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My Newsletter is Finally up and RUNNING!

Have you ever wanted to get something new going in your classroom but you just can’t seem to find the time to do it? You know how awesome it would be for the kids and yourself, but when is that next teacher workday?!?!

Well, I know that feeling all too well because I spent my whole teaching life reflecting and tweaking and of course, dropping the ball from time to time. And that experience of not knowing when I’d get the time to really focus in and get to the important things is a lot like getting my Tarheelstate Teacher newsletter going.

I am so thankful and appreciative each time I get a notification that a teacher like you has shared their email with me. So, this past month, I finally said to myself “Girl, it is time. Stop letting yourself (and your people) down and get this thing going!” My subscriber newsletter is finally up and running and the freebies are flowing for reading, math, morning meeting, and science!

So, let’s get on with it!

In my last blog post {about 11 things teachers should stop doing}, I shared a short little internet history. Way back to 2005 when I first started teaching! My point was that because of the internet and our ability to connect with one another, the teaching profession is no longer such a lonely place.

Today I am thankful for what the internet has done for the teaching profession. It gives me hope for new teachers just starting out and it makes me smile at the inspiration it provides for veteran teachers to keep themselves energized and on the cutting edge of classroom practices.

And yes, I know that all of the ideas can also cause #ideaoverwhelm. If you can learn to take the up side with the down side, you can tap into those amazing ideas when you need them, but guard your time and energy {from Pinterest ;)} when you are chugging along on your own. It’s okay not to do everything all the time.

I know that if you are here visiting my blog, you are a passionate teacher who puts her heart into her classroom. Welcome, friend! This is going to be inspiring and fun!

If you choose to subscribe to my newsletter today, I will be in touch over the next few weeks with a quick introduction of myself and my teaching passions. I’ve even included a freebie with each email to let you know how much I appreciate you waiting on me to get my act together! Make sure you open those future emails for resources that I believe you can use in your classroom right away!

Just so you know how special you are for subscribing, most of my future freebies will be exclusive to you, my BTF's (best teacher friends :), who have chosen to be on my email list. A lot of heart goes into my teaching resources and my blog posts and I am truly in awe at you for wanting to hang out with me and for wanting more!

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11 Things New Teachers Should Stop Doing

I'm sharing some of the big (sometimes funny and sometimes heartbreaking) mistakes I made in my first years of teaching.

Before I tell you what you should stop doing, I want to take you back to 2005 when I first began teaching (am I old? #idontthinksofriends). Pinterest would not arrive on the www for 5 more years. Teachers Pay Teachers did not come along until 2006 and really didn't gain momentum or hit its stride until 2014. I didn't post my first resource there until 2010 and most all of the resources available on tpt were plain word documents that were straight up what a teacher made just for their classroom. When I googled ideas for my classroom, I was sure to find some pdf's and helpful resources, but nowhere near the images, ideas, and lesson recaps written by a teacher blogger like we have available to us today. The world was different then. Today, you are no longer alone on your teacher journey and it is now so much easier for you, young teachers, to learn from your fellow teachers who have walked down that road before you.

Now, if you are like me, you are headstrong and stubborn, and you might not want to listen to me. In my first few years of teaching, I especially blocked out the advice of people who were just negative and burned out. You have to protect your heart and your mindset from negativity. I knew many older teachers looked at me as a beginner and I wasn't open to their ideas or advice. If you are feeling stubborn about the content of this post, I promise this is different. You are our future. And I want you to last. Read on and try to listen :)

1) Stop holding your pee. Did that make you laugh? Don't laugh too hard or you might wet your pants. I know you are holding it right now as you are reading this because you are just SO used to it. STOP. STOP. If you have a bathroom close by your classroom, train your students to be actively engaged and working hard while you step out of the room. {Independent reading time was always a good time for me to sneak out}. I preached and preached to my students about the injustice in the fact that they could basically go to the restroom whenever they asked and that I deserved that same exact right as a person. This meant that I should be able to trust them when I leave the room. {I'm going to admit that almost all of my students have enjoyed watching me do the potty dance a time or two! #notproud}

Now, leaving the room might not work for everyone, so get a plan in place that allows you to STOP HOLDING YOUR PEE. Grab the teacher next door to step into the hall and monitor your classroom. Grab a special area teacher or volunteer or just start calling down to the office saying "I've got to go, can you come watch my room?!?!?!" Another way to get around this {maybe obviously} is to make sure you go to the rest room during your planning time, as you are dropping your students off or picking them up and then go during lunchtime. I know I often skipped those opportunities to take a bathroom break because I wanted to get something done, but don't. Take a minute and let it all out!

2) Stop NOT drinking enough water. I know that you actually drink less water because of #1. You don't want to have to go pee all the time; well, do you plan to teach 25+ years without drinking enough water? You will shrivel up like a grape and become a raisin. No one wants to be a raisin. Drink water. Tell yourself and your principal that your priority is taking care of YOUR health so that you can be there for you students. Drink water, go pee, rinse and repeat!

3) Stop reserving your weekends for planning. Have you heard of Parkinson's Law? It states that "Work expands so as to fill the time available for it's completion."

Word, Mr. Parkinson.

This means that if you say you are spending the weekend planning and maybe you will have time for other things (like hobbies, eating, and taking care of yourself), then planning will eat up all the time in your weekend. Planning will extend itself into the wee hours of the night and the early mornings, and you, my friend, will end up having the Sunday blues, the "I'm a teacher, I can't have a real life" resentment, and will be on the road to burn out. The weekends this happened to me were usually when I had a new unit starting in the upcoming week in science or social studies. I put SO much pressure on myself to plan a complete, engaging, fun, meaningful unit that sometimes I just spun my wheels, when really, sometimes I should have just figured out the first step first and let the rest of the week take care of itself.

I can remember the weekends where I had plans to go out of town  and it just felt like I had to do so much to prepare--grade papers, think about everything that I needed to do and planned to teach the in the upcoming week, read some science info to get a better grasp on what I'm teaching, review the math book and outline my sequence of lessons, read all the books I'd be using for guided reading, and on and on.

I'm stressed just thinking about all of that.

