Friday, August 15, 2014

Rethinking Craftivities {Amp up the Rigor Blog Series Linky}

This is the first in my "Amp up the Rigor" weekly blog series, where bloggers can link up ideas to Amp up the Rigor in the classroom. If you have a blog post about amping up the rigor:  Grab this image, link back to the post and link up at the bottom. 

I know this topic may be a little controversial, but I think it is important. I've hesitated writing about it. but since it is the beginning of the year and teachers are heading back to the classroom I want to offer some food for thought.

Let me start off by saying, I don't hate craftivities or teachers who use/make them.  I have many friends and colleagues who use them often. Do I think they are bad teachers? Absolutely not. I think craftivities are cute. Parents love them. Kids think they are fun.They are extremely popular on Pinterest.

But are the kids using higher order thinking skills when making a step by step craft? 

Not really. 

Of course, I'm not addressing all craftivities, some allow for oodles of creativity.  I'm addressing the ones where when the class is finished with their work it looks like their work came from a copy machine. 

I cringe in the hallways when I see a long bulletin board of completely identical work. They look cute,don't get me wrong. It's just that, well, it isn't creative. I understand the importance of learning to follow directions carefully, but what if you let the craft be open-ended? What kinds of wonderful things could they come up with if they weren't busy tracing the exact same circle as the rest of the class?

Again I don't think step by step craftivities should be done away with, but I do believe that they should be used sparingly.  And of course there is another option: modification! Take the craftivity idea (from Pinterest, or TPT or wherever you got it) and figure out how to allow unique expression.

For example, a few years ago I did a mini-unit of pickle activities with my pickle-obsessed class. In the writing craftivity, each child gets the same pickle, but they create their own pickle character and write their own pickle story. When I did this activity in my class none of the pickles looked the same. They were all so unique. 

When allowing the kids to make their own craftivity, I model how to think creatively. I did a Monster Math lesson where my first grade students created their own Monster Math problem. They were to create their own monster math problem and create a monster that showed the answer of the problem 
I had the kids meet me at the perimeter of the rug. (I use the word perimeter so they start knowing the meaning of that word early- a tip I got from my mentor teacher).

Using construction paper, scissors and glue, I created my Monster Craft in front of them, modeling my thinking out loud. I asked questions like, "Which body part should I cut out first?" "Why would that make sense?" to allow the kids to explain their reasoning. 
"Okay, I will start with her body. I want her to be triangle shaped. I think I like the color purple. I have to make sure that the body is big enough so I can put arms and legs on her." 
 It was a quick mini-lesson but it allowed the kids to visualize how to make their own craft. As you can see they each created unique ideas to match their Monster Math problem These certainly weren't cookie cutter, but it was a craftivity!

Am I saying that this Monster Math craftivity lesson was perfect? Absolutely not. Next time, I would have them write on lines, for one thing! But, it met the standards, demonstrated mastery, encouraged higher order thinking and it was a craftivity!

I often see teachers use these step-by-step craftivities as a culminating activity to finishing a unit, chapter, or standard. In my opinion, a culminating activity should allow for higher order thinking. I believe mastery  of a skill indicates that you can take it to the next level.  You can create something, evaluate something, explain something, build something, etc.  to demonstrate your mastery of the skill. Utilizing project choice boards, real life connection activities, and simulations are all great ways to demonstrate higher order thinking and mastery of a skill. Another idea is to include the craftivity as a choice in a project choice board.

In a time where students are expected to be inside the box so often in standardized tests, it is so important for them  to go outside of the box in projects and activities. It is our job to instill creativity and outside the box thinking in our little learners. 

I'm wondering, 
What things do you do to instill creative thinking in your classroom?
What are your thoughts on craftivities? Do you use them? In what ways?

Pin It

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Dreams Come True by Jennifer Lynn Adams

Sometimes it just seems like things happen for a reason...

That's how I felt this week when I stumbled upon a GEM of a book while at Comedy Night at Brewhouse Gallery. I was there to check out this new place, hear some comedy, drink some coffee and check out the art. I did not expect to be leaving with a children's book! I was so excited to find this and it's perfect for the beginning of the year. The book is Dreams Come True by Jennifer Lynn Adams. When I first saw it I was captivated by the cover and the subtitle
 "A Little Book on the Power of Words."

