2017 | Teaching in the Tongass

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Thanksgiving Ideas for the Classroom

It's that time of year! We've just passed Halloween, and Christmas is right around the corner. But, sloooooow down time, because there's a wonderful holiday I love to celebrate in the classroom. That's right, Thanksgiving. One of my favorite memories as a first grader myself is when our teacher held a formal Thanksgiving dinner just for our class. We all dressed up (I even have the home movie), and parents helped turn the music room (which was a modular building) into a magical Thanksgiving feast, complete with actual cloth linens and real silverware. I look back at that day in amazement and pure gratitude. Knowing what I know now about teaching, pulling that off could not have been an easy feat. If you are brave enough to try this with your class and have some parent volunteers willing to help, you should definitely try it. It's one of my all time favorite memories, and some day I hope to recreate it in my own classroom. Until then, here are a few of my tried and true favorite Thanksgiving things to do in the classroom! 
This post contains affiliate links, which if you use them, provide me with a small commission that will allow me to continue writing content on this blog. 

When it comes to celebrating pretty much anything in the classroom, I'm all about easy. I like to make things fun, but I don't want to spend my entire weekend prepping for it. My first year, I would have. But at this point, I cherish the weekends. I'm guessing you do, too. Here are just a few Thanksgiving activities that don't require a lot of prep, but still have all the fun!

The week before Thanksgiving, I like to give my students a Night Before Thanksgiving reader's theater (you can grab it free here) so they can begin practicing. I've done this in groups, in pairs and a combination of pairs as a whole group and every year, it's so fun to see how it turns out. If you've never done a reader's theater, I highly recommend trying it. I am always so impressed with the growth they make from the first time they read it to when they've practiced for a week. You can keep it simple, or you can turn into more of a production with acting, it all depends on how much time you have!

I also have these FUN Editable Color by Code pages that can be Thanksgiving Color by Sight Word, Thanksgiving Color by Number....you decide (that's the editable part!) whether to use them for math or literacy, or both! Kids LOVE them and you are sneaking in learning and they don't mind! I call that a win-win!
Thanksgiving Color by Sight Word
An easy craft you can do that incorporates literacy are these Editable Writing Crafts. You can choose what the writing prompt is, whether it's "If I Were a Turkey" or "What I'm Thankful for This Year." It's editable, so it's up to you! They're simple cut and paste crafts so you don't have your students wasting a lot of time tracing onto construction paper (your admin will appreciate that). And, what's even better, this is actually a set of 80 crafts all bundled into one! For instance, you get all 5 of these crafts for Thanksgiving. They can be thrown up on a bulletin board or sent home. 
Turkey craft and pilgrim craft
You can also grab this free Thanksgiving writing paper set to add to your writing center. They're simple and the borders don't take up too much space, so the writing is what stands out on the page (my favorite part!). These are so great because they are blank, which means you can use them for pretty much any writing activity (yay!). I have free writing papers for holidays throughout the year, so be sure to look for those while you're there.
I also have these Thanksgiving themed centers for literacy and math. My favorite is the "Gobble the Corn" where the turkey's beak is a greather/less than symbol and students have to decide which corn card number is larger--so cute!
Thanksgiving Activities for Kids
And we can't forget about the read-alouds! I begin most of my months with switching out our book display and gathering my read alouds (I'm oddly protective over them haha!). Most students (and even adults) will take one look at this book and immediately think it's about Halloween. But....it's not! It's a great transition book from Halloween to Thanksgiving (the pumpkin is actually a gourd, and he sits down for a Thanksgiving meal at the end). Here are a few more of my favorite Thanksgiving read-alouds (you can find the links to them below the image).

So that's it! I hope you found something useful that you can do with your class to celebrate Thanksgiving. If you have any suggestions, feel free to drop a comment below!

