Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Brag Tag Revolution

No, really. That's what's happening right now. If you happen to not be familiar with Lucky Little Learner's Brag tags... let me scream to you tell you how this has forever caused a "sudden, extreme, or complete change in the way people live, work, etc." Go ahead. Look up the term "revolution." This is the exact definition and explanation to what Angie's tags have done for me, my students, and my classroom. I've been teaching for over 18 years and I could kick myself for not finding these gems earlier. And then I'm always reminded of Kayla's @Top Dog Teaching famous motto that she holds in her classroom, "Everyone's a teacher. Everyone's a learner." #ongoinglearner <I swear, I'm learning like 20 times a day!>  So, with this, I am grateful to just have learned late, than never.

Want the truth of why I initially jumped into the Brag Tag frenzy in the first place? Well, I'm going to tell you regardless. There's no stopping me when I get this excited and passionate about something. I just do and ask for forgiveness later. <there's another truth, btw> Ok, well, Lucky Little Learners just came out with the cutest, stock images of animals for her tags! I just knew that my kids would adore it as much as I did. I mean, the one where the cat gives a high-5, really?! I can't help but think of "Kitty High-5" on GoNoodle, too. Goodness. It is cuteness overload and I just haaad to have them! Wait until you see the rest of them. You. Will. Die. (you know what I mean!)


My journey then begins. Brag Tags, here I come... but first, the chains. I looked at Michael's and JoAnn's and could not find anything at a decent price. I needed 35! Ugh. These places need to be way more understanding that most of their customers run on a teacher's salary. Anywho, I found exactly what I needed on Amazon. Two days later they were on my doorstep. Yay, me!

Now, I'm not going to go over the ins and outs of how to use the Brag Tag, as the teacher author, Angie Olson, does the best job of that. So, go read that fabulous post! However, I can SHOW you exactly what my class has accomplished because of these tags! We actually renamed them to "Champion Tags" because the children hold their heads that much higher when you refer to them as champions. :)

We love our Champion Tags because...

1. We learned our 44 presidents, in order!
video

2. We learn to share.




















3. We create bonus assignments for ourselves to present in front of other people.



















4. We learned how to read Braille.



















5. We think about others.






6. We strive!!!                                          
                                                                         
You may ask me how I personally hand these out... My rule of thumb for my students is that, "If you 'move' me in any way, where I want to jump up and down, scream from the rooftops, and you have gone above and beyond my expectations... then YOU deserve a tag!" My children may simply "move" me by the simple acknowledgement of kindness through others: "Mrs. DeMarti, you may not know this, but Johnny stopped playing with his friends to play with me because he knew that I was sad and alone." Seriously?! Both students, on both accounts showed excellent citizenship. It's important for the children to recognize the good in others at an early age. Bottomline, these tags bring out the VERY BEST in my students and are awarded not only something so "simple" as a tag, but the huge accomplishment that went along with it.

Now, go get your "Tag" on! And if you already do, pretty please let me know how they have revolutionized your classroom!

xo,
Janice






Saturday, March 12, 2016

Just Play

Yup, you heard me. Just play! <ok, sorry for screaming> I just become super passionate about the advocacy for play in the classrooms. My sweet friend Holly at Research and Play just reminded me of how important this topic is. Check out her #TPT giveaway and see how she and her followers do play in their classrooms. And when I say play, I mean getting on the floor and playing with Legos, building a fort, playing dress-up, or creating signs for your classroom. I teach 2nd grade and I still try to squeeze in those moments of pure, uninterrupted-by-an-adult play. Why? Because when I do, this is what happens...

athletes playing with artists
collaboration
encouragement
laughing
problems being solved
empathy
controlled chaos
silliness
happiness
memories
learning



I seriously could cry when I witness my unstoppable athlete play dolls with my most gentle girl in the classroom. Not to mention the mix of boys and girls making signs for a Kendama Club (yes, it's a thing) and collaborating about the different ideas of what the club entails. Or how about the group of kids playing with dinosaurs roaring, laughing, and building extravagant dinosaur lands?! I mean, c'mon!!! The friendships that they're building, memories they're making, and the ability to completely remove themselves from any worry or challenges that may be going on in their lives is priceless. Golden. In case you don't understand... there is no amount of money you can put down for witnessing a child in a state of pure happiness.



