Sunday, June 28, 2015

Why I Took A Year Off From Blogging

Can you believe it has been a 
(school) year since we've last said hello?  

To be honest, I have no idea where the time went.  My blog absence didn't begin as an intentional decision.  I was overwhelmed by work, family, and other responsibilities that made blogging something I just didn't have time for.  I kept meaning to do it, but as my daily to do lists got longer and longer, blogging kept getting moved down the list. When I look back at the last few posts I did write, you can sort of see it was coming.

At one point, I realized I hadn't blogged in a couple of months.  That was when I did make a conscious decision to take the school year off.  It was not an easy decision.  I like blogging.  I really, really like blogging!  I like sharing ideas, having a place to express myself, and the interaction with you all through comments. I share, but I also learn so much from you.  However, when blogging became something I no longer looked forward to, I knew it was time to take a break.

It had been, for me, a difficult couple of years at work with some changes that had me feeling somewhat uninspired.  I found myself with fewer and fewer ideas on what I wanted to blog about.  If I wasn't energized and excited about what I was doing, how could I possibly come here and share?  I knew that I needed to refocus and find a new way to look at things.  It was all about "reframing" the situation.  Happily, I can write that I am in a totally different mindset now. I want to write a post about reframing and recharging your teaching.  I think we all hit that slump at one time or another, and I was able to find some strategies that really helped turn things around.

So, do I regret taking the year off from blogging?  I can 100% say it was the best thing I could have done!  It really gave me a chance to recharge.  So, what did I do with all that time?  Lots!

I found time for all those school related things I would usually struggle to fit in. . .

I went to several out of district workshops that made my literacy loving heart sing!  I was able to listen and learn from Donalyn MillerHarvey "Smokey" DanielsDebbie MillerDouglas FisherKyleene Beers, and Bob Probst. Tell me that isn't an amazing year of PD! Being able to learn from these literacy leaders has recharged my teaching and definitely made me refine my methods.  It has also given me so many ideas for blog  posts.  There is so much I want to share with you from these workshops!

I finally got to read some of the books in the giant pile I've been meaning to get to.  Reading in the Wild by Donalyn Miller was a really good one, but I've been on a big Jennifer Serravallo kick.  I love her books. If you are a literacy teacher, she is a must read.  In particular, her latest book, The Reading Strategies Book, is one that should be on every reading teacher's desk. I'm planning to post reviews of the books I've read this past year.  Most were fantastic like the two below, but there were a couple of duds.
 

I worked on cleaning up and reorganizing my classroom.  This included taking the time to purge all those files I haven't opened in forever and reorganizing my closets and drawers that seemed to be filled with things I've sort of just thrown in there. I took a true tough love approach and got rid of anything I knew I haven't used and probably wouldn't.  One of the biggest projects I took on was reevaluating my classroom library.  I have a HUGE class library. After attending the Donalyn Miller workshop, I was inspired to make some big changes. I have a couple of blog posts planned about this with all the details and rational, but I can tell you I ended up purging 271 books and then completely reorganizing it all.  The pic below is from my Instagram that I posted as we were in progress. By the way, Instagram is without a doubt my favorite social media! I must be a visual learner :-)


There was also time to have a life outside of school. I found time to join a gym and workout.  I had time to spend with friends and family.  I read many (GASP!!) non-teaching related books. I went to movies, I slept, I cooked, I went to concerts, fairs, and festivals. I watched TV,  I had a life!  And, it wasn't that blogging took that much time.  I mean, it does take time.  If you blog, you know it can be time consuming.  But not blogging gave me nights  and weekends free to do more without the guilt of thinking I should be blogging.

The one area I had hoped to work on this past year was my presence on Teachers Pay Teachers. Yeah, that didn't happen.  I still have just one or two lonely, simple freebies hanging out on my TpT page.  I had lots of ideas and projects in mind, but never got around to it.  It is still a goal for me.  Being able to share products and ideas that work for me and I hope will help others is something I still really want to do.  I just have to realize this is going to be a slow moving goal.  I still have a lot to learn about creating products and how TpT works.  I have July and August to do some learning and creating, so I'm hoping to have at least a couple of things ready to go for September. But, I'm not
going to be pressuring myself to do it all.  It will happen as it happens.

