Open House Tips & Tricks

I would love for open house to be a full day. There’s just never enough time to communicate everything I feel is necessary to everyone who attends. I don’t get to spend enough time with parents/guardians talking about expectations and how my class works. I wish I had more time.

open house need more time

Teachers who have been to this rodeo before do certain things ensure open house is successful. We print supply lists ahead of time. We have people sign in – we might even have them jot down their phone number or email for us. We hand out curriculum/course overviews. We have our rules posted and our rooms decorated. But over the past few weeks I’ve been thinking about how I can get even more out of this year’s open house.

Secondary teachers’ open house night/day is different from elementary. We’ve got multiple classes – so do the kids. So, there’s a lot of roaming around. And a lot of students and families are only there to map out their day; they aren’t attending with the intention of truly engaging in any meaningful discussions with the teacher. They’ve been to this rodeo, too (6th and 9th grades are, I find, the exception to this rule). Still, I found that I was run ragged after open house, even though I had things set up in a reasonably organized fashion.

open house exhausted

As the school year has inched ever closer with each passing day, I find myself wondering, “How can I get even more out of this event? How can I facilitate independence for those families who just come for the map and supply lists so I am free to answer questions from other families?”

One thing I tried last year that worked well and that I will be employing this year is to project a screen onto my board with class supplies for families (along with a printed handout). When employing this strategy, I had a lot of people walk in, read the screen, pick up the handout, sign my information sheet, and then walk out after making eye contact and giving me a smile.

This year, though, I’m determined to digitize my classroom experience even further, though. My PowerPoint slide this year is going to have a chart, and in that chart, will be QR codes and bitly links to the Google sheet into which parents will enter their contact information, the supply list document, the welcome letter document, and the Remind sign up instructions pages (never used Remind? Google it! Maybe I’ll even write a post about it later!). I’m also going to have the Google sheet for contact information up on my student desktop computer for parents who don’t have (or don’t feel comfortable using) a smart phone. Of course, I’ll have paper copies of the supply list, welcome letter, and Remind instructions for those families as well.

open house ppt slide new

I am hoping that this will streamline things even further because 1) I’ll save time and resources not having to print so much, 2) I won’t have to manually transfer each hand-written email and phone number (you know, just because someone is a grown up doesn’t mean handwriting is readable…and of course the information in the school database is often wrong…) but can simply import it from the electronic sheet, and 3) I won’t have to be as involved in the distribution of paperwork (I’m betting most families have a smart phone for at least one of the members!).

Something else I have done with great success is to list important class-level items needed (hand sanitizer, tissues, paper towels, etc.) on sticky notes with my name, classroom, and subject, and allow people to take the sticky notes with them as they exit. I’ve seen teachers simply list (creatively and beautifully) what is needed, and sometimes parents will even write it down, but often times they forget which teacher asked for what and the supplies never make it into the right room. The use of sticky notes helps tremendously with this (I’ve had parents give me direct feedback on this for many years).

open house post it supplies

I have also had several years (before having my child) where my husband has come to open house and set up “shop” in the back of the room giving families the opportunity to purchase supplies cheaply and conveniently rather than have to make another trip to the store after the tax-free days our state gives us. Because elementary schools (and pre-schools) are really good about sending home supply lists before the start of the year, but secondary teachers/schools find this more difficult because each student now has 7 teachers, and there are 1000+ students and all their schedules are different.

If you like these ideas and want an open house freebie, I’ve got something for you to check out!

Have a wonderful open house and a great start to the year!

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Common Core Practice RI.6.2

When I started working with teachers two years ago upon CCSS roll-out in our state (which was slapped, tickled, and relabeled LAFS – Language Arts Florida Standards), it became clear there was going to be a void. Teachers I worked with and spoke to became nervous that there weren’t enough practice materials for students to master the new and more rigorous standards. I began creating resources for them, such as question stems, and they gave great feedback. As time went on, though, and the new state tests loomed on the horizon, I began to see that students in my district weren’t going to get enough test preparation. This was a function of the curriculum our district uses in English/Language Arts. I won’t elaborate beyond saying that it is completely void of any real, consistent, useful traditional assessments and how the curriculum potentially relates to what the students will see and be expected to demonstrate mastery on when they take the state assessment. I figured that if this was the case in my district, it was probably true in others. Based on this assumption, I began creating my CIM line. CIM stands for Continuous Improvement Model. It is based on the “I do,” “we do,” “you do” model of instruction. Students get three rounds of practice – once at the teacher level, seeing the metacognition that goes on during the problem-solving process; then in a guided setting, where the teacher can begin to see the areas needing focus and re-teaching; and finally, independently, demonstrating mastery or lack thereof. For those of you not familiar with the term CIM, I didn’t invent it. It comes from the reading curriculum our district uses, except we call them FCIMs – the “F” standing for (no, not that F word) Florida. Since the LAFS correlate pretty much identically with the ELA Common Core Standards, I just dropped the “F” and my CIMs are designed to help any student in a state with either Common Core or LAFS – or a state who did the same thing Florida did and just put a brand new coat of paint and called it a horse of a different color.

