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Establish healthy habits for bringing work home and decompressing

Healthy work habits is a topic near and dear to my heart. When Angela Watson asked me to read her new book, Unshakeable, and write about one of the chapters, Establishing Healthy Habits for Brining Work Home and Decompressing was a no-brainer.

When it comes to your work habits, it’s often hard to “win” no matter what you do. It seems you get the side-eye whether you’re the first to leave after the dismissal bell or the last car in the parking lot each night. You either care too much or not enough, judged by the size of your “teacher bag” each evening. You know… the one you often take home full of papers to grade and then back to school the next morning without touching anything inside. Let’s face it, some nights mine didn’t even make it out of the car. Other nights that same teacher bag felt like a ball and chain, and I’d sit for hours with a pen glued in my hand grading papers, begging my husband to help with the math fact sheets. So.much.stress.

tech tips, technology

Tutorial: How To Dress Up Your TpT Store!

Hey, fellow TeachersPayTeachers friends! I have a quick tutorial for you today that will show you how to dress up your store. Check this out:

Blogger Tutorial: How To Dress Up Your TeachersPayTeachers Store

Can you spot the difference? This was my before:

In the new version, instead of a text quote and a link to my digital paper section I’ve highlighted this area with a picture and it still links to my digital papers. This is a great way to feature a section of your store, your newsletter list, Facebook page, or blog. The best part? It’s really easy!

Blogger Tutorial: How To Dress Up Your TeachersPayTeachers Store

There’s a video below, but here are some helpful tips with a few more helpful details.

How To:
1. Use your picture editing program of choice to design your picture. You want your picture to be 450 pixels by 150 pixels. This is the same was 1.5 wide by 0.5 inches tall.

I know a lot of teacher-bloggers use PowerPoint for their graphics, so we’ll look at that. Make sure the proportions are 3 inches wide by 1 inch tall. The actual picture size I used in PhotoShop was 1.5 wide by .5 tall, but PowerPoint wouldn’t let me pick those dimensions so I doubled the size to keep the ratio. Here’s an easy way to resize your picture before saving it in PowerPoint.

big kid units, Featured, giveaway, literacy, reading, science, writing

Amazing Animal Reports: Research is FUN!

Oh, friends! Please tell me you can relate to this. My head had just hit the pillow on Sunday night. I was counting my blessings, winding down, and trying to get my constant brain rattling to stop. And then it hits me, You must redo your animal project. Writing workshop is seriously my favorite thing to teach, and I’ve been getting such great feedback on my Autobiography pack that I need to get the rest of my units ready too. It just takes so much time to get them publish-ready and if there’s one thing I never have enough of, it’s time.

But there I was in bed and from out of nowhere, I realized I needed to revamp my animal unit to make it just as great as my autobiography one. Ugh! I wanted to pop right out of bed and do it then, but it was already after 3am and I *do* sleep sometimes. However, Monday was all mine and I’m proud to say I did it!

Turn your students into research experts with this Amazing Animal project that integrates reading, writing, science, and art.

It feels so good to have a fresh new look! 😉 I love this unit so much because my third graders come in thinking they are pretty much animal experts {and some of them are!} but I push them to pick a new animal. For example, my shark lover is encouraged to pick something furry and expand his knowledge. 

Then we really zoom in on what we need to know to become an expert on our animals. We focus on eight key research points like appearance, habitat, and life cycle. Side note, here’s a great way to differentiate for your students because you can assign them a different number of research points based on their abilities. 

To help keep students organized, we use a big piece of construction paper folded into eighths. Each box on our paper is carefully labeled by research point. As students are researching their animals in books, online, and through magazines they are also taking notes in each of the eight boxes. This is a great visual and helps students clearly see where more information is needed. 

Turn your students into research experts with this Amazing Animal project that integrates reading, writing, science, and art.After researching, we take our construction paper notes and turn them into separate pages of our report. I differentiate here too. Some students will write single paragraphs on each topic, while others develop multiple paragraphs for each point. I also provide a CLOZE format guide to get reluctant writers started. 

When students finish their rough draft, they meet with a writing buddy and work through a checklist. I love this part! It takes a lot of modeling and guidance to teach students how to provide meaningful feedback, but they can totally do it! Afterwards, students revise their drafts based on their buddy’s feedback. This often means they need to do more research, which is totally authentic to the actual writing process for many nonfiction texts. 