4) Stop going at this thing all willy-nilly. You need to compartmentalize. You need to develop a planning routine. You need to decide specific days and times that you will take care of each aspect of your teaching responsibilities. For example, I had the luxury of duty free recess the past two years. That was my time to get my math homework ready for the week. If I hadn't had this time, printing math homework would have been a priority in my first planning block. My teacher friend always liked to use Friday afternoons to type up her newsletter for the next week. She could get it ready in about 30 minutes and she loved how it helped her think about the upcoming week before she left for the weekend. Last year, I started using this awesome to-do list template from Kristen at Easy Teaching Tools that allowed me to organize my to-do list by which day of the week that item would really be important AND which time of the day I would need to work on it--morning before school and morning planning or afternoon/after school. With this organization, I could see my to-do's and worry about my tasks when they were really a priority. This broke me from the "never-ending" to do list and to consider my tasks based on priority, not preference, which I talk about more in #11.

5) Stop considering not having children as an option. (I'm not joking!) Deciding that you won't have children because you put all of your energy and passion into teaching other people's children is just too much of a sacrifice.


Did that hurt anyone? I truly had myself convinced for a few years that I would just not have children. I could not see myself having a baby and teaching at the same time. Now, I've shared that I am taking time off this year because that is just what is right for me, and I do think a little one is in the near future, so I hopefully won't have to try to be all things to everyone, but if you are teacher, I know that you began your career planning to change the world, planning to make an impact.

I also know that your babies will make one heck of an impact on this world. I know mine will, so we owe it to ourselves to put ourselves first when it comes to hopes and dreams of having a family of our own some day. You have to trust that all of the other stuff will work out. I've seen plenty of amazing teachers balance family and not having children because you are a teacher is a sacrifice that you will eventually come to resent about your chosen career. You are not a martyr. You don't have to be. You are a person. You deserve a life, a path, and an identity outside of teaching. It's okay to admit that. I'm not saying it's easy or it doesn't hurt or it isn't hard, I'm just encouraging you to care MORE about yourself and what you deserve than you do about those children. {And I know that statement was not politically correct, but someone that you hopefully respect, admire, and appreciate needs to tell you that. And if you don't have someone like that in your corner, #letitbemeletitbe.}

6) Stop making exercise your last priority. It's important. We both know it. And it's so hard to make time for, but we need to make regular exercise a part of our lives so that we are healthy for ourselves, our family, and our students.

7) Stop feeling guilty that you had an idea that you didn't have time to implement (get used to it!). We have tons of creative BIG ideas as teachers. Jot them down for next year and just be okay with the fact that you are human and you can't always do every cool idea you come up with right away.

8) Stop staying late every single day. Decide on two days a week that you will stay late. We always had our staff meetings on Tuesdays and another day of the week was reserved for PLC's with my grade level team. Both of those days were already going to be late ones. So, I began to plan to stay late on those days and leave by 4 pm on other days. (That's still staying 45 minutes after being finished with car rider.) How do you make this work? Mentally plan that ONE thing you will get done before you leave. Try your best to get it done, near completion, and leave at 4 pm no matter what. Hey, this even means that you have to be packing up your things before 4 pm to get out of the door on time. Do IT!

9) Stop skipping snack time! I went through a pretty intense personal training program and the biggest thing I changed (next to three days a week of consistent exercise) was my diet! I started making sure that I ate a snack in the morning and a snack in the afternoon. Your body needs food every 2.5-3 hours. This is how you train your metabolism to stop hoarding food (as fat) in your body and to trust that YOU will feed it consistently, regularly, and routinely. Now your metabolism can burn fat for you and your blood sugar (and all the other good things) will stay stable.

If you are worried about your principal walking in when you are grabbing your snack, have a designated snack time (5 or so minutes with your students to give yourself a chance to eat.) My snacks were always a yogurt or cottage cheese with fruit in the morning around 9:30 and a peanut butter/banana in the afternoons around 2 pm. This allowed me to space out my meals and snack and follow the 2.5-3 hour rule. My students knew I'd be breaking out a banana and spoonful of peanut butter towards the end of the day. I chose to stop starving myself!

10) Stop waiting until summer vacation, a scheduled day off, an intersession or break to schedule your doctor and dentist appointments. Do you have students that leave early or check out to go to the doctor? #iknowitissoannoyingsometimes but you know what, I went for 3 years paying for dental insurance through my district and did not go to the dentist. (Embarrassing I know. Why do we think 20+ somethings can take care of themselves?!?!) This goes back to #8 and throwing all of my energy into all things teacher and not putting myself as a priority. Let's just stop doing that. Make your appointments for when they are convenient for you. Leave a little early or come in a little late. You really won't miss a beat doing this twice a year, you won't have to interrupt your vacations for these appointments, and you can grab a Starbucks on the way back to school. #winwin

11) Stop spending hours doing what you want to do and start with what you need to doFor so many years in the beginning of my career, I managed my time based on what I wanted to do for my classroom. I had no life (really) and I was truly doing what I had ALWAYS wanted to do, so I wanted to do things my way. I wanted to create, I wanted to design lessons, I wanted to spend hours searching for the perfect ideas. But, this doesn't always make common sense, especially when you are not completely ready for the next day. I think my attitude was that it would all get done anyway and I did not really have a grasp on how finite time really is for a teacher.

To tell the truth, I really did teach in an environment where everyone pretty much left us alone, at least for my first two years. We rarely had staff meetings, my grade level only met to discuss field trips and give feedback to the school improvement team or the PTA, you know, stuff we had to talk about, but never about our classroom instruction. Our school had not yet been blessed with the onslaught of so much training and so many committees. Really, if things had kept on going that way (not saying it was the best for teachers or students), I maybe could have kept up the "I just work on whatever I want and all of it will get done" attitude. But, we all know that what education was 11 years ago (yes, I know) is not what it is today. A teacher's time is never really our own #andthatissodamnsad.

Some of the mistakes I made set me up to resent teaching after years and years of working under these circumstances. New teachers, hard-headed, stubborn, change-the-world (and yes you are AMAZING) teachers, I hope you listen to me.

I hope you start taking care of your kind heart, guarding your personal time, prioritizing your health, and creating routines that help you plan faster and leave work at work more often. This might just be what helps you make it to the end and you will still be a rock star if all-the-things in your classroom are not perfect.

