Saturday, June 30, 2012

How do Science and Social Studies work with the Common Core?

So, I think all of us have interesting stories about what brought us to blogging.  It might be a blog you stumbled across, a Facebook page, or even a comment by a coworker.  I found the teacher blogger world through Laura Candler’s Facebook page.  I had used her website for a long time and started following her Facebook page and getting her newsletter. Gradually, I found bloggers who posted on her site and started exploring.  (I actually think this would be a super fun linky to see everyone’s story about what brought them to blogging.)  So far, I love blog-stalking and sharing ideas.  It’s like one huge, continuous conversation amongst lots of verbal and creative people.  This might be another interesting survey/topic: What types of learning styles are drawn to blogging?

Okay, I will come back around to a point.  I read and researched blogs for a while before jumping in.  I am very much a detail-oriented person, but I like a big picture first.  As a teacher, one of my greatest areas of frustration was teaching Social Studies.  I love History and my favorite genre of Literature is Historical Fiction.  However, I struggled to teach History in a way that was meaningful.  I incorporated a lot of Historical Fiction and texts into English. 

Often, I think Science and Social Studies do get left out or taught mainly as whole-group lessons once to three times a week depending on your schedule.  From what I can tell, the Common Core Standards focus on Math and English with reference to Literacy in Science, Social Studies, and Technical Subjects.  After that, are most of you following state standards for Science and Social Studies?  Here in Texas, we have the TEKS and the Texas standards are extremely detailed for every possible subject under the sun. I think there are so many great resources right now to differentiate English (like Daily 5 and Guided Reading) and Math (like Clutter Free Classroom’s Management Board that looks amazing).
Fifth Grade usually is U.S. History, and I struggled to find great resources and fun activities for teaching U.S. History.  I found most of my students lacked a thorough understanding of geography and natural resources.  You have to understand geography and natural resources fairly well to understand how various explorers/settlers responded to a new terrain.  I guess I’m just curious how others teach Science and Social Studies in authentic ways.  To respond to literacy in these subjects, note-taking and graphic organizers are great.  I really wanted to teach History with a project-based learning approach; I just felt sometimes I lacked the time to do it properly. 

You could have students each take an aspect of a period and research it and then present on the topics.  When I tried this though, it didn’t work as well as it looks in the professional development videos.  My students usually didn’t remember anything from other people’s presentations even if they took notes.  Some of this comes back around to they need better speaking skills.  Honestly, I have learned more history probably through Historical Fiction than anything else.  I found this to be a very successful method with my students as well.  It helped them better understand the challenges people faced in different periods and circumstances.  The History feels more alive.  United Streaming has some great videos.  Scholastic has some great e-books, especially during the dollar days. 

I am curious how others are approaching Science and Social Studies with the Common Core and what types of resources they are looking for.  Are you looking for note-taking skills resources, graphic organizers, Historical fiction suggestions, nonfiction suggestions, lesson ideas, project ideas, informational text handouts you could just copy and hand out, etc.?

I decided to start blogging and creating TpT products because I wanted to create meaningful Social Studies resources for the Elementary level. That’s another challenge: you start looking for books or resources and they are too mature for a 10 year old.
One of the things I wanted and never really found a good source for other than Edhelper was short informational text passages on various topics to hand out to the kids.  Sometimes when you only have Social Studies a couple times a week you don’t have enough time to get through a 5-8 page lesson in a text-book and discuss/answer questions/do an activity.  I wanted something shorter we could read, discuss, and then do a fun activity with.  Maybe, what I am trying to say is I felt at the Elementary level sometimes the information needed to be broken into smaller chunks.  There are great resources out there to do fun activities and projects.  My question was always, how do they do the project when I can’t find the right videos or text to present all the information?  In all my spare time as a teacher (spare time, huh, what’s that?), I didn’t get all these wonderful handouts created though. Would you be interested in having informational text passages on specific topics with questions/activities/vocabulary to go with them?  What topics do you struggle the most to teach?

