Saturday, October 28, 2017

Erin Condren Haul

There is nothing quite like receiving an Erin Condren box of goodies. As soon as I saw this on my doorstep as I passed by the front of my house, I  could not wait to open it! :)

Erin Condren reached out to me after seeing my Instagram, and they offered to send me some items. I could NOT turn that down since I love everything Erin Condren. I fell in love with the new watercolor design, so you'll find that quite a few of the things I ordered are in this gorgeous purple watercolor pattern. I use affiliate links to link you directly to the specific items that I mention. :)

I've been needing a new lunch box, so I decided to order one of those plus a travel mug. The lunch box is a great size. It holds my soda, snacks, breakfast, and lunch, and it has a nice zipper that closes all around the top. The convenient handle makes for easy transport, and of course, I love that my name is on it! I haven't used the travel mug yet, but it's sturdy and seems like it will do the trick this winter! Check out all of their lunchboxes here!

Last year, I used the Erin Condren Teacher Lesson Planner, and it worked so well for me. It is truly a comprehensive planner with monthly and weekly planning sheets. This year, I decided to try their new Deluxe Monthly Planner. As a planner, I have little needs. I love monthly planning sheets and doodle/notes sheets, and that's exactly what I get and more from the Deluxe Monthly Planner. I plan on doing a separate blog post in the future (January) when I start officially using it for 2018. 

The final pieces in my watercolor collection are the Carry-All Clutch and my personalized notepads. The clutch holds my planner perfectly, and the notepads are absolutely perfect. There's just enough color to make them beautiful, and there's still plenty of space for my notes.

I could not be happier with the color and patterns of this new set. #allthehearteyes

I'm starting grad school (again) soon, so I thought that I'd get ready for that with some super cute Erin Condren accessories. I have a binder, two folders, magnetic bookmark, sticky notes, and pen holders to get me started for my new classes. I'll be doing another blog post soon about that process. :)

Do you ever have the feeling that some products are just too pretty to use? I feel that way all. the. time. However, I CANNOT wait to use all of these awesome accessories. If you do decide to check out of any the products that I mentioned, or if you just browse the site in general, use my referral link to save $10!

If you have any questions about any of the items, please let me know. :)

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Establishing a House System in Your Classroom


First, to the hundreds of people who have asked me for this blog post: I'm sorry. I said that I would write a blog post "within the week," and here we are a year later. 😂 I hope that you can forgive me, and I truly hope that this post helps you establish a house system in your classroom community.

The house system idea first appealed to me when I discovered the Ron Clark Academy in Atlanta. It touched on my love for Harry Potter and teaching all in one, and I KNEW that I wanted to have a house system in my classroom. I talked with my administrators, and we decided to pilot it in what we call the Freshman Academy. We have 4 core teachers: Algebra, Environmental Science, Government, and English. Luckily, I have a rock star team, and they were 100% on board with the idea.

Where to Start:

First, decide your angle. Is this going to be just in your classroom, do you have a team that you'd like to try it with, or are you going all out and trying to establish it school-wide? I firmly believe that team works makes the dream work, but if you're on your own at your school, then you just rock it out by yourself!

As a team, we met over the summer to casually talk about our approach. We decided to go with four houses just like Harry Potter and RCA: Symbiosis, Exuberance (the best house to ever exist), Integrity, and Perseverance. We each picked our house names and symbols, and we decided that not only did these four complement each other, they were what we wanted from our students. From there, we set expectations for each of the houses.

Leading up to the Sorting:

We talked and talked about the house system and "something exciting" coming their way for about a month. Because of unforeseen circumstances, we had to wait a bit before launching. This year, we're launching during the first week! We started by creating the behavior matrix and what we expected of our students. These behaviors would earn them points. We would award 1 point for displaying a house characteristic and 5 or more for exceptional behaviors. As the year went on, we naturally awarded points for all kinds of positive behaviors. Before the sorting, we gave each student a blank version of the below handout, and then in each of our four classes, we would fill out our house characteristics and behavior expectations as well as do something related to our houses. For example, because my house is Exuberance, we did a bunch of chants to hype everyone up. I also bought pom poms and played a lot of music.