One thing this year off did help me realize is just how much I missed blogging. Even though I'm glad I took the year off, I'm excited to get back to it.  Also, I have to give a huge thanks to those of you that continued to pop in during the year despite not seeing new content. To be honest, I was shocked anyone was still checking in on my little blog!

Moving forward, I have a better balance now with work, life, and blogging. I don't have a blogging schedule planned.  I just have things I want to share on occasion.  It might be twice a week, it might be once a week.  I'm not sure. What I am sure of is that I am  happy to be back to blogging! 


Thursday, September 18, 2014

I Have a Blog??

Just popping in with a quick post from my phone. I know it has been forever since I've posted! Big, long stories that include a crashed motherboard, family things, and (if I'm being honest) a bit of laziness! But not 2 months of laziness! 

However, assuming anyone is still checking in, I will be back to regular posting on October 1st.  Until then, check out my Instagram! Since I'm essentially working off my iPhone for the time being, it's been my favorite place to be! Just search "Teaching My Friends" and my account should pop up. Look for the pink apple!

These are just some of the pics I've shared there:






There are blog posts to go with most of these pictures, but technology has not been my friend lately!  But, fingers crossed, we should be BFFs once again by October!

So, thanks to all that have been checking in even though I've been MIA.  I do appreciate it! I will see you on October 1st!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Weekend Words: "There Are Many Ways of Being Smart."


I have no Weekend Words that can top this letter from a principal to her students. You can read the full article about this letter HERE.



Friday, July 18, 2014

ThE MOst DisJoiNteD bLoG pOSt EvEr! (and some affixes!)



This really is probably going to be the most disjointed blog post ever! There were a few different education and non-education topics swirling around in my head, and I'm just going to lump them all into one post.

I haven't blogged in a bit for no good reason than it is summer, and I'm being a bit lazy.  
Every morning, this is the plan:
                                        
But, then I get distracted.  One of my biggest distractions this summer has been this little app:
Yes, that devilish little Kindle app on my iPhone!  It has been so nice to have time to read fluff.  I am still in the middle of two different professional books, but I just lost interest for a bit.  I might need to delete this app for a couple of weeks so I can get something done! Like blogging and working on my TpT stuff.

Figuring out this whole Tpt thing was is one of my goals this summer.  I have some things I want to get done, but the time-suck that is my Kindle app has been getting the best of me.  It was so fun seeing all the pics of bloggers who attended the Tpt gathering (convention?) in Vegas last week.  It looked like so much fun.  I've been reading lots of blog posts on it, and I have yet to hear of anyone that didn't have a great time, meet some amazing bloggers, and learn lots of helpful tips.
In fact, I posted this pic on my Instagram account during the festivities.  More on Instagram later!  My goal is that by next year my Tpt store will be up and running and I will attend the next gathering  

One thing I am getting done is summer school.  I have the best group of kids this year!  I truly love them to pieces.  They are so sweet, just really nice children who are willing to learn.  No attitudes!  They really make heading to work on nice, sunny, beach days not so bad. And, there are only 7 of them which has let me get so much done.

  My summer friends will be entering 4th grade in September but have reading levels 1-2 years below that.  One thing I learned right away is that they are unfamiliar with the most basic of affixes.  I know they were taught them in 3rd grade, but the recall is not there at all.  So, when deciding what to do with them for word study this summer, affixes it is!  I wanted to get the most bang for my buck.  They certainly need help with spelling patterns, but as soon-to-be-4th-graders I feel mastering some basic affixes will help them more with decoding the grade level words they will encounter.

For visuals with my lessons, I've been using this beach themed packet of 31 different prefixes and suffixes by Rachael Parlett that I found on Teachers Pay Teachers.  It is awesome. And, free! She actually has this same pack available in different themes (pirates, jungle, Hollywood, and more) along with other for sale resources that compliment them.  We've been doing one a day.

