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Growth Mindset...what's all the hype?

growth mindset - how to implement into your classroom, ideas, tips on growth mindset

Growth mindset - another 'buzz' word in education right now right along with rigorous, data, scaffolding, brain break, etc.  Let me tell you a little about growth mindset and how it changed my classroom community last year.

Growth mindset is defined as believing that most basic abilities that we were born with or have grown into can be further developed through dedication and hard work.  This mindset believes brains and talent are just the starting point and the sky's the limit.  This concept was developed by Dweck in 2006 and in recent years schools and educators have taken notice and implemented her ideas.

Last summer I did a little reading up on it and thought I would give it a try by introducing the concept to my students.  I did it in a very cheerleader, peppy kind of way.  My thought was if I was excited and into it they would 'buy into' it.  It worked!  YAY me!  I teach third grade so it wasn't too hard.  Let me tell you why I'm so glad I did this from DAY 1.  I had a student - we will call him Robert.  He came into my room with a long response from the previous teacher's ( pink's and blue's ).  I think most of you know what I'm talking about....this blue card is what prompted me to write this quote last year BTW:

teacher quote, give each student a fresh start, inspirational

Back to my story - this young man had a very fixed mindset.  This is the definition of a fixed mindset:  the belief that their basic qualities, like their intelligence or talent are simply fixed traits.  They also believe that talent alone dictates their success without effort.  They often make excuses for their failures creating a self fulfilling prophecy - " I'll never be able to do math because I've always been terrible at it."  This self talk is so destructive and halts their learning process. 
This young man had self talk that broke my heart, he thought he was terrible at everything and was known to throw a pencil and run out of the classroom to deal with his stress.
From day 1 I spoke about Growth and Fixed mindsets and how our class was taking on the growth mindset route.  I spoke a lot about being 'big kids' as in third grade my students move to the big kid hallway.  I said things like, " we are in the big kid hallway and this is what is expected of us..."  My students rose to the occasion and I loved hearing them 'check themselves or their friends.'  For instance, I heard things like, " no, you can do this remember we have a growth mindset in our class."  " You got this!"  The positivity was flowing like crazy...no joke!  My class last year was the most positive, loving, encouraging classroom environment I've ever had - AND - I'm a 23 year veteran.  The shift in how we spoke to one another and how we looked at challenges was overwhelming to watch happen...in a good way of course.  I would get choked up at my desk listening to my students encourage this little guy that struggled so much. 
The best moment I think was before state tests ( which c'mon it's hard for anyone to be positive around that time right?!?!  )  No one says, I love state tests! 
This little guy came up and told me how nervous he was for the state tests.  He said, " I'll probably just fail!"  I said, " Robert, you know better than that of course you're going to rock them.  Just do your best and focus on how far you've come this year. "  He smiled really big and said, " You're right Mrs. Moore, I've got this! "  It made my heart melt.  This is a child that never said anything positive regarding school since kindergarten.  
If the only reason I incorporated growth mindset last year was to reach him then it was all worth it, because let me tell you - He changed!  Everyone on campus noticed his mental/behavioral change.  It was amazing to watch happen over the year.
I'm sold, I wish I knew about this years ago and I'm looking forward to teaching it to my students every year.  I'm all about building a classroom community and building relationships first...always have been.  This goes right along with that philosophy and fit it perfectly with how I run my classroom.  If  you'd like to learn more you can read about it  { here }

You can grab some growth mindset products to get you started here as well.

growth mindset printables, craftivity, ideas to implement into your classroom

growth mindset reflection printables

I just want to challenge you to give it a try in your classroom this year, I'm certain it will be a game changer for you like it was for me.  Best of luck!

7 Helpful Tips for Teachers for Back to School

It's July...some of you are in FULL summer mode #donttalktomeaboutschool others are heading back in just a few short weeks.  Either way you will want to read this now or pin these tips for later.  

Back to School teacher tips for an easy school year.  Get organized and ready for a successful year.

Back to School - it can be seen as a four letter word for some, others embrace it and can't wait.  I know I start to have Back to School nightmares starting around the end of July.  I love all things back to school though.  The new clothes, new crayons, decorating my classroom.  I love it all!  I have some friends that dread back to school time and seriously wish they could fast forward to October - so I wanted to share 7 tried and true tips for teachers for Back to School.

1.  Get Organized ASAP ~ even if this isn't your strength you need to find a way to do this to set yourself up for a smooth teaching year.  If you need to seek out help from others, pin ideas on pinterest, do what you have to in order to get those cabinets and files in order.  

