August 20, 2016

Kicking Off Informative Writing In The Classroom

Download at TpT
 Getting my students to love writing in second grade is pretty much the most difficult thing to do besides getting them to love pretty much any other subject. My first year teaching second grade a few years back, I remember sitting there trying to figure out why my writing block seemed harder than it needed to be. Why were some of my students flourishing and others leaving me pulling teeth just to get them to write something on the page?

It took me some thought and rethinking my approach to writing at the beginning of the year. I wanted to start my class out with first understanding themselves as writers and once I could do that, then I could build upon their skills and make the writing objectives apply to them and be fun in the process.

One fun form of writing that always gets my students, even my most reluctant writers, in the spirit are informative writing pieces. By having them become experts in something and having them write to inform others instills confidence and allows them to break down those barriers of frustration. It’s with informative writing I can see them light up with inspiration and experience that writing is a skill in which even the greatest of writers can always improve.

With October, autumn, and Halloween just right around the corner once school begins why not start off the year with the introduction of informative writing about something most students have experience with?! Jack-o-lanterns!

This download is the second creation from my How-To writing series (you can find my post about Leprechaun traps here). I am so excited to share this because it’s a whole theme mini-lesson in one complete download. The purpose of this activity is for students to create a one-of-a-kind jack-o-lantern that they’ll actually create and bring in to share with the class. As they are creating their designs and carving their pumpkins they are recording the steps and process to which they will write to explain to their readers. It’s always fun to see what the kids come up with and all of the jack-o-lanterns make for a fun room display!

Enlisting help from home...
To start, I’ve included parent letters which outline the writing project and breaks down for them the exact help I’m looking for for my students at home. Since I don’t want to take up too much time in the classroom for planning (I have other mini-lessons that explain the writing process) and creating the pumpkins, I’ve opted to include that step for an at-home activity with their parents. That way they are thinking and planning out their designs and filling out the provided homework planning sheets that come back to school. Besides, the kids always love the help and participation from family!

*I have also included copies of these planning sheets for in-classroom planning (sans the HOMEWORK tab in the top right corner).

Brainstorming & transition words.
One of the keys to writing informative writing is using key transitional words like: first, then, next, after that, and finally. Once students become familiar with these they can find new transitional words or phrases to enhance their writing!

The planning sheets provided in this download are clear and easy-to-follow for writing out their directions on how to create their jack-o-lantern AS they actually do it. With parent supervision they are to create their jack-o-lanterns and be creative in their designs. I leave it up to them as to how decorative they would like to get. Then, after they’ve recorded their step-by-step directions they move on to their first draft.

Drafting makes perfect.
Once students are ready to begin writing their pieces they are to complete their first draft where they sketch a picture of their steps and write a couple sentences to explain what the step is. After following through the writing process, editing/revising their work both themselves and with their peers, and a writing conference to check in with me, they can move on to finalizing their writing with their final draft and publication. This download is also complete with an editing checklist for their own use and use with buddies.

A writing celebration.
I love the concept of celebrating the culmination of their hard work. By celebrating each of the students and the effort they’ve put into their work helps them see the value in themselves as writers and their peers. Once students are finished with their final drafts and have published their work, they are to display their writing and share the actual jack-o-lanterns they’ve created. Students get the chance to see each others writing and celebrate the budding authors they’ve only just started to become!

I’m excited to continue adding themes to this series so be on the lookout! Oh, never miss a post by signing up for my email list (on the sidebar!).

August 15, 2016

Monday Made It | Classroom Management

Even though I’m doing the stay-at-home-mom thing this year, I still can’t believe that summer is winding down and Back To School is nearly here (I even know some friends and teachers who are already back at school!). I always loved the beginning of the year because I had a moment to refresh and start the year with a positive attitude, try new things instructionally, and anticipate the class coming in. For this Monday Made It I am sharing the classroom management tools I love to use in my classroom and has been a proven improvement in student behavior and accountability!

Be sure to link up with 4th Grade Frolics!

