22 June 2015

Why I DON'T Choose Student of the Week Based on BEHAVIOR

Hey there friends! I've previously blogged about my Student of the Week routine. Actually, it was about a year ago, and I wanted to revisit it!

I LOVE having a student of the week! It's such a fun way to spotlight a student and celebrate that student for a whole week! It's so much fun!

As part of the routine, each day has a fun activity or sharing opportunity planned that usually only takes 5-10 minutes during our morning meeting.

I get asked a lot how I choose student of the week, and most teachers are a little surprised to find out that it has nothing to do with behavior.
When I really stepped back to think about the routine and it's purpose, I quickly realized that it wasn't to reward positive behavior. 

In addition, if I chose the student of the week based on behavior, the "good kids" would all get chosen at the beginning of the year, the "bad kids" would get chosen at the end of the year, or maybe even never, which makes my teacher heart really sad.

Plus, we all make mistakes, right? Very few kiddos (especially second graders or younger) go a whole week making perfect choices. It's hard.

I know that some teachers do use it as a way to spotlight students who have been really going above and beyond behaviorally, and I'm fine with that. So please don't stop reading if you're one of those teachers :)

What is the purpose?
So if the purpose isn't to reward great behavior...what's the point?

For my classroom, and my students, the point is really to spotlight each one of my sweet babies in a special way. I mean, it's like celebrating your birthday for a whole week!

Each of the kids that walk through my door each year are so special, and my purpose for having a Student of the Week is to highlight their uniqueness, and give them a platform for sharing special things with the class.

So if it's not based on behavior, how do I choose Student of the Week?
Ever since my first year teaching I've used a cup/container and place popsicle sticks with my kiddos' names on them inside. It's nothing fancy, but it's how I call on kids throughout the day, make groups and partnerships (if they're not strategic), and how the student of the week is chosen.

At the very beginning of the year, usually the second or third week of school, I introduce Student of the Week and how it works. I typically use myself as the example for the first week, and do most of the activities that the students will also do!

On Monday, I share the "Spotlight On..." page, as well as a few pictures of my husband, and dogs. My kids absolutely love hearing a little bit about my life outside of the classroom :) 'Cause, ya know, I don't actually live in my classroom!
The pictures and the spotlight papers go on the Student of the Week display. Nothing too fancy, just a piece of poster board with these wax clip things that are amazing! If I had more bulletin board space, I'd make this it's own little bulletin board...maybe this year!
Tuesday is a sort of Show and Tell day. The student of the week can bring in 3 items (no relatives or pets are allowed though...haha) that they share with the class.

Wednesday is one of my absolute favorite days in this routine. It's the day that parents write a letter to the class sharing why their child is so special! It's really a beautiful moment for the entire class! The best letters are those that share a funny story, or interesting fact. 

The best part? I've never ONCE had a parent NOT send in a letter! Have you ever tried collecting permission slips, clinic cards, student info sheets...I never get them all back!

Thursday is lunch buddy day. If they're able, someone (parent, grandparent, aunt/uncle, older sibling, nanny, etc...) will come to eat lunch with their child. I ask that if no one is able to make it, that parents let me know, and we have lunch bunch in the classroom as a whole class. Still super special.

Friday is the day we present the Student of the Week with their certificate! I copy these onto colored paper to save my precious color ink - anyone else have to be super picky about what they print in color (I don't have access to a colored printer at school)?

Helpful tip? Go ahead and print/copy enough for the entire year at once. It makes life so much easier!
Also on Friday, is when we choose the next week's Student of the Week! The new student of the week takes home a special bag, the "spotlight" paper, and a letter to parents explaining the schedule of events for the following week!
Spotlight On...sheet
Parent Letter/Schedule of Events
I'd love to know if you use some sort of a student of the week routine? What does the student of the week get to do each day?


18 June 2015

Student of the Week ROUTINE {Makeover Madness}

Hey friends! I am SO excited about what I'm going to share with you today for a couple reasons! First, it's one of my absolute favorite things I do with my students each year! Second, it just got a big time makeover (and who doesn't love a nice relaxing makeover day???).

