Friday, July 24, 2015

Five on Friday - Stretching the Truth

Happy Friday, friends! For my teachers and parents - we are getting close to Back to School! And what's more fun than prepping for the new school year? Well, let's not answer that - ha!  I can tell you that teachers have been busy reading up on math and reading strategies, planning, and taking advantage of professional development activities. Back to school prep gets me pretty fired up. I'm always looking for exciting ways to engage my students and learn new things. One of my triumphs this summer was working with PowerPoint in order to make a snazzy new "Meet the Teacher" letter. (It's the little things people. I know I'm a nerd and proud of it.) With the new school year rapidly approaching, I thought I'd share a snapshot of my jazzy new letter.

So, imagine how excited I was to show Adam my fancy pants creation with pictures, clip art, and color! Yeah well, Adam had a few laughs as he claimed I was lying about a few of my favorite things. Excuse me? I do not lie! As he started pointing out a few "wrong answers", I started thinking about how teachers might stretch the truth a bit on these letters.  Teachers - can you relate? Parents - Are you wondering what teachers really want to say? Take a gander...

Cool letter, right? WoopWoop!

Stretch #1: Favorite Drink

Morning Sips

My letter says: Green Tea and Espresso

What I really want to say: Red Wine

Ladies - can we just be real for a minute. Yes, in the morning I enjoy a cup of green tea or espresso. But, if I were stranded on an island and I was given one choice of beverage, I'm going with red wine. Just saying.  I like my wine. And after a day of teaching I really like a glass (or two.)

Stretch #2: Favorite Book

 Such a great read!

My letter says: Crash and The Hunger Games

What I really want to say: 50 Shades of Grey or Gone Girl or something else I'm embarrassed to admit ;)

Yeah, explain that one to the kids. Well, "I love all shades of that grey scale." Or, "I enjoy reading about psycho wives." Don't get me wrong I love children's books. But again, stranded on an island...

Stretch #3: Favorite Music


My letter says: Country

What I really want to say: Techno and Christian

Huh? Those don't even go together, Ellise. I know, I know. Hear me out. If I write Techno, I will have parents envisioning me at a rave every night dancing on couches and stuff.  Yes, I love to dance to it and yes, I run to it. To make it a little more interesting let's also write Christian music. I love this stuff! But I'd like to avoid a possible lawsuit or something like that because God forbid I bring religion into the classroom. So, I just put my third favorite - Country.

Stretch #4: Favorite Store

My letter says: Target

What I really want to say: Nordstrom

Yeah, I'm a teacher and I'm not rolling in the big bucks. I get it. Sooo instead of looking like a wannabe-rich-girl who just teaches for fun, I will claim Target. Because let's be honest, that's where I really buy my clothes. A girl can dream, right?

Stretch #5: Favorite Hobby

 Run 5th, Run!
My letter says: Running and Card Making

What I really want to say: Running. *So when I go cocktail cruising (at the beach, on a boat, at the pool, or anywhere really) I don't feel guilty.

Hobbies are meant to relax a person, correct? I love running and I love making cards. But, if I could choose to do anything on a random day to unwind, it would be to get my hubs and my favorite girls, hop on the boat, and cruise around. With a watermelon martini or a sassy sangria in hand.

So there you have it, folks. Teacher reveals all. What truths are you stretching on your back to school letters?

Come on ladies, don't leave me hanging. :)

Happy Weekend!


Wednesday, July 15, 2015

9/11 Activities

Hello Fellow Americans!

Does anyone else just L-O-V-E America? I'm talking you get chills when you hear the National Anthem? You may even shed a small tear when you hear it or sing it? Or do you ever have the urge to run up to the old man in the grocery store wearing the Veteran hat and give him a big ol' hug and say "THANK YOU!!!!!!!"? Or are your favorite holidays those that honor our heroes and celebrate what this great country stands for?

