Sunday, September 13, 2015

Using Photos for Writing Prompts

Hi everybody!   Danielle here from Crayon Box Learning.  I'm going to share with you how to use photos as writing prompts, as well as, my go-to sources for photos that are suitable for classroom use.

Using photos for writing prompts can be a fun way to peak a student's interest, and spark their imagination.  Photos can provide opportunities for students to consider what is happening or has happened in the photo(s), or what the objects in the photo represents and then write about it.  

Photos can be prepared ahead of time and put into packets for writing centers, take home packs, and for independent desk work (early finishers).

Photo writing prompts can be printed onto cardstock, photo paper, or in some instances printed by an online processor such as Walmart or Shutterfly.     In my example below,  I used my photo editing program to add a number, border, and a sentence prompt.   Having a numbering system on the photos is helpful in case you want to refer back to the photo when reviewing your student's writing!

The photo prompts don't always have to have text on them.  They can be left open ended for students to write about what is depicted in the photo.

A good way to keep students engaged is to let them select their own photo writing prompt.  If they are interested in what they are working on, they are more apt to write more!

Photos are fairly easy to come by, and can be changed out based on different themes or seasonally. 

I recommend laminating the photos after you've printed them so that they remain durable.  

Online sources that I use for photos are:

1.  Morguefile:   A huge collection of photos under many different subjects.  Photo quality is excellent and the site is free. I use this site in particular for animal photos and some action pictures.

2.  Pixabay:  Another depository of photos.  This site is also free.  I use this particular site for animal photos, and some scenery.

3.  Dollar Photo Club:   This site is not free,  it is $1.00 per photo which is quite reasonable.  This site has an amazing assortment of photos.  I have found a lot of photos on this site that would be perfect for writing prompts.

(Note:  The sites mentioned above allow photos to be used for personal and commercial use. It's up to the individual user to know and understand the Terms of Use for any stock photography site they may use.)

Another idea using photos is for using your own digital camera or iPhone to capture photos as a daily writing prompt.  The photos you use do not have to be taken by a professional in order to use them for writing prompts.  Some of the best photos were taken by luck or a happy accident. 

If you use photos in your classroom, or have questions, feel free to leave me a comment below!  I love hearing from you!

Have a great week!


Thursday, September 3, 2015

"Goodbye Summer"

Ok you guys, how is it already September? It’s as if I blinked and summer was over.  It seems like a change is in the air, and fall is just around the corner.  Today I’m going to share a quick writing activity that I like to use with my students at the beginning of each school year.  My students love to make and read class books, so this is always our first class book that we make and put in our class library.  The students love to be “authors” and share these books with parents during parent-teacher conferences, and other school events.  I usually have this paper sitting on their desk the first day of school so they can work on it while I am talking to parents at back-to-school morning, but it works great for fast finishers or at your writing station.  Students write one thing they will miss about summer and one thing they will NOT miss about summer.  Then they draw an illustration to go with each of their sentences… they have come up with some pretty clever things over the years.  Here’s my own little example:

Once everyone is finished, I either 3-hole punch it and put it in a folder, or spiral bind it, then add it to our classroom library.  

Click HERE to download your free writing page.  What is one thing you will and will not miss about summer? I'd love to hear your answers in the comments.  Happy fall, teacher friends.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Parent Communication 101

Parent Communication is so imperative in today's education. Need to send them a quick reminder about an upcoming test? You can do that! Want to inform them of bad behavior? Yup, got it covered. How about those times when you need to inform of GOOD behavior? We can do that!

I'm here to tell you about two of the ways I communicate with my families.
In my classroom, we utilize ClassDojo on a daily basis. If you look back at this post, you'll see that I am a big advocate for ClassDojo for classroom management purposes. But, what's also amazing about this {FREE} program is the chat component!

I am able to message my parents in an instant, and they are able to message me right back - the good thing is, regardless of the time of day!! If they need clarification on a point loss or point gain, homework assignments, upcoming tests, or field trip information - I'm there!!

I love that I am able to get the messaging feature from my phone, the computer, or my iPad. I could be in California and get the information from my parents at a moment's notice!

The only negative about this program is the only way to connect parents is for them to have an e-mail address. At the school I am at, many of my parents don't have an e-mail address. Therefore, I have about 17 out of 25 parents connected... but that's okay! CUE THE NEXT COMMUNICATION TOOL!
This is my first year using Remind in the classroom. I didn't use it last year because I wasn't really liking the idea of giving out my phone number. BUT you don't have to do that!! With Remind, your parents don't get your phone number. Instead, they get a short number to text with any information they need or want to know/want to tell!

