December 30, 2017

How to Get Your Kids to Help at Home

Ahhhh, Christmas Break. How I love thee....staying up late watching Hallmark movies, sleeping in, and using the bathroom whenever I want. I love break.... that is until my kids drive me to the looney bin and all of I sudden,  I turn into the dreaded Crazy Momma.

Avoiding Crazy Momma
If you have kids, then you know Crazy Momma. To bring out Crazy Momma, you begin by doing EVERYTHING yourself leading up to Christmas. You clean, you wrap, you clean, you do laundry, clean, cook, clean, etc. You get the point. Then, a couple days after Christmas, after you have put all the Christmas things away, after the magic, happiness, and stress of Christmas has ended, you notice your kids sitting their lazy butts on the couch playing on their technology. You look around and everything you just cleaned is not so clean anymore so  finally lose your sh*t.  Personally, I knew I had reached the point of Crazy Momma when I looked at my kids and yelled, "Do you know how hard I have to work for you to have all these Christmas presents? What do you think everything magically appears?" Wait. Yes, yes they do and it is because I created that monster of Christmas magic. Crap. Well, seeing Crazy Momma does get them up and moving. They are willing to help and pick up but really, it is just temporary. Here are some ways to avoid turning into Crazy Momma.

Suggestion 1: Family Clean Up Time
I did this a lot when my  kids were little  and toys were everywhere. I put on some fun music and  set the timer for 10 minutes. Everyone in the family had to get up and participate in cleaning up the house and putting things away. During those ten minutes, it was not "his toys or her toys" it was everybody just grab what you can and clean up. You will be amazed in what can happen in 10 minutes when everyone pulls together. We even managed to get in some dancing and giggles at the same time.

Suggestion 2: The Bottom Line
I like The Bottom Line because it drives home a point and makes me laugh. I give my kids simple jobs like vacuuming their rooms or dusting the living room coffee table. Now, keep in mind, our living room coffee  table is like the catch-all of everything. There are always Legos, notebooks, and containers of slime just hanging out on the coffee table. To get to the bottom line (the coffee table or their bedroom floors), they have to actually pick stuff up and put it away. Of course, don't be fooled by silly children who will try to do the dust-around. Before they begin, make a rule that if it is smaller than their leg, they have to put it away before they get to the bottom line.

Suggestion 3: The Bucket List
This one is simple. First, I place their technology in a super cute little bucket I got from Michaels. Feel free to use any cute or ugly bucket you can dig up in the garage. Then, I hand them a list of 3 chores. When they are done with their list, they can have their technology. Viola!

Suggestion 4: The Scavenger Hunt

The Scavenger Hunt can be used in different ways but here is my favorite. I place their technology in a clean sock at the bottom of a laundry basket filled with clean socks, face clothes, and hand towels. Since I hate matching/folding socks, it usually piles up after a couple loads. I tell the kids that they have to try to match and fold as many socks as they can before they find their technology. If you find the other person's (phone) first, you can hide it better. The person with the most sock pairs wins or folded items wins. My eight year LOVES trying to beat his sister. My tween daughter just rolls her eyes BUT the socks get folded!! Score 1 for mom!

Suggestion 5: The Geek Squad
Advance your child's technology skills by introducing the washer, dryer, and dishwasher. If your child can build an in interactive city on Minecraft, then he can work a washing machine.   I have trained my son to move the dry clothes to a laundry basket, the wet clothes to the dryer, and put in a new load of laundry. Of course, I had to show him how to do it and he still needs help reaching the wet clothes at the bottom of the washer, but it's a start. I don't make him fold the clothes. I still do that but at least he feels like he's helping and I am not Crazy Momma.

Of course, the kids know the whole thing is pure manipulation but they are pretty good with trying to avoid Crazy Momma. They actually (sometimes) like helping but more importantly, these suggestions help to teach  the kids how to be part of the family.

