Sunday, September 20, 2015

Flashback to One Year Ago: 5 Truths about Back to School Survival

I started writing this post after the first month of school last year, and never published it.  Last year was...well.....tough.  I learned and grew a lot as a teacher, as we often do when stretched to what we think is our perceived breaking point.  When I reread it, I thought it had some good "notes to self"- as we all go back to work.  I hope some of you can relate, or take inspiration from what I have suffered learned.

August 2014:

I started my 19th BTS season 3 weeks ago, still bright-eyed and bushy tailed.

I had a wonderful and relaxing break.  My room, after 4 consecutive years of purging and organizing, was ready pretty quickly.  I felt like the stars had aligned, and this year was destined to be the best ever.

Fast forward to today.  This has been the WORST.  BTS.  EVER!

I am absolutely exhausted!  I was in a meeting with some teachers, and we are looking around at each other and everyone nodded to each other…knowingly…in mutual suffering.

One of the ladies in the group said, "It's kind of like childbirth…after awhile you forget what it was like, and then you fool yourself in to doing it again".  I definitely am suffering from selective amnesia.  I had forgotten how much work it is to guide 24 students to understand and follow so many new routines and procedures.  I had forgotten how I would probably have to give up part, or all, of almost every break/recess to spend time practicing said rules and procedures, with the little darlings who love to test their boundaries in the beginning of the year.  And, I had definitely forgotten how EVERYTHING takes 10x longer than it did last year, by end of the year. Can I hear an Amen!?

So now, not so bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, I am here to tell you 5 things I learned from BTS 2014:

1)  Be stubborn:  I know this sounds negative.  But, this I can be a good thing when you are a teacher.  It helps me stick to my "relentlessly consistent" mantra when it comes to discipline.  I am tired now, but I know I will be thanking myself for putting in the time upfront to deal with behavior issues right away.  This has included staying in during recess for 2-3 minutes (Turns out that is a lifetime to a 2nd grader!) to practice sitting "criss-cross applesauce", or putting papers away in their folders, or Reading to Self without disturbing others.  I never phrase it as a punishment, but more that I am here to guide and teach them until they can do it on their own.  I am teaching responsibility and self-control.  So, be stubborn.

2) Be flexible:  I know this seems contrary to what I just said above.  But, as stubborn as I am, I'm seasoned enough to know when a child needs a hug instead of a lecture.  Children are not perfect.  They make lots of mistakes. Sometimes, what we deem as baby steps, are actually huge steps for a child.  Case in point:  I had a child one year who was very bright.  He was a strong-willed, spirited little guy.  He decided when to tune in, and when to tune out with little regard for when I was actually teaching.  Sometimes he did what I asked of him the first time, and sometimes he chose not to.  Each time, we practiced following directions.  Practiced attending to the teacher.  Practiced raising our hands instead of blurting out.  Well, lets just say we did a lot of practice. It got to the point where I began to wonder if I had met my match.  My stubborn twin, if you will.  Well, it turned out that his mom showed up for Open House and stayed around until everyone had left, and then thanked me most graciously for all the good changes she had seen in her son in the short time he had been in my class.  He was happy.  He wanted to come to school.  He was sitting for lessons (which I guess wasn't the case the year before).  This information saved me!  This child, much to my surprise, had made some huge advancements from last year.

3)  Tricks Galore:  You can never have enough tricks in your bag:  Seriously, collect as many as you can when it comes to classroom management and engagement strategies.  I have a  Pinterest board with some great classroom management tips.

In the past, I've used 1-2 at any given time. This year, I have had to change things up constantly.  What worked last week, quickly loses its potency with this group of darlings. Keep it fresh.

4) Take Care of You:  This is always a tough one for me.  I'm mean let's be real.  I don't have time during BTS to eat right, exercise, and sleep 8 hours a night, right?  Wrong!  My body is already showing signs of stress, and I've been down this road enough times to know that if I don't take care of me, I'm going to end up 15 pounds heavier, and with anxiety as my new, constant companion.  No thanks and pass!  So, darn it, I will have to prepare my lunches the night before (I hate doing that.), I will have to wake up early and work out (I hate doing that.), and I will have to go to sleep at 10:00 p.m. (even when my favorite show is running a marathon late into the night).

