Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Classroom Q&A...with Christi from Ms. Fultz's Corner!

Christi Fultz, 3rd grade teacher, lives in Ohio with her husband and three adorable dogs. She's a digital designer and author of Ms. Fultz's Corner where she shares tutorials to improve your blog, seasonal teaching resources, and a lot more! Last week, Christi sweetly agreed to answer some questions for the Classroom Q&A Interview Series.

Q: Have you been able to hit the beach this summer?

A: YES! We went to the Outer Banks of North Carolina for 7 glorious days. We were married right on the beach 2 years ago and promised each other we'd go back every year. We pack our 3 dogs in the back seat and make a road trip out of it.

Q: What are your dogs' names?

A: Our dogs are Isabelle (Izzy), Gracie, and Lily. My need to have things that match perfectly required they all end in the -y sound. It really is a sickness.  ;-)

Q: Do you ever bring them to school?

A: We have a pet day each year during our amazing animal unit, so my husband usually brings one of the dogs out to visit. They take turns each year, haha!

Q:  Along with writing your blog, Ms. Fultz's Corner, you also design blogs and create products for TpT. What percentage of your time is spent on each one?

Design by Christi
A: During the school year, I only design 3 blogs per week so I can really focus on my classroom and making things that work for my own students. Getting those same resources for TpT takes up a lot of my time, so I usually spend 2-3 hours per night and a good portion of Sundays working. In the summer, I do many more blogs per week and work almost 8 hours per day on designs and products for TpT. Ms. Fultz's Corner is always inspired by the products I'm currently working on, so I stop to blog whenever inspiration hits. It's definitely my easiest project. :)

Q: Polka dots, chevron, and pennant banners have been consistently popular in digital design - what new trends do you see coming?

A: Washi tape is huge and there are cute digital versions popping up all over the place. I'm also watching elephants sneak up on owls and am secretly pulling for them to take over. I point elephants out to my husband each time I see them while we're out shopping. I also watch fabric for inspiration. Chevron was popular in fabric well before it took over the blogging/teacher product world.

Q: What software do you use to create your digital products and designs?

A: I primarily work in PhotoShop CS6 for anything design-related. I've recently started to dabble in Illustrator as well.

Q: What was a turning point for you with your blog - a time when you started to feel like you could be successful ? 

A: I started my blog over winter break and felt like I was talking to myself for those first few months. It really took off over the summer when I had more time to devote to networking. By the time back to school hit, I was hooked and knew this was something I could be successful with. The collaboration, support, friendship, and professional development that comes from having a blog is amazing.

Q: Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+ - you are one connected gal! What's your favorite social media site?

A: I love Pinterest because I'm constantly filing ideas away. I have a seasonal Pinterest board for each
month, so I can keep track of ideas all year long. When that month comes, I just pull up my board and have a ton of resources at my fingertips. I do the same thing for content areas. When I need a great reading mini lesson, I head to my reading board. BUT, the *social* part of social media is all about Instagram right now. That's where you see the "real" teachers behind the blogs, what they're doing every day, where they shop, more of their families, etc. I sincerely hope that Instagram stays that way and we don't kill it with our products and promotions. I like to keep the *social* part going.

Q: You've mentioned before that you tend to be a night owl. Why do you think you work best at night?

A: I am such a night owl! If I could go to bed at 3 every night and sleep 'til noon, I would be so pumped. I've always been that way. I'm just not a morning person, so it takes me a while to get up and moving. My creativity kicks in when the sun goes down.

Q: Is it tricky to get back to a more traditional schedule once school starts again?

A: I actually require a lot of sleep so going to bed at 10pm during the school year KILLS me. I joke that a school that opened at 10:00am would be perfect for me and I adore 2 hour delays. I am already dreading getting up at 5:45am in a few weeks. I will not handle that well at all. I always try to adjust my schedule back gradually in the weeks leading up to school, but I just can't do it.

Q: What is your most popular product?

A: My newsletter template packs are all pretty popular. I think it's because they come in a variety of themes to match teachers' classrooms (owls, farm, seasonal, animals, etc.). They're pretty universal because most of us write newsletters for our classroom., and we want them to be cute. Having a premade template where you can type and go saves time. They're budget friendly too because they get used over and over. I think as teachers we are all about things that are quick, easy, and budget friendly!