6th grade CIM RI2 d

I’ve gotten good feedback from these lessons, so I’ve continued my quest to fill the void. I’ve done almost all of 6th grade Reading Literature standards CIMs (putting the finishing touches on RL.6.7…it should be ready by next Sunday) and have started on the 6th grade Reading Informational Text standards CIMs. That’s what this post highlights: RI.6.2 (central idea and summarizing). This resource has three lessons. Lesson 1 is a scripted teacher lesson that presents questions and a passage, along with commentary and reasoning for students to hear the process aloud to see how the teacher arrived at the answers. Lesson 2 is a guided practice lesson where the teacher helps students reason and analyze their way to the correct answers with a little help here and there. Lesson 3 is an independent lesson where students must demonstrate that they can come to the correct answers on their own. The results of Lesson 3 dictate either re-teaching or moving onto the next concept. These resources aren’t units and they aren’t meant to be stand-alone products. They’re designed to be more like bell work or class starters. They’re only supposed to take about 7-10 minutes each. My plan is to have a full line of RL and RI CIMS for grades 3-11 (I’m not sure 12th grade would have much of a demand, since most states stop testing in either 10th or 11th grade), so you’ll periodically see blog posts from me about the newest CIM I’ve added to the line.

6th grade CIM RI2 b

6th grade CIM RI2 c

I have a free version you can test out if you think this might be something your students could use. The good news is that if you’re at all familiar with Common Core or LAFS you’ll know that the secondary standards are remarkably similar, so if you have some students who aren’t quite reading on grade level, the 6th grade series might be a good place to start to build some confidence. Of course, if you use it and you like it, leave some feedback and rate the product. It helps me reach my goals and improve my products. Thanks!

6th grade CIM RI2 a

Summer BOGO #3!

Have you been waiting to see what my newest summer BOGO will be? Well, the wait is over! For this week (from today through Saturday, 6/20/15), I have decided to offer a project BOGO. If you purchase my best-selling and highly-rated Probability Project, you will receive my Scale Model of the Solar System Project for free!

June BOGO 3

Both these projects are fabulous ways to assess your students’ understanding in a hands-on, authentic way. In the Probability Project (which is designed to take place at the END of a probability unit of study), students create their own carnival-style games, predict outcomes, play the games, record data, and analyze the data they’ve collected.

prob proj cover

In the Solar System Project (which is designed to take place at the END of a unit teaching scale and scientific notation), students research the planet sizes and distances from the sun in our solar system. Then, they create a scale model of the solar system and discuss (through writing) their processes.

scale model solar system

My students LOVED both of these projects, and I’m sure yours will, too. They are aligned to CCSS (Math), but would apply to any state’s standards regarding probability, scale, and scientific notation.

Depending on your standards and curriculum, these projects would be appropriate for students in grades 6-9.

I hope you’re having a great summer!

Follow this link to the BOGO offer!

Summer BOGO #2!!!

Maybe last week’s BOGO wasn’t for you. Maybe you teach something other than math. Maybe you teach English/Language Arts. Maybe you teach a subject where you teach students about non-fiction writing (persuasive, informative, research). Even if you’re not an ELA teacher, you are still (if your state has CCCS or something like it) responsible for teaching writing in the content area. But writing is a skill, and it’s a difficult one to master for many students. For many struggling writers, teaching writing in small, manageable chunks can make learning how to be a better writer more accessible. For many struggling writers, visual examples of what good writing should look like can make learning how to be a better writer an easier process.

For example, when teaching students how to write essays or papers, instead of simply assigning a paper (topic, prompt, etc.) and grading the finished result, try assigning specific parts one at a time. Spend a bit of time (1-2 days) just on writing quality thesis statements. Once students have mastered that, move on to instruction on additional components of the paper.