But first...the MAKEOVER MADNESS actually came about when I joined these 4 fabulous bloggers for their TPT Seller Challenge! Umm, hello? Amazing!
Their challenge was to take a look at a product previously created, and see how it could be improved.  Which, if we're being honest, I'm so super critical of my products anyway, so this was the perfect opportunity to do a little sprucing up. The hard part was choosing which product I wanted to do a little nip/tuck on first!

Turns out, this sweet baby has been calling my name for so, so long, and it was definitely more than just the aesthetics crying out for a facelift!
Perhaps my worst offense with this little lady, was that she didn't accurately describe the product! It's not JUST certificates! It's a whole ROUTINE that celebrates the sweet babies in our classrooms! 

Other less severe offenses included a poor lack of spacial awareness/design on my part, AND take a look at that yellow scallopy frame, mismatched with the aqua chevron. Now, I love yellow and aqua together, but these two particular choices were more of the "frenemy" variety!

Before I share the big reveal, let me just take minute to share why I love the Student of the Week ROUTINE. 

In a nutshell, I ADORE the kids in my class. Sure, there are challenges, but who's perfect? Not me, for sure! One of the best parts of being a teacher is getting to meet (and know throughout the year) 25 or so unique people! Having a student of the week routine, spotlights all of my sweet seconds over the course of the entire year. Seriously, this is at least one of the top three favorite things I do with my kids each year!

I should note that I DO NOT choose student of the week based on behavior...you can read more that here.

As I mentioned before, one of the worst things the worst thing about this product was that it didn't accurately describe what the product was. Plus, depending on your district/school/personal preferences, you may not want to call it "Student of the Week." My refreshed Student of the Week {Routine} now includes versions for a Student of the Week, Leader of the Week, or Role Model of the Week.
Speaking of certificates...while I didn't include color options, I do not have that kind of a print/ink budget. So, I print 1/ONE/A SINGLE copy at home, and then make copies onto colored card stock or paper at school!
Since I included new certificates, I also updated the schedule of events explanation letter. It too now reflects the options to call it student/leader/role model...YAY!
Perhaps my new FAVORITE page of this product is the "Student Spotlight"...I mean it just seems like such a bigger deal now and WAAAYYY more special!
Here's what my spotlight looks like - this serves as the model I show my kiddos when I'm explaining Student of the Week. Plus, the kiddos LOVE IT!!! Anything related to my life outside of school, and they are begging for more details, pictures, you name it!
This wasn't just a minor makeover...this was a pretty big deal! And I'm so excited about it! Here she is...the new and improved Student of the Week Routine!

Are you participating in the TPT Seller Challenge? I'd love to hear from you! OR...planning on using this ROUTINE in your classroom? I'd love to hear how you plan to incorporate it!


14 June 2015

How to Keep Community Supplies Organized

Happy Summer Sunday! At least...I think it's Sunday anyway ;) Anyone else not have a clue about what day of the week it is???

I'm excited to be linking up with the other Primary Peach bloggers to bring you some fantastic organizational tips. We'll be sharing our favorites tips and tools to help you {and us} get ready for that that shall remain nameless {B2S}.
Today, I'm talking about organizing supplies! Because I am big on building classroom community, I use (and have always used) community supplies. I know there's a lot of debate about whether or not that's a good idea, but it's what works for me and my students. 

I've never had an issue with it, and I love how it helps build responsibility, leadership (keep reading for how), and you guessed it, solidify a sense of community!
Even if you don't use community supplies, I think you'll find some of the organizational tips helpful. After all, not all the supplies we use were provided by my students and their parents. I'm talking clip boards, dry erase boards, rulers, manipulatives, index cards, sticky notes, and PENCILS! You can read about how I manage pencils here.

I guess it's important to note that my students' desks are arranged in groups of four. Don't use desks? No worries, I've used this same system when I had only tables and it worked so well!

First up are these little caddies (I picked mine up at Michaels, but they're available online too, just search for "3 compartment caddy") that I can't get enough of! 

My students and I call them "Team Tubs" and they're where we keep the supplies we use all the time. Last year, I added the little cup (I used velcro to secure it in place) for the pencils, and I liked that much better than just having pencils in the compartment.
So other than pencils, I place sticky notes and index cards in the other small compartment. We use both all.the.time! Sticky notes are great for encouraging a more student-led mini-lesson, and index cards are the absolute best for formative assessments. (Think one math problem that can quickly be graded and sorted to make super fast flexible groups).