Q: What's one of your favorite activities to do with your new students on the first day of school?

A: The school supply/organization junkie in me loves getting our supplies sorted for the year. I make a big deal about how smart, capable, and independent my third graders will be. Helping them color-code, plan, and organize themselves for the year is so cool. They flip when I give them Sharpies and let them be in charge of their own things. Love that!

Q: If you were a kitchen utensil, which one would you be?

A: Oh my goodness, none of them! I hate the kitchen if it has anything to do with cooking. I do enjoy baking (when I have time, ha!). Maybe a cute cupcake wrapper?  ;)

Q: You've hinted on your blog that you enjoy singing - what's your favorite song to sing along to right now?

A: I love to sing, though my husband forbids it because I'm so terrible. Lol! Right now I'm currently on an old school Bon Jovi kick. He's in my ipod on shuffle and plays constantly whether I'm working, in the shower, or in the car. I think my favorite is probably "Bad Medicine".

Want to know more? 
Check out Christi's blog...
Ms. Fultz's corner
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Monday, July 29, 2013

20% Off SALE & Giveaway Winners!

The 3 winners of the Multiplication & Division Discs Giveaway are.... 

Najda
Marcia
Jennifer
    Congratulations! 

    And as an extra thank you to my followers... my entire TpT store is 20% off for the next three days!
    Just click on the button to head over to my store and do a little shopping.

    And stay tuned....a 3rd Grade blogger that you all know and love will be featured soon on the Classroom Q&A Interview Series:-)
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    Saturday, July 27, 2013

    Spreading Vocabulary Wings {Word Nerds Book Study}

    Chapter 7 of Word Nerds: Teaching All Students to Learn and Love Vocabulary hosted by Sabra at Teaching With a Touch of Twang
     See other posts here: Ch 1, Ch 2, Ch 3, Ch 4, Ch 5, Ch 6, Ch 7

    Overview
    This chapter outlines some tools to deepen children's knowledge of words.

    Activities to Deepen Vocabulary Knowledge

        1. Teach Morphology
        The ability to use and understand prefixes, suffixes, inflectional endings, and Greek & Latin roots will help children "unlock" the secrets of more sophisticated words.   After some background building, your students can work with you to dig deep into a longer word by breaking it up into its parts in an activity they call "Crystal Ball Words".  


        2. Fix-up Sentences 
        Have students take a dull sentence and "dazzle it up" with some sophisticated vocabulary.  The authors got this idea from the book Pirate Pete's Talk Like a Pirate where they contrast rough "pirate" talk with more expressive and sophisticated "Rascal" talk.  Here's an example:
        "Pirate" Version - "Me cut rock with me tool."
        "Rascal" Version - "My chisel blazes through the rock."

        3. Use Books to Deepen Vocabulary Learning
        As Overturf points out, there are a huge variety of children's book authors that love to play with language. Those novels can be read just for fun or as a springboard into an activity that can support your vocabulary unit.  Here are just a few they mention:



        Word Nerds really goes into some depth about how to use each of the books, and I know all of you have fantastic ideas also. I'll keep posting on my Pinterest Vocabulary Board if you want to gather ideas to use later.

        What's your favorite book to teach vocabulary?

        Wednesday, July 24, 2013

        Multiplication & Division Discs {Giveaway}

        Do your students struggle with their multiplication and division facts?  Is the sky blue?  ;-)
        Last year I saw my students get frustrated with math assignments not because they didn't know the correct procedures, but because they were not fluent and automatic in their basic multiplication and division skills.  Since there is less and less time during the day for review and practice, I needed something the students could do independently and anywhere.  And although flash cards can be great, they tend to be cumbersome, take up space, and can cost a lot of money to supply to every student.
        So I made something I thought would work better - Multiplication & Division Discs. In my opinion, these discs are a far better choice because they are...
        • Efficient - you cover both multiplication and division on the same card
        • Compact - a whole set (1-15) fits easily in a student's desk, folder, or even pencil case
        • Portable - students can carry them anywhere for a quick review
        • Independent - children self-check their answers
        • Budget friendly - just print as needed instead of buying flash cards over and over again
        Plus...they're really easy to use.  Here's how you do it:

        1. Print the pages and copy them double sided on colorful paper. 
        2. Cut out the discs.
        3. Put 12 hole punches around the disc between the outer number and the inside circle.
        4. Start with a set of facts you want to practice, such as x2. Put your finger over the hole of the number you are multiplying by, such as 2 X 6. Guess the correct answer......
        5. ... and flip over the disc to check! Repeat with the other numbers on the disc or reverse the process to practice division facts.
        And your students are on their way to mastering those facts! 
        You can take a closer look at this product by clicking here (or on any picture above).

