Sunday, June 28, 2015

Weekly Summer Link-Up: My Favorite Quote

I absolutely LOVE the topics that Monica over at I Heart Grade 3 came up with for the Summer Link-Ups! This week I am sharing my favorite quote! If any of my students are reading this post, they will probably know before I even share it!

If I can help to build the confidence of each and every one of my students and ensure them that their dreams are possible, I will feel as though I have had a successful career.

What is your favorite quote? If you want to read some inspirational posts, hop on over to I Heart Grade 3 and follow each of the links to see what other bloggers are saying is their favorite quote!

TPT Seller Challenge Week Two: Dare to Dream

I love this week's challenge! I am posting kinda late but I really wanted to think about it... what are my dreams related to TPT. What do I hope to accomplish as a TPT seller??

Here they are:

#1: Our Forever Home

My hubby and I picked up our keys on our wedding day 10 years ago this October. This house, our first house, was exactly what we needed and exactly what we wanted 10 years ago. However, it is not the perfect house for us now. We have two little ones (okay, I am a little delusional - they are not that little anymore. :( They are 6 and 8) and our house is just too small for all four of us (and of course our stuff!). I would love TPT to help us move into our forever home. A home that we all choose together and that fits us perfectly!

#2: Travel the World

I LOVE to travel! I would love to take my hubby and my girls on amazing trips to amazing places. I think it is so important to teach our girls an appreciation for different cultures as well as an appreciation for the history and beauty of our country. I look forward to our first TPT trip!

#3: A 2nd Career

Right now I can't imagine not being in the classroom but I do know that I have a love and a desire to develop curriculum and to work with teachers. The beauty of TPT is that I am working on developing resources now! This is a dream that I won't have to wait to fulfill! I would also love to possibility of providing professional development to other educators. Mollie and I presented at the Michigan Reading Association conference this past March and I KNOW that would not have happened if it were not for TPT. We are looking to present again this year and we are going to submit TWO proposals! I dare to dream of a possible 2nd career in providing professional development!

Thank you to the the awesome ladies who put this whole challenge together! Thank you for pushing us to be better and to think big! You are the best!!!

Peppy Zesty Teacherista

Sparkling in Second

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Book Study: Making Thinking Visible - Chapter 2

Today I am back to share a little about Chapter 2 from Making Thinking Visible. I am a bit late but I actually had a couple of work days this week to help prepare some word study materials for our district so I did not have a chance to read and post about this weeks chapter until now.

This chapter, titled Putting Thinking at the Center of the Educational Enterprise, is all about the fact that many teachers have been placed in a position to focus too much on the delivery of content putting the teacher at the center of the educational process as opposed to the student. I found this chapter to do an amazing job putting into words exactly how I have been feeling in recent years. I want so much to help my students to become thinkers and problem solvers but I struggle to create opportunities to develop and practice these skills because I need so much time to cover the overabundance of standards we are expected to cover. This chapter has me so excited to read about a possible solution to this issue!

The solution starts with making thinking visible. When a student's thinking is visible it not only helps the teacher to know what students are understanding but also how they are understanding the concept or skill. There are three ways that the authors explain will help us to get insight into our students thinking.


We have all heard how important it is to ask higher level questions but many of us have also run into the roadblock of creating those questions ahead of time as well as ensuring that the questions we develop are appropriate for what our students need at that moment. The authors suggest three ways to implement meaningful questions into the classroom 1) show students our own interest in topics by sharing questions we have, 2) ask questions to help students to build an understanding of the concept or skill, 3) facilitate a deeper understanding by asking questions that push beyond the answer such as "What makes you say that?"

Taking the time to listen to our kiddos, I mean REALLY listen to them, will help to develop a natural conversation that includes questions that push thinking. In addition to supporting good conversation, demonstrating what it looks like to truly listen to someone helps students to become better listeners.

This is something that I really want to focus on this year. Documenting is not simply recording what students have been doing but it is meant to help move learning forward. I especially love how the authors explain that documenting should come in many forms. The learning community might document using photographs, audiotapes of discussions, writing, drawings, etc. This type of documentation works perfectly with the focus on multiple intelligences in my classroom.