If I'm having any issues, I can quickly send a "text" to my parents, either whole class or specific parents, to alert them. If I just wanted to send a quick, easy, nice message - I can do that, too!! I love Remind for the fact that messages have to be concise. 140 characters or less. Just like Twitter!

Happy Back-to-School time, pals!!


Sunday, August 23, 2015

WHAT to do when your schedule is a HOT MESS

This is Danielle from Crayonbox Learning popping in to share  WHAT to Blog about when your schedule is a hot mess.  I came up with this topic on the FLY.. why?  I was scheduled to write today, and I hadn't realized I was on THAT schedule. It has been so crazy in my life lately with back to school time, and my parent's BIG MOVE to the new farm next door,  that I didn't have something written in advance. 

When I realized I needed to come up with a topic for today,  I felt like I hit a wall.  My schedule is all over the place. That got me thinking about how that might actually be a common theme for many of you.   

This summer,  I think we all had really great intentions to get organized and be better about blogging. I saw a LOT of posts in Facebook groups asking what to write about. There are posts out there in Google land that are pretty clever,  but I like to keep it a little simplified. Here's my Top 5 things to Blog about because my schedule is a hot mess! 

Number 1 really should start  with "must be accompanied by chocolate."  

Everything will be O.K. :)


Here we go!

Write From your Heart !

Writing from the heart probably sounds like something a chick would say.   A lot of you out there probably sit down to write a post and go through a lot of different emotions, and second guessing yourself trying to make sure that you have "The perfect photo," and the "perfect topic..."   That's where I think many bloggers go wrong.  When you're already stressed, the last thing you need is to add more stress trying to forcing yourself to write something that will produce a predetermined response. What are you passionate about?  What ONE thing really gets you fired up about teaching, or working with kids, (or a relevant topic for the audience you're writing for).

Write about Life Experiences

Some of the best Blogs I have ever read were written from the perspective of a REAL, open and honest person. When you write about your life experiences,  the words will flow because you've already been through it.   Don't worry about how it looks or what others might think of the piece.  Your readers will be thrilled that you shared a part of yourself with them, and know that there really is a real person behind that screen.  

Write about an AHA Moment in your Career

As a teacher, coach, or mentor... I imagine that you experienced a moment or maybe a series of experiences that defined who you are as a teacher and/or role model. One of my many moments came in the mid-90's when I was working as a Director of a youth program. I was given the task of working with a young man that had been kicked out of every school, program, and his own mother had tried to kill him not once but 3 times.  It was up to me to bridge the divide between the state, school officials, and the courts.  I did it.  I won't say that it was easy, but it was something that built the framework for my life. Every one of us has a story in us. What is ONE thing in your career that defined the path 

Write about things that you see around you.

As a visual person, I LOVE to read posts that not only tell a story, but paint a picture.  In this age of Instagram and Periscope,  it is so much easier to snap a quick picture or capture a moment that otherwise would have been overlooked or forgotten about.  I look at Instagram every day,  several times a day. Ok I am becoming an Instagram Addict.  The pictures and notes that appeal the most to me are those that are random.  For example,  a guy I don't know yet from a place I was familiar posted this funny (ok it was hysterical) small clip of a calf that was catching rain drops on his tongue. It was  so random, and funny at the same time.  Who ever knew a cow could tip it's head back like that?  This silly calf had his tongue hanging half out of his head slurping up the rain drops as fast as he could.  That would make a really fun writing prompt or story starter for your students!  (Please tell me, I am not the only one that saw it?)    If calves playing in the rain don't strike your fancy,  take your phone out and just snap at random.  Then when you get home go through them and find something funky, quirky or silly to write about.   Come to think of it, that would make a really cool Link UP Series...!

Write a list of likes and dislikes.

You might think this is a stretch, and it might be.   One page on my Blog that has always attracted a LOT of views and response is about my own likes and dislikes. So much so that I've had other Bloggers contact me and tell me that they were happy to read it because they found out we had a lot of similarities. It starts the conversation. The idea behind any good Blog post is to get people thinking, and talking.  What better way to do that is to talk about what you like and don't like.. it can be about foods you eat (or don't eat), favorite beverages, cocktails, neighbor guy, UPS man, or online store?    The cool thing about this topic is that it can be short or long, and you don't have to spend a lot of time contemplating what to write because you've already had a lifetime of composing it.