 I write the affix down, and then I give the kids a basic word that has that affix.  I then let them try to figure out what it means.  Once they do, we write the definition on the chart we've glued in our notebook.  We then work together to brainstorm a list of words.  After that, they select a word and use it in a sentence that shows they know the meaning of the word.  Finally, they sketch a quick picture showing their sentence.  This form is another freebie I also found on Teachers Pay Teachers created by Gaily Girl.  It's a pack of various materials, including this chart/organizer.  I will say that I did tweak it a bit, but it is essentially the same.  I just changed the font, made one line dotted, and changed the center box to put in the particular affixes we are using.  The form is editable, so it was easy to do.
 I only have my friends for five short weeks this summer, so we are spending two weeks on prefixes, two on suffixes (there they are below, ready to go!) and on our last week we will be combining the two.  The best part of it all is that I can really see this clicking for the kids.  They are using the new words they learned in our conversation and have stopped me during our read aloud more than once to point out that I said a word that had a prefix we learned.  Score!!!

After summer school today, I went to my school to grab some materials from our supply room.  If you are not a teacher and wonder what schools look like during the summer, here it is!
I really feel for our custodians in the summer.  Our school is not air conditioned, and it is hot as blazes in that building.  They are busy clearing out the classrooms, stripping and freshly waxing floors, cleaning the rooms, making repairs, and actually working to retile some classrooms this year.  It is hot and sweaty work! They have to empty every room, do all that work, and then put it all back again.   But, it all very much appreciated when we come back to shiny, clean classrooms in September!

                                             
So, frozen peas.  Yup, that's me driving home from school last week with a bag of frozen peas on my knee.  At dismissal last Thursday, I tripped on some uneven sidewalk and did a full-on face plant (really more of a knee injury) in front of all the summer school staff, students, and parents.  It was so bad, I literally couldn't get up for a minute.  I was going to post a picture of my knee today, but it is so ugly I didn't want to subject you to it!  It is blue, green, purple, black, red, yellow, and every other color you can imagine.  I honestly can't believe how bad the bruise is.  It is still really sore, but I'm just glad I didn't break anything.  And to prove how sweet my kids are this summer, I can't begin to tell you how upset they got when I fell.  I was so busy reassuring them that I was fine that it wasn't until after they were all gone that I realized how bad it was.  

To keep on with this disjointed post. . .  I might be mildly obsessed with getting some Jamberry nails.  I'm seeing them all over the web.  When I first heard of them, I thought I could just pick them up in the store.  But, I think it is some kind of home party sales thing.  I do see though that I can order some on their website.  They aren't cheap, but I think it would be a fun treat. Have to look in to this some more!  Do any of you do Jamberry nails?  How do you like them?  Where do you get them?


My other mild obsession this summer has been banana frozen yogurt.  I tell you this for no reason other than I feel more people need to know about banana frozen yogurt.  (You know I'm an elementary school teacher because I can't even type the word banana without thinking of Minions and laughing!)  I posted this picture of some on Instagram a few days ago.  It was a bit disappointing due to the lack of toppings. Notice there aren't really any?  I wanted some fresh fruit, and there was none!  When is the last time you went to a fro yo shop that had no fresh fruit?!!  

Speaking of Instagram, I have just started using my blog Instagram.  I find I am much more of an Instagram person than a Facebook person.  I use FB in my personal life for friends and family, but I find it really difficult to switch back and forth between my blog FB page and my personal FB page.  As a result, I sort of don't pay any attention to my blog FB page which isn't good.  Some of you have been so nice to follow me on it which means you are probably on it more than I am!  However, I find it much easier to blend my personal and blog Instagram in one.  I think I'm more of a visual person and just find Instagram more appealing.  I need to add an Instagram link to my buttons up top, but you can find me HERE. I've only posted a few pics, but I think IG is one social media I will keep up with.

So, that's my disjointed post. Which seems about right for summer blogging! :-)


Saturday, July 5, 2014

Weekend Words: Happy Belated 4th America!


The week has just gotten away from me!  It's been my first full week of summer vacation, a holiday, and I've been prepping for summer school.  I'll be back next week with some new posts.  Until then, I hope that you all celebrated a wonderful 4th of July if you are here in the states.