I am so excited to move into the actual thinking routines. It is exactly what I need to explore while putting plans together for next year! Be sure to hop over to hear Tammy's thoughts on this chapter at The Owl Teacher. Come back next Thursday to hear about a few of the 21 routines we will be learning about throughout the rest of the book.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Weekly Summer Link-Up: One Item that Means the World to Me

Amy here! This week's link-up was actually an easy one for me. Monica at I Heart Grade 3 asked us to blog about one item that means the world to me so here it is:

This paper flower was given to me by a couple of students as an end of year gift. The students came from one of THOSE classes. You know the class. The one that you just connect with. The one that pushes you and challenges you to work differently and think differently as a teacher. The one that you dread coming to an end. The one that has students that you hope to stay connected to for years to come so that you can be there to celebrate all that they accomplish.

The girls wrote something sweet on each petal. Here is what each petal said:
I Love...
♥ the way you smile.
♥ the funny jokes you make
♥ your encouragement
♥ how you make school fun
♥ when you wink at me
♥ your shining eyes
♥ how you help me learn
♥ the sayings you say
♥ how you have different things than other teachers
♥ that you give us time to learn things
♥ that you're still joyful when you are frustrated
♥ when you read to us
♥ that you care for us
♥ how you treat us like we are the same age as you
♥ your creativity in the lessons

The time these girls took to create this flower and to write down things that they loved about our community is just so precious to me. I will continue to hang up this flower each and every year at the start of a new year to remind me of how I can impact kids. It will also remind me that it really is the little things that matter to them. I can't thank these girls enough for this beautiful gift and I can only hope they know how much it means to me!

Head over to I Heart Grade 3 to check out some awesome bloggers and what means the world to them!

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Book Study: Making Thinking Visible

Hello! Amy here! I am so excited to have this opportunity to link up with a new blogger friend who is just a hop, skip, and a jump from us here in the mitten state! Tammy at The Owl Teacher put out an all call to find bloggers interested in reading a book called Making Thinking Visible (How to Promote Engagement, Understanding, and Independence for All Learners) and sharing a some of their thoughts about the book.

Over the next several weeks we will share a chapter or two with you each Thursday and give you some of the highlights. So here we go!

Chapter 1: Unpacking Thinking

It was interesting to hear that the stages of thinking and understanding are not stages at all. We have all learned about Bloom's Taxonomy and many of us (myself included) have been under the impression that students move through these stages of thinking starting at a low, basic understanding of a concept or skill and move through a hierarchy. I have thought the key to getting my kids to be deep thinkers is to begin by giving them a basic understanding of concepts and skills through direct instruction and then give them opportunities to expand that knowledge so that they can ultimately apply their new knowledge. This chapter blew that sequence out of the water! It got me thinking... is my push to have my students learn a skill and then apply that skill (of course in some sort of project type of way) encouraging one of the biggest problems in my classroom? Students are way too product focused. They want to get to the final product and they want to get it right. They have no time or patience for the process which means that perseverance and grit are difficult for my kiddos. Hmmm... something to think about!

One of the things I am most excited about with this book is that the authors are going to share specific strategies that support students in thinking about their thinking. He states that when students are asked "What is Thinking?" most are not able to give a solid explanation. It makes me wonder, how can kids make solid thinking moves to help them achieve understanding if they are not able to identify their thinking or strategies they use to support their comprehension? The upcoming chapters in this book give specific thinking moves that should be used repeatedly throughout a unit of study. The best part, they can also be used to assess students understanding which will obviously continuously guide our instruction.

The final point that really stuck out for me in this chapter is that everything we do must create a desire to learn in our students. This desire manifests in curiosity and questioning. I want a learning environment where kids are eager to learn and one where students find value in what they are learning and how they are spending their time. I am hopeful that as I read these next chapters and gain a better understanding of the thinking moves identified by the authors, that I will be able to increase student motivation and engagement in my classroom.

If you are interested in joining our little book study, please do! I have a feeling that we are going to have some great discussions and that we will start our school year with some new found knowledge that will have a huge impact on our kiddos!

Jump over to visit Tammy at The Owl Teacher to read what others are saying about this first chapter!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

TPT Seller Challenge Week One: Makeover Madness

We are so excited to have an opportunity to come together with hundreds of TPT sellers to participate in the TPT Seller Challenge! These lovely ladies came up with an awesome idea to challenge TPT sellers to spend the next four weeks improving their business.

Sparkling in Second

Peppy Zesty Teacherista

We were all too excited to accept the challenge and Week 1 was just what we needed.

