July 25, 2016

TUNE INTO MUSIC IN THE CLASSROOM

Want to up your music game in the classroom this year? I have a handful of quick and easy ways to supplement your core curriculum with rhyme/rhythm, music, and movement.  



Let me back up for a moment and explain why music is such a powerful classroom tool. Quickly think about how our students process information. We have visual, auditory, kinesthetic, and tactual/emotional learners in our rooms. As educators, we are no strangers to striving to develop well-rounded lessons that tap into all of these modalities. 

Let's now use our knowledge on human brain processing to think about how rhyme, rhythm, and music come into play. Tunes automatically tap into three of the four modalities - auditory (no-brainer here), kinesthetic (it's movement based), and tactual (it elicits an emotional response). But, wait . . . we can still take down that fourth modality with one quick move. Place the lyrics in written form in front of your kiddos and, we've incorporated the whole shebang. Um . . . #winning.    


I know what some of you are thinking right now . . . "DOLLING! My daily schedule is tapped out." I'm here to convince you otherwise. I had thoughts just like you at one time in my career (despite having very musical parents), but then I figured out how to seamlessly slip it in to what you are already dishin'. Yep. It actually takes only minutes a day and music definitely strengthens our lessons. With this said, stick with me on this post. Let's see if I can talk you into giving music more of a go this year :) 



It's facts like the one above that truly showcase the need for tunes in the classroom. Music not only unifies cognitive function, but it also imprints instructional messages in the human brain 90% faster than any other learning strategy. Um . . . hello??!! Give me some more of this in my classroom! For more fabulous facts and studies on the human brain and music, check out Daniel Levitin's book, This Is Your Brain On Music.

Okay . . . so now that all that frontloading is out of the way, I can get down to the business of serving up some musical thoughts and strategies.

JUMP START A STANDARD
The best and easiest and best way to slip music into the mix is to find tunes that align with the standards you are teaching or will be teaching. There are so many talented songwriters out there who have dedicated livelihood to supporting student learning. My thought here is to find your favorite musician who falls into this category and start browsing through his/her song offerings. Yes. I have a definite favorite. My go-to song guy is Ron Brown from Intelli-Tunes. For those of you that don't know . . . he's my dad. Sure, I am a little biased, but he produces professionally-recorded music that you can actually stomach. It's catchy.  It's trendy.  It's engaging and . . . best of all . . . it's fun! #teacherwin  

CLASS BOOKS 
Why not take those tunes that you use to introduce concepts just a step further? Did you know that you can turn almost any song into a class book? Simply assign lines of the song to your students. (If you have the lyrics, cut them apart with a paper cutter . . . quick and painless). Then, give the kids a book page template (snag free copies of some ready-made pages HERE) and invite them to copy the line and illustrate. Create and laminate a cover, bind, and stick on a shelf for your babes to read. This benefits you and your crew twofold. First, you are leveraging the power of a song to get your kiddos writing. Second, you are creating a book that your class can instantly read. Yessiree. If your students know the tune, they can definitely read/sing the words when they look at in class book form. Tricky. Very tricky :) 


MAKE UP YOUR OWN CHANTS/SONGS TO HELP CONCEPTS STICK

Ponder this . . . the Mad Men types (or advertisers) out there have been using catchy chants and tunes to sell products for years. How is it that we still know what's on a BIG MAC after all these years or which product is the "Best Part of Waking Up?" It's because ad campaigns understand the power of rhyme, rhythm, and music in regards to rehearsal and long-term memory storage. 

So, with all this said . . . why not use these same tactics in your room this year? I have chants and stupid sing song lines for all sorts of things that I teach. Often times they come from the standards-based songs I am using. The chorus can be a great hook for kids.  However, I'd say half of the time I just make these ditties up on the fly. As I am teachin' a topic, it just comes out of my fat mouth. Some have been winners . . . others not so much. But those one-liners and rhymes that have proven to be successful pop back up in my teachings year after year. I have silly chants and sing-song phrases for tens facts, the cumulative property, part of speech, remembering to put your name on your paper, how to spell sight words . . . the list is endless. If you don't feel comfy pulling these out of your bum as you spew out a live lesson, pre-prep a few of these as you weekend lesson plan.

Need a little inspiration . . . CLICK HERE to hear a few of mine.  Um, I am NOT liable if your ears begin to bleed :P

USE THAT I-POD
I made the jump away from CDs last year. Yes, I still have them in my classroom.  And, yes . . . I occasionally still use them.  However, I made the commitment to streamline the music playing process this year.  You may not be up for this yet, but it will change your life.  

It is so easy to overlook music or forget what you have when they are in disk form. This, in turn, leads to us leaving it out of lessons altogether.  Therefore, I spent a day during one of my weekends creating pods of songs that correlate with specific standards within subject playlists. Clear as mud with that stellar descriptor . . . sigh.  Let me explain. I created a series of playlists in my i-Tunes account - math, reading, movement, alphabet, sight words, grammar, etc. I then imported songs from my CDs, relabeled/renamed the tracks in a way that made sense to me, and sorted them within these big playlists accordingly. It took a while, but I used music with my kids more than ever before last year. Not only were the tunes front of mind as I had just gone through them, but they organized in a way that made it easy to look them up when I was lesson planning. Again, it takes a bit of time, but it was SO worth it. I suggest importing all of the tunes one day and relabeling and dragging them into playlists on separate occasion (these MP3s will all be waiting in your recently added file . . . easy-peasy).

