Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Currently July 2015

I'm so proud of myself!  I'm starting July with a BANG!  I'm posting for the July Currently linky and it's technically still June for another hour!  I'm so proud!  :)   So here goes...


Listening...Apparently I've never seen Terminator 2 before or I've never really paid attention to it, but my mom turned the channel to that movie, and woah, boy!  It's a trip!  It actually kind of gives me the creeps a little bit.

Loving...Every Tuesday night when I come home from book club, I'm so exhausted and yet rejuvenated at the same time.  I posted this weekend about our adventures in my #FamiliesRead post, but I continue to be astounded at this opportunity I have with my students and their families.   They are doing such a good job with their English, and I really think they are enjoying class.  I have so much fun teaching them, and I'm really excited to see their homework for this coming week.  (Since we aren't meeting next week and we are practicing the future tense, I told them to post their answers to the question, "What will Ms. Bell do on her vacation?" on our Facebook page.  But I didn't tell them where I'm going.  I can't wait to see their answers!)

Thinking...This summer has FLOWN BY!  I can't believe Vegas is just a week away!  I'm so excited/nervous.

Wanting...I'm seriously wanting a trip to Maurice's this weekend to perhaps pick out a new blouse or two before my vacay.  I feel like I'm working the same looks again and again, and I sure would like something fresh for Vegas!

Needing...I worked my booty off this June.  And it's been fun!  There have been field trips and tutoring and parent class and VBS, but this month I really NEED to put myself first.  I have such a hard time telling people "no" because I don't want to let them down.  I tend to be an overcommitter because I truly want to help others, but then I can't help anyone when I wear myself so thin.  I've got to be strong this month and say "no" when I need to rest.  Maybe I'll salvage a wee bit of "me time" before school starts back.

All-Star...I admittedly struggled with this.  I don't like to brag, so I didn't want to come off like that.  But the first thing that came to mind was that I make pretty awesome cheesecakes.  Someone once told me that she thought mine were better than The Cheesecake Factory's.  Personally, I don't think so...I'll take any flavor from there over mine any day.  But mine are delicious...they're just so expensive and time consuming that I don't usually make them...but all this cheesecake talk is making me hungry, so I'd best shut up for now!  :)

Thanks to Farley for letting me link up!  What is everyone else up to?

Monday, June 29, 2015

Weekend Warriors (on Monday!): 3-2-1 Biographies


This weekend I saw an awesome link up that I wanted to jump in on...Weekend Warriors!  I'm still getting the hang of these link-ups, but the concept of Weekend Warriors really appealed to me.  It sounds so strong and empowering!  So this time we're doing a little 3-2-1...biography style!  Or rather, autobiography style.  Here's a little 3-2-1 on yours truly.


Three things about the "teacher me":

1. Sometimes I can't believe I ever earned a degree in marketing...teaching is my life!  My undergraduate degree was in Marketing with a Spanish minor.  It has still served me well, so it wasn't a total waste!  But I love teaching so much, and it's such a part of who I am in my heart and soul that sometimes I can't believe I ever thought I would pursue any career path but teaching.  I was going to be a fashion designer/artist with my own boutique and cater to plus-sized styles and fun and funky accessories.  I still love art, though I don't have time to do it anymore, but I am confident that I corrected my intended path.  This is exactly where I'm supposed to be!

2. I will drop everything on the lesson plan for a meaningful, student-led teachable moment.  It doesn't matter to me what's on the agenda...if my students take the lesson in an unintended direction with their own natural curiosity, then you can bet that I'm going there with them!  Some of my best lessons have come from this deviation of the plan.  My personal philosophy is that if the students are personally vested in the material/pursuit of knowledge and if they are the ones making their own meaning, then they will learn far more than if we had stuck with even the best-laid plan.

3. I may teach English, but I pursue every opportunity to strengthen my kids' home languages and cultures too.  I believe that, in order to be academically successful, my students must have a strong command of the social and academic languages they will encounter here in the United States.  I say "languages" plural because often times dialects of English can seem as though they ARE completely different languages.  They must learn the vocabulary, syntax, and semantics of their new language to achieve the most success.  But I don't ever want this to REPLACE their home language(s) and culture(s).  My ultimate goal for my students is that they are multilingual, multi-literate, and multicultural upon graduation.  I always tell my students they are double and triple smart because they have more than one language inside their heads.  I prove this to them by incorporating their own knowledge of their languages and cultures any time that I can, and I encourage my coteachers to do the same.


You know you're a teacher when...you can't think of two things to write down for your "regular me" portion because literally EVERYTHING you do is teaching!

