Spring Centers!

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Hey, y'all! Is anybody else ready for some spring weather? I know Valentines just ended, but spring break and Easter are right around the corner and I can't for my students to get their hands on some new centers.

First up is a spring sight words write the room. The words are from the Journey's Kindergarten curriculum (most of which are on the Fry's list as well). There are 6 words for each type of candy and a recording sheet to go with each. Students color the recording sheet to match the candy and write the word.



We also like to walk around during math...so these little Peeps Addition Write the Room cards are perfect for kindergarten and first graders to practice writing and solving addition problems. Students add the 2 colors of peeps together on each card and write the number sentence on the recording sheet. 


My littles also need practice with number order. These differentiated task cards are just right for kindergarten and first grades to practice writing numbers from least to greatest and greatest to least. 



In science, we just love to experiment with food (because they always hope they get to eat it after! Ha!). That's why we love this little Peeps Science booklet. Just put a few marshmallow Peeps into different liquids and watch how the different liquids affect each Peep. The kids are fascinated by this simple activity and it's minimal prep for you. Score!


Whew! That was a lot. For hanging with me to the end, grab this little sight word egg hunt freebie. Just place the cards in a pocket chart and hide the egg behind one of the words. Students take turns reading and guessing the sight words trying to find the hidden egg. The first player to find the egg wins. :) 


Thanks for stopping by and don't forget to check out the other amazing things at my TpT store! Have a happy spring!

Stay sweet, 

Must Read Books for Every Teacher

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Hey, y'all! I've been doing a lot of reading lately and most of them have books about teaching. Some of them have been amazing and some of them…well not so much. With all of the choices of reading material out there, I wanted to share some of my personal favorites.

In my humble opinion, there are six books that every educator should read during their teaching career. Mainly when you feel like you need inspiration, motivation, or (basically) a reason to keep teaching. (We've all had those days!) There are many more awesome books about teaching, and this list certainly isn't the end-all, but it is a beginning if you're looking to grow your mindset about your teaching style.

Disclaimer: There are no affiliate links in this post. I do not get compensation in any way from promoting these titles. This is simply my opinion of some excellent teaching related books. 


1. The Wild Card
Yes, I know I've written about this book before, but it really is wonderful book to get you thinking about how you can bring your own passions and creativity into your classroom. Don't feel you're very creative? By the end of this book, you will. I read it the first time in one weekend. I'm now going back and reading a chapter at a time to discuss the big ideas with other teachers at my school. It's that powerful. Reading it once quickly was great to get the big picture, but going back to absorb it all apply it is powerful.

Quotes:
"You have to decide how you will breathe life into your curriculum, regardless of what it is."

"You have to teach standards, that's a given. But standards don't determine how you deliver the content—and it's your delivery method that drives engagement."

"Predictable will never equal magical."



2. Move Your Bus
Are you ready to become a teacher leader? Or a better one?  Move Your Bus illustrates the types of teachers (or workers in any profession) that you will run into: from the people that drive the organization to those that are just along for the ride. This book will inspire you to get up and steer your school into a positive direction. Ron Clark's writing is powerful and thought provoking and perfect for anyone ready to get motivated and to motivate others.

Quotes:
"You can spend your time at our school however you choose, but you can spend it only once."

"There is one thing that will make me more proud of them than anything else. That simple act is to uplift one another."



3. Kids Deserve It
Kids Deserve It is the new Chicken Soup for the Soul, Teachers Edition. When you forget why you started, this is the book to read. It will challenge you to think outside of your everyday interactions with your students and to take everything in your classroom to the next level. You will be inspired to bring the energy, excitement, and compassion into the classroom. (We hope you already do, but we all need reminders at times.) This book is a quick read (I read it on a flight from Austin to San Diego) but will be a game changer for you. A word of warning though: if you're even the slightest bit emotional, keep some tissues nearby. The stories of students in this book will pull at your heartstrings.

Quotes:
"We live in a world where we can no longer claim ignorance—only an unwillingness to learn."

"How dare we ask our students to show up every day and learn if we're not learning and pushing ourselves?"

"If you want to be remembered, choose to be different—and be remembered for the impact your choice makes on your students. Dare to take the risks necessary to inspire kids to see their limitless potential and push their own envelopes one day."

"Our job is to focus on kids, not spreadsheets, and to be awesome all of the time."

"When you create imaginative and engaging lessons grounded in the learning standards, kids are more apt to behave well so they don't miss out."



4. Culturize
"Culturize: To cultivate a community of learners by behaving in a kind, caring, honest, and compassionate manner in order to challenge and inspire each member fo the school community to become more than they ever thought possible."  Every teacher is a leader. Every teacher is responsible for the school's moral, yes every one of them. I always tell my students, "If you don't like where you are, move. You're not a tree." The same holds true for your school. If you don't want to be there, why would your students? If you want to make it better, do it. Culturize will show you how and motivate you to get on it. Don't waste your time complaining about the culture of your school. Change it.

