Friday, March 6, 2015

Deposits & Withdraws to Our Emotional Bank Accounts

Every Friday, we dig into goal-setting and 7 Habits work in my classroom, and it's turned into my most favorite time to teach! To see all of my goal-setting posts, click HERE or scroll to the bottom of this post to see what we've been up to.

This week, we started talking about Thinking Win-Win, especially when it comes to making deposits into each others (and my!) Emotional Bank Accounts. While we start each year with Bucket Filling and use that terminology throughout the year, I find this term is a nice change. It never hurts to hear it in a variety of ways, right?

We talked a lot about our personal Emotional Bank Accounts, but we also talked about our classroom's Emotional Bank Account, as well as mine and other teachers', students', and adults' who they interact with on a daily basis.

The addition of our classroom's Emotional Bank Account was something that really hit home-- I wanted to emphasize that the choices they make don't just have an individual impact. Oftentimes, their choices (both good and bad) have class-wide consequences. When they make these choices, they should be thinking about whether it's adding or subtracting from our classroom's Emotional Bank Account.

We generated some common deposits and withdraws that we have been seeing in our classroom. Since it's so close to Spring Break, but we've been snowed in, you can see that self-control is a large focus here!

I then passed out one green and one pink sticky note to each student and had them head back to their table spots. There, they generated one deposit (on the green) that they would make sometime next week. Similarly, on the pink, they thought of a withdraw they have been making and thought about how they could do something different to change that choice for next week.

When they had both of these filled out, they came up to the front board and place them next to our Anchor Chart:

I had them glance through each of the deposits and withdraws as they came up to add their own. We will revisit these next week, but it was very reassuring to see their goals reflected some of the concrete examples we had discussed and wanted to focus on:

Little deposits like these will add up to make a huge difference to our classroom community overall. I am also making a point to use the "deposit" language when it comes to clipping up in my classroom. I want my kids to know that their clip up means they have increased our class' Emotional Bank Account and that their choice has not only positively impacted themselves, but our classroom as a whole.

Find more Goal-Setting Posts here:

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Did You Know? Mini-Research Project

I have used these Did You Know? facts in my classroom for several years in several different ways. Because I am only teaching literacy this year, I haven't been sharing them on our weekly Science board, but I wanted to incorporate them some way. Next week, we begin our big research project around Colorado Animals (read more about past years' work HERE), so I decided to incorporate these facts as a warm-up to internet research!

Here's what you'll need for this quick project:

  • Did You Know? Posters: printed four to a page, cut out & laminated
  • Did You Know? Posters: printed two to a page, cut out (for publishing)
  • Lined Paper (freebie HERE): printed two to a page, cut in half (for publishing)
  • 9x11" construction paper: folded in half (for publishing)
  • Internet connection (we used our class Chromebooks): for research
  • Writer's Notebook: for collecting facts and drafting 
*Quick note: I have two versions of these facts and picked and chose from both sets for my class. There are 35 facts in each set, so you could use one or both sets for your class. Version 1 is linked above and can be found HERE. Version 2 can be found HERE.

We started this in Teacher Time small groups (read more about how I teach Writing Groups HERE). I began by reading through the 1/4 page laminated facts aloud. When a student found interest with a certain fact, I would hand the card to them. We continued this until everyone in the group had a fact to research.

We titled our page: Did You Know? and I had them copy their fact directly underneath (just in case they lost their card).

Our first internet research minilesson was: What makes a good search term? I had them look at their fact and pick two to three key words that they could research. We talked about how one word was too broad, but typing in their entire fact (common occurance!) was not going to give them the resources they would need. I had them work on their Chromebooks in Teacher Time so I could be close by.

Other conversations included perseverance (going on to page 2 if resources on page 1 of the search results didn't give you what you needed), filtering (if you don't understand a resource as a reader, you can't write about it as a researcher-- toss it and find a better resource), and paraphrasing (we used the poster from my Academic Testing Vocabulary Posters to help remind them to put things in their own words).