I hope that you made it this far, and that these "TIPS" will help you with your Blogging when your own schedule is a hot mess.    If you'd like to follow me on Instagram, my link is:   If you write a post using one of these tips, please leave me a comment. I'd love to check it out!

Thursday, August 6, 2015

5 Donations Every Classroom Needs

It's almost time for back to school, and many teachers are already busy shopping and setting up their classrooms in preparation for greeting their new students very soon. Recently, one of my friends asked for a list of donations that teachers would appreciate receiving during back to school time, and I thought that was so thoughtful of her to want to donate supplies to her son's teacher. Did you know that most teachers spend over $500 of their OWN MONEY every year on materials for their classrooms?? Wow!! I certainly didn't realize it until I became a teacher! Anyway, with that in mind, I decided to share my “top five” list of items I always ask for, along with a few other suggestions that many teachers always appreciate receiving. Be sure to read all the way through for a little bulletin board idea at the end :)

1. Tissue
In my welcome packet, I actually say "if your child has a nose, they will need a box of tissue at school!" Kids go through tissue like candy. Sometimes I think it is just the novelty of getting out of their seat more than the need to blow their nose, but oh my gosh, we go through tissue SO FAST every single year. And I always feel a bit sad and pathetic/embarrassed when I have to tell my students to go to the bathroom to blow their nose when we have run out of tissue.

2. Bandaids
Bandaids are right up there with tissue, the slightest little paper cut needs IMMEDIATE attention in the form of a bandaid. I quickly learned to NOT supply the cute Disney bandaids, because we went through those even faster than a box of tissue! Lol!! I had students picking their scabs to get a Disney bandaid. Live and learn, then buy the plain old Bandaids!

3. Hand sanitizer / soap
This should go without saying. Kids are germy. Classrooms are germy. I made my students use hand sanitizer before using the computers, and every time they used a tissue to blow their nose. I was also fortunate enough to have a sink in my classroom, so hand soap was also used frequently. Some teachers don't have a sink in their classroom, so hand sanitizer is their only option to prevent the spreading of germs in their classroom.

4.  Pencils / erasers
Plain old yellow #2 pencils are the best - kids don't find over colors or designs, and there's no plastic wrap on them that the kids can peel off or that can jam an electric pencil sharpener. Pink pearl erasers are also great because kids tend to go through the small eraser tips very quickly.

5. Clorox wipes
Classrooms are filled with germs! I like to wash down all my desks, tables, and counters frequently, and the students love to help clean their desks! They are often amazed at how dirty the wipe gets just from cleaning their own desk (EWWW!) 

Other suggestions: crayons (16 or 24 packs are awesome!) glue sticks, paper towels, napkins, cups, straws, paper products (for class parties, etc.), copy paper (teachers always need more copy paper!), ziploc baggies (all sizes), notebooks, two-pocket folders, file folders, dry erase markers, sharpies, and gift cards -- check out this darling back to school gift card freebie from by friend Tauni at SNAP Creativity!  As a technology specialist, I would love an APP gift card :)

While working on this post, I came across the cutest bulletin board idea that I wanted to share with all of you. Michelle fromApples and ABCs made a popcorn themed "wishlist" to help parents know what items she needed in her classroom. With her permission, I have created a little freebie that you can download and use at your own back to school open house. I have included some popcorn kernels with school supplies already on them, and also included a page of blank kernels to write your own items on as well. I hope this is something you can use as you prepare for back to school.  Click on the photo below to download the bulletin board set.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Whole Brain Teaching? AAAAAHHHHHH!!!!!!

Have you heard about this thing called Whole Brain Teaching?  Perhaps you have been on Periscope or Twitter lately and seen one of the national trainers sharing information about it.  If you are new to WBT, or even if you have dabbled in it a bit, it can seem a little overwhelming!  I would like to help a fellow teacher out with where to start and what to focus on!

Whole Brain Teaching is a grassroots education reform movement that gives teachers strategies to use in their classrooms to engage students and reduce classroom management issues.  When you visit the website at you can easily become overwhelmed with the plethora of information available for FREE!  Add to this multiple grade level Facebook pages, twitter accounts, blogs, and now Periscope and it is enough to make a teacher's head spin.  So where should a brand new to WBT teacher begin?  As a member of the executive board and a national trainer, I receive emails daily from teachers who are asking this very important question.  Here are my suggestions.

1. Buy the book.

What book?  This book!

This book is the MANUAL!  It lists all the basics and gives scripts to use when introducing strategies.


I can not stress this enough!  I have been using the WBT strategies for 7 years and I still read the book AGAIN each summer.  I am getting pretty good at quoting it!  

