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Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Workout Wednesday - Resistance Bands

Not all working out happens at the gym!
I'll admit it. I've really slacked off when it comes to workout out! In Mexico I was always WALKING somewhere, but now, I seem to be driving everywhere. That, and the stress of starting a new school year were not good for my body.

So, this year I have my school year resolution! I have to do SOMETHING active every day. In can be ANYTHING. Shopping, walking an extra lap around the school,  pedaling a bit, doing crunches... anything, but I have to do it with the intent of being active. No thinking, "Well I played with my niece earlier so that counts." This has to be something I am really thinking about. If I purposefully jump in the pool to be active with my niece, it counts.

I haven't been the best at it, but part of what has helped me is I am starting to do a lot in my classroom.

My students went one-to-one this year which means that they have their own laptops in class. This means I am getting a bit creative. We're doing a lot of videos (animated and live). This is great, but it means I have to spend a lot of time sitting down and watching them.

Ugh, more sitting time right? Kinda. First off I don't need to be sitting to watch videos. I can stand and watch them while actually moving! Reference ID: pmdd6e83b6da55d90f5740e0dd3f3e5a13

Click this image to go straight to Amazon
See I recently got these resistance bands from Egnergy fitness for free to try out and let them know what I thought. They are pretty cool! Super easy for me to pack in my purse (or even pocket) and take wherever I am going. While I have done a bit with the home-school and back, now these pretty much stay in "my" class drawer (the one with my coffee, Chapstick etc.). When I am about to start grading videos, I just pop out my resistance bands and watch while doing something.

What do you do with resistance loops? Tons! I found some YouTube videos I like, and there are some tips on random websites as well.

An easy way to use the bands is "lateral walking" Slip one side around one ankle and the other side around the other loose but secure. Now move your right leg to the right tightening the band, then move your left leg close to your right leg (basically walk sideways). The resistance makes the walking take a bit more effort! However, the action is easy enough it doesn't require a lot of my focus. There are also workouts that focus on my weak upper arm strength, (a big one for me). I've only been using these about a month, but in a few cases I've found that I need to start selecting higher resistance bands (as the lower ones just don't push me hard enough). I am IMPROVING!

Now if you already have resistance bands, or can snag some from a friend, I am sure they're awesome and will work great. I've never used any other brand, so my statements are only valid for these.

Here's what I like:
  • They come with a great warranty (no being afraid it'll snap and I am done)
  • They have five different strengths (I an adjust resistance as needed)
  • They are ridiculously easy to transport
  • The different colors make it easy for me to grab one and not have to look and read carefully
  • They let me do lots of different activities (it isn't just arms or just legs)
  • They are thick so they don't cut off circulation or pinch when I am working out
Normally priced at $50, these resistance bands are only $16.75 now, and (here's the good part), I am hosting a giveaway! That's right, you can get these for free! All you have to do for a chance to win is comment below with how you fit your workouts in. It's OK if you haven't been fitting your workouts in this year, just share what has helped you in the past, or your plans to change your habits. Anything that may help another teacher improve.

There are other opportunities to increase your chances to win: answer a quick survey about when you workout, follow me on Twitter, or like Egnergy Fitness on Facebook.



Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Back To School: Tech Tuesday

What is up with all of these back to school posts?! I know we hate to see out summers shrivel away, but the truth is, I am already back in the classroom. This week is just orientations and meetings, but my summer is pretty much gone.

This post is about some of the technological bits and ends that I use in my class. It isn't about everything (I don't want to bore you to death). I stray away from obvious things like my laptop, and try to focus on smaller more random tech tidbits.

Disclaimer: The factory pictures of the product  below (not the ones of the products in my class) will take you to the Amazon page where you can purchase them. They are affiliate links, so I do make a small percentage off your purchase. I am sure there are other amazing versions of the products I mention, and if you know of one you like better feel free to leave a comment. I was also lucky enough to receive some of these products for free or at a discounted price to evaluate. However, I would NOT include them in mu blog if I didn't think they were awesome products)


1. Bluetooth Speaker
I got the blue speaker to match my school colors, but it barely matters because this thing is so small it is really not a distraction.

