Are you a fan of podcasts? I am. For the last couple of years I have been listening to podcasts like crazy (I'm listening to one right now). After becoming an avid podcast listener, it was only natural that I start my own podcast. Since I have been blogging for years about teaching, it was the perfect transition to podcasting. I'm still blogging about teaching, but now I am podcasting about teaching as well. However, being a podcast consumer is much different than being a podcast producer. I found myself with lots of questions, and therefore sought a couple of podcast producer groups. They have been very helpful in my transformation as a podcast producer. 
    Participating in these podcast producer groups made me realize that I'd love to be partake in an educational podcaster group. However, I was unable to find much out there (is this really that new? I suppose it is). As such, I decided to start my own educational podcaster group where educators who podcast can unite. This new group, "Teachers who Podcast", was formed to do just that. If you are an educator who also podcasts, I invite you to join! We're still growing as a group, but I invite you to come and grow with us. You can do so by clicking right here. 


     Series 2, Fast Forward, of my podcast "Time to Teach" begins this Sunday, July 2. In the Fast Forward series, I will share strategies and tips to make the most of your summer so your new school year starts smoothly. The first episode will share strategies to help you create healthy habits during the summer. Once these healthy habits are in place, you'll be able to ease into the new school year with your new, healthy habits. A healthier you will lead to a successful school year. See you on Sunday! 

Contact Information: 

Twitter: @TamiJ123

Podcast show online with show notes:

Facebook page: Time to Teach

Facebook Group: Teachers for Effective Curriculum

Facebook Group: Teachers Who Podcast


     You might have noticed infographics emerging all over the internet. You might even have been intrigued by them and wondered how you could make your own infographics. In this post, I will explain what infographics are, as well as ways you can use them.

     An infographic is essentially a visual image of some sort. Within it there is information or data. This is sometimes in the form of a graph or a chart. Since it is visual, it grabs attention and can display a lot of information in limited space. In today's world of instant gratification, the infographic is a powerful tool.

Ways to Use an Infographic

     An infographic can be used in many different ways. In fact, its uses are probably limitless. Again, one way to use them is to display graphs or charts. That probably doesn't need much more of an explanation. Here are a few other ideas:

1) Announcements: I created an infographic this year to announce a field trip. I then sent it out to the parents and displayed on my class website as well. 

2) Cover art: As a host of my own podcast show, I create infographics with each episode's name. 

3) Visual aid: Once I created an infographic that displayed all the strategies avid non-fiction writers use. That can be handy when a student is writing and needs a reminder! 

4) Research findings: Older students can report out on their research findings through infographics. 

5) Student goals: Different strategies can become goals that students work towards. Infographics can display those goals, with space for students to check off which goals they have met, and which ones they are currently working on. 

Infographic Sites

     Here is a list of some sites where you can begin having fun with infographics. These sites are current and working at the time of the publication of this post. Canva is the site I use to make my infographics. There is no real reason for this except it is the first one I explored and have always really liked it. 

1) Canva

     Do you use infographics in the classroom? I would love to hear about it. 


     Episode 5 is now out from my podcast Time to Teach. Don't miss it! It explores the health benefits of gratitude and how gratitude can help you achieve work-life balance. It it the last episode in the work-life balance. Next week will be the first episode in the "Fast Forward" series.

Get the show notes here

Listen on iTunes here

Listen on Soundcloud here

Leave me a comment and let me know how you like the episode.

     I just want to take a moment to introduce my new Facebook group called "Teachers Who Podcast". The title pretty much gives it away, but this is a group for educators who host their own podcast shows, or who enjoy listening to educational podcasts. We're just getting started, but I encourage you to come and join the group. It's a great place to "share, network, and grow". I'll see you there:

Come and join the group here.

Do you podcast? Are you a fan of educational podcasts? I'd love to hear about it.

    There's probably nothing worse than packing up a classroom. It's the least fun, but necessary task of the school year (well, there's also the unpacking, but setting up your classroom can actually be fun). It's tedious, dusty, and simply put, annoying. Since I teach young students (roughly age 6), they are limited in what they can do to help in the classroom. However, this year I decided I would get my kiddos involved in the process. Boy, am I happy that I did.

     Here are some tips to get your students involved in the classroom clean up and pack up process:

1) Have students help clean all toys/materials. They can do this in groups. Here you see students cleaning (and happily, I might add) each and every block. This helps with your last days of school when students can taste summer vacation, but still have to be there. They LOVE the change up from their daily activities.
2) Student shared materials: If you are not keeping materials for the following year, and if your students have been sharing materials, get them to divide the materials. Specifically, crayons and colored pencils are the two items that need massive dividing. 
Here you can see students (there are four of them, but you only see 2 in the picture) dividing the colored pencils they use in their group. I let students choose how to divide them, but I suggest to them to start by a color, and each get one of that color. Then. move on to another color. This won't be perfect (there may be too many or too few of a color), but an imperfect system will call for them to work together to figure out those "bumps". 

