July 17, 2016

You, Me and TPT Orlando: The Truth

I finally made it to the TPT conference this year!And let me tell you it felt like Christmas morning all over again. After all, you are just in the same room as that blogger that you have been following since forever.  But all in all, I was just a bundle of nerves.  Seeing pictures of the conference the year before, I had some ideas of what was going to happen but the truth is I wasn't sure what to expect. Plus, it takes a while for me to break out of my shell when I meet people especially when I'm in a room with what seemed to be a never ending sea of bloggers. In any case what I got from my first experience just blew me away.

The Store Name

This first part is just a doozie! Did you know that there are more TPT stores that starts with the letter T than any other letter in the alphabet. It's true! When I went to check in, the S to Z line was out of control. It seemed like one those forever line at the supermarket. Then, I find out is because the majority of TPT stores start with the word the. So, if you are ever considering joining TPT as a seller get creative and use any other word except the. Try something that starts with a letter from A-H because that side of the room was pretty lonely. 


Moving on now to the part where reality hit me. TPTers are real people! I know it sounds weird, what else would they be? If you are just like me you follow these people in some type of social media  and interact with them either by liking or commenting on their stuff. And somehow you have made the connection that you know them and you have become the best of buddies. Let me tell you that following them on social media and having them right in front of you are two completely different things. You won't believe how silly this sounds until you go up to one of them. Nevertheless, though they are really remarkable people doing extraordinary things.  

Celebrity TPTers 

This of course leads me to tell you about those celebrity TPTers. In my world these are the people that I go to for inspiration and are rolling high in the teaching world. Here's a best kept secret they are not only willing to take a picture with you, as you can see from all my pictures but, are genuine, authentic people willing to help you. Their sense of camaraderie among each other is beyond real. I must tell you that the biggest thing I took away from this conference besides all the great tips is the power of working together.
And of course, this post wouldn't be complete if  didn't tell you about Tamara Russell over at http://tamaravrussell.com. Tamara is a long time TPTer with the kindest and natural flair to make you laugh while keeping it real. She is a Florida girl that made my experience from turning into a wreck. I recognized her from a mile away the moment I step into the Florida's Blogger Meet Up. I took her away from a crowd of other TPTers just to take a picture and in a blink of an eye we started talking. Suddenly, I realized I was in a captivating yet intriguing conversation that made me at ease. The following night, I ended up not only making a friend but capturing what made me start on this teacher author path.

Free Swag!

Another thing, I  must tell you about is all the marvelous freebies you get! From swag bags, giveaways and food is hard not to say this was one of the many stupendous things of coming to the TPT conference. I felt like it was just raining money especially at the meet ups. And the best part is that, I even won at the Blog Hopping meet up.
 I'm always fussing how I'm just not one of those lucky people like my friend Sasha over at sashacreationandthings.blospot.com,  who luck seems to find her. I have to go through all of these motions and positive thinking exercises just to recuperate from the fall of losing. But, I finally won! I got these superb bands for kids that love to wiggle when they are sitting down from www.BouncyBands.com. Aren't they amazing? 

TPT Team

There's no doubt that the magic of a TPT conference must come together by team TPT.  Amazing as team TPT might seem from your computer screen they are the real deal. I just found the whole TPT team to be phenomenal!  They are easy to approach and are always there to be a helping hand. It is delightful to know that there's a whole team cheering you on to succeed. I found it shocking how much they want to be part of this teaching world we are part of. They were involved as much as I was in every session. I absolutely admire their efforts in trying to get me in front of a camera! 

Teaching Collides with Business

My TPT conference post wouldn't be complete without telling you what I took away from these two days. A TPT conference is definitely not a teaching conference instead is an event where teaching collides with business. Just like Erin from I'm Loving Lit puts it best , winners are't born, they are self made! And that's the real meaning behind TPT conferences.  The purpose lies in making you the best teacher author there could possibly be by offering you the latest tips on social media, technology and overall product presentation. A big majority of teacher authors are not business people, we are just teachers. Teachers who love to share with the world the discoveries that we are making in our classrooms while dipping our feet in the world of TPT. And just like our students, who are learning how to apply those awesome reading strategies that will make them better readers, we  as teachers are learning how to better serve the needs of our audience. 

And so, there you have it: the real truth behind TPT conferences from a first timer. 
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July 9, 2016

Back to School: Summer Projects Week 2

Back to School Summer Challenge Week 2 

This is the second week of my Back to School: Summer Projects. I started this personal challenge in order to get all the projects that I leave off for summer. Also because I'm all over the place with my ideas. I have come to the hard realization that I lack commitment to start and finish something. They are all great ideas but, I hardly ever finish one. When I do, its always in a rush and then I think of the 100 ways I could have done in an efficient way. Moving on forward, I am in a mission to get it all together.

