Saturday, August 27, 2016

Classroom Reveal 2016-17


I feel like I birthed a child or completed some sort of Olympic sport: "Back to School Back Injury Backflips". 

I'll save you my medical drama but to make a long story short... apparently we have these things called SI joints and I slipped mine and the pain is right up there with childbirth (I kid you not) so setting up my classroom with a slipped out SI joint has involved: chiropractor visits, doctor appointments, physical therapy, wine (not in the classroom....at home, silly) ibuprofen, lumbar pillows, exercises, swearing, and Vicodin and not necessarily in that order.

It has also involved WWE wrestling. Yes, you read that correctly.



In order to get some work done I had to bribe convince my 10 year old it was a great idea to come to my school to help. So....watching his favorite....WWE on the big screen with fast food and milkshakes was a winner! 

Yup...parenting at it's finest right there.

Oh the things we do to get things done.....

Well...let's back up and pretend that never happened. 



So here is the entrance to my classroom from the hallway.


Black and bright colored word wall with ribbon

And this is my word wall. I'm a bit worried about fitting all the words on it but...it looks cute so....I'll worry about that later. I did have to move the banner letters down because my buddy the fire marshall..... yeaaaaa.....


Whole Brain Teaching Classroom rules posters in Black and White Brights and Clutter-Free Classroom Hand Signals

At the front of the classroom, where we have our rug and our morning meeting, I have our classroom rules (based on Whole Brain teaching) and our hand signals. The hand signals are from Clutter-Free Classroom's Classroom Management Bundle which is amazing! If you don't already own it, I highly recommend it for new and veteran teachers alike.



I love, love, love these Alphabet Photo Cards from Adventures in Kindergarten that I use every year for my alphabet.  Since we use Fundations in my district, I love the authentic photos that correlate with the program but are, as I said....authentic.  I also love those Be an Expert books that are hanging from my easel (Be a Reading Expert and the other is Be a Writing Expert) by A Year of Many Firsts. She is pretty much my teacher crush so basically almost everything in my classroom (other than district curriculum and my own work, is hers).



I'm pretty spoiled to have these cubbies in my classroom which I use to have students store markers, colored pencils, and their ongoing work. Aren't those numbered labels by Ladybug's Teacher Files the cutest things ever?  They are free in her store. I used them last year too because they are too cute to resist.  I hang headphones that my students use for the iPads off the side of the shelf on Command hooks because...well honestly....because I just can't handle earbuds. They got lost, they get tangled, and don't even get me started on the earwax. I just gagged a little...


Black and White Brights Classroom Decor Set

Does your school have a "bathroom policy?"  We can only send one child of each sex to the bathroom at a time so I have students sign out on a clipboard when they leave, but I'm going to keep it real here. It gets busy and sometimes I forget that I just let Jake leave to go to the bathroom when Jason asks to go. So I ask the kids to turn the boys/girls pass over before they leave the room. When they return, they flip it back to the front as it is shown here. That way, when I am across the room, I can tell at a quick glance if there is a boy or a girl in the bathroom down the hall at that moment.  The hallway poem is part of my Classroom D├ęcor: Black and White Brights resource.







Students use baskets as mailboxes to organize their paperwork to send home each day.

The Melonheadz kidlettes on my closet doors just crack me right up. I mean really.....how can you not look at these and not smile?  That's why they are there!  :)

The kiddos are VERY lucky to have their cubbies in the classroom and I am a stickler about them keeping their areas clean.  We do a lot of modeling about the cubbies and the space around them and what they should look like.  It is not a walk in the closet.  What if everybody did that? Sound familiar? The blue/green baskets serve as their mailboxes.  At the end of the day in a Responsive Classroom approach, students collect their mail and any completed work that they did for the day and put it in their basket, take it back to their table and place it in their folder to take home.

They follow this system that I keep posted on the SMARTboard to remind them.

It's FREE in my store if you would like to grab it here.


Post/Display your expectations for classroom routines with this FREEBIE.  Great for students who need the visual reminders


Guided reading table with Wall Pops helps to identify student space and they serve as dry erase boards when used with wipe-off markers. Bins behind the table hold materials needed for each guided reading group

This is my guided reading spot. Although my district has shifted to a balanced literacy approach (Lucy Caulkin's reader's workshop style) I still meet with groups of students for guided reading.  I love the wall pops that define table space and we also use as dry erase boards with wipe-off markers.