I have a reward where students can create their own YouTube playlist and I'll play it the next class. I call it "DJ for a day."  They love it! I used to have it playing from my computer (which hooks up to the class speakers) but I moved it to my iPad for convenience. I can still get a powerful sound out of it with this speaker. Awesome.


2. PowerPoint Remote


My students LOVE PowerPoint, as for more, it isn't my favorite presentation platform, but it can still add some great visuals to student presentations. The problem? Moving from slide to slide. Students who try to navigate the PowerPoint themselves end up stick on the computer, and those who try to get a friend to click through slide spend most of the time saying, "The other slide, no before... I wasn't done!" UGH! Then I discovered the PowerPoint remote! Ridiculously easy to use. There is no software and less than five buttons on the whole thing! It even comes with batteries. You attach the USB to the computer being used, switch the remote on and that's IT! This lets students focus on their presentation and allows the technology to help rather than hurt them. Plus, it has a laser pointer. Despite all of the advances in technology, students are still amused with a laser pointer.


3.Kitchen Timer

Sometimes lo-tech is the best tech!

I do use an online stopwatch most of the time, but this is great for small groups, individual work, or just a change of pace for the whole class.

My favorite part about this timer is that it is magnetic. My classroom has magnetic whiteboards, window frames, and doors. I have lots of places to stick this fella without worrying about him going away.



 4. Multi USB charging station.
Do you Kahoot? Students use their cell phones during break, and (for educational purposes) during class! The batteries can drain rather quickly. My students will have their own laptops next year, but our desks are so tiny that I just know I'll have this conversation
Me: Put your cell phone away please.
Student: Its just charging
Me: Well...put it.... more away!
To avoid this I got a five port charging station I set up on my desk. Students are welcome to use it to get their battery where it belongs, their cell phone stays where I can see it and out of sight out of mind their cell phone proves less of a temptation.

5. Humidifier / Air Freshener

 I teach high school. During lunch (and sometimes at break) the boys play soccer. After lunch they have my class. Do you get where I am going with this? I teach sweaty high school boys. I've already added a welcome mat to help them de-grass their shoes, but I quickly went out and bought an air freshener.

I like the plug in ones because I can boost the scent right before they come in and turn it off over the weekends and at night. Being able to adjust how strong I want it really makes it last longer AND be more effective against my soccer players.

Plus, I like teaching them about studying with associations. Since my class smells like lavender, they should study at home with something that smells like lavender. Then, when they come back to my class the scent will trigger their memories. Cool, right?

If you, or your students, are particularly sensitive to scents, you may want to consider a humidifier.

BONUS Cord Organizers!

While not strictly technical, these make my technological life more organized. With all of the laptops, tablets, and other random devices I have in my class, cords can get a bit cluttered. These cord organizers are awesome. I can stick them anywhere to make my cords easily accessible. I use the black ones for my desk, and the colored ones for the students' station.



So there we are! My favorite (random) technology in my class. What about you? What's the tech item you use the most? Or the one you're surprised you love? Going the other way, what technology disappointed you?

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Graphic Organizer Station

I've said it before, but I'll say it again, I was NEVER a huge fan of graphic organizers. they just didn't work for my brain. Nonetheless, I completely recognize how they help students sort through the ideas going through their brains. Often in class we'll all do a graphic organizer together, but I also know some students who would like to use them more than others.

Thus, I introduce you to: My graphic organizer station.

Nothing fancy, I think I got the "File Purse" at Target and the manila files I scavenged from a teacher who was retiring.

Some of the graphic organizers are ones I've created myself (like the Venn Bow Tie) but a lot of them I got from Love Learning with Liana's store. It has eight different graphic organizers and they each made the cut!

Let's take a closer look at my station

Fancy tape = Decorating :P
1. Before anything else, admire my plant. It has been two weeks and it is still alive!!!

