Best Recipe for Snickerdoodles Ever!

Can you believe it is almost winter break?! Despite the fact that Ohio hasn't seemed to get the memo that it is winter yet, I have been in the mood to decorate the house, listen to my favorite Christmas albums, and bake cookies. I am linking up with my fellow bloggers at Classroom Tested Resources today to share one of my favorite recipes to bake during the holidays... snickerdoodles! 

Classroom Rewards that Won't Cost You a Penny!

Are you searching for a classroom management system that is TRULY motivating to your students, but that doesn't break the bank? Research has shown that academic optimism is the secret ingredient in classrooms that are able to keep students motivated and engaged while others struggle. Reward coupons are just one way I keep positivity thriving in my classroom!

Are you searching for a classroom management system that motivates your students without breaking the bank? Academic optimism is the secret ingredient in classrooms that are able to keep students motivated and engaged. These reward coupons are just one way I keep positivity thriving in my classroom!

I have tried many different classroom management strategies over the years... card flipping, clip charts, level systems, etc.  But this is my absolute favorite. I made these coupons several years ago with my students because I wanted to help them develop intrinsic motivation. These coupons have truly changed the atmosphere in my classroom for the better! Kids are no longer focused on getting things, but rather on positive experiences. These reward coupons on so versatile, but today I want to tell you a little about how I use them.


Get Parents Involved from Day One!

Are you looking for a way to increase parent engagement 
at the beginning of the school year? 
I have a great resource for you! 

Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes is one of my favorite books to read aloud on the first day back to school.  The theme of self-acceptance is a perfect fit to calm those first day nerves! This activity also gives the students an opportunity to dive right into online research, helps me introduce technology procedures, and encourages parent involvement right from the start. 

3 Strategies to Determine Importance in Math Word Problems

Do your students have trouble determining which information is most important in a word problem?  

If so, you are going to love these strategies! Our kids live in an age where endless information is literally at their fingertips. If they are going to be successful, we HAVE to explicitly teach them how to weed out the necessary from the unnecessary. Most of them do not just figure this out on their own.

Sub Prep Made Simple

I need to let you all in on a little secret.  

I used to never be ready for a sub. Like ever

In fact, it took me TEN YEARS of teaching before I could say I was ready for a sub at a moment’s notice. Yep. I spent an entire decade entirely stressed out about the idea of potentially getting sick.  Like drag-yourself-into-school-in-your-pajamas-with-a-104-degree-temperature-and-hope-no-one-judges kind of never ready.

So when I am telling you that finally making a Substitute Teacher Information binder changed my life… well, it’s pretty accurate.  I hope you find these tips helpful!  I recently shared them on my collaborative blog, Classroom Tested Resources, and I wanted to share them with my readers here as well.

Strategies for Math Comprehension: Making Inferences and Predictions

I am joining up with A Teacher Mom today for Chapter 6 of Building Mathematical Comprehension by Laney Sammons.  Chapter 6 shares strategies for helping all students learn to make inferences and predictions like true mathematicians. 

Strategies for Math Comprehension: Visualizing

In today's society, we are bombarded by images all day, every day.  It comes as no surprise that many of our students are visual learners. However, most of the time, our students are used to being passive recipients of the images instead of active participants. Once students have to start generating their own images, they often get frustrated and say those dreaded words…

3 Ways Teachers Pay Teachers is Changing the World

I just experienced my first ever trip to the Teachers Pay Teachers conference in Las Vegas, Nevada.  I am actually typing this blog post in the airport while I wait for my flight because I feel like I am about to burst with inspiration.  This post can’t wait until tomorrow when I am experiencing jet lag. I need to express my thoughts while they are fresh in my mind. I truly believe that Teachers Pay Teachers is changing the future of education in the world, and this is why.


