Friday, July 17, 2015

Class Rules Posters

I have been doing quite a bit of research on Whole Brain Teaching lately, and I am planning on implementing some of it into my classroom this year. I am big on student engagement, and this is a method that is full of engaging teaching techniques. I bought the book Whole Brain Teaching for Challenging Kids: (and the rest of your class, too) by Chris Biffle. It hasn't arrived yet, but I am really looking forward to reading it. I was actually using some of the methods in my classroom for the past few years and didn't even know it. I have been using call and response method including the "Class, Yes" method and other fun and engaging sayings with my students. I will be sure to write a post about this method when the book arrives and I get a chance to dive in.

I have watched some youtube videos of teachers using this method and some of them were inspiring. To be perfectly honest some videos hurt my ears! When I use call and response I teach the students what an appropriate voice level would be. I think this method is just as effective when the students aren't shouting at the top of their lungs! I will be sure to share what Chris Biffle says about this in the book. One video that I particularly enjoyed was a video by a teacher named Andrea Schindler. Check it out here:

I decided to create rules posters inspired by this video and I plan to post them in my classroom and review them with the class the same way the video shows. I decided to change some of the wording from the rules, in particular the "Listen when the teacher is talking" rule. I feel that students need to listen to all classroom speakers so I modified this rule to "Listen when the speaker is talking." I LOVE the use of hand gestures that the Whole Brain Teaching utilizes and I implement gestures as much as I possibly can. You can get the posters here!

I was always taught that rules should be created together with the class and that is always the way that I have always started my year. I found that I had to modify the rule suggestions the class came up with so much (turning the suggestions into positive statements that covered many possible classroom problems)  that I wondered if the students really were taking ownership of the rules the way it was intended. With the new rules, having gestures, choral response, and student leaders, I am hoping this will provide my class with ownership  and "buy-in" over these teacher created rules. I will be sure to write about the difference in the two methods as I see my students react to this method. Also, stay tuned to see what other Whole Brain Teaching methods I implement in my classroom.

How do you set up the rules in your classroom?

Happy Teaching!

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Celebration Bracelets for Classroom Management

There are a vast array of classroom management systems out there for teachers to use in their classrooms. I have found it is necessary to adjust the system based on the needs of the particular group of students from year to year. I use a clip chart and the students move up/down the chart throughout the day based on the choices they make. If a student makes it to "Outstanding", they earn a punch on their punch cards. If they earn 5 punches on their card they earn a prize from the prize box. This system has worked very well for me over the past few years. But… I see a need for a little adjustment.

Now as I am sure most teachers know, it seems to be the same students that are rewarded for their wonderful behavior and listening skills. I of course would like to still celebrate these students, but I also need to provide the more challenging students with opportunities to celebrate each improvement along the way to keep them motivated to improve their direction following skills and citizenship skills.

This year I will be adding to the system with the implementation of celebration bracelets. I know of a few students in the coming class that will need a more immediate reward to help them to make good choices and waiting for 5 punches not their punch card may seem like an unattainable goal at first. This year the students may earn a celebration bracelet for a number of reasons during the day. I plan on rewarding 3 students (and any moving to outstanding) for behaviors I have noticed throughout the day. Check out the bracelets the students may earn.

These bracelets not only make the students feel proud, but it is an invitation for the student to have a conversation with their family about the strides and improvements being made in the classroom. It allows the child to communicate with the parents as to the goings on in the classroom in addition to communication by the teacher alone.

I will be keeping a list of which students earn which bracelets, this can help me gauge how the student is doing with an area of needed improvement. This will also help to ensure all students are earning bracelets. I will provide the students with the bracelets during our afternoon class meeting and we will cheer and celebrate the bracelet earners for the day. I will provide the students with a few minutes to color their bracelet and attach with tape so they can share their good news with their parents when the students are picked up. Another idea is to copy the bracelets on different colored paper for ease of distribution during the end of the day.

There will be some instances where the whole class may earn a bracelet. The "Ask me what I learned today!" bracelet is perfect for a new interesting topic that the class is studying. I also will have a bracelet for each student on the first day of school.

You can get the bracelets here! I can also personalize two additional bracelets for you if you need different wording.

I am very excited to use this system in my class this year!

What classroom management systems do you use in your class?

Happy Teaching!

Friday, July 10, 2015

First Day of School Activities!

I am kind of in denial that school starts for me Aug 10th! Where did the summer go?!? Because this date is fast approaching I have been thinking about the first day of school and the activities I will have planned. I would love to share a few activities I will use with my new little first graders on our first day.