Good Luck,

December 3, 2017

Make an Adverb Anchor Chart

Create an Interactive Adverb Anchor Chart

Anyone else love the idea of anchor charts but hate the messy chart paper everywhere? ugh. It drives me nuts. This year, I tried to solve this problem by creating mini, interactive anchor charts. Here is what you need:

1. A Small Space

I used the bathroom door. I'm fortunate to have a bathroom in the classroom so I can use the door as wall space. You could use a cabinet, filing cabinet, or even the side of your desk. I don't think the words have to be in the students' view at all times as long as they can walk over to look at the anchor charts. 

2. Pocket Chart

I used a schedule pocket chart. It was $6.99 at Office Depot. I like the schedule pocket charts because they're skinny. To hang the pocket chart, I hot glued 2 clothespins to the door to use as clips. 

3. Adverbs

Make your anchor chart interactive by allowing students to take adverbs out of the chart and bringing them back to their desk. Create a list of adverbs (I started with -ly words) and stick them in the chart.  The engagement with adverbs will be higher when students have to read them, decide which one they want, bring it back to their desk, spell it correctly, and be responsible for returning it. That's a huge commitment for a ten year old. 😏 

4. Posters and Some Hot Glue

I'm probably not allowed to use hot glue on my doors but let's face it, that's the only way to make it stay. I created some cute adverb posters, laminated them, and stuck them to the door. 

5. Play

Hold an Adverb Challenge Contest. By using the words "challenge" and "contest", I am tricking the kids into thinking they are getting involved in something super special. As students are reading, they have to look for adverbs. If they find an adverb in their book, they record it on a sticky note and place it on the appropriate poster. I placed a few adverb books out for students who weren't confident in their adverb hunting skills. 

Good luck adding adverbs into your classroom. If you have any comments or new ideas, I would love to hear them! Like you, I teach too and love getting new ideas from others!😀

5 Reasons to Use a Clip Chart for Discipline

I have a confession....I teach fourth grade and I use a clip up/clip down chart for  discipline. 😯   You know the kind I'm talking about - the one where everyone starts on green and if they do something good, they can clip up to blue but if they break a rule, they need to clip down to yellow.  It admit that it seems a bit primary for fourth grade. I should probably be preparing them for middle school with some other mature discipline practice but the truth is,  I love the stupid thing!!!!

Using a Colored Clip Chart    

1.  Easy behavior changer

It's an easy training tool! Since the consequence of "clipping down" isn't that harsh, I don't have to give warnings. When someone shouts out or is off in la-la land, I can calmly ask them to clip down and they know they need to change that behavior. 

2.  Clip back UP

I always give them the chance to clip back up. This kills some of the teachers at my school. Some teachers believe that if a student does something wrong it should be documented, tracked, and potentially reported to parents on some sort of end of the week note. Personally, I just like to handle it. When I tell a student to "clip down", I always let them know that I will be watching them for a "clip up." This lets students know I'm not mad at them, I don't dislike them, but I want them to change that behavior. I would say 90% of the time, the behavior changes without pouting or eye rolling. When that happens, when they correct their mistake, I let them clip back up. 

3. To be outstanding, you have to  BE outstanding!

 Outstanding is the top color. I tell them that "outstanding" doesn't come by accident. If you want to be outstanding, you have to actually BE outstanding. All my students want to get to/be "OUTSTANDING". I put it in all caps because my students wear it with such a badge of honor.  Keep in mind, I don't give them any kind of reward for reaching this milestone. They just use it for bragging rights. My class last year made their own "Outstanding Whiteboard" so that they could write their name on the board if they made it to outstanding that day. 

4. Let your best kids be leaders. 

I agree that we don't need to reward kids for just behaving. That should be a minimum expectation. But, what about kids who go above and beyond? You know the ones who are like little robots always ready to learn or the little sweetie pies who are always helping others just because they are so kind. That is the culture I want in my classroom. I reward that behavior with a "clip up".  That doesn't really sound like a great reward but those students don't need treasure box junk. They just want to know that you know they're awesome. 