**Many of the classroom musicians you love offer items in downloadable MP3 form already. I know Intelli-Tunes does ;)


MUSICAL TRANSITIONS
Music is the perfect way to transition in a classroom. I often put on the tunes that we have been singin' as they come in from recess, when the kids are cleaning up after an art project or free time, and when there is a small hole to fill between a special and the lesson we just completed. Not only are they revisiting and processing more in regards to that standard/concept they learned (think of it as an informal spiral review), but it also creates a fun atmosphere. The majority of the kids should know the words to the songs you are playing and most will sing along. Talk about fostering a classroom community!

Now, I don't always use the standards-based tunes as I like to mix things up and I just grab at things sometimes. I often put on tunes that showcase a variety of different genres of music.  Sometimes I rock tunes that the kids know. Other times I pop on a various instrumental-type song. I have found that the newness of a tune (especially one without words) produces smiles, engages students, and elicits more "in check" behavior. 

You can find songs like this on i-Tunes . . . especially in the electronic and classical departments. However, I like to offer up even more variety to my students. Therefore, I asked my musical daddy-o to come up with a bunch of short tunes that tap into oodles of different music platforms - rock, country, hip-hop, reggae, big band, etc. Well, after making countless versions over the years for use in my classroom and his workshops, he finally packaged all of his favorites into one stellar collection. This latest album, Keep It Movin', couldn't have come at a better time in the world of education (IMO). Our students, more than ever, need to get up and move, take brain breaks, and belly laugh. The standards and expectations are tougher than ever, high-stakes testing is a bear, and, let's face it . . . they are still kids after all :)


video

The above is what musical transitions often look like in my classroom (please excuse the gaping white hole in my decor . . . I was waiting for my TV to be installed). They are boppin', smilin', and in-check while tackling the assigned task :)  In this case I was using one of my dad's tunes to break up and activity. I asked my students to trade markers halfway through the spelling task. Why not do it with a tune playing and our best manners flowing??  The possibilities with these sorts of tunes are absolutely endless. 



Check out Ron's awesome new album HERE.  Click on the previews to hear a few song samples. A HUGE thank you to the amazing Nikki over at Melonheadz Illustrating for the use of her cuter than cute dancing kiddie. (She makes us look so good!) 

Alright, so there you have it. A post dedicated to the power of music and a few tips and tricks to pull out of your sleeve this year. Thanks for visiting and I'll see you again soon!

**Be sure to pop in on Mondays as this is the first post in a new series called, MUSICAL MONDAYS.      



July 21, 2016

PEN PAL PAIR UP -- SIGN UP NOW!

Well, my friends . . . today is the day. The day you have been waiting for. PEN PAL PAIR UP sign ups officially begin right NOW . . . the event is now closed. We reached capacity and I have to shut 'er down. Please check back in 2017 for the 5th Annual Pen Pal Pair Up :)



You may have seen my random notes popping up on Insa, Facebook, and my blog thought the past weeks and thought, "What is she rambling on about?" I don't blame you as I have been a bit vague. I promise to take a moment and fully explain. And, whatever I leave out or fail to cover . . . come after me and ask. No question is too small or silly.  

I started hosting this fun event back in 2013. Why do you ask? Well, I wanted to start up pen pals in my own classroom for years. Not only is it the most authentic friendly letter practice a teacher could ask for, but it open the door to SO many different content areas. I had one BIG problem though.  I didn't know where to begin and finding a partner seemed so daunting. All this changed in the summer of 2013! A friend approached me about pairing up our classrooms. (Um . . . chalk one up to the stars aligning.) Once I had the match, everything else seemed easy.  Oh, and my kids always L-O-V-E-D hearing from our East Coast pen pals. After experiencing such good fortune, I just had to pay it forward. Thus, the Pair Up was born.

Now that you have a better picture of the history of this program and what I am offering up, you can make the choice to keep reading or bail on me now. However, if you are ready to take the plunge and become a COMMITTED pen pal for the upcoming school year, simply click on the Pair Up link below and fill out my Google Doc form ASAP.  I guarantee matches for the first 500 to get on my list. However, I am shooting for 800+ matches this year. I wish I could take on everyone who wanted in, but the process of matching is done by hand. Don't get me wrong here. I am happy to take this on, but know that it takes HOURS and HOURS to complete this task.   

Once the submission period closes (when I hit that magic number), I will work hard to provide you with the best possible pen pal match.  It takes me a few weeks to go through the LONG list and then send all of those initial Meet Your Partner emails. Yes, I will contact you directly with your pen pal's info as soon as I get a grade level completed.  Check back on the blog and/or social media to get progress updates.  I will note when each group is slated to be completed and when the task is officially crossed off of the list.  

