Monday, June 18, 2018

Anxiety and Our Students

Did you know that Europe is calling the next generation the "Anxiety Generation"?  I did not until TODAY! 

Just went to a whirlwind of a class today.  It was presented by Jessica Minahan about her co-authored book, The Behavior Code

There were some eye-opening moments. HOWEVER, what was not surprising was not surprising entailed the notion that our kids are coming to us with anxiety and low executive functioning skills.  She gave me answers to some of the issues, I see in my classroom....
        *inconsistent reactions
        *lower short-term memory issues
        *why incentives don't work for all kids
        *MOST IMPORTANTLY....words to use that are proactive and positive

33.9% of 13-19 year-olds (THAT IS 1 in 3!!!) suffer from some form of anxiety disorder. WOW!!

    Your IQ drops 13-20 points when anxious. 

Many of our natural or taught practices are not helping the situation. 
        *Moving closer to be in close proximity
        *the way we question or talk to the child:
              + DETAILed directions .... all those little steps we think of as "normal or known" need to be spelled out for these kiddos.
              +Look for the trigger and underdeveloped skills to determine best strategies to teach

These are just a sampling of what the book addresses. 

I cannot wait to delve into the book more fully as I work to be a better teacher for the generation we are teaching.   What about you?!?!?!

Saturday, August 5, 2017

How to handle the way beyond groups in your classroom?

       Meet Justin....
     When he was going into 3rd grade the teacher commented, "I am nervous to have Justin in class next year. He is so smart and what do I do when he asks me something I don't know?" 

    I remember being a bit taken aback. Don't remember my exact response. What I didn't realize at the time was how many teachers feel that exact way.  Academically advanced students make them nervous.  My hope is that this post will give you strategies to strengthen your resolve to teaching this students with the same vigor we give those who struggle.

   As a society, we buy into the myth that students who are academically gifted don't need additional help because they are beyond proficient. They pick up the content as presented usually quickly or on thier own. So, we are not worried about them.
   Did you know that they are the #1 subgroup that are underperforming?? Why don't we consider this as an issue? ANSWER: When these students underperform they are still proficient in most cases. If you asked the child above if school was difficult he will say, "No." If you asked him if he learned how to learn, he'd say, "No."  What is our job? To make sure all are proficient or teach students how to learn, so when we are not there to feed it to them they can still learn.


First off, realize whether or not your para or other support staff who teach guided reading have the questioning and out of the box thinking needed to truly push your highest students. If they can...GO FOR IT, give them the group.  If not, give them the on level group. Following the questions provided will be perfectly fine for this group.  Your high or beyond group needs your expert question skills and ability to take what is stated by students to dig deeper, to think. 
Number 2 clipart

When they are done, what do you have them do? More? Is the more better, deeper or just more of the same?  Below are some books that I have found to be very useful in creating depth of knowledge. I have the students work through a section as a small group or as partners. They need your guidance as you check in regularly. I also find ways to engage them in book clubs so that they are reading for the pure love of reading and discussing. Some items below may challenge some of their thinking. These are a sampling of what could work. Basically, take time to find something that works for your students.



Image result for number 3
I don't like to give them just MORE paper to do.  So, I mix the above with games.  
   * Dice games - see my post on Dot Cube Games for ideas.
   * You can look for games on your favorite website then check a couple grade levels above.
   * There are many books and resources for reading games. 
                                        *You can also use any game board and task cards.  This is nice because if they know the game rules already it takes less time to get started.  All you have done is changed the questions to level appropriate.

*Hands-On Equations is a set of manipulatives that keep students engaged as they experience algebra in a physical manner.  This is simply deepening their knowledge of algebra.

*The other "game" I find easy to differentiate and stretch the students who need a challenge is what I call "Treasure Hunt." Instead of playing "Scoot" with cards where everyone is using the same cards and given a set time limit, students wonder the room looking for the numbers or color that they have on thier page.  This way, I can increase the difficulty for those who need it.

The following are various YouTube videos you may find interesting.

