Sunday, August 21, 2016



Congratulations to Debbie Krueger and Calia Hachtel!  Thank you for checking out my Teachers Pay Teachers store,  Enjoy spending your gift card!

Saturday, August 20, 2016

  Fun and Easy Icebreakers for the First Day of School


Here are some fun ideas for getting your students acquainted and putting them at ease as you begin your new school year adventure.

1.  Cut pieces of string or yarn in different lengths.  Make two pieces of each length, and just enough, in total, for each student to get a piece of string.  Have students walk around the classroom looking for the person whose piece of string matches their own.  When they find their partner, students will visit and learn a bit about each other.  Then, call on students in pairs, to come to the front of the room and introduce their partners.  Each students need to tell the name of his or her partner, and one or two facts about them.

2.  Get your students up and moving by having them find those with whom they have something in common.  For example, tell students to find a partner who has the same color eyes that they have.  Students will move around the room until they pair up with someone, then they need to learn that person’s name and one thing about him or her.  Then, give another direction, such as finding a partner who gets to school the same way you do (bus, walk, car, bike, etc.).  Do several of these so students become familiar with classmates, and lose their nervousness.  You may want to tell students that they have to find a new partner each time.

3.  You’ll need a good-sized space for this activity.  If you don’t have space in your classroom, you could go out to the playground.  Divide the space into two parts by putting a strip of tape down the middle.  Tell students to stand on whichever side they would like.  Then ask everyone to “switch sides if” the following statement applies to them.  Here are some examples:
          Switch sides if you rode the bus to school today.
          Switch sides if you love math.
          Switch sides if you have two or more brothers
          Switch sides if you were in Mr. _______’s class last year.
          Switch sides if you were excited for school to start.
Each time there is a switch made, students need to share a detail with someone on the same side of the tape.  For instance, if the switch came because of the number of brothers, student would tell someone near them, “I have three brothers.” etc.


4. I love to start the school year with the book Chrysanthemum by Keven Henkes, and this is a great icebreaker to go with that story.  Have each student count the number of letters in his or her first name.  Then have them find a classmate who has the same number of letters. If they can’t find a partner, pair them up with someone else who has no one with the same number of letters.  Students can then ask their partner questions about their name. such as:
         Do you like your name?  Do you have a nickname?  Do you know anyone else who has the same name you have?   If you could change your name, what would it be?


You could have partners introduce each other to the class by sharing what they learned about the partner’s name.  You could also have a graph prepared, and students could work with their partners to graph the number of letters in their names.  

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Nine Ideas for Making the Most of Instructional Time

So much for students to learn and so little time!  We all feel the time crunch, each and every day. There isn't anything we can about the number of minutes in the school day, but we can do a few things to make the most of those minutes.  Here are nine suggestions for stretching instructional time:
1.  Teach routines and procedures for handing in papers, lining up, transition times, etc.  Students should know exactly what is expected so time is not wasted and you don't find yourself answering questions about how, when, and where.  A bunch of time can be saved in the little details. Start teaching routines on the first day of school and reinforce them as needed.
2.  Have your students start the school day when they walk into the classroom, not when the bell rings.  Teach the beginning of day procedures, such as: put your backpack away, hand in your homework, make your lunch choice, and sharpen your pencils.  These things should become an automatic part of arriving in the classroom.  Hold students accountable for doing these things without a reminder.  Post a reminder list in the classroom or put it on student desktops.
3.  As soon as the beginning of day procedures are finished, students should be responsible for starting on the first assignment of the day.  This should be review or practice with something they have already learned, so they can be 100% independent.  I give my students until first recess to get this finished.  If they don't finish the daily "Warm-up" by the time the bell rings to officially start the school day, they slip it into their folders and finish it up when they have a few minutes.
4.  Schedule core academics early in the day when students' energy levels--and your own--are highest.  You'll accomplish a lot more.
5.  Integrate lessons and instruction whenever possible.  For example, use a science concept as the topic for a writing assignment.
6.  Be clear, in your own mind, as to the objective of each lesson and choose the most effective and efficient way of using the lesson time.  For example, I could give students a chunk of Play Dough and have them form little balls to create an array for a multiplication lesson.   However, since my objective doesn't really involve creativity and tactile stimulation, giving each student some counters or colored plastic disks to make arrays, or having them draw an array on their individual white boards will cut the time involved in this lesson.
7.  Organize your classroom so that supplies and materials are readily available to teacher and students.  Also, plan student seating so their attention is focused on the front of the classroom, or where lessons will be presented.
8.  Engage all students.  Rather than having them respond one at a time, use group responses, or have students ask and answer questions with a partner.   Everyone does everything.  Students are not allowed to disengage and fly under the radar.
9.  Use homework assignments as extended practice for concepts and skills presented in class.  Don't send home meaningless assignments.
Each of these suggestions can save minutes, and minutes certainly add up, especially over the course of the school year.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

