Sunday Night Snippets on Instagram

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Are you on Instagram?   Do you love FREE teacher tips?!?!  Well I have just the thing you may be interested's called Sunday Night Snippets...

Every Sunday ( usually late afternoon or evenings ) I have an instastory dedicated to just teacher tips.  Sometimes it's an organization tip, I may talk about flexible seating or a new product launch.  Lots of times I talk about behavior management or an art idea.  I often include freebies too so you don't want to miss out!
Tune in each Sunday ( while school is in session ) I typically don't do it over holiday breaks and not often in the summer.  You can find me here:

I would love to have you join me and see what I'm up to each week.  
As always ~ happy teaching my friends!!

Early readers and Comprehension

Tuesday, January 16, 2018
SSupport your early readers by using your small group time effectively.

I've spent most of my career in first grade so I'm pretty passionate about all things literacy and reading instruction.  I know how difficult it is to not only get your students to grade level and beyond, instill a love of reading in them and teach them comprehension.  Not to mention fluency and phonetic instruction...whew!  Makes me tired just thinking about it!

I have since moved up to third grade and I have to say I do miss all the phonetic work I did with my firsties.  There's so much to learn and it's all so exciting!  I give #allthecredit to first grade my mind they have the hardest job.  There are so  many expectations put on these little 6 year olds nowadays.  I do struggle with this as well...if you've followed me for very long you know I'm quite passionate about the  #letthembelittle philosophy.  However, I'm here to share some ideas on teaching reading and encourage you along the way.

One thing for your 'real' littles is this - remember what Jen Jones said best:

YES!  Reading pictures is foundational, I loved watching my own children make up words to picture books when they were 3 years old.  They looked at the pictures and read what they saw.  This is an important step and it's okay to encourage it.

One way I supported my struggling readers was through pictures and words.  This gave them confidence and scaffolding at the same time.  
Talking about text is sooo important, I can't stress that enough!  Talk about text with think alouds while you are reading aloud whole class, talk about text in small guided reading groups.  Your students are going to remember what they are reading by making connections to the text, so if you are talking about it they are more likely to find a connection.  Even better if they can make a sensory connection, if you can tap into their senses and make a connection that way it is likely to stick with them.  
Background knowledge or schema is super important too.  I think sometimes as teacher we make some assumptions as we teach and we need to stop doing that.  Our students come from a wide range of backgrounds.  Their experiences are different from ours and from each others.  So, be sure to discuss what you are reading and see if they are truly understanding the text again making connections as much as you can along the way for them.
Reading between the lines is an important skill that even your young readers can draw upon.  If they can draw inferences out of the text they are going to be successfulWhen you are reading aloud whole class model these strategies so when they are asked to do them they will have a road map of how to get there.  Show them how they can read between the lines and find out what the author is trying to tell us even if it's not spelled out.
You, as their guide will help them with any fix up strategies they need in small groups.  They rely on you to reinforce those tricky phonetic skills and help them with the strategies they need to be successful readers.
If you have young, reluctant readers that still need a bit of scaffolding you will find success with this product:  You can get it ( here )

early comprehension for kindergarten

As you can see the pictures and the short easy to read passages are perfect for your youngest learners.

kindergarten comprehension

This next pack is perfect for your youngest readers, helping them along with the basics.  You can grab it ( here )

kindergarten reading posters
 These basic posters are perfect for your young readers.

vowel word work
 Basic letter work and vowel practice is key!

kindergarten assessments
  Assessments for concepts of print, letter recognition etc is also included in this pack.

mini book for kindergarten on how to read a book
 A mini book that reminds them how to properly hold a book, read etc.

cvc, segmenting sounds and finger spelling to help with phonics instruction
 Cvc words and finger spelling perfect for small group instruction.

Making sure your students are tracking correctly in reading.
 Another important skill to keep your eye on is tracking, this pack has you covered.

Finding the differences between letters and words and consonants and vowels

Working on understanding the basics of : is it a letter or a word and understanding the differences between consonant and vowels will be very helpful as well.

