All You Need is Love + Coffee Teacher Blog Hop Giveaway

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Hello, friends! 

***UPDATED:  This giveaway is NOW closed!  Congratulations to Wendy of 1st Grade Fireworks for winning!  (***

We are approaching the week of LOVE and I've teamed up with some other teacher bloggers to bring you a special Valentine's Day giveaway!  We are giving away a $50 Starbucks card and Rae Dunn LOVE mug to one lucky coffee-lovin' winner! 

If you love coffee as much as the next teacher, I hope you'll take a few minutes to enter. There are only two steps and you've secured your entry in the All You Need is Love + Coffee giveaway!

1.  Subscribe to my monthly newsletter.

This newsletter comes out only once per month and is chocked full of some of my recent favorite blog posts, new products, and  -every once in a while- giveaway opportunities.

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2.  Show some love to my friends by subscribing to their blogs below.

You can click each of their logos to head on over to their websites!

Once you’ve subscribed to each of the blogs in our Blog Hop, you’re eligible to win the giveaway! Contest ends Sunday, February 11th at 6:00 PM Pacific Standard Time/9:00 PM Eastern Standard Time. Check back to this same post shortly after, where I’ll be announcing the winner.

Thank you to each of you for supporting this little ol' blog thing!  I greatly appreciate all of you for staying with me on this journey!

Happy Valentine's Day!

Teaching and Graduate School

Saturday, January 27, 2018

How to Handle Teaching and Grad School Like a Boss

It's not required of every state, but many states in the U.S. require teachers to obtain their Master's degree so within a given range of time once they start teaching.  Here in Kentucky, for example, you have to start your Master's degree within 5 years.  The demands of teaching layered with the demands of any graduate-level coursework will most definitely take a toll on other parts of your life.

I hate to brag, but I may very well be a professional at teaching while handling graduate school.  I started teaching in 2011 and started my master's degree in 2012.  Since then, I've obtained my Master's degree in Literacy, taken additional graduate classes in the field of literacy as part of a district initiative, obtained my Rank 1, and am currently working on my Educational Specialist in School Leadership and Administration.  I've been in graduate school for the last 6 years and have only taken one year off of school since 1994.

It's okay, you can laugh.

You can call me insane.

The truth is, I just love school.  I love learning all that there is to know and getting better at the job that I love to do.  I have learned, however, that if you aren't organized and purposeful about how you spend your time, your life can come crashing down.  All. Around. You.

Okay, maybe that's being a bit dramatic.  But seriously.  

Navigating Teaching and Graduate School

There are ways to survive keeping full-time teaching job as well as a graduate course load and still have a life, however.  Below are my top five tips for thriving through life if you're going to graduate school and teaching simultaneously.

1. Invest in a good planner.  This may seem like a no-brainer, but I don't know how I would survive without my planner.  I've used a planner since I can remember but prior to this year, I've only ever used it for keeping track of school work.  I usually buy the cheap planners you can get for under $10 at Target.  This year, I switched to a Happy Planner and it is the best decision I've ever made.  My planner has three sections, which I use to organize my personal life, teaching responsibilities, and graduate coursework and homework.  This planner has literally saved my life and helped to keep me on track.  Before, I would forget even the simplest things. 

I got my Happy Planner during a back-to-school sale at Michael's for 50% off, but you can find one similar to the one I got on Amazon using this link (affiliate link).  I also know several teachers who use the Erin Condren Teacher or Life Planner.  You can find them at

Using a Happy planner to manage school, work, and personal items.

2. Get ahead of the game.  More than likely, you've got a syllabus outlining your assignments for the semester.  I usually try my best to get ahead in my classes, especially with the reading assignments.  Got an extra few hours one weekend?  Read ahead for a couple of classes.  That way, all you have to do is go back and skim your notes the day before.

I always write notes in the margins of my books and highlight throughout.  My absolute favorite pens for writing in my books are the Papermate Inkjoy Gel Pens and fat Sharpie highlighters (affiliate links).  The ink is super smooth and vivid in both of them.  As a bonus, they don't often bleed through paper unless it's very thin. You can pick up some over at Amazon.

