Long before I ever sold a product on Teachers Pay Teachers, I was a consumer… and an avid one at that! But, there was a time before I was a consumer, when I was… ooh, this is painful to admit now… kind of a bit of a… how do I say this delicately? … a hater (insert bashful, embarrassed emoji here!).
I can remember being in my first few years of teaching and stumbling upon TpT in my late night Googling sprees that helped with my hours and hours of lesson planning. This was in the early days of TpT, before Deanna and New York Times articles and teacher millionaires. It was also before pretty covers and beautiful works of clip ART and fun fonts. Yes, TpT wasn’t much to look at then… cumbersome Word documents created with Microsoft stock clip art and (gasp!) Comic Sans. No, TpT didn’t really WOW! me at that time and when I’d click a link that led me there, I’d quickly hit that back arrow and resume my search.
But then, after I’d been teaching several years, things started to change. Standardized testing became the norm, Common Core took over, and suddenly, Pearson and Prentice Hall, who, when I began my career, were all but a stack of old, dusty textbooks hidden in a storage closet somewhere, were suddenly back in vogue! Promising to hold the key to Common Core and the foreboding PARCC and Smarter Balanced that were on their way, new editions of the big publisher products boomed back into classrooms everywhere. The “art” of teaching was replaced with their “science.”
It didn’t take me long to realize that this kind of teaching wasn’t exactly for me. While lesson planning was suddenly a breeze – these programs offered more worksheets than even the most efficient teacher could use in a day – it wasn’t really fun. It felt stuffy and dull. It didn’t spur my creative juices. The kids were bored. I was bored.
Now, I’m not here to knock Common Core, or standardized testing, or data-based instruction, or big publishing. They are a piece to the puzzle and I accept that. But, while they’ve done much to promote the “science” behind learning, they’ve done little to foster the “art” that is necessary to make science-based instruction stick with our kids. For me, science-based instruction helps kids learn to decode words, but it’s the teacher-artist who makes a child a life-long reader. Science-based instruction helps students develop number sense, but it’s the teacher-artist who leads a child to become a passionate problem-solver.
And this is how I found my back to TpT! By this time, I was married and had two small children, so long gone were my 12-hour lesson planning sessions on Sundays. I can remember one afternoon wanting something more than a worksheet and a packaged PowerPoint to help my kids learn how to multiply and divide fractions (which, by the way, no longer just meant multiplying across and the tried-an-true “keep, change, flip,” but now insisted on illustrations and detailed explanations, that even I, the teacher who took calculus and statistics in college because it was an easy “A,” had to pretty much learn how to do!). A quick Google search led me to TpT, which looked entirely different than it had in my early years of teaching. I bought a $3 product – now with beautiful works of clip art and fonts that I never even knew existed! – that turned my 6th graders into bakers delving out desserts. What seemed so foreign and difficult to illustrate on graph paper, suddenly became fun and easy with pans of brownies. This $3 made the problems from our textbook come alive and, after two days of playing with chocolate, gave my students a deep and lasting understanding of a pretty complicated process.
From that moment on, I was hooked on TpT. Taking the scope, sequence, and science from our textbooks, and marrying them with the creativity and, most importantly, the experience of TpT sellers, made for some of the most effective and dynamic lessons that I’d ever taught. Lesson planning was fun again and my students loved coming to class. My teaching and their learning was taken to the next level.
So… that was a very looooong introduction to the meat of this post, which is, my top five all-time favorite purchases from Teachers Pay Teachers. These are the products that appear again and again in my classroom, the ones for which I’d gladly pay 3-4 times the amount I did.
In no particular order:
1. These Transition Tickets from ELA Seminar Gal. I’ve used these so many times, I’ve lost count. Quick writes, “do nows,” writing centers, open-ended questions, formative and summative assessments… these little gems work for just about anything!
2. The Greek and Latin Roots products from Got To Teach. Love, love, love how thorough and easy to use these products are! My students get a new word list each week. I give them a few of the pages for homework/classwork and the quiz on Friday. It’s a piece-of-cake way to get some writing grades 🙂
5. Literary Yoga by B’s Book Love. Fun, creative, kinesthetic… my middle schoolers absolutely LOVE these moves! I wasn’t sure how they’d respond at first… I thought they’d laugh at me for even trying something so out-of-the-box. I could not have been more wrong! They play along every.single.time.