ONE DISCLAIMER before I hit you with the link to the form. Unfortunately, I cannot guarantee that the teacher I match you with is going to follow through ((SIGH)). If I had to guess, about 5-10% of the matches end up imploding due to lack of interest when it comes down to actually connecting after my email. This makes me sad and frustrated as the "stood up" educator is always so disappointed. I will be crossing my fingers (and toes) that I make a perfect match when I reach your name on the list :)


SORRY > > > Sign Ups are now closed :(

Before I jet, I have had a few questions over the years.  Here are a few that come to mind as I am typing.  Figured I might as well toss 'em out and save you the step of having to email me.  
  • How does it work with Kinders?  I suggest doing this shared writing style. Write letters as a class on large chart paper and send them this way. You can switch to individual letters later in the year if your babes are up for the challenge. TK seems a little young to me . . . but it's ok  
  • Which grades do you pair?  I mostly pair grades K-5. However, I have paired up some middle school classes in the past.  My thought here is sign up.  I am not promising anything outside of 5th grade, but I sure as heck will try for you :)
  • Do you pair overseas classrooms?  Yes. If you want an overseas pen pal, there is a place to note this on the Google Form. 
  • Do you pair special education classes?  Yes. I always get a handful of SPED classes and it usually works out. No promises here either, but these pairing have great odds.  
  • When will we get our match?  I have to match everyone and that takes me at least a couple of 4-5 hour sessions.  I will start rolling out the match emails within a week or so and will be done by mid to late-August.
  • I have multiple classrooms . . . what do I do?  Just note this on the form in the final question.  I don't always get all of your classes matched, but I will try my best.
  • Do you match duel language classes? Yes. These are tricky though . . . I won't lie here. I have about a 50% success rate on these.  However, what does it hurt to toss your name in there? Sign up, note it in the last question and I will see what I can do for you.  
  • Do I have to do snail mail every time? No, there are lots of different ways you can roll with communicating. The internet, google classroom, and scanners are your friends. Ultimately, it is up to you and your partner how you with to roll this year.  
If you are wondering how you will fit in pen pals and manage it all, I will be tossing up a post next week filled with ideas.  I also made a Pen Pal Packet for my partner and I to use quite a few years ago.  By no means do you need this to pen pal! However, it makes things a tad easier as it contains everything you need to start and maintain a successful long distance classroom connection. It also helps introduce/review the whole friendly letter concept.


CLICK HERE to check it out :)
Thanks for your interest my friends.  Continue to check this page to see when I shut down the event.  I also will occasionally post updates on when to expect your pairing . . . a progress report if you well.  

**If you have additional questions about the Pen Pal Pair Up 2016, please feel free to contact me at my special email (penpalpairup@gmail.com).  

**NOTE: The response these past few years has been OVERWHELMING.  I received over 800 entries within a few hours last year.  So, if you want in, get in right now! 
Here's a picture of my process.
It's probably not the most efficient system, but it works for me.
I cut the spreadsheet apart and group by grade and sort by class size.
Numbers that are semi close and in different states get connected :)

July 14, 2016

PEN PAL PAIR UP 2016 - COMING SOON

The emails have started coming in asking if I am hosting the Pen Pal Pair Up again this year.  My answer was automatic . . . OF COURSE!  I just couldn't let a summer slip by without offering up my matching services. Bring on the 4th Annual Pen Pal Pair Up.  



Look for sign ups to open after the big SDE conference in Vegas (Thursday, July 21st to be exact). I am starting the process early again this year to keep it as separate as possible from the back to school chaos that will hit in early-August. 

The slots fill quickly (within a few hours), so be ready to jump on board quickly if you want in on the action. In years past, I have taken on the first 500-600 teachers to fill out my online form. This year I am going to take on a few more as I don't have to ready a classroom in the fall. Who knew that transitioning into a coaching/curriculum role would be so beneficial to the generation of classroom connections? With this said, I will attempt to take on the first 800 teachers. I know 200 more teachers doesn't really sound like a ton, but it translates into hours and hours of additional work as I match by hand and shoot out emails. I am not trying to be the martyr (promise) . . . I just want you to know why there is a limit on how many educators I can take on each year.  

I WILL give you a heads up on the EXACT TIME (It's 4PM TODAY - Pacific) I on my social media sites. So, be sure you follow my Instagram and/or Facebook pages so you don't miss the sign up window.  Again, it seems to open and close in a hot minute.

For those of you who don't know what the Pen Pal Pair Up is all about, let me back up and explain a tad before I jet today. During this event, I will do my VERY best to find another classroom/teacher for you to match up with for the year that fits your grade level and class size needs. In essence, I take the "finding" and "connecting" parts out of the whole process for you . . . your crew just has to take the time to follow through and actually write :)  Pen Pals are a stellar way to work in a little geography and a WHOLE BUNCH of friendly letter writing. Oh, and you don't have to blog to participate.  I'm sure most of you probably were on to this one, but I always seem to get at least one question a year about it. I mostly pair teachers K-6 (although I have found matches for a handful of 7th and 8th grade groups in previous matching rounds).

The best part of pen pals is that the kids absolutely love being a part of the whole thing. Last year's class would cheer the moment I uttered . . . "We received a package!"  In addition to their never-ending excitement, the quality work went through the roof each and every time we sat down to draft a new set of letters. 


This was the reaction we still had rollin' at the very END of the year.
#heykidswegotapackage
Alright, so there you have it.  If you are interested in signing up, be sure to pay attention to The Factory's social media sites for the exact time the sign ups will go live. Until then, be sure you mark Thursday, July 21st on your calendar :)

Big hugs and I'll talk to all you alls soon.    


