Monday, July 25, 2016

10 Tips for the First Year Teacher

I'll have a student teacher this fall, and I got to thinking about my student teaching experience and my first year in my own classroom. If I could do my first year over again, there are a lot of things I would do differently. There are a lot of helpful hints for first year teachers out there, but I thought I would compile a list of my ideas to help you on your first year teaching. 

Start teaching on the first day.
I was always told to make the first day exciting. Make it so your students want to come back to school. Well, this is so possible by starting to teach actual lessons that first day. Obviously you will start with introductions, classroom rules and procedures, maybe a classroom tour, but you’ll also want to make sure you have your students engaged in some fun lessons that first day. They’ll get to practice the procedures you have just introduced, and they’ll be able to learn their new grade level standards.

Ask for help.
As a new teacher, it can be intimidating to ask for help. But, let me tell you, don’t be intimidated! Ask you administrator, your BTSA support provider, your teacher mentor, your grade level colleagues, your teacher aides. Ask. Ask. Ask. It’s okay to not know, and it’s okay to get things clarified. Whether you’re asking about where to find construction paper and glue, or how to utilize the Smart Board technologies more efficiently, someone will get an answer for you!

Over plan for the first week.
I am not the kind of “fly by the seat of your pants” teacher, so planning is in my personality. Even with my two boys…I live my life around their naps. Planning. Every. Single. Day.
Be prepared for your entire first week of school. Plan for every minute, and if you don’t get to all of your plans, that’s okay! It’s always better to be prepared than to not have enough to do with your students. Get your copies made, get your technology in order, and have your materials ready to go!

Watch other good teachers teach.
Some districts give you the opportunity to be a part of a mentorship program. In these programs, you can request to observe other teachers. Doing this can help you so much. You can gather ideas, make connections, and validate your own teaching ideas. My first year teaching was in a private school, so I didn’t have a mentorship program. I didn’t let this stop me! I asked my principal if I could reach out to our local public school districts to see if they’d be willing to let me observe some of their finest teachers. Guess what?! They were so accommodating and ready to help this new teacher.

Develop positive behavior/classroom management.
Classroom and behavior management is KEY. Establish it on the first day of school. This is not to say that you need to be mean, strict, or nasty. Your management system can be positive and happy. YOU set the tone of your classroom. Make sure your students know your expectations, procedures, and behavior system. Students want to please you. Reassure them they’re on the right track. A couple things I do for positive management are Student of the Day notes, marble jar, positive behavior charts, brag tags, a heart on the board, etc.

Utilize after school time.
When I was student teaching, my wonderful Master Teacher always told me to try to prepare as much as possible after school for the next day. Boy! Was that great advice! You never know what can happen, so it’s always important to be prepared for the next school day. You could be running late, your kids could be sick, you could get sick, etc. If you at least have your schedule changed for the next day, your copies ready to go, your tables organized, you’ll have less of a stressful morning.

Make connections.
Make sure to connect with your grade level or with a group of teachers at your school. You can also make connections with teachers from different schools who are in the same grade level.  It's important to have connections so you can collaborate on ideas, share inspirations, talk about the great days, and vent about the tough days. You'll build some strong bonds within the teacher community. 

Keep a growth mindset.
As a new teacher (and veteran teacher), it's important to embrace failures. Your lessons won't always go as planned, your observations may not go as you had envisioned, and some days may just tire you OUT! Don't give up! Keeping a growth mindset will help you stay focused, see the glass half full, and continue to motivate you to be the best teacher. Take crisiticsm as constructive feedback and grow from those pitfalls. Teaching is a career where you're always growing. You cannot be perfect at every lesson, and you learn from each and every experience. Always strive to grow. At one point, you'll look back on your first year and see how much you've grown!

Put students first.
It's important to remember to put students first. Whether they need academic or behavioral interventions or they're struggling socially, it's always a good idea to think about the why behind their struggles. Are there outside forces contributing to their behavior? Is there a cognitive issue that's hindering their learning? When you're planning your lesson, or you're in the middle of a lesson, and you're finding difficulties with a student...take a minute to think about the why and how you can change their behavior. Students have a lot of influence from their home lives, and if their home life is not the greatest, you'll be there to help make school the happy place for them. Be their shining light and their happy place. Keep that smile going!

Keep an inspiration file.
This one is easy. There will be long days. Though days. Sad days. Rough days. But most of all there will be HAPPY days! Keep an inspiration file by keeping nice notes from your students, cards from your students' parents, or notes from your administrators. Look back on these notes when you're having a rough day. These will be sure to keep you going!

