Image Map

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

The Things I Learned From Having a Difficult Class: Kids "On The Fence"

This is my fifth post in my Things I Learned from Having a Difficult Class Series. Today I'm focusing on the kids "on the fence". In the upcoming weeks I'll discuss documentation, and communicating with parents and the administration. So how do we get the kids who are "on the fence" between being a problem and an angel to choose good over evil?

We all know these kids.

The ones that are a "handful". The ones that have the potential for greatness. The ones that can be perfectly behaved one second and misbehaving the next. The ones that are so capable, but don't always realize it, you just want to shake it out of them.

Oh my goodness. 

If there was a one word answer, or even an easy answer, to this question, I would be a millionaire. Gosh dangit, I wish I had that answer!

Since I don't, I'll give you a list of suggestions of things you can do to get these kids to choose good over evil. As you all know, some may work and others may go down in a blaze of glory or just flames. It all just depends on your students and the relationships you have with your kiddos and their families. 

Things to do with your kiddos "on the fence":

1. Develop closer relationships with them.

Students behave for adults they like - so make sure they like you. This could be as little as one on one time (even if its just for a minute or two), giving them a job they believe to be important - or as big as having lunch with them or playing with them at recess.

2. Piggybacking on number 1 - make sure their families like you. 

Parents will support you if they feel like you care about their child as a person, so take an interest in these children and their families. They want to know that you value your child as an individual and see them as more than a number in your class. While there may be a lot of negative things to discuss with them, make sure you discuss the positives, too. It will pay off in the long run, trust me!

3. Be consistent. 

Students realize when you are not consistent, and will take this and run with it. By showing them you react the same way to every person, every time, they will learn that they are not exempt and will cooperate. Littles know when you're not consistent and other get preferential treatment. If you don't believe me, watch this:

If a monkey can recognize unfair treatment - then you better believe that your students will, too!

4. Hold them to the same standard of behavior that you expect from your best behaved students. 

It may take baby steps to get there, but don't give them an out. Have high expectations and hold your students accountable to get there. They will rise, or fall, to whatever your expectation level is. So.. make sure yours are high!

Kids on the fence are the "most important" kids in the class. I put this in quotes because as we all know, all kiddos are important, but what I'm referring to is behavior management. They are the ones that can make a big change in your classroom climate, so being consistent is a great way to make sure that change a positive one.

How do you handle your kids "on the fence"? Let me know in the comments!

P.S. - Click here to follow me on BlogLovin'! My page there is a work in progress, but it's coming along. 

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Explore Like a Pirate: Ahoy Mate! A New Language Of Learning

Thanks for joining us for Chapter 4 in the Explore Like a Pirate book study! Chapter 4 is all about the new language of learning. 

Matera uses 10 words to describe purpose driven language, which is something that all highly successful students (and people in general) have. This is the primary language he uses in his classroom when communicating with parents, on student report cards, and describing upcoming projects. It was definitely food for thought, and I'm mulling over some ideas for how to incorporate this into a 2nd grade classroom. 

 He talks about how sitting through endless modeling has created a passive student body, and how they need us to hold their hands every step of the way. We need to empower students to be brave enough to try on their own, and also to know that it is okay to fail - that's how we learn!

That's why it's so important for us to encourage creativity in our students! We can do that by creating risk-rich environments, where our students know it's okay to make mistakes (that's how we learn!) and by asking open ended questions. 

 Enthusiasm includes 2 parts: 

  1. Educators need to create tasks that are worth getting excited about. Who ever got excited about completing a worksheet in silence?
  2. Remind students to keep an open mind and enthusiastic about challenging and less engaging tasks for the sake of themselves and their classmates. 

Your attitude determines your attitude!

Putting forth your best effort every day is a must!

It's difficult to master at any age, but requires attention and practice. 

FAIL stands for: First Attempt In Learning. After you FAIL then you can set SAIL: Second Attempt In Learning. A great way to give students more confidence so they're less likely to give up on learning. 