3.  Start with the BIG 7!  LISTEN TO ME!  START WITH THE BIG 7!

So many times I get emails from teachers who are brand spanking new to WBT and they are asking about a new WBT strategy that they just saw on a FB post, Twitter feed, or Periscope and they are trying to figure out how to implement it.  When I ask them about how they are using one of the basic elements of WBT (the Big 7) they are totally lost.  

Whole Brain Teaching is constantly changing and upgrading games and strategies to deliver grade level specific content, however, EVERYTHING is built on the foundation of the Big 7!  If you are not comfortable with the BIG 7 it will be next to impossible to correctly or effectively implement other parts.

So my best advice is to start with the Big 7 and STICK TO THEM until you totally have them down. Then add more, a little at a time.  You have to remember, all of the executive board and national trainers have had years to implement all these strategies.  When I came to the team, the Big 7 was practically all there was.  Then came the Super Improver Team. Then more and more, piece by piece, WBT grew into what it is today.

4.  GO SLOW!  

Please for the love of all teacher sanity do not try to go to fast or implement too much!  The Big 7 is perfect for k-12th grade the first year!  You don't have to be VIDEO ready by the end of the first year.  None of us were!  TRUST ME!  I look back at some of my earlier videos and man on man I wish I owned a time machine!  Oh wait...there is always the DELETE button!

5.  Last but not least, USE the CEA!  

See, if you had the book you would know what that was!  The Classroom Engagement Average (CEA) is a quick and easy tool to help you see weekly how WBT is transforming your classroom.  It's easy, efficient, and effective so use it!  You can even see a blog post here on my blog all about it!

I hope this has helped you calm your nerves about jumping in with WBT!  You will not be sorry that you went down the rabbit hole and decided to transform your classroom!  Find your grade level WBT Facebook page and follow a few WBT blogs.  Watch for us on Periscope but remember, going slow and doing it with fidelity before moving on to more advanced techniques will result in the Teacher Heaven we all continuously talk about!

Wib On Wibbiteers!  

Thursday, June 11, 2015

5 tips for a Relaxing Summer

Hello everyone, Krystal here from "Good Enough Teacher"... All of us grapevine gals are sure glad it is summer and we can't wait to start blogging more and sharing some great school ideas with you... But right now, we need a break, just like you do... So today I am not going to blog about teaching, but instead am going to share some tips to help you take a well-deserved break from teaching this summer, too! Ready?!

1. Take time for yourself... Without feeling guilty!
Don't allow yourself to think about school for a while... My rule is one month (or more, if you think you can handle it! I really try not to think about school until August.) We got out of school June 5th this year, so the months of June and July are what I call my "me time". I don't go into school, even if it's open and we "can" be there. Guess what - it will still be there for you next month! Take a break and don't feel bad about it. You have worked hard and endlessly for the last 9 months... You deserve a break.

2. Turn off your alarm.... At least once or twice :)
Now I realize this might be hard if you have kids, but believe me, it will feel so nice to sleep in and give your body the rest it needs!

3. Make a summer to-do list:
Each year, my friends and I make some fun plans, and we call it our "summer of fun". We have a private group on facebook where we can post ideas or upcoming events in town, and make a list of things we want to do during the summer. There are some traditional events we attend each year, and other things that just sound fun. If you're not sure where to start, here's some ideas:

  • Festivals (here in Utah, we love to go to the ScottishFestival, sidewalk chalk festival, and hot air balloon festival, to name a few)
  • Bonfires - grab some marshmallows and roasting sticks and make s'mores
  • Outdoor movie night: either a drive in, or project your own outside!
  • Paint nite: I am the first to admit that I am NOT artistic, but I've done a few of these and they are all so much fun!
4. Do something you enjoy:
What is it that you love but just haven't had time to do all school year? Now is the time to become reacquainted with that hobby or interest. Read a book for leisure (save those PD books for later!); lounge by the pool; watch Pitch Perfect for the hundredth time (admit it, you know you have!!); binge-watch something on Netflix (I personally love Gilmore Girls and How I Met Your Mother!); get a pedicure and reward your feet for the last 9 months in the classroom.

5. Exercise:
Too often, we overlook this during the school year... Even if it doesn't involve going to the gym - get outside and enjoy the fresh air. Go for a walk, hike, swim, bike ride, just do something physical. You will feel so much better, I promise!

So there you have it, my 5 tips for a relaxing summer. Which tip is your favorite? What is one tip you would add to this list? Leave your suggestions in the comments. Happy summer :)