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Sunday, January 26

What is Project Based Learning?


Close your eyes (yes really do it) and imagine an ordinary classroom. When you open the classroom door, you take a double look. What is happening in this room? Students are totally engaged; working on computers, posters, and taking charge. Where is the teacher? Their teacher is coaching students and pushing their thinking. This is a fake example right? Nope, this is what a classroom looks like when students dive into a Project Based Learning Unit. What is Project Based Learning? Why is Project Based Learning important? How could I possibly fit in one more thing when my day is already so jam-packed? I want to tell you that Project Based Learning is not only the bom-dot-com, but the thing that single-handedly reignited my flame for teaching. Read this post to learn what Project Based Learning is, and why it saves time and my teacher sanity.

What is Project Based Learning?

PBL Works says that, “Project Based Learning (PBL) is a teaching method in which students learn by actively engaging in real-world and personally meaningful projects.” Project Based Learning is an instructional style that is inquiry based and student lead. Project based learning allows students to hop in the driver's seat, while the teacher takes the co-pilot role. Throughout a Project Based Learning unit, students will use driving questions to research, collaborate, and produce a way to show their learning.


How to Get Started with Project Based Learning

Ready to ramp up the student engagement in your classroom? Try out Project Based Learning.

Benefits: increased instructional time, increased student engagement, giving students the opportunity to take charge of their own learning, and more. Sounds pretty sweet doesn’t it? But the real question is how the heck do I fit an extra thing into my day? There is not enough time as it is, how could I possibly add in something else? I know it sounds odd, but when you implement P.B.L. units, you actually save instructional time.

Project Based Learning Step 1: align your units across subject areas

One of the best ways to get the most bang for your buck out of a Project Based Learning Unit is to teach it in an interdisciplinary style. This means rearranging your units (across all subject areas) so they align in the most cohesive way. For example, if you normally teach animal traits for science in October and informational writing in February, switch it around so you teach these units at the same time. Why? It is more cohesive for students and it saves you instructional time. Now you are totally focused on researching, learning, and writing about animal traits. This saves you time across subject areas and allows you to dive deeper into projects and higher order thinking skills you otherwise wouldn’t have time for. Go get a scrap piece of paper and write out all your units for the year in the order you typically teach them. Can you rearrange any for better pairings? Are there any common themes jumping out at you? You might have the start to a great Project Based Learning Unit on your hands!


Project Based Learning Step 2: write driving questions

Now that your units are aligned, you need to start planning. Step one is to find your driving question. I like to think of this as your non-Google-able question. For example in my Will You Survive the Island? project based learning unit, my driving question says, “is survival possible on a deserted island?” This is a question that cannot be answered with a quick 2 second Google search. This is a meaty question that my students will have to research and prove through the course of our P.B.L. unit.

Project Based Learning Step 3: student voice and choice 

Now that you’ve asked the big question, how will your students demonstrate their knowledge throughout the course of the project based learning unit? In my project based learning units, I give my kiddos a presentation menu. This allows my students to choose how they will share their new learning and discoveries with the class. Some options I like to use include a poster, speech, multimedia project, demonstration, and more. Whatever your options are, the key is just to allow students with voice and choice. (Make sure they have clear expectations for each option).

 Project Based Learning Step 4: inquiry based learning

This step is probably the most difficult for teachers. In this step we must take the role of a coach instead of the sole instructor. Help your kiddos by asking probing questions that lead their inquiry and learning. You are not the sole provider of answers, but instead the guiding force as they research and solve for themselves.

Project Based Learning Step 5: public presentation

This step is such an important one. The final step in a project based learning unit is presentation. This step promotes students to take accountability and pride in their learning. Students will work on a presentation method of their choice throughout this project based learning unit and then present it to an audience. The more meaningful the audience the more effort students will put into their projects, and the more pride they will feel. For example, if your students are studying the best way to promote community involvement and they present to a town selectman, it makes the project feel so real and meaningful.

Now that you know the steps, I hope you take the jump and try a project based learning unit in you classroom this year!


Want to get started with Project Based Learning now? Check out my Project Based Learning Growing Bundle HERE!

Sunday, January 19

Cheerful Teacher Challenge


Teachers are amazing! They multitask like a boss and make daunting challenges achievable for their students. But you know what? Teaching is hard! Teachers give it their all, each day at school and for countless hours after the school day ends. With always giving to everyone else, it’s no wonder so many teachers are feeling drained. Lately, I’ve been feeling overwhelmed and exhausted, like so many of us do. So, I decided to do something about it. I designed a Cheerful Teacher Challenge! This teacher challenge gives 7 tasks each week for four weeks. These tasks are created to help bring joy and happiness back into your classroom each day. Join me over the next four weeks as I complete the Cheerful Teacher Challenge! 
Grab your FREE teacher challenge sheet, just click HERE to download!

