28 June 2015

TpT Seller's Challenge: Dare to Dream

Taking part in the TpT Sellers' Challenge has been very eye-opening for me. For starters...I've got a LONG way to go in the world of TpT. But you know what? I'm super excited! I have already learned so much in the past two weeks that I am more confident than ever that I can definitely do this and do it well! 

So, in honor of this week's challenge, Dare to Dream, I wanted to share some of my dreams for my TpT store in the upcoming months.

#1 I've made SO MUCH STUFF to use in my own room. I specialized in Science and Social Studies for the past two years, and we had no curriculum. So, everything I used I either found online or just made myself. And honestly, sometimes it was easier to just make it myself because then I knew it specifically met my class' needs. It might take some tweaking, but I could definitely turn lots of those creations into future products in my TpT store.

#2 I started the challenge with 26 followers on my TpT store. I updated one product as part of week one's challenge, blogged about it, and then hyped it up on my Facebook page, offering it as a freebie for anyone who followed my TpT store by the next day. It got me up to 66 followers, which I was ecstatic about! If I continue to update and add new products, I think 250 followers is totally doable.

#3 This is on the agenda for this week! I plan on making a banner for my store, and reread how to hack that quote box! I'll be honest, I do like the stores that have fancy pages. I even included a screenshot, so you guys can hold me accountable to this commitment to change and help me celebrate the difference soon!!!

#4 I'm moving to a new school in a new district this year, where I will be using different curriculum including CKLA. I'm looking forward to making some new products to accompany it, but I'm really looking forward to establishing some new things in my classroom, like morning work, newsletters, and even some specific homework that will include a lot of reading practice. This should enable me to create new products regularly for TpT!

I'm really looking forward to this week's challenge, and I'm hoping this summer cold that's kept me in bed all day today will be gone soon! Have a great week!

25 June 2015

Learn Like A Pirate: Improvement versus Grades

How many times have you heard that in your classroom? Or my favorite from personal experience...

What do I get if I get a good grade?

Hey there, kiddo. How 'bout a quality education? Maybe a good future? How about just the satisfaction of knowing you've grown academically?

But I know what he's really talking about. Motivational collateral. This kid is fishing for a prize. He wants to see if his good grade will get him anything. He's probably trying to decide if the prize is even worth getting a good grade for. Ugh!

And you know the worst part? I actually created this monster. 

How many times have I rewarded excellent performance with prizes? Make a 100-pick a prize from the treasure chest! You made an A???? Here's a pencil!!! Everyone who was proficient or advanced gets a sticker for their sticker charts!!! Dum-dums for everyone!!!!

Sheesh. I'm starting to realize that I was the dum-dum. Or basically, what I was doing was really dumb-dumb.

I knew Chapter Four would be a good read for the simple reason that I am quite aware that I overemphasize grades. It's hard not to when you've worked in a pay-for-performance district. My specific pay depended on proficiency-not academic growth. I did whatever it took to motivate them to do their best (on the test). 

It hurts me to say that last part.

And I didn't have to read too far before I knew everything I'd been doing was wrong. Solarz wrote, "Unfortunately, when grades, rewards, or punishments are a child's only motivation for doing well in school, he or she will find ways to work the system and miss the educational value of the lesson." 

So what do I do? Let me share a few of Solarz's suggestions that I felt could be easily integrated into my classroom.

Of course this chapter discusses topics well beyond this, like e-portfolios and improving classroom behavior, but this is what really resonated with me this week as I begin to plan for the new school year. Don't forget to check out the other book study blogs below to get their take on this chapter. 

See you next week!

24 June 2015

TpT Seller Challenge: Makeover Madness

So, I'm a little behind, but I wanted to make sure I had everything done the way I wanted before the big reveal!

My TpT journey started in 2012. Now...let me stress that it WAS NOT something I thought would be Earth-shattering for me in terms of designing great products. I was really more interested in finding great products to use myself. But one day, I thought...what the heck! I'll upload this little game I made for my kiddos! 

