Class Yes and Hands and Eyes- WBT

Two years ago in December break I started exploring the Whole Brain Teaching website. I was so excited to try some of the techniques! I also wanted to see how much my kiddos would remember after being on winter break. The first thing I wanted to try was Class Yes.
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If you have watched some of the WBT videos you see there are some different styles. I'm a naturally sort of loud speaker, but I've worked really hard to speak more softly in class. Why? I have a teacher friend who has a very soft voice and her entire class of preschoolers always talks softly too! I love it! 4 year olds having control over the volume of their voice without even knowing it. So when I started "Class Yes" I didn't say it super duper loud. Don't get me wrong- sometimes we were in the middle of a really engaging activity and our class noise level was pretty high so I would have to be louder with my class yes. But most of the time I was pretty soft and sometimes I even whispered. 

How did it work? 
I say "Class Class!"
They say "Yes Yes!"
And your kids say it in the very same way you did. So if I whispered "Class Class" I would hear a "Yes Yes!" back in a whisper.

I jazzed it up all the time too with a "Yee-haw Class!" {Yee-haw Yes!}, "Woot woot Class!" {Woot Woot Yes!} The kiddos even came up with a few. 

This is an incredible tool! It works in a fire drill that happens in the middle of recess. For real. The MIDDLE OF RECESS and I shouted "Class class!" The other first grade teacher weren't doing Class Yes or any WBT at this point (at least I don't remember them doing it yet). But just my kids shouting back was enough to get the attention of the whole playground.
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Oh I love this one! This looks phenomenal when administration sees it too. I used this when my kids were deep in discussion or thought and I needed to show them an important next step in our work.
Teacher "Hands hands hands and eyes" and then I clasp my hands together.
Kiddos repeat and put their eyes on you and hands together.

Sometimes, especially if we were doing an interactive notebook activity, I would have a few students still engrossed what they were doing. We had to try it again. But you know what, that's OK! Once I had their attention I knew I really had their eyes on me and we were able to move on to the next step. My students quickly learned that me asking for hands and eyes meant they should give me their attention or they would miss out on something important.

I mentioned above that I started WBT before winter break. After winter break my students didn't miss a beat! They remembered everything and honestly I think the familiarity of the routine was a relief to them.

I strongly encourage you to try a little of WBT in your class to see what you think. You'll be amazed!

Photo a Day for your classroom

Welcome back to school, teacher friends! The summer sure flew by! Not nearly enough time was spent wearing flip flops in the sunshine and wondering what day of the week it was! 

At the start of the school year those first couple of weeks are packed full of routine practice. We plan out the whole day and some activities take WAAAAY longer than we planned because we had to redirect a few friends and come back to the carpet for a chat. Other activities we find go so smoothly that we are rushing to our pile of back to school books looking for what we would like to read next. Sometimes we just need something for our kids to do that takes 5-10 minutes. 
I have your solution! 
I created a Photo a Day pack for you classroom. Have you participated in one of those on Instagram? They are so fun and easy and it's a great way to connect with new people. 

How can you use this in your classroom?

*students can create a photo album- something to show off at Open House and get your students talking about their classroom and school.
*graphing what students choose to draw- ex: Who drew shoes with laces? Who drew shoes without laces?
*as a writing tool- even your most reluctant writers will be able to create a sentence about their photo.
*Collaboration! Create a class or group poster. If your students sit in groups they may enjoy making a group poster or even big group photo album. 

*Many students are unsure of themselves at the start of the year, but everyone can draw a little something. Drawing helps to improve those fine motor skills. Your ELL sweeties will get extra vocabulary practice as well. My group of students last year loved to talk about what they were writing or drawing and we talked a lot about how we can use what we say in our writing. 

I left several of the prompts very broad, for example, "In PE." This could wind up being a rule, a game, a friend, a teacher, a basketball, etc. Some of your kids might surprise you with what they choose!

You can grab this pack on TPT right now!! Have an amazing week at school!! XO

YOU WILL BE MY FRIEND & other books

It's back to school time and although this is my post from last year I thought I would re-post. That first week back to school is SO IMPORTANT! We want to make a good impression and part of setting the stage is using picture books to convey important messages. So if you're a new teacher get ready to shop!

My name is Jennifer and I have a picture book addiction. 

Seriously, put me in Barnes and Noble and it's like I'm in Target. I have no self-control! I know I'm not alone!

I have 5 books that I read every year and I can't imagine beginning my year without them.

1. Do Unto Otters- Absolutely the cutest book about the golden rule of do unto others. Great for manners and treating others with kindness. Every year I draw the main character and we record all the words we can think of on how to "do unto otters." There's also a VERY adorable DVD that you can find on Amazon (it includes 3 other stories By Laurie Keller). It's an animated version of the story and it's always a big hit. The kids are usually giggling at the little rabbit's do-dee-do song.

2. Wemberly Worried- So many students can relate to being nervous on the first day of school. 

3. You Will Be My Friend- HILARIOUS! Peter Brown is too funny. Lucy, the cute bear on the cover, has the hardest time making a friend. She even yells "YOU WILL BE MY FRIEND!" which of course does not help her in making any new friends. The kids laugh at her ridiculous behavior and it leads to great discussion about how to make a friend.

4. Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse- Another fabulous Kevin Henkes book. When Lilly draws a nasty picture of her teacher at the end of a bad day her teacher tells her "Today was difficult, tomorrow will be better." I say that same phrase to students all year long. Students easily relate to Lilly's excitement to show and tell about her purple plastic purse, movie star sunglasses, and jingly quarters. 

