March 31, 2015

My Tips for Teaching & Fitbitting

Take a look at the above picture. Which Fitbit log do you think is from Sunday? And which from Monday? If you're a teacher, you likely have a pretty good guess, and you would probably be right. Yep, the 14,000 step day was just a normal Monday!

A common fitness fact is that we should all try to get in 10,000 steps a day. As teachers, many of us likely come very close to that. But, what if you are not as active during the day as you thought? Enter the pedometer. If you do not already have a pedometer, or my new love, a Fitbit (or other fitness tracker), you should seriously consider getting one! They are a great way to keep track of your movement and keep yourself accountable and active!

That 14,000 step day, though? That didn't just happen. I had to put some effort and thought into eking every bit of activity that I could out of my day. Full disclosure-this was also a dance day for me. And although ballet doesn't register to be a very intense activity on my Fitbit, it does add some steps that I would not have otherwise had if I had been hanging out on my couch for the evening!

Now for the good part. Here are some tips from me about how to get more active during your teaching day:

Stephanie's Tips for Teaching & Fitbitting

  • Take the long way. Consider starting your day with not only a cup of coffee, but also by parking at the back of the parking lot, taking the stairs, or taking the long way around to your classroom.
  • Pace, pace, pace! You can pace and move at many opportunities in your day. For example, while your students are completing any kind of work, while you are making copies, or while you are monitoring the swings or the basketball court.
  • Walk your room. Get up at least once while you're teaching a reading or math group to check on your other kids and get your limbs moving. Try weaving in and out of desk groups while monitoring a test or quiz. How can you create longer walking paths by zig zagging or doubling back? 
  • Break up your jobs. I used to make a list during my planning of all of the things I could get done in one trip from my classroom to picking up my kids at Specials. Hey, my classroom is just sooooo far away from everything! So, if I gave myself 10 minutes, I could make copies, check out library books, and check my mailbox all on my way to get my kids from the Gym or Art Room. Now, if I have the time, instead of adding to a list, I just go ahead and complete that task!
  • Make a trip instead of a phone call. This only applies to mornings and afternoons, but can add some much needed steps to your day.
  • Use recess time wisely. At the beginning of recess, take a lap around the perimeter of your space. As a bonus, this also helps make sure there is an adult is keeping a watchful eye and lookout on areas of the playground we don't usually go. In addition, you just may have some of your kiddos join in with you! I love the conversations I get to have with my little ones who join me on my walk.
  • Do GoNoodle with your kids! If you are not already using this website with your students, you are doing a great disservice to all of you. Seriously. Try it out. Zumba and Run With Me will give you the most steps for your time AND they are fun! 
  • Watch your posture. Use the time when you are walking your kids down the hallway to assess and correct your posture. Keep your chin parallel to the ground, check your shoulder and back alignment, and use your stomach muscles to engage your core when you are walk. Then, breathe deeply and relax.
  • Unwind. Didn't get in all your steps? Well, what a perfect opportunity to take a walk outside. Enjoy the beautiful weather, spend time with yourself, or invite a loved one along. Think of it as an opportunity to clear your head and prepare yourself for the days to come.

Well, those are my tips for getting as many steps as you can out of your teaching day! What about you? What do you do to increase your amount of steps during the day?

March 30, 2015

Math Madness

As a Georgia Bulldog fan, basketball season has never  been front and center on my radar. But now, that I'm about to become a Tar Heel fan by marriage, it's a different story. This year, I decided to harness my new found appreciation for basketball into planning a fun event for my kiddos.

Enter Math Madness. I had originally thought I would plan just one special "Day of Math" where we would have lots of different types of Math activities and ONLY Math activities going on. I did this back in the Fall with reading (I called it "Camp Read A Lot". Maybe I'll blog about it at another time!). However, I decided to incorporate it into the entire week of school. I mostly decided to do this because we had three half days this week for Parent Teacher conferences and I thought  knew this would get us excited and motivated to make it through the strange week.

