Sunday, November 8, 2015

How I Finally Mastered Stitch Fix... I Think!

This weekend I got my seventh Fix from Stitch Fix.  I have been a subscriber for over a year, but I have taken breaks here and there.  This is my education blog, and every educator has to dress as a professional.  However, as a busy mommy I no longer have the time, nor do I get the enjoyment from wandering the mall trying to add to my professional wardrobe.  Every professional with zero time on her hands needs a Stitch Fix subscription.

I used to be a strictly Express girl.  The Editor pant was my all time favorite in fit and style.  My closet was full of editor pants in every color and button down blouses.  Over time these styles needed to be moved out of my closet because of wear and tear or weight gain with pregnancies.

I wanted to feel excited about clothes again, but didn't want to spend the day toting around a toddler trying to find new styles. Enter Stitch Fix!  If you haven't heard of it, (how is that possible?) it is a mail subscription company that will send you five pieces of clothing with each Fix.  Keep what you want and send the rest back in the provided envelope.  Keep it all and get 25% off your whole box.

It's been hit and miss until recently.  Here's the rundown of how my experiences have gone:
Fix 1 - July 2014 - I was so, so excited to get this box, then I found out two days before receiving it that I was pregnant with baby #2.  I loved this whole box, but found the dresses to be too pricey considering they were already fitting tightly in the belly area.  I kept two tops and sent the rest back.
Fix 2 - September 2014 - I kept it all!  I explained my growing belly and asked if maternity clothes were available.  I was sent a pair of maternity pants, a skirt, a cardigan, and two very roomy sweaters. These were my favorite pieces throughout my pregnancy.
Fix 3 - December 2014 - I returned it all.  This fix was a huge flop.  I was in the middle of my pregnancy and wanted some holiday dresses.  I don't know any pregnant women that want to overspend on maternity clothes, and the dresses they sent were out of my budget.  I was sad that my budget wasn't taken into consideration, but I wasn't ready to give up though.
Fix 4 - April 2015 - I took a hiatus after the dress incident because I knew I was limiting my spending for the rest of my pregnancy and making due with what I had.  I requested a new box right after baby boy was born.  I only kept one top.  I wasn't happy with the jeans they sent and did really like another shirt that had a flaw in the design.  Not the best box.
Fix 5 - June 2015 - I almost quit after this fix.  I was so upset with the entire box.  I sent it back, it was terrible.  Nothing resembled anything from my requests.  There was one top that was slightly similar to something I had pinned, but it had been pinned for so long that I had forgotten about it.

How I fixed this - I asked to instantly reschedule for a new fix. Stitch Fix was great about this and applied my $20 shopping fee to the new box.  I deleted everything from my Pinterest page and pinned only 15 pins.  If I wasn't thrilled about the look, I didn't pin it.  I left detailed notes for my stylist.

Fix 6 - June 2015- I loved all of it!  My personalized note from my stylist really told me that she looked at my Pinterest. She sent four styles very similar to my pins and one surprise try on. It wasn't my favorite, but I kept it for the discount.  Wouldn't you know, that's the one that gets the most compliments.  Maybe, I have terrible style...
 Fix 7 - November 2015 - Another winner!  I'm keeping it all again.  I put some time between boxes to account for the new season, and mostly because I'm still not quite where I want to be with my body after baby boy.  However once again, I deleted everything from my Pinterest.  All summer items disappeared.  I gave detailed notes about wanting a new pair of work pants and some new blouses that could go under sweaters to look polished and professional at school. I also really wanted another asymmetrical zip cardigan, and got it! Once again I loved all but one piece.  I felt that the gray sweater was a bit too bulky on me, but it was cheaper to keep that last piece with the discount. My husband calls this "shopping math."  I'm pretty good at it.  Today I threw the bulky sweater on over a tank top and lounged in yoga pants.  It might just be my new favorite weekend sweater, it's quite soft.

Playing dress-up with my new clothes is probably my favorite thing:

I think the best part is I get excited about clothes again!  Once I've updated my note for my stylist for the 100th time and gotten the email that my Fix shipped, I can't wait for the package to come.

So, if you've had some bad Fixes in the past and you're ready to throw in the towel, you may need to reevaluate what you are asking for.  If you are asking a stylist to sift through 500 pins on a style board, she's not going to know exactly what you want and something that you pinned last winter may not be what you want this winter.  Clean out your Pinterest closet.  That has proven to be gold for me. Also, as your body and tastes change, update your style profile.

Comment below if you have any other tips for winning Fixes!  Click here, or click my picture if you want to try Stitch Fix, or if you are ready to give them another chance.

English Middle School Mania

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Make Your Own Children Your Tech Guinea Pigs!

So, it's October 21st already.  I last wrote a month ago.  I had planned on blogging last week after attending the GAFE conference in Louisville, CO last weekend, but that didn't happen.  I am home for a few more days on fall break, however I'm home with a six month old.  We don't accomplish much!

