Monday, July 27, 2020


This blog post has been 5 years in the making! That's right, for the past 5 year's I've built (and dare I say, perfected?!) my Back to School Night routine and today I'm sharing my tricks and tips! I'm giddy to share these details with you. Grab yourself a cup of coffee and settle in for a wealth of information and some freebies! 

**Disclaimer: These are the tips and tricks that have worked for me pre-COVID-19. While I wish that I will be able to run my Back to School Night the same this year, there is so much unknown. I am sharing tips for what has worked for me in the past and how I would hope to run my event in the future. I do not know yet what my District's expectation is for Fall 2020 so these plans do not reflect any COVID-19 modifications. Although these plans are specific to an in-person, open house type meeting, I believe that many of the tips I share will be transferable to an online environment. I would be more than happy to be a thinking partner for you if you are looking to take these ideas and tweak them for your virtual or in-person Back to School Night. Please reach out in the comments OR through Instagram!**

In my District, our Back to School Night or "Open House" is the first opportunity that students have to set foot in the classroom, find out who their teacher is, and meet them. Our Back to School Night is always before the 1st Day of School. Because this is such a crucial time for first impressions and setting the tone for the year, I'm sharing a few tips to hopefully put your mind at ease for this momentous occasion. 

One of my biggest tips for Back to School Night is to just be YOU! Try your best to channel any nerves into energy and enthusiasm. Chances are, your students are nervous too! By showing them that you're excited to meet them and having a game plan for the evening, it will put them at ease and make them feel welcome. Now, let's get to that game plan to make sure your night is smooth.

Set up Tips:
As you start planning for your Back to School Night, there are a few things I would encourage you to think through that will help you narrow your focus as you plan for the event. These guiding questions will also set the format for the rest of this blog post...
- How do you want your space to look? Feel? Sound?
- What will your students need to accomplish before the night is over?
- What (if anything) do you want your students to accomplish before you see them again?
- What message do you want to share with parents? 
- How do you want your students to feel when they leave? **This is the question that should drive all of your other planning!

How do I want my space to look? Feel? Sound?
For me, I want my classroom to look clean, organized, and welcoming. One way that I accomplish this is by decorating my space. Depending on when your Back to School Night falls in conjunction with the first day of school, you might not have time to get your classroom fully decorated and set up and that's okay! I would just encourage you to make sure that it has a welcoming feel and that any piles of papers, projects, or to-do lists are tucked out of the way. Throughout the school year I display student work in the room so that they have ownership of our space. For "Back to School Night" students obviously haven't turned in any work yet so I make little signs saying things like "awesome work coming soon" or "your work goes here" just to increase excitement and fill the space. A personal touch that I like to add the night of the event is a slideshow video on loop playing at the front of the room with pictures from previous years. I think this is a special way to showcase the fun that has been had in my room while previewing the fun that is to come in our year together. (If you're a first year teacher and want to try the slideshow tip but don't have any pictures to share yet -- don't fret! You could definitely save this idea to try next year OR you could share some pictures from student teaching. One thing to be mindful of is not sharing faces of the students you worked with during that experience if you were at a different school than you're hired at due to FERPA.) 

I want my classroom to feel warm and fun. Sound and smell are such important senses so I like to have a plan to engage those senses as well. (Side note: for Valentine's Day this last year one of my students wrote me a note saying that they love the way our classroom smells... so I guess it really does make an impact 😂) I love having a Scentsy warmer in my classroom and use an accompanying room spray to give a clean, fresh, and summer-y smell. If you've been friends with me for very long, you probably know that I have a playlist for just about everything and Back to School night is no exception! I have a playlist on Spotify filled with upbeat, instrumental Pixar songs. You can access that playlist HERE. There are so many conversations that take place at Back to School Night and because mine is set up in an "Open House" format, those conversations are usually taking place all at once! The instrumental music adds some depth to the experience without overpowering or drowning out the important dialogue going on. It's also nice to have music on because parents will occasionally share personal details with me that I don't want other families overhearing so the soft instrumentals cover that up a tad. I know that sounds and smells are important ways to connect with emotions and memories, and I want those first memories together to be positive ones, so I'm very intentional about the first scent my students smell when they meet me and the music that greets their ears. 

What will my students need to accomplish before the night is over? 
My main objectives for Back to School Night are for students to get acquainted with me and our classroom while building excitement for the first day of school (and our year together). In my District, many students come with supplies on that night so I also want them to feel comfortable with where to put their things. To make the night smooth and clear I have a little "checklist" that I hand to each student after I greet them that details the steps I want them to accomplish in order. I know that it can be overwhelming to come into a new space when nerves and/or excitement are high, so I try to make my list as short and clear as possible. One way that I do that it by ratcheting down on the things that I need my students to do before the night is over. I also strategically set up stations or places that students and families need to go to around the room so that things are spread out enough for it to not feel hectic or claustrophobic, but also close enough so that the path is purposeful and that things flow based on the order I want students to accomplish them in. 

