Monday, December 31, 2012

Pinky Swear! I Will Blog at Least Twice a Month

I am putting this in writing, so that you all can hold me accountable. 

I resolve to...
blog on Sub Hub at least twice a month... Pinky swear!

I thought a lot about this resolution. Since getting my own classroom in September, I had every intention of continuing Sub Hub. But that just didn't happen. I'm sure everyone who has undergone or is undergoing a first year of teaching completely understands what I just wrote. Although, honestly it's not terribly different from what I was doing long-term subbing. It just doesn't come to an end... which is wonderful in so many ways, but not so hot for the personal, outside-of-teaching life.

I do think I am at a point where I can certainly commit to twice a month of subbing advice, however. I definitely miss being able to share pointers, tips, advice, anything that may help your days of subbing or preparing for a sub a little easier. And now I feel like I can much better give advice from both sides.

I have a list of ideas to blog about, but I am always open to hearing from you. If there is a particular issue you are having, just email me or post on my Facebook page, and I will try to address it. I know one of the biggies is making sure you have activities to do. An idle student is a problem student, so don't let them become idle. Always have something for them to do.

If you are new to Sub Hub, you may not know that I have some freebies and products to help with just that. Click on the Emergency Lesson Plans tab above to get links to all my free sets of sub plans. Grades K-5 are currently available with the exception of fourth grade. Unfortunately, I discovered that Dr. Seuss has stricter copyright rules than most, and had to take down my lesson plans based on The Lorax. I am working on another free set of fourth grade plans on the top of my to-do list.

Also available are additional sets of one-day plans. There are two lines of those plans... Just Add Paper and CCSS-aligned plans. And there is a line called Down with Downtime with subject-specific filler activities so students never are left to their own devices again.

The Just Add Paper plans for grades K-5 are for those true emergencies, when you don't even have time or access to make copies of reproducibles. They incorporate foldables, graphic organizers, and other hands-on activities that only need paper to complete. All you need for those is paper and a picture book of your choice to read-aloud and base some of the activities on.

The CCSS-aligned plans for grades K-4 are one-day plans based on a picture book and aligned with the Common Core. Each lesson states which learning objective it addresses so even emergency sub days can be CCSS-focused.

If you have some of these plans and activities in your bag of tricks or your emergency sub folder, you will always have something on hand to keep students busy in a meaningful way.

And I mean it about holding me to my blogging resolution. It takes a support system to help you keep those buggers, so I need your help. Please, if you haven't heard from me in a couple of weeks, start bugging me! Message me, email me, spam me... whatever it takes. This is one resolution I WILL be keeping!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

A Super Fun Blogger Meet Up!

What happens when a group of teacher-bloggers discover that they live near each other? Well, we decide we have to meet up, of course! And when you live in the San Antonio area, there is no other choice but to meet up at a Mexican restaurant. That's what happened on December 27 at Chuy's. What fun to put faces and voices with all the amazing teaching tips and resources found on all their blogs! And I was thrilled to see that a couple of bloggers drove in from Austin for the occasion, and Gladys of Teaching in High Heels even drove up (with her hubby) from Eagle Pass! That is some serious dedication!

Now, apparently I was far too busy gabbing it up to remember to take any photos, so these are courtesy of Jennifer from Rowdy in First Grade and Shannon from If My Calculations are Correct.

We chatted (about everything), we shared classroom stories, we drank (yummy margaritas and sangria), and we ate. And time just flew by. Three hours later, we reluctantly headed our separate ways vowing to do it again. My only regret was being at the end of the table and not getting to chat with the amazing ladies at the other end. But the brilliant Farley from Oh Boy Fourth Grade had a great idea... rotate throughout the evening! That will be on the agenda for next time.

Here are the fabulous ladies who attended (and add in Rachel from Fisher Reyna Education). Be sure to check them all out and tell them Sub Hub sent you.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

What Can You Do in Response to Sandy Hook?

I can't even write or think of the horror that occurred at Sandy Hook yesterday. When I found out, I could not stop crying, and still tear up as I scroll through Facebook, watch the news, and read the paper. If you are at all like me, you have two major burning questions about the whole situation:

2) What can I do to help?

