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!


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!


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 :)

Monday, June 1, 2015

Easy End of Year Gifts for Students and Support Staff

While I was only half-time this year, I still had the greatest group of thirdsters each morning for reading, writing, spelling, and all of that fun stuff. I am also blessed to work with some of the greatest support staff in the world! I definitely wanted to do something to honor my kids and several of the staff members I work closely with, but I didn't have a lot of extra time in the day for longer projects like I've done in years past.

Student Gifts

My typical project, Smile File, is an absolutely beautiful way to end the year, but it does take time. Being with the kids half-time, I realized I just couldn't give it the time it deserved, so I had to adjust it a bit and get creative in the afternoons during my daughter's nap times.

Tagxedo.com to the rescue! I blogged about this site earlier HERE and knew it would be the perfect tool to create a unique and personalized bookmark for each student.

I began by passing out a class list that I typically use to mark assignments. Since it was the end of the year, I had lots extra, so it worked out great! I blogged about this list HERE and recommend reading the post or bookmarking it for later (it's one of my most-read EVER!).

Each student circled his/her name on the list they received and then had the challenge of writing just ONE word next to the other students' names in the class. This proved to be much harder than I thought! So many kids wanted to default into a sentence! We also talked as a class about what types of words to use (so they weren't all "nice" and "kind") and I also encouraged that they not use any word more than once. Obviously, some did, but it allowed for much more creative words to come forth.

I collected these lists and, with my husband's help, wrote a Word document with the child's name on top and all of the words the students wrote about him/her below. I then copied and pasted that list into Tagxedo.com and used their dolphin shape, since that is our school mascot!

I kept the settings the same and pasted the next student's words into the template, remembering to add his/her name to the list so it would show up in the graphic as well.

With the copying, pasting, and saving, it became very routine and went quickly! I printed the images two to a page and then cut them out, laminated them, and cut them out again for a quality bookmark they can use all summer and hopefully into next school year. The end result is just beautiful!

This was taken pre-laminating so it wouldn't have the glare, but you get the idea :)
On the last day, I passed them out and gave them a minute to read through them quietly. I reminded them that these words all came from other classmates and myself, so if they ever felt as though they were invisible, not cared for, or left out, they can remember this bookmark and know that there are peers in their grade and school who believe this about them and DO care.

Support Staff Gifts 

I am so fortunate to work with an amazing group of adults in our school that help keep me sane throughout the year, which is no small task ;)

I wanted to show my appreciation in some way, but funds at the end of the year are tight and so is time. Thankfully, I remembered this dilemma earlier this year and actually *planned ahead* (gasp!) for these wonderful ladies!

My friend, Blair, from One Lesson at a Time, has a beautiful paper shop called BlairTurnerPaper.com. She came out with these amazing weekly planner pads that I *knew* I had to get my hands on! I was also fortunate to pick these up during a sale!

These arrived months ago and lived happily in my closet until this weekend. I went to Starbucks and picked up some small gift cards ($5-10), just enough for a drink or two, and then next door to Michael's and their dollar bin where I scored eight of these cute bows for just $1 and some twine for $4, but I had a coupon! So while this idea may look expensive, because it was split over several months, it really didn't feel expensive. Plus, I know these ladies will love and use both parts, so I didn't feel like I was rushing or buying something they wouldn't enjoy.... that is definitely a win in my book!

I hope these gave you some ideas for your own class, either this year or next. I'm on summer break, but I will still be writing lots of ideas over the next few months since I will finally have some time to sit and focus! Yay! Be sure you're subscribed to my blog so you can get my posts to your inbox to read anytime--- click HERE to get started. Have a great week!

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Making a Writing Plan Your Own

One thing I love about this time of year is how kids are synthesizing all we have done and personalizing the plans, strategies, and skills we have learned to fit their own styles.

Today, as we were wrapping up our Summer Sunshine Writing Prompt Packet (more about how I use Writing Prompts HERE), I noticed how one of my boys had adjusted our 5W Star Plan to fit his own style:

The traditional plan I taught came in this packet:

I loved this moment because it taught me that, while kids may veer from what  my lesson originally looked like (once upon a time, months ago), they are still incorporating the important parts of planning and brainstorming that I want them to use forever and ever as writers.

