Why NOW is the most important time to be a teacher

Oh teacher friends, my heart is heavy with worry. I know your is too. Regardless of who you may have voted for you likely have students of different religions, race, or students whose parents may be part of our LGBT community. They fear they may have to leave the country, even though their parents are here legally. They fear too many people hate them because of their skin color. They fear people will attack them or their families because of their religion. They fear their parents legal marriage will somehow be dissolved and they will no longer be a family according to the law. These fears are real. I cannot imagine what they feel like. I cannot understand the hate I have seen either. It makes my heart ache.

I tell you, teacher friends, NOW is the most important time to be a teacher. Our job is already incredibly difficult, I know. It's especially hard when we hear politicians and legislators, who know nothing about what we ACTUALLY do,  belittle our hardwork and efforts. This stings more when already we are making up for extreme budget cuts with our small salaries by spending big parts of our paychecks on our kids. But, I feel, in this uncertain time one of the best things we can do is model kindness and understanding. That happens to be a skill that teachers specialize in! It comes easily to us! It's part of why we followed the calling to become a teacher (because that's what it is- a calling!). We LOVE our kids. We invest in our students success with our whole heart. We want them to succeed and we want them to be leaders. We want them to treat others well and with kindness. We want them to be team players and we want them to include those students who may be different from them in some way.

On Monday, if you don't already do it, greet every student at your door. Every single one. Smile, "I'm SO glad you are here today!" Give hugs freely. Hug your former students as they make their way to class. When you see a colleague do something you know was outside their comfort zone give them praise in front of their class and yours! Smile at your staff members as you pass them in the hallway. At the end of the day hug or high five your students as they leave your classroom and head for the bus. Tell them they are IMPORTANT. Find more activities that require your students to work as a team. Thank them for their hard work. Tell them on Monday how much you missed them. Because not only are they our future...but among them are future leaders of this country.

We have the opportunity and privilege to be a person that makes a profound impact on how they feel about others and especially how they feel about themselves! XO

Writers Making Lists

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Making lists seems like such a simple task doesn't it?  I'm at a point in my life where 1) I can't remember stuff and 2) I get great satisfaction from crossing off something on my to-do list. When I started creating my writing journals I wanted my students to be a part of the process of creating examples to refer back to. One of the first items we work on is creating lists. Why work on something that is seemingly so simple? Lists are the basis of all of our planning and pre-writing!

Making lists piece in interactive portion of writing journal. 

Young writers need lots of practice writing lists and thinking of ideas quickly. It's hard when you're a first grader to get your ideas onto your paper and to do it quickly. The first example students put into their writing journals is a list. (I also created a few other lists for them to add into their journal. These could be placed into their journals behind my original list or be placed in your writing center as a quick option for them.) I want them to be able to think of simple ideas like farm animals and be able to write a list for them. Then we can practice how to make sentences from our list.

One fun way to practice making lists is with this list making SCOOT activity. Of course you could laminate these lists and allow students to write on them with dry erase markers so that you get several years of use out of them. I copied mine onto Astrobrights Card Stock. Astrobrights also has a double color cardstock, but it's very hard for me to find. I did find this brand. I like that with double color I can make my cardstock go a bit further so all of my activities have different colors.

Split your class into groups of four or five students. Each student gets their own list. It may help to print them on different colors. Students write one item on their list. Then SCOOT to the next list in the group and try to list something not already written. You only have four or five students in each group so the SCOOT game goes pretty quickly. Come back together as a whole class to begin comparing lists. If you have space in your room post all your lists up. This is a great tool for your ESL, ELL, and low readers. It's ok for them to copy the lists into their journals. They are still practicing writing!

Lists Freebie. Click on the picture above to download.

This would also be a great small group activity! Many students do better verbalizing what they want on their list before they write it down. Pair up students and have them orally lists items for their list before writing it down. Two heads are better than one, right? So even your shy kiddos will feel successful.

*If you teach an older group of students you could do the same activity but ask students to make lists on medium sized Post It Super Sticky 4x6 Notes. The Miami color combo is so pretty! Your students can stick their notes right into their journals!

When I first start literacy station rotations and journal writing is a station I may tell me students to write a list this time. They have an example to refer back to and this helps them practice using their journal as a tool. We want our students to know exactly where to get the information they need!

Using Poetry to Impact Fluency

Several years ago I decided that I wanted to incorporate and element of poetry to help my students.  I knew that the rhythm and rhyme of poetry was especially helpful to young readers when it came to improving fluency. But I struggled to find something that fit into our day as well as our nine week plans. I sat down to create something that would be useful for me and my whole team and fell in love with the results.

I wanted to create short poems that could be funny. Something that students would want to come back to read again. I also wanted a product that I could incorporate into small group instruction as well as reading stations/centers. The end result is three sets of activities for each poem. One poem for every week. 