Cheerful Teacher Challenge

Nothing is better than having a few minutes to laugh with a friend. Let’s take time to eat with a colleague who makes us smile. I know we all try to cram as much work into our short lunch break as possible; running to the bathroom, calling a parent, eating a sandwich while we photocopy. Yup, I get it, I do it too. You know what is more important than always being efficient? Your happiness. Each week I challenge you to stop and eat lunch with someone who makes you feel like sunshine. The photocopier will still be there when you’re done.

If you’re like me your room looks amazing in September, good in October, and by November the hot mess express has pulled into the station. I am forcing myself to take baby steps and tackle the chaos. Each week try to focus on one spot that could use some organizational TLC. My plan is to set a timer for 15 minutes and work on cleaning just that one spot each day. Mission number one is my desk.

It feels great when you walk into a room and someone greets you with a warm smile. Our students feel the same way! This week, use the teacher challenge sheet and try and greet your kiddos at the classroom door at least two days this week. You and your students will be happy you did.

Praise your students! We do it all day at school, but why not take a moment to praise them when the school day is done? You can’t imagine how much it means to your students and their parents to receive a positive note or phone call from their teacher. Give it a try! Reach out to one kiddo one day this week.

Alright, here’s a big one, are you ready for it? Leave your teacher bag at school (for one night). Come on, for one night you can leave that tote stuffed with ungraded papers right on your desk. The world will not end if you take a night off from being a teacher. So pick your night, and proudly leave the building with nothing in your hands.

Get some fresh air. Trust me I understand the prep periods are the Holy Grail and you don’t want to waste them, but teacher self-care isn’t wasteful. Take a moment just for you. I challenge you to go for a short walk outside once a week during your prep period. I used to do this with a colleague last year, and I can’t even tell you how much the fresh air and sunshine lifts you up. Pick a day, make a plan, and do it. Breathe the fresh air and get a change of scenery because you deserve it.

Student relationships are crucial. They are essential to your happiness and your kiddos. One of my favorite teacher quotes is from Rita Pierson: "Kids don't learn from people they don't like." I know we teachers have a million things to juggle, but this week take the time to build relationships. Start small by building relationships with 2 of your kiddos this week. Chat with them before class, at dismissal, or in the hallway. Find out more about what’s happening in their lives. Take that extra time to show them you care. You will be so happy you did! Want to read more about the importance of building student relationships? Check out these awesome blog posts! Building a Classroom Community From Day 1 , Tips to Building a Classroom Culture , Being Happy as a Teacher , 10 Strategies for Building Relationships with Students , and How to Really Build Relationships with Students .

Those are the 7 challenge tasks in my Cheerful Teacher Challenge! You’ve read about them, now what are you waiting for? Download your FREE copy NOW!

Want to explore my resources just for teachers? CLICK HERE NOW!

Sunday, January 12

Super Worksheets for Super Teachers

Super Worksheets for Teachers


“Real heroes don’t wear capes, they teach!” -Unknown. Teaching is challenging, rewarding, exhausting, overwhelming, and extraordinary all at once. Teachers can juggle drying tears, organizing chaos, instructing challenging curriculum, and so much more all before lunch. But how do teachers juggle all that we have to on a daily basis? We have great planners and teacher worksheets that help keep our heads on straight. Today I’m sharing my favorite super worksheets for all you super teachers out there! Read more to learn about my favorite, no super worksheets for teachers that help me plan and execute all the amazing thing we teachers do.


Worksheets for Teachers

Conferring sheets

One thing that makes my teacher life easier is having my conference binder organized and ready for use. I let my kiddos use graphic organizers, so why shouldn’t I? At the start of each year I print out my favorite conferring sheets and get a tab ready for each kiddo in my class. Then I set up a tab for each of my reading, writing, and math groups. Disclaimer: This is totally a time consuming project with all the tiny tabs, just a heads up. But you know what, it is so worth it! This one stop teacher worksheet spot helps keep me sane, organized, and ready to confer with my students. Trust me, in the craziness of the day it is my saving grace to have one thing that is always organized and easy! Plus, it's nice to have one spot in my room that makes me feel like I have my life together. You can click HERE to check out the conferring pages I use.

