Friday, December 30, 2016

The ABC's of Teaching

As I sit and enjoy my winter vacation, I can't help, but think about teaching. You know how it is. When you're a teacher, teaching is one of your top thoughts. My top 3 are food, TV, and teaching. Someday, exercise will be one of them.

So, I made a list of words that came to mind when I think of teaching. These are my first thoughts. I'm not sure what some of these might say about me. I just wrote the alphabet and jotted down the first word that came to mind.

A is for art. Every classroom needs arts and crafts. I was a shy kid. Art brought me out of my shell. It allowed me to be myself. Don't know why. It just did.

B is for baby steps. Everything we teach our students must be done at our students' pace.

C is for creativity. Teaching is a work of art. If we don't try to make it engaging, our kids won't be engaged. It could be as simple as having students trade desks for a lesson.

D is for donuts. I know, if I really think about it, there's probably a much better word for D. But donuts every now and then make for a fun treat!

E is for environment. My main goal is to make my classroom environment one of love and acceptance. I want my shyest little girl to feel comfortable.

F is for family. I tell my students we are a family. They are brothers and sisters. They will be together all year, so they need to get along.

G is for gift. I feel so blessed for being given the gift of being a teacher. I don't know what else I would do.

H is for happiness. My mom tells me to fake it 'til you make it. True. Even on bad days, we teachers have to create a classroom of happiness. For some kids, this is the only happy place they know.

I is for independence. It is the job of parents and teachers to make our kids independent.

J is for January. Honestly, I couldn't think of a word for J. The only word that came to mind was January. I am always shocked by how much my students mature over winter break. When they return in January, they're like totally different kids.

K is for kids. This was obvious. I teach kids.

L is for love. Teachers must love what they do and who they teach. We have kids in our classrooms that depend on us.

M is for movies. I could have put math or something better here, but sometimes kids need to enjoy a movie. . .that goes with a novel we have read.

N is for needy. Kids can be needy, which is why it is part of my job to make them independent.

O is for order. Every classroom needs order. The best lesson isn't the best lesson unless the kids are listening.

P is for patience. No explanation needed.

P is for professional development. I know, I already did P, but this one is so important. Teachers must take it upon themselves to learn about their jobs. College wasn't enough. To be honest, college didn't prepare me at all for teaching. However, graduate work did. As well as keeping up on best practices during my own time.

Q is for quiet. Quiet can be heavenly. It can be weird. It can be awkward. It can be uncomfortable. It can be peaceful.

R is for responsibility.  Being responsible will be a predictor of one's future. That's my opinion.

S is for safe. It is my job to make sure my students feel safe.

T is for tattling. I cringed as I typed that. I take time each day during the first week of school to discuss the difference between tattling and telling. It is the best 15 minutes per day I spend.

U is for universal access. Small group time is my favorite. It's my students' favorite. I get to work with a few kids and they get to work independently.

V is for voice. I have a fabulous microphone that attaches to my shirt collar. Because of it, I never lose my voice.

W is for wait time. Always give kids time to think after posing a question. The more difficult the question, the more time they need to think.

X is for eXcitement. Each day should be filled with some sort of excitement. Hopefully it's from a lesson and not from a spider crawling across a kid's desk.

Y is for young. Sometimes we must stop, breathe, and remind ourselves they are young.

Z is for zoo. And yes, there will be days that we feel like we work in a zoo.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Color Coded Classroom Mangagement

I don't know about you, but I like to make things as easy as possible. More importantly, I like pretty colors.
These bracelets, which you can find here, are a great tool that can be used in so many ways. So, I wanted to share how they can be used in the classroom.

Grouping for Instruction
After teaching a lesson, you can get an idea of which students understood and which did not. Use the bracelets for small groups. While students are working independently, walk around the room and begin handing out bracelets. For example, if you see students struggling to complete the task, hand them the yellow bracelets. Students that need a challenge, hand them a blue bracelet. Once you've handed out bracelets based on your students' needs, call over the yellow bracelets and work with them. Then call over the blue bracelets and have a more challenging activity ready for them.

Rotating through Activities
Give each student a bracelet. Use the bracelets to group the kids during rotating activities. This way if one student loses his group, he can look for students with the same color bracelet.