Listen to what the kids are saying:

Behavioral side:

6 tips for classroom teachers:

One of my all time favorites...It demonstrates just how varied students are.

Another classroom teachers thoughts:

These are just a few examples. I do hope it entices you to look a bit at your classroom and how are you ensuring that ALL students are being challenged to move from where we recieve them at the start of the year to their potential.  

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Setting Students Up for a Successful Year... part 2

After that first moment comes the first day....

What do you have planned?
Why do you have it planned?
What purpose is the first day of school?
How does it lead to the rest of your year?

Lets Get the Year Rolling to a FANTASTIC start!

Have you sat down and thoroughly thought through your plan of implimentation for the moment the students are in your presence?

Step 1
Spend the time envisioning what you want it to look like.
             *Where are you standing?
             *What are you saying?
             *How do the students know what you want from them?
Now...write it out.  Script it out.  Be clear on exactly how it is going to go. 
       ME...I would write over and over, don't forget to SMILE. Not that I don't smile or am unkind, but when I get focused on what I am doing or what is next, my face is more blank than welcoming. This is misinterpreted as being unfriendly. You know yourself and the places you need to emphasize in your plan.
Here are some items to keep in mind:
      *Where will you be first seeing your students? 
                If they come to you/the room, plan to be outside greeting them with a warm smile, touch and directions.  Remember, they don't know what you expect from them unless it is stated.   
       *While you are greeting each child, what are the others doing?
                Have a get to know you or easy assignment on the desks.  Express to your students how you expect them to be working while you are greeting others.
Here is an example video:

       *If they are not going in one by one, how will you lead them to what you want them to do when they enter?  
           I am an odd ball or at least some of my practices seem to be....My students figure this out the very first moment of the very first day, because, we sit on the floor in the hall way. Want to know more read my first post in this series.  Basically, I start them off on the first day explaining the expectations that start before walking into the room. 
     *What are the intentional activities for the day? Why?  
           If your activities are fillers, things will get out of hand.  What do you need them to know, what information do you need? What materials need to be given out?  How do you plan to conduct each of these "activities?"  
Do what you did for the greeting...thoroughly plan.
Okay, so I didn't do this my first year for every activity.  I will tell you, the places I did it for, it worked.  The ones I didn't...failure.  It takes time.  Then each year you tweak and add items to strengthen that first day. 

    **If you want to teach schoolwide behaviors - walk the school...stop at the spots you need to discuss.  The best time to teach each behavior set is when it comes up incontext.  However, some like, bathroom behaviors can be taught ahead of time.  I don't wait to explain to a child who is sick my policy or "GRAB A CAN AND GO!"   We go over it in general prior.  
    **Need to pass out textbooks/markers or other materials.  Do you have students doing jobs? Go over jobs first.  Then your passers can start by helping you.  ALSO think about how you organize the materials prior to passing them out.  Since I don't have assigned seats but do have assigned books, I organize all of the items they need into one pile per student.  Once we have played our find the right fit desk game, we learn about their number.  Then they pick up the pile that matches.  All the textbooks, book box....are numbered the same in that pile. 
    **Play games or watch short videos to introduce concepts like teamwork, why we need "rules." This hooks the students.  Otherwise, it is you yapping at them A LOT the first days.  

Step 2 
You have a plan. It is written.  Now walk it out.  Stage it. Stand where you will stand, then at least in your mind if not outloud rehearse what you want to say. 

Step 3
Gather materials you need. Be prepared.  

Step 4
Relax, you got this!! 

What are "activities" you do for the first day and why?  I am interesting in knowing.  I love to share ideas. This will be the subject of the next blog post in this series.

Product Details
A FANTASTIC resource is Harry Wong Youtube videos and books.  I am rereading The First Days of School.  Always can pick up something new. Tons of ideas.  Unit C discusses how to effectively set up the classroom for success from the start. 


Tuesday, July 18, 2017

IT'S 3AM!!

Good Morning.....
     The bladder woke me up (1:47am and then the rain, ligthning and thunder kept me laying here trying to fall back to sleep! Then the brain wonders....

