A New Teacher’s Guide to Amazon

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Congratulations! You’ve landed your first teaching job! I remember when I first started I bought EVERYTHING, but when I put it all in my classroom… I realized really quickly that I bought a lot of unnecessary stuff and I’m missing the important items. My first big tip for new teachers is to find out what your school has. This is sooo important! Many schools provide you Expo markers, pencils, magnets, etc. So why buy it?! Invest your money into things that will make your life and yours student’s lives better.

 So what exactly do you need for your classroom?
A personal laminator. Not kidding. This thing is a lifesaver. As a teacher… we need to laminate almost everything, otherwise we’re doubling our efforts and remaking items year after year. Instead of running to Lakeshore… buy one of these… they’re also reasonably priced.  Full disclosure… I’ve never tried anything but Scotch laminating sheets. Amazon frequently has them on sale and they work great. Why fix something broken?

Scotch mounting tape is another lifesaver. (I truly owe my career to Scotch lol). These are the best strips for hanging things up. My entire classroom has cement walls so anything other than this mounting tape will be on the floor by the end of the day.

Glue dots are fantastic for hanging up art work and decorations on your hallway bulletin boards. Throughout the year, I take pictures of my students and hang them up using Glue Dots.

This is an item that your school may or may not provide. My school does not. So I always buy my colored files on Amazon. I use these for my student portfolios as well as filing important paperwork. Amazon has a wide variety of colors to choose from and you can store them in a crate from Walmart or any filing system of your choosing!

Flair Pens. Enough Said. These make even the grumpiest teacher happy. They are perfect for grading and writing notes. And there are sooo many colors.

Fadeless bulletin board paper is the way to go. No one has time to switch faded paper throughout the year. Some teachers suggest tablecloths, but I’ve always had such a great experience with these paper rolls. The rolls are huge so there’s plenty of paper for mistakes or multiple bulletin boards. Last but not least…Amazon has great border for bulletin boards. I used to buy my borders from Lakeshore, but I felt like I was spending so much money and running out before my bulletin boards were done. Now I buy a colored or polka dot borders from Amazon and don’t think twice about it.

 

I hope this article was helpful in starting your classroom. I also recommend investing in some cute bins from the Dollar Tree and books from Goodwill :). Stocking your classroom library will make it feel more like home. ❤

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Engaging your Students with Amazon

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During my time as a teacher, I’ve searched for ways to “set the stage to engage.” This post is a roundup of a few of my favorites and how to use them!

*Note some of these products contain affiliate links.

I mean… can I carrying this around everywhere?! I use my microphone for sharing our writing and “setting the scene” in my classroom. For example if we are learning about weather they’ll “play” weather person using the mic. Or we’ll announce Class VIP with music. This is by far one of my most engaging pieces I’ve bought off Amazon to date.

Colored Jenga can be used in a variety of different ways, such as task cards, vocabulary activities, math facts and so on. Click here for more ideas!

Although sometimes it feels like we never have enough time… occasionally you’ll have a few minutes at the end of class or during your morning meeting. This is one of my favorite activities to do with my students. One Minute Mysteries is a collection of short “cases” that need to be solved. Students hear the case, and are asked to “solve” the mystery. The book also provides 3 clues with each mystery. These are quick and fun ways to get students creatively thinking! You’d be surprised the answers they come up with!

*Check out the free preview on Amazon

Okay… I’m sure some of you are like …. uh what?! But wait…  black lights are a really unique way to get your kids engaged and thinking. There are a ton of great science activities  that respond to UV light. Many teachers are also throwing “highlighter or black light parties” in their classroom. Kids are doing “highlighter math,” putting together investigations, and so much more. Check out “Black Light Classrooms” on Pinterest for more ideas!

This one is great for classroom management! Instead of “1, 2, 3, eyes on me,” try using a doorbell! It comes with up to 50 different sounds!

Kerplunk is a great way to reward students and help them speed up transitions! Every time you catch them doing something great, you pull a stick! Eventually all the balls come down and the students receive their reward! The anticipation encourages positive behavior and excitement!

The Amazon Echo Dot is a voice controlled search device similar to Siri. It connect to wifi and doesn’t require you to constantly sign in. The Amazon Echo Dot is activated by saying “Alexa,” and when she’s “listening” she flashes blue. Alexa is great for simple Google questions, such as “how do you spell ____.” “What is the weather?”  or my favorite… “Pick a number between ___ and ___.” She can also set a timer, play Simon Says, and tell a story!

 

<b> Let’s keep this list going! What Amazon purchases have you made to engage your classroom? Did they work? </b>

Work Life Balance and the Modern Teacher (Excuse Me Mrs Elias)

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So where do I start? Firstly, let me introduce myself. My name is Alicia and I am in my sixth year of primary school teaching. I live in Western Australia so our education system is somewhat different to the United States and Europe – and no…we do not have kangaroos along our freeways and roads…only if you live in the country!

