Sunday, October 12, 2014

Instagram Book Bins

This year I wanted to make my student's book bins more personalized.  Previously, I have always had them numbered so I could use them from year to year.  This year I took pictures of each of my students with their favorite book and edited their picture using the Instagram app (Earlybird filter).  Instagram created the perfect size pictures (4 in x 4 in) to tape onto my book bins! I'm in love!

 Students with their favorite book!
I wrote numbers on the top of the bins so they would still be able to put them in order...
I'm sure you can see I attempted a red-blue-red-blue order with the bins I was given.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Morning Meeting

I am a firm believer in the Responsive Classroom philosophy! As stated on the Responsive Classroom homepage:

"Responsive Classroom is a research- and evidence-based approach to education 
that is associated with greater teacher effectiveness, higher student achievement, and 
improved school climate. It has been recognized by the Collaborative for Academic, 
Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) as one of the most well-designed, 
evidence-based social and emotional learning programs."

In my opinion, one of the greatest steps you can take as a teacher to create a positive learning community is have a daily morning meeting.  Morning meeting only takes about 15 to 20 minutes in the morning and is well worth it!  This is the point of the day where students feel welcomed, understood, cared for, and a part of the class.  In order to make every child feel welcomed, we start off greeting each other in a circle (whether it be a simple handshake, or something more creative like a chant).  To make every child feel cared for and understood I have three kids share a day.  They can share anything that is happening in their life and then choose three classmates to ask questions or comments.  Next, to make every child feel a part of the class we do an activity...this is a favorite of many!  An activity may be twenty questions, silent ball, or any game to get all the children working together and having FUN!  Lastly, to focus on our day we end with a morning message.  The morning message allows students to understand the day's schedule, review social expectations, review academic skills, etc.  I highly encourage you to YouTube a morning meeting to get a sense of the positive environment it creates immediately every morning!

Here are some videos from the Responsive Classroom YouTube channel:
Morning Message

If you fall in love with morning meeting and see all of the benefits, I have created morning meeting greetings flip books (click here) and activity flip books (click here).  Students, teachers, and subs can quickly and seamlessly pick out an activity/greeting with directions keeping the morning meeting positive and interactive.

Enjoy! :)

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Behavior Phrases

Some of my favorite behavior phrases are:
  • Is that helping the class? Why?
    • This helps students realize that their choices affect their classmates learning.
  • That is one warning, I'm looking for __________.  
    • This very clearly helps your students understand what they should be doing.
  • How does that sound? Why?
    • This helps the students think about their tone and word choices.
  • ____ help your class out.
    • This is a great quick reminder...simply say and keep teaching.
  • Thanks for being flexible!
    • As you move throughout your school year, you are bound to have unexpected situations arise.  When this happens, thank your children for being flexible and going with the flow!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014


Yay for Fridays! Oh wait, it's only Tuesday! :) On Fridays in third grade, my team has a phenomenal reward/accountability system.  Every Friday, the last thirty minutes of the day we have Hotdog!

What is Hotdog?
Hotdog is a time for kids who made positive behavior and academic choices a chance to celebrate.  It is also a time for teacher's to conference with kids who were absent, on vacation, made multiple below the choices, or are repeat homework offenders.

How it Works:
Each teacher is in charge of running one of the three rooms.  The rooms that students could be in are:
  • Relish: This room is for students who made positive behavior choices and turned in all of their homework on time.  Kids in this room get to enjoy thirty minutes of free time.  When it is nice outside, we take this group of kids outside for extra play time! :)  When it is cold, they can play board games, draw, color, talk, read, etc. in the designated classroom.
  • Ketchup: This room is for students who have missing assignments, whether it is due to absences, vacation, or late assignments.  This is a silent work room for kids to have an extra thirty minutes to attempt to "catch up" on their homework/tests.
  • Mustard: This room is for students who need to conference with a teacher about multiple below the line choices they made throughout the week.  The students fill out a reflection form writing down what below the line choices they made and how they are going to fix them for the next week.  In addition, if a child has more than two late assignments in a week, they are in this room developing a homework plan.

Monday, October 6, 2014


Transitions are such a big part of our day; however, they are rarely discussed.  A few years ago when I got my first long-term sub job teaching 4th grade, my class was very chatty.  We were losing so much time transitioning from subject to subject.  As a result, I created an incentive for fantastic transitions and a consequence for poor transitions.

Now how this works!  You write the word VOICES on your whiteboard/chalkboard at the front of the room at the beginning of every week.  Any time the class has a poor transition you simply erase a letter.  In my classroom, letters may not be earned back.  At the end of the week, if the class still has one or more letters left they earn a "green card" (read incentive below).  If the class loses all of their letters before the end of the week then they do not earn a green card - acting as the consequence.  If any additional letters needed to be written up for poor transitions that is time the class "owes" me (read consequence below).  Usually, the first week they lose all of their letters and sometimes get additional letters written up because they are testing and learning your expectations.  After a couple weeks of implementation, you will notice how quickly and quietly your students transition maximizing learning and fun time! :)
Some example green cards earned by my class this year!

