Well..... Look at that. It's Thursday night after my first two days with my kiddos and I just discovered that I never hit "publish" on this post that was supposed to go out on Tuesday! And I have been so busy.... and so exhausted... That I never checked until now. Oops. The first week back will do that to you. So... here's this week's Teacher Talk Tuesday... on a Thursday... and now I'm going to bed. :-)

Happy Tuesday, everyone! It's time for the last Teacher Talk of the month! (You can check out the last three weeks {HERE}, {HERE} and {HERE}.The last Tuesday of the month will always focus on books - get ready for a "Book Bonanza!" Now, I have a confession to make. I kind of mixed up my weeks last week. Last week we talked about great books to start the new year. That should have been THIS week. But... it will all work out, because last week was SUPPOSED to be about sharing our classroom library... and since that is still about books, we'll go with it for this week!

I have changed my library around these last couple years and I finally think I like the way I have things organized. I sort my books by theme, genre and topic, not by level. I feel that it's important for students to be able to use strategies to choose books that are just right for them, and if we only allow them to choose from "the blue basket" or whatever, we're not giving them the opportunity to make their own choices. That being said, if I see a student is frequently choosing books that are too hard or too easy, I meet with that student (or group of students) and we do a mini-lesson on book choice.

Aside from not leveling my books, I also do not put all my books out at once. I am a book HOARDER.

And those are just the "general" topic books, book series, authors etc. that I keep in my classroom. I have containers of books at home in my basement for seasons, holidays, etc. I pull those out when the time comes.

My main library is organized by genre/topic/theme. At the beginning of the year, I put out books that will really pull my kiddos in - humor, sports, animals (fiction and nonfiction), as well as books that they will be successful with - Hello Readers, for example. I also have a bin of easy chapter books, as well.

This is where my students shop for their book bags for independent reading time. I switch out both the books in the bins, or the bin itself (adding mystery, poetry, and other themes) as the year goes on. Since the books are always in my classroom, I can easily go back and pull out a favorite book a student is looking for when requested.

I also have bins of books lined up on my workbox shelf. These are books related to a current topic, theme or author.

And I have my book display on the side.

Those are the first books my kiddos see when they walk in the room and they notice right away when things get changed! (Note: I will sometimes just put the new books out with little fanfare, or sometimes I will do a quick book talk on a few before they get displayed.)

Books end up in lots of places in our room. This basket of informational books on monarch caterpillars sits next to our little friends.

Last year, I started lining up the books we read as read alouds on the tray by the whiteboard. This worked to keep the book in view and generated excitement when a new book was placed. (I find that sometimes when I put a book in one of the bins after reading it, it gets forgotten too quickly!)

There you have it! It's not as pretty or OCD organized as some libraries I have seen, but it works for us, and that's what counts!

Now it's your turn! Tell me about how you organize your classroom library. Is there a specific system that works for you? How do you display your books? Leave a comment, or link up below.

I'm trying something different with the linky this week. I hadn't gotten too much of a response for my previous ones, so last week I didn't include it - and of course, I got asked where it was! Sooooo, I linked up a bunch of great blog posts abut classroom libraries that I found helpful and interesting - all in one place! You are welcome to add your own link, too! And if you don't have a post to link, just talk to me in the comments! I can't wait to hear your ideas for your classroom library!

post signature
Happy Monday, folks! It's back to school for me today! Kiddos come on Wednesday, but we have two days of PD before the big day. I'm blogging over at iTeachSecond today to share a writing activity that helps you get to know your students better - and, it's easy! Head on over to see what it's all about (and you can grab a freebie or two, while you're there!)

post signature
Happy Tuesday, teacher friends! It's time for this week's "Teacher Talk Tuesday" chat. (Be sure you've checked out the previous week's talks about creating classroom community and classroom management.) This week it's all about the books!

I have a slight obsession with books. I have a book for everything. And why not? Books are a great way to get students excited about a topic, introduce a concept, to use as a mentor text... I have books for math, social skills, grammar ..... you name it, I have it.

Sooooo... let's talk back to school books. We all have our favorites. From First Day Jitters, to The Kissing Hand, from Chrysanthemum to No, David! There are so many books out there that are perfect for the first days and weeks of school. Hopefully this post will give you some new ideas, as well as bring up old favorites.

