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Let's face it, having Halloween on a Monday is NOT going to be a teacher's favorite day! I dread this day more than the day before a vacation! Not only is Monday going to be challenge but the day after is going to be worse. But there are a few things we can do to get through these days, because if you can't fight 'em, then join 'em.

First, be prepared! Don't plan on doing anything new. This is not the day to start introducing new concepts. Students that participate in trick or treating are going to be tired the day after and students who do not, might feel left out of all the fun. It could be hard to navigate. Give students extra recess time or some free time, like extra quiet reading and writing time. Better yet, if the weather is nice...try taking your lessons outside. Fresh air will do everyone some good.

Second, have some fun activities to do. Have students all bring in one piece of candy (you can bring in extras for your students who do not bring in a piece) and do some fun sorting and graphing activities, like in this activity pack.There is math, writing and a "Find Someone Who" that will work for everyone in class. (Even your non-trick or treaters can join in.)
Third, try a STEM activity. This is a great way to get students working together and yet learning about the STEM/Engineering design process and the Scientific Method. 
Either way, with a little prep and you'll make it through just fine! Have a happy Halloween.




I know the current trend these days is flexible seating and I so wish I could jump on this train...but in my school we have nowhere to store any extra furniture. So we've been told, any furniture (including student desks) has to to remain in our classrooms! Ugh. Not really what I wanted to hear, because this year I had my heart set on going into flexible seating.

With that being said, I continue to focus on Flexible and Collaborative Learning Spaces, which I plan to blog about very soon!    


So in the meantime, since my desks are arranged in groups...I use this to my advantage! I love to reward my teams with points during the week (I use Class Dojo) then reward the group with the most points. My favorite reward is to "eat with the teacher". They love it and it costs me nothing but my time. The super fun part is.....I let them choose their group names. Every couple of weeks, I usually rearrange desks, then I decide how we are going to name our groups. Here is a list of ways to name groups:
The students love working together to decide on their group names, this week we are candy names like the Smarties, Lifesavers, Herseys, Poprocks, and Tootsie Rolls! 

I got those cute little chalkboards from Walmart, they are whiteboards on the back. I let each person n the group write their name on the whiteboard side. I update how many points the group has on the whiteboard too. Works like a charm to get everyone working together as a team!

Deanna


So there it is....It might be a little controversial but I made a big decision last year to switch from using composition books to binders for my students' Writer's Notebooks. 

Here was my struggle, my students wrote during writer's workshop, but often times during my mini lesson I had a list of transitions or vivid verbs......where were they to keep it? So I tried using a folder and a comp. notebook. It was just too much. Students were not using the references I gave them when they were writing.

The Writer's binder was born. Now when we get a graphic organizer, a list of transitions or have a mini-lesson on writing great grabbers, it all here in one place. They have a section for mini-lessons, seed ideas, word lists, rough drafts and published pieces. It worked like a charm! To prepare for this year, I typed up all of the resources I might need (but since it's a binder we can always add things as we go along) and I am so excited to share it with you! The cover comes editable. After you print their name on it, they can decorate it and make it their own. Last year, I did this as a home project so they could add stickers, photos, or anything they wanted.

The divider sections, I put into page protectors. Then as you need the various pages and mini-lessons you print and hand them out to add to their binders. Doing a lesson on using more adjectives in student's writing? Then add that page to their notebooks. You can get your copy by clicking on the picture:
And....just in time for Back to School, TpT is having a sale! 
Hope it's your BEST YEAR EVER!!


This morning I read this excellent article Recess Is Not A Privilege, Stop Taking It Away and it really got me thinking! So, instead of taking away recess as a punishment, what can we do? Often we think this is the only consequence that can influence kids to listen or act they way we want them to. But it doesn't work!! Sitting out at recess will not get the work done that they have been dragging their heels on in class, it won't stop the disruptive behaviors and it won't bring in the forgotten homework. But I still see this practice happening in my school, heck I even stoop to it when I get super exasperated with a kid from time to time.  So what should or can we do INSTEAD?? 

Here's what we can be doing, what is really the most effective and long term ways to deal with students. Mostly these are what we know to be "best practices" but it helps to have reminders going into a new school year!
You know this! But consistency is so important! Make sure your school has a solid behavior plan in place and stick with it. We are a PBIS school, the buy-in hasn't been easy but it is working. The one part of PBIS that I love is the refocus. If you are not familiar with refocus, it is similar to a time-out. The student leaves to reflect on his/her behavior then comes back when he or she is ready to reenter the room and return to work. It works really well. We also have a great system of rewarding kids and recognizing kids doing a great job in every area of our school. In other words, catch them doing good!
So many kids act out to get attention. They are not getting what they need at home so they are going to demand it from you at school. Sometimes it just takes a few extra minutes to touch base with them in the morning to see how they are doing, how are they feeling, start off the day on a positive note. This article about school discipline had the best quote, "we spent a lot of time trying to diagnose children by talking to each other," D'Aran says. "Now we're talking to the child and really believing the child when they say what the problems are." Every year I have students who don't do their homework because they have to either watch little brothers or sisters, go to work with mom or dad or other problems that would break your heart! Could I get upset that they don't do their homework? Yes. Should they do their homework at recess? No, it's my job to help them. I usually give them time before class begins to try and get it done. 
If a student does break a school rule, the consequences should fit the rule that was broken. The only time I have students sit at recess is when kids are fighting or arguing on the playground. Sometimes a few minutes of sitting and cooling off is what everyone needs. At my school we don't have large scale fist fights that often, that would mean immediately going to the office. But my boys argue a lot about the games they play, ie kick ball and soccer! So I showed them a few YouTube videos on how to actually play those games correctly so that everyone would know all the rules! This helped the arguing a lot.
This last one is HUGE! If you are going to draw a line in the sand, you better be prepared not to cross it. Don't get caught in the control game. If you spend more time trying to control everyone and everything, you are not going to teach your students the self-control they need to be successful in school and in life! 

