Sunday, July 26, 2015

Back to School Survival Tip: Get Them Moving from Day One

It's Back to School time! Nerves and energy are high and the to-do list seems endless. There is always so much to do the first week of school that it often seems like you'll never get to it all! One of the best survivor tips I can offer you this week is to incorporate movement intentionally whenever and wherever you can. When you make this a priority from Day One, you can ensure that your sanity will be saved and your kids will be engaged from the get-go.

Here are five ways you can incorporate movement and Brain Breaks into your Back to School to-do list.

Tip #1:

One of the most important things to do at the beginning of the year is to set up rules and routines in your classroom. While we all know the importance of having your class help create the rules, incorporating movement will help channel your students' energy and encourage buy-in even more!

When you create rules, have your kids come up with gestures to accompany these rules. Practice them together and ensure that kids know not only the rule, but the gesture as well. You can even have them practice the rule gestures only, without words. For more on class rules and gestures, you can see some of my posts HERE.

Another way to channel energy during this back-to-school time is to create a Class Cheer and a Sign of Silence. These can be any movement, but should be class-developed and practiced regularly throughout the day. Cheers can be as simple as a fist pump and "Oh yeah!" or get even more complex, as mentioned HERE. A Sign of Silence could be a hand making a zero and held in the air to signal quiet, or even something a bit louder like Ready, Set, Learn (read more HERE). Anything that will pair both movement with a verbal cue will help get every student on board during these important times.

Tip #2:

We all have fun ways to get to know our students at the beginning of the year, but including movement can be a very engaging way to encourage even more smiles and laughs during this time.

One of my most favorite activities is similar to Four Corners, although I will use compass directions (mentioned HERE) to sneak in some geography skills. I will call out a variety of choices and have kids run to different walls that coincide with their choices. Some of my questions include:

  • Favorite subject
  • Favorite specials
  • How you get to school
  • Teacher last year
  • Favorite sport/hobby
  • Favorite recess activity
  • ...and more!
I love throwing in these questions throughout the first few days as I get to know the kids and they get to know each other a bit more.

Tip #3:

As they complete the activity above, they begin to see some fellow classmates with similar interests and likes as themselves. I try to have kids partner up with as much variety as possible at the beginning of the year, so Find a Friend is a great way to do that! Before an activity, I will announce they will need to Find a Friend who.... and they will need to find a new partner each time. Some choices include someone with same/different:

  • hair color
  • eye color
  • shirt color
  • class as last year
  • number of siblings
  • birth month
  • ... and more!

If kids can't find a partner who has the same/different criteria, they need to find a way they are similar or different and be able to tell me what that is... I actually love it when this happens, as they usually find some wonderful connection that we often use the next time I call out to Find a Friend!

Tip #4:

We spend so much time setting up our classrooms, but often forget that kids join us and have no clue where to find the dictionaries, the class supplies, or the tissues! One of the best ways to solve this problem is a Classroom Scavenger Hunt!

I will use the compass direction signs for this activity as well, and create a simple checklist of all of the necessities in our class. I share this with them before we begin and they grab a clipboard and walk around the room looking for each item. When they find it, they record their answer using the compass direction of the wall it is found along. Of course, working with a partner is encouraged and helping each other is great!

Using Scavenger Hunts is also a great way for kids to get to know each other and the school as a whole. You can use a similar checklist-style or create something more fancy, but encouraging getting up and moving around will help them to get their wiggles out and discover these important places and spaces themselves.

Tip #5:

Something so important to remember during these first few weeks of school what a huge change it is for our kids to come back to the school environment after the summer. In all of the hullaballoo of our to-do lists and the hustle to get things launched, it is essential to incorporate some calming breaks for our students throughout the day.

Controlling the breath is a simple and no-impact break that will help everybody. I love throwing in some math when we breathe. For example, counting by 2/5/10s and encouraging an exhale that is twice as long as the inhale. You can also have kids put their hands on their bellies to feel it expanding as they inhale and contracting as they exhale. During this time, have kids practice breathing in through their nose and out through their mouths for even more calming effects.

Another easy break is having students close their eyes and rub their ear lobes with opposite hands. The cross-lateral movement is subtle, but important, and this can be done at their desks, in the meeting area, or even in line before you leave the classroom.