It doesn't even have to be this pretty - Cara Carroll has created a beautiful space indeed.  However, if all you have in your budget are containers and index cards use what you have, label and organize your materials and files.  Trust me you will thank me later!

2.  Have a plan ~ you need to have a plan in place for your procedures, rules, consequences, etc.  Think about every.little.thing...how will the traffic of your classroom flow, can they get up to sharpen a pencil, what is your bathroom policy?  Click photo to find a procedures check off list from classroomfreebies

classroom procedures are key to having a great school year, back to school

3.  Build relationships right from the start!  This is my personal favorite.  I'm all about building relationships and making my classroom feel like a 'family'.  We are with our students more than the parents during the day and we need to build those relationships and create a risk free environment right away.  Yes, building those relationships takes time - but don't waste it.  Let them know that you want to get to know them and care about them from the minute you meet them.  You can read more about this topic on my post { here }

building relationships in the classroom is one of the most important things you can do, back to school tips

4.  Plan the first 2 weeks!  Yes, I know it seems a bit extreme, but trust me you will be glad you did this.  Do you have a wonderful team?  Plan it out with them, I'm pretty sure at least one of them will be up for it.  OVERPLAN the first 2 days for sure, but go ahead and plan out your first 2 weeks to make you feel more comfortable.  You will have a lot coming at you those first few weeks.  Tweaks to your class list, new staff or team members, maybe even new admin, Back to School night, Meet the teacher night.  Yikes, it makes me tired just thinking about it all.

over plan the first few weeks of school, back to school tip Teaching and Much Moore

5.  Visual Schedules are your friend!  It doesn't matter if you teach kinder or 5th grade.  Kids will come in a bit anxious especially if they are new to your school and a schedule helps them feel more at ease.  They know what to expect for the day if they see a schedule up...so use one from the first day on! 

Leave a daily schedule up even from the first day to help anxious kids feel more confident, back to school tips.

6.  Have an organized system down for accepting donations from families.  I don't know about you but I'm lucky enough to teach in a district that has lots of parent involvement and support.  When I greet students on the first day most of them are carrying 2 big bags of donations along with their backpack or they are being followed by mom or dad with big bags of donations.  Your room will quickly become cluttered if you don't have a system down for this.  I prepped crates before school started and labeled them - glue, crayons, paper, etc.  While the students were working on something independent I called groups of kids to drop their donations in the crates.  They felt important and I was quickly organized...it was a win - win and reduced the crazy first week clutter quickly.  

Prep labeled crates to collect school supplies students bring in the first week of school.  Back to school tip, Teaching and Much Moore

7.  Take a deep breath - have fun, relax.  This is more for newer teachers but I still get some butterflies after all these years teaching so it's a little reminder for myself as well.  If you come across anxious or nervous your students and parents will pick up on that.  Be confident you were born for this, let the parents know you will LOVE on their kids like they were your very own.  Enjoy your year and build memories that will last a lifetime.  
( Most of them )  will only have 1 first/kinder/third/etc. grade teacher - make this year memorable!

Build those relationships with your students and their families right from the start.  Back to School teacher tips.

I hope these tips help you relax and head into your best teaching year ever!  Happy teaching my friends!

My first year of flexible seating

I wrote about my flexible seating transition ( here ) and it was very early on in the beginning stages.  I promised you that I would give you an update and now that I have a year under my belt I wanted to share my thoughts.  

A Year of Flexible Seating: everything I learned (the good and the bad) from my first year with flexible seating!

I'll be honest it wasn't the easiest transition for me......for them, not a problem but for me - it took some time.  As I mentioned in my previous post on flexible seating - teachers tend to be a teeny weeny bit controlling so that was an adjustment on my part.  I had to adjust and adjust and adjust but.... I finally found my happy place a few months in...yes a few months in.  For me it took that long to get use to it and all the changes it brought.  I certainly don't think I'm stuck in my ways - I've been teaching 23 years but am always looking for the newest, more dynamic way to teach a lesson.  But I will tell you that I'm very use to the 'flow' I have in my classroom and that 'flow' was disrupted by bringing in flexible seating this year.
One of the heavy hitters of change was: not having table points anymore. I love table points and have used them for years.  

Another big one for me was all the movement.  It's very hard to not have the extra movement no matter how organized you are or how many stations you have.  I use cubbies since there aren't really desks for every child.  When we change subjects etc. students are getting up to get what they need from their cubbies etc.  That has taken some getting use to as well.  

