Sunday, February 28, 2016

Positive Reinforcement & Fairness in the Classroom

We have all heard and used positive reinforcement in our own classroom.  However, how we do it, how often we use it, and how we practice fairness along with it is as crucial as using it at all.  

So often I have found myself focusing on the undesirable behavior in the classroom and unintentionally let good behavior go unnoticed or unmentioned in the day.  It's hard to admit, but I have been there and done that- having spent so much of my energy trying to correct behavior by directly pointing them out over and over again, and in reality, with little success of making it consistently better.  

But I have caught myself and learned to make a conscious decision everyday to focus less on negative behaviors and highlight and focus toward the desirable instead.  As I have done this more and more, I have also seen an improvement in the classroom's morale and climate.  In addition, other students have also begun imitating and practicing the good behavior that was being highlighted.

Be Specific With Your Compliments

Instead of saying, "Johnny, stop bothering Suzie", try "I like the way Chase is working so hard on completing his work.  He is working quietly so that his friends can focus on their own work."

"Thank you, Chloe for sitting criss-crossed on the rug with your hand on your lap and is ready to learn."

"I love how the front of the line is facing forward and waiting quietly for us to use the restroom."

The more specific that you are with your compliments, the more the students will recognize the behavior that they need to imitate and will exemplify them.  This really has worked like a charm in my classroom and has helped my students correct their own behavior without my saying.

Compliment Often

Every chance that you have, compliment someone doing something.  Children love being praised by their teacher, and the more is truly the merrier.  The more that I complimented my kids, the happier they were, and the more positive our classroom has become.  Something that is so simply and intention can truly transform a classroom around!

Speaking of intention, I also make an effort everyday to compliment each of my kids.  May it be during a lesson, at recess, or even as I am marking the stars that they have earned on their behavior calendar at the end of the day, every compliment matters and you really can't beat seeing the kids grinning ear to ear because of a simple compliment from me.

Encourage Students to Compliment Each Other

Some time after a couple weeks into the school year (when the honeymoon stage is over), the tattling begins and after Christmas it comes with vengeance!  So much so that whenever I heard my name called out, I would cringe because I knew what was coming my way-- a tattle.  So I began encouraging my kids to compliment each other instead of tattling.  I helped my students see that by complimenting each other, they too are building and support each other in our learning community.  

Be Fair

While being complimentary to my students has helped curb behavior problems, I have also learned that building a positive classroom is nothing if fairness is non-existent.  Therefore, I try my best to be very intentional in my actions and words with my students.  If I say it, then I mean it, and I follow through with every consequence that I tell the students.  If I correct a student and set the consequence if the behavior continues , then I always follow through with it.  While accommodations are used for each students, they all  know that the rules do apply to everyone and everyone is accountable and will be accountable for his/her own actions.

Happy Days in First Grade

For more resources to help build a positive classroom environment, click to the images below.


Saturday, February 27, 2016

Preparing for Parent Conferences

Parent conferences.... love them or hate them they are a necessity in our profession! I truly believe taking the time to prepare for them, helps make them run smoothly and efficiently.
I used to dread parent conferences. Not only did I have to complete all my students' report cards, but then I had to sit with each family and reread the report card to them. I HATED IT! Something needed to change. 
My school decided to meet with parents BEFORE report cards came out, so there were NO SURPRISES! I schedule my conferences for 15 minutes each. YEP..15 minutes! It is possible to get it all in, make it personalized, and inform the parents how to help their kids moving forward. 

In order to streamline conferences, I created a binder tailor made for it! Everything I need is right at my fingertips. No more searching, last minute note creating...waste of time conference preparations. This form, RIGHT HERE, is the best thing that happened to my parent conferences. It is a simple checklist with room for short comments or notes. It takes about 5 minutes to complete and says a whole lot about what is going on in and out of the classroom. I make a copy for each parent so they can take notes too. I also keep a copy for myself. This is what we go over at our conference.
I use these forms to inform parents when their conference is scheduled. I also try to send home a reminder note the day before the conference to cut down on any missed appointments. I keep all my masters and copies in my conference binder in plastic sleeves. Again, easy access...all at my fingertips. I also
I also document each conference with a sign in sheet. I keep a copy for myself and I turn in one to my administration.
Get your conferences started off in the right directions with this sign up form. Click on the picture below to grab your FREE copy.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Math Games: Helping Students Remember

Hi, this is Brandi, from The Research Based Classroom. I love to use math games for fact fluency practice but I get impatient with students constantly asking me what games they can play or how to play.  It's taken me years to come up with a good solution, but I love this. I just snap a picture of the game when it's all set up and students are playing it. Then I post the picture with the name of the game on the wall. Simple. Students can then look on the wall to not only see what games they can play, but it also gives them a quick reminder of how to play.  It also helps me remember how each game is played from year to year. And best of all....far less questions.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Your students will flip for ChatterPix!

