December 30, 2014

Meme Calendar Now Available!

You may recall earlier this school year when I talked about how I've been using memes in my classroom. This has honestly been one of the best things I've added to my daily routine because it brings SO MUCH JOY to my students! It's hilarious to watch them race to my classroom during a passing period, even if they don't have my class until much later in the day, because they want to be the first to read (and judge... because they do that too) the daily meme.

It's such a simple thing, but I really feel like it's helped me connect with my students. They're really into memes themselves and will sometimes create them in ways that are specifically related to our classroom, which I LOVE! It's also a way that I get to share a little of my personality with them without taking away from our learning time. 

When I finished my long-term position this year, my students BEGGED the classroom teacher to continue the memes. They even put it in writing when she gave them a survey about what they wanted to keep/change with her being back from her maternity leave.

I figured there must be some other teachers out there who would love to use memes in a similar way but maybe they don't have the time/desire to search through the endless memes out there to find ones that are school appropriate (which, let's face it, has been the biggest challenge in this task because the funniest memes are often inappropriate). 

So, I decided I'd go ahead and put together a file for this purpose.

What I've created is a January 2015 Meme Calendar that links to each day with a school-appropriate meme. The left side is fully editable so you can add your own daily agenda and bellringer tasks. 

My goal is to create a new calendar with a new theme and new memes for each month so be sure to follow my TPT store so you can be notified when the new calendars are posted.

December 15, 2014

IMWAYR & New Product Release

This isn't an apology. I've done that too many times to count. I've come to accept that the consistency of my blogging ebbs and flows like everything else in life, and I'm not going to make excuses for the times when I'm away. It's just part of life.

Today is Monday, which means I get to tell you about some things I've been reading. First up is Brandi Glanville from the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills with her newest book, Drinking & Dating: PS Social Media is Ruining Romance. I hadn't realized that Brandi perviously wrote a book, but I don't think mattered much that I read this one first. And to be honest, I probably won't go back and read her first one. My honest opinion about her book is probably skewed by the fact that she is a TERRIBLE reader. This becomes painfully obvious in her audiobook when she constantly trips over her own words - well.... at least they're supposed to be her own words. I'm not sure why production didn't make her go back and re-read many sections of this book because it was painfully obvious that she used a ghost writer because the language didn't flow naturally off her tongue. I like Brandi on RHOBH, but I would not waste my time reading another one of her books.

On a much happier note, I also started reading Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green (author of The Fault in Our Stars) and David Levithan (author of Every Day). I enjoyed both of these authors so much that I practically leapt for joy when I saw that they collaborated on this book. I was pretty much hooked on this book from the moment I reached Chapter 2. The book is written in alternating points of view, which I LOVE as a reader. Will Grayson and Will Grayson have very little in common except that they're both teenagers living in suburban Chicago (Yay! I love reading about places I know in real life!), but when they meet during a chance encounter in the city, their lives become very much entwined.

As I read through this book (I'm about halfway through it at this point), I keep finding awesome quotes I want to remember. Here are some of my favorites:

"You like someone who can't like you because unrequited love can be survived in a way that once-requited love cannot."

“When things break, it's not the actual breaking that prevents them from getting back together again. It's because a little piece gets lost - the two remaining ends couldn't fit together even if they wanted to. The whole shape has changed.” 

“this is why we call people exes, I guess - because the paths that cross in the middle end up separating at the end. it's too easy to see an X as a cross-out. it's not, because there's no way to cross out something like that. the X is a diagram of two paths.” 

“he is both the source of my happiness and the one i want to share it with.” 

“By saying you don’t care if the world falls apart, in some small way you’re saying you want it to stay together, on your own terms.” 

See what I mean?  Good stuff!

OK.. so now that I've updated you on my reading. I have an announcement!

I think we're all aware of how terrible I am about posting new products in my TPT store. I haven't done this is MONTHS. But... some of you will be proud to see that I have, in fact, posted a new product today. It's my Poetry Anthology Unit, which I've been working on since... oh... last February. Obviously, I took some breaks in there, but this was much harder for me than I anticipated. I've had an internal debate about how much I should share regarding this unit. Each year I've taught it, I've tweaked it a little more, and while I love how this unit works for me, I have to remember that everyone has a different teaching style. I have to "let it go" just a bit and expect that every user will do the same with my product to make it work for him or her. 