5. Did I mention it's easy?

Once it's set up, the behavior system pretty much runs itself. They all have their names on clips and they move up and down the chart as necessary. I do not keep track of who is where but believe me, if a kid tries to "cheat" and not actually move their clip, other students call them out on it. There have been some years when I have added sitting out recess as a consequence but honestly, I don't think it matters. From my experience, most of my students NEED their recess time. The most effective tool I've found is building a strong relationship and talking to them privately about expectations.  

September 14, 2017

How to Talk to Your Students about Hurricane Irma

Hurricane Season is Here

Here in Port Orange, Florida, we have been out of school for over a week thanks to Hurricane Irma. Fortunately, my family is fine and  our little community fared pretty well, overall. But, it was still scary... really scary. The TV coverage, the pre-Irma buildup, the actual storm, the power outages, the clean up, and the pictures of the devastation across our beautiful state has been a lot to take in. I swear I gained like 8 pounds on hurricane food and drinks.

Grab this FREE
Hurricane Reflection Sheet
 So, how do we talk to our students about the hurricane? When we get back to school on Monday, the kids are going to want to talk. I'm guessing they are going to talk A LOT! I'm definitely going to allot time for them to just get it all out and share their experiences. I think it is important to repeatedly let them know that  they are safe and they are okay. Of course, if there are children for whom the event was traumatic, I will contact my school guidance counsellor.

Here are some post-hurricane days activities that will help kids after the storm.

  •  Hurricane Reflection Sheet
  •  Brainstorm all the places people evacuated to
  •  Brainstorm the ways that families and friends came together
  •  Create a cause and effect chart that details the many effects of Hurricane Irma
  •  Create a brochure of before, during, and after the storm
  •  Create "how to prepare for a hurricane" posters
  •  Brainstorm or create posters for "how to help after a storm"
  •  "Show Don't Tell" writing will help them to show emotion through writing
  •  Write Small - write about a small moment before, during, or after the hurricane. The small moment should only be about 5-10 minutes of time total but describe details and emotions.

Click the picture to get your Hurricane Reflection forms FREE!

August 5, 2017

First Day of School Ideas

I don't know about you but I think the first day of school is one of the hardest days of the year. From bell to bell, there are 40+ little eyes staring at you waiting to be entertained. With so many rules and procedures to cover and the lack of routines established the day can feel like it lags on forever. Here are some tips to help take away those first day jitters. 

 Fun and Engaging Morning Work

I always like to start the year on a positive note so I place some fun and engaging morning work on each desk for when they arrive. I also place crayons or skinny markers at their tables so those early finishers can decorate their papers.

Coloring Bookmarks

Supply Boxes

I did what teachers do best and stole this idea from a colleague. Before the kids come into the class, set out several boxes, crates, or paper bags labeled and ready to hold supplies. Your students can unpack their extra supplies into the box. This gives them something to do, organizes all the supplies, and parents will usually leave once that is finished.

First Day of School Read Aloud

I love reading picture books to my student! They bring everyone together and there is so much you can  do with them. The Brand New Kid by Katie Couric is perfect for the first day of school because it has a fun and whimsical poetic style with a serious message. The story is about a girl who notices that the new boy at school is weird and different.  He doesn't fit in and everyone laughs at  him. The boy gets made fun of and never has anyone to play with. She decides to change all that by saying hi and asking him to play. She realizes that he is a nice kid and they have a lot in common. This lends itself to great discussions about bullying and kindness. After the book, we usually make a brochure about how to make a new friend. 

