Monday, June 18, 2018

Summer!!

I feel like Olaf, singing about summer! That blessed, glorious time is finally upon us and has been upon us for a week now. It's a time to kick back, relax, and enjoy being free from school.

I did that. For like a week. Now I'm back on the computer, browsing Pinterest and dreaming up ideas for the next school year. I don't know about you, but I just can't spend all of summer doing nothing. I've got some good ideas simmering for next year that I want to start fleshing out, I'm thinking of moving away from interactive notebooks this year so I've got to start thinking about that...there's lots that I want to do this summer, both school and non-school. So here's my short little list of what I would like to accomplish this summer:

1. Relax. Binge watch Netflix/Hulu. So far, this summer, I have binge watched the entire new season of The Flash and am halfway through the new season of Arrow. Then I had to take a break from Arrow and all its teamy angst so I discovered Timeless which totally speaks to the history teacher in me (and has a really attractive main character so that's a plus). One of my main goals for the summer is to relax. I get bored quickly but I do enjoy just chilling out on the couch. I'm also kind of watching a movie every night (or almost every night) and so I'm enjoying that! 

2. Exercise. I'm trying to get in the groove of walking my neighborhood each morning before it gets ridiculously hot. So far I'm doing okay at it. I did 3 mornings last week and so am hoping for 4 this week. Baby steps! I've got a bridesmaids' dress to fit into in July so exercising is a big goal.

3. The Animal Shelter. Enjoy being with my shelter friends and shelter pups. I'm trying to set a goal of not going to the shelter more than 1 weekday as well as my typical Saturdays. Often, when I get bored or when I just have some free time, I just go to the shelter. I'm trying to do some other things as well although I'm hoping to do some overnight fostering/weekend fostering and maybe see about taking a dog for a hike day or something. We'll see! 

4. School Prep. Those people who think that teachers have all of summer off are crazy. Now, there are probably some teachers out there who leave school in the beginning of June, set their automatic reply on their email, and never look back until August. I am not one of them. I am usually always thinking of things I can change for next year, ideas that I really want to flesh out over the summer, and ways I can improve my classroom. This summer, I'm re-reading Teach Like a Pirate (which is one of my favorite teacher books), and working on a time-travel idea for my classroom this year. I'm also using Pinterest for some professional development (because Pinterest should totally count as PD hours) and I'm going to start my application for my school library certification. I tell myself I'm not going to do anything school-related until July but it just never happens. Now I don't spend hours thinking of school stuff but I do work on it some.

So how about you? How do you spend your summers off? Do you travel? Stay home with the kids? Gallivant all over your city, exploring new things? How much time do you spend on professional stuff in the summer? I'd love to hear how you spend your time off! Sound off in the comments.

For now, that's a wrap! 

Friday, June 15, 2018

For the Love of a Book, Week 12


Okay, okay, okay. I know...I've been MIA for a while now. Like a month. Probably no one has even noticed but if you have, my apologies. The end of the school year is crazy and then I just wanted to lie around and do nothing this first week of summer. But today I am starting to browse Pinterest for lesson ideas and so I thought I'd get back into my blog with today's installment of "super awesome book you should definitely read and recommend." 

You all know that I absolutely love Gordon Korman. When I go to book sales, the first books I look for are ones by Korman (although I'm pretty sure I'm getting to the point where I own all of his books). When my mom goes to book sales and asks me what I want her to look for, my first answer is always "anything by Gordon Korman." 


My mom recently procured me two new Korman books and one of them is the focus of today's blog post. It's called Ungifted and is about a young boy who ends up in a gifted school by accident after destroying a statue and his school's gym via a prank. The book focuses on Donovan's adventures at the gifted school and how he comes to have an impact on these nerdy, awkward, smart kids - at the same time that they're impacting him. Like all Korman books, this one is a great read. It's engaging, fun, and quick. There are lessons (don't judge someone by first impressions being one of the main ones) that are subtly hidden behind wit and entertainment. The book is just. plain. good. This is what I love about Korman. His books are always good. I don't think I've ever read one that I didn't like or that I didn't highly recommend. I can't wait to put this one in the classroom library and encourage students to read it.

What about you? Do you have an author that you absolutely recommend hands-down to your students? Have you read anything new this summer? Sound off in the comments - I'd love to hear about it.

For now, that's a wrap! 

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Gamifying the Classroom with Classcraft, Week 5!