        So...here's how you can get these for free.  Just pin a picture of the discs from this page or directly from my TpT store. Then come back here and leave a comment with the link to your pin, and I'll randomly pick 3 winners Sunday night. Super easy!
        Update: Winner's Selected!
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        Tuesday, July 23, 2013

        Are Charter Schools Effective? {Guest Post}

        I'm pleased to welcome Ann Davis as my guest today to share her experiences with charter schools.

        Are Charters the New Way?

        In Wales, Wisconsin, a sixteen-year-old student wakes at 9:30 am and is on Skype by 10 am to speak with a non-profit in Thailand about his current research project on South Asian human trafficking.  In San Mateo, California a seven-year-old works with two partners to build a paper propeller using the math and science skills she learned in class that day.  An at-risk twelve-year-old in Washington DC attends a middle school that runs from 7:30 am to 5 pm with class sizes of 10 students.  All of these students that I described attend charter schools throughout the United States.

        As a student that attended a conventional public school in the suburbs of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, I have become extremely curious of the charter-school-transformation taking place in the U.S.  I have volunteered and taught at various charter schools in New Orleans, Louisiana, which boasts the highest percentage of charter schools within a public school district (over 85%).  Additionally I have visited many types of charters across the nation.  Charter schools differ from public and private schools in many ways, but like many schools, you can find that some are developing future leaders, while others are holding back future generations.

        So What is a Charter School Anyways?

        Charter schools are similar to traditional public schools in many ways.  Charter schools are a type of public school, and like public schools they are non-sectarian and cannot discriminate on any basis.  Additionally they receive public money but are subject to less rules and regulations than traditional public schools.  However, in order to consistently receive public money, charters must produce certain results, often measured through test scores. 

        Because charter schools have fewer guidelines than traditional public schools, it’s common to see these schools possessing a unique school culture or developing new learning models.  For example KIPP, one of the largest charter networks serving low-income students, has acquired a culture of “no excuses” with a focus on character development.  KM Global, a charter school in Wales, Wisconsin, which focuses on global leadership and innovation, follows an experiential learning model in which students hold internships during the school day, which they later apply to classroom discussion and learning.

        So Charter Schools are Basically Amazing?

        There are upsides and downsides to this new model of education.  Not all charters are perfect, and it’s the loose regulations of charters that can cause either successful innovation, or, as I’ve sometimes seen, a no-learning environment. 

        The positive aspects of a charter are directly related to their fewer rules.  Because charters have more freedom than traditional schools, their hiring process, curriculum and school management system is determined by the administration and individual teachers.  Some popular charter curriculums include STEM (Science, Technology, Math and Engineering), a curriculum that focuses on hands-on learning in science and math.  Montessori education, which focuses on child independence and mixed-aged classrooms, is also very popular among charter schools. 

        In addition to changes in curriculum and management structure, there are not as many rules in place for staff salary.  A teacher can potentially make more money at a charter compared to a traditional charter in the same district.  In New Orleans, I have heard of teachers in their third year of teaching making over $70,000 annually!

        Unfortunately few guidelines not only foster innovation, but also cause corruption.  Although charter schools are designated as non-profit organizations, they still have the ability to decide how their money is spent.  With fewer rules, charter schools can more easily cheat the system, and hurt children in the process.  For example, a friend of mine worked at a newly opened charter school in Memphis, Tennessee.  At the beginning of the school year, two school leaders embezzled funds and with no money to pay their staff, the teachers were paid on credit until February, when the credit ran out.  Needless to say, the school shut down. 

        Positive or negative, the charter school movement is sweeping across the nation.  Charters have the ability to allow for more options of new and innovative learning methods.  However, it is also extremely important that the loose regulations that charters hold are not overstepped.

        Ann Davis is a public school teacher in New Orleans, LA and also works for Haystack EDU, a website that provides jobs, resources and other opportunities to educators around the nation.