5. Library Lion- the illustrations in this book are so gorgeous. If you aren't familiar with this book it's so sweet. The librarian is very adamant that everyone follow the rules- most importantly STAY QUIET. But what if there's an emergency? Is there ever a time when it's okay to break the rules?

Get your Grants Funded!

How big is your wish list? After hours this summer spent at conferences, scouring Pinterest, and seeing new toys on Instagram and Facebook you probably have more than a few items you'd love to use in class. Now you're thinking about writing grant. GREAT IDEA! I've written grants before and all of them have been funded so I thought I would share my tips. 

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Donors Choose is of course a wonderful option for educators hoping to get grants funded, but did you know that many districts have an education foundation? I Education Foundations WANT to give you money for your classroom! Local large businesses and companies based out of your state may also offer grants. Don't forget about your school's PTA- they may have some funds they would be willing to share to help you purchase something if it could benefit a large population of the school.

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Can the item or items you want a grant to purchase be used all year long? Can they be used the following year as well? Will it benefit all the students in your classroom? You are more likely to have a grant funded if you can use it in your classroom continually.

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Don't be afraid to write a large grant! If you want to purchase items for your whole team try contacting the company you want to purchase from and ask if they offer a large order discount. Many times they will help you out! Companies want their product out there!

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Many people who want to fund your grants aren't teachers. They aren't familiar with the buzzwords that we are. When you write your grants be specific and make sure your reader can really picture how your item would be used in the classroom. Can it benefit students of all ability levels? How?

*Have a friend or colleague proofread your grant before you submit it!! Sometimes we have read and re-read and re-read what we have written so many times that we miss errors!

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Show how excited you are to receive your grant! Send out a picture of your items to your parents in a Remind message. Use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and now Periscope to show your enthusiasm and show your grant item at work in the classroom! Send out a thank you note. If you've been funded from someone locally a thank you note is a special touch.

Have a great school year and keep sharing pictures of your new fun items in class! I love seeing how creative we can be in how we teach!

Big News

A few months ago something exciting happened in our family. My husband had an opportunity to take a job in Seattle. Seattle is where we have wanted to settle permanently for a long time, but in our plan it wasn't something we were going to try to make happen for a few more years. Everything happened so quickly. I was still on maternity leave and we did our usual trip to Seattle for New Years and when the baby and I returned to Texas my husband stayed in Seattle and started his new job.

Note the broken heart...
I'm very excited for this next step in our lives, but sad to leave my family here and the community where I have worked for the last 8 years. I work with amazing teachers and it will be strange not working with my school family next year. 

I'm staying here in Texas until the school year is over then I'll we'll officially move mid-June.

If you're a teacher in Seattle I'd love to hear from you! I would love to meet up with some Seattle teachers once we are living there.

Have a great weekend!

Making Fluency Practice Fun

This time in the year I like to focus on fluency a bit more, but I like to try and be sneaky about it. I want my kiddos to practice reading but handing students a sand timer just isn't my style. Over the past couple of weeks we've been using the ChatterPix Kids app! Now that we've started we just can't stop!

This app is SO EASY TO USE! Students can take a picture of themselves, objects, or drawings. After choosing a picture you use the drawing tool to pick a spot for a mouth. Next you can record yourself speaking for up to 30 seconds. If you mess up on a recording you just record over it. There are borders and funny stickers to add to your recording too. Easy peasy lemon squeezy!

(And now a little message from Cody the Cat)

My students recorded themselves reading a poem on ChatterPix Kids. Here's one example of a student reading a Jack Prelutsky poem. This one is just a drawing and a recording without stickers added.

The possibilities are endless with this app. We just completed Dr. Seuss character drawings and my kids are recording facts about Dr. Seuss. We are planning on doing book reviews with this app too. Students will draw their favorite character in the setting of the story then record their thoughts on the book. I showed my sister and she and my niece had a great time taking pictures of Barbie dolls and made them say all kinds of funny things! 

Keeping track of classroom expenses

Oh my word! I have an app you NEED in your life! 
I'm obsessed with Evernote. If you don't use Evernote it's pretty much the bomdiggity when it comes to taking notes, writing checklists, and creating reminders. I use it for grocery lists, lists of upcoming activities in my classroom, etc. You get it. If it's not in Evernote I probably won't remember it.
Well, the makers of Evernote have a new app called Scannable. Scannable allows you to keep track of documents and export them into Evernote. Just think about how handy this would be with beginning of the year shopping...

Simply snap a photo of your receipt in the Scannable app then you can export it to Evernote where you can have a "Classroom Expenses" note set up. Tax time rolls around and BOOM all your expenses are in one place!

*But wait, there's more*

You can use this app to keep track of student work and your notes on student progress! Take snapshots of student work, your notes (GREAT for Post-Its), tests, handwriting samples, etc. Goodbye copy count worries! How fabulous is that?! All those important papers in one spot and you don't have to worry about copies crammed into your filing cabinet.

Have a great week everyone!

Popplet Lite

We had so much fun using an app called Popplet Lite while we learned about Abraham Lincoln and George Washington. You may be familiar with Popplet. It's and app as well as a website that allows for making webs. You can have a whole class working on a Poppet on the website which can be really cool. 

But to start off Popplet Lite is a great tool. It's free too! 

It takes just a few taps on the screen to create a bubble. Students can type inside the bubble or draw using their finger. You can also import pictures. So easy! We did one as a class first then I allowed students to create their own Popplets. Some of my students had such a good time that they even went home and created their own Popplets on family, their favorite books, etc.

This is a great tool to use in science and social studies and students feel successful! Below is an example. It turned out too cute!