Friday Flashback - March 2015

It's the last Friday of the month, so I'm linking up with Julie Faulkner of Faulkner's Fast Five to share the top 5 highlights from my month with you.

My boyfriend's daughter using her ingenious
"broom method" to clean off my car.

1. March snow days!

This has been a big year for Tennessee teachers.  We've had a grand total 11 snow days in my district!! Two of them were this month.  They were life savers for me, because it really helped the count down until my last day of teaching fly by! Also, amazingly, two of those snow days I had previously scheduled a sick day for.  That worked out nicely!  Now, as a lifelong Michigander, I do laugh at the snow and ice days we have in the South and how people panic.  But I certainly am not going to complain about having them!

2. I quit my teaching job at Spring Break. 

My very own Tardis card.
Glitter.  Everywhere.
This was a lifechanging, and absloutely agonizing decision for me. I'm going to do a separate post on this soon, but I worked in an extremely sick building and my room was covered in mold. I had been chronically ill for the year and a half I spent in this building, and the district refused to clean or replace the light fixtures it was growing on. Things are difficult for teachers in Tennessee and I simply cannot describe what was coming down from the top to be put on the backs of teachers. In addition, I found that my highly-sensitive person personality was not cut out for managing classrooms of 30+ kids while under extreme pressure. It became all too much, and even though I knew I would be done teaching this year since last summer, I finally found I couldn't wait out the last two months.  Since the beginning of the year, I became severely depressed, gained weight, my anxiety issues were multiplied tenfold. I regularly fantasized that I would be assaulted by a student or fall down the stairs and hurt myself so I could go home. Every morning I dreaded going to work and felt like throwing up or just throw myself out my second story classroom window. (Not really. Sorta. Still would be preferable to work).  Now I feel like the weight of the world is off my shoulder's, and I can't wait to see what the future brings.

I do have to say my students gave me the two most amazing surprise going away parties and I bawled and bawled like a baby. Apparently the kids worked SO hard all week to secretly prepare them for me! I couldn't believe the effort they put into it and it was definitely an amazing wrap up to my 4 years of teaching.

3. Real estate, here I come!

In my "real estate clothes."  Trust me, I don't look
half this put together when teaching.
I've had my real estate license since this summer and have been signed on with a brokerage since then.  So, I guess you could consider me a previous part-time real estate agent.  However, I didn't do anything with it during the school year because school just overwhelms me and I had been so ill from the mold in my building.  Well, now I am going full time in real estate! (Well, plus full time with TPT, so does that make it part time and part time?  But besides teaching/creating Language Arts materials, real estate has always been my other passion.  When I was a kid, I would draw subdivisions and floor plans and then "sell" houses to indulging family members.  So it's in my blood.  I'm excited to get going.

4. Product Overhaul

I'm working hard on updating all my products because I am totally OCD, plus as I continue to create I continue to learn and improve.  I recently redid my best selling Thesis Statement Task Cards to make them ink-saving black and white cards.  Color is no problem for me, because I always just printed in black and white and used them disposably at school, but I know that the color is an issue for some teachers who have printing allowances.  So, presenting my new task cards:

5. New Products

I have product creation ADD.  I'll work a little on one product, get bored or get an inspiration, and work on another.  I have a folder with I think at least twenty just started, halfway done, and nearly at the end products.  One day they will see the light of day!  Because of this ADD, I haven't been able to crank out products as quickly as I had hoped.  However, I have made a couple of new ones this month: A FREE "Film as Literature" graphic organizer for any movie, and a specific one with detailed answer key for the 2011 film version of Jane Eyre.  The freebie would be great to leave with a sub or to use during the eventual end of the year movie time.


Movie Clip Monday: Women's Suffrage "Bad Romance" Parody

In honor of March being Women's Rights month, for this Movie Clip Monday I would like to share with you this AMAZING women's suffrage parody of Lady Gaga's Bad Romance.  It is amazing all around and perfect to show suring morning meeting or before reading or studying about women's history. The creator of the video, Soomoo Publishing, has a website dedicated to it with lyrics and even assignments on women's suffrage.  You can access it by clicking here.

TPT Tips: Why You MUST Have a Cover

Admit it: There isn't anyone in this world who doesn't enjoy window shopping.  I don't care what it is - clothes, shoes, purses, electronics, furniture.  We see it, we want it.

Same goes for TeachersPayTeachers.  TPT is the ultimate window shopping experience.

When you search for something on TPT, you will get thousands upon thousands of results.  That's a lot of competition!  Getting your product to show up on that first page is another battle - is the buyer really going to click through page after page of products, magically drawn to yours?  Likely not.  But let's say your product does show up early in the results for your buyer.  If you can't get your buyer to click onto your product to read more, you've already lost.  The odds are not exactly in your favor.

So how do you increase your odds? You.  Must.  Have.  A.  Cover.  I'll say it again.  You must have a cover! And an eye-catching one at that, but that's a topic for a whole 'nother blog post.

So many newbies, myself included at one point, pooh-pooh at covers.  We didn't have time for it.  We had the attitude that "My product is so great, it doesn't need a cover!"

Yes it does.

Have a look at a sampling of my search for short story units.  What do you notice? What sticks out?

I'll tell you what I notice.  The first product in the top row, and the first and second products in the second row.  I don't care what order they came up in.  I'm going to click on one of those to find the resource I need!  My eyes completely graze over the coverless products (second and third items in the first row and the third items in the second row), and my eyes just give a slight glance to the other two products that are not as well designed as the former ones.

Those poor, lost products don't even stand a chance.  I don't think it's a coincidence that those three products my eyes are drawn to are from top sellers on the site.

Let's look at some more searches.  Here's one: Tell Tale Heart.  There's my product in the line up with the big blue eye.

