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 crops....now let me sleep๐Ÿ˜ด! It's now 4:30am. Oh...it'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 morning...it 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.


Thursday, July 6, 2017

Classroom Theme 2017

I don't change the "theme" of my room every year.  BUT this year, I just needed a change! Maybe because I wasn't changing rooms or grade levels for the first time in 6 years.  I also had the same 2 themes (superheroes or extreme sports) for the past 7 years. I looped with two classes (4th grade to 5th grade) twice, hence the need for 2 different themes.  I wanted the students who were in my room two years in a row to have something new to look at.  BTW side note...I LOVE LOOPING!!

After much thought and discussion within Encouraging Teachers Facebook group, I decided on a modified Emoji classroom theme.  Modified because I simply could not see a classroom full of smilies all year round without it being a bit much.  There are LOADS of items on TPT for emoji classrooms and through Creative Teaching I found some borders.  They also have a couple sets for the classroom. However, as previously stated, I didn't want it to be all yellow circle faces.  I am not against smiling. Just thought it was too much of one thing. Here are pictures of what is up in my room.

close up
Brag Board (closet)

This is for our exit tickets. I choose a few to tweet.

check in and out area

Tech BB


Thanks for taking a peek into my room.  Since, I had to create many of these items, I decided to share my Emoji, Tech, App Classroom Decor on TpT for others who might like them.  

click on title above in order to link to this product

What are you doing to spruce up your room this year?  


HELP! What to do next?

Differentiation 101, part 4

All right, we set expectations....
                      We conducted some class meetings to get buy in....

How do we manage the times when students fall short of the expected?

Follow through! 
   We have all been there.  It is exhausting, frustrating, aggrevating...just to name a few emotions that hit teachers when it is the 253 millionth time to ask someone to practice walking down the hall in a respectful manner.  But if we don't, they know they can do it as they want.
Therfore, BE CAREFUL what expectations you DETERMINE are important.  KNOW why they are the ones you want to set.  You will have to follow through. 

Another way to follow through is use your class meeting time to discuss what the students notice is going well and what as a class we need to work towards.  They know what is working and not, especially if they were part of the expectations set up.  Get ideas on how to address times when they are not following through on their expected behaviors.  THIS IS GOLDEN!

Secondly, CELEBRATE! 
   How does this work for those who fall short?? Everyone likes to be seen as doing the right thing. Students work for you better if they feel you are going to recognize their efforts. Therefore, use your superpower of postitve reinforcement!  Be sure to recognize and note when it goes well for individuals as well as the class. Find more positives than negatives.  We all know this, but if you are like  me....reminders are always a good thing, especially that last quarter!


Monday, July 3, 2017

Dot Cubes Games

Rollin', rollin', rollin' get them dice a rollin'... (Sung to the tune of the theme of Rawhide)
Hi, my name is Kim Remmers and I have an dice addiction!
As you can see, I have a few.

How many people have played Tenzi? (Raising hands won't help here. But a shout out in the comments would.) It is a simple yet engaging game.  While at The Nebraska Association for Gifted (NAG) conference several years ago I learned about it.  Now, we play it in my classroom every so often to practice vocabulary, fact practice, concept review.... As soon as the students see me pull out the box (pictured in the left hand corner of the picture above), they immediately get excited.
Image result for tenziImage result for 77 ways to use TenziImage result for 77 ways to use Tenzi

I have to confess here, I have bought a couple sets of actually Tenzi die and I have the 77 Ways to Play Tenzi card set.  I love the ideas they spark! However, I am a poor teacher and pastor's wife who wanted 30 sets.  I did find somewhere on the vast internet where I could buy die in bulk.  I wish I could remember where I found them. Sorry! Racked the brain and no such luck. I always have enough for each student to have their own.


Basically, to play the game you roll all ten die and look for a specific number or combination of numbers.  As you find them, you put them to the side.  In the 77 Ways to Play Tenzi, you can find various ways to stack, place, or form pictures with the die. I will share some ideas here later. Once you have all the die with a particular number or pattern, then you shout out, "TENZI!"


1. Boneyard pile - simply shoved to the side.
2. Tower - stack one on top of the other.  If they fall, you start over.
3. Pyramid - four on the bottom, 3 next level up, 2 die then finally 1 at the top (I have seen where the number of dots matched the level.)
4. Assending or Desending - start with 1 and 6. (only need 6 die)
5. Double Trouble - two sets of die
        *pattern: alternating pattern (AB or AABB or AAB)
        *larger pyramid or tower
6. Picture patterns: 77 Ways to Play Tenzi (They are not paying me, I just feel they should get credit.) contains cards that have a pattern in which to place the die. The students could make their own.


1. Vocabulary practice - Rote disguised as fun! Everyone looks for a particular number, lets say 2s.  As they find a two they say the word and definition.  Guess what they have said it about 10 times by the end. Next word, new number.

2. Fact practice - Simular as above but as they find the number they say the fact they need to practice.  This can be done where they say the same fact or a series.  In a series, they would say, 1X9 is 9; next time they roll the correct die they say 2X9 is 18.  For each die they do the next fact.  Four die in the pile means the fact is 4X___ is ___.  I always write on the board the number we are trying to roll and the target practice.

3. Partner Quiz - This is another way to do the above.  The first partner to roll the given number or has the most of that number gives a vocabulary word or fact.  The other partner must respond with the definition or answer.
    Alternative play: There is only one set of die between the pair.  One person rolls and quizes the partner with the same number of  vocabulary or facts as the amount of die with the specific number on them. The other partner answers that many questions then roles switch. They can create a pile of used die or all 10 are always rolled.

Want more ideas? I have a resource coming to Teacher Pay Teacher with additional ideas and resources to use with sets of die.  The games are explained in more detail with direction cards incase you would like to use it as a center/station.