December 28, 2016

Join the Teachers Working Smarter Facebook Group

Have you heard the buzz lately about the 40 Hour Teacher Workweek Club? It's an amazing course that Angela Watson of the Cornerstone for Teachers blog developed to help teachers learn how to trim hours off their work weeks and achieve work/life balance.

Despite its title, the course isn't really about reducing your work week to just 40 hours, although some members do just that. It's about learning to use your time more productively so that you can get more done in less time, thereby reducing your work load and the number of hours you spend working.

How much would it be worth to you if you could trim 10 or more hours from your work week? 

Saving that much time might seem like an impossible goal, but surveys of 40 HTW Club members have shown that it's more than possible - its the norm!

In fact, club members trim an average of 11 hours from their work weeks!

Surveys show that teachers who enroll in the course reduce their work weeks from an average of 62 hours to 51 hours by the time they graduate from it! That's more than 500 hours a year!

The 40 Hour Teacher Workweek Club isn't free, of course, but the resources you'll receive will far outweigh the cost of enrollment. It almost sounds too good to be true, so I wouldn't blame you if you were a bit skeptical.

Join the Teachers Working Smarter Facebook Group
That's why I created a private Facebook group called Teachers Working Smarter. I wanted a place where teachers who are already in the 40 HTW Club could connect with those who are thinking of joining. Angela isn't a part of the group because I want members to be able to ask anything they want about the club. Whether you're a current club member or you're interested in learning more, I invite you to join!

To sign up for the Teachers Working Smarter Group, please take BOTH steps below:
  1. Fill out this Google Doc form with your contact information. 
  2. Click over to the Teachers Working Smarter Facebook group and then click the Join button to request membership. 

Note: Your membership status will appear as pending until I approve it, which I will do if you've filled out the Google Doc form in step 1. However, I only approve memberships a few times a day, so please be patient!

Remember how I asked what it would be worth if you could trim 10 or more hours from your workweek? Many would say that saving that much time would be PRICELESS!

You could use that time to start taking better care of yourself, as I wrote in New Year's Resolutions to Keep the Joy in Teaching.

You could also use those extra hours to spend more time with your family. Within a week of joining, one club member wrote that she was thrilled to finally able to eat dinner with her family instead of staying late at work every day. Another shared that she had not been able to attend her daughter's dance recitals until after enrolling in the course and learning how to use her time more productively!

How will YOU use the extra time you carve out for yourself? I look forward to reading YOUR success story in the Teachers Working Smarter Facebook Group!




Full disclosure: The links shared in this post are affiliate links, but I can assure you that I would never recommend anything to you that I didn't believe in 100%. I'm a member of the 40 Hour Teacher Workweek Club and it's absolutely amazing... and life-changing!

December 25, 2016

New Year's Resolutions That Will Keep the Joy in Teaching

Are you making any New Year's Resolutions? If you're like most people, you've identified at least a few goals to accomplish this year, and I'm guessing that improving your physical fitness and health is one of them.

But achieving that goal is going to take more than determination. It will take TIME, and that's something most teachers don't have! 

That's why I'm excited to share about an amazing program called the 40 Hour Teacher Workweek Club! Angela Watson developed this course to help teachers achieve work/life balance, which will free up TIME to achieve ALL of the important goals in your life!

I'll tell you more about the program later in this post, but first I want you to understand why it's so important to learn strategies that will drastically reduce the amount of time you spend working.

Let's get back to that goal of improving your physical fitness and health. When it comes right down to it, taking better care of yourself means taking time to do the things that will improve your overall health such as:
  • exercising every day 
  • shopping for and preparing healthy foods
  • getting more sleep
  • relaxing and doing something for ourselves each day 
However, most teachers are up at the crack of dawn and they're in their classrooms before most people roll out of bed! And a teacher's day doesn't end at 3 pm when the kids leave because there are meetings to attend, lessons to write, papers to grade, materials to prepare for the next day... need I say more? Then it's off to run errands, cook (or buy) dinner for the family, help their own children with homework, grade more papers, plan more lessons... only to fall into bed exhausted at the end of the day! Even weekends don't necessarily mean time off, because teachers often spend time on Saturday and/or Sunday planning lessons, grading papers, and reading professional books.

No wonder teachers find it almost impossible to take of themselves! They spend 95% of their day taking care of everyone else! When you add up the hours teachers spend at school or on schoolwork, the time can easily add up to 60, 70, or 80 hours a WEEK!


Remember that New Year's Resolution to get physically fit and healthy?

It's not gonna happen unless you deal with the REAL problem which is that your life is completely out of balance! You're spending too much time on schoolwork and not enough time on YOU!

Face it. There's no way you're going to find time to take care of yourself until you get a handle on your workload and learn to achieve work/balance.  

But wait... is that even possible? I didn't use to think so. I was convinced that I had to work 70 or 80 hours a week to get the job done, and I couldn't see any other option without sacrificing the quality of my work or shortchanging my students.

But I was wrong. It IS possible for teachers to achieve work/life balance!

December 8, 2016

Winter Holiday Learning Fun!

Seasonal activities are perfect for the weeks leading up to the winter holidays. Those days can be kinda crazy, but kids are more likely to stay on task when they are engaged in activities that are fun yet don't skimp on academic content. Here are a few of my favorite activities for this time of year. I hope they add a little fun to your December lesson plans!

