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The Math Struggle

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

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

Christmas break, Spring break...you 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 conversations...so 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

Happy Wednesday friends....in 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 blobs...am I right?!?!  I know... I have kids - I get it....it'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 bow...it'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

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!!

Santa Key

Little memories and traditions for your kids can make a big imprint on their hearts.

Welcome to another edition of...

During the holidays as I was growing up we did several things that stuck out in my mind as a kid and most of them I've carried on as traditions with my own kids. 

We took turns putting the angel on top of the tree.  I have 3 big brothers and we had an ancient, falling apart, sweet angel that topped it.  I loved getting on my big brothers or dad's shoulders to put it up.  My mom would write the year and the name on the outside of the box so when we took the decorations out we knew whose turn it was to put the angel up.  I wanted it to be my turn every year as you can imagine.   She did the same with the nativity or creche set.  We always knew whose turn it was for that as well and when it was my turn I very carefully placed the animals, wise men, baby Jesus etc. just how I imagined it looked thousands of years ago.

One tradition that my mom brought into my family as a young mother of 2 myself was the Santa Key.  We have always lived in a house since having kids and they had chimneys - but my mom saw the key and thought it would be so cute to give to my kids.  She told them that if the toy bag was too big Santa could just use the key and go in our front door.  My kids enjoyed finding a place to hang the key that Santa could easily find.  

Traditions are special memories that can be recreated from families passing them down to generations.  Looking at Christmas lights of course and singing Christmas carols have been favorites too.

As a teacher I thought how special it would be to have my students make a Santa key that they could use every year and always remember when they made it.  So, this idea came to mind and I knew it needed a special poem to go with it which I wrote myself.  Even if your student lives in a house and Santa can slide down the chimney it can still come in handy.  If their family uses the fireplace or as mentioned previously if Santa's toy sack is too big...well the Santa key will come to the rescue.  If you want to make your very own Santa key with your child or your students - you can grab it here and watch the magic as they smile proudly at their finished creation and hang it ever so carefully in the perfect spot.

Make a Santa Key with your child or students and help to create a fun tradition in their home.

Taking the time to teach social skills in the classroom

We have A LOT to teach...I get it.  I mean there are days I just put an arrow in my lesson plan book to the following day for a skill I just didn't get to...can I hear an amen?!?  
One thing that I will not neglect though is basic social skills.  That will never go out the door for me.

teaching social skills to kids

This has been bothering me for a while and I'm glad to tackle it today on my newest edition of...

Social skills ~ I have heard some teachers talking in the lounge complaining that kids don't have social skills but yet I rarely hear solutions.  I'm a big - if you are going to complain about it, you should also either be open to solutions or have one in mind to at least talk about with someone.  I've heard teachers complaining and blaming the parents for the student's lack of social skills, I've heard them complain and blame technology (I've done both by the way).  I've been teaching for 23 years so I can tell you that I've seen LOTS of changes over the years.  When I first taught we didn't have cell phones or ipads, or mini gaming systems.  I am definitely a tech immigrant and I've seen some effects of technology that I truly don't like at all.
So back to social skills and how important I think they are...if you follow me you know how big I am on classroom community.  I see my classroom as a 'family' and do my very best to make my room a loving, risk free, caring, safe place for kids to come each day.  Mutual respect and no put downs are extremely important to me.  I talk a lot about how we are all talented in some way and good at different things.  There are several ways that I try to build classroom community and social skills among my students.


I greet each child at the door and smile, hug or 'knuckle' them as they come in.  This lets them know I'm happy to see them and it gives them a chance to look me in the eye and greet me in the same way.  No joke when my kids were little, I had a babysitter walk out the door with her HAND OUT to take the money while she was looking at her phone.  I was horrified and never asked her back.  Seriously!?!?!  That lack of respect really bothered me as a mom and it does as a teacher as well.

morning greetings in the classroom


When kids are involved in a conflict, I walk them through the steps to figure it out.  I teach third grade and they should probably already have a sense of this by now, but many don't.  I usually pull the kids aside and talk quietly to them.  I tell them to tell the other person how they feel and say, "look them in the eye as you say it."  If they don't I tell them to do it again...uncomfortable maybe a bit.  However, I think teaching kids to look people in the eye is very important.  ALSO don't even get me started on how I feel technology has RUINED this for kids.  When I started teaching like I said earlier there weren't phones, etc and kids actually asked kids to play by looking at their FACE.


Class meetings are another great way to build community.  Often when kids ( younger ones mostly ) have something on their mind they will have a difficult time concentrating anyway on school work.  Class meetings allow a quick share among students to do just that.  Also it encourages listening skills and listening to listen and not just to talk again.  There are a variety of resources on the web to help you out with this if you want more information.


Unfortunately one of the down falls of technology is the want it now, instant gratification, never bored syndrome kids have nowadays.  This also includes the #alwayslookingdownatyourdevice problem ~  I legit should make that a hashtag cuz that is #reallife peeps!
Kids NEED to be bored parents...PLEASE let your kids be bored.  As a young mom I loved watching my toddler turn a box into a spaceship or train.  I enjoyed watching my son create and recreate new tracks for his Thomas and friends mini trains.  I saw them pick up books again and again just to look at the pictures and 'read a story' in their mind to their stuffed animals.  These things make me sad because I don't see enough young parents doing this anymore.  I see 2 year olds on their devices at dinner and parents on theirs or talking to each other but not engaging with the toddler.  For those young parents that aren't doing this I applaud you, I get it that it's a different time BUT that doesn't mean you have to feed into it.  Kids still want boundaries, still need boundaries and still desire expectations placed on them
I make it a very big deal in my room to be respectful and I let them know they have to WAIT!  Wait for directions, wait in line patiently, wait for me to finish what I'm saying and look at me the entire time I'm talking.  These are skills that are extremely important to me.  In fact, this skill is so lacking in my room that I had to make up a QUESTIONS behavioral sign.  Basically, because my students are so impatient they blurt out questions before I'm done giving instructions, they ask questions AFTER I've given instructions, they ask redundant questions that they already know but are too lazy to remember.  It's unfortunate and I love them dearly but these are skills that a boss isn't going to want to deal with when they are adults.

behavior management tip for the classroom

I was so tired of all the questions that I made this up last week.  I told the students if someone asked me an inappropriate question  for instance ( one that I already explained, or where to turn something in ( seriously?!? ) It's November folks. ) you get it, I take down a letter.  The first day I only took down 2 letters but they were both within 5 minutes of walking into class.  It was a great visual for the kids to see how many questions they ask.  I have kids raise their hands and then pull their hand down and say never mind because they either looked around the room for the answer, or just realized how they could solve that problem on their own.  For instance, it's not okay to ask what are we doing next in my room, I post a schedule every single day.  The answer is right in front of them.


Manners 101...manners are a big deal too.  We say please, thank you, bless you , etc. in my class.  We say I'm sorry and we help each other.  Part of social skills is basic manners and I want my students to come out as better human beings than when they arrived.  Some teachers think it should be left to the parents but I disagree...again, yes we have a lot to teach but you can fit in what's really important to you.

I love this because it's so true in all aspects of life.  How are you teaching these skills or reinforcing what you want to see in your classroom?  I'd love to have a discussion below in the comments.  Just like with growth  mindset, we can 'retrain' the brain to do these things that kids did more freely before technology came into their lives.  Just something to think about...as always ~ ~ ~
Happy Teaching! 

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