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February 24, 2015

New Mini Sets, a Sale, and a Freebie

Hi there everyone! I’m back from visiting EDExpo in Atlanta.  I can’t wait to tell you all about it.  But first, I wanted to share a few new sets with you and a little freebie.

I love the colors of this first set.  It’s a St. Patrick’s Day set without the leprechaun green overload.  Not that I don’t love me some green, but sometimes you need something a little more subtle.  This set is a Shop for Shriners set, so all of the proceeds are donated to Shriners Hospital in Philadelphia where my daughter had surgery last summer.  We are so LUCKY to have Shriners in our life.

I loved the colors so much, I wanted to keep playing with them.  Here’s a little freebie for you to download:

I also added these two mini sets to my store:


And, of course, I’ll be participating in the TPT site wide sale! My store will be on sale for two days.  Use TPT code HEROES for an additional 10% off.



February 18, 2015

Peek Inside a Small Group Reading Lesson

This year has been a bit of a whirlwind.  I am teaching 30 minute small reading groups with 1st-4th graders this year--which I am completely in love with.

But.

Holy moly.  The planning.  While I might have multiple groups in a grade, they don't all have the same needs.  So, four grades, multiple needs in each grade, and you've got a lot of planning.  This has also led to an astronomical increase in my TPT spending because with all the planning, I sure don't have time to make a bunch of resources for my lessons.
Here's a peek inside of a third grade lesson using one of my favorite resources.  I always start my lessons with a quick phonics review.  We usually complete a page or two from this book.  It says 4th-6th but easily works with 3rd.
I love these sets from Lakeshore.  (This is not a post for Lakeshore-just me writing about a resource I use.)   I often use articles from other sources, but I like these because they involve less planning/prep on my part.  Each box comes with four different folders. A folder contains teaching points, 6 copies of the story, and a comprehension activity.


Here's a close up of the set we're using this week:
First, we go through the vocabulary words.  While I do talk about the meaning of the word, I use this time to also talk about how to break words apart, any on the go phonics instruction I can sneak in, and what part of speech it is.  We then try to use the vocabulary words to talk about what is happening in the pictures.  It's fast and meaningful, then it's time to move on.  

Then, they read the article using a whisper phone.  (Also known as my favorite resource ever.)  I grabbed these half off at the beginning of the year sale from Lakeshore.
I also keeps a container of Clorox wipes at my table because these six whisper phones get used allllllll day long by lots of kiddos.

After that, we read through the article together.  Sometimes I read parts, but we usually work through one paragraph at a time.  Stopping to discuss along the way whatever is works with the section we've read:

•vocabulary

•word solving strategies

•suffixes

•what the author meant

•text structure

•connections

•any good fix ups a reader made

Don't try to talk about more than one or two things when you stop though, or you'll take away from meaning plus it's just plain overwhelming for your kiddos.

We'll follow up the second and third day with rereads both silently and aloud to work on comprehension and fluency.  We'll continue to discuss the article and usually have some written response and multiple choice questions (can't escape standardized testing.)

I love Jen Jones' Common Core RIT: Reading Comprehension Sheets resource for quick written responses that require deeper thinking.  And what kid doesn't want to write a text message or hashtag to show what they've learned?  This resource is jam packed with engaging but higher level responses that work for any text.

Got any time saving tips for me for planning small group lessons?

February 8, 2015

I Finished Whole30: 10 Tips That Helped Me Survive

I’m feeling pretty pleased with myself around here.  Earlier this week, I completed Whole30.  If you don’t know what that is, it’s not a typical diet.  It’s a way of eating that is healthier and helps you “reset” your body.  What are we talking here?

•No grains

•No sugar

•No legumes

•No dairy

Did I lose weight?  Sure did.  Seven stubborn pounds and happy with that considering I didn’t exercise (I know, I know, that’s next).  One reason that this worked for me is that I was never hungry.  I ate three meals a day and had a snack every once in awhile.  This girl does not do hungry.

BUT

It’s a lot more than a way to lose weight.  My allergies have disappeared (think the seasonal, sniffy kind.  I live in Houston, so all year is allergy season.)  My skin is a million times better.  My energy level is even, so no wanting to fall asleep at school at 2:00 but being wide awake at 10:30.  My intestines are happier.  I won’t go into that, but you can make any conclusions you want there.  It’s also the first time in my entire adulthood I’ve eaten guiltlessly.

If you’re looking for a Whole30 guru, I am not your gal.  You will want to read the book, It Starts with Food (do it or fail).  You’ll also want to check out this post, How Not to Suck at Whole30, from Rachelle at For Blogness’ Sake.

Here are some things I learned along the way:

Read the Book

Read it, read it, read it.  It’s the only way you’re going to make this work.  Otherwise you’re just saying no to all the things you like.  The book is a brain switch to start saying no to all the things that make you feel bad.  And they are making you feel bad.  You don’t even realize it.  How bad?  My Whole30 is finished, but I’m staying 95% compliant because of how good I feel.  I don’t want to lose that.

