Sunday, November 4, 2012

Teachers Helping Teachers

For the last few weeks, I've been MIA for a few different reasons - in the world of support, things always tend to be pick up right around the time of parent teacher conferences, so I've been pretty busy at work!

I've also recently decided to start a work-specific blog on edublog.  Do any of you out there have experience with edublog?  I'd love to check out some of your pages if you have them!  Feel free to leave a link in my comments section - I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed and wondering if I should possibly hold off until after the December break to get it up and running.

Hurricane Sandy and the aftermath are also fresh on my mind this week.  As a former Hoboken resident and NYC teacher, it is unbelievable to see the pictures of the damage done to the five boroughs and New Jersey.  Some of my friends and former coworkers have been out of power for the entire week and are still not able to return home to their apartments.

Two years ago, when Hurricane Nicole (which wasn't publicized as a big deal) came up the coast, my car was parked on a side street outside of my apartment in Hoboken.  When I came outside that morning around 5:30 AM to head into work, my poor old Ford Taurus was half underwater (water over the engine and over the front seat of the car).  Luckily, my car is an animal and started up without a problem, but I can only imagine the state of the roads with a storm of this size.

I've been wondering about what I can do to help and luckily, I stumbled on a few awesome causes that help out teachers from the northeast that have been affected by Hurricane Sandy.

The first is Laurah, from the ESOL Odyssey.  Part of her classroom was destroyed in the storm, but that didn't stop her from creating an awesome system where teachers can request help and other teachers can step up and donate their own products from TpT and TN.  Just for one second, imagine walking into your classroom and seeing hours upon hours of your hard work destroyed in a single night.  I have donated several of my items, but please think about donating from your own store if you haven't already!

The second is Erica Bohrer over at Erica Bohrer's First Grade.  I've been a fan of Erica's TpT products for a long time, but I'm literally blown away by her generosity.  She is a resident of Lindenhurst, Long Island - a town that was badly flooded in the storm.   Please consider purchasing her hurricane unit below - all proceeds go to hurricane relief.  Plus, your kiddies are sure to have questions about the hurricane!!

To all of my friends impacted by the storm, my thoughts and prayers are with you.  Stay strong!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Massive 100 Follower Rafflecopter Giveaway!!!

I have finally finished my first official Rafflecopter giveaway to celebrate 100 followers on TpT, on my Facebook page and soon here on the Wise Owl blog!  I started this blogging/creating endeavor less than 2 months ago and can hardly believe the support I have already encountered from educators around the world (that's right, even Australia!).  It has been an exciting few months and I am so happy that I finally took the plunge and signed up to join so many other talented teacher bloggers.  

As a HUGE thank you to all of my new followers and fans out there, enter to win a shot at over 30 awesome teacher-created products, a $25 gift certificate to TPT and a product from Deanna Jump's million dollar TpT store.  There are 3 rafflecopters happening simultaneously below and guess what? You can enter for a chance to win for ALL THREE! Woot-woot!  

How do you enter for a chance to win, you ask?  If you haven't entered a rafflecopter before, the basic idea is that you "earn entries" by performing certain specified tasks that are outlined by the people who donate products, usually following their blogs, facebook pages, pinterest board or TpT Store.

You can also earn a whopping 10 ENTRIES by pinning, tweeting, blogging or posting the visual for this rafflecoptor on your personal page.  

Contest ends next Sunday - The rafflecoptor will randomly choose 1 participant to win each contest.  Please make sure you enter an email address or check back on Sunday.  I will post the winners on my facebook page and on here, but if I have no way to contact you - I will have to select another winner.

Most importantly - Be honest!  If one of your tasks is to follow a blog or TpT store....please do the right thing and actually do it!  Many talented educators spent time and resources creating these wonderful the right thing and check out all the great things they have to offer through their stores, blogs and facebook pages - You won't be sorry!

10 + Teacher Products + $25 Gift Certificate to TpT!

10 + Teacher Products + 1 Product from Deanna Jump's TpT Store!!
Silly me!  This awesome place value pack by Jennifer over at Live Teach Create is also being given away with Picture #2

Over 15+ Products + 3 free items of your choice from the Wise Owl!

a Rafflecopter giveaway a Rafflecopter giveaway a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Catching Up and The Great Pencil War

Well, it seems like I've dropped the blogging ball for the past few weeks.  Time just gets away from you at the start of the school year and normally I would be apologetic but I've been having a great time enjoying the gorgeous fall weather (and perhaps partaking in an Oktoberfest celebration or two).  True to form, I've also burned through several Fall Harvest yankee candles and have been furiously pinning every recipe with the words "butternut", "cider" and "pumpkin" in the title.  What can I say, I heart fall.  