No matter how you choose to do it, incorporating movement from Day One will help establish even more class buy-in to routines and procedures and reduce many of the behavior management issues that can arise during these first few weeks. When you include movement and Brain Breaks from the beginning, you make them a part of your classroom culture and establish them as a "normal" part of your day. What a wonderful gift to give to yourself and your students from the very beginning!

Brain Break Resources

If you are a fan of these ideas and looking for more to last you throughout the rest of the school year, be sure to check out all of my Brain Break resources HERE on Teachers Pay Teachers. There are resources for each major holiday, Word Work & Spelling, general classroom use, and more!
These Brain Breaks are also available in a variety of formats: circles on popsicle sticks, posters, and PowerPoint slides that you can incorporate into your presentations and use on your projector! Each set comes with the full description of how to complete each break, so you can rest assured that you, your students, a substitute, or even your admin. can call a Brain Break at any time and know what to do.

Find all Brain Break activities HERE on TpT and have fun with your students all year long!

TpT Giveaway

Now for some Back to School excitement! Would you like the opportunity to win one of two $25 TpT Gift Cards? Enter below and I will announce two winners on August 3rd! Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Back to School Survival Guide

I am excited to be a part of an incredible group of bloggers who are sharing even more amazing Back to School Survival Tips!


Keep reading by clicking the links below and you'll find more helpful hints and giveaways!



Have a great Back to School season!


Tuesday, July 14, 2015

2015 Erin Condren Teacher Planner {Part 2: Review}

If you haven't had the chance to watch me unbox this year's Erin Condren Teacher Planner, be sure you get started HERE. This video will help explain some of the pieces and parts that are a part of my planner bundle!


I am so excited to be walking through the 2015 Erin Condren Teacher Planner with you, sharing some of my favorite tips and tricks, and showing you some tweaks to personalize it even more!

Walk-Through Video

Here's a video to get you started. It walks through each of the sections more in-depth and includes how I adjust certain parts:


Inspiration & Parent Contact Freebie

I hope these headers can help you rethink the sections of your planner you may not use as much! Here is a close-up of the before and afters of each of the pages:


Ooops! The "Before" pic was taken after I had covered up the months with the stickers. Sorry about that!
You can grab the freebie containing both of these files HERE on Google Docs.

Using Stickers & Pens


There will be *tons* more posts about these great stickers and pens as the school year approaches and plans get filled in. Here are some of my initial ideas, though. If you're interested in how I number my students, click HERE. Below is a sampling of their pens in my Life Planner :)


Subject Headers, Washi Tape & Notes Pages


I mentioned the subject headers, washi tape, and more from last year's planner tips. Because those haven't changed, be sure to head to the original post HERE to see them in action and to pick up your feeebies!

Look Book, Sales & Coupons

For an even more in-depth look at the full line of school products from Erin Condren, be sure to view the Look Book HERE.

I'm excited to let you know that there is currently a 25% off sale for these Teacher Planners! Use the code TEACH25 until July 19th!

Would you also like $10 off your first order? For a coupon, be sure to sign up through my affiliate link HERE: 3rd.gr/erin_condren.

I'll be back throughout the year as more things begin to take shape. Keep you eyes on my Instagram account for updates as I fill in the blanks. Have fun with these freebies and I can't wait to see how you make this planner your own!

Disclaimer: ErinCondren.com gave me this planner to review, but all opinions are my own. I only promote what I use and love!



Saturday, July 11, 2015

2015 Erin Condren Teacher Planner {Part 1: Unboxing}

It always feels like I can officially start thinking about the next school year when my Erin Condren Teacher Planner arrives in the mail!

This year, it came a bit early, thanks to the fact that Erin Condren sent me a box full of goodies to review for you all. I have been a fan of hers for years, so this was an opportunity I couldn't pass up!


I waited oh-so-patiently to open it up until I could film it and go through all of the amazingness with you all. This is Part 1 of a two-part series. Stay tuned for a more in-depth look at the Teacher Planner, how it is the same/different from last year, and how I plan to set up the different parts in the next few days.

If you're new to Erin Condren and want a $10 off your first order coupon, be sure to sign up through my affiliate link HERE.

To see more of their great line for teachers, visit their Look Book HERE.

For more on how I customized last year's EC Teacher Planner, click HERE.

So now, without further ado, the unboxing of this year's Erin Condren Teacher Planner! Enjoy and let me know in the comments if you have any questions/requests that you would like me to answer during Part 2!