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Saturday, September 16, 2017

classroom management tips

If there's one thing I've heard over and over throughout teaching, it's that I have great classroom management (toot toot--that's the sound of me tooting my own horn). Now, I don't know how accurate that is, but I do know I'll take any compliment I can get in this job.  Don't get me wrong, I have plenty to learn and there are MANY other aspects of teaching that I am still growing in, as we all should be. But, I thought I'd be reflective and figure out exactly what I do that makes behavior management effective in my classroom. I'm not perfect by any means, and I've made a ton of mistakes, but that's just part of the job--growing from those mistakes is what will make all of us the best educators we can possibly be! So, I've compiled a list of things I think make for an easier time teaching and learning. 
10 tips for teachers and classroom management

I think a lot of a teacher's frustration can be credited to the fact that we are adults. We KNOW it's respectful to be quiet when others are working quietly. We KNOW running indoors isn't safe. We KNOW it's kind to give others a hand. We KNOW it's responsible to throw away our garbage. But, not all students have learned these everyday ordinary life skills. Not all students have the same parents that have taught them how to behave in all the various situations that will happen in their day, let alone in the school environment. I can be silly in class sometimes, but not others? I couldn't get up and throw my snack away until snack was over in 2nd grade, but this teacher wants me to throw it away as soon as I'm finished? We have to be quiet in library every day, but today there's a guest speaker and we can be silly? It's confusing, especially for young kids.  So, the first step in managing behavior, is to remember that a kid might honestly have no idea how you expect them to behave. It's your job to guide them into figuring it out.
The basic idea behind any effective classroom management is that you change your language and attention to a positive focus. If you are in a PBIS school, you are probably already doing this.  Instead of saying, "Don't run in the hall!" you say, "It's safe to walk in the hall." Basic, yet so effective.  You really don't have to be a PBIS school to implement that, and it's not rocket science so I highly recommend it to any teacher.  With that being said, PBIS really works best if your entire school is involved and the staff remains consistent with it (and by that I mean practicing what they preach).  This is especially helpful as each student moves from grade to grade and teachers are using the same language and behavior management practices.  A large, easy to read behavior matrix is also ideal in teaching students what the expectations are in each area and throughout different times of the day.
You can check out my Behavior Matrix by clicking here.

As you know, coming back from breaks, whether long or short or even the weekend, can be a difficult transition for many students. They can forget the expectations. They need constant reminders throughout the year. Make a point to schedule in going over your behavior expectations either right before you begin an activity ("We remain in our seats with a zero voice for the first five minutes of writing workshop") or as a whole concept with your behavior matrix ("Who can tell me how to be respectful during in-between times?"--show how to find the answer on the matrix).
You probably already know that consistency is key. It's one thing to say it, it's another to actually do it. If you expect your students to be absolutely silent during math centers, then you can't be okay with one student whispering to another and get upset when someone else starts talking. Your students push boundaries, right? If you expect them to be silent, then you have to show them it's the expectation. Every time. Not just when you have a headache (guilty!).  And because blurting out and telling me a "bellybutton statement" (as in, toddlers point out they have a bellybutton when you ask them their favorite color) when I ask what the main idea in the story was is one of my biggest teacher pet peeves, I made this reference tool (like I was just saying, you have to be consistent with making them raise their hand with the symbols though!). Grab it FREE below.
Another system I LOVE to use for keeping "small behaviors" (think blurting, getting up when you're not supposed to be out of your seat, talking during independent work time, etc.) is Think Time.  This is another component of PBIS.  Usually, it's done throughout your building or if need be, with a teaching partner nearby.  Have you heard of it? I'll give you a little run-down in case you don't already know.

You know that student that is blurting out? Or doing some other minor thing that is disrespectful, unkind, irresponsible, or unsafe? Think Time is the perfect solution. Basically, you give Sassy Sara a warning (typically nonverbal, like an eye raise or touch of the shoulder). Still happens? Verbal warning, "Check your behavior." Still? Hand her the Think Time pass (but there's no time attached--it's all based on how long a student chooses to "think" about their behavior), she goes to another teacher's room, fills out a form, verbally answers the questions from the other teacher, returns to your classroom, and gets back on task. This, of course, is all sorted out ahead of time with the other teachers around you.  It gives you, the instructor, a break from a situation that may be frustrating you and a moment to clear your thinking about how to handle a situation. It gives the student that's making a bad choice time to do the same. And, equally important, it gives the other students in your class the opportunity to continue learning.  