When families come in I make direct eye contact with the student, welcome them, introduce myself, then I turn to the families and introduce myself to them as well and shake their hands. I will make conversation for a few moments asking how their summer was, asking how they're feeling about 5th grade, and making sure that I'm hitting my objective of making them feel welcomed while also trying to build excitement for the year.  Then I joke with the student and tell them that I'm "putting them to work" on the first night by giving them a little checklist of a few things to do before they leave the room to get to know our classroom a bit better. I also let them know that if they're stuck at any point or have questions as they go, they can just let me know. Below I'm sharing the check list of things that I ask my students to accomplish in hopes to give you an inspiration point as you decide what you would put on your checklist. Below each item, you'll read my little commentary to provide more context and my rationale about what that item means and why I included it... 

1. Locate the desk with your name on it. Find the "Welcome Packet" & make sure you take that home with you!
     - When I was in elementary school I remember that I always wanted to know where I would be sitting right away. After a couple of years of experimenting, I've found that it works best for me to have students' desks assigned for Back to School Night. I typically get plain name tags at Target (or chop up plain construction paper -- hello free!) and just handwrite their name and set them on desks. I don't tape them down because 1- our rosters tend to change right up to this event (sometimes even during or after!), 2- my students rotate during the school day and I don't want my other students from the rotating periods to be picking at their name tags, and 3- I have a hybrid flexible seating model (maybe this requires a separate blog post of it's own?) so I don't want my students to get too attached to any one desk... it's more of a chance for them to feel like they have their own space in our room right from the start and a place to put the items they walk in with. On each desk there is a welcome packet that includes a few informational pieces for families and then also some surveys for them to return to me. I include a check list of what items from the welcome packet they can keep, what I want back, and when I want it back. I do not expect (or want) families to have to sit down and fill it all out that night, so I include this to make things clear and helpful. The last thing students will find on their desk is a punny little gift for them that is also practical. Pencils are like ✨gold✨, so I like to start the year off with a cute pencil and welcoming note for kids as a gift that my students will actually use. To get this freebie click HERE or find it at the bottom of this post. 
2. If you have any personal supply items, keep them in your backpack at your desk. We will organize them together next week. 
     - My District issues out a suggested school supply list during the summer. On our Back to School Night some students come with all of their supplies from that list. I have found that it works best for students to keep any of their personal supplies in their backpack at their desk for us to sort through and organize during the first week of school. Usually class rosters change so much that I don't assign cubbies right off the bat until I'm more certain of who will actually be in my class. If kids have extra supplies that they want to donate, I have a table to the side where they can pile those items and I put a little note about it on my whiteboard. I also word it like you saw on the numbered point above because I know that many students aren't able to bring supplies or haven't brought supplies and I don't want them to feel bad if they don't have things yet. 
3. Check out the sign-up sheets on the back counter. 
     - This area is mostly for the parents! On the back counter I spread out clipboards with sign-up sheets for volunteers, a checklist for contact info, and a sign in sheet. I also include a punny parent gift with mints for them to grab along with my classroom wishlist. 
4. Find the rectangle table in the corner. Make sure you tell me how you're getting home this week and the rest of the school year. 
     - This is a great way to make sure that students, families, and you are all on the same page about daily transportation routines. I have a simple piece of posterboard where students write their name and how they're getting home the first day of school and the rest of the school year. (If they ride the bus I ask them to write which number.) Then I display this posterboard in our classroom the first week for students to refer back to. The first day is always so busy and since our Back to School Night is usually highly attended, it's good to get this important detail squared away and then revisit it on the first day with those kiddos and anyone who couldn't come to the event. 
5. Picture time! Head to the photo area by the side whiteboard, grab a prop, strike a pose, and say cheese!
     - This is one of my favorite ways to add some fun to the night. I have a variety of little props (that I mostly got from the Target Dollar Spot or Dollar Store and then personalized) and a list explaining the area. I draw a frame on the whiteboard to make it cute and whimsical. Parents just use their phone to snap a pic. It's super fun and informal and takes very little prep time while adding some personal flair and a touch of excitement!
6. Take some time to get acquainted with our classroom. Feel free to look around and ask any questions you may have!
     - This important point gives students the chance to look around and check in with me when I'm available. Depending on what point in the night it is, this might look a little different. When there are lulls in incoming families,  I "work the room" and check in with students and walk around. When families come in, I head to the door area to greet them. The great thing is that students have the chance to look around at their own pace since it is an "Open House" style evening, so even if I am in conversation, they can wait until I'm available again to ask questions. I love to see students walk around with their families and watch the excitement on their face and see their curiosity piqued by the different items around the room. 
7. Last one... before you leave find Miss Whittaker & show her that you have completed everything on the list. Give her a hug, handshake, or hi-five!
     - I let the student take the lead on this one! I think it's important to make positive contact with each child and definitely want the night to end on a high note that makes the child want to come back to school. When they bring me their checklist, I ask if there are any questions. I always direct this to the student first and then turn to the family to see if they have any questions. Then I ask the student if they want to say goodbye with a handshake, hug, or hi-five and let them choose what they feel comfortable with.