When students rush through assignments (aka their "quest") remind them that initiative is the first step, but the way to greatness requires focus and effort. I need to remember this for my gifted kiddos who just try to complete as many tasks as poorly quickly as they can!

Follow their questions to find answers, and then even better questions. Matera recommends playing on their natural curiosity by dropping hints of things to come, starting a rumor about an upcoming "challenge", and just being playful in general. Works for me!

To me, this sounds like students work on developing their "word" so we, and their team mates, can believe and depend on them. Do what you say you're going to do!

Students need to give and receive empathy throughout their education. 

A big shout out to Rachael at Sweet Sweet Primary for organizing the link up! Make sure you join us next Tuesday for Chapter 5! Click the image above to go back to the linky.

P.S. - Click here to follow me on BlogLovin'! My page there is a work in progress, but it's coming along. 

Monday, June 27, 2016

Teacher To Do List: Update

I just can't turn my teacher brain off. I thought summer was supposed to be about relaxing and hitting refresh so when August comes around, I'll be a happy teacher again. What do I do? Relax for about 5 hours and then get right back to work.. go figure.

I initially wrote about my Teacher To Do List here, and now that I've been out of school for a month I thought I'd give you an update on how it's all going!

1. Relaxation

I'm still watching Orange is the New Black in between all the other items on this list. My real favorite part of relaxing is reading with the kitties. How can you not relax with little love bugs like these two?

2. Cleaning

I'm really taking my time on this one. I mean, what's the rush? I'm still working on cleaning the condo, but it's at least livable now.

3. Gym

I've been having a lot of fun taking spin and tabata classes at the gym.

4. Create

I've been spending a lot of time revamping my reading logs to make them more engaging. So far, August and September are done. Click the image to check it out in my TpT store!

Here's a sneak peak at my next literature circle:

5. Travel

Plans are officially booked! Now if only I could be on the beach right now.. 

Friday, June 24, 2016

Five Things I'm Looking Forward To

This past week has been pretty low key, so this week's Five for Friday post is about "Five Things I'm Looking Forward To". 

One thing I'm excited to do, but haven't done yet this summer is TRAVEL! I can't wait to head to California and up North to Flagstaff to escape from the heat. Vacay time won't get here soon enough!

I'm in the middle of reading Explore Like a Pirate, and this book has definitely got my teacher brain going! It has given a lot of ideas to use this next year in my classroom, and I'm so excited to see how they all play out! If you missed the first few posts in the linky you can check them out below:

Don't miss out on Chapter 4 next Tuesday! It's all about The New Language of Learning.

I just discovered Liane Moriarty, and am in the middle of reading this book. It's the first book of hers that I've read, and it definitely won't be the last. I can't wait to see how it ends, so if you know - no spoilers!

I can never just sit around during the summer, so I usually load up on professional development classes. I just finished one called Motivating Students to Learn. It wasn't what I thought it was, but it was a brush up on some basic Kagan Structures. One of my favorites that I do all the time with my class is called Quiz Quiz Trade. 

I usually use it to practice high frequency words, but I love the idea for using it with math. My teacher brain just never shuts off!

Have you read my tips for dealing with a difficult class? I sure learned a lot this past year.. so if you are so *lucky* to get "class" this year make sure you read the series!

Join me on Wednesday to read about Kids on the "Fence"!

Thanks Kacey for hosting the linky! Click the image to read more Five for Friday posts. 

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The Things I Learned From Having a Difficult Class: The Perfect Kids

This is the fourth post in my Things I Learned from Having a Difficult Class Series. Today I'm focusing on the perfect kids. In the upcoming weeks I'll discuss kids "on the fence", documentation, and communicating with parents. In the middle of a behavior melt downs; meetings with the parents, administration, and district; how do you keep these kids engaged, learning, and wanting to come to school?

These kids will be your saving grace during the year. They will help you keep your sanity. They will make you smile on a daily basis. They will make you feel guilty because the other children take up so much of your time that you have none leftover to spend on them. They are also the ones who will suffer.