I hope your year is wrapping up well. We have two more days and I am still in shock that it's so close to the end!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Using Writing Prompts in My Classroom

I use a small-group approach to Writer's Workshop and it has been a wonderful gift to both me and my students these past few years. I am able to really address their writing needs and keep them actively engaged during our 60-minute block each day, so while it may look different, it has been a great fit for my teaching style. To read more about Writing Groups, start HERE.

Several months ago, I found I was missing out on some prime writing practice time when kids had Independent Writing. I was working with them in Teacher Time on a specific idea, skill, strategy, or project, but once they went off on their own, there was always a struggle to get them to write effectively and purposefully. Now, many kids were writing, but it often involved acrostic poems, and while I am all for poetry in the classroom, I wanted to raise the bar a bit.

Since we talk so much about how "Practice Makes Progress" I thought, why not encourage this in Independent Writing Time, too? I came up with some varied prompts in several formats to encourage kids to practice writing throughout the week for a variety of purposes to address this need.

This practice has been invaluable! I have seen kids' responses jump not only in length, but in quality. Their introductions are more solid, they have the chance to practice conventions on their own pieces over and over, and the level of detail and description has really taken off. Plus, I know that they are legitimately writing for at least a part of their Independent Writing Time on something that is focused and requires the development of their writing craft.

Writing Prompt Setup

I always begin my cherry-picking about 6-8 prompts from the pack to use in their Prompt Packet. These are then copied and stapled and kept inside of their Writing Folder. I'll throw on a cover (it's a freebie in my TpT Store) and they can decorate it the first day they get it.

The other 20ish prompts I print off to add to our Prompt Basket. I label it with the included graphic since they change each season, and sometimes I will have two baskets out at once (for example, Springtime and Earth Day). These prompt cards are laminated and cut out so I can reuse them over and over each year.

I'll also keep one copy of each page of the prompt cutouts with me. More on how we use those in a bit. The nice part is that there are 10 copies of the prompt on one page, so I rarely need more than one copy for our needs.

Utilizing the Writing Prompts

We typically go through two to three prompts a week, so I like the prompt packet to last about a month. I will always go over what the prompt is that day and the kids will have two days to work on it during Independent Writing before we move on to another one. If they don't finish in two days, no problem! They can go back and finish it later. That's the advantage I have found to having these prompts in a designated packet. To read more about when I introduce them, look at my schedule posts HERE and HERE for info.

If they finish the prompt early, they can engage in free-writing. This is where they may go back to a creative writing piece in their Writer's Notebooks, they can look at their cover or list of favorites, or they can choose a prompt from the Writing Ideas Bin. In this bin is where I keep the laminated prompt cards in the basket. All of this writing happens in their Writer's Notebooks, so I will see these pieces sometime during an independent conference.

The pages of prompt cutouts have been used in a variety of ways. With some of my strugglers, I will have them choose a prompt card if they are on free-writing and then I will glue the corresponding prompt cutout to the top of their Writer's Notebook to help them remember and dissect the prompt and what it's asking for. I will also use these as a choice if there's a sub-- sometimes to pick up and manage Writing Groups can be a challenge, so I will have three stacks ready to go and kids can make a choice of the three to write about during Teacher Time that day with the sub helping out.

Grading the Prompt Packet

As we wrap up the packet, I have students choose *one* prompt they want me to grade top to bottom. Obviously, I skim the packet to make sure it's complete and they have been doing the necessary work, but I allow them the choice so they can dedicate 100% of their revising and editing efforts to one piece at the end. After all, I have a separate writing project we do during Teacher Time that goes through the Writing Process, so this is more of a self-directed, independent activity.

I love that I can then send home the packet to parents that shows their child's writing work in a variety of ways! In the past, parents would only get the published pieces throughout the year and their child's Writer's Notebook at the very end. Now, I am sending these home about once a month (or so) and it's been a great way for parents to consistently see their child's writing.

