Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Kindness Shakers

I got to visit the Ron Clark Academy in February. 

Yup, I know. L.U.C.K.Y.

It was one of the absolute best days of my life. I will say it was also very overwhelming. There was so much to look at, so much to listen to and so much to take in! 
I feel like I need to go back. 
I have other things I want to see and more questions to ask.

I have already changed a zillion things about my teaching and my classroom. I cannot even explain to you the difference in my student's effort, attitude and learning! Honestly, mine too.

I want to share one idea I implemented. {This is just one. There are lots more. I will share more soon, I promise!}

While visiting the Ron Clark Academy I kept seeing students hit a drum during lessons. 
Turns out the drums are actually used as a focusing strategy! 
Students are to listen for important words. When they hear that word they hit the drum.

Well, I thought this was fabulous and was totally into this. 
I couldn't really afford one of the fancy drums. They are for sale on the RCA website.
Also I wasn't so sure about drums in a first grade classroom, especially expensive ones.

So I came up with my own version.
Kindness Shakers! 

Here is the low down.
  1.  I bought two maracas. Maracas are very cheap. Party City had some for $1. NOT KIDDING, $1! Mine came in a two pack for around $5 from the Fiesta section. 
  2.  Students are chosen by me to be in charge of the Kindness Shaker. They are called the Kindness Captain. I started out with one. The same student was the Kindness Captain every single day. It really helped him listen and focus on instruction and it helped him notice all of the kind things the other students were saying and doing. Let's just say these were two areas he really needed help with. Guess What?  It worked! After a couple of weeks, we added a second Kindness Captain (and Shaker). 
  3. When the Kindness Captain hears or sees another student doing something kind, they give the Kindness Shaker one quick shake! If I randomly hear the shaker throughout the day, they lose their job. If they shake it too long, they lose their job. If they play with it, they lose their job.This is a big deal. They take their job as the Kindness Captain very seriously and do NOT want it to lose it!
  4. The Kindness Shaker does not leave our classroom. It does not go to Special Area, lunch or recess with us. {Super cute side note: The Kindness Captain will usually say, "Oh that would earn a shake if I had the Kindness Shaker with me!"}

Do you do anything similar?

Have you been to RCA?

What ideas have you implemented since your visit?

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Groundhog Day FREEBIE

I just made a little activity for Groundhog Day!  The QR Codes are links to videos about groundhogs and Groundhog Day created with SafeShare.

It is FREE!

Grab it by clicking one of the pictures!

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

You Can't Control Everything

I can't control everything.

Repeat - I can't control everything.

Repeat - I can't control everything.

That is a tough statement for me. I admit it......I am a Control Freak.
I actually think most teachers are.

That is why we get so frustrated with the things out of our control. And lets face it, as teachers there are a lot of things we cannot control.

I was recently in Vertical Articulation with the grade level teams above and below me. Our task was to highlight the standards that our students consistently struggle with and to develop a plan of how each grade level could better target those standards.

Within minutes the discussion quickly turned into:

  • It's because the kids don't come to school. We can't do anything about that. 
  • It's because the kids don't do their homework. We can't do anything about that.
  • It's because we have to use this scripted reading program. We can't do anything about that.
  • It's because they came to us already a year below grade level. We can't do anything about that.
  • It's because students are not retained anymore. We can't do anything about that.
When we left the meeting we had not accomplished anything and did not have a plan. 

The next day I could not get the "discussion" out of my mind. 
I was bothered.

I am the first to admit I have said, felt or used those exact excuses. Yes, I said excuses.  
I was not bothered by the excuses.

I was not bothered by the venting. 

I was not bothered by the complaining.

I was bothered because I sat there silently nodding in agreement. 
I did not offer any solutions. 
Not one!!!

Do we allow students to pass the blame, make excuses or sit by idly?

Then as teachers we should not be allowed to either!

Here's the thing.....all of those things that we said that were out of our control are also out of the student's control. 

Last time I checked it was only me and my students inside the four walls of our classroom each and every day. 

If I want my students to learn I cannot make excuses or focus on the things I cannot control. I must focus on the things I can control.
There is a lot I can control in my classroom. 
  • The culture in my classroom.
  • The level of student engagement in my classroom.
  • My excitement and enthusiasm. (Even if it is a scripted program I am not a fan of!)
  • My student's self esteem.
  • The lessons and activities. (Or at least how they are delivered.)
My biggest takeaway from that meeting was what I can control outside of my classroom. 
  • Me 
Yes, ME.

I can stand up and be an advocate for my students and their education. 
If I don't, who will?

I will no longer sit by in meetings nodding silently in agreement. 
I will share my opinions and ideas. 
I will offer solutions, not excuses. 
I will encourage others to do the same.

We teach because we want to make a difference. 

Everything we do is for the students. 

That is why we became teachers, right? 

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Helping Shy Students Come Out of Their Shell

How many of you have that sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach when you have to get up and talk in front of others?

How many of you feel sick just thinking of that feeling of not knowing anyone?

All of you that agreed, we feel the same way!

Now what happens when we have students that are very shy?

We have experienced that this year. We have a few actually. Here are some helpful pointers we have learned this year while helping our shy little learners along.

1. Calm is Key

     We both have very peaceful classrooms. While there is always a lot happening, we like to keep everyone comfortable but productive at the same time. One thing we like to use to keep everyone calm is music. We use Pandora to play different tunes. Our classes refer to the music as "calm music" or "relaxing music". Both classes love the Soundscape Radio.

2. Keep it Quiet

     And no. We are not just referring to the students. We are both naturally quiet people. We do not yell or shout in our classrooms. Keeping your tone calm will allow those shy ones to feel more comfortable participating in class.

