Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Invest Now {Part 2: Establishing Classroom Expectations}

Establishing clear classroom expectations is so important, and laying that strong foundation will pay out throughout the school year.  Whatever you use for your classroom...rules, expectations, whatever you call them, I hope that you will find some of these ideas helpful.

In our classroom we don't have "rules," we have expectations.  These are the things that I expect because you are one of Wood's kids.  We do the same thing at home with our own children and it has worked great for our family.  I also like that instead of a list of negative things like, "Don't do this and don't do that," it's a list of behaviors that are expected and it pretty much covers the gamut of behaviors that could come up.

We call them "The 5 Ways to Be"

I begin by introducing them to the 5 Ways to Be during our very first Morning Meeting of the year.  {You can read more about Morning Meeting and why I think it is one of the most important things we do each day by clicking HERE.}

At that first Morning Meeting the first thing I tell them about The 5 Ways to Be is that we don't have classroom rules.  I love to see the confused looks on their faces when I say this!  I then talk to them about what expectations are and why they are important and give them a brief overview of The 5 Ways to Be.  

For the next 5 days, we go in depth with one of the 5 ways each morning.  For each of the expectations I do a few different things.  

My favorite thing and I think the MOST beneficial is the Looks Like/Sounds Like charts.  There are a few ways that you can do these and in the past I have done all 5 Ways to Be on the first day of school and using the carousel cooperative learning strategy.  Last year I decided to slow it down and focus on one a day.  I think it is important to take the time to really build an understanding of what each of these expectations really mean.

So, each morning at Morning Meeting we work together as a class to complete the Looks Like/Sounds Like chart. 

When we finish with each chart I laminate it and hang it on the wall for the year.  It is so powerful because it is their ideas!  These are the things that they came up with from a class discussion and so when they need a reminder it is so much more powerful to be able to say, "Remember, YOU told me that being respectful means that you aren't making faces at people when they are sharing an idea!"

I also like for my students to do some self reflecting and think of something that they can do or will work on for each of the 5 Ways to Be.

The last thing that I do is I leave out compliment cards as we learn each of the expectations.  I encourage students to keep an eye on their classmates and when they see them being respectful or safe...grab a compliment card and fill it out.  We often save these for the compliment part of Morning Meeting but you can have students leave them at their classmates desks or pass them out at pack up time.  I love to fill them out when I see a student really living up to our expectations too.  It's a great way to send a positive note home with students too!

Once we've learned all of our classroom expectations, we fill out this flip book.  It's a great tool for them to take home and be able to communicate to their parents what is expected of them at school.

If you would like to try using The 5 Ways to Be in your classroom, I've put everything together for you in this little pack.

Click HERE to check it out and grab it on sale today only!

It's also available in my Back to School Essentials can grab that's on sale also!

Whether you use The 5 Ways to Be or your own set of rules, I highly recommend trying Looks Like/Sounds Like charts!  I would love for you to comment and share some of your go to strategies for teaching your rules/expectations in your classroom.  Let's help each other to make an invest now, at the beginning of the year, that will pay out for the entire school year!

Monday, July 25, 2016

Invest Now {Part 1: Teaching and Practicing Routines and Procedures}

If I could give any advice to new teachers it would be this....the first two weeks of school are critical...Invest NOW or you will pay later.  If you spend time these first two weeks really teaching and practicing your routines and procedures it will pay off for the rest of the year.  It takes time yes, you have to go sloooow yes, sometimes it means practicing how we line up several times yes....but trust me, if you take the time to do it now it will help your classroom run smoothly the rest of the year.  

Here are some things that I do to teach and practice our classroom routines and procedures with intention.

Every year, I make a book of all of our routines and procedures.  Years ago that meant typing them out, printing them, gluing them onto construction paper, coloring a cover and binding them.  Old school sytle at its best!  Now, thanks to cute clip art and power point...I have a much cuter version that is easy to edit!

One of the great things about making this binder is that it forces me to sit down and really think through how we do things in our classroom.  Over the years some of those things have changed, I've found what works best for me.  

And if we are being real...sometimes things change throughout the year because they just aren't working the way I thought they would.  When that happens, I can just go in, edit and reprint!  

I love this binder because it helps me stay on track during those first two weeks when I'm teaching the procedures and we are practicing them.  It's a great reference tool for students {I keep it front and center those first few weeks and easily accessible} and it's super easy to leave for a sub so they can see how your room runs!

I've made a completely editable version of my Routines and Procedures Binder if you'd like to make one of your own!  You can check it out HERE!  

