Sunday, January 31, 2016

Friday, January 29, 2016

One Word for the New Year

Y'all, I know it's the end of January but I still can't get one word out of my head. Productivity. It's been resonating in my head since the first of the year and I can already tell that the vibe of this year will be all about it.

I love the idea of choosing One Little Word and letting it guide my year. With each choice I make, I can question, "Is this helping me be more productive?". "Am I working towards productivity?" Looking back, I didn't have a word last year, but I know it was rejuvenation. Every choice I made and every action I took, was towards feeling rejuvenated. It was a rebuilding year and I needed to dive in, feet first. So I spent a lot of time on the yoga mat and meeting with friends. That's what I needed. I let myself have it. And it's the best thing I ever did.

This year, however, will be all about getting stuff done. I have ideas swimming around in my head, I have friends that love to cultivate new ideas, and I have a wedding to plan. Between Apple Slices, LLC and wedding planning, I know I'm going to be one busy lady! I'm loving it all!

I've been asking my friends all about what their words would be. Many of them know instantly. Others need some time to think. During one of my conversations with a teacher, we discussed how interesting it would be to challenge our kiddos to think of their own word for the year. What type of year do they want this to be? What's important to them? It's vital for young kids to think like this and to set goals. This enables them to have one small goal that they can return to month after month. Which is what spurred me to create this mini lesson! Even though it's near the end of January, it's never too late to get thinking about your goals! What will your one word be?

Encourage your kiddos to find their One Word for the New Year with this pack! It's my store's WEEKLY DEAL - so grab it while it's cheap!

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

One Simple Trick to Make All Students Love Writing

Writing doesn't come easy to most students. And, letsbehonest, most students don't enjoy it. It's hard enough to just get ideas down on paper and we expect them to do it flawlessly?! Go read through my journal or writer's notebook and I can guarantee that there's an abundance of spelling and punctuation errors hastily made as I scribble down my story.

"Students who don't love writing will never learn to be writers." I learned this from Lucy Calkins when I heard her speak a few years ago... and it's SO STINKIN TRUE. We're teaching elementary students to despise writing by criticizing what they write. I don't know about you, but when I share my writing with someone, I want to hear praise! I want to be appreciated! I won't grow or continue writing if it's criticized and I don't feel valued.

I took some time to think about this and, with Lucy's words ringing in my ears, created a new strategy for my writers. I implemented this trick and found great success! My writer's LOVE writing. And I really do believe this one simple trick is why.

After my students submit a published piece of writing, I hand write them a letter of praise. This quick letter tells them everything I love about their writing. I attach it to their writing and send it home with them. This copy is for their family too. (Note: this is also a great way to share more positive feedback with families!)

You may be asking, but what if their writing sucks? What if they didn't do a single thing they were supposed to do? I know - but teaching really is all about building trust and respect. Each piece of writing is a valuable tool for you as a teacher! Each time I sit down to read a piece of writing, I have my Writing Conference Binder next to me. In my binder, I track what I see. I track what this writer is doing well (and use that in my letter!) and then take notes on what we need to work on. During our one-on-one conferences, I use this information to guide them through whatever they're working on and make it better. Because they know I love their writing and appreciate them as writers, they're ready to hear my criticism. When we meet, they're also sharing with me a work in progress, something that they know isn't "perfect" yet so I can help them make it "perfect" by focusing on skills they need, helping them grown as writers!

Obvi, some writers will have more needs than others. But we're only human and can only do so much. Prioritize and do what you can. Your patience and gentle support will go a long way!

I use these pages to write my letters and attach them to student writing. Grab them FOR FREE here! And grab my note taking pages for free HERE!

Monday, January 25, 2016

Monday Letters Return

Dear teachers, have you seen this fantastic freebie? With all the snow our East Coast has been collecting, it's worth checking out (and sending to your families!).

Dear writers, I finally, as in I've-been-working-on-it-since-October-and-it's-FINALLY-complete, finished my 6th grade Informative Writing Unit. This guy is packed to the gills with everything you could possibly need to teach about Informative and Expository Writing. Phew.