Ha. I look at it now and CRINGE. Oh the handwritten numbers...and the scanned pages. I die!


To be honest, I never even gave this product much thought. I put it up for free. People downloaded it. Eh.

Fast forward to this summer when the TpT Seller Challenge commenced. The first challenge was to makeover a product in your store. Now...my store is slim pickins' folks. But, I knew this one had to be redone. 

And boy, has it changed!!!

I can now officially say that I LOVE this product. It went from this bland little apple sort (purposeful, but bland) to this fun, eye-catching learning tool. Here's the FINAL product!

I added more number cards to increase the rigor and allow for more variations for the activity. There are also addition and subtractions problems, along with some basic picture cards and an answer recording sheet. Five variations for using the activity are included, along with editable number cards! 

Seeing how the product grew so much, I felt like I needed to split it into a freebie and a paid product. You can see what is included in the freebie in the picture below , and you can click HERE to download it. But...

Are you interested in getting the entire pack for FREE??? The entire pack will be a very special FREEBIE for all my TpT followers until tomorrow at 12noon MST. At that time, I will send out the magical link to all of my followers on TpT! So, head over to my very newish, smallish store and FOLLOW ME by clicking HERE! More new things are coming, and I want to show my thanks to those who are willing to take a chance on me! And...I would appreciate ANY feedback you are willing to share.

After 12noon tomorrow, I will put it on SALE for 50% off through this Sunday night at 10pm MST.

Stay tuned for more from my TpT Seller Challenge!

18 June 2015

Learn Like a Pirate: Give Me 5!!!

Dear Mr. Solarz-

It's Lori. The crazy teacher/blogger/book studier/control freak from the past 2 weeks. Can you believe I'm even still hanging in here? You know, all this crazy talk about student-led classrooms and collaborative environments and empowering students seems to have finally gotten to me. Congratulations. You broke me.


And I couldn't be happier or more excited than I am right now.

I think it was your whole "Marble Theory". that did it You said we all have the same amount of marbles in our brain, and over time we allocate the marbles into different cups-some of which are very specialized. So I'm going to assume that my cup for "controlling tendencies" is pretty full. But-you know what? I think I have another cup that balances it out. And I think that cup is "adaptation". 

See, I can adapt like the best of them. I can make changes at the drop of a hat and make it seem like it was supposed to be that way all along. So that's what I'm going to do. Adapt. Change in order to survive.

Because if I want my students to survive out in the real world, this is what they need from me. So thank you.

Lori the Learning Pirate (Argghhhhh!!!)

But before I head out...I do want to mention my favorite part of this chapter. We finally got to read more about the "Give Me Five" that had been mentioned several times. This is something I was very interested in because it initially seemed to me as an acceptable way to "shout out" during class, which has always a BIG no-no in my class. After reading more about it, I realized it was absolutely something I could do in my room.

Here were some examples of appropriate "Give Me Fives" used in Solarz's classroom:

1.   Letting others and the teacher know when it is or almost is time to transition.
2.   Polite suggestions for how to improve the class's behavior at a given time.
3.   Making a suggestion to improve the task they are working on. 
4.   To ask the whole class a question when no one in your group knows the answer.
5.   Offering to demonstrate a skill that others might need in the future. 

Of course, it's natural for me to worry that some students might not use "Give Me Fives" properly. Solarz points out that it takes a lot of time during the beginning of the year to teach the importance of respecting the power of the "Give Me Five" and not abusing the privilege of it. Immediate feedback can help to correct the behaviors, but remember to never underestimate the power of your "teacher stare" if students aren't respecting the privilege of the "Give Me Five". I can totally do this.

Definitely check out Ashley at The Primary Gal for her take on this chapter. She reflects on how to deal with conflict in student-led classrooms. You can click on the button below to head straight to her blog.
The Primary Gal

And don't forget to check out some of the other bloggers' interpretations of this chapter. You never know what great idea you'll come across for your classroom.

17 June 2015

What's Your Summertime Guilty Pleasure?