Some of the behaviors such as tracking the speakers (always keeping eyes on the speaker) and standing when speaking are directly from RCA. These two behaviors alone TRANSFORMED our students. Will every student want to stand? No. Will every student want to track a speaker? Nope. The goal is that through constant positive reinforcement from both teachers and their peers as well as the motivation to earn house points, they will try. At the same time, it's equally important to award points to students who are quiet during transitions, remain focused on tasks, and ask for help.

The Sorting:

We knew that our sorting ceremony had to be memorable and tangible. We talked about doing an online sorting, drawing names out of hats, and more. BUT then, our wonderful science teacher's husband (shout out to all the teacher spouses out there!) built this magnificent wheel.

What a difference it made! The four teachers and all of our students met outside, and each student spun the wheel and then went to a face painting station afterwards. We also immediately created house chants and handshakes. It was truly incredible to see teenagers doing crazy chants and handshakes in the hallway even after the ceremony.

Lesson learned with the sorting: Because the wheel spinning was random, we ended up with 28 kids in one house and then 12 in another, so we're going to cap each house this year so that it's fair. We ended up having a point conversion for the smaller house. Also, we're buying wristbands for the kids too so that when they spin, they instantly get a little souvenir.

The First Day with Points:

As a team, we decided that during the first two days after the launch, we would not take away any points from the houses. In each of our rooms, we had a station somewhere so that students could add points to their house. If a student stood to speak, we made it quick and easy: "Nice job, Tyler! House point to Integrity." Tyler would add his point, and we'd keep class moving.

I laminated these boards so that we could write on them with dry-erase markers. It worked well for the entire year! After the "honeymoon" period ended, we started to take away points. As a team, we decided that the most prominent issues were tardiness, cell phones, and language. We would take off 5 points for each of these. We did not make students erase points from the board. We, the teachers, had a separate tracking sheet on our clipboards for this; however, we did make a note that "Exuberance is losing 5 points for a cell phone." The problems started to fix themselves very quickly because the students were working as a team to keep each other on track. We did not tolerate any rude behavior towards the students who had lost the points. Losing the points was enough.

Keeping it Going:

In each house, we picked two house leaders for the first "round" (roughly one month), and thereafter, students would vote on new leaders. The leaders were invited to special lunches with the teachers, and we asked them to monitor and motivate their house members.

In our rooms, we had face paint stations for students to use every day. They did this for a few weeks after. When we noticed that it was dying down, we decided it was time for a house pride day.

Throughout the year, we held various pride days, competitions, house meetings, and more to keep the momentum going. We had monthly prizes for the house with the most points, and they were almost all food-related. I know some people don't like to give food as rewards, but teenagers are hungry, and they simply like food.

Lessons Learned and The Truth:

I won't lie to you: sometimes, we did burn out a bit. We would try to rev it up again with some kind of event, but sometimes, we fell off the wagon. To fix this for the upcoming school year, we are going to create a calendar in advance for specific events and hold each other accountable. We're going to make t-shirts and institute a star system for students to "earn their stars" as a way to make it more competitive.

Despite our efforts, not every student bought into it. Maybe it was because they were teenagers, or maybe they did not find it valuable enough; however, we had plenty of students buy into it, and it was an incredible experience. If you find this in your houses, just keep trying to motivate them.

If you have ANY questions, please leave them in the comments below so that when I answer them, everyone can see them.

If you'd like to download the FREE resources mentioned in this blog post, click here. Thank you for reading and best of luck to you all with your house systems!

Check me out on Instagram to follow along throughout the 2017-2018 school year. :)

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Free Romeo and Juliet Resources

Hello my fellow Romeo and Juliet teachers. Teaching Shakespeare in general can be so powerful and unique for our students. I have been posting some ideas on my Instagram lately, and many people have been requesting some of the specific resources that I've posted, so I thought I would put together a little post of some of the most recent ones. Use one or use all, or simply be inspired to create your own versions.

