Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Introducing: Reflection Connection

Deep breaths, everyone. A new school year is nearly upon us! Over the course of the 2017-2018 school year, I invite you to join me and fellow educators in participating in a monthly Reflection Connection. During the first week of every month, I’ll be posting a question that encourages you to reflect upon your experience as an educator – whether you’re just starting out or a veteran teacher. I’ll do the same and write my reflection in the post. In order to grow as teachers, I feel that it’s important to periodically reflect, question ourselves, celebrate our successes and identify our challenges. We’ll get to know ourselves better through the process and find encouragement and support through others that will join us in the journey of reflecting and connecting!

The first entry of Reflection Connection will be posted on Wednesday, August 2nd.  I invite you to write your reflection in a journal or even in the comments below the post. See you then!

~The Teacher’s Prep

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

DIY: How to Create Your Own Whiteboard Magnets

Designing my classroom for the next school year is one of my favorite school-related summer activities. I love searching the internet for fun themes and inspirations to bring fresh life to my classroom walls while mixing in some of my own DIY ideas, too!
Today I'm excited to share how to create your own whiteboard magnets to fit any classroom theme or design! This particular DIY is easy and fun - two must-haves for this crafting beginner! (I'm staying away from power tools and glue that sticks to you for life.)

Let's get started!

1. Hot Glue
2. Package of Felt Stickers
3. Foam Board
4. Magnets
(I used ProMag Flexible Magnets - 8 pc., .75 in, 19 mm)
I purchased the felt stickers, foam board and magnets from Michaels for $5.61 after the Teacher Discount. (Thank you, Michaels!)
*The best part about this DIY is that you can choose any type of felt sticker that fits the theme of your classroom. You can even use embroidered patches if you'd like. They're a bit more expensive.*

Peel the paper off of the back of the felt sticker.
Carefully place the sticky side down on a piece of thin foam board. This will help to add thickness to the magnet so it's easy for you to pick up and move around your whiteboard.
Cut around the shape of your felt sticker. Try to get as close to the sticker as possible so that the foam board isn't visible from the front.
Place a dab of hot glue on the back of the future magnet and place a magnet on top of the glue. Pinch the magnet to the sticker for about 30 seconds.
Let your magnet sit for about 15 minutes to ensure that the hot glue has dried completely.
Voila! Your whiteboard never looked cuter!
If you try this DIY, I'd love to see your pictures! Share them with me on Facebook: The Teacher's Prep or Instagram: @teachersprep and I'll try to guess your classroom theme!
~The Teacher's Prep

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Happy Fourth of July (and a SURPRISE store sale!)

Happy Fourth of July, my friends! I hope you and your families have a wonderful time celebrating the adoption of the Declaration of Independence (and eating lots of delicious summertime treats). :)
In between all the festivities, stop by my store on TpT to snag 20% off every American History resource in my shop on July 4th and 5th!
Here are a few that might interest you!  Happy Fourth of July!
Check out the interactive notebooks! There is a whole set being created for American History in my shop!
For every paper interactive notebook, there's also a Google Drive version.
Have you tried using skits in your classroom? My kids LOVE them. (P.S. - The Declaration of Independence one on the left is FREE!
Teaching Civics next year? There's a full set of paper and digital interactive notebooks in the shop as well. :)
Happy Teaching!

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

All About Me Locker Foldable

My mind is already starting to ponder activities for the first week of school. It feels partly crazy since it's only June, but mostly exciting because I'm kind of obsessed with the Back to School season.

I wrote another blog post about my plans for the first week of school last year and I plan to use many of the same ideas this year...with the addition of the "All About Me Locker Foldable"!

It's designed for ultimate customization by each student. I'm going to encourage them to decorate their locker door with drawings, stickers, pictures, etc. to really showcase their personalities. They'll also write their name on the door.

Inside the locker foldable is a series of shelves with various topics and questions for students to answer. With the addition of color and drawings, these lockers will truly give my kiddos an inside look into the interests of their peers!

There are three different locker interiors to really engage my students. I plan on creating a fun bulletin board display with all the lockers. I'm already envisioning the kids crowding around it to open the lockers and read about their classmates!