It is not fair for these children to deal with the behavior issues of other students.

It is not fair for these children to have a teacher who is so worn down and tired of dealing with the other things that are like constant fires that need to be put out.

It it not fair for these children to have other students be mean to them, but it's okay "because they're on a behavior plan".

It is not okay for these children to have a teacher who is unprepared because they've been in 3 meetings that week alone for that ONE student taking up all their time.

It is not fair for these wonderful children to deal with the mental health issues of other students.

These kids deserve better.

Don't punish them for the misdeeds of the other students in the class. Make sure these kids know how special and wonderful they are. But don't give them special treatment.

Keep in mind, that even the best behaved kids will have bad days. This does not make them bad kids. Everyone has bad days. Don't hold it against them.

Be consistent. Treat them as badly as you treat the other kids, just don't make them suffer the consequences for things that are out of their control. Inconsistency can make the best behaved kids do strange things, because like any child they are testing limits. Like I say to my students: Every student, every time. It is not easy, but it gets easier with practice.

Do little things so that they know how appreciated and valued they are. This can be as simple as writing them a little note, having them be a helper..even if it is just something simple like handing out papers. It will mean a lot to them in the long run.

They will be okay. And so will you.

P.S. - Click here to follow me on BlogLovin'! My page there is a work in progress, but it's coming along. 

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Explore Like a Pirate: New World, Old World

Thanks for tuning in to week 3 of Explore Like a Pirate linky! Chapter 3 is called "Old World, New World" and it's all about the new world in education. There's this great line at the start of the chapter that says, "The new world" in education requires us to look past the old ways and create more dynamic learning environments and methods of teaching." To me, that sounds like it's all about student engagement!

Now, that's not to say that the entirety of the "old world" should be discarded. We just need to adapt our teaching methods to the ways of the new world. Keep what works, and update what doesn't. 

The chapter quoted Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi saying, "It seems increasingly clear that the chief impediments to learning are not cognitive in nature. It is not that the students cannot learn' it is that they do not wish to."


If the requirement is to complete worksheet after worksheet, sit still with little to no recess, not talk with partners or groups or ask questions, etc... Well, I wouldn't want to learn either. Can you say boring?!

I think that must be part of why I'm so excited about this book study. With the class I had last year I struggled to be creative since I was so focused on the discipline problems. We still had fun, but it wasn't the year I wanted to have. Now that I'm reflecting on things during the summer, I feel super motivated to bring that sense of adventure back into my classroom! 

Matera describes a gamified lesson he did during a unit on Egypt that was inspired by the Da Vinci code. The students were told that Imhotep had gone missing, and without him the pyramids would have never been built. The students had to go on a school wide scavenger hunt in order to solve the mystery his disappearance. This wasn't something done during class time, but something the students had to engage in during their free time. Not all students participated, and some groups dropped out because it was challenging, but that made the other groups work harder. The end goal was that much sweeter! Now how can I do something like this with my class and curriculum... Hmm.. The wheels are turning!

Another point worth mentioning is the use of mantras in the classroom. Some mantras Matera has used include: 
  • Strive to do the extraordinary. 
  • Life if about choices, so choose wisely. 
  • Life is all about leaving a legacy. 
  • How will you be remembered? (Today.. not in the distant future)

I'm not quite sure how to use this with my classroom, but I would love to have something like that over the white board and/or my door. Which one to choose.. 

This chapter was thought provoking - I've got lots of wheels turning for gamified lessons this year! Thanks again to Rachael at Sweet Sweet Primary for this wonderful idea. Click the image below to return to the linky, and make sure you check back next Tuesday for Chapter 4!

P.S. - Click here to follow me on BlogLovin'! My page there is a work in progress, but it's coming along. 

Monday, June 20, 2016

Memory Books

The end of the school year is all about survival having fun! This year we had to pack up our classrooms completely because of new carpeting and painting, so the kiddos checked out a little earlier than normal this year. I guess it was hard for them to concentrate in a room with no bulletin boards and lots of boxes packed up everywhere!