Well, we're back with another week of Classcraft! This week, we are going to look at some ways to use Classcraft in the classroom - since that is what I ultimately hope you will be doing. I'm only going to be showing you things you can do with the free version this week since next week is devoted to Premium features.

Hopefully, by now you've set up your initial classes and are ready to get going. Whether you are using this for the remainder of this school year or waiting to bust it out next year, you probably still want to know how Classcraft can be used in your classroom. This is probably going to be a shorter post than usual because most of the features are ones I've touched on already in previous posts as I've explained the nuts and bolts but here we go!


The first way that you can use the Classcraft program within your classroom is simple - use it as a 'behavioral management' tool. This is probably the number one way to use Classcraft in the classroom. You can do this by actively using the HP and XP features to reward or punish behaviors. By consistently taking away HP or giving students XP, it is possible to bring more discipline to your classroom. I think that one way that I haven't been as successful with this aspect this year is that it took me a while to get used to using it. And I wasn't 100% sure what to do with customizing in the beginning so a lot of the "Sentences" were dumb things that I didn't follow through on, meaning that students were then not concerned about falling in battle because their sentence probably wasn't going to happen.

Therefore, I recommend starting out strong with HP and XP. Be consistent. This doesn't mean you have to open up your Classcraft app every time someone receives a consequence or does something good. Perhaps you simply keep a list and add/take points at the end of class. This is what I do with warnings. I write my warnings and consequences down throughout the period and then take the points at the end of class. You can also use the app on your phone to do this throughout the period. Know what you want your punishments to be, as well. And then follow through. Don't use "assigned seat for a week" if you already have assigned seats. That's pointless. Don't use "essay question on a test/quiz" if you know you won't add an essay question. That's dumb. Make the 'sentences' things you will actually follow through on.

Consistency is key!

Boss Battles, which have been described in depth in a previous post, are also a great tool to implement in the classroom. These are great for a review. It doesn't take too long to create a Boss Battle and then you can use it in all your classes. You have the option to have the Battle call on individual students or teams. I usually do it both ways. First, we review with the individual students and then as teams. It's a great review tool and the students really seem to get into it!

Those are probably the two major ways to incorporate Classcraft into your classroom. I highly value some other features of the program but they're premium features so I'll delve into them next week.

Like I said, a shorter post this week (but after the epistles you've been slogging through the past few weeks, you're probably not complaining). Really, the best feature of Classcraft in the classroom is the use of it as a 'behavioral management' tool. Do you agree? Disagree? Is there a way you're using Classcraft that I haven't thought of yet? I'd love to hear about it! Sound off in the comments as always! Thanks for reading!

For now, that's a wrap! 

Monday, May 7, 2018

Always Befriend the Front Office Staff

One of the most crucial pieces of advice you can get in college education courses is to befriend your school secretary. She/he can really make your life easy - or make your life hell. If, like me, you're lucky to have a dream front office/attendance crew then your life as a teacher will be so much more enjoyable.

At my school, our front office staff consists of two women. One has been at the school for years. She is awesome. We'll call her Mrs. D. The other is Mrs. G and she's been with the school for two years. She's equally awesome. I always stop by first thing in the morning to say good morning to Mrs. D and chat for a few minutes. It just starts my day off right!

We're lucky to have Mrs. D and Mrs. G at my school. They truly do make the school run. If I need anything yearbook related or student related, I have only to ask and these two will try everything in their power to get it done. It's very important to create that relationship with your front office staff because they're the ones who can look up student files for you, find an administrator for you, etc. My school has a high Hispanic population so we're lucky that Mrs. G is bilingual and more than willing to make parent phone calls to Moms and Dads who don't speak English. If you're nice to your front office staff, they're more likely to help you out when you're in a bind.

You also want to befriend and be nice to the attendance clerk. At my school, Mrs. F does the attendance and boy, oh boy, I would not want her job! She has to check those attendance records to be sure no student has been marked absent in one class (meaning a phone call home to the parents) when the child is actually in class. Yikes! Attendance clerks have a tough job and it's always good to be nice and helpful - and actually take attendance.

What's the set-up at your school? Do you have a secretary and attendance clerk? Are they as awesome as mine? I think the school is secretly run by our front office crew. I'd love to hear stories about your super awesome office crew! Sorry for the short post but I'm a little short on time today! But I'd still love to hear from you - sound off in the comments!

For now, that's a wrap!