2. It has a quick note on what graphic organizers are and that they may be used any time a student thinks it will help. No fancy font, but I used some gold tape, so that counts as being decorative, right?

3. IMPORTANT It has a note about what to do when they take the last graphic organizer. They are to hand me the empty folder (or put it on my desk) so I can make more copies before the last class.

But how am I supposed to know what copies to make from a blank manila folder? I am glad you asked.

Labeled Tabs
Worksheets taped to the front
4.   In addition to the "title" of the graphic organizer written on the tab (yes I have the handwriting of a five year old boy), I also have the worksheet itself taped to the front of the folder. That way I know EXACTLY what worksheet I'll need to make copies of. This is important because I have several copies of slightly different graphic organizers. 


Compare and Contrast 1
For example you can see the I have three different compare and contrast worksheets. One (above) is just columns for the students who don't really like graphic organizers, but know they need to sort their thoughts.  To the left you can see I have the standard Venn Diagram (from Liana's packet). However, if you follow this blog at all, you'll know I am not a fan of Venn Diagrams, so I also have my Venn Bow Ties (below). 

Since these are all about what helps the student the most I provide all of these options and students can pick the one that works best for them.
Compare and Contrast 2

While the main idea of these worksheets is to help students help themselves, you can also use it as an easy way to differentiate a class. If you know one student struggles with finding the author's purpose, and you know that's a task they'll be doing in class, hand them a copy on their way into class (or while they are working). They'll appreciate it, and they'll be better equipped to answer the question when they get to it. 

Any graphic organizers I am missing?  Do you have a graphic organizer station in your class?

Looking to stock up on some organizers yourself?  You can grab my Venn Bow Tie for free here and Liana's are currently free (no idea how long that will last) here.

Monday, August 3, 2015

California Teachers Summit - Teachers Make a Difference

Today I was lucky enough to attend the California Teachers Summit.

I am a HUGE fan of webinars, MOOCs, and learning online. However, there is something different about being physically in a room with other teachers who are excited about learning and sharing.

We heard from some AMAZING speakers. I went back and forwards between what I want to share here. Do I want to share my emotions, ideas, and general feedback? Or let you know about what exactly happened.

In the end, I did what this blog is all about and melted the ideas together. So this blog will cover what I heard, along with a brief takeaway. There may be

7am- I found the breakfast, coffee, and free parking :-) I found a table with another teacher. In the net hour we shared our random paths into education, our mutual struggles, and made "new" friends. I saw, "new" because it turns out one teacher taught my boyfriend at my high school, one taught with my mom, and I had just met Liana online (checkout her blog here) The teacher community is a small one!

Yvette Nicole Brown
Photo by vagueonthehow on flickr
The first keynote speaker was Yvette Nicole Brown, whom many people know from Community. She talked about how friggin' awesome teachers are. She declared that she is a "lover of teachers" "celebrator of teachers" "encourager of teachers" and a "cheerleader of teacher." Let's face it we are! At one time or another it We have all been known to go above or beyond for a student. Sometimes it feels like all we do is go above and beyond for our students. She reminded me that it is worth it! All of the little things that we do add up! She spoke of small things (a teacher remembering her name) to larger things (a teacher buying her a plane ticket to California). She reminded me that part of my job is to push them past the here and now to the there and future. As she reminded me of her childhood, and how students can't see anything other than what they see in their own day to day life.  Finally, she told us the importance of having a tribe of people who support you and whom you support. This is something I hear a lot lately. Teachers encouraging other teachers to support one another. I am slowly getting together a group of teachers I know are a great help to me, and I hope I am doing my part to help others as well.  
But our salaries well make up for it :-P
THANK YOU Yvette for being a cheerleader and reminding me that what I do is worth it. It reminds me a bit of an exchange I watched in NCIS the other day. One character is discouraged because despite all the god she tries to do she still sees so much bad. Agent Gibbs responds, "You do something good now, you're not always around to see the difference it makes later." I think that is a LOT of teaching. As much as I would love to say that every student I try to help shows me that they appreciate my actions.... well that idea kinda makes me laugh. In fact, quite often the students I try to help the most are the ones who are convinced I am out to get them! With time, I get sporadic e-mails thanking me, but it is really important to remember that I am only planting seeds...I don't always get to see what grows.

