at least) your name and what you will be performing.  Well, some of the sound offs were quite unique, intimidating, and fascinating to say the least.
I sparred one of the guys from a satellite studio that I have sparred with a little in class for an exhibition.  He was a good sport and went a little easy on me but I "won" 6 to 3 in points (two minute round).

I also performed my kata and it was a great way to get my feet wet.  For the "grands", I had to perform again because all the 1st place competitors in a certain age range (I was the only one in my division) compete for grand champion.  I lost in grands but my instructor was pleased with my performance.  It was almost like an out of body experience because, as I was performing my kata, my mind went completely (I mean completely!) blank.  I almost, for a fraction of a second, stopped my kata right then and there.  Then, somehow I turned in the right direction and found the movement.  It was a little freaky but that is what I love about karate.  The mental discipline is so challenging and it just awakens me.

Will I compete in more karate tournaments? Absolutely!  I don't want to look back years from now and have regrets.  There's no day like today (from one of my favorite musicals...Rent!).  As Thanksgiving Day draws near, I will be reflecting on all the things that I am grateful for.  Finding a new passion at my age is one of them.  It is never too late to begin.

Find your passion and go for it!! 

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Workshop Wednesday and a Giveaway!

Yay for hump day!  For today's Workshop Wednesday with Ideas by Jivey, the topic is sharing how we get students to WRITE (especially the more reluctant writers!). 
Keep reading to the end of this post to enter an amazing giveaway!!

I have shared some strategies in past posts that I use during my Daily 5 work on writing (I use Daily 4, leaving out the Listening).  Especially at the beginning of the year, I just want my students to WRITE!  We work on building our stamina and writing about topics that are easy to write about.  If students see that they can actually write for an extended period of time, they will start to believe in their writing abilities.  I have seen it happen time and time again.  My students do not complain when they are assigned "work on writing" (I have not been giving them free choice of which center to go to but they do have their choice of which activity to choose at work on writing).  They really do enjoy going to their work on writing center because the choices appeal to their interests and are at a low frustration level for my students.

One of my students' favorite work on writing activities are the shared writing journals.  You can read more about them here.  I keep four journals at a time in one of my drawers.  
 Here are two entries from the "Bandaids and Boo Boos" journal from two of my developing students:
 Here is another entry in the "Bandaids and Boo Boos" journal from possibly my lowest writer.  He worked on this independently, with no prompting from me.  What student couldn't write about injury?  We know they have stories to tell!  Why do students always feel the need to write, "The End"?  
Here is one more entry from one of my average students.
 Another great activity for getting students to write are story starters.  You can read more about the story starters I use here.  These are the winter story starters that I just added to my bins this week (we have already had snow and temps feel like winter here even though it is not "technically" winter yet!).  You can download these story starters from my TpT store for free here.
Here is a picture of one of most reluctant writer's journal entry from a fall story starter!  He was so proud of himself when he was finished!

Here is a journal entry for a story starter from one of my highest writers:

I am always looking for fresh ideas to motivate my writers and I can't wait to check out the other linkups at Ideas by Jivey!  Don't forget to check out the giveaway below!

A bunch of bloggers have joined up to say THANK YOU.  Thank you for following us.  Thank you for your support, encouragement, and friendship.  We have learned so much from you.  

So, we wanted to say thank you with a Gift Card Giveaway.  

Simply fill in the rafflecopter below and you have a chance to win one of 3 prizes. 
(You can fill in the rafflecopter on any of our blogs, it's all the same one.) 

3 lucky winners will win a $25 gift card to TPT!!

Good luck!  

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Tried It Tuesday {Remind 101}

Happy Tuesday!  It's time for another week of Tried It Tuesday. :)  I love reading all the wonderful ideas bloggers link up each week.  Thank you so much for sharing and reading!
My Tried It:
Remind 101
 I have been reading about Remind 101 on other blogs for awhile now and kept telling myself that I needed to try it.  Well, I finally did it!  From Remind 101:

Remind101 was built, in conjunction with educators, to solve communication obstacles between teachers, students and parents. Across all grade levels and institution types, Remind101 is a safe and simple communication solution to help teachers extend their classrooms.
Teachers are busy. Our mission is to make tools that are simple to use, but highly effective. Signing up takes less than two minutes on the website, iPhone app, or Android app, and it only takes seconds for students or parents to join a class. Safety is a primary feature, teachers never see students/parents phone numbers, nor will students/parents see theirs.
Here is a snapshot of their homepage.

