Friday, August 28, 2015

Fuel Your Faith: First Things First

Ever feel like your prayer life is nothing more than a grocery list?
I have.
Too often my prayer time is an obligatory recitation of a list of people and their needs.
Is it important to lift others up in prayer?
Absolutely.
Can we go to the throne of grace with our needs and requests?
Yes.
God promises to hear our prayers: 
{1 John 5:14 This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.}

But, like Jesus modeled in Matthew 6:9-13, we need to put first things first in our prayer lives.
Our initial focus should not be on the list of needs we have (be they great or small) but instead on the infinite God that we serve. Spending a few moments recognizing God for who He is and thanking Him for His gracious love and forgiveness shifts our perspective. It takes the emphasis off of ourselves and puts it back on the Creator. Then, with our hearts recharged and focused, we can bring our requests before the Lord and trust that He is faithful to hear us.

I recently heard the song "First" by Lauren Daigle on the radio and the lyrics really spoke to my heart. 
Before I bring my need
I will bring my heart
Before I lift my cares
I will lift my arms
I hope the lyrics resonated with you as well.

Don't know where to start?
Here is a site with 10 Bible Verses that focus on different
praise-worthy qualities of God:
I challenge you to choose one or two and focus on them as you start your next prayer time.

So, dear friends, bring your heart to the throne of grace.
God is there waiting for you.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

What's Cookin' Wednesday: Chicken Pot Pie Casserole

I love one-dish meals because they're easy to throw together
plus clean up is a breeze. 
Today I have the quintessential quick and easy dinner to share with you on another exciting edition of...
Chicken Pot Pie is one of my hubby's favorite things - so this week's recipe experiment is on a spin off of the classic!
First of all, I chopped four large chicken breasts into strips and put them in a 9x13 pan with 2 cups of frozen mixed veggies.
 Then I topped with this deliciousness-in-a-pouch:
I popped it in a 400 F oven for 20 minutes.
Then I pulled it out for a quick second and layered these on top:
After another 20 minutes, dinner was done!
It was a real crowd-pleaser - and will definitely be made again!
*Note: you could skip the puff pastry sheets and serve with biscuits

Do you have a great recipe you've tried lately? Leave me a note in the comments - I'm always on the hunt for delicious dinner ideas!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Book Reviews: Counteract & Resist

Calling all book lovers!
If you've been reading my blog for any length of time, you know that one of my favorite pastimes is reading. Young Adult novels have a special place in my heart because they were my scope of focus for so many years in my 5th grade classroom - plus I just downright enjoy them :)

I have a GREAT new series for you to check out by author Tracy Lawson.
If you're looking for a gripping dystopian thriller with just the right balance of adventure, romance, and intrigue- have I got a book series for you!
In Counteract (Book One of The Resistance Series) the Office of Civilian Safety and Defense (OCSD) has guarded the public against the rampant threat of terrorism for the last fifteen years with the full backing of the US government. Their carefully crafted list of Civilian Restrictions means no concerts or sporting events, no travel, no social media, no cash transactions, and no driver's licenses for eighteen-year-olds Tommy and Careen. The OCSD has even outlawed grocery stores, all in the name of safety.
Now, there's a new threat-airborne chemical weapons that could be activated at any time. But the OCSD has an antidote: just three drops a day is all it takes to stay safe. It's a small price to pay for safety. Or is it? (dun dun dun!)

Here's the book trailer:

Book Two, Resist, {which was released TODAY!} picks up this fast-paced dystopian series with the resistance forming against injustice. After their plan to rescue a group of dissenters imprisoned by the OCSD spins out of control, Tommy and Careen are on the run, dodging the quadrant marshals in a headlong dash for the remote mountain headquarters of the Resistance.
Their budding relationship is tested when an attempt to spark a revolution goes awry, and the pair move toward an inevitable confrontation with the forces that terrorize the nation. Will their differing viewpoints drive a wedge between them? And where does love fit in when you’re trying to overthrow the government? 

