Sunday, March 1, 2020

Crack the Code: Digital Escape Room

I recently created a digital escape room style review activity for my students. Surprisingly, it was quite simple and my students had so much fun that I don't even know if they realized that they were applying all the things that they had learned. I have setup and used the Breakout EDU boxes in my classroom. The Breakout EDU boxes I used are shared by all the teachers in my district and that comes with the challenges of broken or missing pieces, scheduling conflicts, and many other things. Building your own boxes, on the other hand, can also get expensive. To eliminate all the possible stresses that came along with my desire to create a fun learning opportunity for my students, I began to brainstorm on how I wanted to setup up a digital escape room activity and "Crack the Code" was born. I like the idea of calling it "Crack the Code" instead of the traditional Escape Room because my students are not actually locked in a room and it is more of solving a puzzle or code situation. If you frequent my blog, Instagram, or Twitter feed; you know that I have a thing for using Google tools in the classroom. For this particular activity, I used Google sites, Google forms, and Google slides.

The Background 

This particular activity was created specifically for my supported group of students. I want them to be challenged without the tasks being too difficult and cause them frustration instead. I first decided what topics I would cover, then I chose the basic questions or problems that I wanted to use. Finally, I planned out how I wanted to use each question and the details.

Topics and Uses:

  • Measures of Central Tendency - Created a 3 digit code
  • Area of Polygons - Gave the location of the missing teacher with a 4-letter code
  • Converting Fractions, Decimals, and Percentages - Sent students to a particular area in the room for a clue using mad libs
  • Basic Probability - Created a 5 digit code
Since this is set up as if I was missing, I used to create a ransom note for myself. I felt the ransom note added to the fun factor. I also created a missing flyer. The students had both the ransom note and missing flyer in the team folder along with 2 tip cards, group jobs sheet, and a list of teacher's room numbers.

The Setup

After I determined the topics, questions and setup, I created a Google Sites. I embedded the Google Form and several of the puzzles/questions directly onto the Google Sites. Below you will find that I also embedded a timer with a count down so that students are aware of how much time they have to crack the code. 

I began with the task. The task is like an opener, it explained the problem that the students were expected to solve. My students were excited for the mystery.

Next, the students could read the roles and envelope contents. I believe every student having a job is beneficial to the activity running smoothly. My goal is that everyone participates and that no one tries to take over. There was a video included for the students to watch. I was in the middle of explaining the instruction for the day to the students when I was...KIDNAPPED. I set up the kidnapping to happen while I was on video to set the stage for the Escape Room activity.

Included on the Google sites is a form, images the students need to complete some of the clues in the folder, and a Google Slide. For my form, I used response validation. As seen below, response validation will show the students that their response is incorrect and will not let them move forward. 

With forms you have several options for set up, you can set it up in sections so that the students must solve the clues in order. I did not have a specific order for the students to move in so I put all the codes together with validation. You could also have all the codes on one screen but have the final code in a separate section to mimic how some Breakout Edu. games have a box within a box or one must crack one code to get to the next.

The Google slide was meant to be interactive and I wanted the students to move the items on the screen. In this activity, students were expected to move statements in a particular order to get the code. I see this being used in many different ways such as matching, putting together a puzzle, or revealing items as things are clicked/touched in the presentation.

Below you will find the Math Lib that I used. I like math libs during the digital escape rooms because it gets the students up and moving. Although this is a digital escape room, anything that sends students to a location within the classroom should be varied. I had students realize that a team found a clue behind the pillows without solving the clue. You can create variations on the Site by having one for each team and labeling them by team. You could also make multiple versions and share the link by team. My immediate solution was to have the clue take them somewhere outside of the classroom.

Tips for Creating Your Own Digital Escape Room
Some times you stumble across the perfect well put together activity on TPT and you are able to download and go. There are times that activities may not match the skills you'd like to review perfectly. For those times check out my tips for creating your own digital escape room.
  • Save a tree - Your Escape Room can be all digital with no paper involved. The items I created and printed could have also been available on the Site or in Slides.
  • Recycle, Reduce, Reuse - Laminate pieces you plan to re-use.
  • Stay organized - If you have sets, organize them in labeled folders or envelopes.
  • No need to reinvent the wheel - Use activities that you already have and make them digital. (I've used items I've created or purchased from TPT in bits and pieces to create my own Digital Escape Room).
  • Don't confuse the kids - Make everything available in one space. Since I used a form, that I could not embed in a Slide, I chose to put everything on a Site. Had I not used a form, I could have used Slides for this Escape Room.

In the end my students were successful in saving me from the bandits. Below you will find a downloadable document that I use to set up my digital escape rooms. 

 Digital Escape Room Planning Guide

Until Next Time,

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Teacher Side Hustles: Ways Teachers can Earn an Extra Income

We all know that depending on where you teach, salaries for teachers can be pretty sad. I was personally affected when my husband recieved orders to Colorado from Louisiana. In Louisiana I was by no means rolling in dough but the cost of living allowed us to live a comfortable life. Moving to Colorado shook all of that up, with a lower salary for myself combined with a higher cost of living and the military's Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) didn't even match the high cost of living in our new home state. Prior to relocating to Colorado, I crafted for fun, had a Teachers Pay Teachers store that I wasn't consistent with, and was just starting to get into blogging. All of those things brought in a little money but it was nothing to brag about or depend on from month to month. Living in Colorado has made me turn my side hustle into an art. I currently use my money that I make from my side hustle activities to pay my student loans each month, treat my kiddos to some extra activities, fund all of my gift giving, and fund my crafting habit. Below you'll find some of the things that I have found very lucrative. All of these things may not be a good fit for you but if you are looking to supplement your teacher income or maybe you are in a different profession, I have ideas to help you find your niche.

Most educators are familiar with Teachers Pay Teachers (TpT). TpT is the go-to place for educators to find tons of resources, knowledge, and inspiration to implement in their classrooms. They offer more than 3 million free and paid resources, created by educators who understand what works in the classroom.

I created my TpT Store in 2012 with a few free resources and some that were $2 or less. I was not serious about my store. I mainly bought resources from others and did not do a very good job of uploading resources to my store. In 2016, after moving to Colorado I became a premium seller. I made the leap because I started to upload more resources and was starting to see higher deposits each month for TpT. My goal now is to match my teacher take home monthly salary. Some of the top sellers make over $5,000 per month which was a great motivation to get serious about my TpT store. There is a monthly pay out.  Premium Sellers receive 80% of sales and basic Seller receives 55% of sales. TpT provides residual income because you create the digital resource, upload it, and it can be downloaded repeatedly by teachers all over. To become a premium seller the cost is $59.95 per year. Once I surpassed that in sellers as a basic seller, I saw a benefit to upgrade to a premium seller.

I have a step by step course that will help you get your store up and running with some amazing tips and a guide to use along the way. The course is set to launch March 22. Sign up here,

If you are interested in the free mini course, sign up here and you will be contacted when the course is available for you to start.

Amazon Ignite connects educational content creators with Amazon customers. You can sell your teaching resources as digital downloads. It’s free to join but by invitation only, so you'll need to apply here. It is similar to Teachers Pay Teacher but it's 100% FREE. You earn a 70% royalty on all sales unless products are under $2.99, then they'll deduct a $0.30 transaction fee per resource sold.

Another positive is that since all the content is reviewed to help protect the rights of creators and originality, if your products are posted to the Amazon platform they are considered high quality and original.

Etsy is a global online marketplace, where people come together to make, sell, buy, and collect unique items with a no cost set up based on your market. I have sold everything from physical items to digital downloads. I've bought everything from clothing to craft supplies to images/cut files.

Etsy takes a percentage of each sell and you are charged a fee for each item that is listed for sell. You can have several Etsy shops if you'd like to have different niches or one store with multiple categories. I love Etsy for it's unique market and the fact that there are built in customers since you are listing on a marketplace. 

With anything that you choose to sell you'll need to do some research. Choose a niche, who is your target audience? Decide on your product, what are you selling? No cost/low maintenance items include anything that can be downloaded and uploaded digitally. You do not have to worry about shipping or creating an item by a certain deadline unless you are providing custom digital downloads. Other ideas include stickers, shirts, iron on transfers, party supplies, hand made clothing, decor, jewelry, body products, sew items, knitted items, art, reselling thrifted items, etc. There are probably items that I haven't even began to think of that can be sold on Etsy. I currently receive a few shirt orders per month and the profit is pretty nice. Check out Etsy or start your own shop today,

I met this amazing entrepreneur with a dope soul and passion to teach others who introduced me to She taught me how to create unique journal and book covers as well as pushed me with challenges to keep me producing so that I would get that shmoney. She started with no content/low content templates that can be downloaded then went on to give information on finding a niche that works and more about writing novels and short stories. With self publishing on amazon there is no upfront cost but a percentage of each sale is deducted before you receive a deposit at the end of the month. The Amazon Market is so large that many people will see what you have to offer and there is no limit for the customers that you will receive. Check out my journals and books here. My first book, Turning Lemons into Lemonade: Conquering Teacher Burnout, is available here.

To begin your own journal/self publishing journey check out my friend, Cinquanta:

There are many ways to make money blogging. The few ways I've made money are with sponsored blog post, affiliated links in my blog posts, and blogging about my resources with links to my Teachers Pay Teachers store.

With sponsored posts, I've been approached to write blog posts for a set amount of money. I'm given a list of talking points, a post date, and any additional instructions such as promoting on social media, etc. Affiliated links are a little different. You can sign up for affiliate programs, put the links on your blog then every time the link is clicked on, you'll receive money. There is usually a threshold you must reach before you get a deposit. I am apart of the Amazon affiliate program but there are tons of others out there that may fit your niche if you are looking to monetize your blog. You can also use your blog to sell your personal items that others may find useful. You can show how the item is useful and offer a portion of your product for free and if they like it, they are likely to buy the full version.

I'm still learning myself and trying to better understand SEO, keywords, and such to make my own blog more lucrative. Check out my Pinterest board on blogging:

I was able to take an online course by Suzi Whitford in her school,

This could have actually gone under many of the other categories such as Etsy, Shirt Business, and many of the other ideas but I decided to put it in an area of it's own because you can sell on official platforms or create your own. There are so many things that you can create with having a cutting machine. I have a Cricut but there are others on the market.

With a craft cutting machine you can make many unique items to sell. I currently sell birthday banners, shirts, cards, labels, stickers, party signs, cake/cupcake toppers, custom bags, treat bags, gift boxes, custom cups/mugs, diaper cakes, and more.

I sell my items on my Facebook Page, Instagram Page, and on Facebook Marketplace. If you have holiday items, they do really well and should be posted about a month before the holiday to get the word out.

This can be done in many different ways. I used my Cricut to start my t-shirt business, Mrs. Welch Creates, but I've recently been introduced to dropshipping. I love that you upload the design and just press a button to initiate production and shipment of your item. The profit margin is smaller but you are doing less work. There are more avenues for running your shirt business.

  • Cut Vinyl and Press: Create or buy a design cut it out and press it on a shirt with heat.
  • Order Transfers and Press: Order your design from a transfer business and press it on a shirt with heat.
  • Dropshipping: Upload your design, sell the item, then pay for production and shipping.
Stay tuned for an online course that is in the works for starting our own shirt business.

There are some companies out there. I found my home with I found this company on Linkedin and it was an amazing find. You are paid for each question published and there are bonus opportunities. When I search for these opportunities I usually include "remote", "content writer", and the the subject area. Last year, I made about $1,875 and only wrote test questions over the summer of 2019.

Podcasts are trending and you could jump in on the action. If you have something to talk about that is worth listening to, start a podcast. There's money in sponsorship, commercials, and paid ads. My podcast is a work in progress because I do more planning than necessary and sometimes you just have to get started which is not always my strong suit.

Check out my Pinterest board on starting a Podcast:

My podcast:

People use Youtube for so many different things from learning to entertainment. My own children sit and watch other children opening toys and playing video games for as long as I will let them.  This proves that there's a market for any and everything. As an educator there are probably a plethora of topics you can have a channel on whether education related or not.
  • Crafts
  • Class Organization Ideas
  • Makeup Tutorials
  • Vlog
  • Tutorial
  • Learning Topic
  • Shop with Me
  • Wardrobe
  • Haul
  • Review Videos
  • Skits
  • Reading Short Stories
  • Educational Based
  • Beauty Based
  • Kid Friendly
Comment below additional ideas that you may have.

Check out my Pinterest board on starting a Youtube Channel:

My Girls' Channel:

Are you an expert on a certain topic? You can share your gift with the world. There are several platforms but I use but I'm considering exploring other platforms. You can create an interactive experience, allow students to navigate on their own, or have drip content that release each week, day, etc.

If you opt not to list on a marketplace, you can open your own online store. There are many platforms for starting an online store. You are able to sell what you want without a percentage based fee but these platform require a monthly fee.

  • Shopify
  • SquareUp
  • Squarespace
  • Weebly
  • Big Cartel
  • 3dcart
  • Wix
  • Ecwid

  • Baking for Profit
  • Ghostwriter
  • Teach English Online
  • Online Surveys
  • Freelance Writer
  • Virtual Assistant
  • Sell on Amazon
  • Graphic Design
  • Tutoring
  • Flip Items for Money
  • Shop for Others
  • Shop with Ebates
  • Design Websites
  • Ride Share Driver
  • Food Delivery
  • Babysit over Breaks
  • Social Media Influencer
  • Develop an App
  • License your Photos
  • Flip Domains for Profit

Until Next Time,