We had terrible rain storms on the 4th due to Hurricane Arthur.  The lightning was amazing.  You could just watch it streak through the sky as it lit up the night.   However, today has been beautiful.  We just got back from watching our local fireworks display on the lakefront.  Always fun except for the 10,000 mosquito bites! I am one itchy lady!  Tomorrow promises to be another sunny day and a day filled with postponed 4th of July celebrations.  I am going to try to not eat my weight in bbq chicken, corn on the cob, smores, and watermelon!

 
This picture is from the Ann Taylor Instagram page.  I just couldn't resist it!  I remember getting those ice pops off the ice cream truck as a kid.  A perfectly cool treat for the 4th of July! Their clothes are pretty darn nice, too! :-)  Happy Belated 4th, America!



Sunday, June 29, 2014

Weekend Words


And, that's my plan on this first weekend of what will hopefully be a great summer vacation!


Friday, June 27, 2014

Putting the Pieces Together: A Novel Activity



In cleaning up my computer, I came across these pictures of an activity I did three years ago with my friends.  I didn't remember posting about it, and in searching the blog I couldn't find it.  So, better late than never!

This activity was done towards the later part of the school year.  We had spend time learning all the story elements and vocabulary that goes along with it. We had learned how to effectively write summaries and peer edit.  We had plenty of practice working in cooperative groups where collaboration and good conversation are a must.  It was time to put it all together.

After we had read the novel Frindle by Andrew Clements, I broke my friends into strategic groups of five.  They were going to work together to identify the important details of each story element and summarize their section.  We were putting the puzzle pieces (of all we had learned) together!

Each color represents a different group.  Each puzzle piece, from top to bottom, represents a different story element: characters, plot, problem, solution, setting.  Using a graphic organizer, my friends worked with their group to outline what from the book (working on important information and detail vs. unimportant) must be included in each section.

Once the graphic organizers were completed and agreed on by the group, each member took one element and turned it into a written summary on their puzzle piece.  Some were longer than others and required us to staple a couple of pages together, but it all worked out. It was a nice mix of cooperative work combined with an element of personal responsibility for the finished product. If they had room, they also created small illustrations that went along with their writing. These are some samples below.





When all were done, we glued them on to a column of construction paper in order. To finish, they added some extra illustrations.  Each group then presented their summary of the book. When we were done, I hung them on the lockers outside my room.  If you are a regular reader, you know of my never ending quest for vertical display ideas for those darn lockers!


I can't remember where I got the puzzle pieces, but honestly they are something you could draw free-hand on white paper and just make some copies.  If you wanted to get fancy, you could make it so the puzzle pieces fit together in a rectangle and actually put the pieces together for a display that doesn't have to be vertical.  I did minimize two puzzle pieces on the copier for the top of each chart, one had the book title and author while the other listed the kids' names.

All in all, this was a good activity that allowed the kids to pull together all we had been learning in reading and writing.  You can also make this as simple or involved as you want depending on the ages group your are working with. Another plus is that it works with any book!



Monday, June 23, 2014

Missed It!


First time since I've started it that I missed Weekend Words. Sorry about that!  That picture pretty much sums up the craziness of my life this past week. 

With school ending this week, it has been a mad dash to not just pack up my classroom, but to totally organize it from the inside out. My goal is to hit the ground running in September with very little room prep. I have no plans to go in before our first official workshop days!

Add to that, lots of crazy but fun home stuff going on at the same time, and I have just run out of days! I feel like I have been running non-stop at school all day only to come home and do the same until I crash into bed at night! I could have totally used that eighth day for blogging!

But, I do have some posts coming this week! In the process of cleaning up an old computer I found pics of a bulletin board reading project I don't think I've shared. I also attended a workshop by Douglas Fisher I want to tell you about. (No links as I'm blogging from my phone right now!) and there are a few other posts in the works!

This morning. I am off to school for our last Monday!! Woo Hoo!!!! Just four more days!! Summer vacation is so close!!!