Again, the covers stick out.  Honestly, I would click on the first one or the third one in the top row, or mine.  The second cover in the top row is too dark for my poor blind eyes to make out.  The picture is just a scene from the story so I'm not terribly interested in it. The coverless products don't even stand a chance.

Let's try one more.  Now I'm searching for the novel "A Long Walk to Water." Can you spot my product? Discuss with yourself: what would you click on?

If you are a newbie, challenge yourself.  Do some searches and analyze what jumps out at you as a window shopper.  Do your own products jump out at you, or are they lost in a sea of coverless items?

You need a cover.  It doesn't have to be great - everyone's covers start out bad.  They get better with time and practice.  But you definitely need to start adding covers to your products. Do it now! I think you will see a fast improvement in your sales.

More to come on TPT covers.  If you are thinking of selling your own items on TeachersPayTeachers (WITH covers of course), I would appreciate you clicking through and signing up under my referral link.

Ready to sell on TPT? Click here!

Keep 'em Focused on St. Patrick's Day: Webquest

I don't know about you, but holidays are rough for me at school.  It doesn't matter what holiday it is, or what day of the week it is.  The kids are just riled up.  It doesn't help that in our district, prepping for the state test is the only thing that matters.  There isn't time for parties or celebrations or even fun projects throughout the year.  Our kids have nothing to look forward to.  So, at my school, St. Paddy's day isn't a time for green treats and craftivities.  It's just a normal learning day.

St. Paddy's was also supposed to be the last day of school before Spring Break, until snow day makeups got added onto our week.  That would have been a nightmare day.

My solution for holidays when you need to keep them working and focused: Webquests.

My three-page webquests for a variety of holidays (I am still in the process of making more) engage students in research, discovery, and writing.  They are on the computers (which they love), and because they have to watch videos to learn information during the webquest, they are wearing headphones and are very quiet (which I love).  They are also searching only the website, so no need for all the questions like: "Can I use this website?" "Miss, is this website a good one?" "Where do I go?"  Ugh.

This activity would be great for ELA because of the research, critical thinking questions, and writing.  It would also be great for Social Studies because they're learning the history behind a widely-celebrated holiday.
Why not print out your work for the day on green paper?
Green paper makes everything more fun.

Click here to download this product from my store!

Photos for TPT Products

Photographs.  They add interest to blog posts and make it instantly pinnable.  They make PowerPoint products for TPT more vivid and help illustrate the concept.  However, finding beautiful photographs that are licensed for commercial use can be a quite the challenge.  Copyright is sticky, especially when it comes to photographs, and we can't all pay the big bucks for subscriptions to stock photo websites.  However, there are resources with amazing photos for commercial use at low or no cost to enhance your blog and products! Here is a list of some of my favorite stock photo websites I have come across.  Please remember to always - very thoroughly - read the license and copyright information for each and every photo you use to ensure you are staying legal. I am certainly not a copyright expert!


Unsplash is a collection of free for any use - even commercial - photographs thanks to their liberal "do whatever you want" policy.  10 new photos are released each week and they are all stunning! Most are landscapes and scenery type images, so these would be perfect for making beautiful blog post images or Pinterest pins.  There isn't a search, and you do have to scroll through looking at them one-by-one, so that is a bummer. (The image for this post was made with a recent Unsplash photo!)



Here is another amazing photography website in which the photographer allows his images to be used for personal or commercial purposes under a Creative Commons Zero license. These photos are just all around cool - bright, fun, expressive, and sometimes even a little strange.  I think it would be great resource for EL, ELA, or vocabulary PowerPoints.  Easier to scroll through than Unsplash.


Life of Pix

Another website offering photos with zero copyright restrictions.   37 (blog) pages of beautiful photos, with many of them being seasonal landscapes if you have products that need photos showing the seasons. Also a bit of a nuisance to scroll through, but there is a gallery view mode, although I couldn't get it to work on my computer for some reason.



More beautiful photos at Superfamous, which allows personal and commercial use under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 license (must provide credit back).  Great photos here, many of nature, plants, and lots of "geology" photos.  I say geology loosely because I don't really know anything about science. So I could be wrong.


Photography Sellers on TPT

Clip artists are abound on TeachersPayTeachers, but did you know that many sellers are now selling their original photography for commercial use?  These are affordable and support real teachers. Most of their products come in related bundles, so it's easy to grab a package of insect photos for a product on insects, for example.  Here are some amazing photo sellers I have come across:


Photos 4 Teachers  -  Strawberry Shortcake  -  Worth a Thousand Words  -  Photo Shop

Big Stock Photo

Big Stock Photo is your typical subscription stock photo site - but, they offer a free week trial.  You can download five free images a day in this trial, and if you cancel before your week is up, you won't be charged.  I did the trial and got some great images for pins.  If I ever need a large number of stock photos, I would definitely go back to this site.

Reader Suggestions

Check them out! Any photo websites work for you? And suggestions for other resources? Leave a comment!

Movie Clip Monday: Hilarious Grammar Videos

Did you know that March 4th is National Grammar Day? I sure didn't.  Maybe that's because grammar is probably my least favorite part of teaching English. However, in honor of this important holiday *cough*, I bring you some super fun grammar videos for Movie Clip Monday!

This video, Fix Your Grammar, employs some pretty snarky puppets to correct common grammar and spelling mistakes often seen online.  Hilarious!

If you haven't seen Weird Al Yankovic's amazing parody Word Crimes, watch it now.  Right now.

I also came across this gem today.  Author and popular vlogger John Green (You probably know him as the author of Fault in our Stars), details over 38 grammar mistakes. FYI - Not appropriate for middle school.

And just for fun, Sheldon teaches the Big Bang guys a lesson on time travel tenses.

Jasper Roberts Consulting - Widget