I don't know that there is a good answer to either question. We may never know the why part, or we may not be able to comprehend the answer. As far as question number two, again, I don't think there is anything huge I can do to help. But if I can do a little bit of good, then at least that's something. I want to do two things in this post.

The first is to remind all subs to make sure you know the emergency procedures of the schools where you sub. Unfortunately, you never know when tragedy may strike, and it could just as easily happen on a day when you are in a classroom, rather than the full time teacher. Make sure you know what to do in case of fire, power outages, inclement weather, and most horrifyingly of all, a lockdown. The death toll was lowered in Sandy Hook because of quick thinking, heroic teachers who knew how to keep their children safe. You need to know the exact same thing.

Full time teacher, you have a roll in this too. Make sure in your sub folder or sub tub, there is information on emergency procedures. Sure, the subs who work at your school nearly every day may know, but there is always one who has never been there before. Don't put your students at risk because you didn't pass along the information.

I know we all hate the drills. Yes, they are a pain. They interrupt our day of teaching; they upset some of the special needs students, and they are stressful to try to keep students quiet. But, Sandy Hook showed us that those drills are sometimes needed in real life situations, and we need to practice so we can keep our students safe.

The second thing I want to say in this post is that I will be participating in a special event tomorrow, and I hope if you are a blogger, you will join me. For tomorrow, all participating blogs will go silent to honor everyone affected by the events in Sandy Hook. Thank you to Meghan Farley of Oh Boy Fourth Grade for coming up with the idea. All you need to do to join is to grab this button designed by Michelle at 3AM Teacher and place it on your blog Sunday, December 16, 2012. Only post the picture and title your post "Silence for Sandy Hook Elementary." Let's all unite and show those affected how much we care.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Sale! Sale! Sale! Sale!

If you are anything like me at all, you can't resist a good deal. Come on, fess up. I know a ton of you went Black Friday shopping. Unfortunately, I didn't get to this year. Here's a way for you to get all the lessons, curriculum, activities, forms, etc. you need for your classroom from the comfort of your own home... and at a HUGE savings. It's the Cyber Monday (plus Tuesday) sale on Teachers Pay Teachers!

Nearly all the sellers (including those big names that make you get the stars in your eyes) will be offering 20% off in addition to the site-wide 10% discount code of CMT12. That makes 28% off at most TpT stores! I know, the math doesn't make sense on the surface, but trust me, it works out to 28% off.

I will be busy filling my wishlist today with items from some of my favorite fourth grade sellers like Jennifer Runde, Shelley Gray, Meghan Farley, and Ashleigh Swinford. I know I am on the lookout in particular for anything that will help my fourth graders with math problem solving, but there are so many fabulous things there to buy.

And while you are shopping, don't forget to stop by my store and stock up on items perfect for subs and teachers alike. Check out my Just Add Paper Emergency Sub Plans ( for K-5), CCSS Aligned Emergency Sub Plans (for K-4), Monthly Writing Packets (for Aug.-Nov.), and Down with Downtime (for math, language arts, and reading).

Saturday, October 27, 2012

The Power of Storytelling

Yikes! It has been forever since I blogged. I sure hope I remember how. Things are going great in my first year of teaching, but as expected, things are crazy busy. I feel like I am desperately treading water, and the time just flies by each day. I look back each day, hoping that I taught the students something, but hardly remembering all the lessons we did. The good news is that I do feel like I am keeping my head above water... I am certainly not drowning, but it's not a leisurely swim either.

I had a realization this week about my style of teaching. I have a student who goes to the extra help room for every independent work assignment. So, he is with me for the lesson, and then goes to do the work in The Learning Center, or TLC. This week I sent him with a math workbook page practicing multiplication with zeroes using mental math and turning them into 2x1 multiplication problems.... things like 80x2,100 or 90x500. The teacher in TLC called me to ask how long we'd been doing 2x2 multiplication because the student wasn't getting it. I explained to her that the way I had taught it was not as a 2x2, but as a 2x1, adding the zeroes at the end. And I told her the story I told my students... the story of ghost zeroes.