And it worked! We had so much fun, and I think some of my boys especially appreciated the thought and care that went into bringing basketball into the classroom. I do not have a nicely designed unit or any groundbreaking ideas. The big idea of the whole week was to challenge ourselves to solve as many Math problems as possible! With that said, here are some things we did this week:

1. Students wrote an Opinion piece and completed a craftivity from this TpT unit. The topic was: Do you learn more when you win or when you lose? They absolutely loved it!
2. We set a goal to solve 6,300 Math problems (that would be 300 per student). Our final tally was over 8,000! 
3. Students kept basketballs with hundreds charts that I made on their desks to record their Math problems solved. They counted any and all Math they did during our day and they even used their free time to solve problems, draw shapes, make patterns, etc. on their dry erase boards! For each 100s basketball they turned in, they got to place it on the door, take three shots at the basketball goal, and get a small treat. I asked parents help me with treat donations and I spent a little money of my own, but they got to earn things like: a small chocolate basketball, a sticker, a bottle of water, high fives from the whole class, and a snack bag of orange cheese ball puffs. Once we ran out of prizes, I told them that they got "Pride In Your Heart", and they were totally o.k. with that! Also, I worked this all on the honor/responsibility system-the kids had to take care of these rewards themselves so that I didn't have to spend all day worrying over the kids finishing up their challenges at different times.     
4. Students took on a special collaborative Math challenge involving the perimeter and area of a basketball court. 

5. At the end of the week, students set their final goals for the year with a Quick Write activity. It was perfect timing since we had been talking about goals and teamwork all week because of Math Madness AND I had been talking to all of their parents this week because of Conferences. I posted these in the room where they will remain for the rest of the year.
6. Finally, since we met our class goal, we all went outside for an extra recess and some Gatorade. I let them all bring in their basketballs and wear jerseys if they chose to!

Well, that's it. Happy March Madness!

March 28, 2015

New Design!

Hi guys! I've been a little quiet this week because I didn't want anyone hopping over to my blog while it was in the process of being redesigned! I am super excited to officially unveil my new blog design today! I also have a new Facebook and TpT look. Let me know what you think.

Special thanks to Alexis at Laugh Eat Learn. She was able to take all of my general ideas, work with my original logo, and help me update it-complete with polka dots and fancy widgets and links! Check out her blog at the link above.

It's been a big week. We had parent teacher conferences and I was able to leave school at 1:00 on Friday with 100% of my parents conferenced with! Woo hoo! There have also been some other big things going on lately, which you're sure to hear about soon. Let me just say "big" one more time.

Have a great weekend! I'm hoping to be back by Monday with an update on March Math Madness!

March 21, 2015

Five for Friday!


So, I'm a little late, but we'll live, I think! It's been a good and deceptively busy week. I just got off of Spring Break and Conferences are knocking on the door. To top it all off, all I really want to do is plan my wedding! Here are 5 pictures from my week!

Divider 1

We cheered on the Heels against Notre Dame last Saturday, to no avail, but we're excited to cheer them on tonight during March Madness! Thankfully, UGA does not have a super competitive basketball team, so I'll don my Carolina Blue for my fiance.
Divider 2

I blogged about my Dollar Tree finds this week! I love that store. Check it out by clicking on the picture. 

Divider 3

On a similar note, we are starting Math Madness this week! We are going to challenge ourselves to solve a certain number of Math problems. The kids are excited! And so am I! It's always nice to have a special event going on in the classroom to motivate us. 

Divider 4

We did Gumdrop Geometry in Math this week. This is always a fun activity for everyone! This is a resource I've used with this activity before. I don't do anything super spectacular, though really, other than just guide the students to build particular 2-D and 3-D shapes to check in on their understanding so far.

Divider 5

THIS. I CAN'T EVEN. I love my 2nd grade fashionistas.