Editable Teacher Planner - Time-Saving Forms for Teachers

I am finally able to participate in the TPT Seller Challenge from Week 1: Makeover Madness! This challenge started a couple weeks ago and is hosted by Third in HollywoodTeach Create MotivateSparkling in Second, and Peppy Zesty Teacherista...Yes, it really did take me that long to fix my product. Wow. But I am so, SO happy with the results. This was on my To-Do list anyways, but I think I would have put it off longer if I didn't have this challenge to motivate me. Thanks for the accountability, ladies!


Building Mathematical Comprehension - Vocabulary (Ch. 2)

I am joining up with A Teacher Mom today for Chapter 2 of Building Mathematical Comprehension by Laney Sammons.  Chapter 2 is all about recognizing and understanding mathematical vocabulary. It was so eye-opening!  I learned some new things (which is the best!), but it also built my confidence to see that I am already doing many of the best practices she mentioned. 

Building Mathematical Comprehension (Ch. 1)

Ah, summer. If you are anything like me, you probably start thinking about the next school year before you even finish the previous one! This summer, I am participating in a few professional development book studies, including Building Mathematical Comprehension by Laney Sammons with A Teacher Mom.
I'm pretty excited about this book. Teaching kids specific reading strategies gets me pumped up. It's only natural that I would feel excited about applying these same strategies to math instruction.

Worksheets Don't Grow Dendrites - Technology (Chapter 16)

I am linking up with A Rocky Top Teacher for our best practice book study on Worksheets Don't Grow Dendrites by Marcia Tate. This week is all about technology! I feel like this is such a HUGE topic, so I am going to share just a few ideas that I use to incorporate technology that I think are unique. 

When I first started teaching, I worked with middle school students that were labeled emotionally disturbed. Many times, they had other secondary disabilities that made learning a challenge. Technology was a huge motivational tool for my kids, so I tried to incorporate it whenever possible!

Worksheets Don't Grow Dendrites - Manipulatives, Experiments, Labs, and Models (Chapter 7)

I am linking up with Deanna Jump for our best practice book study on Worksheets Don't Grow Dendrites by Marcia Tate. I am super behind on this study, but I am doing my best to catch up! I know that a lot of the linky parties are going to be closed, but I really still want to participate. Thankfully, Deanna's was still open for today! :D

I feel like I do a good job at incorporating manipulatives and models into my lessons… but I could do SO MUCH better about incorporating labs and experiments! 

Worksheets Don't Grow Dendrites - Role Plays, Drama, Pantomimes, Charades, and Storytelling (Chapter 14 and 15)

I am linking up with the Kinder Gals for Chapters 14 and 15 of our best practice book study! I have really enjoyed going through the different strategies in this book and reflecting on how I use them in my own teaching practice. This study was such a great idea! :D

Have your students represent data by lining up in a human bar graph. Then stand on a chair and snap a picture of the graph from aerial view!  (I know I have a picture of this, but I can’t find it!)


Worksheets Don't Grow Dendrites - Reciprocal Teaching and Cooperative Learning (Chapter 13)

I am linking up today with Falling into First for Chapter 13 of our best practices book study. Let me start off by saying… I LOVE COOPERATIVE LEARNING!!! When I first started teaching, my district required all of its new teachers to attend training about cooperative learning strategies. We met over the course of a year and explored many of Kagan’s Cooperative Learning Structures.  I loved these structures because they really helped me ensure that I was meeting the guidelines for true cooperative learning experiences.

Positive Interdependence
Individual Accountability
Equal Participation
Simultaneous Interaction

One of my favorite cooperative learning structures is Fan-N-Pick. It works really well for practicing vocabulary terms, math facts flash cards practice, or any other type of review. I've used it with third graders up through eighth graders, and they always LOVE it! It only takes a few minutes to learn the process, which can be applied in so many ways.

