Sunday, July 1, 2018

Ease Into Engagement

Everyone is talking about engagement.
  • songs
  • chants
  • picture books
  • room transformations
  • costumes
  • props
It can be a little overwhelming to say the least.

We have tried many of the above.
Some were very successful.
Some were not.

Trying new engagement strategies is all about taking a leap, or even a baby step. It is what you are ready for. We are not going to say it is what you are comfortable with because growing requires us to step out of our comfort zones!

Our team is made up of ambitious over achievers so we have a tendency to take leaps. Big ones! This is good for you.  We are ready to share some tips and tricks we learned from our leaps with you.

Adding music to your day is a quick, easy and free way to increase engagement. Have music playing as students enter the classroom.
Kidz Bop is great for elementary students. The upbeat songs will wake the students up and get them in a good mood. The kids know all the current songs because they hear them at home, however they are not always appropriate. Kidz Bop makes them appropriate!

This may not seem like an engagement strategy but not only will the music wake the students up, it will make them unpack and follow morning procedures a little quicker so you can get your day started! During afternoon procedures allow students to sing along as they pack up but don't allow them to have a conversation with others. This will REALLY speed the pack up process along!

Pandora is a free option. If you are an Amazon Prime member, use the Prime Music feature. Prime Music is free with Amazon Prime. Best part.....There are no commercials!!!!!!!

I have a post on Instagram with more info about Prime Music. Click {here} to see it.

Songs and Chants
Songs and chants are always a favorite. They get students engaged and help them retain content.

Writing songs and chants can take time.
A lot of time!

Internet to the rescue! Search Pinterest or put what you are looking for out there on Twitter or any Facebook groups you are part of. {There are lots of grade specific and content specific Facebook groups out there!}

After you find songs or chants the next step is actually teaching them to your students. This can be scary, especially if you sing and keep a beat as poor well as us!

Internet to the rescue again! Search for instrumental or karaoke versions of the songs you are using. Play it, type up the words and have your students sing along!

Picture Books
Students of all ages love to be (and should be) read to!
And not just during the ELA block.

Picture books can be expensive. Check your school or public library, buy one copy and share it with teammates or other grade levels or find it being read on YouTube. Be sure to SafeShare videos you find on YouTube before you show your class.

Room Transformations
Room transformations are one of our favorite things.
They take time. A LOT of time.
They take work. A LOT of work.
They take money. A LOT of money.

Teamwork Makes the Dream Work.
We have all heard the cliche' but it is so true, especially when it comes to room transformations.

Work as a team to transform one classroom and make a rotation schedule so multiple classes can benefit from the transformation. If you have an empty space/room on campus, ask administration if you can use it. Tell them it is to increase student engagement and they will most likely be all for long as it is standards based and the activities are rigorous!

Only teacher in your grade level or only one on your team that is up for a transformation? Ask another grade level to create activities and transform a space together. Administrators and students love vertical collaboration.

Transforming one space will save time, work and money! It is a good way to ease into room transformations.

When purchasing or creating things to use in room transformations, go with solid colors. This way the items can be used for multiple transformations.

Plastic table cloths from Wal-Mart or Dollar Tree are great for covering walls. They are lighter and easier to hang than paper. Hang them with paper clips instead of tape. Paper clips will keep them from falling down when the air shuts off for the evening (yup, happened to us twice). It also makes it easier to keep the table cloths in good shape so they can be used again.

Add special sound effects to your room transformations. Again, Pandora and Prime Music to the rescue! It is a small added touch that takes your room transformation to the next level.

Costumes and Props
Dress up or add a prop and you have your students' attention!

Teaching your most difficult or uninteresting content? Add glasses, a hat, a wig or a wand and you have immediately increased student engagement.

Since you are the only one using/wearing the costume or prop, you only need one. Check the clearance section at dollar stores and party stores, especially after holidays. You might even get lucky and be able to purchase props for all of your students for very cheap! We found class sets of mustaches in a clearance bin at a party store last week for $1.

So, are you ready to ease into engagement?

Whether you are ready to take a giant leap or just a baby step it is important to remember to start with standards and maintain academic rigor. 

Saturday, March 31, 2018

How To Control Those Copies

Do you........
Have *stacks* of papers?

Have file cabinets full of copies?

KNOW you made copies of today's math test even though you can't find them?

Run copies and can't remember if it was for practice or an assessment?

I am pretty sure I just heard:
AMEN sister!
You are preaching to the choir, girl! 
How did you know? 