March 17, 2015

Dollar Tree Deals

There was just something about the beautiful Spring weather today that made my car leave the school and turn in the direction local Dollar Tree! It's just always a good day to get a good deal, right?

I am a devoted Dollar Tree shopper for many of my school needs. I've found that if I am willing to buy months in advance, I can find lots of goodies for different holidays and seasons in my classroom. You also just never know what you will find. So, today being March, I thought I would go check and see if their Luau stuff was out yet (it's not).

Here is what I found and how I plan to use the items:

1. Seed packets: Four for a dollar! We'll plant these for Mother's Day gifts and for our Life Cycle study and observation this Spring.
2. Graduate Certificates: For our end of the year awards. I bought the last packs at my Dollar Tree today. Last year I couldn't find them, so I had to make my own certificates and put some cute stickers on them. They were really cool, in my opinion, but I know my kids like these bright and shiny ones a lot!
3. Basketball Games: I'm going to find some way to use  this for March Math Madness next week! What a great find!
4. Sandwich bags: The only thing I really needed. I'll use these to get "Gumdrop Geometry" organized and ready for our lesson on Thursday.

When shopping at the Dollar Tree, you never know what you will find, so you have to buy it right away! I've found that things will stay there for a long time if no one buys them. However, if it is a popular item it doesn't get restocked. Even if it's Christmas and you just KNOW they are going to restock the cute reindeer games that you passed on at the beginning of August. They are not. Like any good retailer, by the time December has arrived the Dollar Tree has moved on to Valentine's Day, thank you very much.

Now the real trick is remembering that you've already bought heart pencil toppers or flamingo straws when the holiday comes around-but that's a whole other problem to solve!

Have you found anything amazing at the Dollar Tree lately?

March 13, 2015

Five for Friday


Today I am linking up with Doodle Bugs Teaching with a Five for Friday post! It's been a low key, Spring Break, kind of week for me. This is my first ever Five for Friday post, but I think I've got it down since I have been stalking all of your teaching blogs for years!

Divider 1

First and most importantly, I'm engaged! Arman (the love of my life) popped the question at the State Botanical Gardens of Georgia. Following that, my family was back at my house to surprise me and congratulate us-complete with champagne and some cute cookies brought by my sister. We decided to go back to the gardens with my sister and her DSLR in tow to get some reenactment shots. Everything was perfect. I am beyond happy and so lucky. 

Divider 2
We started our March Friends Narrative Writing project right before Spring Break. The kids had so much fun with their puppets and comic strips! I know that when they write their actual pieces next week, they will be ready to use dialogue and try out some quotation marks. Grab it here. In fact, both of my March products and a few others are on sale this weekend!

Divider 3

I (and my fiance and my dad) have been hard at work doing some updates on my place. We beat the rain to get my patio spruced up for Spring! I can't wait to spend some time out here once the good weather returns. 

Divider 4

I spent a few days of Spring Break with my sweet nephew! I got to baby sit him while my sister was at work. Here, he is getting a Science lesson while we were on a pre-nap walk. 

Divider 5


The only work I did on blogging or my store this week was to plug my Free Sample on TPT. Click on the picture above to read my post about how I have used this unit in my own classroom. My store is barely a month old, so help support me! Download, provide feedback, and peruse my store if you have some time this weekend. 

Freebie Friday: Smart Cookies Opinion Writing

Teaching Blog Addict Freebie Downloads

For the last several years, I have introduced Opinion writing through the OREO graphic organizer. So, when I decided to finally take the plunge into TPT selling and teacher blogging,  I decided to start with the unit I have created around the organizer. So, a small sample of the Smart Cookie Opinion Writing pack is my featured freebie for the store!

Click on the picture!