What (if anything) do I want my students to accomplish before I see them again?
Like I mentioned above, I do have a little "Welcome Packet" on my students' desk during our Back to School Night. I also have an accompanying checklist so that families are clear what they get to keep, what I want back, and when I want it. It is a busy time for families too -- especially if they have multiple kids. I don't want my students to be penalized for their parents maybe forgetting to fill out a little survey about what type of learner their child is. I make sure that the "due dates" for any forms I need back are at the end of the first week of school. I send reminders home to the parents via email and have students put it in their agenda the first week. I really only ask for 2 things to be returned so that I can have a better understanding of my students without asking too much of them or their family during this busy season.  

How do I want my students to feel when they leave?
Personally, I want my students to leave feeling excited for the first day of school! I want them to know a little bit about our room, but also come back looking forward to finding out more. I want them to know that I care and that I'm excited to teach them. Each piece of our first time meeting each other reflects these goals and I would encourage you to make sure that your plans do too!

Other Tips:
- Have coloring sheets on hand! When younger siblings come in I like to offer them the opportunity to color. I've found that this helps the kids who are bored and gives parents a chance to focus in on the student who will be a learner in my classroom.
- Have a notepad nearby! Every year parents will share with me details about their child as a learner or little human. I've found it's really helpful to have a notepad and pen handy so that I can jot down any notes while it's fresh and before I meet the next family.
- Dress to impress, but keep it comfy! I like to wear a dress on Back to School Night. I usually pick a dress that is comfy and won't show sweat or wrinkles easily (just keeping it real!). Footwear is really important as well -- I usually wear my most comfortable heeled sandals or flats so that I don't end up with blisters by the end of the night. I think it's very important to dress professionally for this first impression, but not at the cost of comfort. If I don't feel relaxed, then I won't conduct myself in a relaxed manner. Pick a power outfit that will leave you feeling cute, comfortable, and confident! 
- Just be you! Seriously! This tip is so important that I included it again. Let your passion and enthusiasm shine through. If a parent asks you a question you don't know the answer to, don't be flustered, tell them you'll look into it and get back to them. Being yourself will set your students at ease. Don't feel like you have to share the same speech or points with every family. Let conversation ebb and flow naturally. Showing people your heart for kids and education speaks volumes! 

Let's get to the freebies!
If you click on the graphics below you will be rerouted to the web pages that house these freebies and resources that I use to rock my Back to School Night that I hope can be helpful for you as you rock yours. 

I hope this post gave you some ideas for how you can rock your Back to School Night! If you have any questions or want a thinking partner, let me know in the comments below! I'm rooting you on and wish you the best of luck as you start out your year. 

Sunday, May 3, 2020


One of my biggest joys in teaching is building relationship with my students and fostering our classroom community. Class Meetings are one of my favorite ways to check-in with students and set the tone for our learning environment and "family." During this challenging time of Distance Learning I knew that I wanted to keep my Classroom Meetings as a staple each week. Today I'm sharing with you a few of my favorite "themes" and activities for Classroom Meetings.

The themes and activities I'm sharing with you today are not only my favorites, but have been popular with my kids during our digital classroom meetings. Some of these ideas are specific to the online setting... but most of these ideas come from brain breaks, class meetings, and other community building exercises I already did with my kids when we met face to face. In these challenging times my goal each meeting has been to check in with my kids on a social/emotional level, go over any questions/announcements for the week, and spend time just laughing together and making sweet memories. I hope that you can come away with some fresh ideas to try in your digital classroom meeting tomorrow or tuck in your back pocket to try the next time you're in your classroom together. 

An important part of my classroom culture is allowing for student choice/voice as much as possible. I knew that I wanted that component to continue throughout this digital learning adventure. The themes and activities you'll see below are from me and my students. Some were inspired by other educators, but I'm sharing how I using my teacher style to incorporate them into my classroom meetings. I hope that these ideas will spark inspiration in you to use them or even put your own teacher style on them. Stick around to the end and you'll find a link to a freebie checklist for all 20 of these Classroom Meeting Themes & Activities ideas. Alright, let's go!

1. Would You Rather
This is a tried and true favorite! In the classroom I've used this for instructional purposes and just for fun. Typically I will pose a question with two different options and have students choose which one they prefer. Students then have to walk to a specific part of the room to "cast their vote." It's fun to see students go through the decision process and commit to an idea. Then I call on a couple of kids from each side to share their thinking with the class. I knew the typical style wouldn't work during our online meetings so I decided to utilize some of the tools/features to give a similar effect. My students and I meet via Zoom. When they click on the "Reactions" button there are two different emoji options that pop up. If students prefer the first option they can react with 👏 and if they prefer the second they react with 👍. It provides a quick and easy way for all students to be involved and then I call on a couple of individuals to share the rationale behind their choice. 
PRO-TIP: Search for kid-friendly "Would You Rather" prompts on Pinterest. Some of our favorites have been holiday/seasonal and Disney.