As I was teaching how to work the problem 80x2,100, I concocted a story of ghost zeroes. I suppose I was inspired with Halloween approaching. I wanted the students to set the zeroes aside, but not forget them, so I told the students they were ghosts who flew away temporarily so that we could work the 2x1 problem of 8x21. And then the ghost zeroes flew back at the end to give us our final answer. I even rewrote the problem with dotted zeroes instead of solid ones.

That's when I think I really realized the power of storytelling. Students who had been struggling to grasp the concept caught on right away. Even my true strugglers who joined me at my small group table for independent work time, caught on. All I had to say was where are your ghost zeroes, and they wrote the problem just the way I had and got the correct answer.

Then I thought some more and realized, I tell A LOT of stories when I teach. Whether I am weaving them to "explain" a concept, telling the story of something that happened in history, or telling a personal story to help relate a concept or bring it to life for the students, I tell stories. And I don't just stand there droning on. I TELL the story... I am really quite spazzy. I think it helps hold my students' attention and keep them interested in what we are talking about. And hopefully the end result is that, not only do they learn the concept, but they remember the story and take it with them forever.

Whether you are classroom teacher, substitute teacher, specialist, or support teacher, you can always use storytelling to help your students understand anything. All it takes it a little creativity and some energy to tell it.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

My Own Class and Classroom, Plus Reflections on Landing a Teaching Job

Wow! I feel like it's been forever since I blogged. Probably because it has been quite a while. But I think I have a pretty good excuse. As many of you already know by now, I finally scored a full-time teaching job! Yay! I am starting today by telling you about my class and classroom my first week of teaching. Then I want to offer some reflections and suggestions for the many of you who I know are still looking.

My position is in fourth grade in an ESL class. I currently have 20 students, equally split between girls and boys. And, what was most surprising to me being in San Antonio is that the overwhelming majority of my ESL kiddos are not Hispanic. Most of then are Asian and Indian but have an excellent command of the English language already. I only have one little sweetie who seems to still have significant trouble with the language, but apparently she has made huge gains over the summer as well. I have one student with special needs in my class as part of his inclusion. He is wonderful! I am only responsible for his science and social studies grades, but he is doing so well, that we are trying out increased inclusion time, and so far so good. I have one sweetie with some pretty severe learning disabilities and (according to the notes some behavioral issues although I haven't seen them yet), but he gets lots of support through the learning lab. Essentially he participates in my lesson and then goes to the learning lab with a modified assignment to complete there. My biggest issue with students this first week is one little boy who lacks confidence in his own abilities (and he has lots because he has already shown me). If he thinks he can't do something, he will shut down and not even try at all. I am showering that sweetie with as much positive attention as possible hoping to build up that confidence.

I took the class over from a teacher who was leaving because she was offered a position as a math specialist at another campus. So, lucky me, she didn't need many of the things from her classroom. So even though I stepped in after school had already started, I took over an established class in a mostly set-up classroom. I don't think it gets better than that. She left student mailboxes, turn in bins, completed bulletin boards, a classroom library, and many supplies. My only "complaint" (if you could even call it that) is that she was not a cutesy teacher at all so nothing has any sort of a decorator or fun touch at all. Well, I wouldn't say I am super cutesy, but I certainly wanted my classroom to feel a little more homey and decorator-y.

I set goals for myself that I was going to do a little decorating at a time for several reasons: 1) It can be expensive to do all at once, 2) The students had a huge disruption with a teacher change, and I want to limit the surrounding changes, and 3) To conserve my own energy and prevent too many late nights at school. After a week, I now have a few of my own academic posters on the wall, have added my classroom management system, writer's process chart, and some curtains. One little tip on the curtains: I went looking for anything based on the bulletin board color scheme already in place, and what I found were shower curtains. Sound funny? Well, they are the plastic ones, but not the hard, crinkly, smelly plastic. And they were a lot cheaper than curtains and come in lots more cute designs. I found some with my reds and browns and fun tropical tiki designs on them. My only issue with them is they are about three feet too short since my windows go ceiling to floor. I was worried, but once I got them hung, it really doesn't bother me too much. The change in ambience outweighs the extra space at the bottom for me. And my students love them! I hung them when they were out of the room, and when they entered, it was a chorus of ooohs and ahhhs! They decided our room is now a tropical island paradise. Even the "ugly" light brown rugs now serve as our sandy beaches. So, now I guess I have inadvertently created a tropical beach theme for my classroom. Was that what I envisioned as my first classroom theme? No, not at all. But it works, and I love it!

