Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Planting Seeds of Bible Truths

It's no secret that I love teaching in a Christian school.  One of my favorite aspects of that is when the students really "get" a Biblical truth.  We studied the Parable of the Sower found in Matthew 13.  To help my students understand and visualize how our attitude and our heart can affect how we apply God's Word, we planted seeds.

First, Jesus told about the hard ground.  This represents a heart and attitude that is not ready to received God's messages.  The birds {Satan} came and stole the seeds {God's messages} away.  So we planted some seeds in "hard ground," aka an empty plastic tube.  We watered them each day.  Just as you would suspect, nothing happened.

Next, Jesus told about the ground that was full of rocks.  The seeds grew a little, but the rocks prevented them from growing very big.  At first, we may be ready to hear and act upon God's messages.  But over time, we allow things to come into our lives to take the place of what is most important.  We planted some seeds in dirt that was mixed with marbles {our rocks}.  With the same watering each day, the seeds grew a little.  But the sprouts did not seem healthy and strong.

Jesus also talked about the ground that was full of thorns.  The thorns choke out the seed's growth and prevent them from being healthy.  The students started discussing what things they could let take the place of having an attitude that is ready for God's Word.  I was blown away by their depth of thought and how they were really taking the lesson to heart.  "Sometimes I think getting my own way is more important than being kind."  "When my mom reminds me to not be selfish with my money, I get mad because I want to buy some candy." Wow - my list could go on and on.  We only had three tubes, so we did not plant seeds in the thorny ground.  But you can only imagine how that would have turned out.

Finally, Jesus talked about the seeds that were planted in the rich soil that was ready for new life.  Of course, these seeds flourished, and their plants grew big and strong.  So we planted some seeds in plain potting soil, nothing to interfere or get in the way.  The students were amazed to come into class after the weekend to see how much those seeds had grown.  The only difference from the others was what was in the soil.

Combining Bible truths with a science lesson = GOLDEN!

Click here to get a free download of the worksheet that goes with this Bible lesson.

Saturday, November 24, 2018


I love DJInkers!  I'm so glad that they have agreed to give three lucky winners a set of the new Fala Lala Llama clip art set.

Keep reading to enter the giveaway!

Their clip art and fonts make it so easy to create quick and fun resources for my classroom!  They have a huge variety of images and fonts, perfect for whatever it is you want to create.  The images are happy, and the fonts fit so many different themes.  I've used DJInkers for years, and I anticipate each new set that they create!

Visit them here to see so many of their great resources.  Here are just a few of the classroom activities that I have made using DJInkers.  You can find all of these in my Teachers Pay Teachers store.

We are IN LOVE with this new Llama set, just in time for the holiday season.  It includes black and white as well as color images, both in jpg or png format.  Titles and banners are also included for some easy decor options!  Here is a fun free file for you to use with your students, especially those who need some extra sight word practice.  Just CLICK HERE to get this Sight Word Practice FREEBIE made with cute set FaLaLlama.

We are happy to be partnering with DJInkers in their fun Holly DAZE event.  Be sure to mark your calendar for the annual 12 Holly Daze celebration!  Get ready for 12 full days of fabulous flash sales, darling daily FREEBIES, fun new products, and more!

Check out the cuteness from this set!

All of the fun begins December 1 and 12:00am, and each day's specials lasts for just 24 hours!  Click here to sign-up for their email list so that you don't miss a thing!

Our giveaway to three amazing winners ends 12/3, so be sure to enter the Rafflecopter above or here!

Monday, September 3, 2018

Schoology - MEDIA ALBUMS

It's #BacktoSchoology time!

Media Albums in Schoology are such a useful, and sometimes under-utilized tool.  When I first started using Schoology, Media Albums were simply the place where I would post our field trip and class party pictures.  I didn't have to send them individually to parents.  Parents already had their Schoology log in, so it was easy access for them.  Parents could also save them to their own device.  **I always made sure to over-remind them never to post photos of children other than their own on social media without permission from that child's parents.  SAFETY FIRST!** 

While all of those reasons were great, I've since learned that Media Albums can be used for so much more!  Here are a few tips for using Media Albums in your Schoology account.

Media Albums can be used in a Schoology Course or Group.  It just depends on your audience and what your purpose for the album is.   Simply select "Albums" on the left side menu, then select "Add Album."  The steps to go through are pretty self-explanatory, rather you are doing it from a device using the app or from a computer using the online version.  Schoology has made it very easy!

In my Parent Group, I usually add field trip photos from my phone using the app.  It's a great thing to do on the bus ride home to help pass the time.  My sweet Kinders usually fall asleep on the ride home.  Parents love that they can see the photos from the day if they were unable to chaperone the event.  Plus, it helps me to have all of my pictures in one easy location when I want to do our end of the year slide show.