Friday, May 4, 2018

For the Love of a Book, Week 11

Hello, everyone! I'm back with another week of For the Love of a Book!! Did you miss me last week? I failed miserably in blogging last week because I didn't take my computer home last weekend and then went to Atlanta on a field trip Wednesday...but you don't care. You just want to know what book I'm recommending this week!! So here we go!

Drumroll, please...The Selection series! This series is AMAZING. Keep you on the edge of your seat, engaged, rooting for various characters the entire time...that amazing. Today, I'm just going to focus on the first book in the series, The Selection, but rest assured that the entire series is completely worth your time.

The Selection is like dystopian literature meets The Bachelor. So if you're into the idea of a dude meeting his true love by dating 25 women then you're going to love this book. And if you're not a fan of the fakey-fake nature of The Bachelor then you're still gonna want to try this book because the story line is true and the path to romance sincere. Throw in some rebels, a love triangle, and laughs and you've got the recipe for success.

Basically, the story centers around a girl named America who lives in Illea, which is located in the remnants of North America - dystopian, remember? America is in love with Aspen but he's in a lower caste system than her so their relationship has to be kept a secret. Then they have a fight and she enters into The Selection (the prince's way to find a wife), sure she'll never win...until her name is drawn as the girl from her province. She's whisked off to the palace, glad for the excuse to leave Aspen. From her very first meeting with the prince, Maxon, you know that it's going to be a roller coaster. At first, she promises to be a friend to Maxon because she's still in love with Aspen so, even though she's not interested in a romance with the prince, she's not ready to go home.

Then, Aspen gets drafted and shows up at the palace, declaring his love for America to still be strong. And...cue the love triangle as America struggles with her old feelings for Aspen and her burgeoning feelings for Maxon. This triangle isn't as corny and bad as Bella-Jacob-Edward, don't worry!

It's a wonderful series that was originally a trilogy focused on America and Maxon. It spawned a duology after that, which was great. This is definitely a series aimed at girls and it's totally appropriate for middle schoolers and loved by all. I always highly recommend it to my sixers, especially those that are into romance novels. It's perhaps at a higher reading level than the majority of sixth graders but if they're reading skills are above par, than it is perfect!

Check out The Selection today! Have you read The Selection? Got any new recommendations for me? I'd love to hear them. Sound off in the comments!

For now, that's a wrap!

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Gamifying the Classroom with Classcraft, Week 4!

Hello, faithful readers!! Welcome back to another week of my Classcraft series. I hope you're enjoying reading these posts as much as I am enjoying writing them. I really do love Classcraft and I hope you will give it a shot. In fact, I'm doing a PD for my school this week on Classcraft - though no one has signed up for it yet...but it's not until Tuesday so there's hope!

This week's post focuses on how to set up a classroom. I'll be showing you step-by-step what to do, along with some tips that I've picked up. Each step will start with a picture so that will hopefully allow you to keep it all straight. Let's dive in!

I'm going to assume that you have already set up a Classcraft account as setting up classes is basically not helpful if you don't have an account. So, once you have an account, this will be your main page. I already have 4 classes set up but when you sign up, all you'll have is a Demo Class. So the first thing you're going to want to do is click "+ New Class." Simple, right?

This is the page that will pop up. All you've gotta do is give your new class a name! Mine are simple - 1st Period, 3rd Period, 4th Period, and 6th Period. I suppose you could be creative and go with Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff, and Slytherin... If you teach high school, you may have your classes done by subject - Biology, AP Biology, Physical Science, etc. You can also choose to just import existing settings from another class, which can be helpful if you've already customized one class and just want to make all your other classes the same. Give your class a name and click on "next"!


Here, you can set the duration of the game as well as how many hours a week the class meets. This sets up how quickly AP (the points students need to use their powers) regenerates. I recommend just setting the game to run from Day 1 of school to Day Final. Input your class-specific details and let's move on.

Now it's time for the important stuff - adding students. You have two options, Create New Accounts and Add Existing Students. I'm going to focus on creating new accounts. Once you click on Create New Accounts, you have two options.

You can either add the students yourself (what I'm going to show you) or you can import them from your Google Classroom once you've gotten all your students logged into Classroom. If you start Classcraft before you set up Google Classroom or you don't use Classroom, it's not that complicated to just add the students manually. If you want to import from Classroom, that's super easy and self-explanatory, so you should be good to go!

When you go to add students manually, all you have to do is type in their names. I'm creating a new class to use for my PD on Tuesday so I'm using fake names (I don't really teach at Hogwarts, in case you were wondering). You add as many names as you want! It gives you 10 slots to begin with but you can easily click "Add More" at the bottom if you, as I suspect, have more than 10 students. When you've listed all your students, click on "Create Accounts."