The Think Sheet
You can read more about this fabulous tool and how I use it in the classroom here, but these little sheets have been a huge lifesaver in terms of quickly dealing with behavioral issues in the classroom. I’ve been using them for a few years and every year I have only needed to use them a few times. It is designed to place accountability back on the student meanwhile allowing them to express themselves, think about what caused their behavior, and a means to discuss the problem with an adult both in school and with parents at home. Since students return them with a signature it allows me to stay on top of at-home communication easily and I store them in their student files in case it is needed for conferences or meetings with admin.

*The Think Sheet comes in both a single sheet here or a BUNDLED version here with forms for K-6.

Testimonies from TpT:
"This made communication with my parents very easy and students knew to bring it back signed the next day or their parents would also receive a phone call.” -Michelle M.

"Great resource! I used this consistently last year and saw a great change in student behavior. The parents also told me they really appreciated having specific information about their child's behavior.” - Ashley S.

"This is a great resource to use with students to have them reflect on their behavior. Thank you!” - Karen H.

Awesome Behavior Recognition
Another great resource to use when implementing classroom management is acknowledging those students who are always setting the perfect example. It’s hard sometimes to notice these kids, especially when you may have one or two ‘difficult’ students. However, I’ve found that having these slips already printed off and easily accessible, I was able to fill them out quickly and send home a little handwritten note letting my parents (and kiddos!) know that they’ve been doing awesome in the classroom! See more about how I use these notes here.

Testimonies from TpT:
"Such a great and simple way to support a positive relationship with parent and students.” -Mindy E.

"This is great! I find myself too often only sending home notes when students misbehave, so this is perfect to acknowledge the positive behaviors too. Thank you!” -Robin D.

"I love being able to send these home with parents. Sometimes we get so caught up in calling parents for bad behavior that I can now send these home with my students on fun neon paper and they're parents are still getting that positive feedback!!” -Stephanie N.

"I love these notes! I have been using them a ton and my students are excited when they receive one. :)” - Sunny In SoCal (TpT Seller)

The Clip Slip
This clip slip is a perfect addition to any classroom clip chart you use! This download comes with the traditional clip slip language AND a blank copy for you to write in your own if you’ve customized your clip chart. Read more about how I use this clip slip here! It’s such an easy tool for students to again communicate their daily behavior to their parents - freeing up your time NOT writing daily emails or making those phone calls. Parents can simply check their slips and by initialing every night it allows me to see which parents are checking and who are not.

Testimonies from TpT:
"Absolutely adore this Clip Slip management system. It goes perfectly with my classroom behavior chart! Who knew??? Thank you so much! This is AWESOME!!!!” -Kimberly R.

"Easy format for daily use and maintaing Parent-Teacher Communication concerning behavior.” -Jara T.

The First Week {complete lesson plans & ideas}
I love the first few weeks of school because that is when you can really set the boundaries and practice routines and procedures until your kids understand what’s expected of them all year long. It’s also a lot of fun because you can integrate some fun read-alouds to discuss these expectations when establishing your class rules. I love creating the rules together as a whole class because it gives them ownership over their behavior and the behavior of their peers. I’ve put this download together as a means to start you off with fresh lesson plan ideas and some fun read-alouds to pair with them!

Testimonies from TpT:

"As a first time classroom teacher, I am excited to use this to start of the year with my students. It is comprehensive, yet concise. Thanks so much for sharing !!” -Kimberley E.

"Great resource that will be perfect for the start of this new school year. I am very excited to use it and love your simple four rules!” - Katherine S.

"This is a really complete package! Love that read-alouds and lesson plans are included, as well as posters and worksheets for the kids! Wonderful! thanks so much! :)” - Martine

Intersted in each of these products that have helped me get prepared and organized for establishing those classroom rules? Then opt for the BUNDLED version and get a copy of each resource at a discounted price! 

How do you implement classroom management/routines in your classroom? Do you have any great resources to share? Share them in the comments!