Disclaimer: ErinCondren.com gave me this planner to review, but all opinions are my own. I only promote what I use and love!

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Independent Writing Time Bingo & Prompt Management

Like most things in my classroom, I teach writing in small groups. I have a lot posted about this under the "Literacy" tab, then scrolling until you get to "Writing" to see the full run of ideas around Writing Groups and fun products to help.

One thing I worked on a lot last year is my Independent Writing block. Kids have twenty minutes a day to write on their own and I wanted this time to be purposeful, productive, and self-guided.

In both Word Work and Math, I use a Bingo board to have kids choose their own activities to complete throughout the week or unit. They will plan their Bingo and then work towards it during independent work time, showing me their progress at the end and getting a signature. Five signatures in a row is a Bingo and a small reward (usually a sticker), then they keep working until they hit Blackout or the unit is over and the Bingo sheet is collected. For additional info, click HERE for a video walk-though of my editable Bingo boards.

For Independent Writing, these Bingo boards look a bit different. Of course, since they are completely editable, they can be filled with any information you'd like, but I like to do one of two things: Types of Writing or Prompt Numbers.

Types of Writing Bingo


This is the easiest since it can be reused under any circumstance. I filled this in myself, so you can use this as a guide or adjust it to fit your class' needs. Kids will write about any idea, but follow the format of the type of writing in their Bingo square. This is a great way to ensure that your kiddos don't get stuck on just one type of writing. By having them choose their Bingo, they can take some risks and also write in some of their favorite formats.

Prompt Bingo


I wrote a lot about how I used my Writing Prompts in a prior post HERE. While this version does take some initial setup time, I have found it a great way to get through more of the prompts and really keep kids fully engaged in writing.

An easy way I organize this is with 4x6" photo sheet protectors, a binder, and my trusty Silhouette Cameo for the numbers:

I numbered each pocket 1-24. Now, I can use it all year long for any Writing Prompt packet. I then print out the pages of prompts (10 to a page). You can number these 1-24, which would be very smart, so kids could stay organized during the process. The prompts themselves don't come pre-numbered, since there are 35 total and a space for you to write your own, so you can pick and choose the prompts that work best with your group.

The prompts then get put into the slot with the number and are available for kids to grab and glue into the top of their Writer's Notebook.


All of this is stored in our Writing Prompts Binder which students can access easily during Independent Writing Time.


For a FREE copy of this binder cover, click HERE!

Using this format, when students show me their writing at the end of Independent Writing Time, I can see their progress with the prompts and it allows them to work in a variety of formats and purposes in a fun and engaging way. Many of them won't finish the prompts during one Independent Writing block, so on Fridays we typically have a "Finish Up Friday" block instead where they can go back and finish their draft and maybe even revise and edit some old prompts to make them their very best work.

To view my growing collection of Writing Prompts, click HERE to see them in my TpT Store or below to go directly to their listing:


To see the new Independent (and Partner!) Writing Bingo Boards, click HERE to see them in my TpT Store.

Please leave any questions you have for me about these or my writing block and I will be happy to answer them in the comments or an upcoming post. Happy writing!


Thursday, July 2, 2015

3 Ways to Find Posts on My Blog

If you're like me, summertime is a wonderful, relaxing few months to reenergize and recharge from a long school year. I love reading blogs for ideas and moseying through Pinterest, but it's with a much more laid-back vibe than during the school year. Then, I'm usually looking the day before (and even the day of) for something to help with a lesson, unit, behavior, etc. Either way, it can sometimes be challenging (especially on a blog) to find a post or idea that you're looking for. And while I may have more time on my hands now, I still don't want to click through my blog, one page at a time, to look for a topic or idea.

If you can relate, today I wanted to let you know about some quick and easy ways to find things on my blog using Labels, the Search Bar, and Tabs.

Labels

You will find these on most any blog you read. Mine are found near the bottom of the sidebar on the right. I try my hardest to attach these labels to posts to help group them together and make it easy for readers to find the information they are looking for. Usually, my posts have several labels attached to them. You'll notice the number of posts with that label in parenthesis next to the topic. The size of the font is relative to how many posts there are: the more posts with that label, the larger the font.

