Saturday, January 21, 2017

Stop the Boredom! 3 secrets to engaging students in centers!

I 💓 centers!  They promote independence in my students.  Give me time to work with small groups or individuals.  AND-- they are FUN!  (Did I say fun?  Shhhh!  Don't tell anyone!)

Seriously, sometimes I feel like all the fun is being sucked out of learning, school and being a kid!  We HAVE to do this...they HAVE to master that...

Really?  What about wonder?  Engagement? Fun?

For years, I have searched for the perfect way to keep centers consistent so students can complete them on their own, but engaging so students don't get bored.

You know what does it?


Novelty is defined as being new, original or unusual, I find that it also means it's fun.  Kids having fun are engaged.  Engaged kids are learning kids!

Here are my top three secrets to using novelty in centers.

#1- Think cheap.  Novelty wears off if you keep it around too long so do NOT sink much money into it.  One of my students favorite bits of novelty is tiny centers.  I print center activity resources 2 to a page so that they are about half the size.  Set soe magnifying glasses out with the center and its a whole new ballgame.  Guess how much that cost?  Yep, NOTHING!

#2- Make it seasonal.  This allows you to keep the same structure to an activity so students can continue to work independently, but make it different enough that students are engaged.  In January, put it on snowflakes and snowmen.  In February, break out the hearts!

#3- Change the writing utensils.  For writing instruction and assignments, I prefer students to use pencil.  However, when they are making a list of short a words or writing in a collaborative journal, I relax that rule.  Every few weeks, I put different writing tools out for students to use.  A pack of metallic crayons cost me a few dollars at Walmart, but brought tons of multi-paragraph writing!

I am always looking for new ways to add novelty so I would love to hear what you do!  Leave me a note and watch for a shout out!

Thursday, January 5, 2017

5 ways to prepare for the holidays!

No, I'm not crazy... well, maybe a little.

Yes, I know the holidays just passed!

Yes, I am preparing for the holidays now!

Here are 5 ways that you can prepare for the holidays NOW to save yourself time and stress in November and December.

#1- Every month (or payday) buy a gift card... in November and December, you will have plenty of money saved for extra shopping!  Alternatively, you can check with your bank to see if they have a Christmas Club account.

#2- Using your favorite list making app (or notebook) make a list of everyone you buy for... as you see things and think of ideas, write them down (or go ahead and buy it!)

#3- Start making gifts early.  There are lots of crafty people in the world!  If you are one of them, harness those powers and get crafting!  Creating all those hand-knitted scarves or needlepoint hangings take time.  The earlier you start, the more you can make!

#4- Shop now if you are in the market for new Christmas decorations!  Now is the time to find them CHEAP!

#5- Consider online options.  According to a survey completed by Consumer Reports National Research Center, the most stressful part of the holidays is dealing with long lines and crowds. I have a family tradition of going shopping on Black Friday with my mom, grandmothers and sister, but everything else was done online! (Actually, some online shopping was done at the mall during Black Friday shopping, but that's another story!)

Drop me a note in the comments if you have any other tips for preparing for the holidays!  I would love to hear them!

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

5 Tips for a Smooth Field Trip

Field trips can be an exciting, yet stressful, time!  Even after 15 years, I have trouble sleeping the night before- it's equal parts of nerves and excitement!

As a veteran teacher at my school, I am often asked- What do I need to know to make my field trip go well?

I have compiled my top 5 tips to help you prepare for a smooth field trip before you ever leave the school!

1. Pack a bag of essentials!
If you're already a parent, this step might be pretty easy for you!  If not, think about things you might need.  Parents phone numbers, first aid supplies, medications?  I suggest using a backpack so you can keep your hands free.  In my bag, I pack the following items:

→ Parent communication notebook-  It holds all the numbers I need.  I have never used it for behavior, but had to call a parent because a student was having an asthma attack.  He didn't have an inhaler, they did breathing treatments at home.  She was able to meet us with his nebulizer and take care of him.

→First Aid Supplies- I fill a large, zip top plastic bag with band-aids, gloves, tissues, a thermometer, plastic grocery store bags, and any medications I have to give.  I have dealt with everything from bloody noses to nausea during field trips and having the right supplies make it a lot easier!

→Special treats- for me and the chaperones!  I'm not a huge soda drinker but it always feels nice to have one on a field trip.  If I know my chaperones preferences, I always bring something they like too.  I also pack my lunch and a little chocolate.