For example, pick an arbitrary topic and write an outline for a paper, talking about the process out loud to your students as you go through and write. Present students with sample topics to mock-outline to practice. Then when you assign the real topic, they’ll feel comfortable with making their own outline and produce a better end product.

For example, pick an arbitrary topic and write an essay, color coding the various elements (thesis statement – original or restated is red; supporting details are green; transition words are blue; arguments are yellow; refutations are orange; etc.). Then show students how the elements fit together so they can see how a thesis threads through a whole paper, or where transition words should appear, etc.

Of course, give your students consistent feedback using some sort of writing rubric. It might be your state’s writing rubric, but you might want something a bit simpler for less involved writing assignments.

Do these things sound like something you’d like to have or do in your classroom next year? Well, you are in luck! This week’s summer BOGO is a writing resource package. Purchase my best-selling and highly-rated How to Write a Basic Thesis Statement lesson and receive my best-selling and highly-rated Sample Outline for a Research Paper, my Writing Rubrics, and my Color-Coded Essay for free! This BOGO is only available through Saturday, June 13, so click on the link now to take advantage!

June BOGO 2

Summer Writing BOGO!

Summer BOGO!

Part 3 of my assessment series will be posted soon, don’t worry.

Right now, though, I’m excited to announce that I am having a BOGO on one of my most popular and best-rated products!

From now through Saturday (6/6/15), if you purchase my Independent vs. Dependent Variables 6th grade Math PowerPoint lesson, you’ll get the 6th grade math PowerPoint: Identifying Patterns and Writing Algebraic Equations for FREE! Both these lessons are Common Core Aligned with the Expressions and Equations strand. Both of them are very highly rated!

math bogo 1

Why not stock up now for next year?

You can also get an editable version of these lessons for free if you contact me for details!

Research has consistently shown that PowerPoints have a positive impact on teaching and learning in the classroom. They help keep teachers organized, focus, and on pace during a lesson. They capture students’ attention, improve focus and engagement, and help note-taking skills.  PowerPoint is also an easy way to integrate technology into your lessons, which is recognized to be an attribute of highly effective teachers.

So do yourself a favor: take advantage of this BOGO and be ready for next year!

Summer BOGO offer

Teachers are Heroes!

It’s true, teachers really are heroes! Teachers are leaders, nurses, parents, psychologists, social workers, friends, confidants, and so much more. If you’ve been waiting for the perfect time to check out Teachers Pay Teachers, it has arrived! Today (only for a few more hours!) everything on the site – in every single store! – is at least 10% off! My store has everything 28% off! That’s right! If you’ve been eyeing that perfect lesson, activity, or resource, now is the time to stop by and stock up! There probably won’t be another sale until my birthday (that’s all the way in April, people!), so get test prep, Common Core and LAFS resources, math lessons, writing resources, reading activities, and so much more! And don’t forget, there’s a TON of free stuff on the site, too – not just my store, but hundreds – thousands (literally, there are over 70K stores on TpT!) – of stores with something for everyone. So no matter what or you teach – in a classroom K-12, early childhood, college, or even homeschool, there is something for you! Head on over and check it out!

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Get your teaching resources while the getting is good!

We Are The Champions, My Friends…

I know it’s been a long time, and you probably thought I had forgotten – or perhaps was recovering from all the celebrating – but here is the freebie for the most important victory of the year! For a whole year, The Ohio State Buckeyes are the NCAA football National Champions! It is a good time to be a Buckeye! Thanks to the Oregon Ducks for a great game!

My five free fonts for the Sugar Bowl victory were well received, so I made five more. These are a little more fun, and could be cute for classroom posters. There’s even one that could be a fun game for students – all the letters are backwards! I hope you enjoy them.

5 Free Fonts!

5 Free Fonts!

Sadly, though, football season is over, but before you despair, I’ll have you know I am an avid college basketball fan, too! Of course I’m a big supporter for Ohio State, but I was raised on Kentucky basketball, so I’m a Wildcat at heart! Therefore, if Ohio State and/or Kentucky win their conference championship, I will make victory freebies for that. Additionally, if either team wins the National Championship (Kentucky is definitely a favorite for this!), I will post a freebie for that as well, so check back later in the season!

Finally, I am continuing my work on the CCSS CIM lessons and should have the 6th grade RL.4 standard CIM ready for next week, so if you’ve been waiting for it, it will be here soon! Have a great week!