I have a few blog posts I've written about using different books.  I recently did a blog series about creating classroom rules and shared some great read alouds to use as you go.
Earlier this summer, I shared some great books for the first few weeks of school as you are getting to know your students.
This next book is PERFECT to use when you're working on personal space - any time of year!
Now how about some books you may not be familiar with? (All these books are at school ready to go for the first day, so the images are linked to Amazon.)
http://www.amazon.com/Rain-School-James-Rumford/dp/0547243073/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1439746518&sr=1-1&keywords=rain+school   http://www.amazon.com/Off-Class-Incredible-Unusual-Schools/dp/1926818865/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1439746534&sr=1-1&keywords=off+to+class
These two books are a great way to add some social studies into your back to school activities. Pull down the map or even better - use Google Earth! - and see where each of these schools are located. Do a little compare and contrast - how are these schools the same and different from yours? Finish with a quick opinion writing - which place do you think would be most interesting to go to school?
I am in love with these books. I bought both of them last spring and they immediately became favorites with my kiddos. The illustrations are bright and colorful and the message of "be yourself" is simple and powerful.
These last 3 books are new to me! I saw One on Luckeyfrog's instagram feed and knew I had to check it out. Of course, I ended up buying all three in the series.

 All three books continue with a theme of accepting differences - and accepting yourself, as well as being kind and compassionate to others.
Now it's your turn! I know we as teachers are always on the look out for new books. What are some of your favorites for back to school? Any titles that people may not be familiar with? Share, share, share! Leave a comment with your go-to books for these next few weeks. I'm loving hearing from everyone as part of these Teacher Talks!

post signature
Happy Sunday, teacher friends! I really am inspired to share my thoughts in this post. There has been a LOT of talk this summer in the blogging/teaching community about focusing on the positive - with your kids, in your classroom, in your life as a whole. And talk about "finding your tribe" - being with people who are like-minded, people who share the same interests, enthusiasm and passion that you do. Teaching is exactly that - a passion. It comes from within.

I remember being on an interview committee years ago. We were hiring for a first grade position and we asked the generic question, "What made you want to become a teacher?" The usual answers centered around playing school all the time, interactions with special teachers, etc. But one candidate had a different answer. She talked about a "teaching gene" that lives inside some people. It shows itself in the many years playing school with siblings and friends, the summers spent as camp counselors and the love for everything about school. Some people are born with that gene, and teaching is all they ever wanted to do. They are passionate about their choice - teaching is WHO they are. It is in their being.

I never forgot that answer. And I thought about it many times over my years of teaching. I have that teaching gene. And I know you do, too. That gene is what drives us to connect with our students and their families. It is what keeps us awake at night, worrying about the students in our classrooms, our excitedly planning the next adventure for their minds. It is why we spend our summers planning and creating and thinking... "teacher brain" never turns off.

And that brings us to the main point of my post. Teaching is a joy - and it is hard. In order to be the best we can be, we need to surround ourselves with other people who also have that teaching gene. We need to mentor and support each other. I came across a fabulous article that Jen over at Runde's Room shared on Facebook this week. It is written by Jennifer from Cult of Pedagogy. It talks about marigolds. Yes, marigolds. And walnut trees. And their relationship to teaching. There is no way I am going to give that article justice by summarizing it here. So I want you to go read it. Right now. And after you read it, come back here.

I'll wait. (Click on the image.)

Powerful, huh? There can be so much negativity in schools now-a-days. And it’s easy to get caught up in it. DON’T. It will zap the enjoyment of teaching right out of you. That’s not to say we don’t all have bad days. Or that what we are asked to do as teachers… sigh… is becoming more and more difficult. Or that things haven’t changed over the years. All this is true. But always try to remember why you became a teacher in the first place. It is who you are. It is in your genes. You make a difference.

So as you go into a new year, make it a priority to find those people – or even just that one person – on your staff who are your marigolds. We may not always be easy to spot. But we are here. Connect with other teachers, new and experienced, in your school, in your district, or here on social media. Marigolds come in all shapes, sizes and colors. This year, be a marigold.

(NOTE: I'm going to print out one or these photos and keep it framed near my desk all year.
You can download the file by clicking on the image.)

post signature

Happy Tuesday, folks! It's time for another blog talk topic as part of my "Teacher Talk Tuesdays." Every Tuesday will have a topic and I'm encouraging EVERYONE - blogger or non-blogger! - to share ideas.

Last week was the first Tuesday of the month, so the topic was classroom community. If you missed that post, you can click {HERE} to hop over and read some great ideas for developing classroom community during the first few weeks of school. This week's trending topic is classroom management.

There has been a LOT of talk lately about different ways to work on behavior management. Some teachers like using a clip chart, others prefer Class Dojo or brag tags.... The important thing is not WHAT you are using, but HOW it works in your classroom.  Is your system working? Is what you are doing changing the behavior of your students for the better? If you feel it is, then great! Keep doing what you're doing! But I challenge you to ask yourself this: Are the same kids always the ones getting the positive rewards, while the same 2-4 kids don't ever seem to succeed? If the answer is yes, you may want to rethink your system.