Happy Summer! I finally feel like I have settled into summer. After spending time reorganizing and cleaning out my house and garage after months of neglect, I think I can begin to enjoy this time of year. So, I thought I would link up with Nichole over at The Craft of Teaching and Sara at Mrs. V's Busy Bees for their Summertime Guilty Pleasure Linky Party. You can join in by clicking on the picture below!

My #1 Guilty Pleasure has to be...

Seriously...I watch it when I'm on the treadmill, elliptical, straightening my hair, working on my blog, making dinner. It's usually cycling through Gilmore Girls or Switched at Birth, but I've been known to spend an hour and a half blow drying and straightening my hair just so I can watch a full length movie. 

My #2 Guilty Pleasure is...

Come on...I have to catch up on who died, came back to life, got married, got divorced, had kids, had kids that aged 15 years overnight, built a business, lost the business, found out they're related, found out they're not related so now they can get married, was switched with a look-a-like...and so on. It's time consuming to keep up with it all during the year. 

My #3 Guilty Pleasure is...

Crafting! I love to make things. Usually you'll find me vinyling something in the house or making fun shirts for my little girl. I also love to sew and (machine) embroider. But, sometimes I get extra crafty, like I did with this collage of E's artwork from preschool. It hangs in my office with collages from both of her brothers when they were her age.

Honorable mention: Staying in my pjs all day and not setting an alarm!

But...by far my FAVORITE Guilty Pleasure has to be...

Spending all my time with this sweet girl! She's my baby, and she's growing up so fast. My boys are in middle and high school, and I know I will blink, and she will be there, too! So, I'm holding on tight to this sweet girl all summer! I can't say I feel guilty about it...but it sure is a pleasure to be with her everyday!

Hope you enjoy all your guilty pleasure this summer!

12 June 2015

Learn Like a Pirate-Got Concerns?

This-my friends-is an understatement. To say that I find committing to a student-led classroom absolutely terrifying does not even begin to cover it. I've actually caught myself beginning to sweat when I first starting contemplating the idea.

Seriously people...I was sweating like a gal who just ran a marathon. Except without that feeling of accomplishment. Unless you count the king-sized Hershey bar with almonds I finished off in under 3 minutes calm myself down. (It's the small victories.)

Okay, so obviously I have a problem. And that problem would be a control problem. (The eating a king-sized Hershey in under 3 minutes is a gift.) See...I like being in control. Of everything. It spans across my home life and work. I thrive off of it.

Why would I ever let it go? (Cue Elsa.)

Alright, alright. If you read my synopsis of Chapter One from last week, then this should be old news to you. But for those of you just now joining in, I have admitted to my problem and have committed to change. Why?

Because I want what's best for my students. Don't we all?

But I was scared of what might happen. All the doubts and questions flooded into my mind. Worse-case scenarios. What ifs...

Until I read Chapter Two.

Chapter Two laid it all out for me and dispelled EVERY SINGLE CONCERN I had coming into this. I'm not kidding-every single worry that popped into my mind had an answer that made me feel a thousand times more confident in my ability to make this happen.

I don't want to rehash the entire chapter, but I do want to point out my top 3 concerns, share some of the advice Paul Solarz, the author, provided, and give my thoughts:

  • My students can't do this. Start small. Give simple jobs. Get them to do single tasks without reminders from you. Slowly build in more responsibility. (I was thinking there would be this massive dump of responsibility on the students. Just like most procedures and activities in the classroom, I need to allow students to build that "stamina" and gradually release them.)
  • I don't want chaos. I have students who will ruin it for the class. Solarz discovered that problematic students can do amazingly well in student-led classrooms. He lists power and attention as the two main reasons students misbehave in the first place. A student-led classroom allows them to have both! (This actually makes total sense to me. It's hard to explain, but I want to say I've heard something similar to this before, like allow purposeful disruption. Ultimately, it will still take regular feedback from me and good modeling to limit inappropriate disruptions.)
  • I can't fit it all into our curriculum. We'll never get through everything. Solarz suggest we begin by tweaking lessons so that students take on a more active role and teachers take on a more passive role. (We tweak lessons all the time. My thought is if I have to slowly build responsibility for the students, then surely I can slowly build into this idea.)
Chapter 2 goes on to discuss the additional positives of a student-led classroom like increased retention, more time for student feedback, and additional benefits for your teaching career. Seriously-if you get the chance-read it! (And don't forget to check out some additional thoughts by following the links below!)

