Sunday, June 28, 2015

Arizona Blogger Meetup with a SWAG Bag GIVEAWAY!

Blogging and TPT has been such a blessing to me in many ways. When I started blogging back in 2011, I could never have imagined all of the amazing things that have transpired throughout the last 3 1/2 years. Hands down, one of the greatest things that has come from all of this is the connections I have made with fellow teacher bloggers. I've gained new ideas, inspirations, and most importantly, friendships. I first connected with fellow Arizona bloggers in January 2014, and I was SO nervous when I went to my first meetup - I didn't know a soul! But then I found myself carpooling with 2 bloggers I didn't know and driving to a restaurant in downtown Phoenix to meet another group of teachers who didn't know me from a hole in the ground. To make matters worse, I am always kind of shy when I meet people for the first time, so I wasn't sure what to expect. And you know what? It. Was. A. Blast. Everyone was so nice and made me feel so welcomed - it was like I had known them all along! Since then, our group has gotten together multiple times with more people added to the mix each time as we continued to connect with more AZ bloggers and I am proud to call them my friends.

This past weekend, my friend Ashlyn over at The Creative Classroom planned an amazing blogger meetup - AZ Brunch and Bubbly - for everyone at her house! She was an amazing hostess and decorated everything so adorably.

 I mean, come on. How cute is the table setup?

We had a blast hanging out, meeting new friends, and stuffing our faces (or was that just me?!)
 (L-R: Annie from The Red Brick Road Teacher, Jamie from Not So Wimpy Teacher, Keri from Happy to Be in K-3, Debbie from Crockett's Classroom, and Jennifer from Jennuine Teaching)
(L-R: Pam from Little Bird Kindergarten, Ashlyn from The Creative Classroom, and Cassandra from Mrs. 3rd Grade)
Keri, Annie, and Ashlyn with Janae from The Sharpened Pencil
Clearly the 2 kindergarten teachers have to talk with their hands.
 Me with Linda from Around the Kampfire, Pam from Little Bird Kindergarten, and Callie from Teach-a-Roo!

Ashlyn and Jennifer with Maribel from Learning in Wonderland!
I loved seeing old friends and meeting new ones, too!

We also had some photobooth fun!

Love these two!

One of the totally amazing highlights of the afternoon was having a Google Hangout with Amy Borrell Berner from TeachersPayTeachers! She was so warm and friendly and fun! She took some time out of her busy schedule to chat with us about some upcoming TPT stuff, answer some of our questions, and listen to new ideas! I can't tell you what an amazing feeling it is to be a part of a business that cares so much about their seller community.

Hi Amy!!

We also were very blessed to have a ton of amazing sponsors for our meetup that sent us a ton of AMAZING products to give away! 
Let me give you the rundown on these incredible sponsors and donations:
These great companies were kind enough to provide prizes for us to give away! 
Here are all of the lucky winners!

I was so excited to win the Teacher Anchor planner from C Jayne Teach! This planner has everything: calendar, notes, standards, data forms, contact logs, and more! It's going to be amazing for keeping me organized this upcoming school year.

We were also lucky enough to have some of those sponsors - Lakeshore Learning, Creative Teaching Press, GoNoodle, and Remind101 - provide products and prizes for all of us bloggers to take home an amazing SWAG bag! And guess what? YOU can win one of 3 of these incredible prize bags! Here's a peek at what's inside:

Amazing, right?! Just enter the Rafflecopter below for your chance to win!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

TPT Seller Challenge Week 1: Makeover Madness!

It's crazy how huge this TPT Seller Challenge has become in such a short time, but I'm so happy that the girls from Third in HollywoodSparkling in Second GradeTeach Create Motivate, and Peppy Zesty Teacherista started this fun project because it TOTALLY kicked my butt in gear to revamp a couple of projects that sorely needed it!

I chose two products that needed a facelift. The first one, my Plants and Living Things Observation Journal, is one of my top 5 bestsellers and one of the earliest products I put in my TPT store. The front cover wasn't awful, but it wasn't anything to write home about, either! It lacked any sort of focus on the title and was a little bit plain. It also had very outdated clip art and my instructions on each of the pages were somewhat unclear! What in the world! It needed sprucing up, that's for sure. 

Check out the before and after here:

I completely revamped the front cover with some Educlips and Graphics from the Pond clip art along with some gorgeous KG Fonts. How I ever made any products without the fabulousness from these ladies, I'll never know! I wanted to make the title have a more defined space as well as give potential buyers a better idea of what they were getting inside, so I added a color bar (slightly transparent) and bulleted highlights found in the product. It's amazing what a little graphics update will do for the front cover of a product!

I also went through the entire set and updated fonts and graphics on each of the plant journal pages to make them look a little bit more cleaned up. I kept all of the same activities that people have loved using in the journal - I just made them more attractive to the eye!

The second product to receive an update for Makeover Madness is literally the VERY first product I ever made for TPT back in 2012: ABC Order Picture Sort Literacy Game Pack. For this product, I only revamped the front cover... and as you can see in the picture below, YIKES! It was way overdue. When I first made this cover, I think I had a total of 3 clip art sets and one set of extra downloaded fonts.... you can see how well that turned out for me! Ha! How did anyone even want to buy this?!

To make it more appealing, I completely redid the cover with eye-popping colors and graphics. Much nicer to look at, don't you think?

To celebrate Week 1 of the TPT Seller Challenge, BOTH of these products are 20% off in my TPT Store through the end of the week! Don't miss it!

Have you joined in the Makeover Madness fun? You can click on any of the bloggers' names at the top of this post to link up!

