Saturday, July 19, 2014

Brain Booster Box Bright Idea!

The Brain Booster Box is one of my fave Bright Ideas so far!  The Brain Booster Box is my lifesaver.  It's a glittery treasure box I received from Highlights magazine ages ago, with a few special additions, and a perfect way to begin the school year.
Brain Booster Box from Hello Mrs Sykes
 First, I add some open-ended question cards, task cards, or questions I like from "I Have.. Who Has...?" games.  At the beginning of the year, these are open ended questions.  (Items that can fit in your pocket; Ways to create the number 42; Games that use a ball; etc.)  There is no winner/loser, and students don't mind because they get to use these babies...  Fun Buzzers!!
Fun Buzzers Keep Everyone Interested
I am so protective of the buzzers (which make different sounds - one is a doorbell, one is a spring-type "boing," etc.)  They also came from Highlights.  Now for the frowny-face part: when the materials are misused.  From the beginning, I make sure they know that if a buzzer is pushed when it is not supposed to be pushed (like when I'm talking!) the buzzer is automatically returned to the teacher.  The group who lost their buzzer still participates, but they have to "chime in" using their voice instead of a buzzer.  Since I make them "chime in" as roosters, pigs, cows, and other barnyard animals... I think they prefer the buzzers!

Inside the Brain Booster Box - Question Cards and Task Cards - Some content specific
When I use the Brain Booster Box with my own class, we split up by tables, etc.  When playing with another class, we mix it up: boys vs. girls, sneakers vs. non-sneakers, short hair vs. long hair, etc.  It is so funny to watch 45 kiddos frantically whispering about how many wheels are on 6 tricycles, the number of legs on 7 cows, or 3 alternative words to say, "said."  I love it!

At the beginning of the year, I explain that the Brain Booster Box is a special occasion, not for every day.  We practice using it for some open-ended topics (things that fit in your pockets, objects that are about the same size as a loaf of bread, etc.)  Throughout the year, we grab the box when we are waiting for the guidance counselor, the lunch line is running behind, or a special guest is running a bit late.

When my colleagues are running late or need a minute, I grab their class and add them to mine for 15 minutes or so.  It is truly tempting to flip on a video... however, I find that classroom management is easier with the Brain Boosters Box because of positive peer pressure.  My kiddos are always quick to warn the others: "Don't push the button when you aren't supposed to, or we'll have to cluck like chickens!"
For more Bright Ideas, click Here.  :)
Really, I shouldn't admit that this post is being written the day before it is posted, as I'm sure many other bloggers had their posts ready a month ago...  But here I am on Friday, finally posting.  Better late than never, right?  ;)

Do you think you'll incorporate a Brain Booster Box in your classroom?  Do you already use something similar?  For more Bright Ideas, consider browsing the link-up below for topics and grade levels that apply to you.  Happy Weekend, everyone!!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Teachers Pay Teachers (Vegas Baby!) Conference in Pictures

My family joined forces and sent me to the first ever Teacher Pay Teachers Conference in Las Vegas!  I had an amazing time, and had a goofy grin on my face all. the. time.  For real.  Since I just learned how to do the photo collage thing, I'll share those first...

Here's a huge batch of photos...  Enjoy, and I hope to see you next year!

Yep - just tons of photos...  I can't really talk about it coherently yet, except to say that it was life-changing for me.  I met a ton of people who I collaborated with, and was in shock that a few people already knew me from my little blog.  It was an honor to meet you all, ladies (and gentlemen!)

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Advice for Parents About Technology

Advice From A Teacher and a Mom
Every year, during Parent Conferences, I set aside time to speak with each parent/guardian about how their child is using technology at home.  We know technology is important, even crucial, to the digital natives we are raising.  In many ways, we must prepare our kids to succeed in jobs that may not have been invented yet!  We don't want them thinking like this...
Here are some tips I always share:
  1. Make the technology accessible and developmentally appropriate.  For example, we added bookmarks for the sites my kiddos use.  My 6-year old can click on his icon, and that takes him to the  games/sites he uses at school.  He is *not* allowed to just Google it, since we know that he might accidentally click on something we haven't discussed first.  My 11-year old has a lot more freedom, but she still clears new sites/apps with either me or her dad.  You know, the little online worlds, like Animal Jam, Dragon Story, etc.  Here's my usual response to her request: "I don't know much about that site.  Would you like to look at it together to see how you would use it?"  Added benefit - time to chat with my kiddo about how she is playing online with friends, etc.  {More on that in #4!}
  2. Set an expectation that Screen Time is a privilege, not a right.  I know, I know.  We live in a democracy, and everyone is equal, but not in my house.  Within our house, my kids understand that screen time (iDevice, Kindle, video games, computer, Nintendo DS, etc.) is a privilege, and can be removed if needed.  They have the rest of their life to be a mindless drone staring at a screen, but only a limited time to be a child.  Remind them to tune in to the actual world.  They *might* not need to stare at a screen in the grocery store, at a restaurant, or on the way to Target.  
  3. Set limits that are age and developmentally appropriate.  My 6-year old gets 25 min./day on the Wii or on games/sites linked to his school website in the afternoon.  My 11-year old gets 45 min/day on sites/apps we've discussed.  One really cool aspect of this is that some of their games overlap, and they occasionally will play these together.  If they are not in school, they can have another session in the morning.  That's pretty much it, except for the TV.  We watch movies as a family, and the kids have favorite shows they like to watch together, and I'm good with that.  :)  
  4. Teach your child to use technology safely.  As you talk with your kids about technology, help them learn the basics of internet safety: Tell a trusted adult if anyone is being aggressive, threatening, or inappropriate online; Don't click on links to unfamiliar sites; Keep your information secure (age, location, school, etc.)
  5. Exercise your right to use parental controls, especially on devices with internet access.   (iAnything, Kindle, computer, Nintendo DS, etc.)  You're the parent, even if they received the technology as a gift or bought it themselves.  :)
  6. Remember they are digital natives.  A child in elementary school has probably never known a world that didn't include cell phones and high-speed internet access.  Their world is very different from the world of our childhood.  Help them navigate it, and enjoy learning from your child, too.
What would you add?  What did I get wayyyy wrong?  Let me know in the comments below, or contact me with the links on the right.  :)

