Tips to Tame 'Em: Week 6: Partnering Students with Flexibility

Oooo am I posting this late on Tuesday or what? I blame my busy day. I went for a bike ride with my husband, laid by the pool enjoying one of the most beautiful summer days we've had yet this summer while reading Notebook Connections by Aimee Buckner on my Kindle (if you are looking to refine your sutdent's Reader's Notebook- I'm only 40% the way through, but lots of ideas that I want to try!).

Then I was off to a dress fitting to pick up my bridesmaid dress for this weekend, went to Target to get a gift for said wedding, and naturally, had to buy a new dress, shirt, and shoes while I was there, then hopped the highway to the mall to get a few other things.

I came home and finished our delicious dinner that I got from Skinny Girl's blog and it was amazing (we even made the avocado dressing). I'm now here sitting on the couch with my husband watching the last Harry Potter movie. He finished reading the whole series today (not all in one day of course) and so he wanted to watch the film so he can basically state out loud all the things that are incorrect. It makes me laugh.

That is why I'm just now posting Week 6's:

I don't know about you, but when I started this back to school series, "back to school" seemed far away still. Not anymore! The stores are full of school supplies, ads are bursting with deals, teachers are feverishly putting their rooms together- it's practically here! I've got tips for the next 4 weeks and then BAM... school's back in session!

This week's focus:

I'm all about opportunities for students to work together. Part of the struggle was finding partnerships that work. Sometimes, I need quick partners or groups of students for a task and want it to be random so that students learn to work with just about anybody and so I made:

These little babies are super versatile. Depending on how many kids I need in a group determines what end of the stick students look at. I love this because they always pay attention to the sticker end, but they don't realize I'll have them look at the colored dot end. Muhahaha. So sneaky.

 I came up with 4 different partner set ups and used different markers. Then, I knew I would forget what was what so I added a little cheat sheet right onto my can here so that I would remember:
 If I want partnerships (2), I tell them to look at the numbers, If I want groups of 3 I tell them to go by the shapes. You get the idea.

This year, I want to try to also have a system in place where students have some control. They at least think they have control, but I still hold more control, but again, they don't know that. Muhahaha.

There were a few things I've seen on Pinterest and other teachers blogs. One idea that I'll be using is from Angie over at Fall into First. I snagged her Hive Helpers freebie from her Facebook page after becoming a fan. Students can go around and fill in different hive numbers. Read more about it here.

I don't think it is a freebie any longer, unfortunately, but there are other ideas you can create in your room that serve this same purpose. Another one that I thought was adorable was this "Phone-a-Friend" from Miss Nannini . Students put partners on "speed dial." How fun! And it's a freebie in her store!

Now it's your turn:

You have 2 options

1) Respond to the question in the comments section
2) Grab the buttons and link up with a longer post!

No need to link up on Tuesday! You can do it any day of the week until the next Tips to Tame 'Em comes out!

Here's this week's question:

I hope to hear some of your awesome ideas!



Monday Made It: Sticks and Toppers x 2

So yesterday was a craft day with my girl Whit. We're high school friends and only live 25/30 minutes from one another now, but my hermit lifestyle doesn't always bring us together as often as we should. Whenever we hang out, it's a good time. She's a great friend in many ways. One thing she loves to do is make stuff- cookies and crafts mainly. So we planned a date to meet up after my trip to craft away.

One problem.

I didn't have a craft. I don't know what's wrong with me. Just nothing was coming to mind. I even scoured my Pinterest boards and realized, I haven't really pinned any home crafts. Maybe it's because we get the keys to our new apartment this week and I really don't need to add anything else right at this moment. {side note- We haven't started packing yet. I didn't think this was an issue, but Whit did. I apparently am in denial of all the crap we really do have to move from one place to the next. Rats. I better get on that}  Once Whit came and we himmed and hawed over my photos from Italy, I thought if we traveled to Jo-Ann's Fabric I might get an idea.

And I did.

In the cake pop section. I saw this:

A cake pop display. And cake pop sticks. Then I turned and saw cupcake liners.
And I turned it into this:

What is it? Good question. Valid question. My husband had the same question.

It's my display for some of classroom donations for open house. 

I wanted to make it stand out as opposed to my post-its from years past. Why? Because these 3 items we can no longer ask for on our back to school supply lists. Long story short, all teachers in our district had to remove tissues, zip loc bags, and disinfectant wipes for a reason I'm not going into detail about. But we roll with the punches. We can still ask for them at open house, but we just can't put it on our list that goes out to all families before school. So I wanted something to stand out so that families didn't miss it. This isn't the final display. It'll include one of my little signs from Michael's with directions as well as this other sheet that describes why/how we use these items. Hopefully, some families are able to help us out!

