Monday, August 3, 2015

Monday Made It!

It's AUGUST. WHAT? How did this happen? I will chalk this mighty short summer up to all of Chicago's temper tantrums last winter causing us to pile on the cold days and stay in school until mid June. Then there is this whole "sure Jess, go ahead and get a new job while you are still in grad school, and ya know are the MOH in your best friend's wedding this fall." When it comes to stress; go big or go home - am I right? Anyways, coffee will get me through, he's the real champ here.

I would also like to introduce you to the MVP's of my teacher life (next to coffee) - they are essential to my Monday Made It creations!

Ok, ok, ok. Monday Made It! In my new LRC teacher position I will have three lovely ladies who I will work beside in the library - two of them technology experts, and one library expert. I already know they will be constant lifesavers! We rearranged the library to have a "Genius Bar" area that will host my three awesome pals (I will post pics of the final rearrange when it's all done!) and who can have a Genius Bar without fantastic nameplates to identify the Geniuses - duh!
I ordered acrylic name plates from Etsy - they are about 2 inches tall and 10 long. Super great quality! I designed a simple polka dot pattern on my computer (MVP #2) and cut colored vinyl with my Silhouette Cameo (MVP #1). I layered the colored dots on the back of the nameplate - then cut their names with black vinyl and laid those on the front side. By using the front and back, they look very multi-dimensional and the names are nice and flat on the acrylic. I LOVE how they turned out :)



Earlier this summer, with my previous 6th graders in mind with their Genius Hour projects, I created a "Self Sufficient Learners" poster set to display in my LRC's Makerspace. Those got printed and laminated with my trusty third MVP (3). This laminating machine was one of the BEST purchases I have made as a teacher. It laminates so much thicker than the one at school and the quality is unmatched! 


Finally, this chick has 10, I repeat, TEN bulletin boards to take on. My LRC is located at the heart of our school and the hallways surround it. I personally love doing bulletin boards (let's see how I feel after 10). I really believe that they are such a valuable space. With the right colors and content they can be useful and REALLY brighten up the space. With 5 on each side, one will host cool colors and one will host warm. These beautiful solids were on sale at Joann Fabrics for $2.49 - thank the heavens for that one. 


Let the ironing begin :)


Monday, July 13, 2015

Monday Made It: MOH Style!

So it is July, mid July (YIKES!) Today I received my "Welcome Back" email from my principal then proceeded to pour another cup of coffee and create... because double YIKES! Truth be told this is the first year I have not taught summer school, because I told myself I would take a break - HA! I have been busy with grad school and fulfilling my Maid of Honor duties for my best friend's wedding in October.

So Happy Monday Made It - WEDDING STYLE!

Everyone knows that chalkboard EVERYTHING is the trend these days, and being a teacher, I kinda-sorta-LOVE it. Just open up Pinterest and you are filled with font envy of all the beauteous chalk designs. Me being the "crafty" friend was immediately assigned DIY wedding duty, so I figured I would give the chalkboard lifestyle a go. After notebook pages full of practice and MINUTES holding my breath trying to perfect my lines here are my top tips for the perfect chalkboard anything:

1. Use your coupons to buy anything chalkboard-esque that is CHEAP. With the trend on the rise, Joanns likes to hike up the prices because painting something the color black makes it chalkboard 'duh.' So use your coupons and hunt through all the stores, even places like Homegoods.

2. Disclaimer on behalf of all retailers; none of the goods are actual chalkboards. So I will save you a lot of time and frustration, do NOT attempt to use actual chalk. Pick up a couple of these bad boys because they ROCK! And trust me on this one... I went through about 10 types of paint pens before I found one with the perfect opacity. I bought mine at Michaels.

3. Do as you say in your classroom, pencil first. I am NOT the pencil first type of lady, I like to go in with the big guns right away and whatever happens, happens! Now this is NOT for my wedding so I think I was trying hard to be extra careful, and I am glad I was. I erased and fixed lines a LOT. Plus I got to see my entire vision because that beautiful pencil shows up phenomenal on 'fake' chalkboard :)

4. Pin, Google, Stalk, Creep. Yes, these are common words in my Social Media Vocabulary. I am an Instagram addict and fonts make me unnaturally happy. So I follow a ton of calligraphers and pretty writers on my Instagram account. I don't try to replicate their writing, because they are goddesses, but I definitely use them for inspiration. Inky_Bianca is one of my faves because she posts videos of her writing technique, definitely helps the creative juices flow.

5. Breathe. This is REALLY hard to do when you are a serial perfectionist. Or at least breathe in between letters :)

Now I don't want to give away everything about my bestie's chalkboard signs, in case any of her wedding guests read my blog (cough HI MOM! cough), but I do want to show you some sneak peeks. These are some of the signs, and they were inspired by other peoples' amazingly adorable ideas on Pinterest.




I also want to share with you this pretty little number. She is inspired by my new Kendra Scott ring because she matches the baggie it came in, haha. I like to think teal is my power color, so Essie's Blosson Dandy is a summer must have.


Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Classroom Tour

Next year I will be on to new adventures. I no longer will work out of my first color filled classroom - but will reside in an office attached to a BEAUTIFUL library as an LRC teacher. So take a peek into year 4 of my very first classroom :)

Ms. Spethmann's Classroom

Makeover Madness!

So it is day two of summer break - and the whole apartment is clean... what else is there to do other than revamp some of my TPT products :)

Meet the new and improved annotation assessment, she's a beauty and one of my most used products in my very own classroom.


Grab my annotation bookmark and rubric here!

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

The Feelings Teacher

Each year I do classroom groups with our school social worker. This year we had a new social worker and she introduced herself as "The Feelings Teacher."


I adore this description. As we went through our lessons on bucket filling and stress strategies it dawned on me how it is important that we all focus on being "The Feelings Teacher." While academics and rigorous instruction are important, as teachers, many of us entered the profession for one and one reason only, the kids. It is our job to help these little humans turn into well balanced citizens that have the ability to learn, lead, and feel. In 6th grade I get to see my students blossom into some really awesome young adults, and it is nothing short of amazing. Enter "Suzy Q." Little miss Suzy Q was in my class last year and heard a rumor around her Jr. High hallways that I accepted a new position in a different district for next year. THIS email is why being "The Feelings Teacher" is so very important. 

While this little lady is mature WAY beyond her years, and seriously in touch with herself - she has shown me that curriculum and instruction are not the definition of my teacher self worth. 

Focusing on the whole child is a large part of my educational philosophy, and while educational philosophy is on the table, I really believe in the power of the read aloud. So yes, every afternoon at lunch you will find my 11 and 12 year olds strewn across my Ikea black and white polka dot carpet. They are snuggled up with pillows and stuffed penguins, listening to their dear 'ole teacher read (often laughing at the funny parts before I can spit them out - my poor audience....) This is my favorite time of the day to sit, relax, and have some very real conversations with my students. I try to carefully select novels that are high interest, but will also prompt discussions that I can guide them through. Four of my favorite books contain some pretty tough topics, so I love them for a read aloud. We can talk through the life challenges, and these characters truly take the driver's seat in helping to shape the young adults my students become. 


You may have read one of these titles, all of these titles, or none of them, but as a member of the human race I think reading these should be 100% required. Seriously. I don't have that power, but if I did... :) My dad is a fifty something year old hardworking dude with a serious knack for being a boss. One night at family dinner I couldn't stop talking about Wonder and the impact it was having on the culture of my classroom. My dad snagged my extra copy and brought it for one of his coworker's daughters who was having some trouble at school. She flew through it and proceeded to tell my dad that HE must read it (girl knows what she is talking about!) These are books that make you think, love, question, and truly teach empathy. Each touches on a social issue that is sure to hit the heartstrings. Meet these 4 kids who you just can't pass up.

Wonder - Auggie is a 5th grader with facial deformities
The Thing About Georgie - Georgie is a 4th grader who is not of average height
Rain Reign - Rose is a 5th grader on the Autism spectrum
Out of my Mind - Melody is a 5th grader with Cerebal Paulsy

Whether you suggest one of these books to a student, a coworker, read it aloud to your class, hang out by the pool with it, or even give a copy to your dad - give Auggie, Georgie, Rose, and Melody a chance to change your world, they won't disappoint, I promise.


Sunday, March 1, 2015

The Most POWERFUL Formative Assessment Yet

Okay, to avoid a novel of a blog post - I am going to get straight to the goods today. This past week I attended the ICE conference. *Illinois Computing Educators* I love this conference for countless reasons that I could list right here or you could just take my word for it that this is the BEST professional development I have ever attended (4 years running). Not only is everyone insanely passionate about tech and teaching, everyone is tweeting and talking in the halls and lobbies - you can just soak up the positive energy and see education in a whole new light when you leave this conference. Professional development is happening EVERYWHERE, not just in the sessions you attend. Okay, okay - the formative assessment!

One of the sessions I attended was about 5 "free-mium" (free, BUT in order to get certain features... dish out the $$$) web based ways to formatively assess your students. I have been loving using Kahoot this year, but this was not on the menu. If you are a tech master go explore these five right now.

1. Geddit
2. Peardeck
3. Nearpod
4. Socrative
5. Google Forms

I had heard of these, but have not really fallen in love with any of them, until now. This earth shattering discovery of mine originates with Google and formative assessment with Google Forms. In my grad school class I have been learning about how we need to develop the "whole child" in order for students to be successful. We all know students may act out in class because of factors we are not in control of outside of school, but this method of formative assessment will give you an immense amount of insight into your student's lives, in a snap.

1. Create a Google Form - I had to play with this a lot to sort of figure it out. I created a form with some simple questions. The beautiful thing about Google Forms is you can use fill in the blank, multiple choice, scale questions, etc.

