Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Adventures in Subbing

I am so thrilled to be able to host Brandi Jordan from Really Good Stuff as my guest blogger today. Brandi and I connected through #TeachChat one night. It was my first ever Twitter chat, and she was so helpful. So when she suggested swapping guest blog posts, I thought it was a fantastic idea. I know you will love reading about Brandi's journey as a substitute teacher.

It is true. A substitute teacher is the steady rock on which classroom teachers and students rely. Subs are the ones who can save the day and give teachers peace of mind, because they know that their students will be taught, encouraged, and cared for in their absence. It takes courage, enthusiasm, adaptability, patience, and a keen sense of adventure to be a sub.

After having my classroom for many years, I took a couple of years off to pursue an entirely different career. What I quickly discovered was that this new career, which was commission-based, did very little to supplement our income. While I was not quite ready to return to having my own classroom, I decided that substitute teaching was the next best option. 

I was quickly accepted into the substitute teaching pool and had my first sub job within a couple of weeks of the start of the process. I ended up teaching a third grade class and realized how much I missed being in the classroom. Thankfully, before the end of the day, the principal approached me and asked if I would be interested in taking a long-term sub position for a first grade teacher who was going out on maternity leave... the following week. Talk about jumping feet first into subbing!

I was there through the end of the year and was lucky enough (said entirely tongue-in-cheek) to be there for state testing. I was thankful for the position though, especially because only a week after I started I found out I was pregnant with our first child. Over the summer I worked at the other job and decided that I would continue subbing until the beginning of October if I got called. A week before school started, I got the call that a second grade teacher in the same school had been involved in a bad car accident, and they needed a long-term sub for her class immediately. So, I became a second grade teacher and had the pleasure of having many of the same children as they had moved up from first. Mid-October arrived, and while the teacher was not quite ready to come back, pregnancy issues forced me to step-down from the position. 

I continued subbing occasionally after my son was born and enjoyed every moment of it. These days, I teach my own children at home, and while I love it, some days I sure do wish I could call a sub of my own! They are worth their weight in gold.

Brandi Jordan is a mom, teacher, wife, author, and expert multi-tasker. She is the Managing Director of Really Good Stuff’s blog, The Teachers’ Lounge, and her newest ebook, A Teacher’s Guide to Using Social Media and The Internet in the Classroom, was just released for free download.  Follow her on Pinterest and chat with her during #TeachChat every other Wednesday night from 9-10 p.m. EST.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Leap Into TpT Sale!

If you haven't discovered the resources at Teachers Pay Teachers, now is your chance. And if you already know of its value, this will make you giddy with happiness. It's a Leap Into TpT Leap Day Sale! If you enter the promo code L2P9Y at checkout on February 29, you will automatically get 10% off. And tons of sellers will be throwing additional sales as well. Almost all of the best sellers will be participating, so now is your chance to stock up on lots of phenomenal items.

Yes, I am participating in the sale too! On top of the 10% flat discount, I will be offering everything in my store for an additional 20% off. That's 28% off the regular price. I know; it doesn't sound right, but if you do the math, it's 28% off the original price. That's all of my Just Add Paper plans for K-5, including the bundles. And the Down with Downtime activities, including the bundles. Even my new line of CCSS Emergency Sub Plans that has grades K and 1 available will be on sale.

So, fill those carts now and shop 'til you drop (or get carpal tunnel syndrome) on Feb. 29. After all, it only happens once every four years.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Win a $200 Amazon Gift Certificate!

** Contest Is Now Closed**
Winners are: Meagan E. and Teresa P.!! Check your emails for a message from Charity Preston at The Organized Classroom Blog. CONGRATULATIONS, ladies!!!!!!

Yes, you read that headline correctly. Charity Preston at The Organized Classroom Blog has spearheaded a phenomenal contest! She has gathered 11 teacher bloggers along with Marygrove College MAT blog as a sponsor, together to pool resources and offer a HUGE prize! And there's not one, but TWO $200 Amazon gift cards up for grabs!

