Saturday, January 31, 2015

Spark Student Motivation: Student Thank You Notes

Happy Saturday! January is coming to an end...this year is flying by!
 I think it's important for students and everyone for that matter, to thank people for the things we appreciate, but sometimes take for granted.
 Click here to download the center directions.


Think about if you get a gift or note JUST does it make you feel? Special and appreciated right? That's how I want my students to make others feel. And, I want them to notice and appreciate things that people do for them that they don't have to.

I lay out all sorts of thank you notes for my students to choose from. It's a great writing center: teaching kindness and appreciation, writing skills, and it's quick and easy!
 Want to try out these cards in your classroom? Just cut in half and fold. Click here to start the spread of appreciation!
Here are some student samples:

 Left thank you card was for one of the clerks that works in the front office. She thanks her for her smile and brought her to tears when she read it because she said it was so thoughtful and unexpected. Right thank you card was for the teacher who teaches next door to me. She gets there when the gate opens and lets my early rise students come in and get started on the computer program they have to complete everyday.

Left thank you card was for me (love the heel). I appreciate that he notice the "extra" things I do. Right thank you card was for a classmate in my class to thank him for sharing and helping him.

I like motivating my students to do kind things for each other and others. I hope it's something they carry on, and recognize nobody owes us anything and to appreciate and thank people for the extras and the unexpected gestures that others do for us.

Cards created using KG Fonts and Kelly Benefield's borders.
I hope you had a wonderful week! Please link up any lessons, ideas, tips, tricks, incentives, ANYTHING you do get your students motivated or excited!
Don't forget to grab my button and link back to this post!
Check out all the wonderful ideas from my friends who link up and don't forget to leave some love by commenting....we LOVE comments!
***Please include the topic in the link up with your blog name.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Spark Student Motivation: Student Led Tutoring

Let's Spark Some Student Motivation!
I'm so excited to share this post with you today!
 This is a new idea for me this year, technically it's not MY idea at all!
One of my students, who is very strong in math and a leader in my class, noticed a couple of my girls were very upset after receiving their scores on a math assessment and asked me if she could help when they had free time. Of course, I thought this was a wonderful and thoughtful idea, but there was one time. We don't have enough time to get everything done as it is, never mind free time! So, we arranged for after school tutoring. The first session was on the spur of the moment, I texted the two parents to see if they could stay after that day for extra help and they said yes right away!
 It started out with two girls being tutored and has grown to four! They stay after for an hour and work on math concepts they're having difficulty with. It's the BEST concept EVER! So many reasons to implement this...friends like learning from friends (they think it's FUN!), it's a great self-esteem booster for ALL of them, they're ALL learning, and I get to sit in the background and take care of all other tasks and only interject when necessary!
 They've met four times now (once a week) and if I'd let them, they'd add more sessions! My student tutor goes over previous math assessments/assignments and makes up her own problems. I LOVE listening in on their conversations, it's so funny when you hear a student teach and act like you do in the classroom. She's very encouraging and doesn't make them feel inadequate if they don't get it right away. After one of one the problems she assigned, I overheard her say, "Ok, I see everyone is having trouble with this, so let's start from the beginning." It was too cute!
 They use dry erase boards to practice. I wanted my student tutor to "be like a teacher", so I equipped her with tickets and a trophy to put stickers on to recognize their progress. :)
Now, after every assignment and assessment, my student tutor asks, "Mrs. Miller, how did they do on their math? Do they need to stay after with me?" I love the leadership role she's taken in our classroom to help her classmates' learning!
The parents of these students are super appreciative and think it's a wonderful idea of students helping other students. It's a wonderful motivator I plan to keep!
I hope you had a wonderful week! Please link up any lessons, ideas, tips, tricks, incentives, ANYTHING you do get your students motivated or excited!
Don't forget to grab my button and link back to this post!
Check out all the wonderful ideas from my friends who link up and don't forget to leave some love by commenting....we LOVE comments!
***Please include the topic in the link up with your blog name.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Mastering Multiplication Facts

