Saturday, December 19, 2015

How To Survive a Classroom FULL of Boys

Two things happen everyday in my classroom. Someone gets tackled and someone does a somersault. I have a classroom full of boys. With a 5:10 ratio, us girls are outnumbered. I have seen more blood, sweat and tears this year than any before, and then there's the kids!

If you're living in a world where your students are mostly males, here's a few tips on how to survive your classroom of rowdy, somersaulting, farting (yep), fighting, and often hilarious boys.

1. Come to terms with what your classroom rug really is. Whole group lesson area? No. Independent reading refuge. PFFFFT. Writing island? HAHAHA. NO. It is a gymnastics mat. A Slip 'N Slide. One may even describe it as a trampoline. These are 7 year old boys we are talking about. No surface is safe from a slide into home.

2. Attach a mirror to your whiteboard. You'll need it to see the face-smacking and eraser throwing that's going on behind you while you're making that super cute anchor chart.

3. Give up on having them sit. LET IT GO. Let them stand. Let them stand, Let them staaaaand.
Turn away and slam the door...
On the way you did things last year. For your sanity and there's, just let them stand or kneel or do anything other than sit. They can't. They won't. You'll spend all day asking so you're better off just letting it go, girl.

4. Purchase a whistle. That's all.

5. LAUGH. A lot. At yourself, at the chaos, for the few girls looking to you for guidance on how to survive the deafening cloud of testosterone. Just laugh! Also, don't feed them anything with sugar.

Enjoy your fart-joke free holidays! Unless you're a mom of boys, then just eat chocolate (and wine).

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Turn and Talk with Brain Quest

Turk and Talk has been a buzz word in education for a while now. Every year this is a practice that many of my students struggle with. The conversation skills and confidence needed for a successful T&T can be intimidating to a 7 year old! I've noticed only a few of my students are truly capable of sharing their ideas clearly and then listening while their partner does the same. I decided to work some practice into our Morning Meeting with the help of Brain Quest.

I get so nostalgic when I break out my Brain Quest cards. I LOVED these things in elementary school and my students do too. They love the trivia and the randomness of the questions. I love how the silly questions trick them into talking to each other! Ha!!!

You can grab a set of Brain Quest questions at most educational stores but I swear every yard sale has them! Mine came from another teacher that switched grades and was tossing them. Turn trash into treasure in the form of turn and talk! (Can you tell I have been working on an alliteration resource?)

Tomorrow is Friday! We made it! 
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Enjoy your winter break!

Sunday, December 13, 2015

'Tis the Season of Freebies!

I am having a case of the Sunday blues but I am also super excited that it is our last week before break! This will be my son's first Christmas and my daughter, who is now four, is just the right age for some elf and Santa antics. I can't wait to make some Santa footprints at our door out of flour!

My team started a tradition last year of dedicating a whole day to the book The Polar Express. We have our students dress in their PJ's, we do some fun crafts, and make hot cocoa. I created this how-to writing template to go with a Christmas Cone craft we love to do. Grab it {HERE}!

I rack my brain every year on what to get my students as a little gift without breaking my bank or my back. I came up with this in the Christmas baking aisle at Target (frantically searching Pinterest while my baby boy slept and preschool pick-up approached) and I am loving the outcome.

Grab the tags {HERE}! They come in color and black and white.

Godspeed on your final week before break!!!!!!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Alternative Seating in My Classroom

I decided to be a lunatic and try alternative seating the week before Thanksgiving break and (most likely) my first informal observation. I am not known for my patience when I have my mind set on something. This change was no exception so I decided to just dive right in. If you follow me on Instagram, you know that I have a classroom run by boys! 70%, if we're getting technical, of my classroom is rowdy, running, horse-playing, hitting, swearing BOYS. I needed to ditch the traditional classroom model of "stay seated", "sit still", "no standing" and so on. Most of my boys just simply can't waste their attention on fixing the way they're sitting. I came across the idea of alternative seating this summer and I know when I saw this photo on Pinterest I about drooled on my iPhone.
If you google "alternative classroom seating" this beautiful classroom is the first picture that pops up and it belongs to Setting Up For Second. The colors * swoon* The stability balls with little feet *swooooon* The bean bags *swooooning still* I want to go to school there!