I'm rooting for you!

And I'm sure I've left some important things off this list because really, I could go on and on and on! Did something really important come to mind as you read this? Drop it in the comments and help out other teachers with your advice!

Have you tried Student Led Report Card Conferences?

Student Led Report Card Conferences can be extremely successful and rewarding, not to mention,  huge learning experience for your students. Read all about how I have implemented these goal setting and reflection sessions with 4th and 5th graders! {Ideas, forms, tips, and reflection sheets that work like a script for students}
I know many of you are mid-quarter and getting ready for report card conferences. I wanted to share something I've done in the past. This post was shared years ago at Life, Love, Literacy, but I'm going back to many of those posts, freshening them up and getting them ready to share with you!

Have you ever implemented Student Led Conferences? I have often had conferences where I ask that students are present where we set 1-2 personal goals. When it comes to working with upper elementary students, I'm a big fan of making sure that all involved parties (student, parent, and teacher) are on the same page, having the same conversations when appropriate, but this year I had a totally crazy idea!
Student Led Report Card Conferences can be extremely successful and rewarding, not to mention,  huge learning experience for your students. Read all about how I have implemented these goal setting and reflection sessions with 4th and 5th graders! {Ideas, forms, tips, and reflection sheets that work like a script for students}
What if students and parents led their own conferences? I have to admit, part of this idea was PURE selfishness. Conferences take up a ridiculous amount of time {weeks!}, including many late evenings. This idea quickly started to evolve into a way that I could have multiple conferences happening at the same time and potentially finish them in less days and less long afternoons. I had other great reasons too, including the positive experiences I have had in the past when leading goal setting sessions with students and parents and when students have attended their report card conferences. My "let me get these conferences knocked out" plan quickly turned into "How can I facilitate a beneficial conversation between students and their families about their academic progress?" FYI, the first time I did this, I was teaching 5th graders, but I have also successfully held student led conferences in the same manner with 4th graders.

How did I go about informing parents of my plan and setting up the conferences?

1) I chose 4 evenings that I would block off (over the course of 3 weeks) from 3 pm-6 pm for parents/students to sign up. (I ended up doing this in only 3 evenings because I was sick one of the days and had to cancel all of those conferences.) I then sent an email to parents explaining how I wanted to do conferences this year.
Student Led Report Card Conferences can be extremely successful and rewarding, not to mention,  huge learning experience for your students. Read all about how I have implemented these goal setting and reflection sessions with 4th and 5th graders! {Ideas, forms, tips, and reflection sheets that work like a script for students}

2) Students completed a reflection on all subject areas during class prior to the start of conferences. I read over their work and encouraged them to elaborate when necessary. I tried not to put words into their mouths, but led them through analyzing their work samples to come up with ideas of things they were proud of and specific aspects that they wanted to make improvements in.

3) I prepared a list of guiding questions for parents that matched the same order as the student reflection.

4) I decided what materials students would need in order to successfully discuss their learning. These items included:
  • Reader's Workshop Notebook
  • Math Workshop/Stations Folder and Math Journal
  • Writing Draft Folder
  • Social Studies Assignments, including a nonfiction reading assignment
On the day of each round of conferences, I pulled the scheduled students together and asked them to sticky-note two places in their reading journal that showed their best thinking. (One had to be a "write about reading" entry, but the other could be from a minilesson or read aloud). Then students pulled all of the materials they would need and placed them in a basket.
Student Led Report Card Conferences can be extremely successful and rewarding, not to mention,  huge learning experience for your students. Read all about how I have implemented these goal setting and reflection sessions with 4th and 5th graders! {Ideas, forms, tips, and reflection sheets that work like a script for students}

  • Students were in charge of the conversation. Students were responsible for sharing what they've learned, including classroom routines and procedures.
  • College and Career Readiness {baby!}: Don't we all have to undergo annual reviews where we explain the work we have done so far this year, explain what we are working on, goals we have achieved, and things we would like to do better? This is such a great, real-world, career-related experience for students! These conversations also give us the opportunity to let our leaders know where we need more training or assistance. In the same way, students are able to let their parents know where they still need some support.
  • I felt that parents received MORE information about what goes on in our classroom. Rather than presenting a report card and explaining 2's, 3's, and 4's in each area, they really could get a sense of what their child was accomplishing during their time at school.
Wow! At first, I didn't realize how rewarding student led report card conferences would truly be. However, just taking a look at students' reflections and seeing (in their own words, without any influence from me) how much they were loving 5th grade, how they were capable of recognizing the improvements they have already made, and how they were able to come up with ways to improve themselves was huge. Can you imagine how awesome this was for setting us up on a path of improvement as we continued through our year together?

Second, it was AMAYahzing to hear students tell their parents what we were learning in class. I could not believe how everyone was able to spout off lessons I had taught...Helloooo?! They are listening!

What did I learn that I would tweak in the future?

1) No more than 3 sets of parents/students in the room at the same time is probably ideal. At one point, I had 4 in the room and I was concerned that parents might not have felt they were getting enough attention from me (although I don't think they felt this way, I was a little anxious for criticism of this new way of doing things).

2) Having a set of parents/student scheduled for a time slot ALONE was also not ideal. It changed the feel of the conference. Since they were the only ones in the room, I was all too available for them and probably did too much leading of their conversation. These conferences also tended to go on for an hour because there was no pressure to finish or understanding that other groups of parents/students were moving along faster.

