Monday, September 23, 2013

Classroom Q&A...With Meg from Fourth Grade Studio!

 Meg Anderson is an education blogger and 4th grade teacher who currently lives in Wisconsin with her family. You can find lots of practical teaching strategies and creative project ideas on her blog Fourth Grade Studio. Meg met up with me a few weeks ago to answer some questions for the Classroom Q&A Interview Series.

Q: I just LOVE your creative “to-do” lists! Which type seems to work best for you?

A: Well, that's the thing.  NOTHING works well all the time so I am constantly shaking things up.  I am easily bored!

Q:  You've mentioned on your blog that you went to college to become an architect. What drew you into teaching? 

A: Well, in high school I loved design so I packed my bags and headed for architecture school. Soon into the program I realized it wasn't for me...but it took some real soul searching to discover that my heart was in teaching.  I had coached for years, loved working with kids but everyone told me I was "too smart" to be a teacher.  Unfortunately, it took me a while to figure out how damaging that attitude was--and still is.

Q: You’ve “confessed” that you eat pizza nearly every day.  :-)  What kind of pizza is your favorite?

A: Tricky question.  I'm definitely a pepperoni fan.  I love me a crispy thin crust!

Q: Do you prefer getting your pizza from a particular place?

A: No...I am perfectly willing to shop around! Little dives tend to have the best pizza as opposed to big chains.

Q: So what was the last book you read?

A: Big girl book--"Snow Child"...kid book "The Fourth Stall".

Q: What new skill related to blogging or creating products would you like to learn?

A: much to learn!  I started to teach myself Photoshop this summer and found that really frustrating.  I am working really hard to learn all the features of Powerpoint so I can make my products easy to read and useful.  As for blogging, I just keep learning more every day--from learning a little html, to finding apps to put words on my photos, and so on! I am pondering celebrating my 1 year blog anniversary with a blog makeover!

Q: What is your most popular product on TpT?

A:  Well, my Hands on Fraction Unit has sold the most--people really followed my journey with that last year and it continues to be one of my top sellers.  People also seem to really like my Open Ended Math Challenges and my word problem sets.  I have several new products that came out this summer that teachers are finding helpful as well as they organize instruction for the year.

Q: Your close-up photographs of flowers and animals are amazing. What camera do you use?

A: I use Canon cameras...I have two different ones--a Powershot SX20 IS point and shoot and just got a Canon Rebel that I am learning to use.

Q: Any photography tips you’d like to pass along to novices like me? 

A: Take TONS....delete the bad ones. Try different angles and different light and have fun...some of my best photos have happened by accident! I love getting low to the ground and seeing things from that angle.

Q: What are some of your favorite fonts right now?

A: Oh...I am a KG font girl!  I have her full license.  I am currently into Lego House bold, Janda Closer to Free, Beyond These Hazel Eyes for products.  For personal use I love Like a Skyscraper and Payphone!

Q: So...If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?

A: I think I would be a nomad so I could sample all sorts of different places!  Nothing too hot...too cold...too rainy...too many bugs...

Q: What are you looking forward to doing differently this upcoming school year?
A: First of all, I got a grant for 6 ipads, so I am anxious to begin finding meaningful ways to work them into my instruction.  I want my students to begin blogging, but my grant was to use the ipads to help the students keep electronic math portfolios where they document their learning. We also have a new math series and I plan on really digging into to a more guided math/math workshop approach.  I have dabbled in it but I plan to really work on different ways to organize instruction--I plan on blogging about that a lot this year! First year implementing Words Their language arts curriculum...coteaching with a special ed teacher! Too much!

Want to know more? 
Check out Meg's blog...
The Teacher Wife

...or follow her on Facebook, Instagram or TpT.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

5 Reasons You Should Start Using the Class Messenger App....TODAY!

Last spring I discovered this fun little app created to keep teachers, parents, and students connected. (At the time it was called "What Did We Do Today?" or WDWDT? - and is now funded by Scholastic and known as Class Messenger.) I decided to give it a try, and parents just loved it!

What is Class Messenger?

This free app is essentially a private messaging service. Simply take a quick picture of something happening in your classroom with your tablet or phone, add a brief message, hit "send", and parents will be emailed your message. You can also take advantage of other cool features like Homework/Reminder Messages, Surveys, Meet With Me, and Volunteer/Donation requests.  And it's fantastic that you can send your entire class the same message, or send a personal email to just one student's family about a special moment in that child's day.

So...if you're not totally sold on this app already, here are:

 5 Reasons Why You Should Use Class Messenger

1. It's Quick and Fun
Important messages are distilled down into a couple sentences and a picture.  If you love Instagram  - Class Messenger is right up your alley. And if you use photo editing apps (like A Beautiful Mess), you can really add some "pop" to your photos by adding text, border, or doodles.

2. It Keeps Students Engaged
When students know any picture I take might get sent home to parents, they definitely kick it up a notch and want those pictures to show them doing their best work and making an effort.