                                              Angels Among Us by Alabama

Random thought #1 - 
     God sends angels to deliver His message everytime....EVERYTIME...I am doubting myself, wondering why I even try, or am beating myself up with negative internal discussions of the names I've been called or the reaccuring hurt from gossip.
     Last night my husband came home from hospital calls and told me that a gentleman he was talking with told him that I am a Master teacher.  The words I needed after a morning of dealing with feelings that constantly plague me from a person I respect for his honesty and experience. Now, it has only been in the last couple years (of 27) that I have forced myself to believe that I am decent at working with children. I knew I was unique in my teaching style but never truly believed I was a "master." Even though if I look back at my history....
          *Many parent compliments
          *Admin telling me over and over
          *Receiving honors....
There are always reasons why the negative has to be more true than the simple compliment.
          *They are just being kind.
          *They only saw 5 minutes of my 71/2 hour day.
          *At church...they are just being nice because I'm the pastor's wife and just standing here.
Self confidence is not my strength.  Working on it.
      The important part is that I recognize when God is working to help me along this journey.  I don't dismiss the words especially when they occur during times of doubt and deep self-reflection.

Random thought #2 -
     I pray for the students I may have in the fall.  We typically don't have our class lists until a week or so prior to returning.  So, I pray for the wisdom of my principal to place in my care the students who could most benefit from my teaching.  We all have specific gifts that can help some and hinder others.  So....I was praying for these nameless students.

Random thought #3 -
Then I remembered how lucky I was to have such a vast experience because my father was in the Air Force.
     Sunday an older man came to me and said, I know your dad was in the military but where did you really grow up.  LOVE THIS QUESTION!! Answer: everywhere and nowhere.  A typical Air Force Brat answer.  "No, I mean, where did you grow up?" So...this wasn't going to be a quick get out of it answer.  I explained I lived all over the world; had lived in 3 states before I was in school; attended 5 elementaries, 2 Jr. Highs, 3 High schools, & 2 colleges. He was amazed and asked more questions.  I happily answered and the discussion went on to what a blessing that experience must have been.
    The blessings are numerous and have made me the teacher I am today.
        *I cringe when someone says, "They have moved every year. They are going to be low." or "They have been in so many different schools, I wonder how many gaps they are going to have?"   Been there...grew up doing it and guess what...I turned out fine! Because of my experience, I am more flexible and understand other cultures better than many people.
        * I understand the "new kid."
        * I have pictures from all over the world that I use when I teach.  Even teaching when teaching science I pull out pictures to demonstrate landforms and forces in motion.  It hooks the students in a way others cannot.
And #4-
     YEAH....rain ๐Ÿ’ฆ๐Ÿ’ง for the let me sleep๐Ÿ˜ด! It's now 4:30am.'s July...I do have a School Improvement meeting in a few short hours. BUT I can come home and take a nap. ๐Ÿ˜Š

This blog was completely random and I pray somewhat coherent. However, truly has not much to do about anything other than giving me something to do while the torrential rains continue.


Thursday, July 13, 2017

Which one? Where is it?

It is probably just me.  BUT I have a ton of picture books that I want to use for instructional purposes but then can't find them when needed.  Normally, a month later or prior that "particular" book is spotted, but not when needed.

SO....I started putting them in the filing cabinet with the appropriate subject.  Their placement was rushed a couple years ago when I was moving rooms.  Therefore, I confess they were basically shoved in some spot in the general area of the subject to which they went.  "I'll have time during the year to deal with it." I told myself.  ๐Ÿ˜‚HAHAHA!!!๐Ÿ˜‚
   Then the next year I moved again and this time the room was under construction until the week prior to returning. THEN as any elementary teacher know....It is not organization time....It is put stuff somewhere to survive the year time. Again, telling myself, "I'll get to it during the year." AGAIN....NOT DONE!

This summer, I am making the time to go through those filing cabinets.

YES!! I love to be organized!! 
     I do not like the feeling that I don't know where things are or the time it takes to search.  

Step 1. Go through files and ditch unneeded items.  

Step 2. Find the picture multitude of books scattered throughout.