Last but not least, give your students some voice and some choice. If they need to stand to work, let them. They will get more work finished. After my mini-lesson, my class works on the floor, around the room on tables, at their desks where ever they can work well. giving students choice lets them take ownership in their work and their classroom. 


I recently presented at my county's Digital Learning Conference and my topic was Student Engagement. I love technology and this was huge for me! My presentation was on some tech tools that you could use besides Kahoot!....because let's face it, we all love Kahoot! But like anything if you overuse it, it will get old. So I presented some new websites and also some old ones you might have heard of but they've added some new features. Here's a quick run down of these websites.  

Kahoot: Of course, it's awesome...but now they've added a new team feature! Kids just love this and there are thousands of public Kahoots posted. It saves so much time.

Quizlet: Also a website lots of teachers have used for a long time. It has thousands of card sets already uploaded by teachers. The newest feature though is AMAZING...they have added Quizlet Live. It's a fun quiz game that randomly puts students into groups. (My own personal children came home from school telling me how fun this was!)

Today's Meet: It is an online chat room. I have blogged about how I use this and I still love it. You can read more here.

Quizziz: This is like Kahoot, the best thing about Quizziz is that you can assign the "game" or quiz for homework and leave it open for a period of time. I love this!

Zaption: Zaption allows you to insert a variety of questions into a video clip. You just pause the video where you want to and insert your question. There are many different platforms from which you can get videos and it is so easy to use. Awesome for flipped classroom.

Nearpod: Nearpod is not new but if you've never played around with it. It is an awesome way to present a lesson. You design a slide show and you can insert a variety of ways students can respond. There are some free presentations to upload or you can also purchase pre-made ones.

Formative: Formative is a great way to assess students, one thing I loved about this is you can upload a pdf and students can answer questions right on the pdf. What a great way to reduce the amount of paper we use!

GoSoapBox: Probably one of the easiest tools to use, you can create quizzes, discussions and polls very quickly and students respond using a quick code. I use this one frequently in my classroom.

Padlet: Padlet is a great tool for students to use, it is easy to embed in your own website. Students can see each others posts. (Which they love!) I use this one when I ask my students to take a picture of something they have been working on and post it on a board.

What tech tools are you planning on using next school year?? 

 
Is this your class?? Or even your children at home?? I just can't even deal with this! We all get into our centers, I sit down with my guided reading group or math small group and out of the corner of my eye I see two students arguing over who's going to go first in a game or who's going to read first...yada yada yada.

So here's a great way to END these arguments before they even start! 

Hang this up and then each day, move the clothes pin down to a different way to choose "Who Goes First". You could even put a copy in each center or area of your room, and presto....No arguments!   

You can get your copy here

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I admit...this has been my first free weekend, school's over and we have had no planned activities. And I'm having a hard time turning off my teacher brain. It's hard to go from 100 to 0 just like that. I feel like I've been on overload and now I just can't relax! So I decided to make a little list for myself on things I can do to unwind that are not school related. I know there's plenty to do to get ready for next school year, but I really do need to take time for me!

So here goes my list:
1: Read for pleasure. This is the first book on my list. I love Jen Hatmaker, she's hilarious..so I am looking forward to this.
2. Spend some time doing fun things with my kids. So far we've been to the pool every day this weekend and we went to see the Angry Birds movie. (It was dumb, but they loved it!)

3. Organize my closets! Now I know this doesn't sound like fun for every one but I love it. I get such a feeling of accomplishment cleaning out stuff! I think I'll also tackle the playroom....but shhh, don't tell my kids.

4. Eat healthy! I eat so bad during the school year. Let's face it, school lunch stinks. We spend too many nights eating out too. I've already gone to the store and stocked up on lots of fruits and veggies and we've eaten cooked at home every night.

5. Here's for some relaxtion...Netflix. I never take advantage of all that there is to offer and I'm going to binge watch some TV shows this summer. Any recommendations for me??

I hope you get to relax this summer and can turn of your "teacher brain"!
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I can't believe we are getting down to the wire here! Only 3 days left of school for us....I whipped up these cute photo props for my own personal kiddo. But it would also fun to do in class. 
Get yours here:

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Countdown!! I only have 6 more days left of school! But seriously, these are the most challenging days to fill with activities that keep students busy and not off task and crazy. Hop on over to The Primary Peach, I shared some ideas for keeping your students engaged and hopefully out of trouble!

How many ideas do you have left in your year?
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So maybe you plan ahead.....or maybe you are like me and woke up in a cold sweat a few nights ago remembering Mother's Day is coming up and wanted something easy and different??? Yes, that was me. For some strange reason I never, ever do the same thing two years in a row. Last year I made these adorable thumbprint necklace from Lory Evans. They were a huge hit but I just didn't have it in me this year to do something so involved.
So, I came up with something so cheap and easy! All you need is popsicle (craft) sticks and buttons. I found colored craft sticks but you could easily do it with any colored sticks and any color buttons.
Then print out this cute poem and glue a magnet on the back for their moms to put on the fridge and you are done!
"Mothers are like buttons, they hold everything together."
I know my student's moms will love it! 
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