Happy Back to School, Well Almost

Happy Back to School to all my friends and teacher buddies. 

I just wanted to remind you of all the amazing free ideas that are circulating on blogs, Facebook and pinterest. 

I'm collecting some of my favorites and finding some new amazing ones to add to the list. 

We are planning together as a grade level tomorrow and I'm so excited to see what this new year has in store.  This will be my second year in fourth and I couldn't be more pumped! 

Remember to check out my freebies on TPT, just follow the link. There are some great ones.

Excuses for my HIATUS

Oh Boy,
What a YEAR!!!
It's been a fabulous year, but man-o-man, let me tell you... my patience has been tried. First of all, let me re-introduce myself. My name is Tara Paige and I absolutely love my family, teaching, kids everywhere and everything Jesus. I have been on a hiatus from the blog world because, well... life decided to throw a couple curve balls. SOOOOOOO, I'll sum it all up in my grammatically incorrect blog world you have accidentally dropped in on (I'm sure) and help you feel better about your current situation.

Well let's see...
In west philidelphia, born and raised...
No, that's not right... hehehe

You know I love a list:

1. Decided I wanted a change of scenery.
2. Applied for a transfer.
3. Found out I was pregnant prior to interview.
4. Interview.
5. Got the new gig.
6. Had to move all my classroom stuff. (Boy-oh-boy did I collect a lot over the years)
7. Unpack.
8. My new class was 1/3 the size of my old classroom.
9. New grade level.
10. New Baby.
11. Husband had major neck surgery 3 weeks later.
12. Back to work.
13. Getting ready for the big end of the year Hoorah.
14...... HOUSE BURNS DOWN.......

So those are all my excuses. I thought they were pretty good, right?

You heard me. My house was struck by lightening on Friday, May 13th while we were all at work, school, etc.

Short story shorter. Everything was consumed. We lost it all.

I got back to work quickly. Well because EOGs were just a week or two away. My own personal girls needed to have a normal life. I mean, we can't just sit around a cry for a month right?

Well, there were tears. So many tears. But through those tears we have had such an outpouring of love and care from our friends, family and community. Tupac said it best... Life goes on. And it does.

I cannot even express what it feels like to lose everything to fire. Let me rephrase that, I didn't lose everything. My family, my girls, myself... we are all okay. I lost all the things to the fire. And with all that, I picked myself up and moved on.

We had the most amazing friends and family that helped us immediately. A place to stay, clean underwear (for the love of all good things) I didn't even realize we all needed underwear! All those little things... deodorant, toothbrushes, toothpaste, hair brush, shoes, underwear, pants, shirts, undergarments, lotions, all those necessities and small comforts of life in a first world. Yes I said first world.

Our friends set up relief funds for us at our workplaces and in the community to help with everyday things. After two weeks and we found a place to rent, donations pour into our new residence. Hand me down clothing, towels, electronics, books, toys, baby items, people brought dinner, bought groceries. (Let me just tell you... It's insane trying to start a new kitchen from scratch)

These past few months I have been thinking about all my friends I have met in different countries and how little they have in the way of things. But I'm always amazed at how happy they are. We have had the best and most difficult summer ever.  Difficult because all those things that we used to fill our time with were gone. Difficult because special newborn shadow boxes with hospital tags gone. Original old pictures, original recipes hand written by grandmothers, heirloom guns, etc. all gone.

The best summer because it has been a summer of friends and family more than I have ever had my whole life. We have met friends at the pool or beach on an almost every other day basis. Moved into a neighborhood with close friends and got to enjoy their conversations, walks and kids more. We have helped our community in different ways, visited elderly friends, shut-ins, retired friends. Friends, friends, and more friends. Oh... and let's not forget two amazing weeks in Florida with my Dad and Step-mom. They enjoyed getting their hands on the three girls and I'll admit we simply didn't want to leave.

But don't worry.

We are great! Getting back on our feet. One day at a time.

Let's not forget, school is around the corner and we have an abundance of ideas to share.

