Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Teacher Interviews

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It is the time of the year where contracts are offered and teachers are looking for jobs. This year I am one of those teachers. Its been several years since I have gone through the process so I did a ton of research and asked around.

Interviewing can be a long and discouraging process. (I was told that up to 350 people apply for elementary positions in the district I live in.) I thought it would be helpful to ask around and do some research to make the process seem less daunting and hopefully encouraging for those seeking their dream teaching jobs. 

Resumé Dos and Don'ts:

This is a tricky one! You want to stand out but there is a right way and a wrong way to do it. I really researched resumés. You need a good resume´to get your foot in the door. I have heard many teachers want to make their resume´cute and some include pictures of themselves. After extensive research on this topic I have found that you should have a simple resume´with nothing fancy.

Let your qualifications speak for themselves! 
You need a solid cover letter and good reference letters to help you sell yourself!

What to Bring: 

Many teachers like to bring a portfolio. I have been on several interview committees and we never have asked to see a portfolio. I have never been asked to bring one either. My recommendation is to ask if you can bring anything. 

I have been asked if I had a video of myself teaching on more than one occasion. If you do not have one, it is a good idea to do one. I created a YouTube video so I could share the link.

One of my friends had to upload several interview questions and a video of her teaching when she applied to the district. 

What to Wear:

A principal I used to work with in a very competitive district told me not to interview in a power suit or a frilly dress. He said dress the way you would in your classroom because thats what a school wants to see.

Find something that you feel comfortable and confident in! ( I always love an excuse to go shopping!) I recently wore a conservative but bright blue dress. I was told by the principal she liked what I was wearing and it exuded confidence.  I also wore a trendy tassel necklace and was so animated in my conversation that it wrapped around my glasses in the middle of an interview. ( It was not my shining moment!) 

Image courtesy of Ambro at
Questions to Think About:

Be prepared to talk about your classroom and experience. You are selling yourself and no one knows how well you will do in this job but you! Be prepared for them to ask you if you have questions. I was told that this may make or break you!

Here are some real life interview tips and questions for you from teachers like you!

I was asked what was the last book you read?

  • After interview question: "Is there anything you asked me that you would like me to speak more about?" 
Share your personal experiences, don't just give generic answers!
  • Take every question seriously, even if you don't think it's a serious question. My response to "If you were an animal, what kind would you be, and why?" is what got me the job!
  • Practice practice practice! Practice interviewing with family and friends so you can turn answers into stories and get rid of your ums. Also eye contact and smile while you talk.

  • So it was before I was a teacher and was interviewing for another job. The question was, "Do you consider yourself lucky?" Of course I answered truthfully, not knowing there was a correct canned answer to give. I answered that yeah, I felt pretty lucky [thinking what a weird question that was]. I didn't get the job. Some time later I read that the "correct" answer was to say that yes, I was lucky... because I work hard and make my own luck.
The Waiting Game:

THE WORST PART!!! Did you get the job? Did they like you? When will they call?

Ask! When you are leaving ask what are the next steps. That will give you a time frame and some peace of mind.

The interview process is different for every school. I have had to teach a lesson, I have had multiple interviews at the same school, I have been interviewed by several people and by one. Be prepared for all scenarios! 

I hope you found this helpful. Here are some more blog posts about the topic:

Advice for New Teachers.

How to Land the Perfect Teaching Job.

Do you have anything to add? Please do so in the comments. I got the job I really wanted and I hope you do too! 

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Super Power Through The End Of The Year

It is hard to believe this year is almost over! I have four weeks left! How about you? The end of the year can be a trying time because everyone is ready for break. It can also be a ton of fun! Hopefully this hop will give you some great tips to finish out this year strong like a super hero!

Between the field trips and parties at the end of the year I manage to fit in some great activities too. I am explaining them below and make sure to read to the end for a temporary freebie and a chance to win $50 to TpT and $50 to Target!

Class Garage Sale
This is one of my favorite activities all year and the students love it too! 

  • After spring break use classroom money to reinforce positive behavior. If you already use a monetary system have students save up after this point. 
  • Students bring in items from home to “sell”. They should already be priced. Most items are things that they would like to get rid of. Sometimes I have students sell bake goods. It is really up to them.
  • Send home the a parent letter before your scheduled garage sale. 
  • Have some extra price tags on hand just incase. 
  • The teacher is the cashier and the students can work on math skills as they purchase items. 
  • I recommend giving the students time to set up their items, pre-shop, purchase items and then play. This can use up a couple of hours if you need it to.
 Letters to the Class

  • Practice letter writing skills while making a fun keepsake. 
  • Every student is required to write a friendly letter to each classmate. This can be about a favorite memory or a complement. You may want to require a certain number of sentences. 
  • Allow students time to decorate the cover of their letter writing journal.
  • Find a spot to keep the letter writing journals in the classroom so the other students can access them to write in. 
  • I make my own journal too the kids love to write their teacher and always leave the sweetest notes. 
  • Make time to write a letter to each student. 
  • When a student finishes writing the whole class. I allow them to write their favorite celebrity. 
Board Game Day
This one is fun, super easy and always a good time. 
  • Provide several student friendly board games for the students to play. 
  • Students may bring in their favorite board games from home. 
  • I usually do this before our end of the year party. 
  • Board games go home at the end of the day.
  • This easy day gives the teacher extra time to wrap up all of the end of the year stuff. 
Class Talent Show

Turn your class into America’s Got Talent!
  • Hold a talent show in your class 
  • Students can showcase any talent that is school appropriate
  • The teacher should approve all acts
  • Classmates can vote and give awards
  • Or students can just perform for fun so no ones feelings get hurt. 
  • Allow them to prepare ahead of time and practice at home. 
  • They should bring in all items needed to perform. 
Letters to Next Year’s Class
  • Students write advice to the next years class in the form of a letter. 
  • This practices letter writing skills and is a lot of fun. 
  • Students write down memories and advice to give
  • Read the letters to the new class through out the first week of school. 