Once you start, you won't want to put these books down!
You can snag both of these books on Amazon in paperback or kindle edition:

Meet the Author:
Tracy Lawson is an award-winning author of two nonfiction books, and The Resistance Series is her first in the world of young adult novels. Originally from Ohio, Tracy now lives in Dallas with her husband, daughter and three spoiled cats 

You can visit her website for interviews, blog posts, and more!

Monday, August 17, 2015

True or False Sticks: Informal Assessment FREEBIE!

Welcome to a new week, friends!
For those of you who've started back to school - take courage! 
I know the beginning of the year can be tough: keep plugging away and invest in this new batch of kiddos!
Check out my post on 5 things to tell your students
the first week of school:
For those of you who are still on summer vacation, savor today! Whether you're out in the sun or working away in your classroom to prep for the new year, take some time to enjoy your last few days of vacation - they won't last long!

Today I have a {FREEBIE] to share with you!

In my classroom, it was a big deal to me that all of my students were engaged and active in the learning at all times. No slackers allowed! One way I increased student engagement during review of a concept was by using 
True or False Sticks
As part of my back-to-school prep,
I would make one these sticks for each student. 
It's simple, really: I would just print and cut out the true and false labels and then glue them back-to-back onto jumbo popsicle sticks. Then, during class when I wanted to review something I had taught, I would have the kiddos pull out their sticks and hold them up as I asked a series of true or false questions. It was a quick and easy way for me to assess student understanding of a topic - plus it kept ALL students participating. 
Sounds like a win-win to me! :)

You could also glue the labels on each end of the popsicle stick:
 
I've also included some black and white labels for
ink-friendly printing:

I've created a FREE packet with these printables for you: 
*If you download, please leave feedback!*

I'm linking up with some awesome bloggers. Click the links below to see what other teachers have made or tried this week:

Question: How do you keep students engaged in the classroom?

Saturday, August 15, 2015

5 Things You Need To Tell Your Students

Picture This

It’s the first day of school and you are standing at the front of the classroom, staring into the faces of a brand new bunch of kids. They are waiting patiently for you to begin the day, to impart knowledge, to encourage and challenge them. You open your mouth and say…what?
The first week of school is crucial for setting the tone in your classroom. You have a new group of students to get to know, to inspire, to invest in. What you say and do in those first few days will leave a lasting impact on those students – so they shouldn’t be taken lightly.
Here are 5 things that every student needs to hear the first week of school:
Slide2

1. You are important.

Every student needs to know that they have been planned for and anticipated when they walk in your classroom. They were placed in your class on purpose – they need you and you need them. The first week of school, make sure you greet each student by name as they walk in the door. Put forth the effort to get to know them – memorize details about their families, their hobbies, their preferences. Keep a list if you need to. The students will feel valued – and that will go a long way towards giving them a successful school year.
Slide3

2. You are listened to.

Make time in every day to give each student the opportunity to speak with you individually – it will take time, but it will be well worth the effort. Students today are searching for a safe place where they can find trusted adults that care enough about them to listen to them. To listen to their hopes, their fears, their commentary on daily life. You could be that person they are looking for.
Slide4

3. You are responsible for your actions.

While students often clamor for freedom, they need consistent expectations and follow-through from their teachers. We need to set the bar high and hold our students accountable for their behavior. They need to learn now that choices have consequences. We do them no favors by “letting them slide” or “turning a blind eye” when they’ve done wrong. The successful teacher shows her students that she cares for them too much to let them slide. Each student can be a role model – we just need to give them the chance to own their actions.
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4. Anything worth doing takes effort.

Laziness is a growing epidemic in our culture. We want shortcuts. We want immediate results. But in education (and honestly, all of life), students need to learn that anything worth doing is worth doing well – and that requires effort. Give students the opportunity to work hard and then reward them for a job well-done. 
In my classroom, I had a huge sign above the whiteboard that said, “YET.” Whenever a student would feel defeated and say, “I don’t get it” or “I don’t know” I would point to the sign and say, “You don’t get it…YET.” It spoke volumes to them – It showed them that I believed in their potential to learn and master any topic. By the end of the second week, all I had to do was point to the sign and they would nod their head, understanding my point that they would understand if they put forth the effort.
Slide6

5. We all make mistakes. Every day is fresh.

With all of the talk of responsibility and accountability, there also needs to be a discussion of grace. Truth: we all make mistakes. We need to own up to our mistakes and apologize, if necessary. But we also must remember that each day is a fresh start. Our students need to feel that they’re given the option of having a great day every time they enter your classroom door. As the teacher, you need to communicate the fact that the mistakes of yesterday may have consequences; it doesn’t mean that they can’t make better choices today. 