Dear football, I love you and am so sad to see the season coming to an end. But given that I have lived in Colorado (and was a band wagon Bronco's fan during my time there) and now live in North Carolina, I am ecstatic to watch this match up. #BroncoNation #KeepPounding #SoConfused

Dear February, I know it's still January but I am all about February and Valentine's. I'm not talking about Valentine's Day. (I'm more about my Galentine's anyways...) But it's really all about the cards. Making them (or buying!) and sharing them with those you care about or need some love. I'm drooling all over this, this, and THIS

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Weekly Inspiration

It's past mid January, but the weather finally feels like January. So I felt like this beautifully CRISP scene was perfect for this Sunday's weekly inspiration. It's January. Embrace every little bit of it as you go throughout the week!

Cheers, friends!
Save this image on your phone to set it as your background!

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Keeping Student Writing Organized {A Never Ending Task}

I never seem to get rid of my piles. Piles, piles, everywhere! Paper piles, laundry piles, dog toy piles. Even if I have a place for the piles, they seem to end up on my desk or on the kitchen counter, or on the living room floor just waiting for me to step on them. think I tried organizing student work every way possible. Especially their writing. Holy guacamole. File cabinets, filing folders, recycling bins, etc. You name it, I've tried it! After running across the beeautiful binders in Target, I realized that I had to have them. And so I purchased a few. The following Monday I started looking for ways to use them. Because something this beautiful must be used. (Duh!)

And thus a beautiful friendship was born. I grabbed some of those dividers that go up to 25 and (with each student numbered) began creating a section for each kiddo.

I started doing this for reading conferences. But then quickly realized that binders were the way to go for evvvvvvverything. Seriously, friends. So I ditched my file folders and began a love affair with binders. (Grab a billion of them for cheap here.)

Why Do I love Binders? Well, let me count the ways!

(1) You can grab them inexpensively and cram in as much as possible.
(2) You can add and take away pages easily, unlike a notebook.
(3) Binders and the dividers can be reused year after year after year. It's magical!
(4) Clear covers can be customized with spine and cover inserts.
(5) Did I mention there are some totes gorg binders at Target?

Once I discovered the amazingness that is a binder, I went ahead and switched everything to this binder system. It may be a bit expensive at first, but I've been using the same binders for ever. And it works great! This is epecially true for Writing. How in the world do you keep track of student writing?

I want them to keep a copy of their writing and I want access to their writing pieces. And most importantly, I want my system to flow smoothly. So to keep student writing organized, I insist that ALL writing be done in their Writer's Notebooks. These can be any notebooks, but I really love composition notebooks because it's hard to tear paper out of them (and they're inexpensive!!). And I want to see everyyyything they do.

Students number their pages at the beginning of the year. This allows me to track how
many pages they write throughout the year and see who is fake writing. Because, data. use these simple conference forms to check in with each kiddo (or if you purchase my writing units, you can use my custom conference forms that go along with each unit!). All rough drafts and edits must be made in student's Writer's Notebook so when we meet for conferences, I can see everything. When students want to publish, they type up their final piece of writing and print out 2 copies. One copy goes into student portfolios (which are binders - because, space savers!) and the other is turned into me. I read it, take notes in my Conference Binder (focusing on goals, observations, and mini lessons needed), write a positive letter back to the author (because writing is supposed to be fun! More on this next week!) and return the writing and the letter for students to take home (hopefully in a timely manner).

By meeting with students once every other week (again - that's the goal) I am able to keep up with their writing and learn all about them as writers. I'm also able to see everything I need to know in my writing binders.

How do you stay organized with so many papers?

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

How to Get Re-Energized About Teaching Writing Halfway Through the Year

It's January. It's cold. I don't know about you, but by now I'm usually over writing. Kiddos have run out of topics. I've run out of patience. And writing conferences just aren't running as smoothly as they used to.

But writing is important. And we want our little writers to see that and know that. And they can't see that and know that if you're sitting in the corner even more frustrated or unhappy than they are!

So how does one get re-energized about teaching writing? Follow one (or 2 or all) of the steps below to help you feel better about your writing time!

I hope these ideas can help you feel great about your time spent teaching writing! Don't be scared to spoil yourself - YOU DESERVE IT!

Sunday, January 17, 2016

There are far better things ahead

It's January and time to look ahead. Grab this iPhone wallpaper and save it to your phone!