In the larger compartment, I'll put supplies that we don't necessarily use everyday, but might be specific to a specific lesson or unit we're working on. 
Next up are "team drawers" - which I hate the name of, but can't think of anything else! Anyone have any clever ideas??? These came from Target, but I've seen similar at lots of other stores. They even come in different colors!
Team drawers house pretty much everything else. Things we use pretty regularly like glue, scissors, rulers, dry erase markers and erasers, makers, crayons, clip boards, and dry erase boards. I put labels on the outside of each drawer that tells what's inside each drawer so that everything makes it's way back to its "home."

Remember when I talked about community supplies and leadership? Well, only Team Captains get supplies in and out of the team drawers. This means there aren't four kids crowded around all fighting to get out the crayons. It works really beautifully. Also, it's the Team Captain's job to make sure that the proper number of supplies get returned to their home. No we don't count crayons and markers, but  pretty much everything else should be at 4...1 for each student at the team.

Within the Team Drawers are smaller containers that house the various supplies. I got mine from Dollar Tree and they just finished their 5th year! A few are going to get replaced because they've been well-loved and have cracks or broken lids. I use the green one for crayons, and the blue one for markers. I love that the tops are colored, which helps with teaching which is which at the beginning of the year, and the bottoms are clear.
I use a pencil box for scissors and glue which almost always go together, so there was no sense in putting them in separate containers. The green lidded container (another from Dollar Tree) houses dry  erase markers and erasers (which I make out of felt - just fold and cut).
I use the bottom drawer for clip boards and dry erase boards. I like having them right at the teams instead of in one central location. It just makes it easier and faster.

Do you have an organizational tip, trick, or tool you'd like to share? Leave a comment below, or grab the button below and link up with us!
Grab the button and link up to share some tips and tools you use to stay organized, or tell us how you plan to get organized this year!  (Blog posts only, please... direct product links will be deleted. Thank you for understanding!) Please link back to The Primary Peach so others can see all the wonderful organizational tips and tools being shared! 

Please title your link up to tell what your post is about (i.e.; Math Workshop Drawers) and if possible, choose a picture from the post for your thumbnail.

For more great ideas, tips, and tricks from True Life I’m a Teacher, be sure to follow me on Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, Bloglovin’ and Teachers Pay Teachers.

11 June 2015

How to Organize Your Summer

Hooray for summer!!! As I mentioned in my last post, I use summer as a catch-up time.
The problem is that before I know it, I've watched the entire series of FRIENDS from beginning to end, watched several Real Housewives marathons, caught up on every episode of Grey's Anatomy, Scandal, House of Cards, and Blacklist, and am left wondering how I could have possibly not washed my hair in 4 days, and why I'm opening the confetti-filled letter from my principal giving me the schedule for pre-planning. (True Life - confetti.filled.envelope. - only took ONE time for me to learn to open it over the trash can).
Also, I get tired of hearing the Mr. asked what I've done all day while he's been working. I definitely don't want to look back on my summer, and wish I had been more productive. Soo,  I organize myself for the summer. I mean, really, who doesn't love a good to-do list???

I follow the "One-A-Day" rule - it's simple: I try to accomplish 1 thing each day from my to-do list. I know it doesn't sound like much, but otherwise, I end up in my pajamas, on the couch, watching Matlock re-runs wondering when I turned into my dad.

In addition to accomplishing something "extra" from my to-do list, I also make sure that I'm caught up on laundry (because when does that ever happen during the school year), plan out our meals, make said meals, and just generally try to make the Mr.'s life easier since I am technically "not working." Sure, I don't have to do any of those things, but it's fun to pretend I'm a stay at home wife/dog-mom for a few weeks.
Trying to feel accomplished this summer? Want to know what I do over the summer to help get ready for the new school year? Head over to The Primary Peach for a few more tips and some FREEBIES!

10 June 2015

Teaching with Intention: Chapter 2

Hey Friend! Man alive, I love summer! I just love sharing ideas and thoughts with other teachers, and summer gives me more time to do just that!