I paged through the book and thought "Yep, I need this!" As I was checking out, the Brewhouse people let me know how incredible the author is. They told me how she was Miss Wheelchair America this year and how the owner of the gallery was a judge for Miss Wheelchair America. After the pageant, he invited her to perform there and she did!

Jennifer Lynn Adams won Ms. Wheelchair America 2014... and she speaks on her passion for inclusion in this short interview here.

Can I just say that I love her ninja reference?

The book is great for a writing workshop lesson It could also be used for a character & guidance lesson about choosing your words carefully.

Jennifer does motivational speaking in schools and I'm trying to hook her up with some schools in my community! To learn more about Jennifer and her amazingness, check out her website: and like her on facebook.

I'm so glad I found this book, and more importantly this incredible person.

I was so inspired that I made a free resource set, download this FREEBIE "Words Have Power" Resource Set to Teach Tolerance & Acceptance in your Classroom:
Please kindly leave feedback if you download!
Don't forget to enter the giveaway from my Giveaway Groupies Blog Post! Only ONE DAY LEFT!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Pin It

Girl Empowerment in Literature

Does anybody else just love the "A Mighty Girl" site? I'm a HUGE fan! I first came across them when Goldieblox made that amazing Rube Goldberg machine advertisement, and facebook suggested I check out their page. If you didn't see the video check it out here:
Pin It

Anyhow, Mighty Girl is a collection of resources, toys, books, movies, etc. that are supportive of empowering young girls. What caught my eye recently was their Ultimate Guide to Independent Princess Books. I just love this! One of my favorite fairytales to read aloud is Paper Bag Princess. 

It's so important when building your library that you are being cognizant of including books with strong female characters. Many books are littered with images and situations where women are dependent on a man for happiness, strength, ideas, etc. I believe it's time we put the damsel in distress to rest! 

What are your favorite girl power resources or books? 

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Giveaway Groupies Linky!

GREETINGS Hardcore Teachers!

Welcome to the first Giveaway Groupies Linky! This link-up will take place the 2nd Sunday of each month! The goal is to give ideas, give love, give a laugh, and GIVEAWAY! 

Feel free to link up with me!

GIVE an Idea!
  • Make a Teacher Toolbox: You probably already have one, but if not make one! Seriously. Do it.  There are some great tutorials for how to make toolbox: I used Common Core and So Much More Teacher Toolbox Tutorial This was a huge gamechanger for me! I loved knowing where everything was. And a plus was that I could have one my students grab something from it for me if I was in the middle of something or at the guided reading table. I'm not working in a classroom this fall, but this blog post shows my classroom from last year :) Tour de Classroom 
  • Purchase, find or create yearlong resources! I think this is huge. It can be a relief when you already have pre-planned activities, projects, assessments, rubrics, etc. for the whole school year. It will be a bit of work and maybe $$ at first but will be worth it in the long run!
  • Organize the classroom with the year in mind! I know that there are many ADORABLE classrooms on pinterest/blogs etc. Keep in mind that cute is great, but function is better! (And if you are the gifted and talented type that are able to merge cute and functional, then you, my teacher-friend, ROCK!)
GIVE some Love:

My facebook followers have been so amazing! Three of my sweet followers helped look over my Higher Order Thinking Activities for Second Grade Common Core for me and they were so incredibly thorough in their feedback! Many followers volunteered their service, and I added them into a giveaway. They have been so funny and eager to learn new ideas. It is so refreshing to see teachers eager to learn and grow as professionals! I feel very fortunate! 

GIVE me a Break: 
Dear parents, 
 Don't waste your money buying off brand dry erase markers. 
They don't work. 
Don't buy them.

Teachers Everywhere

You can win this Amazing Back to School Package!
First, think of a name for my Flying Piggy in the pics!

 It was a gift from a very special student and I just love it! But, she needs a name! 
Next, enter in multiple ways here: 
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Want to Link Up? It's Easy! 