So as I find a new norm, thanks for hanging in there. Let's have a GREAT NEW SCHOOL YEAR!!!!!

~ Tara

Public Vs. Charter

Charter vs. Public vs. Private vs. Homeschooling

If you are going to read and engage in this, please read to the end and keep it positive.
First of all, please let me be very clear. I come in peace. I do not want a war. I think we already have a war on public education. I do not want to bash any school. People have their kids in those schools and if you are friends with a lot of people on Facebook, more than likely you are talking about a child's school. I have friends and family members that teach at all three different types of schools in different states and friends that homeschool. They all love what they do and the kids and families they serve.

But let's just take a step into my world... when did public education not serve the whole public? Since when do we strike down the very institution that is educating the mass public? All of my friends that I graduated with loved school, we had great classes, great teachers, selected great colleges and moved into jobs we thought we would love. I love my job with my whole heart, however, when I watch the news or FB feed, sometimes I'm disheartened as if I'm not good enough because I teach at a public school. Some parents have their children in one of each because, that's what their kids need. I'm happy with that, I will never try to make you feel like less because your child needs a different environment, learning style, curriculum.

They are all different. From structure, to curriculum to the population they service. I think all of any one of these would be horrible. For instance, after hurricane Katrina they moved legislation quickly to prop up for profit charter schools in the whole New Orleans' parrish. What they discovered, after providing transportation and meals like traditional public schools was that their test scores were comparable, some years being below. Do you know why? They serviced all the kids and they are kids. They change as life changing events change. Some better years than others.

They are all different. From structure, to curriculum to the population they service. I think all of any one of these would be horrible. For instance, after hurricane Katrina they moved legislation quickly to prop up for profit charter schools in the whole Parrish. What they discovered, after providing transportation and meals like traditional public schools, their test scores were comparable, some years being below. Do you know why? They serviced all the kids and they are KIDS. They change as life changing events change. Some better years than others.

We have all seen Gangster's Paradise with Coolio and Michelle Phieffer and inner city public schools. I dare say I have ever been exposed to one. We see over and over awful things that happen in public schools through the media. But friends, that is not the norm. Our public schools are brimming with amazing, talented, smart children just as much as our charter, private and homeschooling friends. Most of our children attend the same middle schools and high schools for college prep and/ or sports.

People have bad experiences all the time. I'll never forget the day a kid was taking an end of grade test and I had to call time. She wasn't even finished. I cried, she cried, parents. It was horrible. Such an awful day. Kids get bullied. But as parents we have bad experiences too. Some that make us change doctors, grocery stores, pharmacies. There are bad people, bad days, and bad places, but let's not lump all professions in with those bad ones.

Your child is going to be successful based on your commitment to them regardless of the school you choose for them. Love, support and guide them.

I spoke with both a lawyer and a neurosurgeon today and they were over the moon excited to thank a teacher. Please friends, let us be just that... Teachers of AMAZING kids! I have friends that are in every job profession all stemming from public schools. I know a plethora of kids that are graduating from college and high schools beginning their adult life... They are amazing!!! No matter their background. They worked at this game called life. Please, you don't have to support public schools, but please don't bash them. More than likely you came from one, your parents or most of your friends. I love you all.... Kind words only please.

Super Bowl 50

I'm so excited to be working on a math Super Bowl Activity. I'll keep you posted tomorrow.  While you wait, here are some kid friendly (safe) videos that have been played during previous Super Bowl Commercials.
~ Tara

New Changes and a Math Freebie

Holy Smokes-
     Where do I start? If you follow my blog, you probably thought my grammatical self, or lack thereof, fell off the face of the planet. I'm please to announce I have not fallen off the edge of the earth, but have had some major changes in my life. Sooooo, because you know I love lists... here you go. I'll try and go in order and maybe, just maybe, I'll get back to blogging more often.