3) Lastly, if you are boxing up materials, put one student in charge of a specific material and box. Even my six-year old students can do that! 

     Cleaning and packing a classroom isn't fun, but it's a necessity at the end of the school year. Don't do it alone! I'm not suggesting that you use valuable teaching time to do this, but I am suggesting that in that last day or two, when everyone's there waiting for the inevitable, put everyone to work. It's right and it's fair because it's a classroom used by a whole group: the teacher and students. 

How do you get your students involved in the clean up and pack up process? I'd love to hear about it.  

     Play-doh is fun, until it dries out! However, don't be so quick to toss the play-doh container out with the dried up play-doh. Did you know that you can re-use play-doh containers to hold water for students as they paint? It's a great way to reuse, and it's size is perfect for students.
     How do you reuse play-doh containers. I'd love to hear from you. 


The writing process, at any age, is one that involves such time and dedication (especially if you are finishing a writing piece), that it must be celebrated. Students should not just write for the sake of writing; students should be writing with a greater purpose, as well as sharing and celebrating their work. In today's blog I will explain one way that we celebrate writing in our class.
     For the last two months, my class has become researchers. They've learned about nonfiction and nonfiction features, all while engaging with nonfiction texts as they research animals. They have written several books and have each chosen one of their books to publish. Before publishing, however, they had to dedicate a lot of time making their books "publishing" ready. Through lots of revisions and editting, they finally published their beloved animal books.
     Publishing their books was not our stopping point, however. We had to celebrate their hard work and the fact that they were real authors! To do so, we invited a kindergarten class to come and listen to their books. This gave my students time to really show off and shine and truly be proud of all the work they put into their books. What an exciting way to end our animal unit, and so much better than "okay we're done, so now let's move on."
     Keep reading to find out the logistics:

1) Invite a class
2) Send out an invitation with the date (or let them choose! Teachers are busy, so giving them choices make it easier for them to attend)
3) Create a "U" shape with your desks: Your students sit on the outside of the desks and the guests come to the inside. The guest students each find a student and goes to that student to listen to his or her book. Once done, the guest student then finds another student who is available. This process repeats until the time is up (we do this for about 10-15 minutes)

Tip: When your guest class comes in, it might be helpful to explain to them what they are there for and why this is an exciting day. Since our guests are kindergartners, I even demonstrate what I expect them to do. Just keep your audience in mind.

     What ways do you celebrate your students' writing? What are the logistics involved? I'd love to hear from you.

     As teachers, we have a natural tendency to want to pour tons of information into our students. However, it doesn't work that way (how many times do we say, "I taught it. They should know it." Yet, they don't). This is because teaching does not necessarily effect learning (it's part of it, but there's a lot more involved). Students should be seeing, exploring, and discovering in order to make sense of their world and their work. Sometimes students just have to notice what works to understand why they should be doing it.
    This is why inquiry and discovery are such successful strategies to use in the classroom. Now, when I say inquiry and discovery, I don't mean that students flounder directionlessly. Instead, time should be alloted for students to explore, wonder and to question. As you'll see in the below video, I inform students of the teaching point: that avid non-fiction writers use diagrams to teach their readers even more about their animals. Before I fully explain what should be on the diagram, I have them observe, and thendiscuss in partnerships and with the whole class. This gives students the opportunity to observe and discover the effective elements of the diagram first (as opposed to me just telling them), but then also allows me to reign their learning back in, in order to ensure that they captured the most important important elements (as opposed to wandering aimlessly).
     As you watch the video, notice how I let the students observe and discuss first. Then, how I restate the (correct) things that they observed and emphasize those things. Also notice how this mini lesson is broken up between my talking time and their talking time. You also don't see the time that is broken up when I send them off for their writing folders. This is all done intentionally because they are very young learners whose attention spans are very short.


 In this episode of Time to Teach, the second in this month's work and life balance theme, I focus on how to incorporate mindfulness and exercise in your busy day. I share how I use mindfulness, and how it can be included in the classroom. We also hear from a very special guest who shares her experience with mindfulness in the classroom! You don't want to miss that!
Additionally, I provide tips on how to include exercise in your daily schedule, as well as comment on the importance of drinking water, eating healthfully, and getting enough sleep. Listen to this episode and learn all about incorporating mindfulness and exercise to help you achieve work and life balance.