Don't just take it from me check out what other teachers found the most inspiring:







There will be another blog on the other speakers and sessions I attended coming up soon!

Saturday, August 1, 2015

August Writing Deadlines

For those of you unaware I am a BIG believer in allowing students to do assignments that LEAVE the classroom. The first of every month I try to post some opportunities for your students to show off their writing skills and maybe get some recognition. All of these deadlines are in August! If you start the school year this month, it could be a great way to start off the semester. If you don't start until September, consider including these with your "Welcome Letter" to the parents.

August has some GREAT writing opportunities for your students!!!!

1. Do you teach students between 6 and 14 years old? Have they read any of The Princess Diaries books?  Here's a contest that's perfect for your students! They just need to write an essay (500-1000 words) that answers the question "What would you do if you found out you were royalty?"  The grand prize winner receives a $2,500 Pottery Barn gift card and a signed copy of  From the Notebooks of a Middle School Princess. Deadline is August 31st

Guidelines and submission details are available here.


2. How many times have you heard your students talking about their pets? Mine seem to do it all the time! Before August 31st Chicken Soup for the Soul is accepting submissions on the topic of Cats or Dogs. They want to read about stories about people's cats or dogs (up to 12000 words). All tones are appropriate as long as they are inspirational! They are doing two different books, one about cats and one about dogs. Your students can submit to just one, or to both (depending on the furry stories they have to share). If a story is selected and published they will be paid $200 one month after the book is published. Plus, they get ten free copies of the book to show off as well (see if they'll give a signed set to your class library).

Guidelines and submission are details available here

3. The role of women has changed throughout the years and many would argue is still changing! Chatter House Press is holding a Mini-Memoir Essay contest for women called, "Biting the Bullet," about women who define courage. It is only for women who are residents in the US and over the age of 18, so sadly most high school students won't be able to enter, but I wanted to include it in case you teach older students.  Your students' essays should show how a woman (or women) demonstrate(s) courage in daily life, or regarding a specific event. The deadline is August 14th. Prizes include publication and copies of the book.

Guidelines and submission details are available here
The Farmer's Lad via AntiquePrints

4. Do your students ever get depressed because they don't think they can meet the 1,000 word count minimum some contests have? Here's the PERFECT competition for them.  They are looking for a short story told in ONLY 21 words. The theme is, "Backyards and Porch Swings." Chosen authors don't win a cash prize, but they do get bragging rights and possible publication in the literary journal From the Deaths.  This deadline is hard to pinpoint and it stops when they receive 200 submissions, so as soon as possible is best. 

Guidelines and submission details are available here.

A cover of one of the issues of The Blue Earth Review
5. The Blue Earth Review is part of Minnesota State University. From what I can tell this is open to anyone, but please evaluate the guidelines on your own. It has two opportunities to get writing recognized for free. The first is the creative nonfiction contest. The text cannot be over 750 words. Students may submit more than one piece, but they need to have them in the same document.

The  other option is their poetry contest. Students may submit up to three poems (again in a single file).

Both contests include publication in the Blue Earth Review and a $500 cash prize. The deadline to submit is August 14, 2015.

Guidelines and submission details are available here.