3) Some students were able to "blow smoke" when talking to their parents. I allowed the child to explain things from his/her perspective, but I was hoping the parents would probe more. When they didn't, I may have asked a probing question or let it go. In the end, the report card demonstrates a more accurate picture. I also made sure parents understood that if they had questions after report cards were received, they could contact me for more information or to schedule a more personal meeting. (This rarely happened as my report card comments address low scores AND parents had reviewed their child's work.)
Student Led Report Card Conferences can be extremely successful and rewarding, not to mention,  huge learning experience for your students. Read all about how I have implemented these goal setting and reflection sessions with 4th and 5th graders! {Ideas, forms, tips, and reflection sheets that work like a script for students}

All in all, my experiences with student-led parent conferences lead me to encourage you to give them a try! I always felt they were a great success. After first quarter, you can plan to have students complete the same type of reflection and invite parents in to do a check-in on what their child has accomplished with his/her goals that they set during 1st quarter conferences. Since parents and students have experienced it once, they understand what they are supposed to do and can most likely move through more quickly without needing much guidance from you.
I think parents really enjoy and appreciate the opportunity to take a closer look at what their child has been working on and learning. As parents, we don't always sit down and have academic conversations with our children about their work. YOU AS THE TEACHER facilitate this opportunity that allows your students to reflect and set goals for the future. It's a WIN-WIN for you as the teacher, for the child, and for parental involvement.

If parents are unable to make time to meet with their child 2nd or 3rd quarter, you can still have students complete the reflection sheet, send it home with report cards, encourage students to go through the reflection with their parents, AND ask that parents sign and return the reflection. An email letting them know that the form is coming home also encourages parents to take a few minutes to have a discussion with their child.

I've uploaded an editable version of the student reflection and conference questions to TPT. Of course, you will want to modify the questions and directions to fit your needs. If you use these materials or ideas, I would love to hear how it goes!

Are you following my facebook page and Instagram? I posted two SNEAK peek pictures and details about my student-led conferences on Instagram this week. You never know what you are going to learn and see as you follow along! I'd love to have you join me on social media!

September in Summary Tarheelstate Teacher

Confession: I beat myself up a lot! I have such a big to do list, new ideas come my way to add to the to-do list, and then life is going on all around me, and I beat myself up for what I did not accomplish.
Tarheelstate Teacher on Instagram
Well, I have to tell you, this monthly blogging routine of looking back on all that I have accomplished in the past month has become really cathartic. After spending week after week moving one action item to the next week and realizing that EVERYTHING takes longer than I expect it to, it's really nice to stop and review all that I have accomplished. A lot of time when I am writing these posts and going back through my blog feed and tpt store, I think, "Wow, I really did that this month?" because it feels like so much longer ago.

Time flies by in a blur and I can't believe where I am at this moment. That happens in the classroom too, right? Time starts to fly. I mean it is October ya'll. And once you get the candy corn out of your teeth, you will be gearing up for turkeys and all things holiday. IN NO TIME!  Don't forget to take time to enjoy those moments. Stop teaching (yes, you who are like me and always say "I don't do class parties.") Take time and figure out something academically okay that you can do to have a fun time with your kiddos. Life is about making memories and we need to model that for our students. In October, I like to do my Pumpkin Personalities/Adjectives writing project, and last Thanksgiving, I did a Book Tasting that was one of my absolute favorite events of the year. {It was one of those I invited the principal to ;) If you like the Pumpkin Personalities (which you can do as jack-o-lanterns or just stick with fall and have them be pumpkins), I also have a snowman personalities writing project. I always thought these projects were a great way to take a break from essay writing, narratives, etc. and give the kids some "creative writing" time.

If you have subscribed to my newsletter, God bless you :) I'm going to be working on something very special for you next week. Think, pouring my heart out a little, inspiring your teaching life, and sharing some freebies! My newsletter (that I have yet to get rolling) is one of those priorities that keeps getting moved down the list because of #allthethings and this life I'm living and trying to enjoy.

And, before I recap what happened this month, I want to leave you with some advice one of my friends wisely shared this week. It went something like this, "A student who finishes 19 problems out of 20 does not cry over the one they have not done. They are happy that they finished 19." Or at least I think this is what most of us would teach our students to focus on. I'd pat that kid on the dang back and say "You are good, my friend!" As teachers, we seem to always look towards what we have left to do, what has not yet been done, and we really let that get us down. I'd like to encourage us all to look more at what we HAVE accomplished and to celebrate that. I've even sat down in the past and written a list of all the things I HAVE accomplished for my classroom when I was feeling down. It's a real eye-opener and it's very hard to feel like a failure when you see all that you have done in black and white (or sparkly gel pen and astrobrights, whatever your flavor!)

I worked really hard to update more of my math task cards. I focused in on my Around the USA Number and Operations in Base 10 sets. I used United States data on various topics to make these task cards engaging and real-world kind of meaningful for math time. I've updated 3 out of 4 (see there goes that me thinking about the one I haven't finished yet. STOP!) When I do get that final update finished, I'm going to put these in a bundle. The rounding set is more for 3rd grade, the one that still needs an update is challenging for 4th and perfect for 5th, but depending on your grade level, you may see a need for all of these as you differentiate for your classroom. Here's the math focus for each set of my Around the USA task cards:

 Real World Math Task Cards Number and Operations in Base 10Rounding to Tens, Hundreds, Thousands 3NBT1 3rd Grade: Students practice rounding with data on the highest mountain peaks in each state in the US. (orange cards)

Place Value and Comparing Powers in Numbers 5NBT1 5NBT2 5NBT3a: Students practice working with Patterns in Place Value and comparing the value of digits in different place values. I couldn't find task cards that I thought were really hitting 5.NBT1 or 5.NBT2 very well (long ago when Common Core was first implemented), so I made these based on United States population data and the lengths of rivers. (red/green cards)

Read Write Compare and Round Decimals with Different Number Forms: Students practice reading and writing numbers in different forms, comparing, and rounding (pink/green cards)
Multistep Word Problems for 5th Grade Task Cards
This one is the B-E-A-Uty that needs an update. Nothing really bad about it, but I wrote the exponents with a carrot. Yes, a carrot, because when I made them, seriously in 2013, I did not know how to use a superscript to make an exponent. (I also fixed this issue in some of the task cards above, so if you own them, one, I love you, and two, you need to redownload from your tpt purchases to get the best version). Now, these multi-step word problems are amazing. They make your kiddos do some good multi-step math work AND they use real-world data. Each task card is a PAGE with 6-15 connected questions on each task card. (They are obviously not meant to be done at the speed of most task cards, but are perfect for problem solving station or your fast finishers.) UPDATE: Multi-Step Word Problems for 5th Grade are now revised! All of my Around the USA Task cards can be found in this bundle
 Building a Reading Life Readers Worskhop Launch Kit
OH MY GOODNESS! In other news, if you have purchased my Building a Reading Life Reader's Workshop Launch Kit, The MEGA LITERACY BUNDLE, or the Reading & Writing Bundle, you are going to want to redownload ASAP. I have updated the Reading Life file to included a 10 day outline for Launching reader's workshop, a list of behaviors to teach, and my First Day Love of Reading Minilesson in pdf form so that it is easy for you to access. If you don't have my Building a Reading Life resource, you can still access that minilesson here for free
Differentiated 4th Grade Fractions TestsEarlier this month, I finally got my 4th Grade Fractions Differentiated Assessments polished and uploaded. I was seeing fractions for days. Ya'll as much as fractions are my passion. It was a little much. Haha, good thing I'm working on Adding, Subtracting, Multiplying and Dividing Decimals for 5th grade right now, because when those are finished, my plan is to go right back to fractions to create the 5th Grade Differentiated Fractions set.