         Ten Things That Will Help You Wrap Up the Year
The kiddos have said good-bye and headed off for summer fun.  You're left wondering where the year went and reflecting on those things that you will definitely do next year and those things that you will NEVER do again!  Here are a few things that I have learned from wrapping up thirty-eight school years! (If you thought the school year went fast, you can't imagine how the summer will fly.)

1. The more things you can do before leaving for the summer, the better.  Get a head start on next year by preparing those things you use every year.  Maybe it's student math journals, or copies of math fact timings that you use every day all year long.  Replenish the copies in those files, and prepare students materials. 

2.  Create a "Back-to-School" binder or folder.  Include everything you need to start the year--lesson plans or outlines for activities, copies of your class procedures and rules to hand to parents,  masters for first day assignments, and masters for all those things you need to make for students such as name tags, desk labels, etc. Anything you need to start the year should be in this binder.  You might also want to include ideas that you come across that you'd like to try at some point. 

3.  Make a summer to-do list.  It is really helpful to create this list throughout the school year.  When you finish a unit or an activity and you think of something that could improve it, jot it on your summer list.  When you come to the end of the school year, you won't be trying to remember what it was about that rounding activity that needed to be fixed.  Then, prioritize your list, and check things off as you deal with them.

4.  If you are lucky enough to be able to leave up your displays and d├ęcor through the summer, hooray!  You might have a plan for giving something a facelift or a total make-over.  If so, try to do it before you leave for the summer.  If not, make note of the things you will need, such as a new border, and purchase or make those items before you get into the back-to-school rush.  If you must take everything down, snap some photos of those displays that you want to use again.  Then you won't have to remember just how you had everything arranged.

5.  Set aside a day or two to clean and organize that drawer, closet, or file that has gotten out of control.  I am lucky enough to be able to get into my classroom throughout the summer, except for a couple of weeks when floors are being waxed.  So, the week after school gets out, I like to come back when the building is quiet, and I can focus on those organizational things that have been put off all year.  All that stuff you haven't used in years--throw it away, give it away, or have a teacher garage sale.  It is a wonderful feeling to open a cupboard and have a bit of empty space.

6.  One of my organizational challenges is deep shelves and cupboards.  I forget what I put in the deep dark corners of those things.  It is really helpful to tape a list on the inside of the cupboard door that lists the contents.  Also, if you can, put all of  your math manips in the same drawer or cupboard, all of your science stuff together, and so on.

7.  Set aside part of a day during the last week of school for cleaning.  Have students shelve their text books and clean their own desks, chairs, and cubbies.  Clorox wipes are great for this. Mr. Clean Magic Erasers are also terrific.  Your custodial staff will probably be glad to give you spray cleaner and rags.  At some schools where I've worked, we actually had the kids take their desks and chairs outside where we turned the hose on them and used buckets of soapy water and scrub brushes.  If the hard covers of your text books are getting grubby, give the kiddos a Clorox wipe to clean them up.  Make sure you leave them sitting out to dry thoroughly before putting them away.

8.  Check with your administrator or custodial staff to learn how they want you to leave classroom furniture.  At my school, we move all the student desks and chairs into the hallways, (We have students help with this) so that the custodial staff can clean carpets, windows, etc. in the classrooms.  They then move the furniture back into the classrooms and deal with the tile in the halls.  If you must clear your teacher desktop and counters, box everything together and label the boxes.  For example, my Desktop box contains my staplers, scissors, tape dispenser, pen container, sticky notes, etc.

9.  If you are going to have new curriculum materials next year, such as a new math text, see if you can get the teacher materials to take home for the summer.  It helps so much to have a handle on how the program works before you're in the thick of actually trying to use it.

10. Finally, make sure you allow plenty of summer time for sharpening the saw.  Recharge your batteries with a few good novels, a vacation, or even just time to yourself out in the garden.