3. It's Simple
Setting up your class will be easy - it took me less than 15 minutes to add the contact information for my 24 students. (You can also have multiple classes if you need them.) And I think you'll find using Classroom Messenger is very straightforward.

4. It's Private
Unlike classroom blogs, Twitter, or Facebook - Class Messenger is completely private. This is a great way to give parents real-time snapshots of their child's day without compromising on security. Plus - you can be sure your messages won't get buried in a Facebook or Twitter feed. Everything gets sent to their email inbox or they can sign up for push notifications.

5. It Builds Positive Parent Relationships
What parent wouldn't love to receive a picture of their daughter triumphantly holding up a rocket she just built in school that day?  Or a picture of their son hard at work drafting a personal narrative?  Rather than relying on their kids to answer the "What did you do in school today?" question (which even my first grader just shrugs at) - Class Messenger can serve as a conversation starter with families. A consistent flow of positive messages sent home from teachers keeps our focus on all the great things happening at school. Plus, it provides a strong foundation for teachers and parents when they might need work together if a problem does arise with a student.

This was my first picture sent to parents  - with a note complimenting the class on their fantastic behavior and effort during the first few days of school.

How Do I Let Parents Know About Class Messenger?

Here is the letter I sent home explaining the app to my students' families. If you like what you see, you can download this Class Messenger Parent Letter for free and adjust it to suit your needs.
Have I convinced you yet?  I truly know you'll love it, so head over to your app store to download Class Messenger. Like Today. Right now.  :-)
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Monday, September 9, 2013

Keep Your Focus!

Staying focused at school is always something I struggle with.  There are a million and one tiny tasks that can distract us from accomplishing our major goals during planning time - parent emails, calls from counselors, schedule updates, a text message from home, another email.....wait....what was I talking about??  ;-)
Since I'm always looking for ways to really boost my efficiency and focus, I found this cool infographic from Anna Vital quite intriguing...
Of the ones mentioned here, these absolutely work for me:
  • putting on headphones and playing music or using the "concentration" setting with my Relax Melodies App (you gotta try it - I swear it works!)
  • making a short list of priority items
  • clearing my desk (out of sight - out of mind!)
I think framing a picture of my major goals would work. But....I'm not sure keeping food at my desk is such a good idea!

How about you? What helps keep you focused at work?
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Tuesday, September 3, 2013

3 Back to School Gift Ideas - Students, Teachers, & Teammates

Today I want to share with you three cute ideas for back-to-school gifts. 

For Students...
 These sweet and colorful M&M treat toppers were a big hit with my students today. Just print and staple to the top of a fun-sized bag and voila! The perfect "Welcome Back" treat.
You can download them for free from Stacy at She's {Kinda} Crafty.
(The treat toppers....not the M&Ms....sorry!)

For Teachers...
Both of my daughters started school this week (1st Grade & Pre-school).  I've received so many heartfelt and clever gifts from my students that I'm excited to start paying that forward to their fantastic teachers.
My gals helped me pick out some yummy cookies, cute canning jars, and bright ribbon to make this special gift.
You can snag the tags for free right here from Aimee Lane at It's Overflowing.

For Teammates...
Last year I switched grades and buildings - starting over with a new group of teachers. I cannot say how lucky I am to be working with such a talented and thoughtful group of people. They graciously answered my million-and-one questions last year without ever once rolling their eyes or brushing me off. So...although there is no way to truly repay that kindness, I thought a small "Welcome Back" gift would be a nice gesture. (And who doesn't love colorful pens?!)
And again, the tags are FREE! Grab them right here from Corinna at Surfin' Through Second.
(These are fantastic because they could also work for students and teachers as well.)

Hope you're off to a great start of the school year!
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Monday, September 2, 2013


September 1st! For me that means I have just one more day to prep for back-to-school on Tuesday. And it also means it's time to link up with Farley!

Listening... the Sound of Music Soundtrack. This is one of my favorite movies - don't even ASK how many times I've seen it! When I was student-teaching, I blasted "I Have Confidence" in my car on the way to my placement - lol! 

... Espresso Brownies!  My sister-in-law brought a batch of them down the other day....mmmmm. She is an amazing baker and cook.  So glad she lives right behind us so we sometimes get unexpected little treats.  :-)

...about some creative snapshots to do for my September Photo-A-Day Challenge on Instagram. Tomorrow is "hard work" - HA! That will be easy! The night before school starts is the definition of hard work for teachers!

...more lava lamps for my classroom. I have two right now but I've kind a nice groovy vibe going on and a couple more would be fantastic.

Needing... finish my letter to parents explaining a new communication app I'll be using this year to keep in touch with them.  I'll be writing a post about it soon - it's AMAZING!

Personal Goals for September...
1. Healthier eating
2. Consistent exercise
3. Read more

How is your September...currently?  Link on up at Farley's so I can go check it out!
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