2017 - The Classroom Nook

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The Classroom Game Nook

Making your Bulletin Boards Work for YOU: 3 Ways to Get More Out of Your Bulletin Boards


You don't have to convince me - pretty bulletin boards are my JAM!

I would spend HOURS on just one bulletin board.   I obsessed over every detail - I would even get almost all the way done - have a new inspiration and pull it all down and start all over again.  When I was done I'd sit back and pat myself on the back for a job well done.  Then, I would wait for the "ooos and the ahhhs" that would follow from fellow teachers as they passed by my classroom.

::::insert mic drop here::::

But - all that fame went to my head -  And I eventually fell from cloud nine.

I remember one year, I had made a particularly beautiful display (ps - I'm not really this big-headed in real life - I'm just doing it for the effect😁) - and I made reference to something on a bulletin board that had been up in our classroom for weeks - when a students then responded with "what bulletin board?"

::::picks mic back up::::

It hurt.

Bad.

But - I had that eye-opening moment about the purpose of my bulletin boards.  Up until then - I was really doing the bulletin boards for me - and not for the benefit of my students.  (Ok- be honest - what have YOU done in your classroom for the purpose of impressing yourself or other adults in your building, and not for the purpose of student learning?  We all have SOMETHING!)
using bulletin boards in the classroom

Does this all sound familiar?  If so, I want to give you some suggestions for how to get MORE out of your bulletin boards so that they aren't just some pretty display in the back corner of your classroom.

Check these out!

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Tips and Tools for Successful Co-Teaching


The year I taught in an integrated classroom was, to say the least, eye-opening.  It was both my worst year teaching, AND the year I learned the most about myself as a teacher.

I was the general education teacher in a classroom of 23 students along side one special education teacher...and together we were damage control.  Academically our students were low - but behaviorally, they were lower.  On the very first day of school when one of our students caused a fight in the bus loop - I knew we were in for a very, very long year.

I paint a pretty picture, don't I?

Well, in efforts to be completely transparent about my experiences, I wanted to give you the full story.  You can read even more about this year in my teaching career, and how I survived it, HERE.

But, despite the challenges that that year in an integrated classroom brought me, I learned a lot.  I learned to be more patient with the students (sometimes), I learned to be more compassionate toward the students that were the hardest to love, and I learned that I had a LOT to learn. 

I also learned how to share my classroom with another teacher.

Whether you job-share, work along-side another teacher in your classroom, or even work closely with your grade-level team members, successful co-teaching requires you to be intentional and specific.

Here are some tips that I'd like to pass on to you:
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Creating a Student Reader's Notebook (VIDEO)


I'm not sure if you know this about me - but - I love all things organization.

That's not a unique quality for teachers, I know.  We love our organizational bins and folders!

I'm always looking for ways that I can systematize just about everything in my life.  I like processes, systems, and checklists to help me stay on top of my life.  (Just check out this post on how I use google calendar to organize my life, and you'll see what I mean!)

Does my life always run smoothly - of course not (I have a three-year old daughter, after all!).  However, I know that my day will run smoother if I have an order and structure to it.

Our students need structure and systems, too.  Each year I that I taught, I was always tweaking my organization systems, looking for better ways to create better order in my classroom.  One organizational tool that I really loved was my students' reader's notebook.

Before using reader's notebooks, I was swimming in a sea of student reading logs, reading responses, post-it notes, and other reading-related activities from my students.  Once I implemented, the reader's notebook system, I had ONE place to keep all of my students' reading materials.  It was a sanity saver.

The reader's notebook put my organization-lovin' heart at peace - and it just might do the same for you!

In this post you'll learn:

  • what a reader's notebook is
  • what goes in to a reader's notebook (VIDEO TUTORIAL ALERT!)
  • how to use reader's notebooks effectively in your classroom
  • how my students benefited from having a reader's notebook
Let's get started!

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Set it and Forget it: Classroom Activities & Systems To Prep For Year-Long Use

Greatest kitchen invention of all time?

The crock-pot!

