Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Keeping the class clean

I am in the midst of looking for a gym, and am suprises how often the topic of cleanliness comes up! It is really important to some people to have a clean place to workout. Similarly, I think classrooms should be kept tidy. Nothing wrong with chaos while the lesson in happening, but it shouldn't have pointless trash left about after class.

Since I have my students every other day for an hour and a half, it is kind of hard to establish a routine. I'm not sure if what I've seen other teachers do would work for me, but I hope I can get some comments on different ways that teachers motivate students to keep class clean.

I can remember a lot of my teachers doing different things

I remember one of my teachers who actually had a rule that in order to leave the class we had to give her a small handful of trash. However, I also remember storing pencil shavings for just this purpose!

Last fall I had to forbid a class from taking their water bottles out of their bags. They had repeatedly left them behind after class and reminders didn't work. They improved a bit in Spring, but I still find myself repeatedly reminding people to pick up their trash. I wouldn't mind it, except sometimes I am circulating and teaching and I don't get a chance to remind them.

I recently decided to set up a little basketball hoop over the trashcan which I found worked well, except some students spend more time creating trash to throw away rather than work on their groupwork (these are the same students who proclaim they don't have enough time to finish activities in class.

How do YOU keep YOUR class clean?Positive reinforcement? Monster shaped trash can? "Clean" row leaves first?

Friday, July 3, 2015

July Writing Deadlines

Get your students writing!
Last month I shared writing competitions to share with your students over the summer. Here are some more for July!  I won't blab too much, I just want to restate that I really believe giving students a chance to get their words out of the classroom is an amazing way to gets students excited and motivated. I sifted through and most of these should be appropriate for your students, but please check the guidelines yourself to be sure. None of these have entrance fees, so students should be able to enter regardless of their family's income.

CHICKEN SOUP FOR THE SOUL Have you ever read a Chicken Soup for the Soul book? They seem to have a bundle! Before July 31st they are accepting submissions on the topic of Random Acts of Kindness. They want to read about stories of people being kind to others, or times when others were kind to them. All tones are appropriate as long as they are inspirational! If a student's story is published it will garner $200 ($100 for devotionals) one month after publication of the book and they will receive ten free copies of the book

Guidelines and submission are details available here

STAGE OF LIFE Are your students like mine with an app for almost everything? Stage of Life wants to hear their thoughts in an essay (500 words or less) about a mobile app that stands out, in a good way or bad way. What apps do they love? What apps do they think changed the world? What app should be invented?  How are apps degrading society? Students can answer any of these questions in 500 words or less and each student may submit up to two essays before July 31st.  If they win they get gift certificates to Papa John's Pizza and IHOP!

Guidelines and submission details are available here.

This deadline is technically August 1st, but I won't post August contests until August 1st, so I am including it here to give your budding students a chance to respond.

SLICE This literary magazine focuses on a different cultural theme each volume. All contributors of Slice receive a monetary award for their work ($100 for stories and essays and $25 for poems)submissions from June 1st to August 1st are for Issue 18 whose theme is Enemies. All work should be previously unpublished.

Guidelines and submission details are available here.

Try them out, and let me know if your students submit anything :)


Wednesday, July 1, 2015

What to watch when lesson planning?

I, like many other teachers it seems, thrive on background noise. Music tends to distract me, but silence means I can't focus.

Luckily I live in the age of Netflix, and for my birthday I received a Smart TV, so I can watch Netflix without having it running behind whatever I am doing on the computer.

I prefer to watch things I've already seen, so I know what happens next and don't find myself getting too sucked into the shows. I also prefer to watch series that are complete. That way I can watch episode one, then two, then three, then four.... until the end. Plus, since I've already seen it I tend to latch onto examples of literary devices (hyperbole, alliteration, etc) that I can use in class (students love TV clips!).

The following list is not necessarily in order of importance. It is in chronological order with number 1 being the series I have most recently watched and number 10 being the series I watched earlier.

Mac getting dressed up for White Collar
As you can tell I tend to go towards the Science Fiction or Suspense for my shows. My cat is very unhappy about this. He HATES science fiction and action. My theory is that he dislikes the unnatural sounds. Nonetheless, I am the one who buys the catnip, so I am the one who picks the channels.