It was pretty simple. I was just going to write on the inside bottom of the cupcake liners but I kept squishing them, so I quickly made a few on my computer, printed them out and cut them. I then used my trusty ZOTS glue dots to stick the little labels to the bottom, used 1 strip of tape and attached the stick to the back of the liner and my flowers were done. I then just cut out strips of squiggly green paper, taped it onto the display and called it a garden.

Then, I found crazy straws! I needed crazy straws. I use them for my birthday treat for the kids. I had made my lil' labels just the night before and BAM! Here these were at 50% off! I was trying to be optimistic and only got 2 packs of 12 {maybe that's more naive than optimistic... I had 28 students last year}, but I have a couple left over straws from last year if I pick up a few more students before the years end. So this is my second stick with a topper project I tackled:

Simple. And the kids loved it last year. If it ain't broke- don't go fixin' it!

Whit did some crafting too! She found a mini-book of pretty scrapbook paper on clearance at Jo-Ann's and made some very cute magnets.

{This is my boo Whit who also went to the Backstreet Boy's concert with me in June. We spent our crafting day talking about Brian and listening to their albums. We maybe a bit pathetic, but at least we have each other.}
So I started with nothing and came out with two projects that involved using sticks and adding a topper. But more importantly, it was a fun day with my girl, Whit!

Hop over to Tara's blog for more Monday Made Its!



5 For Friday with my Favorite Pins

I'm doing a mash-up for this Friday. I'm still trying to get back on a normal sleep schedule. Last night, I went to bed around midnight and slept until 10 am... and now this day just feels like a lazy wash. However, that is the best thing about being a teacher in summer- you can have those kinds of days. :) So for this 5 for Friday with Doodle Bugs,

 I'm sharing what I've been up to, with a few splashes in terms of classroom decor to go with Teaching, Powered by Caffefine's weekly linky:

So I'll be sharing some of my favorite pins that have inspired me to prep my classroom this year!

I've been in my classroom a few times this week... if you follow me on Insta, you've seen a few snippets. The first thing I wanted to change was my clock labels.

Here was my old labels (on the left) and my inspiration pin (on the right)

And here are my new labels

 I wanted more color and I wanted to include words like in my pin above. 

I added 2 arrows that had words that students can use to "talk time" with others. Not only do these bring more color to this tricky space (the wall is a wonky one), but I think these extra visuals will help too!

I also made some new schedule cards for my room. I deviated from my yellow and teal a bit for these and I'm totally ok with that. I love Krista's accents from Creative Clips! They are just enough cute without being too much.
 I attach these to magnets and place them up on my whiteboard next to my SMARTboard. What I love about this is that I can hide the ones I'm not using behind my SMARTboard, but they are still accessible for each switching!
This picture is bad due to lighting and my iPhone, but you can kinda sorta not really see the labels that aren't in use hidden behind my board. 
That's all I'm showing for now. :)


Technology wasn't my friend this week. This really bummed me out, especially after I was practically without it for almost 2 weeks. Lots of gritted teeth and mini-tantrums occurred here, but I *think* all has been fixed (for now). I got a new Macbook Pro! Yay! Until everything on my screen was fuzzy, my documents wouldn't transfer over, and SMART Notebook wouldn't load. I spent quite a lot of time trying to trouble shoot all of it.

And then, there was the printer. We spent at least 3 hours trying to fix our printer. It was cutting off my trait posters and wasting ink left and right. It's fixed... for now.

I bought supplies and printed out resources to start working on my classroom door! Which included a brown table cloth, tissue paper, and yellow card stock for starters. I won't probably get a start on assembling it for another 2 weeks or so but here are some of the pins that are helping to inspire it! I hope it turns out as good as these pins and in my mind... but more often than not, this isn't the case hehe. I trying to make a tree and a beehive and I love how both of these displays turned out!



Last, but not least, we celebrated our 1 year wedding anniversary last Saturday. It was VERY low key since we both were really jet lagged from a couple days prior, but I can't believe a year of marriage is under our belts. We have been together for over 9 years so to be honest, married life hasn't seemed too different. I'm a lucky lady to call this man my husband. We had the most amazing day celebrating with family. Here are just a few pictures from our day a year ago. :)

This is probably one of my most random posts ever... I blame it on my headache and weird sleeping patterns. Until next time!



