Monday, March 2, 2015

Oobleck and Meatballs! Comparing Texts Freebie

What do meatballs and gooey green Oobleck have in common? Plenty... if you read the books that is! Hi friends! I hope you enjoyed a fun-filled day! I am just popping in here quickly to share a printable organizer you can use for a great compare/contrast activity for Dr. Seuss Day or Read Across America Week. Two of my all-time favorite books are great to use for comparing texts!

I thought I would share this with you in case you are elbow deep in Oobleck stuff this week! 

It's just like a Venn diagram only this shape allows more room for writing.

 My class will be using this organizer later in the year as part of our weather unit in the spring. 
That is when we work in Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs! It's perfect! 

You can download a copy of the page {here} if you like!

Last year, I made a cute little poster for Read Across America. You can grab one too at Creative Lesson Cafe's Facebook Page! Just click on the Freebie tab on the left side.

I hope you can use it to brighten up your classroom!


Sunday, March 1, 2015

Grow Those Dendrites! Book Study Linky

We already know that Worksheets Don't Grow Dendrites! So what best-practice strategies DO? I can't wait to find out and learn more! The new book I am so excited about arrived in my mailbox just yesterday. Today I am linking up with Elizabeth from Kickin' it in Kindergarten for a book study of Strategies 1 & 2 in Worksheets Don't Grow Dendrites (second edition) by Marcia Tate. If you don't have the book, no worries. You can hop around and get lots of great ideas from the link-up to take back to your classroom!

We've seen many changes in the classroom over the years. No longer are students sitting quietly in their seats all day like we did when I was in school! The first section of this book is a good reminder that students need to be allowed to interact and talk with one another. I'm not talking about casual chit-chat like you might have during a snack break or something. This kind of talk needs to be intentional.

Strategy 1: Brainstorm and Discussion :

When students talk about a topic, they will understand it better because their brains not only mentally process the information, but also verbally process it. (Allen, 2008) 

It used to be a proud moment for a teacher when another adult would walk into the room and compliment the class with comments like... Oh, they are working SO quietly! While a talkative classroom can look like a chaotic one, the benefits for learning are great.

How are you doing with this one? Do you allow and encourage discussion among students? I have to be honest, I do like it quiet when I am testing or when the students need to be fully focused on a task like reading. So many students are easily distracted by noise, so there are times when I think quiet has a purpose for learning as well.

When my students do talk, my favorite strategy to use is the WBT strategy, Teach-OK. The students pair up to teach one another, in their own words, what was just taught with gestures. The students are not allowed to simply "parrot" what was said. They need to restate it and make it their own. When they teach each other, the listener gets to hear the information in yet another way. What they may miss the first time from the teacher they can learn from a peer! When the teacher randomly calls out TEACH the students tend to be more attentive because they never know when it is coming.

I once heard this phrase at a PD workshop...Talk and Chew. The teacher talks and then the students are given time to chew on the information for a while while sharing verbally. I think this is also a good fit for the point that the author makes about discussion.

We have partner discussions down pretty well because we do them regularly. My goal is to start doing more small group (family) discussions too by purposefully structuring activities where everyone can be engaged. There are always those students who lead (or monopolize) the conversation and some that are just listeners. Having some pre-group work mini-lessons is probably a good idea!

What I have been reminded of from this first part of the book, is that we should strive for the upper levels of Bloom's Taxonomy as often as possible.  I love this butterfly visual. I have a copy in my room! It's great to glance at during any kind of questioning or when choosing a follow-up activity.

Strategy 2: Drawing and Artwork

This one I love! You might have guessed from my blog name that I am all about creativity in the classroom. Being creative is more than just artwork of course. This strategy is about making meaning by allowing students to illustrate concepts.

When useful, teachers should encourage students to draw pictures that can help them gain more insight by representing abstract concepts graphically. (Posamentier & Jaye, 2006)

I feel like I'm on the right track with this strategy... although there is ALWAYS room for improvement! For example, when learning about Harriet Tubman in February, I asked the students to illustrate the major events in her life. While the drawings are a little person's representation of her life, they are their own mental images.

In the first picture, we see Harriet working as a slave child and winding balls of yarn. The next drawing shows Harriet and her marriage to John Tubman. It is not likely that Harriet wore a beautiful white dress and carried a bouquet on her wedding day, but this is their schema! Good stuff either way!