You can find this new resource in my TpT store here. I think it would also be a fun activity for teachers. How cute would this look like on the bulletin board in the staff lounge?! It's always fun learning new facts about our colleagues. :)

~The Teacher's Prep

Monday, June 12, 2017

10 Ways to Make This Summer Count

There is nothing like the feeling of the first day of summer vacation! You've poured your heart and soul into the school year, helped your students grow personally and academically and attended more meetings than you care to count. Before you awaits seemingly endless days of rest and relaxation - the glorious days of summer break.
Teachers should absolutely use summer break to relax and recharge. I love to work hard for my students but I need to high-tail it to the beach at the start of summer and spend the day listening to the surf and feeling the sand beneath my toes. That being said, I also think we need to make every moment count - in terms of relaxation, personal and professional development. Don't let those beautifully endless days escape you. Here are 10 ways to make summer count:

1. Get a Hobby
No, lesson planning is not a hobby. :)  Find something that enriches your life and helps you develop a skill that you're passionate about. Practice photography, go birding, garden, learn to dance, write stories, take cooking classes, learn about woodworking, or take an art class. There are so many "life extras" that get sidetracked during the school year. Now is the time to explore your interests and make time for you.

2. Travel for YOU
Travel by yourself, with your family and/or your friends and explore the world around you. I love setting up my summer vacation budget to save for my next vacation. It's exhilarating to see the total inch up towards my week or two of summer fun!

3. Travel for WORK
You can combine this idea with your family vacation, but along with my regularly planned summer vacation I also choose somewhere that's relevant to my classroom. One summer I went to Washington D.C. to learn about our country's history. Another summer, I made a point to visit 3 local historical parks to learn about my state's heritage. When you travel for work, you can pick up brochures, take pictures and gain experiences that have a direct impact on your classroom. Teaching my students about the Battle of Antietam after I had seen it brought the events to life. Students were more interested in learning about the history because I had personal connections and stories to tell them.  

4. Volunteer
Teachers certainly put in lots of extra hours before and after school. Summer offers us an opportunity to use our talents to help our community in other ways, too. Perhaps you can use your knowledge of science to volunteer at a week-long summer camp or donate your time to assist at a local park or retirement facility. When you find an opportunity that melds your passion with the mission of a community organization, magical things can happen, my friends. :)

5. Consider a Side Job
Full disclosure: this is the one idea on this list that was the hardest to add because we already have full time jobs. Why should we get a side job? Some teachers need it for financial security. Others want it because they have skills that enable them to make extra money. Some have friends and families that have offered them a way to make extra spending money. Personally, I love, love, love creating resources over the summer to add to my Teachers Pay Teachers store. It brings me so much joy to connect with educators around the world and find new ideas on the site to add to my own classroom. Consider finding a summer job if it will enrich your life, challenge you in new ways or provide for your family financially.

6. Take a Class
Summer is the perfect time to sign up for a class! One summer, I took a sailing class. This summer I'm looking for an online class for my own professional development. The fun part is choosing which class to take! I love the freedom of pursuing my own personal and professional enrichment during the summer months. :)

7. Read
Sadly, I don't read a lot of books for fun after work during the school year. I love to read but I'm so tired after work and caring for my responsibilities at home that my unread books are left waiting on the shelf each night. Please say I'm not alone in doing this! During summer break, I make time to read books and I search the web for new teaching blogs that will inspire me for the Back to School days!

8. Write
Along with reading, I think it's also important that we take time to write. Write about our children and our vacations. Write about our ideas for the future or write letters to friends and family. Keep a journal to reflect on your teaching practices and record your hopes and plans for the new school year. Start writing that story you've always wanted to tell. Who knows? I could be picking up your book from the bookstore in a couple summers from now. :)

9. Spend Time with Family and Friends
The summer months are precious days to spend with our significant other, beautiful kids and friends. I love planning little day trips or lunches (REAL LUNCHES!) with friends to catch up on their lives. I also try to make a point to visit with those people who I don't see very much during the school year but who are still very near and dear to my heart. Hosting a summer soiree is on my list of things to do this year!

10. Find Your Spark
Whatever you choose to do this summer, find your spark - the passion that drives you to love your life in and outside the classroom. Take time to reflect on all the reasons why teaching is the best profession in the world and gather your inspiration and energy for the new faces who await you in just a few months.

Now, go make your summer count!:) 

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Create a Virtual Field Trip using Google Earth

When teaching about places outside our hometowns, many of us dream of being able to show our students these locations in real life. Cost, travel time and the work it would take to plan a field trip to China, for example, are completely out of the question...unless you're ready to use the magic of the internet! I'm about to show you how to make virtual field trips for your students that will enhance your curriculum and amaze your students.

