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!