Saturday, December 10, 2016

Let's Talk Christmas Countdown

   Fifteen days and counting. Well..eleven days until Christmas Break.  Channeling the excitement of the season into productive learning can be a challenge this time of the year to say the least.  There are days I want to throw my hands in the air and yell "I give up!", put on some Christmas music, make crafts, and dance around. Then, there's that little nagging voice in my head telling me that I need to get them ready for a test. I can't veer far from my pacing guide or they won't be ready.  Uggh! The "T" word dampens my spirits like no other.
   So, my solution? Compromise. Stick to the pacing guide and dig deep into the creative recesses of my brain.  After doing this, I came up with my Let's Talk Trees Persuasive Writing Unit.

Here is my checklist for creating the unit:

  • Needs to be engaging and Christmas related...✔
  • High Interest...✔
  • Common Core aligned...✔
  • Follows pacing map..Close Read Information Text✔ Point of View✔Opinion Writing✔
  • Fun for the kids✔
 We spent a week on the unit and yes, listened to Christmas music also. The topic of a real tree versus a fake tree for Christmas sparked some interesting debate. It surprised me how opinionated the children were on the topic. To tie in the "crafty" part, I allowed the children to write the reasons for their opinions on ornament templates and then design them. I displayed the ornaments on  our bulletin board with the tree of their choice.

To learn more about the unit you can click the picture below to download a preview. 

Merry Christmas and enjoy your remaining days before break!  

Saturday, October 15, 2016

You Might Be a Teacher If

After a long week, I decided to post something fun that we can all relate to. 

Have a good weekend!  

                                                                                              Teach on,

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Character Motivation

    We are deep into our character study unit in my classroom right now. Next week we are going to tackle how the character's motivation affects the story. First, my third graders need to understand what motivates the characters to act a certain way. This concept can be difficult to grasp especially when being asked to identify how the character's motivation impacts the story.

To start with I'll introduce motivation with my anchor chart that gives three small scenarios to discuss. You can grab it free below.

Next, I'll model the concept through a "think aloud" during read aloud time. Right now I'm reading Ramona Quimby, Age 8. Each chapter is full of excellent examples of how Ramona's thoughts and actions impact the events of the story.

Our whole group core text for the week will be Alexander Who Used to be Rich Last Sunday. We'll apply the concepts learned in our character study throughout the week using this story. Alexander is a perfect character for this. The kids love to learn about him and his lack of self control. 

The books are part of my affiliate links on the right. What books do you recommend for character study? 

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Back to School Tips

  Whew! I made it through the first week of school and am adjusting to having three different classes during the day.   I  wanted to follow through on my promise of another post on classroom management. The first couple of weeks of school is the time to establish routines and procedures of the class.  If the students know what is expected of them and there is consistency in daily procedures, the less behavior issues you'll have in the classroom. After this week, I'm reminded of the importance of this.

    Little things make a big impact. Take a look at simple ideas I've embedded throughout my day that make a difference in managing my classroom.

     1.  Establish Quiet Signals
           This is extremely important. Have some type of signal to indicate that you need everyone quiet and their full attention. DO NOT try to talk over your students. Wait to talk until you have the attention of all the children.
         Some ideas are...clapping a pattern that the children need to clap back, holding up the peace sign, give the high five hand signal, or a teacher call back. Teacher call backs are fun. I personally like that one. You can find many types of call backs on Pinterest. I'm excited to try some new ones this year.

     2.  Out of Seat Time
           You may not think this is a big deal, but it is. When are students allowed to get out of their seats to sharpen pencils, throw something away, turn work in, etc. in your classroom? Perhaps the easiest way for me to address this is to tell you when my students are NOT allowed to get out of their seats or walk around the room.

  • Students need to stay at their desks when I'm teaching or giving some type of instructions. I know this sounds like common sense, but I can't tell you the number of students at the beginning of the year that will get up and try to sharpen a pencil right in the middle of me teaching. And my electric sharpener is loud!  They need to know from the beginning that instruction time is important and need of their full attention. 
  • Also, any time announcements come on over the speaker, it is time to stay put. 
 Of course there will be exceptions to the "out of seat" rule during these times for students that need to stand or wiggle or even pace back and forth. (ADHD students, Autistic, kinesthetic learners. etc.) However, I expect all students to listen during these times. I won't budge on that.

