Thursday, June 22, 2017

How to Find Balance by Managing Your Time

I've been thinking a lot about a common problem I see in teachers everywhere-- your time is managing you instead of you managing your time!  If you can take control of your time, you'll be able to find all the"lost time" you are looking for.

First, let's talk about what time management is.  Time management is really the balance of goal setting, planning, prioritizing, decision making, delegating and scheduling.  You're really good at knowing WHAT you need to do, it's finding enough time to do #allthethings that becomes a problem.

The second part of time management deals with the actual minutes on the clock.  We all have the same 24 hours in our day, it's what you do with them that matters.  This is the struggle and the struggle is real.

One way to wrangle your time is the Pomodoro Technique.  With this technique, you need a good timer and a to do list.  Set your timer for 25 minutes and tackle one of the items on your list.  When the timer goes off, STOP and take a 3-5 minute break.  Each cycle of work and rest is referred to as a Pomodoro.  The idea is that the short bursts of work followed by a break will help you concentrate and focus.

I use a version of this.  I set my timer for 30 minutes and address one area of my life- school work, cleaning, family, etc.  Using a timer and a to do list really helps me keep a good work-life balance.  I will spend 2-3 Pomodoros on one area of my life, school work for example and then switch my focus to something else such as cleaning or family time.

I know you like to read, so I found some books that you might like about time management.

(Please note, these links are affiliate links which means I may receive some pocket change to help support this blog and fund teaching expenses when you make a purchase. As always, the opinions are my own and I promise to only share what I truly love- cross my teacher's heart!)

I hope my suggestions help you take control of your time.  I would love to hear any tips you have for getting control of your time!

Sunday, April 2, 2017

How to Make a Sound Activity with Plastic Eggs

If your nearby shops are anything like mine, the plastic eggs have been out since February 15th. They are EVERYWHERE!  I am a firm believer in the power of novelty so I snap up a couple packs at the local dollar store as soon as I can.

One of the activities I made with them this year are sound shakers.  This was a fun activity to kick off our sound unit.

Step 1- Prepping the Eggs

Gather your supplies!  I used 12 plastic eggs and a variety of small items I found around my house.  I used safety pins, paper clips, pennies, rice, oatmeal, a ball of dough (like playdoh), a foam cube, dry spaghetti, buttons, beads and  etc... you could also use marbles, small erasers, lego bricks. or pencil top erasers.  Your imagination is only limited by what will fit inside the egg!

Place a different item in each egg. For most items, I filled about half of the egg.  I numbered each egg with numbers 1 through 12.

⭐A little HINT- Put a little tape around the egg to keep them from opening! ⭐

I also printed and copied one recording sheet for each student! You can get the recording sheet here for free!

Step 2- Using the Eggs

When lesson time came, we sat in a circle.  Everyone had a clipboard, pencil and recording sheet.  The recording sheet had 12 eggs on it and each egg has 2 lines.  (I feel like the start of a word problem!)  Starting with egg #1, students shook the egg, recorded a prediction of what they thought was in the egg and passed the egg to the next child.  This let everyone engage multiple senses by feeling, shaking and hearing the egg. When the first egg got about a third of the way around the circle, I started the next week.  This allowed the eggs to move through fairly quickly and reduced the downtime students had.

Step 3- The Discussion

After everyone made their predictions, we shook the eggs again and listened for eggs that had high and low pitches.  We also listened for eggs that had similar sounds.

Step 4- The Reveal

Due to my schedule, we split this activity into a 2 day event.  On day 2, we did the Big Reveal!  For each egg, I shook the egg so everyone could hear it again.  Students shared with a partner and/or the class what they predicted was in the egg and then we revealed the inside!  I'm telling you, this was like a huge party!  I had NO idea kids would get this excited about paperclips in a plastic egg.  Students were cheering and high-fiving each when they got it right.  After revealing the egg, students recorded the correct material on the second line of the egg.

Step 5- Follow Up Discussion

We talk a lot in my room, so we finished this activity by going back to the discussion of which eggs sounds similar. We drew connections to eggs that sounds similar to each other where made out of the same type of material or were similar in size.

You can print the recording sheet AND discussion cards here!

If you use this activity, drop me a note to tell me how it went!