August 8, 2016

Communities: A Resource & Lesson Ideas

One of the first social studies lessons that is covered at the beginning of the year is establishing communities within the context of our neighborhoods and in our very own classroom. Having students understand that communities reach far beyond what we see day-to-day helps them build a foundation of understanding of their roles both in their homes, neighborhoods, states, and country. It also relates to how they are a part of a common community at school. I have always enjoyed teaching communities because it’s the beginning of students realizing that their worlds don’t end at the tip of their noses. They begin to notice commonalities across the communities in which they live, work, and play!

In second grade in most states the beginning of the discussion about communities is understanding past vs present and how that relates to communities changing over time due to various circumstances. Although it ends there, I love extending my lessons just a touch to include conversations about what these different communities look like, how they’re similar or different from one another, and how they’re impacted over time. I mean, who can understand past vs present without first understanding the communities in which they’re learning about?

** This download has been updated to reflect Canadian provinces and country portions of the flap-book! (This is why I love my readers and customers on TpT!!)

One of the resources that I use for teaching communities is this Communities Among Us packet. It is complete with a fun and engaging flap-book style workbook that breaks down each community as it gets larger and larger starting with the student and working all the way up to the country in which they live. This flap-book is a perfect addition to the popular read-aloud: Me On The Map by Joan Sweeney!

I have also included three workbook pages that break down each community: rural, suburban, and urban! These can be stand alone worksheets or even be included in an interactive notebook. Another fun activity is the Guess My Community writing page! Students select a community that they have learned and come up with three clues that describe facts about their chosen community. Then when displayed the reader guesses the community then flip up the top portion to see if they’re right!

This download also includes fun vocabulary cards for the classroom!

I also love finding amazing resources from around the teaching blogosphere too and these caught my eye for engaging activities that the whole class can participate in!

Image Source: Mrs. T’s First Grade Class Blog
Mrs. T’s First Grade Class - Here students create a timeline of sorts that compares vocabulary and concepts relating to PAST, PRESENT, and FUTURE. I love that this simple activity gets kids connected and relating to the objective being taught!

This blog also has a wonderful technology component as well where she uses a Pixie App where they label the seven continents, then created a simple clip art picture of themselves and used the Superimpose App to place themselves upon the continent in which they live. How cool is that?!

Image Source: The Teacher-Trap
The Teacher-Trap - Kady of The Teacher-Trap blog has a wonderful collection of read-aloud that introduce students to how communities look across the globe. Although she’s teaching to third graders, I know second graders could benefit from her lessons! I love how she breaks down her objectives to teach her students the different characteristics that describe different communities!

Image Source: Mrs. Winter’s Bliss

Mrs. Winter’s Bliss - Lastly, Christina at Mrs. Winter’s Bliss blog has a great second grade appropriate compare and contrast flap book where students compare past vs present as it relates to living long ago and today. I also just love how she connects her ELA objective for informative writing with her social studies objective!

Teaching communities is such a blast and with these ideas you’re sure to get the year kicked off to a fun start! What are your favorite lessons to teach related to communities or past vs present?

August 6, 2016

Creating Free Thinkers, Not Robots

It’s summertime and now it’s the season for teachers to begin planning the upcoming year. I always have to laugh to myself whenever I hear people comment about teachers having their summers ‘off.’ If they only had the time to actually discuss this misconception they would realize that a lot of teacher’s summers consist of professional development, lesson planning, etc.

I’m here today to share a fun lesson I always look forward to doing with my kiddos at the beginning of the year. One of the first standards I taught at the beginning of the year was citizenship and what it means to be a good citizen. It’s actually pretty fascinating to ask my class each year what the Pledge of Allegiance means and why we say these words every day before class and to hear crickets in response. 

A lot of students have no idea what it means to pledge their allegiance to something and it’s a shame they memorize the words but have no clue as to what they’re saying.

My goal is to not create robots, but free thinkers. I do this by simply educating and informing my kids of what it truly means to have allegiance to the United States and what those big words mean in the pledge they recite each morning.