2. Highs & Lows
This has been my favorite way to check-in with students all year long. Once a week we (used to 😥) sit in a circle on the rug and share 1 "high point" and 1 "low point" from the week. I always preface this sharing time by reminding students that as a family we can celebrate each others successes and happiness while also learning how we can extend grace or support to each other through challenging times. I also have taught my students the sign language for expressing sympathy and showing that they can relate. Whether students are literally on mute in your digital meeting or being a quiet and respectful listener in person, they can show care for their classmates through these signs and other gestures such as a thumbs up or making a heart.

3. Scavenger Hunt
I have seen SO MANY fun versions of this activity on Instagram. Whether you're doing a themed scavenger hunt or asking your kids to search for random household items (like I did) it's a great way to get your students up & moving and LAUGHING! I would suggest that you come up with a list of items you want them to search for ahead of time. Go over the ground rules before the game begins. I told my student that they needed to leave their device where it was and then get up and search for the items. I would announce what the item was, but they couldn't start until I said "go." Then they had to run to find it, come back to their device, and hold up the item so I could see it. We repeated the process until we had made it all the way through the list. I was laughing so hard during this activity and I had several parents reach out to me afterwards thanking me for bringing giggles and joy to their household. 

4. Dance Party
Everybody dance now!! Not only is that the song I played, but it's the perfect activity for a fun little brain break. I started off as the "leader" and students had to copy my every (corny) dance move. Then I called out the name of another student to be the "leader." They led a few moves and then they called out the name of a new leader. The process continued until everyone had the chance to lead the dance. Even my shyest students participated and would throw up a dab or two when it was their turn to lead. And my "Tik Tok" lovers were thriving!

5. Pet Parade
This has been our highest attended Zoom meeting yet! Students got to introduce us to their pet or stuffed animal. They shared their little friend's name, fun facts, and let us see them in their "natural environment." We also spent some time pondering what our furry friends might be thinking about us being home so much these days. 😂 I got to meet several dogs, cats, a gerbil, 30 chickens, bunnies, a lizard, and lots of cute stuffed animals. This meeting was so special to me because even though I always hear stories from kids about their furry friends, I've never had the chance to actually meet all of my students pets before!

6. Digital Vacation
A "Digital Vacation" theme was a great way for my kids to try out one of the fun Zoom features they'd been dying to use while also having the opportunity to get a little escape from reality. I always let my students know the upcoming themes beforehand so they have time to prepare (when needed). For this theme I told them all they needed to do was find a picture of their dream vacation and save it to their camera roll. Once the meeting started I showed them how to change their Zoom background so that it looked like they were actually in that vacation destination. Then we all took turns sharing where we'd want to go and why. I had so much fun "traveling" to Ireland, Las Vegas, Hawaii, Laguna Beach, Australia, Sea World, Paris, a Golden State Warriors game, and more! 

7. 2 Truths & 1 "Lie"
love 5th Graders. I've played this game so many times with adults, but kids make it SO FUNNY! It was a great way to get to know each other even better. Beforehand we talked about how honesty is important and then we dove right in. 😂😅 Each person shared 3 statements and it was everyone else's job to detect which one was false. One person shared at a time and held up 1, 2, then 3 fingers to correspond with the 3 statements. The other students had to hold up their fingers to represent which of the 3 statements they thought was false. Then the student who shared their statements revealed the truth and gave us a little more context about each of the statements. It was great!!

8. Directed Drawing
There are so many awesome drawing YouTube videos for kids! The possibilities of what you could do during a Directed Drawing themed meeting are endless! I'll share briefly about what I did with my kids... First I read the picture book "It's Not All Rainbows" to set the scene. We talked about how not all days are filled with rainbows and happiness  -- but just like Kevin, the Unicorn -- you're never alone. I let students know that our art activity would be something they could keep and use to encourage themselves or others. I screen-shared a video showing how to draw a rainbow. Then we talked about how rainbows can be a symbol of hope and happiness (especially during these times). We drafted a list of affirmations and words of encouragement. Then students spent time decorating their rainbow while listening to some rainbow-themed songs (because if you know me I have a playlist for everything). I encouraged students to hang their rainbow in their house or window for others to see.
PRO-TIP: Look up "Art for Kids Hub" for great tutorials that are positive and easy to follow. Even my little perfectionists give themselves grace when following these videos. 

9. Simon Says
Everyone knows this one! Enjoy playing with your kids! When there's one student left you can let them lead if you have time. 