July 8, 2016

BEAT THOSE DREADED BACK TO SCHOOL NIGHTMARES

Alright, so this issue hits especially close to home today. Why you ask? Well, I just experienced my first back to school nightmare of the season. This blows my mind as it hit earlier than EVER this year.  (SIDE NOTE . . . this is ironic as all get out since I will have a new role in the fall that doesn't require me to ready a classroom.)  

It started out as a normal night (very tricky if you ask me). I hit the gym, ate dinner, watched some junky summer TV, and crashed into a sweet slumber by 9:30 pm.  Well, in a mere two hours, I managed to get myself into REM sleep and tangle my brain into a full on BACK TO SCHOOL nightmare by 11:30 pm. What the "H-E-Double Hockey," people?? This is absolutely mind-blowing to me as it's not even mid-July (the usual onset of such nighttime chaos) ;/ Needless to say, the dream turned into a night of ungodly sleeplessness for little old me. I just couldn't turn "it" back off.  


This whole late night ordeal got me thinking . . . obviously I am wound a bit tight this year if this sort of junk is already hitting. With this said, I decided to share a handful strategies that have helped me keep the nightmares and back to school stress at bay. I am posting not only to possibly help others, but to also walk my own talk.

ONE - JOT IT DOWN
Many of you probably know this one, but when the going starts to get hectic, it often helps to break out the lists and get it on a calendar. As a very visual person, seeing the "big picture" helps me. A calendar is a no-brainer and just good life practice.  However, when it comes to the lists, I have a new tactic. I still write down the BIG things in advance, but the rest gets charted as I sit down to begin my day. My goal is to pick a manageable line-up that lends itself to calm productivity. I write even the littlest of things on my list. Things like GYM, CALL KATE, and BRING TRAVIS LUNCH now wind up on my lists. And, you can bet your bottom dollar that I enthusiastically cross all of these off my TO-DO page. What can I say? Seeing all of those colorful marks and DONE checks results in some serious motivation.   

My messy planner filled with lists . . .
I need to get going today :P
TWO - GET VERBAL
I have found it very helpful to talk my school worries out with a spouse, parent, or teacher friend. I have even been known to chat with myself when no one is available. Writing it down sometimes just doesn't cut it. Find a good listener and prioritize orally. It's pretty refreshing.  

THREE - JUST SAY NO
It's okay to say no to people and plans. I am a big pleaser, but I am learning to take care of myself more and not immediately reply to everything with a loud, "YES." This simple notion carries itself into so many aspects of our lives, but it can be especially helpful during your teacher summer. If teammates ask you to meet or work on items and you just aren't ready, it's okay to respectfully decline. You will have time in a few weeks to get 'er done . . . PROMISE.  

FOUR - COMPARISON KILLER
While perusing Facebook, Instagram, and other social media outlets, don't get pulled into the comparison trap.  Some of your teacher pals may be ready to dive into the back to school push.  Maybe you aren't in full on education mode yet.  Maybe your prep is looking different. Maybe you're just enjoying your summer break (heaven forbid). I often avoid social media during the first few weeks of summer to stave off this feeling. While I am working in the summer, I limit my time scrolling through videos and pictures online. It's easy to get yourself by the tail and start feeling like you should be doing more.  Well, I am here to give you permission to just be YOU and roll the way YOU want to in your classroom this year.   

FIVE - DITCH THE GUILT
I have been working on this one since I jumped into the education biz. I'm pretty sure quite a few of you continue to ride the struggle bus with me here. There is always something we can be doing to ready/better/prep our classrooms and lessons. It's never ending. One of my consistent teacher goals is to find balance between work and home . . . and to not feel guilty when I actually take a break to enjoy life.   


SIX - IF ALL ELSE FAILS . . .
This brings me to my final thought of the day . . . sometimes you just can't get out of teacher mode and the sleepless nights and/or nightmares creep into your summer. My thought here is to just go with it. Case in point. I laid in bed for two hours last night.  I moved into the spare room for a chunk of time and then transitioned again to the couch.  I kept fighting it until I had a little mental talk with myself.  I realized what was bothering me - one of those unfinished tasks on my TO-DO list just didn't settle right with me. SO . . . I got up and tackled it. I worked from 1:00-3:30 and crossed that pesky line off of my list. When I did, I crawled back into bed and was out until the cat decided to try and eat my hair at 5:20 . . . kids (((sigh))).


Alright, so there you have it. My real post about beating those back to school nightmares and sleepless nights (at least this early in the game). Here's to enjoying what's left of summer and being proactive in the "keeping calm" department as we roll further into July. 

On that note, I am crossing this post off of today's list of desired accomplishments and I'm off to take a much needed nap.  Big hugs and thanks for visiting.  I'll be back soon with a fun post and a new web site reveal :)


June 27, 2016

TIPS, TRICKS, AND PITFALLS WHEN PACKIN' UP A CLASSROOM

For the first time in my career, I had to pack up my classroom. I have been lucky enough to work for schools that didn't require me to box up all of my goods every year.  My end of the year duties encompassed shoving the desks to the side, turning out the lights, and locking the door. ((((FIST PUMP)))) This always seemed pretty lucky as I have heard the horror stories from all the educators out there who have to basically strip their rooms down to the studs each and every year. 