Here's what's included in the 4th Grade Fractions Set:
#itsallthestandards #allthethings #nowonderittookforevah!

♦ Fraction Equivalence and Reducing to Lowest Terms
♦ Equivalence with Mixed Numbers and Improper Fractions
♦ Comparing and Ordering Fractions
♦ Decomposing Fractions
♦ Adding and Subtracting Fractions
♦ Adding and Subtracting Fractions Word Problems (with 30 problems with 3 different real-world, cohesive themes)
♦ Multiplying with Fractions
♦ Multiplying with Fractions Word Problems (with 30 problems with 3 different real-world, cohesive themes)
♦ Decimal Notation for Fractions
♦ Comparing and Ordering Decimal Fractions
♦ Building Blocks, Goals, and Stretching Beyond Summative Assessments for Fractions Concepts & adding and subtracting fractions AND Decimal Fractions

4th grade standards based assessments common core
Don't forget that I've already created a bundle for my 4th Grade Differentiated Assessments. If you've bought one of the 4th grade sets, you can actually get a refund of that cost if you buy the bundle. TPT is amazing ya'll! And, you know what, I decided this month that if you want to use these assessments as a grade-level, the extra licenses would only be $3. That is a steal, ya'll. All of my differentiated/leveled assessment sets are right at 100 pages. I've put the extra license for the bundle at just $10 additional dollars per teacher. THAT'S FOR MATH ASSESSMENTS FOR THE WHOLE YEAR IN 4TH GRADE?!?!?!?!?!

When I finished 4th Grade Fractions, I turned my attention to 5th grade Place Value. (Umm, YAY 5th grade!!!) So excited to get 5th grade rolling because, don't tell, but it's my favorite grade level to teach. The 5th grade Place Value set that's focused on Patterns in Place Value, Rounding, and Comparing is all set for ya. Anyone else struggle with 5.NBT1 and 5.NBT.2?!?!?! Well, I struggled with it the whole time I was making the assessment, but I think I included enough versions and enough variety that you will have just what you need to assess, practice, review, and post-test your students.

Here's what you get in 5th Grade Place Value:
♦ Word Form, Recognizing that a Digit in 1 Place Represents 10 times as much as it represents to its right and 1/10 of what it represents to its left
♦ Describe the new value of a number when it is increased or decreased by powers of 10
♦ Change the Value of a Number by Multiplying or Dividing by a Power of 10

♦ Multiply or Divide by powers of 10, Explain Patterns that Occur in the number of zeros, and Explain how the decimal moves when a number is multiplied or divided by a power of 10

♦ Write Decimal Numbers in Word Form, Expanded Form, Base 10 Numeral Form

♦ Comparing the value of the same numeral in another number that is in a different place
♦ Identifying Place Values to Compare two Numbers

ROUNDING to the nearest whole, tenth, hundredth, and thousandth

Adding, Subtracting, Multiplying, and Dividing with decimals are in the works right now! And I'm having tons of fun writing the word problems! Did I just say that out loud?!? 
If you've been busy this month {like I know you have}, make sure you didn't miss any of these posts from September.

A Lesson Fail and 9 Ideas for Success with Teaching Character Traits

An Announcement about Growth Mindset Task Cards (leveled and differentiated) that you can get for free on Facebook

7 Things You Can Do to Help the Unobservant (busy) Principal

How I Survived What's for Dinner {as a busy teacher}

 tarheelstate teacher on instagram
Are you following me on Instagram? The hustle quote above is something I posted this week as well as this sweaty picture of myself after the gym. I'm going to be cranking it up on instagram, and honestly, it's my favorite form of social media. I'd love to have you friends following me over there!

Cheers to you! Don't forget to live, enjoy the life, and take a break from the hustle sometimes!

A Lesson Fail and 9 Ideas for Character Traits

Ideas and Activities for teaching character traits and describing characters
I once taught a guided reading lesson to a group of 4th and 5th graders on describing characters in a story. The plan was for us to read through the book (for the third time on day three of guided reading with this group), look at the character’s actions, and decide how we would describe them. With a group of five children, I expected that we would brainstorm a few words quickly and I could focus the lesson on justifying our character traits with evidence from the text.
Do you know where this story is going? Do you recall yourself attempting to teach the same lesson at some point in your classroom? You can laugh with me. It doesn't hurt too bad.

Back to the story, in case you are not recalling your own memories at this moment…I was quickly dismayed at the lack of vocabulary that my students were able to generate. I heard characters being described as nice, kind, mean, good, and bad.

Now, to add some background information to this story, I was teaching a reading intervention group. These students had been identified specifically for having low language skills. No one was ESL or ELL, but their ability to communicate their thoughts and retell stories through the use of grade-level appropriate vocabulary was very low. Our routine was to read the same short story each day for a week focusing our attention on different aspects of the story with each reading. And toward the last few days of the week, we spent time discussing the story by focusing on one tiny literary aspect. Students basically had the stories memorized, so the rest should be easy, right? FACE PALM!