10. Work Out
So many possibilities! You might want to do some mindful stretching and yoga or get the blood pumping with some cardio. Encourage your kids to dress in work out gear, screen share a kids workout from YouTube, or facilitate the work out yourself. 
PRO-TIP: I highly recommend "Yoga with Adriene" for your own personal use but also for her classroom yoga videos!

11. Make 'Em Laugh
All that students had to do to prepare for this meeting was find a school appropriate joke to share with the group. Some kids created their own but I also suggested that with parent permission they could look up jokes for kids online. Everyone had a chance to share a joke to make us laugh! Once again, 5th Graders are the best! The jokes (and deliveries) brought a big smile to my face!

12. Creation Station
This student-suggested theme is so pure! 😍 They wanted to see everyones creations of any sort -- Lego builds, origami, drawings, and more! It's basically like show and tell but with this theme your kids get the joy of showcasing something they are the proud creator of. 

13. Disney Day
When you wish upon a star... makes no difference where you are! When my students logged into our Disney Day Zoom they were greeted by a welcoming slide featuring Cinderella's Castle and that classic Disney font (with Disney music playing, of course). To prepare for this meeting students were instructed to share a favorite quote from any Disney movie or Walt Disney himself. I also told kids that they could "bound" as their favorite Disney character, wear any Disney merch, or have Disney toys with them. Basically all things Disney!! We ended with singing along to some Disney tunes at the end. 

14. Beach Ball Q&A (with a twist)
At the beginning of the school year we spend time getting to know each other by playing Beach Ball Q&A. To prepare, I have a beach ball with numbers on it and a list of questions with corresponding numbers. To play, students toss the ball to a peer and one at a time I ask them the question that corresponds to the number closest to their right thumb when they catch the ball. When one of my students asked to play this game over a Zoom meeting I had to get a little creative and come up with a twist. I have the same list with numbered questions, but instead of a ball I'm using a digital spinner. I will call out the name of a student and then spin the wheel on their behalf (I'll use the share screen feature). Then that student will answer the question that corresponds to that number. When they are done they will call out the name of a peer and the process will continue until everyone shares! 

15. Room Tour
Think MTV Cribs, but not. 😂 Students will pick one room that they feel comfortable showcasing to the class. This is another student-suggested form of show and tell. I know that my kids are longing to connect with each other and I'm sure yours are too! This might be a fun and chill way to do that.

16. Talent Show
Everybody has talent! This meeting idea gives your kids the chance to showcase a hidden (or maybe not-so-hidden) talent. I would encourage you to keep it open ended! My kids prepared magic tricks, stand up comedy, playing instruments, singing, dancing, and more! One student suggested that I could act as a judge and choose a winner. I didn't go that route, but I think it could be really fun!

17. Show & Learn
VERY similar to show and tell! The difference -- your kids get to TEACH the group something that they are an expert at. This will take a little longer so I suggest either splitting it up amongst two meetings and assigning students a day to present or planning a longer meeting. To practice giving good feedback you could have students respond after the lesson by sharing something they learned. 

18. Book Bound
Time to play dress up! "Bounding" gives people a chance to play dress up without actually wearing a costume. You just need to style clothes to replicate the look of favorite characters. For this digital meeting theme ask your students to pick a favorite book. They can "bound" or dress up in a way that represents their favorite book character or setting. Then have students take turns revealing which book they chose and what or who their outfit represents!
ADAPTATION: For the secondary setting you could increase rigor by asking students to dress in a way that represents a symbol or theme in their favorite story.

19. Build a Story
I took one of my favorite family campfire traditions and brought it into my classroom. It's fun do to in Zoom meetings too! Your ultimate goal is to build a cohesive story together. Each person works on contributing to the story by adding just one word, popcorn style. It's fun to see how many twists and turns the story can take. One of the funniest one's my class "wrote" together this year was about the adventures of a dragon who played basketball and loved chicken nuggets. 😂

20. Lunch Buddies
Last but not least, try doing lunch buddies with your class! I got this GENIUS idea from Shaunda at "Upper Elementary Adventures" at the beginning of this school year. Once a week, students are given a "lunch buddy" that they need to sit by at lunch. Their job is to find out what they have in common and learn new things about their buddy. After lunch they share what they learned. It's so fun to hear the connections they made! During our distance learning adventures we haven't done lunch buddies every week, but I am planning on using the "breakout room" feature to do one final lunch buddy session before the year ends. 

Thinking about trying one or more of these Classroom Meeting Themes & Activities?? I hope so! I've created a FREE checklist on my Teachers Pay Teachers account that has all of the above ideas listed. You can check it out HERE...

If you try out any of these Classroom Meeting Ideas (in person or digitally) I'd LOVE to see! If you have any questions or want a "thinking partner" as you plan out your next Classroom Meeting, feel free to leave a comment!

