Friday, July 31, 2015

Beliefs to Actions BLOG HOP: What Drives Me

I am so excited to be linking up with Whitney over at With Love From Texas for this Beliefs to Actions Blog Hop.

For me, this came at a great time. Summer is winding down (boo!) and my mind is already taking me back to school. (I actually had my first Back to School nightmare the other night! Too soon!)
It is crazy how fast this summer has gone by but I am anxious and a little excited about this upcoming year!

So, as my thoughts turn to long days of inservice and trainings, learning new curriculum, packing lunches, and soon seeing my new set of students....I feel a wide range of emotions. And I am so glad to have the opportunity to set my purpose for this year and to have a hard copy of my beliefs.

I believe that really understanding the WHY behind what we do is important!

Being a teacher is tough. We work so hard for little pay. Days are long and sometimes the kids in our class can make those days feel even longer. But, you cannot deny the tremendous rewards we feel at the end of every school year as we've watched our kids grow and learn, take on challenges and overcome weaknesses. We can reflect back and know that we gave it our all. It's a great feeling!

So, here are my beliefs!

This pretty much sums it up for me. 

Every child in my classroom CAN succeed. 
I have to believe this. I think we all do. It is up to me to give that student exactly what he/she needs to be successful. (no pressure, right?!)

Instructions must be differentiated to meet each child's needs.
I am a big believer in differentiation. I use it daily in my classroom but still feel I have room for improvement. Having this as one of my core beliefs will pose as a great reminder. 

Parent involvement and cooperation with the teacher is KEY to student success.
Learning begins at home and a parent is a child's first teacher. If education is important to the parent then I believe it carries on to the child. An involved parent can make a HUGE impact on their child's success. Maybe cooperation wasn't the BEST word I could choose but when a parent is supportive (yes, I should've said supportive!) of the teacher, it definitely benefits everyone involved. And it goes both ways, the parent and teacher should work as a team to help the child. 

Set the bar high, provide support & encouragement and children will meet and exceed expectations. 
I am a firm believer of setting high expectations for my students. I constantly want to challenge them and pull out all they've got while they are in my classroom. I know that a class comes to you with different learning styles, family backgrounds, social skills etc...but I strive to provide them with the support they need so they can meet those expectations. And many students surpass them! Makes my teacher heart happy!

I cannot and will not give up on any child.
It is a personal mission and a professional responsibility to keep believing in my students. Enough said.

Every child needs to feel safe in my care and know they are loved.
I strive to nurture and love my students. I believe they must feel safe, loved and respected to be their best. 

Every child needs a voice and choice in their learning. 
I love to offer choices in my classroom. All.The.Time. Choices on how to complete an assignment goes along with my belief in differentiation. I do not assign workstations in my classroom. I have a system I have used for 10 years where the students choose their stations and it has worked great for me. I feel that there is so much a student doesn't have control over in their life but I do want them to feel ownership in their learning. That is huge for me. If you have ever read my posts on Project-Based Learning, you already know this. :) You can read about my PBL experiences HERE and HERE!

As technology advances, we are preparing our students for a future that we know nothing about. Teaching 21st Century Skills are a must!!
It's exciting yet, terrifying, to think of our world in 20 years. What will life be like for our students entering the job force after college? There is no telling what the future holds. I remember my principal sharing her belief in this in a faculty meeting a couple years ago. We have no idea what jobs will be around. Our kids are quickly swept into this technological world as soon as they hold their first smartphone and already can do things that adults have no clue how to do. It's amazing. So, I believe the students in our classrooms today will be the ones creating these technologically-driven careers of the future. How do WE prepare them for that? For the unknown? I think teaching the 21st century skills are our best bet! They need to be able to use critical thinking to collaborate, create, and communicate! Looking for some cute 21st Century Skills posters? My friends and coworkers, Whitney from At Whit End and Whitney from With Love from Texas created some! 

Get them HERE! They are even on sale!!

