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Throw a Wild Rumpus Party this Halloween

Happy Hump Day!  Welcome to Wait for it Wednesday!

With Halloween just around the corner I thought it would be fun to share one of my all time favorite days with you to help celebrate!  For years my first grade team would throw a Wild Rumpus!  It's a core lit in our state so it was the perfect way to fit it in.  We would spend about a week and a 1/2 on the story and culminate it with a Wild Rumpus Party.  Our district only allows us to have 3 formal parties a year:  Christmas/holiday, Valentines and end of the year.  So no Halloween Party for us!  But this always allowed us to 'get around that ' by hosting a Wild Rumpus.  Was it a party?  Um, yeah!! Did it count?  No ~ aren't we clever!?!

So what did we do and how did this work?  If you are a new follower this might sound new to you.  I have posted about this before though.  Our Wild Rumpus Parties have always been a blast!

I have always run classroom parties in first grade with rotations and parents helping me 'man' them.  It just keeps everything so organized and on schedule.  So:  here's how it looks if you want to throw one:  First, be sure they wear their pajamas to school that day so they are all like Max.

So first I would break the kids up into groups of 5 -6 ( usually by tables ).  Then I would set up the rotation and ring a bell to signal the switching.  I would set up the popcorn hand at the reading table, the crown making in the hallway, the sequence activity at their seats and the puzzles on the rug on the floor.

The popcorn hand:

After a couple years of doing this I quickly realized how important it was to label their hands.  So I just used dot stickers and pre wrote their initials on them.  After they complete their hands they stick their initial sticker on it and it won't get lost.

This rotation gives a little more freedom, no real instructions.   After they make their crown we give them a scepter to use for the photo shoot.

We just add a backdrop with a Wild Thing guy I drew a few years ago and some stars...adorable!

The kids get a chance to review the story and then to their seats to sequence it.

The winner would receive a small toy from Party City for each round.

This day is always a big hit by both kids and parents and even admin.  One year we even had a visit from a Wild Thing:  That was memorable for sure!

If you love this idea and want to give it a try I have a Where the Wild Things Are pack in my store that will give you more than enough ideas and printables to make this happen in your classroom.  You can grab it { here }

Here's what other teachers have to say about this day/pack:

I'd love to hear all about it if you have used this pack or give it a try this year.  Take care, happy teaching xoxo,

Parent Conference Tips

Happy Hump Day friends!  I'm headed to North Carolina tomorrow.  So my work week is already over.   Welcome to my latest edition of : 

I knew this trip was coming up so I spread out my parent conferences over 2 weeks to get them all in...all 28 of them.

{ that's A LOT I know } I haven't had that many since 1995.
Anywho ~ I wanted to share some tried and true practices that have worked over the years with parent conferences.

First ~ Make an agenda and lay it out for them to see and follow it: 

I just typed this one up real quick but honestly I just used one I hand wrote this past week. 
You are in control of this conference not the parents.  If you don't have an agenda it can derail or go off topic quickly and then you are seeing a parent in the hallway waiting for your next slot and you haven't even gotten far with your current conference.  Raise your hand if you've done that before?!?  #rookiemistake
So this agenda helps a TON and gets you finished and ready for your next conference.

Next I use a self reflection worksheet for my third graders - you could even do this with the younger kids with step by step guidance and happy faces, etc.  The parents always get a kick out of this sheet - it's funny to see how the kids grade themselves.
I can't find the source of the one I used...but Good Enough Teacher has one in her store that's free and great for the younger grades.

I created a teacher reflection sheet that includes the child's strengths and weaknesses and grades that is helpful too.  You can grab it 
{ here } if you are interested. 

** Always start with the child's strengths...it's puts the parents NOT on the defensive so they are more open to hear your input on their areas of improvement.

** Be very clear on your concerns and areas you'd like to see them improve with concrete examples.  That way they can't say to another year's teacher - "I've never heard that about my child... "

** Show them where their child needs to be at the end of the year so it puts things into perspective if their child is behind, it can be a very eye opening tool for them.

** Always have work samples ~ especially writing to show specifically what they are doing well and what they can be working on.

** If you need to ~ bring up the fact that you might need to call an SST or RTI and explain to them what that means.  Make sure you are clear that you want the best for their child and this is one step you can do to make them more successful.

Believe it or not we used to schedule Sibling Matches so the parents would have their conferences back to back for different grade leveled kids.  This is the first time we decided not to do that...it was a lot of work meeting with all of your sibling match teachers and making schedules work so - - - this year we had them sign up through Sign up Genius.  If they didn't get a match up that was on them.  It really didn't take much work on my end to set it up.  
There's many more ideas but I'm packing my suitcase so that's all for today.  Maybe I'll do a parent conference part 2 someday.  Happy Teaching Friends! xo,

Cursive Tips

Welcome to another edition of: 

Cursive ~ to teach or not to teach?!?  I LOVE cursive and so do the kids!  
There are always 2 sides to the debate: 
* there's no time to teach cursive
* it's a lost art/ not necessary anymore
* it's not relevant - keyboarding is more important
* it's a tradition
* you need it to be able to read old historical documents
* it's a rite of passage 
* they need it to be able to sign their signature

As you can see cursive can be a 'hot' topic for sure.  When I tell the parents at back to school night that I teach cursive they are always so happy.  I do think it's still an important skill for kids to learn and enjoy teaching it!  