Anyhoo, I've also been busy settling into my new job.  As I mentioned a few posts ago, this is a bit of a transitional year for me.  I picked up and moved to a new city to be with my special friend (read more about him here).  Obviously this also meant that I would need to find new employment, which thankfully, I was able to find.  Don't even get me started on THAT process, it was a very grouchy few months for this teacher.  I'm loving it so far, but anyone that has started at a new school can relate on this point - it can be HARD to learn customs, traditions, do's and don'ts, ins and outs....the list goes on and on and even after a few weeks, I'm still trying to figure everything out.  

But enough about me.  I had a few requests from friends at previous schools to post about my past pencil system.  I don't know about you all, but pencils make me cringe.  They are a necessary evil in all classrooms, being that children do need to write things down on occasion, but man, can they be a giant PAIN in the butt.  Yes? Yes. 

After trying (and crash-and-burn failing at) many ideas my first year of teaching, I spent last summer trying to come up with an idea that would set my pencil anxiety at rest.  After many nights pondering and searching my soul for an answer....genius struck.  

I will be honest about upfront costs - I was lucky enough to have a school that paid for my supplies.  I know that is not the case for many of you, but I do think it is worth it to go for the gold and buy a stockpile of Dixon Ticonderoga pencils.  They are a MUCH better quality than Dixon's cheaper counterparts - they last longer because the pencil lead does not break nearly as often.  

I also purchase-ordered a small nylon pencil case with front netting for each child, plus some extras in the event of breakage.  This is exactly the type I ordered and can be found at Staples for pretty cheap, especially when ordered in bulk.  

So here's the game plan.  On the first day of school, each of my 30 kids got their own pencil pouch, labeled with their name in heavy-duty black Sharpie to prevent squabbling/fist-fighting.  In this fabulous pencil pouch, there were EIGHT brand new Ticonderoga pencils, plus a pink Carnation eraser.    

I explained to my lovelies that they were each responsible for their 8 pencils and erasers throughout the week.  There would be no sharpening of pencils during class time and they would be responsible for putting pencils safely away in their pouch so they wouldn't end up on the floor or in someone else's pouch. 

On Friday, after the last academic period, I would collect the pencil pouches and resharpen every single pencil.   After a few weeks, this became a coveted student job (i.e. not my problemo anymore!)

As an incentive to build responsibility and accountability (and because I knew realistically that my second graders needed to some sort of buy-in to make this system work) I told them that if I found all 8 pencils in their pouch on Friday, they would receive some type of small prize in their pouch on Monday morning.  Usually I would put in small pencil eraser toppers, stickers, the occasional piece of candy if I was feeling particularly friendly or some other type of very small prize.  I also explained that the pencils could be unsharpened, but needed to be in good shape (no erasers twisted off, no pencils broken in half, etc.) 

If there were less than 8 pencils, I would replace the missing pencils so they had eight again.  There would be no prize, but I would leave them a note telling them to try again next week.  Carnation erasers were replaced ONLY one time (after winter break).  I would also replace pencils with reasonable wear-and-tear (erasers worn down, etc.).  

I could never have predicted the wild success I had with this system.  My kids took SUCH good care of the pencils that I rarely had to replace one.  On any given week, there were maybe 3 out of 30 kids who did not receive a prize.  If I noticed more students becoming careless, I would give a really great prize (like a coupon or small piece of candy) to get them re-invested in the system.    It saved TONS of money and I was no longer a) hearing the pencil sharpener every day or b) having to sharpen pencils every day after school like I was doing with the Sharpened/Unsharpened bin idea.  

It also taught my kids to take care of their school items.  I was no longer finding broken pencils on the ground or in their seatbacks.  In the beginning of the school year, I would randomly shout kids out who had taken particularly good care of their pencils which only added to the kids excitement and willingness to take care of their school supplies.  Plus, everybody was super pumped to get into the classroom on Monday morning to find their newest prize!

Here is a FREEBIE resource to get you started.  I share it freely because this system truly changed my life and made me a happier teacher.  It includes set up, directions, tips and tricks to make it work and two sheets of pencil pouch coupons.  

Available for FREE on TPT @ The Wise Owl

Have a wonderful week, friends!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

ABCS of ME and my first linky!

Jessica Tobin over at Second Grade Nest inspired me to participate in my first teacher blog linky party!  I have to admit, I needed to use my old friend, Google, to figure out what a "linky" is, but now that I am properly informed and in the loop, I am ready to give it a try.  

