Sunday, March 27, 2016

HELP! They NEVER Stop Talking!

Great blog post of ideas and strategies for a chatty class. Whole Brain Teaching FREEBIE.

Oh my word, this class!  I've been teaching 18 years and this group is NOT SO SILENTLY killing me!

They are spirited.

They are charismatic.

They are individuals.

They are lively.

Oh yea.  They are all those things.

And they are....chatty. Wow!  Are they ever chatty!

You know it's bad when parent volunteers come in and as they leave say, "I don't know how you do this every day.  This group is a handful."

Or you pick them up from a special and you say to the specialist, "I know, I know, don't even tell me....they were chatty, right?"

And then she goes on for 10 minutes about just how chatty they were.

I even have students complain about how loud and chatty the other students are.

I think I have tried everything. I feel like I have tried everything. I feel exhausted, frankly.

So here's what works and either doesn't work anymore, never did, or they are "over it."
Tips and techniques to get your class to stop chatting and get to work.
Clapping Patterns: This method of "I make a clapping pattern" and then they repeat clapping the same pattern worked well for the first half of the year.  Now they just tend to just keep right on chatting. Yup. Chatting right over my clapping.  I keep Advil in my desk drawer for times like these.

Tips and techniques to get your class to stop chatting and get to work.
Raise a Hand: This is fairly effective if you're willing to be patient and wait until every child has their hand up. The point is to not add to the volume level of the classroom. I raise my hand quietly and do not say a word. Students should also raise their hands and when they do, they do not talk. This requires some modeling and practice. Inevitably you will have a student shout out "John!  Raise your hand."  Ignore it when it happens. After, remind students that when their hands are in their air it is a signal for quiet. The hands are the signal, not their voices. Eventually, their friends will see that, even if it takes a little bit longer than we would like.
Tips and techniques to get your class to stop chatting and get to work.
The Chime: I have this Responsive Classroom chime on my desk. I will ring it softly when I need students' attention. I also use it as a sign of transition such as to switch areas during Daily 5 or Math Workshop.

The Lightswitch: This is the shut up quick, the principal is coming I need your attention immediately signal. I use this for dire emergencies. Picture....your dog or child running for the road into oncoming traffic. Or....I just saw the fire truck pull up and we are about to have a fire drill. Like that - that kind of emergency.

How to get your class to stop chatting and get to work.

Promote the Positive: When you feel like all you have done all day is ring chimes, your hands and arms are tired and the lights are already off, you can point out those who are doing a good job. "I love how Eliana is writing. She is sitting at her spot at her desk like a first grader. Her pencil is moving. She is not talking. She is hard at work. Nicely done, Eliana."

Attention Grabbers: I have used many of these methods too. I say "Hocus Pocus."  The class responds "Everybody Focus." Education to the Core has more great ideas here.

The System: Like every experienced teacher, I have a very clear cut behavior management system that I use in my classroom.  The chattiness is more of a class-wide issue rather than an individual one, so I want to use a class-wide approach to address it, but my behavior system works well for other issues that arise. It has worked for many, many years. You can read more about it here. now, in reflection, maybe there were some kind of lame techniques but they worked. For 18 years. They worked.  Until they didn't. 

I reached out to my teacher friend and asked for help.

Well, it was probably more like a 911 call, but still.

Jodi, from Clutter Free Classroom gave me the best advice ever!  It has worked like a charm.  Seriously.

Have you heard about Whole Brain Teaching (WBT)? I'm sure you have.

I highly recommend you check out this website for some outstanding videos on WBT.  It really is Power Teaching and it has forever changed the way I teach. 

My only regret...

I really wish I knew about it sooner.

I started out with the very basic scoreboard.  It looks like this.

