July Favorites

July is the saddest month to see come and go.  The world is my oyster in June.  Once July wraps up, I know school world begins again.  I 100% love my job, but I don’t love real pants and waking up early.  July has been a blast, though!  Here are some of my favorites for this month.
This post contains affiliate links which means Amazon tosses me some change whenever someone makes a purchase through one of these links.  Please know I only share items that I use and love.  I hope you'll find a new favorite this month! 


I decided to reread the Outlander series this summer.  Since I read it almost 20 years ago, I’ve pretty much forgotten everything.  Holy time commitment, though.  These books are looooong.  I’ve loved every minute of it though.  I’m on number five and hoping to finish before school starts.


This J Crew Factory dress is my favorite right now.  They usually cycle different colors in seasonally.  I know I’ve seen them plenty of times, but somehow never bought one.  It is perfection.  The knit fabric is a little thicker which gives it smoothing power.  Plus, dress + pockets = perfection.

I got to see so many of my TPT friends in Orlando this month.  Getting to learn with these ladies during the day and catch up at night was amazing.
Me, Melissa from Inspire Me ASAP!, Molly from Lucky to Be in First, Vera from The Tutu Teacher, Jillian from The Starr Spangled Planner, Tessa from Tales From Outside the Classroom, Andrea from Always Kindergarten, Greta from Learning with Mrs. Leeby.

Mango La Croix??? I’m pretty sure this is not new, but somehow it just now made it’s way into my life.  I’m loving this summery flavor.



Time to relax.  I’m not a good relaxer.  I can’t really figure out how to do it at home, but stick me next to a pool with a good book, and I’m a happy girl.  We squeezed in a quick relax/work trip to San Antonio at the JW Marriott.  I got one full day of lazy by the pool with my girls and it was heavenly.

Hope you’ve had a relaxing summer, and you’re rested and recharged for a new school year!

{This post contains Amazon affiliate links to support this girls major font habit.  But you probably already noticed that.}

Making Room for Independent Reading: Why

I recently had the opportunity to attend the Scholastic Reading Summit in San Antonio.

It was amazing.

If one is ever even remotely near where you live, I would absolutely recommend making the trek.  I had read positive reviews of it, but did not realize there was such a heavy focus on independent reading.  This girl’s teacher heart was so filled to spend the day immersed in talking, listening and thinking about independent reading.

Why you need to make time for independent reading: What the research says about independent reading and the power of motivation in reading.

You have to get people on board with an idea for it to be successful.  So whether you’re trying to convince other teachers at your school, your administration, or even yourself that it’s worth it, here’s some food for thought from the reading summit and my own reading.

Don’t have time for independent reading?  The experts would argue that you actually don’t don’t have time.



There is a clear connection between motivation to read and performance.  We have to give kids the time and space and access to develop that.


 I really think Jan Richardson says it best, though.


There’s no free love argument going on with independent reading.  Research shows over and over again that students in classroom with dedicated time for independent reading perform better.


It’s time to get educated!  Here are some articles to arm yourself with on the value of self selected reading and independent reading:

I’ve Got Research. Yes I Do. I’ve Got Research. How About You? by Donalyn Miller

Creating Classroom Cultures That Foster Reading Motivation by Linda Gambrell

The Impact of Trade Books on Reading Achievement from Booksource

The Joy and Power of Reading: A Summary of Research and Expert Opinion from Scholastic

Out of the Shadow of SSR: Real Teachers’ Classroom Independent Reading Practice by Sherry Sanden

You can read the other two parts here:

Making Room for Independent Reading-Part 2: When

Making Room for Independent Reading-Part 3: How


Blog Baby Blog Week 5: So You’ve Got a Slider


Hey hey! This week’s post is focused on making the most of your slider.  Want more Blog Baby Blog?  Catch up on Weeks 1-4 here:


Tips and tricks for making the most of your blog slider.