Tips to Tame 'Em: Week 5: Whole Group Engagement

It's Week 5 of my first ever linky and golly gee it's making the summer fly by! We're over the half-way mark of summer and it's about to get serious about heading back to school! Today is another post about:

This week's focus is:

Can I just say that I think I'm a little jealous of all of you who have a lot of control over your curriculum and such. I say "think" because I also know that the grass isn't always greener on the other side. I can image how time consuming it is pulling everything together, however, I'm a little jelly of some of the freedom you have. In our school, we still have parts of our day where we are doing whole group instruction. This happens in our mini-lessons for reading and writing as well as during our math block (not for the whole time, but a good chunk of it). That being said, I've got to get creative to keep 25+ kids engaged in our whole group learning when it's so easy for them to check out.

I'm here this week to just share a couple quick and easy ways to keep students engaged and accountable for their learning and I hope to hear from you as well so I can keep building up my toolbox of tricks!
Student Personal Whiteboards
I use these all. the. time. Seriously. They are great! Yes, we go through a lot of whiteboard markers that cost a lil' $$, but the students jump at the chance to use them! Of course we discuss, model, and practice using them appropriately, and yes, I do take them away from students when they don't follow (who wants to use plain paper and pencil??) and they need to come up at another time and discuss how they will use it correctly in order to get it back. 

I give them a task to finish on their boards and then what?? How do I make sure they are attempting the task? Well there's a couple different ways:

"Chin it & Spin it"
I heard my amazing EL co-teacher use this phrase once and I had to take it. I give students a task and then when they are done they "chin" their board. This shows me they are done. Then, once everyone or close to everyone is done, I say "spin it" and they spin their boards to show me. I can take a quick glance then and jot student numbers down discreetly on students who I need to check in with. They know they'll need to show me, so you can bet they always attempt their work.

"Walk and Talk"
This is a favorite of mine and the kids. It gets students up and moving, sharing with one another, and allows me the chance to check in with certain students. Pretend I ask students to solve a word problem and here are some of the ways students solve the problem (these are actual examples from my class last year):

Notice they are all very different and I want students to see different ways students tackled the problem. So I simply say, "Walk" and students get up and start walking around the room. That isn't fun enough though. What else do I do? Well I play a banjo with my mouth of course! Meaning, I literally sing a lil' made up song that sounds like a banjo and the kids bop around the room with their whiteboard. When I stop, I say, "Stop and Talk" and they find the closest person and begin to discuss how they solved the problem. We practice what to do if we don't have a partner and solutions and they are all eager to share so they want to get with a person or two and share. I may repeat this 1 or 2 more times to allow students to see a few different people's work and then we return to the carpet and review what we saw. 

"Gallery Walk"
For this one, students show their thinking on their board and then display it in a circle or at their desks. We then walk around viewing each others work. Students can bring a post it note with them and jot notes for after. If there was one that really helped them understand the problem, they can jot it down and share it out at our reflection. If one confused them and they wanted more information, they could jot it down and ask at reflection. 

Incorporating Actions
I'm big into adding as much movement as possible. There were a few times my first year when students were just dragging and it was painful to get through a lesson. I was frustrated, they were frustrated, something had to change. Then my instructional coach came in to model a lesson and she started adding actions to our objective for the day and instantly, the students were engaged. At the end of the lesson, she asked students what they learned today and they ALL were able to name the objective by acting out the actions again. I was sold. I need to do this more often.

"Objectives/Teaching Points"
I read the objective for the lesson. Sometimes I come up with an action; other times, I let the kids come up with one. We don't act out every word, just the important key words. They really get into when I ask them to think of an action for a certain word. We use the same action throughout the year (for example, we had the same action for the word "character" all year long). I saw students were able to retain our teaching point for the day and it helped them get engaged right away.

This one is HUGE! It really helps kids remember the meaning of words simply by adding an action. I use this one all the time in math especially. Again, I try to let the kids come up with the actions when possible so they have ownership over it. If you use Go Noodle (I have the more "deluxe" version I guess because Go Noodle is partnered with our Health curriculum), they have an activity called Word Jams which was a favorite of my group this year. It was a great brain break transition from Word Work to Writer's Workshop. The words were at a 5th grade level (for my 3rd graders) but each one had fun music to convey the mood of the word and an action. Kids were actually retaining and USING the words which was so cool to see!

I had a few other tips, but this post is long enough! Let's hear from you!

You have 2 options

1) Respond to the question in the comments section
2) Grab the buttons and link up with a longer post!

No need to link up on Tuesday! You can do it any day of the week until the next Tips to Tame 'Em comes out!

Here's this week's question:

We have a few more weeks left in the linky! I'd love for you to join in and share your expertise! :)


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