Whole Brain Teaching rules and scoreboard FREEBIE
And it worked!  I swear to worked! I didn't even have to tweak to make them win because it was 70 degrees, sunny and gorgeous and I wanted to go outside.
They did it. Fair and Square.
Sold. I have spent every evening watching Whole Brain Teaching videos. A few weeks passed and then I tried this scoreboard:
Whole Brain Teaching rules and scoreboard FREEBIE
And if the smiley face/sad face scoreboard worked, this one....well this has been the crème de la crème.
Now I'll admit that I'm not a big fan of the whole teachers versus students things but the kids did soooo well with this.
I told them that I had a lesson planned for the end of the day that I really, really wanted to teach. If they beat me, they would earn an extra outside recess and I wouldn't be able to teach the lesson I had planned for that afternoon.
BUT....if I beat them...then I would be able to teach the lesson I had planned.
So... if they were quiet and yet participatory during lessons, they earned a tally. If they became too chatty or disruptive during lessons, I earned a tally. When they earn a tally they say "Oh yeah." When I earn I tally they say "Oh no." The key is to never have more than a 3 point discrepancy between the 2 sides so that students stay invested.
What this did was, it bonded the class together as a team. It made them work together. Once they started working together instead of against one another, it really helped to further solidify us as a team working towards one common goal. 
Once I became more comfortable with these simplistic aspects of Whole Brain Teaching, I began implementing other aspects of it.  For example, addressing the class.  When addressing the class I say "Class" and the class responds in the same way with "Yes."  If I say "Class, class."  The class responds "Yes, yes."  You can change your voice into funny voices, deep voices, etc. The point is for the class to LISTEN and REPEAT.
Whole Brain Teaching also has 5 basic rules that are very simplistic and cover all the bases. I have these posted very visibly in my classroom and I reference them often.  It is recommended that the kiddos practice these a few times a day for a few weeks after they are first introduced and revisited when needed.
Whole Brain Teaching Rules and Scoreboard FREEBIE
Whole Brain Teaching Techniques have been so helpful to me that I wanted to share them with you too. These are FREE in my store and you can grab them here.
Have you had any success with other strategies or techniques?  I'd love to hear about them if you have.  We always get great ideas from one another!

Sunday, March 20, 2016

10 Ways to Cultivate Lifelong Reading Habits

10 Ways to Cultivate Lifelong Reading Habits in Students

I just finished reading the book Reading in the Wild by Donalyn Miller with Susan Kelley.

I typically don,t read professional books, actually I tend not to read nonfiction, come to think of it, but I saw this book at our book fair in the fall and it caught my attention. I picked it up, skimmed through it and just recently started reading it. Yes I took me awhile. As I said, I struggle with reading books in my profession. I find them boring.

This book really had my attention. Which surprises me even still, considering one of the authors teaches middle school and I teach first grade, and much of the book references teaching middle school-aged students.  However, I learned many things from the book that really have changed the way I will teach reading and what reading will look like in my classroom.

Here are some of the great things I learned....

10 Ways to Cultivate Lifelong Reading Habits in Students

Wild Readers Dedicate Time to Read-
       I used to consider myself an avid reader. I always had a book in progress and others on hand for when I finished and the book went with me everywhere.  And then....I started working full time, had children, the smart phone came into existence, and, well...I could come up with 100 excuses I guess.  The bottom line is, I stopped making time for reading. Now I am out of the habit and it's hard to sit down and focus and let myself read. I find myself checking email, Facebook, scrolling Instagram, and just getting easily distracted. If I have 20 minutes or I'm waiting for one of my kids at an appointment I am more apt to break out my phone than a book. If there is one thing I know, it is that I am a better teacher because I am a reader.  Is there any wonder that my first graders feel the same?  Put them in a classroom with 20 other kids and surely....there's distractions. But they need to learn reading habits early so no matter what...we need to make time for independent reading. I used to sometimes skip independent reading time, thinking some of my first graders couldn't handle it, or the ones who struggle with reading just goof around the whole time, but they need to see good reading habits modeled.

Wild Readers Don't Keep Reading Logs-
    Did you gasp too when you read that?! I sure did. So...I've been doing reading logs for as long as I can remember. How will I know if they are actually reading, if they are reading long enough, and so on?  If they are wild readers they'll want to read. Period. Wild readers may sneak in reading here and there. Maybe they'll read while waiting for their dentist appointment, on the bus ride home, while their brother finishes clarinet lessons, or just before falling asleep.  Do you want to write down everything you read and for how long?  Then we probably shouldn't make our students, right?

Wild Readers Take Advantage of Time- I think my students believe that when I say to read for at least 20 minutes a night it means that they must be sitting on the couch reading for 20 minutes straight.  But it doesn't have to be that way. Maybe you read for 10 minutes while you wait for your dance lesson to start, and read another 10 minutes while Dad cooks dinner. Maybe you sneak in 5 minutes here and another 15 there.  It doesn't need to be all at once. Wild readers are just wild about reading and read whenever they can. Some of your students may need you to remind them or confer with them about times when they can read at home, especially if reading isn't something that is modeled for them at home. You can even make an anchor chart of places where you can read during a class meeting. My son has dyslexia so when he does his reading at night, I make sure to put my laptop and phone away and read alongside him. I'm reading my own book, modeling good reading habits, and modeling how I make the time to read. I sit at the same spot on the couch with my blanket and a cup of tea. Reading looks and is enjoyable to me and I model that.