Know Your Slider Size

One of the most important things to do is to make sure you’re creating an image that is the correct size.  Nothing’s sadder than a cut off or pixelated image.  Do you have a blogger template from Georgia Lou Studios?  Hop over here to check your sizing for some of the most popular templates.

Don’t have a GLS template or your GLS template is not listed on that page?  If you have a Mac, use CMD Shift 4 to grab a screenshot of an image in your slider.  Open the screenshot in Pixlr (Pixlr.com-->Launch Web Apps-->Pixlr Editor-->Open image.)  The first option on the image dropdown is image size.  Now you know what you’re working with.

Grab Your Readers’ Attention

Grab your readers’ attention by designing a bright, eye catching image.  Consider using stock photos or styled stock photos for high quality images.

For this image, I used a stock photo from Deposit Photos. To keep the photo from taking over the text, I did two things.  First, I put a light blue layer on top of the photo and make it pretty transparent. That softened the photo.  Then I added a transparent white rectangle to put my text on.  You still get the idea of the shovel, but my text is clearly visible.

For this image, I used a styled stock photo that I purchased from Etsy.  I added some quick text, the printable I was sharing in the post, my watermark, and boom.  I’ve got a slider image.
Want to see a little cheat I use to make my stock photos work for me?  Watch this tutorial.  I used Photoshop.  You could probably do this with Pixlr or PicMonkey.

Insert Your Slide Correctly

If you have a slider that is the full width of your blog, you want to make sure the images aren’t pixelated.  Even if you make them using the correct dimensions, they can still end up fuzzy.  If you have a template from Georgia Lou Studios, make sure to choose original size when you add the image.  It will look huge in your post area, but your template will automatically size it down to fit in the post.

Hide Your Slider

You’ve made this beautiful slider, but now you’re going to want to hide it from your post.

What? Why?
Your slider image looks so nice that people are going to want to pin it, and you don’t want that.  A horizontal layout does not work well on Pinterest.  Your readers don’t care about that though.  Good post + pretty picture = pin.  Add your image first, but hide it using this trick.

•Switch to HTML view

•Delete the first line of code
<div class="separator" style="clear: both; text-align: center;">

•Replace it with this line:
<div class="separator" style="clear: both; display: none; text-align: center;">

Now your slider image is first (necessary for your template to pull it) but it’s not visible to your readers.

Two Birds, One Stone(ish)

While you’re making that lovely slider image, you might as well make a good pinable image while you’re working.  It takes a bit of time when you first start, but after a while, you’ll get in the habit of it.
Here’s how each of the slider images I shared earlier were rearranged to become optimized for Pinterest:
 

Slider Options

Unless you’re on Wordpress, you’ve been pretty much stuck with the first image/featured post combo.  There are other sliders available for blogger, but they’re kind of buggy and slow.  Heather recently released a tutorial on how to use a slider that goes to a post on your blog or anywhere else (think Page on your blog, label, your TPT store.)

You can check out the tutorial here: Use Slider with Random Images Instead of Posts

**This involves DELETING your current slider gadget.  This cannot be added back in later with out installing a new template, so be sure to back up your template first in case you change your mind later on!!

Any other tips for making the most of your slider?

Blog Baby Blog Week 4: 5 Minutes or Less Tips for a Better Blog


Hey there! Welcome back for week 4 of Blog Baby Blog.  Today we’re tackling some quick fixes.  Here are five things you can do to improve your blog that each take five minutes or less.  Totally doable.  Bonus points if you do all five.
Quick Tips to improve your blog.  Each tip takes 5 minutes or less.

Let’s get started!

Set up Google Analytics

Think you don’t need Google Analytics?  What if I told you your Blogger stats were completely unreliable?  They’re basically made of pixie dust.

This is so stinking easy to do.

•Go to Google Analytics.

•Set up your account.

•Click “Get Tracking ID”

•There will be a mess of code on here.  All you want to do is copy the little piece under Tracking ID.  It will look something like this: MI-54892249-1 (I made up this piece of code, your code will be similar though.)

•Go to your Blogger dashboard and select Settings-->Other-->Google Analytics.  Paste your code in and save!

