Thursday, December 17, 2015

Happy Holidays! A Couple of tips to push websites to your students

Happy Holidays!

I'm counting down the days and wearing crazy hats...must be time for Winter Break!

I sent this to my teachers today and decided to send it out to all of you as well!

Here's a quick How-To on sharing websites with students (or people in general).

Please let me know how YOU share you have kids copy the URL from a board, use

I'm always ready to learn!

Happy Thursday!

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Google Forms: Adding Questions

Hi Y'all!

I'm back with another installment of Google Forms - this time we're adding in questions (AND images and videos) to make a class assignment.

Please comment with what you'd like the next tech-how-to video series to contain.

If you missed any posts, you can click on the links below to view.

Post 1: Falling in Love with Forms

Post 2: Google Forms: Customizing

Coming Soon:

Post 3: Google Forms: Sharing and What do you do with responses?

Post 4: Google Forms: Add Ons: Grading and notifying

Post 5: Google Forms: Add Ons: Form Publisher

Until Next Time,

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Google Forms: Customizing

I'm blown away by the response to my post on Virginia is for Teachers about Google Forms If you missed it, you can click the link to check it out.

I promised some follow up and decided that it was easiest to show you in a video. For fun, I also included a video of me in the screencast- please give me feedback on whether or not it was a good idea or was too distracting. I like pretending I'm sitting next to you as we work through these programs. I'll wait to hear from you guys before I make any more videos in this series.

This video explains how to customize a Google Form to take it from drab to FAB!.

The rest of the videos in the series will cover:

Adding Questions

What to do with responses (and where to find them!)

Add Ons - Form Notified and Limiter (and any other easy ones I discover between now and then)

Add Ons - Form Publisher

Please, Please, Please let me know if there are additional technology things you'd like to know about -  it doesn't have to be just be google stuff, although the next series I have in mind is all about the cool things you can have students do in Drive.


Until Next Time,

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

The *Lazy* Teachers Guide to Rocking Meet the Teacher Night


I like personalized cookies for each person as much as the next guy, but 2-3 days before the start of a school year is not the time for me to learn how to use royal icing.

This post will walk you through how I run my Meet the Teacher night with minimum stress on my part while most parents walk away feeling confident about their child's placement. (I say most because, come on, some parents will never be happy).  *If you're reading are NOT lazy - just working smarter not harder...I know you're awesome.

Being the incredible teacher you are, you've probably set your room up and arranged your desks, and aesthetically things look great. Good for you! I'm not talking about that part. This post starts from the moment your room is ready but students aren't in yet. I'm going to fill you in on all my tricks to appear like it's all together (even when it's not). The one thing I can't do for you is give you confidence. If you're not confident you can pull this won't. Your confidence is the catalyst for everything. If you're completely overwhelmed...fake it! Fake it {confidence, control} until you Make it. It works.

That downtime between getting your class lists and finally getting a chance to be in your classroom for an hour or know that frantic time when bulletin boards are up and lesson plans are a distant on.


Google Images
If you don't generally oooze confidence or you'd rather talk to 25 - 8 year olds instead of a bunch of's a tip to help you "fake it, till you make it" : use a prop. I am generally a pretty confident person, but I still get nervous when meeting the parents and kids I'll have all year long. To combat that, I always have a can of dr. pepper in my hands during meet the teacher night. It must also be said, that I have a pretty laid back personality and while I can throw out the lingo and jargon and be a consummate professional using tons of multisyllabic words, I tend to downplay that aspect and meet parents and kids as a person (a pretty cool lady who's going to crack jokes and try to get everyone at ease). If your school or personality doesn't flow in that direction, you probably want to use a prop more like a clipboard or something less casual. Using the can of Dr. Pepper, I can take a
sip to reflect before answering challenging questions, calming my nerves or giving myself something to do while parents wander the room. I've also been known to set it down across the room in case I need to extract myself from a set of overly needy parents (If you'll just excuse me, I don't want that can to get knocked over......and poof - freedom!) 

