Wednesday, June 21, 2017

How to Keep Kids From Overusing Media in the Summer

I have a love/hate relationship with media. 

I know that's the way the world is going and when you go on a field trip to Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL) and they tell you that kids need to start coding NOW if they ever want a job at the JPL caliber, you start to question if you should let your kids just have more screen time to "code", play Minecraft, Roblox, etc to understand the tech world.

But I couldn't deny the results that limiting screen time produced for my family. My kids got a long SO much better. They were more patient with each other...not being able just to "swipe" their sister away to go onto the next screen. They were CREATIVE. And the things they produced... modding nerf guns, painting, drawing. Yes! My son drew and I had NO IDEA that he was the artist that he was until he didn't have the media time to FILL his time. So, he took a piece of paper and a pencil and began to draw. Then this....

WOW, right??!!!  He was 5 yrs old here and looked at a picture of Elsa while drawing it.

And while I know that the "right" kind of media is good and that there's SO many amazing coding programs out there, I was finding a hard time trying to balance it all. So in my best efforts to do so, 2 summers ago I tried this list with my kids. They groaned at first but soon it became routine.

It worked out so well that I wanted to share it with you here.

Background info:

My kids do not play media (video games/watch TV) during the school week. It started years ago because we were so busy with sports and homework that they just didn't have time. We saw great results so we just continued with that rule. We are going on 7 years of that now and we have not looked back since!  They do get media time on the weekends (Fri-Sun),  but it's only 1 hr of video games. They can earn up to 30 more mins. If we watch a family show together, that doesn't count as part of their time. I won't bore you with all the specific guidelines, so for those that want to know more, just comment below.


In the summer, my kids get media time (video games) everyday. They get 1 hr a day plus they can earn an extra 30 mins.

BUT here is the kicker... they have a list to complete before they can get on their devices.

The list is easy and it's broken down into 3 sections: 

- Morning Routine
-  Exercise Your Brain
- Show Honor (basically do something for someone else that does not benefit you at all)

** I crossed off playing outside because my kids already do that without me asking.

The kids check it off as they complete each item. Once the list is completed, they may get on their devices. I went to the Dollar Store and got little timers for each of them. They are in charge of their own time (my kids are at an age where they can do this. If you have littles, then you may need to monitor it for them). If I find that they are not being honest with it or they "forgot" to start their timer, then they lose their WHOLE time.  I just tell them that if they are not responsible enough to set and start a timer, then they are not yet responsible enough to have media time. I know...#meanmom.

Then the very next day, they miraculously become responsible and they don't forget to set/start their timer.


It's a true miracle!

If you are interested in creating a list for yourself, here is a link to the Google doc. It's an editable one just for you! It's actually my PowerPoint Template and may look a little wonky since you may not have my same fonts, but you can use whatever fonts you have. :) You WILL NEED Power Point to edit this document.

Editable Summer Screen Time Rules

If you have other ways to limit screen time in the summer, I'd love to hear about it. If you do decide to use a variation of my check list, then I'd also love to hear about how it's going for you!

Enjoy your summer!

Friday, April 28, 2017

How to Bring the Joy Back into Classroom Writing

Hello Friends.

It's near the end of the year. I get it. You are tired. No, no. NOT just tired... but you're actually crawling to the finish line. You're almost there, my friend!

So WHY am I talking about writing at this point in the year? Well, for many reasons.

1. You still want the kids to behave before summer brains kick in and they have forgotten ALL the classroom/school rules

2. You still need some resemblance of order as you wind down your school year
3.  You want to have fun at the end of the year and if you can incorporate some sort of learning ..then HECK YES!

Believe it or not, I have something that will help you with all these concerns AND it's fun, fast, and EASY for you (more on that later)!

I'm not sure if you've ever done journal writing in your classroom, but it seriously was our class favorite when I was still in the classroom! Kids would share their writings with their peers and I would pick a couple kids to read their journal aloud. Kids would laugh when responding to silly prompts and it was just plain FUN. Yep! I said it. Journal writing was fun!

We didn't worry about spelling (**GASP** I know, right??)

We didn't worry about punctuation.

We didn't worry about correct grammar.

My main goal was just to allow their creativity and thoughts to flow out. I wanted them to be able to express themselves without the worry of "getting it all right". There will be time and other assignments for corrections and lessons, but for now....for this... I just wanted them to freely express themselves.

WOW. Can I just share with you the pure freedom? The pure joy that I saw take place?

This time transformed into a time where my students could feel like they were not being "judged" or "corrected" for their lack of skills BUT praised for their wonderful creativity. It was a game changer.

That's when their joy of writing came in.

My students loved journal time because it was a time for them to freely express themselves. They didn't have to worry if they spelled this or that word correctly, or if this needed to be capitalized or not. Those thoughts didn't hinder them from continuing to write their ideas on paper.

If this sounds interesting and you have a plethora of high engaging journal prompts, then I would challenge you to try letting your students be a bit more free without your corrections. But if you were anything like me and need some FUN high interest prompts but don't have the time to go searching for them, this is where I can help!