It is also a good idea to put photos of your classroom reference anchor charts in your Parent Group.  I post these in my Student Course, as well.  But since my students are so young, the Parent Group is helpful for parents to access, if needed.  This will come in handy when students are on vacation, and I want them to work on a specific Reading or Writing strategy.

Students can add items to their own Portfolio while in their Course.  At our school, parents are able to view their own student's information, but not information or comments from other students in the class. Be sure to check your school's privacy settings on this.  Portfolios can be shared teacher to teacher, so it could easily be something that travels with the child each year. This opens up an endless amount of possibilities!

Save this graphic for a few more ideas for how to use Media Albums.  Let us know how you like to use them in your class!  Using Schoology, a tool that I already know and love, in these new ways makes Back to School even easier!

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Parenting Perspectives - Screen and Teens

If you are anything like me, you have a love-hate relationship with how our kids today are having so much interaction with screens and screen-time.  Don't get me wrong - my iPhone and I are besties!  But as a teacher, I've definitely seen some changes over the last few years with the increased time that my students are spending on screens.  As a parent, I struggle with teaching my children to have balance in this area.

This past summer, I listened to another great podcast on Focus on the Family.  It was with Dr. Kathy Koch and was about interacting with our children in a screen-controlled world.  As with most of these podcasts, I took away several nuggets of great information.  I immediately got the book, and I want to share some of it with you.

The number one thing that pushed me and motivated me was the reminder that I need to MODEL what I'm expecting of my own students and children.  I appreciated the gentle nudge to walk away from my own electronic devices and to be more purposeful with how I spend my time.  Now, I definitely haven't walked away completely, and that's not even what I feel we need to do.  But I knew I needed to find better balance in our we are all working on it together.

Here are the main touch-points in the book.  I highly recommend that you get it for yourself, or at least take a listen to the podcast linked above.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Parenting Perspectives - Parenting Your Powerful Child

Have you ever felt like you spend a lot of time counseling parents on various parenting things...or at least that you wish you could spend time doing that?  Katy and I are both parents, in different stages of our parenting "career," but we certainly don't ever claim to have it all together.  What we do have is some great people in our lives to help, guide, and point us to really helpful resources.  We want to share some of those great resources with you.  You can use them personally or share them with parents of your students that you feel may benefit from them.  A few of the resources may be faith-based, as we are both very strong in our faith.  But, they are still AMAZING resources even without the faith-portion, if that is something that you prefer.  Positive Parenting Perspectives are solid no matter what your faith foundation may be.  So welcome to our very first PARENTING PERSPECTIVE.

This summer, I was getting ready for a long flight, so I wanted to download some podcasts from Focus on the Family.  I have always loved anything by Kevin Leman, so I was excited to see that he had a newer book as well as a podcast.  Here is a link to the podcasts that I listened to:  Parenting Your Powerful Child Part 1 and Parenting Your Powerful Child Part 2.  I loved the first part so much that I had to listen to it again, just to take in all of the goodness.  When we got home from our vacation, my husband got the Audio book to listen to in the car, and I got the regular book to read.  It is a quick read, but is full of so many great things.

In this book, Leman talks about all types of children - not just the "strong-willed" ones that seem to get such a bad rap.  His premise is that pretty much every child is a powerful child...even the quiet ones.  So how do we as parents - and teachers! - meet the needs of those children without sacrificing the emotional well-being of others in our family?

Here are just a few nuggets from the book, but I highly recommend you checking it out for yourself.  I plan to share some of these things with my Kindergarten parents as needed throughout the year!

This is just the beginning page, but I find myself thinking about it often!

"Every family has a powerful child...or two.  Some are easy to pick out -- you can hear them from way down the block.  Others you may not recognize as powerful, but they're master manipulators.  But you, smart parent that you are, can learn how to transform your child's power surges into positive urges that will benefit everyone in your family (and a whole lot of other grateful people in your child's world too). 
 Parenting Your Powerful Child, forward.

As teachers and parents, we all desire for our children to be successful, kind, contributing members to their community.  Dr. Leman reminds us why it is important to start when children are young - start where you want to end!  But don't just stop with these few things.  Get the book!  The examples and scenarios that he lists are priceless!  All of these examples are just from the first few chapters...but I had to stop somewhere.  

Enjoy parenting and teaching your powerful child!

Friday, August 3, 2018

Schoology - GROUPS

Our elementary school is entering our third year using Schoology as our communications and grading system.  I have been pleasantly surprised with how easy it has been to use.  If you are just getting started with Schoology, or you've been using it for a while but still feel overwhelmed, I hope this post and future posts will be helpful for you.

