Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Work Smarter: Tip #1

Well, three days in and already I'm finding myself munching bowls of Doritos, cheddar cheese chunks and pretzels. This happens, not during the day, but as soon as I get home. All day long, I eat pretty healthy. I say "pretty" healthy because there was the occasional chocolate fest. But, that's over for now. I ate the last of the 20 pieces of chocolate I had in my desk drawer for "those" kind of days.

My goals for the week were the following:
-meditate at least 3 times
-exercise at least 4-5 times
-be a more active listener

I'm doing great with the meditation (anyone can do this for 3 minutes....that's what I'm up to). I've been using guided meditations. I still have a million thoughts in my head at any given time, but for the time I meditate, and for about 10 minutes after, I feel very calm. This will be my biggest challenge.

The exercise is going well.

I still have work to do on the active listening. I did find myself biting my tongue several times, so I am becoming more aware of my habit of cutting people off.

I am a work in progress!

O.k., onto Tip #1 for Working Smarter, Not Harder...

Create a Poetry/Song book with your students. This is a great way for your students to practice fluency while reading/singing meaningful, fun, "just-right" texts.

Here is a picture of the way I'm using them this year. It's no-frills (except for the book tape I used to tape the covers on). You may also choose to use a binder (I've included both sizes of covers and parent letters in the TPT file below). Every Friday, students glue/place the new poem/song in the book, they highlight anything they can read or what I tell them to find/highlight. I strongly suggest having your students use a yellow or orange crayon to highlight. Crayons are so much easier than using actual highlighters that young children are obsessed with and use so hard they make holes in the paper....then cry about the holes... totally defeats the purpose of using the dang things.

The poem "Getting Ready" is from the following book: 
It's one of my favorite resources for fun, first grade poems that are filled with sight words. You can find it at

Click on the picture below to get your FREE TPT Poetry/Song Notebook covers, parent letter and a weekly plan for using it. You will LOVE using them!!! Such a timesaver!

Do you use Poetry/Song books with your class? How do you use them?

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Calm Down! Your Guide to a Great School Year

Are you a newly hired teacher, or have you been teaching for years? In either case, I'm sure you are feeling that uneasy, churning belly feeling right about now. For me, a teacher who has been teaching for more years than I'd like to admit, that feeling is right here/right now. The first day of school is tomorrow.

This year, I am in a unique situation. I was given late notice (Thursday) that I am charged with helping a long-term first grade substitute get a classroom ready for Monday. I felt like I was in one of those nightmares that all teachers know the go into your classroom to get it ready, thinking you have all this time until school starts. Then, BAM! It's somehow the first day of school, and the pencils aren't even sharpened (let alone, you haven't even found the pencils yet). Yeah, well, I'm living that dream. Thanks to the support of super awesome colleagues, tomorrow will go off without the hitch (I just know it). This leads me to the topic of this post..."Calm Down".

At the beginning of every school year, I get into a positive mindset. I tell myself I'm not going to get sucked into negative thinking or drama. I will only think positive thoughts, blah, blah, blah. And, that works.....until the first day of inservice! Sound about right? Before I know it, I can't sleep at night, I'm constantly thinking about things out of my control, and everything starts to suffer. I get snappy at my friends and family members, as mentioned before I don't get enough sleep, exercise goes to the wayside, and it's just not good. Not this year! I am done with that. I recently turned 40, and I can't be so stressed anymore. So, I invite you on a journey with me this year to have a super, yet more relaxing/healthy year. A school year where we teach "smarter, not harder" (a quote that kept coming up at inservice). We need to quit the teacher shaming (click "mom shaming" if you don't know what this is), help support each other and make time for ourselves. Sound like a dream? Not if there is a set goal and a plan to get there. Sounds like writing lesson plans, doesn't it? This teaching thing is very applicable to our lives, isn't it?

The Goal: Have a Healthy School Year (by healthy I mean less stress, more relaxing, cleaner eating, regular exercise, time for family/friends, time for me, working smarter/not harder).

The Plan: Set mini-goals each week. I will check in once a week (Wednesdays) to report how things are going and to set new mini-goals for the next week. That gives me accountability. You are welcome to join me on this journey too. I'd love to hear how you are doing on this journey. We can support and learn from each other.

Mini-Goals for the week:
1. Meditate 3 times a week. I learned about meditation at a recent spa visit to The Lodge at Woodlock. It is an amazing practice used to calm the mind. At any given time, I have a million thoughts in my head. I have to start small with meditation (3 minutes). It really helps to push out negative thoughts. and create a sense of calm. Meditation has SO many benefits. You can read about some of them here: Benefits of Meditation. This will help me at home as well as at work. Check out this self-guided meditation for beginners. You can find many, many more on youtube. There are also many mindfulness apps for your phone.

2. Think before I speak/listen before I speak: This is something I have to get better at. I've been known to finish other people's sentences for them and to do things as other people are talking to me. I will consciously listen to others, and I will give myself wait time before speaking (just like I give it to my students).

3. I will exercise 4-5 times this week. This isn't so hard to do during the summer, but it gets tricky during the school year. Running around the neighborhood, taking a walk with a friend or with the family or completing a workout at home are some ways to do that. By the way, if you are looking for some great, free at-home workouts, check out

If you are familiar with setting goals with your students, that's how this will work. Of course, you can set your own goals because we know everyone is different. In true Daily CAFE style, once I hit my mini-goals consistently, I will set new ones. The former goals will still be in play, but the focus will change to other goals that will help move me forward. I swear, CAFE can be applied to anything!

In my effort to create regular blog posts and to keep my sanity, I will be posting once a week. Wednesday's posts will contain a brief update on my journey to becoming a healthier teacher (hopefully some of you will join me on this journey). I plan to also have a quick literacy-related teaching tip to help you teach smarter, not harder.

Check back on Wednesday!
Have a great week!