For me, I am one of those red, white, and blue lovin' gals! When school starts, I will find any way to make my kiddos aware of our rights and freedoms. And most importantly, students need opportunities to thank those who have given us these rights and freedoms.

One of those opportunities falls towards the beginning of the school year - 9/11. Now, you must know that my fifth graders weren't even alive when this took place. But, I feel that it is my obligation to them, and to my country, to educate them about this day and bring awareness to our heroes.

So, I've planned my 9/11 activities and I thought I would share them with you. Feel free to incorporate all or just some of these ideas in your classroom or in your own home. May we never forget about our military personnel and first responders.

To our brave men and women - THANK YOU!

Day 1: Brain Pop and Art

Navy Vet. Firefighter. My hubby. (I know I'm bragging here.)

Activity Title: "Never Forget" Window Art

Description: Show kids the 9/11 Brain Pop video or something similar... nothing too gruesome and it must be appropriate for fifth graders. Discuss the events of 9/11. Have students draw the American Flag on construction paper. Talk about the stars and stripes and what they mean. Display the students' artwork on our classroom window.

Sample work.

Day 2: Stars and Stripes Review and a Challenge

This looks fun!

Activity Title: Small Group Cup Art Challenge

Description: Review yesterday's activity. Students will be placed in groups. I will give them their supplies, show them where their canvas fence area will be, and explain the challenge. The challenge is to create "cup art" to remember 9/11. They do not necessarily need to create a flag as I will leave the interpretations up to each group.
Plan time: 5 minutes
Execution time: 20 - 25 minutes

Day 3: Plants Love America

Patriotic Potting

Activity Title: Red, White, and Bloom

Description: Students will review the plant cycle and be given the supplies they need in order to plant a red, white, or blue flower seed. They will need to research their flower to ensure that they are properly taking care of their seed/flower in terms of watering and sunlight. I'm excited to watch these grow, so in fact we will remember these brave men and women beyond that one day/week.

Day 4 and Day 5: Friendly Letter Writing

 Last Year's Cards

Activity Title: Cards for the Courageous

Description: Students will write friendly letters to our veterans/police/firemen thanking them for their service. America's Adopt a Soldier Program has an address to send cards nationally. I will also be sending letters to fire and police stations in New York City.

What do your students or children do to remember 9/11? I'd love to hear your ideas!

God Bless America! :) xo

Monday, July 6, 2015

Recap: Holy Whole 30

Hello Friends!

I forgot that I did not do a recap of my Holy Whole 30 and I've had quite a few people ask me about some and/or all of this challenge lately. So, if you are interested in it as well, take a peek at my honest feedback from my 30 Day REVival. Feel free to keep the questions coming because we are here to build each other up!

 My Mantras.

Recap: REVive the mind

Change your mindset, change your life.

Challenge: Do not log into Facebook for 30 days.

Results: Best thing ever! And you know what? When I got back on Facebook (yes, I am still a Facebooker) I felt ready to un-friend a few people. People that clogged my positive outlook and would bring Debbie Downer out to play. So, no longer do I see what they think/say/take pictures of.

Here is a trick my sister taught me a long time ago. When your Facebook friends' birthdays pop up on the feed, you have 3 options:
1)  Say, "Happy Birthday!!!!!" Seriously though, if this person is a "friend" or even a close acquaintance, wouldn't you want to wish them a happy day?
2) Un-friend them because if you aren't going to say happy birthday then (cough cough) let's face it,  you aren't really friends. It's liberating really - ha!
3) Okay, I know. The un-friend thing seems so harsh to some of us. The thought of people we secretly don't care for finding out that we've un-friended them scares us. So the last option is to just "unfollow" them and you still show up on their friends list but you want to know the best part... You get to skip out on all of their annoying posts.

Hope this helps!

Recap: REVive the body

Energized run!

Challenge: No sugars, processed foods, alcohol, or cheats for 30 days.

Results: Glowing skin, more energy, lighter on my feet.

