Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Jumpstart January

Well, that break was nice, wasn't it? Now we get the fine privilege of wrangling our students after two weeks of sleeping in and staying up late. The first few days back after break can be defining moments for our class, so let's make the best of it! 

This hop is all about jump-starting the learning after a long winter holiday. The sooner we get these young minds engaged and instep with the program, the happier they will be (and the happier we will be also).

So, how do you do it? How do you take your students from this:

 To this: 

For me the answer is simple, it's what is the hands of the group of students who are happy and excited. Interactive Student Notebooks, we've come to call them ISNs or INBs. This note taking strategy is effective for many reasons. 

First: When given the opportunity to get creative with the display of the content, kids think about the material. They make it their own. This creates inroads to their stored memory and makes it easier to retrieve the content later.

Second: It is SO much more fun than boring old Cornell Notes! Don't get me wrong, there is a definite advantage to the basic Cornell Notes, however, adding interactive elements brings those boring T Charts to a whole new level.

Finally, and certainly not the least significant: Interactive notebooks are easily differentiated to meet the needs of all at least most of our students. A simple template with blank lines to fill in helps our struggling students make sense of the content. Most creators include another version of the same template with more room for the student to write out their own responses. To add difficulty for our advanced learners, simply provide them with the paper, scissors, and markers, and they can get creative making their own flips and flaps. 

If you are new to notebooking, or you've been at it for a while but want some new ideas, I have a page for that! Click on the tab "INB Hacks". I'll be adding new items to this page regularly. You will find videos, links to free templates, shortcuts, and more. If you have a great resource you'd like to share on the page, post a link in the comments below, I'd be happy to put it up for you. 

Would you like the opportunity to win $10 worth of resources from my Teacherspayteachers store? 

a Rafflecopter giveaway
This post is one of many included in the Jumpstart January Blog Hop, so click on that sled below and take a peek at another teacher's tips to help you jumpstart your January! Make it all the way to the end, and land on our collaborative blog The Lesson Deli for an opportunity to win a $50 Target gift card. 

Happy Hopping!

Interactive Learning Hop: and a Grand Re-Opening Celebration

Welcome to the new design!

I am so excited to start this new adventure. Over the past decade, I've dipped my toes into the interactive side of learning. These last few years, however, it has grabbed a hold of me and taken me to new places I never thought I'd go.

It has always been a goal of mine to insight a love of learning in my students. To me, the best way to do that is make the learning fun, engaging, and memorable. How do you make your teaching stick?

Let's get interactive!

Below you will find three fabulous giveaways with the interactive learning spirit at heart. First up is $25 gift card to The winner will be able to spend that on whatever resources are needed right now. Next is a Resource bundle for grades 3-5. 9 teachers have contributed resources for math, reading, writing, and more. Then you'll find a second resource bundle for the older students, also chalked full of math and reading/writing resources.

a Rafflecopter giveaway a Rafflecopter giveaway a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Top 10 Posts From 2014

I'm trying to start this new blogging journey with a lot of activity, so here's another linky to get me going. It was easy to find my top 10 posts from this past year, since I only have 29 of them published ;) Let's hope I have at least twice thrice as many for 2015!

#10 Strategies For Teaching Visual Learners

#9 10 Things I want to do This Summer

#8 Fourth Grade Common Core...A Math Club!

#7 Think Bright Tutor Conference


#6 Teaching With Patterns

#5 March is Interactive Math Month

#4 Blasting Back to School Giveaway and Creating a Learning Team

#3 New Book Review: Ziggie Tales

#2 It's a Classroom Giveaway 

#1 Assessing Your Students Learning Styles

I decided the world needed an info graphic to describe Howard Gardner's multiple intelligence theory. If you are an educator and would like a printed version for the class room, you can email me on I am happy to arrange a laminated print out on A3 size paper for $17 [AUD] + postage. Or if you want the digital file I am happy to supply a high resolution A3 size PDF for $10 [AUD].

If want to read some more recaps from 2014, click the image at the top of this post. This was a fun little walk down memory lane, especially as this blog and my creating energy are at a turning point! It will be very interesting to read this post at the end of 2015!

