Saturday, August 29, 2015

Spark Student Motivation: Welcome Back!

We had a great first week of school, but I'm exhausted!
The first week of school is so important to set expectations and develop routines and procedures, but it's equally important to build community and have a memorable first week!

I sent home VIP Entrance Tickets in the mail to invite my students to Meet the Teacher! I love how they all brought their tickets with them! Kids love getting mail!

Also at Meet the Teacher, I have a display for them to pick up some goodies (welcome back water bottle, pencil, erasers, and a ruler).
 Display letters are from my Back to School Reading & Writing Bundle

 This banner is a welcome to my students to let them know I'm excited about starting a new year with them!
 I found these cute props that are perfect for photo opportunities!
Here's our countdown to a New Year! It's a little loud, but they LOVE it!
 For our Happy New School Year Party I pass out hats, horns and necklaces. They get to take these home and they probably drive their parents crazy!
 Even though we saved Fred last year, it's a fun team building activity that gets them all excited! They had different teams and strategies this year.

We discussed our class Non-Negotiables and Class Procedures, but we also have to throw in some team building and community building activities!
The first week sets the tone for the rest of the year! Make it structured, organized, special, memorable, and fun for you and your students!
Here's to a GREAT SCHOOL YEAR!!!
***This linky will be open for two weeks due to the Labor Day Holiday. :)
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, August 22, 2015

Spark Student Motivation: Teacher Selected Book Recommendations

It's my last weekend of summer! I hope you're enjoying your Saturday, summer, or new school year!
It's time to Spark Some Student Motivation!

Our Meet the Teacher is the Thursday before school starts. Even though my students know me because I'm looping with them to 5th grade, I wanted to make their "meet the teacher" special with a new book selection. Of course, I continued with my book addiction shopping this summer and found some new finds to share with my students. (I had to buy another bookcase this's a problem!) My dream classroom would be in the media center-that's the kind of space I need!

 I created little note cards and placed them with the book I chose for them to start reading this weekend. (I printed them as photos-nice color and less expensive). They were excited to see a book waiting for them on their desks. When they walked in they said, "Ooooh, look what book I got!, Do I get to take this book home? Yes! I saw this book at the store and wanted to read it!" And, naturally, I had a couple who asked, "Do I have to finish this book this weekend?" I assured them and their parents they didn't have to finish it, but I'd like them to get a good start so we can start independent reading time immediately on Monday!

My hope as a "Book Pusher" is that my students will continue to love reading, being read to, finding new books, and pushing books on others!

I based my selections on their likes, interests, and reading ability. Now this could be done any time of the year, not just before school starts! I plan on doing this each time I get a new book and wanting someone in my class to read it. I think the personalized note makes them feel a little obligated to at least try it out! :)

Even the first week of school you can learn a lot about your students likes and interests using my Back to School Scoot Freebie. Use this information to make decisions about book selections for your students.
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, August 15, 2015

Positive Comments-Can you give THREE-FIVE minutes a week?

Start the year off on a positive note! Let's make a commitment together to make a positive impact on our class!

Positively Positive!!!
 Make a commitment to make ONE positive phone call, text, or note a week. ONE? That's so doable. As a matter of fact, once you start making these phone calls and hearing their responses, you might get CRAZY and make a few calls! :) First of all, think of how you'll feel making this call-there's NO parent that will be upset or argue about hearing something wonderful about their child! (This is your opportunity to win over any difficult parents). You will build rapport with the parents, your students will want to work even harder, and your heart will be filled from noticing the good in every student.
It can be something big or small, something extra the student did during the day, something another student pointed out to you, etc.:
  • participated more
  • took on a leadership role
  • was a peacemaker
  • used good manners
  • stayed focused
  • helped you or a classmate
  • cleaned up without being asked
  • showed initiative
  • shared materials
  • completed homework
  • finished a book
This is not a phone call to make any suggestions of improvement or negative comments after your positive comment. Even if the parent asks a question that could lead to negative talk, you need to change the subject or end the conversation on the positive note you started on. You can make that phone call another time, this time is for positivity ONLY.

Have your notes ready to keep it brief and to the point-stay focused on why you made this contact. I created this student log to keep us on track. List all your students, then fill in the reason for making the positive phone call, and date you made the call. This list will also help you make sure everyone gets a phone call or note at some time.

I'm not saying go "in order", or that one student may not have three positive forms of communication before one of your more challenging students gets one. We don't want it to be "staged", we want it to be genuine, but we want all students to receive or feel this positive praise, so we don't want to leave anyone out!

Share their strengths and what they add to your classroom.

