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Writing Conferences Made Easy!

Once upon a time, I wasn't really a huge fan of writing conferences. To be completely honest, I had no idea what I was doing. I knew that they were important and what part of my writing block to do them, but I really didn't know what to do! It's not like I had this amazing class in college that taught me how to confer with my students during Writer's Workshop.
Even though I'm still not a professional, I feel that over my ten years of teaching I definitely got better at conferring with my students about their writing! I actually fell in love with writing conferences and getting to watch my little writers grow throughout the year! Here are three tips to {hopefully} help make writing conferences a little bit easier for you!
One of the most beneficial tools for me for my writing conferences was my Writing Binder. It kept everything in one place-from my anecdotal notes, to my lesson plans, to writing rubrics.


My binder also had a separate section for each student. This really allowed me to keep up with
the habits and goals my students had throughout the entire year, and for each writing focus. It also made report card comments and parent-teacher conferences a lot easier!


Having a designated form to complete during my conferences helped keep all my notes accurate. I would try writing things on sticky notes or index cards, but it helped so much to have an actual form to keep in my binder. I kept extra forms in front of all my student dividers so they were easily accessible!

One of the hardest things for me at the beginning of my career was knowing exactly WHAT to help my students with during our conferences and HOW to make sure they knew not only what they were doing well, but what they needed to work on. I would write different things on their papers or in their notebooks. I tried using sticky notes, but they would end up getting lost in their notebooks. I also tried drawing little pictures for my littlest writers to really understand what they needed to work on. None of these things worked extremely well for me, so I was so excited to finally start using Conference Companions!


These writing strategies work best for students in Kindergarten through second grade. They can easily be printed on address labels, so you'll always have them at your fingertips! Each strategy features a visual and a statement for students to easily recognize their habits and goals. They can be used on a Habits and Goals sheet, your students writing notebooks, or their writing folder. And, the best part- they won't be falling out!

It really is that simple. Even if things don't go as planned, it's so important to have a plan. At least some type of plan for your students and/or groups. Whether it's WHAT students you are planning on working with each day, or what you want to focus on throughout the week, make a plan! I also kept these plans in my writing binder



In my classroom I usually completed drive-by conferences with my students. These conferences were ways that I could work with individual students and check-in with them on what they were working on. I tried to plan out who I would meet with each day so that I made sure to meet with ALL students throughout the week. I wouldn't necessarily be able to plan exactly what I was going to be working on with the students, but I knew who I wanted to work with each day. 

For me, it was easier to plan out my writing groups. I would use previous writing pieces to guide my writing groups and their focus. Writing everything down on a planning form helped keep me make sure I was meeting with all my students and focusing on what they needed! 

I hope these tips help your writing conferences become easier and help your writers flourish! 

If you are interested in the resources I use, click on the images below!






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Teaching: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly!

I taught for ten years before I resigned. Ten years full of stress, frustration, anxiety, lots and lots of anxiety, anger, hurt, and the list goes on and on. But, there was also laughs, sweet smiles, happiness, friendships, and lots and lots of love. Teaching is hard. EXTREMELY hard. But, it's also really really good. 


Side note- I didn't resign solely because I wasn't happy with teaching. I had a another baby last June and I am incredibly lucky to have this little #sidehustle that has allowed me to take an extended maternity leave. 

I remember back in college thinking that I would love every single student I taught. WRONG. I also remember thinking that teaching was going to be absolutely amazing and come easy to me because it's what I always wanted to do. WRONG. I made so many assumptions about this profession that turned out to be the complete opposite. I had students that I didn't really connect with and it didn't take very long at all to realize that teaching was in no way easy

There were years, not just days, but entire years that were extremely difficult. The year I got moved to a new school a month after school had started. The students in my new class were the students that had registered last, so there wasn't much information known about them. Needless to say, I had an extremely low class that needed a lot of support, and a class that had LOTS of behavior challenges. I also felt like I had barely any support because I didn't know anyone and had no friends at school.  I was also pregnant. I was literally counting down the days minutes until my baby was born and I could go on maternity leave. My class that year was so challenging, my first supply teacher barely lasted two weeks. It was that kind of year. But that horrible year made me a lot stronger, as a teacher and as a person. To this day, I always try my best to show kindness to the teachers that get moved to different schools and don't know a soul. A little kindness goes a long way! 

Looking back, I've probably always had anxiety. But, I didn't really realize it until a few years into my teaching career and I started having panic attacks that made me physically sick. I'll never forget one morning not feeling well, but feeling so anxious about trying to find a sub that morning and missing school. I literally had a panic attack driving my son to daycare because I was determined to make it to school. Then there was the time that my vision started going crazy and my arm started going numb while administering a standardized test to my first graders. That was the day I knew I needed to make a doctor's appointment. I wish I hadn't waited so long to get help! 