    3. Group and Partner Work Expectations

          Not only is it important to establish rules for these situations, I found that I need to actually demonstrate how to interact with each other during this time. Model, model, model! I can't express enough the importance modeling expectations. How do I do this? Let me show you.
     Let's say I want students to work with a partner to finish two math problems. My student volunteer and I will talk it through like this.
Me: Do you want to read number one or number two?
Student: You can read first. 
Me: Okay. I read the first problem. I think the first thing we should do is.....what do you think?
Student: That's what I think.
Me: Let's both work it out and then see if we come up with the same answer.

Look at what I established as expectations for partner work with that role playing.

  • How to talk to each other
  • Both are expected to take a turn in leading
  • Both students need to work out the problem
What if they didn't agree on the answer? I will role play that scenario also in which we talk it through. More times than not, the person that didn't have it correct will realize by talking it through. If they still don't agree then they can raise their hands for my help.

I hope these simple tips help out. You can grab a free copy of my Team and Partner Posters here.

Have a great school year!

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Common Sense Approach to Differentiation

  I'm super excited to tell you that I revamped my book A Common Sense Approach to Differentiation (A Teacher in the Trenches). I updated it with new information and feel honored that my idea in the book was implemented school wide this past year. PIE-Practice Intervention Enrichment. I also gave the book a fresh new cover.

    To celebrate the start of the new school year, my book is offered FREE on Kindle this week. It's a short read with simple ideas to differentiate your lessons. Check out the contents list below.

Differentiate Your Classroom-Materials Needed to Set up your Classroom for Differentiation
Catch Them at the Core-Differentiate your Core Lessons 
A Week of Math Differentiation-An inside look at a week of math in my classroom
Begin with the End in Mind- Concept is illustrated with a Writing Unit
Reading Differentiation in Action- Another look at a week in my classroom
Wrap it Up- Recap of my main points. 

One of my favorite quotes from the book....   "The means by which each student accomplishes the outcome may look different, but my goal is to get everybody there."  Tammi Booth

Friday, August 5, 2016

Classroom Management 101

     I used to believe that along with the core teaching classes, there should be a class dedicated just to classroom management for undergraduates. In reality, every teacher has their own way of managing their classroom that is learned through trial and error along with tips and tricks from other teachers.
    I cringe when I think back to my first couple of years as a rookie. Yikes.  I had a lot to learn about keeping a classroom running smoothly.

Experience and good teacher mentors armed me with the skills not only to keep my classroom running effectively, but to eventually have a classroom that manages itself.
   I'm going to share with you some of the tips and tricks of classroom management I've learned over the years.  My hope is that you find something helpful you can use in your classroom.

Classroom Management Tips and Tricks
 Routine, Routine, Routine, It's imperative to establish class routines and procedures from day one.  Kids need it. It gives them comfort to know what is happening and what is expected. 
          a) Have the daily agenda posted somewhere each day. 
          b) Establish a consistent routine and place for turning in work.
          c) Keep transitions during the day running smoothly by forming clear expectations for this time. Example, call one table at a time to line up. The table that has materials put away and quiet lines up first and so on. 

Here are some questions to ask yourself to ensure that your class procedures and expectations are in place. 

  • Do my students know when a good time is to sharpen their pencils and what to do if their pencil breaks if it's not a good time?
  • Do my students know the rules for working in groups or partners?
  • Do my students know what to do if they need help with something?
  • Where can the students look to find what their homework is for the evening?
  • What is my classroom procedure for packing up at the end of the day? 
  • How do the students know when it's time to be quiet?
These are just a few tips. There are many tricks I have to share. In my next post I'll address the tricks I've learned for the questions above. 

Click below for a Freebie to get you started. 

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Gearing Up


 If you're anything like me, this is probably what you look like when you check out the calendar and realize summer break is coming to an end. When I find myself in this situation, I tend to do one of three things.

1. Ignore it for another week and convince myself that next week I'll get motivated to go back to school.

2. Bite the bullet and get started on my classroom. (Yeah...that's so not happening yet.)

3. Continue to enjoy the summer while reading something motivating and stalking Pinterest for new ideas. This works well since I can do this beside the pool. We have a winner!

   This year I'm teaming with two other teachers and will have three classes throughout the day. Needless to say,  a lot of planning and consistency between the three of us will be required in order to for things to run smoothly. (Well, as smoothly as possible). Something cool I found on Pinterest that I want to share with my team are the teacher call backs by Herding Kats in Kindergarten. Call backs are great for grabbing student's attention, quieting the room down, and so on.  Check out my Start of the School Year Board for more great ideas from other teachers.