Sub Plans

Superheros get sick sometimes too. When that happens, super teachers need great sub plans! Sub plans? Grrrooooaaaann! I know what we’re all thinking; writing sub plans are the worst! You’re right, writing sub plans is no walk in the park, especially when you wake up feeling absolutely horrible. But when you have easy digital, editable plans that you can copy and paste over and over, writing sub plans gets a whole lot easier. I use these editable sub plans to easily make and print 3 days worth of sub plans at the start of the year. I keep them in a binder labeled "sub tub" and replenish as needed. I'm not sure why I call it a "sub tub" when it is actually a binder... hmm. Anyway, I set this up because if I wake up feeling absolutely dreadful, I don’t have to spend hours planning, writing, and emailing plans for my substitute.  Yay! Back to bed with all the tissues and soft blankets! However you choose to set up your sub plans, I definitely recommend writing a few extra days in advance and putting them in a binder somewhere. Don't worry, you can thank me later. Click HERE to grab the editable sub plans I like to use.


Year Long Checklists

I love checklists! I feel like I always have a million thoughts swarming around my head. Checklists help me get visually grounded and prioritize what I need to do first.. or not at all. I print out one of these FREE monthly checklists and make one for each upcoming month. I will add to it as the month gets closer. I am a total big picture person. I can handle all the little things no problem, as long as I have a rough outline or big picture. This is why checklists really help me. I can look down and see if I need reading assessments done by a certain date, and it will jog my memory to start them sooner. It all just somehow seems more manageable with checklists. You can grab these free checklists HERE

I.E.P. at a glance

I don’t know about you, but honestly, I have a horrible memory. It is what it is. So, I made these I.E.P. at a glance forms and good Lord are they a saving grace! I take time to look over each one of my kiddos I.E.P.’s at first. Then, I use the template to make myself a cheat sheet version. You know, one that’s not 500 pages long. Then, I put it in front of their data folder so I always have easy access to it. Honestly, any little thing that helps save me time in the classroom is my friend, and this helps save me time. Therefore, we are for sure friends! If you want to grab these forms, you can click HERE.


Want to explore my resources just for teachers? CLICK HERE NOW!

Sunday, January 5

5 Free Ways to Build Classroom Community

Building a classroom community can be tricky! We want our students to treat each other with kindness and build friendships in the classroom. But how do we go about building a classroom community? A community where every child feels welcome and wanted? Read more to learn my 5 favorite and free ways to build classroom communities. 

Activities to Build Classroom Community

Turtle compliments is such a fun activity to build classroom community! I like to do this activity after winter break and then again as the school year comes to a close. This classroom community building activity is super easy and free. It allows an opportunity for children to learn about compliment giving and kindness. Each child will tape a paper plate or piece of white paper onto their backs. Then, each person in the room is responsible for going around the room and writing one kind thing on each person's back. I always tape a paper to my back and join in on this activity. I like my kiddos to see me active modeling as we do this activity and to remind them that I am part of the classroom community too. 

Building Community in the Classroom

Have you ever read the book Can I be Your Dog? by Troy Cummings? (you can grab it HERE) Well let me tell you it is simply adorable and the perfect book for building classroom community! Every student needs a friend in their classroom, and this book is a fantastic way to build those bridges! In this story, the dog Afry is looking for a home and a new friend. He writes letters to members of his neighborhood community sharing about his likes, dislikes, and why he would be a good friend.  Finally, he receives a letter from the mail lady and they team up to deliver letters and become friends. The first time I read this book, I fell in love with it. Building classroom community and it's a dog story, win win! So, I created a template to go along with this story where students can write a letter to a classmate explaining why they would be a good friend. You can download this FREE template HERE
I love this activity because it always fosters unlikely friendships and boosts our classroom community.

Building Classroom Community Through Song

Ready for the best sing along ever? Have your kiddos do a poll on their favorite songs. Then work together to rewrite it for your class! It is such a fun activity to build classroom community! You can also rewrite a song yourself and then have your students team up to create dance moves to accompany your new class jam. My students love doing this classroom building activity, and let me tell you we really feel united when we start the day singing and dancing together! Not ready to rewrite a song yourself? No worries, I got you! Feel free to use the song I rewrote this year that goes to the tune of Old Town Road. You can download the FREE lyrics HERE!

Build Classroom Community by Spreading Kindness


Another way to build classroom community is to spread kindness in the classroom. There are so many amazing ways to do this, but one of my favorite easy ways is called the Top Two activity. In this activity students take a name off the board and write their two favorite things about that person. It is a great opportunity for students to practice seeing the good in one another. I like to do this activity in the morning while students first come in and unpack. I tape the papers to the board (I use Astrobright paper because I'm obsessed with it) and let them pick one up. When they are finished, they will re-tape it to the board. In the end, we have a bright board full of compliments and a boosted classroom community! You can download the FREE Top Two activity HERE.