Memory books are a great way for the littles to think back to all of the good times we had during the year. There are tons of great templates that you can use on TpT, but I wanted to share a new take on the memory book.

I try to provide my students with opportunities to create things often, as opposed to following a set of directions and answering questions. I want them to generate their own ideas so the product is truly their own. And I am totally kicking myself right now because I forgot to take pictures of their final products! #ohwell #illremembernextyear

I found these books in the Target Dollar Spot at the beginning of the school year, and they were in packs of 8 for $3. I wanted to use this as a scrapbook for the year, but unfortunately it didn't work out that way. That's okay - I already have the plan for next year!

P.S. - Click here to follow me on BlogLovin'! My page there is a work in progress, but it's coming along. 

Friday, June 17, 2016

Five for Friday

Happy Friday! I'm linking up with Kacey at  Doodlebugs Teaching for Five for Friday. 



I've been thinking about going red for a while, and I finally did! Bye bye blonde, and hello red!

Chapter 2 from this book study linky went up on Tuesday. It's a great start to other great things to come in the book. It's all about dispelling the myths of gamification. It's not too late to link up with us, and I hear the book is free on Kindle Unlimited. Click the image to check it out!

Matt's birthday was earlier this week. We had this yummy ice cream cake from Coldstone. I had to spell something out in M&Ms though. Can you guess what it says?

We finally found a new couch! After the last good cushion gave out on the old one we new it was time for a new one. 

This post inspired my series. I started writing, and realized that I had so much to say so one post wouldn't be enough. Click the image to check out my tips for handling the problem child(ren) in a difficult class!

Click the image to go back to the linky!

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

The Things I Learned From Having a Difficult Class: Problem Child

This is the third post in my Things I Learned from Having a Difficult Class Series. Today I'm focusing on the dreaded difficult child. Last week I wrote about dealing with the class as a whole. In the upcoming weeks I'll discuss the perfect kids and the kids on the fence. But how do you manage the child with a documented behavior problem, such as conduct disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, or even a mood disorder?

I have to be honest - it was my problem child(ren) this past year that inspired this series. I ended up working with the district behavior team, which is not very common, TWICE this year.


Lucky me.

Now this post was written at a time when I was not dealing with the child, so I can see the bigger picture more clearly. If I wrote this right after I dealt with an episode/meltdown it would have been a string of words that I do not want to publish on my blog. #teachersunderstand

First of all, when you are dealing with children with severe behavior issues you need to realize up front that every day will be different. There will be good days and bad days, and everything else in between. There is nothing you can do about this. You can bend over backwards trying not to set a child off, but the truth is - you will NEVER know what is going to set off a child like this. So just be you and treat them as badly as all the other children all the time.

That being said, it is so important to document EVERYTHING. I have another post about that coming up, so I won't say too much about this right now. I really cannot stress the importance of documenting your actions, anything you send home, any outbursts that happen in class, the reactions of the other students, accommodations. Wait, I'm getting ahead of myself. Stop by my blog again in a few weeks to read all about this!

Back to the problem child.. I'm going to generally describe both of my little gems this past year. Obviously for confidentiality reasons I'm not going into detail by any means, but just enough to give you a general idea of what I mean by "problem" child.

Child A - inconsistently medicated, unstable home life that is unaware of many aspects of raising strong children, extremely off task, physically destructive in the classroom, yadda yadda yadda.

Child B - wide range in behavior that quickly escalated throughout the year, severely emotional, expert at manipulating the system, mental illness runs in family, runs away from staff meaning out of the classroom and off campus, broke furniture in classroom, safety concern, evacuated the classroom on multiple occasions.. You get the idea.

Here's the thing.. anyone outside the classroom such as administration, psychologists, and district personnel, will want to know that you have tried a variety of things and their results. Try a variety of accommodations for at least a week, or if it is showing positive outcomes even longer, and DOCUMENT EVERYTHING. Date initiated, duration, and results, both positive and negative. (If you can't find anything positive look for the SMALL things. Get creative)

Some accommodations I would try are:

1. Seating at the front of the room

2. And the back of the room

3. As an island at both the front and back of the room

4. Near positive role models 

Rotate them out for their own sanity.