We do not call home to parents when students get a regular Think Time. Parents are informed that our school uses Think Time and what it is, so most of them understand that blurting out is not something we will call home for.  However, if a student gets 4 Think Times in a 7 day period, we call home and students are given lunch detention.  Students are made aware that parents will not be called unless they get an Admin Think Time.

So you might be thinking, "Yeah right. There's no way I can hand a Think Time Pass to Sassy Sara and she's going to actually leave the room, let alone fill out a stupid form." You're right, there is a Plan B. If a student is unable to complete these steps (let's say they throw a tantrum, crawls under a table or slams the door on their way out), they get an "Admin Think Time."  You call the office (or counselor, or principal--they need to be familiar with the process already) and that person comes to retrieve the student (the student fills out an "Admin Think Time Form") until they are ready to complete the original Think Time. The key to making it work and eventually minimizing those behaviors is to be consistent with it. In my experience over the last 7 years of Think Time, the majority of students that get a Think Time only need a few reminders before they "get" it. You can find Think Time sheets and a powerpoint to introduce it to your class here.

Let's say you're a teacher with a special treasure box full of goodies. Is your classroom management working? If so, great! If not, change it up! Get rid of the treasure box and try rewards that aren't tangible (sit in the teacher's chair, 5 extra minutes of recess, 10 minutes of GoNoodle time, lunch with the principal, etc.). Or maybe you have a rewards system that honors the whole class (marble jar, spelling out a word on the whiteboard for a party/award, etc.) and it's lost its appeal. Don't worry, you don't always have to take it away. Maybe your class needs table group awards as well. Or more individual incentives. My point is this, if you remain stagnant and have an "idea" of the rewards system type of teacher you are, you may not enjoy teaching this year. Don't get so stuck on how you've always done it that you are making yourself (and your kids) miserable.  In my own classroom, I've tried pretty much every reward/consequence system I've seen. I know what works for me (table group and whole class rewards) and what doesn't (individual sticker/star charts--I always forget to do it).  I also have these digital rewards to spice things up a bit.
Class digital rewards
If you have yet to try a table group reward system, here's a FREE chart (pop into a page protector to use a dry erase marker). I let my kids name their table group (I think it gives them ownership), but that's up to you. I change up the goal amount as needed and when a group completes it, they get some sort of reward and the whole board gets erased so it's a fresh start for everyone.
Kids thrive on routine. So, if you can help it at all, try to not change it as often. Yes, I know you have to go that assembly and yes, that field trip is a class favorite. But, there are other times when your routine doesn't NEED to change. Weigh your risks and benefits. If you have the opportunity to keep your daily routine and not change things, do it. Or, if you don't, think about any ways you can maintain as much of your routine as possible. That could mean instead of tying shoes in the classroom because the substitute gym teacher is late, you go with your class to the gym and spare 5 minutes of your prep tying shoes so they start off in the place they normally start off. Situations like that are all about thinking ahead and preventing. Which leads me to...
If you've been teaching long enough, you probably already do this. It's all about anticipating what can happen (usually this is based on your past experiences). That one time Joker Jacob tried to de-pants Shy Suzie at the concert? Well, now you know which kid to stand next to and provide some extra behavior support. Think ahead. Teachers that excel at behavior and classroom management don't assume the worst, they prepare for the best.
So, Cussing Cade has had 4 Think Times in one day. What can you do? If something has been tried (and you've documented all of your attempts--keep those Think Time Debriefing forms and anecdotal notes), you're likely ready to seek out additional help. Your school probably has a system in place, but maybe not. Speak to your Principal. Find out your options. Maybe they aren't supportive and start talking about how things were "back in the day" or you leave feeling just as lost, if not more, than you did when you walked in. Find out if your school or district has a psychologist or counselor you can talk to about your situation. See if you can schedule them to come in and do an observation of the student. Another set of eyes can be incredibly informative. Be prepared to receive feedback on what you can do to change the situation, and don't be offended if you truly want things to change. If nobody seems to offer any solid advice, I highly recommend turning to an online community. Blog posts, websites, even Facebook groups that are specifically for teachers in your grade level (just search your grade level and "tribe" and you might find one to join). My point is: don't give up. You aren't alone.
I have always made it a point to be clear about my role in a student's life. I am their teacher, not their friend.  I am intentional in this. I don't even refer to them as "friends," when I'm asking them to do something (I say, "Class..." instead). You can make personal connections with students that are incredibly meaningful without being their friend.  You can hug and be friendly without overdoing it and sending them conflicting ideas. If you're always holding a hand in the hallway, think about how that child could perceive it. Are you supporting them to make sure they're walking or are you doing it because it's sweet?  Be cautious in how you want to be perceived or it can really backfire (it's confusing to kids when their "friends" tell them they have to come inside for math--what kind of friend bosses you around like that?! I'm just going to go play a bit more...).