However, after this lesson fail, I realized that my readers would not be able to come up with quality vocabulary without a little scaffolding from their teacher! And to tell the truth, even students reading on grade-level sometimes have difficulty coming up with good words COLD TURKEY, am I right?!? Thesaurus PLEASE!!! I quickly picked myself up off my kidney table (hehe) and came up with a strategy. I began developing a list of words, creating definitions, and providing students with pictures that would trigger the meaning of the words. I printed a set of these vocabulary word cards to use during my guided reading lessons. I would pull out a handful prior to each lesson, looking for words that DESCRIBED a character in the story AND words that were ANTONYMS of how I would describe the characters in the story. Can you imagine?!?!? Students were SO MUCH MORE successful! And you know what happened as the weeks continued? They started INTERNALIZING the words I had introduced to them and firing off new words not even included in my word set.

Later, I began using these character traits and definitions in reader's workshop  with the whole group when I taught lessons on describing characters. I used them in writer's workshop to support my minilessons focused on brainstorming ideas for personal narratives that focused on strong emotions and feelings. I printed all of the character traits on cardstock and made a border of character traits on the main wall of my classroom. You can find my 48 character traits in my teacherspayteachers store. {This summer, I created an EMOJI style set, which you will see in many of the pictures below.}

Some of the words I used may seem pretty basic to you or for some of your students but I have found that having even a simple list of words works magic in helping myself and students generate more sophisticated vocabulary for describing characters. Having this list helps us choose great words and generate better ones because we are not starting from scratch! No face palms for you, because you can learn from my mistakes!
Ideas and Activities for teaching character traits and describing characters

Today, I've got 9 Ideas for How You Can Get Your Students Practicing and Using Character Traits to Increase their Vocabularies for Describing Characters, Traits, and Feelings

1) VOCABULARY DEVELOPMENT: Begin a “Word a Week” Routine. Display the character trait/adjective at the beginning of the week. Use a Frayer Model (with four quadrants) or other recording sheet for students to keep up with the words they have learned and to guide aspects of your word explorations. You can focus on one word development topic each day, like synonyms, antonyms, real-world examples, and using the word in a sentence. Create an anchor chart with the four quadrants to display and allow students to add to it throughout the week as new ideas come to them.
oblivious emoji character trait lesson
I made two templates for "A Word A Week." One contains the 4 quadrants for the frayer model. The sheet below has students' write a definition for the vocabulary word in their own words, list synonyms for the word, make a connection to a book character or person they know, and make a plan for how they will use the word in writing and speaking.
vocabulary development ideas for character traits
2) VOCABULARY DEVELOPMENT: Given a list of words, students can complete a word knowledge sort to have them think about their level of mastery for each vocabulary word. (This would be a great strategy to use before starting your "Word a Week" routine. Then you could focus your attention on the words most students don't seem to know. This will allow you to get more bang for your buck as you teach them a new word each week.
word knowledge continuum sort for character traits
3) LITERACY STATIONS: Given a list of words, students can sort the words into positive/negative trait categories. To apply the words to their own reading, they can sort the character traits by focusing on one character in their book and whether or not that character exhibits that trait.
describing characters in books lessons and activities
4) READER’s WORKSHOP/INDEPENDENT READING: Tie the character traits to students’ independent reading and your read alouds. Lead students to think about the character traits shown by the characters in their books (or class read alouds) and to consider how a character's personality (or character traits) have changed over the course of a story.
wonder by rj palacio describing characters example
Addressing "character change" is a great follow up lesson to just describing characters because characters usually are different when we compare their actions and personalities at the beginning of a story to how they are at the end of a story.
describing character change and traits graphic organizer

5) GUIDED READING: Have a set definition cards ready to use during guided reading. As you discuss characters in the story, allow students to choose words that describe the characters. Work hard to help them find words that MORE PRECISELY describe the characters’ personalities and actions. The definition cards CAN BE USED AS TRIGGER WORDS to help spark other descriptive words not included in the set. As your students get better and better at describing characters, vote or discuss which words they have generated most accurately describe the characters and which word they think is the best representation.

6) WRITER’S WORKSHOP: Choose 3-4 strong traits or emotions that lend themselves to writing personal narratives about a time students exhibited those qualities {determined, courageous, embarrassed, and livid are always good choices for my students}. Display the character trait/emotion on the smartboard. Get students talking about the emotion and sharing stories (whole group or with a neighbor). Have students title a journal page with the chosen emotion and ask them to list as many memories, moments, and ideas that come to mind for that emotion. Using different character traits in this manner gives students many story ideas to choose from when writing personal narratives.
Ideas and Activities for teaching character traits and describing characters

7) BULLETIN BOARDS: Create a bulletin board of emotions that students can refer to when describing characters during writing activities and class discussions. You will be amazed at how their heads turn to refer to the words you have discussed. Expect students to come up with 3-4 descriptive words when describing characters in their own books and your read alouds.

8) Start the year with Character Trait Lessons: Start by having students use character traits to describe themselves as a "Get to Know You" activity. Turn this into a fun activity by having students leave their names off their papers, numbering each student's sheet, and posting them in the hallway. Students can guess “who’s who” by reading one another’s sheets.
using character traits as a get to know you activity

Put your students love of pumpkins to work with this PUMPKIN PERSONALITIES vocabulary and writing project! Students will engage in vocabulary learning through synonym/antonym/Frayer Model and other graphic organizer work. After students study a trait, they write a creative story about their pumpkin who has that trait. Want to take it to the next level? Have students decorate a real pumpkin (or cardstock pumpkin, included) to represent their pumpkin character in 3D.: 9) Use holidays/seasons as an opportunity for creative writing focused on character traits and adjectives. Students can write stories about pumpkins, snowmen, Valentine hearts, shamrocks, or anything else you can think of. They can personify the item, choose a word, and write a story that shows the object acting in that way. My students have written about malicious pumpkins, jubilant snowmen, and compassionate Valentine hearts. Sometimes I focused the writing project on poetry, other times, they were required to write imaginative narratives with a strong beginning, middle, and end. To prepare for celebrating the writing projects, we decorate a pumpkin (real or a template printed on cardstock), make a snowman, or create a valentines heart to represent the character in the story and their trait. Our writing share and celebration turns into a bit of a classroom party and is an educational way to have some fun around different holidays.