I started the organizing journey with a calendar and after reading 400 ways to get organized I decided to go simple with a plain notebook. Yep! Because, I get to caught up in the pretty Target Dollar Spot To Do List and journals. At the end, I barely get anything done. I decided to skip that and just go straight at it without all the cuteness of notebooks. Even though I'm bummed out about not having a cute to do list, I have gotten things done! And that's what counts, no? 

 I realized that as I sit down to do a daily goal list  the more ideas and projects come up. The list is getting longer day by day. What I find hilarious is that my daily to do list has 50 projects and I only get to scratch off two or three things a day. Many things get carry over but, I must remember I can do anything just not everything.

Project # 7: Sort Books 

Summer Project Challenge: Sort Books

By the way this week's  back to school summer projects have been very hands on. First off, I started the week tackling my classroom. One of the biggest area of improvement is my classroom library. This is just a hot mess! I am ashamed to say that I had to put it aside because between the amount of books and the one million things going on during the school, I became overwhelm. I decided before starting anything in the classroom, I would tackle the classroom library. This upcoming year, I will have more older kids than younger kids. This would be the last three year cycle for most of my students. As I was looking at the books, I wanted to bring in more chapter books and put some picture books away. This was a heavy task all on its own but, manageable at the end of the week. Trying to fix my books led me to a whole research on how to level books and all books things. It got pretty crazy! At the end, I decided to just sort my books by author and then later on move on to leveling them. Leveling is another BIG back to school summer project all of its own. I needed a quick fix for now and something to start with. Here is the process in pictures:

Here are all my books stored in boxes!

I used the floor title to sort. Each tile was a letter.

I used sticky notes until I print my labels for the boos.

Favorite part was seeing the books in some type of order!

Very happy with the outcome so far!

Project # 8: Back to School Medals 

So far the next back to school summer project was a two for one deal. I have been inspired to do a welcome celebration for my classroom. This will be my third year with them and we are sort of over the whole anticipation of the first day back. I want to bring that excitement back by setting the stage! I decided to go for an Olympic welcome back theme. The preparations are still a secret but, I will sure show you the outcome as the time nears. Here's a sneak peak at the medals they will be receiving at the end of the day. I'm stocked to see them wearing these east to do medals. I made one for myself as well. It sure will surprise them! You can grab these east cut and print medals at my store here

Project # 9 Peace Flag 

I had lots of fun making another back to school summer project- the Peace flag. Ever since my training I have been wanting this flag. There are many versions of the peace flag. I decided to go with the dove because it is such a symbolic symbol for peace and it only requires one color. Peace flags can range anywhere from $10.00 to $15.99. Total price for mines was $3.00! 

Super easy and durable to make. If you want to join in the fun, you will need: 

  1. Blue fabric ( I got less than a yard, I saved the rest for other projects) 
  2. White Acrylic Paint
  3. Dove Stencil ( google dove coloring page and print image in cardstock paper) 
  4. Pencil 
  5. Paint Brush 
  6. Dowel Stick ( not flimsy, just a good weight) 
  7. Super glue 
  8. Stapler 

I have to tell you a secret! I love to eyeball a lot of my back to school summer projects. I'm not one to measure till my second try! Sorry, if I'm not giving you concrete measurements. But, the project itself is not that hard, I promise. 

I purchase at Michael's an American flag and used the stick for my peace flag. The sail from the original flag I used as a template to measure how big I wanted my sail for the peace flag to be. Before cutting print the dove on card stock and cut. I placed it on top of the American flag sail just to make sure it was going to fit and it did! Next, I traced the sail onto my blue fabric. Use a fabric pencil or trace light so you won't see your markings later on.Then, I cut my sail using the markings. I got the dowel stick and stapled the sail to it. Three staples to be exact! After the skeleton of the flag was done, I painted my dove using white acrylic paint. I put on two coats and left it to dry overnight. The next day, I noticed that the flag at the top was coming off. So, I put a little bit of super glue at the top and bottom to make sure it would stick! Voila! I'm a proud owner of a peace flag. 

What back to school summer projects are you working on this summer? 

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July 3, 2016

How to Plan for the Year During Summer

Summer days comes with hot rays and sunny days! But if you are teacher, you need to throw Back to School planning into the mix. Before you even start buying all of the things at the Target Dollar Spot try these tips to start planning the school year during summer! 

1. Plan from the inside out

Don't get trapped in buying, there will always be time for that! 
What do you mean ? Easy , start planning the school year during by first thinking of internal stuff like student work, curriculum and activities then work on external stuff like classroom theme, bulletin boards and all things that makes classrooms super cute. Many teachers are consumed in the visual aspect of the classroom it takes up a lot of their time and before you know it's time to teach . Don't get trapped in the cute bulletin board aspect of teaching, there's will be time for that! Don't get me wrong, decorating comes with the job but its not the meat and potato of teaching.  