Thank you so much for reading about my Education Beliefs! So I challenge YOU. What is your WHY? What do YOU believe? I hope that those beliefs will help provide a compass for your actions this school year! For me, I know I will refer back to these when times get tough and even when I just need a reminder!

Please continue on to the next blogger to read all about what drives her...

Thursday, July 30, 2015

My First Day back in my classroom!

So, I have definitely taken advantage of this summer time. Lots of sunshine and family time. But I haven't blogged in 2 weeks, haven't created any new products (which is kinda driving me crazy) and  just yesterday was the first day back to my classroom since school got out! I have 3 days of training/workshops coming up next week so I just needed to get in there and get a start to setting it up for a NEW year!

I got to my classroom at 10:30 or so and this is what I saw....
Actually, this was the BEST my classroom has looked over the summer. Every summer they wax our floors which means EVERYTHING must come out. Our custodians do it on their own for us which is great. And this time, mostly everything was put back in its place and nothing is missing! Yea!

Here is a quick video...

I worked for about 3 hours putting things away, organizing, project would lead to another....

This is my paper sorter thing I use at my Work on Writing station. I've had it for years and really want to refinish it. Yucky green. I have some turquoise spray paint at home...that should do it! I'll be sure to take an "after" picture when I finish it. :)

I really want to change out some of my routine posters I use at the beginning of the year. I have these written on a BIG anchor charts cart. (This one is on the wall behind my table). It takes up a lot of space and I am wanting to re-create it smaller. I'm still trying to figure out how I want to do that....hmmm..any ideas??

THEN, for a project I actually finished yesterday...

I needed a few sticker labels for my buddy reading books and once I went to my sticker drawer in my filing cabinet, I noticed the sticker dilemma.

It was such a mess. All mixed up in my drawer. It was sad. I had never organized my stickers and it was time.

I went to Office Max and got this black wire file sorter. I sorted my stickers by common categories, labeled some colored file folders I had lying around and voila!!!

It fits perfectly in my top drawer of my filing cabinet! Makes me so happy!

I also cleaned out and organized my stamp collection. I don't ever use stamps but maybe I will now that they are right there. Need some more ink pads tho!!

I also couldn't resist buying BRIGHT new Expo markers either...

My next project to tackle was putting everything back in my black storage cabinet. I do not have a closet in my room so this is it. And because it is not a closet, I have to take everything out so it can be moved to have the floors waxed.

 I dread this task every year. I usually have my super organized sister help me do this but I did it all by myself. Yea!

Now, if it could only stay that way all year, that would be nice!

I also pushed desks into groups with a similar set up to how I had it last year. Not sure how many kids I have yet so that may change. I still have a lot to do but I feel good about my progress so far!

I was just happy to get that mess stacked up on my wall put away and have everything generally back in its place. I still need to organize my books which are still hidden in the lockers. That will be a daunting task I will save for another day!

After video...

How about you? Are you working in your classroom already?

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Got Tablets?!?

A few days ago, I participated in a FLASH FREEBIE Frenzy event hosted by Sun, Sand and Second Grade and offered my iPad Rules (Colorful and Printable) free for an hour. The best part was all the Feedback LOVE!! Based on some GREAT feedback, I decided to make a set for Tablet users too!

I also added a rules poster to remind kids to use headphones when using the tablet so they don't disturb the rest of the class! Can I get an "AMEN"?!

I also added an EDITABLE poster in case you want to add your own rule!

These changes have also been made in my iPad Rules too. 

Get these Tablet Rules FREE for the next 48 hours....until Saturday 7/18!


Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Week 4: Follow Frenzy!

It's a rainy afternoon in Texas so while my kids are "resting"(sad that my 4 year old has outgrown his nap!) and fellow TpTers are on their way to Vegas, I thought I would wrap up this AMAZING TpT Seller Challenge. This challenge brought on by the awesome ladies of Sparkling in Second, Peppy Zesty Teacherista, Third in Hollywood and Teach Create Motivate has been just what I needed to get the ball rolling in my little TpT world. I am so grateful for this opportunity and experience. I cannot wait to create more quality products AND find more amazing TpTers and bloggers to follow!