Join Instagram

Even if you do nothing else with it, the hashtag #whole30 was is a great go to for inspiration.  I saw yummy food, inspirational before and afters, compliant brands of food, basically a whole lot of good to keep me going.  Posting something?  Include the hashtag #teachersofwhole30, so that we can find and support each other.

p.s.  If you do this, do not take a picture of cupcakes or pizza that you’re not eating because of Whole30.  I did NOT enjoy it when I was scrolling through those pictures, feeling all good about my choices.  You don’t want to sabotage someone else in a weak moment.

Meal Plan

Next to not reading the book, not planning meals is going to be the biggest thing to derail you.  I made this cute little planning sheet to motivate me.  You’re welcome to download and use it.  My husband and I sit down ever Sunday and meal plan for the week before going grocery shopping.  Which leads me to my next tip . . .

Pinterest

Go to Pinterest.  Search Whole30.  Pin every food that looks good to you.  When we meal plan, we sit down at the computer with Pinterest pulled up.  We just keep scrolling until we find enough yummy looking food for the week.  Otherwise, we just stare at each other and have this conversation:

Me: “What do you want to eat this week?”
Him: “I don’t know. What do you want to eat this week?”
(This continues back and forth about 12 million more times.)

Here's my Whole30 board if you want to check it out.

Lettuce Scoops Are Your Best Friend

Yep.  Lettuce Scoops.  It’s how you can still eat tacos, chicken salad sandwiches, hot dogs, etc.  Pretty much anything can go on a lettuce scoop.  You’re welcome.

Up Your Data Plan

Grocery trips in the beginning take a looooot longer.  Mainly because you will spend half of your time googling things like “Guar Gum Whole30”.  This doesn’t really bother me.  It’s like being on a mission.  I don’t want anything to sneak past my “I Feel Good Barrier”.  It annoys the heck out of my husband though.

Quit Drinking Cokes Early

This is a big change for your body.  You have trained your body to like certain things.  Did you know sugar effects the same part of your body as heroine and cocaine?  Your first week is not going to be easy.  A lot of people have headaches the first week.  I think that has as much to do with caffeine as it does sugar/carbs.  I gave up drinking Cokes while I was still in the book reading stage because I knew everything else I was going to do was going to be hard, and I didn’t want to do all the hard things while seizing on the ground begging my family for a can of Coke Zero.

“I could never give up my Diet Coke.”  Yep.  Meth heads say the same thing.  Guess what?  You can.  You need it because you’re addicted.  After a few days or a week, you’ll be fine.  This is coming from the girl that drank three cans of Coke Zero/Diet Coke a day for nearly two decades.

Get a Nice Family and Some Good Friends

You need some support here.  My husband was very supportive.  Possibly because he agreed to do it with me then only lasted 3 days.  (FYI-He didn’t read the book.)  He helped me meal plan, shop, and cook.  He’s a good guy.
If your family is not supportive, ask them why they’re being turds.  Basically, you’re trying to make life changes so you can be healthier, live longer, be happier (food does CUH-RAZY things to your hormones), have more energy, and look sassier.  Can they not help you with that for 30 days?  I’m not saying my kids ate spaghetti squash, but we all had meatballs in tomato sauce.  Mine was on spaghetti squash, their’s was on pasta.

I had a lot of support from some blogging friends who were starting Whole30 also.  Find a tribe.  We shared successes and places to find compliant bacon.  That’s right, bacon.  Any diet that includes bacon is doable.

Like Eggs

If you don’t like eggs, breakfast is going to be hard.  Start liking eggs right now.  Search a million different ways to eat them on Pinterest.  There are going to be a lot of eggs.

Cook Too Much

Cook more than you need.  Enough for lunch the next day and hopefully a serving to freeze.    It’s nice to have those extra meals to grab when you end up without enough for lunch or a new recipe is an epic fail.

Was it hard? Yep.  I am I glad I did it?  Yep a million times over.  Because my family is supportive but not to the point of listening to me obsessively discuss how great Whole30 is and whether I will ever find compliant breakfast sausage or not, I started another blog to ramble on about this stuff.  If you want to follow along with me, I started another blog, Clean Eating • Messy Kitchen.  {I was originally going to call it Clean Eating • Dirty Kitchen.  I think it sounds catchier, but I was concerned the Dirty Kitchen part was going to give people Hoarders visions.}

Are you trying Whole30?  Thinking about it?  Or just think I’m crazy?


January 31, 2015

New Jumbo Set and a Freebie!

Hey hey everyone! I just finished up a new jumbo set.