Partnering Up
Hand out one bracelet to each student. After each student has on their bracelet, ask them to find a partner. For example, ask the students with green bracelets to find a partner with a pink bracelet. 

Taking Turns
If your students are sitting in groups, this strategy will help with taking turns. Hand out one bracelet to each student in the group. If you have four students in a group, you will need four colors. If you have five students in a group, you will need five colors. Use the color only once in each group. For whatever activity you choose, have students take turns by telling them which color goes first, second, third, and so on.

 Job Assignments
I like this idea for assignments being completed in groups. After handing out the bracelets and after students have chosen their colors, assign jobs. For example, the student with an orange bracelet is the captain. The student with the purple bracelet is the recorder.

Retelling a Story
This idea can be used in small groups. Hand out a bracelet to each child. After reading a story, have each child retell a part of the story.
Red=characters and setting
Orange=problem and solution

Check out this post to read about an activity using the bracelets. You can also find a freebie using the bracelets here.

How would you use these bracelets? The possibilities are endless!

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Room to Write #2: Ideas & Details

I hope you caught my last post--Room to Write #1: Sequence of Events! If not, you can find it here.

In this post I will let you in on my little secret for teaching ideas and details.
How many times have your students said, "I don't know what to write about."? I used to hear that all the time, but now I hear it very little. I don't do anything spectacular. I have just found a way to keep it from happening :)

Students use this worksheet and I draw one on the board.
brainstorming, writing, narrative writing
I tell the students they will be writing a narrative. I ask for some ideas of things they can write about. While they think, I give some of my own ideas and I write them in the big circle. Before I finish writing, hands begin to shoot up. I call on students. I write their ideas.

I like to give kids ideas that anybody could experience. . . going to the park, going to Grandma's house, a party, the first day of school. . . I want kids to know that they can write about something other than going to Disneyland.

Once kids begin to hear the ideas of other students, they get their own ideas.

And that, my friends, is how I get each of my students to have an idea!

In Room to Write #2: Ideas and Details, you can find more ideas for helping students with finding ideas or topics.

These cards give children ideas for writing. They get their imaginations going. 
topic ideas
My Writing Ideas envelopes help students keep their ideas organized. They can add ideas as they come up, but they can be used for future writing.

room to write ideas envelope
In the past, I used to sit down with students, read their writing, and after reading ask them to add more details. I used to say this over and over again. Then one day it occurred to me that I have never explicitly taught the meaning of details. Am I embarrassed for telling the world this, yes.

So I thought about how to teach the meaning of details. I made an entire freebie, which you can download here.
Or you can use this. . .
adding details, writing, primary writing, narrative
Before handing out the worksheet, ask kids to imagine a birthday party. What would you do to make your birthday party amazing? Would you have balloons? Would you have a birthday cake? How about some streamers?

These things that make our parties more exciting are details. The words we add to our writing to make it more interesting are also called details.

Hand out the worksheet and tell the students that they will be adding details to this birthday party.

I find students have a much better understanding of reading and writing concepts once they understand the meaning of details. If there is one word I spend time explicitly teaching, it is details. I think it is such a valuable word. . . until I think of a new one :)

Here are some activities included in Room to Write #2: Ideas and Details. . .

These activities help students develop ideas and give students a conceptual understanding of the term.
These activities teach students the meaning of details. Once they have developed an understanding, they practice adding details to writing.
Once students develop an understanding ideas and details, it is time to write!

Before having children write a narrative with a focus on ideas and details, these samples help students see how to add ideas and details. Children read both samples and discuss the similarities, differences, and what makes one better than the other.
And finally, students choose a graphic organizer and write a narrative with a focus on ideas and details.
To continue reminding students about writing vocabulary, these writing vocabulary posters are a great addition to the classroom.
If you would like to use some of these activities in your classroom, click here.

For more lessons, which include PowerPoint presentations and more activities, click here.
I hope you found this helpful! And I hope you can use these ideas to write with your students.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Five for Friday: July 22nd

One more week. Only one more week. One more week and I go back to school.

Don't get me wrong, I'm excited. But I love to sleep in until 5:50! In one week, I'll have to wake up at 5:35!