But, then there was the year that my personal life was suffering and it's my classroom that got me through. I will always remember one year in particular that my home life was a real struggle and I honestly enjoyed being in my classroom more than being in my home. My classroom was my safe place and my students provided so many smiles. I will always hold a special place in my heart for those kids because they got me through a really hard time in my life, and they don't even realize it! 

Through my ten years teaching, I taught at three different schools-not by choice. I got moved around a lot at the beginning of my career. I never really understood why in the moment, but looking back I was put exactly where I needed to be each time. The last school I taught at, I stayed for six years. I met one of my very best friends and was able to co-teach with her for three years in a multi-age class. I am so thankful that I was able to be at the school and form the relationships and friendships that I did! 

As teachers, we have so many different moments that make us stronger, wiser, and maybe feel crazy for ever entering this profession! We could all literally write a book about our experiences and our memories. The things kids say- like telling us that their mom takes medicine everyday so she doesn't have another baby! The way they make us feel with the light bulb moments, sweet pictures they draw for us, or the hugs in the morning! Our books would be full of SO much! 

Teaching isn't easy. And, to be honest it's probably getting harder and harder every single year. But, there's just something about it that only a teacher will understand. The good, the bad, and the ugly. Something that pulls us out of bed every morning and makes us go to work. It's obviously not for the amazing paychecks! 

So even though I'm not in the classroom this year, I know I'll be back. There's just something about working with kids that brings joy to my soul. There's a passion inside me, and so many of us that is unlike anything else. Through the good years, and the bad years, you are absolutely AMAZING! My wish for you is that you have many more good years than bad, that you build strong relationships with your students, find some of your very best friends in the classrooms beside you, and your heart is filled with love!





Cute and Comfortable Personalized Teacher Shoes





As teachers we are on our feet all day long. And not on comfy padded flooring, but on really hard 
concrete floors. I learned early on in my teaching career how important it was to purchase quality,
comfortable shoes! However, as someone that loves fashion it's also very important to me to 
purchase shoes that are not only comfortable, but also fashionable!  I was so excited when I found T&N shoes!


T&N shoes are made of high quality leather that is so buttery soft! This incredibly soft leather makes them super comfortable to wear throughout the school day!


The soles on the bottom of the shoes are extremely unique! They help to make the shoes even more comfortable and easy to stand on that hard concrete floor throughout the school day!


These shoes are absolutely beautiful. I love the classic ballet flat style that can take you from the classroom during the day, to dinner in the evening, to a wedding on the weekend! Truly perfect for any occasion and they are easy to dress down or dress up!

            

For my first pair I chose the Robin's Egg Blue. I love this whimsical color that can be worn year round. I paired it with skinny jeans and a leopard print vest in the fall and I can't wait to pair them with a flowy white dress in the spring!



One of my FAVORITE elements of these shoes is the ability to personalize them! I live in the south and absolutely LOVE a monogram on anything and everything! You are able to personalize them with initials, a date, or Greek letters! So many options to truly make them your own!  


I chose to go with my initials for my first pair! However, it'd be so cute to personalize them with your birthday or anniversary! What a great gift!


There are so many different styles to choose from! Click here to see all the different choices!



Want to try a pair for yourself? Use the discount code CD20 for 20% off of your purchase until December  30, 2018




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Promote Reading at Home with Ready-to-Read Books!

This post is sponsored by Simon & Schuster.

It's that time of year again, Parent-Teacher Conferences! It doesn't matter what school or grade I was teaching, I always had parents ask me ways that they could help their child at home with reading and/or great books to purchase for their child for home. I am so excited to be partnering with Simon & Schuster to share their Ready-to-Read book series!


As a teacher and a parent, I am always looking for ways to promote reading at school and at home!  I also know how hard it can be to get your own children excited to read! Here are some ideas for parents to get their children reading at home!


Whether I was sharing a child's Fountas & Pinnell reading level, their Lexile range, or a score on an online reading assessment, parents would always want to leave the conference with ideas for books that their child could read at home. Ready-to-Read books make a GREAT recommendation because no matter the level, from pre-readers to more advanced readers there is a Ready-to-Read book for everyone!

The Pre-Level One books are perfect for my four-year-old daughter. They really help her with concepts of print and allow her to become interested in reading. I love reading them to her at home cuddled up in her bed!


The Level Three books are great for my son who is in second grade! Camden loves to read independently but can be pretty picky with books. The Ready to Read books are great for readers like him because they have so many different options! From favorite characters like Batman (affiliate link)  to non-fiction texts like True Colors! The Story of Crayola (affiliate link)!


Since there are five different levels and you can buy these books at so many different places, including Amazon, they are a great recommendation for parents! To learn more about Ready-to-Read books, visit their website!