So there you have it! I hope I've given you some fresh ideas for incorporating more work with Character Traits into your classroom. I do know this for sure--when you make vocabulary development a FUN and REGULAR part of your classroom routine, students start using the words you have shared with them. Sometimes they are playful or use the words to impress you, but they are really trying them out on their tongue or in their writing and learning how to use the words more precisely. It's a win-win. I challenge you to teach your student some new words this year beyond your academic and content area vocabulary. It will be so rewarding! What do you do to keep vocabulary development fun in your classroom? How do you teach character traits?

And most of all, did you feel me when I was talking about my lesson flop? Please let me know in the comments if I am NOT alone on this one!
9 lesson activities for character traits and describing characters

Have you Introduced Growth Mindset This Year?

leveled math assessments differentiation for growth mindset
I've got a passion for getting students excited about math and changing every-single-mathitude {yes, that's math + attitude} I can into a positive one. If we expect to get anywhere with our students in math class, we MUST change their mindsets, attitudes, and belief in themselves.
Differentiation in math + growth mindset is this perfect fusion of my passion and teaching style! I'm always there to motivate my students and inspire them to feel AWESOME or differently about how they have felt about all things "school" in the past. Like I did last year, many of you have introduced the "Growth Mindset" way of thinking to your students this year, but after those introductory lessons, you may be wondering, "What's next?" If you are asking yourself this question, I think you are amazing! You have already laid a solid foundation for helping your students understand the "power of yet," you are helping them understand how their brains work, and that intelligence is NOT something we are born with that stays static. We can learn things that we never thought were possible simply by allowing our neural pathways to develop, coming back to challenging things again and again, and keeping our minds open to believing that WE CAN LEARN, we just may not have learned it yet.
How teachers can link learning goals to scaffold for students
I bet you've already figured this out, but it is nearly impossible to teach multi-digit multiplication to a student who has decided math is hard, believes they do not know and cannot learn their math facts, and quite frankly, hates math and groans the moment it begins. But, I believe we can give all students the instruction they need {and deserve} by using leveled and differentiated resources in our classroom. Now, you might not be able to do this all the time, every day for every single math objective you teach, but I PROMISE from experience, struggling students gain more traction when you teach and have them practice in a way that carefully links one learning goal to the next. Your average students will gain more confidence because they start out with an easier form of the objective and work their way up to new learning, and you will not feel so guilty about your high-performing students who learn things very quickly because you are prepared with the next step to increase the levels of difficulty for them. {Can you say #thismagicmoment? Sounds amazing, right?!?!}

With my huge passion for growth mindset and differentiated math assessments, I got hit {smack} hard this weekend with a light bulb idea! How could I resist offering something on Facebook that you can use to help infuse your classroom with differentiation and growth mindsets? Well, I couldn't :)

If you are teaching 3rd, 4th, or 5th grade math this year, I have got something for you that I think is really special! If you've introduced Growth Mindsets {or mathitudes ;) } to your students and are ready to really infuse your math class with learning that actually allows students to practice having a growth mindset, I'm going to be posting a problem set every Saturday morning that you can plan to use in your classroom during the upcoming week. Are all of your students on the same level math-wise {tongue in cheek ;)}? No? Then, these cards will be perfect for offering intervention, on-grade level, and extension for your higher students. You can use these for morning work, bell-ringers, or exit tickets! They will be great for review or pre-assessing even if this specific standard is not what you are working on right now. Here's place value card #1:
 Place Value 4th Grade Leveled Differentiated Task Card
I imagine teachers displaying these on the smartboard and having students write their answers in their math journals or on piece of paper. I'd have everyone start at #1 and build up to the more challenging problems. Depending on how much time you give and students' abilitites, some students may not finish all of the questions, and that's okay! You want students to being thinking in terms of how far they can "stretch" their brains. Things in math do get more challenging {oh, 4th and 5th grade math teachers, I see your hands are up!}, but I truly believe that if students can see the span of where they came from to where they will be going, they are more capable of believing in themselves. Isn't this the true purpose and true power of differentiation? #canigetawitness? #ifeellikeiampreaching!

Each "task card" was developed by studying the 3rd grade, 4th grade, and 5th grade standards. 3rd grade teachers, you will see problems that go beyond your grade level's expectations, but they may be perfect to try with your students to see how deep their mastery goes. 4th and 5th Grade teachers, your students will be able to take a step down, move to work on grade level standards, and then go a step beyond if they are ready.

If you are teaching 3rd, I won't be hitting all of your objectives, but you will find some questions that work really well for your curriculum (two cards focused on rounding whole numbers are on their way soon!). If you feel that some of the questions go beyond what your students can grasp, you can enlarge the image, crop it in powerpoint, or cover it up with your smartboard features. You could also just print cards that go beyond your standards to use as a "fast finisher" task for some of your higher students to try.

What else might you want to know about these freebie posts on FacebookI will number each post and title it with the domain/concept it focuses on. The first post is labeled Place Value #1. You will be able to use the search bar on my facebook page to find the task cards by typing in "Place Value #1," "Fractions #2," etc.

Shhhh! Here's card #2 that I am posting tomorrow morning! You get a sneak peek because you are an awesome blog reader! :) I'm also going to post an extra card on Thursday and then will begin my Saturday's only posts. I want to make sure you have a few question sets to choose from so you can get rolling with incorporating these into your classroom routine!
 Place Value 4NBT1 5NBT1 different number forms
Since I love you so much for being a blog reader, I will go ahead and give you card #3, but you are going to want to go make sure you are following my facebook page because I won't be posting anymore reminders about this on the blog. From time to time, I will remind my instagram followers about this facebook freebie if you want to make sure you are following me there too.
Is this something you can use? If you don't mind, tell me what grade you are teaching and what you are currently teaching in math. I'd love to try to pace myself with what you need!

What Teachers Can Do About the Unobservant Principal

Many of you are really getting into the groove and into your school year right now. It might seem like worrying about reaching out to your principal should be the last thing on your list, but I encourage you to go ahead and read what I have to share and get started implementing these tips right away. SERIOUSLY, even if your principal seems amazing, but they are new to your school and you don't know exactly how "present" and "observant" they will be, you need this!