#1 I had the pleasure of rocking out yet another fabulous trip to Washington, DC with the best teachers, students and parents.
#2 I had been at the same school for 12 years and new principals and assistant principals were very common every year or two. I decided to take a risk and turn in my resume to another wonderful school that had very little turn over in administration and teachers.
#3 We found out we were expecting another addition to our family.... Toured DC, walking an estimated 8-9 miles (according to my friends fitbit)... interviewed to a new school. Accepted the position.... Moved 13 years of teaching (hoarding) materials... and finished out another year.
#4 Moved to a new school, new kids (that didn't know me from Adam, new parents, new staff.
#5 Did I mention I was pregnant?
#6 Unpacked and moved in my new room, new grade, new curriculum... still very pregnant, with an 8 year old and 5 year old helping.
#7 Had my little sweetie pie number three.
#8 My husband had major neck surgery... with a newborn baby...
#9 Back to teaching!

      When I moved to a new school, I made the big move to fourth grade. A grade I had never previously taught. However, I had five years experience in fifth and eight years experience in third. In third grade academically gifted students are not identified or serviced yet, so I challenged myself to challenge them in all subjects. So I dabbled in some 4th grade materials. In fifth grade, I would have a few kids each year that were not working on grade level, so I had to work backwards to clear up misconceptions prior to moving forward in new material. So, I thought I would have a pretty good handle on fourth grade right? Let's just say, a new grade level is a new grade level. I was nervous about fitting in with a new team, learning a new curriculum and working with parents that didn't know my reputation from previous parents. But new surprises have been lurking around every corner. I have fallen in love with my new team and remained close friends with my old team. The parents have been wonderful and they had heard of me through the grapevine. And, my kids are amazing. I'm still overwhelmed, but so glad to have great support in every direction. I'm so in love with life and living each day to the fullest. So I finally had an opportunity to create some new math posters and now they are yours. Enjoy, click on the picture to follow the link for the download.