And finally, this is the hardest one. Students may be looking for negative attention from you, but that doesn't mean you need to take it personally yourself. Remind yourself that you are a professional and that this, although emotional and exhausting, is a career.  Just because a student might try to get a rise out of you doesn't mean they don't like you or your cute shoes. When Bobby Blurtsalot interrupts your reading lesson for the 3rd time, he doesn't know how much time you spent on it or that it was your favorite part of the story.  He just knows he was excited about that frog and it reminded him of a frog he caught at this Grandpa's house last summer with his cousin and they had s'mores and ....Think Time pass. 

So, like I said in the beginning, I'm not perfect. I'm not an expert. These are just my own thoughts and not research based or anything. What works for you? What doesn't? Feel free to comment or leave a question below!

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Thursday, August 3, 2017

surviving the first week of school

I want to tell you a story. Imagine a bright-eyed, can-do, I'm-a-Stereotypical-Gonna-Stand-On-Desks-And-Change-The-World-With-My-Teaching attitude, with fresh ideas and materials, pencils sharpened and books leveled teacher. First day. Parents leave. Just the kids and me. I was born for this. I have wanted to teach since I was 7 years old (some people called me "bossy" and others called me a "leader"...you know what I'm talking about). This day was going to be one to remember. I went through my checklist of "get to know you" activities and icebreakers (thanks to some helpful friends on ProTeacher--remember Proteacher?!) and my notes from student teaching. I had attempted several of the activities and quickly figured out a few were too difficult for this group of 2nd graders. Aaaaand then I looked at the clock in horror. It was only 9:30. After I walked my class out to recess, I FREAKED out. I had nothing else planned. I wanted to bawl my eyes out. I calmly walked across the hall to one of the literacy coaches and told her my situation. She laughed and calmed me down. She brought over some "choice" activities (I had student taught in 4th grade and had never heard of "choice time" until right then) and easy literacy games (dry erase boards, sight word dice, etc.). I was nervous that I'd be in trouble for letting the kids play until I could figure out what other activities to do at lunch (totally oblivious to the fact that I had an old-school principal that was a huge proponent of centers and a more hands-on approach anyway). The kids were fine, and I don't even remember what I ended up doing the rest of the day. When my mom and former host-teacher came in to visit at the end of the day I burst into tears (I cry very easily...pretty much at any confrontation or ounce of discomfort and tears come to my eyes--super cool when you're trying to be professional). I remember feeling like I had made the biggest mistake someone could ever make and was in the wrong career because it was SO MUCH HARDER THAN ANYONE CAN IMAGINE. They reminded me that if I still felt like that at the end of the year I could try switching to an intermediate grade if one opened up (it did, and I stayed because, turns out, second grade is actually where my heart is!). I went home with that in mind and trudged through the rest of the fall and things certainly got better.  

I can laugh about it now of course, but back then that fear and anxiety and pressure was VERY real.  On my first day, I had a rude awakening. Teaching wasn't what I thought it would be. It wasn't even what my student-teaching self thought it would be. I remember thinking, "Gee, when my classes end and all I have to do is teach it will be so much easier." I was so naive. Soooo naive. If you're reading this, you are probably a teacher and you likely know what I'm talking about. So, my hope in this post is twofold. 1.) I want to remind myself what it's like to be a new teacher (which, we basically all are every fall) and 2.) help other teachers prepare for the day they are most likely to go home crying (not parent-teacher conferences, that's another post for another time). Even if new kids are added to your roster after you've labeled and alphabetized it all. You'll be okay. Promise. 

