Thursday, August 3, 2017

5 Simple Self Care Practices for the First Day of School

Teaching is a job that I like to call a 'heart job'.  We do it with our hearts.  We invest our hearts so deeply and fully into our kids and our classrooms, that we forget to take care of ourselves.  Do you know what happens when people forget to take care of themselves?  Not only is it not pretty, we can't help others when we are running on empty.  These 5 simple steps for the first day of school will help you take care of yourself.



1- Arrive early.  There is something magical about the classroom in the early morning before the kids arrive.  Drink your coffee or eat your breakfast.  Savor the very last moments of peace and quiet.  Sit at your desk.  Gaze lovingly at all the beautiful displays and decorations you have worked so hard on...


2-  Wear your best shoes.  No, not those 🠝, the other ones.  Today is not the day to impress people with your fancy shoes.  Leave them at home.  Today you will be on your feet, dashing from one place to another.  Take care of your feet.  They will take care of you later.


3- Drink carefully.  Every year, I learn my bathroom schedule.  for example, I know that I can go to the bathroom at lunch, which was 11:30 last year.  That also meant I didn't drink any water before 9:30.  On the first day of school, you probably haven't figured out what your bathroom schedule will be like.  It's important to stay hydrated, but having floating eyeballs is not good self-care!


4- Pack a special treat for after school.  Make it your most favorite indulgence.   When all the children have made it home safely. Sit down, prop your feet up, take out your treat and enjoy!  You have made it!


5- Go HOME!  Tidy up the room, make sure you have everything needed for the second day of school and go home.  You will spend many extra hours at school through the year. You don't have to start today.  Go home- take a nap, watch a movie, eat some ice cream, 🍷... whatever relaxes you!

Teaching is hard!  It's important to refuel yourself.  I would love to hear your favorite self-care practice in the comments below!

Happy Teaching!




Thursday, July 27, 2017

5 Fun Phonemic Awareness Songs Your Students Will Love

Phonemic awareness songs are one of the best ways to give students fun and engaging practice with phonemic awareness.Without a solid basis of phonemic awareness, students will struggle to master reading and spelling skills.  Here are 5 of my favorite phonemic awareness songs!


(Please note, these links are affiliate links which means I may receive some pocket change to help support this blog and fund teaching expenses when you make a purchase. As always, the opinions are my own and I promise to only share what I truly love- cross my teacher's heart!)


1- Party in the Jungle by Jack Hartmann.  This is a great song for Pre-K or Kindergarten students because it uses animal sounds and incorporates fun movements!



2- Apples & Bananas by The Learning Station.
I sang this with my Kindergarten and First grade students long before the age of showing a video on a large display board came about.  It's fun, it's catchy and it's educational!



3- Beginning Sounds by Jack Hartmann
When I go looking for high-quality, education songs, Jack Hartmann is one of the first artists I look for.  This song has students practicing beginning sounds in a 'repeat after me' format.



4- Make a Rhyme, Make a Move by Jack Hartmann.
Another great Jack Hartmann song.  This one has great urban dance beat and has students practice identifying rhyming words.



5- Alphabet Animals Song Video by Have Fun Teaching
When I teach alliteration to my Second Graders, we read Some Smug Slug and sing this song.  Students write their own alliterative sentence using the first sound of their first name!  It's lots of fun and makes a great hallway display.



I would love to know what other songs you use for phonemic awareness instruction and practice.  Drop me a comment down below!

Thursday, July 20, 2017

How to Find Balance by Embracing a 'Good Enough' Mindset

I am not a perfectionist by any means, but even I get held up by wanting things to be RIGHT.  Sometimes, it's really important for things the be perfect- student test results, tax information and the placement of the decimal in my paycheck (it still needs to move to the right!) are examples of times that things need to be exact.