Well, it's finally payback time for all of my good fortune in this EOY duty department. I am moving out of a classroom teacher roll and into a contract coaching/curriculum position. This, in turn, means that I will no longer have a large space on campus to call my own (cue the sweaty upper lip). I have spent the last two weeks popping in and out of good old Room 18. Countless decisions have been made. Well, I'm finished.  I carted off those precious items, willed my favorite treasures, trashed cruddy items, and left the rest to the sweet teacher who is taking my place in the fall.  



I learned a ton while submerged in this tedious process as I had 10 years worth of amazing educator activities, games, manipulatives, toys, files, furniture, and books that I have purchased and/or accumulated over the years. I am going to share my TOP SEVEN TIPS for those teachers out there who are facing a similar situations. If you are taking a leave of absence from your district to head back to school, to focus on being a parent, and/or to change roles/careers like I am, this post is for you. So, without wasting a moment more (heaven knows you will need these precious seconds to spend cleaning and weeding), I give you my PACKIN' UP CHEAT SHEET.

GET YOUR EMOTIONS IN CHECK
I expected to be a little emotional when I started packing up my precious teaching things. What I DID NOT expect was to be an absolute blubbering mess. Seriously :( I was on the verge of tears the moment I stepped foot on campus. It became progressively worse as I began opening drawers, bins, and cabinets. So many wonderful memories were drudged up.  The cake though was crying in my Super's face when I hugged him goodbye for the summer. Um . . . GOOD HEAVENS, GIRL . . . pull yourself together.

I know that everyone's circumstances are different when packing up and moving on from the classroom - a leave for various reasons, returning to school, retirement, becoming a mommy, transitioning into administration . . . the list is endless. However, each one of these will bring a different bag of emotions with it.  I wasn't ready.  My suggestion . . . be ready.  

If I've learned anything over the years, it's okay to sit with sadness. Don't dwell here, but definitely sit with it for a day or two. Let those feelings hang, soak them up, and process them. It's definitely a solid way to move past a tough situation faster.  With this said, I ended up leaving on that emotional first day. It was the best decision I made during this process. I went home and took a long nap, played a few holes of golf, cried some more, and binged on Boardwalk Empire (Season 3). The next day as I opened that door, I was ready. Sure, I was still a little sad to be saying goodbye, but I was in check.  
  
BRING A SURVIVAL KIT
I learned the hard way that NOT packing snacks and other basic survival items was a really DUMB idea.  That second day I was rollin' . . . I was an absolute packing and sorting machine.  However, about 12:30 my tummy started talkin'. By 1:30 my hands were shaking like a baby Chihuahua on a cold as all get out day. This forced me to cut my workday short. This brings me to TIP #2. Pack a lunch and/or  things to much on. It seems like a no-brainer, but I spaced this one.  Oh, and FRESH water is a must.  I forgot that too. (Notice that I said FRESH . . . there is just something about drinking out of the classroom faucets that frightens me to my core.) 

In addition to the survival items above, I strongly suggest rockin' the tunes while you're working.  Upbeat Pandora stations were dang near shaking the walls of my old portable and it helped lighten the mood. I may or may not have danced around a bit on a few killer songs, but we will leave this secret tightly locked in Room 18 :) 

TALKIN' TRASH
Most of you probably think this is a rather simple notion, but I felt the need to reiterate as it was difficult for me at first. The trash bin is your friend. However, it can be tough to toss things. We've all been here . . . the hours we slaved away while creating/cutting/laminating, the endless stream of dollars we've spent on various goods, and the classroom memories attached to so many of these items . . . all of these join and drive us to hold on to senseless items. Break the dam.  Toss something . . . it's liberating. Once those first few items get trashed, the decisions get much easier and you'll need to sweet talk the custodian into a handful of those HUGE bags ;)


A little inspiration . . . 
KINESTHETIC APPROACH
When moving out for an extended or indefinite period of time, my recommendation is to touch EVERYTHING. It takes a bit longer, but this tactic helps in three big ways. First, you don't forget to take anything that you love. Second, you don't leave a mess for that sweet educator rollin' in behind you (we've all been here . . . sigh . . . again, it's okay to use the trash can). Finally, when you touch everything, you're able to dish out the goods amongst your best pals (more on that in a minute).  


Here's the start of the process ((GULP)).
Cleaning always is SO messy!
One word of caution here. If at all possible, touch each item only ONE TIME. I made the mistake of going back into a cabinet for a second look-see. FOR THE LOVE OF PETE . . . DO NOT DO THIS TO YOURSELF! Not only did I double my gosh dang time in this particular area, but I also ended up getting in a mental struggle over what should come with me (((eye roll))).  In the end, I ended up putting back most of the stuff I pulled out. Your first instinct is typically right on target. Lesson learned.  

SPREAD THE LOVE
When deciding what to keep, what to toss, and what to leave, think about all of those grand friends of yours who are still in the trenches. Don't just focus on the district you are in now . . . this is a great time to reflect on all of those stellar teacher friends that have crossed your path over the years. I'm not saying to strip your room (obviously some stuff belongs to the school). However, I am saying that it's a good idea to will those items that you used successfully. With this said, I left a TON for the gal coming in behind me. However, I also shared some of my favorite resources with my old co-workers from a previous district. I knew that these items would be used immediately. I also liked the idea of keeping some of my best treasures in the "family," so to speak.