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Place Value and the Great (FREE) Race to 1000 Game

Place value is one of the underlying math skills that can make or break a student.  Students NEED a solid understanding of place value to master skills such as addition, subtraction, mental math, and explaining how addition and subtraction work.

In Kindergarten, students start by working with ten frames and understanding that teen numbers are a set of ten and some more ones.

In First Grade, students begin exploring place value deeper by working with 2 digit numbers, naming the positions as ones place and tens place, completing mental math of 10 more and 10 less and using place value as a specific addition/subtraction strategy.

In Second Grade, students are building on Kindergarten and First Grade to begin working with 3 digit numbers by adding the hundreds place.  Students will be counting, forming numbers, comparing numbers and using place value to solve more complicated problems.

It is critical that students are able to work fluidly and flexibly with base ten.  One of the best ways for students to do this is to play games.

One of my student's favorite games is the Race to 1000 game.

(Please note, some links are affiliate links which means I may receive some pocket change to help support this blog and fund teaching expenses when you make a purchase. As always, the opinions are my own and I promise to only share what I truly love- cross my teacher's heart!)

To begin play, we divide into 2 teams (you could do more).  Each team gets a work mat and base ten materials while I collect the big foam die I have!  (If you do not have any base ten materials, I have used these fun printable ones!)

The premise of the game is simple.  Each team has 6 rolls to build a number that reaches as close to 1000 without going over!  If they go over 1000, they lose!

When a team rolls, the look at the number and decide if they are adding ones, tens or hundreds to their number or work mat.  After making the decision, they add to their work mat and play goes to the next team.  Play continues until each team has made 6 rolls.  Teams count their base ten materials and compare numbers!

After students have played in a group for awhile, they love to play in partners.

You can differentiate this game by changing the number that students build.  Try going smaller or larger.

You can download the work mat here!  After printing the work mat, I recommend laminating or placing in a page protector so students

Friday, March 3, 2017

March 3- Five for Friday

This was such an exciting week for me! I'm linking up with Doodle Bugs Teaching to tell you all about it!

My kiddos participated in a wax museum this week! It was soooo much work... but SOOOO amazing.  I'm so proud of my kids!

As part of my school's STEM team, I was able to attend NC TIES today!  It's a great conference and it was so much fun!

Today sealed the deal on starting Maker Space in my classroom!  I went to a really great session about creating a Maker Space on a budget.  I am going to do some more research on Maker Space but I am thinking about doing it Friday afternoons.  I am flip-flopping back and forth on whether or not to make it an earned activity (because seriously?  Why can't they turn in papers?) and just making it open for everyone.  Thoughts?

At the beginning of the year, our admin challenged us to do a team building activity each month.  We haven't managed to do one every month, but we are a pretty close team.  We get along well and support each other.  

Tonight, we went to an Escape Room!  It was a haunted house and we had so much fun!  This is us before we went in!

Monday, I'll be presenting at a conference!  It's as part of the STEM team and we are talking about our experience at Space Camp this summer and sharing some activities.  I feel a little out of place, because this is actually a middle school conference and I teach 2nd grade!  I'm excited none the less.

Here is my MOST exciting news!  I started accepting sign-ups for my new newsletter!  I am passionate about helping other teachers find balance in their work/home life.  Click on the image below to sign up AND receive my exclusive 5 Ways to Find Balance as a Teacher.

Finding Balance

If you have any suggestions for starting a Maker Space, or if I should make students earn it, drop me a note in the comments!

Thursday, February 23, 2017

How to Find Balance by Letting Go of Guilt

At some point in time, women went from wives and mothers to superwomen.  We decided we wanted it all and could have it all-- and would provide it all!

Now, I'm not saying you can't.  I'm not saying you shouldn't.

Girlfriend- if you want it, go get it!

However, I am saying that in the journey to have it all... we sometimes lose what really matters--


We become stressed, tired, cranky and, quite honestly, not a lot of fun to be around.

Is that WHY you want it all?

Not me!  I want it all for several reasons- provide my family with a great life, retire early so I can travel, make a difference in the lives of the children I teach and support learning environments in the community.  

I have found that one of the keys to finding balance is to let go of the guilt.  Here are 2 situations I experienced gut wrenching guilt.  Holding on to the guilt stopped me from moving forward with my goals.

#1- The Mom Guilt!  

