Monday, August 1, 2016

All Things Brag Tag (Post 1 of a 2 part series)

Happy Monday Everyone!

I'm sure most of you are starting to go back in the classroom to get ready for B2S 2016!  As you begin to think about classroom management and student motivation, definitely consider using Brag Tags.  There are a plethora of blog posts out there on how to implement them as well as TPT sellers creating them, including me. ;)  I used them for the first time in my 2nd grade classroom last year and it was a game changer! It's a super cheap way to celebrate individual student success and change unwanted classroom behavior. Everyone likes to be praised right?!  Brag tags do just that and provide a visual reminder of student successes in the classroom.  Angie over at Lucky Little Learners was my initial inspiration to try them out.  She has some fabulous posts on how to implement them and there is definitely no reason to recreate the wheel over here, right??

Now, in the social media world there seems to be some backlash on using Brag Tags in the classroom because teachers don't want to create students who are "braggers".  Well friends, I called them brag tags all year and never once received any negative feedback from administrators, co-workers, parents, or students.  In fact, EVERYONE thought it was a genius idea and a few other teachers at my school jumped on board to do brag tags too!  HOWEVER, if this is a concern for you there are alternative names for the same tool/product.  Some teachers are calling them Swag Tags, Wow Tags, Fab Tags, etc.  Regardless of what you want to call them in your classroom, they are amazing!

So, how do they work you ask?  Well, that's up to you.  In my classroom I introduced brag tags on the last day of the first week of school.  I put them on student desks before they arrived to create excitement and questions about the tag.  I gave each student a 2 inch binder ring with one brag tag on it that said 2nd Grade Rocks.  As a class we went over how to earn a brag tag and how to be responsible with the brag tag ring.  I never told students which brag tags I had...it was a mystery all year and the students couldn't get enough of the tags.  They never knew when I would pass some out. It was fabulous!!!

As with anything new....I started out simple with brag tags for Daily 5 station behavior. Basically, as we were building stamina each day for the first 6 weeks of school, students were earning brag tags for demonstrating desired behaviors at each station.  Everybody wins!! In Thursday's post I will answer some FAQ about all things brag tag.  :)  My next type of tag I started to roll out was the homework tag.  I surprised the class with homework brag tags the first time I collected homework packets. Every student who turned in their homework packet received a brag tag.  The excitement continued and it was hook, line, sink in all things brag tag.  Once I had everyone's buy in, I began to slow down with passing out brag tags to only a few of the best of the best behaviors each day.  Students worked so hard to be the best of the best and my classroom was pure bliss!  Well, most of the time! ;)  I even had special substitute brag tags my assistant and sub would pass out in my absence.  Every. Single. Sub. LOVED the brag tags and how helpful it was with classroom behavior.  I'm not going to say the tags were miracle fixes, but for the most part it made a big difference in the majority of my student's behaviors.

My Daily 5 Inspired Brag Tags:







Now, lets discuss the binder ring for a minute...I made a point of stressing to the class to be responsible with the ring the very first day I passed out the tags.  They could hook the rings on backpacks, pant loops, keep them at home, or in the pencil boxes at school.  My classroom expectation was that students would keep up with the brag tag ring all year long.  At the end of the year students turned in the ring to me for a beaded chain necklace.  We will talk more about the necklaces and binder ring responsibilities in my post on Thursday.  If you go on Pinterest and search brag tags you will find a multitude of ways teachers display brag tags to give you some ideas if you're not feeling the student responsibility vibe.  I believe in student responsibility.  If you set your expectations high, most students will rise to meet or exceed your expectations.

I hope to have peaked your interest in at least considering brag tags.  Come back Thursday for a follow up post to how brag tags worked in my classroom.  See you then!

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Planner Talk: My Honest Opinion About 4 Popular Planners

Hey Friends!