Hi all!  I'm Francheryl Harris from Primary Essentials.  I'm dropping in for a short and sweet post on using the app Chatterpix in your classroom.  Let me start by saying that your students will LOVE this app.


This app is available on the iTunes Market for FREE!  The app is super easy to use.  My daughters introduced and taught me all about this app.  Many of your students may already know how to use it, and can teach you!  Here's a short YouTube video to help you get started.

So simple, right!  Take a picture (or find a picture), draw a mouth, record, decorate!  I used this app with my 3rd grade intervention students.  They had to take a selfie and record themselves explaining one of the types of context clues we had recently learned about.  They had so much fun and I was able to do an inform evaluation of their knowledge.

Here are a few other ways you *COULD* use this in your classroom:
*retell a story
*short book talk
*practice math facts
*explain a concept they recently learned
*response to an activity at stations
*response to a chapter read in literature circle
*practice skip counting
*number of the day
*spelling practice
**many, many other ways!

I'm sure there as a million ways to integrate this app into your classroom.  You students can probably come up with a few.

I hope you can find a way to incorporate this fun app into your classroom.

That's all I got!  I see you around the blogging world!


Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Decoding Words with a Blending Snake

Decoding is the ability to apply knowledge of letter-sound relationships to correctly pronounce written words.  It is described as the foundation of reading.

Successful decoders are able to read more fluently, have increased vocabulary, and are able to better comprehend what they read.

As students gain word attack skills, they should be given the opportunity to read text that reinforces the phoneme combinations they have learned, and also challenges them with new learning.

Several years ago, I created blending snakes from old ties.  My students enjoy using the snakes to help them decode words.

I also created blending snake cards which enable the students to work on decoding individual words independently.  We begin by decoding CVC words.  Then we move to words with initial and final blends.

Students say the individual sounds in the word and then blend them together to read the word.  Then they open up the blending snake card to check their answer.

You can try them out for FREE in your classroom!
{CLICK HERE} to grab a set of my blending snake cards!

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Black History Month

Hello Readers!  I'm Marcie from Sunny and Bright in First Grade.  I wanted to pop in today to share a Black History Month freebie and a few quick ideas.

A couple of years ago I started spending a lot of time teaching my students about Veterans Day.  It surprised me how much my students loved this unit and how incredibly rewarding it felt to teach my little students about "Real Life Heroes".  (You can read about our Veterans Day unit HERE.)  This little unit quickly changed into a new yearlong theme and we spent the rest of the year learning about as many different heroes as possible.

In February we focus on Black History Month.  I like to spend the month of February highlighting the accomplishments of a huge variety of African Americans.  We spend a lot of time learning about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Ruby Bridges and Rosa Parks.  I love talking with my young students about how one person's bravery can "change the world".  We spend a lot of time reading, writing and discussing these "heroes" and how their contributions touch our lives each day.  We use these stories as inspiration to imagine the ways that we might make a difference in our communities and our world. 
HERE is my Biography of Rosa Parks Freebie.  This is a "no-prep" lesson that includes an informational text written on 3 different levels of text and vocabulary complexity.  The differentiation is done for you!  All of your students will be able to learn the same information presented on their individual reading levels.  Text dependent, close reading questions are also included.  These make great writing prompts or can be used to inspire class conversations.

I hope your students enjoy learning about this "American hero"!

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Four Classroom Management Ideas for Spring Fever

It's almost Spring!  Can you feel it.  Changing is coming.  It's staying lighter later.  We've had a few warmer days here and there.  I love Spring.

I bet your students can feel the changes, too.  Are they starting to stretch and grow?

Every Spring, I always noticed a change in my classroom.  It was subtle, but it was there.  My students became more independent and our lessons became more in-depth, but it was more difficult for students to focus and pay attention.  I had a difficult time teaching and students were sometimes not so kind to each other.

Here are a few ideas that can help with classroom management during the spring when you need to pull out all your tricks!