Clean Up Your Labels

Do you labels list look like a list?  Or a 10,000 word essay?  Having lots of labels helps with related posts gadgets, but it seriously junks up your sidebar.  Plus, your readers are not going to dig through all that.

This one is super fast to clean up.  Go to Layout and find your Labels gadget on the sidebar.  Switch from “All Labels” to “Selected Labels”.  Try to get your list to 15 or less.  Save and you’re done!


Clean Up Your Sidebar

While you’re cleaning up the labels on your sidebar, how about cleaning up the whole thing?  Sometimes the sidebar of a blog is longer than the post section.  What are your readers genuinely going to be interested in?  This is prime real estate.  Make sure important items don’t get lost because you have too many items.  (I’m looking at you, blog award from three years ago.)
While you’re looking at your blog, just click on the little wheel beneath the gadget.  You can delete almost all the extra widgets and images from there.

Add a Pin It Button (yours is probably broken)

So, everyone’s custom pin it button disappeared.  The place where the script was stored no longer exists.
You have two options, fix your old one or go with the official Pinterest button.  Sadly, I have to recommend the official Pinterest button even though it hurts my soul.  You can read more about that on my Rich Pins series here, here, and here.

Even if you’re not ready to conquer rich pins, you still need a pin it button.  From your Blogger dashboard, go to Template-->Edit HTML

•Click somewhere inside your HTML code box.  Click CMD F (I think it’s CTRL F on a PC) to search.  Search for </body>

•Directly above </body>, paste this code in:

<script async='true' data-pin-hover='true' data-pin-round='true' data-pin-tall='true' defer='true' src='//assets.pinterest.com/js/pinit.js'/>
<script type='text/javascript'>
document.getElementById(&quot;Header1_headerimg&quot;).setAttribute(&quot;nopin&quot;,&quot;nopin&quot;);
</script>

•Save

Fix Your Broken Instagram Widget

So many broken gadgets!  Go peek at you Instagram gadget.  Are those pictures pretty old?  Instagram changed its TOU for gadgets.  Before, you could basically put anybody’s account on your blog without proof you were that person.  If you haven’t proven your account is your account, it’s easy to do.

•Go to Light Widget.

•Log into your IG account.

•Set up your grid size.  2x2 is good for a sidebar and 1 or 2 columns with 6-8 in a row is good for a post footer.  I put two pixels between each image to give them a little space.

•Select “Get Code” and copy the code.

•Go to you layout and find your Instagram gadget.  Get rid of the old code and paste the new code in. Save it, and you’re good!  (Don’t have a gadget yet?  Just add an HTML gadget and paste that code in.)

Any other quick tips you think I should add?

Get Your To Do List Under Control

I am a master list maker.  I make lists to go along with my lists.  I even add things to my to do list just so I can cross it off.  Raise your hand if you do this, too.  I know I’m not the only one out there.  #feelsgood

My quickly jotted down notes work for small tasks and odds and ends.  But despite my very best list making efforts and a Type-A personality, my lists for bigger and business-y tasks kept failing me.

My secret to getting my to do list under control and my work back on track.

I was forgetting one step-a reality check.

I found adding one additional column to my to do list made all the difference in the world-a when column.  For my blog/design business I write down what day I’m going to complete the task and also plan out what times I’ll have to work that day.  That last part is super important.

Nearly every week when I write this list out, I’m juggling and rearranging because I’ll have six things to do on a day where I only have an hour or two to work.  Not going to happen.

Here’s the other important part to keeping it real-I don’t go to bed until that section for the day is finished.  Sounds harsh, but that’s important for two reasons:

•It keeps me realistic when I’m planning out the week.

•It keeps me from taking 462 social media breaks.

When you overcommit yourself, you just end up beating yourself up when you don’t get everything accomplished even though it wasn’t possible in the first place.  Also?  There are times when I’ve realized I had plenty of time to get things done but didn’t because I was just going to check Instagram “real quick” or check on something on Facebook.  If you have a blog or business that you want to grow, you have to make time and space to do that, or it will just keep getting pushed aside.