There's nothing better than walking into your house after a long day of work and being welcomed by delicious smells coming from the crock-pot that you prepped that morning.  Knowing that dinner is ready and all you have to do is sit down and grab a fork is such as good feeling, right?

The crock-pot invention is even better on those hectic week nights where you ended up having to stay at school late, run a bunch of errands, or encounter any other interruption that may arise and delay you from getting home to get dinner on the table.

When I know that I have something prepped and ready to go in the crock-pot, it's one less thing on my to-do list, one less thing to think about, and one less thing to scramble to get done.

But - I'm not here to talk to you about 10 easy meals you can prep in your crock-pot - nope - I'll leave that to another blogger.

What I AM here to talk about is what you can prep for your CLASSROOM now to have ready to use all year long.  I'm not just talking back-to-school planning.  I'm talking about planning stuff you'll use alllllll year long.

Over, and over, and over.

I'm about to save you TONS of time during the school year.  No last minute, flying-by-the-seat-of-your-pants planning and scrambling!


Having some activities and systems set in place before the school year starts  will take work off your teacher plate, and let you worry about more pressing classroom decisions and tasks.  AND - prepping these things in the summer when you have a bit more time makes it even easier.  Let's take a look!

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Getting Into the Mindset of Curriculum Mapping


Let's be real.  Curriculum mapping typically conjures up feelings of over-whelm and dread.  It's tedious, time consuming, and often confusing.

Now - let's be reeeeally real.  There were several years of teaching that I was flying by the seat of my pants from unit to unit, not knowing what I would be teaching next week, let alone a month down the road. Forget about mapping out the curriculum for my entire year.  It just didn't happen.  The result?  I would get to June and still have several untouched units that I was supposed to teach, but didn't get to, or I just breezed through it so fast that I might as well have not even taught it.

Sounds familiar?  If so, then this post is for you.

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How To Have The BEST First Day of School



The first day of school is typically filled with all kinds of emotions.  You're excited to meet your new students, show off your fresh classroom, and dive in to a brand new year.

You're also likely feeling over-whelmed, scatter-brained (feeling like you are forgetting something...), and pressed for time to get it all done before day one.


Setting a positive tone on the first day of school is crucial to setting yourself up for success.  Allow me to walk you through your survival guide for having the best first day of school!

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3 Steps to Finding Freedom from Your Cluttered Desktop



How many times do you waste minutes, hours, or even days searching for the perfect activity or lesson for students that you know you already have? You know the story…you’re about to teach a new unit and you remember a super fun lesson that you know would work perfectly. However, you just can’t seem to remember where you stored it on your computer. You search your desktop and computer files…endlessly. Then, when you finally find just what you’re looking for, you swear to get organized…as soon as you have a free moment.

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Teacher Summer Challenge: Getting Your Year In Gear


Holy Moly!

I am bursting with excitement for an announcement that I have been dying to make, and today - I can finally talk about a huuuuge project that I've been working on.

Raise your hand if you participated in my Jump Start teacher challenge that I did last summer.  It was a 30 challenge designed to help teacher break down the over-whelming task of prepping for a new school year in manageable chunks that didn't require them to sacrifice one bit of their summer-lovin life style.  We covered everything from organizing and decorating your classroom to curriculum planning, and more - a LOT more.

I had this vision that I really wanted to help teachers get ready for the school year in a fun, energizing way and knowing that teachers like to connect, share, and inspire each other, I began developing this challenge that I called "Jump Start."  I spent over a month putting it together and then offered it to teachers for free.

I honestly thought that maaaaaybe 50 people would sign up and take the challenge.  But, guess what? I had over 1,000 teachers step up and say "YES!  I'm in!"  WHAT???  That's crazy town.

I was blown away.  We even had a private facebook group that was super active and inspiring to each other with their words of encouragement and inspiration to each other.  I couldn't have imagined a better outcome to the challenge.

Fast forward to May of this year.  I was having an impromptu lunch with my friend May Beth from Brain Waves Instruction.  We both are full-time curriculum writers here in Rochester, NY and we were discussing projects that we were working on and I mentioned how I was gearing up to begin preparations for this year's Jump Start challenge.  I told her how amazing it was last summer, but I was looking to put a fresh new spin on it.

