Friday, August 28, 2015

Keepin' Me: Clean, Comfortable, and Presentable

I'm sure most teacher are like me where our classroom is like our second home. We spend so much time there in between the actual teaching we do, planning and prepping, meetings, conferences and open house... I'm there more than my actual home!

But that also means that there are things that happen at school that send me into freak out mode:
"I'm meeting with a committee in 5 minutes and I've got poppy seeds all stuck up in my teeth! If only I had some floss!"

"I knew I shouldn't have worn white. It like a rule that if I wear white, I will spill my lunch on it. If only I had some Tide To Go."

"Ohhh conferences starts in 10 minutes and I just got done teaching and feel like I smell like dirty gym sock that's been stewing for months. If only I had some deodorant."

Have you ever had any of these things happen?

I'm not taking any more chances this year and I finally put together a little tool box to keep me at my best for whatever comes my way when I'm at school and I'm sharing what's inside!

I bought everything at Target and it probably cost me like $30 (including the drawers). Kinda spendy, but literally, I have no worries that if a little 'oops' pops up that I'm ready! I've got 3 drawers that each serve a different purpose:

This drawer is all about sprucing myself up, especially for meetings or conferences. It screams, "Look, I DO care about my appearance actually.... just ignore this messy bun on the top of my head."

Static Guard | For those winter months
Hair Spray | This one will need to be replenished more than once- I love my hairspray
Burt's Bee Tinted Lip Balm | I LOVE this stuff- it hydrates and gives a little subtle color
Lint Roller | For all those fuzzies
A Nail Clipper | For those chips and hangnails
Tide To Go Pen | To clean up any stains that I get while I eat (which is a daily struggle)
Vasline Lip Stuff | My lips get real chapped

This drawer is a MUST! I get stinky during the day thanks to no AC and always being up and moving. Confession- I did use my teammates deodorant a few times last year when I hit crisis mode and needed it. #noshame #iwasntstinkyanymore

Deodorant | Let's face it- sometimes I forget in the morning
Body Cloths | Sometimes I need to wipe the sweat from my body before a meeting. That's life
Travel Size Toothbrush and Toothpaste | For those staff meeting "Everything" bagels
Floss Picks | For those poppy seeds

You know there are those days when you just feel 'blah.' But we gotta push on because we all know sub plans are the worst!

Zicam | Zinc tablets save my life!! At the onset of a cold (and I get them at least 2-3 times a school year) I start popping these and if it doesn't erase my cold, it really cuts the severity down. I usually carry a bottle in my purse, but I'm keeping one at school this year.
Pain Reliever | Sometimes our nurse's office has it, sometimes it doesn't... I feel guilty asking for it, so this little travel size is perfect for those headaches that just won't go away
Feminine Products | I'm a lot more at ease when I know I'm prepared for anything... even when Aunt Flo decides to visit!

So this little toolbox will sit in my closet out of the hands of my little ones. And I already feel better knowing that no poppy seeds will be stuck in my grinning smiling and that my B.O. will be in check! And that's a win for everyone.

Should I add anything? Add your idea below in the comments!

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Back to School In a Flash: Student Engagement (Freebie Included!)

It's the final week of our Back to School In a Flash link up! Many of you are already in school or are heading back very shortly!! As you read this, I am sitting on an island up in Northern Minnesota enjoying some rest and relaxation still. But that doesn't mean I'm not thinking of school (I CAN have fun and think of school at the same time... at least at the beginning of a fresh new school year- I'm so excited for it)! I'm using this extra time this summer (we start after Labor Day still, so it's pretty late) to continue to get prepared and feel confident that this back to school will be the smoothest yet. 

Hey, a girl can dream right?

This week is very much a catch-all...

Sometimes, I feel like I'm on stage performing to try to keep my students engaged! But there is some truth to that... I don't like learning from boring presenters who aren't taking my "learning style" into account when they are sharing new information. That goes for my students too. I want to have fun with our learning! That is important!

I dug back to some old posts to find some ways I keep students engaged! Here are a few things I do to make our learning fun and for getting everyone involved.
Integrating Games and Game Boards

Throughout the year, I try to turn some of our learning into games. I made many different game boards and put them into plastic sleeves. Students can make the game even more exciting by adding in their own spaces (loose a turn, roll again, etc.) before they play to buy into it even more.

I've used it learn multiplication facts, with task cards, and more! Even though I introduced this last year in January, by June they were still asking to use the game boards!
Strategy Seminars

Last year, I tried to integrate strategy seminars. Seminars are different, as students decide what strategy they will work with as opposed to me assigning it. I of course give them suggestions through my feedback, but it's ultimately up to them. Choice is a huge encourager. And I actually found that many students wanted to visit ALL the seminars to improve their writing. SCORE!

The beauty of these- they are student guided. I provide some resources and structures and then students work together in groups to navigate the strategy to understand it, practice with a common example, and then apply in their own work- it's a great gradual release and as I said, students were so focused during it! It also gives me a chance to float around and check in with all students.