My OCDness can't handle stacks, messy filing cabinets, or losing things. I am not a paper pencil teacher but still seem to need and use lots of copies.

We have a Copy Center in our district. We "send off" for copies we need. This can be done electronically or as a hard copy. There is about a two week turn around. can change the default date in an emergency. They have not clarified what an emergency is. *wink wink*

The last few years my team my team has worked hard to streamline the process. We do most of our planning and copy ordering as a team. Since we TRY to adhere to the default date we order as many things as we can in advance.

Planning ahead is good, right???


Until the copies arrive...

It is SO difficult to remember what you had planned or when you planned to use it when you ordered it WEEKS ago!

These two simple ideas have been a life saver the last few years!

1. Color Code
We order all of our Diagnostics on PINK, our Formative Assessments on YELLOW and our Summative Assessments on GREEN. Everything else is on white.

Not only does this keep us crazy overwhelmed exhausted perfect teachers organized the colors are a little trigger for our kiddos! They know that yellow is important and green is VERY important!

2. Add Details
We write the standard number, standard description, week number and total points at the top of each page before we send it to Copy Center! This makes it easy to know what week it is planned for. It is also a timesaver when inputting grades into our grade books. The standard is RIGHT THERE! When we do not make your own assessments or activities we still try to do this. I will often take a screen shot of the page, slide it into a PowerPoint and add a text box.

*Funny little story... Last week I did not have time to send off for a formative I HAD TO GIVE before the end of the grading period so I ran it at school on white paper. I told the kiddos and they said, "It's okay, add it to your 'Miss Take' poster. We will just pretend it is yellow!"

{In my defense it was the week before Spring Break. My brain needed a rest!}

Even if you make your own copies at your school you can still do this!

Do you have any copy tips, tricks or hints to share?

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Classroom Transitions...Embrace the Chaos

Hey all! 
Meredith here. 

I typically have pretty good classroom management. 
I am sure it is because of my overly structured, controlling, OCD, persuasive personality. Yeah, persuasive sounds good.

By the end of September my first grade classroom can usually run itself. 

But this year........Even in January........

And I am not talking about major transitions. 
Just simple "move from your work spots to the carpet" transitions.

The words "time to transition" seemed to turn my sweet 6 year olds into gymnasts and ninjas. 

I could not handle it any longer. 

I decided to embrace the chaos! 

Music is used all day in my classroom. There are fun, upbeat KidzBop songs playing as the students enter the classroom each morning. There is classical music playing during writing or independent work. We have dance parties as brain breaks and celebrations. I even use chants and current songs as attention getters.

I thought about trying music for transitions. But honestly, Barney's clean up song was the first thing that came to mind. 

Not going to work. 
Not going to happen.

I began to think successful (a.k.a. safe) transitions with this particular group of students were impossible.....then it hit me......

I downloaded the theme song from "Mission Impossible". My transition playlist grew from there.

For quick transitions the "Mission Impossible" theme song is still my favorite. The students act sneaky like spies so they are quick and quiet. I tell them they have to be transitioned before the music stops. Sometimes they make it before the music stops and get a reward....they have yet to figure out that I stop the music when I want.
Don't tell them.

During pack up time we use a more upbeat song like "Moves Like Jagger" or "I Like to Move It". Those transitions are really when I must embrace the chaos. If someone was to walk into our classroom at this time, they might run away. For reals. It appears to be chaos.

It loud.
Students are running.
Students are singing.

Truth is, it IS chaos. But it is controlled chaos. The students get packed up and our room cleaned up in about 7 minutes. That was my goal.

The above playlist is from Amazon Prime Music. Prime Music is free with Amazon Prime. Best part.....There are no commercials!!!!!!!

I have a saved InstaStory on my Instagram page with more info about Prime Music. Click {here} to see it.

So this is still accurate.....
...but it is successful.

Its loud. Its fast. It works! I know it is going to be a chaotic 7 minutes. But if we can all get packed up AND get our room cleaned up with smiles on our faces AND without anyone being sent to the clinic, I call it success!

Do you have any transition tips? I would love to hear yours!

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Saturday 6 for January 13

Hey all! We are linking up with Mrs. Wheeler again for Saturday 6.
We went back to school Monday. We had 17 days off for Winter Break. The kiddos had 18. It is an understatement to say we were all exhausted by Friday.
We started expository writing. Since penguins are always a first grade favorite, we started with them. This week we researched penguins. We started out reading a book together and adding the information we learned to a circle map. Later in the week the students worked with a partner to gather more information.
 Next week students will use information from the circle map to complete their writing organizer and begin their expository writing.