The expectation was 3-5 facts using bullet points in their Writer's Notebooks. We then worked on getting these facts turned into a paragraph with an introduction and conclusion sentence. As a class, we decided the intro sentence should incorporate the Did You Know? as well as the fact, so we combined then and added an "It's true!" at the end.

Once they got a quick edit from me, I handed them their publishing page (available as a freebie HERE) and we assembled them together as a class. We glued the poster to the front and their research on the inside. They are quick and easy to share and the kids are fascinated by each other's facts.

The biggest take-away from me as their teacher was the search term lessons learned. This has always been a struggle in years past, but by tackling it with a mini-project like this, I found it to be manageable for all of us! I could make quick corrections and they could immediately see that a quality search term yielded much better resources than what they had been trying.

If you're interested in these fun facts, you can pick up Version 1 HERE and Version 2 HERE in my TpT Store. Happy researching!


Today is my 3-Year Blogging Anniversary! Woo hoo!! To celebrate this great milestone, I will be giving away ANY three items from my TpT Store to three different winners! Yay!

Just enter below and I will choose a winner next Sunday! Good luck and thank you for sharing this journey with me! You continue to wow, inspire, and encourage me more than you know!

Friday, February 27, 2015

Planning Our Reader's Workshop Week + Freebie

I have been using a twist on the Daily 5 for my Reader's Workshop for the past few years and I love it! If you'd like to read more about Daily 5 and how I incorporate it, click HERE.

I always start the year with bookmarks with rotations built in. I find this to be a good management strategy as the kids get to know me, I get to know them, and we settle into our classroom's rules and expectations. To learn how to make your own bookmarks, click HERE.

At this point in the year, though, I want the kids to be choosing their own rotations and making choices about where and how they are going to spend their time.

We don't have the time to plan each day, so every Friday, I have the kids plan for the week ahead using our Reader's Workshop Weekly Planner:

This is a full-size page, but I shrink it down to print two-to-a-page and find that size works perfectly. I copy it on blue paper (read more about my color coding HERE) and they keep it with them in their blue Reading Folders.

Each Friday, students receive a blank form and will begin my automatically entering in their "Teacher Time" (TT) space. This is our Guided Reading time, so it's the one non-negotiable when it comes to their schedules.

The other codes can be plugged in where the kids like-- there is a number next to each that they will need to follow. I want to make sure they are dedicating most of their time to Read to Self (4x/week) and Word Work (4x/week). Listen to Reading (1x/week) and Read with Someone (2x/week) are both for fluency practice, so they do those less now that the year is in full-swing.

The last option is Accelerated Reader, or AR. I have kids do this on their own at their own pace during Read to Self. We have Chromebooks in our classroom and my kids have been using AR for a year or two before they get to me, so it's a quick and easy to understand process for them. Days they take an AR Test they will add AR to their RTS square. Interested in a freebie AR Tracker? Click HERE.

At the end of each Reader's Workshop time, we will touch base whole-class and grade ourselves on how we did. We use my Mountain Climbers for this time of grading and I find that kids are very honest about this since they are so used to this scale.

I collect these on Friday and hand out new ones and the process continues! I have found that it has helped them develop the leadership skills we've been chatting about and also fits beautifully into our goal-setting discussions.

Here's one example from this week's goal-setting meeting:

To read more about goal-setting in my classroom, click HERE to get started!

If you'd like to pick up this freebie, click HERE. There are three versions: one like mine shown above, one without the number requirements, and one editable PDF where you can add in your own choices to fit your class' needs! Enjoy!!

Disclaimer: The Daily 5 & CAFE resources are unofficial adaptations of the Daily 5 by Gail Boushey & Joan Moser. This freebie is not endorsed by the 2 Sisters.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

TpT's "Teachers Are Heroes" Sale!

I am so excited! Starting tomorrow, Teachers Pay Teachers is throwing a *HUGE* site-wide sale!