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Sunday Scoop

This looked like a fun way to pass the time before my blog re-design party starts this week!

That wasn't so hard :)  Happy Sunday all!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Strategies for Teaching: Visual Learners

Follow my blog with Bloglovin A few months ago I wrote about assessing our students learning styles. I'm now working on gathering and organizing teaching strategies for each learning style. Here are a few things I've found helpful for our visual learners. According to an article on "Brighthubeducation" the following formats will benefit our students who learn best visually.

  • Look at words or images on a page
  • Use visual recall as a learning strategy
  • Imagining what things look like to remember them
  • Follow visual cues and landmarks during a journey or a task
  • Watch videos
  • Watch someone else perform the task or activity
Let's take a look at these individually.

It's easy to spot a visual learner when teaching reading. These students can dive into a book. They may thrive on text. But what if you aren't teaching a reading skill? What about math concepts? These students benefit from having charts and diagrams, relating similarities and differences. Flashcards can be a helpful tool keep on hand. You don't have to buy them, just keep a pack of index cards on hand, and whip out a small set of cards for the facts, rules, or properties your students needs to memorize or learn. It can also be very beneficial to have your student write out these cards themselves, and include an example or a scenario that applies to the concept, skill, or understanding of focus.

What exactly is visual recall as a learning strategy? I"m glad you asked, because I had the same question when I read this article. Here's a helpful explanation, but in a nutshell, this simply refers to using some form of imagery to help remember things. You may have seen someone tie a ribbon around their finger to remind them to take medication, or hold up 3 fingers to remember the items they need to collect. These are forms of visual recall, and we can help our students learn to use this strategy by teaching them to take visual notes. Instead of just writing down a term and it meaning, draw a picture that helps the student remember the meaning and/or application. Use graphic organizers to categorize bits of information. Insert photos into presentations. Whatever it takes to help our student visualize the material.

One of my favorite activities to do with a few of my students, starts off with me saying, "close your eyes. Now, imagine..." It doesn't matter what we are studying, when the student begins the lesson with a quick imagination exercise, their minds are more engaged the entire session. Once the lesson is underway, the student might realize that the image they thought of was way off. In that case, it's important to take a moment to help the student "re-visualize" the idea or concept with the more accurate understanding. Later, when your student is testing or needs to retrieve the information for a project or assignment, that image will be there waiting for them!

The next strategy has more to do with materials we use with our students than the actual strategies we use with them. Lessons, apps, and programs we use with our visual learners should be easily navigated by visual cues. This is especially true for non-readers and early readers who might not be able to read and understand complex written instructions. Providing our visual learners with materials that have visual cues to guide them will help them navigate with ease.

Videos can be extremely helpful for our visual learners. I would suggest, however, to search for and select videos ahead of time rather than on the spot during a lesson. Because our visual learners will be using the imagery we provide them, we need to spend a little extra time and effort to make sure the imagery we use is accurate and applicable. With the influx of Common Core lessons, I have found LearnZillion to be extremely helpful with my math students.

As tutors, do we take the time to model the activity for our students? Our visual learners will benefit greatly from watching us work through a complicated equation or sorting elements into their groups and periods,

Monday, October 27, 2014

Rewards, Certificates, Prizes, Oh MY!

Do you like to give your students a little reward now and then? I do. And it seems that every time I try to find one that meets my needs as a tutor, I come up empty handed. The big packets for end of the year always have ten to twenty classroom specific awards that I would never use. The small generic packs are boring and geared more toward in-school activities such as participation, attendance, or testing.

Where does this leave the tutor who wants to give her hardworking students a little extra encouragement? Empty. Scratching out her own late in the evening so she'll have it ready for the session the next day. Or, like me, using the ones designed for another purpose.

This situation lead me to start thinking about the whole behavior reward systems many early education classrooms employ. I got to thinking about a few of my younger students with special needs, that really need some external motivation to put in their best efforts during our sessions. last, I have a system that feels right, looks nice, and is encouraging my students already!