As this year has progressed, writing prompts have really helped strengthen the writing in my class and our commitment to it every day. I struggled to find a good balance and I feel this system fits the bill. I have seen my kids rise to the challenge of writing more, raise their own standards of writing, become clear about the expectations, and, in the end, be able to respond to a variety of prompts in meaningful ways.

I have these prompts in my TpT Store HERE and am adding to them all of the time. Of course, you can use these in so many ways (homework, assessment, etc.), and if you do something different, please share below! I am always looking for more ideas!

Sunday, May 3, 2015

You Are Appreciated {Teacher Appreciation Giveaway}

Happy Teacher Appreciation Week!

It seems that this week always comes at the most hectic time of year, so in order to ensure you are *truly* feeling appreciated, I am joining up with some of my upper-elementary blogging friends to bring you some amazing things!

I am thrilled to be offering you a very teacher-friendly basket filled with some of my most favorite things! I know it's so nice to get actual snail mail, so I hope this basket of goodies that will go out to one winner this week will help fill up your bucket!

Here's a sneak peek of all that's included:

** These hard goods will be sent to a winner in the US or Canada only.
Everything from a journal to pencils, to candies (they are organic, so they're healthy, right?!) and a notepad, to a clipboard and organizational clips, plus a weeklong organizer, there are so many fun goodies in here! I will also be including a $25 TpT Gift Certificate and a HARD COPY of my QR Critters: Fiction Reading Questions! I will email you the file, too, along with my QR Critters: Nonfiction Reading Questions so you will have all of the keys, cards, and codes available for additional classroom sets. In the meantime, you'll have the fiction set all printed, cut, and laminated, ready to go in binder rings in your classroom tomorrow!

I am so thrilled to be offer this to one winner and can't wait to see who gets this fun-filled basket in the mail!

AND, for everyone, I'm excited to announce that there is a site-wide Teachers Pay Teachers Sale running May 5th and 6th for up to 28% off! Use code "ThankYou" at checkout! What a great time to stock up on end of year items and get yourself prepped for next year.

This giveaway runs through May 5th. Enter below and best of luck! Afterwards, be sure to keep hopping for your chance to win loads of other goodies from your favorite TpT Sellers!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Before You Speak, THINK Activity

I absolutely *love* doing this activity each year, and it came at a great time this week. My kids have been working on goal-setting and leadership this year, but with Spring Fever in full-swing, it can sometimes be necessary to take a step back and talk about the words we use and how we use them.

This sheet is one of many interactive activities in my Interactive Health Notebook:

It was perfect timing and gave us the chance to role play, give some good and bad examples, cut, glue, color, and best of all, *think* about when and how we choose to speak throughout the day.

As kids filled this out, I provided some additional guiding questions to each of the letters. We also created gestures to go along with each and practiced, Whole Brain Teaching Style, with partners until we got them all down pat.

T: Is it TRUE? 

*How do I know?*
Gesture: Holding up your right hand, as if you were testifying.

This was a wonderful segue into rumors, the game of telephone, and making sure what you're passing along is from the source itself, not a friend of a friend or something you may have misunderstood.

H: Is it HELPFUL? 

*Who or what is it helping?*
Gesture: Cross arms, like you are giving yourself a hug

Some students think everything they say is "helpful"-- although the receiver may differ! I wanted them to take a step back and think about who it was helping and also how it was helping.


*Is this role model/leadership behavior?*
Gesture: Point both fingers to the sky, to remind them to lift people "up"

Stopping to think if this thought is something a leader would say helps them remember the Boss vs. Leader lesson we spent some time on, as well as a lot of our 7 Habits of Happy Kids work. They always do well in these lessons, but I want them to remember to incorporate them in their real and everyday lives.


*Is this the right time and the right place?*
Gesture: Pointing to your watch, or the top of your wrist

This was a great lesson for my "blurters" who typically always have something Nice, Helpful, and possibly even Inspiring to say, but do so whenever and wherever they want. Reminding them of the time and place to say something is key. I also talked a bit about saying something that may be hard to say, like sticking up for a friend if you see them being treated unfairly. Is it hard? Yes! But is it Necessary? Absolutely!!