So...me...hmmm...why is this so tough?
1. Sometimes I can't separate "the regular me" from the teacher me because everything I love has to do with words or learning or reading or making things...someone once told me that teaching was my career and my hobby.  That makes perfect sense because it seems like wherever I go, whatever I do, I'm teaching in some way.  I teach Sunday school, my regular job is teaching, I dabble in TpT stuff, I design professional development and coach other teachers, I lead parent English classes...somehow, someway it all goes back to teaching.  Not to mention that I could literally be a perpetual student, so I'm always pursuing my own learning too.  I didn't really know how to even describe "regular me."  So I came up with this one...

2. I think one of the best feelings in the world is when you laugh 'til you can't catch your breath.    What is one of my favorite things to do?  LAUGH!  I love that feeling when you laugh so much that you can't catch your breath.  I mean that doubled-over, side-stitch, tears-streaming-down-your-face, hyperventilating laughter.  Whether it's a silly-stupid movie with my mom or crazy girls' time with my amigas, I love to laugh.

Sorry this part was so BORING!  LOL!  I should've gotten a friend to write this part about me.  Surely there's more to me than this?  Ha ha...


My "One" Answer:  What is one thing on your bucket list?

I'm dying to visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter!  I love having HP marathons with my mom, and you'd better bet that, even though I have all the movies on DVD, if there's an ABC Family HP Weekend, my TV is glued to that channel.  I would absolutely adore going to see that world come to life.  I live vicariously through literature, and this series really resonates with me.  Ironically enough, I didn't get to read them as a child, but I got into them as an adult.  Now I lament those years that I didn't even know what I was missing.  But I'm determined to make it there...one day!

That's a little 3-2-1 about me, so head back over to the rest of the Weekend Warriors to get to know some other teacher bloggers.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

TpT Seller Challenge: Week 2: Dare to Dream

So, once again, this week got away from me, and it's hard to believe that we begin July this week!  But I wanted to take some time to reflect on my personal dreams for the second week of the TpT Seller Challenge.  I saw a lot of awesome ideas from my colleagues on the link-up, so I wanted to sort of split my dreams up into categories.

Admittedly, when I first began selling on TpT, I don't think I set very lofty goals.  I just wanted a way to make a few extra bucks each month.  Now I can see the possibilities, and though I'm not where I want to be, I'm eager to learn more ways to grow my business.  Financial reasons for this are obvious, so I won't belabor those, but there are more reasons I want to grow too...but I'll comment on those a little further down.


First up, my financial goal: pay off credit cards and establish a savings fund.  I want to take my finances more seriously, and doing so means paying off debt and reserving money for those unexpected things in life.  I want to be a better steward and handle my finances more responsibly in the future, and I'm so grateful that TpT has provided an opportunity to help me make that dream more of a reality.  There's still room to grow, but I'm hoping to learn a lot in Vegas next week too!  


Secondly, I wanted to tell you about my heart goal...my professional goal.  Anyone who knows me knows that teaching is not just my job; it's my way of life.  I take it seriously, and I want to help others any way that I can.  Because I serve English learners, I'm aware of their unique learning needs and see that as an opportunity to collaborate with other teachers who are still learning about English learners.  Don't get me wrong...I consider myself a perpetual student, and my kiddos teach me something new everyday, but if I can share what I DO know with those who are looking for meaningful ways to impact their students, then I've greatly expanded my circle of influence.


My third goal is my "me" goal.  I say that because I'm not so good at making time to take care of myself, to sharpen my saw.  I want to be more purposeful with that.  I rarely take vacations, both for time's sake and for finances.  But I'd like to boost my business to be able to reward myself with some time off in an exotic locale each year.  I don't want to contradict my financial goal though, so I'd like to have enough to put into a little vacay fund and pay for my trips outright.  I would love to see places of the world that I've never seen before!


Lastly is my "maybe" goal.  I say this, not because I don't take it seriously, but because I am open to the things that God has in store for my future.  It's been on my heart for a while to adopt, especially to adopt internationally.  But I know that I'm still young and that I might yet meet the man of my dreams.  I could certainly envision myself as an adoptive mom, and I want to align my paths in life so that it can be a reality for me.  TpT would be a great way for me to earn money to put back for that too.  Then, when the time is right, I'll be ready.