My son was born 7 weeks early.  My breast milk never came in.  The 2 things my body was designed to do- carry a child and feed it- failed.  Hello, GUILT!  Getting over that took a L-O-N-G time.  I spent hours worrying about how much I had failed my son.  Then one day I realized- he was FINE.  He was better than fine!  He was thriving!  Nine years later, I have an extremely intelligent, highly creative engineer in the making!  

Baby's First Picture!

Building Rockets at Cub Scout Camp!
#2- The Teacher Guilt!

My first year teaching, I taught a student I'll call Sam.  Sam was quiet.  He worked really hard but didn't get anywhere.  He was failing First Grade.  I went through the schools then protocol for identifying students with learning disabilities.  I had him observed by the school psychologist.  Nothing.  I retained and taught him the following year.  The next year, he moved to a different district, but I stayed in contact with the family.  He was immediately diagnosed with ADD, put on meds and became a straight A student. Two years with me and I couldn't help him... Hello, GUILT!

Moving On

Moving past the guilt was imperative to not getting stuck.  It takes these simple steps:

#1- Learn something from the experience.  I learned to be more sympathetic to others.  I learned how to recognize ADD.  I learned how to partner with parents.  

#2- Be thankful.  Be thankful for what you learned.  Be thankful for the experience.  Be thankful for what you DO have.  I AM thankful for the amazing child I have.  I AM thankful that Sam got the help he needed.

#3 Forgive yourself.  This step can be the hardest and usually isn't a one time thing. Every time those guilty feelings or bad memories come up, repeat to yourself a forgiveness mantra.  I like to say "I did the best I could with the information I had.  It is not my fault."

This is the first blog post in my Finding Balance series.  I have worked really hard to find balance in my life and want to share these tips with you!  Since finding balance is an ongoing struggle, I would also love to hear your tips in the comments below!  You can also sign up for my email list to get more tips!

Saturday, February 11, 2017

How to Make Green Eggs and Ham

One of my favorite activities to do on Dr. Seuss's birthday is to make green eggs and ham for breakfast.

At my school, student's eat breakfast in the classroom so this is really easy for me to add to it.  I've also served it in the afternoon when it fit my schedule better.

Green eggs and ham is easy to prepare- in the classroom or at home!

Green eggs and ham is simple and fast!  All you need are basic ingredients- eggs, ham, green dye, pan, spatula and heat source.  I like to use the already diced ham just to make life easier!

Over my teaching career, I have made green eggs and ham a variety of ways.  In a crock-pot.  The night before and microwave them at school.  On a griddle at school.

My FAVORITE way is on a griddle at school because cooking with kids is awesome!

(I forgot to take pictures last time I made them, so I made some at home!)

A few tips-
1.  Assemble all ingredients before hand!
2.  Work in small batches- scrambled eggs are easy but not when you are scrambling 2 dozen!
3.  Use a gel food dye- my fingers never turn green when I use gel!

Crack the eggs into a bowl and mix with a fork.  Add the green dye in the mixed eggs and stir.  Since it's a gel, you might end up with pieces of gel in the eggs.  Don't worry- when the eggs start cooking, they will melt and mix into the eggs!

Mix the diced ham into the eggs and pour- carefully- into the pan or griddle.  

Scramble quickly.  If you had gel pieces, you should see them start to melt into the eggs.

When the eggs are finished, plate and serve!

How do YOU celebrate Dr. Seuss' birthday?

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Meet the CFTC Blog Hop and Give Away(s)

I have really enjoyed being a part of Conversations from the Classroom.  To celebrate our first month of collaboration, we are hosting a series of hops and give aways!

A few facts about me!

Single mom of the greatest boy ever!

We have 2 cats- Anakin PawWalker and Marti McMeow

I currently teach 2nd grade, but have taught K and 1st!

I have worked at the same school for my whole career!  I love my colleagues, my school and my community.

My favorite color is red, my middle name is Lee and I would rather read a book than almost anything else in the world!

I love helping teachers in 2 ways!  I want to help you fill your bustling classroom with fun and engaging activities AND I want to help you find balance in your life so you aren't spending all your time at school!

Last summer, I took an amazingly epic trip to Space Camp!  It was the trip of a life time!

I'm hosting a give away for

Enter the giveaway by entering below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Now that you've entered my give away, HOP over to 2 Scoops of Kindergarten to meet more of Conversations in the Classroom!

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