BAGGIES, BOXES, AND ENDLESS CONTAINERS . . . OH MY
When I began deciding what to take with me, I just started randomly piling it on a table. It soon reached the size of a small hill and began tipping over. I won't tell you what I uttered at this point. But, word to the wise here . . . don't do this to yourself.  My advice is to organize it from the get go. This helps you not over think things and it will make your move "home" much easier.  

I set out a series of long flat bins and slapped labels on the sides - math, reading, writing, office, presenting, and random. As I set aside items I wanted to hold on to, I placed them in the bins. When one was full, I closed the lid and it was all ready to cart home.  Boom.  Easy peasy.  


Large bins are for the main core areas.
Smaller bins house all of the math manips that are mine.
I also suggest further organizing goods into plastic bags. Although many of my items were already packaged in such a way, I combined and cleaned as I sorted.  All of my double dice were tossed in a bag.  All of my playing cards went into a bag.  All of my . . . uh . . . you get the picture here.  It is just a nice way to keep all of the small items together and easy to grab.   

Finally, I had two boxes going for a couple of my favorite buddies (remember back to all that "family" talk above).  Just like the bins that I would bring home, boxes made it quick and easy to sort out and deliver treats to my friends.  

CLEAN BEFORE YOU BRING
My last tip of the day is a BIG ONE.  I strongly suggest that you clean out a space (or two) for your classroom treasures before you tote it all home. Usually getting out of your room is a huge time crunch. It needed to happen yesterday and the deep clean is already scheduled and the educator taking your place is beggin' for the key. In addition, you are usually running so much at the end of the year that your home space may look like a bomb went off (well, it did in my house . . . sorry, Dear). 

I, personally, felt so pressured for time during this process, but I forced myself to take a time out and clean out my office before I quit.  Not only did I make room for the crap amazing items that needed to find a home, but I also found items that needed to be returned to school (whoopsie . . . my bad).  


One last look . . . before I go.
This is also the step that will appease your spouse. I don't know about all you alls, but my man has a thing for his garage.  It's so orderly and clean. This, in turn, absolutely blows my mind as he is like a tornado in the actual house . . . but, I digress. Anyway, I was able to limit the time that the items hung out in the garage because I already had a space ready to take on more goods. The process of moving part of my "classroom" in was pretty seamless and the boy's griping was kept to a minimum. #wifewin

The hubby was happy to help.
He was extra pleased when the load was easy to pack.

Oh . . . and isn't that red chair super dreamy?
Yep. One of my treasures that I treated myself to last year.
Alright, there you have it.  My suggestions for packing up your classroom for an extended leave.  I know there are many of you out there who have way more practice at this than I do as you pack your room up yearly.  If I missed something, feel free to write it in the comments below. 

Thanks for taking the time to visit me today.  I will be back again soon with an idea for incorporating music into reading instruction :)   


June 19, 2016

THE FACTORY IS BACK IN BIZ. (YES . . . SHE IS ALIVE)

Just a quick informal post to let you know that I am still kickin' over here.  A wave of chaos hit The Factory and definitely kept me running in oodles of different directions as of late.  On that note, you may or may not want to relive this particular turmoil with me . . . but, here it is just the same.  I promise to hit you with a few giggles and some overblown drama along the way. What can I say?  Humor gets me through my days - great, good, bad, and ugly.  And, on the flip side, those who take the time to read this just gotta walk away with something today. The best I can offer at this particular moment is a little entertainment (hopefully).   



TALE OF A DISPLACED TEACHER 
Yep. I'm gonna lay it all out on a very upfront line. My uterus is broken . . . or at least on strike (I told you I was going to be a tad dramatic). This is not new. Nor is it something that I like to talk about. However, it's the main reason behind all of the current changes in my life and why my blog has been so hit or miss at times. I have Stage 5 endometriosis and now am the proud owner of a "belt" with FIVE surgery notches engraved deeply in the old-@$$ leather. It has been a battle for the past 9 years and I lost this year, so to speak. I had surgery about two months ago, but it didn't go all that well. Sure, I managed to get a bit of relief, but I have too much scar tissue at this point. Therefore, my pelvic pain will be chronic. I have come to terms with this as I have lived/worked/existed with it for years. However, this year and this surgery led me to a new and somewhat sad conclusion. I am stepping out of the classroom. It was a decision I NEVER thought I would have to make . . . one I never WANTED to make. However, it has become a decision that I MUST make. ((SIGH))  The always sweet Leigh from the Applicious Teacher coined it for me perfectly . . . I'm a "Displaced Teacher."  Don't feel too sorry for me (I've done my fair share of pit dwelling). I promise that I am still smiling these days.  As Red told us, "Get busy livin', or get busy dyin'."  