Activities and ideas for the first day of school

For the first 2 weeks of school, I like to make sure I have PLENTY of activities (see the above story). From the minute they walk in the door, they have something to do. Each desk is ready with a sharpened pencil, Play-doh mat, mini can of Play-doh, and a drawing/writing page (word search on the back). Throughout the day we work on other FUN things--my goal is to get them super excited about the rest of the year.  You can find my First Day of School Activities pack here.
first day of school activities
I keep these conversation dice (is anyone else as obsessed with foam dice like me?!) handy so we can do some pair share, whole group and table group get-to-know-you activities. These natural moments are perfect for setting the stage if you need to practice sitting "EEKK" style, whole body listening, or whatever you know you'll be working on.
Another thing I make sure to have handy are books. LOTS of them. I am a book hoarder, and something tells me I'm in good company. I collect them like some women collect shoes or purses, and I value them just the same. I keep a tub of back to school books right by my teacher chair where I do my read-alouds and anytime I feel like there's down time or we just need a break from learning about a new procedure or whatever...I read a book. The beginning of the year is crazy, not just for you either. Kids like listening to stories. It's that simple. Read to them and you can even teach them your "listening to a book" expectations, whatever they are. Waiting until the end to ask questions? Make a "C" in the air if you make a connection instead of telling me about it while I'm reading? Criss-cross applesauce? Assigned spots on the rug? So much of a successful day can be attributed to early classroom management, which starts on day 1 and is present throughout every single second of your teaching day. So, read some fun back to school books and teach some expectations while you do it. Easy peasy.
(this post contains affiliate links)
back to school read alouds
This one kinda goes with the profession. No matter how long you've been teaching, you'll get to the point where you realize it's pretty much inevitable that the longer you plan for a lesson plan, the more likely it is to not go as planned (#truth). So, just as I learned on my first day of teaching, you may need to change it up a bit if something you are trying to do isn't working. I had planned all kinds of games that we played in my 4th grade student teaching year, only to quickly realize that 2nd graders are still very much 1st graders on the first day and it just wasn't going to work. Time to move on and do something else. This is why #1 is so important (make sure you have other things to do if your plans don't go as planned!).  Use your gut teacher instinct and....write what you noticed down so you remember it for next year (assuming you'll be teaching at least the same grade level)--good teachers are always reflective AND actually doing something to make their lessons better. After 7 years of teaching 2nd grade, I still don't type or write my plans in anything other than pencil, simply because I know something will need to change (it's very common for me to think something will only take one day and it actually takes two--especially if I'm talking about math!). You can find this weekly planning page here.
first day of school activities

Set up your classroom just a bit rather than worry that it's not completely decorated. You can decide how you want to handle supplies-I prefer to keep them in the backpack until closer to the end of the day when I ask them to put everything they brought into one giant pile so I can sort them into shared table supply tubs and put any extras in the cabinet after they leave--this helps alleviate the awkward, "But my mom labeled each of MY crayons with MY name and I have this pencil box and I want to keep it in my desk so I can get into it when I'm not supposed to" situations....tell me I'm not alone!). It's also a good idea to leave some bulletin boards empty so you'll have places to put anchor charts and student work when you're ready.  You can arrange desks/tables depending on the type of work you want to do those first few days (cooperative, independent, paired) and really, you'll likely need to change it up as you find out where to place students anyway (a science none of us master until May each year, right?).  I like to create a welcoming environment that isn't too distracting. I make a giant "U" with student desks on the first day, and then quickly create table groups so we can start working on some of the group projects I plan. Also, I've learned that if you're asking for help with moving furniture (whether it's your custodian, husband or mom--thanks, Mom!), make sure you are ready for them to actually help so they aren't stuck sitting around waiting for you to clear an area first. 