Student Desks

Google Images
If your school is like all the ones I've ever worked at- class lists are the holy grail and handed out at the last possible second (and subject to change) instead of stressing about getting name tags made by Meet the Teacher Night- I just don't. I set out post it notes and markers and as my students come in- THEY get to pick their seat for the first day (with the understanding it will probably change). I do this for two main reasons: first, it's a record of who came, I don't have to refer to a sign in sheet that someone may forget to sign. Second, giving kids power (even as small as choosing their seat) validates that I know they are capable and they have a voice in our classroom community. It's also really interesting to see how parents react to this. Sometimes they guide their students to the front thinking that's where they should've's a great way to see the parent child dynamics.

 Once the seats are chosen and it's time to make nametags, why not save some time and have the computer print out perfectly written (with lines!) print, d'nealian or cursive name tags. You simply type your each student name and then print. To save ink, I made Doodle Tags where kids can color in their own nametag and you can either laminate or use contact paper to attach to their desks. The coloring nametags are great for first day busywork and you can print them as often as you like, there are monthly themed sets or a freebie Happy Birthday for the birthday kiddo.

Click each image to view all resources in the category. Each link opens in a new window.

The Doodle Tags are too cute not to share - there are primary ones with colors and shapes and general seasonal coloring pages (perfect for any grade) and can be found by clicking the links above.


It wouldn't be a meet the teacher without trying to get a ton of data from parents.  
I place the forms from the school on desks and after a student has chosen their desk, I tell them the packet are for the parents to take and complete (it's parent homework!)

To get the data I want I pull up a google form (I've got a sample for you to base yours on) and set up computer stations around the room with the form up for parents to fill out while students are turning in supplies (I try to set up bins/boxes for community supplies to be placed in).  This form will put all parent contact info on a spreadsheet that's my point of reference all year. You will need a google email (Gmail) address to use Google Drive - they're free so get one and get going on this!

Here's what the parents see: 
Before you set it out for parents, you'll need to Make a Copy and make it yours by adding your name and any additional questions you may have. Sometimes I include a question about allergies but try to keep it short - parents are more likely to fill it out.  

Once they hit submit they will see this screen (again, you can change the text)

When you're ready to see the data

This is some sample data. You can delete the timestamp column. I sort the data based on what I need. If I want to see birthdays in order, I sort by birthdays, I may want to put it in ABC order, easily sorted. To send emails, I can just copy/paste the emails from the sheet to my contact infomation in the email program. This is paperless and available anywhere there is a computer (or smart phone!)

 Click Here to view the form in edit mode - YOU MUST make a copy or I will be the only one to  receive your data, and that doesn't do anyone any good! When you make a copy - rename it like Mrs.West's Class Data 2015-2016. The more specific you can make the file name, the easier it will be to find later. I think my next blog series will be on google can do so many cool things - be sure to come back to see what else you can do (I'm talking about graded spelling tests...what?!?!)

Once you have saved a copy of the form and tweaked it to fit your needs - click SEND FORM. It will give you a link. I copy that link on my class page so I can open it on the computers in the room and parents who didn't get to Meet the Teacher Night can also fill it out.

 I also post the form on my class website and have cards with my email and website for parents to keep as a reference. (Insert shameless plug here) <---That was in the draft I wrote on my's funny so I'm leaving it. Truly, these cards are a major timesaver. You type your info into the PDF and it makes all the cards for you - just print and cut! You can also pick custom cards and I'll make them with your school colors/logo - same idea, just type in the PDF and print (or use the included PPT to use as much or as little text as you'd like).

Click to View on TPT
Click to View on TPT

Wish List

As teachers, we always have things we would like to have. I've seem some very elaborate wish list displays and they are awesome...but time consuming to make. Post It Notes to the rescue! I usually write my wish list items on my whiteboard with a title for parents to write the item they plan to bring on the post it to help them remember and erase the item off the board. If I want 6 reams of copy paper, I write it six times on the board. Alternately, you could just type up and print a list and set it on a desk with post it notes and pens. Choose your level of ease!