This week Teaching Blog Addict is hosting Open House Week. Here's a look at the week ahead.
Monday: Meet the Teacher- tell us all about you and your teaching style!
Tuesday: Classroom Photos
Wednesday: Handouts for Parents
Thursday: Bulletin Board Photos

As per usual I am one day behind but I thought I would steal borrow the ABCs of Me idea for Meet the Teacher and give it a go!  

A is for Australia, where I studied abroad for 6 months as a junior in college.  Much to my relief of my parents, I did NOT get attacked by a crocodile or stung by a box jellyfish.

B is for BUCKNELL, my alma mater and favorite place in the world. I routinely lament graduating, even several years out. 
C is for camping - I do enjoy a toasted 'mallow and a round of kumbaya on occasion.
D is for Disney.  Yes, I know all the lyrics to Lion King's "Be Prepared".  I've been known to belt it out during car rides and parties, much to the embarrassment of those around me.
E is for eggs.  Love em'. Highly disturbed to read this article.  

F is for fun.  I like to have it in my life and in my classroom.  

G is for Glee.  I'm still a Gleek, don't hate!

H is for Harlem, where I taught second grade in a CTT classroom.

I is for ice-cream.  Ben and Jerry's Half-Baked to be exact. 

J is for Jurassic Park.  Is it weird I never grew out of my second grade dinosaur obsession?  

K is for Katie.  I've had the same best friend for almost 20 years.  She is also a teacher and she once told me I had to change my name to "Kate" because her name was Katie.  For some reason, I obliged.  

L is for ladybug.  My sorority's symbol was a ladybug!

M is for Mario, my Halloween costume last year.  Did I wear the mustache?  Sure did!  My co teacher dressed up as Luigi, of course.  

N is for NYU, where I attended graduate school to earn my Masters in special education. 
O is for organized to the extreme.  It's both a curse and a blessing.  
P is for Project-Based Learning.  LOVE, LOVE and LOVE! 

Q is for questioning.  I think good student questioning = good teaching.   

R is for reading.  I've stated before I'm a nerd for books and I stand by it.  I used to get in trouble for reading at the dinner table. 

S is for sharks.  Love 'em on TV, unnecessarily paranoid about them in water.

T is for technology.  While sometimes I am accused of being old fashioned, I do love me some technological advances, especially when it comes to education.

U is for "U is not an acceptable form of "you".  Try again, friend.
V is for volleyball, the one and only varsity sport I ever played.   I am continuing to work on my hand-eye coordination when it comes to team sports.

W is for The Wise Owl.  Join me as I learn the ropes of blogging, TPT and other nerdy awesome teacher stuff! :) 

X is for X-ellent sense of humor when something goes awry in my classroom.  "You did what?  Where?  WHY?"

Y is for yawn.  This is what happens (a lot) when I don't get my morning coffee.  

Z is for zest for teaching.  I love it.  Teaching = life. 

Monday, September 3, 2012

Today I am thoughtful about....meshing technology and classroom management

Thanks to Labor Day and a lovely last summer hurrah at the Jersey Shore, I am a few days behind with my updates.  And although I am highly delusional optimistic that I will be able to keep up with everything, I'm thinking my weekly schedule might sometimes go the way of the Pirate's Code...and not be considered rules, so much as guidelines.

Now let's get down to business.  Folks, it's that time of year again when all of us attend the obligatory PD sessions on how we can make our teaching better than last year.  Celebratory teacher fist pumps all around, am I right?

At some point, they hit you with technology integration.  Thoughts of your SmartBoard refusing to turn on (WHY IS THAT LIGHT RED?!) and document cameras that have a 2-5 minute delay on them, not to mention Senteos, iPads, projectors, and online text books start to whirl around your head in a nightmarish circle.  Usually I sit there in a technology-induced daze, wondering how I'm going to remember how to turn half of these things on, not to mention teach thirty 7&8 year old how to use them for good rather than evil.

 However, once in awhile, I come across a way to integrate technology into my classroom that has such enormous possibility that I'm willing to put aside my doubts and hesitations and fully embrace the potential of a 21st century classroom.  This time, a little behavior management system called Class Dojo had me brimming with glee.

Like many of you, I have tried lots of different management systems in my classroom.  While I am very devoted to my 7-level clip chart, I am always scouting around for new ideas.   Class Dojo is a student-friendly interactive behavior management system software that helps you track and record student behavior in REAL-TIME.  For my teacher friends in data-lovin' schools - Class Dojo also generates data reports on both positive and negative behavior that can be shared with your class, parents and administrators.  Oh, and did I mention it was 100% free for those of you who sign up to be in their beta group?