2.  Preview the site if you've never been.
Nothing is worst than leading kids aimlessly around while you figure out what is going on.  If you can't go to the actual site, spend some time previewing the website and know your agenda.  Do you have to be anywhere at a certain time?  What time are you leaving?  Are there any must see exhibits or activities?  Knowing your plan is essential to having a good time!

3.  Take the BEST chaperones.
In the past, I have sent out a class wide "Let me know if you can chaperone!" call.  Now, I hand select the best by giving them a call and saying "I really need your help on the field trip on such and such date.  Can you come?" I have never had a parent say no!

This also helps avoid the no show chaperone which is something that happens often in my district.  Personally inviting chaperones sends a great message and you are more likely to get a good return.

❗Even with a personal invitation, remember to check in with them a few days before and the night before to make sure they are still coming!

4.  Rules, Rules, Rules!
I have found that even the most unruly of student's is behaved on a field trip but it's extremely important to review the rules before you leave.  Review the rules for the bus, general rules and any specific rules for your trip.  This is why it is helpful to preview the site.  If you're heading to the zoo, talk about being kind to the animals- not tapping on the glass, not reaching into the enclosures, etc.  For a museum, talk about respecting the exhibits, what is touchable and how to share the space with others.

5. Count your kids and count again!
Know exactly how many students you are taking with you and count them often.  I count when we line up, as we walk out the door and again on the bus.  I also ask one of my chaperones to count and make sure we have the same number.  It is also important to count frequently during the field trip. This ensures that you don't leave anyone behind!

Friday, October 28, 2016

Five for Friday- The Winning Edition!

This has been The. Best. Week. Ever!  And I'm ready to share it all with you in my Five for Friday post.  So pull up a chair, and grab a beverage.  Don't forget to swing by Doodle Bugs Teaching to check out the other Five for Friday posts!

Win #1

This summer, I entered a contest on Melonheadz Illustrating.  I wrote about my kids, my school and my district.  AND I WON!

Last Friday, we received a box of goodies in the mail!  It was like Christmas, Halloween, Easter, Valentine's Day and every single kids birthday all at one time!  

Inside the box were little packets of masks, a pencil, a toy and a treat for each student.   AND there was a special bag for me with a bath bomb and some Melonheadz swag!  There was a super sweet note from Nikki that my kids have asked me to read everyday!

Along with the goodies, I won $50.00 worth of  illustrations.. picking that out was tough!  

Win #2

On Tuesday, I found out that I had received grant money from 2 grants I wrote!  My town has a grant we can apply for and I have written grants every year and never received it.  This year, I got TWO.

The first is for a science tools kit from Lakeshore Learning!

This is over $200.00 worth of tools that we can use to investigate all kinds of topics!

I also received grant money to get butterflies and ladybugs!  

Well, caterpillars and larvae...

I have always purchased a cup of caterpillars to observe grow into butterflies, but this year I wanted to do something additional as well.  I asked for, and won, money to buy a Ladybug Land school kit.

Win #4

We celebrated Red Ribbon Week by dressing up in different ways.  The week ends with a door decorating contest.  My class's door won 3rd place!

I took pictures of the kids sitting on a broom.  I cut them out and glued them to paper.  At the bottom, each student wrote "There's no room on my broom for drugs because... " and wrote their reason!

Win #5... sort of...

So, this isn't exactly a win... but I'll take it!  I rediscovered the Take 5 candy tonight at Walmart... 

Ummmm... perfection in a wrapper.  It's crunchy, chewy, salty, sweet, savory and nutty.

It's a pretzel with caramel, peanut butter and peanuts covered in milk chocolate.

Your turn!  Tell me how YOU won this week!

Monday, October 10, 2016

A Teacher's Trick for Modeling Think Alouds

Raise your hand if you use thinking aloud as a strategy with your students!

I do!
All. The. Time.  

I think aloud during reading, math, science, social studies... solving behavior problems.  I often worry that my students are missing the point.  I wanted to create a cue that would remind students of when I was sharing what was in my head, and when I was really talking.

I like to use a lot of visual cues with my students so I decided to create a 'thought bubble' to hold above my head when I'm modeling my think aloud.

To create my 'thought bubble', I purchased a gold paint pen, black poster board and some wooden dowels.  I also found a super cool gold marker that had a blade already inserted in the tip that was awesome but proved difficult to use for this project.

To begin, I hand drew a thought bubble and a speech bubble on the black poster board.  I cut it out and used the gold paint pen to outline the bubbles in a thick line to make it stand out. I ended up going over it several times to get the gold nice and thick so it would stand out!

While I try to have neat handwriting, there is no way I could write words on the bubbles neatly.  Using a font from Teach123, I printed out the words "I think..." and "I say...". Using the fancy trick of penciling the back and rubbing it on the black poster board[KK1] , I was able to transfer the words to the poster board. 