New learning
Use your own kids as guinea pigs. Recently I had my students creating book reports for a gallery style presentation day.  They could use three apps on their iPads.  They could use either Adobe Voice, Explain Everything, or iMovie.  It's so funny how we stay in our comfort zones, even our students do.  I had so many who just simply wanted to use Keynote and make a powerpoint presentation.  I told them they could do that with Explain Everything, but I wanted to challenge them to get out of their comfort zone.  Hey, if I am trying to use new technology to improve their learning, they can branch out too!  The thing is, I was taught to always have an example or a model for the students.   Yet, every time I've done my own example video or presentation I suddenly have 25 turned in that look exactly like mine with no creativity added in whatsoever.  So, I found a new way to showcase the ease of the technology and point out that "It's so easy, even a six year old can do it!" I simply have my six year old do it.

Adobe Voice
I was introduced to this app last year when my daughter used it at school in Kindergarten.  I loved it so much and saw the possibilities for the middle school classroom.  We downloaded the program at home, and I let her tell stories all summer on my iPad. One of her first stories that I use as an example to show my students the ease of the app is her Lions story.  If you want to try an easy app for storytelling this is it!  The student speaks his or her line(s) adds a picture and moves to the next page or slide.  There are tons of icons within the program that students can use, or they can use their own images from the googlemachine or even from their camera roll.  The downfall that my 7th graders found with the program is that the layouts are very limited. I had students who wanted to adjust or rotate the images, this program does not allow for that.

Explain Everything
I am still so new to this app.  I don't even know the full capabilities of it.  I just knew that it was already loaded onto the student iPads and I needed to offer options.  The students have been required to use this app for presentations before, so it wasn't new to most of them.  I opened the app played around with it enough to know the basic functions then showed it to my daughter.  One day while her baby brother was sleeping she asked if she could make a story.  Wanting to see what she could do, I said sure and handed the iPad over!  This is her story "The Three Friends."  (She's six, don't mind the spelling, I have years to work on that!) My students could see that they could illustrate, animate, and do voice overs with this app.  Those who wanted the very basic elements of Keynote or PowerPoint could use it that way as well, but soon they were making objects spin and move as they recorded. The downfalls to this app were sometimes it crashes and does not save.  It has a save button.  This is one of the few apps that doesn't automatically save, and that hurts when the student just clicks the iPad off when class is over.  The cool thing is that you can save it like I did to a mp4 file as a movie instead of just keeping it in the app.

I haven't given Aeva iMovie yet.  Those students who knew the app rolled with it and those who didn't chose one of the other two.  If you are like me and really want to have an example, don't be a perfectionist.  Instead use your own children as guinea pigs and let them figure something new out and in the process teach you.  If you don't have children, use a friend's.

What I'm learning is that we as teachers always feel like we have to have the answers. However, sometimes our answer to the question, "how do I use this app?" needs to be, "you tell me."  I knew and shared with my students the requirements for their presentations. We created the rubric together so they understood their learning objective.  The technology was the vehicle for the presentations.

For the presentations themselves I use gallery walk presentations.   I like this style of presentations because I think it's important to teach my students that there's more than just our class.  The students have a chance to present more than once and build their confidence speaking to an audience.  I invite other classes, teachers, and administrators in to see these presentations and grade them.  What I learned this time around was our classroom is too small for this. Next time we will take over the library. I can give more info. on this another day.

Thanks for reading!
English Middle School Mania

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Teaching From the iPad: What I'm Learning

It's the end of September. I totally knew that I was terrible at blogging!  I have so many ideas and not enough time.  As stated before this is my first year teaching on an iPad team, however I've had one to one laptops most of my career.  This has thrown a learning curve into my teaching though for sure!

What have I learned?  
I'm a substituter:
I've been in two trainings where the trainer has referenced the SAMR levels of technology integration. Here's a great graphic organizer I really like which shows the various levels: SAMR Model.  I realized that for years on the laptops I have been stuck a the Substitution level and the Augmentation level.  The laptops have always been great for using Word to write all papers and essays, using PowerPoint and Prezi for presentations, using Publisher to create newspapers and brochures, but it's always been very basic. I don't believe a teacher can be in the Modification or Redefinition stage every day, but now that I have a better understanding of the technology available. I would like to be there at least once per unit.

Don't reinvent the wheel:
We know this as educators.  We are not paid well enough to spend our time stressing about one more thing, especially when someone else has already done it and now it just needs tweaking. I bought a QR codes lesson on TeachersPayTeachers.  It said for 4th grade and I just thought I'd use it as a preview to my Plot unit, but I didn't get to it. However, now I have ideas on what I can do with my future lessons!

My most recent accomplishment:
Now that I'm on the iPad team, I feel like I need to step up my game. But how? Also, how do I integrate more collaborative technology while still teaching the standards that I need to teach and assessing each student individually on mastery of content? It's crazy tough!  I started with my lit. circles.  I found them online last year some time and edited them to fit my needs of using choice novels in the classroom.  This year to move more into the Modification level, I created a Google Doc for this process.  The students can hold each other accountable throughout the week by seeing if they have accomplished their task as they work on their own.  Also, I can access the documents I created to hold the students accountable as well.