5. The dreaded sticker chart

This is my least favorite, and the most difficult to do when you have 30 kids in class. If you can't do it consistently - try something similar that is easier for you to manage. Consistency is key, and if you can't do it with fidelity because of large class sizes like me then think of resources you already have that you can make work for you.

Here's an example of something I did with Child A at the beginning of the year. I read my class the How Full is Your Bucket? and we discuss how we all have our own invisible buckets and earn and lose drops throughout the day. I created a teacher bucket, and I gave buckets (plain cups) to table of my table groups. Each time the group was behaving appropriately, working quietly, ready first, etc. they earned a drop (marble)in their bucket. They can lose drops too, but I try to stay away from this. At the end of the day, I would empty all of the table buckets into my teacher bucket. Once it was full, they would earn a prize. I gave Child A (sitting as an island at the time) their own bucket, so they earned their own drops for positive behavior. It was something I was already doing, so it didn't take any extra time away from teaching.

6. Positive notes home

Get the parents on board and have them celebrate these notes home. Make positive attention work for you!

7. Making the student a helper and/or giving them a job

The job can be to carry a blank piece of paper for you that you don't even need, but they'll feel special and important for helping the teacher. They probably don't feel this way often, so it'll be a nice boost to their self-esteem!

Who knows, they may be so excited to do a job and so concentrated on it that they will "forget" to misbehave. #agirlcandream

8. Breaking assignments into smaller chunks (cut the paper in half if you have to).

Give them big praise once they complete one half and then give them the other half. I would recommend getting the parents on board with completing unfinished work at home, since that will probably happen often. It will be a more successful intervention if they realize that all tasks must be completed at some point, whether that is at home or at school.

9. Increase frequency of small group instruction

If they're struggling academically, this will be crucial to help the child catch up. If they're not as far behind academically, then maybe the behaviors will diminish.

10. 1 on 1 instruction (even if it is just for 5 minutes a day)

They may not need it, or they may desperately need it, but the positive and individual attention may be just as important (if not more) than your instruction.

11. Proximity near the teacher.

Try a variety of these accommodations for at least a week, or better yet - even longer. Some may be successful, and some may not be. You really never know until you try, and anyone you plead your case to will want to know that you have tried your own interventions. Prove to them that you have, and you will get a whole lot further more quickly than you would have without trying these things.

Other pointers:

1. Take a deep breath. 

Repeat as often as needed. See my first post about Taking Care of Yourself.

2. Seek any and every kind of support available.

Use whatever resources you have available at school. If more families services are needed check with a local church group, they may have resources available that you don't even know about. Our church contact is amazing and works so hard to get the students, most of whom don't even go to that church, what they need. You never know what you'll get!

3. Send (and cc) a million emails to everyone involved. 

Don't let this get put on the back burner. We all have way too much on our plates, and make sure that this stays at the front.


(Check back in a few weeks for more about this)

5. Smile at the student.

Give them a hug. This may be the only positive reaction they get all day.

6. Keep your expectations the same for this student. 

Severely modifying behavior expectations sends a bad message to that child and the rest of the class.

What pointers do you have for dealing with the problem child? Leave your ideas in the comments!

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Explore Like a Pirate - Dispelling the Myths of Gamification

This post is about Chapter 2 in the Explore Like a Pirate book study and linky. A big shout out to Rachael at Sweet Sweet Primary for this great idea! 

Chapter 2 is about Dispelling the Myths of Gamification. Going into this chapter, I definitely believed some of the myths so I'm happy that this chapter is working on clearing that up. Here are some of the myths that the chapter discussed:

Myth 1: Games are just for play. There is no challenge or academic rigor. 

Truth: Games are filled with a motivational complexity that can be used to shed light on topics and increase content acquisition. 

To me, this means that we're doing more than playing a game. When used correctly, we're using the structure of a game to teach and practice content. It's not all about board games, although you could use a board game!