After being hypnotized and inspired by the above photo, I then randomly read a great article Kayla Delzer (from Top Dog Teaching - like you didn't already know!) wrote on EdSurge about the evolution of today's classroom. Kayla writes, "As I sat in our local Starbucks this past summer, I looked around and thought--why can’t my classroom look like this? " I, much like Kayla, want my students to have the opportunity to choose where they learn best in our classroom... and I had a feeling that for most of them it wasn't at a desk. If you read Kayla's article, you'll see some of the completely inspiring photos of how she changed her classroom. Simple options like a bath mat and a clipboard can change your students' entire perspective on how they can work independently and comfortably. 

Without spending more than $15, I was able to transform my classroom into something new. Let's get to the pics!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I asked our custodian to lower these tables for me and they're now a great height for kneeling and sitting at crate seats. They used to have our computers on top of them - I put the computers on student desks instead! The floor cushions are made from $5 vinyl (for easy cleaning) that was 30% off and some foam stuffing my mom had saved (I'm so lucky she is a organized hoarder).

I cleared the top of the cubbies so that if students want to stand they can. The cubbies are also where we keep our book bins and what I've dubbed our "desk bins" - they hold all our notebooks and folders. The random little rocking chair looks kind of silly to me but the kids loved it. I think I got it in a thrift store my first year teaching. I would love to get a moon dish chair so I may or may not be searching Craigslist daily.
The black bins hold supplies -  1 supply box of crayons, glue sponge, and a cup with scissors. Students take as needed. This has been a hard one for me. I have been very particular about how they have retrieved supply bins up until this point. I'm trying to give up some control and see how they handle it. Students often surprise us!

Each of my students has a cup. They pick it up in the morning and put one pencil in it. I blogged previously about how I am winning the pencil war this year. I'm hoping this minor change doesn't throw a wrench in my victory!

It's only day 3 of our new classroom and I can't wait to see how we do for the rest of the school year. My hope is that this freedom gives all of my students - but especially some of my most unmotivated learners - something they may have been missing before at school.

Do you use alternative seating? I would LOVE to hear from you!

Here were my hesitations with bringing alternative seating to my classroom:
- my classroom (portable!) is small
- the boys I secretly really don't want anywhere near each other will always sit together
will I be able to handle my kids having so much freedom?
- what if they can't handle it!?

I'll be blogging about how these are panning out soon!

Friday, September 11, 2015

Five For Friday - September 11th


It's been awhile. I must admit. The demands of being a mom to two and a full-time teacher have proven challenge-worthy! Add two sick kids and a cold for me into the mix and I've been pretty much useless (and using way more swear words than usual). But hey, I'm back and I'm linking up with Doodle Bugs Teaching for Five for Friday!

Blogger was being really stubborn about uploading pictures but I was determined to blog so I added my photos through mobile Blogger and that's why they look so blurry :/  Anywho, DISNEY! My daughter turned 4 and we spent the day at Disney World to celebrate. It's convenient being just 3 hours away by car. Merida was the best meet and greet by far. Facial expressions for days!

She's the best!
I. Am. Winning. THE PENCIL WAR. I don't really even know how it happened. My original plan unraveled pretty quickly once I moved EVERYONE'S desks (on day 6) from tables to a U-shape but this quick fix turned out to be perfect. Each child has a library pocket with their name and student number stapled to the wall below the white board. They get three pencils a week, flagged with their student number and an eraser. If they still have all three pencils, sharp or not, by the end of the day on Friday they get a BIG FUZZY! I used industrial strength Velcro to stick these ugly plastic cups to their desks (THEY DON'T MATCH MY COLOR SCHEME *EYE TWITCHES*) and they keep one pencil, their Expo marker, any coupons they earn with their fuzzies, and a pen (not pictured) which I intend for them to use during Writer's Workshop.

We have been practicing place value and all the different ways to write numbers. Some of my friends really have it down and ALL of my friends love using their Expos on their desks.
This is what I came back to when I missed a day due to my little guy having his first fever. That is supposed to be a U shaped arrangement...There was also a crayon throwing war and extensive hallway races while I was away. Yep, we had to have the TALK pretty early on this year. My class is 70% boys and a whole lot of rowdy. It's going to be challenging year but I've got this. Right???? :O

My daughter started VPK and is really starting to like writing. It's so special to see her handwriting develop!

Woo! I forgot how much I loved blogging. Now I will go blogstalk everyone in the linky party. The ush.

Happy Friday!

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

The Homework Club: Questions Answered


After receiving various emails and questions, I decided to write a follow up post to a guest post I wrote on Education to The Core all about homework, specifically The Homework Club!

I didn't invent the Homework Club. It was something I saw on Pinterest (of course) that I ran with in my own classroom and I found what worked well for me.