I stopped doing this when school go out.  Summer had arrived, and I clearly had all the time in the world to get things done.  Right?  Wrong.  I’m back with my scheduled to do list, and I’m getting more done in less time.

You can download my to do list here or by clicking on the image.
My secret to getting my to do list under control and my work back on track.

Any tips for me on how you stay on top of your to do list?

Blog Baby Blog Week 3: Why Wordpress is Like a Treadmill


To Wordpress or Not to Wordpress?  That is a big question, and one I get frequently.  Not sure what's best for you?  Here are some things to think about.

If you're thinking about making the switch, it's because you've heard some of the positives about the WP platform.
•Better SEO capabilities
•More flexibility with themes and plugins
•More control over your content
•The ability to sell directly from your site

With all of these advantages, why shouldn't everyone jump ship and head to Wordpress?
Wordpress or Blogger? How to know when to make the switch.

Because Wordpress is like a treadmill.

Think about getting a treadmill.  You’re going to have to spend a lot more money on it.  Walking is free, but that treadmill is big bucks.  You’re going to need to create space for it, put it together, maybe buy some accessories for it.

The thing about that treadmill?  It will not make you skinny unless you get on it and do the hard work.

That was a really long winded way of saying-yes, you can get more out of a Wordpress site, but you have to do the more.

What are you getting into with Wordpress?


You're going to have to spend more, and not just for the design.  (Why do Wordpress designs cost so much more? They are tons more work to set up.)  There are additional fees to migrate your content.  There are hosting fees.  Your pin went viral!  Awesome! Also, your hosting fees just went up.  If you decide you don't want to pay for hosting anymore, you're site is gone.  Also, many of the top notch plugins are not free.

Wordpress is great, but it takes time to be great.  One of the best examples I can give you is a plugin called Social Warfare.  With this plugin, when a reader pins or shares from your site, the plugin automatically chooses the optimal sized image for that platform.  Sounds great, right?  And it is.  The catch is you have to pay for the plugin and make each of those ideally sized images.


If you're just getting started, I don't recommend Wordpress.  I know, I know.  There are lots of Wordpress people that say they wished they had started on Wordpress.  Those people are B4L-Bloggers for Life.  They love blogging, and they love doing the more that comes along with Wordpress.

The thing about getting started is you don't really know if blogging is going to be for you.  I have installed hundreds of blog designs.  A significant number are for people that never posted or just blogged once or twice.

And you know what?  That's okay.  You don't know if something is right for you until you try it.  Wordpress is a much more expensive option for something that may not even even be a good fit for you.

So, should you make the switch?


You’re not ready to move to Wordpress if . . .

You are ready to move to Wordpress if . . .


•Do you blog consistently?

•Are you working on getting more out of your current blog by setting up Rich Pins, using optimal sized images, using descriptions to improve your SEO?

•Do you like figuring out how to do things?  Your blog designer will install your design, but he or she is not your webmaster.

•Do you have time to manage your blog?  Wordpress blogs can have serious security issues and are targets for hackers.  Also, spam for daaaayyyysss.

If you're not blogging consistently and not already trying to get the most out of your blog, I would say don't switch.  Just paying more for Wordpress isn't going to offset not having time to blog.  If anything, it's the complete opposite.  You will need to spend more time managing your blog.

If you're blogging consistently, open to the learning curve, and can make time to manage your site, switching to Wordpress is something you should consider.


My teaching blog is on Blogger and will most likely stay there.  I don't feel like I consistently blog.  It tends to be the thing that gets bumped off my to do list when life gets hairy.  I do feel like I have some good content.  I'd hate for that to go away because I didn't want to keep up with hosting fees.  (Yes, they say it's $3.95 a month.  IT NEVER IS.)

I moved my design site to Wordpress and am happy with that decision.  It is an extra expense, but it buys me time.  Now that I can sell design dates directly on my site, it has freed up a ton of time that I used to spending emailing people back and forth about dates, deposits, etc.  That's time I can instead use to make money designing.