Worksheets Don't Grow Dendrites - Project/Problem-Based Learning (Chapter 12)

I am linking up today with First Grader... At Last for chapter 12 of our best practices book study. I have been a bit MIA from the blogging world due to being out of town and getting awfully sick! But I plan to get caught back up and post about the chapters I have missed. :D

I really feel like I could do a lot of improving in this area of instruction. While I do a lot of the ideas listed in the text, I still feel like I could do more with STEM projects. I have tried several STEM in the past, and they were always a lot of fun!

One of my favorite interdisciplinary, project-based units that I have done is my Season of Giving entrepreneurship unit that I did with my 4th graders in my previous school district. It was SO MUCH FUN!!! I collaborated with another teacher on my grade level to write the unit. Then we implemented it with all five teachers in the fourth grade.


Worship Wednesday - Praise Despite Circumstances

I am so sorry for the late posting... but I have been in Washington, D.C. this since Saturday! I had the best of intentions of writing a blog post when I returned home Tuesday night, but in all honesty, my bed seemed much more inviting! :) 

I will blog more about my trip in the future, but for now I wanted to share what really encouraged my faith this week. It seems odd to me to say this, but my favorite part of my trip to Washington, D.C. was my trip to the Holocaust Museum. 

Worship Wednesday - Results-Oriented Prayer

"God wants to get us out of the habit of results-oriented prayer."
~Beth Moore

This past week, my friends and I met for session 6 of Beth Moore's Bible study, Jesus, the One and Only. This study has been such a great addition to my Lenten journey this year. This session in particular focused on our Lord's prayer. 

When I heard Beth say the quote above, it convicted my heart! So often, the focus of my prayers is what I want from God... whether it's petitions for people I know and love or for myself. I quickly skip to the part where I tell God what I want HIM to do for ME. Wow. How can prayer, which is a good practice, so easily bring out my selfish nature? It's really humbling to think about! 

Worship Wednesday - Loved and Accepted

I am struggling, my friends. Not with anything huge or even anything serious. Just struggling with over-scheduling myself, really. For example, I was so exhausted on Tuesday when I was getting ready for work that I forgot to wash the shampoo out of my hair... but by the time I realized what had happened, it was too late to do anything about it. I just had to rock my greasy, shampoo-coated hair all day!

Pssst! It's greasier than it looks in this picture. And it just got worse all day. 

I have had this problem my entire life... I always bite off more than I can chew! Can anyone else relate? Please tell me I'm not alone! ;P I have honorable intentions with all the goals that I have set for myself, but honestly, it's all just TOO MUCH. I feel like I am sinking under all of it. (I'm honestly struggling to keep my eyes open while I type this post.)

I don't have any big revelations this week. Just the reminder that God doesn't ask us for sacrifices and burnt offerings. (If I wasn't so tired, I would look up the actual verse for this! lol!) He doesn't expect us to "perform" for him. He accepts us right where we are--even if that means we are exhausted from our own self-induced over scheduling and our hair is greasy. (Ha!)

I hope you all have a blessed week!

- - - - - - - - - - 

Now it's YOUR turn! 
  1. Write a blog post that includes a scripture, song, or experience that has stirred your faith this week. Be sure to use the image above in your post and link specifically to this post from your own blog. 
  2. Join the link up below. 
  3. Leave a comment on at least 2 people before you in the link-up.
This link up will go live every Wednesday. (I am doing this to challenge myself to stay in the Word even though the school year is always super busy!) Feel free to join in as often as you would like!


Worksheets Don't Grow Dendrites ~ Graphic Organizers, Semantic Maps, and Word Webs (Chapter 5)

Fabulous in First  Chapter 5 (March 14th)
One Extra Degree Chapter 6 (March 17th)
Mrs. Jump’s Class Chapter 7 (March 28th)
The First Grade Parade  Chapter 8 (March 31st)
In April, you will be visiting these girls for the remainder of the study:
Mrs. Ehle’s Kindergarten Chapter 9 &10 (April 4th)
What The Teacher Wants Chapter 11 (April 7th)
First Grader At Last Chapter 12 (April 11th)
Erica’s Ed Ventures  Chapter 13 (April 14th)
KinderGals Chapter 14 &15 (April 18th)
A Rocky Top Teacher Chapter 16 (April 21st)
The Inspired Apple Chapter 17 (April 25th)
Little Warriors Chapter 18 (April 28th)
Falling Into First Chapter 19 (May 2nd)
Kickin’ it in Kindergarten Chapter 20 (May 5th)