Memorize those facts...easier said than done, right? As a 3rd, 4th, or 5th grade teacher you know how critical it is for your students to know their facts with fluency. It sets them up for math success, so they're not counting on their fingers or getting stuck on other math concepts because they don't know their facts. If you haven't started a program or incentive yet or what you have in place isn't working, coming back from winter break is the PERFECT opportunity to start! You can start tomorrow!
One of my favorite creations to motivate my students to memorize their multiplication facts has been in my classroom since my first year teaching (18 years ago!). I like the simplicity and the fact that it only takes about a minute of my class time each day. Of course, over the years I've added to my program (parent letters, study key rings, bracelets, postcards, division, and addition programs). It's like wine, it gets better with age! :)
I give each student two sets of multiplication key rings (one to take home/car to study, and one for their desk to reference/study). When my students have a spare minute they whip out their key ring to study for their upcoming timed test. They're the perfect reference tool and study aide! 
 Top half of picture: When my students walk in our classroom, it is their responsibility to grab a multiplication timed test when they turn in their homework. (The first week I always remind them, but after that, they miss their chance to take a timed test if they forget it). It's also their responsibility to fill in the numbers for their multiplication level before math time. This simple routine only take a couple of days for all students to get the hang of.
Bottom half of picture: I also give my students a door hanger to keep everyone out while studying their multiplication facts and a parent letter explaining the program.

 It is so quick and easy, I've posted a short video just to show you how it only takes a little over a minute of your math block (hate my voice!)! As I said earlier, the students already have the timed tests numbered with their level on their desks before I start. I give my students about 30 seconds, you can determine your time depending on your students' ability and grade level. A student collects them and I grade them quickly at lunch.

 One way to get them hooked...math accessories! heehee!
 If they pass their timed test, they move onto the next level. I give them a multiplication bracelet to study the next level, which I store in an accordion file holder. These bracelets have been a HUGE HIT! As I give them their new bracelet, they also collect a sticker to put on the multi-purpose chart (picture below).
 Look at all those graduates!!! As you can see on the chart, I start on the 2s and go up to 12s. After they've passed their 12s, they have to take one more test...a mixed review (all mixed up numbers). Then when they pass their mixed review, they GRADUATE!! I make them a diploma, they wear a cap and gown and parade around the room to Pomp and's official! And, they don't have to take any more timed tests!!! Yay!
Here are a list of websites that can help your students practice multiplication facts:
 This multiplication program has done wonders for  my students! I've found lots of success with motivating my students to complete their multiplication timed tests to graduate. I have only 5 students left to graduate and 2 of them are on their mixed review!!
If you are interested in this program, click here for the Multiplication Bundle-everything you need in one place! If you're not sure, you can read the feedback of others who have used it.
Also available, are the Division Bundle and Addition Bundle. When your students finish multiplication, you can start division! If you have primary friends who need an incentive program to get their students to memorize their addition facts, send them over! :)

 I hope this post helps explain how the program works in my classroom. If you have ANY questions, please feel free to ask! :)

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Spark Student Motivation: Warm Up Your Students!

I know everyone is freezing this week, no matter where you live...even in Florida! Brrrr!

On really cold days I like to treat my students to a hot treat! Nobody wants to get out of bed when it's cold, so I like to motivate my students to get out of bed by serving hot cocoa! We only have 2-3 REALLY cold days, which makes it a special treat. All you need are the following materials: canister of hot cocoa or individual packets, cups, and lids (optional). I like to use the lids to prevent spills. I bought my cups and lids at Sam's Club several years ago (they come in packages of 1,000!!). It's a little investment up front, but they will last forever (you could also split it up among your team members if they wanted to participate)! My own children love hot chocolate too and I treat the neighborhood kids on cold nights, so it's been worth it. 

The fastest and easiest way to heat hot water is a hot pot. It heats water super quick! Bed, Bath & Beyond has a Proctor Silex Hot Pot for $14.99 and then you can use your $5 coupon! $10-such a bargain for instant hot water! Great for science experiments too!