Image courtesy of my friend Kristen at Ladybugs Teacher Files

Use the code "HEROES" and save an additional 10% off all of your purchases!

Every one of my resources will be 20% off, so with the added 10% off, you can save 28% off of everything in my store! This is the perfect time to stock up for the rest of the school year.

If you're like me and scrambling to prep for PARCC and other assessments, try incorporating my newest resource: Academic Testing Vocabulary Posters!

This set is already up to 140 posters (download the "Preview" for the full list) and are a great way to reinforce this Tier II vocabulary that can sometimes trip up our kids.

Have you tried any of my new Writing Prompts? St. Patrick's Day and Sunny Springtime are up and ready to go! There are three formats to use them in a variety of ways in your classroom.

Speaking of spring, my Word Work Centers and Math Centers have some highly-engaging and standards-based activities that will definitely be a hit with your class.

Have fun filling your Wish List today! The sale starts tomorrow and I will be throwing it for two days.... If your schedule is like mine (PARCC-prep, report cards, and prepping for conferences), it's going to take me two days to remember to stock up on everything I need to finish this year strong.

Do you have any previous purchase on TpT? Remember to leave feedback to earn points that you can use for additional discounts on your next purchase!

There are so many ways to save and so many fantastic resources to add to your collection to make sure this year is one of the best ever!

Have a fantastic rest of the week and remember to use code "HEROES" when you check out!

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Creating Class WOW Goals

We have really delved into goal-setting this year in our class and I have loved how our language has a class had changed. In years past, some students naturally set goals or worked to do better, but it was never a year-long focus for all students as it has been this year. While we are still experiencing some growing pains, I think overall the repeated exposure to goal-setting and goal-achieving has added a new dimension to our class conversations.

While we have worked a lot on individual goals, I wanted to develop a class-wide weekly goal to help keep us on the right track, especially this time of the year when we tend to get into a slump. We started on Friday during our goal-setting meeting to discuss whole-class what we wanted to work on to develop ourselves as leaders in our school. At first the ideas were very general: show the 7 Habits, follow class rules, be leaders not bosses, etc. But when we reviewed our SMART criteria, we really worked to narrow it down to make it specific and attainable.

What we decided was that we needed to work on Rule #1 and Rule #4 the most. Rule #1 is "Listen when your teacher is talking," and Rule #4 is "Make smart choices." *I have mixed and matched the Whole Brain Teaching and Teaching-ish rules to fit me best :)

Once we decided on that, we discussed how we would make it measurable. One way I sometimes track if I see/hear a group of students breaking a rule is to quickly say, "Rule #1" and the kids will reply back "Listen when your teacher is talking." while using gestures. One student suggested I do that, and it occurred to me that I had really let that practice slide this year (totally my bad!). It was a great suggestion and we knew that if I was calling out rules less by this time next week, we were moving closer to our goal. Now I just have to remember to stay on top of that ;)

I turned the one-pager into a poster by adjusting the print settings to 200% and taping the four pages together. I laminated it and used dry-erase markers so we can write on this week after week. For the freebie, keep reading...

I added a small part about "Follow your compass" to address the "smart" part of "Make smart choices." I reminded my students that all of them know what due north in our classroom looks like. The expectations are clear, the rules are reinforced, and I am very fortunate to be in a classroom full of great kids that truly want to do the right thing (this has not always been the case, so I feel extra lucky this year!). This doesn't mean they are immune to being tempted to verge off to the east or west, and sometimes even turn around and run due south. (And yes, I definitely squeezed in some geography into this! Ha!) I challenged my kids to remember their due north, specifically when choices arise that they know may take them off-course. I challenged them to stay committed to their compass and follow the path they knew to be the right course. We'll see how it goes next week, but I love the image of a compass and plan on planting one up on our front wall somewhere as a visual cue throughout the week :)

So next week's Class WOW Goal involves us all, including me, and I know that these small steps will help encourage us to demonstrate more leadership skills both independently and whole-group. I'll keep you posted on how it goes!

