Monday, January 11, 2016

5 Tips to Help Your Students Love School

I am writing this post for Cassandra from Mrs. 3rd Grade to celebrate her 30th birthday!!!

To celebrate, I am going to share 5 EASY tips to help your students love to be at school! Every year my #1 goal is to make sure all my students are all happy, loving school, and growing as a person. I truly believe that has to come first! 

Here are 5 simple rituals will help you do just that and will be easy for you to sustain! They aren't behavior tricks but instead rituals that help your students grow in character.

Tip #1: Friday Messages - Teacher to Student
Every Friday, write a message to your students! This message could include praise about what they did well, build excitement for learning experiences to come, or any other positive news you wish to share. The students get so excited to read the note each Friday morning, and this little tradition contributes to the overall positivity of the classroom environment! (If you forget, a student will be sure to remind you!)

Tip #2: Bucket-Filling
Read How Full is Your Bucket? and introduce the concept of "Bucket-Filling" to your students. Brainstorm ideas for how they can fill their peers' buckets each day. Then, nominate a student who stood out as a role model to be the "Bucket-Filler of the Week." This student will try his/her hardest to be a role model all week and look for a student to nominate for the next week. I display this child's picture in the classroom. For a free classroom visual, click here.

Tip #3: #You Matter Board - Student to Student
Students use a sticky note to write a meaningful compliment or comment to a classmate and end the note with #youmatter. Then, when you get a free moment, read them aloud and have the student take it home to share with his/her family.

Tip #4: Social Emotional Learning
We often take time at the beginning of the year to read social-emotional books but then get so busy with curriculum, we don't continue to carve out the time. Reading social-emotional ALL year long is SO key. Don't be afraid to take time away from other subjects to have these discussions. Social-Emotional books will help you bring up issues in class meetings that will acknowledge feelings students often have. It will give you an opportunity to have growth mindset discussions that you can refer back to when they are persevering through challenges. It will give you the opportunity to discuss coping strategies to help students become more resilient. It will help you teach your students to take on the perspective of others and think how they feel. And much MORE! Classroom read-alouds and discussions add so much heart to the community.

Tip #5: Share it Out with Families
I used to write weekly newsletters... Then, when I made a class website, I started updating the website each week and emailing the update to the parents. All of this became VERY time-consuming, rarely involved the students, and I'm not sure how many parents read all this information. So, while this sounds overwhelming, it's such an EASY switch... I now send a DAILY email to the parents. However, I write it with the students at the last 5 minutes of the school day. We call it our "Happy Email." A student calls on 5 classmates to share a highlight from our day. I type it on the board. Then, I add anything I wish to the email and send it off. The students leave each school day with excitement for their parents to read the email. The parents LOVE this connection because it gives them talking points with their child each night. It helps bring the love of learning home each day and increase students' excitement for school the next day!

I wish you a wonderful 2016 teaching and learning!

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Pumpkin Investigation

Fall is a season that is fun to celebrate! Often we find ourselves so busy, the season quickly turns to winter and we look back thinking I wish I would have taken the time for some fall fun in the classroom. A pumpkin investigation is a way to bring in some ELA, math, and science into one experience! You could do this with one class pumpkin or a pumpkin per group.

Get a FREE recording sheet for students to use HERE.

To build background, you can begin by studying the life cycle of a pumpkin. Here are videos to help you students picture the process and sing a song to remember!

Life Cycle Picture Video

Life Cycle Song

Take a day to observe the outside of the pumpkin! Have the students share descriptive words to describe the outside of the pumpkin. Then, predict and count the number of lines.

Then, it really gets fun! Take the top of the pumpkin off for the students. Have them describe the inside of the pumpkin and predict the number of seeds. Then, have them scoop out the inside and separate the seeds.

Students can discuss counting strategies once they see HOW MANY seeds are really inside that pumpkin! For example, students can make groups and count by 10's. Come together and discuss- Did the largest pumpkin have the most seeds? How many more seeds did X pumpkin have than Y pumpkin? etc...


Finally, read the story How Many Seeds in a Pumpkin? Its a very sweet story about small things being able to have a BIG inside. It also teaches pumpkin facts!

 Exciting, hands-on explorations make some of the best memories!

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

A Warm, Caring Classroom Community

Start your year right with Social Emotional Read Alouds that will help you build a caring classroom community!