How to Build Classroom Community Each Day

Morning Meeting is a Responsive Classroom style lesson that is held at the start of each day. This style lesson allows all classroom members to gather together and begin each school day on a positive note. It is the perfect place to build classroom community daily! Morning Meeting provides routine and relationship building each and every day. I chunk out a time in my schedule each day for Morning Meeting (about 15-20 minutes). It is so important that I build this community building time into my daily routine because otherwise, with how much I have to teach each day, I would never have the time to do it. If you're looking for more information about Morning Meeting you can check out this great book called, The Morning Meeting Book. It has some great activities and games you can easily implement each day to help build you classroom community.
If your looking for easy ways to get started with morning meeting, you can check out my morning meeting resources. Just click HERE!

Hey there 3rd and 4th grade teacher friends, this ones for you! I have a question to ask…

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Want to see a FREE sample of what we’re all about? Click HERE to download a free sample kit of all the goodness that is waiting for you when you join us in The Elementary Teacher Toolkit!

Wednesday, January 1

3 Tips to Becoming a Happy Teacher


Teaching is hard work! Plain and simple teachers are the hardest working people I know. On top of loving and caring for dozens of children, teachers have countless lessons to plan,  papers to grade, data to analyze, parents to contact, differentiation to plan for each day, and the list goes on. It’s no wonder teacher burnout is on the increase. Did you know 40%-50% of teachers leave within their first 5 year of teaching? Want to know something else, I was almost a part of that statistic. I love my job, but that wasn’t always the case. As teachers we feel the need to hide our struggles and troubles. But, I can remember one year in particular.  I was in a new grade, in a new leadership role, and let's just say I had beyond difficult class. Despite how tricky many of my students were I loved them unconditionally, because that’s what we teachers do. But between the increased workload, extremely challenging behaviors, and curriculum changes, I felt overwhelmed and defeated all the time. I almost left it all behind, my kiddos, my classroom, my degree, everything. Since then I’ve made some crucial changes and now I love my job more than ever! Today I’m sharing my favorite tips to beat the burnout and become a happy teacher again.  Read more as I share my 3 steps to living your happiest teacher life and let your new happiness take flight!
Download my 10 Steps to Becoming a Happy Teacher Workbook!

Find Your Teacher Tribe

The first step to becoming a happy teacher is to find your teacher tribe. Being a teacher is hard enough, do not surround yourself with people who make you feel anything less than awesome. This can be tricky if you are a new teacher or you are moving to a new school. My advice to you is to avoid the teachers room. At each school I have worked at, I have found that negativity tends to foster in the teachers room. Nobody has time for that in their life. Instead try inviting a teacher or staff member you gel with to have lunch in your room. Start to have more conversations with others in the copy room or office. Keep searching until you find your tribe. Trust me on this, you need a team of work friends who will be there for you. You need people behind you who will hug you on the hard days and celebrate with you on the great ones.
I found my teacher tribe and the impact they have made on my happiness is endless. My new saying is to surround yourself with people who make you feel like sunshine.



Step two is simple, simplify. As teachers we try and juggle one million and one things all the time. My question is why? Why do we feel the need to join countless committees and change our bulletin boards like we change our clothes? Your worth as a teacher is not measured by all the extras that you accomplish. My new saying is, simplify and succeed. Cut back on extra tasks that take time and energy. Since cutting out the excess at work I accomplish more and focus my energy on what’s most important. I feel less overwhelmed, and it’s truly a wonderful feeling! 

Teacher Self Care - Give Yourself Grace

Step three is Give Yourself Grace. This saying truly helped to get me through my toughest year, when I too started to feel the teacher burnout. Let me say loud and clear, do not compare yourself to others. Whether it’s the teacher down the hall or a teacher on social media, do not compare yourself to them. Each of us is on a different step and a different path in our educational career. Do not ever judge your worth by another's accomplishments. You do not have to have it all together all the time. You do not have to be “Pinterest perfect.” You simply have to keep trying. Keep showing up for your kids and give yourself grace. Know that in each moment you are trying your best and let that be enough. Want to learn more about teacher self care? CLICK HERE to read more.

This week at the end of each school day, I want you to write down one thing you are proud of yourself for. Read aloud at the end of the week before you leave. Start realizing your awesomeness again. Your students see it, it’s time you did too. “Even on your worst day, you are still some child's best hope,” Larry Bell.

Want to explore my resources just for teachers? CLICK HERE NOW!