Quotes:
"As school teachers and leaders, it is our responsibility to prohibit average from becoming our standard."

"No one person is responsible for determining your success or failure but you, and no one is responsible for your morale but you."

"The difference between today and tomorrow is us."

"What would you do differently if you were not afraid? What is keeping you from going for it?"



5. The Essential 55
Now, The Essential 55 is very different from the other books in this list. It is not an inspirational book per se, though it is full of inspiration. It is however, a list of rules, or guidelines, every student must follow in order to be successful. Yes, 55 classroom rules. But not really. They are more behavior expectations that will lead to success in school and in life. Many of them are manners that used to be common sense but have fallen by the wayside in recent years. Things like making eye contact, responding when people talk to you, being thankful when receiving something, shaking hands, holding doors for others, and greeting people with respect are included in this list. Other things, like classroom procedures are listed as well. "Transitions will be swift, quiet, and orderly," is one of my personal favorites.

Also discussed in this book is tips for dealing with parents and setting rewards and punishments for students.

Quote:
"…the rules are more than about getting kids to behave; they're about preparing kids for what awaits them after they leave my classroom. It is about preparing them to handle any situation they may encounter and giving them the confidence to do so."



6. Disrupting Thinking
Disrupting Thinking is a book that focuses on reading, but really the principles can be applied to the reading required in any subject area. Reading should not only be about what the text says, but also about what the reader brings to the text and what he or she gets out of it. In science or social studies classes, students are expected to read and answer questions about the text, but it is the connections that the student makes with the material that makes it stick long term. While this text is geared toward reading teachers, EVERY subject area teacher should read this and apply these strategies. And, as the title suggests, it really will disrupt your thinking about reading.

Quotes:
"We need students who can do more than answer questions; today's complex world requires that our next generation of leaders be able to raise questions."

"We ask students why Jess took Maybelle to Terabithia when we should be asking how Terabitihia has changed their understanding of who they, the readers are."

"It is only when they link that text to their own experiences that the text will begin to matter, and it may then evoke more rigorous attention, reflection, and analysis."

"Rigor without relevance is simply hard. We've made a mistake in beginning a conversation about raising the rigor without having a conversation about developing relevance."


As stated before, there are many other amazing books for teaching inspiration and motivation, but these are my personal top 6. The Teach, Lead, Learn, and Explore Like a Pirate books are also worthy of reading, as well as The Excellent 11, Readicide, and many, many more.

What books would you add to the list? Let me know in the comments below.

Stay sweet,

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HaPpY Go TeAcH—The Happiest PD on Earth

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Hey y'all! This week I had the pleasure of attending the Happy Go Teach conference in Houston, lead by Kayla Delzer (Top Dog Teaching) and Jen Jones (Hello Literacy). It was an experience like none other!

First off, this trip was provided by a very generous donation through Donors Choose. If you haven't used Donors Choose before, it's definitely worth your time to check it out. Basically, you post a project you need for your classroom but don't have the funding for and people can make donations towards your project. I've had a couple of projects funded this way and it really is a game changer!

Now, about the conference…


I really had no idea what to expect when I got there. I mean, I'd seen some pictures and videos on Instagram and I'd looked through the conference website a few times, but as far as what was really supposed to happen, I had no idea. And then there's this whole talking to people I don't know business, which was a whole other issue in itself. But you meet people and you go to the photo booth together and it's all good. (I even ran into someone I used to teach with several years ago. Who knew?)


The day was absolutely PACKED with actual strategies and learning experiences to use in the classroom right away. We started the day with a model morning meeting, presented by Kayla. We were up and moving and acting like volcanos and coconuts! I couldn't wait to share these games and ideas with my own students when I got back and they loved every minute of it!

Kami Butterfield (Teaching with Appitude) presented about paperless classrooms and how she transformed her students' learning. She had so many amazing ideas and strategies, it made me want to run to my principal and beg for 1 to 1 iPads. And all of the apps she shared were completely FREE! If you've never heard Kami present, she's amazing—funny, fast, and fantastic! That woman gets a workout in when she talks. :) 

After a mini Edcamp and a game of Quiz-Quiz-Trade, Jen Jones presented about best practices, Kayla Delzer presented about reimagining education, and David Jones presented about modeling collaboration.  I could have listened to them talk all day. But what I loved the most were all of the real-life, take-it-to-your-school-tomorrow strategies. 