Classroom management starts the very first second they arrive. There's a reason Harry Wong's book is a staple (did you know you get the Kindle version now?! #allmypaperbooksarenowebooks) in so many classrooms. I use this checklist during the first 2 weeks rather than my planning guide because different subject areas throughout the day aren't quite ready for instruction yet (specialists aren't pulling out/pushing in right away among other things). Throughout the first day activities, I am using classroom management because it's really not something separate from your lesson, it's just part of your instruction. Whether it's your nonverbal "teacher stare," shoulder touch, "stoic face" or your direct, "It is respectful to listen quietly while I'm reading," it's something you do throughout your day. I intentionally leave out teaching classroom procedures until the 2nd day, which is hard because it's not easy for me, but my hope is that they go home on the first day with nothing but happy thoughts and are nothing but pumped about the upcoming school year. I added some editable pages to my checklist so you can type your own in. Grab the FREE download below.
One thing I love about teaching in a PBIS school is that students (after a few years), should already be familiar with the language, expectations and procedures. BUT, that doesn't mean we can skip review (and if we have students that are new to the school, this is also new to them). I go over this behavior matrix with the whole class (it's made with velcro so we can assemble it together) and we watch the Think Time powerpoint and practice it until I know they're ready for it. 
pbis behavior matrix
And here's a little video of me going through my own back to school binder:

It's of course important to look professional on the first day. But, hopefully you don't have to sacrifice comfort for style! I don't know about you, but I get up and down a LOT on the first day. I am playing games and doing activities with my students, so I need to be able to sit on the floor without worrying about crossing my legs properly. I also don't wear heels or shoes that would make my feet hurt even a tiny bit. If you wait to wear your new school shoes until the first day....hello blisters.  Also, every school has a different dress code. Some are super formal, some are a "Jeans Day" sorta school and some (like mine) are pretty relaxed.  I had never heard of "Jeans Day" until I started blogging, but I imagine it would be difficult. I'm at the point that I refuse to even wear "regular" jeans anymore (I've had 2 kids, don't judge). If I could buy stock in Jag Jeans I would. They're AMAZING. I have them in skinny, bootcut and flare. But, you know what's better than jeans? Leggings. Or yoga pants that look like dress pants. Or even stretchy ponte knit. I have about 10 pairs of Lularoe leggings (just search on FB for a sales group and you can shop directly in there--my favorite way to shop is on my couch and the shipping is usually $4/pair) and reach for them on a regular basis. Sidenote: leggings aren't meant to be worn like pants---cover that tushy ladies! So, if you don't already have one, start a Pinterest board and begin collecting some comfy/professional looks as inspiration (you can follow mine here) or make use of that Amazon Prime free shipping already. 

I'm going to be blunt here because this one is actionable TODAY. Lock your door to avoid interruptions during prep. If you share a room with another teacher, have an honest conversation so you aren't chatting the whole time. This might be something you do all year, but it's especially important that first week of school. If your goal is to go home at a normal hour, whatever you consider to be fair to yourself, family, etc., then you need to prioritize your time at work and keep in mind that, yes, it is WORK. Of course it's important to maintain relationships and continue having conversations, but if you find yourself talking more about The Bachelorette at work than your writing workshop, then you likely need to refocus and get some stuff done. My husband doesn't stay an hour after he's done getting paid and he constantly reminds me about that (thanks honey!) when I start having "teacher guilt" or feel like I'm getting sideways glares from colleagues as I walk out at 3 p.m. (if you are a person that complains when someone leaves at 3, check your attitude ASAP--we're on the same team). If someone tries to schedule a meeting after your contract hours (assuming you have them), politely decline and suggest a different time you're available DURING contract hours. Yes it might be easier for a parent to come to a meeting when they're off work, but you know what? This is your job and that's their kid...you aren't the one that should be making it a priority and rearranging your schedule, they are. And if you know there's a certain time of day that the copy machine won't have a line, make sure to make your copies then if you can (or enlist a parent volunteer--they do exist if you really try--to do it for you). If you dedicate your prep time to actually prepping, you'll likely have a feeling of confidence and not one of resentment for having to stay until dinner time every day. 