Are you ready to make the switch or will you be staying on Blogger?

Blog Baby Blog Week 2: Dot Com Yourself

Blog Baby Blog is back this week with how set up your blog domain redirect.  If you missed last week's epic three part post on Rich Pins, you can catch up here, here, and here.  You may need a nap afterwards though!

This week's post is on how to .com yourself, also known as redirecting your domain.  You absolutely can purchase your domain through Google.  It's pretty easy too.  For the majority of people, that should work just fine.  If you ever think you may want to switch to Wordpress though (more on that next week), it's a good idea to consider somewhere else because it can get a little sticky to make the switch later.

Tutorial on how to redirect your Blogger blogspot.com address to a your own domain.

This tutorial takes your through the steps using GoDaddy.  There are other places you can purchase from.  This is the host I'm familiar with and many people use.


Let’s take a side trip on forwarding vs redirecting (feel free to skip this part):

You want to redirect your domain instead of mask/forward it.  What's the difference?  Say your address is www.mycuteclassroom.blogspot.com, and you purchased the www.mycuteclassroom.com domain.

•With forwarding, typing in either of those addresses brings you to the blogspot.com address.

•With a redirect, typing in either of those addresses brings you to the .com address.

Bought a .com and not sure if your site is set up with a redirect or forward?  Go to your blogger dashboard and click "View Blog".  Look at the address.  If it says blogspot, you have forwarding set up.  If it just says .com, you're all set!


On to the tutorial!


First you need to purchase your domain on GoDaddy.  The domain is cheap.  They’ll stick you with a bunch of add ons.  You do want the privacy add on.  Otherwise, people can use this site to look up the name and address associated with the domain.  All the information listed for my site is Go Daddy’s information.  If I had not added the privacy protection, it would have my phone number, address, and email address listed.  Yikes.

Blogger

Go to Settings-->Basic-->Publishing-->Setup a 3rd party URL for your blog-->Put in the address with www included-->Save

You’ll get a screen that looks like this:
**The second row of information is specific to each blog.  I blocked out the actual information from this blog and replaced it with a similar looking but made up sequence.

You’ve got an error, but no worries.  We needed that second row of information for our Go Daddy work.

Go Daddy

In your Go Daddy account, Click on My Products-->Domains-->Manage DNS
**You can add privacy from here if your need to.

Once you click on Manage DNS, you will be at your Records page.  You’ll need those two pieces of information from Blogger.

1.  Find the CNAME row with www as the name and @ as the value

•Click on the pencil to edit

•Change @ to ghs.google.com

•Save

**TTL is the amount of time it will take to go live.  I select custom and change it to 600 seconds for everything I do. 10 minutes used to be one of the their dropdown options, and it now longer is, but I still change it to that.  It may not even make a difference.

2.  Click ADD

•Type: CNAME

•Host: the first piece of information in that second row of craziness

•Points to: grab that really long sequence

•Save

**Don’t worry if you get an error message.  Just hit refresh.  It will be there.

3.  Click ADD

•Your will need to do this 4 separate times.

•Each time you will select A as the Type and
your domain with no www (ex: teaching superpower.com) as the Host.

•For Points to, add one of these in each time:
216.239.32.21
216.239.34.21
216.239.36.21
216.239.38.21

•Save each time

•You may get an error message.  Sometimes I get it on all four, sometimes I don’t get it on any of them.  If you get the error message, just hit refresh and your information will be there.

It will look like this when you are finished:

Blogger

Go back to Blogger, and click on Save again.  Now that your information is all set up in Go Daddy, it will look like this:
•Click on Edit

•Check the box as shown below:

•Save

**FYI-Check your link in Chrome first.  It usually works immediately.  Firefox usually takes 10 minutes or less, and Safari can take up to an hour.

**If you have confirmed your site in Pinterest, you will need to reconfirm the .com site and revalidate your pins.  You can read how to do that here.

Good luck!