*Classroom Pictures to Come Next Week*

The craziest thing about landing a job is how quickly it all happened. I was called for an interview the Friday evening before Labor Day. I had to wait the whole long weekend (which gave me soooo much time to research and prepare) before I interviewed Tuesday late afternoon. They gave me no indication on how I did except to say Human Resources was taking a while to contact new hires and to be patient. The next day, I tried to occupy myself by working on some products and accepting an emergency half-day sub job for a friend. As I was walking out the door to that sub job, I got the call from Human Resources... less than 24 hours after I had interviewed! I was so excited and surprised, when he said they would like to offer me the position, all I could do was yell, "Yay! Yay! Yay! Yay!" He laughed and said, "I'll take that as a yes then." So then I started by shadowing the leaving teacher on Thursday and have been on my own since. The only catch was that I then had to go this last Monday to sign the paperwork since they rushed me into the classroom, and I still am not officially set up in the system for computer log ins and such. I am set up in the payroll system, so that is all good.

Reflections on Landing This Job

Since I know many of you are still in the position I have been in for the last four years, I thought I would make this an extra long post today to be able to try offer some insight on how I landed this job. What was different between this one and all the others I didn't get.

1) I had lots of time to prepare, and I used it. Like I said, I had the whole three-day Labor Day weekend to prepare for the interview. I researched the school, the principal, the other teachers on the team, the fourth grade curriculum in the district, and the fourth grade state-mandated standardized tests. Through the blogging and subbing world, I have made lots of amazing teacher contacts, and I called on all of them. Once I had done the research, I studied like it was a test (interviews kind of are, aren't they). I went over and over my notes until I knew everything by heart.

2) I answered questions briefly and honestly, using as much of teacher-y language as I could. I think sometimes in the past, I may have been too casual about answering questions.

3) I interviewed with a panel of people... the principal, vice principal, and the other three fourth grade teachers. Although this can be overwhelming, I was thrilled that teachers were in on the process. I think in the past, I have always made good impressions with teachers, but have had more trouble making that same impression on principals (even though I have always gotten positive feedback).

4) I ended the interview my giving them a brochure I created about myself. It just included about seven bullet points highlighting my experience and photos of some student work. I think it just was a nice way to make sure they didn't forget who I was.

5) As soon as I got home, I sent thank you emails to every single person I interviewed with (not just the principal and vice principal). After I got hired, they told me they were very impressed with that.

Of course, as always, I dressed professionally. I wore a jacket even though it was like a million degrees outside that day. I arrived early. And I made eye contact with every person in the room as I talked.

Will these help you? Well, I hope so, but honestly my experience with the process for so long has told me that often it's more about being in the right place at the right time, or as I say it, getting the stars to align correctly. I am not even sure that it has much to do with who you know since I didn't know anyone who I interview with. And so much of that is out of your control. So many people told me the "right" classroom was out there waiting for me, but honestly I never truly believed that (the realist in me also thought, what if these are all signs that I wasn't meant to be a teacher). Well, I can happily say, I guess, that they were right and I was wrong. I am more than happy to admit being wrong if it results in such an amazing teaching position.

My favorite inspirational quote of all time is:

Well, I spent four years dancing in the rain metaphorically. And ironically, this week it actually rained for the first time in a long time in San Antonio. So, now I am literally dancing in the rain.

Happy job hunting to all of you! May the perfect job be just around the corner for you too.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Attention, Please!

One of the most important skills a teacher needs to have is the ability to get the attention of the class. And, that is no less important for subs... in fact, it might even be more important. Classroom teachers typically have their go-to attention getters, and they know that it is vital to teach these attention getters at the beginning of the year. It's no good announcing, "Give Me 5!" And then the students are confused about what that means.