Worship Wednesday ~ God's Lavish Love

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, 
that we should be called children of God! 
And that is what we are!
(1 John 3:1a, NIV)

I have a tendency to be really hard on myself when I feel like I have failed at something. This is a verse I return to often because it reminds me to be more gentle and forgiving of my own flaws and failures. God doesn't just love us a little bit... His love for us is LAVISH (sumptuously rich, opulent, splendid, extravagant). Wow! What a precious gift it is to be His child. 

This can be a difficult time of year during the school year. Standardized tests approach in the near future or are already happening. Spring conferences. Report cards. Not enough time to do entirely too much. It's exhausting! Wherever you are in your journey, whatever you are struggling with (personal or professional)... I pray that you feel God's LAVISH love embrace you this week and give you strength to finish the race.

- - - - - - - - - - 

Now it's YOUR turn! 
  1. Write a blog post that includes a scripture, song, or experience that has stirred your faith this week. Be sure to use the image above in your post and link specifically to this post from your own blog. 
  2. Join the link up below. 
  3. Leave a comment on at least 2 people before you in the link-up.
This link up will go live every Wednesday. (I am doing this to challenge myself to stay in the Word even though the school year is always super busy!) Feel free to join in as often as you would like!

Worksheets Don't Grow Dendrites ~ Games (Chapter 4)

I'm joining up with my bloody teacher friends today to focus on Chapter 4 from our online book study of Worksheets Don't Grow Dendrites by Marcia L. Tate. Today's focus is GAMES! At first, I felt like games really weren't my forte in my classroom, but as I read the chapter, I did feel more affirmed. This quote stopped me in my tracks, though!

While pre-kindergarten kids love to play games, 
it is also one of the 10 activities that keep people living beyond the age of 80.
(Mahoney, 2005)

Wow! Did that hit home for anyone else? More games for me, please!  If the administrators ask, I will say, "Just doing my part to increase my students' life expectancy!" :D

The first game I thought of is one of my students FAVORITE games to practice sight words. It is called ZAP! and I wrote an in-depth blog post about it here. I made it years ago, and it is still a class favorite. Some other favorite English/Language Arts games are I Have/Who Has, Sparkle Spelling, Boggle word-building, Clue-style review games, and timed textbook scavenger hunt games. 

When I first started teaching, I worked in a middle school setting with students that were emotionally disturbed. I used games A LOT in my classroom! Games helped my students practice real-life skills, such as cooperation and taking turns. It was also good to practice the appropriate way to respond when you are disappointed about losing a game or frustrated that it isn't going as well as planned. 

Games are also a lot of fun for reviewing math skills. A quick and easy game I play is FLASH! (I mistakenly first called this game Flash Me! In a middle school ED classroom. Haha!) When we are practicing a skill--such as adding decimals with regrouping--the students have to write it on their board. I give them all time to solve (including a period of time where they can get help from a friend if needed), then I say, "Flash!"  They have to flash me their boards... and if the entire class gets the answer correct, they earn a point. If they don't, then I get the point. They win by getting more points than me during a game. I love this simple game because it encourages the kids that struggle to get help from a friend so they can all be successful. 

Mind Reader is another fun math game that helps practice logic, reasoning, and place value. (I should blog about that one, too! It's great "filler" when you have a few minutes to spare!) Factor Relays get kids up and moving, but also practicing their math facts. We have also shot some hoops or measured the distance we could fly our paper airplanes... then used the data we collected to practice mean, median, mode, and range. The possibilities are endless! 