Yikes!  I'm terrible at keeping up with the blog during the school year.  I tried, but failed at doing better.  Sorry!  Honestly, our year has been crazy busy between the lil nugget's schedule and my husband's NASCAR schedule; not to mention the hectic daily classroom happenings!  I'm thankful for the blogging break because I'm rejuvenated and ready to share what I've been up to in the classroom and TPT land!

Let's get started with all things planner!  Lately, there has been lots of planner chatter on social media with who has what and what's popular right now in the land of lesson planning.  Teachers are funny creatures when it comes to getting "new school year excited" a week into summer break!  I've definitely been one of them, but it still makes me chuckle because the school year ends and almost immediately it's time to get ready for the new year.  I'm fortunate enough to have first hand experiences with four of the top planning tools out currently. Below are MY opinions about each planner. I haven't been paid to endorse any product, so you can trust this is the honest truth according to me.  I hope it's helpful! ; )

1st up...Erin Condren Planner:  Here is a picture of my teacher planner from a few years ago. When I first got the planner I was smitten with every flashy detail the planner had.  Honestly, I think I was more excited to have something people around me didn't have than the actual planner.  Sad truth, but I want to keep it real for ya'll.  Click here to preview the planner and see how in all actuality I didn't use many of the "extras" Erin Condren is known for.  I did enjoy a few of the flashy features such as the pocket folder, clear page inserts and the small bag at the back of the planner.  The EC planner sells for $55-$75.  In my opinion it's not worth the money.  Especially since the style has changed and the covers are interchangeable.  I purchased an EC life planner and it's been a huge waste of money!  The covers fall off...annoying to say the least, and I realized I'm a digital calendar person for all things social in our life.


Erin Condren Teacher Planner before the changeable covers

2nd up...Teacher Anchor Planner:  Last year I had the pleasure of winning this beautiful planner from CJayneTeach in an Instagram contest.  I didn't know anything about the product and was just super excited to win a "teacher prize"!  I won a beautiful binder as well as the planner.  This planner looks very much like a printer friendly version of the EC planner in my opinion.  There's nothing cutesy or colorful about the planner on the inside.  It differs from the EC planner because it does have CCES listed for K-2 as well as tips to being more efficient with planning efforts. When you check out the preview you will see I used parts of the planner, but then ended up just stapling purchased lesson plans on the pages.  It became a glorified binder with pages everywhere!  The planner sells for $56, but again...I'm not sure it's worth the money; at least not in MY opinion.  Click here to check out the inside of the planner.




Teacher Anchor Lesson Planner
3rd up...Create 365 Happy Planner Teacher Edition:  Ok, so this planner was just gifted to me by my mom as a thank you for helping out when my nana unexpectedly died last month.  We stumbled across this planner on accident when wondering around Hobby Lobby for a few brag tag accessories to end the school year.  I'm super excited about this planner because it seems to have the EC flair, with a teacher price tag.  The best of both worlds, right?!  The planner retails for $29.99.  You can use a trusty 40% off coupon to make the price even more affordable.  You can check out the planner by clicking here.  Below are a few pictures of the planner, accessories purchased at an additional charge, and my stamping catastrophe with the checklist stamp.  Currently, I'm uncertain of my feelings with the stamp because of the unpredictability of stamping the entire stamp image.  Hopefully, the more I use it, the more accurate the stamping will be.  There is one other stamp I wanted to complete the planner, but my Hobby Lobby didn't have it.  Luckily, my mom's HL did and she is bringing it to me in August. :))  In my humble opinion, this planner is the best of all of the worlds and is 100% worth the money!  The word on the street is it sells out quickly; however, is replenished often.