There are other times, lots of times, that we add a lot of stress by trying to make things perfect.  One of the ways you can find a little balance in your life is by adopting a "good enough" attitude in certain areas.  This means that you give up something being done perfectly in exchange for someone else doing it!  For me, laundry is one of those areas.  When my son was too young to help, I had a perfect system.  I have a laundry sorter so one side has lights, one side has darks and the middle had reds/pinks/purples.  When one side got full, I dumped it in the wash.  When I hang clothes in my closet, they go in rainbow order so I can pick clothes out easily.

My ten year old?  He doesn't give two hoots about my systems. So now he's in charge of his own laundry.  He washes it, dries it, folds it and hangs it.  Is it a nice organized system? 🤣Absolutely not!  However, its also not my problem.  At first it stressed me out but I found a little more in my life because I'm doing HALF the laundry I used to do.  It's not perfect, but it's GOOD ENOUGH.

How can this translate into the classroom?
First, think of some basic tasks you do that you could assign to a student.
Second, spend some time TEACHING students how to handle those tasks.  DO NOT skip this step.  Taking the time to teach students how to perform these tasks may sound like more work, but it really isn't.  Once you have taught them how, you can sit down and watch them. 🤣handle one of the other 20394230948 things happening in your room at the time!  Third, repeat the process!


Do you grade/mark EVERYTHING?  Is it necessary or could students do some of it?  I used to check morning work, but now every Friday morning is grading time.  Students who have finished all their morning work get to help check it.  I check the one on the top and they check the rest.

Who passes papers and materials out?  Not me!  Invest some time into teaching students to "Take one and pass the rest."

Cleaning up the classroom- teach students how to clean up the floor.  It may not be perfect, but you don't have to do it.

Allowing others to take control of things helps you find balance because it frees up some of your time that you can spend doing other things!

This is the third post in my Finding Balance series.  You can learn more about finding balance in your life by clicking on the images or signing up for my newsletter!







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Thursday, July 6, 2017

5 Things You Can Do When Parent Communication is Difficult

Parent communication can be difficult.  In my heart, I know that all parents WANT to be considered a team member in their child's education, I think they just struggle to know how. I work in a Title 1 school and their are so many aspects of poverty that put and keep parents in survival mode that they struggle to balance it all.  However, this makes our job as teachers a little more difficult so I have brainstormed some ways to make it happen.

First, lets talk about different methods of contact-



Personal communication, in my opinion, is the most important and includes face to face meetings and phone calls.  It can also be one of the most challenging though.  Parents may not show up to scheduled meetings, return phone calls, or even provide you with a current phone number.  It is still important to keep trying to make those contacts.


Digital communication, in my opinion, is the easiest and includes emails, texts and apps.  Apps like Class Dojo and Remind make it really easy to spread information to multiple people at a time.  They also make it easy to handle quick communication tasks such as "Little Johnny isn't feeling well.  I took his temperature, but he doesn't have a fever so he is taking a short nap in the Book Nook. I'll let you know how he is doing!"  Be careful here though and don't engage in serious conversations here.  It's difficult to imply tone in a digital communication.


Written communication is my least favorite way of communication and includes handwritten notes and newsletters.  Yes, it's easier to write a note home but I often wonder how many of those notes actually make it home.  This may work better if you have a planner or folder that has to be signed everyday.  I do think that students will make sure they take something home and hand it directly to their parents if you make it meaningful for them.  Announcements about performances or good notes home usually get handed over. 

Tip 1- Send everything home multiple ways.  If I send a newsletter home, I send a dojo/remind message AND tell the kids to make sure their family sees it so they know about XYZ.

Tip 2- Focus on positive communication at first, especially with the most difficult parents.  Everyone likes to hear good things about their child.  When I have parents sign up for Dojo, I right away send them a message about how excited I am to work with their child.  I continue sending positive messages home no matter how small.

Tip 3- Play up the easy 2 way communication of digital apps.  I tell my parents that if they sign up for Class Dojo that they will get access to pictures of their students, good notes home and occasionally notes from their child!  (I let students use the desktop version of Dojo to send notes- it works really well as a reward on behavior contracts!) I also make sure parents know that its an easy way to reach me and share information!

