Monday, May 8, 2017

TPT Teacher Appreciation Sale and Giftcard Giveaway!

I'm giving away a $10 TPT giftcard! To enter, visit my Facebook Page or Instagram and comment on the sale post with what you would like to buy from my store.  Winner will be announced on FB and Instagram at 8 pm, Tuesday, May 9th!  Share with your teacher friends and happy shopping!

Friday, April 14, 2017

What I Learned From Being Laid off and How it Made Me a Better Teacher

At the end of the 2009-2010 school year our school district was in a financial crisis, as were many school districts across the nation.  Due to a crumbling economy, hundreds of teachers were laid off in order for our district to remain solvent.  Since I was at the end of my second year of teaching I was a casualty of this financial crisis because I had not yet attained tenure.

I had worked so hard to become a teacher, get hired, and worked diligently teaching students in a high-need area. I LOVED teaching. I LOVED my job.   At the end of the school year I had to pack up all of my things, store them in my garage and resolve myself to substitute teaching the following year, making far less than I had as a teacher.  To say I was completely devastated was really an understatement.  How could this possibly be happening to me?

The following school year I began substitute teaching in the same district that had laid me off. The laid off teachers had been placed on a priority list and were called for substitute teaching positions in order of seniority.  I ended up working at schools I never had the chance to before I became employed as a teacher.

In talking with teachers, some who were employed and some who were laid off, like me,  I learned that I could go back to school and get a special education credential.  That special education credential would allow me to be employed sooner and put me on a list of intern-eligible employees. 

I gave this idea a great deal of thought. Would I want to work in special education? Was it for me? Would I be able to handle going to school and working full-time, especially while trying to learn a brand-new job?  After much self-reflection I found the answer to these questions was, "Yes."

So I enrolled in a program, received a letter stating I was intern-eligible, and waited. I continued to substitute teach. I reflected on best teaching practices.  I continued to just do the best that I could do as a substitute each day.

In October of 2010, I accepted a long-term substitute position in 6th grade, even though I had only ever taught 1st grade.  That was a huge jump for me and while it was a little terrifying at first, this experience really helped me learn how to relate to older students, made me think outside the box with new teaching strategies, research new classroom management ideas, digest new curriculum, and learn how to use a computerized grading system.  I started this particular position about a week before report cards were due and parent teacher conferences were scheduled. I had to learn a lot about 30 students in a short period of time.

I spent my nights reviewing curriculum, teaching standards for 6th grade, and creating lessons. I spent every waking moment trying to do the best that I could. And then, it happened.
In November, I got a phone call from the district office asking if I could meet to discuss taking a special education classroom.  I was a little nervous when I learned that this would be an 8th grade special day class at a very high-need school.  I gave it some thought and decided to accept the position.

If I thought I was busy before, that was nothing compared to learning the legalities involved in the IEP process, filling out paperwork, holding meetings, learning yet another online system, accustoming myself to junior high school students (and staff), managing behaviors, and feeling very out of my element.

I wish I could say that was the worst of it but in the midst of being laid off, substituting, and deciding to go into special education, my husband had lost his job and, that January, my grandmother passed away. Suddenly our lives had been flipped upside down in less than 9 months.

It was an awful lot to handle in such a short amount of time. So much change, so much to process, and so much to be sad about.  There are not enough words to describe what the next year and a half were like, but to condense it into just a few: it was busy and overwhelming.

I am a pretty reflective and resilient person.  I chose to look at the positive side of all that had transpired during that time and I feel that I did do the best that I could to make the best out of my situation.

You see, I did a few things and learned a few things through this process:

1.  I viewed substitute teaching as an opportunity to be employed and that made me happy.

2. Every day I substitute taught I made notes about the position I substituted in, whether it was a new teaching strategy I learned from the classroom I was in, a classroom management strategy, the school climate, or conversations I had with staff members.

3. I reflected on my teaching practices every day and researched ways to improve my practice.

4. I did not allow myself to become bitter about my situation.

5. When I made the decision to go into special education, I really found a love for special education students.

And, possibly the most important of all,

6. I learned how to be a better teacher.

Teaching in a special education classroom and taking coursework in special education taught me many wonderful behavior and teaching strategies that made me a better, more understanding teacher.

The time I spent in special education taught me to be more aware of students with special needs, to approach all students in a different way- based on their needs, identify students who may be in need of academic intervention, and to be on the lookout for signs of a learning disability or students with speech needs. I learned about executive functioning, Autism, auditory processing, how to document and track behavior, and how to manage student behavior to produce expected outcomes.