4th up...Planbook.com:  Ok, so I used planbook.com for one school year.  It was ok, but I didn't feel like I was ever really prepared to teach.  I think for me, the price was right, but I'm a person who needs to write out the game plan to own and execute it.  From an administrator's perspective, planbook.com is genius and every teacher should use it because it's legible, can be shared with administration/special area teachers, can be CC aligned, and allows you to view all plans (old and new) with a few clicks from a device. Some of the features that are helpful as a teacher are the lesson sharing options, CCES objectives just a click a way to adding to your plans, and the links/files you can attach to each block of your day.  You can also repeat activities each week if your classroom has certain procedures/activities that are the same. I used the app version on my personal iPad as well as had it on my SMART board in the background, so I could click on links/resources as needed throughout the day. This style of lesson planning is good for mapping out your weeks, but I still needed the process of writing things down to be successful at executing the plan. Below is a screen shot of my first week plans when I taught 5th grade.  The cost is $12 a year.  If you choose not to renew your subscription, you still have access to your old plans, you just can't edit them.  

Thanks for hanging with me as I shared my opinions on all things planning related.  Every teacher is different with styles and needs.  Every school/district also has different expectations for lesson plans. I hope my experiences with the variety of products have helped you figure out what is best for your planning/classroom needs.  As always, comments are appreciated!  Have a fabulous Tuesday! Until next time...

Monday, February 1, 2016

Classroom Teacher Supplies Sharpener Review!

Happy Monday!

I'm FINALLY back after a crazy two weeks of surgery AND jury duty!  If you know anything about anything, than you know being out of the classroom is absolute TORTURE!  Yikes!  The paperwork and catching up I have ahead of me!  I will say one huge sanity saver has been our new pencil sharpener compliments of Classroom Friendly Supplies.  Click here to check out the awesomeness!
Now to share our experiences with the sharpener that EVERY teacher should have in the classroom. First, it's purple!  How can you not like a purple pencil sharpener?!  Next, it's a fun design and pleasing to the eyes.  Again, how can you not resist?!  If the aesthetic features aren't enough to convince you, than how about the functionality of the sharpener??

Isn't she beautiful?!

THE pencils are AMAZING and sharp...like dangerously sharp!!  My students get two sharp pencils every morning to start the day.  The pencils are so sharp they actually keep up with my students all day long!  This was INCREDIBLE to watch in action.  To translate in teacher language...the students were not up wondering around to get a pencil!  I also didn't have to listen to the nerve grinding electric option we had before.  Can you say WINNING?!

Several people have asked on my IG account about student use, so I put the question to the test. What I found is for my particular group of 2nd graders, it is NOT kid friendly and becomes a nightmare to get broken points out of the sharpener.  I want to stress it is NOT kid friendly with MY group of kids; however, a colleague down the hall in 3rd grade doesn't seem to have ANY issues with her students using the sharpener.  I guess it really depends on the grade level and group of students in the classroom to see if it's rough and tough enough to hang in there for a school year or beyond.  That being said, it seriously takes only 5 minutes to sharpen a bucket full of pencils each morning, so for me it's worth it to spend 5 minutes of my time getting the pencils ready for the day.

Don't you think the pencil tips are absolutely beautiful??
Another question asked on my IG account was about the noise level.  Is it truly the quietest pencil sharpener ever??  My honest answer is...I'm unsure.  Is it more quiet than the electric option? Yes! Most definitely YES!  To me it sounds like any other crank sharpener; however, it's cuter and more efficient with the sharpening.  You can choose to mount it or move it around the room, take it home for the weekend, or pass it across the hall to share the love with another teacher.  So many options!!!

The final question asked to me was about the dreaded dollar store pencils.  You know, the ones that don't ever seem to sharpen and then unravel...becoming a huge distraction and teacher annoyance?? Well my friends I'm happy to report the sharpener was up for the challenge and does not discriminate against any pencils.  

The dollar store pencils can't bring down the best pencil sharpener ever!

So, basically what I'm saying is...EVERY. SINGLE. TEACHER. could benefit from purchasing one of these fabulous pencil sharpeners.  The past month has been bliss not listening to the electric sharpener.  Feel free to check out this video to learn more about the Best Pencil Sharpener Ever! Comment below if you purchase one and share your thoughts.  Until next time my friends.....

Friday, January 22, 2016

Five For Friday! (First Timer)

Happy Friday Ya'll!