First impressions are an important life skill, and they're easier said than done. I try suuuuuper hard to be accommodating, shake hands, be extra smiley and have less RBF on the first day of school over any other day. I think of it as an interview with both kids and parents and I'm the high school cheerleader with a ton of pep and enthusiasm that this year will be grrreeeeeat! They want to know their kid is in good hands and generally happy while they're at school, and you have to make a point to let them know you can do that. So...smile and be peppy and you're likely to have made a good first impression that will carry over when someone is upset about some policy or something their kid is accusing you of later ("She said we can't eat candy at school!" will go over much better if they remember you as smiley vs. stern, I promise).  

You can also send home a little personal welcome Meet the Teacher letter page--this is an editable version (it comes in a few template choices, each version is available in color and black/white). You can check it out here.
This is, again, sometimes easier said than done. In most areas of my life, I am a planner. However, I ALMOST ALWAYS FORGET to bring something to eat at lunch (you know, that 30 minute break you usually are prepping during?). Peanut butter and a loaf of bread in the cupboard and jelly in the minifridge are super convenient. So is a can of soup and you can store one of these mugs that microwave it up in a jiffy without the mess. And once you've taken care of your food needs, just like we tell our students, make sure you remember to USE THE RESTROOM during your breaks. Lunch is actually a great time to catch up with colleagues, especially if they have the same lunch time as you. Make it a regular thing and you'll find more of a happy balance between work and relaxing for a few minutes during your breaks. If you put yourself last in every situation throughout the day, you won't be a better teacher for it, so take care of yourself and your own needs and remember to just BREATHE. This is the hardest job in the world, and you will. rock. it.

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Wednesday, May 3, 2017

math workshop part 3

This is the third post in my Math Workshop series.
Tips and ideas for organizing your math workshop

You can read the first post here and the second post here.

Another important element in any elementary (yes, 3-5 too!) math curriculum is Routines Time (aka Calendar Math).  My district implemented Everyday Counts when we adopted Math in Focus last year, but I like to incorporate lots of other activities.  I think it's important to remember that your wall space for math is just as critical as your ELA space...even if you don't like to teach it as much as you like to teach reading/writing (I know that's not you though)! I divided my large bulletin board straight down the middle (one side is a word wall, the other side is my Math Focus Wall) and although most of it stays put all year, there are a few things that change as students learn the concepts and we move on to other things (i.e. CHANGE IT UP! If they have the months of the year down, don't need to sing the song every. single. day.).

I made sure my kids had 200s charts on the back of their DEBs (dry erase boards). I've done both laminating/taping and just using page protectors, but I have to say the laminated versions last a lot longer and don't fall off...currently, I'm having a parent volunteer help cut out new ones so I can laminate and tape them on to the whiteboards.

Right after we have Roll & Write and Drops in the Bucket, students put their binders away and bring their DEB and marker to the floor (I have assigned spots for Routines Time...those who need lots of support sit right up in front so I can keep them engaged).  I used to cut erasers into thirds, but I found these dry erase markers with erasers on the caps two years ago and they. are. awesome. I convinced our school admin to purchase a bundle of them so that every classroom could have them. Seriously, if your students use dry erase markers and you haven't invested in a set like this, I highly recommend you do.
Students can answer a quick question of the day and be seated. I made it editable so the question can easily be changed each day (or week if you'd rather do it that often). You can find it here. Mine are printed on these magnetic sheets (the dry erase board is magnetic). 
Question of the Day
I write anywhere from 1-5 questions on the board (depending on how much time we have left/difficulty of the problems). The problems are usually finishing a pattern, adding coins, input/output (function) boxes, identifying shapes, fractions, and telling time.  As students make their way to the floor they start working on the problems. I do this for a couple of reasons, but the main one is that I need something productive for my kids that get seated quickly.  My kids that take a long time to put their binders away might get to the floor and only have time for 1 problem. My intention isn't for everyone to do each problem, so that doesn't matter. After only a few minutes everyone should be seated and working quietly.  I begin Routines Time by showing how to find the answers to the problems on the whiteboard.  Students don't get to change their answers or add anything, whiteboards remain on the floor in front of them. This is SO HARD for so many of them.  But, eventually, they get over it.  Also, I've decided against students showing me their answers on their DEB simply because I can see them from where I stand. Of course, I use what I see on their DEB to guide my instruction.  This whole DEB process takes about 5 minutes total.