The book cited an interesting statistic - "By the completion of high school, students will have completed 10,000 hours of gaming." So, if we incorporate that sense of adventure into our lessons there will be much more buy in!

He talks about starting with "playful planning". Meaning... take your content and play with ideas outside the box. This is done without kiddos as you try to wrap your head around teaching outside the box. Just remember the 3 C's - Content; choice, such as open ended game models; and challenges, such as unknown twists.

I can tell you right now that my head is already filled with all sorts of ideas! I can't wait to share them with you each week.

Myth 2: If I give them a badge or points my class will be gamified.

Truth: Combining the many elements of game mechanics helps create memorable experiences that push students well beyond the bounds of the traditional classroom.

To me, this means that badges and points aren't always motivators. If you don't have the buy in, then no one cares about earning badges or points. Gotta have that buy in first!

Myth 3: It's easy for you. It won't work for me because I teach ___________.

Truth: Gamification works for all grade levels, subject areas, and educational budgets.

To me, this means stop making excuses! If there's a will, there's a way. The question shouldn't be if you can do it, but how you can do it.

Myth 4: You need to be a gamer to gamify your classroom.

Truth: No.

Get creative!

Myth 5: Students should want to learn; I shouldn't have to dress it up.

Truth: Finding meaning in content unlocks our students motivation.

My opinion, yes and no. Students should want to learn, but I should also try to find ways that are interesting for me to teach, and in turn interesting for the students to learn. Everything can't be a game all day every day, but adding these fun elements bring the magic back into learning.

Myth 6: Gamification is just playing games.

Truth: It's more about the exploration of the course, content, and your crew than it is about playing games.

It really is more than just "playing around". It's a challenge to teachers to be creative, and it's engaging for the students. This results in a reduction in behavior problems because of increased engagement. To me, that sounds like a win-win!

Myth 7: Girls don't game.

Truth: Girls not only game - they dominate the world.

Gamification doesn't favor one gender over the other. I mean, who wouldn't want to go on an adventure and learn at the same time?

Myth 8: My classroom doesn't have enough technology to make this work.

Truth: Gamification can be high, low, or no tech.

Use technology if you want. Or don't. Use whatever you want!

It reminds me of kids playing in empty boxes. They don't always want the fancy new toy, they just want to use their imagination and go on an adventure. Why should this be any different?

Myth 9: Games in the classroom are too much about competition.

Truth: Positive competition can inspire collaboration and inspire students to do their best.

Every year when we play learning review games, we have the discussion that it's not about winning, but really about having fun. If you win, great. If you lose, don't worry about it. Did you have fun playing? That's all that really matters. You can't win every time, nor should you.

Are you ready to be a "pirate" and try something new and unknown? I definitely am! Check back next week as we discuss Chapter 3: New World, Old World. 

Monday, June 13, 2016

Summer Buckets

A few years ago I saw this idea on some blogs and Instagram, and as soon as I saw it I knew I needed to do this for my littles, too! 

Summer buckets!

Before I get into what I put in the bucket, I have to give you a tip to buy these buckets on the cheap... As little as 29 cents each cheap. Hey, when you're teacher and you're buying 30 buckets and gifts for the inside of them right before summer the price adds up real quick!

I shop at Michaels and Hobby Lobby... a lot. I'm always looking for craft supplies super cheap that I can use with my students during the year. If you go by at the end of the summer you can buy the buckets for very little money since they're trying to get rid of them. But don't wait too long - they go really fast! 

Now the only problem is finding a place to keep them... #teacherproblems

But anyways.. Back to what goes inside the bucket!

This year I included a book from Scholastic, 


my end of year brochure, 

One side

Other side
As soon as I can make the brochure look cute, I will upload it to my TpT shop!

and a bookmark with their picture.

The buckets are always a big hit, and I only wish I recorded how excited they were to walk into the classroom and see the bucket on their desk!

Do you give your students end of year gifts? Let me know in the comments!