Well- guess what (or, I should say who) my fresh new spin is?  Mary Beth!  She has joined me in hosting the challenge this summer and she has brought some amazingly fresh, fun ideas to the challenge!

Even more than that, we have joined together to form a new passion project called "School Year Solutions."  School Year Solutions is going to be a new place where teachers can find simple solutions to solving their biggest classroom challenges.   And the first challenge we are taking on together is planning and prepping for a new school year.

We're calling the challenge this summer "Getting Your Year in Gear."  It is going to be better then ever and I want YOU to join us.  Even if you joined me last year for Jump Start, you won't want to miss the challenge this year.  By the way - it's a FREE challenge.

Here's a little bit about what you can expect:



If your ready to learn even more about this challenge - hop over to our new School Year Solutions site where you can get all the details about the course and how to sign up.  I hope you will join us this summer!  Just click below to learn more!

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Student Blogging {A New Kind of Journaling}


More and more, teachers are looking for ways to take traditional paper/pencil activities and make them digital.  We've seen interactive notebooks go digital, digital learning guides, and other tasks take a digital turn.

This is a trend that I don't believe is going away any time soon, so we might as well get on board, right?

So, what's next?

In today's post I'd like to share with you one more way that you can put your class-set of tablets, iPads, or chrome books to good use:  STUDENT BLOGGING.

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Using Your Summer to Plan for a Successful School Year



I get it.  It's your summer break.  You want to be sitting pool (or beach)-side with a tiny umbrella drink in your hand.

I want that for you, too.  Really.

But, I also want a stress-free start to the school year for you.

I've been there:  8pm at school- the night before school starts - scrambling to finish up my room and making last-minute copies  That's a big ol' scoop of stress with anxiety on top!

I'm a true believer that slow and steady wins the race.  I believe that you can do a little back-to-school prep at a time (with a little umbrella drink in hand, by the way!) to make large strides in planning a successful school year.

Now before you click out of this post thinking "B2S planning in the summer!?  Aint nobody got for that "  - stay with me for a second.  In this post, I'm going to give you bite-sized nuggets of tips and strategies that will help you plan for your school year AND maintain your summer-lovin' style.


Bookmark this post so you can return again and again to check out a new tip whenever you're ready.  The next time you're sitting in the sunshine with your phone, tablet, or iPad, read up on some ways you can prep now for success later!

I promise - it'll be painless!  Below you will find a library of resources that cover a variety of topics ranging from classroom set-up to launching reader's and writer's workshop.

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{Mini-Series} Tips for Differentiating in the Classroom: Be Discreet...but also open


Teachers - I've got one more quick tip (more like a pep talk, really) for you to round out our mini-series on differentiating in the classroom.  

But first, if you missed the other tips, find them here:
Tip 1:  Get to Know Your Audience
Tip 2:  Plan Ahead...But Be Flexible
Tip 3:  Mix It Up & Be Responsive

And now - the last tip.  It's simple, but important:
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{Mini-Series} Tips for Differentiating in the Classroom: Mix It Up & Be Responsive


Welcome back to part 3 of this mini series on quick tips for differentiating in the classroom.

If you missed the first two parts, you can catch them here:
Tip 1:  Get to Know Your Audience
Tip 2:  Plan Ahead...But Be Flexible

Once you're all caught up, let's continue...
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{Mini-Series} Tips for Differentiating in the Classroom: Plan Ahead, But Be Flexible


Welcome back to this mini series with quick tips for differentiation in the classroom.

If you missed last week about getting to know your audience to help you start the process to differentiating in your classroom, you can read up about it here.

Now on to this week's quick tip>>

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{Mini-Series} Tips for Differentiating in the Classroom: Get to Know Your Audience


If there's one buzz word that is constantly coming up in education today it's this:  Differentiation

When it comes to education, one size does not fit all. Each student is unique and learns in a distinct way. So it’s our job to tailor our teaching to appeal to those unique kids and their distinctive ways.