What about you? Do you lesson plan with music? Television shows? The pitter-patter of your children's feet? Or are you one of those people who prefers absolute silence?

Monday, June 29, 2015

TPT Seller Challenge: Teenage Dreams

As a teacher I work a lot. I am sure this isn't news to anyone, but I often share Instagram photos of my car being the last one in the parking lot, checking out the sunset over my classroom, or grading poolside. I don't mind the work, most of the time, I like taking the time to create things that my students will really learn from and hopefully even enjoy (though there are some who would never admit it!)

So GOAL 1:
I have lofty ambitions of having the "perfect" classroom. I am not as craft as other teachers, so it will cost a bit more to achieve the class I want to have, but I believe that having this space will make my class something special, and help students really focus on learning! In short, I hope that I am never hesitant to buy something for my class or to take a class that would help me because of cost.

The financial benefit is psychological to me. I hope that by making some extra cash TPTing I work a bit harder on making my products perfect.

When I teach I have a theory that students need to get their work out of the class. When we do something just for our little world, we don't really put as much effort or take as much pride in it. The same thing happens with me as a teacher. Just having MY class do my projects and assignments is one thing, but knowing that other teachers will use helps me work my best to really put together great project!


I am late to this challenge because I really felt like my goals and dreams weren't fitting in with the goals and dreams of other teachers. I really like TPT as a way to share my work and get inspired by others. Sometimes I can buy products and save myself time. Plus I use my profits to buy them, so I don't go broke trying to create a fun environment for my students.So my goal is to continued to be inspired by other teachers and be the best I can be

Friday, June 19, 2015

Class Decor Binder

As I cleaned my classroom this summer and packed things up to be moved, I realized I had accumulated lots of letters, static clings, gel clings etc. In an effort to keep things organized I put everything together in a binder.

I figured I'd post this now in case anyone else was in the midst of packing up their classroom.

Basically I love the binder because I can separate decor by date (seasonal or unit related), and keep it neatly stowed when not in use or when I need to move classes. Before I used a box method, but it toko up a lot of space!

Now this isn't perfect, I still have some larger items (wreaths, signs) that are stored elsewhere, but it is awesome for all my basic stuff.

If you read this blog at all, you know that I am NOT skilled in the crafty area. But I am pretty proud of how well this works and thought I'd do a quick blog in case it helps others as well.

All you need to do this is a binder, page protectors, masking or blue tape, and all of the decoration you'd like to store. I've seen some people use Ziploc baggies as well, but I didn't have any of those, so I worked with what I had.

I didn't have dividers, so I hole punches manila folders. Each folder was labeled. I separated items by months, and those that were not month specific I labeled separately.   Letters and colored paper were labeled as such.

Static clings were easy. Slide them into the paper protector. I put a small piece on the opening to keep any pieces from sliding out.

Gel clings were "clung" to their original plastic and slipped into the page. Those unable to fit were cut into smaller pieces.

I am sure you can figure out the rest.

The tape is helpful to be sure nothing goes missing, but you don't need to use any if you prefer to avoid it.

I put all similar colored paper in the same page protector and then organize them by color.

How do you keep your class decor organized when it isn't decorating your classroom walls?

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

What DO you do all summer?

As a teacher at a "traditional" school (compared to a language academy. I currently have summers off :)

I was given the option to request summer school classes, but to be honest, I felt like if I did that I would hate teaching by August. This year was hard for me. I moved back to San Diego, started a new school, created two classes from scratch and heavily altered another two classes. I got thrown a lot of curve balls and while I am super excited to be coming back in August, I didn't want to lose that feeling! I want to come back refreshed and ready for school. I want to come back excited to lesson plan and try new tricks. So, I made the decision not to teach this summer.

So, what will I do?

1. Be a Lifelong Learner
Yes, even though I am on break, I will be learning. There are a few community college courses I want to take. I've also signed up for some online courses. One on an author that I teach in World Literature, another about using technology. I plan on attending a few seminars as well, and will be getting my Professional Development On. 