Saturday, August 17, 2019

1 SHIRT // 12 WAYS

I recently snagged this tiered button-front top from Walmart. I love the simplicity of a good chambray shirt and the versatility it allows for creating lots of different looks all year long. After having several people reach out to me about this top via Instagram I decided to share with you 12 of the different ways I would style this fun shirt. Friends, the possibilities with this blouse are ENDLESS. I had fun digging through my closet and finding pieces new and old to pair with it. I hope that this post inspires you to put your own unique Teacher Style spin on a chambray shirt. 

Look 1
This is such a comfortable and effortless look to showcase our tiered chambray shirt! I would easily wear this for a day in the classroom and switch up my shoes or accessories for dinner out with friends or to run errands after work. I can also switch out my sandals and summer-y tassel earrings to put a different twist on this look when the seasons change. 

Look 2
Would you believe me if I told you I layered our tiered chambray shirt over a dress and then put a cardigan over it? Well I did! You could replicate this look by following the same recipe, or you could play with a patterned pencil skirt to get a similar effect. 

Look 3
At my school, we have Hat Day every Friday and I know I'll be rocking this look when the year is in full swing. I have been LOVING the ascot/scarf trend lately. Chambray reads as a neutral color and I love the versatility it provides me to play with different pops of color and pattern. I feel like this specific color pallet gives me a look that is perfect for end of summer and all throughout fall. 

Look 4
Nothing says "Back to School" quite like freshly sharpened pencils, right?!  This look is fun and fresh for the classroom. I achieved it with some of my favorite wardrobe staples -- a black pencil skirt and patterned pointed toe flats. This look is a great "first impression" outfit that I would wear for Meet the Teacher night or an important meeting.

Look 5
Feeling boho-fab with this pretty kimono, messy half bun, and dainty accessories. It's professional with the dark black pants, but still very comfortable. I could picture myself sitting criss-cross applesauce in my classroom working with kids or participating in a staff meeting while rocking this look.

Look 6
I stan a power blazer. I had fun playing with different trends to create this chic business professional look that I would wear for parent teacher conferences or other important meetings. I didn't know if this shirt would look okay with this blazer... but I decided to just try it out and it worked! Moral of the story -- don't be afraid to step out of your comfort zone and pair something together that you're not sure about. Worse case scenario it looks weird... just don't wear it. Best case scenario... you're looking at it! 

Look 7
So I probably wouldn't wear ripped jeans to school... BUT I love the edge and dimension that they added to this look, and it gives you a fun example of how I might style it for weekend-wear. For this look I took it up another notch (literally) by wearing my highest wedges and buttoning my shirt up one more button. By wearing the ultra-blingy statement necklace I draw attention up to my face.

Look 8
Trying to go longer between hair washes? Me too! I love this headband that makes my top-knot look a little more interesting. This look is perfect for those days when you want to keep hitting the snooze button, but also want to look pulled together. 

Look 9
Speaking of going longer between hair washes, I love a low messy bun too! With this simple geode necklace and staple cream cardi I'm feeling comfy and ready to teach the kids. 

Look 10
Just like the math formulas I share with my students to help them have success, I'm sharing an outfit formula that will give you fun and fabulous looks all year long. Chambray shirt + colored pant + patterned shoe + your favorite earrings = an outfit that will give you all the confidence. I could wear my hot pink, maroon, or blush pants and give totally different vibes (depending on the time of year or my mood) while still feeling just as confident! 

Look 11
One of my favorite style tips is to play with textures (not just patterns!). I paired these fringe cloth earrings with a fun sweater and smooth boots to add depth and dimension to this look. Perfect for fall? I think so. 

Look 12
With this last look I definitely pushed myself out of my normal style wheel-house and I'm so glad that I did!! Feeling sassy and stylish. I would encourage you to dabble outside of your fashion comfort zone every now and then too. You never know when a little risk might turn into one of your favorite outfits!

Bonus look for ya'lls enjoyment, using my formula from Look 10!

I hope you enjoyed this peek into my wardrobe and came away with a few different ideas of how to style this (or any) chambray shirt to show your Teacher Style. Which look was your favorite? Which look will you take and tweak to make work for you? Please share in the comments below or let me know on Instagram

Wednesday, March 27, 2019


Hey friend! 

I'm guessing you're here because you're ready to 'tech' on this school year. 😉 Before I start sharing my top favorite technology tools, let's talk about the why of using technology in the classroom. Incorporating the use of technology in meaningful ways in the classroom gives us the opportunity to engage our learners in new ways, allows us to teach about (and model!) Digital Citizenship, and helps us prepare our students for their future. 

Because my focus with my students is on using technology as a tool not as a toy, I'm very specific with the language I use when we approach technology use. One of the biggest things is the choice to say "platform" instead of "app." Many kids think of games when they hear app, so I start reframing that thinking by calling all of these wonderful tools "learning platforms." Something else to keep in mind when reading this post is that my school is 1 to 1 with devices for 5th Grade, so each of my students have an iPad to use daily. They are only able to use their device at school. One of my goals for my students (and myself) is that we are using our tools to produce more than we consume. There are times to use these tools to consume information, and a lot of important lessons can happen around that... but I mostly like to have my students creating and showing their learning with these engaging platforms as much as possible. There are so many learning platforms that I love to use with my students, but today I'm sharing my top 9 that I use most often and have found to be successful K-5. 