This is my best advice to creating a community both you and your students will love to be a part of each day. Taking the TIME it takes to read stories that teach lessons and foster rich discussions about how to treat others, solve problems, manage feelings/emotions, initiate friendships, learn manners, and build habits is SO worth it. It will save you so much day-to-day stress down the road and help your students become stronger leaders in the classroom. The students become more independent and learn to take care of each other! Parents are so appreciative when their students come home with meaningful reflections, strategies, and improve compassion. It helps set the tone for a great year!!!

After all, we've all heard the quote- students do not always remember what you taught them, but they remember how you made them feel!

I use situation cards and have students model how to solve scenarios using their MANNERS. Explicit teaching of manners might sound so basic, but it helps students reflect on how they treat each other. They make an effort to use this language and it puts a more positive spin on your daily environment. Manners cards and Posters are available HERE.

After reading The Case of the Tattle Tongue students can discuss how to solve problems. I teach them I-Messages and we practice, practice, practice!

Every week we honor a "Bucket-Filler of the Week" and that person works to be a role model all week long. Then, this student chooses a student he/she noticed was also a role model all week to be our next "Bucket-Filler of the Week." Students give their peer compliments about what he/she did well after being selected. Get your poster FREE here!

Monday, September 7, 2015

Set up your Classroom Library so STAYS it Organized!

 So, when I started teaching in 3rd grade, I knew I wanted to have a HUGE classroom library. Truth be told, I wasn’t a big reader as a child. I went through hoops to avoid it. I even cut little holes in the cover of my books so I could fake looking at the words but really just looked through the paper to see what was going on around me.

I really believe that if I enjoyed reading more at a young age, I would have learned more and learned faster later on in my education career. However, even still as a child who did all she could to avoid reading, there are specific books I remember to this day enjoying to read. I was truly interested and sad when that book was over. None of these were books popular with my friends or teachers, but just books I found and liked.

Because of my experience, I am a huge believer in having an expansive classroom library to maximize the chances that all 25 of my little learners will find books that they individually connect with both in terms of level and interest. I hope they will leave 2nd grade being able to point to books they feel like they had a relationship with or created a memory reading! 

 When I got my classroom library set up my first year of teaching, it was enough of a feat to go through every book and categorize. I made genre labels and sorted them into their baskets. However, it was left to the third graders to be able to remember which basket they got their book from or match it to the genre to put it away properly. It wasn’t a complete disaster, but it required some on-going maintenance to keep it organized.

 When moving to second grade, I knew younger students would need more guidance with helping keep the library organized. I did a lot of research on what was better between a LEVELED library or a GENRE library. Both library set-ups have benefits, so I decided to go ahead and put in the hours to level my entire library. (We use the Fontas and Pinnell Guided Reading Levels). I like how it gives the students, assistants, and me a chance to just glance at the level to check the appropriateness of a book. I decided to have about 70% of my library be organized by GENRES  - I personally think it’s more engaging and more real-world. However, the leveled bins are great “go to” bins for kids who are changing books all the time or frustrated trying to find that just right book. 
Here is the organization system that keeps it all organized and saves me time in the long run:

I put labels on each basket – genre or leveled.
On my genre bins, I put a little sticker with a number on that basket.

I put a number on the back of those books in the top right corner.
I left the leveled books unnumbered. So, if the students flip the book over and do not see a number, they know to look at the level and return it to that leveled bin.
Yes, it did take me a while to be okay with writing on my books. I was hesitant to do so because I was always wondering, what if I change my mind or need to re-organize? I got over that, and I’m glad I did. Worst case, put a sticker over it!
 I also train a “Classroom Library Leader” who will check the library every so often or help students, if needed.

Check Out My Video Tutorial:

Friday, August 28, 2015

Social Emotional Lessons

 Linking up with my sweet friend Diana at My Day in K for some BTS advice!

Social-emotional lessons all year long are KEY to a happy, healthy classroom. Those social-emotional skills are just as important as academic skills, if not more so! Here are a few ideas of social-emotional activities for your first week. Filling your first few weeks with social-emotional lessons will help create a warm-caring learning environment.

It is helpful to do both "all about me" type activities and classroom community building/friendship lessons to help celebrate individuality but also bond students together like a family. 

Read How Full is Your Bucket? and Have You Filled a Bucket Today? Then, create a chart about how to be a bucket-filler at school. Invite students to share their bucket-filling acts or acts of kindness continuously and celebrate them! For more bucket-filling ideas, click HERE.