 It literally only takes minutes to sign up and set up your classes.  Once I signed up, I sent a specific coded text message to a phone number they gave me.  The directions looked like this:

I also printed a page like this for my parents to sign up.  I divided my three ELA classes into three separate groups in case I ever need to send out a message to just one of the groups.  A message can easily be sent out to all three groups by clicking on each class as shown in the screenshot below.  Just click where it says "Click to add classes."

I tend to be very wordy, and wanted to note that text messages are limited to 140 characters (see orange box below?).  You can also send messages immediately or schedule them for later!  Parents can also choose to have messages sent via text or email.  I had almost exactly 50% of my parents sign up for Remind 101, but it is still new.  Once it starts to catch on, I think more parents will sign up in the future.  I don't think any other teachers in my building have used it.

I was under the impression that I could send messages individually to parents or to a few selected parents, but that was not the case.  I have to select a whole class and send out the message to everyone.  This is still great for parents who are apprehensive about giving out their cell number but would like to receive reminders about upcoming events, assignments, or schedules.  
I even had a few parents comment on Remind 101 at parent conference time and wondered if they could get more messages.  Some parents would like to get a message for the homework assignment each night even though students write down their homework on their chart every day.  We write down the homework together as a class but sometimes there is "that student" who chooses not to write down the homework. I walk around and check to make sure they are writing it down but not every day (it always amazes me when I find students who didn't write it down!).  Especially after the first couple weeks, fourth graders should be able to write down their homework when we do it as a class together and I feel I need to give them that responsibility.  Regardless, I freely give out my cell number to parents that I need to stay in constant contact with.  Sometimes I have parents who text a lot and that is always the best way to reach them on an individual basis.  

Remind 101 is a quick way to send messages to the whole group and keep those lines of communication open (and it's FREE!).  Here are some recent statistics:

Teachers use text every day to communicate with their classroom:
  • Nearly 3 million texts messages are sent a day via Remind101.
  • Each message goes to an average of 50 students and parents.
  • Over 20% of messages sent are scheduled in advance.
  • The average Remind101 teacher sends 5.8 messages a week.

Disclaimer: I have no affiliation with Remind 101 and was not contacted by them.  :)

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Spark Student Motivation {Student Self Reflection}

I have had a busy week of report cards due and first day of parent conferences.  We finished quite a few conferences yesterday afternoon (half day for students).  It was an exhausting day but I was home by 5:30 and finished ten conferences.  I have twelve more to go next week.  Since we are departmentalized, we scheduled conferences together when we could and are handling some on our own.  Our classrooms are very close to each other in a "pod" so we can always pop in each other's rooms when we don't have another conference going in.  It does get exhausting though with very little time for any breaks!

Of course, since it is Saturday, I wanted to link up a motivational strategy we use with parent teacher conferences for my BBB's linky party at Head Over Heels for Teaching.  Joanne always has the best ideas and I love reading all the link ups each week!
Prior to conferences, we have the students complete a form like this one:
A student survey like this one is an AMAZING tool to have available during parent teacher conferences!  Students rate themselves with smiley faces on many aspects of their performance.  I always remind them to be honest and they almost always are!  It is a great "ice breaker" and discussion topic with parents.  