If you're in the market for a great, student-centered project that will easily keep your students engaged for a month's time, I hope you will consider my poetry anthology. I have seen mothers reduced to tears upon receiving these anthologies as Mother's Day gifts, and I've watched students pour their hearts and souls into this writing. I can also tell you that I contacted several former students to get examples of their poems to share in this product, and ALL OF THEM still had their anthologies. The students I asked are now seniors in high school or in college, and they STILL HAVE THEIR ANTHOLOGIES! This makes me SO PROUD!

December 1, 2014

Currently, IMWAYR, & a Freebie

I cheated a little bit this week by combining Farley's Currently with my Monday reading link-ups because I wanted to tell you guys that I finally finished reading Dark Places by Gillian Flynn. You may recall that I "lost possession" of this novel a few weeks back when my two week deadline passed. One of the nice things about OverDrive is that it remembered where I left off when I re-downloaded the book (after sitting on the waiting list for a while, of course). I had to rush through the reading so I wouldn't lose it again, and I'm glad I had the chance to finish it. Of her three books, I would rank this second, Gone Girl first, and Sharp Object last. I did enjoy all three stories, though.

I'm loving that our favorite Christmas tradition continues, as Joel and I have already been out to visit the Larsen Family's Christmas Light Display twice this season. This year, like last year, they have two different hour-long shows on alternating nights, and they added a few Frozen songs, which I LOVED! There's something so magical about this display that makes me content to sit in my car forever and watch! For those that aren't fortunate enough to see this in person, I'm including a video... but if you want to come watch, I'll totally be your tour guide!

I don't know about you, but I can't stop thinking about the impact of this Ferguson case. I heard on NPR today that there is talk in the white house about adding body cameras to some 50,000 officers to hopefully curb some of the mistrust, and while I agree that it's a step in the right direction for accountability, I'm just not sure it's the answer we need. Our nation is one where outright racism is intolerable yet a systematic racism is strongly in place everywhere. I, for one, am grateful for the conversations that are happening across the country. I'm glad this makes people uncomfortable because it should. We need a major change!

I want more art projects! I already shared that I did a wine and painting night the other week with some friends, and I loved it! I'm really feeling crafty these days and welcome any suggestions you have. I have this thing about creating my own art to decorate my home, so if it's something I can actually hang on my walls, you get extra credit for your suggestion!

What I need more than anything else right now are ideas for inexpensive winter activities. Joel really likes to be out and about rather than sitting at home, and we're both kinda at a loss for cold-weather options, which isn't good since we have a long winter ahead of us! We don't have any kids to entertain, but we are on a very strict (like nonexistent) budget. Any ideas are welcome!

I will give away a freebie TODAY ONLY! I just updated my Vocabulary Cartoon Activity to include three new pages, and I'd love to share it with my readers! Just leave me a comment below with a suggestion of a winter activity and/or an art project I can tackle at home! Please make sure you're not a no-reply commentator so I can email you my product!

Happy December!

November 27, 2014

Thankful Thursday with a Giveaway, Thanksgiving Edition

Happy Thanksgiving, my friends!

1. To start this week, I am thankful for my DVR. It's such a simple thing, but it really does make a huge difference. I honestly couldn't tell you the last time I sat through a commercial, which is why I almost never know what movies are playing these days. I love that I can go out and live my life, and my shows will all be waiting for me to watch at my convenience. I guess I can extend this thanks to include Netflix and Hulu Plus, which have made this even better (especially with series like OITNB). Right now, I have a backlog of primetime shows and movies I can't wait to watch over break while I'm snuggled in my pajamas because I don't have to work!

2. I'm a casual girl. It's not that I don't enjoy dressing up from time to time, but my happy place is in a pair of jeans (even better is a pair of yoga pants or leggings) and a hoodie. I'm not sure what it is about being able to dress down, but everyone always seems more relaxed and pleasant on these days. When I worked in Corporate America, our new CEO announced that our casual summer policy didn't need to end, and people were literally dancing and cheering in their cubicles! One of the nice things about being a substitute is that I can pretty much show up in jeans every day (but don't worry, I only really dress down on Fridays with my school shirt). Especially in cold weather, this brings a smile to my face!

3. I'm thankful for my sister, who celebrated a milestone birthday this past weekend, which officially makes her the oldest sibling now because I will forever be 29 years old. She had a cute idea to celebrate with a bunch of her friends (as well as our mom and me) at a local nail salon. We had a few bottles of wine and some snacks, and it made for a fantastic way to celebrate her day! I'm amazed that I've never thought to do this type of celebration for myself, as it's nearly impossible to get my friends together for an evening because they all have kids. Seriously... plan on a trip to the nail salon in March, friends!