I use Sharpie highlighters and Inkjoy gel pens to take notes in my books for my graduate school classes.

3. Choose a field that you are passionate about and fits with your current job.  Also a no-brainer.  I got my master's degree in Literacy because I truly believe that changing the trajectory of my students' lives and future depends on their ability to succeed in a literate world.  I loved my master's program because I was learning about ideas and strategies I could immediately take back to my classroom and implement.  This not only made it easier, it made it relevant.  I knew that my coursework mattered because it was making me a better teacher, day by day.  

If you're passionate about what you do, it doesn't feel like work.

4. Connect with other teachers on social media.  There's something special about connecting with teachers who understand what you're going through on a daily basis.  I gain inspiration and understanding from my Instagram and Twitter PLNs, both from teachers in my district and those across the world.  The primarily visual aspect of Instagram gives you a peek into other classrooms, while Twitter chats give you the opportunity to hold discussions and collaborate with others.  Check out this link for a complete list of Twitter Education Chats.  The list below highlights some of my favorite hashtags on each platform.

teacher hashtags to use on social media, instagram and twitter

5. Schedule time to take a break and do something for YOU.  If you only commit to doing one thing from this list, make it this.  As a former workaholic who unabashedly loves her job, I have only recently come to recognize the importance of taking time for yourself.  Before I met my husband, actually, I had no problem working my tail off at work then coming home and working some more.  I enjoyed it, but I also realize that it wasn't healthy.  It stressed me out to be in that mode 24/7 and my mental and physical health suffered.  

Take at least one day off a week.  Don't work on the weekends or, if you can't avoid it, limit it to only one day.  Also, find something that you love to do outside of work.  My husband and I love to play tabletop games with our friends, spend time with our families, and cook together.  We also love to pull out our paint and sketchbooks and get creative together.  I know that it's easy to say, "I don't have time for a hobby!"  But it's vital to your sanity that you MAKE time.  Write it down on your to-do list so that you can mark it off.  Schedule it a week in advance.  Just don't skip it.

I hope these tips will help you manage and stay organized while navigating through graduate school and the teaching profession.  Do you have other tips for thriving during this time in your life?  Leave us a comment below!  

The Great Math Debate Valentine's Edition: Freebie

Tuesday, January 23, 2018
I am so thankful for all the support you've shown for my business in the last few weeks!  I want to show my appreciation by giving you my newest TPT product completely for FREE!  This product offers 6 different word problems in three different formats.  All I ask is that you share with your friends!

I'm excited to share this product with you.  The Great Math Debate is one of my best sellers and it's one of my most favorite classroom activities.  At its core, the Great Math Debate is a strategy that encourages problem solving, critical thinking, collaborative, speaking and listening skills.  It's the Ritz Carlton of Think-Pair-Share.

How does the Great Math Debate work?
First, students are presented with a problem which they work to solve on their own.  After, they join a small group of 3-4 students.  Each student is given a few minutes to explain their answers to each.  Then, working together, they craft their BEST answer and present it to the class.  From there, the Great Math Debate ensues.  More directions about implementing the Great Math Debate are included in the product itself.  As always, if you have questions, let me know in the comments below!

What all is included?
The Great Math Debate: Valentine's Edition includes 6 two-step word problems for students to work through in a variety of formats.  Students can either work on individual and group work pages which are available to print and copy.  A lower-prep Great Math Debate can be quickly put together with printable task cards.  Students can write their answers in notebooks and transfer their group answer to a separate sheet of paper or posterboard.

In addition, I've included a Google Slides version of the Great Math Debate which can be implemented in a station or 1:1 setting!  This is the first time I've included a Google Apps version to my products, so I'm excited to let you pilot this product and let me know what works, what didn't work, and what needs to be fixed.

Or follow this link:

Snow Day Bingo Freebie

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

I've had three snow days in a row, nestled around the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday, which makes for a nice long 6 day weekend for myself.  I've spent most of the break reading Teach Like Finland  (see affiliate link below for your copy!) and reflecting over some of the easy strategies Walker suggests for implementing more movement into your classroom and building classroom community at the beginning of the school year.  One of the strategies he suggests is using classroom bingo to build relationships with students within the first few days of the school year.