I bought a white shelf from Ikea a few years ago and I used it as a window seat last year. But it was a little too high for some of my first graders to climb up on.

And it had a little makeover because it used to look like this: 




Believe it or not, last year I thought this was the cutest thing ever. This year....it's NOT.  It drove me nuts that the bins don't match.

So I bought some bins from IKEA that all matched and now...

These bins from IKEA make the perfect organizational tool for organizing materials needed for each guided reading group.

Would you look at that?!  I feel all professional and everything.  And every time I look at them I smile.  It's the little things, right? I am going to use the bins to store the ongoing work I have going on with the groups I meet with for guided reading.

A classroom llibrary should be a warm and invited space for students with books at varying level, clearly marked and labled and accessible to all students
"Your classroom library holds a lot of power. It sends a strong message to the readers in your classroom, and it should convey that reading is important and that books are to be celebrated, treasured and enjoyed" (Calkins, 2015)

A classroom llibrary should be a warm and invited space for students with books at varying level, clearly marked and labled and accessible to all students

I LOVE Mo Willems and have so much respect for him as an author. No other author has helped my students to become a reader more than Mo Willems so it seemed only natural that I share my collection of his books with the students. They love them as much as I do and almost every student book box is filled with at least one Mo Willems book each year.

A classroom llibrary should be a warm and invited space for students with books at varying level, clearly marked and labled and accessible to all students

I have decided to display our brag tags/badges this year.

Display brag tags in a pocket chart for easy accessibility and viewing. Students can hang and display their brag tags when they are not wearing them by their student number

To do so, I used Whimsy Clips Kids with Stars clipart to hang the badges with pushpins.  Each kid with a star is labeled with a student number.  All of my brag tags are displayed in the pocket chart for easy organization and for students to see what they can earn.

Good writers follow a checklist to make sure they have included everything that good writers do when they are writing and editing

The Writing Checklist by One Sharp Bunch by Ashley Sharp on the left of the bulletin board is fantastic and I use it every year as I introduce each concept during writer's workshop. We reference it all year as we work on our writing.  Did you use lowercase letters? Did you use fingerspaces and so on?  The writing pencil "What do Writer's Write?" is by The Teacher Wife.

So this is it...
Table bins help students to organize supplies needed for daily lessons to maximize instruction and cut down on transitional time
My home away from home.

And where I'll be spending A LOT of time, love, laughter, and tears the next 10 months. 

So here it goes...year 25....














Saturday, August 20, 2016

When Students Won't Transition Back With The Class

How to get students to transition back to class after dysregulation

In last week's post , I asked if the emotional needs of your students are taking away from your instructional time. And WOAH!  Sooo many of you reached out to me on social media to share your stories.
I shared how I use this guy..
How to a classroom pet to help student self-regulate.
in my classroom as our class pet to help my students self-regulate and relax.

He has become a trusted friend and companion. He is read to, petted, walked and very well-loved.  He has built a community of trust, love, and companionship in our classroom family.

How to a classroom pet to help student self-regulate. How to a classroom pet to help student self-regulate.

Charlie, as we call him, when he's not being held or begging for someone's snack or read to, sleeps in his dog bed in our classroom library.  This is also a part of our classroom that a student may use if they need to in order to self-regulate. 

Over the years, I have seen an increase in anxiety in my students (both diagnosed and undiagnosed). So much so, that it has taken away valuable instructional time away. 

Having a small area of the classroom with a "therapy dog", which to us is what Charlie is,in every sense of the word, has changed my teaching practices and my classroom management forever and I will never, ever turn back.


Click on the pictures to go to the original posts to  learn more....


How to a classroom pet to help student self-regulate.
Charlie has with him some calming tools and techniques to help those that need it.  Here's an example:

Strategies to help students self regulate in the classroom.


Strategies to help students self regulate in the classroom.



I have been asked some questions about using a classroom pet in the classroom...

"So what happens when a student goes to use the area?  Do you limit the time?



Answer:  I set a timer for 10 minutes. I use a timer like this


this way the student can see how much time they have left and there are no surprises. You can find this timer on Amazon.



"What happens when they don't want to leave after the timer goes off?"