Tentatively, I'm calling it the Clip Card Reward Program for Tutors. Here's why:

  • I use a type of clip card to help the student monitor his own behavior or progress. These cards are designed to be punched with a paper punch, decorated with stickers, or my youngest student's favorite, drawn on. 
  • I call it a program because it's not intended for a one time use, but rather to use progressively over time. The program is designed to help students set their own goals, monitor their progress, and then make new goals once they achieve the previous ones. 
  • This is specifically designed to be used by tutors. The language is tutor specific, such as "Name is a hoot during tutoring". While classroom teachers and even home school parents may find parts of this program desirable, ultimately, we tutors will get the most use out of it. 
Let's see what this thing looks like, shall we?

Use the questionnaire that is right for your students. Revisit this page often, and help your students discover their own strengths and weaknesses. Talk through strategies to overcome challenges. Walk your students through a path to achieving their goals and setting new ones.

Keep track of all of your students using the program. Mark down the date they start, the goal they set, and how you will measure their progress. There's also a column to track when they achieve their goal. This will help you guide them in setting attainable short term goals to progress toward their long term goals.

I've included several options for award certificates, so you can chose the one that fits the student and situation the best. And so our students aren't getting bored with the same certificate every time they achieve a goal!

Help your student monitor their own progress by punching the card for each milestone toward their goal. The first student I put on this program needed to work on staying focused during our lessons. He's quite fidgety and easily distracted. So we set a simple goal of staying on task for one activity or homework sheet at a time. Each segment of our session could earn him one smiley face in one circle (up to 3 per session). He said that he wanted to try to earn at least one smiley each session, and play a game for his reward. We haven't made it to that reward yet, but so far, so good!

Would you like to test drive a portion of this program now? Head over to my store and download "Awards for Tutors" to get a sneak peek. 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Fourth Grade Common Core...a Math Club!

Yes, you read the title right. Have you ever heard of a meath club for teachers, tutors, and specialists? I know I hadn't before a this past July. It's one of those things that a few colleagues start kicking around and it grows into an idea that take son a life of its own. That's exactly what happened this summer.

As a tutor, I haven't had a whole lot of  interaction/experience with the Common Core. I have had a few students whose schools recently adopted the core. So, I was able to help them and their families with the transition. But that's really about it. I homeschool my own children, so the Core hasn't affected our schooling (until this year with 2 of them in K12 middle school). What I have noticed, though, is that many tutors are ill-equipped to cover the material "the core way." The language is different, algorithms are unique, strategies have morphed. Many tutors I know are not able or willing to even try to teach the core material...and, I'm going out on a limb here, but I think that this is mostly because tutors aren't trained to implement the core. We get comfortable doing things the way we were taught, or the way we like to teach.

Get your Membership Today!

My summer mission was to learn as much about the Core as I could. Along the way, I realized many of my personal teaching strategies were already "core-like" I just had to learn the language that accompanied them. OK, so this story is getting way too long, so I'll shorten. I started talking with a few other teachers, and one had a fabulous idea to start a club, specifically for Common Core resources. Brilliant! We would get a few tremendous teacher/authors together who specialize in subject/grade areas, and each would contribute some of their favorite resources to a group project. By the end of the year, we'd have a spectacular bundle of resources that would help any teacher, tutor, or even homeschooling parent, instruct their children in the content for an entire year! Of course, at a hefty discount ;)

So, that's exactly what we did. We released the first installment of the Common Core Memberships on September 1st. In just 1 week, we'll be releasing the second installment. And I must say, I'm getting excited to put these valuable resources all in one place. This quarter, we decided we'd add to this membership. Not only will members receive updates to their resources, and a new installment every quarter for a year, but they will also be invited to a private Facebook Group, hosted by the authors of the resources! This is probably the most exciting part of this whole club, at least for me it is. How often do the publishers of your math curriculum invite you to their curriculum development meetings? How many times have they asked you what you'd like to see in the next version?

That is the beauty in this, as teachers and tutors ourselves, our passion is in our work...Sure, we make a little money from selling our resources. But the true reward is when we know these resources make it into the hands of other teachers and tutors who work hard to help their students "get it."

I invite you now to take a look at a few of the teacher-authors who have contributed to the Fourth Grade Math Club.

Kim Miller is the creative mind behind "For the Love of Teaching" She has contributed many of the task cards and assessment packs that are included in both the first and second quarter installments. You can read more about her, her teaching style, and get a taste for her creative style over on her blog.