These are the prologue cards that I used with a matching activity. I printed the sets on different colored paper, and then the students had to match up the original with the translated version.

Click here for the original cards and here for the translated versions. I was inspired by this resource, and I used their translated version for the translated cards.

I created a wedding program for Romeo and Juliet's wedding, and you can download that here. If you want it to look the exact same, the fonts that I used are Sweet Pea, KG Arrows, KG Always A Good Time, and PB Coffee Before Talkie.

If you are interested in more interactive activities for Romeo and Juliet, check out my bundle on Teachers Pay Teachers. It has over 55 PowerPoint slides, 20 handouts, a review game, a complete funeral activity for the deaths of the characters, and more.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Post-it Annotations Template

After using Post-its for about two days to annotate, I realized that with 90 students, it would not be feasible for me to continue supplying the sticky notes. Instead, I used this handy resource so that the students could still appreciate the idea of using the sticky note format, but we weren't flying through tons of sticky notes in the process.

If you'd like to use this template, grab it here. I left extra space in the directions box for you to instruct your students on the specific requirements for your annotations. 

Let me know if you have any questions, and be sure to check me out on Instagram @theengagingstation! :)

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Zombie Attack Lesson Idea

Need a quick, engaging idea to get your students writing? Have zombies attack the classroom and school, and allow the students to choose how they will survive!

To set the mood, I turned off the lights, played The Walking Dead theme song, and had my first PowerPoint slide displaying when they walked in.


I explained that they would be completing a writing assignment so that they were not surprised after the "fun" part. The first part of surviving a zombie attack is getting resources together. I gave them a list of seven items to choose from, and I told them that they can only take four. They had to decide as a group which four to take. This is where the team-building part comes into play.

After they picked their items, we went over each item, discussing the benefits and drawbacks of each, and why each group picked the four items. You can continue to narrow this down to three, two, and even one item.

After they agreed on their resources, they had to pick their weapon of choice to defend themselves in the zombie attack. You can either have the group decide on one weapon for the entire group, or have each person pick just one item. It's always funny to see who gets stuck with the stick! :)

After they are well-equipped with survival necessities and a defense, they had to escape the school. The problem is that the nearest exit is locked, and everyone in  the hallway had become a zombie. For this, I projected a map of the school, and they had to create an escape route. This is a neat opportunity to discuss the school building as well.

Finally, after they escaped the school and everyone lived (yay!), they had to complete their pre-assessment. You can choose one for everyone to respond to, or you can present a few options. You can see two options below:

You now have a piece of writing from students, and they had a chance to have some fun! Be aware that this lesson is SUPER engaging and therefore, the students will want to talk A LOT. Just set the expectation beforehand that they need to be quiet when people are presenting their choices.

To use this in your classroom, simply click on the pictures that you want, right-click, save the image, and add right into your presentation software.

Happy surviving!

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Classroom Transformation: Bowling Review Game

Need a fun way to review information? Give your kids a bowling ball, some pins, and a disco light, and you'll have a SUPER engaging review session ready to go! The best thing about it? This transformation can be adapted to all content and topics!

The Preparation:

Materials needed:
  • Bowling pins
  • Butcher paper or table cloths (for the lanes)
  • Bowling ball
  • Disco light (get the one I used by clicking here)
  • Optional: Chromebooks
  • Optional: glow sticks. There are great packs at Walmart, Five Below, and Amazon (click here)
  • Construction paper
  • Scissors
  • Glue

I was able to get the bowling pins and jelly bowling balls from my school's gym closet, the butcher paper from our stock, and I had the construction paper already. The only items that cost money were the glow sticks and disco light, but I can honestly say that these two items TRANSFORMED the lesson. My kids were SO excited about the glow sticks, and the disco light, for such a cheap price, lit up my entire classroom. Even the kids walking by couldn't help but look in! 