We even completed STEM challenges at our table groups and did a scavenger hunt using the app Goosechase. Our table did the "create a roller coaster" challenge shown above, while other tables made a tower with marshmallows and toothpicks (shown below), and others made a maze with plastic cubes and blew a cotton ball threw it. It's amazing how going through the process yourself makes you think about how your students view the task. 


While I was there, I purchased a copy of the book Education Write Now that Kayla co-authored with several other leading educators. It's an excellent read and I completely covered the book with sticky notes while I read on the plane ride home. It's a down-to-earth and practical, but change-the-way-you-think-about-teaching book. Or solidify the ideas you've already had about changing education. Either way, it's an excellent read.


Long story short, it was an amazing day. My head was swimming with ideas and I have so many more things I want to do with my students now! If you ever have the opportunity to go to a Happy Go Teach conference, by all means go! Kayla, Jen, Kami, and David are all warm and welcoming, the atmosphere is exciting, and you will leave feeling inspired. Now happily go teach!

Stay sweet,

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Easter and Springtime Fun (and a Freebie!)

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Hey, y'all! I don't know about you but I am totally ready for some spring weather! Easter is one of my favorite holidays. Maybe because it's low stress and a perfect excuse to get a new dress…

Anyways, we're gearing up for some amazing Easter/Spring STEAM centers over here and the kids are buzzing with excitement. 


We start off the week with a classic dissolving Peeps experiment. It's very similar to this Peeps experiment we've been doing for years, but in a one page format.


Tuesday through Thursday, the kids go to six science stations exploring all kinds of things Easter and spring related.


In one center they explore their the sense of taste by eating a jelly bean and trying to guess the flavor with their eyes closed. In another, they explore their sense of hearing by shaking plastic eggs and trying to figure out what's inside them.


They also make a pom-pom popper and try to get their pom-pom into the basket, weigh different plastic eggs filled with things you already have handy, make a Peep parachute, and build an egg tower. Your students will be learning and growing dendrites without even knowing it!




For more information on this unit, you can check out the whole thing here

And while you're at it, grab this FREE sight word egg hunt as well. My first graders LOVE this game and can even play it independently. 


Thanks for stopping by and stay tuned for more STEAM centers coming soon!

Stay sweet,

St. Patrick's Day Fun and a Freebie

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Hey y'all! Are you ready for a little mischievous fun? These St. Patrick's Day STEAM centers are sure to get your littles excited about science. (A little write the room freebie is at the bottom so keep reading!)

We start the week off with a Skittles experiment. (Because leprechauns love rainbows of course. ;) ) Just place the candies around the edge of the plate and add some hot water. I used about a half a cup. The colors dissolve almost instantly and make a rainbow towards the center of the plate. The whole thing takes about 30 seconds. 


When they start to dissolve, the candies break open and the kids love to look inside them and explore the "popped" Skittles. 


But, of course, the difference between science and just messing around is writing it down. So we make predictions on our paper before adding the water, then write what actually happened and draw about it afterwards.


Tuesday through Thursday, the kids go to different science stations exploring things related to St. Patrick's Day. 

It's said that St. Patrick drove the snakes out of Ireland by beating his drum and scaring the snakes away. So the first station is drum making. Don't worry, the paper bowls won't be too loud!


The kids also explore mirrors and reflection by making a four leaf clover using only one leaf and two mirrors. 


Because leprechauns love gold, the kids build a bridge out of pennies. It's amazing how something so simple creates so much excitement!


The kids also get to graph some Lucky Charms, explore rainbows by making one with a flashlight, a CD, and water, and learn about the colors of the rainbow with a simple rainbow craft.




On Friday, the whole class makes leprechaun cars to race to the pot of gold. The challenge requires minimal prep work and the kids get so excited about racing their cars. (More pictures to come soon!) 


These STEAM centers are sure to be a hit in your classroom too. For more information on them, you can check out the whole unit here

And be sure to grab this free St. Patrick's Day write the room center here



Thanks for stopping by and stay tuned for Easter STEAM centers coming soon! 

Stay sweet,

What's Up with The Wild Card?

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Hey, y'all. I'm sure by now you've seen all the social media posts about the book The Wild Card: 7 Steps to an Educator's Creative Breakthrough by Hope and Wade King. If you're anything like me, you've asked yourself what all the hype was about and is it really worth it? 

Well…I couldn't resist so I had to find out for myself. And I'm here to answer that question for you. 

Disclaimer: This is NOT an affiliate post. I am in no way related to The Wild Card or it's publishing team other than being a fellow educator with a dream to inspire my students. The opinions in this post are my own and I do not receive compensation for writing this article. 



