Friday, July 5, 2019

My [Super Duper] Simple TpT Advice

If you have an idea, CREATE IT.

If you finish a product, POST IT.

If you have a great product, MARKET IT.

There is no time like the present, especially when it comes to your Teachers Pay Teachers store!

I have been selling on TpT since 2012 and I think these things have finally sunk in within the last year or so. So let me break them down for you.

If you have an idea, CREATE IT.

I used to compile ideas in notebooks for "someday." I'd think that once I had enough ideas, I'd create this awesome super pack of resources that would... Well, I don't really know what they would do. In my daydreams, I'd just imagine that once I had some killer ideas, I'd know it and I'd spend time designing them. But guess what? I already had fabulous ideas. I just needed to get my butt in gear and create them! Once I stopped second-guessing myself or worrying about my ideas not being good enough, it felt freeing and I was on a roll.

If you finish a product, POST IT.

I'm embarrassed by how many complete resources I had saved in folders gathering virtual dust on my computer because for one reason or another, I wasn't "ready" to post them. They weren't "store ready" or they needed some extra pizzazz or "something more." Let's think for a second how silly that is! These were resources I had used with my students or created after finding a need.

In the past 6 months, I have added over 120 products to my store because I've stopped worrying about them being "the perfect resources." I still have a high standard of quality for my work, but I've stopped obsessing over perfection and I've stopped comparing myself to every other teacher-author on the site. If I find value in what I create, other teachers will, too!

If you have a great product, MARKET IT.

I used to think that all I needed to do was post my resources online and in some magical way through the power of the interwebs, they would land in the hands of teachers all over the world. Ha! As if it's that easy. If only I'd realized sooner that it takes a combination of hard work, knowledge, and understanding of keywords, social media, and analytics to get your products found, I'd probably be in a different spot of my TpT journey by now. 

So once you have your fabulous products posted in your store, be sure to share them out. Maybe you prefer Facebook or Instagram, or maybe you're all about Pinterest... Maybe you need to try a few different things before you find one that works. Either way, don't just let your products sit there, unseen. Get them out there and tell the world about how you have something awesome to help teachers and learners!

So there you have it! My three super simple tips to follow to grow your store! (I totally realize each piece of advice may be easier said than done and may take weeks, months, or years to master... But it's definitely a start!) I hope this post serves as inspiration wherever you happen to be in your journey. Best of luck!

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Creative Activities with Sidewalk Chalk

Sidewalk chalk: a summer staple in the home of many children. But after drawing some pictures and writing your names in bubble letters, what else can you do? Check out some ideas for ways you can use your sidewalk chalk today!

Obstacle Course or Maze

Draw a maze big enough for you to walk through. Ask a sibling or friend to collaborate with you and see who can make their way out of the maze first without getting stuck in a deadend! Or draw an obstacle course with different directions for each part. For example, “walk with big giant steps through this section”, “tiptoe through this area”, or “jump through this section, but make sure your feet both land inside the chalk circles or you have to start again”. Time yourself making your way through the course and try to get better and better each time!

Hopscotch Skill Review

You may get bored of the same old hopscotch pattern and game after jumping back and forth on it a few times. But add something to the squares and it becomes a summer skill review!

If you have a child just learning colors or shapes, you can draw them in the squares and as they hop through them, they can name the color and shape. “Green square! Blue triangle! Pink star!” Then take it a step further… Can you find something in nature or your neighborhood that is that shape?

If your child is a bit more advanced and focusing on letters or numbers, add those to the squares. Hop on a letter G? What starts with G? Grapes! What sound does the letter G make? Hop on the number 7? Count to 7! Count backward from 7 to 0! Name 7 types of animals! There are so many possibilities!

Other suggestions for things to add to your hopscotch squares are: sight words, math facts, and tricky words to spell.

Finish the Picture

Draw a line, a squiggle, a shape, a blob… Just draw anything to start with, and then challenge your child to “finish” the picture. Turn that line into a fishing pole… Turn the squiggle into the crazy hairdo of a mad scientist… Turn the square into the frame of your grandma’s house… Turn the blob into the body of a silly monster… Test your creativity and collaborate on your chalk artwork together!

Life-Size Comics

Have you always wanted to star in your own comic strip? Create your own giant, outdoor comic on your driveway this summer! Trace your body (or have a friend trace your shadow if it’s too hot to get down onto the driveway!) and then draw speech bubbles over your head. Become your alter ego, draw a conversation with a friend, or join your favorite team of superheroes! Your imagination is limitless.

Village Map

If you bring your cars, dolls, or animals outside with you when you play, you need a place for them to hang out, too! Draw a map of a town or city for them to play in. Drive your cars around a city and have them ride to some fun places you design, have your dolls visit a park you make and decorate the houses you create, or let your animals explore a jungle or other habitat you draw.