K: Is it KIND?

*Is this a deposit or withdraw?*
Gesture: Making a heart with your hands and putting it over the left side of your chest

We have our Anchor Chart of Deposits vs. Withdraws to our Emotional Bank Account hanging in our classroom, so it's easy to spot and the terminology is familiar. I'm glad this is the last one, because we ended on the idea that simply being kind with your words can have a long-lasting impact on those around you and in our entire school.

Since we had all of these great gestures in place, I told them I would be using them silently as reminders. If I noticed that someone wasn't using the right time and place to speak, I would tap my watch silently. Likewise, if I saw someone making a deposit and speaking Kindly, I could make the heart sign with my hand (and also ask them to Clip Up).

Especially this time of year, the less talking I do and the more independence the kids show around their learning and their choices, the better we all are!

I hope this activity helped give you some additional ideas for your own classroom! If you're interested in this sheet, along with many other Health resources, check out my Interactive Health Notebook on TpT HERE.

Happy Wednesday!

Monday, April 27, 2015

My Quick-Grading Stamp from Vistaprint

I posted about this lovely little stamp on Facebook the other day and was blown away by the response, so I knew it deserved its own post!

I ordered this about three years ago from Vistaprint. They had a great Groupon I took advantage of that gave me close to $70 to spend for less than $20. Because of that, I went crazy and ordered all sorts of great stuff! I blogged about it HERE if you want to see it all.

This stamp proved to be more handy than I had realized when impulse buying at the time! Don't you love when that happens?!

I use this self-inking stamp in a variety of ways:

  • I will stamp the master of any assignment and then run copies-- this saves me stamping the sheets over and over again. 
  • I can use this stamp on an assignment of a student's choosing. We will often choose one writing piece out of three for a grade, so I can stamp that one and it reminds me which one I need to read more carefully.
  • This can be used by students as a self-assessment (more on that in a bit)-- since it's self-inking, I don't have to worry about ink everywhere!
I think this is the 2.75"x1" stamp found on this page HERE. They are a bit of money, so I wanted to share how I use these before you take the plunge.

We create rubrics in our class all.of.the.time! I will also lay out the expectations for 2, 3, and 4 for them a lot. I never want it to be a mystery or a surprise when they get their grade. Plus, I have found that by taking the time to lay it out clearly, I get a much higher quality of work than when I don't.

This practice takes a few quick minutes, typically at the beginning of Writer's Workshop, or during Teacher Time in either Reader's or Writer's Workshop. Read more about my schedule HERE.

I always co-create them with the kids, since they will buy into it much more and be able to remember the details more than when I do it on my own. We always start with 3 and then go up and down from there. I will only show them 2, 3, and 4. I don't define 1 because I rarely have kids on this level and when I do, there are other accommodations, modifications, etc. in place. I find it serves 98% of my kids to focus on 2-4, so that's what I highlight and encourage them to shoot for.

If you're new to rubrics, I recommend Rubistar. They have a lot of great templates to help guide you.

Again, use this for yourself and try to guide the kids to create it in their own words-- it will be so much more powerful that way!

Once it's time to grade, there are three options I use:

  1. Students grade: Kids mark their grade based against our class rubric, expectations, etc.
  2. Teacher grades: I mark their grade based against our class rubric, expectations, etc.
  3. Students & Teacher grades: We both grade based against the rubric, expectations, etc. When this happens, I will have the student circle the number and I will highlight the number and descriptor. 90% of the time, they match up because the expectations were laid out beforehand. Sometimes, kids are harder on themselves than I am, so they gave themselves a 3 when I think it's more of a 4. 
* Something to note: When there is a discrepancy, I like to talk to the student about it. Whether they graded themselves to low or too high, I want to make sure we're on the same page about their grade. If there was a clear lack of effort or things are clearly not their best work, I will have them "Redo & Return." While it's rare, it does happen and when we check-in about this, we develop some strategies to ensure they are at a 2 or 3 when they turn their paper back in.