In my 11 year teaching career, I have worked in two school settings and for 6 different principals and 4 assistant principals. {Did you do the math? That averages to less than 2 years each!?!?!} If you have worked for different principals, I’m sure you have found that great differences exist between them all. I’ve found that each principal prioritized different aspects of teaching and the school environment while leading my schools. In addition, principals often have to gear their focus towards district mandates and goals that the board has placed on them for the year.

While working for a variety of personalities, I’ve found one thing to be common--our leaders are busy too! I’ve had some leaders say that they have to remind themselves to step outside of their office. {Hmmm, I've got opinions about that...but we will just #letitgoletitgoelsaandana}

Today I want to share some strategies for ensuring that your school leaders see the wonderful things you are doing in your classroom on a regular basis.

-Send Email Reminders about Events: Get in the habit of sending an email to your leaders when you have a special event, guest speaker, or student presentation in your classroom. Did you just publish your stories in writers workshop? Is one of your students sharing a slideshow about their trip to Switzerland over spring break? Have you invited a parent into your classroom to talk about diabetes--his research area of expertise? (I have had all of these happen and I was sure to send a quick email to let my principals’ know what was going on and what time they should drop by). Even if you forgot to send an invitation ahead of time, sending an email 5 minutes before the event may work. Every principal has access to their email on their cell phone these days. And, the invite is evidence of what is happening in your classroom, regardless of whether or not your principals are able to visit.

No matter the personality of your leadership, they almost always go out of their way to drop in during these times AND you have created a trail of evidence that demonstrates what you are doing in your classroom. It’s a WIN-WIN.

-Student Shares: If you are not in the middle of DIRECT instruction when you principal pops in, ask that a student share what they are learning. If I am not in the middle of direct instruction, I am often super busy working with another student. This is a great time to say “Sarah, would you like to show Mr. what we have been working on?” “James, would you like to tell Mr. what we talked about during our lesson today?” This means if students are working independently on something, in small groups, or in partners, you have directed your leader to a place where he/she can interrupt the activity for a few minutes and feel like they get a sense of what is going on in the room. {Now, of course you can strategically pick those students--IE the ones you are sure can effectiively communicate what they have been learning, but I often like to put a child who needs to feel smart and good about learning in this position. Talking with the principal about what you are doing? Can you say ‘learning reinforcer’ and ‘confidence booster’?!?!}

-Newsletters and Classroom Blogs: Do you write a newsletter for parents? Or have a classroom blog where you share news, pictures from lessons, classroom routines? Makes copies of your newsletter and place it in the principals’ boxes. {I’ve had principals require this so that they stay in the loop}. I’ve since moved to sending weekly emails to parents and utilizing a classroom blog. When I’m sharing something that should be of interest to my principal, I email him/her the blog post and/or send the email to them as well.

-Have Excellent Communication with Parents: I believe that next to creating lines of communication with your leaders, it is important to have excellent communication with your parents. Sometimes parents will share their excitement and appreciation of your hard work on your behalf! When we have a field trip or fun classroom activity, I snap pictures throughout. If I don’t have time to blog about it, I share the “cute” pics of activities with a quick email to parents. {Also great for cc-ing your principal on these!}

-Share student work: Every year, I publish at least one classroom book or magazine--one year it was a Civil War Newspaper, another year students created “Future Articles” about potential careers, we write magazine articles about specific time periods in United States history before we go to DC, you get the idea! I always take student articles and copy them into books for the kiddos so that they can see everyone’s work. Make an extra copy and put one in your principals’ box.

Are you a google docs school? Even better. My students have google docs, and over the past few years I’ve had a few students share their work with the principal through the “share” feature. Students can type a quick message, “Mrs. Roose wanted me to share my project with you. We are working on travel brochures for different places in North Carolina. I hope you enjoy it!”

-Forward Parent Emails: Did you just get praises from a parent? Forward these over to your principal! If that sounds like you are tooting your own horn, comment on how much this child is grown and how you just wanted to share some student success with the principal! They love to hear good news too--write comments in your forwarding email focused on the child and it’s not really about you at all {but a good principal knows it’s because you are doing an amazing job! ;) }

-Document and Save: Go ahead and make an “Evidence” folder in your email account. Each time you send those emails, move them over to your "Evidence" folder. {You could even call this folder "I'm AWESOME." #nojudgmentzone #teachersneedALLthePOSITIVEwecanget.} Not only will you have a record of what you have done, but you will most likely have a record of your principal’s response. After popping into the classroom, my favorite principals would even send me a complimentary email full of positive feedback and interest to share with students! File those emails! Don’t feel like your principal knows enough about what you do and how you teach? Who cares!?!?! You have been collecting evidence for yourself ALL year! And truly, those unobservant principals that seem to be checked-out are the ones missing out on watching teaching and learning in action and getting to know your sweet kiddos better.

Please do not take my suggestions as brown-nosing. I consider myself a person of character and sucking up is truly (and sometimes painfully detrimental to myself) not in my vocabulary. However, when we have leaders who do not make finding their way into our classrooms for more than required observations a priority, we must take care of ourselves and our own professional reputation.

If you are having a really difficult time with your leader(s) or become nervous when they pop into the classroom, these are ways that you can invite him/her in on your own terms where you are in control of the situation and what they will observe. You will begin building the connection that your classroom and your students are where your leaders are welcome to drop in AND enjoy teaching, learning, and children! And, perhaps you will receive more grace on the days that they pop in and you are not in the middle of a magical lesson.

 7 Ways You can Help a Busy Principal Build a Better Relationship with Principal
Even when a principal is amazing, they often get SOOO busy with all the other things it takes to keep a school running smoothly. Sometimes, your reputation proceeds you and they don't pop in because they aren't worried about you. But, you still need to reach out to them. I'd much rather my principal REALLY have evidence for my amazing teaching skills than just spout off generic praises or hearsay about my teaching. 

If you found this post helpful, be sure you pin it! I'd also love for it to get into the hands of new teachers. These are tips that I had to learn over time {and wish I'd used more often once I realized that my new and promising principal did not visit my classroom as much as they envisioned they would}.

I'm hoping you all have really supportive principals this year and that your relationship with him/her only encourages you to teach harder and motivates you to be there for your kids! Do you have any tips you would add to this list? Drop them in the comments below!


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