May 29, 2013

3 Easy Ways to Wrap up the School Year

Guest Blog post by Krystal Mills

I know that some of you lucky-ducky teachers have finished for the year already, or are close to it. I, myself, have a solid month left in the classroom. Don't feel too bad for me - we don't go back to class until September! Regardless, if you're like me, it's time to reflect back on the year that was, and maybe even look ahead a little toward next year.

So much has happened this year and my students have grown in so many ways, as I'm sure yours have. I encourage you to make time for a discussion with your students about what each of them has learned this year. What do they know now that they didn't know before? It'll make for an interesting conversation at the very least, and will provide the platform needed for you to try any of the three ideas I have for you below.

Three easy (and low prep) ideas to incorporate into your class as you wrap up your school year!

1) "Our Quilt of Knowledge"
Give each of your students a square of paper and have them write one or more things on the square that they are glad to have learned this year. It doesn't have to be academic! It could be sports related, extracurricular, social, behavioral or a life lesson. Students could also draw a little something on their square, color it with markers and/or make a border around their square to make it a little special.

Then, take the squares and arrange them to create a "Quilt of Knowledge". Laminate, if possible, and make sure to show next year's group at "Back to School Time" all of the exciting things that they will learn in their new grade. This would be a perfect "Back to School" bulletin board idea!

2) "A Little Advice for Surviving Grade ___..."
After reflecting back on the year that was, have your students write a short "advice column" to next year's class. Advice should be practical things for the new students - things that your current students wish that they would have been told.

Be sure to take the best "advice columns" and share them with your new class in the fall as a bit of an ice breaker activity. Again, this could make a great display for your new students next year. Two birds - one stone!

3) "A Simple Simile"
After students have had a chance to talk about their year, have them create a simile comparing their school year to something either positive or negative (it's more entertaining to have a mixture of both). Of course, you may have to review what similes are, but it's always fun to see how students have viewed their year. There are always a few sourpusses - that's to be expected. Most students, however, will remember the fun times, the many things that they have learned and compare their year to something positive.

"Grade five was like a roller coaster ride - ups and downs, but mostly just fun!"
"Grade six was like making a really hard jigsaw puzzle, it took a whole year and it wasn't easy, but I finally got all of the pieces in the right places."

Similes could be written on to poster board and laminated, again, looking toward next year's students.

I hope that you have had a fabulous year with your students and that you've learned as much as you've taught! I know I have, as I always do. To those of you still finishing up the year (like me) hang in there - I can see the light!
Krystal Mills is a Grade 7 teacher in Prince Edward Island. She is the author of the Lessons From The Middle blog where she shares lessons from the classroom, and occasionally from her life as a mom of two young boys. The goal of this Canadian teacher blog is to share middle school lessons, activities and ideas from her classroom and to collaborate with the wonderful online community of teachers out there as well!

May 26, 2013

TpT Tornado Relief Efforts

Pledging My Memorial Day Earnings

Last week when the tornadoes ripped through Moore, Oklahoma, I was visiting family in California. I hadn't been watching the news, so I had no idea what had happened until it was all over. In the airport on the way home, I started seeing the footage from the disaster area and I was absolutely stunned at the destruction. How could such a thing be possible? Two years ago my hometown was slammed with devastating tornadoes that left a path of destruction for miles, but it was nothing like the storm Oklahoma experienced. My heart aches for the teachers and students in the schools that were hit, as well as all of those affected by that storm.

Yesterday I learned that TpT sellers were putting together a huge collaborative fundraiser to raise money for the tornado victims. As a part of this project, a number of sellers are donating all or part of their profits from their May 27th sales to the Red Cross or other organizations assisting with the recovery effort.

I was touched by these efforts, and I'd like to join in by donating 100% of the profits from my TpT sales on Memorial Day to the relief efforts. You can visit my TeachersPayTeacher store and stock up on items you need for next year, knowing that your money will be going directly to help the tornado victims in Moore, Oklahoma. It's a win-win! Here are three of my most popular titles, and they are all available in digital format in my TpT store. Whether you purchase something small or this entire bundle, ALL of the money you spend will be donated.

By the way, Donna at the Math Coaches Corner is hosting a linky party of stores that are donating all or part of their proceeds to the relief effort tomorrow. After the event is over, she's compiling a list of the total funds collected and donated through TpT sellers in the linky. Please hop over to her blog and take a look at the other stores that are participating. Together we really can make a difference!

May 24, 2013

Set Your Compass for Classroom Success!

A few weeks ago I received a box in the mail, and I was so excited when I saw it was from Compass Publishing! I tore open the box to get my first look at Mastering Math Facts Multiplication and Division: Aligned with the Common Core. This was the 3rd book that I had published with Compass, and I was every bit as thrilled to hold a copy in my hands as I had been with the other two. As I pulled one out and admired the beautiful glossy cover, I decided that it was time to formally thank Compass Publishing for their awesome work. My blog is the perfect place to do that!