I've used similar Bingo boards in my classroom before.  You can find great back-to-school ones, like these by some great teachers on TeachersPayTeachers:

Student Search by Rachel Lynette
Back to School Bingo by Teach With Owl Your Heart

I started wondering about how I could come back to school with my students after such a long break and rebuild that classroom community that we worked so hard to build at the beginning of the school year.  And then it dawned on me... classroom BINGO!

I made this Snow Day Bingo that I wanted to share with you FOR FREE!  You read that correctly... it is completely free and all you have to do is download the link below.  All that I ask is that you share with your friends and colleagues and let me know how it worked out in your classroom!

You can read more about using classroom bingos to create classroom community in Teach Like Finland (affiliate link).


How I Kept My Passion for Education Last Year

Friday, January 12, 2018
I cannot believe we are already into 2018.  It seems like just yesterday I was holding my brand new niece and saying goodbye to 2016.  Now, she's a year old and we're halfway through January of 2018.  2017 brought so much change for me, both in and out of the classroom.  I'm proud of who I've grown to be in the last year and excited to continue on that journey this year.

If there's one that I embraced last year, it was the power of discomfort.  I had to step outside of my comfort zone to find a place I felt like I belonged.  It's easy to experience burnout as a teacher and fall into a rut.  Doing the same thing over and over is bound to take a toll on your passion and effectiveness in the classroom.  How did I combat that this past year?

I let my teacher leader flag fly.

By no means did I wake up one day and say, "Hey, I want to be a teacher leader."  It didn't quite work out like that.  But I surrounded myself with like-minded teachers and educators who had a passion for students and a craving for innovation.  I got involved in a grassroots teacher-led engagement group in my school district called JCPSForward and built my #TeacherTribe.  For the first time in my career, I led district-wide professional learning on topics I was passionate about, including literacy, technology in the classroom, and using social media platforms such as Twitter and Instagram to expand your teacher tribe.  For the first time in my career, I felt as if I had a voice in the current education landscape.

I went for it.

In 2017, I also made the decision to go back to school to get an Educational Specialist degree in School Administration and Leadership.  This is something I have always known I might want to pursue one day in the future, but I decided to go ahead and take the plunge.  I am thrilled that I did because I am loving every second of it, even though it can be extremely overwhelming.  I am eager to learn how to harness my leadership skills to create a larger impact for more students than just those within my own classroom.

I expanded my business, my brand, and my teacher tribe.

With a little push from my real life teacher friend, Kelsey (, I breathed new life into my blog and my TeachersPayTeachers store.  This experience, in and of itself, brought new life back to my teaching career and my passion for the job I love.  My business side hustle is so much a part of who I am as a teacher and as a person and I love pouring myself into it.

A large part of growing my blog and TeachersPayTeachers store began with engaging with the larger teacher community on Instagram.  I have met so many fantastic teachers and TPT sellers through Instagram and I will forever be grateful for the passion and enthusiasm they share daily.

I enjoyed the little moments with my students.  

Teaching can be stressful.  There's no doubt about that.  But I can almost guarantee that 100% of teachers started the job because they love kids and they love being around kids.  Even when they're not listening to you and they're really struggling to understand the content, you can always count on them to crack a funny joke or give you a hug when they can tell you're not having the best of days.  My students are the reason I do what I do and I can always count on them to remind me why I love my job.

I hope you continue to renew your passion for education on a daily basis.  I'd love to hear about how you're keeping your passion alive.  Let me know in the comments below!

My Week of Teaching in Review: November 18, 2017

Saturday, November 18, 2017

What a week.  With Thanksgiving break closing in, the energy of the students in my classroom is high.  The energy of their teacher, however, is waning.  I'm jealous of all of you that have started your Thanksgiving break already.  We still have two days with students this week, but I'm excited to spend those days doing some fun activities!

This past week, we continued learning about area and relating it to multiplication.  The first day we tackled area of irregular shapes was a disaster, but we came back the next day with some crayons, which always seem to help.  My students were able to break apart the shapes into smaller rectangles much better with the help of some color coding!  I will be sure to start with this activity next year!