The particular class I was long-term subbing for had a whole class reward system already in place (which I LOVE and still use every year! Thanks, Becky!): when the whole class did something extra special, such as, being respectful listeners the entire time at an all school assembly or earning a compliment from a teacher/principal, they would earn a "green card."  Essentially, it is a green index card which the teacher writes the above and beyond behavior on and posts it in the room.  The class sets a goal of how many green cards they must earn before they get a class party.  To start off the year, I usually have a goal of 10 to 12 green cards so the kids can achieve it within about a month and a half.  I like to have the kids have a sense of accomplishment fairly quickly. Once the class earns the goal amount, they get to choose a class party.  Some parties my previous classes have chosen are: 20 minutes of extra recess, bring a stuffed animal to school, wear PJ's for the day, 20 minutes of playing with electronic devices, etc.

Any time the class has a poor transition I simply erase a letter from VOICES.  If they do not have any letters left at the end of the week, then they do not earn their green card.  If the kids lose all of their letters before the week is over, then I start writing letters up for each poor transition (spelling out the word HOTDOG--click to read post to understand).  For every letter that I have to write up, the class "owes" me two minutes.  The "owed" time is a great time to practice transitions, generally at the beginning of their snack break or recess time...since it is from their free time.

Where I post my green cards.  I call it a "Super Star Goal" 
as you can see written on the board.
You can see my "VO" from VOICES...I simply write 
it on the whiteboard in the front of the room.

My Transition Expectations:
Q & Q as my students like to say! Quick, quiet, walk, hands-to-self, and efficient.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

New Student Bag

I just discovered the most brilliant idea from one of my co-workers!  It is so simple, I can't believe I have never thought of it before!  When setting up your classroom at the beginning of the year, create a new student bag.  Every time you make something for your students, create one extra and place it in the new student bag.  This way, when the inevitable happens and you receive a new student, you will be prepared!

My new student bag contains: name plate, locker plate, number for homework hotspot, pencil container (great if your grade level does any switching!), welcome letter, and the KOALA.


Now, many of you are probably wondering: "What is a KOALA?"  It is AMAZING!!  In third grade at my school, we have a 3 ring binder for each of our students that contains their assignment notebook, take home folder, important information for families (daily schedule, school calendar, student birthdays, and explanation of KOALA), unit home links (Everyday Math Curriculum), and a practice cursive packet.  The students take it home every night and it comes back every morning.  It works so smoothly for all students, including students coming from divorced or blended families. Everything the parents/students need to know is inside their binder.

The binder is great for teaching kids organization while holding them accountable for all of their school work.
Kids Organizing and Learning Accountability
Explanation for parents.
Cursive Packet
Take Home Folder

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Establishing Class Rules

A favorite lesson for many teachers: establishing class rules.  This is an exciting turning point in the first week! The students start to understand what their teacher is expecting from them.  They will continue to test; however, now is the time for a teacher to be very consistent with consequences.

To start, I read the book Chrysanthemum.  I print a picture of Chrysanthemum on a piece of card stock paper to use as a symbol.  As I read the book, anytime a character puts Chrysanthemum down, I rip a piece of the picture off.  As a character gives Chrysanthemum a put up, I tape a piece of ripped off paper back onto the main picture.  Here is an example of what Chrysanthemum looks like once the book is over.  :)

After the book is over, we discuss what the pictures represents.  BIG IDEA: Once someones feelings are hurt, you may apologize; however, they will never be the same.  Think before you speak.
In addition, I use the Responsive Classroom philosophy focusing on the social and academic aspects of school.  As a class, we discuss our Hopes & Dreams for the year.  Then each child picks their own Hope & Dream.  For example: to improve in math, make more friends, do more than one pull-up during gym, etc.

To wrap it up, we brainstorm our class rules.  "If we want all of our classmates to achieve their hopes & dreams and feel like the proud Chrysanthemum, what rules do we need to have in our classroom?" After all rules are brainstorms, the next day we cut it down to the five to six most important rules.

Our class rules poster this year!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Hot Reads

Wow! 8 days into school and the Hot Reads are snatched off the shelf!  I introduced Hot Reads to my class yesterday and they have been asking me ever since to do the book drawing!