You might know Stacy Pearson from Teacher's Take-Out. You will find that Stacy adds a fun side to teaching decimals and division! Read more about her on her blog
Teacher's Take-Out on TpT

Lindy is a creative teacher from South Africa! I've had the pleasure of collaborating with her over the past year (almost, give or take a couple months). My kids LOVE her Powerpoint presentations.

Lindy Du Plessis on TpT

Krista Mahan of Teaching Momster is my co-conspirator on this project. She actually presented the idea of a club membership, and we just rolled with it. I've been a follower of Teaching Momster for longer than I've been a seller on teacherspayteachers. So it has been an honor to work alongside Krista putting this all together and brainstorming. I'm sure you'll all love her playful approach to teaching difficult concepts. You can also follow her on her blog.
Teaching Momster on TpT

Monica Parsons is behind the blog , NC Teacher Chick, and the fantastic teaching resources. My favorite resource from Monica in this membership is her toolkit, it covers EVERY standard any 4th grade teacher is going to cover for the entire year. 
Monica Parsons on TpT

Martha Hach from "The Owl Spot" has also made great contributions to these first 2 installments. I'm beginning to think of her as the task card queen. I've tried my hand at task cards, but she's got this down! I can imagine her students love the games she brings to class as well!
Martha Hach--the Owl Spot on TpT

That's it for now. Check back in the next couple of days to find out some more insider information on this new math club for teachers!

Would you like the opportunity to win a free membership? This is a super fast flashy giveaway. Enter by following the contributors in the rafflecopter below. Giveaway ends at midnight this Saturday!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Tips From Teachers

This is was supposed to be the first part of an ongoing series, I'm calling "Tips from Teachers". I don't know about you, but sometimes I really wish my students' teachers would just tell me what they would like me to do. Not that I can't help our students learn and grow without them...but my students really want to do well in class, and without that insight, it's hard to accomplish.

Since I started selling my resources on I have had the opportunity to meet and form bonds with several teachers, from all over the world, teaching in just about every grade level and situation. Now I am sharing that opportunity with all of you!

Each month I will hoped to interview up to 5 teachers from various backgrounds. I have some basic questions (which you will see in just a minute ;) ), but I know you have questions too, so please feel free to pose your questions in the comments below. I will do my best to get them answered, if not this month, definitely within the next few months!

Without further ado, here is our first teacher this month with helpful tips for us.

Amy Mezni is currently a 5th grade teacher. She has been teaching in the middle grades for the past 20 years. I met Amy in a collaborative group of middle grade teachers about 5 months ago. Since then, we have had the opportunity to collaborate on a new blog (The Lesson Deli) and a few other projects. 

My first question is, what is the #1 area students in her class need the most assistance? Amy had a hard time choosing just 1, she replied "Number sense and reading skills."

I then asked Amy, If your students had a tutor, what is one tip or bit of advice you would give them? She answered, "Work on number sense. If you have number sense, you can figure out many of the higher skills on your own!" 

My last question was about resources, if every tutor in your area could have one resource, what would you like it to be? Amy's answer: "I'm really in love with INBs lately. I think  they can be used to help students of all abilities." I agree Amy, I love interactive notebooks as well! While Amy has a ton of InBs for Social Studies and Reading, she hasn't made any for number sense yet, so here are a couple from my store. If you know of some great resources, please share the links in the comments below for the rest of our readers!

Space Bonds a board of intergalactic travels and number bonds, helping your students develop number sense that will help them master basic addition/subtraction facts. 
Bonding with a Rock Band is a rocking board game, helping your students develop number sense that will help them master basic multiplication/division facts..
You can find Amy Mezni, On Facebook @ TeachingIdeas4u  and watch for her blog debut within the next month!

Next up, we have Heather and Ashley Watson, from Watson Works! Heather is a primary school librarian, after teaching 4th grade ELA and Science for 4 years, for a combined 7 years experience. I ask this team the same questions, what is the most important area tutors should be focusing on?  Their response? "Higher order thinking." 