Answer: This is not really a negotiable for me.  One trick that works really well is that even if I have to switch up a lesson I am currently in the middle of to make it a bit more engaging or fun I will do it to make it more appealing to the friend using the take a break area. I give the child the verbal warning if he/she does not heed the timer, then I walk away and return to the class.  I am not entirely changing my lesson for this one student, but if I add it a catchy tune, pop in Brainpop Jr. that correlates with the lesson at hand, send the students to to the table to "draw their thinking", etc, send them to their table with a piece of playdough to mold, or sculpt the word we are blending, etc that fits into the lesson. Basically, whatever may be motivational to the student that is not entirely taking my lesson completely off task that would be beneficial to the remainder of the class anyways....I'll do it. 



"I can't think on my feet that quick. Any other suggestions?"



Answer: I walk around with an apron that I bought off Amazon. You can find it here and I'm in love with it.  I keep pens, pencils, paper clips, sharpies, post its, band aids...you name it in it.  I don't have to make 4.5 million trips to my desk. Because I KNOW you know what I mean! 






I also keep a good handful of brag tags/badges in here.  Let me just tell you...

Do you use you brag tags?

Life changing, people!  Life changing! Who would have thought that these little pieces of paper could rock the worlds of these little darlings? BUT....they do!


So if you reach into the trusty apron and you start passing out badges for those that are showing on-task behavior and start issuing out some verbal praise as you do it ... "Oh Sarah, I just love how you are sitting so responsibly at the table."  Sitting at the table responsibly is a reasonable goal. Even Johnny who is in the take a break area is capable of sitting at the table responsibly. Notice how I didn't say "Oh Sarah, you have written a wonderful paper here."  Perhaps Johnny's behavior was triggered by academic failure. If so, the goal is to get him back to the table, and THEN he can be supported appropriately, but he can't be supported academically when he is in the take a break area. That was a brief calm down time. Now it's time to get to work.

"What if a student needs longer than 10 minutes?"

Answer: This is a great question and it very well could be a need. I think you need to use your discretion on this one. It varies from student to student. I highly recommend 10 minutes being the goal with gradual transition back to the task at hand if the student is having trouble returning. Some ways that you can do that are to encourage the student to participate in what the class is doing but perhaps in their own spot. If you use flexible seating in your classroom, this student may keep themselves fairly segregated as they continue to learn to regulate. If you don't use flexible seating, consider transitioning the student out of the take a break area and into a defined working space that is still separate if needed.

"Are there consequences? This seems like a reward."

Answer:  Fair isn't everyone getting the same thing. Fair is everyone getting what they need to be successful. In our classroom, this option is open to everyone. I do ask students to complete some kind of reflection sheet so that there is some self-awareness and learning to be had from the experience.



Can more than one student use the Peaceful Pet Place at a time?

Answer: No.  In order for a student to effectively have calm time they need the area to themselves.

Is the area just for when students are NOT doing the right thing?

Answer: Absolutely not! In fact, I can't believe I forgot to mention this....Charlie gets lots of visits from friends who are eager to read to hear, tell him about their weekend, tell him about their lost tooth and more.  Many students write him letters. They leave the letters in his mailbox.  Yes, Charlie has a mailbox.



"Since the Peaceful Pet Place is in your Library area, what do you do if a student needs to use that area but other students are using it as a library?"

Answer: This is another great question!  Luckily, since Charlie is stuffed (sshh, don't tell) he and his dog bed are very light. I can move him and his dog bed and the bin holding his toys and calming supplies very easily to another quiet location in the room. In fact, I have done that as needed. This also lets the student know we will not allow their off task behavior to create a class wide disruption.  We are hard at work and busy learning. 


When I thought about how much having a dog has changed my life and the life of my 3 special needs boys in my home....


I knew I had to have a dog in my classroom too. Charlie is in every way, a real dog to us. And we treat him that way in Room D156. We love him very much and I suspect...he loves us too....

Life is good.


























Sunday, July 24, 2016

How to Teach Students to Self-Regulate their Behavior

How to Teach Student to Self-Regulate their Behavior

Sometimes I don't know which is worse....Monday morning or the fifteen minutes after recess.

"Mrs. Pettersen, Amy said I'm not invited to her birthday party."

"No I didn't!"