After DEBs, we move on to the actual Routines Time. You might call this Calendar Math, but because it's so much more than teaching days of the week and months of the year, some teachers have learned to use the term, "Routines Time" instead.  I move through a variety of things and keep a "perky pace" to the best of my ability. I only have 15 minutes, and I use every precious second of it. No time to tell me about the time your grandma took you to the zoo and blah blah blah. Sorry, maybe later when we're getting in line for recess. The main idea that I keep in mind for Routines, is that if the class understands a concept, make it more challenging. Don't just keep doing the same thing over and over.  Remember to differentiate and keep them learning, not just reviewing. Of course, it's important to go back and make sure they remember the months of the year. But if all 23 students have it, I don't need to do it every day. Maybe I change the question about months to be: What month comes after February? Or what is the 5th month? I'm constantly differentiating and changing the questions to fit the needs of my students.

First, I call all students to the floor. We practice basic skills like sitting on the floor and participating a LOT at the beginning of the year. I feel really strongly about classroom management, and for what it's worth, it can make or break student learning and engagement.

We make a lot of use out of the calendar. It's not just up on the wall for reference about what day it is. We study it. Students don't come into school knowing how to use it. They have to be taught everything from what the month is and how it correlates to the season, to how many days until that special holiday they've been waiting for. My holiday/event cards slide right into the pocket charts and fit on top so you can still see the numbers. You can find black pocket charts here.
 We quickly go over what today is, yesterday was and what tomorrow will be. We keep a perky pace as we're trying not to go over 20 minutes. I try not to "quiz" students too often during calendar time as this tends to slow the whole thing down (i.e. I just tell them and have them repeat or say it along with me rather than "Bobby? What's today? Marcus? What was yesterday?").
We have a number of the day, but it doesn't correspond to how many days we've been in school. I intentionally don't do that. I want to be able to change that number to reflect what I want to focus on (for instance, the next day I might write "74" and have a quick talk about the importance of place value). The daily pattern can be numbers, shapes, and even a nonverbal pattern that I don't write like, "clap, pat, snap, clap, pat, snap, clap, pat, ___." 
These 2d and 3d shape cards aren't all up at the same time usually as I like to introduce only a couple of them at a time. By the end of the year, they'll know all of these though. They can be used like flash cards, for reference or even in discussion about shape properties (lines, angles, 2d/3d, vertices, etc.). I like to print off a couple sets so I can keep them handy by the door when we're lining up so when we're waiting for a few friends to get in line we can do a quick little review.
 And of course, days of the week, months of the year and weather are all important components of calendar time. Again, these are SUPER QUICK and we don't spend a ton of time on them in 2nd grade. You can easily use clothespins to identify which day/month/weather/season.
Teaching money is one of the very first things I start the year with. We play a lot of Coin War. For practicing during calendar time, you can do a variety of activities and change up whether you're asking them to show you how to make an amount (i.e. "Show me how to make 32 cents") or whether you're showing them 32 cents and asking them to count it. If you don't have magnetic coins already, you can print a set from my Calendar Kit on these magnetic sheets
I stuck this clock visual in a page protector and write on it with dry erase marker. I like to end calendar time with this activity. I simply excuse students back to their desk by having them answer what time it is when I change the minute hand. When they struggle, I help them along and can keep a small handful with me to review and practice for a few minutes while everyone else is getting to their independent work.
I love this 0-200 chart. I printed it poster size so I could do my "count up" and "count back" with the whole class and everyone would be able to see where I was pointing. You can of course print it regular size for students to keep or tape onto the back of their desks or dry erase boards. You can find it here.
 I use the questions in this pack as a guide for my instruction during Routines Time, but I don't stick to it like a script, so if you use this, please make sure you are changing the numbers/questions for what your kids need. You can also find the Winter edition here, and the Spring edition here.
What do you do during Calendar Math? If you have any questions or thoughts, please comment below! 

You can find the next post in this Math Workshop series here.

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