        Monday, July 22, 2013

        More Awesome Science Education! {Monday Morning Inspiration}

        This is an open letter to the president asking for better, "more awesome" science education that actually addresses modern advancements. Really...this could apply to ALL science.  And...it's just a cool video, too.  :-)

        "Open Letter to the President: Physics Education"

        Have an awesome week!

        Sunday, July 21, 2013

        Classroom Q&A.....with Diane from Fifth in the Middle!

        Diane lives in Eastern Iowa with her husband and two lovely daughters. She's been teaching 5th grade for over fourteen years and shares teaching strategies and classroom management tips on her blog Fifth in the Middle. Last Friday night, Diane graciously agreed to meet up with me via Google+ and answer some questions for the Classroom Q&A Interview Series.

        Q: How is your summer going so far? And when do you have to go back? 

        A: It's going pretty well... quick! I'm trying to build my TpT business this summer, and my to-do list is so long!  I'm not sure when I go back, is that bad?!  I'll check......   Aug. 14.   LOL!

        Q:  I remember some of your first posts showed pictures of your new classroom and ideas for your rainbow color theme. What ideas do you have for your classroom this year?

        A: Well, I'm sticking with the rainbow colors thing... too much time and $ invested in the crate seats and all that. This year the big change will be rearranging my room to make more use of the front of my room. I also have a new work board that I posted about that I can't wait to try. And I'm adding more art that I've made in the rainbow colors. :)  Of course, whenever I pull out art materials, my girls want to help...

        Q: You talk about your two daughters from time to time on your blog. Do they ever help you with work? 

        A: Not really. They are three and seven, so sometimes they make things more difficult than helping :)

        Q: So you used to teach in an intermediate 4/5 school. How did you wind up in a middle school? 

        A: OK, so long story about the switch. When I started teaching, my district had 2 K-3 buildings, a 4-5 building, 6-8, and 9-12. The elementaries started to fill up, so they tore down the ancient middle school and rebuilt it to make it a 5-8 building, which made the elementaries both K-2 and the intermediate school is now 3-4.

        Q: How do you like a middle school setting so far?

        A: I don't have as much flexibility in my scheduling, but I do like not having to teach math and teaching more social studies! Of course, the kids are starting to have more middle school problems that I don't even want to think about!

        Q: I love your fun Math products using Lucky Charms, Jelly Beans, Conversation Hearts, and Candy Corn. Your class sounds delicious! Do your students love those days when they get to sample some treats while learning about Math?
        A: Well, when I taught math, I only did the conversation hearts, and the ones I used were like ten years old, so I always told them to eat them at their own risk! I do believe in bribery with suckers and all sorts of other treats :) No one leaves my class hungry! You would not believe what a ten-year-old will do for a three-cent sucker!

        Q: Do you miss teaching all the subjects?

        A: Not at all. I've never taught science, and math is so much prep work. It gives me more time to devote to ELA and social studies.

        Q: What does the first day of school look like for you?

        A: Crazy hectic! Trying lockers, unpacking and organizing their things, making sure everyone is in the right place. We also start our PBIS lessons since fifth grade is new to the building.

        Q: I really enjoy the blog posts where you share pictures of your flowers – what’s coming up in your garden now? 

        A: My lilies are on their way out :(  -  they're my favorite. My butterfly bush is starting to bloom and my balloon flowers are popping open!  I think that I go look at it all every day to see if something new opened! It's kind of like a watched pot.

        Q: When planting flowers like daffodils and tulips, it’s usually a long time to wait until the payoff. I’ve always thought that people who plant bulbs are particularly patient and well planned. Does that describe you?

        A: I'm a fairly patient person... it takes a while to really frustrate me. I would say well-planned is putting it lightly. Definitely OCD when it comes to stuff like that. I am a total perfectionist.

        Q: So what is the most popular post on your blog?

        A: I posted this name stick holder thing a few weeks back and it has been HUGE! Over 4,000 hits so far, and that's a lot for my little blog.
        Q: WOW! That's fantastic!!  Is that the one you made with Crystal Light containers?

        A: Yep!

        Q: What product are you most proud of?

        A: Right now, I think that I like my checkout posters the best. I've really tried to step up my game with clipart and backgrounds, and I feel that with that product I took some inspiration and made it my own. It has also gotten a great response.

        Want to know more? 
        Check out Diane's blog...
        Fifth in the Middle
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