Use a Behavior Chart

If you have a couple students who are slightly out of control, consider using a behavior chart to check-in with them on a more consistent basis.  You can customize a behavior chart to match your day and teaching style.

Find out more about how I use a behavior chart in my classroom.

Use Literature

One of my favorite ways to build character in the classroom is through literature.  Students can identify with a character in the story and build empathy.  This is not a one-time deal.  It's something that needs to be developed consistently every few weeks.

This post has some ideas on how to use literature in the classroom to reflect on behavior.

Focus on a Specific Character Trait

Often, students don't know what it means to be responsible, caring, or to show kindness.  I know with my own boys at home, I'm often giving them the language to show empathy to someone else.  It just doesn't come naturally for one of my boys and he needs clear examples of what it looks like.

Likewise, our classroom students need clear examples of each of the character traits we want them to reflect.  I'm not sure who said it, but this quote always resonates with me: More is caught than taught. If we don't teach it, they won't learn it.

Here is one way where we have focused specifically on one character trait.

Change it Up a Bit

Sometimes all you need to do is have a little fun and do something different.  There are many ways to enjoy the classroom with students and sometimes it only takes 10-15 minutes.

Here are 80 Sponge Activities that you can use in your classroom to refocus students and just have a little fun in a short amount of time.

There you have it.  Four different ways to refocus students' behavior this Spring.  Do you have any tried and true ideas to help students focus during the changing Spring?

Friday, February 19, 2016

Fraction Fun & Some Freebies

Hi everyone, It is Jane Feener back again to share some of my ideas on how to teach fractions.  When I first started teaching I found my students always seemed to struggle with fractions so I went looking for ways to help them master this skill.  In this post I hope to share some of the fun ways I have taught fractions over the years and include a few freebies to help you and your students.

The first thing I always try to do is give students lots of hands on experiences with fraction pieces and examples found in their everyday life.  I talk about chocolate bars, cakes and of course pizza.  I also think it is very important to teach students the vocabulary associated with fractions.  Words like numerator and denominator need to be taught early.
Fractions Booklet

Provide Visuals

I am a very visual learner and I always like to show my students lots of pictures of fractions.  One way I do this is by displaying anchor charts and posters in my class.  Here are some great anchor charts I found on Pinterest.  I am not sure who made them so if you did email me so I can give you credit.  My students say thank you!

I display fraction posters on the math focus wall for the whole time I am teaching fractions to provide my students with a variety of representations.
Fraction Posters

Use interactive math notebooks.

A few years ago, I was introduced to interactive math notebooks and I love them.  If you haven't given them a try you should.  What I like about them the most is that students find them engaging.  They love making them their own and they don't seem to consider solving fraction problems in this format work!  I love that students have their very own fraction reference guide that they can to refer to when they get stuck on something they are working on.  If you decide to give them a try make sure you teach them about how to use white bottle glue correctly.
Fraction Interactive Notebook

Make it fun.

And finally, I try to make learning fractions fun.  I like to have students make craftivities to represent various fractions and complete solve the room type activities to practice using what they have learned in class.  

 A fractions lapbook is great for students to use as a reference.

You can get this Solve the Room
 freebie here.
I have even made assessing my students knowledge of fractions fun by using fraction assessment sticks. You can get them here if you would like to give them a try.

I hope some of these ideas help you when teaching your fraction unit.  

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

A Monkey Made me Do It - Teaching Kids to Re-Think

I am Bullyproof Music blog
Before kids say something mean, before they behave in a disruptive manner that causes themselves and others grief, before they feel a bad feeling - or a good feeling - or any kind of feeling, they think a thought! 
True or not?

That's why I'm always warning kids about "monkey thoughts." I teach my students to look inside their heads. Never assume what one is thinking is really the truth. That can be lethal! Because sometimes, honestly? It's all just blah blah - the things we say to ourselves. Lots of that stuff is super in-accurate.

So what's a "monkey thought?" 
Oh, that's the easy part. "Monkey thoughts" are those pesky little thoughts, noisy and annoying, that make us fret, get us upset, make us fidgety, and ruin our day!

"This is too hard!" - monkey thought

"The world is ending!" - monkey thought

"No one likes me..."  - monkey thought.

"I am SOOOOO bored!"- monkey thought

"Life is SO unfair!" - monkey thought

"Teaching is killing me!" - Teacher attacked by a monkey on a bad day.
No, you'll live. A better thought might be, "Today is pretty pathetic, but I'm certain tomorrow will be better. If not, there's always ice cream."