This final week is titled Follow Frenzy and our mission is simple. Share about the other bloggers we have met along the way of this challenge. I have honestly been blown away by the creative and talented people I have come across so far. I am following TONS of new people and know that I will be checking in on their blog and TpT stores in the future!

I did want to give a special shout-out to a new friend I "met" AND an oldie but goodie!

I met Jennifer during Week 1 of Makeover Madness. She posted her makeover right after me so we had commented on each other's blog posts and realized we had SO much in common! Our husbands are both basketball coaches and we both teach in the same district where we grew up. I also learned that Jennifer loves the Lord as much as I do! We chatted over email and I am glad to have "met" her. I am her newest fan and follower. She has some GREAT products in her TpT store...check out her store HERE! You can also stop by her Facebook page HERE! I look forward to keeping in touch!

I have to give props to my AMAZING teammate and fellow TpT/Blogger friend! If you check out her super cute blog, her tagline pretty much sums her up. Learning really IS more colorful with her! Lila joined our 2nd grade team 2 years ago and I am so glad we "stole" her away from her original campus. Forced transfers can be tough but we were more than blessed to welcome this talented teacher! Lila comes in daily with fresh unique ideas to help her students be successful. She works hard and puts for the the extra effort so that every lesson has that extra zest! There is never a dull moment in her classroom! Lila is a newbie breaking into the TpT/Blogging world so I hope you stop by her blog, TpT store and Facebook page!

Thanks for reading my final post in this TpT Seller Challenge! I have loved every minute of it! Be sure to head back to the link up to read the other Follow Frenzy posts. We are in this together so let's share the "Follow" love!!!

Until next time!

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Week 3: I've Made my Masterpiece!!

It's Week 3 1/2 actually of the TpT Seller Challenge and I'm excited to FINALLY be done making my Masterpiece! Certainly a labor of love! I'm thankful for this challenge because it has not only motivated me to create a quality product but has encouraged me to keep making more! I had so much fun with this one! If you are just tuning in and want to learn more about this exciting challenge, be sure to check out these fabulous blogs!


This week's assignment was to  "Make your Masterpiece". 

There is so much to this and I will try my best to explain WHY I created this product and HOW I used this in my own classroom. But before I do, I think I need to go back in time to this past May when my 2nd grade team decided to take on another PBL (project-based learning) with our students.

We did a Changes Over Time PBL that was super successful earlier in the year and we were ready to tackle this next one with our Science unit on Animals. (See the Changes Over Time PBL post HERE)

Before I go on, are you familiar with project-based learning (PBLs)?? If not check out this site for more info!

I also love this image as it contains the Essentials for a Successful PBL.

This was technically our 2nd year to do this Animal Research PBL but this year, I feel we really rocked it. I mean, the students!  :)

So WHY did I create these printables and resources for a PBL...Aren't the students supposed to independently create everything on their own?  Well, kinda. We certainly gave our 2nd graders plenty of Voice and Choice with this experience but also thought we needed some printables to help guide them. We remained facilitators in their learning and I wanted to create some resources that would make the whole PBL run smoothly. PBLs can be challenging for the student and the teacher but it CAN BE DONE!

Here is a preview of what's included!

OK, here is HOW our own PBL went down as well as HOW I used these printables. :)

First every PBL must have a good ENTRY EVENT:

We had made some efforts to reach out to a local zoo to see if we could Skype with a zoologist or to have a traveling zoo come to us. Unfortunately we were not able to arrange that so instead, we showed a highlight video from the San Diego Zoo.

 As you can see from (some of) their faces, they were clearly engaged. : )

Then I posed the Driving Question: 

"So, we are going to build a zoo and have REAL animals in it??!"