If you'd like a copy of the Class WOW Goals sheet, click HERE.

Find more Goal-Setting Posts here:

Friday, February 20, 2015

Ready, Set, Learn! Attention Getter + Freebie

It has been several years since my class and school have been involved with Whole Brain Teaching. I love so many of the aspects, but I have found over the years it can sometimes grow stale if I don't work to spruce it up from time to time.

For example, I started this year as I always have and used the "Class Class" chant to get my kids' attention. The first year I implemented this, it worked like a charm. However, after three years, it has lost its excitement for both me and (unfortunately) my students. This happens, so I had to work to come up with something else.

There are so many fantastic twists on the "Class Class" chant, but I decided to include some gestures to help out some of my squirrley students. Kids keeping their hands to themselves is definitely more of a challenge this year, so I wanted something that would encourage them to get their hands in check along with their attention and their voice levels.

I came up with "Ready, Set, Learn!" and couldn't be happier with the result!!

This helpful poster hangs in the front of our class now and reminds the kids what's expected. The colors indicate their engagement with me. When we first start, they aren't (red), then they move towards it (yellow), and by the end, they are fully engaged, ready for me to start speaking/teaching (green).

I simply state, "Ready, Set, Learn!" pretty quickly. They reply by clapping twice while saying "Ready" and "Set." Then, as they say "Learn" they fold their hands and plop them down in their laps or on the table. It makes noise and I am a-ok with that final "thomp." I want it to be fun and I'll take a split-second of noise for the uninterrupted silence that follows!

Of course, I still do the Smiley/Frown face and I am super-strict about whether they get a smiley face. Especially because they have years of this under their belts, they know the expectation and it's also really obvious after the "thomp" whether anyone is still talking. I know that if I want this to work, I have to stick to my guns and mark a frown if we aren't all on board. Fortunately, kids get focused pretty quick and it has been a really fun change to our day!

Even better? My students have started suggesting different variations based on where or what we are doing. For example, when we line up, it's now "Ready, Set, Walk" where they clap twice and then hold up a zero with one hand. To learn more about how we walk in line using Magic 3, click HERE.

If you'd like this poster for your own classroom, click HERE to grab it for free. I hope you enjoy this twist and that it can help re-engage your kids if you've hit that midyear slump, too!

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Technology Resources for Valentine's Day

I cannot believe Valentine's Day is almost here! To help celebrate, I've compiled five fun and engaging technology resources for your students. I know these will be a hit in your classroom even beyond this sweet season!

Shape Poems with

I have shared my love for before and these shape poems are a great way to practice a quick poetry lesson in a Valentine's-themed way! Many shapes are available, but I choose the heart shape and then have kids practice writing Valentines to school helpers. It's a sweet way to spread the love this holiday and also very easy to differentiate for all of the learners in your class.

To find this shape poem maker, click HERE.

Valentine's Typing

Kids *all* need help with typing, especially as the assessments they take move towards more computer-based tests (sigh). Anyways, this is a fun way for kids to review letters on the keyboard. Letters come up from the bottom and kids need to type the letter before it reaches the top. This starts easy with one letter at a time, but gets progressively more challenging with multiple letter hearts as the game continues. There is no teaching or reinforcement of hand positions in this game, so adjust for that as you introduce this. We have been using (through our district) this year, so I will encourage proper hand position before they play to hopefully reinforce these lessons we've been learning!

To practice Valentine's Typing, click HERE.

Valentine Hearts Sudoku

Some people are *amazing* at Sudoku.... I am not one of those people. Thankfully, this game is based on colors and there is a huge "HINT" button on the bottom, which makes this accessible to players of all levels! These types of games are so good for the brain, but we often don't have time to squeeze them into our day. Hopefully this game can get even more kids learning about and practicing Sudoku!

Find Hearts Sudoku HERE.