Above and Beyond

By doing the three things mentioned above, you're covering your bases and starting the year off with satisfied parents and excited kids. If you have a few extra minutes, throw together a powerpoint (but do not, I repeat, DO NOT use the font Comic's awful!) Touching on a few of the policies of your classroom - how supplies should be sorted, birthday policy, if you're a nut free room, etc). This is the area you can add detail to if you have the time. Make it shine for you! 

I generally put out pop rocks (from the Dollar Store or 5 Below) with a tag that says "This Year is Going to Rock". I had the tags up last year as a Facebook fan freebie - you can grab them from dropbox  by clicking the picture below.

If you have questions or need clarification, don't hesitate to email me at I love to help!

Until Next Time,

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Sunday Scoop

This was a Sunday I couldn't skip posting the Sunday Scoop! We had an incredible weekend and have a crazy week coming up.

Before we get to the amazing scoop hosted by the Teaching Trio I want to fill you in on a little known Housewarming tradition in Virginia.

It its customary in these parts to bring a present to a housewarming party (usually with a it - the history is pretty incredible) but what you may not know is that in Virginia, you leave a housewarming party with a puppy.

Okay, I'm kidding about it being a tradition but I did leave a housewarming party on Saturday with a brand spanking new puppy! Isn't he adorable! This is the picture I sent my husband saying "pleeeease?!!?"

The couple I was celebrating had been at their parent's home when a niece of theirs scared a mama beagle. She ran off as well as 7 little pups but this guy and his brother were left behind. She never returned for them and they needed a new home. My husband took our negotiations to Facebook and threw down the gauntlet that if I crowd-sourced the neutering and shots, I could bring him home. I think he was under the impression that people would side with him...boy was he wrong! One of my fellow teachers set up a "go fund me" page and raised over $200. This guy, now officially named Augustus Chase III, came to his new home last night.  My two boys were thrilled (and came up with the name Chase...which is what we'll call him) my two other dogs were not as thrilled. They've warmed up today but there's a huge age difference (Chase is 9 weeks old and our other dogs are 12 and 13 years about a generation gap!)

Should you feel like helping us cover the cost of microchipping and vet bills you can go to the go fund me page by clicking either picture of Chase or right here. If not, enjoy the puppy pics and I'm so thankful we were able to keep him out of the shelter.
Here is Chase - he is not a fan of leashes and let me know in no uncertain terms that he was done with our walk this afternoon.

We have been terrible dog parents and haven't taken our two older dogs to the vet since we moved in December. Today I HAVE to find a vet to get Chase his shots and micro-chipped. I live in a rural area and our small town Facebook page has been very helpful in pointing me into the right direction. I'm confident I'll have an appointment tomorrow. 

My first day back at work in next much for summer. Between all the stuff I've been procrastinating (labs, car maintenance) and the puppy - this is one busy week! The boys don't start school until after Labor Day so my mom is flying out to watch them while I'm at work the next three weeks. I love my mom! (<--- and why I want to freshen the guest room today)

I've had a blog post mulling in my head and and halfway written about the Lazy Teacher's Guide to Rocking Open House with my tips and tricks to do minimal work with maximum awesome. Since I'm the QUEEN of last minute ideas....this is a post you can read the morning of Open House and have no problem implementing that long as I get it written! 

One thing I'm HAPPY to do is introduce Chase to our neighbors. Everyone that followed the battle of wills on Facebook yesterday is dying to meet this sweet boy....he's famous!

I hope your summer is going strong or your back to school season is stress-free and fabulous!

Until Next Time,

Friday, August 7, 2015

#VATeacherBloggersMeet A Recap...pinch me

Last Friday a group of 30 fabulous Virginia teacher bloggers {including myself!} descended upon the Jefferson Lakeside Country Club for an afternoon of networking, laughs, food, drinks, and some incredible swag and prizes! It was an incredible time, and well worth all of the planning and logistics that went into it. I want to share some of the experience with you!

First of all, I have to tell you how absolutely AMAZING all of our sponsors were to work with. If you are making any back-to-school purchases this year, I really urge you to consider purchasing from these businesses and individuals -- they truly value teachers and aren't afraid to show it!