This is an example of illustrating new vocabulary. 
Creating a pictionary booklet is always fun!

 I mentioned above that one thing I try to do is to incorporate artwork into worksheets. Here are some examples for a variety of subjects! At first glance these may look like plain old worksheets but many of them ended up as a project, craft or something more. These photos show the beginning and planning stages! Just because an activity is on a piece of paper does not necessarily mean that it fits the definition of a worksheet. I do not think that this book is all about becoming paper-free classrooms. But with anything, we use printables in moderation! We all know that there is value in pencil paper tasks as long as the students are assessed with a pencil-paper test! 

My goal is to do more of these types of activities on a daily basis. At best, I am hit or miss with my planning. I have to remember that the drawing activity does not require a fancy page. 

Do you use foldables? Before interactive notebooks came along, I used to do lots of them with my students. Foldables are a great way to encourage artwork to solidify content. A true foldable that I'm talking about is not always the same as an interactive notebook page with flaps. With many popular interactive pages, you may often see a clipart image to be colored. In fact, I have made several sets like this and teachers and students enjoy them because they are CUTE! But coloring a picture is not the same as creating the image yourself, obviously! Many more thought processes are involved when we ask the students to add their own pictures. Because I am a bit of a perfectionist, I am guilty of wanting everything I display or send home to be neat and cute. Some students are often in a big hurry when they illustrate or only use all one color, which is hard for me to overlook! I will try harder. My goal is to get back to using genuine student-created foldables once again!

Want to learn more about foldables?
You can check out some ideas on my Pinterest Board here

After reading the first part of the book, I am relieved to know that I am already on my way with implementing many of the recommended strategies. I have some goals to work on as well! 
I almost can't wait to go back on Monday so I can try something new!

I hope you were able to grow some of your own professional dendrites today and take away some good info and a little bit of inspiration! Until the next link-up for other strategies in the book, be mindful of how you incorporate discussion, drawing and artwork into your lessons!

Now head on over to Kickin it in Kindergarten to read what other bloggers have shared. 
It is interesting to see the different perspectives we all have on the same topics!

We teachers love to try new things!
How do you incorporate these strategies into your lessons?
We'd LOVE to read about it in the comments below! 

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Teachers are Heroes and a FREEBIE!

I just LOVE this quote! Teachers are heroes!
We don't always get the recognition we deserve, but we don't let that get us down.
We know our profession is like no other.
We have the power to inspire.
We change the world... one child at a time!

If you like this quote too, you can grab this FREEBIE poster {here}.

 This Wednesday only, Teachers Pay Teachers is honoring all teacher heroes with a sale!
 You can continue to bring inspiration into the classroom with some amazing resources made by other teacher heroes!

 sale button courtesy of Bright Concepts 4 Teachers

 Be sure to head on over Wednesday to take advantage of the big savings while you can!
Don't forget to enter the promo code HEROES! 

Everything in my Creative Lesson Cafe store is on sale too!

Happy shopping hero friends!


Saturday, February 21, 2015

Favorite Books and Giveaways! Weekend Warriors Style

Are you always on the lookout for great read-alouds? The Weekend Warriors are here to share some of our favorite books and activities with all of you. We also have an amazing giveaway going on so I'm really glad that you stopped by today! I am here to share some of my all-time favorite stories, a FREEBIE, a cute reading bulletin board idea and a chance to win some moolah to put toward some great reading resources with a Teachers Pay Teachers gift certificate!

My favorite time of day is when the kiddos gather 'round the rocking chair for story time. This is the one precious chunk of time when I feel connected to my students on a different level. Our schedule is so full, but I make it a point to include a read-aloud EVERY SINGLE DAY. In fact, I always plan a reading mini-lesson with our story of the day.

My newest favorite book is a hilarious story that the class absolutely loves! 
It's The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt! 
Have you read it? If not, you MUST put it on your wish list!

In the story, Duncan finds a stack of letters that have been written by his crayons. Some are happy, some are tired, some are unused, some are stubby, some are arguing and oh boy... peach crayon has been peeled and has to go to school naked! :) It is a riot!

I made this letter writing page to go along with the story. The students choose their favorite crayon color and write their own letters to Duncan just like the ones in the book!
 It's a great activity for a mini-lesson on VOICE if you teach 6+1 Traits. 