What do you need to do to enter you might ask? 1) Just visit the Pinteresting Teacher Blogs board on the Organized Classroom Blog's Pinterest page. 2) Create your own Pinteresting Teacher Blogs board on your Pinterest page, and repin all of the pins from the contest board. 3) Then enter your information into the entry form by CONTEST CLOSED. TWO winners will be chosen using a random number generator and notified via email.

Here are the participating blogs: Marygrove College MAT blog, Sunny Days in Second Grade, Technically Invisible, Laura Candler's Teaching Resources, Sub Hub, Teaching Resources by Shelley Gray, Cooperative Learning 365, The Organized Classroom Blog, 3rd Grade Gridiron, The Lesson Plan Diva, Fabulous 4th Grade Froggies, and The Cornerstone for Teachers. Make sure you show them love by becoming followers if you aren't already.

Good luck!

*This contest is no way endorsed by Pinterest.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Animal Picture Writing Prompts Freebie

Picture writing prompts are making their way into standardized testing. As a sub, you can kill two birds with one stone with a picture writing prompt... you can fill time, and it can be purposeful. And many other bloggers are on the picture writing prompt bandwagon with a collaborative Pinterest board and a linky party at Diary of a Wimpy Teacher and co-hosted by Classroom Magic. But I know that not all subs have computer access in the classroom (I don't), so I created a freebie document of Animal Picture Writing Prompts you can download and print.
Or you can visit the Writing Picture Prompts Pinterest board for these and plenty of other picture writing prompts from other fabulous bloggers. Here are my prompts that can be found on the board and in the download.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Everything I Learned in Kindergarten Yesterday

Yesterday, I had the privilege of subbing in kindergarten. I have not spent much time in kinder. In the four years I have subbed, I think all of three days have been in kinder. So, I was feeling excited, nervous, and a little bit scared. I arrived at the school my usual 30 minutes early to prepare myself, locate everything necessary, and review the lesson plans. It all turned out beautifully! The kiddos were great, and we all had a lot of fun. I did make a few observations, so here is a list of everything I learned in kindergarten yesterday...

Kinders are used to routines. Most students are, but nowhere is this more apparent than in kindergarten, espcially during calendar time. Choruses of, "That's not how we do it!" rang out around the room. So I changed my strategy and told them that I needed help. I would choose helpers to "do it the right way" by who was sitting quietly. The rest of calendar went smoothly.

Kinders are loving. I had been there an hour with students whom I had never met, when no fewer than 3 students said, "I love you!" and gave me a hug.

Kinders are a good workout. I came home with my quad muscles aching, and I couldn't figure out why. Then I remembered all the up and down I had done. Squatting down to meet them at their level makes for quite the leg workout. I decided that I would have wicked thighs if I taught kinder all the time!

Kinders are fun. I spent the day singing songs, reading books, coloring, cutting, and pasting.

Kinders are appreciative. I was reading the second book of the day, which happened to be The Three Billy Goats Gruff." I was using my best "troll" voice. One student giggled every time I spoke in "troll." And then another pops up with, "Ms. F, you sure are a good reader!" Why, thank you! Ha!

Kinders are exhausting! It was a day of love, fun, and learning, but I came home pooped! I realized it's that there is no downtime in a kinder classroom. There is no "work on this while I get the next lesson prepped." And I am pretty sure they broke a record for the number of times my name has been spoken in one day.

So, hats off to all you full-time kinder teachers! You have my utmost respect for doing all that every single day. Feel free to share your kinder teaching and subbing observations.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Why I LOVE Being a Sub

In celebration of Valentine's Day, I thought I'd do love in a different way... why I love being a sub. I'm not going to lie, it's a tough job, not always fun, and has a bunch of down sides. But there are also plenty of positives about subbing, and today is a perfect day to remember them. This is what I love about being a sub:

1) Flexibility. You can work when you want. If my children are sick, I am sick, I have car trouble, or I have an appointment, I just don't take a job for that day. No worries about finding a sub or writing lesson plans.

2) Less Paperwork. Ask many teachers, and they will tell you one of the most tedious parts of teaching is all the paperwork that comes with the job. As a sub, however, you don't have to worry about writing IEPs or documenting RTi or completing report cards. The only paperwork you really need is your Daily Report.