Response Protocols

Do you get stuck sometimes on getting all your students to participate in whole group settings? Me too. I was very inconsistent (and still get into my ruts) and would allow kids to blurt out sometimes.. and then get upset when they did other times. Can't they read my mind??? The same kids would be wanting to share and the same kids would want to try to hide and not get involved. 

We have done a lot of work around being culturally responsive with the help of Dr. Hollie. He has been our keynote speaker for the last 3 years at Back to School Week and we did a book study on this book here. One of the take aways was being very clear on how you want students to respond to your instruction- and to make it responsive. So to help, I created visuals and posted them on my SMARTboard. The visuals are for me- to remind me of all the different ways I can have students respond to my questions and instruction. I can also just point to one and let students know how I want them to respond. 

I saw participation shoot up in our whole group because of this because MANY of the response protocols requires all students to be prepared to share- by either sharing out in unison, using white boards, in small groups, etc. 

Naturally, I had to make a new set to match my new color scheme and I changed out some of the pictures.  

But then my PowerPoint was giving me problems. So I couldn't make it all TpT ready to share with you! Sad day. But fear not! I uploaded what I could to my drive and you can snag these response protocol reminders here! I included 2 different color schemes and 2 different font options so hopefully something works in your room! I also included what each one means (to the best of my explaining abilities... they aren't perfect though- fair warning).

**And if there are any issues with the download- I apologize, but I won't be able to to help until after I get back from vacation so please be patient. :)

Head over to the other fabulous bloggers below and grab some new tricks to keep your students engaged this year!

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Let it Go: Part 3- Grand Conversations

If you missed my first two posts on how to let go of certain things in your classroom, check how to put the rule creation process into your students' hands and get your students labeling materials and spaces in your room. 

Today is the last tip I have in giving up some of your control in your room and it is perhaps one of the most powerful ones. 

Oh I'm so guilty of doing this. I sit on my little low swirly chair and just start talking... and talking... and talking... and I feel myself just getting more frustrated and sad. And then I'm always thinking, "Hmmm how do I segue out of this and back to our content? This is a little awkward..."

And I can hear my students thinking, "I wonder what I'll play with at recess..." 


"I can't wait for brunch for lunch... it's my favorite lunch option."


"Is Mrs. O still talking?"

Instead of you lecturing when a problem arises, try having students facilitate the conversation- you'd be surprised what they come up with.

We use grand conversations for literature discussions and our class meetings often. Quick run-down:

Grand conversations are when I pose a thought, a question, or a problem for the group. Then, the students carry on the conversation. They use our accountable talking stems to keep conversation going. I stay out of it for the most part. I listen and take notes on the content of the conversation and who is participating. There's no hand-raising to talk; you simply just "play the field" and share. Students learn how to let other share their idea first politely if 2 people talk at once. Students who aren't participating or are struggling to jump in, well, I have devised different ways to get them involved:

  • Use talking chips or counters to offer a bit of control on how often each student can speak
  • Have students pause and turn and talk with a neighbor near by (this allows everyone to share an idea even if it isn't whole group)
  • "Mute" my active voices for a time to let my listening voices have time to chime in
  • Play "ghost" and whisper encouragement in my listening voices ears

Let's show an example:

One day, I went down to the lunch room to hear the entire 3rd grade class getting scolded for their rowdy behavior by our lunch staff. Not a proud moment.

We got in our line and went upstairs to our room. Instead of getting into our groove for math, we needed to have a class meeting about this. I simply said, "Gather for a class meeting." They come and sit in a circle. And I quickly type the problem/talking point on the Smartboard (I do this so that students can see it often during the conversation).

For this one, we started with this talking point: What was our behavior in the lunchroom and why is it a problem?

We have some ground rules:

After students shared about this, I might move to the next talking point: How can we fix it this time and prevent it for next time?

Same rules apply.

When we are done, I do a recap out loud (based on my notes). This might take anywhere from 5-10 minutes, depending on how long you want it to go. We can then ease back into our work and I don't feel like I'm going through major mood swings and students are actively engaged. Plus- it's real life. When we have a problem, we need to address it and we need to work on fixing it and preventing it. 8 year olds are smart. They now more times than not right from wrong. But they make mistakes and instead of me drowning on about it, this let's them learn from it and show me and themselves they are capable of problem solving.

Again, does it take time away from content. Yes. Yes it does. But it also is teaching valuable life skills (problem solving, conversation skills, building character) which is JUST as important (if not more) in authentic ways.

If you are thinking of doing a cannon ball into letting go or just sticking your pinky toe in the water, I strongly encourage you to find SOMETHING to try to pass the control over to your students. Coming from a super control freak, it really makes a different! And I realize when I do it, how proud of them I am for how they are growing and becoming independent.

I'm still trying to let go of many things... we'll see what other things I try this year! What are you thinking of trying??