Sit in the same spot daily- When I read, I sit in the same spot of the couch. Most people have a favorite spot in their house to read. You can assign students a spot to read during Reader's Workshop and they can read in that same spot daily. I have found that this helps limit distractions.

Let Students Choose the Book they Want to Read- I used to give my students a "shopping list" of books.  The list included 7 books at their reading level, and 2 above. But do we really want to choose books that we are told we need to read?  I have found that most nonreading behaviors stem from students having books that are not engaging for them.  I am much more apt to read a book that I am interested in, how about you?  In January, I announced that students could choose 10 books from any of the book bins in our classroom library that they wanted.  You would have thought I offered them a car!  They were sooooo excited! This doesn't mean that you can't guide students towards making choices that would be a good fit for them, but giving them the power of choice can help them to become wild readers when they are invested in what they read.

Try to Determine Reasoning Behind Nonreading Behaviors- If you notice students not reading during reading time, confer with them to discuss why. Are the books they have chosen too hard? Too easy? Not interesting? Does their seating arrangement need to be reconsidered? If the student admits that reading is a struggle, find out why. Maybe some students would benefit from reading in a small group with you for confidence-building, correct modeling, or behavior management, until they can be on their own. What you want to determine is- is the nonreading behavior habitual or book-related?

Confer with Students to Set Attainable Goals- Meet with students to have them discuss with you what their reading goals are. Is their a certain book or book series they want to read or become a good enough reader to be able to read with ease? Is their goal to be able to lengthen their reading stamina or increase their interest in different reading genres? By setting goals, students have something to work towards and are establishing themselves as readers.

Book Reviews- Students can share book review based on works they have read. For my artistic students this may be a diorama, posterboard, or cereal box book report.  For my writers, it is a written book review. For some students, they prefer to just talk about a book they liked or didn't like and why.  After students share their book and book review, the book is added to a special spot in our classroom under a desk light as the day's or week's featured book. Other students can read this book as long as they return it to the featured spot and books are rotated frequently. Wild readers share books with others. Talking about books heightens interest. You can get the "Today's Featured Book" or "This Week's Featured Book" file for free here.

FREE. Today's/This Week's Featured Book

Model Reading Yourself- When my students are doing independent reading I am on the floor reading too. I am not correcting papers, answering emails, or even listening to students read in small groups. I am modeling expected reading behavior. My students know and identify me as a wild reader. They know I have a book in my purse at all time. During independent reading time, I get out my purse, take out my book, and find my reading spot and I read right along with them for 20 minutes. I am communicating to them that I value reading. That I am expecting them to do something that I do myself.

Share your Reading Goals, Mistakes, Challenges, and Accomplishments- Help your students know that you face the same challenges that they do- lack of time, books that didn't interest you or genres you didn't like. Share your goals and help your students make connections to you as a reader so they can also see themselves as readers.

I am getting myself back on track to being a wild reader. I read and finished this book this weekend...

I bought this book this weekend, knowing I was going to finish Leaving Time quickly, and I have already started it.

My reading goal is to spend a lot of my summer doing this....

and to read at least 12 novels by summer's end.

What are your reading goals? What reading goals to you have for your students?

Pin for Later:
10 easy ways you can help your kindergartener, first, second grade students become lifelong readers. Easy strategies you can implement today to foster a love for reading in your students. Show students the value and importance of cultivating daily reading practice through modeling with these simple tricks, ideas & engaging activities. {K, 1st, 2nd grade, homeschool, ELA}

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Books and Brackets Blog Hop

Many thanks to Jackie from Neat Sweet and Hard to Beat for hosting this fabulous Books and Brackets March Book Blog Hop.

I just LOVE St. Patrick's Day. I don't know why. I'm not Irish. Well, I'm maybe 20%.  That counts, right?

But I pretend to be 100% Irish in March because.....well......because it's fun!  I love the whole make a leprechaun trap thing, trash the classroom to make it look like a leprechaun came, gold coins, green glitter....the whole "sha-bang".

I suppose the month of March means Easter, March Madness (that's something about basketball, right?) spring, and so on. I know. I get it. For me, it's all about St. Patrick's Day. Oh...and Shamrock Shakes and McDonald's. Wow, those are good!

This is my favorite read-aloud this month and it is my far a favorite for my first graders too!

After reading the story, we brainstorm how we could catch a trap a leprechaun. We are learning how to use transitional words in our writing so we use this to help us plan out narrative.

This is a FREEBIE in my store so make sure you swing on by and grab it here.

We also have great fun making leprechaun traps!

You could win a copy of the book Clever Tom and the Leprechaun by entering the rafflecopter below:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

We continue to reinforce organizing our writing when we write about how a leprechaun gets loose in our school.