After about 18 weeks of school the kids are like a family.....
Families can get a little tired of each other's....
personality traits
Yes, lets go with quirks!

We tried Way To Go Wednesday and Thankful Thursday this week. At the end of the day students have a chance to give each other positive shout outs. 

Students are told each morning what to be on the lookout for. Wednesday they were told to look for something awesome another student did. We took a few minutes before dismissal to share our shout outs. 

We try to make sure each student only gets one shout out. We also try to make sure every student gets a shout out. They did a pretty good job for the first time! 

My favorite was, "X., way to go for not needing as many reminders to follow our expectations as you did yesterday!" 

Last week we complained about how COLD it was here in Florida. 
We did not handle it well. 
Our northern friends have no sympathy. 
We understand. (But we stand by our complaints.)

It warmed up here a little bit this week. Unfortunately the cold was replaced with rain. 
Not just a little rain. 
LOTS of rain!
Our campus floods when we get a lot of rain. The first grade hallway REALLY floods. (Notice the little stepping stones at the end on the left. They are moved into the hallway for students to walk on when it rains. They were placed there after the teachers had to carry each first grader across the "small pond" a few years ago.) 

The flooding was even worse by the time we left for the day. It was up past our ankles. Thank goodness most of the flooding happened after dismissal. 

Update: The rain has stopped but the cold came back. 

Due to the above mentioned weather we did a LOT of Go Noodles last week. We are so grateful for Go Noodles!

The Wild Card arrived this week!!! Only a few pages in, but it is safe to say it will be finished this weekend. If you want to find your creativity and increase student engagement it is a MUST read!  Click {here} to grab your copy!

We didn't want to keep the awesomeness to ourselves so we are hoping to host a Book Study with our colleagues. Check out our Donor's Choose Project {here}!
We have been working on organizing, recording, and interpreting data in math. What better way to end the week after returning from break than to use Skittles as our data! The kids absolutely LOVED it!

This is a FREEBIE in our store. Grab it {here}. It is an oldie, but a goodie so please ignore the un-cute font, etc. Maybe we need get around to updating it!

That is our Saturday 6. Make sure you check out Mrs. Wheeler's linky by clicking the picture below! Link up or just browse!

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Saturday 6

Hey all! We are linking up with Mrs. Wheeler for Saturday 6.
We do not go back to school until Monday so our 6 this week are some throw backs and some look aheads! 
Throw back to our room transformation before Winter Break. We have implemented a lot of big ideas since our visits to The Ron Clark Academy.

Sparkle, Shimmer and Shine's Sweet Shop was our first big room transformation. Sparkle, Shimmer and Shine were the first grade elves.
 To save us time and money preparing we used an empty classroom. Each class took turns visiting the Sweet Shop. If you work with an awesome team, I recommend doing this for your first big room transformation. It really saved us time and money!

We already had a few of the things. Everything else came from The Dollar Tree or Amazon. The key is use things that you can repurpose or reuse!!!

Each kiddo got to wear an apron and chef's hat. They looked adorable!!!

We had 4 stations set up. Each station reviewed skills we had been working on.
Pie Pan Retell

Pie Face Punctuation
**A favorite!**

Baking Up Word Problems 
Muffin Match Up
Our #OneWord is THRIVE. Read all about it {here}. It was a very honest blog post. We would LOVE to hear your thoughts.
We are in Florida. It is COLD. We are not handling it well.
We have been busy preparing for our return to school next week. January means snowmen! (Even in Florida.) Three of our favorite snowmen stories are Snowmen at Night, Sneezy and Snowzilla. Click each book for a closer look at the story.
If you want easy print and go plans for these three stories, click the picture below!
January also means time for Winter Word Work! The kiddos especially love BUMP, Freeze and iSpy.
Click the picture below to grab them for your classroom.
The Wild Card arrives this week!!! We cannot wait to read it. How about you? Click {here} to grab your copy!

We didn't want to keep the awesomeness to ourselves so we are hoping to host a Book Study with our colleagues. Check out our Donor's Choose Project {here}!

Our team shares planning. We each do the major planning for one subject. Then we chat, collaborate and make adjustments.

We started using last year.

We can share, edit, add links, add documents, add standards with a click...I could really go on and on!
Click {here} to check out its awesomeness for yourself.

You can sign up for a free month. It is only $12 a year after that. TOALLY worth it!

That is our Saturday 6. Make sure you check out Mrs. Wheeler's linky by clicking the picture below! Link up or just browse!