Special education isn't for everyone, but I do wish that every teacher could be trained in special education because it provides such a depth of knowledge and understanding into the lives of those students who have disabilities.

So, even though being laid off was really terrible at the time, I believe it was the best thing that could have happened to me in my career. Being laid off allowed me to stretch my wings, try something new, and helped me learn a new part of the business of education. I learned so much about how to be a great teacher, not just in special education, but in general education as well.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Open House | First Grade Ocean Theme

In May we have Open House in our school district.  The second grade classrooms do a rain forest theme, so we decided to do an ocean theme unit.  Students learn all about ocean life, whales, dolphins, seahorses, sea stars (starfish), sharks, sea turtles, jellyfish, and many other animals.  We read books together, study life cycles, write informational texts, and create a lot of fun art projects.

These pictures are from the 2015-2016 school year and every year I either change something out or add something new.  This last year I added a seahorse art project into the mix. So much fun!

Some of the fun art projects we create are: aquariums with paper plates, watercolor seahorses, jellyfish, a large octopus, toilet paper roll sharks, little scuba divers with students' names on them, sea turtles, crabs, watercolor ocean scenes, jellyfish, and Rainbow Fish.

Ocean Theme Open House First Grade

Ocean Theme Open House First Grade Shark Art Project

Ocean Theme Open House First Grade Shark Art Project

Open House Sea Horse Art Project

Open House Octopus Art Project

Open House Ocean theme Art Projects

Open House Ocean theme Art Projects

Open House Ocean theme Art Projects

Open House Ocean theme Art Projects

Thursday, March 2, 2017

March | Saint Patrick's Day | Freebie!

"Oh, me Lucky Charms!"

That's probably the first thought in my mind when I think of leprechauns on St. Patrick's Day.  Well, that and a pot of gold, lush, green rolling hills, and, of course, spring time!

To celebrate spring time and St. Patrick's day, I've created this fun writing activity where students need to create their own leprechaun traps. Students will pick the type of lure they want to use to help trap their leprechaun........maybe the pot of gold will work great! Or maybe it's the gold dust that will get the leprechaun's attention.  Maybe a trail of gold coins will get the leprechaun into the trap. Lots of possibilities!

So students will create their traps, then write about what materials they chose, tell why those are the best materials and how the trap will work to capture the leprechaun.

I'm trying this for the first time with my students and hope they have a lot of fun!  Click on the picture to link to the free download and enjoy!

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Fun and Engaging Math Fact Fluency

I struggle with fitting in math fact fluency for addition and subtraction during our school day.  Since I am trying to move away from too many worksheets and only use those that I find will be valuable practice for the students, I was trying to figure out how to fit in time for fluency. Don't get me wrong, I still use and love worksheets, but I really want to move toward content rich, fun, and engaging activities.

So I starting brainstorming different ideas and came across fluency strips. I decided to make some fluency strips for math facts because I thought this may be an answer to my dilemma.

I will be cutting these out, laminating them, hole punching them, and then putting them on a binder clip for students to use with white board markers.  I'm hoping my students will love them!  I made several versions so I can start them at the beginning of the school year.

So, I have a home laminator on order from Amazon and it is happily making its way to me. I cannot wait to give these a try with my students!

Hopefully I'll be able to update this post to say my students loved these.

If you're interested in trying them out yourself, click the pictures below for my addition, subtraction, ten frames, place value (tens and ones), and number bond fluency strips.

Math Fact Fluency Place Value Tens Ones

Subtraction Fact Fluency Strips

Math Fact Fluency Ten Frames

Math Fact Fluency Addition

Math Fact Fluency Number Bonds

Monday, February 13, 2017

Valentine's Day!

I do not create holiday themed worksheets as often as I would like, but I am trying to get in the habit of making them more often.  For Valentine's Day, I decided to create a heart-themed math packet for my first graders to use.  There are six different worksheets for students to practice addition, subtraction, place value with tens and ones, using number bonds, and ten frames.  

What I love most about this packet is the heart shaped number bonds! Students will use this worksheet with dice.  They roll the dice, fill out the two "parts" on the number bond and then add them together.  

This is a great activity to use for students of all addition abilities.  I have traditional dice and dice with two-digit numbers so I can differentiate this activity for all learners.  If you're interested in picking this freebie up for your Valentine's Day you may click on the picture to grab it in my shop on TPT or click here.