Catching on? It's not rocket science. Bad moods are often just weird thoughts gone astray. They're monkey-made.monkey thought bullyproof rainbow kids
The Good News!
The good news is that most kids, once monkeys are explained to them, can learn to tame their critters pretty easily. After all, we're not talking about real monkeys who swing from big trees. Those monkeys would be tricky to tame. But worry monkeys? Downer monkeys? They're mostly easy to get rid of once they're spotted.

Bullying and self-bullying
Kids who are mean to themselves in their heads end up being mean to others - just to make themselves feel better. But what if that student never had that self-bullying thought in the first place? How would they act then? Much more kindly, I'm certain.

Students who are habitually confrontational? Quite often, they're just victims of bad monkey habits! Asking the right question: "What exactly were you thinking right before you did that weird thing?" can solve a lot.

Misbehaving child scrunches up their face, ponders a bit, then mumbles, 'Uh.. I don't know..." to which I reply, "Yeah, I figured that. Maybe you should know!"

*Giggles from the kid* - followed by better behavior.

I exaggerate cutely when posing the question to younger students. With older kids, I edge it up: "Seriously? You can't control your monkeys?" *raised eyes*

That usually gets me a smile. And sometimes even, "I'll try harder."

Back from me: "Thank you. That's all I ask."

FYI: The "monkey mind" term is "mindfulness" lingo. I didn't make it up. Just being clear.

Girl Talk
I often ask girls in a muddle, "What exactly did you say to yourself - right before you fell into the drama?" Most girls can easily track their feelings back to negative thought. "I was thinking I'm a social klutz."

"Are you?"

"Not really."

"So stop thinking inaccurately."

*grin of relief* "Okay."

All better - and lesson learned. No need to get so dramatic. It was just a monkey attack.monkey warning
Boy Talk
I never ask boys about their feelings. After raising two boys and counseling oddles of them, I have learned "what were you thinking?" is a much better question to pose than, "What made you feel like that?"

Boys go cross-eyed when asked about feelings - yet are always willing to share what they think. It's a wording thing.

"All I ask is that you pay attention to what you're thinking before you do something odd."

"Okay. On it, teach!"

Believe it or not, that suggestion works miracles. Everyone knows boys like to track stuff.
But why am I typing so much? The students below explain even better. Use the videos below to help your students learn to tell the difference between positive and negative thoughts:

Kids on Vids 

CLICK HERE for a lovely lesson featuring two of my own fourth graders. The part about the hippo is especially good.

CLICK HERE for a more complex lesson featuring Bullyproof Rainbow kids. They rock!

CLICK HERE if you've been searching for a worry-not unit. I'm I am Bullyproof Music, so I always include a song. Here's a bit of the chorus:

He's just a monkey - he don't know squat....
just a silly little monkey who just likes to hear himself talk and talk and talk and talk...

dont worry ELA
And may none of us have monkeys. Happy Tuesday! ... Lessia Bonn

Monday, February 15, 2016

Organizational Tip and a Freebie!

Hello To All! I hope your Valentines Day was a wonderful time for you!  I don't know about you, but I love any organizational tip I can get to make my personal and teacher/professional life more consistent and productive.  Let's face it, we work hard as educators, and the more organized we are the more productive we are.  

Let's start with how to organize one aspect of your everyday life and that would be your computer at school and/or at home.  For a long time I have had a terrible time keeping my desktop clean and claimed that my desk was not a mess but uniquely organized.  Um, yeah, I now call that "denial"?  Here is what denial looks like and oh my goodness!  

OK, so I found myself on a mission to clean up and organize my Mac and all it's visual insanity.  I HAD to come up with a way to know what was what and what to do with all the CHAOS!

So, the idea I came up with was something that would work for me as a teacher, blogger, mother, grandmother, and TpT seller.  As if being a teacher wasn't a crazy enough life, right?  I like "change" and I like "organized" and I like "pretty", so I came up with a monthly/seasonal digital desktop organizer to meet all my needs for each month/season of the year.
Here is what is looks like but it is not personalized or with folders and labels just yet.  Are you ready for a freebie to keep you organized?  Of course you are!

Click for your Desktop Organizer Freebie

If you aren't sure which screen size to use for your desktop click here:

Hope your enjoy your new organizer and getting organized on your desktop.  Here's to being more productive!!!