And their number 1 piece advice for current tutors: "Always ask[your students] 'Why" and "How do you know that's the answer?'" If they can answer these questions correctly, then they really know the material. I Definitely agree ladies! One of my most used statement is "are you sure?" My kids almost ALWAYS rephrase their statement. Sometimes just out of habit, thus making the answer incorrect...BUT showing me they weren't really sure. What a helpful tip!!

What about a favorite resource, ladies? What would you recommend to every tutor in your area? "It's hard to pick one, but one of our favorites is our STAAR Wars Task Cards." I checked these out folks, they look fantastic (I haven't had the opportunity to use them yet, but I'm looking forward to that occasion!).

That's all of the Tips From Teachers we have ready for this month. Make sure to follow the blog on bloglovin, or become a fan on my facebook page to know when next month's edition is released!

Monday, August 4, 2014

Blasting Back to School Giveaway and Creating a Learning Team

Are you ready for Back to School? I'm joining several other upper grade teachers to help you get ready for the next school year, and to give away some AWESOME prizes! You'll have the opportunity to win something different on each blog in our group, so make sure that you visit the next blog in the blog hop at the bottom of this page. To enter to win the HUGE gift certificate to Teachers Pay Teachers, visit our group blog, Lesson Delicatessen. Make sure you hop through all the blogs to read all the great back to school tips and be entered to win over 20 different prizes!
One of the greatest obstacles I face as a tutor is communicating with parents and teachers to create a learning team for the student. The parents have their idea of what the students needs, the teachers have theirs (often influenced by the imposition of legislation), and then I have mine. Most of the time, it's not far off, but sometimes it is almost like the student is getting pulled in 3 different directions. If we can just centralize the goals and efforts, it would be so empowering to our students, and their progress surely shows it! 

This summer I decided to create a binder to organize all of my tutoring information and files. I kept finding teacher binders and homeschooling binders, and felt we needed one too! One of the suggestions I received from other tutors was a letter to the teacher, including a form for the teacher to fill out and send back. This got me thinking...what if teachers had a similar letter on hand, ready to go, incase one of their students starts working with an outside tutor!?

Wouldn't it be marvelous to be able to communicate exactly what your student needs help with to succeed in your classroom? you go! Click on the image below and it will take you to a Google Drive Document that you can download and tuck away in a file marked "For The Tutor"

Perhaps you are a tutor yourself, would you like the opportunity to win the entire tutor binder? It includes a 2-page spread calendar, weekly scheduling sheets, income/expense/mileage tracking, coupons for referrals and receipts for payment, editable tutoring contracts, a letter to the teacher, exit slip style letters to the parent for the student to complete at the end of the session, lesson planning pages, student information files, actions plans, and lesson at a glance...and I'm pretty sure I'm forgetting a thing or two, you'll just have to peek at it in my store to get a better visual ;) One winner will be chosen from the rafflecopter below announced on August 10th right here and on the Lesson Deli Blog

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Now, take a moment and head over to For the Love Teaching, my friend Kim Miller has a fantastic back to school tip and giveaway for you too!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Good by July, Aloha August

Can it be possible???  July is nearly over???
I have teamed up with 40 fabulous stores for...
This is a FABULOUS 4 day event that is full of sweet deals, savings and 4 amazing giveaways!
Here's a peak at what you are being treated to...
Each day a new 'deal' will be posted by the 40 participating stores! 
Be sure to visit their Facebook, Instagram and/or Pinterest accounts to find the daily deals and codes you will use in the TPT search engine to find the sweet deals!
(you can also find the codes on the pictures at the bottom of this post)

In addition, you can find the links to all the participating stores well as 4 rafflecopters!
That is right...4 rafflecopters!
Each rafflecopter is for a $50 TPT gift certificate!
Think of all the wonderful resources you could score with that...and just in time for Back To School!

Please visit each rafflecopter and enter! 
Each one will generate a winner- and yes- you can win more than 1!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Here is a clickable list of all the participating stores!
Be sure to come by and visit our social media sites each day for these reminder posts:

 Enjoy the deals, samples and I wish you the best!
And most importantly, we all send our best wishes for a successful school year!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

How do you advertise your tutoring business?

