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Attention-Getters In The Classroom

In my opinion, one of the most important management strategies in our classrooms is getting everyone's attention in a quick, efficient, and low-impact way. I try to change these up every year, since I am always learning about new and exciting strategies. Plus, I have found that the novelty each year makes it more effective for both me and my students.

For example, when I first came across Whole Brain Teaching, using the call and response of "Class? Yes!" was highly effective and completely new for all of us. Fast-forward five years and the kids have all used this before (for years and years) and I was ready to try a new strategy.

One of the other traps I am wary of falling into is the "shh"-ing routine. It is the default response to noise in our world, but I have found that it is not only ineffective, it can be downright aggravating when used too much. Have you noticed that? I find myself "shh"-ing from time to time and realize I am falling back into lazy habits and need to reinforce the strategies and routines I use for my classroom.

In case you're like me and like to switch things up, or if you're looking to add to your bag of tricks, I want to share some of my favorite ways to get your students' attention in class:

Singing Bowl

My dad traveled to Tibet years and years ago and brought a singing bowl back for me. My daughter loved playing with it when she was younger, and it occurred to me that I could start using it in my classroom. Based on their size, their tones are either higher or lower, but they all are soothing and non-alarming. Simply hit the side with the wooden mallet and as the note "sings", it will get softer and softer. We challenge each other to be completely quiet by the time the note is done. This one on Amazon is under $20. 

Rain Stick

This rain stick is another soothing, white-noise apparatus that is gentle, but easy to hear amongst the chatter in a classroom. My mentor teacher used this and it was one of the first things I purchased as a new teacher. It is simply the sound of beans moving down the inside of the stick, but it does the trick! I typically do three times, although you can set goals as a class for the number it will take to get everyone's attention. I picked mine up from Word Market, but that was about thirteen years ago, so I found this one on Amazon for under $20.

Wind Chimes

My teaching friend purchased a wind chime for me when we first started teaching together and I love having it in class. It is front and center in my classroom, so oftentimes simply moving my body towards it is enough to signal to my students to start wrapping up and paying attention. Plus, I love the calming chime. Just like the singing bowls, there are so many choices in tones and sounds. I loved this chakra-themed wind chime, but I have seen some really nice ones at Hobby Lobby and Home Depot, too.


We use Voice Levels in my classroom and each level, one through five, corresponds to a louder voice. Zero Voices is completely silent. I will call out "Give me five" and will count down from five to one. By the time I say zero, it needs to be Zero Voices. You can find more information on my Voice Levels HERE.

Door Bell

This doorbell is my newest strategy and I just love it! You may have seen these cuties being used before and I have been waiting to introduce this until I could play the holiday-themed music.... I am a complete sucker for holiday music! For under $20, you can bring this into your classroom and have the option of over 50 tunes to choose from. There are also four volume levels, which I love. The main receiver is one you can plug in and use, so I am able to bring this with me when I move to other classrooms. The light also illuminates, so there's a bit of a visual component. I look forward to having the students choose the tunes and will probably have the Morning Meeting Leader choose at the beginning of the week. That way, we have some consistency for an extended period, but the kids can feel invested in the strategy and keep it fresh throughout the rest of the year.

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One aspect that I want to mention is that all of these choices are easy enough that kids can take the initiative and use them on their own. Having a Noise Monitor as a classroom job is easy when any of these are an option. The monitor can use these tools when they feel the noise is above the level you have set. This is a great way to have the kids as leaders in your classroom. I have also found it encourages them much more than me being the one and only controller.... I fear I start to sound like Charlie Brown's teacher when it's only me all of the time! 

What are some that I am missing? This is just the tip of the iceberg, I know, but these have been the ones that have been the most fun for not only my students, but for me! They keep me from "shh"-ing, they keep the kids engaged, and they add some fun into our day.... what more could you ask for?

Happy teaching!

All About Matter: Solids, Liquids, and Gases

One of our main science units this year was teaching the states of matter. This is always an engaging unit since we live in Colorado and tend to see all three outside during the winter months!

Since many of my students were familiar with the names of the three states, we delved a bit deeper into the atom arrangement and the changes from one state to another. We got the chance to get up and move and celebrated at the end with a sweet treat! We also used my newest flipbook along the way to track our learning.

All About Matter Flipbook

I am a huge fan of BrainPOP, Jr. and we used their Solids, Liquids, Gases video to help us launch this unit. You don't need this video to complete the lapbook, but if you do have access, it's worth a viewing.

I arranged the pages into packets for the students. I didn't want them losing a page as we went, so the staples were an important part. We went through the flipbook in order, with the exception of the molecule arrangement, which I will get to in the next part.

In order to fill out the information, we used the facts found in the BrainPOP, Jr. video, some district texts, and others that I link to below.

We added the atom stickers last before we assembled. These are just the multi-colored dot stickers you can get in packets of 1000+, so you'll have them for many years to come! I gave out 20 to each student: 10 red, 7 blue, and 3 green. I did this to help them capture how the atoms would look and make it a bit more organized visually.

Take a peek at each page in this walkthrough:

Assembling this book is easy-- simply cut along the marked lines on each page, stack them so that each tab below is visible, and staple on the marked top margin. Voila! Your States of Matter Flipbook is made!