Step 3.  Have a brilliant idea! I am sure others have known to do this but for me, it was a "Why didn't you think of this before?!?!" moment.
I don't know about you, but I hoard "leftover" labels. 

Just what was needed.

Step 4. Label the books for which subject and concept they will be used.

Step 5. File them with the other items for the same concept. 

VOILA! The books are tagged and ready for use.  I look forward to a spectacular year of educating young minds using the best of my resources!

How do you organize your picture books or other non-worksheet type resources? 


Wednesday, July 12, 2017

First 5 minutes each day all year long...

Image result for clock clipart freeI get it ...  You just walked in 5 minutes earlier and are still putting away the coat or checking to get everything ready for the students.  Most districts I have worked for have teacher starting times 5 - 10 minutes prior to the school bell. Not much time to collect yourself and greet students.

Image result for students clipart
HOWEVER, that first 30 seconds of each of their lives IS important.  IT sets a tone.  SO, be outside your door greeting students.
    It gives you insight into the moods that are coming into the room.  You can check on the ones who always seem to forget something in the backpack.
It is much more than a handshake saying a cheerful good is 30 seconds that tells each of your students you care about them.  You are there for them not the busyness of the morning. It is a solid spot for the students to know where they can find you and ask you questions if needed because you are not busy getting ready.

Take the time...plaster the smile on...and greet.


Setting Students Up for a Successful Year - part 1

IT ALL STARTS from the moment you say HI!

How do you greet your students?
What are they doing those first few minutes of the first day?
How do you handle what they are doing?

My students come into our building all at one time.  I direct them to their lockers.  Then with the classroom door closed behind me, we sit on the floor.  RIGHT THERE IN THE HALL!
    I believe that the hallway is where we can start a successful day of school.  So on that very first day, we sit there.  We talk about how to start a successful day.  We discuss why it starts here.
    **Routine of putting backpacks away....getting what they need out before coming in ... attitude makes a different to our brains readiness to accept new learning...etc.
   Then I open the door.  I show them two icons on the door.  The first is a smiley face.๐Ÿ˜Š I explan how they are going to give me a high five ✋ in the morning, touch the smile and say, "I have a great attitude for school."  The second is clipart of a backpack. Again they are to touch it and say, "I have everything out of my backpack."  Sounds silly. I know. But it has been a reminder for many students who just drop everything in the locker and start to walk in the door. "OOPS...didn't bring in my waterbottle!"  If the attitude is not quite there, I can take note, and follow up.  This instruction time includes explaing why we do this in the mornings.
   Then we practice entering the room and head to the front of the room where we sit in an oval for our first class meeting of the year.  They have noticed by now that there are no names on desks.  That is the first order of business.  We play a game, "Find the best seat for me."  Basically, I talk to them about choice in our room. First choice they have is to find their best fit seat.  Discussion revolves around issues like, sitting by friends, sitting by the door or windows. The sizes of chairs and desks.  If I had different types of seating that would be another part of the discussion.  It is a discussion. I ask them to give me pros and cons of the various options. Then I play music and they walk the room, sitting and moving until they find where they feel they are most comfortable.  I ask them to not just find a spot and sit.  I want them to ask themselves, "Can I sit here all day?  Is the height good for working? Does the light bother me? Will noise from the hall bother me?" etc.
   Lastly, out come the sharpies.  They claim the desk as their own. This is the 5th graders FAVORITE part.  "We get to write on our desks?!?!" YES!
    (SIDE NOTE: I will never go back to name tags in the upper elementary.  Love the simplicity of the names being written on the desks instead.)
   I have only had a couple times where two students wanted the same spot.  I allowed them to talk it out and only asked questions to help them figure out the best solution.
These two excersises set up a few components of our classroom from the get go.
    *Come into class prepared both mentally and with supplies
    *During each day, we will have choice but it is most important that is the best fit for their individual growth. 
    * Routines and procedures have reasoning behind them. 

I hope this inspires you to think about routines you have set up and how do you introduce them from the very moment students walk into your building that first day.