Under each of these 9 platform icons you will find a brief description of the tool, the devices this platform is available for (I did my best to vet these out for you), some of the reasons why I love it, and then usage ideas (from things I've done, to things I've seen other teachers in my building try, to random ideas I have). If there is ANY other information you'd like, please shoot me and e-mail or respond in the comments below.  

Without any further ado... let's take a peek at some of my favorite learning platforms & tech tools!

1. Seesaw
Available foriOSAndroid, and Kindle Fire devices, or any web browser
Why I love it: Seesaw is the digital portfolio that houses all of my students' projects from outside apps/platforms. My students respond to the specific assignments I set up with projects they create within the app or on another platform, then students can comment in a variety of ways. I'm able to comment back to them and there's an option for parents to see what students are up to. There are just so many reasons I love it, and I think you'll see a few more below. 
Usage Ideas:
  • - Student-Led Conferences Portfolio -- Students can showcase their favorite assignments to their families in person or through the "Seesaw Family" app.
  • - Grading Hub -- I respond to my students assignments with comments about things they did well, possible areas for growth, and their overall grade. This keeps communication open, allows students to know exactly why they're receiving the scores they have, and keeps me organized too.
  • - Reflection/Ownership Tool -- When students turn in their assignments I offer different reflection opportunities to them. Sometimes I ask them to answer specific reflection questions, other times we do stars and wishes, and other times I have them share the grade they think they should receive and why. When I comment on their work, I invite them to comment back to me. I've received questions back from students, had kids acknowledge "This is a fair grade Miss Whittaker", or had things like "Thanks Miss Whittaker, this was a fun assignment." 💖
2. Classroom
Available for: iOS and macOS app
Why I love it: You can see all of your students' iPad screens at once, mute student iPads, lock student iPads, view specific student's screens... need I say more?? 
Usage Ideas:
  • - Manage Student Use -- You can use the view feature to see if students are on task and using their device appropriately. There have been 2 times in the years where we've been 1 to 1 where I've had a student doing Google image searches that were off task. I was able to click on their screen view, screenshot, and lock them out of iPad use. Then I was able to revisit Digital Citizenship and the use of these tools with that specific student without their peers noticing.
  • - Gather Students' Full Attention -- The most powerful, silent attention-getter is locking everyone's screen at once! 🙌 I've taught students that if their screen is ever locked their job is to find me right away. When they notice everyone has been locked at once their heads whip up, the room gets silent, and nobody can do anything but give me their undivided attention! 
3. Socrative
Available for: iOS app and any web browser
Why I love it: This platform is a quick (and easy) way to receive student responses. Student's don't see each others responses unless you choose to project in front of the whole class. You can choose if responses are anonymous or if they require a name. Results can be e-mailed or turned into a spreadsheet, which makes for a great formative assessment tool.
Usage Ideas:
  • - Exit Ticket -- Pose a short answer question and give students time to respond. Project and debrief responses for the class to see if you'd like or keep the results for yourself. 
  • - Poll the Class -- After students submit their responses you can give them the opportunity to vote on the responses that they most agree with. I've also used this when preparing for Socratic Seminars. Students write their most burning questions and then vote on which ones they'd like to discuss.

4. Padlet
Available for: iOS app and any web browser
Why I love it: This platform showcases student responses all at once in live time in a beautiful and clean feed-like wall. There are many options for setting up the design and endless opportunities for how to use it! 
Usage Ideas:
  • - Create a Twitter-Like Experience -- Have students "tweet" out like they are characters from a novel, give a short response to a question, condense the steps to solve a math problem, etc. They can create their "username" and put it up in the title and then streamline their thoughts to a to 240 character "tweet".
  • - Replace Poster Paper with Padlet -- Save some $$ and supplies by creating multiple Padlets (and QR codes). Replace an activity where you would have had students walking around the room writing their thinking on poster chart paper, and instead have them post responses to Padlets.
  • - Turn on the Reaction Feature -- Give students the opportunity to respond and interact with each other's thinking by reacting to their peers responses. Options include a star rating system, scoring, voting, liking, and commenting.
  • - Engage with Visual Representation -- Students can post images as well as text in their responses. Working with littles? Have them share images instead of typing out responses! Working with older students on symbols, mood, themes, etc? Have them share images! It's just a different way to check in.

