Monday, July 27, 2015

Creating Classroom Rules - Part 1

Happy Monday, friends! As everyone gets ready for those first few days of school, I know one thing that almost every classroom does is talk about "the rules."  What are they? Why should we follow them? Many teachers spend time the first day or two talking about the rules.  I do not. I know, a rebel again... first no job chart (read about that HERE)... now no rules? What kind of classroom is this chicky running anyway?

First, let me start by saying that yes, I do talk about rules with my kiddos at the beginning of the year. Of course! I just don't do it the first day... or even the second day... or maybe even the first week.  We usually start school on a Wednesday, so we have 3 days the first week, then Labor Day week which is 4 days, then our first full week of 5 days. (Love the way that works!) I usually spend time at the end of the second week bringing up rules. Why so late? Here's my reasoning:

I want the rules in our classroom to be meaningful to my students - and I want THEM to be invested in the rules.  But we can't do that if we don't know what kinds of things will be going on in our classroom and what we want to accomplish during the year.  A classroom that values small group work, critical thinking and independent learning is going to have rules that look very different than a classroom where the teacher is solely the one in charge!

I do a lot with the Responsive Classroom model in my classroom. Student choice, natural consequences, classroom community, social skills.... those are all an important part of my classroom. As a part of this approach, I start the year by talking about our "Hopes and Dreams." What do each of us want to accomplish this year? What went well last year in first grade that we might want to continue? What do we want to change?
(The planning sheet is from Kelli over at Tales of a Tenacious Teacher.)

After we have come up with our hopes and dreams (this takes a couple days and I do them for our classroom as a whole, as well as each individual student), then we can start talking about rules! What kind of classroom do we need to have in order to be able to accomplish the things we said we wanted to do?  Everyone has sooo many ideas, so we start small.

I pair students up and give them small pieces of colored paper. (Colored paper is fun and there are always a few pieces in the scrap basket in the teacher's room from someone's copy mistake :-) Their job is to write down up to 5 rules they think we should have in the room.

Yes, the rules are usually stated in a negative way and many of them are either VERY obvious, or ones the students have had in past classrooms that they are just repeating. Now it's time to fix that!

I put two pairs of students together and have them really get down to work!  The first job is to look at everyone's rules and put together any of them that are the same, or close. (Ex. Anything that has to do with hands on someone, goes in one pile.) Then, they need to come up with 3-5 rules that their whole group can agree on - with 2 guidelines: the rule needs to be stated POSITIVELY, and cannot be really obvious (like, "Keep your hands to yourself.") We model how to change rules to a positive (what SHOULD you do instead of what SHOULDN'T you do?) and we talk about what obvious means. I hand out sticky notes to each group (oh, the excitement!) for them to write their final rules on.

After all the groups are pretty much finished, we come back together as a class and share what we've come up.  We again sort the sticky notes so similar ones are grouped together, and we refer back to our hopes and dreams and talk about how these rules can help us achieve what we want to achieve. We decide on the wording of just a few rules that will cover all the things we want to do. Finally, we have our rules!

Our rules are limited to 4-5 general ideas - be respectful, take care of materials, etc.  These get posted in the room after everyone signs them.  We will return to the rules each time we do something to try and meet one of our goals, as well as review them throughout the year.

But wait - we're not done yet! These rules are very broad.  Just what does it mean to "be respectful?" What does it look like? How do we know if someone is following the rule?  Part 2 of my "Creating Classroom Rules" posts will address how to make these broad rules more understandable for students. And if you're a PBIS school, or any school where the rules are already developed, my next post will give you some ideas for taking those rules that are already establish and breaking them down into actions.

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Sunday, July 26, 2015

Assess Me! A Get-to-Know-You Linky

Happy Sunday! I was in the middle of starting finishing up a blog post for this week and as I was being distracted by just about everything... I found this fun linky party hosted by Rachel over at The Tattooed Teacher.

What a fun way to get to know people!  Here are my answers for this week!

Want to link up yourself, or find more teacher bloggers to learn more about? Head over to Rachel's blog and check out the linky!