Deciding what to take and what to leave.
After 10 years in the classroom, this was so difficult.
Despite transitioning out of the classroom, I won't be totally out of the game. Luckily, I was offered up a new gig by my current school district.  I am rolling into a coaching and curriculum position that I can mold to fit my health ebbs and flows. Um . . . talk about a dream come true!  So, next year my focus will be writing curriculum (K-5) as well as a handful of other contract jobs to help support new and seasoned teachers! Although I rather loathe the thought of missing out on crews of little kiddos to call my own, this is definitely right up my alley. I think know it's something I will really LOVE in the long run! I also was able to do a little work with my previous school district (more on that later). Boy, oh boy . . . that was a rather lengthy way of telling all you alls that I will have a new position in the fall :P         

A SERIOUS ADDICTION
My name is Kelley and I have an addition . . . it's golf.  Not sure what you thought I might say here :P  Yes, I still love my glasses of vino while I'm cookin' up a storm, but golf has reached a new level of desire for me. I poured myself into my golf game after surgery . . . as soon as I could swing a club. It's the perfect active and calming outlet (as long as you can move past those $#@& shots). The courses are always so beautiful and peaceful. I even go out by myself now. If you don't golf, I suggest that you give it a go this summer. Hit up a range and see what happens. You may hate it . . . but, you might end up really loving it.  





HEART WRENCHING NEWS
Alright, so I'm pushin' 37 and I don't have kids of my own. Therefore, my pets have become my babies - we have a dog and two cats.  Well, one pet in particular takes the cake. Henry Dolling . . . the stray kitty I adopted two years ago is the definite front-runner in my book.  I'm gonna go ahead and say it here (it's okay to judge just a little). I am a cat lady. If I had a bigger yard or a barn and my husband didn't put his foot down, I'd have 4-5 (strike that), 6-7 of these feline friends. Now that I have actually put these secret thoughts in writing, I can see the absurdity in this other lifestyle addiction I seem to covet. But, hey . . . I like what I like, dangnabbit.  

With all of this said, I was hit with some killer news last weekend.  Henry has FIV. What is this you ask?  Oh, well, it's just Kitty HIV. Yep. You read that right. My cat has flippin' AIDS. I didn't even know that this existed. At first I thought the vet tech was pullin' a nasty punk on me as I ironically made the joke that waiting for Henry's blood test results was like waiting for an AIDS test at your friendly neighborhood clinic. I guess that's what I get for being somewhat crass (something I am very good at in my old age). Well, anyway, I knew it was bad when the doc wouldn't look at me when she walked in the room. (Kelley made another situation awkward . . . surprise, surprise.)  Who knew that I actually called out what was indeed wrong with my little sweetie??!! #palmtoforehead


Waiting for the test results at the vet.
The longest 30 minutes EVER!
 
Told ya he was my best buddy :)
I know what you're thinking, can people get this? No, it's feline only. It's just like regular AIDS as it compromises his immune system. I just have to keep my boy healthy and he could live up to five years. However, if the little fella gets sick, I could lose him tomorrow. I guess I am thankful that it's not leukemia, but this less than desirable news still brought on oodles of tears. Needless to say Henry is attached to my hip these days and the level of spoiled has reached a whole new rung :) #kittymama

THE BIG SHOW
In the middle of all of this (moving out of my classroom, the kitty meltdown, and recovering from surgery), I was contacted by my old school district to host a 2 hour presentation on music and movement in regards to reading instruction. I jumped at the chance to return to my old haunt and share my outlandish ideas with one of my all time favorite crews. This went down on Thursday afternoon and it was tons of fun. My old super walked in and said he could tell I was back on campus . . . tee-he-he . . . I had the educational tunes and 80s re-mixes blaring (before, after, and during).  





I poured hours into my session (it actually proved to be a glorious distraction) and am working on trying to get it into a free webinar for all you alls. We shall see if I am tech savvy enough to actually pull such a thing off :) Here's hoping SPMS can show me the way!


Powered by endless cups of black coffee.
I'M GETTING A FACELIFT
It's official.  I'm OUTDATED.  I came to this humbling realization a few months ago. Well, I'm doing something about it. My BLOG is getting a facelift.  I had that moment back in the spring when I visited my page and gasped a bit.  I have been so preoccupied with everything these days that I didn't notice that moment that I became quiet passe. I like to equate it to that pair of shoes or favorite shirt that you hold on to for one season too long. Do you know what I mean?  That moment when you find it hiding in your closet and finally realize that it's time to let it go :P

I hired a graphic designer out of the UK and found a killer WordPress gal on Etsy. It's a slow process, but we are getting there.  Look for the change over to take place mid-July.  I'm super excited to see how it all comes together in the end. Here's a sneak peek . . . 




Alright, that's enough about me. I know it's rather a strange post . . . one that has nothing to do with sharing fun ideas or strategies. And, it feels rather narcissistic ((GULP))). However, I felt the need to get back to my roots and draft a post that screamed real life. (It's ain't always rainbows and unicorns over at The Factory.) As everything hit, I lost my voice there for a bit and had to recharge. It always helps me to sit quietly when the &$%# hits the fan in an attempt to gain some valuable perspective . . . things could be a heck of a lot worse. I am actually feeling pretty lucky these days. 

If I have learned anything about the education biz (both in and out of the classroom), it's so important to take time for you when an opportunity presents itself. Everything will be waiting for you when you're ready and/or able to check back into the game. Well, I'm finally ready now.    

I will be back this week with some useful information . . . that actually pertains to the classroom.  I have a series of posts planned that I think will be just the ticket for summer break. Big hugs, y'all. Thanks for taking the time to come back to see me.  

April 24, 2016

THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF "WEARABLE WORK"

So, we are rounding that final bend and "home plate" is in sight. With this said, y'all know that keeping engagement high, while still targeting those standards gets a tad trickier.  Well, I have two little words for you . . . WEARABLE WORK. Yep. It's that simple.  If primary kiddos can put an activity some place on their little bodies (head, arms, back, face, etc.), I promise that they will be "all in."