How cute would it be to have the students draw a face, arms and legs on this crayon clipart, like the book cover, before they color it? Next to the crayon they can add some more pictures!
 You can grab this freebie {here} if you think your students might enjoy this!

Another all-time favorite is by an author who came to visit our school once. It is so cleverly written and is more like a very long poem. It is fantastic for teaching lessons on author's craft because there is great rhythm in this book. The best part is... the teacher gets to model all sorts of character voices-of sick farm animals that is! It goes something like this: 

Buzz,'CHOO   Mew, SNIFF   Cock-a-SQUAWK!-le-doo,
Oink, SQUEAL   Baa, SNORT   Moo, A-H-H-H-H-CHOO!

 During cold and flu season or prior to a farm field trip, this is a great story to read!

The book is called Barnyard Song by Rhonda Gowler Greene!

It is available at Amazon!

 I could go on all day with more on favorite read-alouds, but my third and final favorite and one that I adore because it takes place at the beautiful Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes here in Michigan is Petoskey Stone Soup. It is written and illustrated by two local women.

 The book is a twist on the original story. It's about two children who lose their way while exploring the Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes. Exhausted and hungry, they discover a tiny village but the entire town is empty. The book shows how, when everyone gives just a little, magical things can happen.

 It's perfect for moral and theme lessons. This would also be a great story to use to compare texts or to work into a rocks and minerals unit. You may even have some Petoskey stones to show the class. 

Read Across America Bulletin Boards

During the month of March, for Read Across America, our school promotes reading with lots of neat activities and incentives. One fun thing we do is to select an author for each grade level to study. Our team has chosen Tomie dePaola. Every grade creates fantastic bulletin boards in their author theme! Here is Second Grade's display for Strega Nona from last year:

 My fabulous teamie Pam enlarged Strega Nona and the pot under the document camera and colored it in chalk for us. We used yellow yarn for the pasta and then gave her a wooden spoon to hold. The book covers were made from images taken from the internet. 
On both sides of our Nona centerpiece is a photo of every student reading their favorite Tomie book! 

 I would love to get a top read-alouds list going here at Creative Lesson Cafe! 
What is your favorite?
We'd love to hear about it!
 Add your favorite to the comments below!

You can grab a cute poster sign for your door or reading area for Read Across America here

To celebrate the love of books and to help you to grab up some great reading resources for your class, you can enter to win a Teachers Pay Teachers gift certificate!

Just use the Rafflecopter below to enter the giveaway!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Hop on over to see what the other Warriors are sharing today.
 Each of my friends is also having their own giveaway so you can enter all of them!
Good luck to you!

Friday, February 20, 2015

Brush and Floss Kiddos! {freebie}

My own visit to the orthodontist yesterday reminded me that it is children's dental health month! Because I worked in the dental field as an orthodontic assistant for many years, I always pay attention to how clean/ not clean childrens' teeth are, especially those in braces! No matter how old they are, I think it is wonderful for students to get yearly reminders in school about the importance of caring for their teeth! 

I don't spend nearly as much time on this unit with my second graders as I did with my firsties, but we will be using this reading passage and discussing ways to keep our teeth healthy next week. 

I haven't decided yet, but if there is time, I might pull out the old egg shell in vinegar experiment. Kids always love that one! It's really need to see the effect the flouride toothpaste has on the shell! 

I hope you can use this passage at some point with your class, either as a reading activity or as a read-aloud! Click {here} to download a copy if you like!

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Primary Powers Blog- Math Activities and a FREEBIE

Hello Everyone! I am popping in to let you know that I am blogging over at Primary Powers today to share a favorite ready-in-a-minute math activity using number cards! It is perfect to fill those few extra minutes here or there and a great one to use when you sense the class is getting restless! I also have a little FREEBIE for you all to get something like this ready for your classroom too if you like!

 Click on the picture below to head on over!
 I hope to see you there!

Primary Powers

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Teachers Pay Teachers Taxes - Info for Sellers

Welcome TPT sellers and/or fellow tax-confused friends! It was income tax reality day for my little business today so I'm here to tell you a little bit about it before I forget it all! (That happens often these days!) It's a little LONG, but hopefully will give you some good information!