Wow, it certainly does make you feel vulnerable to share all those hopes and dreams, but I know I'm amongst good company with the other bloggers doing this challenge too.  I'm thankful for the blessings TpT has brought into my life, and I'm excited to see what's in store for the future.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

#FamilesRead: How I'm Encouraging Students' Families to Read

Reading is a crucial part of a child's education. Children's ideas about language and communication, as well as ideas about character-building and coping with life's obstacles, are strengthened through reading. The National PTA is encouraging reading with their Family Reading Experience initiative this summer, and I wanted to link up with their site to share what I'm doing to encourage my students' families to read.

Infographic from PTA Reading Challenge on family reading experiences
Over my spring break, I read one of my (now) all-time favorite books, The One and Only Ivan.  Its story was captivating, and the author brought a true story to a new level of life by personifying the gorilla Ivan.  The chapters were short, but the ideas were strong.  I knew it was a book that I could incorporate into my language instruction with my English learners.  

The book was such an emotional read that I'd have to read several pages...and then take a break because I'd become so overwhelmed by sadness, anger, frustration, resentment.  There were so many things that I needed to talk through with this book that I wanted everyone around me to read it too.  I kept studying about how relatively easy the language of the book was for a struggling or early reader.  (Sometimes the transition to a chapter book can be quite intimidating because the text density of chapter books is so much greater than that of picture books.)  The story was captivating, the content was perfect to spur conversation, and the text was empowering.  Then...it hit me!  And I knew it would change everything.

You see, I also teach English classes for my students' parents.  To truly make an impact in their language acquisition, I know that it means supporting the entire family...not to make English their only language.  (I would never want to do that!  I'm a strong supporter of multilingualism and multiculturalism.)  But I know how important a deep understanding of English is to be academically successful in U.S. schools.  My students' parents want to be involved in homework, but many times they don't know where to begin because the vocabulary, syntax, or semantics make the language of homework very difficult.  A few weeks before spring break one of my students had asked me about maybe starting a book club with her classmates this summer, and she wanted me to do it with them.  All these ideas began to swirl around in my mind and soon they took on a life all their own!  I knew what we needed to do...I was going to teach my next series of classes as a parent-child book club, and I was certain that The One and Only Ivan would be our secret to success!


So far, we've completed five weeks of class.  We are taking our time moving through the book to talk about new vocabulary, clarify ambiguous structures, study new grammar constructions, and discuss the most meaningful plot and character developments. 



My students are demonstrating their own language learning by helping their parents learn English too.  I'm using instructional strategies common in U.S. schools to help my students' parents better understand approaches they may not have seen in their own education experience.  Perhaps most importantly, the families are reading the same book together and negotiating their own meanings...learning and growing together.  We are connecting with one another over this life-changing book, and we've only just begun to dig deep.  In fact, after the first week of class, I had so many more parents and students join that I've had to place two more orders of books!  





Just this last week we were practicing answering yes/no questions with "because + my opinion/reason" and several of my students' parents wrote notes to me (completely in English!).  They said that they love English class because we have so much fun and that they are learning so many new things.  I am so proud of their notes and their English, and I could tell from their messages just how much this opportunity meant to them.  


Perhaps one of the most meaningful notes to me though was when I knew I had "approval" of my student who originally asked me to do a book club.  By putting our heads together to come up with this new idea, she knew it would bring her family together by reading the same book and spending time together learning English and letting the students share their expertise with the parents.  


I can't wait to spend the rest of the summer reading this book with my students and their families.  I hope that I'm changing their lives as much as they're changing mine.  I'm so proud of all they're accomplishing together.  I always tell my students that in my classroom, we are one big family.  That's why I'm so proud to share with you what my "family" is accomplishing because we're taking the time to read together!  When families read together, they can do anything together

Friday, June 19, 2015

TpT Seller Challenge: Week 1: Makeover Madness

I'm really excited to accept the TpT Seller Challenge hosted by the fabulous ladies at Third in Hollywood, Teach Create Motivate, Peppy Zesty Teacherista, and Sparkling in Second.  Sometimes being a seller can be difficult to balance with our other life roles, so we're taking on one task at a time...together.  The "pre-task" was collecting our social media stats.  This week was so busy that I noted mine on Tuesday morning, but I got distracted and didn't post them to Instagram until today!  So here's where I'm beginning...



This week is the official first week of the challenge, and this week's task was a Makeover Madness challenge.  We were supposed to take an existing product in our stores and give it a little "face lift."  We were free to design and re-design however we wanted, as long as we shared/blogged about our "before and after" and shared it with the other challengers.


I took on my product "How to Make an Ice Cream Sundae."  It's an expository "how to" writing product that serves as an introductory lesson (or series of lessons) to generate student writing in this genre.  Take a peek at the improvements I made in the photos below!