First of all, the communication with Schoology can go in a couple of directions.  It can be from teacher to student.  Our school uses the COURSE option in Schoology for this, mostly because of the grading feature and privacy.

Schoology communication can also be teacher to parents.  In our school, this is done with a GROUP. I love being able to post Weekly Updates, last minute important announcements, photos and videos for parents, links to great resources, information from each of our Specials Teachers, and so much more through our class GROUP.    These next few posts will focus on GROUPS.  If you want to know more about grading in a COURSE, stay tuned!  Below shows how I keep GROUPS and COURSE straight in my mind, because it sure does get confusing!!

Adding Members to Your GROUP
Adding members is quite easy, just a little bit time consuming.  Typically, all school parents and students will be entered into the main system by your Schoology Admin.  If that is all done correctly, your part is simple.  If something seems amiss, it may be an issue of the person not being entered into the main system.

Follow these photos to add members to your GROUP.

DO NOT forget to check the little box...unless your school requires parents to accept an invite.  Trust me, so many parents will forget, and it just makes more work for you.  This is the easiest way.

When you have everyone added, they will automatically be in your Group.  All they need to do on their end is decide how they want their notifications.  They can use the iPhone or Android app, or log on through their internet browser.  Your school typically sets and communicates their password.  That shouldn't be something that you should have to bother with.  You are now ready to start using your GROUP for communication and so much more!

TIP:  If you have more than just a sentence or two to write as an update (like I do for my Weekly Update), or you want to format it with different options, type your update in Google Docs or Word.  Then copy and paste it as your update.  To make it even easier on myself, I have one Google Doc for my Weekly Updates.  I just copy/paste the one from the week before, and then change my specific information for the week.  That way, my formatting is consistent without me having to do it over and over again each week.

Happy Schoology using!!

Teaching Handwriting - Part 2

I hope you got a few good tips from Part 1 of my handwriting post.  Read on for some more tips.

Make it a part of Literacy Stations / Daily 5
If you are already doing literacy stations in your classroom, then this is an easy way to incorporate handwriting practice without sacrificing other class time.  Just keep these few things in mind:

  • MODEL, MODEL, MODEL correct formation first!  This is key, or the students will just continue to write things as they've always done.
  • Have quick and easy "check-ins" so that you can give them letter formation guidance quickly, before they have completed the entire activity.  Again, this would just be reinforcing bad habits. A quick check-in could be as simple as "Come see me after you finish one line / 5 letters, etc..."
  • Use erasable colored pencils, twistable, or markers to make it more fun for the students.  But they still need to know that you will check it!
  • Walmart has table placemats that have letters and numbers to trace on them.  I used those for students to use with dry erase markers during their writing time.

Visual Reminders and Tips for Tricky Letters
My school is an Orton Gillingham certified school, and we utilize many of their visuals and resources for teaching tricky letters.

Alternative Letter Sequence
Don't go in LETTER order...go in SHAPE order!  Orton Gillingham does not recommend the typical alphabetical order for introducing letters phonetically as well as for handwriting letter formation.  Since I have been using this sequence, letter formation is so much easier to teach because it just makes more sense.  For example, notice how this sequence introduces letters that are all formed starting the same way:

Make it Multi-Sensory Before the Worksheets
Multi-sensory learning is vital for students who may not learn their letters sounds as quickly as others.  Using a variety of senses in handwriting time will also enhance their phonemic awareness.  Here are a few ideas to get you started for the week:
  • Monday - Write the letters using bumpy boards - those plastic grid boards for yarn crafting...use a paper on top of the board and write with a crayon...trace the letter with your finger
  • Tuesday - Write the letters with your finger in sand, sugar, or salt
  • Wednesday - Write the letters with your finger on carpet
  • Thursday - Use your full body to make the letters in the air - tall letters start way up high, middle letters start in the middle
  • Friday - Quick assessments to see where they are
  • Search "multi sensory phonics" on Pinterest for lots of ideas - here is our board for this!
Worksheets and Posters/Flashcards
When you do need worksheets, or feel your students are ready for them, here is a simple resource for you.  Just print and go!  I've got it in English and Spanish, along with the numbers 0-20.  Check it out by clicking on the picture!

I also have alphabet posters.  I have them displayed above my white board in full sheet size.  I also have a few sets of the 1/4 sheet size printed and laminated.  Students can use them for reference, as needed.  Click the picture to go to it.

Hopefully you can feel a little bit easier about finding just a little bit of time to teach handwriting to your Primary students.  Happy writing!