Tic-tac-toe, hangman, even checkers are a few of the games you can play on your driveway if you draw your game board with sidewalk chalk. Draw a checkers board and use acorns, rocks, bottlecaps, or even blocks as checkers. If you want to “erase” your letters to start over with hangman or tic-tac-toe, just grab a wet sponge and wait a few minutes for the hot summer sun to dry your game board.

Broad Jump Challenge!

Draw a line with chalk as your starting position, then jump! Mark your landing spot, then go back to the starting line and try again. Challenge your brother, your sister, your friend, your mom, your dad, or someone else to beat your record!

Special Greeting

Is it someone’s birthday in your house? Is someone going on a trip and you want to welcome them back in a memorable way? Are your parents celebrating their anniversary this summer? Celebrate the special event with a greeting written in sidewalk chalk! When they see your message, they’ll feel so special!

Happy Drawing!

The best thing about sidewalk chalk art is you can try something new next time, so you have all summer to try these ideas. Just wait till the next time it rains to have a blank canvas to start again!

Monday, June 10, 2019

10 Tips to De-Stress


From Tony Soprano or Homer Simpson, no one is immune to feeling overwhelmed from time to time. I know a lot of teachers in particular who get stressed out over the balancing act they constantly have to master in their busy jobs. I thought the end of the school year would be a perfect time to discuss some of the ways you can de-stress your life and break away from the pressure you're feeling to get everything done right this minute.

#1: Take a Deep Breath

Totally cliche, but it is said time and time again for a reason. Taking a deep breath in through your nose and blowing out from your mouth slowly can lower your heart rate and make you feel much calmer in a short period of time. If you need to take a second for yourself, this is the first thing you can try to calm yourself down. 

#2: Laugh Out Loud

Just the act of laughing can make you feel better. Start with a smile (fake it till you make it, to add another cliche!) and then think of something that'll make you chuckle. 

Can't make yourself laugh on command? Hop onto YouTube for a few minutes and search for funny videos... Just taking a beat away from what's troubling you can help you feel better. And when you go back to deal with your responsibilities, you'll be doing so with a fresh attitude and lighter demeanor.

#3: Make a List

When I am feeling overwhelmed, it's usually due to the fact that my mind is racing faster than I can keep up and, while I'm usually intensely motivated to be productive, I end up accomplishing nothing substantial because the ideas are just bouncing around up there. I solve the problem by writing out a list of tasks I'm excited to do (or not excited, in some cases) and then order them by level of importance. I find that this organizes my thoughts better and holds me accountable for actually doing the things I need to get done. 

Plus, it feels sooo good to cross those things off as I complete them! Bonus!

#4: Listen to Music

Music is incredibly therapeutic for me. Sometimes there's nothing better than a great song to get you out of a funk!

When I'm listening to music to de-stress, it helps to use headphones. I feel like then I really concentrate on listening to the lyrics or the instruments and it helps me avoid distractions. (This also works well if you're alone in your car and you can crank the volume up to the max!)

#5: Go for a Drive

Sort of hand-in-hand with the music thing, going for a drive can really help you clear your mind and feel better. (If you are going for a drive and listening to music, please DO NOT wear headphones for the sake of safety!) I remember going for a LOT of drives by myself during one of the most stressful times in my life... When I was planning my wedding (I swear I wasn't a bridezilla and I never once had cold feet, but just the idea of spending so much time and money on ONE DAY made me stress like crazy!). I totally felt better after driving down some winding country roads for a while. Now with two kids under 3 years old, it's a little harder to just hop in the car and go, but I can't say I've never done it!

#6: Write About It 

This works well if you find writing relaxing. If it's going to stress you out to write or if your hand is going to cramp because you haven't written since you had a high school book report, then this strategy may not be for you.

If you DO enjoy writing, however, this is a great way to figure out the source of your stress and get it out of your head. Occasionally, if I am super stressed, but don't exactly know why, I just start typing without any real plan of where I'm going. It's amazing how I can usually end up figuring out what's irking me once I start venting to my word processor. (No, you guys don't get to read those pieces... Trust me, you're better off!)

#7: Do Something Nice for Someone Else

I always feel better when I do something nice for someone else. It gets my mind off of myself and my worries and onto how I can make someone else's day. It could be as simple as doing a chore around the house that your spouse usually takes care of... It could be sending a friend a text to let them know you've been thinking about them and want to get together... It could be sending a "just because" gift to someone... It could be stopping by to visit someone you haven't seen in a while... It could be baking cookies and dropping them off... 

Bottom line is, it doesn't have to be fancy, grand, or expensive... It really is the thought that counts and when you're thinking of how to make someone else happy, oftentimes your own happiness grows exponentially, too. 