As a sub, I usually try to figure out what attention getters the students are familiar with... and especially what ones the classroom teacher uses. Those will be the easiest ones to use since the students were taught how to respond to them. Some ways to figure that information out are to ask another teacher on the team, or ask a reliable student. If finding out is proving difficult or if the one used is not one you are comfortable with, then I highly recommend choosing one of your own and spending the first moments in class teaching that skill. How do you go about teaching students to respond to an attention getter?

1) Tell Them. They need to know what attention getter you will be using. Tell them you will use Give Me 5, a quiet sign, a bell, or whatever you choose. And post that information somewhere so the students will be reminded.

2) Teach Them. Then you must let them know what you expect them to do when they hear the attention getter. I like to use students as examples. Little ones often respond to using a stuffed animal as a model. Walk the students through the expected behavior. For example, in a call and response attention getter, the students need to know what to say to say after you give the cue. And they need to know that after they give the response, then they must look at you and be ready to listen.

3) Practice! Finally, you must practice. Give the students something to do, then after a few minutes use the attention getter. Be sure to give feedback like "Not bad. Let's try again." Or "I love the way the red table came to attention immediately. Let's keep trying." Practice multiple times until you feel confident that every student knows what to do. Keep in mind, you may have to remind them throughout the day.

Here are the Attention Getter Posters I made. I did a set in a Polka Dot Theme and a set in a Monkey Theme. They are only $1.50 for nine posters that have the sayings of:
• Give Me 5: The teacher says this and holds up 5 fingers that stand for stop talking, sit up straight, feet on the floor, hands still, and eyes on me.
• 1, 2, 3 Eyes On Me: The teacher says this, and students respond "1, 2 Eyes on You."
• Hocus Pocus Time to Focus: The teacher says "Hocus Pocus," and students respond with "Time to Focus."
• Chicka Chicka Boom Boom: The teacher says "Chicka Chicka," and the students respond with "Boom Boom." This one is good one for kinder and firsties since it's based on the alphabet book Chicka Chicka Boom Boom.
• SALAME: This is pronounced like the Italian lunch meat. The teacher says SALAME, which stands for Stop And Look At Me. I usually accompany this one with my hands around my eyes like binoculars.
• All Set You Bet: The teacher says "All Set," and students respond "You Bet"
• If You Can Hear Me (Follow Directions): The teacher says, "If you can hear me, put your hands on your head" or whatever action you choose. The students follow the directions to show they are listening.
• Class Yes: This one is from Whole Brain Teaching and has lots of variations. The teacher says "Class," and the students respond "Yes." 

• Blank poster for you to write a favorite of yours if it is not included.

I have my favorites laminated and carry them to my sub jobs. Then I can just pull out the one the teacher uses or I plan to use and post that on the board.

One last piece of advice. Don't use the attention getter too much or the students will tune you out. If they are having trouble coming to attention, then you probably need to practice more.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Therapeutic Thursday and Freebie Friday

OK, I know it's Friday and I missed Therapeutic Thursday, so I thought I'd combine the two. First for the therapy. Teaching is hard, and substitute teaching can be even harder in many ways. It is very important that you remember to take time for yourself to decompress and remind yourself of the positives.

Here are some things I do:
• Focus on my own family. I have a supportive husband and delightful children, so when I need to be uplifted, I look to them. They always can make me laugh, give me a hug, or listen to me whine.
• Food and drink. I know, it's not the healthiest of responses... chocolate and wine. But, a good ooey gooey chocolate dessert will do wonder to lift my mood. And a glass of wine in the evening always helps take the edge off and help me relax.
• Focus on the positive. I keep a gratitude journal and try to write in it every evening. I try to list at least five positive things about each day. Sometimes, I have to reach to come up with a positive, but I promise they can always be found. One day I had to reach so far as to write, "I am thankful that the puddle of water I just stepped in was not a dog mess." Ha! It was true, though.
• Soaking in a bubble bath. I a bath kind of girl. Running a hot bath full of coconut-scented bubbles and reading a good book does wonders.
• Getting enough rest. This can be a hard one sometimes too, but I promise that being tired obscures your perspective. It is truly amazing what a good night's sleep can do for your spirits.
• Having a good cry. Sometimes you just have to let it out.
• Quote mongering. I love to read quotes. Somehow, they let me know that I am not alone in what I am feeling. Here is one of my all time favorties (I have even turned the "dance in the rain" part into my mantra):