I'd also like to throw out there that I don't think homework is the most important thing in the world and I don't assign a lot. It can be daunting on some of our most challenged learners and working in a title 1, I've seen many kids (I'm talking 7 year olds) bear the sole responsibility of getting their homework and sometimes a sibling's homework completed each night. I usually come to understand which kids in my class are facing uphill battles and I take them into consideration. The Homework Club, like any incentive, isn't meant to make anyone feel like they are less but to acknowledge those that put in the extra effort to be responsible for their home learning. Again, if I have a student with a very challenging home life - maybe mom and dad aren't around often - that student's homework expectations may be slightly different. How you set boundaries in your classroom is up to you!

But anyway, homework is a necessary evil so why not try to have some fun with it? Here are a few more details and tips to implementing the Homework Club in your room this coming school year!

Everyone in your class starts out in the Homework Club each month. If a student doesn't turn in their homework, they're out for that month.  In my class, if you didn't complete one night's worth of both math and reading homework you were out of the club for that month.  So that means, some kids will be out on day one. The incentive is to stay in the club - the only way to do that is to do your homework every night. Everyone is automatically in the club again once the next month starts.

I have tried letting kids back in the club after they completed their homework three consecutive times. It was extra work but it might be worth trying if you have a class of kids that give up once they're out of the club early on.

Make a big deal about the lunch! The more prestigious it seems,
the more kids will want to join.

In my room, we had a lunch on the last Friday of the month with a movie and a treat. The Homework Club Lunch. My kids loooved being able to eat on the rug in the classroom and watch a movie or a show of their choosing. And you know kids just love to eat with their teacher! If this is not an option for you, you might consider bringing in a special treat to the lunchroom for your club members.
A sign to place above your pocket chart!
Student numbers for your pocket chart. The file has editable
slides so you can add as many numbers as you need!

In order to keep track of who's turning in homework, you'll need a system in place. For this coming school year, I am making magnets with students' numbers on them and they are on a designated "Homework Club" section of the board. You could also use a pocket chart with numbers. To download my freebie version click on the above pictures or HERE.

You could give just a certificate or a certificate with a HW pass.
Both are included in the freebie!

In my class, if a student doesn't turn in their homework their magnet will be removed. I noticed that after my kids saw that I was holding them accountable in such a blatant way, that more began turning in homework more frequently.
Intermediate students would most likely be successful at handling this for you - you could make it someone's job.

Because I use reading response journals in my classroom, I can easily check in the morning who has done their journaling from the previous night. For math, I give worksheets. I quickly scan through them in the morning to see who has turned their worksheet from that night into the Homework Bin. Here's a tip if you give worksheets of any kind: Start having your kids write their student numbers on the top of their homework near their name so you can correlate the papers to the magnet numbers (or pocket chart numbers if you're using my freebie).  If you're going to be checking journals, have a list on hand so you can check kids off that have their homework done as you're walking around the classroom. A student list (with student numbers) in a dry erase sheet protector will be perfect.

I hope you like using the Homework Club as much as I do! Don't forget to download the Homework Club freebie from my store. If you provide feedback, you'll be eligible to receive any $1 item in my store for free! Details are in the description of the Homework Club download HERE.

Happy last days of summer!

Monday, July 13, 2015

Monday Made It - July 13th
This has been the summer of MOD PODGE!

Pencil Bins  
I'll be using these for each table/group to keep their pencils. I printed the labels and Mod Podged (is that a verb?) them to the inside so they'll last! The font is KG Second Chances Solid and the pencils and grey pencil bins are from Target's Dollar Spot (my second home).

Crayon Organizer
LOVE! I was inspired by this
post by Going Nutty! with Miss Squirrels. I love how she put contrasting colors in the same drawers so they're easily distinguishable. Her whole supply setup is perfection.

Grab the labels I created 
HERE  for free! 
DIY Calendar
I found calendars, two in a pack, at Target for a $1! Although really cute, they didn't match my color scheme (teal, yellow, grey) so they needed a makeover. Luckily, the border is grey so I just had to remove the top.

I cut the days of the week off across the top. Flipped the cut piece, so the white part faced out, and taped to the back. I then used Mod Podge to glue my own design to it. I let them dry and then cut out the visible white parts (step 4) and then applied another coat of sealer. After they dried, I stacked heavy books to flatten the calendar completely (the glue causes the paper to bow a bit as it dries).
I love how it turned out! 
 It's been a crafty summer!

I can't wait to see everyone else's ideas and crafts that linked up!