When I used this unit with my class, I presented them with the question, "In your opinion, what is the best cookie?" I modeled writing about my favorite cookies, Oreos, and served up a double stuffed Oreo to everyone at the end of the lesson. For the rest of the week, we focused on understanding how to organize opinion writing with an Opinion, Reasons, Examples, and a closing Opinion. We also focused on understanding the difference between Reasons and Examples and learning new transition words to use (For example, like, and in addition). We added sentence starters to our anchor charts to help with this concept. These lessons were great anchors to build on through the rest of our study on Opinion Writing!Although this one is not free, the full unit is also up for sale on my TPT site. In fact, it is discounted this weekend. You will find many levels of rubric, checklists, feedback, worksheets, organizers, and publishing paper. 

Click on the picture!

March 6, 2015

Freebie Friday: Dictionary Scavenger Hunt

Teaching Blog Addict Freebie Downloads

I don't know about yours, but my students are obsessed with using the dictionary. They will use almost any opportunity to grab those weighty books off the shelf and flip through them.

Now, I know that my 21st Century Learners will not find the opportunity to use real dictionaries very much in their lives. With a Smart Phone close by, what's the point? But, I like to harness their energy in learning about using these reference books in a fun way.

The Common Core standards do state that they need to be able to use a glossary and beginning dictionaries, so why not come up with a fun way to practice those skills?

Today, I'd like to invite you to try out my FREE Dictionary Scavenger Hunt for the month of March. This activity can easily be used for work time, center time, or even morning work. Check it out!

Dictionary Scavenger Hunt

Well, today I sign off from school and ON for Spring Break! 8 hours and counting! Happy Friday!

March 4, 2015

March Pick 3

I'm linking up today with Pawsitively Teaching and Inspired Owl's Corner for Pick 3-This Month's Top Pinterest Picks Linky! Clearly, Math is on the brain for me this month so far!

Awesome FREE app for geoboards!! This is fantastic. It's great for teaching 2D geometry and area and perimeter as well.

Want to be saved from the hassle of Geoboards and rubber bands in the hands of 7 year olds? Have an iPad cart at your school? Then you must check out this free app! We just used it today and it has some great features.

Great anchor chart for math.

Speaking of Math, I pinned this a long time ago, but I'm thinking it's a good time of year to perhaps create an anchor chart like this in my classroom! It will need to be simplified, of course, but definitely worth spending a few minutes presenting to my students. 

Shamrock Pretzel Bites from DimplePrints for St. Patrick's Day

Ummm, I MUST make these. I love the pretzel/kiss/holiday M&M treats, but I've never seen them like this. Perfect for a St. Patrick's Day treat!

Enjoy your Pinteresting!

March 1, 2015

The Sunday Blues: Passion and Renewal

Tonight, as I was driving back to Athens from Atlanta, I was listening to This American Life on NPR. The topic this week was "Amateur Hour". It was all about people, passion, and just making it work with your work. There were so many things that I heard during this short amount of time that I would love to talk about, but I'll spare you that. My sister can attest that after many Sunday night listens, I immediately text her as many cool things as I can remember when I get home. She might get jealous if I share everything here before I share with her!

Tonight, though, I am reflecting on a Ted Talk that they shared by Mike Rowe, the producer and host of the show Dirty Jobs titled, Are People With 'Dirty Jobs' The Most Successful? (This link takes you to the shortened radio version) At first, he sounds very cynical about following your passion, in fact saying "follow your passion was the worst advice I ever got." But, he really redeemed himself for me when he said, "You don't follow your passion. You bring it with you."

Bringing passion to work, or even a new week in general, is a tough thing to think about on a Sunday night. I sometimes start getting The Sunday Blues on Saturday! But tonight, as I got my home and bags organized for tomorrow, planned for lunches, and sat down to check last minute emails, I also sat down to my Lenten study from SheReadsTruth. The Sunday post is about Scripture memorization. Psalm 51:10 says, Create in a me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.  This was just what I needed to read.

#SheReadsTruth #SRTLent Day 12


I need these things. In all facets of my life. So these are the words I will pray over my week. I'm not sure that I can kick my Blues to the curb, but I know that, with God's help, I can bring passion to and seek renewal in the week ahead. And that's a start!