If you are anything like me, you appreciate a good ol' fashioned walk-through with lots of visuals, so I will demonstrate exactly how it works below with a slightly silly example that will illustrate how easy it is to fully customize your Dojo experience and perhaps will also illustrate how my boyfriend and I need to get a life.

After you sign up for your free account, you will be brought to your homepage.

Step 1- Click on "Add a class".  You will be prompted to select a grade level and a name for your class.  For middle school and secondary can add multiple classes!

Step 2 - Once you have named your class (for example, Ms. H's 2nd Grade Class 2012-2013), you will be brought to a page where you can add the names of your students.  As you can see, I added my boyfriend's name and my name to my "Apartment 205" classroom.  Let's be real, friends.  Sometimes my apartment feels like a second classroom i.e. "Dear boyfriend!  I'm noticing that you took the time to make the bed this morning! Well done!"

Step 3 - After you click "Add these students"  you will be brought to a page where you can choose an "avatar" for each of your students.  There are many fun and silly choices that will have your students falling out of their seats in excitement.

Step 4 - After you have chosen avatars for your students, click on Tab #2 called Behaviors.  This will take you to a page where you can FULLY customize both positive and negative behaviors for which you can either A) reward points for or B) take away points in real-time with your Ipad, smart phone or interactive whiteboard.  Here's mine below...

As you can see, you can add in whatever positive and negative behaviors you are looking for in your own classrooms and customize the icon that goes with it.  My first thought was - HOMEWORK CHECKING!  How easy would it be to just walk around with your iPad or smartphone and monitor HW completion?  You could also bring this up on your Smartboard or interactive whiteboard and brainstorm possible positive/negative behaviors with your class to involve them in rule creation.

Step 5 - Once you click "Finished" up top, you will be brought to your "homepage" where you can see all of your classes.  On each class, there is a blue button that says "Start Class".  If you start your class, you have the option to take attendance and then you can get started!  If you click on a student name, a pop-up will show up and you can get started either adding points for positive behaviors or taking away points for negative behaviors.

For example, if I clicked on "Making bed" Tom C. would earn 1 point.  Throughout the day, you can either add or subtract points for specific behaviors.  At the end of the day, click the FINISH CLASS button up top and you can generate data reports that can be viewed by the entire class!  You can see how many positive points/negative points were given throughout the day or within a specific time period.  You can also email reports or view data in a graph form (class or student specific) like the ones below.

Now, if I was speaking to Tom C's parents after school or at a parent-teacher conference, this would be a great visual to fall back on.  It outlines specific behaviors and frequency of occurrence.  It can also give you a class-wide comparison.  Talk about being prepared and knowing EXACTLY what you are talking about.  Imagine how useful this would be if you wanted to look into getting Tom C. referred for his bathroom grossness or excessive water glass use.

Obviously, this is only a small taste of Class Dojo.  The only real way to see how it works is to sign up yourself and play around with the possibilities.  The team over at Dojo is extremely helpful, responsive and friendly (I've emailed them a few times myself) and they have created a great website to walk you through setting this up in your own classroom.

I particularly like how they have a "Share Page", with tools to help you share Class Dojo.  For example, they have uploaded handouts, a powerpoint to use during PDs and even a sample parent letter!  A-mazing.

If any of you out there use Class Dojo, leave me a comment and let me know how it is going!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Welcome!!  After a solid month of basking in the glory of summertime freedom, I finally decided to get down to business and start doing something productive with my time.  By productive, of course I mean doing something that doesn't involve me going to Good Will and buying up every old frame in the place in attempt to copy DIY ideas I've found on Pinterest.   

Starting a teaching blog has been on my To Do list for the last few years or so, but it never seemed like the right time.  Achieving some work-life balance took priority and since I haven't done very well with that, I figured I'd go ahead and try my hand at this!  I've learned a lot from many of the veteran bloggers out there, so I'm excited to finally join the club and share some of my own ideas and classroom creations. 

I leave you with this poignant, yet quite accurate depiction of how I (and perhaps a few of you) are feeling right now... 

However, step back from the ledge and be sure to visit Teachers Pay Teachers August 12th and 13th for a sweet back to school sale.  Everything in my store is 20% off, plus use the code BTS12 at checkout to get an additional 10% off the discounted prices!

Happy shopping!
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