Tip 4- Invite parents in for a performance or event.  We had the BEST parent involvement when our students completed a wax museum.  Parents were engaged with their kids, they helped complete displays, made costumes, etc.  Then they SHOWED UP to see their kids.  I've also been known to hold impromptu meetings at these events- getting important paperwork signed, etc.

Tip 5- Use the children to your advantage! I'm talking pure bribery here.  "If you bring this back signed, you get XYZ!"  For me, it's usually PawBucks (they use them at the school store).  You can also use candy, points or small trinkets.

Here's a Bonus Tip- DOCUMENT, DOCUMENT, DOCUMENT!
I keep track of notes that go home, phones calls that are made, etc. When I send a newsletter home, I put the date on it and put it in my communication notebook.  With this documentation, I can say things like "I'm so sorry you didn't know!  I sent a newsletter on Thursday and wrote a note in the planner on Friday.  I also sent out a Dojo reminder to check the planners on Friday.  I tried to call on Wednesday but no one returned my call.  Is there a better way to reach you?"  Documentation helps cover yourself too.  I had a parent complain to the principal one time that all I ever said was negative things about her child-- but I had documentation of her behavior notes- positive and negative- and attempted phone calls home.

I keep a Parent Communication Notebook with copies of each students information sheet and communication log.  In the back, I keep a copy of all newsletters that go home as well.  If you need a communication log, you can download this free one by signing up for my newsletter!

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Thursday, June 22, 2017

How to Find Balance by Managing Your Time

I've been thinking a lot about a common problem I see in teachers everywhere-- your time is managing you instead of you managing your time!  If you can take control of your time, you'll be able to find all the"lost time" you are looking for.


First, let's talk about what time management is.  Time management is really the balance of goal setting, planning, prioritizing, decision making, delegating and scheduling.  You're really good at knowing WHAT you need to do, it's finding enough time to do #allthethings that becomes a problem.

The second part of time management deals with the actual minutes on the clock.  We all have the same 24 hours in our day, it's what you do with them that matters.  This is the struggle and the struggle is real.

One way to wrangle your time is the Pomodoro Technique.  With this technique, you need a good timer and a to do list.  Set your timer for 25 minutes and tackle one of the items on your list.  When the timer goes off, STOP and take a 3-5 minute break.  Each cycle of work and rest is referred to as a Pomodoro.  The idea is that the short bursts of work followed by a break will help you concentrate and focus.

I use a version of this.  I set my timer for 30 minutes and address one area of my life- school work, cleaning, family, etc.  Using a timer and a to do list really helps me keep a good work-life balance.  I will spend 2-3 Pomodoros on one area of my life, school work for example and then switch my focus to something else such as cleaning or family time.


I know you like to read, so I found some books that you might like about time management.

(Please note, these links are affiliate links which means I may receive some pocket change to help support this blog and fund teaching expenses when you make a purchase. As always, the opinions are my own and I promise to only share what I truly love- cross my teacher's heart!)




I hope my suggestions help you take control of your time.  I would love to hear any tips you have for getting control of your time!

This is the second post in my Finding Balance series.  You can find others by clicking on the images below or signing up for my newsletter!



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Sunday, April 2, 2017

How to Make a Sound Activity with Plastic Eggs

If your nearby shops are anything like mine, the plastic eggs have been out since February 15th. They are EVERYWHERE!  I am a firm believer in the power of novelty so I snap up a couple packs at the local dollar store as soon as I can.

One of the activities I made with them this year are sound shakers.  This was a fun activity to kick off our sound unit.





Step 1- Prepping the Eggs

Gather your supplies!  I used 12 plastic eggs and a variety of small items I found around my house.  I used safety pins, paper clips, pennies, rice, oatmeal, a ball of dough (like playdoh), a foam cube, dry spaghetti, buttons, beads and  etc... you could also use marbles, small erasers, lego bricks. or pencil top erasers.  Your imagination is only limited by what will fit inside the egg!