Actually, one great resource is the whole series on “You Wouldn’t Want to Be…”   They are funny, and usually somewhat gross.  The kids remember lots of details.  It focuses on all the worst parts of a period of History, which inadvertently teaches kids about the challenges of the period.  I might actually start with making activities to go with the books in these series as a good starting point.  There are some great graphic novels, too, on Biographies and wars if you can find them at the library. 

Maybe, I will do a weekly blog series with Science and Social Studies text suggestions.  Would you rather have text suggestions by topic or by type of book? Like one week do graphic novels, one week do Historical Fiction, one week do informational texts, one week do picture books, etc?  Or one week suggest books on the Civil War or inventors, etc.?  Maybe, I'll start with the “You Wouldn’t Want to Be…”   series.  Anyway,  if you have been reading my rambling thoughts on thic topic, welcome to my brain.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Versatile Blogger and a Sale

I am extremely honored to have won the Versatile Blogger Award from Tonya and Lisa!  Thank you, ladies. J It is rewarding to know someone appreciates you.

The rules for this award are as follows:
1.  Thank the blogger who nominated you.
2.  Include a link to their site.
3.  Include the award image in your post.
4.  Give 7 random facts about yourself

Randomness about April:

      1)       My puppy, Nala, is my happiness.  I love her mountains and oceans.

2)       One of my kitties, Princess Leia, is my other pet loveliness.  She has an amazing ability to know when I am about to wake up.  She always comes and lies on my stomach five minutes before the alarm goes off.  Here she is watching my husband on the computer.

3)       It’s not completely random for those who have seen some of other posts, but I have been married to a gamer for over 8 years. I may have had a teacher’s lounge conversation once where I tried to explain to other teachers that we couldn’t have kids yet because my husband had too many responsibilities as a guild leader.  He takes his commitments very seriously.  This is a picture of a LAN party if you have never seen one. 

4)       My favorite color in the whole wide world is green.  It has been since kindergarten, ever since I saw the jungle green crayon.  No one else got to use that crayon.  I might also own about 12 green purses.  That doesn’t count wallets or backpacks or totes or wristlets.

5)       I was my high school Valedictorian and planned to be from sixth grade.  The highlight of seventh grade was when my arch nemesis for grades wrote in my yearbook that “I was too smart.”  I loved school and having the highest grade in class.  If I can find fellowships, I could get PhD’s for the rest of my life and go to school forever.  Getting paid to learn new things and go to school forever would be my ideal life plan.

6)       My love of learning new things might be why I am 28 and on my third career.  I love the challenge of trying something new.  Ultimately, this is why I made the switch to teaching from Accounting (I have a Business degree).  I figured with teaching no day is the same and you are always learning new things.  For the last few months, I have been working as a technical writer.  (Teaching jobs are not easy to find and haven’t been for the four years I taught).

7)       I had (have) a big sister with Big Brothers Big Sisters.  We just celebrated our 16 year anniversary since we got matched.  Here is a picture of her jumping behind me at my graduation for my Master’s while my family was trying to get pictures.  She made a world of difference in my life.  It is an amazing organization.  I tried to join as a big sister right out of college when we moved to Dallas, but oddly I never got matched.  I switched to teaching and figured I had enough on my plate with my gamer husband, teaching, and graduate school, so I didn’t really push it.

Here are who I have nominated:

Create Teach Share

Create Teach Share

Mrs. Stanford’s Class


Ms. Fultz’s Corner

Ms. Fultz's corner

Teaching with Love and Laughter

Teaching With Love and Laughter
Teacher Idea Factory
Sour Apple Studio

The Picture Book Teacher’s Edition

The Resourceful Apple

Pencils, Books, and Dirty Looks

The Teaching Thief

The Teaching Thief
Taming my Flock of Firsties

Clutter Free Classroom

Clutter-Free Classroom

Peace Love and First Grade

Herding Kats in Kindergarten

Fourth Grade Garden

Think Wonder Teach

Don't forget about my giveaway and all the other fabulous giveaways. 