I feel very fortunate to have Amy as my sister. We are, I think, a good mix of "OMG we're like the same person!" and "How is it possible that we come from the same family?!" I'm happy that she's finally in a career that she loves (nursing) because it's so fun to see her thrive. I'm proud to call her my sister and friend. xoxo

4. I feel like this is a given (like friends and family), but I can't imagine not saying so specifically. I am so thankful for my amazing students. Whenever I walk through the hallways, I'm bombarded by students in all grade levels with the question, "Who are you subbing for today?" My response is always followed by cheers when they learn they'll be with me or groans when they realize they won't. I have to admit, it's a great feeling! We actually bumped into three of my students yesterday while leaving a restaurant, and the girls were SO excited to see me (despite the fact that I literally just saw all three of them yesterday) that I couldn't help but grin from ear to ear. To be completely honest, it's probably equally exciting for me to see them! :)

5. Finally, I'm so thankful for this blogging community, which has introduced me to so many wonderful friends across the world! I feel so fortunate to have had the opportunity to connect with so many of you, and I think it's pretty awesome how some of you have become "crossover artists" and are now counted as my IRL friends (including some of you I have not actually met in person due to location). I genuinely enjoy connecting with you guys and look forward to reading about your personal lives and hearing your classroom stories. Thank you for making this such an amazing community!

To show my appreciation for you all, I want to do a little giveaway today. Each person who links up to today's Thankful Thursday post will be automatically entered to win my 40 page A Christmas Carol Novel Study Packet, which is full of activities to help your students master characterization and symbolism. This product is my best seller in my TPT store, and this is your opportunity to get it for free! All you have to do is link up with your Thankful Thursday post! It's a perfect unit for those few weeks in December, and I've included everything you'll need to teach the novel from leveled vocabulary lists and activities, formative and summative assessments with answer keys, characterization and symbolism guides, and everything you need to help your students write an accompanying expository essay. Check out the Table of Contents for all the goodies that are included:

The winner will be selected using on Sunday evening after the linky closes. 

November 24, 2014

Bears Victory Freebie

I have to admit, since this has been a rough season for my bears, I haven't been good about having my freebies ready to go in case of a win. I'll keep this one live for at least 24 hours so you have time to pick it up! Please let me know if you have any issues with the download!
This Daily Research Log was such a lifesaver for me. Each year, I do at least one big research project, which requires independent work in our school library. As you all know, it's very easy to get caught up in assisting a handful of needy kids and never quite make it all the way around your class. This has left me with a few issues I needed to address:
  • I wanted to make sure my students were making progress in their research and not just looking busy when they weren't really doing much. It's incredible how skilled some students are in this area!
  • I wanted increased communication with parents about what their children are doing in my classroom. Yes, this gives them accountability because they have to share their findings, but it also gives parents a heads-up that the paper or project is on the horizon. This eliminates the element of surprise and lets them see the daily progress (or lack thereof).
  • I wanted to hold my students accountable for their behavior in the library. There's nothing worse than taking your students out in "public" and watching them forget all your behavior expectations, making you look as if you lack classroom management. I solve this with daily points, which can be removed for off-task behavior. I find that having these points on a paper, where I can physically cross off a number, serves as a great reminder to stay focused.
Using this log puts the responsibility on my students. If they can't tell you what they've done productively for the day, then they aren't using their time wisely (or they need to ask for help). It also gave me a quick way to assure that I am at least checking in with each student (because I have to initial each day). 

I left the file in a Word document in case you need to modify it for your needs. I hope you like it!

IMWAYR: Yes, Please!

Happy Thanksgiving week! DEVOLSON (for those that aren't teachers, this is the Dark Evil Vortex Of Late September, October, and November) is nearly done. After a good dose (or two) of turkey this week, we should all be in better spirits as we move forward. To be honest, I haven't felt the effects of DEVOLSON much this year, but I can see the toll it's taking on my co-workers.

Since it's Monday, and since my classes are busy watching Pixar short films this week (looking for principals and elements of art in animation), I have time to share with you my latest read: Yes, Please by Amy Poehler.

I recently joined Goodreads because I wanted a place to record the books I've read, what I want to read, and to get suggestions of other books I might enjoy. If you're a user, I'd love for us to become friends so I can check out your bookshelves too!