Remember:

  • Your students were placed in your classroom for a reason.
  • They aren’t there by accident.
  • You have a job to do.
  • Communicating these 5 things will help to set the tone for a successful year.
  • Tell them to your class the first week of school.
  • And every week after that too.
If you’d like a copy of these graphics (plus a printer-friendly copy) to hang in your classroom, you can download them for FREE from my Educents storefront

Hop over to Joanne's blog - today she's sharing about taking the time to communicate positively with parents:

Oh Snap! It's Almost September Linky


The back-to-school buzz has set it: are you ready?

The awesome blogging collaborators at "Teacher Deals and Dollar Steals" are coming together for a fun linky party to get you ready for September!

With the beginning of school looming in the not-so-distant future (or past as some you are back in the trenches already!), I wanted to share two things I've used for the ever-important task of planning for and teaching my classroom procedures.

Each year, the first week is comprised of get-to-know-you activities, simple lessons to ease the students back into the learning zone, and classroom procedures.
Each day we review them, practice them, and talk about them.

The first week is crucial for setting the tone in your room.
As the teacher, you want to appear confident, organized, and firm-but-friendly. 

I have created this handy-dandy procedure list
to keep myself straight:
The best part? It's FREE!
You can download this FREEBIE from my TpT store and use it to plan out how you want your students to do almost anything in the classroom.

Once you've decided on your procedures, you can keep your classroom running smoothly by using these Interactive Notebook Foldables to teach your students the routines and procedures in your classroom: 
This is a FUN & ENGAGING way to go over how things run in your classroom - plus the students can refer back to them throughout the year if needed.
Snag this packet for only $5:


Hop on through to find other awesome September ideas:

Friday, August 14, 2015

Fuel Your Faith: Intimacy Takes Time

Social media can be a wonderful thing.
It keeps friends and family connected
across thousands of miles.
It allows us to share pictures and meaningful moments.
It alerts consumers to daily deals and new products.
It keeps us updated on the latest happenings around the world.

But it also encourages oversharing.
Yesterday I ate peanut butter toast for breakfast.
I brushed my teeth three times.
Hudson and I enjoyed a lovely walk that lasted 27 minutes.
Interesting facts?
Not exactly.
Common updates on social media?
Yes.

We live in a world of instant information.
A world where we can share whatever we want
from behind a computer screen.
Sometimes we share too much.
More than just what we ate for lunch - too often we give anyone and everyone access into our hearts with a few clicks of the computer keys.

This message is written to you, my friends, as teachers of students who are getting sucked in to relationships and sharing everything on the first date. They lay it all on the line without giving the relationship time to grow and mature over time.

If I could speak to my fifth graders right now, I would encourage them to take a step back and consider keeping some things private. Because the truth is, we're not called to share everything with everyone. We need to remember the 
biblical value of intimacy.

Intimacy is defined as "a close familiarity or friendship" Too often young people today jump past the acquaintance stage and the secrets of their hearts come tumbling out to virtual strangers. We need to challenge them to protect their hearts.

Whether it's friendship or a romantic relationship, we need to remember that intimacy takes time.

In Beth Moore's study, Sacred Secrets, she encourages:
Authenticity with all
Transparency with most
Intimacy with few
This is a guideline I want to live my life by.

The Bible supports this idea:
When you become a Christian, God doesn't instantly reveal everything to you about Himself and His plan. We learn about who God is and His desires for our lives through His Word, through a daily relationship with Him, and through prayer.

Intimacy with Jesus takes time.

And I believe that's on purpose.
It forces us to take things one day at a time.
It allows us to depend on God for strength day-by-day.
It teaches us to continually look to Him for wisdom.