If you are like me, and you're a Google Doc novice, here's how I went about this process:
1) Create the Doc, or make a copy of mine and edit away.
2) Create a folder in your Drive for this assignment. Mine was simply called Lit. Circles
3) Create a million copies of this file, one for each group change the title and make sharing available (is this too advanced?).
4) Share the links on your assignment platform whether it's Schoology, Google Classroom, or Sharepoint

5) Have each of the students in the group select their link, and now they have their group document.

For an earlier task, I originally tried having students create a copy, then share in a group, then share back to me, but that was SO much hassle. Inevitably, I was hunting down students to share back to me, or one student in the group would claim to have not received the document to edit. Doing more work on my end to start the process helped it to run smoother later on. Also, after the first lit. circle meeting I could go in and delete the unused pages, then add in blank pages for the following week.

Looking back:
I have some ideas to make this better for our next novel unit where I actually have 5 common novels instead of choice.  I want to use links at the top for each job so the students don't need to scroll through 1000s of pages to find their job in week three of the process.  This is a simple fix that I didn't think of until we were finished with lit. circles this quarter.  Another reflective moment, teach your students to work instead of play.  During work time I heard a lot of, "Mrs. Adams, Blah Blah just turned my text pink." or "Stop writing in my area! Work on your own page."    It would be good to review with them that this is an assignment, how to work appropriately within a group on one document, and how to be appropriate digital citizens. We definitely had to have that talk and will continue to have it throughout the year.  

Any ideas from other veteran teachers on improving this?  What else should I try to implement?

If anyone is reading this, Thanks!!

Check out my TeachersPayTeachers store for some ready made lessons, especially if you need some sub plans!

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Starting Year Eleven

Woo Hoo for the weekend! I just finished a week of new teacher orientation and professional development at my new school. We start Monday with students. Am I nervous? Maybe a bit. Each year brings new students, new challenges, and new learning.  But, I am really excited also to see what this group of students in my new school is like!
This is year eleven in my teaching career. I'm starting in my third school. Teaching is a difficult, loveless profession at times, so it's been pretty fun this week to see a lot of really passionate teachers ready for another year. I get to teach on an iPad team this year with students having one to one technology. I have been inundated with district learning systems this past week, some of which are pretty awesome. I'm learning how to use Schoology and to do much more with Google docs, slides, and drive.  I'm hoping my next post in a couple weeks has some tech pointers! 
I got my stuff moved into my classroom a few weeks ago and I was really excited to be working with a blank slate. There's a decent amount of cabinet space.  Two desks were available and two filing cabinets. I also like that the chairs are not attached to the desks so kids can get in from either side. 
I am starting with rows.  I always do this to see the kids head on for the first week.  I make sure to say their names when I call on them and I tell them my challenge to myself is to know all of their names by Monday the following week.  I have three cinderblock walls.  I have my trusty glue gun ready to put up more posters, but I'm starting with the basis less is more.  I also know I want to rearrange and put the students into groups of 5-6 as soon as I know their names and get a feel for who would work best together in this first month.  Therefore I haven't put up all of my posters.  My plan is to add posters as we go over procedures for the room.
I decided to use the smaller of the two teacher desks.  If I have a larger desk I tend to put more stuff on it to fill the space, and I like to keep my desk more compact with less clutter.  I kept the larger desk to use as a supply table, and I did lock my personal supplies in the drawers.  My about me bulletin board is ready to go as well as my new organizer hanging behind my desk.  I got a free book shelf and painted it white.  Most of my border this year was from Dollar Tree along with some cute mini bulletin boards that I put up behind my desk for my personal pictures and memorabilia throughout the year. Setting up a classroom doesn't have to break the bank.  Check out garage sales for furniture, or Craigslist has a free furniture section. Go to the dollar store for decoration, make your own, or ask for donations if your school has any partners in business!
I had two options for front of the room with white boards on both walls for my projector on a cart to aim at.  I chose to start with the classroom being more shallow than long.  This way the furthest student is four rows back from the board instead of six rows back. Also, all students are facing away from the door, so if someone is out in the hallway, it'll be less distracting.  It's a lot to take into account when setting up a classroom.  The good thing is, it can always change.  Too many teachers get stuck with one set up and leave it all year while they hate it.  They're desks, they can move. Find what works best for the space, the students, and you!  I will update with more pictures later as the room shifts and changes to fit the classroom needs this year!
Thanks for reading!

Monday, July 20, 2015

Getting Started

This is my first blog post ever! I'm sure it's going to be pretty terrible. I started posting my lesson plans to Teachers Pay Teachers last summer and noticed that the top sellers all have blogs. I have been putting off blogging all summer thinking that no one would care what I had to say, but I know that I want to share my teaching ideas and materials once school starts.
I am starting my 11th year teaching middle school English.  I have had a pretty varied career. I spent the first five years at a small town consolidated school in Nebraska teaching grades 7-9.  I moved to Colorado and spent the last five years teaching 7th grade at a Title 1 school. This year I am moving to a different district in town and will continue teaching 7th grade on an iPad team.  Every student will have their own iPad!  I have been so blessed with technology throughout my career.  I'm excited to add to my teaching repertoire.  I have so much to post on this blog in regards to my lessons and teaching!

Yay, post number one is now finished!