 Lastly, my phonemes pack is very helpful for your readers that are still getting hung up on decoding.  It helps them break words down into chunks or use finger spelling as a strategy.  Grab it ( here )

phonemes, word work, phonics and finger spelling

I hope these ideas help transform your small group time to be more effective for even your most reluctant readers.  
Happy teaching! 

The Math Struggle

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

the math struggle, stop rescuing your students

Welcome to my

The struggle is real guys ~ the math struggle that is... our district has been trained in using the Julie Dixon math strategies for a couple of years now and I have mixed thoughts about it, however....
My foundation for math was poor at best!  I have always struggled in math, growth mindset or not because I had NO... I mean ZERO foundation.  I basically skipped first grade and went from kindergarten to 2nd.  I was an excellent reader and tagged as gate/super smart back then ( mid- to late 70's ).  My mom was a teacher so I happened to be a strong reader.  So, my school put 4 of us into a 2nd grade classroom straight from kindergarten and on top of that our teacher was 100  very old and well how do I say this nicely - close to retirement and it was obvious that her head wasn't in the game anymore unfortunately for me.  I'll never forget raising my hand in class...granted I was not the outgoing person I am now.  In fact I was quite shy until about third grade.  I asked her to further explain borrowing/regrouping for me since I only learned the basics like 10 - 6 in kinder.  She lashed out at me and said,        " You are suppose to be one of the smart ones. "
" You just need to catch up with the 2nd graders and get to it. "  She DID NOT, I repeat DID NOT explain math to me.  The girl I sat by who was a 2nd grader...I'll never forget her name - Hillary said this to me, " You're dumb! "  Wow, I was broken...devastated.  I never raised my hand in that class again during math.  It's funny I taught first grade for 15 years...I feel like I was making up for the non existent experience I had in first grade in that 1/2 combo class.  Yeah, it was suppose to be a combo class and she literally said out loud,  you first graders since there's only 4 of you are going to just get 2nd grade twice.  WOW, that's all I can say.
So with all that being said, I spent about 20 years RESCUING my students in math.  FOR real folks!  If one of my littles looked like they were struggling in math - I jumped up and practically gave them the answer so they didn't feel like I did waaayy back then.  I never really thought much about it until I met Juli Dixon over 2 years ago.  
She spends a lot of her time teaching teachers to STOP rescuing their students.  That really hit home to me, I mean I was a teacher, I'm in the helping profession, I love kids...blah, blah, blah!  Let's face it I wasn't doing any of them any favors by jumping to their rescue.  There's something to be said about the productive struggle that students go through.  No pain, no gain we hear that all the time in regards to working out and staying in shape right?!  
I started to shift my mindset and try out some of her strategies and...guess what!?!  I learned a lot about myself and my students.  I reevaluated the way I taught math, looked at math and the way math was perceived by my students because of how I have always felt about math.  I look back and think how many times I had rushed through math to get to something I loved to teach...seriously!!!!  UGH!
I started to ask open ended questions and give tasks with less directions and manipulatives and watch them work in groups collaboratively to figure things out.  I gave lots more time to my math block and actually had fun teaching it.  My mindset began to change quickly as I saw that my students loved math and even more as I started to see light bulb moments all over my classroom start to happenMath is now one of my favorite subjects to teach!!!
There is a fine line between the productive struggle and losing the student I get it...but I do challenge you to look at how you are helping your students.  Are you giving them too much help/direction?  Are you rescuing them before they could reach it on their own and find their own success?  Just some food for thought in our ever changing and evolving journey as a teacher.  As always happy teaching my friends! 