One thing to definitely take into consideration with shy students is fire drills. They can be VERY frightening to certain children. One of our little lovelies this year (who is also very shy) is terrified of anything loud. Fire Drills sent her into hysterics. A certain spot was set aside in the room, close to her seat, that held her earphones. She puts them on just prior to the drill. She called the earphones her "happy ears". To her, that was her sense of safety in a time of uneasiness. Even if we have an unannounced drill, just knowing they are close by puts her at ease.

3. Create a Classroom of Respect

     We used Bucket Filling this year and absolutely love it! To be a Bucket Filler, you might say something nice to another student, help another student out, or simply tell someone thank you. Sometimes all it takes for that shy student to come out of their shell is another student's kind words! We introduced Bucket Filling with the book How Full is Your Bucket? by Tom Rath and Mary Reckmeyer to introduce the concept at the beginning of the year.
You can get a copy for your classroom by clicking {HERE} or on the picture of the book.

What about all of you? What do you do to help shy students? We would love to hear!

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Winter White Out Giveaway

Happy Winter!

Is it cold where you live? Do you have snow? Have you had a Snow Day?

We still have sun, sand and scissors here at our little beachside school!

Since we do not get partake in any fun winter activities here in sunny Florida we decided to celebrate winter by having a little giveaway!

TWO Winners will win all 4 Winter Packs. Winners will be chosen and notified on Monday, January 16!

You have 6 ways to enter the giveaway!

Enter the Rafflecopter below for your chance to win ALL 4 Winter Packs!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Need some Snowman Stories Resources now? Check out this video for a preview of our newest product!

Purchase it {here} for only $5!

Good Luck!

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

#JanPicADay Challenge

Happy {almost} New Year!

So our goal for 2017 is pretty similar to 2016....2015....2014....

Do better with blogging and Social Media! We both especially want to take more pictures throughout the day in our classrooms.

We don't know about you all but we do better with a schedule. That is why we love Instagram Challenges. They help us stay on track!

We created a #JanPicADay Challenge and would love for you to join us!

Here is the schedule. Download it, share it, use it!
Here is a blank template if you want to use it for each day. (Not necessary, but kind of fun!)
We can't wait to see what everyone shares! Don't forget to use the hashtag #JanPicADay!

Click {HERE} to go to the Instagram Post!

Saturday, December 3, 2016

December Survival Tips Linky

You are a teacher.
It is December.

Santa, lights, cookies, elves, songs, programs, decorations, presents. Did I mention Santa?

December is fun and exciting.  But lets be honest. 
It is exhausting.


Even for veteran teachers, super teachers, and even those teachers who have the "golden" class. {gasp}

We have decided to share a few of our survival tips and hope you join the linky below to share some of your tips!   

1. Yes, I said it.......Fibs and Bribes!
I am not ashamed to admit it. They work!
My entire team uses Elf on the Shelf.

Here is the picture of his arrival this week.
We incorporate the elf into our curriculum whenever we can. He leaves us a letter each day. This week he will ask about one of our social studies topics we are currently studying. We also get some good writing topics out of it! This year I am excited to incorporate Growth Mindset into some of his letters.

Our elf is mainly for behavior and he has lots of fun! If you want to see how we introduce him and some of his shenanigans from last year, check out our blog post about it by clicking the picture below. 

This year I also have a cell phone case that looks like Santa's suit. I might have mentioned that if I push a button, Santa can see us. 

Like I said, fibs are okay! 😏
FYI, I got the case on Amazon for a very reasonable price!

2. Routines and Procedures
Keep them.
Review them.
Practice them.
Review them again.
Practice them again.

We use CHAMPS in our school. We have not been CHAMPing out some of our routines and activities that we are really good at. This month I am CHAMPing out almost everything! 
We are also sticking to our schedule as much as possible. 

I use Warm and Fuzzies in my classroom. We put a warm and fuzzy in a bucket every time we get a compliment. When the bucket is full we get a reward! In December I pull out the Red, White and Green Warm and Fuzzies. Easy little switch, but a total motivator!

3. Make it Fun
Do those craftivities and other fun activities. Just keep them educational! Find a way to incorporate them into your standards. 

I have at least one ELA craftivity planned for every week in December. To "get away" with this I have the pieces already cut for them. They are just gluing them together. This cuts our craftivity time down by more than half!

4. Think Outside the Box
Incorporate the holidays into your lessons. 

And I mean more than just Holidays Around the World. Don't get me wrong, Holidays Around the World is great, I just mean find other ways, in all content areas!

Last year I had my formal observation the week before Winter Break. It was scheduled during Social Studies when I was supposed to be teaching water safety according to the curriculum map. (We live in Florida, water safety is an important standard!) 

Here is the lesson I did.
Our Elf on the Shelf wrote us this letter. 

 The students worked in cooperative groups to share water safety rules. Some made a poster while others used technology like ChatterPix or Shadow Puppet. It was a good evaluation. 😊

This year we have to incorporate Social Studies into other content areas because of a whole group reading program we are using. It takes a lot of creativity and we are stretching sometimes. 

This week we decided to teach weather and climate. We did it by comparing the weather and climate at the North Pole to our weather and climate in Florida. The firsties loved it. (And got it!) 

5. Embrace the Crazy

Just have fun! Live it up, make it memorable. 

Take more brain breaks (Go Noodle)
Play holiday music (Hello Pandora's Holidays for Kids channel!)
Let them talk about Christmas!

What are your tips? Link up below or share on Social Media. Use the pictures below on your Social Media or Blog if you would like. The second one has room to add your tip!

Be sure to tag Sunshine, Sand and Scissors in your posts and link back to here!