Monday, December 4, 2017

Reflection Connection: December

YOU GUYS! I feel like a little kid this time of year because I LOVE the Christmas season! As soon as Thanksgiving is over, I'm whisking out all of the decorations and blaring Christmas music in the house. It's truly the most wonderful time of the year! This month's Reflection Connection is all about joy.

Entry 5: What brings you the most joy each day?

My Response: On a professional level, seeing my students collaborate well with their classmates and make good decisions brings me the most joy. As a teacher, I aim to help my students learn how to be compassionate individuals who can navigate our diverse world with understanding and kindness. Watching them learn those skills and deal with challenges in a productive way brings so much joy to my heart because I know (hope!) that these are skills they'll take with them long after they leave my classroom.

Your turn: What brings you the most joy each day?

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Best YouTube Videos for Teaching the Revolutionary War

I always get so excited when I find YouTube videos that supplement my lessons perfectly. Some are funny others are purely informational but all the ones I choose fit specific parameters that I'm looking for in a particular lesson.
The Revolutionary War is one of my favorite topics to teach because I find that era of American History so fascinating! I love finding ways to bring the content to life in my classroom and brief videos help students to learn in engaging ways.
Here are my favorite YouTube videos for teaching about the Revolutionary War (in no particular order).

Soomo Publishing: Too Late to Apologize: A Declaration

This is a staple favorite in my classroom to segue from the causes of the Revolutionary War to the war itself. It's very well produced and has some great symbolism. The kids LOVE it! 
Disney Educational Productions: Schoolhouse Rock! The Shot Heard Round the World

I think it's safe to say that we've all seen this one before, right? I remember watching it when I was in school! It is geared towards younger students but I still think it's a fun way to reinforce the battles of Lexington and Concord. I usually show it at the end of class when we finish learning about those battles. The kids think the tune is catchy and (surprisingly!) several in each class have never seen it. I guess that means I'm old. ;)
Crash Course U.S. History: The American Revolution
Personally, I really like Crash Course videos. They're clever, thoughtful and informational. These videos are great for older students - definitely high school and even gifted middle school students, as well. I've shown them to 8th grade students and several understood it (John Green speaks really fast). When in doubt, I post them to my class website so that students can access them at home.
Civil War Trust: The Entire Revolutionary War
I LOVE this YouTube video! It goes through many major events of the Revolutionary War and feels very cinematic. I don't show the entire video at once. Rather, I show it section at a time to correspond with our studies. The whole video is just under 20 minutes but each section is approximately less than 5 minutes (sometimes shorter).
The Civil War Trust also has great 4 minute videos that highlight specific topics related to the Civil War. Click HERE to visit their YouTube playlist.
Kristina Edgar: American Revolution Episodes
Kristina makes learning about the American Revolution extra fun. She creates clever and engaging videos that are PERFECT for middle school students. They're informational and humorous.  A perfect combination for that age group.
To Win a War, You Need a Plan
Parliament Taking All My Dough
Declaration of Independence
I hope these help you jumpstart some fun lessons on the Revolutionary War!
Happy Teaching!

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Reflection Connection: November

I love November because it kicks off the start of the holiday season in my house! Delicious food, more time to spend with friends and family and thinking of all the things I'm thankful for in my life make this season truly special.

Entry 4: What do you feel thankful for in your life?

My Response: At school, I'm most thankful for supportive colleagues who are always ready to collaborate with each other and constantly put students first. At home, I'm thankful for the unconditional love and support of my family. Life isn't always perfect, but the people around me sure do make it fun!

Now it's your turn: What are you most thankful for in your life?

Monday, October 16, 2017

DIY String Art Tutorial for the Classroom

When I started to see string art in home d├ęcor stores, I knew I wanted to create a custom piece for my classroom! I'm a novice at crafting, so bear this in mind as you read the post: if I can do it, you can do it!


I snagged most of these supplies at Walmart. Here's the list:

1. Embroidery Thread: $2.28
2. Stencils: $3.47
3. Nails: $0.97
4. Spray Paint: $1.00
5. Wooden Board (Lowe's): approx. $3.00 (I forgot to keep the receipt - oops!) 