First of all, Hope and Wade King are a married couple that teach at the same school, The Ron Clark Academy. They have a massive social media presence and The Ron Clark Academy is well known for it's outside-of-the-box-get-the-kids-up-and-moving teaching styles. (Mr. Clark has his own line of books about teaching as well and they are absolutely phenomenal.) Teachers at this school know a thing or two about creativity. (If you aren't familiar with The Ron Clark Academy you should totally check them out after you finish reading this.) If anyone should write a book about being a creative educator, it's these people.

Second, the term "the wild card" refers to you, the teacher. Children are dealt a hand in life that they have no control over. They didn't get to choose their parents, their siblings, their home environment, or even what school they attend (usually). But you can be their wild card. Their game changer. Their cheerleader that gets them excited for learning. You are the wild card.

Most of us have a prescribed set of standards we have to teach. Many of us even have scripted curriculum that suck all the joy and spontaneity out of teaching. But that doesn't mean that we have to live and die by those rules. This book talks about how to breathe life into the curriculum and engage your students like never before.

I have heard teachers say things like, "This reading/math/science program takes all the joy out of reading/math/science." Or, "The kids are BORED with this program." Or, and my favorite, "Even a monkey could teach it like this!" And I get it. Not all programs are amazing. But I am here to tell you that the script does not equal the end. You don't teach programs, standards, or scripts. You teach children. 

In The Wild Card, Hope and Wade illustrate several ways in which you can take the script or the standards and make them yours. Let me explain.

Ok, so admin says, "READ THE SCRIPT!" Do they tell you how fast or slow you have to go? Probably not. So read that baby fast, cover all the bases, and MOVE ON! Supplementing curriculum is differentiation and we all know how much admin likes that buzzword.

Or maybe you have the opposite issue. Maybe your admin says, "Here's the standards, go for it," with little or no guidance along the way. While this can be exciting for some, it can be terrifying for others.

The fix for both? Get creative. 

Now what exactly does that mean? In Hope's world, it's room transformations that tie the curriculum goals into a central theme. In Wade's world, it's content rich songs among other things. For some teachers, it's STEM or STEAM lessons. For others, it's art, movement, technology, relationships, debates, games, cheers—the list really is endless.

How do you find your creative breakthrough that takes your class's engagement to the next level and increases their learning (and in turn, their test scores—because reality, right?) like never before? Practice, practice, practice. And yes, READ THIS BOOK.

Hope and Wade do an amazing job of explaining what it means to be the wild card and how to overcome any limitations others (or you) may have placed on you as far as creativity goes. They show you how to overcome those obstacles and roadblocks and how to reconnect with your why (in case you've forgotten). They discuss the three easiest ways to increase engagement. And guess what! They're all FREE!

So if you're looking for inspiration to get your students wanting to come to school, then this is the book for you. Don't worry, you don't have to be a stand-on-the-table-turn-your-room-upsidedown or sing-all-day-long kind of teacher to make your mark. Being a copy of someone else will just exhaust you and you'll always feel a step behind others.

The whole point is to become the best you you can be. Your students need your talents and your inspiration and your expertise. So find you as a teacher. Not the you that the curriculum publishing company or the state board says you should be. YOU. The real you. The one that your family and your students love. Y-O-U—YOU.

Not sure how to bring that part of you out to inspire your students? Hope and Wade know. And they'll happily share that information. All you have to do is start reading.

Stay sweet,

Learning about Landforms and Water

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Hey y'all! We've been back from winter break for a week now and it is so refreshing to be back into the swing of things. We've reviewed behavior expectations and absolutely LOVED Winter STEAM Centers. And now it's time to get down to business. 

This upcoming week, we'll be starting our Earth science unit. We'll start by learning about how to read maps, then get into the nitty-gritty about different landforms and bodies of water. After that, we'll get into soil, rocks, and erosion. 


My class loves science centers for so many reasons. One, they are able to do them independently, which makes them feel "big" and allows me to ask deeper questions.


We start the week with a whole group activity. For this unit, we'll be discussing each feature and sorting them into land or water forms. The whole class lesson is perfect for addressing any misconceptions and getting the kids excited to know more. 


Tuesday through Thursday, the kids go to six different science stations, exploring each in their small groups. (Side note: I absolutely love this class and how their science groups have become mini-families within our class family!)


This unit includes self-checking vocabulary puzzles, a book about landforms, a book about water bodies, and two stations where the kids build each land/water form with clay.


On Friday, students compare and contrast two different landforms and/or water bodies using a Venn diagram. This could be done in small groups, whole class, or independently—depending on what your class needs.



This unit ties in perfectly with the other Earth science units in this series. They are designed to be used in succession but could be used with your district's curriculum as well.

Thank you for stopping by! I hope this post gave you some ideas about how to make landforms more interesting for your students. More science stations will be coming soon, so stay tuned! Have a wonderful week!

Stay Sweet,

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