Well, not exactly but we are definitely "building" a zoo (using chart paper and colored pencils!) and each student would be an expert on an animal of their choice and would have to design a habitat. They would have to research their chosen animal focusing on 4 "MUST HAVE" topics. A PBL usually has some MUST HAVE guidelines that the students must include. We called anything extra, their "SHOW OFFS". 

The 4 "Must Have" areas were based on our State Standards: 

1. Physical Characteristics
2. Behaviors of the Animal
3. Habitat
4. Diet/Food Chain

Of course, we didn't reveal this to the students just yet. We started with choosing our animal! I had the kids write it on chart paper so we wouldn't have 2 of the same animals in our zoo. 

Then we started with the first printable! The students completed a circle map with their background knowledge about their animal. They needed to write down all the info that they already knew. Most students chose their favorite animal and already knew a lot!

Sorry for the blurry pic, it was the only student example I got!

Once we had completed our circle map, I introduced the next key component for a PBL. 

Setting a Purpose & NEED to KNOW

I wanted the kids to come up with their own questions and set a purpose for learning. This printable on the left guided them to use an Animal book as well as websites for research. 

Then as a class we created our list of NEED to KNOW questions that we all thought we would need to know to design a habitat for our animal.  We wrote them on chart paper, which I don't have a picture of so I recreated it here.)

The next day we looked back at our Need to Know questions and determined that we had 4 main areas that we could focus our research on....
Can you guess what they are??

1. Physical Characteristics
2. Behaviors of the Animal
3. Habitat
4. Diet/Food Chain

Yep, the same 4 "MUST HAVES" I discussed earlier in this post based on our state standards. As a facilitator we can certainly guide our students to come up with the components of the PBL. Score!

Then we were ready to research!

But not before I introduced the Research Booklet. This was AMAZING!! Here's a preview...

Seriously, so simple. All printables are included for you to make your own booklet. All you need is 2 large construction paper sheets and interested students!!

I LOVED how the kids could take their notes on the post its and stick it right to their page. 

The top of each page had one of the "Must Have" topic headers and guiding questions glued on. 

The guiding questions under the topic header helped the students research for those answers. Then they would write them down on the post it notes. I did color coordinate the sticky notes. Just a personal preference. 

I also was researching my own animal, the cheetah, and modeled for the students all throughout the research days how I found information. This seemed to really help. 

The kids researched first in their Animal Book checked out from our school library and some kids used our classroom books. I have A LOT of animal books!

But I also allowed them to research online. My amazing teammate over at The Polka-Dotted Pencil, created a Symbaloo which kept all of our teacher-approved websites in one spot. The kids could easily access the Symbaloo from our teacher website. I highly recommend you creating one for your students to use. Super easy!

Have some students who really need lines instead of using post its? No problem, I created some...

We researched one of the "MUST HAVE" topics over a day or two. We spent an entire week on researching! During this time, I pulled students over individually to check their status and provide additional support if needed. 

Once our research was completed, the students organized their research with a couple of T charts...

I wanted the kids to know the reason WHY their animal had sharp teeth or WHY their animal only hunted at night etc. This really helped bring the level of understanding up a notch. 

This student had all of her questions checked off and Post it notes finished and was ready to transfer it to the T-chart. 

I jazzed up my original printable (below) for the masterpiece task. :) 

 During this research time, we also had several different mini-lessons tied into our 4 Must-Have areas. One mini lesson and activity is included in the printables!

Teaching posters...

After reviewing the posters and watching a few videos on Discovery Education, we discussed our research animal and whether it hibernates, migrates or adapts. Most of the kids already knew this information from their research! We made a class graph on a pocket chart. I didn't have these fancy headers or animal cards yet so we just used note cards! Here is what the headers and animal cards look like...

Just cut and laminate and place in pocket chart. 

Animal cards for students to write the name of their animal and then sort it into the right category!