The Search Bar

Located about halfway down the page in the right-hand sidebar is the "Search This Blog" feature. Believe it or not, I use this all of the time myself, especially when I am linking to a post of mine in the past. You can enter key words or phrases and the applicable posts will appear. I like this much better than labels since I can get to what I need quickly. When I click on a Label, all of the posts will appear and I will need to scroll through each of  them. When I search using the Search Bar, it appears like a Google search with the title and a snippet of the post listed, so I can see many results at once and know which post I need.

Tabs

This is what I am most proud of and what I am continually updating as I write new posts and add new resources to my TpT Store. Located on the top of my blog are Tabs. When you click one of these, it will take you to a page filled with thumbnails of popular posts and products. This is almost like a Pinterest view of my page: loads of familiar images that will take you straight to where you want to go. I update these frequently, and they are worth checking out if you like an idea or wonder how I teach something. Oftentimes, blog posts are hard to read if there are several posts in a series. With these thumbnails, you'll be able to see each image in a series and click to whichever one you're interested in. The nice part is that the thumbnail will dim when you've clicked on it, so you can track what you have and haven't read yet in an easy way.

Whether you're visiting for the first time or have followed me for years, welcome and thank you so much for all of your support. I hope you are enjoying your lazy summer days and can peruse ideas for your upcoming school year in an easier and more organized way, thanks to these tips :)


Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Fun Finds for Your Classroom at Target's Dollar Spot

Like many of you, the combination of Target's Dollar Spot and Back to School shopping is one of the few things that can pull me away from summertime bliss and get me inspired for next year!

Our Target's Dollar Spot just got stocked with some great school-themed items and it was all I could do to not put it all in my cart! However, I did try to be a little intentional (don't go broke saving money, right?) and I'm going to share some of my plans here, with more to come!


Posters


For just $1 each, they had these calendar toppers and a map with the United States with capitals. I can't wait to use the large laminator at school when we're back and hang these in the classroom. My current monthly toppers have been used for years and I'm tired of them, especially when replacements are just $1! They did have a calendar for $1 as well, but I actually do love my current one, so I saved up for other purchases!

Foam Dice


I have had a TpT product in the works for-EVER, and it requires a student to use dice. These may just the be inspiration I need to finish it up and get it incorporated in my classroom! More info soon, but these dice are nice and big, with lots of color choices, which is always a plus!

Birthday Bundles for Students


I get these prepped at the beginning of the year so they are ready to go on the day of the student's birthday (or half-birthday, if they are in the summertime). These bundles include a card, bookmark, birthday pencil and colorful eraser. I will leave them on their table spot that morning so it's waiting for them when they walk into the classroom. We do a Birthday Circle during Morning Meeting (more about that HERE), so I want them to know all morning long that we're celebrating them!

Pencil Rewards


I'm adjusting my Clip Chart system this year (....again! More on that closer to Back to School), so these will be used as rewards for class management. I am also leaning away from communal pencils and want to use something like Kristen at Ladybug's Teacher Files Pencil Challenge, so I'm hoping these fun pencils will encourage kids to not only work for them as a reward, but keep them nice and take responsibility for them. Of course, the adorable star tin was the perfect storage solution :)

Word Work Stamps


My kids *loved* the Stamps center last year for Word Work! I originally used some smaller stamps from Michael's dollar bins (read more HERE), but the problem with dollar bins is that the inventory is easy come, easy go. I wanted to replace a few stamp sets with missing letters and couldn't find them any more.... bummer! So I found these stamps, storage bins, and washable ink and am hoping they will be a good replacement. I know with such a low investment, these probably won't last for years and years, but with how small they are and how often they get lost, I am okay with hunting for a few replacements each summer.

Stickers & Random Items



I love Target stickers and stock up like crazy over the summer. I also loved extra pencils for random gifts/rewards/etc., and the stamps are great for quick grading, especially for things that we've done together in class that doesn't need to be "officially" graded.

The speech bubbles make me happy to try out this door I saw on Pinterest last year, and you *know* it would be a great fit in my class! Find out more HERE!

Chalkboard Bins


Love these teal bins with chalkboard labels! I will probably organize some of my units in these bins since they are much more sturdy than the cardboard magazine files I grabbed from Target last year. Plus, they are teal, so I had to purchase them :)

I hope your Target is stocked with these goodies soon and, believe it or not, I didn't pick up a LOT of other fantastic ideas for the classroom! Have you been Dollar Spot shopping? Share what you picked up and how you'll use it! I may head out for Round 2 ;)


Thursday, June 25, 2015

5 Simple & Kid-Approved Hand Fidgets

I'm excited to be sharing five simple, kid-approved, and inexpensive hand fidgets for students that you can easily incorporate in your own classroom come August.