Now, for the freebie part. Yay! Those of you who have been following me for a while know that I love to post freebies! Just take a look in my Teachers Pay Teachers store under the FREE category to find 18 (and growing) products for free. Sub plans for grade K-5, a gingerbread unit for the holidays, and plenty of other holiday and other activities. So, go grab all your free stuff and enjoy!

To find plenty of other freebies or link up a post yourself, visit Blog Hoppin'.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Where I Teach (Sub) Wednesday

Wednesday on Teacher Week from Blog Hoppin' brings Where I Teach Wednesday. Since I am a sub, I teach in multiple places. But, where I teach is in San Antonio, TX in the largest school district in the city. and the fourth largest in the state of Texas. And before you ask, no, we don't ride horses to school. And yes, the Alamo is right smack dab in the middle of downtown, not out in a field somewhere like you'd imagine. And yes, I do actually get asked those questions. :-)

I sub in K-5 classes where class sizes are usually 20-24 students. Texas is one of the few states who has not adopted the Common Core State Standards, and I don't think the state ever will. In true Texas tradition, the state does its own thing and curriculum is driven by the TEKS or Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills. As I have become familiar with both, there is quite a bit of crossover, but the TEKS are more specific and detailed... and they are available for every subject.

An elementary school day is from 7:45 a.m. to 2:45 p.m. Students are taught all the regular subjects, plus go to special rotations every day. The specials alternate with PE every other day, and the others of computers, art, and music on the non-PE days.

Recess is usually about 15-20 minutes long, which if you ask me is not nearly long enough. Students who qualify can also be pulled out to receive speech therapy, gifted education, and extra help from the reading or math specialist.

Someday soon, I hope to have a classroom to call my very own, but until then, I am proud to sub in best district around!

To see where others teach or link up a post yourself, visit Blog Hoppin'.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Schedule Struggle

As a sub, I have been in a lot of classrooms and worked within many schedules. I have come to the conclusion that there is no perfect schedule. There is just too much to try to fit into any day and too many things grade levels have to share. And I don't think adding time to the day is the answer either. I think we would just jam pack any amount of time given to us.

That being said, I am sharing my favorite schedule I have worked within as a part of Charity Preston's Name That Schedule Linky on The Organized Classroom Blog. This schedule was for a third grade classroom.

I'll start with the parts I liked. I like that the morning started with Intervention/Enrichment. This was a time when I called those sweetie pies to my desk who needed the extra help. We would alternate subjects so on Monday and Wednesday we would do extra reading help, and on Tuesday and Thursday we did math help. The school required that interventions be data driven and research-based. The other kiddos were allowed a choice time of finishing incomplete work or enrichment activities. In case you were wondering, Fridays were left for class meetings or buddy class activities (once a month). This intervention time was a nice way to ease into the day and gave some time in addition to the standard reading and math groups to provide some extra instruction.

I also like that there were natural transitions provided by the times for leaving the classroom (specials, lunch, and recess). I always find it more difficult for students to switch gears without a physical separation, even though I use brain breaks and other transitions. Those natural breaks also provide nice breaks for the students. The active times of the day were spread out.

And I truly enjoyed that there was time for read-aloud built in to every day. Even when we often stayed out a little extra at recess, there was still time to wind down with a little read aloud time. That read aloud time also provided a nice incentive for the students to get packed up quickly since I always told them that I would read when everyone was ready on the carpet.

Most of the parts I didn't like are problems with any schedule.. mainly there is never enough time. We were always rushing during that short science/social studies block. And we had so much trouble getting in everything during the reading and writing time, that the team agreed that each reading story would be done for two weeks, with one week focusing on the reading skills and the other on the writing skills.

