Powered by Blogger.

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?

Wait for it Wednesday ~ Spelling

Welcome to another edition of: 

Spelling ~ it can be seen as a chore, some even view it as unnecessary in our day and age.  I have always loved spelling.  It has come naturally for me since I was a child...unless you are counting auto correct in texting then not so much. LOL
I've been listening to people argue how with spell check and technology being so prevalent that the need to know how to spell correctly is not as important as it once was...I highly disagree!
I was having a discussion with my third graders and showed them various notes written that could be sent from an employee to their boss or co worker.  They laughed at the misspellings.  I asked them if they thought it looked professional to have words spelled incorrectly, then  I asked if the notes looked like they were written by an educated person.  It got them thinking and realizing how important it is to understand patterns in words and spell correctly.

I think every grade level 1st - 5th at my site offers a weekly spelling list.  I usually have 16 - 20 words that focus on a phonetic skill to reinforce.  Daily practice activities can get: boring!  So I compiled some clever ideas that I've come across to spice up your spelling work:

Look at this adorable idea from my friend Christina @ Mrs. Winters Bliss { here }

Here's another idea from my friend Molly @Lucky to be in First - read more about it { here }

I have a spelling pack you can grab with several options to make it more engaging for kids. { here }

With photo copying being at an all time low in our district I try to use my white boards as much as possible for practicing our spelling.

Don't you just LOVE this spelling game idea from my friend Justine @ The Typical Mom ~ read all about her awesome idea 
{ here } and be sure to follow her for more kid friendly ideas and recipes.

How about spelling through technology:  Here are some great spelling apps from The Measured Mom.  Read more about them  
{here} ~ great way to focus on specific skills: long vowels in spelling,  double consonants, etc.

Hopefully I've given you some fresh new ideas to use for your spelling/word work block in your day.  If you have some fresh ideas comment below: we'd all love to hear them!

Getting to know your students ~ name activities

Welcome to another edition of Wait for it Wednesday:

Fun with names ~ ~ name activities are a GREAT way to start the year off for your young learners!  When I taught first grade it was a must!  We would read Chicka Chicka Boom Boom talk about the letters, listen to the fun song ( Scholastic has this ) and make a fun snack.

Here's a picture of my sweet boy in first grade with his Chicka Chicka name snack:

This snack does definitely involve some prep:  I bag up each child's name letters or I think finding them in a bowl would take FOREVER!  So each child's name is bagged up and obviously not in the correct order in the bag so they put it in the right order and stick them down on the peanut butter celery stick.


** JUST be sure of your kids with allergies before making this **
Another fun name activity is what we called the 'bean name'.  We would teach our students the name poem/chant and then glue beans onto their names on tag board.  It looks something like this:

The first few weeks of school we make a BIG deal about their names:  talking about how many letters ( and graphing that of course ), talking about how many vowels, how they got their name, what they think of their name etc.  We sit in a circle and say this poem together.  Our grade level would have a pom pom and  megaphone in the circle too.  Then we go around one at a time and do one of the things the poem says: sing our name, announce our name, snap our name, growl , wiggle or howl our name, etc.  They laugh as we go around and take turns doing it.

So as you can see I have them decide on a pattern first with unifex cubes.  Then they recreate that pattern with beans.  You can't see from the pictures but we put different beans in a cupcake pan so they are already separated for the kids and easy to grab.  Then we place a couple cupcake pans at each table so they have plenty of beans.

I have this fun pack that helps with ideas on ways to use their names and make learning one another's name fun the first week or so of school.  You can grab that { here }  It's a dollar off this week!

So hopefully you are getting to know your kids and building that awesome sense of classroom community right now in your room.  Learning names and having lots of name activities certainly helps to build community quickly.  Happy first ( few days or weeks ) of school my friends.  You were born to do this ~ making a difference everyday in your classroom! 

Wait for it Wednesday ~ Class Birthday celebrations

Welcome to another edition of :