Today I'm participating in my first ever Five For Friday Linky party!  Let's get this party started!  I'm giving you five things I've experienced/completed this week.  Who knows what theme I will choose next week!

I started the week like most classroom teachers with a day off from the classroom because of MLK day!  The lil nugget and I relaxed around the house with a playdate for the both of us!  We love our friends!

On Tuesday I had the pleasure of participating in a half day mandated Human Diversity Training. There is nothing better than spending a teacher work day in meetings right before report cards are due.  #TeacherProblems
On Wednesday I had surgery to help correct my infertility issues for the possibility of baby #2 later this year.  The crazy thing is, at first glance the surgeon thought I had Hydrosalpinx.  After getting in and taking a look, he realized the reason my fallopian tube was blocked and swollen with fluids is because my right ovary was sitting on top of it!  Crazy, right?!  My organs had been relocated to an empty cavity in my body preventing mother nature from working properly.  He thinks when I was pregnant with the lil nugget, she didn't have much room to move around, so she pushed things out of the way to be more comfy while in utero.  Maybe she knew from the get go she didn't want any siblings! ;)  He also discovered I had a mild case of Endometriosis as well as a few cysts needing to be removed.  Basically, the original surgery went rogue and a different procedure ended up happening.   Now I'm just chilling at the house recovering from a very uncomfortable surgery.  The lil nugget is fascinated with my incisions and the glue that is "keeping mommy together".
Yesterday I blogged about a list of 2nd grade Kahoot games anyone can use if needing to spiral review content.  I will continue to add to the list each week, so definitely check back often.  If you haven't tried Kahoot you should!  Easy peasy engaging activities for your class.

Yummy Homemade Banana Bread
A view from our backyard this morning. :)
Last, but not least today is a Snow Day for everyone around us.  The lil nugget's school is closed today, so I'm home recovering with her.  She has been a fabulous assistant running the stairs for me, picking things up I can't reach, and baking with me.  We made some homemade banana bread together and will enjoy it with some hot chocolate this afternoon.  I can't take her out to enjoy the snow today because of the risk of slipping and falling as well as the bending over movement I currently don't have.  The mister will be home shortly to play in the snow with her.  Snow days are the best!  I hope you all have a fabulous weekend!  Until next time! :)))

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Oh What a Week!

Happy Thursday Ya'll!

Today I'm home resting from my surgery yesterday.  Why is it when you're at the hospital you look terrible?  So crazy, but I try to always keep it real with my blog visitors and followers.  Today is a new day and I'm thankful for the opportunity!  This afternoon has been uncomfortable, but tolerable so I could blog, create, and organize digital items.

That being said, I've created a list of math review Kahoot games I use in my classroom each week to continue to spiral skills previously taught.  The kids are obsessed with the games and are disappointed on days I just couldn't find the time to set up a new review game.  My adminstrators love the level of student engagement my class has each day in math.  In fact, our hallway knows when we are playing Kahoot, because the energy is off the chain!!  If you haven't played Kahoot with your kids you really should!  Click on the Kahoot picture above to take you to the website.  You can even track student understanding with the data reports.  Doesn't everybody like easy data to drive instruction?!  I  honestly think that's the coolest part of Kahoot.  I use the data to have math conferences with my students and/or teach small group remediation lessons if needed.  If you are needing/wanting to use math spiral review in your classroom, but don't have the time to create it for yourself, please help yourself to the list of games I've created for you to use.  Check back weekly, because I will continue to add to the list.  If you use the links, please comment letting me know your thoughts.  Kahoot is free and can be used in teams if you don't have very much technology in your classroom.  You can use iPads, Computers, and smart phones to play the games.  To grab your free copy of the math review links, click the picture above.  Remember, it will be an ongoing list so check back often!  Thanks for stopping by!  Until next time...

Monday, January 18, 2016

Happy 2016!!!

Happy 2016 Everyone!