What will sadden you is when you make the phone call to the parent who says, "No one has every called to tell me something good about my child." These are the kids who need these calls the MOST!

Imagine what this phone call would do for a parent! You recognized the great in their son or daughter! They know about that greatness, but someone else recognized it, which makes it even more special!

I know how many hours we work already, but I also know that a phone call can take three minutes. ALL OF US can give three-five minutes! Imagine if every teacher allocated 15 minutes a week (one a day) to calling parents with good news, the impact could be tremendous! I know our teacher to do lists are long and positive comments may not be at the top, but just try it! I promise it will have such great effects on your classroom! Try calling a few students' parents and see what happens. The ripple effects for the student, parents, and you will be transformational.

Make sure you thank the parent for their support and encouragement for their child to continue this great behavior!

I'm including a calendar to ensure commitment on your part. I feel like if I put something in writing, I'm more likely to complete it. (Tell me I'm not alone!)
Do you know how proud or excited you'll feel after you look at your list of positives in a couple of months? It's a win-win!
I've also made some cute notecards, just in case phone calls are not possible some weeks. Print on bright paper and you will brighten your student's day!

Let’s be positive together!
Let's make an agreement/contract! You know how we are, if we put it in writing, we are more likely to do it! So, if you will be a "Positive Pusher", write I  WILL in the comments with your email (if you're not a blogger) and I'll send you the forms! Together we are better!

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, August 9, 2015

iTeach Fifth New Blog Post: Non-Negotiables-Setting the Tone

Non-Negotiables for your classroom-what is a MUST in your classroom? Want to know more and pick up a surprise?  Read on!

I'm so excited to be a collaborator with the iTeach Fifth blog and today was my first post! I would love for you to check it out and leave a comment if you stop by!
Click the button below!

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Orange Ya' Glad Blog Hop-Back to School Ideas: Happy New School Year Celebration!

Glad that you were able to join us for the third annual Orange Ya' Glad it's a Blog Hop!
I am the

If you have hopped with us in the past, some things will be familiar, and some things will be new!
This year, all of our bloggers are focusing on free tips or ideas that they can share with you to get your school year off to a great start.  Some ideas will have a freebie, others might just be a stand alone concept.  The idea is to try and share things that will solve problems and create a happy and stress free first few weeks!

Let's get started!
Coming back to school can be hard for teachers and students, it means the end of summer (sleeping in, staying up late, no homework, etc.). So, I have something I want to share with you that will make you and your students excited to be back at school! I thought of this idea while shopping at my local grocery store after New Year's Eve. They had 3 carts full of party decorations on clearance. Clearance calls my name from across the store! Of course, if it's a good deal, I want to create a lesson or use it in my classroom. And, that's when it came to me..insert the word school...Happy New SCHOOL Year!
We have to start the year off right, so why not start it with a celebration? I know it's a little risky to have a "party" the first day of school, but it doesn't have to be an hour long celebration with food and drinks. For the past several years I have had a HAPPY NEW SCHOOL YEAR celebration on the first day of school! And, I will tell you it's memorable!
 Make that first day one they'll never forget and make them WANT to come to school the next day!
This is my class from last year and I am looping with them to 5th grade this year. I plan to have a Happy New School Year celebration this year too! I'm adding props this year-scroll to the bottom to see them.
**So funny...I just noticed the student looking in my classroom window!!! He was probably like, "What's going on in there? What's all that noise?" See, everyone wants to celebrate!
 This is my class from two years ago and we watch the ball drop and counted down to the start of our new school year! 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1...
Yes or no?? Are they happy to be at school? If you plan to do this celebration, you'll be excited and nervous to reveal the excitement too:) The cutest thing was when a parent told me his son came home and said, "Guess what Dad? We had a party on the first day of school!"
After New Year's Eve, all the party favors go on clearance so I stock up for the following school year.

After graduation, I pick up "yearly" party favors to decorate for my Happy New School Year.

This year I found a photo kit on clearance after New Year's and will add it to my celebration! Do you see those 2015 prop glasses? I CAN'T WAIT to take each student's picture with those!

You can do anything you want to get your students excited about the new school year, but make it memorable. Make it the best day for you and for them! My celebration only lasts about 15 minutes, but it's those 15 minutes they will remember all year! It sets the tone for your school year.  
I've shared about my celebration on my blog before, but since I'm sharing this one after New Year's Eve and Graduation it will be tricky to get these decorations, especially on clearance.
So, I made you a Happy New School Year Banner to jazz up your classroom for your celebration? Click here to download this freebie. Yay!!
Enjoy your students and your first day back!