And I’m kind of in love with it.  Let’s look at this loveliness.
Do you see those arrow papers?  Swoon. Expect to see all kind of arrow papers.  I’m going to go back and add arrow and doodle loop papers to all of my Basic Bundle sets.  I hope you like arrows.  They’re going to be everywhere in my store because I’m obsessed.  The arrow in this pattern is from the KG Arrows font.  The super sweet Kimberly Geswein was nice enough to let me use it for my pattern.  Let’s take a closer look:
And then I didn’t want to stop making papers when I was finished with the set.  Also, if I’m going to blog about a product, you should at least benefit from reading about it, right?  So, here’s a little freebie for you.  Thanks for sticking around!

January 21, 2015

Five Tips for Improving Your TPT Store This Year

Hey hey! It’s been a little quiet around here.  I’m getting all settled into the New Year, I guess.

Whatever that means.  It sounds like a good excuse though.

I thought I’d share some of the goals I have for the year for my TPT store.  I read in an article (it was actually for Etsy sellers, but same rules apply) that if you’re wanting to grow your store, instead of focusing on sales, focus on the store.  That sounds a little weak, but it made more sense as I read on.

Because obsessing about sales, watching sales, following my husband around talking about sales does not actually improve my sales.

This article suggested you spend 30 minutes a day focusing on your store (outside of product production).  Improving it, researching ideas, promoting, whatever.  I don’t think 30 minutes a day is viable for me, but here is what I plan to do:

Hyperlinks

This is going to be painful, but I need to go back and put hyperlinks in way more of my product descriptions.  Hyperlinking to other products in descriptions are a great way to get people to view correlating products or bundles.  The actual hyperlinking, not so fun.  I’m doing it in batches.  I might be done by the time school is out for the summer.

My sweet friends from Collaboration Cuties can tell you how to do it.  It’s super simple and effective.  It’s also boring as heck.

Update Covers

Fix up those covers.  Since you started selling on TPT, I’m willing to bet that your cover making skills have improved.  You may have developed a certain style.  It’s time to share some of those skills will older products.  My first instinct was that it sounds good, but I’d rather put the time into new products.

But.

Have you ever purchased something amazing on TPT, then went to check out the rest of the store, and it wasn’t really what you were expecting?  Buyers are visual.  If you spend time improving your first impressions, then you may generate more sales on existing products.  This is a great thing to do to continue momentum in your store if you’re in an idea slump.

Because I have the maturity of a six year old, I have to bribe myself.  Uploading a new product is the best feeling in the world, so I’ve started not letting myself post a new product until I update the cover of a few similar products.  It’s better than bribing myself with candy.  Which I have done before.

Spruce up your store

Change out your featured items to show off new products or seasonal items.  I definitely want to be more mindful of that.  Change out your banner.  Take advantage of creating categories (please-as a very lazy buyer, I am begging you to use categories.) You don’t have to think traditionally, reading, math, etc.  If your close reads are selling like hot cakes, make a close read category.  Make it easy for people to find more of what they like in your store.

Blog Authentically

Yep.  Not just blog, but authentically.  Not just, I made something new.  Go buy it.  Show off your product, take pictures of it in use.  Tell us how you used it and how you taught with it.  This will be a little trickier for me, and I’ve been thinking about some ways to make that work for me.  I’m thinking maybe some layout options?  I really appreciate seeing a great product in action and it makes me much more likely to buy it, so I’m trying to translate that into digital papers.

Taxes


Sigh.

I WILL keep up with my taxes this year.  Besides the fact that this is making my life hell right now, it is also interfering with creating new products right now.  It will also help me keep up with how much I’m spending and making, and which will give me a a better sense of how my little business is growing.  Stephanie from Mrs. D’s Corner wrote a great post on taxes.  Even if you are a last minute person, spend time this year learning about taxes and ways to keep more of the money you’re earning.

January 1, 2015

Start the New Year with a Giveaway!

Happy New Year to you!  How about starting it off with a $100 Amazon card or a $15 Starbucks gift card and reusable cup?

Ummm, yes, please.  My friends from Owl-Ways Be Inspired and I are giving away a $100 Amazon gift card.  You'll definitely want to hop on over to enter that giveaway and find links to plenty more fun giveaways, too!
Why Starbucks?  Coffee and I have a very special relationship.  I love coffee.
I'm embarrassed to say this is true.
And this is just funny.
Still here?  Awesome.  You must have had your coffee.  Enter the giveaway, cross your fingers, and enjoy another cup!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

December 18, 2014

Snowy Jumbo Set + a Bonus

Hey hey! It is time to shut this year down.  This is a crazy, stressful time of year.  I have spent a lot of time and effort in avoidance behaviors.  If you follow me on Instagram, you know I was avoiding work by designing Christmas koozies for my family.  Because, duh.  Big necessity, right?  Who needs wrapped packages.

I continued the procrastination theme by creating a new jumbo set, Snowflake.  You can buy just the papers:
Or the whole bundle:

I'm kind of super in love with those colors, so I made a bonus set for my blog readers.  Enjoy! I hope you have an amazing holiday break.  You've earned it!!!

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