Take a white poster board. On the back of your poster board, divide the board into however many squares as students. Number them for your reference. Cut them out in the shape of puzzle pieces. Have your students each decorate a piece with drawings/words that relate to them. Have a discussion about teamwork and model being a good teammate. Then, have students work as a team to assemble the class puzzle! Hang it up somewhere to remind the students - though we are all different, we all fit together as one team!

Study, model, practice, practice, and practice Whole Body Listening!  I make a poster using real pictures of my students modeling how to listen with each body part. We put this poster up in our whole group space all year! It's a quick and easy visual that I can easily point to when students need redirecting.

Have you seen the so popular toothpaste activity? This is where you have the students pour out a tube of toothpaste. Then, ask a child to try to get the paste back into the tube. When they are unable to do it, explain that it's easy to get words out, but it's not easy to take them back. Later in the year to review this idea, you can use a piece of paper. Have the students crumple up the paper. Then, when they open it, ask them to get it back to it's smooth original form. They will be unable to get the wrinkles out. Draw the conclusion that words can leave forever scars that you are unable to take back.

Have your class develop a NAME that describes them. For example, my class name is "The Knights of Kindness." We make a sign/poster to go outside our door. I give each student a heart and they write something they love about our class on the heart. We glue all 20 some hearts on. Then, we develop a class MOTTO. The motto is a phrase that describes what you do! Our motto is "Overflowing buckets with kindness." We make a poster with a big heart in the middle. The students put their hand print in the heart, and I write the motto on the outside. We sign our name/motto on all things that relate to our class. It forms unity!

Teach your students how to be a good partner! You can play basic math games throughout the first week that everyone can play. Use this as a time to model, practice, and reflect on good partner strategies!

Be sure to check back at the blog next week - I'll be sharing about tattling and conflict resolution!

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Classroom Tour 2015

This is my third year in this same classroom. Every year I step it up just a little more! This summer I focused on getting some furniture OUT and making spaces a little bigger, cozy, and more practical for students!

Does anyone else find that at your small group table you really need a board behind you? I'm tired of the struggle, so I found away to arrange everything to fit the whiteboard comfortably in front of my whiteboard!

Little touches like contact paper or spray paint on old worn down furniture and ribbons to hang decor or put on handles goes a long way!

I'm student ready!!!  To me that means I am ORGANIZED, spaces are set, and the staples are there. When the students come, the details will evolve as we make posters and visuals that are meaningful to them!

Check out the Tour of my student ready room HERE.

Pick Up an Anchor Chart sign for your classroom for FREE!

Friday, August 14, 2015

Back to School Thoughts

When do you start school? I don't know about you, but I always feel like it's such a rush getting everything ready and the first 6 weeks of the year are the most intense! I'm so excited to meet my new little loves!

I am just giving a short and sweet shout out to you as you embark on a new school year and share a few tips on my mind. I will be BACK very soon with a detailed post(s) about social emotional read alouds and activities to create the caring classroom you need! So please come back throughout the first few weeks of school.

Teaching is one of the most important jobs in the world! We spend every day lighting up the lives of others. We love our students for who they are, the unique personalities they bring to the world, and even the challenges we help them overcome. We stretch our creativity and exercise our endurance as we create loving relationships, a warm learning environment, and engaging lessons. Best of all, we have 20 some little hearts and minds in our classroom every day to love!

Relationships are the CORE of my first 6 weeks of school. Forming those close bonds with students helps set a foundation we can grow on and helps the children truly love school.

Second to relationships, I teach my students how to be really good listeners! I read them lots of books, but the best book is Whole Body Listening Larry at School. It introduces how to be a Whole Body Listener and we make our own Whole Body Listening Chart with pictures of the children modeling the core components! I also read them Lacey Walker Non-Stop Talker.  This year I am going to use Mr. Potato Head as a memorable visual of Whole Body Listening for each part of your body that needs to be engaged.

We build a caring community through more social emotional read alouds and activities! The most important read aloud is How Full is Your Bucket? We create our own poster for how to be a bucket-filler in our classroom and launch a bucket-filling system that encourages and celebrates kindness in our classroom. To find out more about this system, click HERE.

"All About Me" activities help students get to know the details of each other and have a special place within the caring community. One of the All About Me activities my students will do is "Me Bags." In the "Me Bag" the students bring in 4-5 objects or pictures to share with the class to help us get to know them. For example, they might bring a baseball, family picture, pet picture, etc. I just send home a brown bag and a note.

I always read Amelia Bedelia's First Day of School and First Day Jitters during the morning on the first day to help the kids settle in, laugh, and relate to all the emotions of the first day!

What are you most excited for in your first week???