5. ChatterPix/ChatterKid
Available for: iOS and Android
Why I love it: When wanting students to shift from being consumers to producers, this is a simple app to choose! It's so user-friendly and easy to learn. Student responses can only be 30 seconds or less, so kids have to streamline and condense their thinking. It's fun when used with littles, adult learners and anything between!
Usage Ideas:
  • - Summarize the Text or Steps -- Students can take a selfie, edit it with fun stickers, and share the steps to solve a math problem or summarize the story.
  • - Be the Book Character -- Students can take on the persona of one of the characters in the text and respond to a question or show their understanding of the target skill for the week. My kids always love to do funny voices when we respond this way... whether they're a kid from Wayside School, a Tree Kangaroo from Papa New Guinea, or Double Dutch Champion, they love showing their learning while becoming another person.
  • - Share the Letter or Number of the Week -- For younger grades, students could take a picture of the letter or number of the week and talk about their learning. 
6. Canva
Available for: iOS, Android, or any web browser
Why I love it: Canva helps you (or your students) create the most beautiful posters, social media posts, or infographics. You can take an existing template or start from scratch. Everything saves in live time as you work on it and edit. The only downside is that sometimes work doesn't save fast enough. 
Usage Ideas:
  • - Create Business Cards -- This one is for you, teacher friend! I created my own business cards using Canva and then sent them out to print. It was SO EASY! Now I have something to hand out at conferences, meet the teacher night, etc... and some of my students ask if they can use one for a bookmark or to keep in touch after they leave. 💖
  • - Student Created Posters -- There are so many different directions to take this. I've had students use this platform to create "propaganda posters" for our Revolutionary War unit, show their understanding of sequence of events, create advertisements for school events, and so much more!
  • - Dabble in App Smashing -- Students can take the projects they create in Canva and "App Smash" by inserting them into an iMovie or other platform. 
7. Book Creator
Available for: iOS and any device that has the Google Chrome browser
Why I love it: This is another user-friendly platform that gives students a lot of pride and ownership of their work as they become "authors." The book can be saved in your iPad book library, played like a slideshow, or even be printed!
Usage Ideas:
  • - Class Book -- Collaborate with your students to create one cohesive work. Each student could work on one page for a class alphabet book, "yearbook", or showcase of learning throughout the year.
  • - Personalized Yearbooks or Reflective Portfolios -- Throughout the year, students could work on creating their own archive of pictures of memories, favorite projects, and reflections throughout the year. It's theirs to keep and reminisce on when the year is through. 
  • - Unit Books -- Students could create their own book as a record of their learning throughout a particular unit. On your rubric or "must-have" list each page could have a specific focus of what students need to show.
  • - Student Showcase of Research -- Student's could conduct research, formulate their thinking, and compile their learning to share with the class. A fun alternative to a typical essay format. 
8. iMovie
Available for: iOS devices
Why I love it: It's just plain fun! There are two different features: Trailers or Movies. I love both and have used both personally and with students. My kids love it so much and they enjoy acting in, directing, producing, writing for, and editing their videos (and helping out their classmates). 😎
Usage Ideas:
  • - Book Trailers -- Nothing gets my students quite as jazzed as when I tell them that my "friends in Hollywood" are looking to make our latest class read a movie and that they need their help. Students are tasked with creating a trailer that shows the plot, character details, and themes of the story without sharing major spoilers. (We also love celebrating our finished projects by doing a viewing party as a class and giving our peers compliments as well as tips or wishes for future assignments.)
  • - News Updates -- Using the movie side of the platform, students can make News Updates sharing major breaking info on how to solve specific types of math problems, report on current events (from stories or actual current events), and more! This is especially fun to do in small groups.
  • - Leave it Open Ended -- This might sound scary... but I love letting students decide how they want to use this tool because these creative kiddos surpass my expectations every stinking time. I will post content "must-haves" and then let students decide how they want to share their learning and understanding of specific concepts. 
9. Adobe Spark Video
Available for: iOS or any web browser
Why I love it: This platform can turn out a video that is as simple or fanci-ful as the user wants. It's like PowerPoint and iMovie had a baby. 😂 One of my favorite parts is that when students go to change the color/font of their slides, it changes for all slides. That way they're not wasting time making it pretty -- they're focusing on the content. 💪
Usage Ideas:
  • - Simple Summary -- The first time we use this platform, it's for our story summaries. Students write their summaries on paper in 8 different boxes, and then transfer that work onto 8 different slides. This platform focuses mostly on voice, so students typically type in key words or use icons/pictures to catch viewers eye and enhance their retelling of the story. 
  • - Create a Commercial -- Students have used this platform to create commercial-like projects to display their work.
  • - Make a Video as a Class -- Each student could be responsible for their own slide. A Kindergarten teacher at my school worked on creating a collaborative video with her class where each student helped develop part of the plot and moved the story along with their own illustrations and voice overs. Too cute!

I hope you found a few new platforms/apps in this post or came away with a fresh idea on how to use a platform you're already loving. Have any questions about these platforms? Want to see more tech-related content? Tried one of these ideas in your class? Please let me know in the comments below!

I can't wait to see how you 'tech' on your school year!