We started each week with gluing our poems into our poetry notebooks. I asked students to circle the title. My students would pick a crayon and I would ask them to find words with _____. This depended 1) on the poem and words in it and 2) what skills my kids needed extra practice on. Sometimes we would highlight or underline short vowel words, long vowel words, single syllable, two syllable words. It's easy to differentiate here. For example, some students could be looking for the sight words the and for. Super simple.

I read the poem to the whole class. As the year goes on many students join in and read with me. Once the reading is finished students draw a picture to match the poem on the other side of the journal like you see below. I am really happy with this fine motor skill practice. It's another reference to use if you have concerns about fine motor skills as well.

During the week I have our poem written on large butcher paper and hanging up on a tall pocket chart....er, clothing rack because it's cheaper. Students read the poem together with a partner during station rotations and fill in the missing words. The extra practice with sight words and sounding out words that aren't familiar is much easier with a partner. My kids always felt so proud.

(Truth: I DO actually have pictures of this station in action....WHERE ARE THEY?! I've searched in Dropbox and my old computer. No clue. Maybe they'll appear after I publish this post! HA)

The last activity asks students to search for sight words and answer comprehension questions about the poem. I did this activity in small group. It was a great way to gauge where each student was at and it was another opportunity to hear them read. This was also a very simple way to get students to go back to look for information in what they have read. 

Fast forward to December and January. You know those reluctant readers you have? In December and January they suddenly "get" reading and become very excited about what they read. Many of my students would bring their poetry journals to their read to self stations to practice their reading. I also have the You Read to Me, I'll Read to You books and my students would sometime pair up to share reading the poem in that same style. 

I saw incredible progress throughout the year, but mostly I saw that my kiddos loved reading. Poetry is short so it helps those struggling and reluctant readers feel successful!

I have my entire poetry bundle on sale today during the TPT bonus day sale!

Using Twitter as a Classroom Tool

Hello fellow teachers! This summer I had the opportunity to attend a day of iPadpalooza and I cannot wait to share some of what I learned! If you aren't familiar with iPadpalooza it's an absolutely incredible conference bringing technology, innovative ideas, and teachers together. Everything is so well done and so organized--it's a teachers dream. Every year there are amazing keynote speakers, classes, challenges, etc. You are literally buzzing with excitement thinking about how you can use all these great ideas in your classroom!

Some of the most exciting information for me this year was on using Twitter in the classroom!
Why use Twitter?

500 Million Tweets are sent every day- that's 6,000 tweets per second!

There are 66 Million Twitter users in the United States!

Twitter is EVERYWHERE. It's easy to access on any device and takes very little time to set up an account. Many of our older students already have Twitter accounts, so why not get them interested in what we are teaching by using Twitter? Creating and sending a tweet takes less than thirty seconds and the benefits can be amazing!

One speaker, George Curous (@gcouros), talked a bit about how Twitter could change the culture of your school. He asked: What if each teacher on your campus tweeted about something they did in their classroom every day and we all took the time to read and respond to the their tweets? I would love to know about the projects and new ideas other teachers on my campus had. Can you imagine how great it would be to be able to encourage and high five other teachers in grades far above or below you. Wouldn't we all be willing to take more risks in our classroom if we knew we had encouragement from others?

 I listened to Don Goble speak as well (@dgoble2001). He asked us to record a quick 30 seconds about ourselves to post to Twitter. When we tried this I immediately began to imagine parents looking up their teacher's intro on Twitter under their school hashtag. What an instant anxiety reliever for some of our kids!

 Older students with their own Twitter account could post to your hashtag. Of course most younger students don't have their own Twitter account, but that's ok. I've thought a bit about this. In my classroom my students had a number order. We lined up by odd or even numbers, found even number partners, or odd number partners, etc. To post to Twitter students could hold up a self portrait with their number, or simply their number, and record keeping their identity private. Your district may already have a permission form for the use of Twitter and other social media. Be sure to speak with your administration to make sure you have all your bases covered!

 How great would it be to have a Twitter chat with parents to gauge their comfort level with a new type of technology? Or have a chat about a book chapter or new app you introduced in your classroom? Parents could help tweet their child's answers to questions about a science experiment. I can't help but think a Twitter chat could be a great tool to connect with students on bad weather days too. Hold a chat with the fellow teachers in your district. It's a great way to collaborate and find out what other teachers are working on and new tools they have discovered.

How many times do we hear that our students don't or won't tell their parents anything about the school day? What if we gave them a little tool? For example, if you had been working on a STEM activity you could send a picture like this with the text: "Hmmm...what were we working on today?" You could send a teaser like this out to your students to get them guessing about what they will be learning the next day too.

Of course the ideas for Twitter in the classroom are endless, but those above are just a few simple ways to begin using Twitter. Twitter has a tips page for educators that you can access here.