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Saturday, July 25, 2015

Literacy Linky - Vivacious Vocabulary

Hello, Hello - and Happy Saturday! Today I'm linking up once again with the girls from The Reading Crew for their summer blog party and a literacy linky!
This week it's all about vocabulary.  Vocabulary is sooo important for reading success.  Students who read regularly pick up all sorts of vocabulary from context, but others need more support - and sometimes you have to start with the basics!  Pretty much every elementary classroom works with parts of speech in some way.  Younger grades introduce the concepts of nouns, verbs, adjectives etc... while older grades focus more on choosing words to fit your writing (and we do this in second grade, too!)

I like to rely on three ways to get students noticing words and talking about them before they use them in their writing.  I'm talking books, songs and games! We'll start with the books (of course! "The Book Queen," here!)
This is a great series of books by Michael Dahl and Sara Gray that hits just about every part of speech - and capitalization, punctuation, contractions, and more! Each book focuses on one type of word and is filled with TONS of examples!  The pages fit a "theme" and the words on those pages have to do with that idea.

You can check out the books at Amazon by clicking on the image above, or even better - listen to them being read aloud online! (Click on the images to see the videos on YouTube.)




This leads to a perfect classroom activity: choose a theme/place/idea (you can choose it, or have our students choose it) and work to brainstorm words (whatever you're working on) to fit that theme. For example, are you working on verbs? Divide students into small groups or partners and have each group choose a place - school, backyard, playground, beach, jungle....anywhere (or have everyone choose the same place).  Now take a few minutes to list all the verbs you can think of for that place. You can have students share by telling their place and then acting out the words for others to guess. (You may want to have a list of the possible choices on display.)  You can take this one step further and have students choose one verb and try to come up with 3 "levels" - shades of meaning.  If you're on the playground, maybe you spin. That could be extended to twirl, twist, whirl, rotate.... Now put them in order by degree!

Books aren't the only way to work with words - songs can be really motivating, too!  My favorite grammar songs - of course! - are the classic Schoolhouse Rock songs!  You can find most of them on YouTube right now - and if you're not familiar with these beauties, do a google search and check them out! Here's a favorite of my kiddos EVERY year: (Click to see the video.)

And finally, another great way to give students practice with words before they use them in their writing is to put them in a game.  My students love to do "Find Someone Who Has" games, where students walk around the room looking for someone who matches the clue in each box on their sheet.
These games give students a chance to become familiar with words in a simple format.  After playing the game, I usually ask students to choose a few words and use them in a sentence, tell what each word means or somehow show what they know about the word.  If you're interested in these games, you can find them in my TpT store by clicking {HERE}.

So there you have it! Vivacious vocabulary with books, songs and games! Try them out in your classroom and see how many new words your students start using in their writing!

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Friday, July 24, 2015

First Day Fun With Playdough!

Happy Friday! It's the end of yet another week of summer, but I know everyone is thinking about back to school!  Have you thought about what to do in those first few minutes when students arrive in your classroom on the first day? Head over to iTeachSecond to see how I use playdough as a first day activity. You can pick up the recipe and a freebie, too!

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Monday, July 20, 2015

Getting Rid of the Job Chart

Happy Monday! Bet the title of my post got your attention :-) Do you have a job chart? I was looking at ones on Pinterest the other day and thinking about which one would work best in my room.  Here are a couple I like:


But.... they will not BE in my room because I do not have a job chart. Yes, that's right.. a second grade classroom with no job chart! But how in the world do you keep jobs organized, you ask? And how do students take responsibility for the classroom and feel invested if there is no job chart? Let me  defend myself explain.

When I first started teaching (way back in the dinosaur age), I always had a job chart. I would scour catalogs (we didn't have Pinterest back then) each year to find a great chart to use in my classroom. I would hang it up, write the student names on the little die-cuts and thought it would be wonderful.  Nope.  Then I tried things like a rotating wheel, library cards, etc.  Still no.  Nothing ever seemed to really work for me.