Go Buckeyes!

Football freebie – Buckeye Sugar Bowl Victory!

Ohhhhh, my! O-H-I-O!!! I am still in a bit of a daze (and shock), but despite the odds being stacked against them, my beloved Buckeyes have beaten the Crimson Tide of Alabama in the 2015 Sugar Bowl! Go Buckeyes! And of course, you get to be happy for a second reason: football freebie! That’s right, I’ve created my football freebie for you to celebrate the victory. I’ve done something brand-spankin’ new: fonts. Yes, I found an online font creator and spent the day having (probably way too much) fun turning my own handwriting into a font you can use on your word processing software! There are 5 fonts: 2 that reflect my normal handwriting and 3 that are more “fun.” I’ve often gotten compliments on what nice handwriting I have, so I figure some of you might enjoy being able to use it as a font. Anyway, I hope it’s useful for you! And of course, there’s still one opportunity left for a football freebie this season, so cheer like you’ve never cheered before for Ohio State to beat Oregon in the national championship game on January 12th.

Free fonts 1-5

Get 5 Fun, Free Fonts!

Cyber Monday Madness!

Happy Cyber Monday! Yes, it’s the new-age off-shoot of Black Friday (after, of course, the creation of “Small Business Saturday”); the day where everyone finds time during the work day to surf the internet for great online deals. Well, fear not, for I have Cyber Monday Madness to share with you! Teachers Pay Teachers is running their annual Cyber Monday sale today (December 1, 2014) and tomorrow (December 2, 2014). The entire site will be up to 28% off! Stop the madness! Everything in my store specifically will be 28% off the regular price. This is the perfect time to drop by and see the resources I have!

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Visit my store today!

I’ve also finished (and posted) the second CIM (Continuous Improvement Model) lesson for the grade 6 RL.2 CCSS practice. It uses Poe’s poem, “Annabel Lee” and is designed to take 3-5 days at 7-10 minutes each. It is an “I do,” “We do,” “You do,” model that teaches and assesses the three main aspects of the RL.2 standard: determining theme, finding details that convey the theme, and summarizing the text. If it sounds intriguing, I’ve got a free one for RL.1 you can check out first. I’m excited to be rolling out this line of CIMs. This one for grade 6 RL.2 is just the second of a long list of these CIM products. There will be a CIM for every standard (RL1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9 and RI1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9) for grades 6, 7, 8, 9-10, and 11. The line will conclude with 2 versions of a practice assessment (similar to the PARCC, Smarter-Balance, or FSA) for each grade level (6-11). I continue to appreciate feedback on the products in this line so I can tailor them to teachers’ and students’ specific needs.

6th grade FCIM RL2

6th grade FCIM RL1 freebie

Well, I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving (if you’re in a country that celebrates it!) with your family (whether blood or chosen). The holiday season is in full swing, so be safe as you travel and try not to get too stressed out!

And don’t forget to cheer on the Buckeyes in the Big Ten championship game this weekend against Wisconsin. With our 2nd Heisman-candidate quarterback out, we’ll need everyone to rally behind Cardale Jones!

Football Freebie 11/11/14!! Literary Analysis

O-H!!!

If you’re a Buckeye fan, you know how to answer that cheer! [I-O!!!!]

Big congrats to my Ohio State Buckeyes for cementing their spot as the leader in the Big Ten! No close game this week, we put the smack down on Sparty! As your reward, here is this week’s football freebie!

For ten years of my life, I worked on writing a novel. Once it was finally finished, I read it to my students, who gave me amazing feedback so I could improve it for my target audience. Now, the novel is published and for sale on Amazon in both Kindle and paperback format. I also have an entire unit to go with the novel that is available on my TpT site. You can also purchase the .pdf version of the novel on the TpT site as well. However, I want as many people as possible to be able to expose their students to the novel, so my freebie this week is the first chapter of the novel and some questions (short answer, discussion, etc.), vocabulary, etc. There are great opportunities to explore figurative language, characterization, dialogue, and various story elements. Download the freebie, and if you and your students get hooked, come back for more!

The novel is targeted at teens aged 13-17. The story is about two girls who become somewhat unlikely friends, and the main character has to make a decision about loyalty vs. honesty, and her choice leads her down a path to coming of age.

Chapter 1 Purple Storm freebie

Football Freebie!