The next thing to do is put your students into teams. The game automatically starts with one team but you can easily add more teams. I've got two teams and have already put Harry and Hermione onto a team. It's up to you how you want to do your teams. I started my Classcraft adventure at the beginning of the year and didn't know my students so I just randomly put them on teams. Mid-year, I switched the teams up to even out the ability level some. That's probably the easiest way to do it and highlights one of those great features of Classcraft - everything can be customized down the road! So throw your kids onto teams and click "Finish."

Once you click "Finish," you are taken to the main screen. You will see all your characters listed on the left. Their character outlines are blank until they set up their character. If you're setting up your Classcraft classes before school starts, you can't do anything else at this point until you have your students in front of you. Theoretically, you could set up your students yourself but that kind of robs them of the fun of customizing their person so you probably want to wait.

The easiest way (in my opinion) to sign your classes up is to click on the "Options" gear wheel on the left-hand side of the screen, which will take you to the Students page. You're going to click on the "Distribute codes" link on the right-hand side. There's also an option to display a class code but that assumes your students have already set up accounts and it's easier for me to just walk them through step-by-step. It will give you the option to email the code or print handouts. Either way works great - I'm going to show you the handout method.

You just print out these handouts and distribute them to the students. It provides step-by-step directions for the students and is very user-friendly. Once the student is set up and logged in, they will get to customize their character, choose their "look" and class (Warrior, Mage, Healer) and more. Don't forget - encourage each team to make sure they have at least one of each type on their team!

And that's it! Whew! It seems complicated but it's really not. Classcraft is also great with the tutorials, FAQs, and help if you need it, too. So how'd you do? Your classes all set and ready to go? Was this helpful? Sound off in the comments and wish me luck in my PD!

For now, that's a Wrap!

Monday, April 30, 2018

Amazing Coworkers Are EVERYTHING

So I haven't really been doing a series on the people you need around you to be happy at school - at least, not technically. But I did focus first on principals and then on assistant principals...so now I'm going to focus on the people you work with day in and day out who can make your life so much better.

Those people are...your coworkers! Specifically, the teachers you teach with and work with.

It is so important to have great teachers around you. You want to surround yourself with other teachers who are dedicated to the profession and the students, teachers who radiate positivity and don't mind having a good laugh during a planning period. Teachers who spend their time thinking up ways to engage the kiddos and yet still have time to listen to you vent.

In college, they encourage you to stay away from the teacher's lounge so you don't end up congregating with teachers who are pessimistic, burned out, and just getting together to complain about their students...their day...the number of meetings they have to attend...their principal...the parents...and the list goes on. I think this is a very good thing to remember as it is very easy to get drawn into these types of conversations, even if you're not a typically pessimistic person. Instead, surround yourself with positive, encouraging people!

I'm lucky at my school to be on a super awesome teaching team. I can't speak for elementary schools or high schools, but at my middle school, we are in teacher teams - 1 ELA, 1 Math, 1 Science, and 1 Social Studies. Our teams meet once a week for a "team meeting" to talk about our upcoming lessons, important information, and our students.

But since my team is so awesome, we just enjoy hanging out with each other. Sometimes, we all congregate in the Math teacher's room during a planning period just to chat. We eat snacks and sometimes throw candy at one another. We commiserate over hard days or difficult parents. We work together to help our students, which isn't always easy!

The best part about my team? They're always there when I'm having a bad day. Our ELA teacher is always there to listen to me and give me encouragement. Our Math teacher is always good for a laugh. Our Science teacher always has the candy! I'm very lucky to have a great team and even luckier to have other coworkers on the sixth grade hall who are uplifting and positive. In fact, I'm lucky in that I have lots of great coworkers all over my school - 7th grade teacher friends from when I taught on that hallway, SPED teacher friends, 8th grade teacher friends...the list goes on!

So, in conclusion, it's very important to surround yourself with good people. A great principal and wonderful assistant principals are super important but the teachers you teach with day in and day out - those are the key. Seek out the ones who radiate positivity and encouragement. Steer clear (without being rude, of course) of those who are pessimistic and pull you down. These are the people you will spend 180 days (maybe more) of the year with so make sure they're good ones!

How about you? Are you as lucky as I am to have great people to work with? No? I'd love to hear your stories! Sound off in the comments!

For now...that's a wrap!