My Money Valentine

Calling all fellow children of the '80's! Do you remember the old computer game "Lemonade" where you had to stock your Lemonade Stand and then sell, hoping you bought just the right amount of lemons and sugar to turn a profit? This game completely took me back to that and so I knew this would be a huge hit with my kids!! You will need to stock your store with Valentine's Day merchandise and then open for business. At the end of the day, you see the profit you made and then adjust for the next sales day. These games never get old and you can really teach about some cool economic concepts as well! Try it yourself and I promise you'll be hooked :)

To open your store on My Money Valentine, click HERE.

Valentine Word Drop Game

This game surprised me. I thought at first it would be too simple for my third graders, but the speed made it a fun challenge and my Valentine's vocab was really put to the test! Scrambled words drop from the top and you will need to click on two letters to switch their places. Do this several times until the word is spelled correctly. It's a great review, especially since many of the words are found in my Valentine's Day Word Work packet, so it pairs very well! Love when that happens :)

To practice the Valentine Word Drop, click HERE.

I hope these activities can spruce up your technology usage this month and that your kids enjoy the games as much as mine did!

If you're looking for some Valentine's Day resources, be sure to check out my TpT Store here:

There are Word Work, writing prompts, writing with idioms, QR math problems, and more!

And now, a special Valentine for you!

Find more Technology Resources throughout the year here:

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Bosses vs. Leaders Lesson + Freebies

We are a Leader In Me School and talk a lot about using the 7 Habits of Happy Kids in our everyday lives. I love the idea of encouraging kids to act as leaders in the classroom and beyond. What I have noticed, however, is that sometimes "leadership" comes off as "bossypants" and that is not the route we want to take!

I know you've probably heard of Sheryl Sandberg (of Facebook fame) and her campaign to end the word "bossy" (read or listen to an NPR story HERE), but I was hesitant to come straight out and use that word in our class. Instead, I wanted them to think on terms of "boss" and "leader" to recognize the differences between the two and to think about their own language choices in the classroom, in small groups, on their sports teams, and more.

We first looked at this picture and talked about what we noticed:
This led to some discussion about leadership versus boss behavior. While the kids were discussing, I was passing out example cards to their table spots. Before I dismissed them, I shared this leadership quote from John Quincy Adams:

They were then given instructions about our activity.

I had printed example cards on two colors: blue for boss and green for leader (although they didn't know that yet) and they needed to read their card and find someone with an opposite color card and opposite example (good time to incorporate the word antonym, too!).

I dismissed them to their tables and first had them converse with students in their table group to ensure they understood the word or phrase on their card. When they gave me the thumbs up, I told them to find their match and them meet to discuss why they went together and be able to give examples.

We then began assembling our Anchor Chart. Each pair would come to the front of the class and would explain which card was descriptive of a "boss" and which was descriptive of a "leader" and why. They gave examples and I elicited a lot of help from the classroom for additional examples and language that both a boss and leader may use during that example. I would tape the cards to the Anchor Chart and we continued through each pair. There were two groups of three (with two leaders to one boss) and that worked out perfectly with my class (definitely feel free to adjust if you have lower numbers). 

Our completed anchor chart looked like:

It was so powerful to see how often kids may think they are helping, but instead find themselves on the "boss" side of the chart instead of the "leader." I know several of the examples are repetitive, but we really talked through these and used examples from our own lives to recount when using "leader" words and language set us up for success. I also explained the "me vs. you" mentality of bosses versus the "we and us" mentality of leaders. 

Overall, it was a very powerful lesson and I look forward to referring back to this Anchor Chart this year, especially when "bossypants" behavior leads to conflict. I think these concrete examples can help guide the naturally strong leaders in my class to make better language decisions that can help grow them as leaders and really inspire others, just like the Adams quote!

If you'd like a copy of these cards and quote, you can download this as a *freebie* HERE. How do you address bossy vs. leader behavior in your class? Share in the comments, I would love to build on this lesson!