Easier said than done, right? After all, you may have upwards of 25 kids in your class, while there’s just one of you.

There’s no doubt that differentiating is a challenge, especially when you teach multiple subjects. But your efforts to customize your instruction are key to reaching all your students, from the most gifted to the most struggling learners. Without it, you risk boring some and confusing others.


The question is, how?  

Over the next few weeks I am going to give you some insight into HOW to effectively differentiate your instruction.  Each week I'll share a quick tip that you can hopefully take, implement, and see results!

Let's get started!
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The Writer's Toolkit: Building Better Writers


We all want our students to be better writers, right?  We want to provide them with the best instruction and resources to help them take their writing to the next level.

For me, teaching writing was tedious.  It was kinda that time during the school day that I almost (ok, not almost - completely) dreaded.  I knew that the hour would be spent with interruptions, off-task students, and blank stares.

You too?

I've heard the same cry from other teachers that I have spoken with.  One of the biggest complaints I have heard from teachers is that they have a hard time getting students focused, and keeping them focused in and on their writing.

Sometimes, students just don't know where to start, or what to do next when it comes to their writing.  When you want your students to improve their writing, they don't always know where to begin.

Enter in the Writer's Toolkit:
I created the writer's toolkit out of the need expressed by teachers to have a one-stop shop for students to go to help make their writing better without having to have you hold their hand every step of the way.  We want our students to become more independent in their writing, and the writer's toolkit gets you one step closer.

The writer's toolkit gives students their own space to be creative and have everything they need to improve their writing right in front of them.

In the writer's toolkit, students:
  • can get inspiration for what to write about
  • complete check-lists for each stage of the writing process to keep them on track from pre-writing through publishing
  • have the tools they need to make better word choices in their writing
  • can check up on how to use punctuation correctly in their writing
  • can learn how to make their writing smooth and organized
How to use the writer's toolkit in your writing block:
The writer's toolkit is simple to create.  You will need two file-folders.  I absolutely adore these colorful ones from Oriental Trading.  They are little bit thicker and sturdier than your standard file folder, which will allow it to stand up better once the tool kit is completely assembled.  Plus - their cute design gives the finished kit a beautiful look!

You are essentially creating a writing "cubicle" office with the folders so that students can stand the toolkit up and use the different parts of it during their writing time.  The cubicle set-up is the perfect way to keep students focused on their writing.  When upright, the cubicle is tall enough to help block out distractions of other students working in your classroom.  The cubicle is large enough so that 2-3 students can work together gathered around it, if you are having a more collaborative writing session. However, students can also lay it flat and access all the important components of the toolkit.  The flexibility of the toolkit allows your students to use however they want.


You will likely not need a writer's toolkit for every student to use at the same time, but rather just a few toolkits for students to use as needed.  However, if you're looking have a class-set, you can print the components of the toolkit out in black and white to save ink.

The only thing you will need in addition to the components provided in the kit is 2 file folders.  The folders are taped together (and laminated, if desired).  You can then easily cut out the components of the kit and glue to the inside of the folders.



Once assembled, simply place the toolkit at a writing center for students to use or in an easy place for students to access when needed.  The toolkit folds up nicely to lay flat on a table or shelf.  It is easily mobile for students to take with them anywhere in the room.

The key to making the toolkit a success in your class is...you guessed it: modeling!  In your mini-lessons, small-group instruction, and individual conferences, show students how they can use the components of the toolkit when working through their writing.  Overtime, students will begin using the kit on their own without prompting.


If you'd like to check out this writer's toolkit and all the details, you can find it here.

PIN TO SAVE OR SHARE:

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RIP Textbooks - Alternatives to Boring or Outdated Textbooks

It was my first year of teaching.  1 week before school, I was hired to teach 4th grade in a hot little classroom on the second floor of a very old building (I believe it was built in 1912, and I'm pretty sure not too much had been done to it since).