This resource has EVERYTHING you need for the month and it really only takes a few minutes each day. 


There are prompts for EVERY school day of the month and optional word banks for younger students or for those who need the extra help with ideas.

This resource was created to have the same routine every week so that kids know what to expect:

Day 1 – Finish the sentence (prompt)

Day 2 – Would you rather….?
Day 3 – Make a list (competition)
Day 4 – Quick Write (one word for 2-3 mins)
Day 5 – Would you rather…?

This is the order of the slides, BUT you can use the prompts however you wish in any order. 

I love this resource because it's fast, easy, and comes in Google Slides, PowerPoint, and is also a DIGITAL resource.. which means that it can be PAPERLESS because students can type right onto the slides!


So whether you project it onto your classroom screen or push it out digitally to your students on their devices, it’s EASY for YOU because there is NO PRINTING involved! YAY! No more waiting at the copier just in time for it to break down. Or maybe that just always happened to me. 

I know that right about this time of the year, my students always needed a fun way to learn. We are just mentally D.O.N.E. and I'm usually winding down my school year. I love that they can still continue to write and learn AND have FUN in the process.

That's a WIN-WIN for sure!

So what about you? Do you worry about spelling and grammar at journal time? If so, do you think that you can let it go...even just for a little bit? 



Friday, January 27, 2017

Depth of Knowledge

Hello Friends.

New Year. New Goals. Now that the school year is well on its way, we all have new things that we want to try for our classroom this New Year.

If you have not incorporated Depth of Knowledge questions/prompts, then now is a great time to start! I can help you (more on that in a bit).

Did you know practicing Depth of Knowledge (DOK) questions/prompts can help improve critical thinking skills? If you're unfamiliar with DOKs, I would highly encourage you to Google it.  I'm not going to go in depth with it's meanings but here they are in a nutshell.

DOK in a Nutshell
There are 4 DOK levels.  Each level reflects a different level of cognitive expectation, or depth of knowledge, required to complete the task.

DOK 1 - Recall and Reproduction
DOK 2 - Skills and Concepts
DOK 3 - Short Term Strategic Thinking
DOK 4 - Extended Thinking

DOK tasks are great to work through with your students. I have found with my own kids that doing a think aloud of my thought process allows them to see the cognitive pathways that I'm taking.

Some teachers don't know where to begin or don't even have the time to pull resources and DOK questions/prompts/tasks together. Don't worry. Remember? I got your back.

I created a DOK kit just for YOU.

 Isn't she purdy?

This comes complete with class posters:

DOK leveled tasks:

Labels for jars/containers:

and editable labels so that you can add your own tasks:

If you're anything like me, time is PRECIOUS! So is money, cause it ain't growing on trees. Because of that,  I created this resource to be an ink saver. It's in black and white. Just choose the color paper/cardstock you want and print onto that!

I don't have time to be cutting out 101 circles (plus, I'm a horrible cutter), so the BEST and FASTEST way to do this is with a circle cutter.

I created this with BUSY teachers in mind, so the circles are spaced around the edges perfectly so that you can just punch them out easily.  I flip the cutter upside down so that I can see what I'm cutting out. This is a 2.5" circle cutter and can be purchased at any craft store or click on my Amazon affiliate link below.

I glued the circle to craft sticks, put the DOK labels on mason jars, and then put them in a tin utensil carrying case that I found at some random store. I love it because it has a handle on it. You can carry it around to your reading table for small groups, then to the front of the room for class discussions, or even to a literacy center. I just LOVE that it's easy to transport because I don't always stay in one area!

So if you haven't really gotten started on DOKs or want to get better at them, I think this resource could really help you out.


I used this circle punch:

I can't find the exact utensil carrier, but here is one that will work well. It even has extra space for some teacher supplies. The comments say that mason jars do fit in the compartments.

Thanks for reading friends! Have a great day!



Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Text Dependent Questioning Skills for My Firstie

The Christmas season brings so many FUN teaching activities.  My little Karis loves polar bears so I quick looked up some polar bear reading units on Teachers Pay Teachers and found this one.

I love it because I'm really into great pictures and this one has amazing pictures! I printed up the pages and put them into sheet protectors, then connected them with a ring so that we could work with them. If you're using them in class, I would forgo the sheet protectors and just print and staple.

Citing evidence is a HUGE deal in classrooms right now. Even though we homeschool and are not in a "classroom", I feel that this skill is such an important part of learning so I try and incorporate it into our readings anytime I can.

So when my little first grader began answering questions about the polar bear "book" that she just read, it was a perfect time for me to teach her how to cite evidence from the text.

I had her read the questions and told her that she was not allowed to just circle the answers (even if she knew it) without showing me where in the text it came from .

We sing, " Prove it, show me, underline the answer."

In this case, we used sticky notes because I wanted to display the book and not have writing in it.

I had my sweet Karis "underline" the sentence with her sticky note and write the number of the problem that the sentence answered. I showed her how to do it with the first 2 problems, and then she was off on her own

Also, colorful glittery gel pens always adds more fun!