Sugar Cone Christmas Trees 
One of my favorite holiday activities was to have my students follow a recipe to make Sugar Cone Christmas Trees. Reading and following a recipe might seem like an activity that's only appropriate for younger children, and it's not normally something you'd find in the 5th grade curriculum.

So, I decided to kick it up a notch by creating a set of comprehension questions to go with the recipe. I formatted the questions to make them similar to the ones on state tests, so the activity serves as a test prep lesson as well. After my students created their sugar cone Christmas Trees, I allowed them to eat their treats while answering the questions. Of course, many students did not want to eat their creations right away so I always provided gallon zip top bags for them to take home their treats.

You can find the Sugar Cone Christmas Tree recipe and comprehension questions in my December Activities Mini Pack along with a materials-request letter to send home to parents.

December Activity Mini Pack
This Sugar Cone Christmas Tree activity is just one of the many activities in my December Activities pack for upper elementary students. It's available from from my TpT store, and as always, you can preview the entire packet online to see if it meets your needs. You'll find loads of activities to use this month along with directions and answer keys. Here's a complete list:
  • Holiday Mug Exchange Directions
  • Holidays Around the World Research Project
  • Christmas Daily Math Puzzlers
  • Dreidel Game Rules and Pattern
  • Dreidel Math Explorations
  • Christmas Word Challenge
  • Silly Winter Stories Cooperative Learning Activity and Writing Prompts
  • Sugar Cone Christmas Tree Recipe and Reading Comprehension Questions
  • Happy Holidays Homework Pass
  • Happy Holidays Book Coupon

Holiday-themed Freebies
I love to share freebies with my followers, so this blog post would not be complete without me sharing a holiday freebie or two. The Christmas Math Puzzler pages shown here are samples from my December Activities Mini Pack that you can download for free from the Seasonal page on Teaching Resources during December. These are two pages of math word problems on different levels, and they can be used for cooperative learning activities or independent assignments.

Also on the Seasonal page, you can  find several other freebies for December, including my Christmas Paper Chain Connections literacy activity, holiday gratitude cards, and more!

I hope these activities will help you enjoy those hectic days before your winter break. Happy holidays to you!





November 8, 2016

Math Mindsets Matter: How Can Teachers Foster a Growth Mindset in Math?

Oh no! I've tumbled down into the rabbit hole of growth mindset research, never to be seen again! All kidding aside, the more I learn about growth mindset, the more fascinated I am with this topic, and the more I realize I have yet to learn.

But as fascinated as I am with growth mindset, I'm even more intrigued by the challenge of putting these research findings into practice. In other words...

How can we use the most current brain research to foster a growth mindset in our students... and in ourselves?

Mathematics is arguably the subject where mindset matters the most, especially when you consider how many adults have experienced math anxiety in the past. Take me, for instance. I always excelled in math, but I'll never forget the horrible experience I had with college calculus. I'll save that story for another time, but let me just say that it totally shredded my confidence about my ability to learn math!

Despite that experience (or maybe because of it), when I started teaching, I discovered that I have an aptitude for teaching math. I love breaking down complex math skills to make them easier for kids to understand, and I love using creative teaching methods to help all students succeed in math. Now that I'm no longer in the classroom, I enjoy presenting webinars where I can share these strategies with other educators.

Mind-blowing Brain Research About Mistakes and Mindsets 
During one of my recent math webinars, a teacher suggested that I read Jo Boaler's book, Mathematical Mindsets. I had already been planning to develop a webinar about how to foster a growth mindset in math, so I ordered a copy right away. Unfortunately, I didn't have time to read it when it arrived so the book ended up buried on my desk until I noticed it yesterday.

Oh my goodness! Have you ever read a professional development book that was so compelling you wanted to talk about it with anyone who would listen? That's how I felt when I started reading Mathematical Mindsets: Unleashing Students' Potential Through Creative Math, Inspiring Messages, and Innovative Teaching. I was hooked from the first page!

All I can say is the book is definitely living up to the premise of that very long title. I thought I had a good grasp on growth mindset research, but after reading just a few pages, I realized that I've barely scratched the surface of this topic.

For example, I knew that mistakes should be considered to be a sign of learning rather than as a sign of failure.

But I didn't know that when we make a mistake, our brain responds physically with increased electrical activity and actually grows a synapse! Neuroscientists discovered this by measuring this electrical brain activity in test subjects they observed while working. This brain response happens even when the person making the mistake doesn't consciously realize a mistake was made!

November 1, 2016

Investigating Condensation and the Water Cycle

Step-by-step Lesson and Free Printables 

Most kids are familiar with the terms precipitation, condensation, and evaporation, but very few of them really understand what those words mean. Just ask your students to name three examples of condensation in everyday life and watch their eyes glaze over. Huh??

Most kids understand that precipitation is a fancy word for different forms of water falling from the sky, like rain, snow, and sleet. Most kids also understand that evaporation is what happens when water "disappears" on a warm day, such as a puddle drying up. They know that evaporation means liquid water has become water vapor.

Condensation is a little harder to grasp. If you've taught your students that clouds form as a result of condensation, they may think that condensation only happens in the sky. Do they know that condensation happens all around us, every day? If they understand that water droplets on a cold glass are the result of condensation, where do they think the water comes from? Inside the glass?

Condensation Investigation

Here's a simple investigation that will help your students understand what condensation is, where it comes from, and where it happens in everyday life. The activity works well as an introduction to the water cycle or as a part of a lesson on states of matter. Because this is an exploratory activity, it's best not to provide too much background information before you begin.