5) Surprise, Surprise...In the End, it was All Worth It!:  Fast forward to 2015.  Can I tell you how bizarre it is to me that when I see the class from last year, my heart misses them so?  AND what is even crazier, is that they miss me too!  At the end of the year, I thought for sure they would never want to see me again.  I mean, I was Mrs. Toughlove.  I had to be.  But, I did love them...and they knew it.

Hang in there friends,


Tuesday, July 7, 2015

5 Tips for Effective Writing Conferences

Head on over to The Primary Chalkboard to check out my latest post on writing conferences.


Sunday, March 29, 2015

Picture Your Selfie in Las Vegas 2015

 Can you picture it now?  YOU in LAS VEGAS? 

How about YOU in LAS VEGAS attending a one day session of the SDE conference?

Primary Chalkboard is giving away YOUR CHOICE of a 1 day session at SDE!

So, will it be Singapore Math, Differentiated Instruction, I Teach K, I Teach 1st, or the newly added I Teach 2nd? 

How fun is that?

BUT, that's not all, we're also including a $25 gift card to the SDE bookstore, CRYSTAL SPRINGS.

So, NOW can you picture YOURSELF in VEGAS?

Oh, you say you need money for airfare, hotel accommodations, or just some spending money while you are here?  Well, we've got that covered, too.  How about  
to help you out with that?!?!?

NOW, can you picture YOURSELF in VEGAS?

Here's how to enter for a chance to win.

Hop through our Facebook pages and collect a tip for your (possible) visit to Vegas.
Be sure to "like" each page as you hop through so that you can collect the tip.
Each tip will have a number on a playing card.
Add the numbers together and enter the sum  on the Rafflecopter on the Primary Chalkboard blog for a chance to win.
Be sure to add a comment and include #primarychalkboardsendmetovegas.

For an extra chance to win this, take a selfie, post it on IG with #primarychalkboardsendmetovegas 
Don't forget to tag us in your picture! @primarychalkboard

The winner will be picked on the evening of April 5th.

A HUGE thank you to SDE (Staff Development for Educators) for their kind and generous donation!

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

No Worksheet Wednesday Ideas and Link-Up

I am so so excited to be linking up with The Primary Chalkboard for the No Worksheet Wednesdays series!  How did this idea start?  It was the idea of the amazing Christina, from Sugar and Spice with Miss DeCarbo.  She had just returned from the National Reading Recovery Conference, and had picked up a few professional reading books.  Among them, was the book:

A lively and interesting discussion followed, and we all agreed that it was time to go "back to basics."  So here we are!  Future link-ups will be held on these dates:

March 11th
March 18th
March 25th

So, what did I do two Wednesdays ago in preparation for this link-up?  Well, we were still working on our Presidents' Day Flip Book.  More specifically, we were set to read and learn about the responsibilities of the president.  I knew I needed to get my second graders to a place where they could accomplish this task on Thursday:

So, before we read the text, we focused on some hands-on vocabulary building...old school style, and made Word Posters.  Here's how I did it:  

1) Required Skills Mini-Lesson:  Whole class mini-lesson on dictionary skills (abc order and guide words)

2) Guided Practice:  We did a sample poster together. I left it pretty open-ended, and told them they could represent the word in any way they thought would be helpful. (pictures, definition, examples, cut-out photographs, and even non-examples)

3) Guidelines and Expectations:  Ok, here is where I botched it up.  We do a lot of inquiry work in my classroom.  Kids are working together on a regular basis. So,  I skipped the expectations talk, and just let them get to work.  Big mistake!  I had to stop our session, pull everyone back to the carpet, and go over our rules for working together.  Here is the poster I have in my classroom.

These are the rules that we have come up with together, during the course of the year.  Each time we have a collaborative task, we always wrap it up with a discussion about our "successes" and "challenges".  Students share any issues that came up in their groups, and then students work on coming up with a solution.  We add the solutions to our poster.  This makes the rules relevant and meaningful to my students.