After reading all of that and seeing pure bliss, one might naturally think, "Great! I'm in! Just do it already. And remind me again why everyone is NOT doing it?!" This is the challenging part for a teacher... ready... you know what it is already... wait for it... the ongoing complaint of time. Not enough time. Time! Time! Time! Gosh, darnit, already. We have "umpteen" workbooks to complete, ten thousand standards to teach, and testing to match those standards. And don't forget the 10 minutes it takes to line up (in a straight line and I'm-gonna-wait-til-it's-quiet kind of line), eating, outside play, specialty classes, and the 15 minutes that I need to connect with my kids with the simple, "Tell me something exciting, fun, or relaxing you did! Any joys or concerns?" So, that "little" block of time that you were hoping to give to the kids, well, it's gone. Bell rang. Class dismissed. Ugh!

Truly, however, all I need to do is remember those happy, smiling faces to force myself to just put that "Free Choice" time in my lesson plan book and... JUST PLAY! Yes! It's like scheduling a doctor's appointment. Book that time. Be diligent about giving the kids that gift that they probably won't get much of outside of the classroom. Their "play-days" are numbered and it's up to us to fill their memory banks with as many giggles, love, and happiness as much as we can. 20 minutes. It's possible. It makes a difference. Call it what you may, but the children ARE learning!



Go ahead now. Time's a ticking... #TeachersplanPlay

xo,
Janice

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Celebrating Love

It's a Lovefest Up In Here...

The best way our family knows how to celebrate this day is always through our annual Carpet Picnic! When you have children and a full-time career, going out on a date, or seeking out any lovey-dovey time, alone with your significant other, is pretty challenging. And... come in a lil closer... sshhhh... I actually love spending some of Valentine's Day with the kids. I know! Crazy, huh?! So, I thought really hard of how I could accomplish it all. You know, the whole "I've gotta work a whole day, after I've made goodies for my entire class the night before, gather valentine goodies for my own kiddos so that they feel special, look somewhat decent for the hubby so that he is reminded why I'm his Valentine in the first place, and show everyone of how much I love them from the depths of my soul" kind of day. Phew. It's a lot. However, when you love deeply, you just make things happen. It was one of those 3am bright ideas that came to me one night screaming, "Carpet Picnic!"



I decided to grab some of their favorite foods and even coloring books and magazines. After prepping all of the goodies, I clear an area, and throw a blanket down! The snacking, reading, coloring, silliness commences. Once upon a time we used to picnic right on top of our king-size bed, but then the 3rd child came along, and the kids got bigger. <I'm not a fan of spilled coffee on my bed, thank you very much> So, we moved festivities to the floor. Every year seems to be a little different than the last one, as the food depends on what day this special event lands on. If we're at work and school the whole day, we'll commence our picnic with some pizza, cupcakes, and maybe even a movie in the evening. If I'm lucky enough for it to land on the weekend, we will start off our day with breakfast goodies in our jammies. #becausewecan

This year was our best yet! Everyone lounged in their pj's eating breakfast treats on the floor; cinnamon rolls, crescent rolls, strawberries and cream, eggs n bacon muffins, lattes and Red Bull galore! When I grabbed some last minute goodies at Target, I came across a Charades box for $1. Hey! #whynot When the family recognizes all of the hard work I put into things such as this, they usually amuse me by doing whatever it is I ask of them. They're so good that way! ;) So, charades it was! And can I just say (why am I even asking, when I plan on saying anyways?!), it was incredibly amusing. Even my sweet 6 year old could partake, showing off his reading skills. I was probably the most amused by my husband and his charade-skills though! Lastly, I thought that I would spice up their Valentine cards this year by writing out some personal ones. Ones that I hope they keep forever, maybe even frame one day. The KG fonts were on point. The sentiments made me weep. Just sayin'. But, hey. That's just me. 