I measured the board and placed the letters in the center. Watch out for the spacing! I had to re-do a couple letters because I didn't space them out evenly when I started. All it took was a little erasing - an easy fix.

After tracing the letters it was time to add the nails. Originally, I spaced the nails about an inch apart (see the picture above). I realized that I wanted the thread to really fill up the inside of the letters so I added more nails after the picture was taken. You can see the difference in the picture below.

I read some tutorials online that suggested painting the board before starting the project. I wanted to paint the nails, too, so I opted to spray paint the entire project at one time. It took a few coats of spray paint to cover the wood but I LOVE the end result.

Once the paint has dried, it's time to start the tedious (but gratifying!) process of attaching the string to the nails. I chose a nail on the outside corner of a letter and tied a knot. I left quite a long "tail" on the knot because I'll be tying a couple more knots to it and didn't want to be fumbling with a tiny piece of string later. We'll cut off the extra string at the end of the project.  

Next, wrap the string around the outside of the next nail. By wrapping the entirety of the outside of the letter first, you'll create a nice clean edge.

Keep the string pulled tight as you continue wrapping it around the nails on the outside edge of the letter. If you don't keep the string pulled tightly, it has a tendency to pop off the nails. It happened to me a couple times. It's a bit annoying but a great reminder to always keep a watch on that string!

Continue the process until the outside of the letter is wrapped with string. Tie a knot back at the first nail. Then fill in the center of the letter by wrapping the string around the nails! There's no particular way to wrap the string. I just kept wrapping it around the nails until I got the look I wanted. Once I was finished, I made sure to end at the nail with the knot, tying one last knot to finish up the letter.

This part of the project is my favorite - seeing everything come together so beautifully! I love how the color pops off the white background. Once all the letters are complete, take your scissors and cut off all the extra hanging strings.

Ta Da! I LOVE the finished string art project and can't wait to place it in my classroom! I'll probably attach two little hooks to the back to hang it on the wall.

If you make string art for your classroom, I'd love to see it! Share it with me via email at or on Instagram: @teachersprep. :)

Monday, October 9, 2017

5 Great Websites for Teaching About Colonial America

When planning for each unit of study in my classroom, I spend a solid amount of time searching the internet for websites and online resources that can supplement the activities I already have. I feel so excited when I find one that fits the needs of my students and I'm sure you do, too! 
If you're on the hunt for websites and online resources for your unit on the colonies, here are some that might help:

1. Colonial Williamsburg

This has to be one of my FAVORITE websites to use for finding online resources for the colonial times. The multimedia tab of the website seems to go on forever with interactive activities for a variety of subjects. I love the interactive paintings (like the portrait of George Washington and Trumball's "The Declaration of Independence") along with the cute games. Several of the games are geared towards younger kids so there's resources available for several grade levels in one website! Click HERE to visit the site.

2. PBS: Colonial House

This page on the PBS website has lots of great information and interactive tools about life in the colonies. Some of my favorite tools are the 360 Tours (it's like going on a field trip without all the paperwork!) and 1628 Across the Continent where students learn about what was going on beyond the borders of the colonies. The website has several other games and interactive content that you might find useful, too! Click HERE to visit the site.

3. Mrs. Nussbaum's 13 Colonies Interactive Map

Mr. Nussbaum's website has a fun little interactive map that students can explore to learn about this history of the colonies as well as the major cities in the New World. It's a fun resource to use for a daily warm-up or two! Click HERE to visit the site.

4. Library of Congress: Colonial America Primary Sources

While engaging students in online, interactive content can be both meaningful and fun, we can't forget about the importance of using primary sources as often as possible in the classroom. The Library of Congress is packed with primary sources that are a click away. In fact, click HERE to see what they have collected for Jamestown and Thanksgiving.