My other problem with the schedule (and every schedule I have worked with) is that math always seems to be in the afternoon. In my experience, afternoons are much more difficult as students are getting tired and just kind of done paying attention. I started switching things up occasionally and doing math in the morning so I could capitalize on the times when students were more focused. Thank goodness I was teaching in a district that allowed flexibility.

So, there you have it. The good, the bad, and the ugly (as Charity says) of my favorite schedule.

Go see what other's have to say about scheduling at Charity's linky party on The Organized Classroom Blog.

Teacher Week: Technology Tip Tuesday

Happy continuing Teacher Week from Blog Hoppin'! Today is Technology Tip Tuesday, which is a little tricky for subs. Sadly, many subs don't have access to the computer or other of the latest  technology. I don't unless I am in a long-term position. So, I will leave the computer tips to other Blog Hoppin' bloggers. And today I will give you a couple of simple tips using the old school technology of the overhead projector and the CD player.

My first tip is for the overhead projector. I am guessing if there is one in the room, a sub probably has access to it. I personally am not a huge fan of the overhead projector, but I have learned a few things that make it more useful. First, DO NOT turn off all the lights. You are asking for trouble. I turn off one set of lights at the front of the room if possible to make the screen more visible, but keep enough light in the room. Second, get the students involved. They have to have something to do, whether it's completing some work as a whole class, solving problems on white boards or in journals, or taking notes. My favorite thing to do using the overhead is to not just give the students something to do, but to get them involved. If I am doing math problem solving, I put the problem on the overhead, and give the students some time to do the first step in their math journal. As students finish, I give them a sheet for the overhead and an Expo pen and have them copy their solution on that. Then I give students a chance to come up to the overhead and share their solutions. It's amazing how much they love writing and sharing on that overhead! It definitely helps keep them engaged!

My second tip is for a CD player. Again, if there's one in the room, the sub probably has access to it. Anyway, I am a believer in the power of music setting the mood. I like to have a CD with various songs on it. Then I can pop the CD in a play appropriate music to set the mood as I want. It's truly spectacular how much more calm and focused students are if you play some classical music. I use it during writing time especially. Transition times are a great opportunity for music. And, of course, to use a few songs here and there for a brain break. Giving students an opportunity to get out of their seats and move a little does wonders for the wiggles and lack of focus.

To see other technology tips or link up one yourself, visit Blog Hoppin'.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Teacher Week: Must-Haves Monday (The Sub's Take)

At Blog Hoppin, we are celebrating teacher week, and today is Must-Have Mondays. Of course, I will be putting a sub's spin on it.

As a sub, I absolutely, positively cannot live without my cell phone. It's how I get jobs. Now, mine is not fancy, but it doesn't have to be. It just has to answer and make calls.

The second thing I can't live without is my alarm clock. How else would I be able to get up at the crack of dawn to make it to a school across town to sub?

Finally, I must have my sub bag filled with all the things I will need during the day.

What do I carry? Everyday, I have my coffee. I would be nothing without that. Ha! I also bring my own pens, pencils, sticky notes, etc. 

Classroom management items are a must for any sub. I carry some Caught Being Good forms, my punch card positive behavior system, and my treasure bag.

I also have business items. My calendar is important because often teachers stop me in the hall or lounge and ask if I am available for another day. My calendar allows me to answer and schedule more jobs right then and there. I always have my handy dandy notebook... just in case. And I make sure to have a Daily Summary Form to report to the teacher how the day went.

Finally, I make sure to have on hand some extra activities and plans for those just-in-case moments. There are those times when plans don't take as long as expected or the teacher had an emergency and was unable to leave to plans. If you have meaningful things for the students to do, you will never have to panic. I love to have a picture book or two with a couple of graphic organizers that would work for any book. Laura Candler has an amazing book filled with graphic organizers.

If you need emergency sub plans, check out my store. I have a set of free plans for grades K-5.

I have a set of Just Add Paper plans for grades K-5 for those true emergencies... you don't even need to make copies for these plans.

And there is a set of CCSS Emergency Sub Plans for grades K-4 that have a day's worth of lessons based on one picture book and aligned with the Common Core.

Go check out Blog Hoppin for other teachers' must-haves. What are your must haves?