Informational Texts

I found information from our district curriculum, but there are a wide variety of books that are available in a variety of levels. My two most-favorite are Werewolves and States of Matter (please go check this book out-- it's a hoot!) and Weekly Reader's States of Matter: How Water Changes (also available in Spanish).

Find and preview this book (it's fantastic!) on Amazon HERE.
Find this on Amazon HERE or in Spanish HERE.

"Get Up And Atom" Game 

I mentioned above that the students completed the atom stickers last. I wanted them to be able to engage a bit with what atoms did inside a solid, liquid, and gas, so we played the "Get Up and Atom Game" and it was a hit!

I began with all of my students standing on just half of our classroom rug. They had to squeeze in to fit, and I had them place their hands at their sides to squish in even more. Several complained that they could barely move, and that was perfect, since this was imitating atoms in a solid!

Once we were as compact as could be, I opened up the rest of our classroom carpet and meeting area and invited them to move around. They couldn't go too fast, since the area was not huge, but they were much more comfortable and could move freely, just like the atoms in a liquid they were mimicking.

For the final phase of matter, I opened up the entire classroom and the could move faster and spread out more, just like the atoms in a gas.

I found this helpful video on YouTube, courtesy of ExplainerTV to show it in real-life and someof the movements we incorporated as they were in their spots:

After they had the initial movements and placements down, I could include transitioning from one phase to another, including the vocabulary of melting, freezing, condensation and evaporation for added practice.

Root Beer Float Party & Wrapping Up

The final step of this States of Matter flipbook unit was to have a mini-party to celebrate. We made the ever-popular root beer floats and drew our observations on the included page, labeling the solid, liquid, and gas that we saw.

Hint: Try to serve these in clear cups so kids can see all three states of matter at one time.

There is an assessment included in this packet that I used as a data point for our report cards. The key is also included and the questions involve matching, sorting, labeling, multiple choice, and true/false.

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All in all, this was such a fun unit and I was so impressed with the work my students did to demonstrate their knowledge in a variety of ways!

Check out this packet in my TpT Store HERE and let me know of any other fun ways you like to teach states of matter in the comments below.

My Favorite Teachers in Children's Literature

We have recently started our second read aloud this year and I was reminded about the sometimes funny, frequently encouraging and oftentimes powerful role that teachers play in the books we share with our students. Especially in reading aloud, I love finding the humor with my students in the silly ways teachers are portrayed, or finding the compassion and kindness in the way other teachers influence a character.

This got me thinking about my most favorite teachers in children's literature. This list is by no means extensive, and I am sure I could come up with ten different ones tomorrow, but these were the first characters that came to mind when I pictured fictional teachers.

Quick-Assembly Brain Breaks You Can Use Tomorrow!

As a teacher, time is always at a premium! There are always so many things to do, lists to check off, and ideas swirling around in our brains.

Over the years, several of you have reached out to me and mentioned that assembling Brain Breaks was tough, especially if you don't have a circle punch. I totally get it! I created a how-to to make assembly easier, and you can find that HERE.

That being said, there's an even *easier* way to create these little Brain Breaks, although it will take the Poster PDF version of my packet and look slightly different. The good news is that you can use a paper cutter and get these guys up and running quickly! Plus, this packet includes the posters and PowerPoint versions, so you end up with several options for these in your classrooms.

For comparison, here is a picture of my original Brain Breaks set:

The picture and title are on the front and the description is on the back. I mount them on paper and laminate them to make them extra-sturdy and I know from personal experience that they last for years and years!

Here are what these quick-assembly Poster Brain Breaks will look like:

These are smaller versions of the poster, so they are one-sided and include the title, picture, and description all on one side. You can easily laminate these and hot glue them to a popsicle stick in no time flat. They offer all of the same information, just in a more compact form.

Interested in creating these? Here's a simple step-by-step guide to help.

Welcoming Students Back with Bunny Snacks and Tags

In years past, I have put out a wide variety of goodies to welcome students back to school. The first time they step into the classroom, typically during Open House the day before school starts, I want them to be able to find their table spot and have something fun already waiting for them.

There are so many possibilities-- from pencils, to glow sticks, to food-- and this year I am choosing my most favorite snack (and what has basically been a food group for me this summer), bunny crackers and gummy bunnies from Annie's!

Review: 2018 Erin Condren Academic Planner & Back to School Goodies

I cannot tell you how excited I am to share these new back to school goodies with you from Erin Condren!

This year, the Academic Calendar been updated to include a coil, making it possible to now use all of those great interchangeable covers! There are more notes pages and no dated calendar or weeks, so you can adjust this to fit any school schedule. I found that it's a good size, in that it's not as thick as a Teacher or Life Planner, but thicker than a Deluxe Monthly Planner... a happy medium.

My Go-To Instant Pot Recipes

I posted about my most favorite kitchen appliance, the Instant Pot, the other day on my Facebook page and wanted to talk about it in a bit more detail. With the school year approaching, I want to share some of my go-to helpers, both in the classroom and my home, to help support your transition into August and beyond.

If you haven't tried an Instant Pot, I am hoping you'll see how helpful this little workhorse is in the kitchen, especially during the chaos of the school year. And if you already have one of these, you can try some of my favorite recipes and share yours below in the comments! Prices on Instant Pots vary greatly, so keep your eyes peeled for good deals (and I'll try to feature them on social media when I find one!). I recommend the 6-quart one HERE. I purchased mine over four years ago and it's still going strong.

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