Monday, June 9, 2014

5 Skills I Learned as a TPT Seller

If you haven't heard yet, Teachers Pay Teachers is an online marketplace where teachers, homeschooling parents, and graphic artists can buy and sell resources for educators.  Interested in opening your own TPT store?  Read on for 5 Skills I Learned as a TPT Seller that I had no idea I needed to know.
Button Graphics from my new favorite clipart artist, Tomato Dumplings.
When people find out that I blog and create resources for teachers, they usually ask, "How do you find the time?"  My answer, "I have no idea, but I love what I am doing."  A colleague came to me for advice about opening her own TPT store, and I am so happy she did!  Since I am teaching part-time this year, I was able to meet with her over her track out on a beautiful Friday morning at a coffee shop for a couple of hours and chat in the sunshine about teaching, blogging, and being a Teacher-Author on Teachers Pay Teachers.  By the way, her store is called Tomato Dumplings, and her work is super cute!  I especially adore her borders.  Here's her TPT link.  :)  

As we talked, I realized that I have learned so many skills as a TPT Seller.  Here are the top 5:

  1. Organization Skills - I have created my "go to" folder that I always pull close when working on a new product.  It includes: Common Core Standards for the grade levels I work with, my "ideas" notebook, current projects, future projects, to do lists, Terms of Use for graphics/fonts, etc.  It stays in my laptop bag, and I can always find it when I am working.  Find a system that works for you.  Also, since it's a home business, I keep track of the financial part in another folder.  
  2. Marketing Skills - With so many teachers opening their Teachers Pay Teachers stores, it is truly up to you to market your products.  I choose to do this through my blog, my Pinterest boards, Google +, and Facebook.  There are many options available.
  3. Design Skills - In creating resources for teachers, I have learned to share items that I would use myself.  That means my items are helpful and functional.  I admit it, "cute" is not my top priority.  Yes, I work with kids.  No, they don't always have to see stick figures of cute children on every single page.  I will use something ugly if it works - it's the content that matters, not the cover.  'Nuff said.  The exception: clipart/font designers - it's all presentation for you!  :)
  4. Collaboration Skills - Teachers love to collaborate, and TPT allows you to enter classrooms throughout the world.  Once you register as a seller for TPT, you'll have access to the sellers forums, where many talented sellers who share their thoughts, experiences, and expertise.  Also, many bloggers and Teacher Authors are using social media to share what worked, what didn't, and what they would do differently next time.  A caution: be aware of where your ideas came from.  Be sure to give credit where credit is due, and to always act with ethical intentions.
  5.  Technology Skills - Through tutorials from the local library and internet searches, I have taught myself how to work with files in many different formats: *.jpeg, *.pdf, *.png, *.ppt, *.doc, and *.zip are just a few of the more common ones.  I have learned to edit pictures, manipulate images, schedule posts, and secure my documents, many through trial and error.
If you are already a TPT seller, what would you add?  If you are thinking about opening a store on Teachers Pay Teachers, click here to use my referral link when you sign up for your account.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Why Working With Kids Is Amazing

Sometimes, we just need a reminder of why we do what we do.
Button Graphics from my new favorite clipart artist, Tomato Dumplings.
I went back and found these old pictures that I keep to remind me why I work with kids instead of adults.  They made me smile, and I thought you might enjoy them, too.  Enjoy!!

A note on the board from 2 students to the rest of their class...

A sticky note reminder - "I need to read"

Reading your favorite silly books while wearing pajamas in public?  Yep.

When given paper and markers, they made this - a bookmark with attitude.

Even apples need some TLC.  Right, Casey?

Creating instruments to explore how sound works...

Even 5th graders still love construction paper and markers.  Check out their ELA Notebooks here.  :)
Thank you, and enjoy the rest of your weekend!

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