Let’s be real – we have a million things on our mind at all times. So many things to remember! We have to remember to differentiate, learning styles, interests, data, meetings, bus duty, classroom management, rules, procedures, plus so many more things constantly. I LOVE this meme – it’s so true!
So how do we keep up with everything? I’ve found a super simple trick to help me and my students remember things that need to happen at specific times.
I have a student who gets medicine daily at noon and another student who leaves school on a special bus thirty minutes before the rest of the school packs up for the day. We are in centers when noon hits, so I’m never looking at a clock. We are wrapping up math and starting centers when my other student’s bus leaves, so I need to remind that student to get her stuff packed up before the bus comes. Friday afternoons are crazy and I have a student who receives a “Snack Backpack,” which is a grocery sack from a local organization (RIFA) filled with non perishable items for her to take home and eat over the weekend. And then of course you know I want to participate in #TeachersFeetUpFriday on Instagram! But how do I remember it all??
I use my phone’s built in alarm! I simply create an alarm for each of the things that I need to remember and then when the alarm sounds, I check my phone and know what I’m supposed to do. EASY - PEASY.
I even set a different ringtone for each of the alarms, so all the students know what each sound means. For example, my phone make the “Radar” noise for my student’s medicine time. Whenever the alarm goes off, I don’t even tell my student to go to the office – he and his friend automatically head to get the hall pass and head out the door. It’s FANTASTIC. If for some reason the boys don’t hear it (when they have headphones on), I have several girls who take it upon themselves to make sure they get the memo. The same thing goes for my student who packs up her things early – I don’t mention it to her anymore! She has learned to gather her things quietly while the rest of us continue what we are doing.
The alarm that goes off only on Fridays is especially helpful. I would sometimes forget to send my student to “Backpack Club” to get her sack sometimes because it wasn’t part of my daily routine. I felt horrible! Now she listens for her “song” on my phone and knows that she is allowed to head on to the guidance room.
This little trick has definitely helped me this year. Not only does it cut down on my stress level, but it puts responsibility back on the students. They know what to do when a particular sound happens and they just do it.
Do you use alarms in the classroom? What other ways can you use this little trick to make your life easier?
Do you struggle to get your students writing? I know it is sometimes like pulling teeth trying to get my kiddos to write more than one sentence at a time about a particular subject.
I have decided to focus on making my students better writers this year. I was blessed this fall with the opportunity to attend the I Teach First SDE conference - it was AWESOME. If we’re being honest, I may have stalked two of my favorite blogging/TPT/instagram/TEACHER icons – Cara Carroll and Reagan Tunstall.
…and by stalked I mean that I split my time between only their sessions. I didn’t literally stalk them, don’t worry. I took away SO many awesome ideas, but I will share more of those at another time. One of the sessions that I attended with Cara was all about writing. Up until then, I thought I was teaching writing correctly – just let them put their ideas as words on paper, right? Oh man, was I wrong. I was missing the most important step – MODELING! Sure, I would write on the board and under the document camera, but I wouldn’t speak my thoughts. I wasn’t verbalizing everything that would go through my head as I produced the sentences. Let me tell you – this is a game changer. Maybe we will have another post on this later? You’ll just have to come back and check it out.
We are now transitioning from getting our ideas down on paper to writing multiple sentences and turning them into a cohesive unit. One of the ideas that has really helped our team’s firsties with their writing is Stoplight Paragraph Writing. This idea is basically breaking down the steps of writing a paragraph with a visual that is relevant to our firsties. I remember talking about a hamburger paragraph when I was in school, but I couldn’t tell you what the steps were to save my life. By using a simple object of a stoplight, where the colors already have a set meaning, we can easily remember what each color means.
Here’s how the process works – I modeled each step of the way before the kiddos put a pencil in their hands, don’t worry. Also, we take about 10 or so minutes each day to do a bit of writing, so this process was stretched over and entire week.
First, I modeled how I would come up with a topic. RED means STOP – this is the topic sentence. This is what the entire paragraph will be about. Because our Reading Street big question of the week was “What changes can we see in nature?” we decided to do an opinion piece of our favorite season. We used the sentence stem of “My favorite season is ______.” We wrote this on the top section of our stoplight writing page. I colored in the red section of the stoplight when they had proper capitalization and punctuation. Let me tell you – we love some Mr. Sketch markers. They make everything better. Then we called it a day.
The next day it was time to brainstorm details to go with our topic sentence. YELLOW means SLOW DOWN – this is the three or more sentences that support the main idea. I wrote each of the the four seasons on the board and we came up with ideas as a class about things that are special about that particular season. We then used the ideas from our brainstorming session to write three sentences about our topic. Once again, I was careful to model my three sentences I was going to write for my paragraph. I used three of the ideas from the board, turned them into sentences, and then wrote them in the yellow section of my paper. Once my students had written their three sentences and I had checked for capitalization and spelling, I used my smelly yellow marker to color in the yellow spot. Because of our time constraints, I had to spread this process over two days with my students. We did the brainstorming and my modeling one day, then their writing and my checking on the next day. You gotta do what you gotta do, right? Whew – day two and three were finished.