You can grab templates and parent letter for all of the above activities in my TpT store! It is temporarily free. (4/24-4/26) 

Now register to win $50 to TpT and $50! 

My hop letter is A! Now hop on over to Enchanting Elementary to see what Super Hero Tips she has for the end of the year.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Combating Testing Blahs

It's that time of year... testing, testing and more testing. It is often stressful for teachers and students but it doesn't have to be. I HATE that so much rides on a few days of testing. I HATE the way it stops our daily routines for nearly a month and I HATE that kiddos have major test taking anxiety. I have changed my approach to state testing over the last couple of years. I have the privilege of teaching 3rd grade (I LOVE 3rd grade!) and with that I am the first one to expose them to the state tests. I work to change their mindset and put them at ease.

I no longer spend the weeks and days leading up to the test focusing only on test prep. Now I use this time to teach them. If I focus on teaching them they are getting the things that they need. They just aren't stressing about it as they go. Next, I explained that the test was a way to show what they know and celebrate their learning (more on that later) this discussion really seemed to help. We spent some time going over the practice test and discussing some good strategies to use.

I racked my brain for ways to make testing seem "fun" for my students. I know that isn't the word you usually associate with testing but it can be more fun than it traditionally is. I did several things that my students really enjoyed.

First I found the idea to write on pencils from Pernille Ripp and I thought some test taking encouragement was the perfect time to do it. The kids were so excited to each have a personalized note.

Next I decorated as if we were having a party. I called it a celebration of learning complete with party hats.  This was something I was really excited about but also a little nervous about. I wasn't sure if the decorations would be too exciting but the kids loved it and said it was so cool! They loved the party hats too and wanted to wear them but they couldn't with the headphones. I think it was a huge success in combating testing blahs.

I found some adorable testing brag tags from Not So Whimpy Teacher. I put these on string and handed them out as soon as testing was done. This was the first time I have used brag tags and I am considering using them in the future because of how excited the students were when receiving them.

After testing we went outside and reviewed our academic vocabulary by writing in chalk.

I think the day was as fun as it possibly could be. I hope that my kiddos come into school tomorrow not dreading testing but celebrating their learning. What do you do to make testing less stressful in your class?

Monday, April 4, 2016

Improving Fluency

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Fluency is an important part of reading. I have noticed the students often tire of reading something over and over. I have done a few things this year to mix up my fluency instruction and stray from the typical timed passage(which we still do). This post contains affiliate links so you can bring these resources into your own classroom.

Image courtesy of [Stoonn] at
One way to combat boring fluency practice is through reader's theater. My students have loved reader's theater year after year. I have a variety of different high interest reader's theaters. Many of these have leveled parts to meet the needs of all of your learners in the same text. After reading the plays several times we act them out. My students love this.

The next way I have been working on fluency is through my student's favorite songs. I asked each student to bring in the lyrics to their favorite songs. I asked that they check with their parents to make sure the song were school appropriate. I explained to my students that I may not be able to use their songs. It is so much fun to hear them sing along and read the lyrics. They all really like singing the songs. To make it even more fun I bought finger lights for them to track with as they read the lyrics.

I hope that you find these ideas helpful and fun! How do you engage your learners and build fluency in your classroom?

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Making Learning Fun

School should be fun because kids should be allowed to be kids. How can we as teachers accomplish all that we need to but still make learning fun? I have a couple cheap and easy ways that have been successful in my classroom. 

Take the lesson outside! Do you have a spot at your school that you can take your kids outside? The soccer field is a perfect spot if it's not during recess.

Turn of the lights and put the blinds down  and pass out glow sticks. Have your lesson in the "dark". If your classroom is like mine it is never completely dark and gives plenty of light to learn with even with the lights off. Glow sticks are a hit and they are super reasonable. I found 20 for a $1.00 at Dollar Tree. 

Say it with chalk! Do you need to check for understanding? Take you class out to the side walk and hand them a piece of chalk. You can check their work as you go. 

I hope you find these ideas useful in your classroom! How do you make learning fun in your classroom? 

Friday, April 1, 2016

Building Vocabulary

Vocabulary is a huge part of student success in reading and on tests. We have been working on building vocabulary all year but it can get boring and be redundant so I came up with some ways to spice it up.

I really like the Fancy Nancy books because of how cute the pictures are and the words that Nancy uses. She has a great vocabulary.

To engage my students and introduced fancy vocabulary I dressed as Fancy Nancy. I had all of the stuff at home because my girls love to play dress up. I really loved an excuse to wear a feather boa and crown to school. I am pretty sure half of my students thought I am a crazy but the point of using fancy words will stick. I added the "fancy" words to my boa and wore them. I think it is a bonus that we can use fancy words in poetry during poetry month.

Next I added academic vocabulary to an old t-shirt wore it around throughout the day and week. If a student came up to me and used it correctly their name would be entered in a drawing. I added new words to the t-shirt.

I created a display on my door that said Build Your Vocabulary With Us. When a new word was introduced my teacher helper of the day would go and add a post-it of that word to our door.

I created a build a word station with a vocabulary of the day book, word of the day book, a fun dictionary and stamps. I included a white board that I had students add the words to and the students could go and work at the station.

I have a magnetic letter board on my storage cabinet and a chalk board on my filling cabinet and we added our words there too. Each time saying the word and definition as a class.

I think that surrounding my class with the vocabulary really helped build their vocabulary! Next week weather permitting we will write our words outside on the sidewalk and match the definition to them.  What do you do in your classroom?