3) Grandparent Privileges. Much like a grandparent who gets to play with the grandkids and then give them back, a sub gets to "give a class back" to the full-time teacher at the end of the day. This is particularly pleasant in those classes with the extra "challenging" students.

4) Less Pressure. In these days of high-stakes testing, it is not the sub who takes the heat if the students are not getting the scores expected. When there is a student who is below level, the sub just does what they can for the day. But there is no pressure to get that student on grade level.

5) Teach and Leave. Once all the students have departed for the day and clean-up is done, subs get to leave right after school is out. Not so with full-time teachers. They have lesson planning, meetings, grading, and all that paperwork.

6) "Stealing" Ideas. My final and favorite part of being a sub is getting to go in multiple classrooms to see how other great teachers have their classroom set up, use different teaching strategies, and so much more. I have gotten so many amazing ideas just by seeing them in practice in other teachers' classrooms.

Those are my sub favorites. What do you love about being sub?

Saturday, February 11, 2012

You Know You're a Substitute Teacher When...

Normal people would be highly annoyed that their phone rang at 6 a.m., but for a substitute teacher, it means work... and that's a good thing! How would you finish that sentence? Put your responses in the comments. Or you can make your own by clicking this link.

And then go visit Kindergarten Lifestyle and join your creation up with her linky party!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Celebrating Black History Month by Escaping on the Underground Railroad

Every now and then I forget how lucky my family is that we live in an excellent public school district, and our elementary school is particularly notable. And then something amazing slaps me in the face and makes me count my lucky stars. One such event happened this week. I knew nothing about what was going to happen when the call came out for one more parent volunteer, and I stepped forward.

I knew my son's second grade class had been studying the Underground Railroad. They had read stories in class, had discussions, and some worksheets had come home for homework. And they each made a Wanted poster for Harriet Tubman. Those were hanging all over the school. Here are some great read-aloud books to choose from:

What I didn't know until that day (getting my son to tell about his day at school is like pulling teeth), is that they were also studying how the Underground Railroad was marked with signals that would only be familiar to those in the know, including quilt squares. And each students made their own quilt square in one of the actual patterns used.

There was also a simple at-home project component. The students were given a bandana and told it to fill it with three or four items they thought they would need if they were traveling on the Underground Railroad. Of course, the teachers did specify that no food was allowed (that was provided), and nothing dangerous should be included. For my son, this caused quite the dilemma. Eventually, he chose a metal camping cup (he reasoned he could dig with it and use it for drinking and eating), a compass, binoculars, and a journal (he thought someone needed to document the journey). Then they tied the filled bandana to a stick and brought it to school. Yes, I drove my son to school that day. The thought of that stick on the bus was not a pleasant one for me. The doll in the second picture here was one that they made in class.

On the day of the "journey," I arrived as a volunteer and was given very detailed instructions. A path had already been marked with the quilt squares in and around the school. I had step-by-step instructions for each stop, including a detailed map and how much time to spend at each one. I also had a bag of crackers for snack. There were two dads who had volunteered to dress in period clothing and serve as bounty hunters. They carried Harriet Tubman Wanted posters, tried to catch escaping "slaves," and offered rewards to those of us who were friends of the slaves.

Each second grade classroom was split into three groups, led by either a parent volunteer or the teacher. The groups left at five-minute intervals to try to prevent pile-ups at the stops. Here is a description of my group's journey:

We left the classroom (Monkey Wrench quilt) at 8:30 a.m. Each student was carrying their filled knapsack. I told them we had to be very quiet and stick together so the bounty hunters wouldn't catch us. However, let's just say that if it had been a real journey, we would have been doomed. We went out a nearby door (Bear Paw quilt) and wound through some trees just outside the school building. Then we headed back inside and up the stairs (Flying Geese quilt) to a participating third grade classroom (May Basket quilt). Here they were allowed to rest under a table covered by a quilt and have their cracker snack. 

Making the sure the coast was clear, we headed down the hall to the library (Log Cabin quilt) where we rested under a quilt-covered table. Then we snuck out the back door of the library and across the hall to the PTA room and continued down the hall (Birds in the Air quilt). Here is where it got scary. 