Winter Ideas and freebies

Friday, January 5, 2018
Have you gone back to school or are you headed back Monday?  Well I have a couple ideas I want to share with you that might make your first week back more bearable.
One is something to help you reconnect with your students and make them feel special and it's easy - who doesn't love easy?
Print out snowflake clipart and either hand write or type a special message to each child.  Set it on their desk first thing in the morning and you are all set.  Some kids have a little anxiety when it's time to come back to school so this should ease that and make them feel right at home again.  If you are interested in having your own editable page so all you have to do it print and write or print and type you can click ( here ) for your own copy to make your life easier...OR you can just use your ellison machine and punch out the snowflakes with construction paper.

snowflake note to students

Another fun art project you can do with your students the first week back or anytime in January is this adorable snowman art.  It is so easy it can even be done during a reading group rotation.  You can grab this cute freebie ( here )

Lastly, another idea if you are in need of writing thank you notes for all your wonderful Christmas gifts from your students is this cute backdrop....

Set this up in your classroom and have each child stand against it.  They can just stand and smile or hold up a banner that says thank you.  You can make one, you can pick up a chalkboard heart garland from Target and write thank you on that...lots of ideas.  Then glue to a blank card or even index card if you are desperate and you're all set.  The parents will appreciate that you took the time to say thank you but they will LOVE the card you gave them also.  It's a #winwin!
I hope these ideas will help you ease back into the school year my friends.  Happy teaching! 

Tips to re engage your students after a holiday break

Sunday, December 31, 2017
Christmas break, Spring name it and well ~ let's all be honest here - Teachers LOVE it!  Don't get us wrong we love our students to pieces and pour our heart and soul into them, but we be tired peeps!  Can I hear an amen!?!?!

We love our break and sometimes staying in our PJ's all day...ok that doesn't really happen that often if you are a busy mom but even if for a few hours we can pee when we want, drink coffee in peace and not be on a schedule...yes please!

With that being said, we kinda sorta dread don't eagerly await heading back to school.  Again, it's not because of the kids - we miss them and adore them.  BUT, getting back into a routine, not wearing our pj's till noon, ( ok, I never do that but I've seen pics on Instagram of teachers that do ) LOL and more importantly getting our students back in the groove can be a bit let's say ...rough.
I mean how many times do we say to our students," You couldn't do that back in August and you know you can't do that now."  "We've been in school 5 months you know where to turn that in. "    
" Johnny, we don't eat glue!" 
 This part is not our favorite, it seems like we spend much of January re training our students
Believe me I'm not putting down our precious friends, but again in all honesty this is reality right teacher friends!?!?  So what to do, what to do???
My biggest tip for getting their behavior back on track is to...

behavior management tips for after holiday breaks

I know that sounds kinda counter intuitive right!?!?!  I mean we are all about consistency and a stable environment, etc. etc.  So why in the world would we switch things up?  Well I view it kinda like when you have hit a plateau in a weight loss journey.  I mean wasn't it Albert Einstein that had the quote, " The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting the same result. "  If you have hit a plateau in your weight loss - you change things up, hit the gym or the running trails, hop in the pool, start weight training if you haven't.  It's kinda the same with behavior management sometimes.  
Don't bang your head against a wall - repeating yourself to your students and using the plan you have always used.  

Try something new, and watch the magic happen my friends.  Your students will be more attentive and strive to do better if they are trying to achieve something they haven't 'seen' before.  It will be new and exciting to them and they will strive to hit the mark.

behavior management tips

Every single time I switch things up I get a great return for my investment if that makes sense.  Whether I think of this new 'thing' myself or find another teacher sista from another mista or brother from another motha that has a brilliant idea that I can use I always try something new.  I love watching their sweet faces and seeing their eyes light up and their ears perk up.  They want to hear what they can earn and how... the how is important folks.  The how is very important.  Yes, they can earn table points, yes you can pick a mystery walker...blah, blah, blah.  I'm not putting these things down because they work.  BUT what about buying a puzzle at the dollar store and they earn a piece every time you get a compliment or see the class engaging and working together to solve problems.  Instead of working quietly maybe they earn it by having academic maybe it's a little louder in your room but they are engaged and having great discussions!!! 
 When the puzzle is complete they can earn SOMETHING THAT YOU HAVE NEVER OFFERED BEFORE.  Have you had a forts and flashlights day?  ( flashlights can be purchased for a dollar in the camping section of Walmart btw )...pssh - they LOVE this day!  Have you had a bubble blowing day on the playground?  Buy some bubbles and give your students wands and let them...wait for it - PLAY!!!! Yes, I said it - play!  Be creative there are lots of rewards you can give them that don't cost you much.  I recently had a flashlights and fort day in my classroom and asked the kids to bring in flashlights, I had a handful for kids that forgot and others shared.  I heard my students saying, " This is the best day ever!"
Keep your rules and expectations the same, I'm not suggesting you do something crazy.  But, switch up an incentive to get them back on track.  Have you ever spelled out a mystery phrase and they earn letters?  They love trying to solve it Wheel of Fortune style...and it cracks me up.  As they earn more letters it gets easier for them to figure out and if they figure it out before they earn all the letters that's okay because they are still just as excited.  Here's a list of some ideas you can add to your repertoire or re use if you forgot about it or haven't used it in years...