My makeover included a complete redesign of each page of the product, primarily with enhanced fonts, graphics, and layouts.


If you've never made a burrito booklet before, you can download my freebie on how to assemble it from my TpT store.  I completely revamped the burrito booklet component of this resource with new fonts and graphics.  I tried to strategically select those fonts and graphics that would require less ink when printing or copying the student materials.


Everything you need from start to finish is in this resource, including a pre-writing activity (as seen above) and a new and improved publishing template for students' final drafts.


Of course, I did add some completely new parts!  I added a standards page to help you coordinate which ELA standards were best addressed by this resource, a note to the teacher with additional suggestions, and an answer key for the pre-writing activity.

To celebrate my new makeover, I'm going to put it on sale for a week!  It's usually $4.00, but you can get it for 50% off until next Friday night (June 26).  Just click on any of the pictures above or click here to grab it!

Head back here to the original post to check out the other teachers' makeovers!

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

June Pick 3 Pinterest Party Linky


I'm linking up with my friend Marissa at The Inspired Owl for today's Pick 3 Pinterest Party Linky.  It's a monthly linky we do on the third of each month to share a little "pinspiration" with you.  Check out the cute little pins I found this week!


My first pin is a VERY creative idea that I would love to try.  I was just thinking earlier today (as I was working on that aforementioned office overhaul) that I needed something with knobs to mount to the wall to hang my Thirty-One bags from.  I guess now I will have to be on the lookout for a slender drawer that will be sturdy enough for them!

Click on the photo to go to the original pin. 


My second pin was a little motivational thought I ran across today.  I've been reflecting on my fitness and personal goals lately, and this one really spoke to me.  When you want something bad enough, you make it happen.  You find a way to make it happen, no matter what obstacles may fall into your path...but you have to want it with every fiber of your being.  I hope this one motivates you too the way it did me!  I'm definitely a collector of quotes and inspirational thoughts.

Click on the photo to go to the original pin. 

Last, but not least, I found a math game I want to use with my students this coming year.  I just finished a week of OGAP training last week, so I have tons of multiplicative ideas rolling around in my head.  Now I'm just brainstorming how to combine this fun game with story problems...

Click on the photo to go to the original pin.
That's my pinspiration for June...if you want to pin with me every day, follow me here!

Now stop by to check out all my blogger friends' finds too...




Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Winner Wednesday Linky: 2015-2016 Vintage Vixen Teacher Planner


So, my blogging game is strong this June.  Three posts in three days?  Shazaam!  Today I'm linking up with A Dab of Glue Will Do for Winner Wednesday.  This is a monthly linky that we will post on the first Wednesday of each month.

Since my planner game has also been strong recently, I decided that I would give you an opportunity to win my now best-selling 2015-2016 Vintage Vixen Teacher Planner to start your next school year off in organizational style.  I will even personalize the cover for the winner!  If you're wondering what all you can do with a planner, I'll give you a sneak peek preview of all its features.


The winner can choose between the elementary or the secondary version of the planner.  The only difference is that the elementary planner is pre-labeled with six core content areas in the weekly lesson planners, while the secondary planner is blank so that you may add your own content area classes, useful for duplicate/multiple preps.)  Both versions are designed with a beautiful combination of burlap and lace textures with feminine floral accents.


It has everything you need to keep 2015-2016 running smoothly, including...

  • Personalized cover for the winner
  • Contact information sheet
  • Password log
  • Year-at-a-glance planner
  • Monthly calendars (from July 2015-June 2016)
  • Weekly lesson planners (from August 2015-May 2016)
  • Classroom expenditures list
  • Student roster (supports 25 students) - perfect for your homeroom list
  • Grade book pages (support 25 students, 6 color-coded copies for each of four 9-week quarters)
  • Accommodations checklist - reminds you of the most frequently used accommodations for each student with individualized learning plans
  • Collaboration & Conversation log - keeps track of all those co-teacher conversations (6 copies) 
  • Parent Communication log (6 copies)
  • Grade level meeting notes
  • General meeting notes
  • Notes & Ideas blank pages


To enter to win, just complete your entry in the Rafflecopter below (enter your name).

a Rafflecopter giveaway



If you check back tomorrow and didn't win, just jump over to the listing in my TpT store to buy your copy.  IMHO, it's well worth the $12.00 to have your entire year at your fingertips in one handy dandy planner.

Don't forget to head back over to A Dab of Glue Will Do to check out the other Winner Wednesday prizes.  Good luck!