We will be having an Instagram giveaway again!  At the bottom of each post, there will be a letter. 

 The letters all work together to give you the name of a type of orange!  This year is a bit's a two word name!  **Hint: The letters go in order to give you the answer...I'm stop 6!** 

Once you've solved the puzzle...take a picture of the answer.  
Post it on instagram and hashtag it with #orangehop2015.  We love original, do something fun with your image!

We will go through the pictures and select a winner!
Next up, is the sweetest Kimberly from The Learning Tree!

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Save the Date! August 8th for Back to School Ideas!

Happy back to school season!
No matter what point you're at in your summer, you know you're still thinking about school! We can't help it! Well, I'm excited to tell you I'm joining with some wonderful Florida bloggers to give you some great back to school ideas that will give you all you need to start the year off right!  You can look forward to seeing tips from the following Florida PreK-5 bloggers!

Please join us on Saturday, August 8th at 12 noon!
Can't wait to share some fantastic ideas with you!

Monday, August 3, 2015

Independent Reading Conferences

My independent reading conference templates have been a game changer for me. It gave me a structured block of time to individualize my instruction for my readers and gave me a focus to make my instruction the most effective. I have conducted independent reading conferences since the beginning of my teaching, but didn't realize how unstructured they were until we had to change our schedule this past year because we implemented a new computer program. The program requires each student to complete a 20 minute reading session which changed my whole reading block.
One of the first things to get "cut" in classrooms seems to be independent reading. Why? I guess because we think kids can read when they get free time or read at home, but some will never get that time. We can't model and teach all these skills and strategies if we don't give them time to implement them during their own real life reading. That's when I decided, I had to get a game plan to make my independent reading time the most meaningful and effective it could be.
We need to know as much as possible about our readers individually in our classrooms. This time spent conferencing together will:

•Get a closer look at your students’ reading lives
•Bonding time with students individually
•Drives future instruction
•Oral fluency check
•Re-teaching opportunity or time to clarify misconceptions
•Monitoring students to see if comprehension strategies are being incorporated in their own reading experiences
•Monitor reading level of student selected books
•Goal setting opportunity 
•Hold students accountable
•Gather information to help parents with reading time at home with their child
EACH student gets their own individualized instruction with you during this time. Perfect time to differentiate EVERY week.

 Start immediately! If you haven't started school yet, plan to start that first week. Get your students and yourself in a routine right from the beginning. (However, it's never too late to start.) Set up a schedule and location you will be conferencing. How much time do you have to dedicate each day to this? And, will you go to each student to meet or will you call them over to a table? My goal is to meet with each student once a week, essentially it's an extra reading group for them. Write down your schedule and stick to it. I use a timer for each conference so I can keep on track. My conferences range from 5-10 minutes depending on the students' needs.  You will need more time if your student needs help selecting a just-right book, keep some "favorites" handy to recommend if needed.
These templates are generic for any text, it's ok if you haven't read every book in your classroom. I haven't either! I'm very fortunate and have built a HUGE classroom library over my years and it would be impossible for me to read every book. Trust me, you will be able to tell if your students need further instruction on something or aren't comprehending what they're reading in just those few minutes. And, of course, with practice, you'll get better and more confident with conferencing.
While I'm conferencing, my other students are reading silently. At the beginning of every year my students and I create an anchor chart of our independent reading expectations. It is important that your students are a part of this so you get buy-in from them. I allow my students to sit anywhere in the room as long as they're reading silently. If they don't follow the expectations/procedures, they have to return to their seats and can't read. Reading is fun and a privilege in our class, so this is a punishment to them. Now, this wouldn't work if you have students who don't "like" to read, but I try so hard to create such a strong reading environment I don't have this problem.
While they're reading, I'm meeting with each student on a specific skill or strategy. During this time I listen to my students read, discuss the strategies they’re using while reading, monitor comprehension, and learn about my students as readers. After that initial "get to know you" session, I dive into some questions. I have generic templates and specific skill templates. I may focus on a skill I have taught to my whole group or focus on something specific for that student.  I keep track of their learning on conference sheets that I keep in a binder.
  This information is so beneficial! It will give you bonding time with your readers and drive your instruction. I use this evidence of their strengths and weaknesses to drive my instruction. For example, if several students are struggling with the same skill/strategy, I will address this during my whole group instruction. If only a few are having difficulty, I will use my guided reading group time for additional explicit instruction. These sheets are a valuable tool during parent conferences and for data meetings about my students too. 

 Are you interested in starting independent reading conferences in your classroom? Check out this resource here.
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