To gather motivation, I'm rereading Teach Like a Pirate  by Dave Burgess on my Kindle app. I read this the first time with a book study group.  I like this book because it's a good reminder of why we are teachers and what's most important...our students. It's so full of ideas that I couldn't possibly implement them all. I chose a couple of ideas to start with at the time. One of my favorite was something simple, yet it increased motivation. At the start of each day, I wrote something on the board and asked what the question could be. For example, from a story we've read or are reading I could write,  Alexander kicked his brother. The question could be Why did Alexander have to pay a fine? Why did Alexander get in trouble by his father? How can you tell Alexander was angry by being teased by his brother? ...and so on. It's an informal way to check comprehension and start discussion and the kids get into thinking of possible questions. 

Chances are you've already read this book, but if you haven't, I recommend it. It's worth reading.  You can find it to right of this page as one of my affiliate links. 

Enjoy the rest of your summer!

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Spring into Learning Blog Hop

Happy Spring! This is my stop on the Springing into Learning Blog Hop. Thank you to Elementary Antics for hosting this fun way to start Spring.

  My students are springing into fractions in math right now. Something I like to do since it's close to Easter is give the students plastic eggs with jelly beans inside. The children sort their jelly beans and write fractional amounts for each color. They then write the fractional amounts on a number line. Each  fractional amount on the line is written in the same color it represents.

                         Click the picture if you would like a copy of the activity.

 I also created a spring themed printable for finding fractions of a set.  This concept can be difficult for students at this age, so I made the first page interactive. You can guide the students through that page then have them complete the second page on their own.  Click on the picture to download.

Check out these other great stops on the Spring into Learning Blog Hop. 



Thursday, March 3, 2016

Three Books for Teaching Skills

Welcome back! This is my second week of Three for Thursday. Today I'm sharing three books that I use to teach skills.

Who doesn't like Amelia Bedelia? The kids love reading about her. Amelia takes everything literally and does exactly what she's told. When she's told to strip the sheets off of the bed, she rips the sheets into strips.  Her stories are excellent for teaching the difference between literal and nonliteral language.

A book I like to use to teach the structure of  paragraph writing is The Important Book.  This story tells the important things about various objects. It repeats the same format for each thing. Topic sentence, three detail sentences, and a closing sentence.  Example....The most important thing about a spoon is that you eat with it.  Three more details telling about the spoon and retelling the most important thing about a spoon again.

A cute story for teaching pronouns is I and You and Don't forget Who. The story is told with rhyming and has all the pronouns written in color. The illustrations are engaging with colorful creatures. This is a good story for children to understand how and why pronouns are used.

See you next Thursday!


Thursday, February 25, 2016

Three for Thursday

   Welcome to my first Three for Thursday. Every Thursday I'd like to post threes of anything....thoughts, teaching tips, books, lesson idea...and so on. For this post I'm talking about three of my favorite Read Alouds. Really, it's hard for me to narrow it down to three, there are so many good books. 

Anyway here they are with the literature standards they can be connected to. 

1. The Lemonade War
 The children LOVE this book. The book alternates between Evan's point of view and Jessie's point of view. They are siblings with their own lemonade stands competing against one another to reach one hundred dollars in sales. It's a great example of two different viewpoints of the main characters and my students like to discuss who's viewpoint they agree with. (CCCS RL 7)

  In addition the literature connection, this is an excellent book for the economy aspect of the Social Studies standards.

2. Because of Winn-Dixie  

This book pulls at your heart strings. Told from the main character's point of view, this story tells about a girl's desire to know her mother. She lives with her father and develops friendships with people of various ages and backgrounds. The first and most important friendship is with a dog named Winn-Dixie. 
   This story is an awesome example of character's feelings changing throughout the story.(CCCS RL 6)

3. Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes  

 If Because of Winn-Dixie pulls at your heartstrings, this story yanks at them! This is story I read toward the end of the school. It's about a real girl who dies from leukemia as a result of the atomic bomb dropped on Japan. I don't want to give too much away if you haven't read this. The story opens up serious discussions and really can be used with any of the RL standards. The RL 1 is probably the one I tend to gravitate toward as the students have so many questions. 

There are my three read alouds for my first Three for Thursday. See you next Thursday! 



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