So curious how you all celebrate birthdays at your sites...I love being friends with teachers all over the world and hearing how different things are done at different districts.  
So with that being said I want to share how my birthday celebrations have evolved over the years.
Back in the day - parents would bring in  cupcakes with mile high frosting and the kids would be on a sugar high for days hours that's why the smart teachers did the celebration 10 minutes before school got out. LOL
Then the healthy kids movement came through So. Cal and my district NO LONGER allowed sweets or home baked items.  So there were very limited items on the list that they could bring in ~ ~ which included skinny cows.  Let me tell you that's about all the parents bring in and it got old after a while. I wanted cookies or wine even.  KIDDING, kidding of course.
But seriously jump ahead a few more years and I started receiving longer allergy lists from the nurse and emails from parents about kids with special diets.  ( gluten free, dairy free etc. ) It became more of a 'chore' to celebrate a birthday: kids were feeling left out because they couldn't eat the skinny cow ice cream or had allergies, etc.   I found myself consoling first graders during what was suppose to be a fun celebration.  That started becoming not.so.fun!
SO ~ about 4 years ago I did away with birthdays well not really.  I told the parents at Back to School night that I loved birthdays and wanted to make their child feel extra special on those days but I no longer allowed food to be brought in.  The first time I did it I was soo nervous for Back to School Night.  I felt like a first year teacher.  My palms were sweating and I was like : they are going to eat me alive.  Do you know what...after I said it, I had about  two thirds of the parents clap.  NO JOKE!  They were smiling and clapping and I was so relieved!  However that left the other third...some had crossed arms, angry eyebrows, etc.  But the parents of kids with allergies or the super uber busy working parents ( from home or work ).  Let's be honest raising toddlers is a full time job right?!?!  They cheered, one mom told me afterwards that she was so happy because her child always felt left out due to her special diet and classroom birthday parties brought anxiety.  
I have since then stuck to it and each year I don't get any nasty emails or attitudes.  I provide their child with a fun crazy birthday straw which you can get { here }

They also receive a birthday pencil from the front office and a birthday shout out from the principal.  I also use to give them a fun seat pocket to hang on their chair but now with flexible seating I've replaced that with a special cushion they can use. 
Don't get me wrong:  I 'm a huge proponent of kids being kids and there are many times I think we push kids too hard.  I don't want them missing out on the 'fun' stuff of being a kid at all.  I just want every child to feel supported in my room and for me this works.  It eliminates sad kids and being worried if anyone is allergic to anything that might be brought.  All the while still making the  birthday child feel special!  How do you celebrate?

Also if you need a way to display student birthdays this is brand new in my store:  

You can grab it { here }

Flexible Seating ~ it's not for everyone

Welcome to my  weekly:

It's back to school time & that means my Wait for it Wednesdays blog posts are BACK!!!!  I love the Back to School energy and meeting my new group as well as seeing my big kids that I've taught over the years.  It just makes my heart so happy!
This is my second year with a pirate theme and my first year trying out flexible seating!  
What exactly is flexible seating and what can a 21st century classroom look like?
Well think about how you best read/learn or study?  I know that my 2 teenagers ( that happen to be straight A students ) work best sitting on their bed or couch with a lap desk and a pillow.  I like to be propped up with a pillow behind me or in an over sized comfy chair.  Why not create a classroom with those options?  Flexible seating is an arrangement that a teacher creates to give his/her students freedom of choice for where they learn or work best.

My flexible seating includes:
* a standing table
* kneeling pads/pillows on a lowered table
* regular/ traditional seating
* gamer chairs
* arm pillow chairs
* stools

I will tell you my students LOVE flexible seating!!!  I am learning to love it.  Just keeping it real here...I am a 23 year veteran and I feel like a new teacher this year.  Many of my management 'tricks' from the past don't work in this new environment so I've had to be extra creative.
For instance:
Table Points ~ yeah ~ those don't work anymore unfortunately.  I love table points. :o(  My students don't sit at the same table/spot all day so table points won't work.  Also not all kids are sitting at tables.
Rules  ~ Some of my rules have had to change.  My students don't have desks anymore so there's a bit more movement than I'm use to...and that's okay.  It's just wrapping my brain around all the extra movement has been a little challenging.
Having no desks has been different for sure.  My students now have cubbies which is fine but they need to get UP to grab their math books or their journals throughout the day...in the past they have just pulled them out of their desks.
What I'm observing:   My students are engaged, moving freely in their space, taking ownership of their learning, having more freedom of choice during their day and collaborating more freely.
Raise your hand if you are a teeny, tiny bit controlling ~ if your hand wasn't raised I don't believe you. Teachers are by nature a little bit controlling to some degree right?!?  Well I've released some of the control and they have certainly gained some.  But, I'm realizing that with the freedom of choice some of my behaviors that I normally see popping up have tapered down a bit.  Maybe not having a teacher breathing down their neck  guiding them along is actually beneficial...they are taking ownership of their learning.  I've seen just in the last week kids get up and find a new learning space.  They thought something would work for them but realized 5 minutes in that it wasn't for them.  I LOVE this!  They are realizing at the age of 8 how they best learn.  How great is that?!?!

Here are some pictures of my classroom: 

You can see a facebook live video of my classroom tour on my facebook page if you'd like a closer look:  https://www.facebook.com/teachingandmuchmoore/

Now ~ ~ ~ flexible seating is NOT for everyone!  I've read several posts that mention it's a fad or teachers are jumping on bandwagons.  That's fine, but I had to try it and I'm glad I did.  There needs to be a definite strong management style with this so kids are very CLEAR on your expectations but it can be done.  I will post another time on just how I do manage it but for now I wanted to leave you with some thoughts on the first few days and what I'm learning about it.  Who said teachers aren't always learners...I love that I'm learning and growing everyday with my awesome third graders!!

Back to Top