"Mrs. Pettersen, Ryan pushed Jonathan off the swings at recess and Sam told Miss Stone he had to miss 5 minutes off of recess and she said you should email his mom."

When I look across the room Ellie looks like she is about to cry again but she hasn't wanted to talk about it and I've tried emailing and calling the school counselor three times.

Does any of this sound familiar?  It's a day in the life of an elementary classroom and it's not getting any easier. In the past few years these types of social/emotional issues have not been confined to Monday morning or after recess.

They are taking up more and more of the school day and are happening with both more urgency and more frequency. It's both alarming and heartbreaking.

With the demands of standardized testing, the pressures of the Common Core, the harried life of working families, increased divorce rates, and the list goes on

and on

and on

and on...

it's no wonder that children feel lost in the shuffle and....
more
stressed
out
than
ever.

In the busy, in the chaos, in the pressures of the world as they are now experiencing it ,kids are finding it harder and harder to cope and to keep their feelings and emotions in balance, even though they want to. I truly believe they want to. I don't remember taking Tylenol at 5 years old for a tension headache do you?  I don't remember my friends having panic attacks in second, third, or even fourth grade. Now I see it happening in my school and...to my own child.  It's happening to my own child and it's breaking my heart.



How to Teach Student to Self-Regulate their Behavior

I am a dog lover.  I truly don't think there is a problem out there that a dog can't help make better with a lick, a cuddle, a wag of the tail, a nudge with their head.  My beagle, Bentley truly senses when I feel stressed and anxious and he will snuggle right up next to me in my most anxious moments.  Which had me thinking.....I really wish we could use therapy dogs in schools. All schools. 

Oh wait.....

Hold the phone....

or rather.... click on over to.....



I know...it's a problem.  It's way too convenient.  Anyway....$25 and 5 days later, I received my classroom therapy dog.  He is our classroom pet.  His name is Charlie.

I named him Charlie after Ree Drummond's basset hound named Charlie. I know,  I know, he's not technially a basset hound. He's a beagle. Close enough.  I own a beagle, so I can say that.  Anyway, Ree Drummond wrote a whole series of books about her lazy basset named Charlie and they are just the cutest books ever!




So Charlie became a part of my classroom in 2015 and he has been the single best thing I have ever done for the classroom, my students, and my teaching practices.

Are even your best classroom management strategies no longer working because the social/emotional needs of students is so significant it is robbing you of effectively running your classroom?Students are able to use the Peaceful Pet Place as a way to self-regulate, manage, and maintain their own behavior in the classroom as needed with less classroom disruption, leaving you free to be able to conduct the class as you need to be.

The students read to him, talk to him, cuddle him, they talk him for walks, they write him letters, they talk to him at all school meetings. And truth be told....sometimes on a tough day....I give him a cuddle too.  True story. 

Over the years he has heard the kids talk about their weekends, their disagreements with peers or siblings, how their parents are getting a divorce and how awful that feels. He has given a struggling reader the confidence to read aloud for the first time. He has helped many a nervous and scared first grader on the first day of first grade. He has sat with a first grader and given them confidence when the work seems too hard.

I could go on and on.

Sometimes pictures speak louder than words...

Are even your best classroom management strategies no longer working because the social/emotional needs of students is so significant it is robbing you of effectively running your classroom?Students are able to use the Peaceful Pet Place as a way to self-regulate, manage, and maintain their own behavior in the classroom as needed with less classroom disruption, leaving you free to be able to conduct the class as you need to be.

He's pretty popular..... and he's very much well-loved. Just like a real pet.

Are even your best classroom management strategies no longer working because the social/emotional needs of students is so significant it is robbing you of effectively running your classroom?Students are able to use the Peaceful Pet Place as a way to self-regulate, manage, and maintain their own behavior in the classroom as needed with less classroom disruption, leaving you free to be able to conduct the class as you need to be.

The parents of the students have loved the concept so much they started donating supplies for Charlie....

Are even your best classroom management strategies no longer working because the social/emotional needs of students is so significant it is robbing you of effectively running your classroom?Students are able to use the Peaceful Pet Place as a way to self-regulate, manage, and maintain their own behavior in the classroom as needed with less classroom disruption, leaving you free to be able to conduct the class as you need to be.