My, they grow up way too fast!

We also got to watch a live cam on  polar bears on the polar cam from the San Diego Zoo.

She loved learning about polar bears and was ecstatic to get 100% on her reading comprehension assessment of her polar bear book. Plus, it was such a fun activity (she loves to use sticky notes!) that taught her a very important skill that we will build upon as the years go on.

Now, I would say THAT is a win-win!

Have a great day!



Friday, December 16, 2016

Christmas Deliveries

Hello Friends.

It's that time of year again when we are hustling and bustling to get the decorating done, presents purchased and wrapped, going to holiday parties, cooking dinners, visiting families...whew!

I sure am tired.

One thing that I have enjoyed more and more over the years is shopping online. Yes, Amazon Prime is my best friend. I can shop in the comfort of my own home and get it delivered in just a short couple of days.

Which got me thinking of all the people who deliver my packages.

I can't even imagine how hard the UPS, USPS, and FedEx workers are working this season! I know that they work long hours and I am SO thankful for them because they make my holiday shopping so much easier.

To show my gratitude, I created a little treat basket at my door for my sweet delivery friends. I got this idea from some Instagram friends and so I decided to spread the love.

I also have something for my postal carrier. I hear if you just put something in the mailbox labeled "For the Postal Carrier" that they will get it.

We taped the side and bottom to make a little pocket to put our sweet treats in.

I've added these signs as a FREEBIE so that you can spread the love, too. Our USPS, FedEx, and UPS workers work looong hours to make sure that we get what we ordered in a timely manner and seriously, they make ME look good (since I'm such a procrastinator). I am forever grateful to them.

Enjoy the holidays and make sure that you thank those working overtime to make your Christmas come together.


Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Happily NEVER After

Hello Friends.

Another summer is slipping away and the new school year is quickly approaching. As I see tons of Facebook posts of teachers getting their resources ready for the new year, I wanted to share something with you that worked out extremely well in my classroom.

Once upon a time when no one really heard about task cards (at least me), one of my friends decided to create some task cards of standard based skills for her classroom. She used it during her literacy center time and it was beautiful. Kids were working on and reviewing skills that we as teachers don't always have time to go back and review.  It caught on and soon, a lot of the teachers at my school began creating their own and using them... me being one of them.

Fast Forward 15 years....

I now see task cards EVERYWHERE. There is a reason. They work really well in practicing skills and make learning fun! I've seen them with QR codes, cute graphics, in scoot activities, etc.

Then one day as I was catching up in one of my teacher Facebook groups, I came across a thread where a teacher was frustrated with her literacy center. Her kids would finish their centers early while she was still working in her reading group. They would then disrupt other kids or aimlessly walk around with "nothing to do".  Other teachers began to voice the same frustration. To be honest, I've never had that problem. It's NOT because I'm great or anything (trust me, I'm not), but it was those task cards that I used in my classroom that saved me from experiencing this frustration. So I felt like I needed to  share the "secret" to my stress free literacy time.

I ended up revamping the task cards that I had and now I bring to you (bum, bum, bummmmm....)

Here's how it works.

Kids have a choice of centers that they will complete listed on their checklist.

This does many things:
-gives student free choice of where to start. Kids like choice and will take ownership of their work.
-avoids overcrowding of certain centers. Centers are in envelopes so students just grab and go.

This August resource includes 3 weeks of centers. There are MORE than enough centers for the week. Trust me, they won't get through them all..unless they scribble on every page and move on, which in that case, you pull their clip down for wasting your precious paper. Ha!

Every week, the same skill is taught which means that they are constantly reviewing the standards. This spiral review eventually creates mastery. Here is the AMAZING thing. My kids always were so proficient at their language conventions and skills because they were practicing them EVERY WEEK! The best thing? It was ALL independent!

I LOVE the centers' labels because:
a) the students know what standards they're working on
b) the number of cards are listed so that students count the cards when putting them back into the envelope. I despise incomplete centers!

Some of the centers requires worksheets. I just put them in file folders

Students work through the centers alone or with a friend...

They keep all their papers in a folder for the WHOLE week.

I have students turn in their centers folder at the end of every centers' time for a quick spot check. For those who need to "fix" certain pages, I put a little "x" on the top of their page. When centers' time rolls around the next day, they need to fix the page FIRST before they can grab another center. For those whose papers looks great, I just sign it off on their checklist.

This system has worked really well for me. My students never finish all the centers because there are just so many to choose from, and I get to meet with my reading groups uninterrupted/undistracted.

Plus, I get to be the one who decides when literacy centers are done! 

It truly is a Happily NEVER After!

If you are interested in this resource, it comes in color AND black/white (to save on ink).

Here is a sneak peak.....

I know that this resource will help you take back your literacy time again so that YOU are the one who says when centers are done.

Welcome back, Friend. We've missed you.  :)

Have a wonderful day!



Other Months:
Happily Never After - SEPTEMBER
Happily Never After - OCTOBER
Happily Never After - NOVEMBER