5. YouTube

It's no secret that I love to use brief videos to introduce or reinforce certain concepts. Here are some of my favorite finds from YouTube:


Monday, October 2, 2017

Reflection Connection: October

Now that it's October, we've settled into the rhythm of the school year. Classroom expectations have been established, we know all our students' names and half of our year's supply of pencils is already missing. :) The first weeks of school jitters are behind us and new challenges rise to confront us on both personal and professional levels. This month, let's reflect on those challenges we're facing and create an action plan for how we can solve those issues.

Entry 3: What challenges are your facing in school? What is your action plan for solving these issues?

My Response: One challenge that I'm currently facing is finding effective strategies to keep students' work organized - primarily for those who seem to lose everything! I've developed a binder organizational system, post homework and assignments in my classroom and online as well as work with those students on an individual basis. Somehow, though, a few students still seem to lose work despite all my efforts! Does this happen to you? What is your strategy for helping those students?

One policy I'm going to try this year is binder checks. I'm hoping it provides an extra incentive for my kiddos to stay organized while at the same time setting up a system that keeps me routinely checking on their organizational skills and offering assistance when necessary.

Your turn! What challenges are you facing and what is your plan of action?

Monday, September 25, 2017

Best Fitness Trackers for Teachers

There are no affiliate links in this post. :)

As a teacher, I always thought I did a pretty good job at staying active in my classroom. After all, I walk around constantly! When I started counting my steps using my Fitbit Charge HR, I quickly realized that I wasn't doing quite as well as I anticipated. On average I was getting only 5,000 - 6,000 steps during the school day. Studies say we should be getting around 10,000 steps a day!
I started tracking my health and fitness more consciously using my watch. Just wearing the watch and checking the stats encouraged me to get those 10,000 steps each day and I even started to monitor my nutrition using the app! Several of my teacher friends have different types of fitness trackers. We compared notes and came up with a list of the best fitness trackers for teachers, in our humble opinions. :)

Fitbit Charge 2 Heart Rate +
Product Details
I have the first version of the Fitbit Charge and I love that this watch tracks my heart rate and monitors my cardio workouts and calories burned. It's so gratifying to watch the app track my caloric intake vs. calories burned so that I can better monitor my nutrition. The Fitbit Charge 2 adds guided breathing sessions (definitely need those some days...right, my friends?) and call, text and calendar alerts. I think I'll definitely be upgrading soon - there are so many beautiful colors! I especially love the teal one. (Unless one of these other trackers catch my eye!)

Apple Smart Watch
The sleek design of the Apple Watches are sooooo pretty. Several of my teacher friends can't imagine living without their watch now that they own one. It's a little pricier than the Fitbit smart watch, but if you're looking for a device that can do double-duty as a sport watch and all-in-one wearable tech, this is for you. It's even water-resistant up to 50 meters! One teacher said she is obsessed with the daily activity tracker which uses sleek, multi-colored rings to help you monitor your daily progress. Click here to learn more from Apple!

Garmin Vivosmart HR+
Product DetailsOne of my friends runs several times a week and swears by the Garmin products. She loves the app interface that tracks steps, sleep, "active calories" (calories burned) along with a wide range of ways to monitor nutrition (calories consumed, remaining, etc). There's also a GPS within the watch which allows the wearer to measure distance and pace easily. Click here to learn more about the Garmin Vivosmart HR+.

Fitbit Blaze
Product DetailsThe Fitbit Blaze has a very Apple Watch-type feel with a focus on tracking fitness over other apps. It's been described as a "powerhouse" for tracking activities and getting notifications from smartphones. The screen has a beautiful, clear display with touchscreen functionality and (much to my friend's delight!) the battery usually lasts here 4-5 days! Having one last thing to remember during the school week is a lifesaver. The watch keeps careful track of steps, calories burned, etc. so you can just live your life. Click here to check it out for yourself!

While this certainly isn't a comprehensive list of all smart watches available, these represent options that are both affordable and well-recommended! Having a fitness watch has made me more aware about the decisions I make on a day-to-day basis regarding food and exercise. Some of my students love to ask me how many steps I've taken at different times of the day and we can compare our mileage if they happen to be wearing one, too!
If you own a fitness watch that's not on this list and love it, please share it in the comments below! :)