***PLEASE NOTE:  The winner is winning a digital copy of this planner.  The winner is still responsible for his/her own printing and costs associated with printing, binding, etc.  This planner product is intended for single teacher/single classroom use only.  It is copyrighted by me, Erika Bell, and any use/distribution not authorized expressly by me is an infringement of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.  

#2getherwearebetter: My Home Office

I must begin this post by reminding myself of that ever-meaningful adage, "Comparison is the thief of joy."  When I look at all the other amazingly cute work spaces, so pristine and color-coordinated, I feel so disorganized and (honestly) a little jelly at how appealing my peers' work areas are. So I must remind myself that my home office space is a work in progress (and for that matter, I am too)!  Literally...I'm in the middle of an office overhaul right now. That's one of my major summer projects. But here's my work so far... (I will not compare myself to others, I will not compare myself to others, I will not compare myself to others...LOL!)

So here's a sneak peek into my current situation...


The main attraction is my new desk area, created by two filing cabinets and a wooden door.  I wish I had taken a "before" pic of the monstrosity of a desk that was there before.  I had had it since I was a teenager, so it had a good run. But I definitely needed something fresh. As you can see from the current situation, it's a work in progress (as mentioned above) so I have a few finishing touches to add.  The plan is to add these two little jewels I scored: a vinyl from Amazon that really speaks to me and a hanging photo line to display my new square pics from Shutterfly




Another thing I'm pretty excited about is that I finally have a place to display all my beautiful Twilight things...books, audiobooks, memorabilia, teaching units...it's nice that it all has a centralized home now on my new black bookshelf. 


(I just realized I've mentioned something Twilight in three of my last three blog posts...I need new material!  LOL!)

Anyway, I am digging my new organizational stuff from Thirty-One too. That's another one of my side gigs, so you know I dig it when I can combine those loves together!  My school supplies in the new Oh Snap! Bins...LOVE!  

And my carousel is truly one of my all-time favorites too.  IMHO, no desk is complete without one...why, yes I do have one on my desk at school too!  In fact, my coteachers rag me about it, but guess where they come when they need cool pens???  Just kidding!  Love you gals! 


So I'm almost too embarrassed to show you this last one...but I'm all about being real, so here goes...this is a REAL hot mess!  Clearly, I have work yet to be done!  With that said, perhaps I shall do another post when I finish this decluttering project.  (And in my defense, this became "the junk spot" during grad school and the "yard sale collection central", so I promise you don't have to report me to Hoarders!!!) 


Alright...so there it is!  My hot mess of a home office...better get back to work. Thanks to Schroeder Shenanigans in 2nd and Lucky Little Learners for my first #2getherwearebetter linky!  

Monday, June 1, 2015

Currently June 2015

So here we are in June already!  Apparently May just completely passed me by! Keeping it short & sweet tonight so I can get to my other major "to do" before I can retire for the evening...


Listening...so, in case you haven't noticed, I'm a die hard Twihard.  I won't even begin to tell you how I have every line of this movie memorized (literally) nor will I mention how many times I've actually seen it (many of which were actually in the theater).  It's my all-time favorite movie, so of course I have to have it on in the background when it's on FX.

Loving...that I got to spend the day with my fellow Twihard (even though she's on Team Jacob) K.Cre.  We celebrated an early birthday for her with some Moe's and a little fro-yo treat.  Then tonight mom and I grabbed some clear soup and chicken hibachi from the Japanese steakhouse.  Yummers!

Thinking...but there's a caveat to that...obviously, I need to lay off those little treats and get serious about my workouts and app-tracking again so I can lose a little more weight before my summer travels next month.  I did so well right after my surgery, but I was so happy to eat whatever I wanted to again without being sick that I think I went a little too far on the other spectrum.

Wanting...so I'm celebrating a little because this was my best month EVER on TpT.  I'm hoping that momentum continues.  I think a great deal of it has been in part thanks to my planners for 2015-2016.  Thanks to everyone who bought one!!!  Please spread the word to all your friends.  :)

Needing...to wrap this up so I can finish the materials for my second parent English class tomorrow night.  (Don't worry...I'll be posting more info soon.)

Summer lovin'...my three reasons this summer is going to be awesome are...
1) My first time ever at the TpT conference and first time ever in Vegas, baby!
2) I just found out the last week of school that I'm presenting with one of my coworkers on behalf of our school at our state's teaching/education conference.
3) My department is taking summer field trips with our English learners and their families.  Can't wait for the first one next Thursday!

Head back over to Farley and see what everyone else is up to this June!