Next week, we're going to design our dream houses and find the area of the entire house.  Some students have already told me they're ecstatic about adding Lazer Tag rooms and a space just for their dogs.  I can't wait to see how they turn out!

I also had some extra time this week to sneak in a few phonics focus groups, based off the spelling assessment we gave last week.  My school uses the Developmental Spelling Analysis (DSA) by Kathy Ganske to assess phonics knowledge and provide Tier 3 interventions.  Below are examples of what my data summary looks like.  The first image shows my entire class' data.  It's nice to look at it and see, at a glance, our areas of growth and success.  And, of course, I love color coding it!  The green tells me that my students have mastered that skill, the yellow needs review, and the red needs direct, explicit instruction.

As you can see, I have a wide variety of learners in my classroom.  I use guided reading to meet all of their needs!  I used the DSA data to create phonics focus groups, which students who are working on the same skills.  Take a look at the next photo - it shows one of my groups.  The post-it note is the area of focus for that group.  This group in particular is working on consonant blends and digraphs.

Interested in learning more about how we utilize the DSA or other literacy assessments?  Let me know!

I will probably be taking a break next week, since it's such a short week (and Thanksgiving!) - I hope you enjoy the long weekend and take some time to rest and relax.


My Week of Teaching in Review: November 11, 2017

Saturday, November 11, 2017
It's been a while since I've written a blog post.  To be honest, I have a hard time coming up with ideas that I think might be of interest to you.  But I love writing, so I decided to start a weekly post called My Teaching Week in Review.  I love, love, love the time I spend with my kiddos each week and I can't wait to start sharing that with you.  Here's a peek into what we did this week!

Literacy is my absolute favorite subject to teach and I love using Pixar shorts to expose students to new concepts.  These short videos are not only extremely well made (uh, hello, Pixar!), but they're also usually dialogue free.  Students have to use their inferencing skills to figure out what is going on.  This week we continued learning about central message and talked about character motivation.  To help us understand what motivation is and how it affects a story, we watched Partly Cloudy, a film about a cloud who creates babies to send to Earth.  It is such a cute story and my students LOVED watching it.  Plus, it helped their understanding of character motivation so much and they were able to apply the concept to the story we were reading.  I can't wait to use La Luna next week!  Check out the full list of Pixar shorts and literacy strategies here.  I apologize because I found this list on Pinterest years ago and I'm not sure who or where it came from.  If you know, please do tell so I can give credit.

My students completely engaged during a viewing Partly Cloudy.

We got to have a board game party this week!  My school implements a school-wide behavior incentive program called PAWS.  If a class or student is caught showing exceptional behavior, they earn a paw and the class in each grade level with the most paws for the week wins.  For every 1st, 3rd, 5th, and 10th time you win, you get to spin the wheel of rewards - and this week, we spun to win a board game party.  Thursday afternoon we took a field trip to the cafeteria and students got to choose from a variety of games to play.  They had a BLAST!  It was a nice break from the normal day-to-day routine, plus it allowed them to work on social and cooperative skills... which some of them really needed.  ๐Ÿ˜„  In addition, it allowed me to see some of their strengths and skills outside of the classroom, which I always love!

Since today is Veteran's Day, we also had a visitor from the Army National Guard come to our classroom to speak about her job and other military jobs on Thursday.  She is the mother of one of my students and my class loved asking her questions about how difficult her job is, the food she eats in the military, and more.  I was very proud of how respectful they were, even if their questions were a little weapon heavy sometimes.  ๐Ÿ˜’

Army National Guard Member Sturtivan visiting our classroom for Veteran's Day.

Finally, I spent most of the week assessing my students using the Developmental Spelling Analysis.  It was developed by Kathy Ganske.  We took this assessment when school started back in August, so it was great to see how much growth they've made since then.  I'll admit, I'm a bit of a nerd, so I loved pouring over the data and creating new word study groups for my students.  I'll let you know more about that next week!

Oh - and the best part of the week - I got to spend a night out with my teaching besties!  We enjoyed a night or dinner and fun.  It was nice to step away from the classroom for a little bit and spend time with each other.  We should definitely do it more often!

Enjoy your week, teachers!

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