Turn your students into research experts with this Amazing Animal project that integrates reading, writing, science, and art.We round out the research pages with poetry, a word search, venn diagrams, presentation notes. Students compare and contrast their animals in partners, and meet with small groups to do oral presentations about their animals. During these presentations, students take notes on each others’ work on a grid. This is great for both listening and speaking standards!

Turn your students into research experts with this Amazing Animal project that integrates reading, writing, science, and art.

Finally, at the end of the project students are given a printable book template so they end up with a “professional” final copy. They are so proud of their work! Our unit typically coincides with our Grandparents’ Day, so I work in having students share their projects then too. It’s so incredible to see my third graders tackle such a big project because it’s structured so well to pull them through it step by step.

I also like to mix art in as much as possible, so we work on animal mosaics too. I set up a side table with the supplies and students work on their mosaics as they finish steps in our research and are waiting for others to catch up with them. I ask the local pizza place for their cardboard circles and have parents donate various beans and pasta. Then I print black/white pictures from the internet and students use those as templates. Sometimes students choose not to use a template, and that’s fine too. For less mess, you could swap this for a torn paper collage.

Turn your students into research experts with this Amazing Animal project that integrates reading, writing, science, and art.

How cute are those?! Seriously, the whole project is so much fun. So if you already own it, be sure to redownload it so you get the newest version. If you don’t have it yet, here’s your chance to win one! 

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Field Trip Freebie: Thank You Notes for Helpers

Field trips… love ’em or hate ’em, there usually isn’t a way around them. In spite of all the paperwork and planning, I really do enjoy giving our students real world experiences through field trips. Sometimes a field trip will be the child’s only chance to visit a museum, see a live performance, or become an explorer for the day. 

So even though field trips stress me out {picture a mother duckling counting her babies all day long}, I wouldn’t give them up. Having great parent chaperones also helps. 😉 As a way to thank them for making the trip with us, I have my students write thank you notes when we return to school. They write about something they learned/experienced on the trip and then I stack their notes into groups by chaperone. I attach these cute notes on top and add a little treat too. Easy peasy! We also write notes to any other special people who made our trip possible (admins, event organizers, bus drivers, etc.). 

I love little ways to express gratitude and teach students to be thankful. It’s starting to feel like a lost art. If you want to use them with your class, you can click here to download my free thank you notes

freebies, literacy, writing

Jump into January: Low Prep Freebie Hop and Amazon Giveaway!

I hope your winter break has been relaxing so far! I always made plans to to drink hot chocolate by the fire while basking in the glow of our Christmas tree. Who am I kidding? I didn’t even put up a Christmas tree this year! I don’t know about you, but the first half of mine is always spent rushing around to finish up Christmas presents and the second half is spent recovering from holiday travel and planning to go back to school. But not this year. And I hope you can say the same!

I’ve teamed up with several of my bloggy friends to help you with some of that. We’ve put together a quick blog hop to help with your January plans. Just click through to grab these low-prep freebies to get 2015 off to an easy start. As a bonus, you can enter to win an Amazon gift card too. Yay!

Just in case you’re keeping track, you’re at stop five. =)

My freebie is a writing activity about penguinsPattern poems are great, even for reluctant writers because of their structure. As a bonus, the finished products look great on seasonal bulletin board displays. I have my students do a draft on regular paper and we check it together before transferring it to their final copy. This gives students a chance to proofread their writing and work on dictionary skills as they correct spelling mistakes too.

This pattern poem freebie is perfect for word work when you're learning about penguins

This cute little poem was pulled from my Penguin Unit for Big Kids. Don’t tell the others, but this is my favorite Big Kid Unit so far. There’s just something so fun about penguins! I love that my third graders had background knowledge about penguins already, but we were able to go so much deeper so they truly became penguin experts. Can’t beat cross-curricular learning!

Learn all about penguins in this cross-curricular nonfiction pack

Or if you need more poetry ideas, my Poetry Unit for Big Kids is another great choice too. 

Learn a variety of poems in this packet that's perfect for National Poetry Month in April

Now keep on hopping along to collect more ready-to-go activities for January. Your next stop is The Fun Factory. Be good to yourself over break, teacher friends!

Teach Junkie Creative Ideas