Sunday, November 16, 2014

Teachers Thanking Teachers

I am so excited for today and tomorrow! I am teaming up with some of my most favorite intermediate bloggers and TpT Authors to bring you two days of Teachers Thanking Teachers!

We are so grateful for you and want you to know by sharing some of our newest products with you all. Best of all, they are *FREE* for today and tomorrow ONLY!!

I'm sharing my newest and most seasonally-appropriate resource: Wintertime Brain Breaks

It's been freezing and snowy here in Colorado this past week, so these have been a lifesaver after three days straight of indoor recess.

These set of ten unique Brain Breaks are quick and easy to implement and need no additional resources or prep time at all. They can be used for transitions, to break up long periods of worktime or sitting, or just to have fun at the beginning or end of class.

To read more about Brain Breaks, check out my previous posts HERE and HERE.

To find out how to assemble these and any of my other Brain Break sets, click HERE.

Now, for the fun part! My newest Wintertime Brain Breaks are *FREE* today and tomorrow only! Just head over to my TpT Store and grab them HERE!

Be sure to swing by these other fantastic blogs to see their Teachers Thanking Teachers freebies for these two days.

Thank you again for your continued support! Your impact in my life has been something so special and I am forever grateful for your comments, messages, and feedback. I am extremely thankful for each and every one of you and hope you enjoy this upcoming Thanksgiving season surrounded by loved ones and lots of well-deserved R&R.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Reflecting on Our Weekly SMART Goals

Every Friday, we are setting aside time to reflect on our goals for the week and continue them or create new ones. This practice fits in beautifully with our Leader In Me program and helps to cultivate student responsibility, especially in the areas of homework and classroom behavior.

If you haven't checked out my previous post on creating SMART Goals and our classroom board, be sure to read that HERE.

Today, we began by jotting down some thoughts and reflections on our Weekly Goals Reflection Sheet:

We went through an example goal together and worked on explaining why a goal was or was not accomplished this week. This provided some *fantastic* discussion about learning from "failures"-- and my kids really got the chance to understand that not achieving your weekly goal was more about a learning experience than just a perceived black mark on their week. We also looked back at the SMART Goal sheet from last week and many could see why they did not achieve their goal based on one or more parts of that acronym (mainly, Attainable).

I had them attach their sticky note goal to the blank square and then judge themselves on their effort put forth to achieve this goal. This was to reinforce that even if you didn't hit the goal, the energy and effort you put into it matters. My kids were surprisingly honest with this and even those who did achieve their goal gave themselves straight or frown faces because they felt their goal wasn't challenging enough.... perfect feedback to consider when making next week's goals!

The last section is all about "Next Steps" they will take with the upcoming week's goal. Will it be a continuation? Will it build on last week's goal or be something new altogether? Why? I wasn't too stirct with this last section since I wanted them to brainstorm some ideas for their new sticky note.

The last thing I had them do was to find a Goals Partner. I let them choose the person they wanted to work with because I wanted it to be a friend that they felt comfortable sharing with as well as someone they actually wanted to check in with throughout the next week. They shared their reflection sheet from last week together and chatted about next steps for a few minutes. I had them jot down their partner because I plan on using this system frequently and build upon what a good Goals Partner does (and does not do, ha!) to help their friend reach their goal.

I am fortunate to have a friend (and Goals Partner, I suppose!) who always encourages me to write WOW Goals, or Within One Week Goals. This was the perfect acronym for my students and fit in with our goals timeline, so today we adjusted the first sentence to read, "Within one week, I will... I'll know I've made this goal because..." and we hung this wording right below our SMART Goals chart.

Although this is only Week 2 of our SMART Goals work, I am already seeing some improvement with their wording and especially the Attainable goals they are writing. I have seen quite a few kids stay on the same path, but others hop around, and many are creating goals for themselves that I would have never thought to include. I love how they've grasped the structure this provides and I'm hoping with the incorporation of Goals Partners, next week's reflections will be even stronger and their goals even more successful.