Happy first year teaching!
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Monday, July 18, 2016

Three Ways to Implement Growth Mindset {in the classroom}

Growth Mindset. The understanding that intelligence can be developed. It’s not worrying about how smart you are or how good you are at something, but instead it’s about how you can become smarter and better. Constantly a work in progress, growing with intelligence.

Students benefit greatly from this type of mindset. It’s not about giving up or failing. It’s about learning how we can reach goals and picking up from failures.

Students with a growth mindset are successful students. They are enthusiastic, hardworking, persistent, and take charge of their success. Fostering this type of mentality in the classroom creates a classroom of learners that can endure challenges and persevere.

As a teacher, I really want to foster growth mindset in my classroom. Not only with my students, but for myself! I am trying three things this year to help my students with growth mindset, and in turn, it will help me too!

1.  Growth Mindset Brag Tags
I created ten different Growth Mindset Brag Tags so I can acknowledge my kiddos who are thinking positively and constantly increasing their intelligence and self esteem. I am planning on handing these tags out during lessons, independent practice, recess, testing time, etc. I will “catch” students exemplifying their growth mindset and they’ll be acknowledged with these brag tags.

I can train my brain!
Positive Thinking!
I can persevere!
I used a different strategy.
Always checking if I’m doing my best work!
I was inspired today!
Mistakes help me to learn.
Embracing Challenges
Using my growth mindset!
I showed effort in my path to mastery.

2. Growth Mindset Posters
I enlarged my Brag Tags and created some posters to help motivate my students. They serve as a constant reminder that learning is continuous. It’s okay to make a mistake, to fail, and to not do well…as long as you keep trying and learn from those experiences. 

My hope is that my students will see these as reminders and complete a successful school year. I have laminated them and am ready to put these babies up in my classroom in the next few weeks before school starts!

3. Growth Mindset Ticket out the Door
I always use a ticket out the door or a closing ticket when students are done with their independent practice. It’s just that one last opporutnitiy to assess students’ learning. 

I thought I could also use it as an opportunity for students to acknoweldge growth mindset in themselves too.

How do you utilize growth mindset in your classroom?
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Saturday, June 11, 2016

End of the Year Volunteer Gifts

Every year in my teaching career I have always had the most wonderful classroom volunteers. This year was no different! I was racking my brain trying to find a thoughtful and use gift for my volunteers.  

I have done the beautiful flower gifts with the cards saying "thank you for helping us grow."  I have done the clever tags with puns and attached them to various gifts to show my gratitude. I have done class pictures and frames so parents could remember and understand how much we appreciate them. You can even find my tags for free here

But, this year I was looking for something different, something more personal, and something my volunteers might be able to use in their personal lives.

I went to Home Goods (one of my most favorite stores) and purchased some super cute journals. 

I had my students write little notes in the journals. 

We brainstormed and discussed what each of our volunteers did for us and how we could show our gratitude through our writing. 

Then, I created tables to stick on top of the journals. 

I tied them up with ribbon and added a perfect Flair pen for the final touch. 

I even included a heart felt note from me to make sure my volunteers knew how much I appreciated them.

It's always so hard to find the perfect gift for your volunteers, but I think they'll appreciate any form of acknowledgement. 

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Saturday, May 28, 2016

Authors' Tea Ideas

Awhile back I posted about using the wonderful website, Student Treasures, to publish your students' writing. It's a great resource that's FREE for teachers and FUN for students.

Since I am back in the classroom this year, I decided it was time to utilize this resource for my fifth grade class.

After publishing their writing, I held an "Authors' Tea" for students to share their writing and enjoy some fun and relaxing time with their peers. It's a great way to end the school year and keep students engaged in their writing as the year comes to an end.

It was pretty simple to host an Authors' Tea.

1. Ask for parent donations.
I had a few parents donate table cloths, food, and drinks. I also brought some of my own goodies to fill up our snack table.

2. Have students create About the Author pages.
I had students write short essays about themselves in the third person. They wrote about their accomplishments, what inspires their writing, and what they're currently working on as writers. It was a hit with the parents.

3.  Get Pandora ready with some easy listening music.
I played some classical music while during our Authors' Tea. It set the calm and respectful tone for our party.

4. Set "Author's Chairs" around the room.
I set up three chairs and labeled them "Author's Chair." Students who wanted to read their story from our published book could sit in the chair. If other students (and/or parents) saw them sitting in the chair, they knew to stand around and listen to their story.