Whole 30 is fantastical! Here are my tips for making it actually work:

Tip #1: Get your head in the game. Honestly, you have to want this 120% because it is NOT easy at first.

Tip #2: Do your research on the types of foods and drinks you can and cannot have. Know the program before you start. I did not buy the book, but I did check out their website, Googled the program, and followed their page on Instagram for recipe ideas.

Tip #3: Pick a start date, BUT give yourself enough time to research BEFORE the start date. You shouldn't be grocery shopping on the start date. I recommend grocery shopping two days before, do a little food prep one day before, and then start. This set me up for success.

Tip #4: Keep snacks around. Lara Bars, fruit, cashews, and macadamia nuts were my best friends.

Tip #5: MEAL PLAN!!!!! I had to plan every breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack. It kept me on track and then I had the right food around so I wouldn't cheat.

Tip #6: Prep a little. Or a lot. That depends on you. I am not a weekly food prepper. I would chop all my omelet veggies and fruit on Sundays. And I would make my lunch the night before work. But, don't feel like you have sit inside every Sunday prepping your life away.

Tip #7: Create a visual reminder:

I made this sticky note countdown with rewards at the end of each week. It helped immensely. There is something about pulling off a sticky knowing that I stuck to it! Even better were the rewards at the end of each week. :)

Tip #8: Tell people you are doing it! A) It will hold you accountable and B) People won't buy you a glass of wine or try to force a piece of cake on you. :)

I've talked to a lot of you about this one and I am happy to answer more questions and share recipes as well.

Recap: REVive the soul
 Everyone needs one of these... I'll explain why.

Challenge: Put some things behind me and get closer to God.

Results: PEACE.

So, I'll start with that little plant up there in the picture. If you recall in my initial blog post about starting this 30 day journey, I talked about being in church and feeling the need to change some things. Well, in that church service everyone received a biodegradable piece of paper that had seeds embedded in the paper. So cool, right? The pastor asked the congregation to write down whatever was weighing heavily on our minds and hearts on that little piece of paper. Things we couldn't seem to "let go of" or feelings that keep us up at night. I won't share everything I wrote down, but a couple of the things I did write down were: jealousy and envy. Trust me, I had a few more items on my paper - never thought I had so much on my mind! When we got home we were told to plant that piece of paper to show that we are burying those thoughts and anxieties. I know this may sound silly, but woah! This little gardening exercise has totally changed my outlook on so many things.

I've learned that so much of what I worry about, stress over, and issues I have from my past can be healed through God. That he has all of the answers to my questions and concerns. And what's cooler is that those little seeds sprouted up to a plant! For me this was so symbolic. I can grow through Christ and all that "stuff" that is on my mind should be cast out. If you have some coo-coo thoughts going on in your head that are interfering with your positive outlook or interfering with your relationships, then go buy these little papers or just buy some seeds. Pray about it, bury it, and watch it (and you) grow in your relationships with Christ, family, and friends.

Not sure where to start on this Christian journey? I'll be posting about that soon. Or you can always reach out to me. Especially since I was NOT always a Godly woman and I still struggle with it today.

I hope you are having a great Monday! Make it a great week! xo

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Teacher Talk

It is summer which can only mean one thing... Sleeping in until 10. Beach all day. Daytime TV. Teachers begin preparing for next school year! Summer is a time for rest, but it is also a time for reflection, recharging, professional development, creating, and preparing. Can you tell that I'm getting pumped for my new group?!

Teachers - looking for ideas for next year? I've listed some of my favorite tools from this year. These were instrumental with classroom management (my #1 priority, always), student engagement, and most importantly, building confident, successful leaders!

My goal: All students will feel like this when they leave my classroom... on top of the world!

 **Morning Song

My classroom playlist

I love music and I've found that kids will work for/work to music. That is why I use a morning song to start the day. When the bell rings, I greet my students at the door and hit "play" on my iPod. The morning song begins to play as students enter the room. (I try to find songs in the 4 minute range.) The students know that they have until the song ends to unpack and prepare for the day (get out hw, sharpen pencils, use bathroom, etc.). Once the song ends we are ready to begin. Kids love it and it worked really well this year. This keeps them from chatting and they stay focused on getting ready for a super day.