Wow!  Life sure gets busy and occasionally the blog gets put on the back burner.  Kuddos to ALL of the teacher bloggers out there blogging, scoping, tweeting, Instagraming, Facebooking, and TPT creating like a boss!  This teacher blogger can't keep up, but I'm good with it! ;)  Since I last blogged, I've run 3 half marathons, my husband was hired at another NASCAR cup team (thank goodness), and we are beginning to find out the true reasons behind our infertility journey of almost 2 years. Crazy, right?!  I was also fortunate enough to host a Carolina Teacher Blogger Meet Up in Charlotte a few weeks ago.
Savannah Rockin Roll Half Marathon in November
Half Marathon preview run on my birthday
Blogger Meet Up
Our infertility journey headquarters :)
Huntersville Holiday Half Marathon
Jenga and Math...the perfect combination.  More to come on the Jenga picture.

Any who, my goal for 2016 in the blogging land and TPT land is to blog more and create more without sacrificing time with my family.  What goals do you have for 2016?

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Keeping the Balance

Do you struggle with maintaining a healthy work/home life balance?  Sure, there are times in the school year requiring more of your time at home than you would like; however, are you the teacher that works at home most if not every night?  Well if I've just described you then you need to continue reading this post.  If not, then I would love to hear what you do to maintain the balance.  I'm always looking for a more efficient way to get it all done. :)


Tip #1:  Write a list with things you will get done every day in your classroom, for your family/spouse/or child, and something you will do for yourself EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.  Yes, you heard me correctly!  You are important too!  By writing down reasonable goals to get accomplished you have a higher likelihood of checking them off your list each day.  Below are a few pictures of what I use to keep the anxiety down, the since of accomplishment up, and keeping me in the mix as being important as well.  It's super easy to become a/an slave to the classroom overly dedicated teacher that comes in at dark, leaves at dark, and continues the party at the house after all commitments are taken care of.  DON'T BE THAT TEACHER!  At the end of the day, being a teacher is just a job.  It's definitely my passion, but nonetheless it's still a job.  God, family, and friends are more important and cannot be replaced.  Jobs can be replaced if needed.  When reflecting at the end of your life, you will never think "I really should have worked more".  Most people wished they had more time to be with family, friends, and visit all the awesome places the world has to offer; not "data dive", answer parent emails, and attend professional development that could have been delivered in an email.
"Keeping the Balance" has been a huge life saver.  It holds me accountable to tackle small manageable tasks each day in all parts of my life.  You can grab your free copy by clicking here or on the picture below.




Tip #2:  Set a timer and stick with it!  I set the timer on my phone for 15-30 past the required work day and that's it!  The only time you will catch me staying significantly longer is during the few peak times of year (back to school, parent conferences and/or report cards, and end of year). Obviously if there is a staff meeting it's unavoidable; however, I'm fortunate enough not to have those very often.  I've found if you work under a timer you are more efficient.  When the timer goes off, it's time to LEAVE the building.  Nothing will ever be super perfect and that's okay.  DO NOT judge yourself against any "super teachers" you may follow on Periscope, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or blog.  You have no idea what their daily life looks like or resources they may/maynot have access to.  It's no fun trying to "keep up with the Joneses'".  I believe you should do YOUR best each day you're in the classroom.  Be 100 percent present for your students and then be 100 percent present for family, friends, and yourself when you leave the classroom each day.  Also, give yourself permission to "let it go" of anything you didn't get to or wished would've done different. Reflect and then move on.  There's always tomorrow.  More times than not, only you know if things didn't go perfectly during the day.  Most people will be overly impressed with everything you do have going on in the classroom.  Focus on what's going great and not on what's not so fabulous! :)

Okie dokie!  I will leave you with those two very important time saving tips.  I hope you find them helpful.  I truly believe both tips will lead to a happier and healthier you for everything you are to so many people.  I would love to hear any timesaving tips you have; and you know you have something to share with us!  

Have a fabulous week teachers...we are on the downhill slide to Christmas break!