Making the Most of Positive Relationships with Parents

Building Positive Relationships Between Teachers and Parents As a new year approaches, perhaps one of the most significant reservations a teacher has is not only meeting new kids for the first time, but also that first impression with parents. Parents entrust the school system, and more specifically the teachers, to take care of their children socially, personally, and academically. This is parallel to a physician taking care of twenty-three patients simultaneously! Parents expect not only the academic needs of their child to be met, but also the developmental, physical, and psychological needs, as well. That is a formidable responsibility, one that teachers do not take lightly. Therefore, let’s take a minute to deconstruct how we communicate with parents and how we can make the interaction stronger, thus enriching the experience for all stakeholders. One of the most crucial times to establish a healthy relationship between parents and teacher is during the first meeting with the teacher. I know this is a fundamental principle; however, many parents and teachers form this bond during parent open house. While some parents make a point of sending a detailed email about their child and his or her specific needs, some prefer to meet the teacher during the first week, before or after school, to talk about their child’s unique attributes. Teachers, like other humans, have unique personalities and gifts. Some kindergarten and first grade teachers really know how to get down on the kids’ level and break the nervous tension that accompanies the first day of school. Whereas, upper grade teachers engage in high fives or tension breaking humor to excite kids about their new adventures. Any teacher can make a parent and new student feel welcomed with smiles, laughter, and a genuine concern for the child. Sending home school and parent newsletters that communicate a desire for parent involvement and feeling welcomed within the school are two entirely different things. A parent needs to understand and feel that they are the critical denominator in their child’s success. Forming a positive relationship from the start helps to bridge a positive triangular relationship among the child, parent, and teacher; furthermore, the positive collaboration encourages the parent to come back or call with concerns when they arise. It creates a mutual atmosphere of trust and respect , which accentuate the learning experience for all. Once that first meeting has been established, there are now many other ways to communicate and talk with teachers. Some parents will drop a call or email every few weeks to ensure things are still running smoothly. Other teacher notifications, such as newsletters, progress reports, forms, permission slips, etc. go home each week. Additionally, a great time to meet with teachers and discuss student success is parent-teacher-student conference night. It is critical for teachers to start with positive, encouraging words about their students, as well as listening to the parents’ concerns for their child. Because a positive parental climate has already been established, the parent is more likely to trust the teacher’s advice and suggestions for helping. If there is a question or frustration, often times, it is advisable to give space and time for all parties to reflect, revisit the topic, and try to work it out together for the advancement of the child. Unfortunately, many people are venting on social media and receiving backing of friends and family about school situations. Once that happens, trust is severely eroded for the teacher and parent. Historically, even when a parent and I had different ideas and solutions, the parent generally never questioned that I had the best interest of their child as my main objective. Furthermore, with continued positive communication and meetings, we have always been able to come up with solutions we were both satisfied with. For the parents who are unable to come in for meetings, they still love to receive updates about the progress of their child. It means the world to parents to know the growth their child is experiencing or that we care enough to ask the parent to encourage them at home. Although, sometimes, it wouldn’t happen until the end of the year, it was always gratifying when a parent said, “Thank you for the positive notes home, *******(child) would really work harder knowing their work was being noticed and appreciated by their teacher.” It is not a secret that good teachers value positive parental relationships. Building a strong relationship from the beginning makes it easier for parents to offer their volunteer services in the school to enrich the educational experience for all stakeholders. We have been fortunate to have parental volunteers and other citizens, such as veterans, come and talk with kids on Veteran’s Day, business leaders judge competitions, and community leaders help with science events. Furthermore, other parents who are paleontologist hobbyists, world travelers, scientists, and judges come and speak with the kids. The students are enriched by the diverse community interaction and look up to parents and community leaders as role models. By involving the community, we are forming a special bond that will continue to be a beacon for our children and inspire them to be exemplary community leaders in the future. So, as we get ready to kick off a new school year, may we remember that the team we build with teachers, community leaders, parents and kids are the strongest when we all work together to aim high and become undefeatable in each student’s education. That is the team I would put up against anyone! A strong student/parent/ teacher team is unstoppable and can achieve remarkable results! Building a welcoming school culture encompasses students, parents, volunteers, and community stakeholders who feel welcomed and valued. Tips for a Great Year of Communication: 1. Make that first contact: Whether you’re a parent or a teacher, don’t keep tabs on who called whom, just make the call or meet the teacher. Call the parents with great news or just reflect on what a neat kid they have. Let them know you value them and their kid is great. I don’t think there is a parent out there that doesn’t believe their kid isn’t wonderful. 2. Keep the communication going: Whether it is post-its, emails, PTO night, science fair, or field trips, talk to each other. Support each other. Be honest, but respectful. Parents should let teachers know when someone is deathly sick in the family or there is a change in medicines. These notifications are extremely helpful; if teachers are aware of factors at home that might impact the student, teachers can be more observant and helpful to the child at school. We are there to support your child. 3. Newsletters/ homework/ questions: Show your child you’re interested in what they are learning. Send in questions you have; ask your child to bring home notes, books, and any relevant materials that might help explain what they don’t understand. Tell your child’s teacher all about your awesome child! Some teachers send home a personal information sheet where parents can talk about strengths and weaknesses, fears, insecurities, and hobbies. Or, you may even have time to talk with them about successes and struggles at Open House Night. Even if your teacher doesn’t send home introductory information or you

Student Planners

I know school is a very dirty word right now! LOL BUT----- I have a surprise for you!!

Nautical Student Planners will be a flash freebie tomorrow ONLY!!

If you download them, don't forget to give me some feedback love! Also, you will be eligible for free updates each year without having to purchase a new one.

This year we needed to implement an AVID binder with our fifth grade kiddos.  Well, I went straight to my go to source.  Pinterest, then Teachers Pay Teachers.  Well, I couldn't find anything that really fit what I was looking for.  Additionally, we had to begin implementing notebook checks next year, but purchasing planners are so expensive and print shop won't print them with a copyright. So I evaded the printshop police (in a joking way) and made my own.

Neener, Neener, Neener!!!

NOW you can have student planners for your kiddos too! These are great for elementary and middle school students. Parents- You can print your own for your kiddo too! But don't forget, download them tomorrow.  They will be pretty inexpensive afterwards just for you! 