I think tomorrow I am going to give a rundown of all the giveaways going on this weekend (and then check them off my list as I enter them). To celebrate all of my stuff at my TpT store is 20% off until Monday.

I also just uploaded by Binder Covers and Spine Labels for everything ELA.  There are over 80 binder covers for all things reading, writing, Spelling, phonics, poetry, Daily 5, etc.  They also make great dividers. They are on sale for $3.20 right now.  I am working on making an editable version. 

I have decided to give one set of binder covers away free each day for the rest of the giveaway.  For today I am going to give away my binder covers for ELA to one person who comments.  Go to my TpT store link for the covers and look at what all is included.  Leave me a comment on which covers you think you would use or if there are others you still need.  I will choose a recipient later to send the binder covers.    Make sure you leave me an email address.
Have a great Friday!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

What would the ideal planner for home and school look like?

Okay, so I look at Erin Condren’s website for the first time.  I think I fell in love.  For anyone who loves organization and color and personalized things…it looks amazing.   I’m just not so sure I can afford her stuff.

My experience with planners: 

In college, I liked a small planner (small enough to fit in a large purse) with a space for each day and a monthly calendar. 

I tried the physical lesson planning book you write in.  It didn’t make it very far – like maybe September and then sat empty. I also hated having to rewrite my subjects each week. I liked my lessons typed out, but I also want a physical planner/notebook to write daily-to-do lists. 

Then, it gets confusing when you have personal to-do-lists and school to-do-lists and grocery lists and now there are blogging to-do-lists.   I need a planner that meshes all this together.  My lessons were usually typed in Excel.  Charts and boxes keep everything neat and uniform.  I always make my tables/charts in Excel and then copy them to PowerPoint or Word. 

Here is my question for you.  What would your ideal planner look like?  What would be in it?  Would you want a planner that would allow you to mesh life and school together?

I am soon going to upload all my binder covers and spine labels as editable files in Powerpoint (so you could type your name or a student’s name in them) but with the graphics still protected.  Would you be interested in a life/teacher planner that could work the same way?  You could print out the pages you needed for the week or month or year to write on. Or type on it in PowerPoint and then print it out.  Here are my thoughts at the moment of things to include:

The 2012-2013 calendar months
Daily and weekly planning pages to allow variety
Some different lesson planning formats
Weekly lists/forms to put blog topics and ideas
A form to put what bills you have and when they are due
Ideas for lessons/TpT to track how much of it you have completed (since I like to always start new things as inspiration strikes me and it takes me awhile to finish them)
Grocery lists
A library book list to write down what books I want to get at the library for what theme/topic
A form to write notes from staff meetings and committee meetings with action items and deadlines
Form to use with weekly clubs/tutoring to write what you did and new action items
Rotation schedule charts for small groups/centers
Forms for planning for a six weeks what books/activities you want to use to meet the Common Core Standards (which means I would probably break the file down by grade level)

Anything else you would want in a planner? (I don’t have kids, but maybe something to keep track of after school activities by kid?)

What sorts of colors/themes would you want?  Clipart makes everything better.

Here is a little freebie quick reference teacher planner I made to give you some of my lesson planning format ideas.  I also just made a little weekly blogging form freebie to keep track of blog topics and all the giveaways.  Am I only the one that goes to enter a giveaway and then realizes I already entered it?  I think all the giveaways are fun.  I just find them hard to all keep track of, so I made a form to write down the giveaways for the week and I can check it off after I finish entering them.  (The owl clipart is from the 3am teacher). Speaking of giveaways, don't forget about mine.