This stamp is a handy little tool and I hope this post inspired you to try something like it in your own classroom! Happy stamping!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Unshakeable: Construct a Self-Running Classroom that Frees You to Teach

I am thrilled beyond belief to be sharing an amazing new book with you today written by none other than Angela Watson of The Cornerstone for Teachers. Her new book entitled Unshakeable: 20 ways to enjoy teaching every day... no matter what is simply brilliant and I cannot wait to share my thoughts on Chapter 14.

If you haven't had the opportunity to delve into Angela's work, I highly recommend her blog as a fantastic place to start. She has a wonderful way of combining practical, student (and teacher!)-friendly practices in a way that also inspires and challenges. Her voice shines through in a way that she is instantly relatable but also thoroughly knowledgeable and there are so many takeaways, it's hard to know where to start!

I have been teaching for ten years and this chapter title sang my name loud and clear when I read it: Construct a self-running classroom that frees you to teach. Ahhhh! If there is one thing that I try to cultivate from the get-go each year, it's this! I am sure we are all too familiar with teachers that don't, or even years when we've put this task on the back-burner... and subsequently paid the price as the year continued. So I knew this chapter was an important one!

Anymore, it's rare to find me nodding, notetaking, underlining, and thinking all at the same time when reading a "teacher book." I think we reach a point as teachers when we just start to skim for the "good stuff" and then leave the rest by the wayside. I will honestly tell you, I was completely caught up in this chapter and found myself nodding, notetaking, underlining, thinking, smiling, and more as I read... and then reread this chapter. Even though I was familiar with the concept, there were so many strategies, scenarios, examples, and practical techniques that my pen and mind never stopped moving as I read, and then reread ;)

Angela stresses predictable routines... no.matter.what. YES! There are rarely "routine" days in the classroom, but the dedication as teachers that we show to the predictable routines we have taught can make all of the difference in our energy level and the level of learning we are able to accomplish in our classroom throughout the year. For example, in my own classroom, Morning Meeting happens no matter what. Regular days, testing days, field trip days.... we sit in an oval when the bell rings and have our meeting. It's familiar, it's student-led, and it gets us off on a predictable and positive note for the day.

Because your time isn't spent organizing the tiny details of the daily routine, you have more energy and more brainpower to be able to incorporate some really amazing lessons! Now, both you and your students to become more creative and inspired within the systems you have in place.

Not sure where to begin? She has loads of "use tomorrow" techniques that I know there will be something that will easily fit your style and boost your confidence. I even began a few the next day and was amazed how quickly my students adjusted to the new phrases or tips I was using, without any prompting or long discussion by me. There's a beauty in reading a well-written book by someone who is not only passionate, but has been in the classroom and has done what we've done. You can always, always tell a difference, and this book gives real teachers real solutions.

One of my most favorite thoughts to take away, especially this time of year is, "Don't steal the struggle." When you truly move to a more student-run classroom, there will be more thinking, more reflection, and more struggle.... don't take that from them. This is, admittedly, a challenge for me. I like to keep the pace moving and I like to insert all of my wisdom (ha!) when I feel it's needed. Angela reminded me that in order for my classroom to truly be filled with learners and leaders, I need to take a step back and watch as they work to come to their own answers and solutions. This practice has helped me slow down with these end-of-year expectations and has allowed for my small groups to go more in-depth with something that may not be "test-worthy" but is much more "life-worthy." And isn't that what's most important, after all?

She ends the chapter with a set of self-reflection questions for you as a teacher. These really challenged me to look at my own procedures and see where I am still clinging to the need for control, often unnecessarily.

I cannot recommend this book enough. Either for the veteran teacher, as a way to inspire and breathe fresh air into current routines, or for the new teacher as a way to get off to a very strong start, or for those of us in the middle who are still tweaking and adjusting as we go.... there is something for everyone in Unshakeable.

Read more about the 20 ways from Angela's book HERE and learn how to get your own copy HERE.