Games are also a great way to boost morale and motivation. I remember the day this photo was taken like yesterday... even though it was 6 years ago! It was Valentine's Day. My kids' brains were FRIED. I threw my lesson plans out for the day, borrowed the TV cart from the music teacher, and we played Dance Dance Revolution! The educational catch? After each round, we determined what fraction of the points were earned by the singer and what fraction of the points were earned by the dancer. Then we converted each fraction to a decimal and a percent. My kids thought it was THE BEST THING EVER... and I won back their motivation to learn. I realized how important it was that day to take time to just have fun and laugh together. Yes, we were learning, too. But more importantly we were having fun doing it

Be sure to head on over to Queen of the First Grade Jungle to join in the discussion! 

Worsheets Don't Grow Dendrites ~ Field Trips (Chapter 3)


I'm joining up with my bloggy teacher friends today to focus on chapter 3 from our online book study of Worksheets Don't Grow Dendrites by Marcia L. Tate. Today's focus is on FIELD TRIPS!!! I knew I was going to dig this chapter from the opening sentences... 

The purpose of the brain is not to make good grades 
or to score high scores on standardized tests. 
The brain has but one purpose--survival in the real world.
Is it any wonder that the places that you travel to
in the real world are long remembered?
(Tate, 2010, p. 26)

I think it is such a tragedy that standardized testing has really limited our ability to take our students on field trips... or even let them play outside at recess! Every single minute must be accounted for. I hope that this research can change people's minds about the effectiveness of quality field trips. 

I have witnessed first-hand how powerful quality field trips can be for students, especially those from high-poverty neighborhoods. It can be so difficult for students living in poverty to make real-world connections to the curriculum because they often lack the life experience to make those connections. Getting them out into the real-world is the best way to build that knowledge! People often think of field trips as a culminating event, but for our students in poverty, it is a critical life experience to build prior knowledge in order to prepare them for our lessons. 

It's amazing to me how much MORE students remember the content once they have had the opportunity to experience it first-hand. Their vocabulary and content-knowledge starts to skyrocket! No wonder Aristotle and Socrates (historically renowned teachers) spent so much time with their students on field trips! (Krepel & Duvall, 1981)

There is nothing quite like seeing those "lightbulb" moments with your students... when they just GET IT and they are smiles for miles! (I wish I could show you how happy their faces are in these pictures!) It seriously makes all the stress that goes along with a field trip (you know what I'm talking about!!! haha!!) WORTH IT.

One of the things I loved most about this chapter is that it encouraged the implementation on campus-based field trips and virtual field trips. I have not done these as often as I would like to do, but I have seen their effectiveness. For example, before reading The Journey: Stories of Migration by Cynthia Rylant, I like to take my kids on a virtual field trip to Africa during a locust swarm and coastal California to pet a grey whale... all via YouTube, of course! It really helps them connect to the text and understand the content with more depth.  

I also love that this chapter encouraged us to take our kids outside for our lessons when we can. Read-alouds are a great opportunity to get outside and enjoy the sunshine. If it has recently snowed, take your kids outside for 5 minutes to experience it with all their senses, then bring them back inside to write about it. Or better yet, have them take clipboards and write about winter while they are out in the snow! (Yes, I totally did this... and afterwards, their poems TOTALLY ROCKED!!!) 

I've honestly never seen my kids MORE engaged in our curriculum than when it has been tied to a well-planned, strategic field trip. Isn't this what we WANT?! They also remember the material LONG AFTER we move on to new subjects. 

I feel like I have used this strategy as much as I was permitted in the past, but there is definitely room for growth. I want to incorporate MORE on-campus field trips and MORE time outside. I want to use the research above to encourage the administrators in our district to permit our students to go on more field trips in the community. They are SO POWERFUL!

I made a list of ideas for on-site field trips that you might like to try based on my own previous experiences.  I hope you find it helpful! Click on the picture below to download the file. 

Be sure to head on over to Mrs. Wills Kindergarten to check out other posts from our book study! 
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