Google Earth is a free program you can download here. Each device your students use needs to have the program downloaded to it. Google Earth has a wide variety of layers that enable you to access pictures, information about earthquakes, NASA and much more. My favorite option is 360Cities and I'm excited to show you how you can use it in your classroom!

360Cities is a feature that has 360 degree photographs that put you and your students right into the action. Students can turn the photographs in all directions and truly explore the wide world outside their classroom right from their own computer screens!

Ok. Roll up your sleeves and let's start creating your first virtual field trip!

P.S. There's directions for the less tech-savvy teacher at the bottom. This is an activity that any teacher can do!

I'm going to jump in and assume that you've already downloaded the program. Once you're set up and ready to go, look on the left hand side of the screen and find the "Layers" window.  Go to the "Gallery" option and make sure that 360Cities is selected. I usually deselect all the other options because I like a nice clean interface. On that note, I also deselect the "Global Awareness" layer and the "More" layer so that I can focus on finding the 360Cities locations. Feel free to explore these sections, though, and click on various layers to see what you can find!

Identify the locations you would like to have your students visit. I've chosen famous landmarks because I want to introduce my students to the process of using Google Earth during our first couple weeks of school in a really engaging way. Then make a list of the specific locations you want your students to visit.

Here's my list:

1. The Great Wall of China
2. Pyramids of Giza
3. Mount Rushmore
4. Taj Mahal
5. Machu Picchu

Right click in the "Places" window on the left side of your screen. Click "Add" and "Folder". Name your folder ______ Virtual Field Trip.

Now it's time to find the first location on your list. In the search bar at the top left of your screen, type in your first location. Click "search". Google Earth will automatically take you to your destination.

Next, scout around for a good 360Cities icon. I usually find them in most of the places I have on my lists. Once in a while I strike out. In that case, I have to adapt and find a new location! :)  In this case, though, I found the perfect option at the Great Wall of China. There's nothing inappropriate in the picture and it has great image quality! (Please note: I've never found anything inappropriate in any of the 360 images, however I never leave anything to chance. I always preview the pictures before I send my students to any locations around the globe.)

Back on the map, click the "Add Placemark" option and a pin will be added to the map. Drag and drop it onto the 360Cities icon and give it a name. Finally, make sure your new pin is inside your Virtual Field Trip folder. Simply drag the destination onto the Virtual Field Trip folder so that it falls underneath as a subfolder.

You did it! Now repeat the process to add other destinations to your virtual field trip.

Once you have your folder filled with all your destinations, it's time to export the file and put it somewhere all your students can access it.

Right click on your virtual field trip folder in the "Places" window and click the option "Save Place As...". Save the .kmz file into a folder on your computer.

Our last task is to make the virtual field trip easy for our students to access. There are a few ways you can accomplish this task:

1. Post the .kmz file to your class website
2. Share it through a school-based program like Google Classroom or One Drive.
3. Save it to a flash drive (This works if you're only using one or two other computers in your classroom for stations or centers. It's not advised if each of your students have their own computer! The task would be quite time consuming.)

Students will need to save the file onto their computers to use it in Google Earth. Then all they have to do is go to Google Earth, click "File" and "Open", find the file and voila! They are off on a fun and educational adventure.

If the directions above make you a little nervous, there's another option just for you! :)

You'll still need to locate particular locations on Google Earth as well as relevant 360Cities locations. Instead of dropping a pin, however, you'll hover over the 360Cities icon and find the latitude and longitude of the icon. The coordinates you'll need are located at the bottom of your screen.

Write down the coordinates exactly as you'd like your students to type them into the search bar to get to their location. In this case, the coordinates should be typed:

40 25 57.96 N, 116 33 48.63 E

You can post your list of coordinates on the board or on a piece of paper for student reference. Students will type the coordinates exactly as you have written them.

You're all set!

I would LOVE to hear how you plan to use Google Earth in your own classroom as I'm always on the lookout for new ideas to bring to my own students. Leave a comment below to share your ideas! :)

Sunday, May 7, 2017

TpT Teachers Appreciation Sale and a Gift Card Giveaway!

