I'm really trying to be better about holding writing conferences this year.

These simple questions have completely changed the quality of my writing conferences:
🔹What did you write about? Why?
🔹What was the easiest part of your writing process?
🔹What was the most challenging part?

I've found students to be very open and honest. It's helped me build relationships and obtain valuable insight. It makes note-taking easy!

As for feedback, I'm just using sticky notes. It's easy, fast, and they stick right in students' notebooks! For now, I'm making a "Glow" sticky note and a "Grow" sticky note. This keeps conferences short and sweet, just like this blog post. ;)

If you're looking for a conference log, I have one that you can download for free in my TPT store! 

Happy conferring! 

My Curriculum Night was just a few weeks ago, and I wanted to find something to keep parents busy while they waited in the hallway. I decided to bring my students' writing to LIFE by recording themselves reading it! Here's a detailed tutorial to show you just how EASY it is! 

I used the Voice Memos app on my iPhone to record students reading aloud. It was very easy to trim and alter if needed, and the quality is good! Best of all, it's an app that's already on your iPhone so it's totally FREE!

Students were called one at a time to enter the "recording studio," AKA my closet, where they read aloud their writing nice and clear. 

After recording, I used the share button to upload my recordings to Google Drive. 

I love Google Drive and use it for just about everything! 

In order to get the QR codes for my students to scan, I just used the shareable link from the Google Drive file and copied it into GOQR.me.

I use GOQR.ME, but there are plenty of free QR code generators that you can use instead. 

That's it! Just download or copy the QR code and place it on a poster or wherever you wish.

I pasted them into little squares that I ended up printing on white paper then gluing directly to their writing. 

(Side note: I added the smileys to make the QR codes unreadable in order to protect my students' privacy. However, if you use the camera app on your phone to scan the code in step 8, you'll hear me reading aloud a social studies book that I detailed in this blog post - LOL!)

You can do this with any writing that students produce as well as any books or book sets that you have on hand in your classroom. The possibilities are endless!

Will you be trying this? Let me know in a comment below! 

On a recent Instagram story, I mentioned that we earned a new unit for our 3rd grade team. I'm not sure how common this is, but you all had lots of questions for me!

I had 25 students in my class, which is the state maximum for first, second, and third grades. However, we had to wait for the ten day attendance count and allotment funding to come through before hiring a new teacher. We were so lucky to find someone amazing, but at this point, we were 4+ weeks into the school year, so the transition was tough for everyone!

How many students did you lose?

Five. Five sweet, clever children that I had spent 5 weeks bonding with.

How were students selected to move?

There were so many details that went into this decision, which was made by the administration team:

  • reading levels and math levels - We have leveled classes, so this is important!
  • demographics - The new class needed to be just as balanced as ours, as far as ethnicity and gender. 
  • exceptionalities - The new class needed to have a fair amount of students receiving gifted and/or special education services. 
  • supports - Students served by EIP and/or ESOL were not moved as it would not be in their best interest. 
  • special circumstances - Last year, one of the 2nd grade classes was collapsed. To be as conscientious as possible, students who had to move last year due to the class collapse were not moved this year. Students brand new to the school were not moved either. 

How was this handled with parents?

At Sneak Peek, before school even started, all parents received a letter from administration stating that our numbers were high and we would likely earn an additional third grade unit. During Curriculum Night, we stressed to parents why this is a good thing and how smaller classes sizes benefit our students. 

Parents were kept in the loop as a hire was made, and all parents received a timeline. Phone calls were made to parents of students that were moving. 

Parents were invited for a coffee and meet-and-greet with the teacher on the students' first day in the new classroom. 

How was this handled with students?

Parents communicated the information after the phone call. 

On the week that students moved, Tuesday afternoon there was an ice cream party in their new classroom with their new teacher. Students participated in some about me activities to get to know each other while they enjoyed ice cream. Students came back to my class SO excited about their new class! 

On Wednesday, we helped our students move their materials and supplies to their new classroom. 

On Thursday, they started with the new teacher! 

How did you help students make the transition?

While 5 of my students were at the ice cream party with their new teacher, I had a meeting with the rest of my class. We talked about how they might be feeling and how we could support them. We decided to make "binder covers" for them, which was essentially a white piece of paper that students could slide into the clear pocket on the front of their binders. 

Students were excited to hear that we would still go to specials together and see each other at recess every day! 

Of course, some students were still emotional about leaving. I was honest with them and told them that I cried, too. I made sure they knew that they didn't do anything wrong and that I love them and that I am so sad to see them go. We talked about how and why they will be a great addition to the new class. We talked about the positives and how this can and will benefit them. 

How did you support the new teacher?