I'm back this week for Chapter 2 of the Teaching with Intention book study. {You can read about Chapter 1 here.} This week is being hosted by Flying into First Grade, The Primary Gal, and Mrs. Dailey's Classroom!
Teacher beliefs and practices are what make you, YOU as a teacher. Whether you just accepted your job as a first year teacher, you're entering your last year before retirement, or you're somewhere in between...this post is for you!

Considering this chapter is all about beliefs and practices, it seems fitting to discuss what that means.

What are teacher beliefs?
-For me, teacher beliefs are the foundation of every choice I make in the classroom. They are why I wanted to become a teacher in the first place. How I view education, the teaching and learning process, classroom management...in a phrase? My core values as a teacher.

What are teacher practices?
- Teacher practices are the "walk the walk" part. Sure most of us can talk a good game, and have a passion for our field, but do our beliefs align with what we actually do in our classroom? This one is hard. Really hard. In the moment, things happen and choices are made throw the alignment of our beliefs and practices off. And, I am most certainly guilty as charged. It's in the moments we take a step back, and reflect that we usually realize this, and I say that's great because hopefully, we'll learn something, and get back on track!

While reading this chapter, and reading Debbie Miller's 6 beliefs, I found myself shaking my head yes, getting goosebumps, and even saying YES, several times! I certainly don't disagree with her beliefs, and I am confident in saying that those are very consistent with my beliefs. The part that may need work is the practice part.

Here are Debbie Miller's beliefs:
- "Classroom environments are most effective when they are literate and purposeful, organized and accessible, and most of all, authentic."

- "We cannot underestimate the power of our influence --- what we choose to say and do in the classroom profoundly affects the ways children view their teacher, themselves, and each other."

- "Learning is maximized when the lessons I design are purposeful, interactive and engaging, with real world applications."

- "The gradual release of responsibility instructional model, integrated into a workshop format, best guides children toward understanding and independence."

- "Formative, ongoing assessment enlightens and informs my day-to-day work with children."

- "A workshop format based on the elements of time, choice, response, and community fosters active, responsive teaching and learning."

My thoughts:
- Debbie is brilliant, and has spent much time researching, and a YEAR reflecting and changing, and erasing, and creating her beliefs and making sure her practices aligned to them.

- Debbie mentioned that "nothing was sacred" when it came to trying to figure out whether or not her practices were in agreement with her beliefs.

- The hard part is not writing down your beliefs...heck, Debbie already did it for me ;) The tricky part is to spend the time to reflect on whether or not the actions, the practices, match the beliefs.

Debbie asks, "Where’s the evidence of the belief in the classroom? What kinds of things should I be seeing, hearing, doing to support this belief? Where does this practice fit into what I say I value? What studies support this practice?"
Sometimes, this requires you to do something that no one else is doing. Your administration or district might not see things your way. They may have a prescribed set of rules, procedures, routines, systems...whatever, for you to follow. In my first few years teaching, I was terrified to go against the grain, even when I knew in my heart it wasn't what was best for my students, or wasn't something I believed in. It was at this point, that I really had to ask myself what was most important. The answer was simple...my students, and what was best for them!

Since it's summer time for me, I'd love to start the new school year with the mission of making sure my beliefs and practices are aligned...100%. I have a sneaking suspension, that my beliefs aren't going to be what change...it'll be my practices, much like Debbie did. I'd love to revisit this throughout the next school year, to share what'd working, not working, and if and how my beliefs and practices are aligning.

What are your teaching beliefs? What are your teaching practices? Are they in sync? What needs to change?


04 June 2015

Teaching with Intention: Chapter 1

It's summer time, everybody!!! (I know some of you have a few days left, but hang in there - you CAN do it!!!). Summertime is a pretty leisurely time for me. The Mr. is working (we can't all have summers off, right?), and most days it's just me and my dogs. I catch up during the summer. I'm not the only one who ignores things during the school year, right? One of the things I like to "catch-up" on is professional reading. Last year, I participated in The Daily 5, Second Edition book study (and that was amazing!). So, when I stumbled upon a Teaching with Intention book study, I couldn't wait to get started!

First things first - Debbie Miller is amazing! She's the author of Reading with Meaning, and seriously, that book changed the way I teach reading! I haven't read the second edition, but I'm sure it's probably even better than the first! I actually read Teaching with Intention right after reading Reading with Meaning...it's definitely one of those books that's worth a revisit (actually, both are!).