Who did we run into, but a bounty hunter! The slaves screamed and darted into another third grade room that was not on the map. Oooops! While I was trying to gather the slaves to continue on our journey and apologizing to the teacher, the slaves instinctively hid under her table. Finally, the bounty hunters were gone, and we could continue on to the The Learning Center room (Drunkard's Path quilt). 

Here we wound around the several round tables in the room and headed out the door and back down a different staircase (Bowtie quilt) where we pretended to get a fresh change of clothes. We headed back up the front hallway to hide under another staircase (Crossroads quilt). We had to stay here for some extra time since those bounty hunters were back. Then we were able to continue into the teacher's entrance to the office (Bear Paw quilt). 

Here is where we got lucky and found another friend to help hide us. It was the vice principal who offered us a safe place to rest. We went out the front office door and down a different hallway to hide under a quilt in an empty room (Log Cabin quilt). We snuck down the hall (Flying Geese quilt) and continued into the cafeteria and onto the stage (Sailboat quilt). 

The stage had several large pieces of blue paper. This was the Great Lakes we had to cross. Finally we saw the door to the outside marked with the North Star quilt. We had made it to freedom in Canada! We celebrated by singing "The Ballad of the Underground Railroad" and "Follow the Drinkin' Gourd" that the students had learned in music. Then they ate popcorn and played on the playground.

It was a long, tiresome journey that was dangerous in places, but we made it! What a wonderful way for students to experience the Underground Railroad and celebrate Black History Month!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

A Must-Have for Teachers and Subs: Laura Candler's New Graphic Organizers Book

I have a confession to make. I am a graphic organizer junkie. Just add that to the many things I am addicted to: blogging, Facebook, Pinterest, chocolate, coffee... of course, there are plenty of worse vices to have I suppose. Keeping this graphic organizer obsession in mind, it will be pretty obvious why I love Laura Candler's newest publication... Graphic Organizers for Reading: Teaching Tools Align with the Common Core for Grades 2-8.

First of all, it comes from Laura Candler of Teaching Resources and Corkboard Connections. I have several other products from her, and they are high quality and useable in the classroom. And secondly, they are graphic organizers (I told you I was obsessed).

For teachers in general, and subs in particular, I feel that graphic organizers are a perfect item to carry with you. If you're stuck with no lesson or lessons that didn't take nearly enough time, just pull out a graphic organizer. They are great because they are so versatile... they work for every subject and grade level and can springboard into writing activities and other lessons.

There are a lot of graphic organizers out there (I even make plenty myself), but here is what makes Laura Candler's Graphic Organizers for Reading different and wonderful:
• It's thorough... 109 pages with 26 different types of graphic organizers.
• It's organized... She has them grouped into the categories of multi-purpose, informational, and literature.
• It's informative... She doesn't leave you to guess how to use the graphic organizers. For each type, she has instructions on how to use it in teaching, a blank one, and a filled-in example.
• It's standards-based... She shows you how to use each one to link it to a Common Core State Standard.

Never again will you not have a graphic organizer to use. And never again will you be confused as to how to use it. This is fantastic, especially for substitute teachers who are not certified teachers and may not have as strong a pedagogy background. Simply, follow the instructions in the book, and you will not go wrong.

I do have to disclose that I am proud to call Laura Candler my friend, but I am doing this review on my own (not because she asked me to), and I am not being compensated for it. In fact, she offered to send me the book, but I had already bought it. I bought it the very night she announced it was available. That's how excited I was for it to be published. And I was not disappointed in any way, shape, or form. I feel that it was a worthwhile purchase since I will always have something useful for students to do from now on.

Friday, February 3, 2012

A Cabinet T-chart? Why Didn't I Think of That?

One of my favorite things about being a sub is seeing all the great ideas in different teachers' classrooms. The other day I was in a classroom and noticed something I had never seen before. Maybe some of you are as clever as this teacher, and this is old news for you. For that, I am sorry. But I figure if I was amazed at it, maybe some other readers will be amazed too. At this particular school, there are not closets in the classrooms so they have tall two-door cabinets similar to this one:
What this teacher did that is so brilliant in my opinion is use those cabinet doors as a giant class T-chart! I know! The class has just started polygons, so when I was there, the headings that she had just typed, printed out, and taped on the cabinet were "polygons" and "non polygons." Then she had printed and cut out pictures, and as a class, they sorted the images into the appropriate category. It was so cool! And the possibilities of topics are endless and could be changed out as you move from unit to unit. Sometimes I am in awe of the resourcefulness and creativity of teachers. So, are you as amazed as I was?