How is this possible? How is it that I am only able to sleep in 15 extra minutes? The longer I'm awake, the more I eat.

This is the truth. It's the truth, but it's OK. We love what we do, and we love eating Top Ramen the last two weeks of the month.

characters, setting, problem, solution, beginning, middle, end
 Another upside to Instagram are the great ideas teachers post.

I am so in love with the Close Reading Toolboxes created by Rebecca at Create Teach Share. If you haven't seen them, you MUST! You will love this idea! You can find the freebie in her store.

I loved the idea so much, that I was inspired to make one of my own, which you can get here, and it's FREE! Ideas like these are perfect for guided reading. Just pull out the boxes and BAM! Ready to go!
guided reading, small group instruction
Here's the box! It was made using those photo boxes that teachers are going crazy for. I first discovered the box of six at Target, but they no longer sell them (at least I haven't seen them). So, I found them on Amazon, but you can also get the huge box of 16 at Michaels, and they always seem to be 40% off.
story structure vocabulary, bookmark
The purpose of this box is to practice story structure. If you teach K-2, you know that's HUGE! I've been using this idea for awhile, but it wasn't so organized before. Now, thanks to these amazing boxes (that teachers are going crazy for), I have one spot to keep the materials.
Inside the box are 5 crayons (red, orange, yellow, green, and blue), a vocabulary bookmark, a reading wand, and a bracelet.

The crayons are used for underlining parts of the text. If you are using a book, I'd suggest colored tabs. Students use red to underline the characters and setting. Orange is for problem and solution. Yellow is for the beginning and so on. . .

The bookmark is for students to use if they forget the story structure vocabulary.

The wand is to make pointing fun.

And the bracelet is for orally retelling the story.

So, after you have read and underlined, each student in the group is responsible for retelling a part of the story. Once again it is color coded, so if a child has a red bracelet, he or she tells about the characters and the setting. If a child is wearing the blue bracelet, he or she tells about the end of the story.
Now, you may have seen these beauties at Target (a store teachers go crazy for) in the party favor aisle. That is where I found them, but I also found them online and at the Dollar Store. You could also use popsicle sticks, a witch finger, or a regular child's finger :) I just wanted to make mine extra fun! The bracelets are also from Target. You can find those in the party favor aisle or online.
Raise your hand if you cringe when you see somebody throwing away paper that could be recycled. I do! I have to look away.
So this year, I'm using my adorable green, obviously-meant-for-recylcing tub (found at Michaels) as my classroom recycling bin, tub, bucket. Not sure how I'll refer to it. But now I can sleep at night knowing that my class and I are taking care of our planet. Get the Recycle label here!
writing, elementary writing instruction, writing curriculum, narrative writing lessons
I've said it a million times. I love to teach writing.

My writing teacher style it to give kids the tools they need to write. I don't give many writing prompts. I'm like, "Just write!" Now, that might not work if I didn't give kids the tools they need, but I do, and they love it!

My new Room to Write writing curriculum gives kids those tools and allows them to just write. It comes with lesson plans, PowerPoints, and printables to reinforce the skills taught. I am so very proud of it, and I can't wait to use it this year!

I've begun a series of posts about writing that you must read if you want some ideas that you can use in your classroom. You can start here. Each post will include a printables that you can use with the topic being addressed. 
Once again, Instagram sucked me in. I follow Melanie @freshpickedgrace. She has the cutest inspirational products in her Etsy store. I bought the rainbow because it makes me happy. And the pineapple because of that one precious word teachers must whisper to themselves at least once a day. Patience.

Thanks for stopping by! Check out some more fun blogs at Doodle Bugs Teaching!

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Room to Write #1: Sequence of Events

If you ask me what I enjoy teaching the most, I'd have to say writing. Writing! Writing! Writing!

At the beginning of each year, I start out simple. I start with teaching students how to write a sequence of events. It's one of the easier concepts for students to grasp, and it's a great way to to incorporate shared writing in the classroom.
Getting Started
Like I mentioned, I begin the year teaching a sequence of events. I like to use shared writing to write about the first day of school or just any day at school. It's something we all know about and we all know the order of our day.