As an educator after an extremely tiresome and busy day at work, you walk through the door at 6.00pm, clean up the mess that you left in the sink before you rushed out the door that morning, cook for the family and then you finally sit down to do some preparation for the next day. Are you tired yet? Statistics show that 1 in 5 teachers burn out in their first 5 years of their teaching career! Are you surprised? You shouldn’t be. So many teachers burn out because the work/life struggle is real.

“The question you need to ask yourself is what are you doing for yourself and your mental wellbeing?”

Teaching is an extremely demanding job and as educators, we sometimes forget what ‘ME’ time actually means. Educators always aim to please – students, parents and staff. We always make sure others are okay and we forget that we are human beings; not robots!

I am the worst when it comes to taking my own advice and I am sure you are too!

In my first 2 years of teaching, I was going in to work sick. I had every symptom under the sun! And why? Back then my answer was that ‘It’s even harder to plan a relief day than to actually come in and teach the lessons’. I was causing myself more harm than good and in the process, I burnt out.

In my fourth year of teaching, I had a lightbulb moment and I finally realised …. how can you give 100% if you are not 100%? I stopped going into work sick and made sure I was well enough to come back to work and give it my all. Teachers will sometimes only take one day off and come back mediocre. We never fully recover from the germ and flu epidemics that surround the teaching profession as we are too eager to get back to school because we have so much to do! We can only control our own actions, not the actions of others. We can only control the things we need to do, required to do and what we are asked to do. Unfortunately, teachers are great jugglers and no matter how tired, exhausted or stressed we are, we still get those jobs done!

So, the question is… what does WORK/LIFE Balance mean and how can we fix it?

I made a deal with myself last year which was that if I worked hard Monday through to Friday, the weekend would be mine. A weekend where I would not have to pick up one bit of school work – unless it’s report season! We live in such a technologically advanced world that simple menial tasks can be completed by the taps of our fingers. At times, we need to be able to switch off from the tech world and take that time to unwind, gather our thoughts and relax.

Some top tips for those teachers struggling out there to get that work/life balance are:

  1. Time for yourself!
    Aim to take out time for yourself once a week. You can get your nails done, read a good book or veg out on the couch with a good movie. It can be anything where you don’t need to think or dream about work and the endless to do lists. Screen Shot 2018-03-22 at 6.03.59 AM.png
  2. Write a to-do list!
    Always write a to-do list. Prioritise what is most important at the top and then order the least important at the end. I can’t tell you how many sticky notes I have lying around everywhere to help me remember things. Whether you write or type your notes, make sure they are placed somewhere where they are visible to you. I love to use the Stickies app on my MacBook Pro!
  3. No Emails and School Related Technology after 5.00pm!
    I found this the hardest thing to balance as I found parents would email me after 6.00pm which was the ideal time for them. At the beginning of the year, we told all our parents at our Annual Parent Teacher Information Night that emails after 5.00pm would be responded to the following day – a gentle reminder that we too have our own families and lives to attend to also!
  4. Set time limits!
    A teacher friend mentioned that she sets a timer for herself to complete school tasks. Something I am currently trialling is just that. I set a timer for myself (e.g. 45 minutes) and complete what I can in that time. If I don’t complete it all, it’s okay! It can be completed another time. Setting those time constraints means that you are not distracted by other things such as the television; instead you focus fully on that one hour task.
  5. Don’t reinvent the wheel!
    If you can, share your resources with others and vice versa. Don’t create resources that already exist! If you can, work with a buddy teacher as two heads are always better than one!
  6. Learn to say no!
    Saying no is one of the hardest things to do and something I struggle with the most. You CANNOT do everything and even though it may be hard the first time to say no, it does get easier. You are not saying no because you don’t want to do that task, but instead because you may not be able to juggle all tasks at once. It is okay to say no from time to time!
  7. If you’re sick…you’re sick!
    Going in to work sick will not make you feel better, make students sick and then the staff sick – which will not be a happy place to work in. If you are sick, take the time off to FULLY rest and recover. That extra day always helps!

The skill of mastering a work/life balance takes time and I believe it only comes with experience. I still have not yet mastered the art of balancing and time management and will forever be learning and testing out different ways to balance work and life.

We need to learn not to be so hard on ourselves and to remember to work to live, not live to work!

Fellow educators…we got this!

If you would like to chat more or come up with some awesome tips not mentioned here then please check out my Instagram and email below:

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Instagram – @excuseme_mrselias

Email: excuseme.mrselias@gmail.com

Alicia x

My Test Prep Tips

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It’s that time of year! Take a deep breath. You’ve got this! Our students have prepped all year and we know they’ve learned a lot. We don’t want to freak our students out or jam too many worksheets into their day or we’re going to lose them and waste valuable time. So what do we do to ensure we’ve reviewed and refreshed their memory?