I decided not to do a clip chart this year. I used one for a few years, but I never really liked it. Not only did I not like how public it was (and I even went to individual clip charts at their seats), but mainly I wasn't seeing positive results. The kiddos who would behave and make good choices no matter what always were at the top of the chart, while the students who had difficulty always seemed to struggle. (And if you want to read a really awesome post about a completely different way to use a clip chart to reinforce good character, check out Sarah's ideas over at There's No Place Like Second Grade.)

So what system did I decide to use this year? Nothing. That's right, nothing. No clip chart, no Class Dojo, nothing. I decided to go back to what worked for me every year before I started the clip chart (because everyone else was doing it :-). I never had a "formal" behavior system for the whole class. And I rarely had major behavior issues. "Those" students were often placed in my class for that reason. (NOTE: I think it's important to say that I am fortunate to work in a district where there are very few students with major behavior issues. Yes, I always had the 3-4 kids who needed more attention in this department, but I looked at it like this: some kids need more support in reading or math, these kids needed more support with making good choices. But if you work in a classroom setting where managing behavior takes up a good part of your day, you may need something more structured IN ADDITION TO what I'm going to suggest. And this is where Sarah's post might come in handy!)

What's my secret? Here are my top ideas on which my classroom management philosophy is built.

This is THE MOST IMPORTANT part of successful classroom management. I read a great book a while ago called, What Great Teachers Do Differently.  The biggest takeaway I had from this book was the idea that a great teacher is PROactive, instead of REactive. A great teacher thinks about how to help students be successful beforehand. S/he anticipates all the little things that could go wrong and plans for them ahead of time. A "reactive" teacher waits until the lesson or activity has started, and then reacts to what happens at the time.  Think about that for a minute. Imagine you are planning a lesson that requires Johnny to choose a partner. You know that working cooperatively is difficult for him. What do you do? Do you wait until an issue arises and deal with it then, all along knowing this is not going to go well? Or do you think about it ahead of time and put something in place so Johnny has more of a chance of being successful? Do your students have difficulty lining up? Do they all want to be first? Set up a plan! Great teachers have a routine and a procedure for EVERYTHING because we are proactive. Take that idea even further and apply it to other parts of the day and other areas. And yes, sometimes you just don't plan for everything. You can't anticipate it all. But you can use what happens one time to fix it this next time. 
This is up there with being proactive as the number one part of having successful classroom management. Students who feel that they are part of a community, who are invested in their learning and the leaning of those around them, will WANT to make good choices. They will WANT to help others and be part of everything that goes on. Take the time at the beginning of the year, before you dive into academics, to get to know your students. Learn about them, connect with them and help them connect with others in the class. I guarantee this will have a tremendous impact on the rest of your year.
I KNOW you do this one all. the. time. Especially at the beginning of the year. But I suggest you think about taking it one step further. Don't model just procedures and rules. Want students to write 3 things in the box on their paper? Model it! Looking for your kiddos to interview each other for a getting to know you activity? Model it! Show them EXACTLY what you want the writing/discussion/picture to look like. I guarantee you, even if you think it is obvious to write in that box on the paper, there's at least one student who is thinking the writing should go somewhere else. By modeling, you give students an example of what you want - and clear up confusion you probably didn't even know existed! You can model by doing things as a whole group, fishbowl so a small group is doing while the others are watching, put up an example... whatever works for your students and for the activity you are doing.
Ok, so you've modeled. And you've thought ahead. But Jillian is STILL building a tower with the place value blocks while you're trying to teach. Now what? This is where logical consequences come in.  I do not believe in taking away recess as a consequence. For pretty much anything. I find that the kids who are losing recess are the ones who NEED recess, and standing on the wall, or doing laps or whatever doesn't change their behavior. They still are talking while I'm talking. They are still not bringing in their homework. That's because the consequence has no connection to the behavior. Is Jillian playing with the blocks? Move them away until she needs them to complete her work. Are Louise and Susan spending the time talking about their sleepover instead of buddy reading? They lose the privilege of being partners for now. Logical consequences come in 3 kinds: (1) you break it, you fix it; (2) loss of privilege, and (3) time out. You can read more about the Responsive Classroom approach for more details on how logical consequences work.)
This is without a doubt, the toughest one to do. You have to mean what you say - and follow through. I always shake my head when I hear teachers saying, "I've told you 5 times not to talk in the hallways. If it happens again, we're going back." Say it once. And then act on it. ALL. THE. TIME. Kids know right away when you're not going to follow though on what you say. It wastes their time - and your time. Keep the consequences logical, but make sure you use them. And use them fairly. Remember - fair does not always mean equal, and I tell this to my students all the time.
(Alissa Prendergast @https://twitter.com/AlissaPrenderg)
Have some fun! This can be a simple as adding chants and cheers to your day. A simple high-five and a smile can mean everything. Positive words and praise are powerful. Remember to be specific. "Great job!", no matter how well-intentioned, doesn't tell that students (or anyone else) what s/he did well.  Instead try, "Nice job using rock-paper-scissors to solve that problem."  or "Way to go, Scott! I saw you try different ways to solve that problem without giving up!" This would be the time to use brag tags, reward coupons, lottery tickets, marbles in the jar.... whatever way you choose to reinforce positive choices. I don't give students a reward card every time they make a good choice - that's what they are expected to do! But I do give them out enough so those students who always make good choices do get rewarded, and those who might need more support have a chance to earn them, as well.
All right, now. What are you thinking? Which parts of this do you already do in your classroom? What new ideas do you have that work well for you? I want to hear from you! Teachers have so many great ideas to share and very often the best ideas we use are ones that came from another teacher! So... if you're a blogger and you have a post about classroom management (new or old), link up below. (And if you know someone who has a great post, ask them to link up, too!) If you're not a blogger, share your ideas in the comments. (Just click below my name with the froggy where it says "3 comments" or whatever and share your ideas!) Let's make this a conversation about great classroom management strategies. I will respond to every comment, so let's start talking, sharing and connecting! 