Some tips I give my students to help make them more successful:

I always start by reading Muggie Maggie FIRST before I even talk much about cursive and certainly before I teach any of the strokes or letters.  Muggie Maggie is a fun chapter book written by Beverly Cleary that talks about a girl that is not motivated to learn cursive. 

Usually from my experience kids are excited to learn cursive, they feel grown up and want to try something new.  So it's nice to have them motivated before I even begin.  I follow the Handwriting Without Tears website for when to teach the letters ( order )
Here's the link if you are interested in taking a look at how they do it. { HWT }
I show a You Tube video before EACH letter I teach.  These are ADORABLE and so kid friendly.  They can't wait to watch them everyday and are only like a minute long.  Here's an example:

This you tube video series by Super Smart Kids Club/ Letter School - grabs their attention by having a train track with a train following the letter or flowers and a lawn mower following the letter etc. to show how the strokes form, the kids LOVE this!

After we watch the video we get in the proper cursive position to practice our letter.  I pre- make a book each year and have it bound by the district print shop.  It includes my very talented friend Melissa's cursive pack mixed with mine.  I love how her pages include a color in the letter section...so smart and engaging! You can find them both here:


The license is a fun touch I make a big one and hang it up in my classroom and then I make small ones and laminate them - the kids can put them in a wallet and they feel so grown up - I put their photo on it and it's like a real license or ID.

If you only want the license you can grab it ( here )

However you choose to teach cursive, make it fun and engaging and keep them accountable all year ( with the cursive license ) so their cursive stays neat and they can be proud of their work.  Happy teaching! xo,

Meeting the Needs of All Students

Welcome to Wait for it Wednesday!  This week's topic: meeting the diverse needs of our students.  Rarely do we come into a school year with a class that is mostly on the same level for reading and math and certainly we have a wide range when it comes to behavior/attention issues.  So after talking to a new teacher I was inspired to share some tools I offered her for a handful of her students she was worried about ~~

Teaching is hard work friends!  I think as veteran teachers we can sometimes ( certainly not always ) forget that.  Trust me there are days I come home, put on jammies and have a glass of wine.  #exhaustedmuch But I was talking to a brand new teacher about her class and realized how overwhelmed she was and just wanted to help. 

She was asking me how to help a child that has very delayed fine motor skills.  Another child can't sit still, and another one kept losing their place during reading groups.  I listened as she shared her concerns with me.  Some I thought were easy fixes with some class management tweaks and ideas other required a much different approach.  

So as I was sharing ideas I had with her I realized there might be a teacher out there with the same concerns that wanted #ideasfast.
I  found this picture from http://wvats.cedwvu.org/

Here are some ideas of what I've done in the past.  I've used a 4 inch binder for the student to write on which gives them a natural slant to work with - research shows that the angle of the slant board promotes better placement of the shoulder, arm and hand.  It helps with posture as well as allows the child to reach from the top to the bottom of the page.

Another idea for the child that has weak fine motor skills or really struggles with writing - the Alpha Smart!  Kids love this and it motivates them to write and write and write.  I've used this for years and seen wonderful changes in children that use this device.  

I used pointers and highlighting sticks a lot in first grade when I taught reading but last year I had a child that constantly lost their place in our chapter book reading.  I pulled out my old highlighter sticks and it worked like a charm.

For the child that can't sit still I had several ideas to offer her:

BRAIN BREAKS one of my favorite tools from GoNoodle
https://www.gonoodle.com/ always seems to help them refocus.

Another idea - Attach an exercise band around the legs of a chair for them to move their legs around without being disruptive.

Maybe even use a stress ball to squeeze or a calm down corner.  There are wonderful ideas on pinterest for calm down corners.  
Keep doing what you're doing teachers - your students are blessed to have you!

It's the Little Things that Matter...

This post has been in the works for quite some time.  I've been teaching a long time - I've seen TONS of changes believe me.  My first year was in the inner city with 32 first graders and I had a bilingual aide everyday until 12:30 - when she left each day I cried - at least for the first month. LOL  I've taught at private christian schools and public schools in very different environments.  I've seen whole language, phonics, thematic teaching, class size reduction, CLAD, year round and traditional school calendars and much more.
What I've learned over the years is that it's the little things that make ALL the difference.  So, you might not have a Pinterest worthy classroom ~ ~ that's okay.  Some kids don't learn well in an overly decorated or bright classroom.  It can over stimulate them... { I need to work on that } I definitely love decorating my classroom and the Target dollar bin.
You may not have the latest and greatest gadgets and technology.  We JUST got Smart Boards this year in August.  I've had friends that have had them for almost 10 years.  California - lagging much!?!
What sticks with kids obviously is how you make them feel - we've read the quotes and the research.  Kids don't learn under a teacher they don't like, etc.  But it's true folks - you have to love the unlovable, reach out to the one that wants the most ( negative ) attention and may drive you batty.  CONNECT on any level you can find with them.  I urge you to find SOMETHING you can connect with for each child in your class.  Even if you are giving them a fun nickname that you know they are okay with or asking them about their sporting event they play in.
Other little things you can do that cost you NOTHING:

** Change a number on your date you write on the board each month.  Watch what happens ~ your students will start copying you and it's the cutest thing ever.  You will read their journals and they will start writing the 0 in 2016 like an apple or a pumpkin.  Kids remember this little, tiny act.  It sounds silly but it sticks with them and makes school more 'fun'.

** Play games in class - we play Math Champ which is just like Around the World with flashcards.  We play Trash Can Spelling which you can read more about { here }.
** Give EXTRA table points on Fridays and call it Double Down Friday.  They will behave like perfect angels to get those double points trust me.  To be honest my students and I call it: Double Down Friyay! :o)

** Have a Mystery Walker - this costs nothing and it's a management idea but it's another thing that sticks with kids.  Kids from past years will see my students walking quietly in the hallway when they are going to the restroom and say, " Mrs. Moore I know you are watching for the Mystery Walker right now. "  I love it!

** Incorporate a Journal Fairy into your day ~ sprinkle some glitter on those extra awesome journals while they are at recess.  They will be so surprised and happy when they come back to class.

( I have more info on this here )

** Incorporate a Mystery Reader program into your year.  Parents, grandparents, school staff , past principals, district superintendent and even the mayor like to come out and I've had all of the above visit my room.

Invite the school mascot - that was so fun!

These are all FREE which is the beautiful thing.  If you welcome each child at the door with a high 5 that counts.  Just reach out, be creative and loving and encouraging and watch the magic and memories happen my teacher friends. What's something you do that is one of the 'little things' ?

Reading Group Rotations

Happy Wait for it Wednesday my friends!

Reading groups are vital to a strong ELA block!  I'm a huge advocate for reading groups probably because I've spent most of my career in first grade, a bit in second and a bit in third.  I still faithfully include reading groups in my schedule in third grade.  I've met many teachers  over the years that have asked me how I fit it in...my answer:  How can I not fit it in?  I see it as the HEART of my ELA block...without reading groups the rest of my 'body' can't function.  
So...what does it look like?  Well I use a rotation wheel that I made years ago - I even have it offered as a product in my store if you really like this idea:  Click picture to take you there.

**  I'm working on making this editable this weekend to give you more options **

Once my students have been tested and placed into homogeneous groups I color code them and set up my wheel.  
Here's how it looks:
One group meets with me - we are reading from a chapter book, responding to text, working on informational text features, focusing on third grade standards within their reading, etc.
one group is writing in their journal with a very specific task most days so they know their purpose and can get right to work. * I've noticed that before I did that - they would spend most of the 20 minutes thinking of an idea and would never get to writing. *
one group is at what I call: Grab a Spot, Read a Lot!  This is like a built in DEAR time during this rotation.  They love this!  They can sit in my cozy library - read with a stuffed buddy and read anything that they want.
one group is working on spelling ~ this is mostly done on their white boards, writing the list, circling patterns in words, etc.
Since this doesn't take long after they are done and they show it to me they can hop on one of my 6 classroom computers that are pre loaded with TONS of kid friendly software, educational games that they LOVE.  * I don't let them use these any other time of the day so it's a special time and they look forward to their time on them during reading groups. *
one group is working on skill: this is the 1 thing I do copy each day.  It is either a close reading, a phonetic or grammar skill we have been working on etc.  It's important that it's something that they can be successful with independently so that I can have uninterrupted time in my reading groups.
I spend 17 - 20 minutes with each group and use Autumn's                ( Primary Techie ) timers which are AMAZING!!!!  You can find them { here }

Here's a closer look:

Here is my rotation wheel that is the hub of my rotation time.  The kids know their color and follow what to do each time I turn it.  I turn it based on the timer system...when it's : Time's Up I ring a bell and we 'rotate'.

The kids LOVE Grab a Spot, Read A Lot!  They can sit in my library and pick a stuffed buddy to read to, it's comfy cozy!

Here is when we squeeze in practice for our spelling list each week.  After a short activity they can play educational games on my 6 computers I have in my classroom.

I include a skill of some kind here - sometimes it's a worksheet, other times it's an activity or center that reinforces a skill we've learned in class.

This is when they are with me in groups on the rug.

Here we are practicing a very specific writing assignment so it can be completed in the 20 minute time frame.  Often times I've modeled what I'm looking for before groups even begin.
I'd love to hear how you have organized your Reading Block - this wheel works great for me.  I've been using it for years and it's like a well oiled machine as they rotate.  What does your reading block look like?

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