Monday, October 26, 2015

Designating Space for Reading with Children at Home

Today, Kaitlin Krull, writer for, is here to share with you all some great and easy ideas for designating space for reading with children at home. Feel free to share some of her ideas with families of your students and/or use them with your own children at home or even in your classroom as well! 

For many parents, fitting in reading time with children can feel like a daily struggle. While finding time for reading is certainly an issue, finding a Here are a few simple steps to help you create a reading space you and your kids will love.

Make it comfortable
The most important part of a reading area is comfort. If you’re creating a quiet area suitable for reading in your kids’ bedroom or playroom, then soft pillows, cushions, and a plush rug in a corner of the room are essentials. Books should be stored in low bookcases, boxes, or baskets, or on the wall (check out this super easy Ikea hack using BEKVAM spice racks below) next to the seating area. For added effect, add a teepee, tent, or soft fairy lights to finish off the space and encourage lounging and reading for hours on end. Trust me, by the time you’ve finished you will want to spend some serious reading time there yourself.

via A Baby on Board

via Modernize

Store books around the house
There are tons of places around the house that can make perfect reading corners for whenever your kids feel like sitting down with a good book. In addition to designated reading corners in the playroom and kids’ bedrooms, a wicker basket full of family favorites next to the sofa, in the kitchen, and in the bathroom (everyone needs a good potty time read!) will not go unused for long. If there are particular books that your kids love, pick up an extra copy or two the next time you see them on sale and keep them in each reading space to save yourself time traipsing around the house looking for The Very Hungry Caterpillar every single day.

via Modernize

Keep it accessible
Once you’ve set up your reading space, make sure everyone knows how to use it. Your kids should know where their reading materials are (if you’ve stored them on the wall, make sure they’re low to the ground), how to find books, and how books should be treated. As far as general maintenance is concerned, make sure books are rotated on a regular basis, especially if you have limited shelf space. Remove books that are no longer age appropriate or that aren’t interesting to your kids. Most importantly, keep the area tidy. No one will want to spend time in a messy, unorganized reading corner. This last part should be easy enough on your end if your kids are in the habit of cleaning up after themselves (easier said than done, I know!).

via Modernize

via Modernize

Kaitlin Krull is a writer and mom of two girls living the expat life in the UK. Her writing is featured on and a number of home decor sites around the web. She can also be found blogging from time to time on her personal blog, A Vicar’s Wife.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Parent's Night Freebies & Ideas

We have Parent's Night coming up tomorrow evening at our building. Thus, in honor of this auspicious yearly event, I thought I would share some ideas with you all that I have utilized in the past few years that I have found to be useful for the occasion.

One thing that I have consistently done each year is set out sign ups (in an obvious location) for each of the parties that we will have throughout the year. This gives me an opportunity to get a list of individuals who would be willing to help right off the bat. I can then easily refer back to them and email out to those parents for assistance when the time comes about. I also usually leave out a list for parents to sign up for assisting with little projects from home. This is a great way to include those parents who may not be able to come in during the day, but wouldn't mind organizing, cutting, creating, etc. something for me during the evening when they are available.

Furthermore, I always post a "Wish List" which usually includes items in which a whole class set was not necessary or that may be deemed "teacher materials".  I post each item on a post-it so that parents can easily scan items needed and take the post-it with them as a reminder of what they have selected (only if they would like of course) to purchase for our class.

On each student's desk, I set out any key information for parents to fill out and/or take home with them for the evening. For the past few years, I have been creating magnets via Vistaprint (posted in upper left hand corner) with my contact information. These can be created on the cheap if you find yourself a coupon code. I love how it not only gives parents a way to contact me, but a means of posting their child's work up on the fridge, etc. if they so choose! 

Before or after my presentation, I encourage parents to leave an inspiring note for their child for the year on the "you are a superkid because..." page shown above. I have them stick it inside their desk as a lovely little surprise for each student when they arrive that next day.

One of my amazing colleagues created this little gem pictured above a few years back, and I have been using it ever since. It's short, but contains such an important and sweet reminder. I have posted about this one previously, and you can find it at a former post I did on Parent's Night here.

Finally, to give parent's an overview of our year (and something to look at besides yours truly), I usually put together a little presentation highlighting key ideas and information for them to note. After the evening, I then upload the presentation to Google Docs to be shared with all to review as the year progresses. This is also great for families who for one reason or another may not be able to attend. Furthermore - it's a huge paper saver! 