  • Hey Ms. Spethmann! It's ___________________
  • How are you feeling today? (Awesome it's Friday! - I'm doing okay - Not feelin' so hot - UGH!)
  • If you're not feeling awesome, what is bothering you? ______________________
  • How do you feel the SS test went yesterday? (I rocked it! - I think I did well - It was okay - I don't feel comfortable with how I did - Ms. Spethmann, HELP!)
  • What are your plans for the weekend? _____________________________
  • How do you feel about your Genius Hour project at the moment? (Loving it! - I think I'm getting there - No comment - Not so good, I need to step up my game - I am completely lost - Ms. Spethmann, come to my rescue!
Here is what the students see.

Once I completed this form, I turned it into a QR code to hang outside my classroom door with the super UN-FANCY, NON CLEVER, COULD BE WAY CATCHIER, title of....
That was anti-climactic wasn't it? I was just WAY too excited the get the ball rolling, there was not time to come up with a cute name! Next on the to-do list. 

The students grabbed an iPad on their own time during Daily 5 and took a couple minutes to fill out the form. From the form you get two documents. A spreadsheet of answers and a summary of your responses in a beautiful format (including graphs!)



 This AMAZING tool provided me with a ton of useful data by simply giving my students the platform to share. I found out SO much about their personal lives, they self assessed on their comfort with the SS test, I can plan the next steps for Genius Hour, and I got a glimpse into their weekends. It was like a mini conference with each student, but all at the same time!

I was BURSTING with excitement when the submitted forms started to roll in. I had used Google Forms for surveying staff for grad school or finding the best times to meet, but NEVER thought of using them in this way.


I have 3 girls who ALWAYS hug me at the end of every single day. On this Friday, instead of my canned "Have a great weekend!" I got to say, "Have a blast at the Bulls game tonight, eat some popcorn for me!" - "I can't wait to hear about the hotel birthday party on Monday!" - "Good luck on that Egypt project this weekend, I can't wait to see how awesome your Pyramids of Giza look!"

Teacher win, teacher win, teacher win.

Not to mention my heart melted when I started hearing, "Ms. Spethmann this is really cool! Can we do this every Friday?" - "Are we going to do this every week?!" - and a simple teary eyed "Thanks Ms. Spethmann," from a kiddo who is really struggling personally, but couldn't find the words to tell me how out loud.

All you extrovert teachers out there, let your introvert students rejoice! Now we really CAN read minds ;)

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Building Your Own PLC

Buzzword: PLC.  Hmm... This term "Professional Learning Community" sounds, to be quite frank, like cloud nine. A place where everyone is a professional while supporting and learning from each other at all times to better education for students. This "community..." do you ride unicorns around, slide down rainbows, and eat french fries with no calories? Sounds too good to be true - yes, this I know. The reality of it is, not everywhere will have a climate and culture conducive for building a highly effective PLC - so today we talk about the DIY PLC. How can YOU build your own?

My grad school text book talks about Professional Learning Communities, and how positive they can be, when formed in the correct conditions. There is a lot of technical information out there, but to simplify it, take a look at this graphic.

Okay if you don't happen to work in Community Consolidated District Could 9 - there are a couple simple places that are FULL of educators looking to teach, collaborate, exchange, learn, and most of all SHARE.

Two social media platforms that our students use all the time are actually the perfect place to build your own PLC.
The beautiful thing about both of these is introverts can be on the sidelines and just scroll through to soak up ideas, and all my extroverts out there can do the same plus share their ideas as well. There is something for everyone. You might be thinking to yourself - "Okay great, but I get tons of ideas from Pinterest already and why would I go through the trouble of getting an Instagram or Twitter account?!" Yes who doesn't LOVE Pinterest? Guilty, guilty, guilty five times over, but the beauty in these other platforms is the communication between educators. You can get INSTANT feedback from other professionals anywhere in the world. If you are facing a challenge, there is always someone there to comment and give you another point of view. You are COLLABORATING, EXCHANGING, AND LEARNING, all online through social media... from other professionals near and far. AH-MA-ZING. 

Not convinced yet?

1. Posts are simple and to the point (unlike the sometimes lengthy reading of blogs :))
2. You can search using specific hashtags (#iteach6th, #teachersfollowteachers, #edchat)
3. You can screen shot your ideas - so they are sitting in your phone's camera roll when ready to use!
4. Meeting other teachers who are just at positive and passionate as you are. (My favorite, BY FAR!)
5. You are in control. No requirements at ALL. If you are stressed and can't plan anymore, leave it alone - in need of new ideas or feedback, post and scroll away!


I am definitely more of an Instagrammer (I think I just made that a word...) mainly because I love the pictures. Both are wonderful resources depending on what you are looking for.


I can't even express the positive impact starting these accounts has had on my professional life. It has been so fulfilling meeting people through these platforms who share my passion and are so encouraging. I have been lucky enough to meet some of them in person as well and it has been crazily fulfilling. All it takes is a username and password, give it a go. I promise you won't regret it!

Also wanted to share another game changing discovery I recently made. Essie came out with a cashmere matte collection. Two coats of heaven right here.
Now go get your hashtag on!