A HUGE thank you goes especially to Educents (one of THE best companies around!) for helping with the costs of the meetup and providing some FANTASTIC swag! Make sure you check out their new Educents Wallet feature to get all of those resources for your classroom at a steep discount! If you sign-up for a new teacher wallet account you'll receive $10 to spend on your classroom -- who couldn't use $10?!

We had over $4,000 in prizes thanks to these fantastic folks! {You may want to talk about a prize you won here.}

Check our our FANTASTIC sponsors:

And some AMAZING TpT sellers that contributed raffle prizes or digital swag:

I don't know how to limit myself to the top 3 moments...I would probably struggle to list my top THIRTY moments from the day. I am so thankful to call these beautiful women my blog buddies AS WELL AS real life friends. These are the women you want in the trenches with you when things seem to be crumbling around (personally or professionally) not only will they commiserate and virtually drink wine with you (so you're not THAT person) but they will help you build stairs with the rubble surrounding you and help you climb out of the hole. So, that being said, getting to spend an entire day with people I respect and admire was a huge treat for me! In no particular top three moments:

1. Being geographically close as well as pretty darn good friends - Sarah (There's No Place Like 2nd and now 3rd) and I carpooled together. We had plenty of time for Starbucks and selfies before heading to the Club to set up for the meet up. Sarah is a militant director - she knows what she wants and where she wants it (along with which fonts are acceptable) and the crazy thing is...she's usually right. I've learned it's best to go with her vision as it will turn out darn near perfect!

Arguably the greatest selfie ever taken
2. Sarah set up a super fun selfie-section and most of us had a lot of fun grabbing folks and taking silly pictures. This is where some true personalities started to shine...lotta love in the room!
Mrs. O "Knows" and I rocking the face props!

3. The Pic that launched a thousand ships... well not really. I had no idea at the meet up that this "Oscar-Style" selfie would explode on the internet and be used by Teachers Pay Teachers to market the Back to School sale... I'm also really glad I wore the red-ish orangish cardi as it was used as the center of the apple!

The day was made up a thousand little moments. Sitting at lunch getting tips to make my TPT products pop as well as blogging ideas and encouragement was worth its weight in gold. Truly, just sitting at the table laughing and carrying on like old friends.

I have no photo evidence, but I had a lot of fun walking around the room and taking selfies on phone's that were left unattended...lesson learned folks! Leave your phone alone and you just might find my smiling face on your camera roll!

Even though I didn't know everyone by name or face, our Commonwealth commonality and general sunny dispositions made us a cohesive unit immediately. Our next meet up cannot happen soon enough.
Here's the Crew...Except Heather...she was late. ;)

Winner Winner Chicken Dinner! #cantbelieveit
Would it be a recap without food? One of the most amazing wraps
I've ever had...I've already tried to recreate it at home!

Bloggers in their Natural Habitat
Rachel - Mrs. O "Knows"
Heather - "The Meek Mouse"

Carla (Comprehension Connection) locked her keys in the car...she was
fleet and nimble when the AAA guy got the door open. 

You can see more fun meetup photos by looking at the hashtag #VATeacherBloggersMeet on Instagram, or by looking at the photo album!

Some of the fantastic Virginia teacher bloggers from the meetup are linking up with Sarah from There's No Place Like Second Grade to share their favorite moments and photo memories from the meetup, as well as share their swag and prizes! Be sure and check-out their posts!

You are next... Click here to enter
This list will close in 24 days, 22 hrs, 38 min (8/31/2015 11:59 PM North America - Eastern Standard Time)

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

In preparation for THOSE moments...

It's back to school season and in my humble opinion, there should be a law against school supply displays before August 1. Seeing as how it now official August, it's time to get ready for another year. I was looking at my calendar for back to school and my first week is chock full of meetings. 

This year, I'm taking on a new role in education as an ITRT - basically a super cool person to talk to about integrating technology and will help guide your instruction as a coach... and that means I'll be on the other side of the meeting fence this year. I've spent my entire teacher career being THAT teacher who grumbles under her breath about pointless meetings and taking up valuable time I could be using to prepare my students for the barrage of assessments headed their way. On one hand, I'm dreading being on the receiving end of blank stares and hostile expressions. On the OTHER hand, I'm in a pretty cool place to make sure that my meetings are run in a way that gets the point across {hopefully} without the pain of a root canal. It's a high bar, but I have quite a few ideas to see me through. 