I was the lucky heir to a classroom previously occupied by a teacher that was now basking in the glory of retirement.  So what did that mean?  I got all the crap that said retired teacher didn't need anymore and couldn't pawn off to their coworkers.  The teacher had left pretty much everything that he didn't want to deal with on the shelves of the classroom.  And there it all sat, all summer long collecting dust.  

Among the rubble - a class-set of social studies textbooks....from 1978.  Yikes.  Please tell me that these were not the current books that the students were using.  I mean, I get that the facts about the American Revolution hadn't changed much since the late 1700's, but come on!

Alas, they were.  

How about you?  What's the copyright on your textbooks?  Are they from the 20th century (because that was 17 years ago now!  Hard to believe!)?  Are they so boring that you can't even begin to fake it in front of your students?  

THERE'S A BETTER WAY!

OK - what I'm about to share with you is NOT a quick fix, and I don't want to make any false claims that in 10 minutes or less you're going to have a solution to your textbook woes.

But - what I AM going to share with you is that with a little work, you could have an amazing, more engaging textbook alternative that you'll be proud to present to your students. 

And you, dear teacher, are a go-getter, so let's do this!

But - first, let's take a moment of silence to mourn the life of the textbook.

{insert moment of silence here}

OK - I'm ready to move on with my life, how about you?

Let's talk about some of the textbook's successors:

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5 (Constructive) Activities to Do When You Have 5 Minutes to Fill


Let me set the scene:

It's almost time for lunch and you just finished up your math lesson. Your students miraculously put all of their materials away just as you asked, and are now sitting with their hands crossed, sitting straight, and waiting for your next direction.  (OK, that last part about hands crossed and sitting straight is a bit of a stretch - but let's just fantasize for a moment, mmmmk?)

What I'm trying to say is - you've got about 5 minutes to spare and you know that if you allow your student to turn and chat until it's time to line up for lunch, you'll be scraping students off the ceiling and putting out small fires.

Ever have a class like that?  The kind that if you "give an inch, they take a mile... 

Well, in cases like that, it's always good to have a few ready-to-go 5-minute fillers that can be pulled out in a moment's notice.

Here are 5 constructive, no-prep activities that you can do when you have 5 minutes to spare after a lesson, before a transition, or at the end of the day:
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Teaching Poetry All Year Long (Not just in April)


By now you have probably started to see poetry ideas pop up all over in your social media news feeds and on Pinterest.  It can only mean one thing:  National Poetry Month is here.

I loved teaching poetry, and for the most part, my students always loved our poetry unit.  And -although I'm sharing this post with you in April (National Poetry Month), I want to encourage you to teach poetry all year long.  You don't have to wait until Spring each year to bust out your poetry books - in fact - you shouldn't!

Poetry is the perfect genre for teaching reading, writing, and speaking skills and strategies in a short period of time.  Since poems are short, incorporating them into your lessons lends itself to a quick bite-sized lesson on skills like fluency, literature analysis, reading comprehension strategies, and more.

Here are some poetry activities that can sneak their way into your instruction at any time of the year:

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Interactive Ways to Teach Measurement


I've heard it from teacher after teacher:  "I dread teaching measurement every year."

It's hard to blame them.  There's nothing ground-shaking about measurement.  There's nothing exciting about metric vs. customary.

It's just one of those skills that our students need to have in their back pocket - and so - we teach it.

I'd like to challenge that, however.  If there's anything a teacher is good at, it's spicing up even the most boring content.  So, let's try, shall we.

Here are 5 interactive ways to teach measurement:

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Engaging Your Students With Digital Learning Guides


Today's topic is a BIG one for me.  I've been putting my heart and soul into a new, on-going project that has been a passion for me recently:  Digital Learning Guides

We have all seen the classroom trend to go digital.  Digital interactive notebooks, google classroom, online reading programs and many other digital resources are becoming very popular in the classrooms.  More and more teachers are having their students working on individual digital devices to complete activities that were once done with a pencil and paper.  And - I LOVE it!  I think the idea of going "paperless" is awesome and opens up a whole new world for our students.