Then there is the whole issue of deciding WHAT the jobs will be.  Line leader, door holder, paper passer... I don't even NEED some of these jobs in my room.  Did I need a job for everyone? Should I create jobs like "line caboose" and "person who gets to choose a book first" just to make sure everyone had a job? And if not, how do I deal with the ones who don't have a job that week? Which brings me to another issue for me... (and obviously I have issues with this as you can see)...

How do I change the jobs each week and keep track of who is supposed to be doing what? Yes, I know I can just rotate jobs clockwise (works great if you have enough jobs for everyone) or randomly pull from a bag of clothespins... but it always seemed to be a production. And then there is remembering WHO does WHAT.  Time to hand out papers... who's job is that? And can you please pass them a little faster, I'd like to get done before your next birthday. All the chairs are not pushed in... who is my "chair pusher inner" and why are you slacking? Nope, too much for me.

Soooo... I created a foolproof (for me, anyway) way to still give kids responsibility in the classroom without making my head spin.  Ready? It is called... "Helper of the Day."  (cue the applause and sharp intake of breath)  I know... not a new idea, but whoa Nellie! (anyone really use that expression?), it works wonders for me.  Here's what we do.

Every day, one person is the Helper. (I capitalized the word because it is important.  Some of my kiddos might think it should be in ALL caps.) The Helper does all the coveted jobs for the day - line leader, bringing notes to the office or running errands, being the calendar teacher for morning meeting, choosing the greeting/activity and pretty much anything else I need a student to do.  Some days it's only those main jobs, while other days the Helper is my right-hand man (or woman).

Now, don't think that the Helper is the ONLY one who does anything in our room. My kiddos know they are ALL responsible for taking care of the room and getting things done.  Cut your scraps from your interactive notebook pages into little bits?... Go get the trash can.  Need dice and a whiteboard for the math game? ... You know where it is. General classroom responsibility is claimed by all.

Bu wait? Just one kiddo has a job? How do you remember who it is?  Oh, I have a solution for this, too.  And it's genius. (One of my former teammates told me that, so I know it is.) We go in order of names on the workboxes.  Yep, first person on the top starts it off, then the next day is the next person, etc. If you're absent on your day, then you can be the Helper the next day - but if it's any longer than that then you have to wait until your next turn because it's just too confusing to keep track of. And the best part of this system? I DON'T HAVE TO REMEMBER ANYTHING. There is always someone (or two, or twelve) who know EXACTLY whose job it is today... and tomorrow... and when their's will be two weeks from now.  And it's easy to check - Who was the Helper yesterday? Luis? Then, no your turn is not for another week - see how Rachel's name is next?  If you don't have workboxes, you can use mailboxes or something else. The key is for it to be something that displays every child's name and is easy to see.

So what do you think? Are you planning on trashing your job chart and moving to Helper of the Day? I promise, it will make your life easier. Still love your job chart and never giving it up? Good for you. The point is that everyone needs to find something that works for them - even if its different than what everyone else is doing. That's ok! You think no job chart makes me a rebel? Wait until I tell you about my "behavior management system"...

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Sunday, July 19, 2015

The Sunday Scoop Link-Up

Happy Sunday! Just thought I'd pop in for a minute and share what I'm up to today.  I'm linking up with Teaching Trio (who, by the way, got a whole new blog design since I lasted visited them and it's fantastic!) for The Sunday Scoop!

I am happy to say that my "have to's" are actually all done! (I may have decided to link up this week just to be able to say I accomplished something! :-) I just uploaded "Rock the Rules" to my TpT store. Ever have one of those projects that just kept getting bigger and bigger? It's over 100 pages of goodness all about getting those rules down in the first few weeks of school.  TONS of graphic organizers... enough said.  (You can click {HERE} if you want to check it out.) As for paying bills, also enough said.... but what did I ever do before online banking, I ask you?  I also reviewed a huge resource for another seller which is going to be wonderful!

My "hope to's" include a lake boat cruise.  Don't get too excited... it's a very small lake and those of us oldies like to troll along the edge of the lake in the evening... we started calling it the "dinner cruise" and it kind of stuck.  Given that it's about 100 degrees right now (finally some summer weather!), being on the water will be nice. Before that, I hope to get my "to do" list done for the week. I find that by writing down what I want to do, I get more done.  And that includes shopping trips to Target, etc.