I also made blank ones in case your kids want to draw their animal instead. 

Then we discussed what we noticed on the class graph. Which category had the most of our animals? etc. Then I gave them this graph printable to complete.

I also made one to go up to 18 animals in case you have a bigger class or you have a lot of animals in the same category!

On the back, they answered questions and even wrote their own question for a friend to solve!

It was a great activity that covered some of our Math standards as well!

Once the students had completed their research, I had them organize their writing into paragraphs.  

As a class,  we came up with a few paragraph starters. These are included in the printables!

One student's notes.....

Organized into Paragraphs...

Then it was time to discuss HOW we would present our research and learning. I LOVE giving my students voice and choice in my classroom.  We brainstormed some different ideas that we could do and came up with 3 project choices. 

1. Create a Nonfiction Book of our Animal
2. Create a Powerpoint using Google Slides
3. Create an Animal Report in iMovie using the Green screen effect ( I plan to write up a tutorial on this in another post...still working out the kinks but it was very successful with the majority of my students who chose this option) 

This student is writing his "script" in Google Docs that he plans to read for his animal report iMovie!

This student chose to create a book!

 We spent another entire week working on our projects!

They turned out GREAT! I was so proud of them!! (And this is the time in my post where I wish I had taken pictures of their final projects. Ugh!) 
The kids who chose their Google Slides presentation or the iMovie option have them saved in their google drive!

Only a few of my students created books and this was just one of the books that I captured a couple of pictures of...

MOST of my students chose the Technology options!

Here is a link to one of my student's Google Slides Presentation!

And here is a link to one of their animal reports in iMovie!

I created some checklists and Rubrics for these projects. I made them general enough that I only needed one rubric for all 3 different project options. 

There are EDITABLE versions included in the printables. :) There is also a PEER Review for students to partner up with a peer to complete a checklist! This is all a part of the Reflection piece of the PBL puzzle. 

Once our projects were nearing completion it was time for us to revisit the Driving Question and actually build our zoo!

But first, we researched different zoo layouts...

We had a discussion of what type of layout we wanted for our own zoo.

Then we needed a name...

I gave the kids some time to get their idea written on the board for our zoo name.

Then we voted and decided on "The Might MeGown Zoo"!

Next we had to decide which habitat type our animal needed...

Once we had our animals in their preferred habitat (I didn't correct them just yet if they were wrong, some figured it out once we made their habitat) , we could start to sketch out our zoo. 

This picture was taken a couple of days in so we had already made a lot of progress!

The kids created their habitat on a half sheet of copy paper. On the inside, they wrote 4 complete sentences (1 sentence for each "Must Have" topic) explaining what their animal needs in their habitat. Then they chose a location for their specific habitat. I LOVE how our zoo turned out! The kids worked so hard!

We named the different regions of our zoo like we saw on many of the other zoo layouts. Here is our "Famous Forest" region...

Arctic Area

Rainforest Region
 African Savannah

And the center of our zoo!

And lastly, our projects and zoo needed a PUBLIC AUDIENCE. We invited another 2nd grade class to come to our classroom. We had it set up like a museum for the students to do a Gallery Walk. We actually swapped classrooms and got to go check out their zoo and projects while they looked at ours. 

Getting everything ready!

The students had their laptops on their desk to show their Google Slides presentation or their iMovie. And those who made books had them displayed on their desks. 

A movie from the other classroom...

They created a BIG zoo using construction paper.

 I had the kids bring sticky notes to the other class so that they could write down compliments or questions. 

 Then we headed back to our own classroom to check out each other's projects. 

This was such an INCREDIBLE PBL opportunity for our 2nd graders and I am so happy to share it!

Be sure to check out these Printables and Resources on TpT. It will be on sale through this Thursday (7/9) Be sure to check it out!!

Also, be sure to check out the other amazing Masterpieces in the link up by visiting one of the blogs above!

Thank you so much for reading about our Animal Research PBL!