1. Copy this image and save it to your computer.

2.  In powerpoint, open the image and add your words to the images. Save as an image (jpeg, png) This month's theme is summer productivity (try to be on topic-ish) :) 
Give an idea, Give some Love (shoutout to someone or someones that deserve it) , Give me a Break (go ahead and rant, teacher-friends), and Giveaway (could be your giveaway, a link to a freebie, someone else's giveaway, whatever!)

3. Link back to my blog post in your introduction.

4. When you link up, please link to the URL of the Giveaway Groupies Blog Post.

5. Make New Friends and Keep the Old: Read and comment on a new blog friend and old blog friend! :) 

Have fun, teacher-friends! 

Pin It

Friday, August 1, 2014

Five for Friday- Good Morning August!

Linking up with Doodle Bugs Teaching for Five for Friday where we blog about 5 random things from the week. :)

My first random thing is that my boyfriend came back from his 3 week trip to Africa. It was so great to see him and hear about his amazing adventures! And of course I like receiving treasures as well!

Found this article from Edsurge really interesting about the Catalyst classroom. This teacher taught with one-way mirrors so observations could always be going on, although the teacher wouldn't know it. In college I worked at a special needs preschool at Ohio State where we had one-way mirror observation mirrors. After a while, we just got used to them! Interesting article: can be found here.

I found these great IceBreaker questions for free in Winged One's TPT store. Pocket these for the first week. :) Don't forget to download my freebie for Evaluating the Rules in the H.O.T. Back to School Freebie!

Look at this pretty sky after a Florida rain!I shared it on my Instagram this week, it was breathtaking!

I had too much fun making this advertisement and banner for the Back to School sale at TPT. I'm putting the BACK in Back to School. ;)

 Leave a comment with what you think. I aim to please, ladies.

Pin It

Monday, July 28, 2014

Monday Made It- Last Week of July!

Hi there! 

I'm linking up 4th Grade Frolics for #MondayMadeIt!

I've been a busy creating machine lately. My boyfriend has been on safari in Africa so I haven't been distracted by his cuteness and I've been very productive! He comes back today and I'm super excited to see him. :)
My first Monday Made It is a custom order sign that a fabulous friend of mine ordered for her sister who is starting her first teaching gig in the fall!

If you'd like one or want to get one for a friend, you can order one in my TPT shop

My second Monday Made It was a little project that didn't quite turn out as cute as I planned, but it will be functional!

You know how you are sometimes given gift cards for your birthday or teacher appreciation or whatever. They always seem to bulk up space in your wallet or they are all over the place in your coupon drawer or worse they expire because you forgot you had them! My boyfriend gets gift cards from silent auctions from charity events and often as gifts because he's tough to buy for. I thought I'd help him out while he was in Africa by making a little organization station for him. 

First I went to one of my favorite (but my wallet's least favorite place): MICHAEL'S
FUN FACT: Did you know one summer I went to Michael's so often they offered me a job there? True. 

Next, I got the supplies: gorilla glue $4.99 (accidentally bought white-don't do this), wooden box thingy- It lifts up with a hinge (was 80% off so it was 1.99), little clothes pins ($1.99), and letters ($1.99) 
I used a 20% off everything coupon, so I got everything for under $10. 

Then, I picked out my paints. Since it was for my boyfriend I chose neutrals. (If it were for me I'd be going bright- I'm sure you could have inferred that :)

I painted the outside a chocolate brown.
 I painted the inside a tan.
I painted the letters and the little clothespins with Martha Stewart gold paint.

 When I glued down the letters and the clothespins it ends up looking like this: 

Like I said, its not as cute as I imagined but it will be functional! It can hold 10+ gift cards. 

My third Monday Made It is a my set of Mustache Mania Clip Art! I had so much fun making these! I learned so much from the TPT conference from Melonheadz about how to make clipart that I have caught the creating bug!

 Since I am on a new path of Clip Art Creation, I added this to my TPT shop:

It will always be 75% of the total cost of the clip art in my store. If you buy now, you will get it forever for super cheap! Who doesn't love a great deal?

Thanks for reading! Don't forget to relax and breathe a bit as the summer dwindles down!

Pin It