Don't wait for someone to love you, love others and love them proudly! So, tell me. Did you love loudly this year?

xo,
Janice

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Manhattan Beach Meet-up

SoCal Educators In the House!!!

When your sweet friend from Teach Inspire Change/EB Camps says, "I want to throw a meet-up!" you just pull open your calendar and pray that you can catch up to her <#caitlindoesnotplay>. So, Caitlin, Aris (Sailing Into Second)Holly (Research and Play), and I went forward with plans to gather amongst 30+ fabulous bloggers/TPT authors in the SoCal area. With the intention of giving everyone the comfort of easily mingling in with others, while soaking in some of the trendy-chic aspects that SoCal has to offer, the Shade Hotel was the perfect venue to meet with some likeminded friends!


It's not a party until you have some fabulous swag and prizes for your guests. I mean, really! Teachers love all things pretty, organized, and well, free. #duh From water bottles, THM memberships, compliment cards, neon-colored paper, to a die-cutting machine?! Say wha?! We had some of the most fabulous donors... 





Most humbling moment... meeting Sam and Jillian from Teachers Pay Teachers the night before the meet-up. Y'all! <I so badly want to be Southern!> These beauties flew all the way out from TPT headquarters to meet some of their TPT authors here in SoCal! Not only were they excited to just meet some of our SoCal gems, they couldn't have been more genuine in their presence and conversations. Meeting these gals had me yearning for a trip out to New York to meet the rest of their TPT family. So honored that they shared their precious time with us!


We hugged, mingled, collaborated, took pics, made new friends, and simply electrified our passion for education, entrepreneurship, and kindness. This was my biggest takeaway from our successful meet-up... No matter what it is you're doing in life, if you do it WITH others, you can do anything. I'm not only proud to be surrounded by some hearts made of gold... I am so very proud to call myself a teacher!

Be sure to lurk around Instagram and follow all of these beautiful faces down below:

 




CALL TO ACTION: Go love on your people! 

Blessed,
Janice



Sunday, January 31, 2016

Strawberry Lemonade Cookies

Oh, my sweet heavens!!!! This recipe kicked some serious cookie be-hind! If you love a little tangy with your sweet, you must stop everything and do as I write. No, seriously. Go on now...



Strawberry Lemonade Cakebox Cookies

  • 1 Strawberry Cakebox Mix
  • 1/3 cup oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 lemon (use for zesting and squeezed juice)
  • 1 small package of powder lemonade
  • 1 cup of powder sugar
    -Mix together oil, eggs, and lemon juice.
    -In a separate bowl, mix together the powder lemonade, cake mix, and lemon zest.
    -Mix throughly both the liquid and dry mixtures together.
    -Refrigerate for about an hour.

   *Preheat oven at 350 degrees 
    
    -Roll a teaspoon of dough into a cup of powdered sugar.
    -Place onto pan.
    -Bake for 8-10 minutes.

 

 
 Voila!

xo,
Janice


Saturday, January 23, 2016

Just Me


The life of a wife, mom, teacher, teacherpreneur(ish), friend, and social media enthusiast... where does one begin?! Let's do a quick run-down! I've been living in southern Cali all of my life <and it's longer than you think>. My very supportive and super-busy husband and I are raising some pretty fabulous children. Our 17 (boy) and 15 (girl) year old are your typical teenagers, without the back-talking, slamming of doors, and party on the weekends. Ok, so they may not be that "typical" but they certainly know how to leave a messy room, be told a thousand times to do their chores, obsess over social media, blast their music, and hang out at the mall. See, told you! And then, I have my very atypical 6 (boy) year old <yes, 6!>. Although my husband refuses to believe that he is not your average 6 year old, personal conversations with him and his outwardness the minute he walks into a room proves to everyone else that encounters his presence that he is "something else!" These 3, very different 3, are my motivation to continue to drive and push through life, however, it's not so easy <nor pretty> while teaching full-time, seeking out the Teacherpreneur World, chasing dreams, treasuring beautiful friendships, and keeping happily married. Just saying.







Follow my journey and soon hear of how I actually got here. Again, not-so pretty. #itsfine

xoxo,
Janice