(Sorry, not my neatest anchor chart. This is what happens when you create an anchor chart in front of first graders and you let the word "leprechaun" slip out of your mouth and now they are too excited to listen.)
Writing craftivity about a leprechaun loose in school, leprechaun trap parent letter, leprechaun trap blueprint, and more

Writing craftivity about how a leprechaun got loose in school, make a leprechaun trap parent letter and blueprint and more!

This is part of the resource Trick and Trap a Leprechaun. (It also comes with a letter to send home to parents about building a leprechaun trap) So fun!

To celebrate March Madness, Easter, spring, and ST. PATRICK'S DAY, other primary teachers and I have collaborated to offer 15 book giveaways and a $75 Teachers Pay Teachers Gift Card !  I'd offer to send along a Shamrock Shake too but it wouldn't travel well and to be honest, I'd end up drinking it myself.

All the giveaways will end on March 13th so make sue you hop right on it so you don't miss out!

Enter the TPT Gift Card Giveaway below:
a Rafflecopter giveaway
To find out what other great books you could win and to get great ideas for read-alouds and books for the month of March for your classroom click on the image below to continue the hop! We have 14 other amazing teachers who have freebies to share!
Momma with a Teaching Mission


Sunday, March 6, 2016

Do You Get Along With Colleagues?

blog post about struggling to connect with coworkers.

This isn't going to be a blog post that offers you great advice to use for your next math lesson.

This post will not give you a great new bulletin board idea.

No strategies for math workshop here.

But maybe...just can relate. Maybe this post will remind you of yourself, your school, or your colleagues. 

Do you find it hard to get along with others sometimes?  I do.  There. I said it.

I don't mean- "hard to get along" as in fighting or arguing. I mean "get along" as in, fit-in or belong.

As I scroll through Facebook and Instagram and see teachers all buying the same pairs of shoes, earrings, purses, and planners I wonder if perhaps others feel the same way I do.

I don't think I've always felt this way.  I don't remember feeling this way in junior high or high school. In fact, I found it easy to get along with others then. I'm sociable and I had a lot of friends.  Good friends. I'm still friends with many of them.

As I've gotten older, it's harder.  Maybe it's because I spend a lot of time with my husband.  The truth is- I like him. A lot. He really is my best friend.  Or maybe it's because I am too busy as a full time working mom of 3.  Or maybe it's because I don't really enjoy shopping the way most women do.

But the truth is, I think I feel this way because ... if I'm really honest...I feel a bit intimidated.  Wow.  That's hard to say and hard to admit.

I've always wanted a public school job.  I began my teaching career teaching in a private school and then one year turned into another and another and then next thing you know...16 years passed.  And then...I was 40- trying to get my dream job of teaching in a public school and it was hard. A lot harder than I thought. I felt like everyone knew more than me and it was incredibly humbling. 

I second-guess myself. I make mistakes. I forget things I should have remembered. I feel overwhelmed. I look around at my other colleagues who seem to have it all together and do they do it?!

And suddenly...I feel inept. Is this feeling legitimate or paranoia on my part?  These are still feelings I'm trying to work out.  Are they valid?

After a fallout with a co-worker over something that had completely taken me off guard, and was not something I had done but she had thought I had, it shook me.  I stopped socializing after school with co-workers. I stopped going to holiday parties and get-togethers, worried that I wouldn't fit in, didn't belong, or wasn't wanted. At the root of it all I just felt like - who would even notice if I was there.

The truth is - my classroom is well-kept and well-organized. The projects that hang outside my classroom door are cute.  On the outside, I guess, no one would ever know I have these feelings. But I do. And I wonder if other teachers do too.

The truth is, I started creating products for Teachers Pay Teachers because I wanted and needed the validation that what I have to offer is something of value, because I don't feel that in my job.

I'm still trying to figure out why that is.  Is it my personality?  Am I the type that needs a "verbal hug" a lot? Is that my "love language", or whatever you call it?  Or has the profession beaten me down a bit and I need the affirmation that it's still a profession of integrity? Or is there merit to how I feel?

I'm not a first year or even a ten year teacher. I'm not a veteran either but I don't feel like I fit in-in the teacher's room, lunch room, or social events. Do other teachers feel the same?  And if so, how can we change that?

Education has changed so much. And let's face it folks, this is a tough job. It's not for the faint of heart.  How can we support one another when it gets tough? How can we lift one another up when we just don't feel good enough?