How do you get started, though?  If you've spent your entire teaching career thus far using activity sheets and the hard-copy version of everything, it can be over-whelming to start thinking about converting over to a digital learning and teaching format.

I want to help with that!
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Engaging Ways to End Your Lessons


Quick story:  In high school I was always a part of the school musicals.  It was one of my favorite times of year.  Each spring, I can remember spending almost everyday after school in the school auditorium practicing songs, dances, and memorizing lines for the the show.  As we got closer to show time, I can remember my director saying things like "If we have a strong beginning and a strong ending, the show will be a big hit!  No one remembers the middle!"  (Of course, this was typically said on dress rehearsal night when everything seemed to be going wrong...)

Well, that wasn't necessarily the case, but to some extent, it did have some truth.  If you've ever sat in the audience of a musical, you typically do remember the grand opening number with all of the cast members on stage, and the show-stopping finale with a concluding high note by the lead character.  Ah- the crowd goes wild!

The same goes true for our teaching, I think.  Presenting our lessons to our students is kind of like a musical performance.  We want an epic beginning that grabs our students attention right from the start (I talked about how to do exactly that in this post) and then, we want that standing ovation at the end of our lesson.  (Oh, wouldn't that be nice!) 

Last week I gave you a list of engaging ways to begin your lessons.  Did you miss that post?  You can check it out here.  

I also believe that how you end your lesson is just as important as how you start your lesson.  (and of course, the middle of your lesson matters, too!) You don't want to go through all that work of planning an amazing lesson only to end it with "Ok, put your books away, time to get ready for lunch!"

So, today, like last week, I'm going to attempt to give you some show-stopping ways to end your lesson on a high note!

Let's do this:

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Engaging Ways to Start Your Lesson



We've all been there - staring out into a sea of glazed-over eyes as we begin a new lesson with our students.  See that picture above?  Look familiar?

Are they even listening to you?  OR have they begun to think about what they will eat for lunch?

Don't feel bad.  It happens to every teacher.  

It would be nice, however, if we had a few sure-fire ways to grab our students' attention (and keep it!). Well, I'm going to attempt to give you a quick list of unique ways to begin a lesson that DOESN'T start with "Today we're going to learn about..."

Ready?  Here we go:

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9 Tips for Teaching Your Students to Be Kind


I seriously can NOT stand mean-ness.  Not from public figures and celebrities, not in adults, and certainly NOT in children.

There is absolutely no accuse or reason for it, but unfortunately mean-nature people are everywhere and our students are exposed to that behavior constantly.

As teachers we spend so much time thinking about how to teach math, how to teach reading, how to teach science and social studies, and so on, that the concept of teaching kindness often falls to the wayside.  And that's sad.

Quick story - I used to teach in a VERY high-needs, high-poverty district where students struggled....a LOT - in school and in life.  Many of my students came from broken homes where the last thing on their mind was learning.  Many of them came from homes where kindness was NOT a way of life.

Each day, I struggled.  I struggled because it was soooo hard to teach to a classroom full of students who came from homes where education was not valued and where their first response to a problem was to be violent and revengeful.  Now - this, of course, did not describe every student in my class, but it was certainly the over-arching tone.

What's a teacher to do?  You can't do math or literacy centers if your students don't know how to work nicely in groups.  You can't go on field trips if your students are constantly arguing on the bus on the way there.  You can't have fun parties and events in your classroom if your students don't appreciate ANYTHING you do.  It's super hard.

Here's the reality - It's very hard to teach a room of students ANYTHING until you teach them to be kind.   If you spend your entire day playing "referee," constantly putting out fires between your students, there's no time for teaching.

Here's what you can do about it - Teach kindness first.

This is not a one-and-done lesson.  This is an every day, all day kind of lesson.  We have to incorporate kindness practice into absolutely EVERYTHING we do.  We have to put kindness reminders EVERYWHERE.  And - we have to reinforce it ALL THE TIME.

Here are a few tips to help you teach your students to be kind.