Here is an example of some of the slides from my presentation last year:

I have compiled all of these above ideas and more into a simple one page list to assist in planning for Parent's Night below. Feel free to use for your planning this year, in the future, or to share with others as well. Let me know if you have anything you think I could add to it as well, as I am always looking to hear new ideas from you all! Click on the image to grab your free copy of the list and good luck with Parent's Night 2015!

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Pinterest Boards for Coaches

I have been perusing Pinterest these past few weeks in search of not only some quality instructional coaching tools, but also some boards created by fellow instructional coaches that I can continue to peruse and snag ideas from throughout the school year. I was excited and impressed by the amount of resources already out there to share and thought that they may be of use to some of you as well.

The following are ten Pinterest boards chalked full of resources for instructional coaches that I would encourage you to follow:

1.  Krista Happ (that's me ;)): Instructional Coaching Ideas (I have created this to be a collaborative board. So if you are interested in pinning your ideas and finds to it as well, feel free to follow the directions on the board and/or let me know in the comments below and I would be happy to add you. The more the merrier!)

2. Kristin Houser: Instructional Coaching

3. Jana Wilson: Instructional Coaching

4. Rachel Kjonass: Instructional Coach 

5. Wendy Olson: Instructional Coach

6. Miss Shipp: Coaching

7. Aarolyn Wright: iCoach

8. Janet Pyland: Instructional Coach

9. Raquel Sterczek: PD

10. Paula Pippen: Instructional Coaching

If you have a board geared toward coaching or teacher leadership that isn't on this list, I would love to hear about it and follow along. Feel free to leave your link in the comments so that other resource seekers can as well!

Monday, September 7, 2015

New Year & New Role (Again)

For those of you that have stuck with me for the past few years, you have probably realized by now that I am a bit of a chameleon when it comes to my teaching role. Within these past 4 years alone, I have had a different position each year. While that may drive some completely bonkers, I try to welcome and embrace each change and each new year as another opportunity for me to grow and learn as an educator.

That being said, when we begin the 2015-2016 school year tomorrow, I will be taking on another new  role of part time instructional coach and part time interventionist in our building. As some of you may recall, two years ago in my former building I was a Dual Language Instructional Coach. I am looking forward to building upon the knowledge I acquired during that year to improve upon my practice in the Spanish Immersion setting this coming school year. Not only that, but I am uber excited for this new dual role of coach and interventionist because it gives me a chance to work with both our incredible students and staff each day.

I love this quote because I think it embodies all of our roles be it teachers, coaches, interventionists and even students within the school building. As I begin on this new path this school year, it is my hope that I can assist our students and staff on this journey through doing each of these things so that they can ultimately fly in a direction that enables them to do their best learning. It is also my goal to be on this journey right along side them - acknowledging that none of us has reached our "final destination" and that this year will be chalked full of opportunities for exploring, discovering, making mistakes and hopefully learning from them and each other along the way if we are open to it.

Let the adventure begin.

Happy beginning of the school year, all!

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Redefining "Super Teacher"

Flashback 7 years ago, I was just starting to prepare to begin my very first teaching job. If you had asked me then and within those first few years of my career as an educator who I was, I would have proudly and firmly replied, well a teacher, of course.

Flash forward to present day- seven years, two states, three schools, and four different teaching positions later and I'd like to think I am now a much more effective and knowledgeable teacher (while there is certainly still plenty of room to grow).

But while I have learned over these past few years how to be more successful inside the walls of my classroom, I have learned simultaneously that it is equally important that I find my own identity outside of them. A "teacher" isn't all that I am or want to be.

I started out thinking that to be a "Super Teacher" I needed to eat, breath, and sleep teaching at school and at home. And this is exactly what I did. Enter blogging about three years ago and the "madness" only escalated. I would not only spend time prepping for my students, but now I was organizing, writing and creating for teachers as well. Don't get me wrong, I truly love and enjoy both teaching and blogging, but I was beginning to find that all the rest of the parts of me were suffering because of them.

This year was where all of this pressure I had been placing on myself seemed to come full circle. Call it the 7-year-itch, but this past school year, felt at times more overwhelming that my first.
Trying to find time to balance school, an hour long commute, blogging, keeping up with daily chores, working out, meal making, spending time with my husband, and if I was lucky a decent night's sleep, was utterly exhausting. I can't tell you how many times I broke down this year and felt so incredibly insufficient for not being able to "do it all" with grace and a smile on my face.