This workbook is so easy to prepare and it’s something my kids always loved learning about. This packet combines a little language arts, handwriting, as well as an interactive component. Plus there’s coloring involved and who seriously doesn’t like to color?

What’s Included...

The United States of America

In this section, students quickly locate their state and it’s membership to the United States of America. You can easily slide in geography standards or objectives here by having students locate their state on a U.S. map!

Color, Paste, and Match

Students have pictures that they must color and match to the correct section of the pledge. If you want differentiation, skip the matching pictures and have your students create pictures of their own that reflect each line of the pledge.

Practice language arts and handwriting by having students copy and write the pledge line by line. Discuss with your class the reason certain words are capitalized and others aren’t, punctuation found throughout, and introduce new vocabulary.

Interactive Pages

This workbook has many interactive pages where students work together to learn the different terms found in the pledge. This is a snapshot of ‘and to the Republic’ where students practice voting to make a decision, which is similar to how our government works today.

After completing this lesson I found that my students stood a little taller during the morning announcements when they recited the pledge and I have to say it makes me heart happy to see that.

How do you tackle beginning of the year objectives in Social Studies?

August 5, 2016

The Think Sheet: The BEST Behavior Management Tool

We all know that establishing a great behavior management plan early on just makes the rest of the year go so smoothly. Your kiddos know exactly what’s expected of them, but when a mistake is made they have the means to deal with it and know that they can always recover from their actions and that tomorrow always brings a new day. At the beginning of the school year I spend a few weeks, yes WEEKS, establishing classroom routines and expectations for behavior. However, we all have off days or things going on at home that affect us and our kids are no different.

On those off days it’s important for teachers to have a way to communicate with their students about their behavior, what caused it, and ways to improve or know how to handle those moments in the future. These Think Sheets were exactly what I needed that not only helped a child understand their actions, but helped them talk it out with me and with their parents at home.

Today I'm excited to share with you all the easiest system I've used for years to maintain student behavior accountability all year long - without adding more work for me. Here's how I do it...

These Think Sheets have changed the way in which I give attention and due diligence in the classroom. Oftentimes when students misbehave I am to notice those signs that something is coming along. It may be irritability in the air, an off night or morning, being hungry, or anxious about friendships. For little ones it can absolutely be about anything. Think Sheets provide a way for students to not only take a few moments alone to reflect, but it gives them a few moments to themselves to calm down...and on their terms. Once they've calmed themselves, these sheets allow them to think through what happened and what lead up to their behavior.

The beautiful thing about how these sheets are used (and communicated to parents) are that they aren't punitive. Actually, they're meant as a tool for students to use for themselves. After reflecting, they now are equipped with the ability to share their feelings not only with me in the moment, but with their parents once they get home. I've heard from so many previous families that they've appreciated these Think Sheets because it clued them in to what happened at school and how to communicate with their child at home. This is especially important since kids see their parents hours after an incident first occurred.

Furthermore, I love that these think sheets allow students to take responsibility for their actions, regardless of their intentions. They are given the opportunity to think through what happened, explain why they did what they did, but then be able to communicate the issue with an adult, which to me is the most important piece. Long gone are the days when an adult asks a child ‘what happened’ and their response is ‘I don’t know’ or ‘I don’t remember.' Having a parent sign communicates to the teacher that the think sheet was discussed at home and therefore everyone is on the same page.

Since I first began using them in my classroom, I've since updated them so they can be used in a K-3rd/6th grade setting! Now that I'm back to teaching kindergarten, I love that I have differentiated pages that are just as effective.

Shop the individual page or the bundle!

If you're only looking for the OG Think Sheet that I used for my second graders, you're more than welcome to pick it up right here!

However, if you're wanting the differentiated bundle you can grab that, too! 

What's even better? This product is included in my ULTIMATE Back to School bundle! You can grab this and a ton of other helpful tools to ensure you launch the best back to school ever!