I also am going to have to break the rule and do another post later for the Versatile blogger award.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Best places for supplies

Okay, so I have seen a lot of people doing some summer shopping.  I haven't done much yet, but I have been looking.  Here are some good deals I have seen:

Binders:  Walmart has some of the Avery Durable binders in 4 packs for around $15 online.  That is an awesome price!  Sometimes the Durable binders are like $5-$8 each depending on where you buy them.

A 3 subject notebook:  I like using a 3 subject notebook for meetings instead of keeping staff meeting notes in a teacher binder.  Usually your teacher binder is heavy and bulky to drag to every meeting.  A notebook is much easier.  I also like a notebook with pockets to put all the handouts from the meetings.  I love the Spine Guard 3 subject notebook at Staples.  It is on sale right now for like $2.50 off.  I bought a new one yesterday.  I use the first section for meeting notes, the second for planning ideas, and the third for professional development. It even comes with little flags.

Pens:  My sister-in-law introduced me to Injoy pens.  They are cheap, come in lots of colors, and write very smooth.|prodPage~15^freeText~ink+joy+pens^paramValue~true^refine~1^region~1^param~return_skus^return_skus~Y

Can you tell I love school supplies...for myself?  Lol...I also just told my husband I was taking a break from posting tonight.  Oh, well - I wanted to share some of my favorite supplies.

Side note: How does one break into the guest blogger world?  I think it would be fun to be a guest blogger or have guest bloggers.  Would anyone be interested in being a guest blogger here?  What about doing a guest blogger series on differentiation or anecdotal records - two things I find to be teacher challenges?

P.S.  It looks like I won a Versatile blogger award.  Yay!  So, now I need to think of where to pass that on to.

Giveaways Galore

The Idea Backpack now has over 100 followers and a new blog design.  To celebrate, I am having a giveaway.  I know there have been lots of giveaways, but as a recent winner of a giveaway I find them exciting!
(Frame from the 3am Teacher and font from Kevin and Amanda)
Three other bloggers have helped me out to giveaway some awesome products.

Beth Ann at Taming My Flock of Firsties is giving away two items from her TpT store. (Beth Ann is also having a giveaway where I am contributing $5.00 to my TpT store).

Shanyn at Coffee, Kids, and Compulsive Lists is giving away her Introduction to Multiplication packet.
Coffee, Kids and Compulsive Lists

(Shanyn is also having a giveaway where I am giving away my More Stories from Wayside School Writing Activity and my Writing Graphics Organizers for Grades 3-5)

Jaime at Bright Concepts 4 Teachers is giving away her "All About Me" glyph - great for back to school.

Now, I have been hard at work creating lots of fun products, so I am excited to give them away. I will be giving away the following:
1) Reading Graphic Organizers for 3rd Grade Common Core Standards
2) Reading Graphic Organizers for 5th Grade Common Core Standards
3) Writing Graphic Organizers, Rubrics, and Checklists for Grades 3-5 Common Core Standards
4) Create a Class Newspaper project as a novel study final project
5) Create a Class book with More Stories from Wayside School
6) Autobiography writing assignments
7) Classroom Faces - A Classroom Community building activity where students make Facebook profiles
8) My Taskcards and Graphic Organizers for Analyzing Poetry
9) My Writing About Heroes activity - perfect for Patriotic holidays
10) Binder Covers and Spine Labels for Teacher Organization (Editable)
11) Binder Covers and Spine Labels for Themes (Editable) - Great for the K-1 teachers
12) Binder Covers and Spine Labels for English/Language Arts topics (Editable)
13) Binder Covers and Spine Labels for Math, Science, and Social Studies topics (Editable)
14) Student Notebook, Folder, and Journal Labels in a theme of your choice (There are 4 themes to choose from).
15) The First 500 Fry words word wall cards in a theme of your choice or mix-and-match (There are six themes to choose from).
16) A Customized set of word wall letters where you have input on the theme.  (I have only made superhero ones so far, but working on more).
17) Back to School Writing Activities (that I am working on, but will finish before end of giveaway)

Now, how to win?  Three winners will each get one of my amazing contributor's products. These three winners will also get to pick one of my products from above. One winner will get all of my products listed above plus the products from my contributors.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

New blog design

Misty and Erika at Honey Bunch Blog Designs designed me a new blog.  What do you think? I love it!  They managed to get in my favorite colors, the backpack graphic I loved, and my love of reading and fairies.  It's me all wrapped up.