When I started in August I had the kids change seats once a day - oh.my.word. y'all.  That was too much for me!  I felt like I was missing valuable teaching time just by the seat changes so that HAD.TO.STOP.  #stopthecraziness
That was the first change I made...I played around with different seating arrangements and started to get semi use to it but I was still terribly missing my behavior management tool of table points.  A few months in I had a thought.  What if the students chose their spot for the week instead of just a day?  Would I be missing the whole point of the flexible seating philosophy?  I stewed on that for a while ~ but gave it a try.  Guess what?!!?  It worked!!!  It worked like a charm in fact!  
My students picked their spots via: a Lucky Duck system I use on Monday mornings.  Some students are drawn to the same spot anyway.  For instance I have 7 traditional desks with a mix of hooki stools and traditional chairs and I always have a few kids that always picked that.  I have another grouping of desks that have traditional desks with ball chairs ( with backs ).  Then I have a standing table with stools and balls.  Next I have a cushion table         ( long lowered table ), a round ( lowered ) table with cushions and awesome backpatter seats (pictured above), some IKEA desks with crate seats and some gamer chairs.  So I do have quite a lot of choices thanks to Donor's Choose and donations. ( I will talk about how I funded my classroom in another post ).  **I have more detailed pictures of my classroom on my previous post I mentioned with a link at the top.**
But having them choose for the week has worked for me and that particular class.  Every year is different and the students bring different personalities and needs to the classroom so I will have to revisit this next year.
Since they choose for the entire week - guess what?!!?  I was able to bring table points back.  It was wonderful and I felt at home once again.  If a student decided that the spot they chose wasn't for them - that was okay.  They could still find a new spot ( as I have a few extras ) or change with a friend.  I worked out a system where if it was the middle of the week or later they could bring their table points with them to the new spot - so in essence when picking for Fun Friday if the table they sat at for most of the week had more points then they would pick their activity with that table even if they moved if that makes sense.
I will tell you - I haven't had more than 25 kids in over 20 years.  I was lucky enough to teach for almost 12 years with class size reduction of 20 or less.  As we lost that funding my classes have been around 23 or 24 students.  This past year I had  one of the biggest classes I've ever had....28 third graders.  I will tell you it was one of the best teaching years I've had in a while.  I had little to no behavior problems and call me crazy but I think some of it had to do with flexible seating.  There's something about giving (some) control over to a child that makes them not seek it in other ways. I don't know what all the research says or even if there has been enough research but if I taught a class of 28 and it felt like I had a class of 20 that's a win -win people.  Not to mention 28 full blown desks in there would have made it difficult to walk around , etc and I felt like I had a lot of open space.  Visitors that came to my room always told me my class looked so clean and uncluttered. But the transformation I saw in my students was what it's all about.  I saw students go from from picking a 'spot' by their friend the first week of school to picking a 'spot' that they learned best in every single time. 
I saw my students truly engaging on topic with their peers and making wise choices for themselves and their learning.  They learned more about themselves and how they best learn as well.
So how did it go you ask???  I'd say it's a winner, I'm sold!  And yes, every year I will monitor my class and make sure I'm meeting their needs how I need to be but this teacher (and more importantly her students ) right here ended up LOVING flexible seating!

Incorporating STEM

STEM ~ it can seem overwhelming if you are not familiar with it....what is it?  How can I use it in my classroom?  Where can I learn more?
STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.  This blog post is all about using STEM in the elementary classroom.  STEM activities will get your students engaged and learning and they will be rigorous and challenging for them.

Using STEM in the classroom

STEM is definitely part of the 21st Century learning movement that let's face it, is happening and needs to happen.
If you google STEM you can find all kinds of information all over the internet on it.  Another great resource for STEM is Brooke Brown from Teach Outside the Box.

My challenge to you is to not be afraid of STEM and find ways to incorporate it more in you classroom.  Almost anything can be used as a springboard for STEM.  You just have to be creative and think how it can be used/applied.

For instance, if you teach TK, or kindergarten and you are having a Bear week with a Teddy Bear Picnic to culminate your week.  You can include a STEM activity during that week that your little learners would LOVE!  I  just added a yummy gummy bear STEM project in my Teddy Bear Pack - which you can find here:

Almost any unit that you teach in social studies or science with some thought, collaboration and planning can be turned into a STEM activity.  You can take a unit on plants and create a greenhouse.... any habitat unit can easily be used with a STEM project.  Just remember that a STEM project is NOT a glorified science experiment.  If you are giving your students step by step instructions than it is not considered a STEM project.  A STEM project requires deep thinking, problem solving, collaboration and so much more.  A step by step science experiment is just that - an experiment.  Please don't confuse the two!
So as you venture into releasing more control and allowing your students to investigate, collaborate and be true thinkers...enjoy the moment.  Watch your students grow, and learn.  Watch them take on challenges and maybe even struggle a bit.  #thestrugglebusneverhurtanyone ~ ~ It's part of learning, growing and developing as a thinker. 
I even struggled when I recently did a STEM project at the Happy Go Teach conference last week...but look how happy I was when we overcame.