I am very happy to be still enjoying my summer! I've said it before, but I know that many of you are already in back-to-school mode, and although my teacher brain never really shuts off, it's nice to know I don't HAVE to think about school just yet.

Be sure to head over to Teaching Trio and check out what everyone else is up to this summer Sunday. And while you're clicking around, go over and visit one of my very good friends who is celebrating her one year "blogiversary" today! Leave her some love and grab the great freebie she has to celebrate!

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Friday, July 17, 2015

Revving Up Your Writing ~ A Summer Blog Party Linky

Happy Friday, everyone! Wow... where did the week go? If it wasn't for this Literacy Linky, I wouldn't have had anything posted since last week! Even though I still have five weeks left until we go back, my teacher brain is still going full force! Anyone who works with me knows my love for books! I'm the one to come to when you need an idea for a title that goes with something you're doing - a theme, a skill or a mentor text.  This week I'm excited to share 3 different series of books that are PERFECT to use during writing mini-lessons. So let's start revving up your writing!

This first set of books is my absolute favorite! I just came across them this summer on Amazon as I was searching for something else (always happens!).  They are a set of 3 books, one for each writing genre - opinion, informational and narrative. (Each book is also available separately.)
Each book is written from the point of view of Stella, a second grader who LOVES to write!  She shares how she and her class learn to write each genre, pointing out the important information and tips her teacher gives her, as she does her own writing.  Here's a sample page from Stella and Class: Information Experts:
If you can't tell, Stella is going through the entire writing process with her teacher and her class, sharing her thoughts and ideas as she goes.  On these pages she's talking about how to focus your research on questions, stay organized and use multiple sources.

I am planning on using this book when we begin writing expository text.  We'll read the whole book at first, helping us to create an anchor chart focusing on important "tips" for writing a good informational piece.  Then we can go back and revisit the text when we do mini-lessons on each part.

Now - here's the best part! Janiel Wagstaff, the author of these wonderful books, has created a website devoted to how to use these books in the classroom! There is a page for each of the three books, with links to strategies, tips and (check this out!) - copies of Stella's writing for students to use as a mentor text! You can download a copy of her notes, first draft and final copy!

These books would work well in any primary classroom, but are especially well-suited for second grade. You can head to her site to look around by clicking on the image below.

But wait!  Hang on and don't go yet! I have two more series to share with you. (The website will still be there when you're done reading, I promise :-)

Here's another series you can use as part of your writing block. This series is a little better for upper elementary, but could definitely be used in the lower grades with some modification.

Show Me A Story is part of a series of books called "Writer's Toolbox" by Nancy Loewen. Each book focuses on a different kind of writing (fairy tales, letter writing, opinion writing, etc.). Throughout the books are sidebars with the "tools" to use to write a great piece of text.
Show Me a Story is a narrative story about Webster the goose's wish.  On each page, readers learn about the different "tools" needed to write a story - problem, characters, plot, etc. Again, this would be a great book to use to set the stage for writing each genre, and then returning to the book throughout the writing process.  Here are some other titles in the series.
Finally, I'd like to share with you a more open-ended resource for writing.  The series, Pick a Picture, Write _____" is a set of books by Kristen McCurry great for inspiring ideas. In Pick a Picture Write an Opinion, the first few pages review the components of a good opinion piece - fact vs. opinion, writing reasons, how to start your writing, etc. (all in kid-friendly language).
The rest of the book is devoted to ideas for writing prompts - full color pictures with an idea for a topic and tips for writing.

I can see my students using these books in a writing center or as part of some independent writing. The prompts could also be used as whole-class writing ideas, as well. Again, there are other books in this series covering different genres.

That's it! I'm really excited abut using all these books in my classroom this year. I'm always on the lookout for books to use with EVERYTHING I do! (And just an FYI... if you search these authors on Amazon, you'll see that two of them have other books great for the classroom, as well!) Happy writing!

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