BONUS: If kids unpack before the song ends, we may have a small groove session. Some of my fifth graders have some moves - ha!

**Blue Folders

My #1 management tool

Every Wednesday I send home a blue folder with samplings of weekly work and a student update. You can download the communication sheet in my TPT store: I got this idea from a dear friend and have adjusted it to fit my classroom. This is an amazing tool for me because I have individualized weekly communication with parents. Yes, weekly! Parents (and students) love to know how their child is doing both academically and behaviorly. This tool is a way to send home praise and improvement notes.

BONUS: Kids want to show off the fun notes I write home and they bring it back signed! Well, most of the time.

**High Fives and Handshakes

Up high!

Another thing I borrowed stole from an awesome teacher at another elementary school. Every afternoon, my students let me know if they had a good day by giving me a personalized handshake or high five. Yes, this takes a few weeks to memorize each one but the kids LOVE it! The handshakes are student created and fun. If students didn't have a good day, they don't have to talk about it if they don't want to, they simply can skip the handshake and that's my cue to check on them tomorrow and get them in a re-start mode. Most of my team has started using the handshakes and it brings a whole other level of connection to your kiddos.

BONUS: You look really cool and might feel like a kid again. I can't even handle the cute handshakes I get: Hunger Games themed, snaps, old school hand claps that I used to do in 5th grade, and FSU chops.

**Problem Based Learning (PBL)

End of Year Party PBL

This past year I took a huge leap from my traditional teaching role and launched PBLs for the entire year during my STEM block. WOOWEE! At first it was overwhelming, stressful, and intimidating. But, by my third PBL I had to take a step back in awe of my fifth graders. I don't think I can ever go back to "traditional" teaching. I cannot even express how impressed I was with my kids. My students really took the problems to the next level and worked cohesively to solve them.

BONUS: It's real world learning and application. Oh and my kids always begged for the next PBL. Students stoked for the next math and science assignment? I'll take it!

**Homework Notebooks

Differentiated HW works

Teacher confession: I am not big fan of homework. I believe practice outside of school is beneficial, but I do not believe in long-drawn out-tears flowing-parents yelling-frustration raising-homework. So, noticing that this is what was happening in most homes, I did some research and created a homework notebook. Homework is individualized to meet students at their levels. Every student is required to read for 30 minutes at home. No, they do not respond to reading prompts. No, they do not summarize. They simply read for the love of reading (Holla - Book Whisperer!). Math is catered to the student's level. Fact fluency (multiplication) or skill review. Yes, I believe fifth graders should have their multiplication facts memorized! Middle school math teachers are saying, "AMEN!" right about now. :)

And you know what? This worked wonders in my room. Students were able to have a life outside of homework and only once in a while were there questions on homework problems. My job as a teacher should be to meet the needs of my students within the school hours. I believe after-school hours should be spent on what kids are passionate about and a little bit of school review.

BONUS: Fewer tears and less work for the teacher and parent. Mrs. Ryan: 1 , HW Drama: 0

What worked really well in your classroom this past year? I'd love to hear your ideas!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Father's Day

Let's be honest... Dads always get the short end of the stick when it comes to holidays. And what I mean is this: Father's Day is promoted approximately three days in advance. Mother's Day is promoted approximately three months in advance. There are banners for every spa in town advertising gift certificates. Flower shops are in overdrive and teachers (uh-hum, me included) are scrambling to get their students to make the perfect handmade gift from the heart.

Poor dads. Most of the time, kids are out of school already. No school handmade gift from the heart. It's more like - Here is a six pack of beer and a Snickers bar. Oh and maybe a card/maybe not because guys don't really want a sappy card anyway. To add insult to injury, Father's Day is smack dab in the middle of the summer when kids are a) either away at camp or b) moms are too busy pulling their hair out because the kids are home all day and forget to plan something.