 I feel like I've been waiting for this Teachers Pay Teachers sale for forever! My wish list is full of resources for the end of this year and some goodies to help me get started in planning for next year. I'll definitely be adding some more to it before the savings end on Wednesday night!
The TpT Teachers Appreciation Sale is happening this year on Tuesday, May 9th and Wednesday, May 10th. Tons of resources will be on sale just as we're all gearing up for the end of the year. So excited!
As a special THANK YOU for all you do for your students and colleagues, I'm also excited to partner with The Artventurous Life to host a TpT Gift Card Giveaway!
 The giveaway is for two $10 Gift Cards to TpT! Two winners will be emailed a gift code they can enter in the "Redeem a Gift Card" box when they check out with their order on TpT. To enter, all you have to do is complete the Rafflecopter entry below. The giveaway opens on May 8 at midnight (12:00 a.m. EST). You can complete as many entry options as you want and the giveaway will end at 12:00 am EST on May 10. We'll contact the winners, send the gift codes and the shopping can begin!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Remember to use the code THANKYOU17 when you checkout to save an additional 10% on your purchase.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Review Games for Any Classroom

It’s no secret in my classroom that I’m always on the hunt for an engaging review game for my students. They’re always so excited to play a game before tests and it allows me to see if there are any concepts that need to be addressed again before an assessment. I’m excited to share these ideas with you, all of which have been given the student nod of approval!

Jeopardy-style Review Game: This is a classic staple of many classrooms, including mine! Teams compete to win the game all while reviewing questions related to our content. I’ve played the game as a whole-class activity and in small groups if my students have access to laptops for the day. It’s fun to act like a game show host for the day! I even play it up sometimes by having teams make up their own team name. Usually they compete for an extra credit point or two on our next test. It’s pretty easy to find a ready-made template online. All you have to do is make up your own questions! Using a standard board with 25 questions usually takes up about 40 minutes or so. I typically create two boards to maximize review time in class. It's hard to estimate how long a class will take playing the game so I come prepared each time! Oh - and don't forget the final question! The game can be won or lost in those last 5 minutes. It creates quite an exciting finale!


Trivia Game: I think this style of review game is going to be one of my new favorites. The best part? The game board is designed to be useful for multiple subject areas. Before playing the game with my students, I write down 20 questions. Although it's not necessary, I usually come up with a theme for each round of questions. On the day of the game, I divide students into teams of 3-4 and give each group a minute or two to think of a team name. In a series of 4 rounds, teams answer questions while trying to earn points! It's like trivia night right here in the classroom! The kids LOVE it and it really keeps every single student engaged in the review activity. I recently uploaded a free Trivia Game Board template with all the information and point sheets that you need to try the game in your own classroom.  CLICK HERE  to visit Teachers Pay Teachers and download it for yourself! (I promise it's totally free!)

Bingo: If you’re looking for a more individualized review experience, a bingo-style game is a great choice. I’ve used bingo-style games before (like this Causes of the Revolutionary War Bingo Game in my TpT store) and it’s a quick, informal way to review key terms, important figures, concepts, etc. I love creating bingo boards that are easily customizable by students. It’s important that every board be different and students can quickly fill in the squares on the board from the list of important concepts at the bottom of the game board. It’s an efficient use of time for me AND the students. A win-win!

Attack: I found this FREE review game on Teachers Pay Teachers by the amazing Math in the Middle. It. Is. Amazing. The game, called "Attack!", uses pictures of castles (or any other image that relates to your curriculum), which groups of students can “attack” by getting answers to your questions correct. It’s a huge hit in my classroom and every time we play, students think of new rules to add to the game. They recently added a rule that allows teams to help rebuild castles in an effort to form alliances with other “kingdoms”.  They hardly even know they’re reviewing content! ;)

Paper Toss: An old one but a good one. It’s been called by many names but it’s still a favorite for kids of all ages. Sometimes I save scraps of paper before it hits the recycle bin. Other times I wait until the end of the year and the kids recycle all of their paper one last time. To facilitate comradery, I usually put students into groups of 4. Each student gets the chance to answer a question. If they get it right, their group gets a point and they get to try to shoot for a basket in an attempt to earn an additional point.  We always make sure to recycle the paper at the end of the class! And the best part? A few minutes before the end of class, all the students get to throw their paper into the wastebasket in what can only be described as a big, friendly paper ball fight!
Like I said at the beginning, I'm ALWAYS on the hunt for new review games. If you have any suggestions to share with me, please tell me in the comments! I'm sure I'm not the only one who would appreciate some new ideas. Make sure to take a peek into the comments yourself to see if any inspiration strikes you! :)
~The Teacher's Prep