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Down with Downtime! K-5 Reading and Language Arts Available Now

Some of you have already discovered Down with Downtime: K-5 Reading has been available in my Teachers Pay Teachers Store for about a week even though I never blogged about it. And now Down with Downtime: K-5 Language Arts is also ready so I thought I'd let you know about both. Like Down with Downtime: K-5 Math, these two packets are for those minutes after a lesson is finished, but it's not time for the next activity. All Down with Downtimes are based on the Common Core State Standards and incorporate as many Higher Order Thinking Skills as possible. Remember, they are good for grades K-5, although not every activity will be appropriate for every grade level. You must use your discretion in choosing the right time filler.

There are free samples for both as well. Either download the preview for each at Teachers Pay Teachers or get them by clicking here:
FREE Down with Downtime: K-5 Reading Sample

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

I'm "It"!

OK, so there is a rousing game of tag bouncing around the teacher blogging world. And apparently I'm now "it" according to Denise at:

Sunny Days in Second

So first, the boring stuff. Here are the "rules":
1. You must post the rules.
2. Post 12 fun facts about yourself on the blog post.
3. Answer the questions the tagger set for you in their post, and then create 12 new questions for the people you tagged.
4. Tag 12 people and link them on your post.
5. Let them know you've tagged them!

12 Fun (well, to me anyway) Facts About Me
1. I was a former journalist before changing careers to become a teacher.
2. I have gotten to interview some famous people: Billy Bob Thornton, Dakota Fanning, and Jada Pinkett Smith.
3. I have two beautiful children who are my world.
4. The first movie I ever saw in a theater was Star Wars (guess I sort of revealed my age with that one).
5. I have gotten to travel overseas twice for free... to Italy and Costa Rica.
6. I am truly a cat person, but we own a cat, a dog, and a fish.
7. I am clinically addicted to blogging, Facebook, and Pinterest. But I have a hard time getting into Twitter.
8. My husband is also a teacher.
9. I was a competitive gymnast until I went away to college.
10. I was a cheerleader for my college.
11. Even though I am female, I am a bigger sports fan than my husband. Go Spurs Go!
12. I am really good at cutting and serving cake because in high school I worked birthday parties held at my gymnastic club.

Here are my answers to Denise's 12 questions:
1. What subject do you like to teach the most? Given my background, I seriously love to teach writing, and it is always my go-to time filler.
2. What is your favorite drink? Starbucks Peppermint Mocha
3. What is one piece of advice you have for a new teacher? It does get (a little) easier.
4. What is your favorite teaching website/or blog? I really cannot answer that question. There are so many fantastic ones out there.
5. What is your favorite type of music? I like a ton of music... anything from jazz to country to pop to dance depending on my mood.
6. What is one of your guilty pleasures? Watching TV shows like Glee, American Idol, Dancing with the Stars, and the Voice.
7. What type of books do you like to read? Definitely fiction for the most part, but other than that my taste in books varies a lot just like my taste in music. Some of my favorite recent reads are The Help, The Hunger Games trilogy, and The Book Thief.
8. What are some of your hobbies? Blogging, reading, camping, and hiking.
9. What is something you do to stay organized in terms of grading/lesson planning/copies for school/etc.? Lists, lists, lists! I make them for everything.
10. What is your favorite snack? I have a sweet tooth so anything sweet, especially if it is chocolate.
11. What was your favorite vacation? Last summer we took the fam to Washington, D.C. after my son had studied architecture and the White House. It was so much fun to see how much the kids got out of the trip.
12. How did your husband propose? It was written on a note inside a Winnie the Pooh picture frame.

And now here are my picks. Just use those same questions, guys. Tag! You're it:
Fun to Teach
Teaching with Style
Sharing Kindergarten
Nyla's Crafty Teaching
Journey of a Substitute Teacher
Second Grade Two-Step
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