A few years back, when I was new to selling, I searched everywhere for tax advice without a whole lot of success. I was SUPER confused because I had not received any income statement from Teachers Pay Teachers and was attempting to do my own taxes. It was a nightmare. Notice this blog post title? It is very simple and to the point for a reason. When I was searching for more info related to a HOME OFFICE with my own taxes this year, I Googled these key words but I did not find much else to help me with tax info for small business owners like myself. Some of what I have to share with you are things I learned from doing some research over the years. I also found out some surprising NEW TIDBITS of information today during my own tax session so I want to share these with you too. Please be advised that I am NOT a tax expert by any means so when in doubt, ask a professional! Like most things I blog about, I am only writing from my personal experiences! :)

Today I met with my new tax preparer that I will definitely go back to every year. Because she is also a small business owner and has a home office, she was much more knowledgeable about specific deductions than some other folks I have hired in the past. When I only had personal taxes to do, I used Turbo Tax which was so easy. But the addition of a small business has complicated things beyond what I feel comfortable with. Her fee was very reasonable (around $150.00 for both returns- federal and state and included every possible necessary form for small business). It is well worth the money to know that my taxes are done correctly.

It didn't take too long to get my ducks in a row for tax season because I know what to anticipate and what to save. So many websites allow you to easily print summary statements for the whole year and that is exactly what I do.

You may be wondering what business write-offs there are for sellers. It's pretty simple really. What I have been told is that anything that is directly related to your business like ink, graphics purchases, font licenses, TPT annual fees, expenses for marketing your items, blog designs and all of that are deductible expenses. Some other things may be questionable... like deducting your phone if you only have a cell phone as a home phone. There are gray areas for everything of course.

All of  my paperwork was organized nicely as I lugged it all with me to the appointment in my snazzy tax tub. As ready as I thought I was, I did not plan for everything. I also know that it is not necessary to drag every piece of paper along but I do just in case. Here's what she asked to see for both personal and business taxes:

  • W2
  • the tax return from the previous year
  • totals for itemization such as union dues
  • charitable donations amount to church, Goodwill, etc. (estimated value at 50 dollars per bag of clothing)
  • totals for business expenses by category (supplies, marketing, tools, and depreciable items like furniture, cameras, technology, software...) 
  • mortgage interest
  • banking interest
  • home tax info
  • total for earned income (business)
  • total amount only for utility expenses (gas, internet, electric, phone...) not every receipt needed
  • investment info 
I made myself a chart for our appointment which was helpful, but I did NOT need to list TPT, Etsy, ThistleGirl Graphics and all of that separately. They all fit under tools for my tax purposes. 

It looks something like this only the finished list was MANY more pages! 
I will edit it for next year to include broader categories and totals for supplies, advertising, tools, utilities and so on.

 Though I have learned I can travel light, you bet I am saving every piece of documentation, and all receipts, in my files at home!

Here's what I needed to provide that I did not have ready on the chart...
  • square footage of the room I use as home office (must be exclusively used for that purpose)
  • estimated percentage of use of the internet service as I am not the only person living in the household
  • percent of usage for the cell phone- related to business use 
  • total expenses for any home repairs- inside or outside done in the last year ( I really wish I had known this because I spent way more than what I reported today and remembered only after I got home)
  • amount spent on exterior maintenance of the home (landscaping, snow removal...)
There are probably a few others that will come to me later! Claiming a home office and all of its related expenses is a bit of a tax break but HERE'S THE KICKER! I am planning to move in the near future. Now that I have claimed a home office on taxes, I will be required to pay an additional tax on that home office when I sell my house...interesting. Still it was wiser to claim it than not to.

Of course. this post can't possibly be all-inclusive. If there is something I forgot to mention or if you have any other suggestions for more items to add to claiming a home office specifically, please feel free to leave a note in the comments section below! 

Every seller's situation will be different than mine, but hopefully you have a better starting point or have gotten a few new tips along the way here today! The best advice is to be as detailed and precise with your business as you are with every resource you create. At tax time, you will be glad you did! Saving all of your business paperwork and receipts in a file, binder or tub is very helpful. Knowing what you can or cannot deduct and bringing the proper documentation with you is important so you can have a quick and hopefully painless meeting with your tax preparer or accountant.

All in all, there was not too much damage to the pocketbook today. I did OWE a little this year, despite taking advantage of every possible available deduction! I'm glad I always plan ahead and keep money aside for taxes on my extra income.

If you want to read a super post about more specific deductions, you can head on over to Learning in Wonderland. You may also want to get a cute tax tub going like I did.
 They have a great freebie for you!