5. Sit back and enjoy!
Watching your students read each other's stories is priceless. It is a great experience for students, parents, and teachers to really see how much these kiddos have grown as writers and scholars.

I have already set my publishing date for next school year! Pin It Now!

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Proportion Picture Art {End of the Year or B2S}

I have a great project that will be a great closer of the end of the year, or a fun opener for back to school!
It’s super easy and incorporates some fun math!

First, take a picture of each student. 

Make the measurement of the picture an easy measurement that can be doubled.

I inserted the picture into PowerPoint slides and made them 5 x 8 inches.
Have your students measure out one inch columns and one inch rows.

Now give your students a 10 x 16 inch white sheet of construction paper.

Explain how the dimensions doubled from the picture to the construction paper. See if your students can figure out the new measurements for the rows and columns, since they know the proportions doubled.

Explain that since the proportion doubled, that they’ll now have to measure out two inch columns and two inch rows.

When the grid lines are made on both the picture and the construction paper, instruct students to draw their faces on the construction paper, using their picture as a guide.

Once their faces are drawn, they can erase the guidelines that are on the face. 

Have your students add patterns to the remaining squares to add a creative background!

Mount the pictures on construction paper. For fun, I also glue the original picture on the back so you can remember the model for the drawing.
Happy drawing!
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Thursday, February 4, 2016

Plickers {An Amazing Way to Check for Understanding}

My mind was just blown. That's right. I just experienced a #mindblowing app that will change the way you check for understanding during your lessons: PLICKERS 

Plickers is a simple tool teachers can use to gather formative assessments from their students. It's a fun, easy way to get your students' feedback, answers, and engagement.

It's pretty simple to use...

All you have to do is go to the Plickers website and sign up. 

You also have to download the app on your smart device.

Once you're connected, add your class and your students. You can do this on the app or on the website.

Then you need to assign your students a specific Plickers card that is associated with their name.

Next, add your folders and question sets.

Now you're ready to start using this with your students! Make sure you give each student the correct Plickers card. Show them how to use their special code to show their answers. The answer they choose as correct (A, B, C, or D) should be the letter that's at the top of the card when they show you their card.

Show the question on your Smart Board or projection screen and students will hold up their answers. You use your smart phone or tablet to scan the room (with your camera option). The phone will pick up the card codes and register the answers as correct or incorrect for each student. 

Screen shot of Plickers in action!
You can display their responses on the board. You can show them anonymously, or with their names open for everyone to see. You can see who specifically answered which question and what their answers were to the question. 

When you try it, it's phenonomal. You'll want to spend hours making Plickers questions.

In my district, we are fortunate enough to have Teachers on Special Assignment (TOSA). Two of our Tech TOSAs came to our classroom to show us this amazing app and formative assessment tool. It keeps our kiddos engaged and is a great way to document formative and/or summative assessment results.

Get Plickering!

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Friday, January 22, 2016

Morning Work {FREEBIE}

Classroom management is the key to a successful classroom. Students learn and disruptions are at a minimum. 
Click for your FREE copy!
One tool I use for classroom management is MORNING WORK! 

I know a lot of teachers use morning work (sometimes called bell work) to get students settled as they walk into their classrooms. Sometimes it’s a sheet with a number of the day, word problem, word of the day, etc. 

I was using a morning work sheet with grammar review, math review, and writing prompts. However, I found I had a slight problem. Some of those ready made morning work papers didn’t always align with things I had taught in class. I was getting frustrated with these papers because it wasn’t utilizing my students’ skills, or pushing them to think outside of the box.  I thought about creating my own morning work for each day, but between my home life (two babies under two and a husband) and school work, I just couldn’t find the time to dedicate to creating full morning work pages. I then decided I would hold my students more accountable. 

I created a simple sheet that my students keep with them throughout the week that is labeled Monday through Friday. (I also have a flip book version!) 

I write a prompt on the board for students to answer each day. It can be several questions related to different subjects, or it can be one large question. 

It just depends on the previous day’s lesson. To save time, I write the question after school so it’s ready for the next morning. Sometimes, I’ll write it on our Smart Board in the morning too. 

The key is really just creating your questions based on something from the previous day’s lesson. I love this way of incorporating morning work into my classroom. It keeps my kiddos on task as they enter the classroom, and it is a great way of reviewing important concepts taught in class. 

How do you administer MORNING WORK?
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