 I recruit some of my former students on cold mornings to help me with the assembly line. I never let them touch the hot pot, but they love putting the lids on and passing out the hot chocolate. Everyone has their hot chocolate before the bell even rings!
*I also make hot chocolate for several of the staff that has outside morning duty in the freezing cold. It's an appreciated hot treat!

 And, lastly, you will need to create a cozy warm environment by turning on the crackling fire! :)
I have a "Fire" DVD that I play in the morning when they come in (I think they pretend to be amazed by my fire to humor me!). I know you're upset that you missed that awesome find at Walgreen's when they had the DVDs on sale for $2! It's ok, they have dozens of fire videos on YouTube. Click here.

 I hope you had a great week back, unless you had several cold days and are still enjoying your break. On your next cold day turn on the fire and have a hot treat!
I hope you had a wonderful week! Please link up any lessons, ideas, tips, tricks, incentives, ANYTHING you do get your students motivated or excited!
Don't forget to grab my button and link back to this post!
Check out all the wonderful ideas from my friends who link up and don't forget to leave some love by commenting....we LOVE comments!
***Please include the topic in the link up with your blog name.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Teacher Tips For a Fresh Start After the Holidays!

Is this how you feel??!! Are you having small panic attacks about going back?
Do you feel like you've forgotten your students' names or have you had bad dreams about your class?
You're not alone! :) Take small breaths and read this post-hopefully you'll get an idea or two to help relieve some stress. :)

Take advantage of this time-it's like a second chance at the first day of school! Tell your students we're starting new with a clean slate. Most students won't admit it, but they'll be excited to come back. They get bored after two weeks and like a routine to their day. The following are some suggestions/ideas I use in my classroom, hopefully you can use them. :)
  • Welcome or greet your students individually. Let them know you're glad they're back and you're excited to start school. Write each student a message on a notecard or leave a sticky note on each desk welcoming them back. You could leave a sharpened pencil on each desk, serves as a gift and assures everyone is ready to work. I sent my students a postcard in the mail. The back of the postcard has a short message and can be brought in for a homework pass or tickets. I know kids love getting mail.
  • I want to get my students thinking about all the things they like about school, so I'm going to start off with the top ten reasons they're glad to be back. I want to start off by getting them to think of the positive side of school. I'll have it on their desk to complete as morning work. This will also serve as an interest survey, letting me know what they enjoy most about our class (these are the things we will keep for the New Year!). 

  • Review classroom procedures, expectations, and class rules. This is your chance to set the tone for the "New Year" and make sure your students are off to a great start. I have a packet of Classroom Procedures {Free} that I use for our classroom. I plan to go over each procedure as we come to it during our day. I will probably review these for several days to make sure everyone is on the same page and expectations are clear.
  • I hate to have one of the first things we do when we get back is to use time to get organized, but I want to start off prepared and everyone ready to go! We cleaned desks before we left for the break, so the first day back I will spend a little time making sure everyone has paper and handing out new folders, restocking any necessary supplies. If I take a little time in the beginning, it will pay off in the end.

  • After reviewing procedures and expectations, ease into your day with something fun and meaningful for your students. My students will be completing individual goals on pennants and creating a class book for goals to make our class even better than it already is. We brainstorm and discuss setting reasonable goals and small things that would make a big difference in our classroom. Once the class book is complete, I send it home to share with parents. These activities can be found here. The beauty of the pennants is you have an instant bulletin board to replace the Christmas one you had up. :)
  • Here's a link to Kid President and his Awesome Year video, perfect to show before goal setting. All the kids like him, he's funny and they can relate to him.

Kid President and Awesome Year Challenge

  • You know your students are all going to have "stories" and want to share what they got for Christmas with their friends, so give them a few minutes to do so. They'll also be hungry since they haven't been on a regular eating schedule. I'm going to bring in a bag a pretzels to snack on.