As a teacher, I always discuss HOW important it is for parents and their children to be reading together at home. However, as a parent I completely understand how difficult that can be some nights! From doing homework, to cooking dinner, to sports practices, it's just hard to get it all in! As a teacher, I always wanted to make it as easy as I could for parents to not only read with their child, but also talk about what they are reading! As teachers we know that reading is so much more than just reading the words on the page!



These little bookmarks are a great tool that parents can use when they are reading fiction and non-fiction Ready-to-Read books and having a discussion with their child! It's a great tool to give them during your Parent-Teacher Conference! Grab them FREE here



I'm going to be honest, I am not a fan of reading logs at all. I truly don't believe in making reading a chore, I feel that it should be done for pleasure and recreation. On the other hand,  I do believe that in order for children to become better readers, they need to be reading. I just don't feel like making them (or their parents) record the books they are reading each night is helpful! I started using these simple reading logs that my students were responsible for each month! Instead of having their parents try to remember to write down the title of the book each night, my students just had to color in a picture for each book (or chapter) they read throughout the month! It allowed my first graders to become more independent and really take responsibility of their reading and homework! 


I hope your students (and parents) LOVE reading Ready-to-Read books at home as much as mine do!




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Four Simple Ways to Maximize Instructional Time


First things first, to REALLY maximize instructional time in your classroom, it is so very important to set up clear expectations and procedures for pretty much EVERYTHING! Your classroom will not run smoothly and efficiently if you do.not have expectations and procedures put into place. And, you can't just TELL students what they need to do. You need to model it, model it, and then model it some more. And practice, practice, and practice some more. Once you have these little things, like asking to go to the bathroom or sharpening a pencil put into place, your classroom will be much more manageable and you'll have way more time to spend on the important things!

Even if you didn't focus on them as much as you think you should have the beginning of the year, it will never ever hurt to go back to them! A long weekend, a break, when a student moves or comes in, review them again and again!

Of course, setting up expectations and procedures takes a lot of time! But, I promise it's worth it! I love using a simple PowerPoint to go over all my routines and procedures with my students at the beginning of the year! I love adding pictures of them actually completing the procedures correctly into the slideshow and then revisiting it throughout the year! Then, you can even make them into little booklets to keep at students' desks or tables!


Although expectations and procedures are super important, they do take a lot of time! So, here are four SIMPLE ways to maximize instructional time!

Whether it's a doorbell, a song, a chant, or a clap- transitions help make things easier! In my classroom, we chose a certain song and my students knew that when they heard that song it was time to clean up and meet me back on the carpet. Of course, this definitely goes back to those expectations and procedures that you have to go over explicitly! Just having a transition won't help you maximize instruction time if you don't have procedures for your students to follow!

One way that I love playing music in my classroom is using Amazon Prime Music! If you've got a Prime account, it's a great way to listen to awesome music with your subscription! You can read more about how I use it in my classroom here! This allows you to choose from a TON of different songs for your transition music!


For those times that you don't need to actually have your class clean up but just want to get their attention, using a specific signal like chimes or a wireless doorbell (affiliate link) can work great! It's just important that your students know exactly what to do when you make the signal! Otherwise you'll be waiting forever for all their little faces to look up at you! 



There is SO much to do during the day and it's so hard to get it all in. I really struggled with this as a teacher because it was so hard to stop working on something and move onto the next thing if my students weren't quite finished! I also really struggled with getting in the closing of my lessons, but again, those closing are so very important! In order to help with this I started using a timer (affiliate link) to help keep me on track! This little thing came in really handy when I was working with groups!


Another way to maximize the time you have with your students is to make sure that THEY are organized and can easily find their materials! In the elementary classroom it can be hard when you're teaching all the subjects to transition between lessons and activities. Even giving simple directions to primary students can be extremely challenging and take up lots of time! I love color coding ALL the supplies to make it super easy for students to find exactly what they need and not waste a lot of time!


In my classroom I used composition books for literally EVERYTHING! However, since they all looked the same it was so frustrating when students couldn't find the correct notebook to pull out of their desks! It helped SO much to color code them for each subject and put a key in my classroom so that students could easily remember that when we were completing a reading activity they needed their blue notebook! 


Using color coded covers helped save a ton of time throughout the year!

It also helps to have students supplies easily accessible! I have always allowed my students to keep some supplies in their desks and community supplies in caddies. I am absolutely in LOVE with these organized caddies from A Primary Kind of Life


Reading a new book? Have your book ready to go! Creating a new anchor chart?  Make sure the paper and markers are ready! Passing out a worksheet? Have it right beside you! It's so important to go ahead and have all your materials that you need for a lesson prepped and ready to go BEFORE you actually start teaching! I'm not going to lie and say that I haven't been the teacher that has to pause a lesson to go get my copies out of my weekly bins or go find a specific marker, but being prepared makes things SO much better! As soon as your students know that you are OFF, even just a little bit- THEY are going to be off! Then it takes longer to get them back on track!



I hope these four simple tips help you maximize instructional time in your classroom!




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