  1. Task Cards

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A classic….. for a good reason too. Task cards keep our kids entertained. You can have them going from one skill to another or give your students the opportunity to practice a specific skill.

There are so many different ways to use task cards!

  • SCOOT – Have students move around the room looking for cards and recording their answers.
  • White boards – Sometimes I’ll project a task card on my Smartboard and ask students to write their answer. Then I’ll shout 3..2..1…FLIP and every student shows me their answer.
  • Computers – There are SO many digital task cards available. Students can quietly work in a center and answer task cards. Depending on how the cards are designed they can receive immediate feedback as well.
  • Make them into a game – Have students partner up or get into groups. They can take turns reading each other the cards and receive immediate feedback on their answers.

2. Scholastic Magazines

 

 

 

Scholastic magazines are great sources for examining informational texts and practicing reading skills. Depending on what skill I’m trying to highlight (summarizing, text features, sequence, etc) I give students a skill driven graphic organizer & a Scholastic magazine.

My students loveeee using these! They always feel so mature reading through their magazine and I let them pick whichever article they want! Giving students a choice in what they read and dissect makes such a difference.

3. Classroom Games

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Jeopardy

Sink or Swim – Divide students into 2 teams and sit them across from one another. To begin ask one team a question, if they get the answer correct they are able to sink one person from the other team. To prevent awkwardness, assign each student on the team a number and have students sink a student’s number instead of saying their name. Then ask team number two a question. This process continues until one team has no remaining players. (Teachhub.com)

Punctuation Paintball – Go to Iknowthat.com and play Punctuation Paintball. It’s a great way for students to review their grammar skills!  Students use a paintball gun to splatter a word once they get it correct.

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Life Size Memory – Literally! Make big sized memory cards that students can flip!

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4. Classroom Transformations

Photo Cred: Sweet Tooth Teaching

There’s a rumor going around that classroom transformations are time consuming and expensive. And they can be! But they don’t HAVE to be. It’s what YOU make it.

For example, if you transform your classroom into a hospital you need gloves, tablecloths, and cut and paste activities. You don’t have to go full out with gowns, gloves, and stethoscopes. You do what YOU can to engage them.

Classroom transformations are an AMAZING way to disguise test prep. It also helps kids have some fun before they are buckled down by tests.


Photo Cred: To Engage Them All

Just remember no matter what you choose to incorporate into your classroom, your students are more then their test score…and so are YOU 🙂

My Guided Reading Centers

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Once students reach “upper elementary,” centers drastically change. Sight words fall off, Playdough letters are gone, and testing concerns get real. BUT keeping centers engaging and effective is a MUST. This time is critical to enhance independent practice.

That’s why I’m going to share what I do for my literacy centers. I want this blog post to serve as a place where we can collaborate and share ideas, because quite frankly…. upper elementary centers AIN’T EASY.

1. Must Do, May Do

I use a weekly checklist. I assign specific “Must Do” tasks and then they go onto their “May Do.” On Friday, I quickly check over their centers and approve their “Must Dos,” if they are all acceptable, the students may have “Free Friday.”

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2. Free Friday

I’m pretty strict with Free Friday. My students must have completed all their work putting in their BEST effort. During Free Friday, I let them play educational games (online or board games), study for spelling (whiteboards, word search, etc), read, draw something they learned this week, free write, etc. As long as it’s educational in some way and not too disruptive..it’s a GO.

3. My Must Do Centers

The reason you’re probably here….

  • Fluency & Comprehension: My students practice their fluency with a partner. Then they answer questions about the story. These questions are aligned with our weekly skill (point of view, main idea, etc).
  • Writing: This center changes depending on what my students need. Usually my students receive a short, mediocre paragraph and their job is to revise, add detail, and improve that paragraph. They’re essentially rewriting the paragraph and adding significantly more detail. Other days, I have them answer a prompt, free write, or edit grammatical errors.
  • Google Classroom: We have a weekly EQ that all of our stories are based around. For example… “How do you make friends feel welcomed?” During that week, we read A Cricket in Times Square and At the Library. On Fridays, students will go onto Google Classroom and answer the essential question using text evidence to support their answer.

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4. My May Do Centers

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  • Vocabulary – I am in LOVE with this vocabulary bundle. I keep a folder with all the different options and my students PICK what vocabulary activity they want to complete.