behavior management tips

What are some things you do to switch things up in your classroom when you think your students could use a 'jumpstart'?  As always my friends, happy teaching!

Parent Gift bags made easy

Tuesday, December 12, 2017
Happy Wednesday this ( short ) edition of 

I wanted to talk to you about parents gifts and the presentation 
( i.e. gift bag/ wrapping etc. )
So, years ago I would have the kids sponge paint the lunch bags with cute holiday themed stamps that I had....

homemade christmas gift bag
Now let's just take a minute and be honest....I've taught first grade for 14 years and 2nd for 5 and now I'm in 3rd again after teaching it 10 years ago for a couple years.  The first graders would, God bless them, somehow make the angels or stars look like I right?!?!  I know... I have kids - I get's cute and adorable and everyone can get a nice laugh out of it but I still think the 2nd picture is cute too.  So, take your pic or switch it off each year but the way to create the bag with the hole punches and the fabric bow always stays the same.  I've been making these bags like this for 20 years now.

Now, I know some of you are all about 'team let the kids' do it...that's fine.  I'm just saying I like the 2nd way better.  I've done my fair share of the messy kid done bags and now I have the kids make them this way.  They still have the homemade gift inside it so I don't feel bad about it.  
Also just fold the bag over and hole punch, then add the bow.  I use fabric and just rip it against the grain to make these thinner strips.  Then I weave them through the hole punches and create the's super easy and always looks nice.  You can use any fabric you have on hand or purchase a holiday themed fabric too.
It's also cute to use the sponges on brown packing paper and then you can help the kids wrap the gift but honestly I've never done it that way.  I've had other teacher friends do it, it just to me would take to long.  The drop and go gift bag is just so easy!  #aintnobodygottimeforhardstuffindecember

Anywho... if you've never made the parent gift bags like this before you need to give it a try!
See you next week!

Keeping it real with Elf on the Shelf

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Hello, hello, hello welcome to another edition of ...

I'm here to talk to you about December and things that go along with it.  If you go to my search bar ( to the right ) and type elf on the shelf I think I have at least 6 posts on that to give you ideas.  What is going down in my room this year however is saving my sanity!!

This year our elf - Snowflake - who I may or may not have a love/hate relationship with...well we have shall you say come to an agreement....
She arrived in my classroom on Dec. 1st this year.  By Monday the 4th she had a very large note for us to read that stated this:

elf on the shelf ideas

So, my students learned quickly that Snowflake's magic 'kicks' in only on Wednesdays.  It's kinda like a caffeine high. LOL  They fell for it hook, line and sinker.  They didn't even question it.  Seriously!?!? #teacherwin 
So, she used her magic and moved Tuesday night ( tonight ) so Wednesday she will be in her new spot.  I can't wait to see what they think and am so thankful she doesn't have to 'use' her magic until next Wednesday.  I can now go about my business ~ like get them ready for the district writing assessment, talk to my friends in the morning without panicking about her moving, get to am duty without stressing, etc.
Ahh, the elf on the shelf isn't so bad guys really.  You need to give it a try. LOL

OR use this excuse...

Happy December sweet teacher friends!!