 It's exciting and I hope you give STEM a try as you are planning your new school year.  Let me know if you did try it here in the comments or you can visit my

Also be sure to visit my store:  One of my projects this summer is to add STEM projects to several of my products, I've already started and it's been fun.  If you have already purchased these be sure to re download them for the extra goodie.  When you visit my store any products that I've added STEM to will look like this:

Happy 'STEMMING' my friends! 

End of the year Craftivity

Welcome back to Wait for it Wednesday 

I'm looking at single digits to finish off my school year right now and I'm feeling a bit sad to see my 3rd graders go!  What a wonderful year we've had together.  I try so hard to keep the last few weeks very structured - the kids need it and let's be honest...I need it too!
So I pulled out this oldie but goodie.  In fact, I was telling my students that I haven't done this craft in probably 4 years.  It was so fun and they loved working on it this afternoon.  It's a popsicle craftivity.  To me popsicles remind me of summertime and so I gave them a prompt of summer is cool or summer is sweet because...

They had a blast decorating their popsicle and I LOVE how my third graders made them each unique and different.    It's very low prep - I ran off popsicles on solid and scrapbook printed paper and provided googly eyes, rafia, scrap paper, sharpies and let them go to town.  I pulled up mouth images on google to show them different ways they could draw a mouth as well.  It was a fun day and they loved taking these home with them.

They choose which googly eyes they wanted, whether they wanted rafia or eyelashes or dots...so creative!

If you think your students would love this to fill in a fun activity for your last week(s) of school you can grab it here:

Happy { almost } summer  friends!

Smartie Pants Freebie

Are you in need of some hump day help!?  You've come to the right place...welcome to my newest edition of:

It's nearing the end of the school year, you need a quick, inexpensive gift for your students...what to do?!!  Maybe you are tackling state testing soon and you want a little something special for your students...well I have something I'm sure they'll love.  I've been making this fun little treat for my students for a few years now and it's always been a big hit.
Honestly I've used it mostly for the end of the year but this year I'm prepping it to encourage them for state testing.

So all you need for this is:

blue construction paper or fun astro bright paper.
Smarties candy
raffia or other cute twine
card stock for tag

This is a cheap, easily prepped treat you can give to your students.  It's a way of saying: "Hey great job this year, you are so smart!" OR "I know you'll rock the state test, you are incredibly smart!"

These are different versions I've done over the years.  If you want to try it out you can get the template and pack FREE in my store 
( here )
Give it a try and tell me what you think!  Happy { almost } end of the year my teacher friends!

Desert Habitat Ideas Wait for it Wednesday

Happy Hump Day !!!  Welcome to another edition of my Wait for it Wednesday!  I'm here to talk to you about teaching on the desert habitat.  When I taught first grade we taught about all the habitats, I enjoyed all of them for different reasons.  Today I want to share about the desert habitat ~ ideas and crafts that we incorporate to make it engaging and memorable for our students.

One of the crafts we always did was the desert scene with a coyote!  First we had the kids paint a beautiful, desert sunset after talking about the colors that would be found in the sky.  I loved how they all turned out so differently.  Some with lots of orange, others with more red or purple.  These always stood out hanging up in our classroom!  Next they would add a black silhouette that we prepared beforehand so all they had to do was glue it down.

The cactus was always a fun touch, the kids enjoyed making it but it also added texture to our display.  The cactus was made with Epsom salt mixed into the tempura which created a bumpy texture that the kids loved.  They painted that right onto card stock which was pre cut and then when all dry we added a tissue flower to the side.

We also made snakes and camels.  The pictures haven't been added yet to this pic but we would have the kids pose like they were riding the camel and wave with sunglasses and a big hat on.  We then cut them out carefully and had them 'wave' at the camera.  Here's a sample:

It's hard to tell from the desert scene photo above but on the snakes we had pre cute triangles and we had them make patterns with the triangles on their snakes too.

Another idea for the cactus is breaking pieces of toothpick and sticking them on the cactus or using a plastic fork which would give it this type of look:

Of course sprinkle in some writingm comprehension, studying lots of different types of animals and their adaptions and brace maps and you are all set to have a special unit on deserts.  You can check mine out here if you want an easy to use pack:  You can get it          ( here )

Hope you can use some of these ideas when you teach on deserts.
Happy teaching, 

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