If you do not have access to bowling pins/balls, and you're not sure about investing too much money into them, I have seen lots of DIY ideas for bowling using soda bottles! Check out some ideas on Pinterest. You can make this work!!! :)

The preparation took about 1 hour. I covered my windows with butcher paper to black out the room, lined the floor with two lanes of butcher paper, plugged in the disco light, and BOOM, a bowling alley was created!

I also printed out this sign to wear. I constantly pretend to be other people, and my kids buy into it. I'm a bit of an alliteration abuser (see what I did there? :D), so I just had to make this sign! I just attached it to my lanyard, and the kids called me Becky all day!

The Lesson:

Over the course of two days, my students traveled to the Arcade Room, Burger Bowling, and the Concession Stand. Those were code names for the different stations at which the students would work.

The students walked into the classroom and were shocked at the transformation. We started things off at the Arcade Room in which students played Pac-Man (if you haven't played on ClassTools, you are missing out!). Students reviewed how to cite evidence (check out my game at Citation Pac-Man). They played for ten minutes, and the highest scorer earned a special spot on the score board!

After Pac-Man, the students moved to Burger Bowlerama! They each received a Burger Bowlerama booklet. We played just like real bowling with 10 rounds. After each round, students had to answer four questions in their booklets. The questions were all review questions for what we have been learning. I am all about rehearsal and practicing!

We turned the lights off and the disco light on for this! It was just like cosmic bowling. I also had music playing like Cascada and some old Britney Spears, so it gave it the old-school skating rink vibe. After each round, I kept track of their scores on the bowling score chart (see bottom of post for link to this). The students motivated each other, clapped for each other, and it was pure awesomeness! Follow me on Instagram to see videos of this!

In between turns, they used their glow sticks to light the way to answer their booklets!

Finally, they ended at the Concession Stand. I saw this idea on Pinterest before, and I knew I wanted to try it! I gave each group their Team Pack complete with construction paper, scissors, glue, and Emoji Self-Evaluation Tool (grab it for free here). They had to cut out the parts to create the BEST burger in town and build a paragraph about it. They had to have topic sentences, detail sentences, supporting sentences, and a summary sentence. We have a specific writing program in my district, so this aligned with those requirements.

The end result of the burgers:

Some of them actually look pretty tasty!

If you want to take a peek at and/or use my resources, check them out here (for free!):  
  • Burger Bowlerama booklet and Becky signs: click here!
  • Slides from my PowerPoint, including the bowling score chart: click here!
Overall, it was a cheap transformation and well worth it to break up the end of the year and keep them engaged! Let me know if you have any questions in the comments, and be sure to tag me on Instagram if you do this transformation! :)

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Team Packs

You know when you see a cool idea, then you obsess about it, and you realize that you HAVE to have it? That's what happened with these team packs. I saw them from Kagan, and I loved them. The Kagan ones come with markers, super thin whiteboards, crayons, and a spinner, and they retail for around $15. I wanted the same concept, but I didn't want to spend upward of $75 with shipping, so I decided to turn it into a DIY project! :)

I went to The Container Store to get the bubble envelopes. I was able to get them for $2.99 each. You can see them online here: Bubblopes.

After that, I used some Astrobrights paper to make the labels. I laminated them first and used Glue Dots to keep them down. Advice: Glue Dot the entire thing down. I did just the corners, and then the kids were putting their hand through it like a pocket.

As far as what I put in them goes, that changes all the time. That's another positive thing about the DIY method. For example, when we were working with persuasive techniques, I gave the kids blank paper, markers, and a mysterious item in another small bubble envelope. 

I think I'm going to use them as close reading toolkits, participation packs, and more. The kids  really like them both because they're different, and they're pretty. I had them out for a few days before we used them, and one girl said, "They are so pretty!" and another boy said, "I am very intrigued by these." Of course, I also received questions like, "Can I pop the bubbles?" Nonetheless, they were a hit, and I'm very excited about my $12.00 investment!

Leave a comment if you have any questions! :)

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