Last week, I joined Sheila Jane's Teacher Happy Membership. I have found a community there, and here in the blogging world, of really great, supportive, and happy teachers.  My goal is to take the feeling with me into the lunchroom and the teacher's room for those times when I'm feeling insecure and unsure.

blog post about struggling to connect with coworkers

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Write on! A Look Inside my Writing Center

I am very lucky to be in a brand new school.'s four years old now but to me, it still looks pretty new. 

I'm one of those people who seems to lack a commitment to a certain classroom arrangement so I am often changing my classroom set up. Nothing major so don't freak out on me. Mostly, the student tables (we have tables, not desks) and I may move a shelf here or there.

This is my writing area.

Ideas and resources for setting up your classroom writing center.

I stick with one color scheme and that stays the same year after year. I leave the same bulletin board background and borders up all year since I cannot stand changing bulletin boards. 

I just want to point out the Reader's Theater bin on the top of the book shelf is from A Teeny Tiny Teacher. Leave this post right now and go put one in your cart on TPT.  Those things are fabulous, I tell you. Life changing.  For real.

Back to the writing center, I add a "word wall word" once a day (4 a week) to our word wall. They are based on our district's spelling program. On the shelf on the right I keep different kinds of writing paper (large lined, small lined, papers with boxes for drawing, papers without boxes for drawing, letter stamps, pens, pencils, markers, colored pencils, etc.).  I also keep a stapler there because I will not let the kiddos use my stapler. Without a doubt, every time I do, someone jams it, doesn't tell me, and I am balancing with one leg on a shelf, the other on a chair trying to staple a paper on a board and bam- no staples.

Here's a more detailed view of the inside of the writing center.  I have tried to make this a "cozy" place, like my reading center. The monthly vocabulary cards are changed monthly and are available in my store here.

Narrative and Informative mini anchor charts within a writing prompt with word banks resource.
The narrative, opinion, and informative writing mini anchor charts are part of my Writing Prompts with Word Banks products available here.

I change out the writing prompt pages frequently to maintain interest.

I also love Mel D-Seusstastic's product The Ultimate Writing Station.  The "write banner" pictured above is from her product. You can find it on TPT here

I added colored samples as visual models for students on the back of a shelf.

Ideas, strategies and resources for setting up a classroom writing center.

On the top of the shelf, in the baskets, I keep the prompts that are pictured on the shelf. I only have 4 at a time because I switch them out often to maintain interest. 

Note to self: buy more green baskets because those red ones do not match the color scheme.  It drives me bonkers.  Some of my co-workers tease me about this. I know.  It's a problem.

I can't wait to see photos of your writing centers! As I said, I switch things around all the time so I'm always looking for great ideas.  Please link up and and let's take a peak!

Link up to share photos of your classroom writing centers.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Leprechaun Writing, STEM, and Visualization

Another week comes to an end and is time for Five for Friday with Doodle Bugs Teaching.

I love St. Patrick's Day.  I'm not even Irish.  I just pretend I am in March's fun.  I have a great time in my classroom doing fun time on learning (ahem) with projects. 

We wrote narratives about a leprechaun that gets loose in our school.  We are learning how to structure and organize our writing. 

We used this anchor chart as a mini-lesson and visual reminder.

narrative writing: tell how a leprechaun got loose in school.

 Didn't they come out cute?
Writing Craftivity to tell about a leprechaun getting loose in school, trick and trap a leprechan blueprint and parent letter, and more.

Click here to check out the writing craftivity included in this product.

This STEM project by Brooke Brown is fabulous!

We had great fun learning experiences, making a wind powered maze using base ten blocks, snap cubes, popsicle sticks, straws, and marbles. 

In other news, this is certainly newsworthy...

Bentley, our beagle and Jack one of our cats, are lying beside one another. 

Bentley is not chasing.

This is worth posting on the web.

Most days, between the running of dog paws and the screams of a cat it sounds like someone is being murdered in our home.  Lately, things have been calming down more and our furry friends are co-habituating in peace.  For now.

This is what a mess 267 baby photos looks like. I printed them off this week with a 40% off coupon for Walgreens.

I decided it would be a good idea to print all the photos my Dad has of my son so that they are off a device and....on my bedroom floor.

I do plan to put them in an album. Or scrapbook them. But most likely it will be a flip album because I'll get lazy and my husband will say "What are you going to do with all those pictures?" So...

I should also say that my son is now 10 so...

based on the rate I'm going, the flip album option is looking pretty good.

We have been learning about visualization this week as part of our balanced literacy lessons this week.

 visualizing strategies anchor chart

This anchor chart helped my students understand that good readers make a "movie in their mind" when they read.

FREE visualizing strategies

BrainpopJr. has some great videos about visualization, as well.

This is a freebie in my store.

Well folks, that's my week. 

Pray for me I have parent conferences next week.