#8: Have a Snack

Have you eaten today? If you're stressed out, running on fumes isn't helping! Trust me, there are some days where I start feeling anxious and worried about getting everything on my to-do list done and an embarrassingly LARGE majority of those times, I realize all I've had that day was a few cups of coffee and a handful of Cheerios I snarfed down when I poured my son's bowl. For me, I usually need carbs when I feel like this, so I keep my favorite cinnamon bread on hand or have some pasta for lunch... But figure out what works for you and take a break to have a meal.

#9: Play a Game

While I have often heard that stepping away from your smartphone can eliminate your level of stress, sometimes your smartphone can be used as a tool to help get rid of that stress that's building. I have four games on my phone - Solitaire, Sodoku, Bejeweled, and Wordscapes. When I'm feeling stressed out or worried or if I'm waiting for something anxiously, I can open my Games folder and play whichever one I'm in the mood for. 

For me, I need to be creating words, working with numbers, or matching colors to feel distracted. For you, it might be something else that works... Maybe you're into sports or roleplaying games... Find something you enjoy that makes you feel relaxed and remember that it's always just in your back pocket if you need it (or wherever you happen to keep your phone, ha ha!).

#10: Ask for Help!

This is by far my weakest area of expertise, even though I know it is sometimes very, very, VERY necessary to eliminate stress. But I despise asking for help or admitting I need assistance of any kind. I like to do things myself, figure things out for myself, and look back and feel like I accomplished something all on my own. 

Let's face it, we are human beings and we need other human beings to survive. Asking for help does not make you weak (I need to write this down 100 times on a chalkboard) and accepting help will more than likely help you solve some of the stress you're dealing with. If you're lucky enough to have people in your life who CAN help, then please don't try to be a superhero and take it on all by yourself.

So if you're a parent stressing out about all the things you need to do around the house while you're pulling your hair out because your kids are sick and they just want to cuddle, tell your spouse or your best friend or your mom that you could really use someone to vent to or someone to throw a load of laundry in... If you're a teacher worrying about getting end-of-the-year assessments completed before that Father's Day project and then starting your report cards, walk across the hall and tell your coworker what you're going through (she's probably stressed about similar tasks, too!)... If you're a college student who's working on top of all of your classes and trying to find an hour a week to have some semblance of a social life, go out with that friend and take a load off... Trust me, it pays off.

Good Luck!!

I really hope that you can utilize some of the strategies above. I know they've helped me out when I've been stressed out! If you have some other great ways to de-stress that you'd like to share, post them in the comments. 

I'd like to add a little disclaimer here that these are just strategies I use personally... I am not a doctor and if your stress is the type that needs medical attention, please seek it. Best of luck!

Friday, June 7, 2019

Summer Journal Prompts

Are you trying to keep your students or children writing over the summer, but finding it challenging to come up with topics for them to write about? Encourage them to start a summer journal (seriously, you can grab a composition book from Walmart for less than a buck!) and use the prompts below to get their words flowing.

Remember, writing doesn't have to be like pulling teeth! Especially during the summer, it should be a fun and creative process! So without further ado, here are the prompts...

The "Fiver" Lists:

Name five people you'd like to spend time with this summer.

List five places you'd like to visit this summer.

Think of five foods you'd love to eat this summer.

The "Goals" Prompts:

Tell about a goal you have this summer. 

Is there a skill you'd like to improve upon this summer? Is it a sport, hobby, or academic skill? What is your plan for getting better at it?

What goal would you like to achieve before you start school again?

The "Favorites" Entries:

Describe your favorite story. Why is it your favorite? Who is the main character? What is your favorite part in it?

Describe your favorite television show. What is it about? Who else would enjoy watching it? Do you have a favorite episode?

Describe your favorite junk food. Does it satisfy your sweet tooth or is it a salty snack? How often do you eat it? 

The "Fiction" Story Starters:

I woke up this morning and realized I'd overslept! How did my alarm not go off? Why didn't my parents wake me up? I rushed to get ready and flew downstairs to grab my backpack before the bus drove away without me. I found my mom and little sister in the kitchen having breakfast. "What's wrong?" My mom looked at me strangely. "Anxious to get your first day of summer vacation started?"

It was just like any other regular day at the beach. I was digging in the sand with my friends. We were going to build a giant moat around our sandcastle. Suddenly, my shovel hit something hard. A rock must've been buried deep in the sand. I kept digging. Hmm, rocks don't normally make a clanking sound like that... I dug some more and realized what I was uncovering. It was a treasure chest!