Again, my grade level knew this was happening, so we made efforts to keep everything as consistent as possible. 
  • All of our gradebooks were the same, students' notebooks and folders were labeled the same, etc. 
  • Our amazing data clerk set up her grade book and transferred all of the grades for her. 
  • We graded papers for her. 
  • We made sure that her students' diagnostic tests and reading levels were completed. 
  • We gave her plenty of community supplies, like tissues, soap, hand sanitizer, etc. 
  • For her first week, we provided her copies and gave her the lesson plans a week in advance. 

Luckily, she fits right in with us! 

*          *          *          *          *

This transition was truly difficult on all of us. Ultimately, it's a good thing. We had to remind ourselves that everything happens for a reason, and we decided as a team to trust that those students were placed in that new classroom with purpose. It's going to be a great year! 

So you have a ton of dust jackets from all the amazing new books you picked up over the summer. Now what?

Every new classroom I've moved into has provided me with new dust jackets to inherit. I don't know why teachers leave them behind... maybe they are a lot like me and just can't bear to trash them! of course I ended up with a bunch of dust jackets of my own, too, and had to ask my Instagram friends for suggestions on what to do with them.

The most sane suggestion was "Don't be a hoarder; Trash them."

OKAY, OKAY. I hear you loud and clear.

But... is it hoarding if you make something out of the dust jackets instead of just shoving them in a cabinet?


Here are the rest of the *brilliant* ideas I collected:

  • Laminate them and tape to books like library books.
  • Cut them into bookmarks. 
  • String them to make a pennant
  • Frame them for a gallery wall. 
  • Mod Podge letters, or wallpaper a whole wall! 
  • Make a bulletin board background.
  • Use them for your classroom's alphabet. 
  • Turn them into a writing center option. Students write a story to match the cover.
  • Use them to identify and sort genres. 

from @sarahlarnett on Instagram

from @theteachernextdoor on Instagram

from @theeverydaylibrary on Instagram

from @effiekaradimitri on Instagram

from @itsthep2peepsoftce on Instagram

Seasonal (time-sensitive) ideas:

  • Make a March Madness book bracket.
  • Make a cape and wear it on Halloween or Storybook Parade, etc. 
  • Make Christmas ornaments for student gifts. 

So, what's your plan? Are dust jackets trash or treasure?

I love to read, and chances are that you do too.

As educators, we often read children's literature to stay in-the-know and professional books to improve our practices. But how often do we read fictional novels that can teach us just as much as a teacher textbook?

Years ago, when I was in college, my mom (Hi, mom!) handed me a book and said, "If you're going to be a teacher, you need to read this."

That book was Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult. She told me it was about a school shooting. I refused for a long time, because I felt the content was too “heavy.” But, mama knows best, and she kept insisting. Now, I'm hoping you will read it too. 

Nineteen Minutes tells the story of a school shooting, including multiple perspectives leading up to, during, and after the nineteen-minute event. It’s eye-opening, thought-provoking, and absolutely heartbreaking. It’s changed me as a person, and it’s my favorite book of all time. I fell in love with Jodi Picoult's craft and research-based fictional style, so I asked my mom for more. 

Next she handed me House Rules, also by Picoult. House Rules is about the family of a boy who has Asperger’s Syndrome. When a murder happens nearby, he is assumed guilty by law enforcement due to his knowledge of historical murders, fixation on crime scenes, and lack of “normal” social habits. It’s insightful, informative, and tugs a little too hard on your heart strings. 

Those two books by Picoult, recommended by the amazing educator that is my mother, absolutely changed my mindset and helped me grow as a person and as a teacher. 

I realize that there are areas in which I need to continue to grow, and with all that is going on in our country right now, I started seeking out novels to help me do it. 

I borrowed the ebook version of The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas from my public library and read the entire thing on my phone in just a few short days. 

Here's the synopsis from GoodReads: "Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed."

I don’t think I have the words to review this book well enough to do it justice. I cried, I giggled, and I couldn’t put it down. I learned a lot. The author says it well in her acknowledgment: “Your voices matter, your dreams matter, your lives matter. Be roses that grow in the concrete.”

Image result for far from the tree
image from http://www.wbur.org/hereandnow/2017/12/12/robin-benway-far-from-the-tree 
Far From the Tree was recommended to me by a friend, and I certainly didn't expect to learn as much from it as I did. GoodReads describes this YA novel as "a contemporary novel about three adopted siblings who find each other at just the right moment." It was so interesting - and eye-opening, and thought-provoking - to go through the story from the perspective of three siblings with different life experiences. As teachers, we often have students in our classroom who are either adopted or fostered. Even if students are happy in an amazing adoptive or foster family, they still have experiences and emotions that we could never imagine. That insight was gained through reading this book, making me a better and more empathetic educator.

Buy them. Read them. Educate yourself. Have empathy. 

All of the books mentioned in this blog post are linked on my Amazon page. (Look for the list titled "Novels for Educators.") Know that when you buy something through my Amazon influencer page, I receive a small portion as commission. It doesn't cost you anything extra, but the extra funds help me keep this blog up and running! 

Do you have any titles to add to this list? Let me know in a comment below.