Getting to Know you Icebreaker

Icebreaker Task Cards

When I first started teaching, I assumed everyone in the class already knew each other. Well, you know what happens when you assume. I was surprise to find out that I had 4 new kids to the school and even the returners didn't know everyone's name. That is why I do icebreakers on day one. It gives my students  a reason to talk to someone new and hopefully make it easier to talk to them again. I try to do a new activity each day of the first week. Have you seen the Solo Cup Stem Challenge? I'll write about that in my next blog. It is really fun. 

In this "Find Someone Who" ice breaker, each kid has a task card. they have to find a student who meets that card's requirements. Then, they can trade cards with other kids or exchange it with the extras on the table. For me, the cards added a bit more engagement and variety. 

Icebreaker Scavenger Hunt


Click here to go to
I think one of the reasons I don't particularly like the first day of school is because of all the procedures you have to go over. We talk about procedures, practice procedures, and talk about it some more. It can be exhausting and frankly boring. Last year, I implemented a procedures Kahoot game. It was so much fun!! The kids worked in pairs to answer questions like "After saying hello, what is the first thing you do when you come in the classroom in the morning?" It was a really fun way to review and talk about our classroom runs. If you have never used Kahoot, try it out. I use it all the time. 


   Good luck! I wish you an awesome first day of school!

I would LOVE to hear about your first day. What are your first day of school MUST DOs? Comment below!

Check out these fun and engaging activities at my TPT store.

Organizational forms and fun welcoming bookmarks for back to school.

July 20, 2017

Build Your Students' Vocabulary

If you're like me, you're always looking for ways to build your students' vocabulary. It's not as easy as it sounds. Vocabulary acquisition takes time and from the teacher's perspective there are so many words to choose from. How do I know if I'm choosing the right words? Should I choose the words or should students choose the words themselves? Yup, building vocabulary is one of the trickier aspects of teaching reading so, I've decided to gather some resources to take the fear out of teaching vocabulary. These are 6 steps from Robert Marzano's book Vocabulary for the Common Core

Description over Definition

Step 1: Provide a description, explanation, and example of the new word.
Think description over definition. Provide them with a story, scenario, video or experience that helps them to learn, understand, and remember the word.

  • ELA: If you want to teach your students about the word saunter, show them how to saunter into the classroom then encourage them to saunter.

  • Science: If you have to teach symbiosis, explain the relationship between the Egyptian alligator and the plover bird. The alligator gets his teeth cleaned while the plover bird gets to eat the food stuck in the alligator's teeth...eww...but they'll remember it!
Check it out:  Egyptian alligator and the plover bird video

Students Take the Lead

Step 2: Students restate the description, explanation, or examples in their own words.
A student creates a 3D model to represent the rotation and revolution of the Earth. He keeps referencing his book to make sure he has the definitions correct. He jots notes in his science notebook to help him remember the newly acquired words. 

Step 3: Students construct a graphic representation (picture) of the word.
A Frayer Model is a great way to tackle this step. The Frayer Model is a graphic organizer used for vocabulary building. With the Frayer Model, students write their own definition of the word, provide characteristic, examples, and non-examples. In using the Frayer Model, students need to apply what they know about a newly acquired word.

Grab your own FREE Frayer Model!

Word Work

Step 4: Engage students in activities that help them to add to the understanding of the terms in their notebook.
Synonyms, antonyms, affixes, oh my! In this step, students add to their understanding of the new words. Students may highlight the prefixes, suffixes or root words. They can create a word web of related words to list synonyms and antonyms. Here is a cute 2 minute video from The Teaching Channel of one teacher using paint chips to engage her students in this type of word work. She also uses incentives that encourage her students to use the words in oral discussions.