Day three (or four, if you need to stretch out the yellow section) is all about that conclusion. GREEN means GO – this is the conclusion or summary of the paragraph. This is the sentence that wraps up all of the wonderful things that you have written. I modeled the sentence stem of “ I love _____!” but the students were able to use another sentence started if they preferred. We talked about how this is not adding any new information, just mentioning what you had written about. I checked the writing and gave them the green go mark!
Our last day with this paragraph was the most fun for me to watch. It was time to FINALLY write the paragraph! We had been doing the hard work all week and it was time to put it all together on paper and publish our writing to all to see! The students were amazed when I transferred my sentences from the stoplight paper to the tablet paper and saw how much work we had put into the writing. We discussed that we were not adding any new information, we were just moving our sentences from one place to another to show others how smart we were. It was exciting to see my little authors bloom!
In hindsight, I should have had my firsties draw a picture to match their paragraph, but oh well. We will definitely be doing this activity over and over. I’m thinking that we can even put our final paragraphs into sheet protectors and make a book for our library center. Like I mentioned earlier, we did opinion pieces this first time because I think they are the easiest ones to start with, but you can use this technique with so many other types of writing.
If you would like to check out a product that I made to go along with this Stoplight Paragraph Technique, click on the picture below!
I’d love to hear how you use this technique, or another writing techniques, in your classroom!
Do you struggle with finding activities for centers? I know I sometimes do.
I recently discovered my students’ love for a pocket chart. I was blessed my first year teaching from several of my mom’s coworkers who were retiring and gave me some of their awesome stuff. Among these goodies were some pocket charts. I didn’t really know what to do with them for a while, to be honest. I used it for several display things, but certainly not as an interactive center. A few months ago I started letting my students put numbers in order in the chart, like a 120 chart, and they loved it. I got a rhyming word work center pack of different pictures/words and figured I might as well give the old pocket chart a go – and boy did it go!
A few weeks ago I our spelling pattern for the week was extra tricky! We worked with words containing “er, ir, and ur.” Yikes! I decided that we would need extra practice outside of our normal spelling center, so I whipped up a new word work center to sort the words. Once the students sorted the words, they were to write them in the corresponding category (the spelling pattern).
I simply printed the first page on colored paper, laminated, and cut. Super simple. To save on paper, I printed page two as two to a page, but I also could have just print it as a whole page.
I am including this center as a freebie to you, just for stopping by! Thank you so much for being a part of this little blog and supporting me!
Enjoy this FREE download for your word work center! Just click on the picture above to access it! What other spelling patterns would you like to see?
I love to teach measurement! While I always try to incorporate hands on activities for all math lessons (in one way or another), measurement just screams for hands on practice! Not only do we get to use the beloved unifix cubes, but we also get to measure with other various objects, like paperclips and snowmen!
Snowmen? What? Hold your horses – we’ll get to that in a minute.
Our curriculum to teach measurement is pretty bland, so I definitely had to search for some better ways to practice this fun skill. We absolutely love working in our math journals, so I whipped up some cut and paste to practice ordering by length. There were a few pages we did that were some random items, but they really enjoyed this Snow Day themed pack. (We are still excited about the snow that came last week – West TN doesn’t normally get that much!)
Once they cut and pasted them (with our beloved glue sponges!), they absolutely loved coloring the pictures. I read an article about how big of a craze the adult coloring books are lately, yet we don’t give our students time to color. My kiddos LOVE to color in the black and white clip art that I use in the room – they are kids and just want to color! I do too, actually. Plus, it helps with those fine motor skills, right? I’m all about teaching to the whole child, including coloring.
Once we had practiced ordering things by length, it was finally time to measure things! Beyond measuring with cubes and paperclips, I thought it would be fun to get up and move around. We took turns measuring each other in small groups with snowmen! I *carefully* placed the kiddos in groups of 4 to take turns measuring the other members in their groups with our non standard unit of snowmen.
Looking back, it might have been a good idea for my students to have numbered the snowmen so they didn’t have the count the units for each person, but hey – you live and you learn. They were THRILLED to be out of their seats and being able to apply what they had been learning. I walked around and help make sure they were using the materials correctly, like making sure they were putting the snowmen end to end without overlapping and weren’t hitting each other. ;)
Our last activity as a review before our test was to order our family members by length at home! It was a fun way to see the students applying what we were learning with their family members. While my only directions were to order the members, I had several family measure everyone – some with inches (what a great extension!) and some with other nonstandard measurements, like pencils! I love when my families get involved! It might help that I promised 5 bonus points on the test if it was brought back filled out, but I’m not going to focus on that part. Ha.
If you want to snag this set for yourself, click on the picture below or head to my TPT store and search for Winter Measurement.
What are some of your favorite measurement activities? I’m always on the look out for some new ideas!