When I signed up, I had to pick a favorite genre. I honestly hadn't ever given that too much thought, but it didn't take long for me to determine that I really enjoy a good memoir. I especially enjoy reading books by funny women. Here have been some of my favorites:

Kathy Griffin
Ellen Degeneres
Chelsea Handler
Tina Fey
Kristin Chenoweth
Jane Lynch
Jen Lancaster
Tori Spelling
Mindy Kaling

Amy Poehler's book Yes, Please falls easily into line with these other women. I find her to be very relatable while still very entertaining. I want to be her friend. In fact, when I read that her college roommate was a girl named Erin from Chicago, I hoped I could pretend that was me. Just don't mind our age difference! :)

This memoir isn't meant to be fully of belly laughs as much as it's an honest account of her life. She discusses her childhood, relationships, career, and all the successes and failures that have brought her to where she is today. I really enjoyed this book!

Of course, not all the memoirs I enjoy are by funny women. I like reading first-hand accounts of things I've learned about in the news or experiences I will (hopefully) never understand. Some of the other memoirs I've enjoyed include:

Amanda Knox
Sharon Rocha (Laci Peterson's mom)
Lance Armstrong
Nujood Ali
Mitch Albom
Dave Pelzer
John Grogan
John Howard Griffin
Todd Burpo
Cupcake Brown
Anne Frank
Jennifer Traig
Piper Kerman

I believe that reading (or listening, as the case may be) the stories of others helps us strengthen our empathy. It gives us the opportunity to see the world through someone else's eyes, which hopefully helps us become more compassionate about the struggles of those who aren't like us.

I think this is important for all ages, but I especially think it's important for our middle and high school students to learn that everyone will not share their same experiences and opinions. And there are some great lessons to be learned along the way, even from these funny books!

November 23, 2014

Sunday Letters

I have been meaning to link up with my girl Michelle at Big Time Literacy for weeks and weeks. I always seem to miss it, so I'm super happy to be on top of things this Sunday!

Without further ado, I present to you my Sunday Letters. 

November 20, 2014

Thankful Thursday, Week 3

Happy Thursday! I honestly feel like this week flew by in the blink of an eye. I happened to check my blog stats last night at 10:00 and realized it was almost Thursday, and I didn't have this post scheduled yet. Oops!

For those that don't know, this is my annual November linky where we come together each week to share the things for which we're giving thanks. For the readers who are not bloggers, you can share your Thankful Thursday submissions on my Facebook page.

Things I'm thankful for this week include:

1. I got to spend a much-needed night out with some of my old neighbors at a local painting class at an adorable art studio called The Chilled Palette. If you're in the Chicago area, there are dozens of these places around, but you MUST check out this location. The owner was so hospitable and made the night so much fun! Here are a couple pictures of our night. As you can see, I chose to paint a glittery deer instead of the Let it Snow image that was scheduled. I just fell in love with it when I walked in and knew it would go better with my decorating style.

2. Remember how I told you guys I had to get a new credit card last week? Yeah... I already put that to good use when I stayed home from work one day and received an email about a mega sale at JC Penney that I couldn't resist. I donated a bunch of my winter clothes when I moved to Baton Rouge, and was really needing some more warm clothes to get me through what's shaping up to be an epically cold winter. So, I treated myself to some retail therapy and LOVED everything when it arrived on Tuesday. Online shopping is dangerous but oh so satisfying!

3. I'm thankful for unconditional love. We all mess up, sometimes in pretty big ways. I'm grateful for the people who are understanding about that and willing to give second (or more) chances. I think we all need that forgiveness and acceptance from time to time.

4. Wide-calf boots. Seriously. I cannot express to you how thankful I am for these! It's so great that designers are realizing more and more that women (and men) come in many different shapes and sizes. I can't tell you how happy I was to walk into DSW this season and try on several pairs of boots that all fit. Not only am I thankful for this because they're trendy and cute, but I love that I won't spend another winter freezing in ballet flats. Unfortunately, a photo is not included because I suck and didn't plan ahead this week. But my favorite new pair is by Unisa. If you need pics, let me know, and I will post some later! :) 

5. I started reading Amy Poehler's book, Yes Please, this week, and I'm loving it. I've talked before about how I really enjoy reading memoirs of funny people (women, in particular) and this book is totally my style. If you haven't read this yet, you need to get your hands on it. 

I'm also linking up with Jennifer again for Positive Thinking Thursdays.

November 17, 2014

IMWAYR: Before I Fall

I stayed home sick today with an epic migraine that just wouldn't quit, even with prescription medication. If any of you are sufferers, I'm sure you understand the grogginess that comes with this pain, which pretty much means I'm useless when it comes to teaching when I get them. Anyway, I share this because it's also why I'm SUPER late linking up today, so I'll keep things brief.