post signature

Happy Saturday! Only two more weeks to go until I'm back in school and my teacher brain is definitely in full force! I'm starting to think more and more about different ways to build classroom community this year. Have you checked out the great ideas everyone shared in our first "Teacher Talk Tuesday" blog talk series? There are some fun ideas for helping to build classroom community in the first few weeks of school.  If you haven't shared your ideas, hop on over and let me know what's going on in your classroom world! (Click the image below.)


I shared one of my ideas on my blog, and I'm over at iTeachSecond today sharing another one! Come read about how we make "All About Me" necklaces that tell a story about us!


post signature
Happy Tuesday, friends! I am so excited to kick off my weekly "blog talk topic!" Every week will have a different theme for us to talk about.

I'm excited to connect with everyone, bloggers AND non-bloggers. We are all teachers and we have SO much to share! I was a blog reader LOOOONG before I was a blog writer! At the end of this post I'll explain how everyone can share their ideas! Let's get started!

The first Tuesday of every month will be devoted to classroom community. Building a classroom community is probably THE most important thing we can do as teachers. It makes everything else flow smoothly, it makes our teaching better and most of all, it makes learning easier!  The first few weeks of school are all about building that community of learners.  It's important for students to get to know each other, personally and as learners. (I know, you're all nodding your heads, here.  You get it!) This month, let's share ideas for activities we do to build classroom community during the first few weeks of school.

One way I start to build that community is with a simple but fun "getting to know you" activity.  Students can work in partners or in small groups. Each kiddo takes a turn to roll the dice and uses the number s/he rolled to tell something about his/herself, using the sentence starters.  Each time a number is rolled, it gets colored in on the graph. The first number to the top "wins!" (I have a sheet for 6-sided dice and one for 10-sided dice.) We model how t play the game first, by doing a whole class game where everyone gets a chance to roll and share something about themselves.


You can make this activity pretty much no-prep by getting your students involved in creating the questions! Make a chart with the numbers 1-6 (or 0-10 if you're using a ten-sided die). Work with your students to come up with 6 different questions. (Or you can do 5 questions and a "free choice.") Post the chart where everyone can see it (or project it on your whiteboard) and start playing! I like to do different themes each time. One day we'll do questions about families, another day about what everyone did over the summer.... have some fun and do silly questions, too! I introduce this game one day, then we play it as our morning work for a few days after that. (You can download the 2 sheets I use by clicking the image or clicking HERE. Have fun!)

Alright, friends! Now comes the fun part! STOP! What are you thinking right now? Do you do something similar in your classroom? Are you thinking of a community building activity you do during the first few weeks of school? I want you to SHARE! We're going to make this easy-peasy :-) I love reading comments on people's blogs about how other teachers modify/use/transform an existing activity, or about a completely different activity someone uses. EVERYONE has something to share because we all do such great things in our classrooms! Even if you don't think your idea is fantastic, I guarantee you - someone else will! And that's what this is all about - sharing our ideas with others. It's the best part of teaching!

If you're a blogger - join the linky! You don't have to write a completely new post. Link up one of your community building ideas you already shared.  And if you're not a blogger, or you're just starting out and you don't have a post to link up - I still really want to hear from you! Leave a comment below sharing one activity you do in your classroom during the first few weeks of school to build classroom community. (If you're new to this, just click below the froggy with my name where it says "3 comments, or 27 comments, or whatever. That will open a box for you to type so you can share your idea.)

I'm excited to connect with teachers everywhere and read about all your great ideas! As a teacher, you know that the best ideas we have often come from other teachers! You just might be that inspiration!

post signature
Back to Top