Okay, so let's be honest here. Paper hats and flip book arm bands are not new concepts. However, these simple ideas are the gateway to oodles of NEW and oh so FUN ways to get our kiddos interacting with standards.  We just have to step out of the box a little bit when it comes to all of those grade-level concepts. It also helps if we simultaneously slip ourselves into the shoes of our babes. I said it before and I'll say it again.  If a kid can wear it, engagement goes through the roof. Case in point . . . take a quick moment and think about all of the projects that we do that are NOT wearable. Yet, somehow our little sweeties figure out a way to "put it on."



Here are a few ideas for you today . . . most are very little prep and can be used with any standard under the sun.  

PAPER BAG VESTS
So this activity is ALWAYS a hit with students. Heck, I even like making one every year and tossing it on as we walk out to the pick up line.  


This simple idea can be used for just about any standard.  I typically use them for short e words as I dig the connection (vEst . . . hehehe).  However, I have used these for fact families and I see them working oh so well for vocabulary definitions and/or a story retell.  

I typed up the directions to this one and made a handful of templates for you to take with you today. (((FIST PUMP))) Grab these HERE.  

**Please note that I typically make the vests on a day with a parent helper or during a big buddy session.  However, my mommy cancelled on me this year and I ran with it anyway . . . SOLO (GULP).  I was pleasantly surprised with the outcome.  My first graders were able to cut the bag on their own with me modeling and assisting every step of the way.  However, we had to break up the cutting and actual vest making into two sessions as it took a little longer than it normally would.  Don't let this scare you though . . . the kids were so delighted with the idea making their own vest that I had them eating out of the palm of my hand :)    

SENTENCE STRIP HATS
Hats are one of my all time favorite types of wearable work because the possibilities are endless. You can use these in so many different ways and they NEVER get old. 


Here are just a few of the hats I have used in the past.  

  • Main Idea will never be the same now that you can slap it all over your noggin - it's one of my favorite activities all year. The kids get SO into pulling a main idea card and developing supporting details. This also can be used in conjunction with any literature piece. You simply need a space for the main idea, three supporting detail cards, and a sentence strip.  If you want all the pieces and parts, this hat is part of my Main Idea Packet
  • 100th Day hats are not new, but how about if we toss in ten frames and facts to ten?  I ran with this one the year I taught kinder.  They were all about it.  See it in action, HERE.
  • Pronoun Power Bands are my latest idea. Students are asked to come up with corresponding nouns for some of the top pronouns (he, she, it, they, and we). This is in the plan for an upcoming week.  You can bet that we will take the time to cruise the room and read each other's creations. You can read more about them, HERE.    
**Before I move on, let me post a quick disclaimer as seeing a photo collage of me is somewhat unnerving. I do not make a habit of taking photos of myself in silly hats.  Actually, I am utterly selfie challenged and I have to ask my hubs to snap shots for me (which I never live down).  However, when I come out with new ideas or "wearable work," I want to show the piece in action and I don't have children.  Therefore, you always tend to get my ugly mug making some sort of dippy face. Reason 4,245 as to why I need to get on the kid thing . . . if not solely for silly hat wearing purposes ;)  


The hat making fun doesn't stop there in my classroom.  Check out BIG Silly Wigs.  This phonics based "wearable work" lets the kids rock out a particular spelling sound, while unleashing mounds of their creativity.  In year's past, I have had kids come up with everything from pigtails and ponies to mohawks. (All complete with short i words.)  You know it's a winner when the kiddo who NEVER dances, sings, or draws attention to himself slaps on his new hairpiece and proudly marches out to the bus :)  You can use these wigs for all sorts of things.  I like the short i connection, but this can be morphed to fit what you are currently serving up in class.  

Speaking on word family and phonics work, the one and only Susan Jones from T.G.I.F has a great hat freebie. I know my class loved being KINGS of ING :) Check out her mini phonics pack, HERE.


SUPER CAPES
I have used wearable capes for a variety of different standards, but my favorite is detailed sentence writing. The kids always go above and beyond, because of the super hero angle.  And, yes . . . I know you are thinking it . . . I let them fly around the room before we go home.  BUT, I definitely make them read each other's sentences :)


To roll with this one, all you need is a large piece of construction paper, markers, and lined sentence writing templates. I like to have kiddos choose noun and verb cards so that all of the capes are different, but you could post a whole class topic on the board or provide a menu of subjects and predicates. If you follow me, you know I encourage silly sentences with stellar details as they buy-in even more. However, you could have your students roll with more straightforward sentences that encompass a non-fiction topic or vocabulary words that you happen to be targeting.  

If you want all the templates and word cards that are specific to my super sentence capes, they are part of my Super Sentence Writing Packet. (This collection is filled with out of the box ideas that work to foster a love of writing in our primary kiddos.) 

Alright, so there you have it.  A little post dedicated to "wearable work."  I am sure I will be back for a second installment down the road as I am a HUGE proponent of slappin' standards on kids bodies.  If you have any questions or want to share an idea you roll with in your classroom, post a comment below.  

Thanks for taking the time to visit me today.  I will be back with some end of the year fun in the near future.  



 

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