There are some basic advertising strategies most tutors use. Of course placing an ad in your local newspaper, or even on Craigslist. You can also post fliers around town with your information, and a scan code if you're tech savvy. My question has been this, what if those strategies still aren't attracting new students?

This summer I have been trying to find some new ways to get the word out about my services. Just this past weekend I had the pleasure of running a booth with my mom at our local Music Festival. She's a local photographer and needed an extra hand. When she asked for my help, I gladly accepted, and went to work putting together some information and a plan to promote my business.

First, I made these little cards to let interested passersby know about the classes I offer throughout the summer. I just placed them on the counter along with her pictures. Many people stopped and asked questions, but even more people just saw them and picked one up and walked away.

I'll just have to exercise a little patience to see if anyone contacts me or visits my website from that.

I also offered learning style assessments and tutoring consultations. I hadn't ever been to this particular music festival so I had no idea what the environment would be like. I learned a valuable lesson that this was NOT the right place for this offering. People were focused on the bands and the food.

However, I do have a couple other spots lined up that this might just work. n case it does, here is what I did. I like the assessment you can download for free HERE. I use this inventory for all of my new students. But it can get expensive printing all of those pages out each time. SO I made a quick little booklet that I can have on hand with the student's information at the top, and a scoring sheet inside. I will be able to stick these little pieces right in my students' files. I laminated the actual inventory pages so I can use them at venues such as the festival this past weekend, and the farmer's market I may attend in a couple weeks.

What about you? Have you stepped out of your comfort zone to try a new way of advertising? Do you have tip you'd like to share with other tutors? If so, we'd love to hear from you, leave your experience or top in the comments below!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Tutoring and the Common Core

image from
There are certain topics we tend to try to stay away from: politics, religion, and Common Core. Unfortunately, no matter how we feel about government imposed education standards, we have to interact with them at one time or another. Maybe you have some students who attend a CCSS school. Maybe you don't. Maybe your area has recently adopted "The Core" or maybe they've just abandoned them. Either way, it's likely that if you haven't already, you will one day come across a student dealing with Common Core. So what do you do?

As a life-long student, I see it as a new learning opportunity. Rather than buck against the system, I'm for rolling with it, and doing the best I can along the way. This past school year, one of my long-term student's school adopted The Core. It wouldn't have been so bad, but they changed curriculums half way through the year! Talk about a headache, and a large handful of unhappy parents. It's easy to point fingers at the teacher, but fellow tutors, let's try to avoid that, and help our students' parents avoid it too. It is very likely they are having a hard time with this transition as well!

My student was a fourth grader, and I can tell you, some of that language and homework was CONFUSING at first. It was really helpful when I had his parents request that a textbook be sent home. It was then I learned his school was using "Go Math" (which I've recently discovered is a pretty common curriculum). Whether it's legal or not I'm not sure of, but most of the editions of this curriculum are available for viewing online as well.

It was the "new multiplication algorithm" that had us stumped. They were calling it the box method, and I was 100% lost! To make it that much worse, my student had had a substitute teacher for a couple days and his notes were scrambled, half his words half copied, and BIG pieces missing, like vocabulary and definitions! What did I do? I ran to my good friend Google. I typed in everything I could think method for multiplication, multiplying with a box, common core multiplication, two-digit multiplication in a box. That proved futile because NOTHING I found looked or sounded like what my student was explaining to me.

Partial Products

I then proceeded to request the help of some of the tutors I know online. I love the Facebook group #tutorchat the members there have proved to be a helping hand when I really need it! One of the members said this was similar to the lattice method. I was so relieved, I knew that word! And I knew how to make it work now. This was extremely amusing to me, because just months earlier I had been working with this very same student on multi-digit multiplication, using what I knew as expanded form multiplication. Once I figured this out, I could go back to my student and connect the two methods. He was flying in no time!

What's the moral of this little story? Just because you don't like it, doesn't mean you can't make it work. For us tutors, it is going to take a little more effort to work with The Core than teachers. We don't have the privilege of the in-house training and professional development they have. However, we CAN connect with them, and with other tutors who have been there and done that. We can set good examples for our students by doing our homework and spending the time to learn something new! And I don't care who you are, that pays off big in the long run.

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