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Subs, Never Fear... Back to School Is Here

Or is coming soon. It can be a really long summer when you are a sub, and there is no income... only outcome. But, don't worry! Classrooms will soon be (or possibly already are) humming. And with that humming comes the need for subs.

I used to think back-to-school time would be slow for subs. But that is not necessarily the case. While I have never met a teacher who really wants to be out as school starts (at least seriously... lots joke about it), those unforeseen absences have no idea that it is just the start of school. Emergencies don't know teachers are trying their best to build relationships with students, establish procedures and routines, and overcome the summer slide so they can get to work as quickly as possible helping those students grow, learn, and reach this year's potential.

So, teachers, make sure your emergency sub plans are ready and that a teammate knows where they are. And, be ready as a sub! One year I even got a call for the first day of school! And this year I have already been asked to cover a day in the first week of school even though school doesn't even start for my district until August 27.

If you are an established sub, just make sure you have done what your district requires to renew your subbing status.

Check your wardrobe. If you are like me, your weight may not have stayed the same over the summer, so double check that you have professional, school-appropriate clothing ready that fits.

If you are a new sub or a sub wanting to expand your schools or jobs, then you may want to print up some business cards and visit your target schools. Check in at the office to see if they will distribute them for you, or better yet, ask if you could visit classrooms to introduce yourself to teachers. If a teacher has met you and has your business card, they will be much more likely to call on you.

Finally, make sure you have your sub bag ready with all your necessities. You can see what I normally take in my sub bag in this post. One thing I am going to add this year is a pencil sharpener. One of my biggest challenges each day is students' broken pencils. And it seems that every classroom I am in has a pencil sharpener that doesn't work. I broke down last year and bought a $70 electric sharpener from an office supply store. That works great when I have long-term jobs (although it is not quiet by any means), but there is no way I can haul "the big mama pencil sharpener" on a daily basis. I have found one that is small enough to be portable for a sub to tote, works great, and is so much cheaper than those other fancy sharpeners! You may have seen it on other blogs because lots of teachers love it.

It's the Classroom Friendly Pencil Sharpener. It sets up easily, although it took me a minute to figure out how to set it up. But you don't even have to set it with the provided clamp. Because of the nifty pull-out, pencil-holding contraption, you don't even need to hold the pencil while it sharpens. You can use that hand to hold the sharpener steady while turning the handle with the other. And, let me tell you, it sharpens the pencils perfectly! None of that caddywampus, one-sided sharpening like so many others do. It even comes in a sturdy, reuseable plastic box that makes it easy to transport without making a mess.

It's not totally silent, but it is one of the quietest sharpeners I've ever heard. And I know you've been in the middle of teaching and heard that annoying whir or grinding or traditional pencil sharpeners. I think it's possible for a student to sharpen a pencil during a lesson and not being overly distracting with this one!

It would be nice if it came with instructions, but like I said, it wasn't terribly hard to figure out. One other possible downside is that there is only a one-size hole for the pencils. So, if you sub in classrooms where they use the thicker chunky pencils, this wouldn't work.

But overall, I feel this sharpener is definitely worth the money. I will most certainly be carrying mine every day that I sub since the pencil issue is a huge pet peeve of mine. There's one subbing problem easily solved!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Stuff Your Files with Freebies

This is the time of year for amazing Back-to-School events and savings. And here's another great one! It's the Top Teachers Stuff Your Files event hosted by Leanne Baur's Creative Classroom. Thank you, Leanne! Each day she is featuring the freebies of a different fabulous teacher-blogger so you can stuff your files with free stuff. Today is my turn, and I featured all my free sub plans. So, pop on over to Leanne's blog and grab plenty of freebies from me and other teachers.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Back-to-School Sale on Teachers Pay Teachers!

Starting tomorrow my entire Teacher Pay Teachers store will be 20% off for August 12-13. And for an added bonus, you can use the coupon code of BTS12 at checkout for an additional 10% off the sale prices. That's a total of 28% off!

Plus, visit other Teachers Pay Teachers stores for savings as well. The coupon code works for every store, and most sellers are also offering additional savings like I am. Check out the linky at Blog Hoppin to see some of a great sellers who are participating.

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