Happy Monday- XOXO

Oil Spill Activity

This is my second year doing this activity and I have absolutely fallen in love with it. I used a pre-reading activity to give the kids a good background knowledge of the basics of oil spills. There were multiple resources available on TeachersPayTeachers as well as national articles on the Exxon Valdez and more recent Santa Barbara Oil Spill. A  venn diagram activity on the worksheet for your students to do a pre-reading activity comparing two different texts. This fits so nicely with any language arts standards of comparing across texts. Here is the link to the temporary freebie. I hope you enjoy this activity with your kids!!   
~ Tara

Getting Ready for NCRA Conference

I'm looking forward to sharing some ideas at the 2015 NC Reading Conference! I also can't wait to be filled with great ideas from amazing teachers and authors. Now that I have uploaded the blogger app. I should be able to keep you posted soon!

You don't have an extra G to drop on Clickers? Try PLICKERS!

Hello Teacher Buddies!
I had the amazing opportunity to attend our state's Social Studies conference and I'm overflowing with ideas to share.  I wish I had a full week to just write, blog, share and create new things that coordinate all the different things I learned. A few new tricks are always awesome, but I can't discount the benefits of hearing amazing teachers and professors affirm what I'm already doing in the classroom.
So here is one great class tool you can put in your teacher toolbox. :)
Have you always wanted a set of clickers but never had the extra G to drop on a set? Well you have stumbled across the right blog, here is a small town girl tutorial on how to get started on your Paper Clickers.  Yep, plickers! (I love saying that!)
Plickers... Say it loud and say it proud.... PLICKERS!!!
Plick it up!  Have you Plicked today? Plicking is so much plicking fun! LOL
If your students have never used the plicker system before give them a few minutes to say the name.  It just sounds fun; so it has to be right? Absolutely!
Well if you thought the world was mac happy and you are a droid lover, here is an app for everyone.
So first, log-in to the webpage and sign up for free. Next, navigate the screen a little and become familiar with the interface. We go through almost a new program per year and I'll say this interface is super easy to navigate.
Print a set of cards.  I would recommend the smaller set for third grade to adults.  The larger, full page set I would use for Kinder kids to second grade.  They do not recommend laminating them, but hey, I live in the world where I want them to last a full year so yes, I laminated them.  They still work great. They also recommend printing them on white paper.  Here you can see, yet again I have broken that rule and yep, you guessed it... they work great.
On the above card you will see a number in the corner.  That number can be assigned to an individual kid if you would like to register their individual data.  Of course you can keep the numbers and students random. 
The arrows are pointing to the choices; A, B, C, D.  These are somewhat small, but that encourages kids to stay honest as they hold up the card for you to scan.  (aka they are less likely to cheat) You can also use the A, B,for true or false.  The kids will turn the card facing you with their answer choice in the upwards direction.
You will then use your device to scan the room.  To my surprise it was very quick (even on the first sweep) and easy.  It will show you instantly which cards/ students are correct, and which are wrong. It took only a few tries to get students to keep their fingers off the corners, etc.  They work very much like QR codes. Because I laminated my cards, I turn off one set of lights so there isn't much of a glare.
Additionally, you can make one or two sets of cards and share with other teachers.  In our grade level we have two laminated sets and share.
If you have the plicker website displayed on your projector or smart board, you can refresh to show your students live data.  How awesome is that?
 Now, what are some ways you can use them in the class?  
Obviously, pre-assessments
Quick formative assessments at the end of class or mini lesson
Review a unit, be sure to quickly move across the skills they mastered while covering the difficult questions more in-depth
Review homework quickly
Student interest survey
I have used these with my fifth graders and they absolutely loved getting instant data.  We challenged our group to strive for higher percentages with each question.  We would challenge our class to get the 50/50 answers out of the way.  I'm excited to see how other teachers use this tool.
Okay, I have brainstormed a small list but I can't wait to read more about these bad boys this summer to get even more ideas.

 Have a great weekend!