When I was growing up, my sister and/or I were always at a camp and would miss Father's Day every single year. I'm not even kidding about this. Every year!

So, this year I'm doing it up! And I'm challenging you to do the same. Father's Day is Sunday and that means we might need to get a move on it. To kick off this sentimental weekend, I've created my own cheesy handmade gift... this blog post. I'm posting to all the world what I have learned from my dad and why I am thankful for these lessons. Honestly, these are some of the most important lessons that unfortunately (mom - I love you, but...) mom could not teach me.

Here we go, Dad:

 Lesson #1
 Precision is important. (Nothing was "eye-balled" here. Measuring tape required.)
My dad was a contractor. I could just stop here, because those of you who either have a contractor in your family or you know one, know what I'm talking about. And as annoying and as time consuming as it can be - precision matters. When my dad remodeled my house (new floors, turned a carport into a stunning dining room, built me a pantry, laundry room, and added a master bath) and built our family home, he made sure every detail was perfect. The floors are lined up perfectly, there is symmetry in every room, and every cut is even. As much as I just "wanted it done" and I'm sure Debs said a time or two, "Oh goodness Larry, just make the cut" I'm glad my dad took the time to DO IT RIGHT.

Lesson #2
  Get up early. (The early bird gets the bugs/lobsters.)
I am a morning person and I have my dad to blame thank. Growing up, I despised the fact that I had to wake up at 7am on a Saturday morning to cut the grass. Ugh, so not cool - ha! All of my other girlfriends were getting extra beauty rest and there I was sweating to death, praying that the cute boys in the neighborhood were not driving by as I was pushing the mower along the front lawn. We were never allowed to sleep in. Ever. And I am so thankful for that now. The thought of wasting the day drives me crazy. My dad used to say, "You can get 8 hours of sleep whether you wake up at 7:00 or 9:00, just depends on what time you go to bed. And honestly it's only the first 10 minutes after you wake up that are rough. But after that you are usually happy that you are up and making moves." Gosh, don't you hate when your parents are right!?

Lesson #3
Math matters. (Doughnuts do, too.)
I can't even tell you how lucky I am to have my dad around. Not only is he still healthy, but he is beyond helpful.  If you ever need a feel good moment, just stop by my classroom on any Wednesday and this is the picture you will see: Mr. Taylor bringing in custom doughnut orders for the kids who scored a 90% or higher on their weekly multiplication test, Mr. Taylor organizing every single child's weekly folder that needs to go home that afternoon, Mr. Taylor sitting with kids on the verge of tears helping them with Common Core Math that is blowing their minds, Mr. Taylor giving high-fives and "way-to-gos" to kids who have FINALLY mastered their multiplication facts after months of practicing and, for some, for the first time in their LIFE. He's helped tremendously in making an "I hate math" kid into an "I can't wait for math today" kid. And that's why he proves that math matters.

Lesson #4
Hawaii is ALWAYS a good idea. (Alohaaaaaa!)
For those of you who don't know, my dad convinced my mom to move to Hawaii with him after only a few short months of dating. My dad proposed to my mom in Hawaii. My dad married my mom in Hawaii. And after high school, my dad took us to Hawaii, twice. I honestly believe he had a lot to do with our family's obsession love for Hawaii. Kacey got engaged in Hawaii. I got married in Hawaii. There you have it - thanks to my dad, the three girls in his life have found love there, fell in love there, and declared their love there. See, my dad knows a way to a girl's heart and he obviously inspired our now husbands, too... just take her to Hawaii.

Happy Father's Day, Dad! Love - ELT jr.

*For my readers - Remember to make a big deal about this day for your dad or husband. Make a quick list of the things your dad has taught you. You may even think - WOW, my dad is more awesome than I let him know and I think I will make this Father's Day the BEST ONE YET!

I'd love to hear what lessons your dad has taught you!