     

  • Independent Reading – I usually ask for a quick write up, summary, or application the skill we’re working on. But I also just let them read and enjoy it 🙂
  • Test Prep – This center changes constantly… it should really be called my review center. I put a variety of different activities to review previous skills. For example, I may include a text evidence, color by question activity, or figurative language.
  • Task Cards – Students complete task cards online or quietly at their desk. I also provide students with an answer key to check their answers when they’re done.
  • Lumos Learning – A recommendation from my district. It asks students PARCC simulated questions. I allow students to pick what practice test they want to work on depending on what they need help with.

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In the beginning of the year, I introduce all of these centers one at a time. I keep everything stored in nice folders where they are readily available for students. To prevent interruptions while I’m meeting with my groups, I choose two “helpers” and also abide by the “Ask 3 Then Me” policy.

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Throughout the week, students store all of their work in their “Center Folder.” I keep all my center folders in one specific spot. On Friday, it’s their responsibility is to make sure all of their work is on the right side with their check list on top!

Products used in this blog post  *Amazon Affiliate Links

Lanyards

Folders

Astrobrights Paper

 

Teaching Point of View

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We recently started Point of View in my classroom and I decided to REVAMP my lesson this year. I wanted to make sure I did a thorough job of examining all aspects of POV.

My Objectives:

  1. I want students to accurately identify point of view.
  2. Then be able to asses the speaker’s thoughts and feelings of the characters, situation, etc.
  3. Evaluate how the point of view affects how the story is told/what information is received.

We started off with Flocabulary’s Rap. It has such a catchy beat that we didn’t need to spend too much time reviewing 1st person is I, me, my, etc.

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Afterwards, we made an interactive anchor charts in our notebooks. My students LOVED these. Something about flap books always gets kids excited. They had fun matching the different point of views while singing Flocabulary’s Rap.

This flap book is available in my Point of View Bundle

Next, we listened to the story of the 3 Little Pigs and The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs. as told by the wolf. We discussed the different perspectives that each story had. This is a perfect mentor text for identifying the different perspectives and is an adorable read aloud.3 little pigs.jpg

I typically use two types of writing prompts when discussing point of view. 1. Rewrite the story from another perspective and 2. How does the point of view affect the information the reader receives?

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Finally, I nail down the skill during guided reading centers. My students practice point of view using task cards (also available digitally on Google Forms). It’s a great way to asses any students who haven’t mastered the skill.

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*Teacher Hack – Using task cards on Google Forms is an incredible way to get concrete data on your class. It can tell you who hasn’t mastered a skill yet or what question is really tripping students up. It can be an indicator of something that YOU missed, OR something wrong with the QUESTION.

Task cards are available in my bundle or can be purchased separately.

*Amazon Affiliate Links Included

Why your Students Should be Writing a Power List

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Once everyone returns from winter break, teachers will be asking students for their New Year’s Resolutions! New Year’s is the prime time for a fresh start and new goals. HOWEVER, I would encourage this “goal setting mentality” all year long.

In the beginning of the year, I ask my students what they want to accomplish this year, whether in school or their personal lives. I always receive answers like “I want straight A’s” or “I want to make Honor Roll.” Which is FANTASTIC, but I always explain to my students that this is a marathon not a sprint and it’s going to take dedication. I want my students to learn that if they want something in life, they have to work hard and not give up.

When my students are talking about their goals for the year, I follow the SMART goal outline. You can grab it for free in my store. 🙂 Click the picture below!

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Everyday students should be working towards their goal, but throughout the year we often get into a ‘flow’ and for some of our students old habits die HARD. Also working hard doesn’t come naturally to many of our kids. Unless their parents encourage and model this at home… then working hard isn’t habitual.

That’s why I adopted Andy Frisella’s power list in my classroom! (If you have time, definitely listen to his podcast – MFCEO project – it’s not appropriate to play in front of your students… but all of his points are applicable to the classroom).

The power list is a list of 5 critical tasks that students need to get done. When they are all completed, students have “won the day.”

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Now I know some of you are thinking…”whoa that’s a lot for our students to handle and a little too intense.” But is it really? We want our students to be SUCCESSFUL and completing tasks that are in line with our goal IS how you become successful. This creates a HABIT for our kids. GET THINGS DONE. I’ll give you an example using school only… (their list may include outside activities as well).

  1. Read for 15 minutes
  2. Study 20 minutes for social studies test on Friday
  3. Write down all my assignments for the week
  4. Complete vocabulary center
  5. Ask Miss. B for extra help on Inferencing

My students have their Power List velcroed to their desk. They write on it using dry erase markers so it can be used and reused all year! Another great option would be writing it in their homework planner! Click on the picture for a power list FREEBIE

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Overall, the Power List is encouraging our students to take responsibility and increasing their productivity. My students feel SO PROUD once they’ve completed their list. I also encourage my students to pick tasks that challenge them. After all, it is about GROWING and IMPROVING. 😉