2. Enjoy Reading
The list of books to read
This year I was given / bought / found a bunch of books I wanted to read. However, due to chaos, grading, lesson planning and life in general, they sat unread. I am determined to make a sizable dent in those piles! I've borrowed PopSugar's 2015 Reading Challenge and am turning it into my "Summer Reading Challenge."

I am going through the piles somewhat haphazardly and seeing where the book may fit on this list. My goal is to finish it by the end of the summer, but I'll be pretty happy to get at least half of it done.

So far I am 15% of the way through my summer, and ... about 10% of the way through my list. Not quite the math I'd like to see, but a solid start. If you'd like to join me I'd love to hear about what you're reading :)

My niece and I grabbing Slurpees to beat the heat
3. Be Social!
Many of my friends joke that they see me LESS now that I am in San Diego. This year was BUSY and I look forward to catching up with people I didn't get a chance to see. My father is retiring so family from out of town is visiting.My niece has a break from preschool so I have the chance to see her more. Overall I need to get out to enjoy my friends and family more often.

4. Be Ready
I also have some new books / short stories I was thinking about integrating into next year's lessons. I want to read these, find relevant non-fiction, plan when I want the projects to be, find holidays or contests that fit into the school's needs. I want to incorporate NaNoWriMo, Book clubs, and so many other things that I know I will need to pick and choose.

I also moved classrooms, so I want to get down to my class and set up for next year. Literally everything is in boxes, so it will probably be at least a solid day of putting up bulliten boards, books, etc.I may try to grab some furniture from garage sales as well to add to the class.
Reading and swimming. What more could I want?
5. Be Healthier
Oh how boring! However, this school year I have probably gained at least 10 pounds. I don't walk nearly as much as I did living in Mexico and I miss it. Luckily my parents have a pool, so I will try rotating reading with swimming and see if I can't get back into (slightly) better shape.

Those are the big five. I know it may seem like teachers have the summers off, but I promise you, most of us spend a large chunk of that time becoming better teachers! We meet up with colleagues to plan, head to museums to scope out primary sources, read up on anything we may have missed and always keep our students in the back of our minds... or at least, I know I do :)

What about you? What's on your summer to do list?

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Makeover Madness - TPT Sellers Challenge

OK, it is Summer! In addition to making my way through a massive pile of books I am DYING to read, I also signed up for the #TPTsellerChallenge.

First thing is first I filled out my starting stats. I just tipped 1,000 facebook followers on mELTing Activities, so I was happy to put that information in. I don't use Instagram much for my TPT stuff, but I guess it couldn't hurt to start. I use Twitter on occasion regarding my TPT products, though mainly as a way to share and brainstorm with other teachers. I used to be a Pinner, but didn't really have time for it in the last year. I had nothing to do with BlogLovin, but I do NOW :) Go ahead and follow my blog with Bloglovin.

So, this is my starting point... let's see what's to come!

Week One: "Makeover Madness."
The worksheet

My Mission: To find one product in my store and give it a makeover. I am not very good at makeovers (on myself or my worksheets), but I figured I'd give it a shot. I stayed practical and looked for the product with the fewest conversions. That means people are clicking, but not buying. One of the lowest was this worksheet that helps students create impersonal sentences instead of personal sentences. This is something that takes a bit of practice and I find the worksheet really helps them (and is a great reference later!)

First off I figured I'd give it a catchier title, more for the students than the teachers. I suddenly got the lyrics from an old Monica song stuck in my head. "Don't Take It Personal"

Video for your enjoyment:

That made me think that this assignment isn't about taking things personally, but it is about not MAKING them personal, so I made a quick little button to add a graphical element to the worksheet, and to hopefully help this concept of writing impersonally stick with students.

I added a cover page (though it isn't as graphic as most of the cover pages I see, at least now there is something!). I also changed the fonts a bit, added a background, increased the spacing. Now it is a little less cramped and I would suggest printing it as a double sided worksheet. I also added a a personal writing assignment, so it is worth the extra space.
Comparing the original worksheet to the cover page and expanded worksheet.

It may not seem like a huge difference, but it is a start :)

I hope that this gets the worksheet in the hands of more students who will benefit, and that with time I can make it even better!

And there we are! I am really not very good at this, so any helpful hints or advice would be most appreciated! 
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