Hot Reads is a section in my classroom library where I display books.  The books I choose to display are:
  • books that I have read
  • many of my previous students have read
  • currently popular
  • a student did a book commercial about a certain book
  • or...they have not been picked to read in a LONG time.
Once I have two books chosen to be displayed, I do a book commercial.  A book commercial takes about 2 minutes, and could easily be done during any free moment because we have a lot of those... :).  I hold up a book and give just enough detail so that the kids want to read it, but not enough to spoil the book.  I always tell the students it is like a movie trailer, just give enough information to make your classmates want to read it!  After the book commercial, students can sign up to "win" the Hot Read.  I have two rules for the book drawing: 1. You must be present to win. 2. You may only have one Hot Read book at a time.

After modeling book commercials, students can start doing book commercials as they finish their books.  This gets kids passing books around the room, which drives conversations about books! Win, Win!

                           Hot Reads Display BEFORE          Hot Reads Display AFTER

FUN STORY: Today, at library check out, after about 5 minutes of my class being in the library, the librarian came up to me and asked, "What is this book The Emerald Atlas?"  I told her that it is a book I did a book commercial for in my classroom yesterday.  Within 5 minutes she had about 6 of my students go up to her and ask if the library had The Emerald Atlas.  Yet again, proving that Hot Reads drive student's desire to read.  I highly suggest you try it in your classroom!

Happy second week of school!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Schedule Signs

Hello again!
I am very excited to share my favorite creation!! :) I designed these schedule signs to help students transition smoothly from lesson to lesson and, of course, to help teachers keep track of their ever so busy days.  The simplistic color and bold graphics are sure to match your ever changing classroom decor!  Personally, I am currently obsessed with the sleek look of black!  All of my boarders, name tags, and stationary are from the BW Collection.  I LOVE them!
Schedule signs are made by Miss Simons Says - get here!
You can get the blank gray time schedule signs for FREE here!

I am also a big fan of a calm classroom environment, while keeping the students engaged and not sleeping of course!  When my students come into class in the morning, only one bank of lights are on along with my colorful string of lights (which I purchased at Target! - similar ones here). It is such a peaceful way to start the day.  I also use the lights as my transition signal, for example, I turn on the other banks of lights once we are ready to stand and say the pledge to start our day.  The kids know to keep working until I signal with the lights.

Organizing a Classroom Library

I have finally organized my classroom library! After attending multiple Donalyn Miller workshops, I have rediscovered the importance of having a well established classroom library.  She is a phenomenal speaker who will truly inspire anyone listening!  I highly suggest her workshops/books, Book Whisper and Reading in the Wild.
Genre Posters (Beth Newingham) - Library Labels
I am completely on-board with Donalyn's philosophy for organizing a classroom library by genre.  If we are organizing the books by lexile level and/or F&P level we are enabling our students (however, I do agree it is really easy as a teacher to help a kid find a book quickly).  Books in the real world are not labeled, therefore, we need to teach our students how to find books that are just right for them using realistic means.  I must say I am a big fan of the five finger test, you can do it anywhere! :)  Another benefit of organizing your classroom library by genre is to help students broaden their reading experiences.  Last year, I had multiple students who disliked reading until I gave them the Genre Challenge - reading 2 books in each genre in one semester.  Through being forced to explore every genre, students discovered genres that they loved, but had never read before.  As a teacher, it is always an overwhelming feeling of joy when you can help a student not only appreciate reading, but start to enjoy reading!

An easy way to keep your classroom library organized is by buying the round coding labels, which can be found at any local Staples, Wal-Mart, Target, etc...example here!  I bought 10 different colors so I could label them by the major genres (look above at Beth Newingham Posters).  Students can see at a glance where to put the book back instead of trying to read each bin label to find the correct home.
 If you like my library labels, you can find them here!  Here are some tips when getting them ready!  I am a big fan of efficiency! As a result, I added the cutting lines to my library labels.  This helps guide your cutting, so you can quickly and neatly cut out each of the labels.  I used to be big into scrap booking, so of course I have a Fiskars cutter!  I must say, as a teacher, I use it just as much more! :)
Portable Paper Cutter - Corner Punch
Another fantastic scrap booking tool, is a corner puncher.  It helps you cut the corners quickly and neatly!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Late Homework

Late homework is always dreaded as a teacher.  I have tried using weekly wrap ups, taking away privileges (primarily recess, which is a time kids need!), and late slips.  I have created some simple late slips that I used this past year that worked great for the kids who cared.  The kids who did not seem to care about late homework were, sadly, repeat offenders.  With that being said, the ability keep the late slips in the student's file folder was great record keeping and easily accessible during conferences.  This year, I'm going to pair my late slips with The Homework Hotspot! I'm super excited!  I stumbled across it on Young Teacher Love's blog and it is genius!  I'm hoping it will motivate my students to turn in their homework, and the best part, eliminate no name papers!

Click on image to download the free late homework slip!