Show Notes:

0:00 Introduction 

0:58 Mindfulness  

6:14 Special Guest Interview

9:03 Exercise and how to make it happen

14:50 The importance of water, heathful eating, and sleep

20:13 Tami gets a little morbid (stop that, Tami!)

Contact information:

Twitter: @TamiJ123

Facebook page: Time to Teach

Facebook Group: Teachers for Effective Curriculum

Show notes will now be housed here.

     I am extremely excited to introduce to all of you my new podcast, "Time to Teach". As an avid podcast listener, I have spent a lot of time playing with the idea of starting my own podcast. That time has finally come. In this podcast, I provide tips, advice, and suggestions. The first episode is already available. In it I discuss ways to maximize your productivity by working efficiently. Come check it out on iTunes or Stitcher and don't forget to subscribe!


     Allow me to share a little secret that has changed the whole workings of my class: Star Bucks. These Star Bucks are the currency circulating in my classroom. A friend and colleague passed them down to me a couple of years ago. Even though I was hesitant to use them, they have proved to be life changing. Here's what I do with them:
     Students earn Star Bucks throughout the day for speaking English (I teach in Mexico, so their time in the school day is, for most of them, the only time they speak English). They spend Star Bucks as a fee when they go to the bathroom. This has greatly helped students regulate when they truly need to go to the bathroom and when they don't (it works, believe me!). No one wants to spend their hard earned Star Bucks if they don't have to. The fee increases throughout the year (inflation), but currently it costs 4 Star Bucks to go to the bathroom during work time, and 6 during carpet time.
    Every Friday we have about 15 minutes of free time (I refer to this as fun-time Friday), but students must pay an entrance fee to participate. Again, the fee increases throughout the school year, but the price is currently at 15 Star Bucks. Students may participate in the regular stations at this price (LEGOs, play-doh, puppets, blockets, etc.), but special stations (iPads, art, and extra recess outside) cost an additional 10 Star Bucks (we have to have some way to get back all those Star Bucks back!).
     Not only do students LOVE being able to use their Star Bucks to do fun activities on Fridays, but they LOVE the simple act of collecting their Star Bucks. I think they'd be just as excited about Star Bucks if the only thing they did with them was collect and count them.

Here are some FUN FACTS about Star Bucks:

*You can give them out for anything.

*We use a basket in which students deposit their Star Bucks when making a payment.

*Students keep their Star Bucks in their pencil box.

*Students may only count their Star Bucks before or after school, or during recess. Otherwise, students would be trying to count them when it's time to do other things.

     Do you have a class economy? I'd love to hear about it.

    Mini lessons are where it's at. Not just because they're trendy, but because they're effective. For teachers who are used to giving long-winded lessons, mini lessons might seem scary. You might wonder how it's possible to effect learning in such a short time. In today's post, I am going to explain why mini lessons are more effective than the typical, long lectures we teachers are known for, as well as demonstrate an actual mini lesson with my class.

1. Mini lessons are short: Short lessons allow more time for kids to practice the concept. This is the scary part because we teachers feel that if we aren't talking, students aren't learning. The opposite is in fact true. The less we talk, the more time students have to work and improve.

2. Everyone gets what they need:  Your mini lesson will serve all students by providing them with the basics. The mini lesson is the "nuts and bolts" from which you then modify instruction while you confer, or work with partnerships and/or small groups.

3. Your STUDENTS (not you) will be doing most of the work (that's the way it's supposed to be). Mini lessons allow you to demonstrate a skill/concept, and the longer work time allows students to develop that skill/concept. Your role will be more of a coach or guide as you begin to see what students are doing, and what their next steps are (and they're all different). It's a win-win situation.

To see an actual mini lesson in action, watch the below video.

Note: This is the second day of my lesson on main idea. Therefore, you do not see me giving an explicit demonstration on determining the main idea (that happened in the first lesson). Instead, in this lesson I reminded students of the work we did the day before. The objective of this lesson was to extend our work from the previous day. What you also don't see is the students discussing the main idea of the bird book, or me reminding them what they had just practiced, and then sending them off to continue this work with their own books. As they did that, I worked with a small reading group.

Special notes:

*The structure of my mini lesson is borrowed from Lucy Calkins' Reading and Writing Workshop.

*Sometimes the Active Engagement might be longer than what you would typically do and, in my opinion, that is okay. I do this when the concept/skill is new and I want all students to spend a little longer time under my watchful eye.

Do you instruct with short mini lessons? I'd love to here about it.

What I Eat To Feel Great Part 1: The Genesis of My New Diet

         This started as a podcast episode, but I just had to turn it into a blog post as well. To preface, I am not qualified to give a...