 Vocabulary Paint Chips on The Teaching Channel


Step 5: Students discuss the terms with one another.
One of my favorite teaching strategies is using task cards to get kids up and chatting with one another especially when it comes to content vocabulary. Here are a couple fun ways to use task cards:

  • SCOOT - Scatter task cards around the room. Students work in pairs or small groups and "scoot" around the room to solve each task card. When students are in groups, they discuss, debate, ok sometimes argue, over the correct answer. I encourage this debate because they are dying to know the answer to see who is right. 
  • Quiz-Quiz-Trade - This is a Kagan Structure that works AWESOME with task cards. Pass a task card out to each student. Play some fun music. Students need to move around the room "quizzing" one another with the task card. Typically, the answers are on the back so if  the partner struggles with the answer, the person quizzing becomes a coach. The coach guides them/teaches them in a kid-friendly way. After each student has answered the task card correctly, the trade cards and find a new partner. 



Step 6: Involve students in vocabulary games. 
#Truthtime: I really do not like Bingo! Yes, I will go with my grandma to Tuesday night bingo at the clubhouse, but I will not initiate it in my classroom. That being said, there are plenty of other vocabulary games that are a great substitute. 

  •        Headbandz - This game is so fun! Most students have this game at home. Ask a student to bring in their game. Use the headbands from the game to play. Stick a word in the headband so that the student wearing the headband can't see it. The students who can see the word have to give clues without saying what the word is. The headband wearer has to guess the mystery word. This game is engaging and fun... lots of giggles included.

  •       Kahoot! - We are a Kahoot-crazed classroom! Kahoot is an online quiz came where students can work in pairs or individually to answer questions shown on the screen. You can create your own Kahoot or use a FREE one already made. You can also download results for formative data purposes. 

click here to go to Kahoot!

Word Walls and Word Sorts

Ok, so I  didn't actually see anything in Marzano's book about word walls but I think they are a great way to reinforce vocabulary that you want students to use and remember. I love using synonym word walls especially after my students have sorted and manipulated the words in centers. I expect my students to use new and interesting words in their writing based on their experiences with them in the classroom.

Robert Marzano's Research

If you are interested in learning more about ways to teach vocabulary, you can check out Vocabulary for the Common Core by Robert Marzano.  I found this book really helpful in understanding how to teach students to acquire new vocabulary.

March 30, 2017

Morning Work Alternative: Task Cards

I needed an alternative to morning work. My students enter the classroom between 7:30 and 8:00. Having to find a worksheet or activity every morning that some kids finished and some kids didn't was driving me nuts! It wasn't until my friend Fishyrobb  suggested using task cards when my whole morning routine changed (check out her TPT store, she's amazing).

Why had I not thought of this before? Now, I use one math task card set for the week. I sort the cards out in the morning, put on some fun music, and get the kids up, moving, and learning. 
Students start the morning with task cards. 

Benefits of using task cards for morning work

1. Self-checking

Most of the task cards I make now are self-checking. I love this because it gives instant feedback and lets me know right away which students I need to help.  Of course, students are expected to show their work in their notebooks so just copying the answers isn't an option. I don't have to wait to grade papers to see who to pull into small groups. That makes me very happy. 

Fold back the answer tab, glue, and laminate for self checking.

2. Engagement

With morning work task cards, the vibe of room is just different. Like I said before, I put on some music, usually a pop instrumental, and the kids get out of their seat and move to the task cards. I encourage kids to work together and talk about their work. The engagement is so much higher and it sets the tone for the day. 
Engagement...with a bow.

3. Differentiation

Most task cards vary in difficulty. Higher achieving students can gravitate (usually with guidance) towards the more difficult problems. Students who need more support can work on easier problems which will scaffold them towards the harder problems. Knowing who my struggling students are, I can easily check in with them to see if they need help. If my higher achieving students get "finished" with the cards or do not seem engaged, I ask then to create some task cards that they feel would challenge other students. 

The Drawback?

The drawback of morning work task cards is that you have to have a collection of task cards to choose from. There are task cards kits you can buy from companies like Lakeshore that cost anywhere from $29.99 up to $85.00. Personally, I would start with There are free task cards or task card packs around $2.50 or $3.00 and they are made by teachers like you. 

Here are links to the task cards from this blog. Click on the image for more information: