Saturday, February 23, 2019

Digital learning problems - E is for Engagement

Good morning, colleagues! I apologize that I didn't post this blog last weekend. We had PTC Thursday night and Friday, and then I just thoroughly enjoyed my three-day weekend. This weekend, however, I am back to business! A year ago I posted a popular column titled "The A-Z problems of digital learning." One thing that I thought would be effective this year is to break down solutions for each of these issues. This week, I'm going to talk about "E": Engagement.

One thing I often talk to teachers about is that a digital device is JUST A TOOL! It's the same thing as using a pencil and paper. Is a digital device more inviting? Sure, but remember that "D" is for distractions. I mentioned in my last post that you have to engage your students in your classroom. You have to find a way to make your content appealing and authentic for your students. That will hopefully keep students involved in your class and free of distractions.

There are THE four Cs 21st century skills, but there are other skills that students should be learning. Utilizing skills will help with engagement as you can focus on teaching students "things" that they'll use in the future!

Collaboration and teamwork: Get your students talking to each other! The easiest thing to do in your classroom is to stop talking AT your kids, get them out of their chairs, move them around the room, and let them chat. I'm not saying don't lecture or let your students talk about anything all of the time, but don't let your students sit in their chairs for 65 minutes silently. That might be what they get in college, but I'm guessing if you're reading this blog, that you are NOT a college professor! When students are talking to each other, they aren't spending their time staring at the clock. If you ask students to discuss engaging content information, they will learn those face to face conversation skills that they need to be a well-rounded adult.

Creativity and imagination: I know that we have all standards and a curriculum that we need to get through, but as the teacher, you honestly can't decide exactly what your students focus on. You should find a way to provide your students with a voice and a choice. Give them a tic-tac-toe choice board where they can choose content pieces and options for projects.  Colorado's Social Studies standards are relatively open-ended, so I knew that I was having students meet a state standard even if they were covering a different topic than another peer. Students will buy in more if they have a say in their learning. They take ownership!

Critical thinking: One thing that surprised me the longer that I've taught is how willing students are to give their opinion. I was somewhat shy and introverted, so I never assumed anyone wanted to hear what I had to say. Surprise! Most people willingly give their opinion, and other people DO care! It's why critical thinking is crucial to every classroom. Students should have (and share) their ideas, but they also need to think critically about why they believe things to be true, where did they learn that knowledge, and what factual information supports those views? Because they're "essentially" talking about themselves, they are engaged in those tasks.

Flexibility and adaptability: When I taught Social Studies, I heard all of the time, "Is this for a grade?" If I said yes, students would often reply with, "But this is so hard!" I've realized that students need to be able to take risks without failing or punishment. You, the teacher, need to be flexible with due dates and be adaptable to your students' needs. Yet students also need to be adaptable when it comes to trying new types of assignments in the classroom. In broadcasting, students know that it is difficult to fail while also understanding that they can take risks as long as it meets the proficient criteria for the segment. I never hear "Is this for a grade" anymore! My students know that I am willing to listen and learn right along with them.

Social responsibility and ethics: A lot is going on in the world right now. It's so important to connect your curriculum to current events. We need our students to be well-rounded adults, and to do that, students must know what is happening, form opinions, and support their views with evidence. Don't we want students to think about their place in the world? I know that I want my students to be aware of what's around them, in Colorado Springs, the US, and the world. Awareness leads to empathy. Ignorance is "bliss." But I've also seen that students are more engaged with content when they make connections with their current world.

Technology literacy: WIth all this chatter about "digital natives," I've realized that students are not this. Technology literacy is the ability to use technology, EFFECTIVELY, to access, evaluate, integrate, create and communicate information to enhance the learning process through problem-solving and critical thinking. Students should learn what a valuable website looks like. Students should evaluate why a source is or is not reliable. Students should also be able to communicate with professionals in their field and receive advice to improve an assignment or project. Students shouldn't steal an image from Google Images but instead should learn how to find Creative Commons sourced work.

Again, these are just a few ideas to get your students engaged. You know your students best, so what stands out? Meet your kids where they are, then push them beyond their (and your) expectations. Thanks for reading! I'll see you next week :)

- Rachel

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Digital learning problems - D is for Distractions

Good morning, colleagues! A year ago I posted a popular column titled "The A-Z problems of digital learning." One thing that I thought would be effective this year is to break down solutions for each of these issues. This week, I'm going to talk about "D": Distractions.

Have you ever gave a whole list of directions only to have your student look up and you and ask, "What did you say?" Digital devices have completely changed our lives and our students' lives.

Provide clear digital rules: Is technology going away? No, it's not. So we can't ban tech in our classrooms, but students don't have to be on their devices all of the time. Make sure you set rules in place and let students know WHEN they can use technology in their classroom. Are you direct instructing your students? Then no, students should not be on their devices. They should be taking notes (sketchnoting?) or answering questions. Are students researching? Let them use their phones to research (while providing them with "Googling" tips). Need to review? Use Kahoot (and students can use their devices as "clickers"). Need students to discuss and answer questions? Have them access Socrative! Students, though they may be "digital natives," they do not know how to use technology professionally. They can scroll Instagram and check Whatsapp, but they don't know about the educational purposes of their devices.

Hide the notifications: Most students think of their device as an extension of their body so it can be hard for students to put their devices away where they cannot see them. To remove the distractions, however, you don't have to have students put their devices away (or if you have a hanging sleeve "phone jail"). One effective way to get students less distracted is to have them put their device in airplane mode. At first, students will continually check their device (it's just habit), but if there are no notifications on the screen, the habitually checking will subside. Over time, eventually, students should put their devices away as studies have shown that just having their phone out IS a distraction. But teenagers are also teenagers... we have to respect that.

Change things up: I am someone who can spend the whole day on the couch reading. Most people can't do that (and I'll readily admit that I can't do that for more than a couple days). For our students... they can't sit still for more than 20 minutes! One way to prevent distractions in your classroom is to "chunk" your lessons. Sure, we want our students to write for a full hour or spend the whole class researching. Over time, they will get bored which then leads to distractions. If you want your students to write for the full hour, break it up so that you teach a skill and then have the students work on that skill. Do a "brain break" where students take a lap in the hallway and chat about something outside of school. When they get back into your classroom, they should be ready to learn about the next skill you want to teach. It may seem like you're wasting precious class time, but I would caution you to think about how much time is lost because a kid is off task (even when they look like they are focused).

Design engaging lessons: As a former 1:1 teacher (for five years), the most useful thing I found to prevent distractions was to design engaging classroom activities. None of my students wanted to sit and listen to me talk (as I am not a natural storyteller). I made it a curriculum goal to have students consistently speak with each other and move around the room. I never let students get comfortable enough because I switched things up. Think about using Kagan strategies as a starting point and remember to try to tie in what your students are interested in outside of school!

It is not difficult for our students to end up down a rabbit hole when on their digital devices, so I hope some of these ideas provide you with support. It really is essential to help students learn HOW to stay present with a device in your classroom, but it is also essential to be a good role model and stay off your own device. What are you missing when you are not on your personal device? Probably nothing. Facebook and Twitter will still be there when the day is over. So will your games, your to-do list, and your text messages. Model being present and talk to students about why "being present" is so important. They'll thank you in the long run.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend, and as always, thank you for reading! I'll see you next week :)

- Rachel

Saturday, February 2, 2019

Digital learning problems - C is for Celebration of Learning

Good morning, colleagues! A year ago I posted a popular column titled "The A-Z problems of digital learning." One thing that I thought would be effective this year is to break down solutions for each of these issues. This week, I'm going to talk about "C": Celebration of learning.

When you celebrate your students' learning, I feel like it's pretty personal to you as a teacher and to your classroom. I am introverted, so being big and showy just wasn't in my nature. Students usually knew if I gave them any praise that it was a big deal! A little bit of recognition isn't enough either. How can you provide more for your students in the digital age?

Write a note. This one is pretty standard - sending a note home about how a student is doing in your class. This has existed as long as I've been in school (which is going on 30 some years, lol). If you want to "up your game" with sending a note home, send it through the mail! That's a pleasant surprise for both parents and your student! If you are incredibly busy and overwhelmed, an e-mail home works just as well.

Classroom assembly. I've found that whole school assemblies aren't super useful (unless it's a pep rally), so classroom assemblies work much better. You can set aside a time once a week, month, or quarter to give students kudos for their works. If you want to provide a certificate or small treat, that's up to you. Giving students high praise with extraordinary, meaningful words is often good enough.

Share on Twitter, YouTube, or your website. We ARE in the digital age so it can be just as beneficial to give your students digital kudos. I will tweet about how my students are doing or something exciting that I see in my classroom which I then display in my classroom. My students make video projects all of the time, so I share everything that they do on YouTube. We then watch their videos in class as a shout-out to the great work that they did. If you ever have a student project that is absolutely amazing, I would encourage you to share their work on your website or digital portfolio. As long as you continue to teach that unit, their assignment is displayed as the exemplary work. That's pretty powerful for a kid!

Have students guest write on your blog. I haven't done this (yet), but students are often willing to talk about themselves. If you have a student who produces excellent work, have them share their work and reflect upon it on your blog. Maybe only teachers read your blog, but they're likely to leave great comments that you can show your student. Your other students may want to read and comment on the blog post as well.

Let students "graffiti" your whiteboard. There are some reasons to have students "graffiti" your whiteboard. Is it a student's birthday? Was a student out sick for a while and recently returned? A couple of years ago, I was out sick for three or four days. When I returned, my student teacher had the students write welcome back messages. It was so meaningful! When I taught high school in Arizona, I had a class that needed some teambuilding work. I had them pair up and find something they had in common. They then had to write on the board their names and what they had in common. The kids loved getting to see their names on the board and what they wrote. It's a simple, yet powerful way to applaud learning (or just to celebrate).

I hope you find these ideas practical for your digital classroom. Making kids feel intelligent and powerful can go a long way with building relationships!

Thanks for reading! I'll see you next week :)

- Rachel

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Digital learning problems - B is for building rapport

Good morning, colleagues! A year ago I posted a popular column titled "The A-Z problems of digital learning." One thing that I thought would be effective this year is to break down solutions for each of these issues. This week, I'm going to talk about "B": Building rapport.

Our students, when using digital devices, will put their head down and put their face close to the screen. It is imperative that we get them to look up every once in a while, and maybe even have them talk to each other, and to you as a teacher. How can we accomplish this?

#1: Interact more, lecture less. Yes, we have a curriculum guide to follow. Yes, we have content that we need to get through by the end of the year. However, you can take time out of the day, week, or year to get to know your students. Sometimes the students are trying to get out of doing work, but other times, they want to see how you will react and how well you will listen. An example: I have a student who doesn't like the same kind of music that I do. He knows, however, that I listen to music a lot. He asked me if I knew of a specific artist, but I didn't. He told me I HAD to look up this person. I went home and found them on Spotify. I didn't particularly care for the music, but the next day I told him that I tried. His face lit up! Every now and then, he'll let me know about a new artist, and I'll give it a try. It's something that doesn't take up a lot of time but still shows that I care and am willing to try.

#2: Use Capturing Kids Hearts strategies to building a community in your classroom. Greet your students at the door every day. Shake their hand, give them a high five, or fist bump each student as you say their name (this helps you learn their names quickly). Then start your class by asking students if they have any good news to share. Running short on time for the day? Have students write their brief stories on the whiteboard (or an erasable poster on the wall). Make a quick Google Slides presentation and have students answer a question or share their good news. Get kids to get to know each other (and you - make sure you participate as well!)

#3: Team Building. Team building can sometimes be ridiculous and annoying. Kids usually hate it especially the first day of the year or semester. Try changing it up so that your team building isn't the same thing as what everyone else is doing. Play Taboo as a content game (or just as a fun game). Play wink murder in small groups. Play all my friends and neighbors for the last five minutes of class. Give the students a breather from traditional class and have them spend time doing something that doesn't require a cell phone.

#4: Be present. When you are in the classroom with your students, be present. Walk around your class. Interact with your students. Ask them questions. Don't be on your cell phone. If you are meeting with a student one-on-one, close your laptop. If you see students in the hallway, say hello. Attend after-school activities. Sponsor a club or coach a sport. Find a way for students to see you and see that you are present in whatever you do. Modeling goes a long way!

I know that this list isn't long, but I hope it gave you some ideas for building rapport with your students (especially in this digital age). Technology isn't going away, but neither is having a relationship, talking face to face, and being able to hold a conversation. We have to bring together the old and "new" ways of life!

Thanks for reading! I'll see you next week :)

- Rachel

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Digital learning problems - A is for applications

Hello, colleagues! A year ago I posted a popular column titled "The A-Z problems of digital learning." One thing that I thought would be effective this year is to break down solutions for each of these issues. So to begin, I'm going to talk about "A": Applications.

As teachers, we have to wade through 2 million applications available in the Apple App Store and/or Google Play Store. That is A LOT of apps. I would encourage anyone who is overwhelmed with the number of applications to first figure out what you want your students to do. What do you want from the assignment? What is the purpose? Once you have that decision made, then you can start to wade through the various teacher lists of popular applications that are posted online.

But that can also be overwhelming. Where might a teacher start to look?

Here are some applications that I think are fantastic to start out with in your classrooms:
The 6 Best beginner Classroom Applications by Rachel Jeffrey
  • Google Docs: This application is perfect for word processing (i.e., writing). What makes Google Docs better than Microsoft Word is that a) students can collaborate on the same document and b) you have access to the student files so you can see what your classroom learners are doing. If you happen to pair Google Docs with Google Classroom, you will see the effectiveness even further. In Google Classroom, you can share a Google Doc with your students, and it will make a copy for each student. Now all of their files are in one handy place. You don't have to worry about students sharing their document with you! 
  • Spark Video: This is my favorite beginner video application. Students don't have to do filming through the app but instead can do a voiceover over images and icons that are built into the application. Spark Video also has built-in themes and music to make the videos more inviting and engaging. This application is perfect for kindergartners through high schoolers. 
  • Quizizz: I just recently found this quizzing application. I like it better than Kahoot for three reasons: 1) You can choose to play a points quiz or not. Students don't have to answer quickly to get full points. 2) You can assign a homework game so students can play the game on their own time. It's perfect for a weekly review that kids can take whenever. 3) It has meme sets, so students get a funny meme if they get the answer right or wrong. It's silly, but it's another way to engage students. Also, after a quiz has been completed, you get a report, and you can see what students missed what questions and can also see which items were wrong the most. 
  • Newsela: This current events application is great to get students reading non-fiction text. The app is partnered with reputable newspapers to get the latest news. You can level the reading to meet your students' needs. At the end of each article is a multiple-choice quiz. You can search by content or by type of news. You can also find pre-made text sets, or you can build your own. 
  • Actively Learn: Actively Learn is very similar to Newsela yet quite different. There is less current, right now news, but there are more stories and novels posted through their site. Similar to Newsela, there are pre-made articles with questions built in or you can upload your own materials and design questions. One significant difference is as a student reads a story in Actively Learn, the reading will stop, and students will have to answer a question. Students cannot move on until the question has been answered. By doing this, students cannot get distracted by the rest of the reading, and they know the answer is in what they previously read. You can also ask students multiple choice, true/false, or short answer questions. You can assign a grade or use a rubric to grade each answer. Students can also see answers after and can provide hints or comments to each other. It's pretty slick.
  • Edpuzzle: If you are a legitimate 21st-century teacher, you know that kids learn a lot from YouTube. It's great if you utilize YouTube videos in your classroom, but Edpuzzle harnesses that power further. You can link a YouTube video to Edpuzzle. Once the application recognizes the video, you can build in questions (multiple choice, open-ended, or a comment) for students to answer/review. The video will pause and will not resume until the student answers the question. You can also crop a video so only one part shows, you can do a voiceover over the entire project (with your own script), or you can provide audio notes. 
This is a good six applications to start with. They apply to every content and every grade level. I hope you find this a useful place to start!

Thanks for reading. I'll see you next week :)
- Rachel

Saturday, January 12, 2019


Good morning colleagues! Welcome back to 2019!

For the last two years, I've picked one word to be my focus. I am planning on doing the same this year. The word that I am choosing is habitual. I am picking this word, not for my professional life, but for my personal life. This is an individual goal to me because I've found me telling myself, over and over, that teaching is what I do... it is not who I am. It is part of me, but it can't be all of me.

WHY do I need to be habitual? Most of my friends here in the Springs are teachers. When we get together, we talk about school. After a while, that gets old. There is more to us than being a teacher. We all have lives outside of the building, and we most certainly have more to us than teaching (or at least I hope so). Two years ago, I chose self-care as my word, and I've been preaching self-care ever since. I've done a great job of breaking apart my two worlds, but I need to be better about my personal, non-professional life.

Over the last year, as my job slowed down tremendously, I realized I still had an imbalance. I was still tired all of the time and spent all of my free time watch tv and/or lounging on the couch. I was in a funk and was practicing some bad habits. I didn't like that I was a couch potato, especially since I'm more than just my lousy TV habits.

HOW will I be habitual? Last year, I tried to pick up bullet journaling, but I went about it all the wrong way. I didn't have the right tools to make it enjoyable, and I didn't have the right frame of mind to be successful. What I knew of bullet journals is that they were pretty. I don't have time to MAKE MY BULLET JOURNAL PRETTY! So I went into this with a different frame of mind... it had to be what I needed it to be.

My sister was SO excited when I asked for bullet journaling supplies for Christmas. She bought me the stuff that she thought I needed (she did a good job!) but then kept asking me if I was going to use my bullet journal as a planner. The answer was definitely "NO!" I don't need a planner. I'm tied to my phone, and I live and die by Google Calendar. I'm really good at putting in reminders and dates, and I have notifications pop up consistently throughout the day (both on my personal phone and my school computer). So I knew that bullet journaling would become a pain as a planner.

I decided that I wanted my bullet journal to become a habit tracker. I didn't want a digital habit tracker because I didn't think it would keep me accountable. I need to write out my ideas and look at the trackers every day.
  1. The first page of each month is a calendar. I highlight important days (no school, birthdays, hockey games, etc.) which match to their respective color on my phone calendar. It's just a visual reminder that I have something going on. I also have a goal list for the month and a to-do list for the month (make a car appointment, buy a birthday card, etc.)
  2. The second page is my habit tracker. I have seven habits that I want to keep up with consistently: take pictures, practice handwriting, read for 30 minutes, post on Instagram, practice the ukelele, color for fun, and exercise. I've listed out the days of the month and then color in the box for the day if I practice the habit. 
  3. The third page is a cleaning tracker. I love to cook, but hate all other household chores. It's also embarrassing when my husband tells people how he keeps the house clean... not me. So similar to my habit tracker, I've listed out the days of the month and color in the box for the day if I clean. I've listed out the following "chores": dishes, sweep and wash floors, pick up clutter, do laundry, put clothes away, vacuum downstairs, clean my bathroom. 
  4. The fourth page is a mood tracker. Sometimes my mood swings wildly from morning to afternoon, so I want to track how I'm feeling (to better understand why I might be feeling a specific mood). I have a key with a color equaling a particular feeling, and I track AM and PM how I'm feeling each day. 
  5. My last page of the month is a gratitude log. This is what I started doing last year but tried to get all fancy with it. Instead, it's a short and quick reminder of good things that happened that day. Even on a bad day, there's always a positive. 
So how is bullet journaling going? Not bad. I still have bad habits that I'm trying to break, but as James Clear mentions, I will again go back to bad habits for some time. It doesn't happen overnight. Bad habits occur because of stress and boredom. Now that I'm back in school, I'm stressed, but then I find myself bored. What do I do in those instances? Play a stupid game on my phone that I'm ridiculously addicted to for no good reason!

I do have my phone notifying me twice a day to check my bullet journal, so that is holding me accountable for looking at it every day (making it a habit). I also put app timers on my phone so that I don't spend all of my free time on Ramsay Dash, Reddit, and Twitter. My husband told me to leave my ukelele and coloring books on the couch, so they are in my face when I'm a couch potato. 

I'm hoping, by picking habitual as my word of the year, that I will have more to talk about when I'm with other people. I can talk about the new photos I took last weekend and can show them the final versions on Instagram. I can use coloring as a destresser after an unusually long day. I can tell people that I can play the ukelele which makes me seem "cool and interesting." And, of course, my final hope is my house will be clean because of me!

I know this post was incredibly personal (and not really related to education at all), but I appreciate you making it to the end. Thanks for reading! I'll see you next week :)

- Rachel

Saturday, December 15, 2018

5 Most Popular Posts of 2018!

Good morning colleagues! We're getting down to the wire here before Christmas break. We still have a week left of school, but due to Christmas eve being on a Monday, and traveling next weekend to see family, this is my last blog post of 2018! Where has this year gone?!

Per tradition last year, after being inspired by Catlin Tucker, I've decided that my final post of the year will recap my top five most viewed (popular) posts on my blog. It's not too much of a surprise to see my top five as they were all posted before summer break and all had content that was relevant to all and/or was a "hot topic" in the news.

Post #1 (21 Jan 2018) 
In this post, early this year, I blogged about how our district implemented digital portfolios. I provided some links to resources about using digital portfolio with students. I also talked about how digital portfolios can provide your students with a voice and with choice (they pick what's on their site, and they reflect upon their decisions and learning). I briefly discuss my own digital portfolio and why it works for me. Then I end by mentioning how a student could graduate with 13 years worth of work. THAT is powerful! 

Post #2 (21 April 2018) 
In this post, I write out the alphabet, A-Z, and next to each letter, I discuss a potential problem with digital learning. Some examples include distractions, managing time, plagiarism, xenagogue (yep - I even thought of an X word!). Technology can provide so much support in our classes, but it can also be a nightmare and a downfall! I hope that this post helps people, who are thinking about implementing technology into their curriculum, problem solve BEFORE the issues happen! 

Post #3 (13 May 2018) 
This post focused on how my grading policies have changed since I first started teaching. Things that I have changed include no zeroes, late grades, or "fluffy" grades, more formative assessments, and my take on why behavior does not equal achievement. This whole post stemmed from me being frustrated by ineligible students not being able to compete in our big track meet. 

Post #4 (28 April 2018)
In April of this year, teachers across the US went on strike to get better salaries and conditions (for themselves and their students). Our district did not go on strike, but our state did have an educator rally at the state Capitol in Denver. This post focused on my experience going to the rally with my educator friends and WHY I marched at all.

Post #5 (5 May 2018) 
This post is focused on six steps to help you create meaningful work in your classroom. As you start to burn out as a teacher, you have to make changes to your personal and professional life. I can't tell you how to fix your own life (except to take care of yourself), but the six steps helped me remove myself from a burnout situation. I also provide ways for you to support your students in making good work in the classroom which puts the bulk of the work on the students instead of on you! 

To end, I just want to wish you all happy holidays! As always, thanks for reading (especially throughout the past couple of years!) I will return on 12 January 2019!!!

- Rachel

Sunday, December 9, 2018

A self-care Christmas list!

Good morning colleagues! There are only two weeks left before Christmas, and I realized I haven't done a self-care post in a while. I figured... why not combine the two? So here is a Christmas list with some of my favorite self-care products!

For relaxing on the couch

  • Kindle Paperwhite - currently $99 (regularly $129): I am a voracious reader. It's in my Bails blood! I always scoffed at people who used e-readers. I preferred to have a real book in my hands that I checked out from the library (thank you very much!). Then I found out that you can check out ebooks from the library, so I put the Paperwhite on my Christmas list a couple of years ago. Thanks to my generous in-laws, I am in LOVE. Not only do I check out books from the library, but I also stash books that I find for free online (you know, for a rainy day...)
  • Twinings Earl Gray tea - $3 (available everywhere): Within the past year I had my first taste of a London Fog latte, and it CHANGED MY LIFE. I always thought Earl Gray tasted disgusting, but with some steamed milk, vanilla syrup, and a sprinkle of homemade vanilla bean powder, it is the BEST. If you're a tea drinker, especially a tea latte drinker, you have got to make one of these! 
  • Fuzzy socks - price varies: Do I have to explain why you need a good pair of fuzzy socks? Have you ever spent the entire day in your pajamas on the couch? Bonus points if it has a cat or a llama on it!
  • America Needs Teachers mug - $12: Oh Raygun... I love you! I'm all over this website because they make hilarious Iowa stuff. They are also entirely unhinged liberals, so they are pro-LGTBQ, teachers, women, science... basically all of the things I am "pro" of as well. I have to shout out this mug because the people reading this blog are teachers... duh... 
  • IKEA lamp - $12.99: A - this lamp emits more light than you think; B - this lamp has a reading lamp attached; C - it's twelve bucks. SOLD!
  • Spotify subscription - $9.99 a month ($14.99 a month for 6 accounts): I may have been an unsavory music downloader once Napster was created. Since paying for Spotify, I haven't downloaded a single song. It's incredible - I just want access to all of the music. And Spotify has almost every song you've ever wanted to listen to!

Getting to the gym

  • Fitbit Versa - $149 (not sure how long this price will last): Fitbit put the Versa on sale for Black Friday. My Charge 2 was cracked and wasn't very good at keeping my heart rate during an intense workout. I bit the bullet and upgraded to the Versa. I am SO glad that I did! It's waterproof so I can track my swims. I also trialed it with a spin session, and it kept my heart rate the entire time. Because it has a larger watch face, it can show me all sorts of notifications. I can be updated with breaking news, and sports score alerts!
  • Zella leggings - price varies: People rave about Lululemon, but I'm too cheap for that. I'm obsessed with Zella instead. Their leggings are just thick enough for great coverage and fit, but aren't too thick for significant sweaters like me! They're so flattering on any body type, and no matter how much my weight yo-yos, I've worn the same pair for 5-6 years. They last after repeated washings! 
  • Yoga towel - $38-$58: These hot yoga mat towels are not cheap, but they're so good! They have some beautiful designs, and on the backside of the towel, they have little grippy buttons. When you are super sweaty, and you lay down for locust pose, you will be glad you have that towel!
  • Camelbak water bottle - $10: There are cheaper water bottles out there, but I'm partial to the "podium" series by Camelbak because they are easy to drink out of while on the bike, but they also don't leak (after repeated dishwasher washings)!
  • Clif bars - price varies by store: These bars are filling and relatively cheap. The flavor is also good, and though they aren't gluten-free, they are okay with my gluten intolerance. 

To pamper yourself

  • Mighty Patch blemish patches - $2.50 for 6: I don't get much acne, but when I do, it comes in like a hurricane! Put one of these patches on your zit for six hours and it sucks all the white stuff out of the zit. They're pretty amazing. I will wear one overnight, but other people swear you can wear one under makeup. They work either way!
  • Dr. Jart Cicapair Cream - $40: Though this cream isn't cheap, it's been a GAME CHANGER for my face! I have a lot of redness when I don't wear makeup. My face is super dry and is easily irritated. I also blush very easily (or get red face when I'm warm, workout, or drink). I don't like putting a lot of products on my face. BB cream works relatively well (especially when paired with a redness-reducing primer), but sometimes I need something quick in the morning. A little bit of this cream goes a long way. I received a .5 oz sample in a Birchbox. I've used it almost every day for two weeks and probably have another 5-10 days left in the container. It is thick, but spreads easy. It covers all acne and definitely evens out my skin tone. It looks like I'm wearing concealer and it reduces all redness. It's absolutely amazing!
  • Blistex Medicated lip balm - price varies by store: I love Burt's Bees, but I've recently found this lip balm. It works well with my dry lips, but also adds a little tingle (I'm guessing due to the medicated piece?). It also has 15 spf sunscreen in it, so it's great for track season when I'm outside all afternoon.
  • GlamGlow Thirstymud - $25-$80: A little bit of this hydrating mask goes a long way as well. It doesn't look like a traditional face mask, so I use this product more like an overnight moisturizer. I think it smells fabulous and it makes my face really soft. When I've completed a hot yoga session, my face is sunburnt, or my face is just super dry, this is my go-to product.
  • Gold Bond Radiance Renewal - price varies by store: I got a sample of this in a beauty box, so I tried it on my new (at the time) tattoo. It was perfect for the dry, irritated skin! I bought a bottle and now won't look back. It's really good, thick lotion. I use it every day on my dry hands, and if the rest of my skin is looking a little rough, this lotion smooths it out. It's that good.
  • SinfulColors Nail polish - price varies by store: This is cheap nail polish that I stand by. They have crazy cute colors and the price is solid. Pick up a bottle for your next girls night in!

"Hitting the hay"

  • Vanilla Sleepytime Tea - price varies by store: I love Celestial Seasonings tea, but I am partial to their sleepytime tea. Drinking a mug makes me cozy and dozy! I recently tried this vanilla flavor and I'm obsessed. It's SO good.
  • Nature's Truth Sleep Spray - $6.99: A few sprays of this on my pillow and I'm ready to pass out. It smells like frankincense and lavender. I love it!
  • Foam mattress topper - $25 for queen size: This mattress topper is cheap, but it works! We have a decent mattress, but this topper makes it that much softer. I want to curl up and stay in bed all day!
  • Fuzzy blanket - $40: When eight of my college girlfriends came to visit, I went out and bought some new blankets for the house. Now that they're gone, I put this blanket on our bed. It's cute and cozy, and the cats goes crazy for it. It's perfect for snuggling and it's soft on the face when you're tucked under the covers.

And with that, I hope you find something great for yourself on this list! Thanks for reading... I'll see you next week :)

- Rachel