Tutorial: Making a Customizable file in Powerpoint with Purchased Graphics (Extension on Ginger's Post)

So this is my first tutorial so bare with me...

Ginger at Ginger Snaps had a great post  on making customizable files in Powerpoint.  I wanted to extend on her ideas.  I hope this is helpful to someone.  Please watch her file before mine because I did not repeat information...just extended.

Monday, June 25, 2012

A Super Monday-Made-It

First, I want to say I got a new A/C unit yesterday.  It is very exciting considering it is supposed to be 100+ all week.  Our old A/C was original to the house from 1977.  That thing was a tank.  I don’t think it ever would have died; it just wasn’t very efficient.  It worked really hard to keep the house like 76 or 77.  I woke up this morning and the house was 72.  It was awesome, let me tell you.
After thanking God for a good night sleep, what was the first thing I did?  Am I the only that checks my email and Google Reader on my phone when I first wake up?  I am a bit compulsive.  Oh, well.

So for "Monday-Made It's," I totally hope to be craftier at some point and have a huge list of crafty things I want to make. 

For now, I had things I had started and wanted to finish.  One huge project was word wall words for the first 500 Fry words.  I was horrible at updating the word wall.  It was not my strength at all.  So in my mind why not make all the word wall words ahead of time in the summer?  I decided to start with the Fry words and then my next goal is to do a set for higher order thinking verbs.  My 5th graders really struggled with understanding all the different Bloom’s verbs and higher order thinking verbs.  For Fry words, I didn’t really try to add pictures.  For other word sets, I will add pictures to make them more helpful. 
My ex-work spouse wants to do a Superhero theme next year, so I told her I would make her stuff.  Check out my post on how I am so helpful, I’m like a hammer.   So I wanted to take a stab at making Superhero word wall letters for her.  I think they came out pretty cute? What do you think? 

Then, I decided I wanted to frame the Fry words in cute colors/patterns.  It started as I wanted some in colors to go with her superhero theme.  Then, I wanted more blues/greens/purples for myself.  Well, in the end I ended up with 6 different versions of the words.  So, then it seemed like it might be fun to break them into sets of 100 and allow the option to always mix-and-match patterns. 

Yesterday, I got all 30 files (5 sets of words times 6 color schemes) uploaded to TpT.  That felt like a huge accomplishment. 
I also have been working on binder covers galore because I want to reorganize my files into binders.  Here are some freebie holiday binder covers and spine labels I made.  You can pick them up at my TpT store for free. There are covers and spine labels for 20 holidays.

I want to put together a set of superhero themed bulletin board phrases.  She is having a baby in September and I am trying to help make things easier for her.  Coming up with a bulletin board idea every month is always a huge stress, so I thought if I could come up with like 9 superhero themed bulletin board ideas, how cool would that be? Now could always do something like Super Students, Super Spellers, Super Scientists, etc. Throughout the year, could do things like create a superhero, decorate a pumpkin, turkey, or snowman as a superhero, think about everyday heroes, draw themselves as a super hero, etc.  What I need to come up with though is like 7-9 superhero phrases.  Anyone got ideas?

I am planning my 100 follower giveaway to start in next couple days.  I will be giving away a set of the Fry words word cards, a word wall letter set, and all my binder covers/spine labels. Any requests for word wall letter themes to go with the patterns of the word cards?  Any one interested in contributing to the giveaway?  Thanks so much.  Always love comments! :)
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