We were on the boat and getting further and further away from the shore. It wasn't my first time on a boat before, but for some reason, I was feeling nervous. Just then, I heard a splash and turned my head toward the sound. "What was that?!" My brother shouted, voicing the question that was on my mind, too. "It looked like a sea monster!" He added, eyes wide and full of shock. It couldn't have been... Sea monsters aren't real... I tried to rationalize the ideas in my head, but just then, something jumped out of the water again...

Saturday, June 1, 2019

Just for Summer! Fun Resources for Break

Looking for activities for your children this summer? Look no further! New this year, I have created some resources for parents (and teachers) to do with their kids. I will be adding more throughout the summer, so be sure to check back for updates!

Currently, I have the following printables available...

Playground Challenge Charts

License Plate Challenge

Road Trip Bingo

Summer Reading Wish List & Log

Summer Journal

Summer Fun Activity Bingo

Friday, May 31, 2019

Planning a Month of Blog Topics

I used to just write a blog entry whenever the mood struck me. It was great in terms of writing because I'd be all amped up and excited about a topic and the words would just flow. It was when I had a free moment to myself and since I have the Blogger app on my phone, that means I can write even on the go. But the negatives outweighed the benefits - I was inconsistent with posts and sometimes I totally neglected my blog for months on end.

Ever since I started scheduling my posts, I've been a lot more active. Each week, I have a set theme or area to write about, and I come up with a topic related to that theme. I give myself deadlines and make sure I meet them.

The organizer above is the one I designed to use to plan my month of weekly posts. This is a hard copy in a plastic sleeve, but I like to keep as much digital as possible, so I work out of a Google Sheets file for the month. I'll be polishing up the organizer I use and making it available in a generic form for everyone soon, so be on the lookout for it in my store!

How do you stay productive with your blog? Do you set aside specific time to write each day/week/month? Do you know what you're going to write about, or do you wait to get inspired? I'd love to hear about it in the comments!

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

25 Summer Tips for TpT Sellers

Summer… A time to relax, go to the beach, read whatever you want, sleep in, and… Oh wait, scratch that. You’re a teacher-author on Teachers Pay Teachers. You may be out of the classroom for a little while, but you’re not off the hook completely.

While summer is a slower time for many stores, it’s no time to neglect your store. In fact, you have a fantastic opportunity to plan for the next school year, create some quality new products, update some outdated resources, and develop your marketing plan.

Not quite sure what you should concentrate on? Feeling overwhelmed with the idea of a couple of unstructured months and unsure of where to start? Here are 25 ideas in no particular order that you can choose to put on your to-do list or not.

  1. Design new products
  2. Get your product ideas organized and pick products you know you want to finish over the summer
  3. Consider developing product lines based on your best sellers
  4. Redesign outdated product covers
  5. Rewrite outdated product descriptions
  6. Create previews for products that don’t have them
  7. Take authentic photos of your products for covers, pins, previews, blog posts, etc.
  8. If you use Pinterest, design new pins for products and new boards to expand your profile
  9. Take a course and learn something new to develop a new area of your business
  10. Start pinning Back to School products
  11. Update outdated products
  12. Take stock of your clipart collection and brainstorm new products you can create with it
  13. Watch YouTube videos for an area of your store you want to improve upon
  14. If you have a blog, write new blog posts (especially for topics you have products for, but not blog entries about… and if they’re seasonal posts, backdate them to the correct season of the previous year)
  15. Browse Pinterest and pin others’ great resources to your boards
  16. Listen to a new podcast (or check out the ones you already subscribe to, but haven’t tuned into for a while)
  17. Join a Facebook Group and find other teacher-authors in your niche
  18. Work on your budget for next year
  19. Create a vision board for your business goals
  20. Get your workspace organized
  21. Add products to your wishlist so you’re ready for the next site-wide sale (great for non-urgent clipart and fonts)
  22. Stay up-to-date with the standards and curriculum you design for
  23. If you have a business Instagram, keep posting during the summer - your followers will love continuing to get to know you!
  24. If you’re still in the classroom and created things during the school year for your classroom or students, make it “store ready” and post it for sale
  25. Plan for giveaways to promote your store for site-wide sales

Even though I totally advocate devoting a chunk of your summer to productivity, I also have to say that while you’re focusing on your business, find time for self-care and don’t get stressed out about low sales or minimal traffic throughout the summer. (This goes double if you teach in the classroom during the rest of the year!)

I have been selling on TpT since 2012 and sometimes I get discouraged during the slower months, but I find that keeping busy and focused helps forget about the lower sales! And trust me, my sales always come back in August and have always improved from year to year. If you keep at it and set your sights on your goals, I’m sure you will also see some amazing results!

Best of luck! Enjoy your summer!

And if you have other tips for other TpTers, be sure to post them in the comments! I have found that the more teacher authors I get to know, the more we can share our tips for success.