If you're interested in the Weekly Class Goal Reflection, it's available as a freebie in my TpT Store HERE.

Now, to think of my own WOW Goal for next week...

Friday, November 7, 2014

Working on Weekly Class SMART Goals

Are you required to create SMART Goals for yourself as a teacher?

We've had this acronym around for a while and I decided to try it out with my class this week as our goal-setting was feeling too broad and unfocused.

If you haven't heard, SMART Goals stand for:

I've seen "R" stand for "Relevant", "Realistic", "Recorded,", "Results-Oriented", "Rewarding", and more!! Choose what fits your class best :)

Several of these words weren't easy for the kids to understand, so we spent some of the morning talking through each point and giving some examples and non-examples of each.

We came up with this mini-anchor chart that's now hanging in the back of our class:

I gave them the direction of "weekly"-- I want them to start small and we can work out from there. Plus, our Friday mornings have this perfect chunk of time for reflection, so I'm hoping this short time period will help kids reach some manageable goals and be able to feel a sense of accomplishment at the end of each week.

Every student then received a sticky note. I had them put their name on the back and I gave them two sentence starters for the front:

  • In one week, I will....
  • I know I've made my goal when...

This was the first week we've done this work, so I wasn't expecting perfection, but I was pleasantly surprised with how many kids could now generate some legitimate goals for their week ahead. Several revolved around homework, some dealt with classroom behavior, and others with academics.

As they finished, I had them place their notes on a large piece of chart paper I had laminated and titled, "Our Class Goals":

We are a "Leader in Me" School, so these goals worked perfectly with Habit #2: Begin with the end in mind.

This chart is now hanging in the back of the classroom with their stickies in their Class Number spots and will be clearly visible to them throughout the week. It will become a focus piece during our Morning Meeting and I am excited to reflect on these each week to see how well we did. I will share our reflections (as well as "Rewarding" ideas) in a later post, but in the meantime, I hope this gave you some ideas for how you can set up goals in your own classroom this year!

Happy Friday!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Working on Descriptive Writing with Webs & In November

One of my most favorite books to read this time of year is In November, by Cynthia Rylant.

Not only are the illustrations beautiful, the description and sensory details are on point! It is the perfect mentor text for using the five senses to tell a story and I love sharing it each year.

I always like doing a short writing piece in November and this is the perfect choice for us. After reading it through once and looking for the topics of each page (food, holidays, trees, weather, etc.), I had kids think of a month that is special to them. Most chose their birthday month, of course :)

We then used my sensory web poster and planners to brainstorm the five senses in the month they chose.

Just coming off of Halloween, the idea of webs was fresh in their minds. I had them get very specific for each sense. For example, for every "sight" example, they needed to include a color. For every "hearing" example, they needed to include a verb along with the noun, "taste" and "smell" needed to inclue adjectives along with the nouns, and for the heart/hand "feeling" examples, they needed to include because (my favorite word!) to explain why they were feeling that way in the month.

I gave the minimum of three examples per sense, but for some of my stronger writers, I encouraged them to go up to five. Because we meet in small groups for writing (to find out more about Writing Groups, click HERE), it's easy to differentiate and make sure I can check in along each step of the brainstorming process. Plus, I could walk them through one or two examples of each sense and have them finish the remainder of their web in Independent Writing.

I love being able to go back into Cynthia Rylant's book to show how she explained the senses of November in such a beautiful and poetic way. Her section on the smells of November was one of my class' favorites!

We will be turning these brainstorms into typed pieces next week since they are short. I will also hope to have them illustrated and printed before the break so they can be displayed in our hallway around the holiday season... fingers crossed ;)

Stay tuned to my Instagram and Facebook pages to find more pictures as we progress through this writing unit. If you're interested in these planners, posters, and rubrics, you can find them HERE (and in the larger discounted bundled set HERE) in my TpT Store.

Happy writing!