Sunday, March 20, 2016

Spring Teacher-Blogger Retreat

So, I've had a love-hate relationship with TpT and blogging since my friend Whitney from The Crazy Schoolteacher forced begged encouraged me to get started with it all. Every teacher struggles with time and balance, and I am certainly no different. I can admit that I put way too many minutes and hours into my classroom. But, I think that's just who we are as teachers. I wouldn't have it any other way.
When Whitney asked me to join her and her teacher-blogging friends for the Spring Teacher-Blogger Retreat in French Lick, I really didn't know what I was getting myself into. So, cue several weeks of anxiety, last-minute neurotic packing, a three-hour road trip with my bestie and...we arrived. I couldn't get myself out of it now. No going back.

In our classroom this year, my students and I have been focusing on Growth Mindset. So, this whole weekend was an opportunity to practice what I preach to my little first graders. I didn't quite feel part of the group...YET! That three-letter word has so much power, don't you think? 
So, I was determined to have fun and ignore my nervous feelings! Lucky for me, Saturday's luncheon and meet-up event kicked off with something truly special - a video collection of teachers just like me confessing why they love meet-ups so much! Truly, it was exactly what I needed at that moment to get out of my own head and jump into the FUN!
Thank you to The Male Kindergarten Teacher & All Y'All Need for this video!

And, let me tell you -- 200 teachers, 1 spiffy hotel, 1 incredible teacher-blogger-retreat organizer extraordinaire, more than $15,000 worth of sponsor love, an epic 80s party and new friends -- FUN is exactly what I had.

Let's get to it!

The theme for this year's retreat was Take Your Passion and Make it Happen. As teachers, we do this! But, it was so fun to be reminded of our passions, small or big, and how we can embody these passions every day. Our table was in charge of the S - a shoutout to Jenny from Luckeyfrog's Lilypad for lovely creation and penmanship! 

Thank you to Megan from Mrs. Wheeler's First Grade & Annie from Ride Away with Mrs. Ridgeway for this photo!

Speaking of the super sweet Jenny, here's a quick selfie of us in front of the finished product - perfect inspiration for the day (and every day, really)! Yay! 
Is the song stuck in your head yet? Are you picturing Flashdance? You want to dance, don't you?

There was so much fun to be had during the day, I'll just sum it up quickly and let the pictures do most of the talking!
We Love Holly!


  Bottom photo (from the left): yours truly, Whitney from The Crazy Schoolteacher, Brenda from Primary Inspired, Holly from Mrs. Ehle's Kindergarten Connections, Annie from Ride Away with Mrs. Ridgway, Nicole from All Things Apple & Jenny from Luckeyfrog's Lilypad.

Yay for Everyone!

Oh my, a photo full of talent...and passion!

Teacher Tool Gift Swap - First Grade Style

Teacher Tool Gift Swap - look at all of those lovely first grade teachers! 

I ended up with super sparkly thank you notes from Jodi (Fun in First). These are perfect for my note-writing obsession. Thanks, Jodi! Should I send her a thank you note to thank her for the thank you notes? 

Roundtable Discussions
 We just had to check out our friend Brenda's session about streamlining social media. HootSuite, here I come! Thanks for all of the ideas, Brenda! 

 We also learned about building a brand with Vera from The Tutu Teacher. I have to be honest: she is so sweet and sincere! And, of course, with a brand called The Tutu Teacher, she's as fun as expected!

Sponsor Love

Holly and her team worked incredibly hard to secure such amazing sponsors! In addition to fantastic giveaway prizes, EVERY teacher walked away with the items pictured above. Scroll to the bottom of the post to link to the incredible sponsors!

Oh, hey, Vera! Doesn't EVERY teacher have an obsession with reusable tote bags? They're even better when they're CUTE like this one!

Epic 80s Party

This totally tubular party was powered by Teachers Pay Teachers and GoNoodle! And, oh my, was it a blast. Seriously: photo booth, pizza, 80s swag, PopRocks, Footloose flash mob and karaoke. Umm..yes, please.

Time to Go Home!

After all of the fun, Sunday brought a rainy drive home. It's a good thing Whitney and I had jellybeans and popcorn to fuel the drive! 
I may or may not stock up on jellybeans during Easter season. I won't tell you how many bags I currently have in the pantry. 

I'll leave you with this wonderfully inspiring quote from Kim Bearden (the co-founder of Ron Clark Academy). She recorded a special just-for-us message. She's a truly lovely lady! 
Design and Photo by Jenny from Luckeyfrog's Lilypad
To watch Kim Bearden's message to the French Lick crew, as well as other amazing videos, visit The Male Kindergarten Teacher's YouTube channel!

This quote definitely spoke to me - after all, isn't that why we teach? Isn't that why we connect with each other? And, let me tell you, the fantastic people I met this weekend did exactly that: fueled my soul.

Thanks, Whitney!

Check out these incredible sponsors - I don't know about you, but when I know that a company loves and gives back to teachers, I want to share it with the world! Thank you to all of these generous sponsors. Did you catch earlier that they donated more than $15,000 worth of fun goodies? Wow!

Image result for udderly smooth

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Our Teaching Tribe - Product Swap!

Welcome to our blog hop! As part of Our Teaching Tribe's August challenge, we all teamed up together and swapped products to review and share. So, by the end of the blog hop, you'll be full of ideas and products perfect for you and your students!

I was fortunate enough to be paired with Ellen from Joyfully Teaching.

Ellen began her blogging journey just this summer! She currently teaches as a paraprofessional in an elementary school in Michigan. Her day is full of small group work with first, second and fifth grade!

Her store is full of fantastic resources for elementary teachers, both math and literacy related. I wish I could share them all with you in detail!

For this product swap, she sent her Long I Task Cards product for me to review. And, I am so grateful to have this wonderful product in my collection for our first grade long vowel work.

This product includes twelve different Long I words that follow the "magic e" or "silent e" pattern. Right up front, Ellen outlines various uses for these cards. She includes word work centers, literacy stations, Write the Room activities and Scoot games as potential uses. This is ONE product that serves so many purposes for your Long I needs.

My FAVORITE aspect of this product is that Ellen included so many natural ways to differentiate these activities. In first grade, I always have a wide, wide range of abilities and I am always in love with activities that are ready-to-go with built-in differentiation.

The twelve Long I words are featured in this product are done so in a way that can be tailored to your class's needs or even each individual student's needs. Perfect!

Each word is featured in five different ways: visual with word, word with no visual, fill-in-the-blank, sound boxes and visual with no word.

Isn't that perfect?

In my classroom, I try to always provide a "spicy" option. That's the term we use when we challenge ourselves. For example, the objective for this activity is to read words with the long i sound, right? Well, to make it spicy, my students could choose to fill-in the blanks to complete the word OR, to make it even spicier, write the word under the visual.

Okay, y' doesn't stop there! She provides response sheets to pair with the task cards, as well.

Provided in this product are the chance to illustrate the word, practice writing the words with proper handwriting lines, as well as the chance to order the words alphabetically. Oh, what's that? YES - that's another way to naturally differentiate! Those friends who wish to make it spicy can write alphabetically, while the on target group chooses to solely focus on drawing and writing the long i words!

I cannot wait to use this with my class when we arrive at our long vowel learning. I plan to use every level of the task cards in order for the students to choose their level of comfort with this learning objective. Then, in my word work area, I'll have the task cards and the response sheets (in dry-erase sleeves -- that's my jam) for students to practice the long i work.

Click the image above to grab your copy of Ellen's fantastic product!
To keep hopping along, click the image below - your next stop just happens to be Joyfully Teaching! Lucky you!