2. Start with a calendar

Start your planning with a calendar
Before you even print or laminate your life away, planning the school year during summer requires you to have a visual of the school year . We sometimes think we have a lot of time to teach and have time to do all of these wonderful projects but ,the reality is far from this . Once the school year starts is like passing go in that monopoly board . You will always be on the go! Holidays and school celebrations will be here before you know it . And believe it or not, teachers are always celebrating something every month . Don't let these things creep on you . Mark a calendar with important dates to help you visualize and get ready for those dates. 

Here's How To Do It: 

Start with a district calendar . 

Here is my district calendar

This is important because here you will see important dates like days off , testing dates , early release days ,etc. these are things that affect our school day . So, you have to plan accordingly.

Next Google Holidays for the year

Here you will see how you can celebrate everyday of the school year with either official and unofficial holidays. As a teacher this is important to incorporate throughout our lesson plans . You don't want to be known as the teacher that doesn't do any "fun things" in the school year. Parents value holidays because it resembles their schooling experience. Even though times have changed parents do expect to see that holiday project here and there . It also bridges school and community together . 

Print a simple blank calendar with the days. 

I number my weeks one through 42 in the calendar. Is easier for me to remember weeks than actual dates . This helps out for the following year because more or less holidays and school events will fall around the same time .

After you are done labeling your weeks put school wide information and holiday information in the calendar . Now you will have a clear picture of how many days you really have to teach .

3. High Priority / Low Priority

 Planning the school year during summer wouldn't be complete without asking yourself what to tackle first. It's easy to let things rise up to your high priority list especially that first week back . That's why is important to anticipate and get done as many things you know you will be asked to do or want to do the first week back.

A couple of years back I was introduced to the Priority Impact
All the task that come my way get categorized in one of these four squares. 
Matrix Chart . I don't even know if that's the "official name" but if you google it ,Google will know what you are searching for . Basically it's a four square chart that helps you focus and determine what needs to be done first so you can be most effective.

The chart allows you to reconsider task and it's importance by putting it into four different categories ; low priory - low impact , high priory - low impact , high priority - high impact and low

priory- high impact .

When I first saw this , a light bulb shined over my head! Now every time I have a task I try to mentally place it in one of these categories and work from there . It has definitely taught me how to manage the stress and pace of teaching and put things into perspective -what's really important and what can wait . Definitely a tool I highly recommend you master when 
planning the school year during summer. You can read more about it here, here and here

4. Know Your Curriculum

The worst thing that can ever happen is for you to teach a concept that you have never seen . Or worse , standing in front of a group of children and teaching as you are trying to understand it yourself . Improvising at these times is essential but don't get into the habit of doing that . You are human and is impossible to know everything or for something to slip but, it's not an excused not to be prepared. 

This is my number one website for anything related to MAFS and LAFS.

Is a must if planning for the school year during summer to know ahead what you are going to teach . If you are a first year teacher or don't know what you will be teaching this might be hard . But, get familiar with the standards for each grade level. And as soon as you get that job or know your grade level this definitely needs to be in your high priority list . The most important factor in teaching is knowing what you will teach and how to teach it . Just knowing the big topic is not enough . Now with Common Core and the changes done to standards things are different . It varies from state to state but, definitely teaching with these standards have made the profession get an upgrade . If you live in Florida, I highly recommmend to take a look a www.cpalms.org. This is a great website with a wealth of information for any grade level. There are some really nice features the website offers if you sign up. More on that later this month. 

5. Reflect

As one school year ends and another quickly approaches the first things we want to do as teachers is plan or take a break . But, planning for the school year during summer requires you to reflect at the end or at the beginning of summer break. Why? Well because you still have fresh memories of the year. Every year has its ups and down , planning for back to school can be made easier when we focus on issues that make a significant impact in our classrooms. Here are some questions you want to ask yourself:   

What went right ? 

What went wrong ? 

Did it go wrong because it was poorly executed or the whole idea was just bad ?

 If it was poorly executed what are some steps I can make to improve this ? 

What went wrong that I still want to keep but tweak so it can go right ? 

What went right and what made it successful ? 

 What are some new things  I want to bring in the class ?

What are somethings I want to get rid of in my class ?

What ideas or projects made the most impact ? 

What ideas or project just need a complete make over ?

At the end, getting back to school is filled with excitement and a never ending to do list . Sometimes we get it done other times we don't . Don't let back to school craziness be even more crazy ! What are some ways you plan during summer? 
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