But-before I head out-I want to leave you with my favorite quote from this chapter...

"Any progress you make toward empowering your students to become active leaders and doers, rather than passive followers who don't know how to think for themselves, will benefit their education." Paul Solarz, Learn Like A Pirate

No matter what happens, I know we will all be better because of it.

Have a great weekend!

05 June 2015

Mile High Meet Up Recap & Giveaway

Colorado TpTers teachers got together for a very special meet-up at the Rio Grande Restaurant in Highlands Ranch, CO last Saturday. I'm bummed that I wasn't able to make it, but I was able to join in the fun thanks to all the great pictures they shared on Instagram and Facebook! And by the looks of the pictures, they definitely had a good time! I mean, seriously...check out their swag bag goodies!!!

The teachers in attendance also participated in a favorite school supply exchange, which I think is a fabulous idea! The idea is that you bring your must have school supply and you walk away with someone else's. I might have to figure out a way to do that at my new school this fall! Who knows...maybe I'll find the next great thing I simply cannot live without!

They also had some FABULOUS raffle prizes donated by some very generous sponsors including Learning ResourcesLittle Knits StudioLakeshore LearningScentcoBICGo NoodleLearning ExpeditionsGifts by GabyClassroom Friendly DesignsKristy Bear Designs, and Plan Book

A special thanks to Ashley at Teaching in Bronco Country for putting together the meet-up! You can check our her blog by clicking on her button below. You can also read about how she put together this amazing shindig by clicking HERE.

Oh...and remember those swag bag goodies? Well, I may have missed out, but that doesn't mean YOU have to! I am linking up with some other Colorado bloggers to give away 5 free swag bags. Make sure and enter below for a chance to win!

Five for Friday: June 5th

I could really get used to this whole summer thing, now that it's finally stopped raining. This week has been filled with outdoor fun and although it ended with us getting rained out at the zoo tonight, it was a FABULOUS week. 

I'm linking up with Doodle Bugs Teaching for Five for Friday. Head over to her blog to link up!

I'm trying to decide which one of the TpT Store Banners I like the best. They were created by Jillian at The Starr Spangled Planner. You can check out her blog by clicking on the button below. Oh...and did I mention that they are totally FREE??? Click HERE to check them out yourself!

I found the top 6 books at an antique store in Fredericksburg, TX, several years ago. I love showing my students what books "used to" look like in school. They can't believe the pictures and the math one blows their minds! I also enjoy busting out my Chaucer when I'm introducing "good fit" books. The looks on their faces when I start reading is priceless. I just unpacked them and put them on a shelf in my office for the summer.

I have a new blog design. This is what it used to look like. I did really, really like my old one, but I decided that I needed to do something a little more out of the box for me, which is what you see now! It was designed by the talented Tenille from Designs by Tenille and I couldn't be more pleased with how it turned out.

This was going to be my "Made It Monday" link up with 4th Grade Frolics, but I just didn't have time to join the party. (I'll try harder this week!) I took my favorite pieces of art that my 2-year old made at daycare and turned them into this great collage. The frame is from IKEA, and I want to say I paid about $1 for it. It was raw wood, and I painted it black. I did the same thing for my boys when they were in daycare, and it's fun to look back at them. Don't you think this would make a great end-of-year gift for parents?

Gah!!!! Disinfecting endless buckets of pattern blocks, geoboards, and pegs. Not much else to say about that. (Except that it is 1 Tbsp bleach to one gallon of water.)

Well, I hope you are enjoying your summer (or very close to starting it)! Don't forget to check back for the free swag bag giveaway from the Mile High TpT Meet Up!