Makeover Madness week is all about improving existing products and we decided to do a complete overhaul of our product covers. We love the look of the square covers and it makes the shopping experience so much more enjoyable. We are slowly changing up all of our covers but we just HAD to start with our first set of products. Way back in December of 2012 we opened Two Nuts Teachin' from the Same Tree and uploaded four individual products as well as a bundle. The products are awesome and we have gotten some great feedback about them but the covers were... well, I will let the pics speak for themselves!

Realistic Fiction Choice Board

Biography Choice Board

Fantasy Choice Board

Adventure Choice Board

All four choice boards in one bundle!

If you are looking for fun and engaging book projects, these are perfect for your kiddos. Each choice boards allows students to choose activities that speak to them as well as demonstrate a deep level of understanding of the book they read.

We used these as quarterly book projects in our classrooms. Each quarter students were asked to choose a book in the chosen genre that is at their Lexile level to read. Students then used the choice board to choose three activities they would complete based on their book. Each resource includes an optional choice board that identifies which of the 8 multiple intelligences (See our FREE 8 Kinds of Smart posters!) the activity is tapping into. That way kids are making informed choices about activities that ask them to capitalize on their strengths. You will also receive graphic organizers for each of the activities to help kids get started with their project. Finally, you will have an easy time grading each project using the provided rubric.

If you think these sound perfect for your classroom, we are celebrating getting rid of those hideous covers by putting all five (YES! Even the bundle!) 20% off for the rest of this week (through Saturday)! Grab them for next year!

Monday, June 15, 2015

Weekly Summer Link-Up: My Teaching Quirk

So excited to be linking up with I Heart Grade 3 again this week for her Weekly Summer Link-Up party!

This week's link-up is all about my teaching quirk. It took me some time to come up with one... yes, because I have WAY too many! I tried to think about what other teachers in my building would say if they were asked and only one thing came to mind...


I am completely obsessed with fonts. I know that there are several of us font junkies out there but I may take it to the next level (actually Mollie too, but I don't want to throw her under the bus so I will focus on my own illness). Here is why I think this is by far my most outrageous quirk:

1. If our district sends us something to read in order to prep for a PD, I have to change the font before printing... I HAVE TO! Of course then I am embarrassed by my level of crazy and hide it shamelessly so my colleagues don't see it during the actual PD.

2. If I forget something on the printer and my name is nowhere to be found on the document, 9 times out of 10 the person who finds it is able to bring it to me without question that it is mine. We have about 30 people who are able to print to our printer so... yeah.

3. I have a mild panic attack every spring knowing that the district is going to come in to ghost our computers and that there is a possibility that I will lose all of my babies... um... I mean fonts. 

4. Typically in any given year I have to ask our tech department to up the memory space on my drive because it takes up so much space saving everything as a word document AND a PDF document. It is necessary because if I need to print something from the computer lab, it won't have my fonts and if I need to send something to someone via email, they won't have my fonts and therefore I can only print/send a PDF. 

5. Finally, when I start a new document it takes me WAY more time than I have to choose just the right font. Of course I have my favorites but I can't help but give some of the other fonts a fair chance to shine! 

So there it is... my teaching quirk that makes my colleagues just shake their head and laugh. 

(Is it sad that I am desperately hoping that some of you will leave some of your favorite fonts in the comments JUST IN CASE I am missing out on some great fonts?!? Yes! It is an illness!!!)

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Weekly Summer Link-Up: An Accomplishment I Am Proud Of

Hi there! Amy here! I am so excited to link up with I Heart Grade 3 for her summer blogging series. This week's topic is "An Accomplishment I am Proud of".

One accomplishment I am proud of is my work with our East Kentwood Volleyball Program. I played volleyball from 8th grade through high school and then I played club ball in college. It was some of the best years and I knew that I wanted to coach as soon as I started working in the schools.

I have been the freshman coach for the past 14 seasons and I am so fortunate to work with some amazing kids who have taught me so much. They are goofy...

And hardworking...

And they love the sport of volleyball. My favorite is the relationships that I build with the girls that outlasts their short high school careers. They often come back while in college and even beyond to visit, help, and mentor our current players. I have had previous players come back and assistant coach for me, and although it makes me feel extremely old, it is wonderful to see the young adults they have become and that they see the value in teaching some of the same lessons I taught them to the current players.

Coaching can be difficult, especially as my own kiddos get older and have more and more commitments, however, I can not bring myself to stop coaching. I love it too much. Now my own girls want to play volleyball and we can experience this amazing program and sport together.