4) Independent Practice:  Students went off with their partners to go create their posters.  They looked up their word in a dictionary, and worked on paraphrasing what their word meant.  I made sure the poster paper was large enough so that all 3 group members could be contributing to their poster at the same time.  By leaving this task open, all students were able to participate.  I loved that even my students who struggle with reading and writing were able to add drawings and labels that represented their word, and made their learning evident.  
 All Hands On Deck = A Happy Teacher!

Here are a few finished posters:

Think the poster above is a little bare?  That's ok, because we will add examples and character's names throughout the year who demonstrate this trait!


Their posters were seriously cute and authentic (not perfect), and they loved making them!  As a teacher, the discussions I heard while walking around were rich and meaningful.  Students were negotiating, compromising, agreeing and disagreeing respectfully, and coming to a consensus. 

5) Group Presentations:  Each group was then asked to present their word to the class.  Each student was expected to contribute to their group's presentation.  After the group is done, we use a wonderful idea I got from Stephanie Harvey.  After students share, the audience may respond with:

a) a Comment 
b) Connection (In my classroom, this has become "Important Connection", to make sure we stay focused on the big ideas
c) Question
d) I also added the option of "Suggestion".  The audience members usually have lots of suggestions for each group.  

After all groups had finished, I gave all of the groups an additional 5 minutes to add any ideas to their posters.  These posters now hang in our classroom, and are a great focus wall for character trait discussions during our ELA block.

6) Debrief:  Don't forget to go over the "successes and challenges" of working together.

The next day, we were all set to read!  We did a quick review of the words using a Powerpoint that I had made (which I will get into in a future post).  (BTW: My approach to vocabulary instruction is based on the work of Isabel Beck.  If you have not read her is amazing!)

With all of this background knowledge about the vocabulary, the students did a wonderful job finding text evidence to complete our reading task, the following day!

Here is a little freebie poster that you could use in your room for having students respond to each other.  This poster works well for all subject areas, including math!  

Don't forget to check out all of these other amazing No Worksheet Wednesday ideas. (click below)


Friday, February 6, 2015

Presidents' Day Fun!

The question of the hour is,... Are you all ready for Presidents' Day?  Yes?  Wow!  Heck, I'm not even ready for Valentine's Day!  Some of you are uber-efficient planners, and I do aspire to your efficiency, and skills of forethought.  However, I find myself severely challenged in this area.

Isn't that the truth?  Yes, well this is something that I am really trying to improve.  Lucky for you, I've been looking ahead to February 16th, Presidents' Day - Hey, that is a whole 12 days from now!  Woohoo!

So, one of the things I have been making lately are tabbed flip books.  My students love these!  So, I figured why not continue on, and make one for Presidents' Day? Oila! Click on any of the pictures below to see more.

This book is geared at 2nd/3rd grade, and contains 4 informational passages with text dependent questions.  It also has compare & contrast, persuasive/opinion writing, and a presidential research graphic organizer option.  My students are going to be so excited when they see this one!

Looking for some FREE ideas?  Check out my Presidents' Day Pinterest board! Click below!

Here are some of my Presidents' Day freebie favorites:
This is an awesome Informative Reading and Graphing freebie from Teacher to the Core.
A super cute Presidents Writing pack from Haley O'Connor.
Easy-Prep Presidents' Day Printables from Latoya Reed.
A fabulous Lapbook Pack from Simply Skilled in Second....FOR FREE!  

Along with some of my favorite paid products:
Ok, I have to admit that these powerpoint games from The Primary Techie are relatively new to me.  But, we have been using a few of her movement-based powerpoints for skip counting, and my kids LOVE them!

Love, love this packet from Sarah Paul!  It has kids balancing budgets, choosing leaders, passing laws, and learning how to problem solve.  (Ha, ha - if only that was the way it really worked. LOL)

This pack comes with everything you can ask for:  Foldables, Crafts, and Printables from Jessica Tobin!  Awesome!  I love one-stop shopping.

This little printable beauty has everything from math and measurement to bubble maps and little readers from Victoria Moore!

Awesome American Symbols themed vocabulary work from Laura Martin!

And last, but certainly not least, this fun Presidential Research Project from Kindergarten Smorgasboard.

I know you will find something amazing above!  



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