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How to Survive Halloween Week

First:  Get a sub all week!  Totally kidding
I am a fan of Halloween and love any excuse to get dressed up.  But Halloween on a Monday c'mon are you serious!?!?!  That just doesn't sound like the best way for a teacher to start his/her week.
So I have some fun, engaging activities and ideas that you can try out this week to hopefully make it flow much easier and make it more memorable for your students.
If you teach K or 1 maybe even 2 it's a great time to review rhyming words and word families.  I like to use my 

This includes a center too with several rhyming word cards.  It could even be used as a rotation at a Halloween Party so that you make it educational.

This freebie has lots of options that can easily be included during rotations during a classroom party or just at different times during the week, maybe seat work or math center time even. Get it here!

This is always a great visual for kids when working on adjectives.  Another idea ~ buy a pumpkin and write adjectives on it.  Have your students sit in a circle and touch it feel it etc., then you can write those adjectives on the pumpkin. Get it here!

Need behavior help this week...who doesn't?!?!  Here's a fun way to keep them focused!

Here's some ideas for math activities this week :  Free as well!  Grab it here!

Here are a few more Halloween packs that will make your week fun you can grab in my store here:

Grab the craftivity here  or the counting/color book here

Have your class make a Halloween bunting ( get it here )  to decorate the room!

Well good luck my teacher friends...at least there's not a full moon too.  I hope I've given you lots of options to make your week extra special with your sweet little monsters. xoxo,

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!

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