99% of you reading this are not coaches and forced to run meetings so I'd like to provide some insight from the coach perspective and hopefully that will help keep your grimaces and facebooking in meetings to a minimum. 

There are ALWAYS exceptions and I've worked with a few people who seem to believe all teachers share their passion for math (or reading or even technology) and are excited about losing a planning period to hear about the latest and greatest initiative (what teachers hear is: more work for no reason). I'm not talking about these folks, but the majority of teachers who take on a leadership role do so because they want to help teachers become better than anyone could ever imagine. These are the coaches I'm talking about. 
1. Coaches are aware of your time demands. 
Truly, unless they are the exception (see above) they are aware you have things you'd rather be doing. No one is intentionally trying to be the jerk that keeps you from getting your newsletter copied or a spelling test graded, but if the meeting was on the schedule (with at least 24 hours notice) there's no reason anyone should grumble about what they'd rather be doing. This is where I struggled. I am the queen of last minute ideas and had to force myself to remember that "poor planning on my part doesn't constitute an emergency on anyone else's part" was a daily struggle. 

I probably should print this out and hang it in my space - I know I need the reminders!

2. Coaches have SMART goals
 You're not the only ones who have to meet a goal to justify your year. Coaches are held to the same goal standards as you are. But, unlike you, they don't have a captive audience of 8 year olds all day every day to work with. They have to work with adults who feel justified in calling in a sub for a half day - just to avoid a PLC (<-- that truly happened). You know that one student who misses a week of school the during the window for testing...yeah...remember how you felt? So, bottom line, cut them some slack - I've missed plenty of cool opportunities to try tools out with my classrooms because I felt I didn't have time to add anything else to my plate - if they're sharing something that just might make your job easier tune in and try it out. 

3. Coaches are not Admin
This cannot be stressed enough and if you're in a building where the coaches run to admin to tattle on what teachers are doing in the classroom, my heart goes out to you. Coaches are teachers first and foremost. They are not should not be entering into your classroom because you are struggling and they were sent to "Fix-It". I've had personal experience in a building where the coaches (math, reading) were used that way by the administration. It was a nightmare and undermined the confidence in a lot of great teachers. Coaches are there to scaffold and should keep whatever is discussed in confidence. That being said, give them a chance! It's hard - especially if you are from a building or mindset that anyone that comes in believes you are a weak teacher. I worked in a building with an incredible Educational Technologist years and years ago. He would send out  emails with an idea for example, using green screens to make videos with students and teachers would jump at the chance to have him in the classroom to help. He embodied all that a coach should be and who I use as an example in all I do. The green screen project was SO much fun - I learned how to use a green screen, my FIRST GRADERS worked collaboratively to write a script (one movie we made was favorite things about our school) I won't lie and say it was super easy and a walk in the park, but the work was worth it and those kids talked about that project for years. 

 Give them a Chance!
This year as you walk into the building surrounded by meetings and planning and new roll outs and oh yeah - getting your CLASSROOM ready. Give the coaches a shot to help you plan units with some cool things you may never have thought of or at least give them their 15 minutes with respect.
While you spent the summer working on curriculum and pinning cute classroom ideas for YOUR space - most coaches did the same thing- but their blog hopping and web searches were all about how to help YOU the teachers in their building.  
And I leave you now with some tongue in cheek humor... let the season of sharpened pencils, learning names and meetings begin!

In this post, I hope I haven't offended anyone. It was not my intention to point fingers and say my way is better than anyone else's. As a person transitioning from the classroom, I wanted to remind myself of how I (and most teachers) really feel about PLCs and meetings. They are necessary- but not always executed well. If you have examples of meetings that are run well, or even cautionary tales about meetings run badly...PLEASE share. I'm so excited to begin this new chapter in my career and would love to pull on our collective experience as I hope to get at least a few teachers excited about some of the cool things they can start to do. 

Doesn't matter what role I have... 
this is me.

Until Next Time,