Teaching your classroom routines and procedures is just the beginning.  It is so important to practice...practice...practice until they get them right.  So, what are some ways that we practice?

1.  Model!
I always model for my students exactly how the routine or procedure should be done.  Seeing the teacher model it is one thing, but it's so much more engaging when it's one of their own modeling it.  One of my students' favorites is when we play, "What NOT to do!"  I choose a student to model the incorrect way to do the routine or procedure.  I encourage the audience to be looking for all of the things they did incorrectly, and then we discuss what went wrong!  They absolutely love getting to act "naughty!"  I ALWAYS follow this up with a student modeling the correct way to do it, with a discussion about what they did well!

2.  Practice Whole Group
After the routine or procedure is modeled we then practice as a class.  If we are practicing how we line up, for example, we watch students model what not to do, what to do, discuss both and then practice lining up.  I always give specific feedback about what they did well and what we can work on for next time.  Some times our next time happens right away, I never let them end practice on a bad note! Since they are lined up I will usually then get something else out of the way, like talking a quick walk to show them where the closest restrooms are.  

3.  Have Students Review the Routine/Procedure
Throughout the day during the first two weeks or so of school, I will call on students to review the routine or procedure and tell us step by step how it's done.  Sometimes I have them review with a shoulder or eye ball partner at their tables first and then I ask them to share what they discussed with their partners.  If needed, I will have students model it again!

I use every free second I have during the first two weeks to review and practice how we do things in our room. It takes time.  And sometimes we have to do things more than once.  But,  it is without a doubt time well spent. 

I promise that if you take the time to invest the beginning of the year it will pay off with a classroom that runs smoothly!

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Back to School 2016 Part 2: Making Students Feel Welcome

I am so excited to meet my new class this year!  Meet the Teacher is a great opportunity to ease some of their nerves and begin to establish your classroom culture.  Here are some things that I do to help students feel welcome at Meet the Teacher.

Being prepared for your students at Meet the Teacher looks a little different than being prepared for parents!  If you didn't read Part 1 in this series be sure to check it out HERE.

In part 1 I talked about a lot of the forms that I have ready for parents.  So, what are the students doing while their parents are filling out paperwork?  Well, if you aren't prepared Meet the Teacher can turn into a mess!  

I like to have my students look around the classroom, get comfortable and start locating things!  I do that by giving them a half sheet of paper with things to find in the room, once they find everything they can bring me their paper for a little treat!

If you'd like to make one for your class you can download an editable version HERE!

One of the steps on the Get to Know Our Classroom paper is to find the boxes and sort their supplies.  Many of our students bring their supplies from their supply list to Meet the Teacher so they don't have to carry them in themselves on the first day.  I have big plastic containers ready with labels for them to sort their community supplies into.  Supplies like glue sticks, pencils, paper, and black dry erase markers are considered community supplies.  All of the other supplies are kept at their desks.  This also saves me a lot of time on the first day of school!  I also make sure to have extra supply lists handy for those parents who need one!

Nothing quite says welcome like seeing your name on things and ready for you!  Students love to walk into the room and see that you have taken the time to use their name and label their things!  I do get name tags ready for them ahead of time, but I do not tape them down until after Meet the Teacher.  I will have to change at least 1 to 2 of them because a student goes by a nickname or uses their middle name instead of the first name, etc...  It is a little extra work, but it's worth it to me to have it ready for them!  
I use the editable skinny name tags by Learning in Wonderland so it's a pretty easy fix...just retype the name and print!

Another thing that I do that is always a big hit is my Welcome to 3rd Grade slideshow.  I make a slide for each student and have the slideshow playing on a loop for the entire Meet the Teacher.  Students love to see their name come up and it makes for a great photo op for parents!

It's a little hard to see in this picture but the slideshow is playing on my SmartBoard at the front of my room.

If you'd like to do a welcome slideshow of your own, I've made one that is editable and includes slides for Kindergarten through sixth grade. 

 Directions for how to make it are included.  You can check it out HERE!

In Part 1 of this series I talked about the photo booth that we use at Meet the Teacher.  

We put it in the hallway for all of third grade and encourage our students to take pictures with friends.  I also have a sign hanging by my door with my email address and I ask parents to email me the pictures they take of their students.  I save them in a file to be used in our end of the year slideshow!  

I hope that you have found some of these tips useful.  Helping students and parents feel welcome is such an important part of starting the year off right!  

Stay tuned for my next series of posts about investing time at the beginning of the year so that your class runs smoothly all year long!