Compass Publishing is an imprint of Brigantine Media, and I first learned about Brigantine Media a few years ago when I was seeking a publisher for my ebook, Empowering Readers. I wanted to find a company that would allow me to be actively involved in making decisions throughout the publication process, and I was impressed by my initial conversations with Janis Raye and Neil Raphel of Brigantine Media. I signed on with them and we immediately began working on the print version of Empowering Readers, which was later renamed Power Reading Workshop: A Step-by-step Guide. A year later, we published Graphic Organizers for Reading: Teaching Tools Aligned with the Common Core, and I was just as pleased with that book as I was with the first one. Mastering Math Facts Multiplication and Division: Aligned with the Common Core is the most recent book in this collection. You can click the image below to learn more.

Compass Publishing Launched
A few months after we began working together, I learned that Janis and Neil decided to create an entire division devoted to educational publications. They selected the name Compass because they wanted their books to serve as navigational guides for educators. Compass immediately began seeking outstanding teachers with novel ideas to share, and they started developing their line of high-quality educational materials.

In early March, Compass Publishing was officially launched on a brand new website at with two dozen authors and a great collection of educational books. Later that month I was thrilled to meet Janis and Neil at the NC Reading Association Conference where they had traveled as a part of the Compass Publishing launch. It was fun to get to know the two people who had been so instrumental in helping me create three great books. Here we are in front of the Compass booth; I'm in the middle.

Why is Compass Publishing so unique? For one thing, they work closely with their teacher-authors to create resources that are practical, professional, and proven to work. Janis has been my editor on all three books, and she did an outstanding job with helping me organize and shape my content so that’s it’s easy to read and understand. Also, many of their products are aligned with specific Common Core State Standards and those standards are listed right in the book. The graphic design work at Compass is exceptional, too. Jacob Grant has a unique style that brings both the student and teacher pages to life without being distracting. I also like how Compass has embraced the digital revolution by offering their teacher books in both print and ebook format; in fact, in most cases you can get the digital version free with any print purchase. This is certainly true for my three books.

Enter to Win on Facebook
Would you like to win a copy of one of my books? Compass has just launched a new Facebook page, and they’re promoting a contest right now to give away a print copy of any of their books to 5 of their fans! When you like their page, you can immediately download several freebies, and you can enter your email address if you want to win a book. Go to the Compass Facebook page to get started. Please share the contest with others, because when they hit 500 fans, they will randomly choose 5 winners. If you win, you can choose any print book of your choice from their website!

Now you know why I’m thankful to have found Compass Publishing and why I think this company is so special. I appreciate the time, care, and attention to detail that they’ve shown when working on all three of my books. I can honestly say that when you purchase one of their products, you are setting your compass for classroom success!

May 9, 2013

Walk, Listen, and Learn: The Walking Classroom

I'm excited to welcome Laura Fenn, the founder of The Walking Classroom, as a guest blogger on Corkboard Connections. Laura created a unique program that enables students to get exercise while learning. I knew you would be inspired by her story! ~ Laura Candler

Walk, Listen, and Learn:
The Walking Classroom

Guest blog post by Laura Fenn

“My students could do this!”

That thought came to me about 5 years ago when I got home from school after a particularly rough day and decided to clear my head with an energizing walk. I grabbed my MP3 player and started listening to a podcast about how volcanoes work. I could feel my mood lifting, I was learning something, and I was getting some desperately needed exercise. And that’s when it hit me:  My 5th graders could do this!

I wrote a grant that night for a class set of MP3 players, and soon my students and I were regularly walking during the regular school day (not PE or recess!) listening to podcasts that I had downloaded from the Internet. The podcasts were somewhat related to the curriculum, but my main objective was truly just to get my students some desperately needed fresh air and exercise (recess and PE had been cut dramatically).

It became very apparent very quickly what a powerful learning tool the walk, listen and learn method was. All of my students were eager to walk and listen everyday (they just thought they were “getting out” of classwork), and what I soon discovered was that my “smart kids” weren't always the best listeners. For the first time, my students with different learning styles were able to show that they were smart too. After an educational walk, children with dyslexia, autism, and especially my ADHD students started to participate in class discussions and brought incredible insight to the lessons, often surprising their peers by showing just how smart they really were—they simply never had the opportunity to learn this way before.

I started writing scripts that were directly aligned to the curriculum standards, and I eventually decided to start a nonprofit organization called “The Walking Classroom.” The Walking Classroom is currently for 5th graders (4th grade is in development and will be ready for the 2013-14 school year) and the program contains a school year’s worth of custom-written podcasts directly aligned to the Common Core. Each podcast is about 15 minutes long and all the podcasts are supported by extensive lesson plans that include comprehension quizzes.  Students improve their physical, mental and academic health while walking, listening and learning.

Today The Walking Classroom is used by thousands of students in 16 states, and the feedback from the teachers and students is always the same: they LOVE it. Schools can purchase the program directly, or if funds are not available, teachers can fill out a brief grant application on our website and we will work like mad to get them a donated set.  

If you’d like to “test drive” The Walking Classroom, 10 podcasts and lesson plans are available for free download from LearnNC, a program run by the University of North Carolina’s School of Education.

Enjoy, and Happy Trails!

Laura Fenn, MS Ed, was a classroom teacher for 10 years. She is the co-founder and Executive Director of The Walking Classroom Institute, an educational nonprofit created BY a teacher FOR teachers. The program is dedicated to providing teachers with an easy to implement tool that improves the health and education of students.