Sooo, on with Chapter 1! Chapter 1 is all about your ideal classroom! What teacher doesn't dream of things to change, rearrange, organize, decorate, etc...??? I mean hello, I'd like to be an architect that specifically designs schools and classrooms, because, well, I have some changes I'd like to make!
My ideal classroom is one that draws you in from the outside. As you're walking down the hall you hear faint music in the background, laughter, talking, and the hallway just outside our door is lined with student work. 

As you walk in, students are scattered throughout the room - at desks, tables, sitting on bean bag chairs, camping chairs, colorful rugs (thanks IKEA), and leaning on pillows. The walls are filled with anchor charts. Everything you can see serves a purpose. The arrangement is well-thought out, and takes into consideration different learning styles, classroom management, and overall flow and feel. 

There's a certain Bath & Body Works smell (perhaps because at any given time there are 2-3 Wallflowers plugged in), and reminds you of your home. Someplace that is comfortable, safe, and inviting.

The decor is bright and fun, but also soothing at the same time. Nothing too loud or intense that makes you wish you'd brought your sunglasses. Things are matchy-matchy for the most part. This makes me feel better about the organization of the room.

My goal each year when setting up my classroom from summer, is to make sure it's a space where my students can learn. That is the goal anyway, right? Plus, it's got to be a place where I can work, too! Cutesy things that serve a purpose make me happy, and I'm able to do my best work!

Side Note: This year, around March we were told that all teacher storage closets had to be removed of ALL items. The back corner of my classroom became my new storage closet for the remainder of the school year, and there was a certain amount of dread I felt every.single.morning walking into my classroom knowing there was a terrible eyesore I'd be looking at all day. All that to say this - having a space that YOU enjoy as a teacher is as equally important as having a space your students can enjoy as learners!
My students are learning!!! By themselves, with partners, with small groups, as an entire class. Students work where they are most comfortable. We move from the carpet to desks to small groups to book nooks to tables...there are few places that are "off-limits" in my classroom. Students know where and how they learn best, and are allowed to choose. There have been plenty of times when I've had to conference with students that may not know themselves as learners good enough yet to make the best choice as far as location is concerned, and I help/guide them into finding where that is.

I'm working with students. Debbie Miller mentions that the "teacher is off to the side" and that's very much what I try to do when I'm not leading a mini-lesson. Although, even mini-lessons involve my students - after all, it's their ideas and information that go on our anchor charts, not mine. 

I'm observing, listening, asking questions, meeting with small groups, and conferencing with students one-on-one. I'm NOT, however, sharpening pencils, getting supplies that have run out, collecting papers, getting a bandaid for a students, getting a tissue for a students, passing out papers, etc...those are things my students can do, and I set up my classroom so that they CAN (and feel empowered to do so) do all those things without even consulting me. Students don't have to ask me for more glue - they know where the glue is located, and simply get more when their's has run out. Likewise, students don't have to ask me for a bandaid - if they need a bandaid, I want them to be able to get a bandaid. 
Much of what you've read so far are things that I DO already have in place. Perhaps the things I'm most proud of is that my classroom is a safe place where all ideas, thoughts, and opinions are respected. We don't all have to agree or even be friends (GASP), but we are respectful toward one another. That's real world, friends. 

It's bright and cheery, and usually smells pretty good (don't visit after recess, please - we need a few minutes to get the air circulated). Most importantly, my students are learning.
I feel like this list could go on forever. Forever? - for eva eva! If I had to choose just one thing, it'd be the paper flow. My desk is rarely, if ever cleaned off. There's always papers coming and going, and each year, I add something to make it more organized and to help the traffic, and yet...there are those papers stacked every which way. Maybe one day...

For me,  it's easy to lose sight of  what really matters in the classroom. There's 8 billion things my students need to know by the end of our 180 days together, and most of the time there's just not enough time. The days when I slow down, and let my students lead the way though, are the days that prove to be most meaningful for my sweets, and for me too!

I'd love to hear from YOU! What aspects of your ideal classroom are already in place? What aspects of your ideal classroom do you need to work on?

I can't wait to link up for Chapter 2: Defining Beliefs and Aligning Practices.
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