Friday, August 14, 2015

Welcome to Back to School season! I don’t think any other time in the year quite compares to the weeks leading up to a brand new school year. The anticipation of meeting those new students, the smell of new pencils and freshly waxed floors, the hours spent on perfecting those brand new ideas.....only a teacher really knows how that feels! And though you hope everything goes smoothly, every once in awhile you run across an idea, thought, or activity that you quickly put into your “NEVER do this again” file. DON'T DO THIS! The one that comes to mind for me dates back to my first year as a kindergarten teacher. I had just moved districts and was looking forward to this new challenge of teaching small people after having spent several years in the upper grades. I spent WEEKS in my new classroom and I loved setting up those tiny little chairs and colorful decorations. I had visions of my classroom being this wonderful place of free exploration and learning so I carefully set up inviting centers to usher students to on that first day of school. I was really excited about my visual stimulation center because I had just unwrapped dozens of brand new 20 piece puzzles and was excited to see students working constructively on them. Well, I’m sure at some point the thought ran across my mind that maybe having 30 new puzzles all out and displayed was not the smartest idea but it apparently didn’t stick with me long enough to make me change my plans. I was correct in thinking that it would be an inviting place to come....but, being a teacher new to this grade it never occurred to me to stress the rule about doing one puzzle at a time. By the end of that center rotation on the first day, I had literally a thousand puzzle pieces scattered around the room! It took HOURS putting them back together. I finally recruited some older students who were with their teacher moms to help with the promise of milkshakes as a reward! We finally got them back in order and the rest of the year went a lot more smoothly as I learned several valuable tips that day! So, if you are new to a grade level, I encourage you to seriously think about EVERY possible outcome of what might seem like a perfect idea at the time!
DO THIS! If your school is anything like mine, it is a frantic race to perfect your class list before that first day of school. It seems like that class list changes every minute! And as the clock ticks closer to that opening day, you feel more and more stressed about making sure you have everything labeled for all of those names! One great tip I learned from a colleague of mine was to make several baggies of classroom materials for any “extra” students you might acquire in that hectic first week of school. Now I don’t feel pressured to wait until my list is “perfect” and “set” (as we know that never really happens!) to get everything labeled and set out. I simply make 4-5 extra copies of EVERYTHING I make, label, cut out, set aside, sort, etc. for my classroom. Then, when that new child arrives at my door on the first day, it is easy to pull out the bag and make her feel just as welcome as the other veterans on my list!
FREEBIE! I LOVE to play games with my kids.....and I think it’s especially important during those first few days to get them up and moving in between all of the new things that need to covered. As a “moving” activity and a way to quickly assess students’ knowledge of grammar skills, I like to play Grammar 4 Corners. There are 8 different parts of speech so the game can be played in multiple rounds to ensure lots of participation and review! Feel free to check it out this freebie! Have a great back to school season!

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Brand new store!

I'm so excited to announce that JB Creations now has a second home.....on a great new marketplace site called Educents! If you haven't had a chance to explore this wonderful website, I highly recommend it! Pursuing my goal for developing quality, engaging materials for the intermediate level student, this site has provided me with another opportunity to reach more individuals who share my passion! I have always believed that kids learn the most when they are presented with connected, interactive activities. I strive to build that into every product I create. I test them out each and every day! As a result, if you visit my room, you will most likely see my students up and moving to music, collaborating and working in small teams, or acting out key events from history. It is an exciting environment where you can see connections being made! I invite you to experience this yourself! I have a game available for you to try for free that will review all of the parts of speech in this hands-on, interactive way! Get ready to toss that boring review worksheet....students will participate in the traditional 4 corners game to get them up and moving and learn in a much more meaningful, fun way! Please click on the link below to find this game in my new store. I hope your students enjoy it as much as mine do!
Now for another great surprise....the many Educents partners have teamed up to offer a $50 Edubucks be used anywhere on this terrific site! All you have to do to enter is follow a group of stores that has already been determined to most likely match your grade level needs! A win-win for everyone.....and hopefully a little extra for you! Just click below! Educents Marketplace $50 in Edubucks Giveaway #8 - 3rd & 4th Grade Stores

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Keeping Test Prep Fun!

It's that time of year again.....although I must admit it seems like this test prep time frame comes earlier each year! Right now my school is just beginning the process of administering the PARCC tests school wide. It has been met with its fair share of controversy and concerns, that's for sure! However, in the long run I know it's my job to best prepare my students for what to expect on these brand new tests. After studying the few practice tests made available by the company creating the PARCC assessments, I developed my own series of test prep activity bundles to use in my room. I concentrated on the Literary, Research, and Narrative components as well as developing some key vocabulary to review with students. I found them to be very useful in my classroom. I was able to break them apart and fit them into our regular schedule as small group and station activities. If you are giving these tests for the first time this year, too, please take a minute to check them out! I have a freebie sample below!
Make sure to continue on through the Blog Hop for other amazing tips, giveaways, and your chance to win some wonderful prizes!

Friday, January 30, 2015

Do the upcoming state tests make you feel like pulling your hair out? The stress on teachers is bad enough, but after recently administering a mock test to our students, I feel like they are truly the ones who are going to bear the brunt of the stressful feelings. I watched as all of my kids (gifted, regular, struggling) struggled with the length/complexity of the passages and confusing directions, all while navigating brand new technology skills. I think Superintendent Trisha Kocanda of Winnetka Public Schools in Illinois said it very well. I appreciate her willingness to go to bat for the kids. Well worth the time to read! (Click on the stressed girl!)

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

I saw this on Pinterest and thought it was such a clever, cute idea! This testing nonsense has gotten out of hand. Everytime we turn around, I feel like there's another training, video, manual, schedule, etc. being dumped on us. This stress that teachers feel is ultimately going to be handed down to the kids....if we can only remember to step back to see what truly matters......

Monday, January 12, 2015

Product Highlight: Celebrating a Hero!

I like to embrace Dr. King's belief and dream to include everyone! On MLK day, I hand out 3 different scripts for a reader's theater on the life and time of this great leader. The scripts are leveled with a modified, regular, and enriched version to ensure everyone has a chance to participate at his/her own reading level. Students will learn about Martin Luther King Jr's childhood & beginning of his dreams, his work, dedication, & accomplishments as a civil rights activist, and his lasting influence on people today! Grab them by clicking on the picture below!

Monday, January 5, 2015

If you're anything like me, I get a burst of energy right after Christmas (well, it takes a day or so to recover from Christmas festivities but THEN it kicks in). I begin making mental lists of things I need to cover at school, tackle at home, do with my kids, begin for my health, etc, etc. Most years, I start off strong, a few things may stick, but I quickly fall back into the comfort of my old, comfortable routine and the lists are soon shifted to the back, kind of like the leftover Christmas cookies in the fridge. Well, I decided that this year I would make a better effort to keep up with those goals. I realized that my biggest mistake were my "mental" lists....if I wanted to really accomplish any new goals, I would need to write them down and make them official. I found a cute little journal that I'm going to dedicate to this very purpose.
I decided to make a section in the front that would list all of my yearlong goals, ideas, and brainstorms. Next, I would use the rest of the pages to make a weekly "to do" type list. By having my year long goals posted front and center, I'm hoping that they will begin to work themselves naturally into my weekly lists. I'm really hoping that this will help keep me more organized and balanced in all areas of my life. Well, I'm off to visit my list for this week. Here's to a great New Year!