Place a different item in each egg. For most items, I filled about half of the egg.  I numbered each egg with numbers 1 through 12.

⭐A little HINT- Put a little tape around the egg to keep them from opening! ⭐

I also printed and copied one recording sheet for each student! You can get the recording sheet here for free!

Step 2- Using the Eggs

When lesson time came, we sat in a circle.  Everyone had a clipboard, pencil and recording sheet.  The recording sheet had 12 eggs on it and each egg has 2 lines.  (I feel like the start of a word problem!)  Starting with egg #1, students shook the egg, recorded a prediction of what they thought was in the egg and passed the egg to the next child.  This let everyone engage multiple senses by feeling, shaking and hearing the egg. When the first egg got about a third of the way around the circle, I started the next week.  This allowed the eggs to move through fairly quickly and reduced the downtime students had.

Step 3- The Discussion

After everyone made their predictions, we shook the eggs again and listened for eggs that had high and low pitches.  We also listened for eggs that had similar sounds.

Step 4- The Reveal

Due to my schedule, we split this activity into a 2 day event.  On day 2, we did the Big Reveal!  For each egg, I shook the egg so everyone could hear it again.  Students shared with a partner and/or the class what they predicted was in the egg and then we revealed the inside!  I'm telling you, this was like a huge party!  I had NO idea kids would get this excited about paperclips in a plastic egg.  Students were cheering and high-fiving each when they got it right.  After revealing the egg, students recorded the correct material on the second line of the egg.

Step 5- Follow Up Discussion

We talk a lot in my room, so we finished this activity by going back to the discussion of which eggs sounds similar. We drew connections to eggs that sounds similar to each other where made out of the same type of material or were similar in size.

You can print the recording sheet AND discussion cards here!

If you use this activity, drop me a note to tell me how it went!




Thursday, March 9, 2017

Place Value and the Great (FREE) Race to 1000 Game

Place value is one of the underlying math skills that can make or break a student.  Students NEED a solid understanding of place value to master skills such as addition, subtraction, mental math, and explaining how addition and subtraction work.

In Kindergarten, students start by working with ten frames and understanding that teen numbers are a set of ten and some more ones.

In First Grade, students begin exploring place value deeper by working with 2 digit numbers, naming the positions as ones place and tens place, completing mental math of 10 more and 10 less and using place value as a specific addition/subtraction strategy.

In Second Grade, students are building on Kindergarten and First Grade to begin working with 3 digit numbers by adding the hundreds place.  Students will be counting, forming numbers, comparing numbers and using place value to solve more complicated problems.

It is critical that students are able to work fluidly and flexibly with base ten.  One of the best ways for students to do this is to play games.

One of my student's favorite games is the Race to 1000 game.



(Please note, some links are affiliate links which means I may receive some pocket change to help support this blog and fund teaching expenses when you make a purchase. As always, the opinions are my own and I promise to only share what I truly love- cross my teacher's heart!)

To begin play, we divide into 2 teams (you could do more).  Each team gets a work mat and base ten materials while I collect the big foam die I have!  (If you do not have any base ten materials, I have used these fun printable ones!)

The premise of the game is simple.  Each team has 6 rolls to build a number that reaches as close to 1000 without going over!  If they go over 1000, they lose!

When a team rolls, the look at the number and decide if they are adding ones, tens or hundreds to their number or work mat.  After making the decision, they add to their work mat and play goes to the next team.  Play continues until each team has made 6 rolls.  Teams count their base ten materials and compare numbers!

After students have played in a group for awhile, they love to play in partners.

You can differentiate this game by changing the number that students build.  Try going smaller or larger.

You can download the work mat here!  After printing the work mat, I recommend laminating or placing in a page protector to make them last.
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