Thursday, July 18, 2013

Classroom Management Tips for the First Day of School

Don't know where the summer's gone, but it is going fast!  As we approach the end of July, it is time to start thinking about starting a new year with a new group of students.  Here are a few tips for getting your year off to a fabulous start!
1.  You have only one chance to start the year off right.  Plan and prepare for a day that will set the tone and expectations for the whole year.

2.  Smile and be approachable.  When I started teaching, several veteran teachers advised me “not to smile until Christmas”.  That was not good advice for creating a classroom environment that is warm and supportive.

3.   Set your expectations high.  Be specific about what you expect from students.  Teach routines and procedures explicitly.  Model and practice them.  Practice them again.  If students don’t perform routines and procedures as you expect them to, stop and re-teach, then have them do it again.  Time that you spend in teaching procedures is an investment that will pay high dividends.

4.  Teach a routine for everything—what to do when you enter the classroom in the morning, how to hand in your homework, how to line up, how to pass papers down the row, etc.

5.  Don’t relax your expectations at the end of the day.  When it’s time to send them off, stick to your end-of-day procedure.  Model and practice how you need your students to clean up the classroom and get organized to leave.  Again, if they don’t follow expectations, stop and try it again.

6.  Spend time as needed throughout the first days, and even weeks, of school to make sure that routines become routine.  Whenever you see a problem, stop and re-teach.  If you become lax with your expectations, behavior will start to deteriorate.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

June-my favorite month.  It is so nice to have a bit of freedom!  I am still doing school work as well as housework and yard work, but I am doing it on my own terms!

During the last week of school, our literacy coach shared some information she had gleaned from a literacy conference that she had recently attended.  She shared a lot of great tidbits, but one that stuck with me was this:  "Students comprehend text better when it is on paper, than when it is on a screen."
That was really interesting to me.  I, personally, prefer a page to a screen, probably because I am  not a "technology native".  My kids get frustrated with me because I don't even like cell phones much.  Here is a link to an interesting article from Scientific American regarding the question of comprehension being hampered by an electronic screen.  I'd be interested to hear your thoughts .

Meantime, have a great summer!

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Teacher Appreciation Sale

It's nice to be appreiated!    We hope that while we are busy doing so much for so many, with so little, that there are grateful recipients of all our efforts.  Teachers Pay Teachers is showing appreciation by having a site-wide sale.  All items in my store are 20% off.  When you check out, enter the promor code TAD13 and you will get an extra 10% off for a grand total of 28% savings.  This is a great time to treat yourself to all those items on your wish list, and also to look ahead to the beginning of next year.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013


May 1, 2013

Wow!  What a whirlwind year it has been.  Sometimes I feel like every time I walk into my classroom, I get plugged into an outlet and the energy flows OUT of me!  There is so much energy invested every day and the opportunities to recharge are so few.  As we enter the last month of school, things tend to get even crazier.  Ever wonder if your energy is going to stretch as far as the school calendar does?  Here are some suggestions for maintaining a grip as the year winds down.

·         As much as possible, maintain your classroom schedule and structure.  It's so much easier to just keep on teaching.

·         After your testing is finished and the pressure has eased, fit in some of those fun units and activities that you couldn’t fit in earlier.

·         Plan, plan, plan.  Look ahead and calendar special school events and activities.  Plan around them and go with the flow when your schedule is disrupted.

·         End-of-the-year is a good time to schedule a field trip to culminate a unit of study. Keep it tied to your curriculum objectives and hold kids accountable for learning, even though field trips are fun.

·         Don’t get lax with behavior expectations. Stick to your rules and consequences, but ramp up praise and rewards for kids who also stick to the rules and expectations.

·         Make a list of things you need to do to wrap up the year—reports and records that need to be completed,  things that need to organized,  major cleaning projects, thank you notes that need to be written, etc.  Don’t rely on your memory. Lists are wonderful!

·         When it comes time to put things away and clean, make a list of chores and assign students to specific tasks.  Instruct them on exactly what they need to do and your expectations for task completion.  Though you may not be eager to clean, they will be!

·         Let your class earn a game time.  Have them bring board games from home and then put them in groups to play each other’s games.  This will free you up for a couple of hours to take care of tasks that only you can do.

·         Make yourself a summer to-do list.  Write down all those things that you would like to get done before coming back to school.  Have a game that you would like to get made, files that need organized, books that need to be repaired or labeled?  Make a list, then during the summer you can work on them at your leisure.  Leisure.  Love that word.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Spelling has long been a thorn in my side.  Not spelling, itself, really, but spelling programs.  I have yet to find a spelling program embedded in a basal series that is worth using.  The basal series currently in use in my district has a spelling component.  This is our third year using the series and the first year I have said "No more of this spelling!"  The words on the list are not only really hard for third graders to spell, but way too many of them are not high utility words.  Take for example the word Creole. Granted, it is a challenge word.  But what third grader in Utah needs to know how to spell Creole?  I was spending more time talking about the meaning of spelling words than about the meaning of vocabulary words  (Which, by the way, are far too easy, but that's another rant.)  And then, I had parents asking, "Where DID you get these words?" So, I've taken matters into my own hands and am writing my own spelling program-- high utility words, lists that are centered around one sound or spelling pattern, etc.  I have already compiled 36 word lists, made of words that are actually useful to third graders.  Every sixth list is a review of the five previous lists.  The list following a review is labelled "No Excuse" words.  These are words that may not fit a specific spelling pattern, but students are expected to spell them correctly EVERY time they write them, no excuses!  Each list has 18 words.  The first ten are basic words.  The next four are a little more challenging, and the last four are harder challenge words.  Some students will do only the first ten words, some will do the first fourteen, and some will do all eighteen words.  Surely, this will work better that a spelling program that has Creole as a third grade word, right?

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Pull-outs Are Making Me Crazy!

I have an interesting problem this year.  I have a class of 25 students, and I have 22 pull-outs.  Many of them are the same kids pulled out for this special service and then that special service.  I have one student who goes to ESL for 45 minutes.  I have two who go to Resource for math for 45 minutes daily, and three who go to Resource for reading, 45 minutes daily.  I have three who see the school counselor once a week for half an hour or so.  I have seven (way too many) who go to Enrichment once a week for an hour.  Then I have six who receive speech therapy for 30-90 minutes weekly.  I have two  half hour blocks every morning, and an hour and a half on Monday afternoon when I have all of my kiddos in class.  There is always someone coming or going.  I have had to post a schedule near my desk of who goes where and when, so that I can pretend to keep track of them.  I am struggling with what I should hold some of these students accountable for.  It seems that, no matter what I teach, someone misses it!  The real frustration is that the teacher next door, (also third grade) has no Resource kids, no speech kids, no ESL kids, and no kids seeing the counselor!  Wow!  Anybody else struggling with kids who are pulled out so much, that it seems like they're never in class?  I would really love to hear your tips and suggestions, if you'd be willing to share!