Parents are less likely to be defensive when you discuss their child's "things to work on" when this list actually comes from their child!  The teacher isn't pointing out their flaws, their child is.  Of course, there are many strengths to be pointed out on this form too and there is space for students to write in what they view as their strengths and things they need to work on.  Having a form like this for students to reflect on their own performance in school is a natural motivator.  Sometimes, just thinking about what we need to work on and what our strengths are motivates us to improve! :)

If you would like a copy of this form, visit my facebook page and the "fans only" tab!
Have a great weekend! :)

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Tried It Tuesday {Embed Links in a PDF on a Mac}

Happy Tuesday that feels like a Monday!  It's time for another week of Tried It Tuesday. :)
I love having an extra long weekend and spent Veteran's Day catching up on so many things.  The day just flew by!  Speaking of Veteran's Day, I love this quote by Abraham Lincoln:
My Tried It:
Embed Links in a PDF on a Mac
I am linking this post to the amazing blogger's TPT tips post by Erica Bohrer here in the hopes that it will reach more people and be even more helpful!
One task I was finishing up yesterday was a freebie nonfiction text activity for the holidays.  I am submitting it for consideration to be included in this year's TpT holiday ebook.  Here is the link to the 3-6 ebook from 2012.  In order to be considered for inclusion in the holiday ebook, my PDF document needed to have embedded links.  If you try searching for a tutorial on this topic, you will see a host of forums and help pleas from Mac users trying to embed links on a PDF.  I thought I would walk you through the steps I took after several hours of reading and trying in case you are looking to do this anytime soon! :)

First, I followed some advice to upload my PDF file to pdfescape.com.

This may work for you, if your documents are less than 10MB, but, unfortunately, mine are not.  I wasn't ready to commit to a premium membership, so my search continued.

Next, I found a tip to open my PDF in Preview instead of Adobe Reader.  

My version of Preview was 6.0 and I needed the older version.  Here is the link to the forum thread in the picture below.  I used the link in the forum to download Preview 5.5.2 provided by user "Bizdata" on August 11, 2012.

I was successful in the end in that I had a PDF with embedded links.  The one problem I still have is I cannot fully "secure" the PDF with Preview and make the links still work.  My bloggy friend, the super talented technology pro, Erin, from I'm Lovin Lit helped me answer this problem.  Basically, I cannot embed links AND have the PDF secure using only PowerPoint and Preview.  It is not possible to have both.  The solution is to purchase Adobe Acrobat Pro or the Adobe Creative Cloud for Educators monthly subscription.  I know what I will be investing in next!
Thanks for reading and I hope this tutorial will save someone hours of research!

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Spark Student Motivation {Spelling Review Game}

I love this time of year!  I just got home from our teacher's annual overnight shopping trip to some outlet stores a couple hours from home.  Although we always get some great deals, my favorite part is just hanging out friends and, of course, the FOOD!!  So fun!

I am linking up quick with the amazing, Joanne, at Head Over Heels for Teaching to share how my class plays some quick spelling review games every Friday for motivation.
Yesterday, when I announced that it was time to play "Sparkle" the students cheered!  This is the typical reaction when it is time to play this quick review game.  So, I thought this would be a great idea to link up with Spark Student Motivation Saturdays!  We play two rounds of sparkle every Friday for a few weeks in a row and then every third or fourth week, we have a real "spelling bee".  The students love playing these games!  Most of you probably know what "sparkle" is but, in case you don't, this is how we play.

1.  Decide on how the order will go in the classroom or have the students line up in a straight line.  
2.  Name a spelling word.  
3.  The first student says the first letter of the word.  The second student says the second letter, and so on.
4.  When the last letter has been stated, the next student in line says "sparkle".  The student next to them is out and sits down.  Play continues with a new word each time until there is one student left standing.
5.  If a student says the wrong letter, they are out.
6.  If a student loses their place or takes too long to say the letter, they are out.

I like this game because it is SUPER quick (takes less than 5 minutes for one game in my classes of 16).  It also gives all students a chance at winning, even my students who struggle because there is quite a bit of luck involved.  Students also love to "play the teacher" during sparkle and I have this has one of the rewards for Class Dojo trade in points days!  

Spelling bees are fun too and we do those every three to four weeks.  These take longer and I only go through the class once with the current spelling words.  Then, we got to other more "challenging" words.  Our county hosts a spelling bee each spring and there are three top spellers sent from each grade.  The students really get into it and the super spellers just get a thrill from the competition!

There are only three hours left to get 20% off in my TPT store for my three math fractions centers aligned to the CCSS!

Be sure to check back at Head Over Heels for Teaching to see many more ideas for motivating students!  There are always amazing tips to learn about each week!!