Charlie's favorite spot is in our classroom library. We call this Peaceful Pet Place. Students are able to go to Peaceful Pet Place when they need a hug from Charlie, a quiet place, to take a break or to utilize a calming strategy.

In the past, I had a tool kit of sorts, for a student or students when they become dysregulated and I would break out the squeeze ball or the sensory bottle when it was needed. Over the years, I have seen the need to make these materials accessible to all of my students.

Are even your best classroom management strategies no longer working because the social/emotional needs of students is so significant it is robbing you of effectively running your classroom?Students are able to use the Peaceful Pet Place as a way to self-regulate, manage, and maintain their own behavior in the classroom as needed with less classroom disruption, leaving you free to be able to conduct the class as you need to be.

After modeling the care, use, clean-up, and storage for each of the tools in the Peaceful Pet Place the students are able to access the calming strategies as needed. 

And you know what I have found?  My students have become better students. When they know they have the ability to take a break when the need to, when they feel a part of a classroom where are feel safe, valued, listened to, and cared for….they actually work harder and more efficiently. They are invested and they want to do well.

Here are some of the calming tools I have in Peaceful Pet Place:

Teach kids how to self-regulate their behavior



The sensory bottle is very easy to make. All you need is a Voss water bottle (available at most grocery stores). I used inexpensive V05 shampoo and marbles (since I had them in the house).  The Thinking Putty I found at a local gift store and probably paid WAY too much for it. It is available here on Amazon in all kinds of varieties and colors.

Some other things you can include are:

Inexpensive and simple ways to incorporate a peaceful area in your classroom

Coloring books with crayons or colored pencils, an iPod with classical music, squeeze ball, bubbles, a variety of sensory bottles...the possibilities are endless and really depend on your class.

Inexpensive and simple ways to incorporate a peaceful area in your classroom
The calming cards and breathing box are great visual tools and strategies to help students pick a strategy that suits them well.  I keep these in the Peaceful Pet Place.

Here is a close up of what Peaceful Pet Place looks like:

Create a simple, safe, and peaceful place in your classroom with a classroom "pet".

The activities are meant to be short and calming and non-disruptive.  Here's some examples of a few of the calming strategy cards:





   Another strategy that I have found effective for students to self-regulate is to write letters or maintain a journal. I have students that have brought in a special decorated notebook/journal from home for this purpose, or they have made one with our school counselor.  I have students keep a journal in their cubbies if they need one.

When a conflict arises, especially with another peer and it has been discussed and worked out but the student is having a having a hard time letting it go, sometimes I will suggest “Write it down and then leave it be."  This way, students who are particularly expressive or emotional can get their feelings out, write it down, and then.....let it go.(sing it now....)

Teach students how to self-regulate, monitor and check in with their own behavior and feelings.

Students often need help using words to describe their feelings. I love this activity to help them develop and review the language to express themselves.


Teaching students the vocabulary to express their emotions is important.  It can very enlightening for a 7, 8 or 9 year old child to learn more words beyond "I'm mad" to express frustration.

Equally important, is teaching young child to recognize what defines a good choice or a bad choice and why. Perhaps most important, is for them to understand how it makes them FEEL when they make these choices.  It is like their conscience and it will govern how they act or react in your classroom, towards their peers, and with you, as their teacher.

Teach students how to self-regulate their behavior.

It is also important for students to develop empathy for others. Role playing social/emotional scenarios is enormously helpful, especially for younger students who are so concrete.  Morning meeting is the perfect time to role play one or two playground, cafeteria, or hallway scenarios.  Choose student volunteers and role play one of the thousands of conflicts you have heard, seen, and witnessed in your teaching experience (you know you have them....).


Here are a few to get you started...






What do you do to help your students who are struggling with stress, sorry, anxiety and emotional discord in your classroom? 

Are even your best classroom management strategies no longer working because the social/emotional needs of students is so significant it is robbing you of effectively running your classroom?Students are able to use the Peaceful Pet Place as a way to self-regulate, manage, and maintain their own behavior in the classroom as needed with less classroom disruption, leaving you free to be able to conduct the class as you need to be.
Self-Regulation: Using a Class Pet is available here

Next week I will share what I do to get students back on task.

Amy asked me "How do you get students to get back to the task at hand or to not use the Peaceful Pet Place as a method of work avoidance?"

This is a great question and here's the answer....