I like to use pictures because kids get ideas from them. Pictures give kids a visual.
Shared Writing
I begin by having my students help me put some pictures in order. I glue them to chart paper and tell the students that we are going to tell about our day in order. We will be giving a sequence of events.

I have them look at the first picture and decide what it is showing. Then I ask them to think of a sentence. I ask them to begin their sentences with the word we because we are pretending we are the kids in the pictures.

After they think, I have the kids share their sentences with a buddy. I randomly select a few kids to share their sentences. I praise each child for some fabulous sentences and write one of their sentences or a combination of all of them by the picture.

Once we're finished, we practice reading our very short narrative together. We discuss why we put it in order and discuss the term sequence of events.

Independent Writing
Now I let them practice on their own. This worksheet is similar to the shared writing, so the students will feel excited about writing something they know and understand.
Because I am teaching the term sequence of event, I don't expect a real elaborate narrative. I just want them to write a story in order. As we continue throughout the year, I'll expect more because we will have learned more writing skills and strategies.

I hope this helps you to get started! Here are the resources for this lesson.

If you would like the complete unit, find it here.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Room to Write

I once heard that my local police department struggles to hire a diverse group of men and women because applicants have trouble with the writing portion of the test. I've also heard that high school students have trouble with writing because they are unable to write compound sentences. Now, I was blow drying my hair, so I think that's what was said.

Knowing this information, I felt compelled to make sure that I incorporated writing daily in my 2nd grade classroom.
Even if I'm wrong, it lit a fire under me.

But I love teaching writing, so it only made that fire bigger.

As I talk to teachers and reflect on my own teaching, one thing I've realized (it only took 12 years) is that kids aren't (at least mine aren't) taught writing vocabulary. I thought of the words that kids needed to know (I'm sure I missed some), and I created some lessons which teach both vocabulary and writing skills.
primary writing
I created five Room to Write units. In future posts, I will explain how I teach writing and problems teachers may run into. Here is a preview of what will be covered in each post.

I can't wait to share my best tried-and-true writing ideas with you!

Now let's do this my fellow teachers! Let's make writing a priority. Once kids get it, you will have a classroom filled with kids writing independently (and quietly)! Guaranteed!

Head on over to Room to Write #1: Sequence of Events

Thanks for stopping by!

Friday, May 6, 2016

Five For Friday: May 6th

Happy Friday! I'm linking up with Doodle Bugs Teaching for Five for Friday!

Teaching is my favorite thing to do. I get to be creative. I get to read books. I get to make learning fun. I love how positive and inspirational teacher blogs can be. We get new ideas and get to see others doing something we love. I can't get over how amazing it is to see others love something as much as I do.

That being said, this week wasn't the best. When people think of teachers, they usually think of, well, a teacher teaching. But there's also that sad side to teaching. And this week was that week for me.

It started on Monday after school when I received a phone call from the office after the kids left. I was told that one of my students would not be in my class any longer. He would be moving to a new school.

It didn't sink in until the next day. I cried on the way to work. I didn't get to say goodbye. He was just an amazing kid. When I told the kids, they were just as disappointed. He was a friend to everybody. He had the sweetest smile and laugh. I just wish some parents would realize how much teachers love their children.

That wasn't the only experience I had this week. I won't go into detail, but I will say I wanted to take a student home with me.

But the classroom must move on! And it's my job to not only teach, but to create an environment that makes all of my students feel safe and happy.

We learned about rocks this week, which means we needed to make a pet rock. I found this idea  here if you'd like to check it out.
I bought this strawberry plant at the grocery store. One of the best purchases! The kids can totally see the life cycle of a strawberry just by looking at this plant.

This week was Teacher Appreciation Week! I had my English Language Development students write acrostic poems for their teachers. I had a little treat for my team also, but did I take a picture, of course not. And I wrapped them so well!
I love Word Walls! They give kids confidence. But what do I love most about my Word Wall? It works well with my fluency passages. So not only are kids reading these words in text, but they are also using them in writing! Perfect!
Thank you Donor's Choose! I posted a project for some Katie Woo books and my class will be receiving them very soon! After one of my reluctant readers told me she loved these books, I knew I had to get them in my room. She will be so happy!

Happy Friday!

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