Friday, June 5, 2015

Book Study: Mindsets in the Classroom with Hello Sunshine

Good morning! I'm very excited to announce here that the collaborative blog I'm a part of, Hello Sunshine, is doing a book study for the entire month of June with Mindsets in the Classroom by Mary Cay Ricci! Every 2-3 days, a different blogger will be covering a different chapter over on the blog where you can link up with your book study blog posts and have some wonderful collaboration and conversation.

I have to be honest -- I knew absolutely nothing about this book when my friend Jennifer over at The Blessed Teacher suggested we use this book for our summer book study, but after reading the first chapter, I'm already hooked! Mary Cay Ricci introduces the book with some powerful statements about growth and fixed mindsets and how it can positively and negatively affect our students. Check out the frame below for my chapter highlights - I'll go more in depth with each point further down in this post.


A growth mindset asserts that intelligence is a malleable quality that can be changed and developed. Learners with a growth mindset believe they can learn just about anything.

As a kindergarten teacher, I often notice that kinder kids lack confidence in themselves, especially at the beginning of the year. School is already a new and intimidating place to most kids when they first come to school and they can worry a lot about everything in their new surroundings. Nearly everything that is introduced to them in their first school year is a brand new concept and they often feel as if they will "disappoint" their teacher if they do something wrong on their work. A key phrase I am always using in my classroom is "Try your best!" If a student tells me they can't do something, I tell them that all I want them to do is try, even if they get it wrong the first time. The kids pick up on it quickly to the point where if a student says they can't or don't know how, I prompt the kids and they encourage their own peers by saying, "Try your best!" It really provides a sense of support amongst everyone just to encourage with those three simple words; and rarely does a student not respond to it.

The focus of a growth mindset is on learning, not on looking smart.

Students put so much stock in "looking smart" that they often are scared to try for fear of looking anything but. A growth mindset encourages effort and hard work and celebrates even the smallest amount of growth because we KNOW they will get there!

An educator with a growth mindset believes that with effort and hard work from the learner, all students can demonstrate significant growth and therefore all students deserve opportunities for challenge.

This part of the chapter really stood out to me. Mary Cay Ricci writes, "Add to this belief an effective teacher armed with instructional tools that differentiate, respond to learner's needs, and nurture critical thinking processes, and you have a recipe for optimum student learning.

OPTIMUM. STUDENT. LEARNING. Isn't that what we all hope, dream, and strive for as educators?! Imagine what your classroom would look like if you had optimum student learning. It excites me so much as an educator. Think about how engaged and challenged your students would be in this type of environment. I envision student-led learning, cooperative learning groups, encouragement, and inspiration. Think about how much growth your students would achieve here!

To piggyback off of that statement, I want to bring you to the one line that really hit me in the gut:

An educator's mindset directly influences how a child feels about him or herself and how he or she views him - or herself - as a learner.

There's no middle man. There's nothing to go between you and your student. It is YOU that is directly responsible for how your students view themselves as learners. How powerful is that? It's why I will never understand how anyone can be a teacher who wasn't completely passionate about their job. As for myself as a kindergarten teacher, I understand that I am giving my students their very first school experience; and I don't take that lightly. I am setting the stage for their entire school "career", if you will. My attitude and my mindset are going to be so influential to my young learners. I want my kids to be excited to come to school and learn. If I've achieved that, then I know I'm going in the right direction.

The Role of Potential and Hard Work

Mary Cay Ricci writes about how the word "potential" is often used in ways that have a negative connotation. She notes a phrase that we hear thrown around all the time: "We will help your child reach his full potential." Now looking at that phrase, it initially sounds great. Everyone who says it is well-meaning in their statement. But Ricci makes a great point when she asks, "How does potential become full? Potential can never be full; it is never-ending and our possibilities are limitless." It's easy to put limits on students we see struggling, or who get certain test scores. We often times remove them from challenging situations. 

She writes that one major obstacle for hampering student potential is that we judge students on the speed in which things are completed. As a teacher, I absolutely loathe this new mindset that seems to have infiltrated schools and districts everywhere. Testing has become such a huge focus that everyone wants to "compact the core" or shove tons of information at students before they are cognitively ready to move on. When I first started teaching, we did not introduce and go in depth on the teen numbers in math until January. This gave us an opportunity to really dive in to numbers 0-10 and teach number sense, counting, decomposing numbers, etc. which gave them a strong foundation for when we did introduce those tricky teen numbers. When we started having new benchmark tests, however, they included teen number concepts, which essentially cut our time in half for teaching numbers 0-10 and rushed through teen number concepts so that they would have some sort of background knowledge when they saw the problems they had to solve independently. I really noticed a difference in my students in that their number sense and number identification concepts were not as strong as they were when we had more time to really engage with the concepts.

To wrap it up, I thought Ricci's classroom survey was really telling in the change of mindsets in students. She entered a kindergarten classroom and reported that 100% of the students demonstrated a growth mindset. They believed they could, so they did! This is one of the reasons I absolutely love teaching kindergarten. They are so excited about school that they cheer for something as simple as getting a brand new notebook from the teacher. It's so easy to get them invested and excited in their learning because they haven't been jaded by school yet. When she moved up to 3rd grade to survey them, the number had dropped all the way to 42%! I just so believe that this is a result of all of the importance and focus placed on testing. Kids start to see their scores and lose belief in themselves because teachers are forced to make it such an important goal. And while assessments are important, we all know as educators that test scores don't tell the whole story of a child.

So, what's my take away?

You all are amazing and I know that the majority of teachers believe in their students and want the best for them. I'm excited to see what other golden information I can gleam from this book as I keep reading! I hope you will join in and link up with us over at Hello Sunshine - we'd love to hear your thoughts about it as you read along with us!
Click the button below to head to Hello Sunshine and join in the book study!

Hello Sunshine!