This endless amount of stress I had placed upon me was not fair to my students, my family or myself for that matter. This year was a turning point for me; a transition year, if you will. I have slowly but surely started to understand that it's okay if I do not join every committee I am asked to, to conduct a lesson or activity that doesn't scream creativity, and that I do not have to blog every week or two if I am not feeling inspired. I have learned that my classroom wont't fall apart the next day if I chose to just set down my computer and enjoy some quality time with my husband or take my dog for a walk. I have learned that when I crash on the couch every night that it's because I am utterly exhausted and the best thing I can do is give my body the sleep that it is so deeply craving. Most importantly, I have learned this year, more than ever before, that being a "Super Teacher" isn't about how much time you put in or putting on a facade like you've got it all together - it's about taking care of oneself, feeding and taking the time to cultivate those super powers and relationships that we each possess so that we can more freely share them with our students and the world.

Contrary as it may seem - I am a better teacher when I work less, not more. When I find the time to pursue those passions and other parts of me (those parts that aren't a "teacher"), it makes me a healthier, more well-balanced individual. It energizes me and gives me a greater sense of self, that I feel like I, truth be told, was sort of lacking those first few years out of the gate. That eat, sleep, breathe teaching thing is exhausting, and while I know and understand I still will have those days where I feel like this job is all consuming, I will also strive to have a greater balance of days where I leave it behind when I close the door at 3:45pm. Because I have to. I have to and want to consume myself with all of the other blessings in my life as well. Because when I do this, even though I am focusing less of my energy on my career, I will, in turn, have more energy, exude more happiness and find pieces of myself that I may have otherwise missed that I know will make me a better and more well-rounded teacher than I would have been.

That being said, my fellow super teachers, you may have noticed that I have been on a bit of a blogging hiatus these last few months. I have been going over and over in my mind how to best convey my reasoning to you all and trying to decide where I want to head in the future with my blogging ventures, and for now, this is where I'm at. I don't want to make any promises as to when I will post next or create a new product, etc., because to be honest I am really not sure. I am not saying that I am throwing in the towel, I am just saying that when the time is right (and I'm feeling inspired), I will certainly share, but it is not something I am going to push myself to do anymore on a scheduled basis. I love blogging and writing and the connection that I have been able to make with so many other teachers, such as yourselves, is incredible. It is a piece of me that I cherish. But I want to make sure that it continues to be just that - a piece of who I am - so that I can take time to embrace all of my other "pieces" as well.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Perimeter and Area Superheroes & Poem

This week we wrapped up our study of perimeter and area with some superhero action.

I gave each student one sheet of graph paper and told them that they needed to cut out two legs and then two arms of the same size, a body and head. It was their choice how small or large they wanted to make them. I then gave them a white sheet of paper to glue their pieces together and add a backdrop to really give it that superhero pizazz. 

Throughout the week, we also reviewed this poem that my intern and I worked together to create to help students remember the difference between the two. I had them do TPR (body movements) to go along with "sus lados has de sumar" (fingers make the shape of a square) and "contar los lados debes hacer" (make square counting motion). 

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Super Site Sábado # 11

It's been awhile, but I have a truly super app to share with you all today.

This week we have been working away at a review of verb conjugations in the present tense. Those pesky "yo" verbs keep giving my students a difficult time, so I decided to spend some additional time on them.

Enter Word Clouds by ABCya. This app gave us an engaging way to practice conjugating these verbs  and allowed for the students to be creative at the same time. Here is an example of how it works:

First, enter the desired words separating each with a comma. For our little project, I asked each of my students to enter, "yo", then their names, followed by at least 5 verbs conjugated in the present tense to describe them. You could truly use the Word Clouds app though for any subject area in which the students have developed vocabulary!

Once students have finished typing, their cloud will appear. This is where the creative aspect starts. Students can change the color, layout and font as they choose. There is also a randomize button which allows them to scroll through different setups the app designs for them.

Once my students had a little fun with it, I asked them to eventually end on a black and white color scheme for printing purposes (we are not lucky enough to print student work in color). I then asked them to utilize the "save to photos" feature in the app to save their work and send it to me to print their finished product.

Backed them on some patterned scrapbook paper and voila. Verb cloud magic.

The Word Clouds app seems to be free for a limited time, so grab it while it's hot. Most I searched for did cost money, and I think overall this one is the most elementary student friendly anyhow!

Have a great weekend!