When the students come in I like to have an activity they can work on fairly independently as I greet parents and students and settle everyone in. I like to have an All About Me Book on each child's desk to start at the beginning of our day. This packet has fun pages that help me to get to know the interests of my students. Some of the pages include questions like, What is your favorite color? What is your favorite book? What is your favorite food? What are you excited about this year? Who is your best friend? What is your favorite thing to do in school? There are many pages in this packet and the students really enjoy working on this activity periodically during our first day. This is also a great activity to use to give your students a break from learning procedures and rules on the rug. You can get this pack here!

Another activity I will use on the first day is a page out of the Back to School Draw and Write Packet. This is an engaging activity where students will have to practice their listening skills, direction following, drawing, and writing skills. It will also teach them how to draw objects that students commonly use in their writing at the beginning of first grade. Included are 10 school related objects such as a pencil, backpack, boy, girl, apple, book, tree, and more! These will also be great for introducing writing center and our writing procedures. I will use this as a beginning sample of the skills the students have come into my class with after their summer break.
I also am in the middle of writing some procedures PowerPoint slide shows. I know these little ones will be tired and I need to keep the engagement high so I minimize the "Is it time to go home yet?" questions. The slide shows will be interactive with pictures and videos to show the students how to follow the rules and procedures. I will post a sample soon! I have high hopes for this project! :) It is amazing how automatically the classroom runs at the end of the year and it is so worth all of the repeating of expectations, and tiresome routine practice at the beginning of the year! 

One of my favorite parts of the first day is the classroom and school tour. The students are so excited to get their hands on the vast array of books in our classroom library, as well as use the materials in the desks they will get to sit in for the first time in their school lives. I love giving them a glimpse of the wonderful things they will accomplish and the resources they will get to use in the classroom. They also do not know the school very well, quite yet. They are used to the kindergarten classroom area and playground. The lunchroom, bathrooms, hallways and office are very new to most of the students and to ease anxiety we take a tour of these important locations.

Once the students have learned the rules and procedures I like to use the Back to School Procedure Task Cards to review important school information. I give the groups in my class points if they can work together to answer questions about the procedures we have learned so far. Check the task cards out here!

This year the students will be using monthly journals for their writing. I have created cute covers and paper with a variety of lines to meet my students' needs. On the first day (or maybe second) the students will prepare the journal by coloring the cover. We will not begin writing in them until the second day. Get the set of adorable monthly journals here!

I can't wait to share more soon! 

Happy Teaching!


Early Finishers

If your classes have been anything like mine, then you have students that finish work in a wide range of time. One challenge is deciding what to have early finishers do. Busy work is not an option! Anything that my students do in the classroom needs to reflect the rigor and learning that we must fit in our day… not a minute wasted. So… here is the anchor chart that hangs in my classroom to ensure the students have a sense of urgency, are on task, and know what to do when they are finished with an assignment.
The first thing students must do is check their work to make sure it is neat and complete. This prevents the rushing to complete an assignment and then the inevitable re-do when a question is missed or something was done incorrectly.

The students then need to check their work folder to make sure they have completed all assignments that may need finishing from centers, math, or other times of the day.

Then the students have a few options of what they may do. They may read from the selection of books found in their book boxes. Some of these books are leveled, some are high interest picture books, classroom library books, and school library books. Each child also has a phonics strips ring in their book boxes so they can practice decoding words with the phonics skills we have worked on throughout the year.

If the student feels inspired to write, they may finish or start a piece of writing in their writing journals.

The students may also shop for books in our class library if they have kept their books a few days and have read through them. This of course is a popular option, so only 3 students are allowed to shop at a time. If a student can see the library is full, they must read or write until there is an open spot.

This chart has really helped my class become successful and independent when they have completed an assignment. It takes patience and practice at the beginning of the year, but is sooooo worth it when you no longer hear "I'm DONE!" or "What do I do now?"

What works for early finishers in your classroom?

Happy Teaching!

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

TpT Seller Challenge Week 3 and a Flash Freebie!

This week for the challenge, we made our Masterpieces! Mine took longer than a week due to the amount of drawing I needed to do on my computer for each page. I am so happy with how it came out and I am so excited to revel the new product! Here is my Back to School Draw and Write Set!
This set came to be when I was thinking of the skills my students will need at the beginning of the year. My students will need to learn how to follow directions, use fine motor skills, build their writing stamina, and learn how to draw items efficiently to allow them to focus not the task of writing sentences. I have decided to create a draw and write set with 10 items that are commonly used in my students' writing at the beginning of the year. This will help them build very important skills to start the year. The pack is 35 pages and each back to school item has 2 versions of step by step drawing directions, plus a writing space. This will be great for my writing center time and to help build writing stamina during writer's workshop. 

Grab the new product here! To celebrate the revealing of my new Draw and Write Pack, I am offering a flash freebie of my Kids Clip Art Set that contains images of the kids from the draw and write set. Get the FLASH FREEBIE here! I would love feedback for the freebie if you have the time! I can't wait to check out the other masterpieces created by other teachers!

Happy teaching!