The latest book I finished was Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver. To an outsider, protagonist Samantha Kingston seems to have everything any high school girl could ever want. Through this story, though, she realizes that her superficial world is lacking and strives to give her life some meaning.

What drives her to this point? Her death. Yes, I realize that sounds weird, but Sam mysteriously gets the opportunity to relive the last day of her life a la Groundhog's Day seven different times. In a very Butterfly Effect way, she learns exactly how much power she has by making tiny changes in this one day.

This is another book I listened to and wish I hadn't. I don't mind the concept of the book at all, but I HATED the narrator. In particular, I hated the way she made all of Sam's friends sound insanely whiney and annoying, no matter what they were saying.

If you enjoy books that make you question our role in this world and how your actions can impact others, this would definitely be a good read for you!

November 16, 2014

Bears Victory Flash Freebie

This has not been a great season for my Chicago Bears, but thankfully, we did earn a W against the Vikings today, which means I owe you guys a freebie!

Miss Lifesaver

What I have for you today is a great powerpoint that reviews some elements of characterization. It's divided into three sections, so you can use it for multiple mini-lessons. 

In section one, we learn the difference between a protagonist, antagonist, and foil characters. There's a built in review activity, which includes references to popular movies your students will recognize and love!

Section two focuses on the difference between static and dynamic characters as well as round and flat characters. We then review the types of words that are used to describe character traits. 

Finally, in section three, we discuss the difference between direct and indirect characterization. I introduce my buddy WALTeR, who helps us remember the different ways we can learn about a character indirectly.

After reviewing this PowerPoint with your students, they will be so much more confident in their ability to discuss the characters in their stories!

What are you waiting for? Grab this freebie Characterization PowerPoint while it lasts!

If you're looking for a great addition to this freebie, I have a fun protagonist/antagonist/foil sorting activity that's a great extension. You can use it in a center or as a formative assessment piece. Read all about it here.

Bear down!

November 13, 2014

Thankful Thursday, Week 2

Happy Thursday! This is my annual November linky where we come together each week to share the things for which we're giving thanks.

For the readers who are not bloggers, you can share your Thankful Thursday submissions on my Facebook page.

Things I'm thankful for this week include:

1. I spent the entire weekend in the city with one of my BFFs. Bobbie has been family to me for the past 14 years when we were two lonely freshmen living in Ohlson House (as unofficial roommates since ours were never around). We went to a REALLY small school where we felt like complete outsiders because we didn't grow up going to camp with these people, and none of them were our family (seriously... everyone was related to someone at that school). Bobs and I decided that we would be cousins and spent our entire four years together convincing everyone we were family. To this day, we still call each other Cousin, and I love her like one. We are sometimes very different people in regards to our likes and dislikes, but somehow, we work. She has taught me so much about life, and I know I'm a better person because of our friendship. I'm grateful for our much-needed girl's weekend of chick-flicks, shopping, manicures, and cooking together. I loved every second! Well, minus the 2.5 hour drive to get there... haha! Love you, Bobs!

2. I finally got to watch The Fault in Our Stars this weekend. Like the book, the movie had me ugly-crying and in need of a box of Kleenex. I know that sounds like a weird start for a thankful post, but I really am grateful for stories that can pull me in like that. I love to get lost in a good book or movie. It's an escape for me. I love connecting so strongly to the characters and their stories that I am filled with emotion. I guess that's why I became an ELA teacher.

3. On my last day of my long-term position, I was showered with cards and gifts from my thoughtful students. Many of these gifts included Starbucks gift cards. I literally have't paid for a single cup of tea since the beginning of October because of their generosity, and I'm thankful for this every time I need a pick-me-up. Without the gift card, I would certainly force myself to go without, and it's amazing how much more I enjoy my day with a venti green iced tea in my hand!

4. We had a pretty cool Veteran's Day assembly, which included a performance by the national champion Marmion Academy Drill Team as well as speeches and music performances from several students. It was a nice way to honor the veterans and thank them for their service. 

5. I found out on Sunday that my credit card was missing. When I looked up the account, I saw that the card was used twice after Bobs and I had dinner Friday night, neither time by me. I don't know if I left the card on the table, dropped it, or if I just didn't get it back. In any case, Chase was awesome about removing the charges from my card and sending me a replacement right away. This is my FOURTH card for 2014 (thanks to all these security breaches)! So, why am I thankful about this? Simply because I had only received said card two weeks prior and had not yet taken the time to move all my recurring charges over. So, it really didn't result in any extra work for me. It's the little things in life! :)

I'm also linking up with Jennifer again for Positive Thinking Thursdays, since our linkys go hand-in hand!