If you don't yet have these available in your classroom, give them a try! You may notice that some of your students will make just about anything a hand fidget-- an eraser (or all of them), a pencil, a paperclip, a toy from home..... seriously, anything. By providing these for students who need them, you are preventing additional distractions and encouraging them to use tools to help keep them focused on the task at hand.

Stress Balls

These are from Hobby Lobby-- use their weekly 40% off coupon to get these for around $3.50
These are the most common and lowest-impact hand fidgets. They can be found all over the place and usually in the party favor aisles in many different designs. I like to get the kind that don't bounce, because who needs that additional distraction, so these are soft foam. For the mild fidgeter or someone who prefers to occasionally squeeze something, these are perfect. They will *not* hold up over the course of the year with your extreme fidgeters! Just a warning!

Coiled Keychains


I love these as an "incognito" fidget. Kids can wear them on their wrist when they don't need them, and slip them into their hands when they do. These are found in any hardware store in the key department-- just remove the metal ring and you're good to go! I love that these are durable, easy to clean, and don't draw too much attention. If we're doing an activity with lots of transitions or if a student is particularly shy about coming to the Fidget Bin throughout the day, these are a great choice. Plus, if they do break, they are still perfectly functional as a fidget!

Links


I have similar rings in my Writing Teacher Time Bin (more info HERE), but I like this set in particular because of all of the varied texture they have. I will put two together for a student (no need for a 20-link chain!) and they can shuffle them in their hands and play with the texture all they want. They are easy to keep clean and small enough for a whole-class setting without added distraction. I let the student choose his/her two rings so they have more buy-in with using this tool. They are pretty fun!

Pool Noodle Rings


Definitely grab one of these when you're out and about this summer! You'll just need one (about $3) and a serrated steak knife. Cut these into 1" rings and you're all set! These aren't super durable, but their unique shape and the low price point makes them an easy tool to offer to your average fidgeter. Plus, since they aren't fun party toys like the balls mentioned above, they look more like tools (and are all the same color), so I have found these to be easier to manage in the classroom.


Dryer Balls

This 2-pack is from Target for a little over $5
Have an *extreme* fidgeter who destroys all of the three fidgets mentioned above? If you haven't had one recently, you will soon! I had a kiddo one year who tore apart all of the ideas above and I was left with the bits and pieces of them under his chair at the end of the day. He was a very sweet kid, so this was not malicious, but he just needed things way more durable! Dryer Balls to the rescue! Some of you may use these for their real purpose, but I find they are great for those kids who need the strongest of the strong when it comes to tools. They come in a 2-pack for about $5 (I got mine at Target when I was stocking up on clothespins) and are very easy to clean and store. Make sure you get unscented! These are meant to be thrown around in a hot dryer, so they also stand up to tons of abuse.

How Do I Use Hand Fidgets in Class?

I will typically offer these as an option to the class at the beginning of the year and see who actually uses them and who is just curious about them (similar to the Noise Blockers I mentioned HERE). By the end of the week, the initial excitement has waned, and then I can really focus on getting the right fidget to the fidgeter. You see that these are simple, but all very different, so some may be more preferred over others, and that's ok! I leave them in a common spot in our Fidget Bin so those kids can grab what they need and get to work. As with everything, we lay down some ground rules (keeping them out of our mouth, returning them to the bin, using them as tools, not toys, etc.) and expectations beforehand so it's not a free-for-all. The simple reminder of "Tools, not toys." has been great in ensuring their proper use throughout the year.


Some kids come with preferences from years past, and I will always default to what works for them and ensure I have something that they need. No need to reinvent the wheel! And if someone is a chronic fidgeter, they can keep their fidget in their personal bin since they rely on it much more throughout the day.


I'm hoping these gave you some easy ideas to get a Fidget Bin started in your own classroom this year. There are *tons* more examples of fidgets out there and several websites where you can do some shopping, but I have found these simple and (very importantly) cheap solutions have done their job very well these past few years.

Any more to add to the list?

I'm linking up with my sweet friend, Tara, at 4th Grade Frolics for her Monday Made It! Be sure to head over to see loads more and get incredibly inspired for your classroom next year :)