Happy Friday, folks! Can you believe that tomorrow is August 1st? Oh my word, where did the summer go?! Today I'm finishing up my blog series on Creating Classroom Rules.  You can see part 1 {HERE} and part 2 {HERE}. (And be sure to read all the way to the bottom of this post - there's a giveaway for you to enter!)

Anyone who knows anything about me knows I LOVE books! I have a book for just about everything I teach in my classroom and if I don't have it, I know a title so you can look for it! Talking about rules is an important part of any classroom. And as teachers, we know that everything is better with a book! Do you have any of these titles?
These are my four "go to" books for the beginning of the year when we talk about rules.  Here's a sneak peek into each one of them.

This is my absolute favorite book to read when talking about rules.  This book appeals to every second grader who likes weird and sometimes gross things.  The book is written in fun rhyming phrases that talk about all the rules a poor kid has to deal with all day long - not just at school. We read this book and the I often ask my kiddos to share with me one rule they really hate to follow. And as a follow-up - if you were in charge of the rules, what are 3 rules you would make? This leads to some fun discussions and it's a great way to get to know your students at the beginning of the year.

Another book that primary kids find hysterical.  Sammy the Shark is sooo excited about his first day! But his propensity to bite things when he's excited can make it hard to have a successful day at school! This is a great book to use not only for rules, but also for learning a little self-control. We use this book to introduce a little about character traits, as well as how characters solve problems.
This adorable book focuses on Arnie and his Mom talking about what went on at school. Arnie is pretty nonchalant about the day's events, but looking at the illustrations and reading the speech bubbles gives a great insight into an elementary classroom! A great book to think about different perspectives, as well as talking about how speech bubbles and the details in the illustrations really help tell the story. Make sure you read those speech bubbles when you read aloud - they really are the funniest parts of the story!

I also want to share just one more set of books! I found these in the Scholastic book club last year and my kiddos really liked them!

I have the two shown in the picture, but there are a couple others with Clark, too. Clark is a lot like Sammy the Shark (in Don't Eat the Teacher!) - he's a little excitable and that excitement can get him into trouble! (Can you see a character comparison here? :-) We look at the things Clark did and how he could have done them differently - and we do compare to Sammy.

So, what do you think? Has this blog post series given you ideas for some new ways to introduce and talk about the rules in your classroom? I thought it would be fun to end this series with a little giveaway!  I'll be giving away a copy of favorite rules read-aloud, the rules, by Marty Kelley and a copy of my "Rock the Rules" resource (you can see that in my TpT store {HERE}  to one lucky winner. You can enter by leaving a comment on this post telling me one way you introduce, practice, model, etc. the rules at the beginning of the year.  Favorite activity? Another great read-aloud? Share an idea and I'll randomly choose a winner next Friday Aug. 7. Good luck!

UPDATE: Congratulations to Melanie! Check your email for more information.

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It's time to talk about how to make those rules you've created with your students really come to life.
If you missed be beginning post on creating rules in the classroom, you can jump to it {HERE}. Today I'll be sharing part 2 of my rules series - how I help my students get a clearer understanding of what our rules mean.

In our school we do a sort of modified PBIS thing. (Which means, we are not officially a PBIS school, but we use some of the ideas!) Our school mascot is a husky, so our principal created an acronym that says our students: Have responsibility, Use honesty, Show respect for others, and Keep safe In Every Setting. So we focus on being responsible, respectful, safe and honest.  These rules are already established at the beginning of the year, and my incoming students already know them by heart.  It is my job to help them understand what the rules look like - not just in the classroom, but in all areas of the building. I do this over the course of the first few weeks of school.

First, I start by talking with my kiddos about what our rules are, why we have them and what they think each rules means. We keep track of our ideas on a brainstorming sheet for each rule. We also brainstorm what the rules look like in different places in the building - classroom, playground, cafeteria, bathroom, hallway...
I project these onto my SmartBoard and we fill them up with ideas! (Remember, I do this over a period of time, so we don't do every rule and every place at once! It depends what I see we need to work on.)

I find that while students are usually good at TELLING me the rules, they often have a difficult time EXPLAINING the rules. So we work with two guiding questions: "What does this rule LOOK like?" and "What does this rule SOUND like?" I often have my students work in pairs to come up with these ideas. If someone walked into the room/hall/cafeteria, etc.. How would they know everyone was following the rules? What would they be saying? What would they be doing?

I find the "looks like/sounds like" idea to give more structure, but I have also had partners just come up with a list of 3 ways we can show that specific rule. Sometimes we all use the same recording sheet and sometimes we mix it up.

We also take time to think about how the rules will look in different settings. Being safe in the classroom will look different from being safe on the playground.

These sheets don't stand on their own! We do a LOT of modeling and practicing, too! Each morning at morning meeting we have friends demonstrate the correct (and sometimes, the NOT correct!) way to show a rule in a certain setting. We also go to the different places and practice, too.

Now that we've described the rules and know what they look like and sound like, it's time to really think about them in different ways. I'm a big fan of using movement in the classroom to teach anything, so we often play a game of Four Corners to practice the rules. I make a sign for each of our 4 rules and hang them near the four corners of our classroom.  Each student (or pair of students) gets a card with an action on it. It is their job to move to the corner/rule that best describes their card. My kiddos love this game! Once everyone is in a corner, I call on a couple students to share why they made their choice. Then we mix up the cards and play again.

I also created an activity for students to sort behaviors that "rock" the rules or behaviors that "wreck" the rules. I have a ROCK and WRECK heading and actions that are both good and not so good choices.  Sometime I do this in a small group and have students sort the cards. Other times we do it altogether and have one student choose a card and act out that behavior. (I usually give them a clue of where the behavior is taking place so it's a little easier to guess!) Then the rest of the group decides if it ROCKS or WRECKS the rules. (Insert sound effects and hand motions here and you have a great interactive activity!) You can do this with a whiteboard for each header and student-generated ideas for each behavior, as well.

And finally, I also want my students to think about situations they might be in when they have to think about making the right choice. It's easy to SAY what you're going to do, but as we all know, actions speak louder than words! I created a set of discussion cards that my students can talk about in small groups. One person chooses a card and reads the situation and we discuss the best way to respond and why. This is a great way to start working on speaking and listening skills, too - as well as how to have a discussion with others. Some students need more structure, so I also have the same cards with choices of what to do. The group talks about each option, decides how it will affect the person and others, and chooses the behavior that ROCKS the rules!

Whew! After all that, we are definitely capable of ROCKING the rules! My kiddos know what the rules are, they know what each rule sounds like and looks like in different settings and they have modeled and discussed how to follow the rules.  I usually don't use all these sheets or activities at the beginning of the year. Instead, I pick and choose what it seems my group needs to work on at different points during the year. It is even more important to go back and review the rules as it is to create and define them!

Looking to use some of these ideas in your own classroom? I put the brainstorming sheets for each setting into a file you can download as a freebie! Just click on the image below.
And if you're interested in seeing the whole resource, you can check out my "Rock the Rules" {HERE}.

If you missed any of my other posts on creating classroom rules, here they are:

Now... what would a discussion and activities about the rules be without some read alouds to inspire some thinking? The last post in this series shares some fantastic books to use when you are working with classroom rules.
Creating Classroom Rules: PART 3 Rule Read-alouds

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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? You can get ideas, activities and book titles for talking about the rules in your classroom in my blog post series. Part 1 starts here!
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 teacher 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?  The next part of my "Creating Classroom Rules: PART 2 Defining the 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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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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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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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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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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