There you are five ways to get your students motivated to write for more than just a grade, get a chance to experience writing for a different audience, and see that writing isn't just for the classroom. If you know of any others or your students really have fun with one let me know in the comments. If you find one of these doesn't work, also let me know so I can update this list.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Top Three Tasty Teacher Lunches

I am ALWAYS looking for snacks. Here's a sample I got.
English teacher note: I tried but my Ts fell short in the title. I guess I could have said, "Treats" but that makes me think of sugary desserts. Update After publishing this post I realized I unintentionally spelled tasty wrong! I fixed it, but the web link will forever verify that when I am hungry.... I don't spell well :)

Poor writing aside,  I am all about the snacks and goodies. When I was in Mexico I taught three times a day and had office hours Tuesday and Thursday. Pretty much all day Thursday I would be grading. Occasionally students stopped by for help. They would often ask why I was always eating nuts. I explained that if I don't eat, I get cranky...and they want me to be happy when I was grading, right? Though my intention was not for them to feed me, I usually found anonymous gifts of snacks found by my office door on Thursdays.Students can be very lovable sometimes :) The point being I do not work well on an empty stomach, and I am not sure any of us do.

Snickers gets that a hungry mind makes a troubled brain
In Mexico I had three hour lunches (WOW). Now I have just thirty minutes, and once a week I have to chaperon at lunch meaning I need to eat standing or grab a snack and go.

In an effort to fuel my body better (and keep me happier and the best teacher I can be), I am going to try to get in the habit of making better lunch choices. Mainly, I am going to try really hard to eat lunch. This was one of my new year resolutions, and I did get better at easting something instead of starving all day. Now I want to get better at what I am eating.  I've tried a bunch of different lunches and snacks during the summer. I was looking for five things.
  1.  I wanted things that I could make the night before so in the morning I could just grab them and go. 
  2. I have to be able to, "grab them and go." Portability is key!
  3. It needed to be "healthy." I don't care about the type of diet, but I knew I didn't want to have recipes that called for five cups of butter or three cups of sugar. 
  4. I had to feel "full." I can spread peanut butter on celery. It is delicious, but it takes about an entire stalk of celery before I feel like I am not starving... so that's not gonna work.
  5. Delicious. If I don't enjoy it, then I don't want it.
These are my top three winners.

NON SOGGY SALADS
I've seen tons of versions of the Mason Jar Salad (there are cookbooks dedicated entirely to this topic). This one is simple and yummy.
  • Step 1. Make your favorite Thai salad dressing, or skip this step and buy one you like. 
    • My favorite is about 4 tablespoons lime, 5 tablespoons oil, 1 table spoon soy sauce, fresh ginger (a teaspoon), a garlic clove (minced), 1 thinly sliced chili pepper, 3 tablespoons cilantro and about 1 twist of freshly ground sea salt with 2 twists of freshly ground pepper... YUMM. Makes enough for a salad meant for four people, so you'd probably only use a fourth of it for lunch.
  • Step 2. Put the dressing in the bottom of a mason jar
  • Step 3. Open and drain a can of chicken
  • Step 4. Put this in the mason jar
  • Step 5 Add chopped mushrooms, bell pepper, bean sprouts and celery (crunch!)
  • Step 6. Add sliced almonds (optional, but I love these)
  • Step 7. Add spinach (the stuff from a bag works fine)
When you get to school you shake it and then dump it on a plate! The greens were on the top so now they're on the bottom and everything else should have stayed crunchy and delicious.If you have a pepper grinder you can even top it with some freshly ground pepper at school (it's all about the details!)

HEALTHY CHIPS
Another option is zucchini chips. I used to make them all the time! I have healthy in italics because I am not going to pretend I am a nutritionist... but i have to believe they are healthier than me buying a bag of potato chips.


Step 1. Cut zucchini into thin and even slices
Step 2. Coat with olive oil and freshly ground salt / pepper
Step 3.Arrange on a cookie sheet
Step 4. Bake at 250 degrees for 20 minutes. Flip them and bake for another 20 minutes.
Step 5. Remove and let cool (they should be golden brown. If they aren't you may want to leave them in the oven a bit longer)
I put them in Tupperware with a dip (powdered garlic in plain yogurt) during break or prep periods. If you want something with more protein (or less garlic) you could dip them in hummus.

CRUNCHY CHICKPEAS
I found out about baked chickpeas on a road trip a while ago. I have made them at home numerous occasions.  This is one that is pretty basic but I love.