  • Be flexible with your schedule remembering to review procedures all day. Don't rush this process, you'll be happy you took the time to create community and set expectations.
  • I know teachers have to put the pedal to the metal when we come back from winter break to get ready for state testing, making sure we've covered all standards, but ease into your instruction. I don't want to waste valuable academic time, but I know they need a day to ease into our routine, so I plan to do lots of review.  I want to make my students comfortable by refreshing their memories of previously taught concepts instead of stressing them out if they don't remember.
  • Try creating some review activities or games for that first day, not overwhelming them with too many new concepts right away. I'm pretty sure my students weren't multiplying fractions or finding the main idea of an article over the break, although that would be great! :) Even if it's review, it will be great teaching.
  • Remember, they're going to be tired because they probably haven't been on a regular sleep schedule. They also probably had trouble going to sleep the night before coming back because they're used to staying up late and they may be a little nervous/anxious about coming back.
  • Start a new chapter book or have a mentor text ready to read to your students. They love being read to and this mentor text could be used the next day or later in the week for your "real" lesson. Give them some independent reading time too, so they can start building up their endurance again.
  • One of my first centers will be based on the above. After they finish a book for independent reading, I will have them create their Winter Reading Wreaths. They loved making the fall and Christmas ones. It's a "fun" way to assess their thinking and learning.
  • As a "treat" and to review homework expectations, I plan to give my students a few minutes to get started on their weekly homework. They will be thrilled to get ahead and this will ease them into their nightly routine as well.
  • Starting back from a long break can be challenging for us and for our students. It may take a few days to get back in the swing of things, have realistic expectations.
  • To make sure I feel like I'm on top of my game, I cleaned out my teacher bag and cart to make sure I'm ready. Something about getting things organized and ready beforehand puts me at ease. I also have my outfits picked out for the week. :) I gotta get my feet used to heels again!
I hope some of the ideas helped you or at least got you in "teacher mode". I'd love to hear any other tips/advice you have for a smooth transition back to school. Good luck this week!

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Spark Student Motivation: Classroom Magnetic Spinners

Happy New Year Friends!!! I hope you enjoyed your break and are slowly thinking about going back to school this week. Slowly because we STILL have a little more time! :)

This actually is going to be a quick post to get you RUNNING to the Dollar Tree and a follow up on a previous post (click here).

 The spinners I blogged about were a set of 3 or $20, these are $1 each!!!
They had four different choices, I bought them for my teammates too! I'm not sure if they're the same quality as the ones I purchased, but for a $1...I get excited!!

 I plan on breaking these spinners out when we return to school.
( I haven't used them this year yet...I like to keep some tricks a surprise!)
I just know whenever I broke them out last year, there'd be a little squeal from my students. Giving students choice gives them ownership and buy-in. I let them come up with the categories for assignments or review games. It's a win-win!
I'm thinking of using one at home with my own children. I'll put chores that need to be completed in the spinner and whichever chore each of my children spins, they have to complete!
(I'll keep you posted on how this works!)
 I have a new product that will be MOTIVATING to your students you may interested in:
Winter Reading Wreath Craftivity-what a fun way to get your students reading when they return from break. PLUS, it makes a great bulletin board or wall decoration for your class!
Use with any text: fiction and non-fiction templates are included.
Perfect project to promote reading at home too!

OR, you can save by purchasing the BUNDLE! There will be 8 wreaths total, perfect monthly project that your students will enjoy much more than a traditional book report. The cost for the "growing" bundle is only $10, individually purchased will be $24. (Cost will increase as wreaths are added, but you will not pay any additional cost for your purchase today, just redownload!)
Click here to check it out!

PIN TO WIN! I'll give away one winter wreath and one bundle on Monday. This will give you a great activity for back to school! :)
Pin any of the wreath images above, copy the URL, and leave in the comments. Be sure to include your email if you're not a blogger so I can send you the file if you win.
I hope you had a wonderful week! Please link up any lessons, ideas, tips, tricks, incentives, ANYTHING you do get your students motivated or excited!
Don't forget to grab my button and link back to this post!
Check out all the wonderful ideas from my friends who link up and don't forget to leave some love by commenting....we LOVE comments!
***Please include the topic in the link up with your blog name.

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