Sunday, January 13, 2019

Teach your students to get their minds right!

We all know about the stresses that junior high and high school students are facing these days. Some examples are increased social pressures compounded by social media, high expectations for success in extra curriculars, and extremely rigorous academic courses with hours of homework. As an elementary teacher, it's easy to think, "Thank God that's not what my students are facing. My littles are still happy 2nd graders who just want to have fun learning." 

The problem is, they won’t stay little for long. I’m quickly realizing that it’s my responsibility to prepare them for these pressures that will be upon them before they know it.

So that leaves a big question: How?

The answer is MINDSET WORK. I’m finding that children can be taught to pay attention to what is happening in their minds at ages as young as Kindergarten. I know this to be true because I see it working every day in my own K daughter. Meet my sweet, spunky, quick-tempered, middle child. Her preschool teachers referred to her as "spirited". Us teachers know what that means ... hehe

Her fabulous teacher has been teaching her mindset vocabulary and strategies since the beginning of the school year. At first, they were just words that she didn’t quite understand. But as this year has progressed, I am seeing her using this valuable information to talk herself through tough situations. For example, when she’s about to try something new or something that makes her nervous she’ll say, “It’s okay Morgan. Deep breath. You can do this!”

Image result for A Mindset for Learning: Teaching the Traits of Joyful, Independent Growth
Our school read the book A Mindset for Learning by Christine Mraz. In this book she lays out 5 basic mindset stances that all children should be taught. They are optimism, flexibility, empathy, resilience, and persistence.

 Obviously, these important mindset stances needed to be introduced with a bang! I wanted my students to be engaged and interactive as we worked through these new ideas. After giving this some thought, I realized a break-out box would be perfect! They’re really popular right now and SO much fun! 

I created “Mindset Man”who had locked up our 5 mindset keywords and would reveal them one each week. We had to work together to solve riddles, discuss what we were learning, and find envelopes hidden around our classroom in order to unlock our keyword of the week.It went SO WELL! The kids were antsy in anticipation of when the next box would arrive! It probably helped that I always added in a little something extra in the box. For example, bouncy balls for resilience and bubble gum for flexibility.

If you want to check these out, you can find them at my TPT store. Just follow the links below:

Optimism        Empathy      

Resilience/Persistence      Flexibility

Or you can buy a BUNDLE with all four!

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Open House Flipbook

Each year as I prepare for open house, I feel overwhelmed by the sheer number of papers I copy and hand out. As a parent of three children (2 in school), I understand what it feels like to be the receiver of such papers. This year I decided to try something new to cut down on the clutter and paper count.


I like this so much more because parents can easily find information they are looking for using the tabs. Also, it forced me to be concise and include only the most important information in each section. I suggested parents could keep it on their fridge or another easily accessible location for quick answers to questions like, "What is the special today" or "What time is lunch?"

You can find a completely editable copy of this at my TPT store - OPEN HOUSE FLIPBOOK.

Hopefully this helps to minimize your open house chaos too!

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Our Student Author Celebration - Red Carpet Readers

Second grade writers evolve so much during the school year! They go from writing brief summaries to full blown stories with dialogue and moving plots. It's important to acknowledge and celebrate that growth with my littles and their families! That's why I began a tradition in my classroom ...

Each May, my students become author stars for a day! The day is focused on making them feel special and proud of their accomplishments. Here is how I do that:

1. They get all dressed up ... at least those who's parents can get them out of the athletic gear for a day. :)

2. Setting the scene is SUPER important! I glam it up! There is a "red carpet" made of red stars with each name written in sparkles, a silver curtain, table clothes, and centerpieces. Plus, you can't forget the cookies and juice for them to share with their guests!

3. Each Red Carpet Reader tells the group a little about themselves. You know, because we're all dying to know more about these celebrity writers! I suggest they say hello in the native language of their guests. Sometimes they even wear cultural clothes "to make their guests feel welcome"!

4. After the presentations, it's finally time to share their writing portfolios with their special guests! This is the final draft of every piece of writing from the entire year.

It's important to make sure ad administrator is available in case a students doesn't have a "special guest"!
You can see how special this is to everyone in the room!! Both the parents AND the students are beaming with pride! This my favorite celebration of the school year!

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

How to help parents understand Common Core - FREEBIE!

Is it really conference time already? How is that even possible?!
And only 52 days until Christmas ... just saying! EEK!

Anyway, this year I really wanted to create a resource that would help parents get a better understanding of what reading looks like in my classroom now that we're fully invested in the Common Core standards. I think about what reading was like when I was in school and realize it is completely different! If that's what my parents are envisioning, they probably feel helpless when it comes to working with their child at home.

I decided to make 3 new resources. The first is simply explaining how 2nd grade readers have changed since we were in school. The next 2 are tips on building reading comprehension skills and writing skills at home.

 You can grab them for FREE here!
I hope you find these helpful!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Camp Read-A-Lot: A Genre Classroom Campout

Welcome to Camp Read-A-Lot!
Just imagine their excitement when you tell your class that you're going camping ... in the classroom! My planning team and I love to do this at the beginning of each year. It's a fun way to get the kids familiar with the different genres. If you decide a classroom campout is in your future, there's a freebie at the end of this post!

At the poetry station, students read a few poems and talk about how poems make them feel. Then, they read a rhyming poem about s'mores and fill in the blanks with rhyming words. Finally, it's snack time! I like to dip marshmallows in melted chocolate and crushed up graham crackers.
At the fables station, They read various fables and talk about the elements of a fable. The students use some of these fables and this flipbook as they work: Fables and Flipbooks

At the Realistic Fiction station, we read Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. The students use what they've learned about realistic fiction to decide of that story fits. Finally, use a fill-in-the-blanks story to write their own realistic fiction story about a camping adventure. (Hint: Freebie!)

The final station is the Fairy Tale station. This is by far the station that gets the most laughs! First, the students learn about the genre. Then, they fill in a fairy tale adlib. It's hilarious!! My teacher partner found it, but I can't figure out where - most likely Pinterest! :)
Check out some pics from our day!


Freebie Time!

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

5 Life Lessons Your Students Will Learn From Kid Kids Club

1. Empathy is not only noticing how someone is feeling, but also changing the way you act to be sensitive to their feelings.
In an elementary classroom, this is a vital lesson to teach your students. Many elementary students are still in the "me centered" world mostly because no one has ever challenged them to step out. I use a wonderful book as an introduction. It walks a little girl through learning what empathy is and shows her trying it out in real life scenarios.

2. You can make a difference in this great big world.
Kids often think they're too small to make an impact. I talk about the ripple effect that random act of kindness can have. We talk about how our small act of kindness (like helping a friend pick up their dropped lunch) can ripple and move from person to person.

3. Random Acts of Kindness, whether big or small, change the world.
Kindness is important. We learn that you can show kindness through smiling at another student as they pass in the hall or asking a friend how their day is going. You can also plan out your kindness on a larger scale such as collecting stuffed animals and books for kids in foster care. All of these acts of kindness are equally important!

4. When we work together, we can make a bigger difference.
This is shown through missions such as having a canned food drive or writing letters to a fire station thanking them for working on Thanksgiving. We talk about how one can or one letter would be nice, but 25 cans or 25 letters is even better!

5. Helping someone else helps you too!
This is the final and most important lesson!  Kind Kids Club helps my students to build a sense of community and purpose. After experiencing how wonderful it feels to help another person, I notice this becoming the norm in our classroom. The kids start noticing each other's feelings and helping one another.

Check out this post about setting up Kind Kids Club in your room!