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5 Ideas for Teaching Students How to Read Nonfiction


(this post contains affiliate links)

If you think about it -  most of what we read in life is nonfiction.  We read street signs when we are driving, we read recipes when we cook, we read manuals when we are trying to figure out why the heck the vacuum cleaner isn't working...again!

Teaching students to read nonfiction texts effectively is a reading beast all on its own.  There are a lot of moving parts:  identifying text features and structure, using the glossary, referring to headings and sub-titles to know where you're going to find the facts that you need, and much more!

Take reading that vacuum manual I mentioned a moment ago.  You're not going to take the time to read about how to change the bag in your vacuum if what you're trying to do is figure out why it won't suck up dirt and pet hair up properly.  Instead, you'll look at the table of contents to see where that issue will be addressed within the manual and cut right to the chase.

We read nonfiction differently than we read fiction texts, and because of that, we have to TEACH reading nonfiction differently.

Here are 5 ideas for teaching nonfiction reading to your students so that they can effectively learn the skill and apply it to their daily life.

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1 Simple Way to Encourage Your Students to Read a Variety of Genres


We like what we like.

I will ALWAYS order the same chicken dish at my favorite Indian restaurant.  It's delicious and it's not worth the risk to order something different and end up not liking it.  Plus the gazillion options on the menu overwhelm me and I just don't feel like taking the time to review each item.

Are you like that, too?  It's human nature to gravitate toward what we know we will like.  But - if I'm being honest, every time I order take-out from said restaurant, I wonder what I'm missing.

In fact, I recently did learn what I was missing when my husband's co-worker from India made the MOST AMAZING Indian dish to share.  My hubby brought some home...I tried it...and LOVED IT!  I had been missing out...BIG time!  Don't get my wrong - I'm not abandoning my oldie-but-goodie menu option, but now I have TWO options to order from the next time we do take-out.

So why am I talking about Indian food?

Simple really - it's all about trying something new - a new reading genre to be exact.

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A New Way to Do Novel Summaries {VIDEO TUTORIAL}


I'm always trying to come up with fun new ways to have students do what are usually considered boring activities, like writing a summary of a book.  In my latest novel unit on Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume, I wanted to come up with an end-of-unit project that would have students summarize all the important events in the story without having them write it plainly on a paper.

So what did I do?  Headed to Pinterest for inspiration, of course!
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One Math Strategy To Get Your Students Thinking


Recently I've been volunteering in 4th grade classrooms in a local school.  I decided that after being out of the classroom for 5 years, it was time to reconnect with what's going on in classrooms today.

Some things have changed at bit...some have not :)

It can often get lonely - just me and my computer - so it was nice to be back in the classroom again and put my teacher hat back on.  It was also nice to have a conversation with someone other than a toddler :)

One lesson that I was helping out with a few weeks ago was on a new (at least new-to-me) math strategy called "SEE-THINK-WONDER." Have you seen/used this?  It's a great lesson-opener.

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Pressing the "RESTART" Button on the School Year


Remember that "fresh year, fresh classroom" feeling that you had at the beginning of the school year?

Your classroom was so organized, wasn't it?  Everything was crisp and new.  You had BIIIIG plans for curriculum and classroom management, right?

So, let me ask you - how's that workin' for ya?

If you're like me, you often get to January and just wish you could restart and reinstate all those great plans, ideas, and most DEFINITELY that crisp, clean classroom that welcomed your students in the fall.

Well - why can't you?  Why CAN'T you just "restart?"  What's stopping you?

If you're feeling less than satisfied about how your year is going, then, by all means - PRESS THE RESTART BUTTON!  It's the PERFECT time to do so.

Your students are coming back after a long break, and they'll need a refresher anyways.  You might as well take advantage of that and give them a little "Back to School Boot Camp!"

We as teachers need a little boot camp-ness, too.  Let's be honest - those cute filing drawers we put together in August could use a little TLC.  And - your teacher desk (also known as "that pile of papers") could use a little attention as well.

I encourage you to take this first week or two in January to make sure you've got all your ducks in a row so that you can finish out the school year strong!  Before long we'll be talking about wrapping up the school year and summer plans (right after the snow melts, of course!)

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