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Back to School 2016 Part 1: Making Parents Feel Welcome

If your school is anything like mine you have a Meet the Teacher night right before the start of school.  This is a great opportunity for the students, their parents and even us teachers to meet and ease some of the anxiety of a new school year!  In this 2 part series I am going to share some things that I do to make students AND parents feel welcome. 

Parents can sometimes have just as much anxiety as their kiddos over the start of a new year.  Will the teacher “like” my child, will the classroom be warm and inviting, will the teacher make sure they get home the right way on the first day.  As a mom, I totally get these feelings.  These are their babies, the most precious things in the world, and they are trusting us to love on and care for them for an entire school year.  Meet the Teacher is a great opportunity to ease those nerves and start off on the right foot with parents!

Nothing says I am ready for your child like an organized classroom.  I like to make sure that everything is hung, clean, shelves are organized and I have ALL of my paperwork ready to go. 
This is what my room looked like last year just a few moments before Meet the Teacher started.

On each desk I have my class handbook ( I use the AMAZING flip book template by Learning in Wonderland).  I give this out at Meet the Teacher so parents have time to look through it and ask me any questions.  It also has our daily schedule as well as our specials schedule so students can be prepared for the first day (yes, we have specials on the first day of school!). 

Another anxiety that many parents have is dismissal time on the first day.  Third grade is the first year that students are on the “big kid side,” of our school building so that means that dismissal looks different for them.  This can cause some nervousness for everyone involved on day 1!  I like to have parents fill out a transportation form that lets me know their child’s normal transportation schedule and if that will look different on the first day of school.  You can grab the editable form FREE here.

I also leave a clothespin on the desk with the student’s name on it.  I have them hang the clothespin on the transportation chart.  This helps me make sure that the student also knows how they are going home on the first day of school.  Moving their clip on the chart becomes part of our morning routine in our classroom.  It helps me to make sure that each student knows how they are going home, helps anytime I get a phone call from the office, and if there is a change in their transportation during the day they have to physically get up and move it which helps them remember the change!This year I am using the adorable construction themed décor from The Creative Classroom so I made a transportation chart to match.  

Nothing makes people feel more welcome than having things personalized for them.  When parents see that you have taken the time to get things ready for their children it helps them feel at ease.  I like to have name tags on desks, but not taped down, just in case I have to make a change on them.  You know, like Charles goes by Matthew, not Charles!Another thing I like to have for each parent is a communication magnet.  I like parents to know right from the start that I am willing to talk with them, that this is a partnership between school and home and I am here to partner with them.  Parents feel welcomed and comfortable when they know that you have an open door and they can feel comfortable contacting you with questions. 

You can download my editable communication magnets  here

This is probably the most important of all…well maybe after being prepared!  Have fun with your new students.  Our grade level sets up a photo booth each year.  We use the photo booth from the sweet Moore to Learn.  You can check it out here!
Don’t be afraid to get in the pictures with your new students.  It helps everyone to feel at ease to know that the teacher is going to have fun with them this year!

I hope that you found some helpful tips and ideas and that your school year gets off to a great start!  Next up…Part 2: Making Students Feel Welcome!  

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

"I'm Done...Now What?"...Brain Boxes to the Rescue

Several years ago, tired of trying to find things for my early finishers (and as the teacher of the gifted cluster I have LOTS of early finishers!) I began using Brain Boxes. 

What are Brain Boxes?

Each numbered box contains an activity that is engaging, creative and sometimes challenging!  The activities are seasonal and review concepts in ELA and Math and challenge students to think creatively! When students complete an assignment they can grab a Brain Box from the bucket.  They record the number of the box on their recording sheet and then follow the directions on the activity card and record their thinking on the paper. 

How to make your Brain Boxes

 I purchased the bucket and the small containers at my local Dollar Tree.  The containers came in packs of 10 (which is perfect since there are 30 activities for each month).  So the total cost of the bucket and containers was $4 and change…can’t beat that!  I used my Silhouette machine and some vinyl to cut the “Brain Boxes,” label and all of the numbers.  You don’t need a fancy machine to set it all up though…my old set up that I made about 6 years ago had boxes that were numbered with different colored Sharpies and it worked just fine!  I printed a label for the bucket on my computer and used mod podge to adhere it to the bucket. 

So, are you ready to check out Brain Boxes and see what they’re all about?  You can try the August {Back to School} Brain boxes for FREE.  If you love them like my kiddos and I do you can grab the year long bundle HERE!

I hope that Brain Boxes can help you put an end to the “I’m Done…Now What?” struggle!