Step 1: Preheat the oven to 450 degrees
Step 2: In a bowl combine two tablespoons of live oil and two cans of (drained) chickpeas. Stir to make sure the olive oil coated all of the chickpeas.
Step 3. Add your favorite spice to the mix. My mom makes a "Mexican" seasoning that is dried cilantro, peppers, cumin, and I don't know what else it is amazing though and I use that.
Step 4. Arrange the chickpeas on a cookie sheet
Step 5. Add freshly ground salt and pepper (I add more salt than pepper)
Step 6. Bake for 30 minutes

These are SUPER crunchy and addicting. They are the perfect snack to tide you over before lunch, or during the after school staff meeting (you may want to bring enough to share!).

What about you?
All this gets me wondering. What's your go-to for lunch?
Do you buy something at school? Make meals Sunday night? Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches?
Do you skip lunch altogether but snack voraciously during the school day?


This List Price is $39.90, but it could be yours for free!
To entice you to share your favorite recipe, I'm having a giveaway! The prize is a dual pepper and salt grinder You could keep it at your house, or even in your classroom to add a touch of class to your lunchtime (because freshly ground pepper always sounds fancy!).

This grinder can be used for any spices technically, but as a boring person, I use it for salt and pepper. It retails at $39.90 but is currently on sale for $23.97 on Amazon.

I was lucky enough to get a free product and was given the chance to give a free one to a fellow teacher. As a result, here we go! If you want your own just leave a comment with your favorite lunch time recipe for school and then fill out the form below. Your recipe can include a link or be written in the comments directly. I'd love to get some more ideas.

You can earn bonus entries by following me on Twitter, or answering a quick poll about your lunch habits.  The winner will receive an Amazon code which gives them the salt and pepper grinder for free! While this blog is directed mainly towards teachers, you don't need to be a teacher to apply. Just keep in mind meals you think would work best for a teacher!

Good luck!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Back to School Organization

I am joining Snazzy in Second and Notes from the Portable in their Back to School Link Up about getting organized and set up for the school year.

I  feel silly trying to give any advice on organization when this is only my second year with a classroom of my own. However, I really have put a lot of effort into my room this summer with organization in mind.

Here is my basic advice in just two tips:
  1. Do what works for you!
    • I have seen a lot of GREAT set ups that would not work for me because of my students...or my style. Don't try to do what someone else does if you know it won't jive with you once the school year starts.
  2. Have some fun
    • My parents were both teachers, but when I was little any school supply I wanted I (usually) got. Their theory? If the Lisa Frank pens made me a little excited about school it was worth it? Make your classroom a place that you feel happy, and it will show in your work.
My classroom isn't done yet, but I have totally planned with organization in mind! This is focusing on the teacher section since it is the part where most of my organization happens.

First off, I don't really have a theme in my class. Our school colors are blue and gold, and I found this black and white paper I really liked... so that's as "themey" as I get. What I do have is a whole lot of practical.

You can actually scroll over the first two pictures pictures seen here to get more specific information, but here's the gist. I am ALL about color coding and storage spaces. If there's an open space, I can use it to store something. This is why I am really proud of the fact my bulletin board is NOT full right now. I've learned this gets added to with time, so I am making space for future discoveries. I also have it set up with lots of clippies so when I want to put something up that I can take down and consult I can clip it inside of pinning it.

Backing up a but you can see I have quote a lot of storage space this year in cabinets and behind the whiteboards. I try to keep most of the "teacher stuff" (coffee, lesson plans, tissues etc.) near my desk and the "student stuff" (dictionaries, textbooks, library books, etc) closer to the door.  I also use a lot of mini bins to divide and organize all the little things I have.

I am a big fan of color coding since I teach five different classes students know that they have a color and that's how I keep their materials straight. I even keep class calendars in the back color coded so students know what's happening when.

My "hidden organization" comes behind the podium. I store the day's progressions of handouts or realia in order. If I can't make it then the sub just needs to find the podium to be able to follow the plan.

There we go! It may not seem like much but it is "home." I hope that this coming year the organization I took the time to set up over the summer will be worth it!







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