First, I turned the paper over so I could see the blank side.  Next, I took a pencil and heavily shaded an outline of the letters.  It helps if you place it against a window so the sunlight shines through and you can see.  For the best results, be plentiful with the pencil to make the transfer easier to see.  Then, I turned the paper over and placed it on top of the poster board, with the pencil side down.  Last, I used a wood stick to rub the text and transfer the pencil to the poster board. 

 Using the gold paint pen, I traced the letters a few times until they were nice and thick.

I hot glued dowel rods to the back so I could hold them in one hand while I'm teaching.

In hindsight, I wish the speech bubble was a little smaller.  I had to do some complicated dowel gluing on the back to make it support itself.  The thought bubble turned out perfectly!

How do you use think aloud as a strategy?  I would love to hear about it!

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Five for Friday- October 7

Whoop Whoop!  Another fun filled Friday night!

I work with a whole bunch of YOUNG people, and I love them dearly... really I do.  However, they go OUT on Fridays..  I'm barely awake!  I don't get it!

I am staying up late enough to hook up with Doodle Bugs Teaching for the Five for Friday though!

One of my sweet students from last year made me these flowers this week!  She was so precious.  She carried them down the hall like she was in a wedding!

I was very fortunate to teach this child twice.  I taught her in Kindergarten and then she was placed in my second grade class.  We have such a special bond now!

A former colleague surprised us with a visit today! Only one person knew she was coming and everyone else was so surprised!  Y'all- I CRIED!  She always reminded me so much of myself and I've missed her terribly!

I was supposed to take my son camping this weekend with CubScouts... but there's a hurricane a-comin'- so the trip was canceled.  

One of the other scout moms sent me this picture!

I was looking forward to the trip, but I'm glad we postponed it!  I would rather get another Polar Bear Patch for camping in temperatures that drop below 32 degrees than fight AquaMan for a camping spot!

We are starting a new program next week.  Second Steps is a Social and Emotional Learning curriculum that I am really excited about.  It has 22 weeks worth of lessons that teach everything from respect to empathy to problem solving.  I plan on blogging about the journey, so make sure you follow me if you want to read about it.  I'm excited because I have never taught an actual social skills program but I'm beginning to think it should be required everywhere.

I'm WAY happy to announce that I have opened up a store on Boom Learning!  Boom Learning is a new digital learning site that allows you to assign decks of cards to students.  It is a paid site, but you can give your students different sign-ins and assign them desks of cards to work through.  After students work through the cards, you can access a report that will give you information about how they did on each assignment.

You can assign decks of cards to students.  When they finish them, they are awarded with badges, gems and coins.  


This is a screenshot of the report for a profile I set up under my son's name so I could practice using it and check out how my decks of cards turn out!

If you're interest, I would appreciate your help!

First, sign up with my referral code by clicking here!
Second, check out my free deck and give me all the suggestions you can!  You can find it here!

That was my week!  How was yours?  I would love to hear from you!

Friday, September 23, 2016

Five for Friday 9/23/16

Ahhhh Friday!  How I adore you!  Another Friday evening spent in bed, binge-watching TV shows to clear the DVR.  It doesn't really sound exciting- but I have no complaints!

Here's to Friday and another link up with Doodle Bugs Teaching!

Tonight's binge-watching series is Good Eats!  It's a pretty old show by Alton Brown where he explains the science behind recipes.  Each episode has a theme and right now I'm learning all about vinegar!
 Alton is one of my favorite chefs and I really enjoy watching.

I recently signed up for Kindle Unlimited and I LOVE that I can get Kindle books with Auldible Narration.  Obviously, it's not every book, but I have found a wide selection.  I'm listening to The Butterfly Garden by Dot Hutchinson right now and it's really intense.  I have the app on my phone and can download, pop in my ear phones and play.  I listen while I exercise.  It's a great motivator- especially now that I'm toward the end of the book.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

I'm participating in T-A-G Day tomorrow!
I'm putting all of my "All The Leaves are Falling" math centers on sale along with giving away one copy of the word problems activity.
You can find the 3rd-6th grade giveaway here!

Tomorrow is Everybody's Day in my little town.  Everybody's Day is the oldest festival in NC and was created to celebrate- well, everybody!  It began in 1908 and was created as a way to bring the people of Thomasville together.  I look forward to the event every year and I can't wait to go tomorrow.

That is all.

Leave me a note and say hi!  What are you reading? Watching?  Celebrating?

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