Let's Talk About Writing

Sunday, August 24, 2014 1 comment
One of the coolest things I have learned in all of my teacher training has got to be Brainies! At the Whole Brain Teaching Conference this summer Chris Biffle introduced this new strategy to us, and I am IN LOVE!

The idea is to teach your students these Brainies and their corresponding hand gestures a little at a time. Then throughout the year students should use Brainies with their speaking while the rest of the class uses mirrors with them too.

I started off by teaching my students the "capital letter", "period", "and", and "because".
Here are the hand motions for these Brainies.

Once your kiddos get really good at Brainies you can begin to teach more. You will find that Chris Biffle has assigned a point value to each Brainie. Students can then work on earning points by using different Brainies in their paper. 

During my first use of Brainies in the classroom, I simply walked around the room with highlighters and circled anytime I saw a student using a Brainie correctly. I then took the papers home, totaled each paper for number of Brainies. The next day, we reviewed Brainies and each student had to beat their total by at least one more Brainie. The results were outstanding! 

This student used 16 Brainies on her first try. The second day, she was able to use 31 Brainies in one story! Also, please remember this is only the 6th day of school!
Her story reads...

Barretts School

I love Barretts school because of my teachers and my friends. I love eating with my friends and having fun. Ada is my best friend because she is nice and pretty. I have a lot of best friends. Me and my friends would sit next to each other we are friends. I love recess because it is fun and cool. I hope you like my story and my friends. I hope you have great friends too. I hope this book inspires you. My teacher is amazing and cool. 

This next story is fantastic too! On this day the students had about 15 minutes to just write and use Brainies. We did not talk about anything related to writing other than the 4 Brainies I had taught them in our mini-lesson. 

This story reads...

Christmas Tooth

On Christmas Eve I was so surprised that I lost my tooth I almost screamed. Then I washed out my mouth and then went to show everybody. When I was done with dinner I had the cake then after the cake I think I could burst. After that I talked and played some. Then my Mom said to give hugs and kisses. Sadly my Mom drove us home. 

I found that my students responded really well to the immediate feedback as they were writing. As I would circle or highlight their Brainies I found that it encouraged them to use even more. As we progress through the year we will add more Brainies and more rules for Brainies, such as you can't start sentences with certain Brainies or you will only get points for the first time you use a Brainie to encourage students to use a variety of Brainies in their writing.

Here's the complete list of all of the Brainies:

Give Brainies a try in your classroom and let me know how it goes! I'd love to see what your students can write.

I Believe In My "Selfie"

Saturday, August 23, 2014 1 comment
Let me just start off by saying how adorable my 2nd graders are. I was so nervous about making the switch down to second grade, but it has been so fun! There's definitely still a lot of learning to do, but I'm catching on...slowly :)

We just finished our 9th day of school yesterday so we're really starting to get into the swing of things. Last week we did one of the most adorable activities with the kiddos...

"I Believe in My Selfie"

I can't take any credit for this one, a teammate of mine found it and passed it on. But boy, it was great! We talked with the students about what things make us unique and how those unique things give us the power to believe in our self. 

The students wrote a short piece on why they believed in themselves, then it got hilarious...each student used the digital camera to take a "selfie". Watching a 7 year old take a selfie has got to be the funniest thing I have ever seen. Most of them were so worried about how to place their head or stretching out their necks. Most everyone asked for a retake lol

To download this activity for your classroom, click HERE.

Have fun! 

The Big Classroom Reveal

Friday, August 8, 2014 7 comments
Let me start by saying I am going to have the best year...ever! Last night was "Sneak a Peek" or supply drop off as many of you may call it (which is why I was finally able to get pictures of my room, because it's DONE!). Anyway, I was nervous to meet all of my new second graders but I was surprised that the night was going pretty smoothly - parents are great, kids are adorable, everyone was in and out with no problems! And then the funniest moment of my life happened. Truly, the funniest. One of my new students stops right in front of me, looks up and says "hmm...I thought you were going to look different." of course I was curious to know what she was expecting, so I asked. She thinks for a moment and then says, "well I thought you'd be a little prettier....and taller...and kinda skinnier..." and in that moment, I knew that this was going to be an unforgettable year with some of the most hilarious kiddos! 

Alright, enough with my stories. Here's the room! 

Next you'll see my Word Wall. I found these fantastic green chevron plates at Michaels on clearance for 50 cents for a pack of 8! I knew I had to have them, but didn't know how or what I would use them for. Turns out they look great on the Word Wall! 

And here comes the Classroom Library... 

I love my editable library labels! You can find them in Tricia Lyday's Teachers Pay Teachers store HERE.

This 7 Habits tree is my favorite! Luckily for me, my boyfriend did most of the hard work! I have gotten so many compliments from staff and parents. I think it really adds to our reading corner and it's going to be a fabulous reminder for the 7 Habits!

Ugh! Check out that glare! But you get the point! Here's my classroom Leaderboard. Each student will decorate a name card on the first day of school. We will move these name cards through the jobs throughout the year. Want to download this for your classroom? Click HERE.

My math centers have the most fabulous labels thanks to Amy Groesbeck! Grab them in her store HERE.

Our cubbies are finally organized and can I tell you how obsessed I am with all of those cabinets?! I have never been so organized.

At the top you can also see a glimpse of my number line (the darn glare, ugh!!). If you want to see more check out Kinder Craze's Teachers Pay Teacher store. You can download them HERE.

Our learning targets are all hanging on 3M hooks so that can be easily changed for each unit. 

Birthday charts brought to you by The Fabulous Life of an Elementary School Teacher. Stop by her Teacher Pay Teachers store to download these for FREE. 

I'm so excited to use my BLACK dry erase board. This picture definitely does NOT do it justice, but it is pretty sweet! I'm going to use this for my Whole Brain Teaching Scoreboard. 

More Whole Brain Teaching goodies! This will be my first year using Super Improvers in the classroom. I'm anxious to see the results! You can download the Super Improvers labels for free by clicking here

I hope you enjoyed gawking at my classroom as much as I LOVE to look at all of your classrooms! I hope you all have a fantastic school year.

$25 TPT Gift Card Giveaway!

Monday, August 4, 2014 No comments

If you haven't heard, the Teachers Pay Teachers Back to School Sale started today!

Head on over to my page to save 28% on everything you need to get your classroom ready for the 2014-2015 school year.

Once you're done shopping make sure you enter to win this $25 TPT Gift Certificate! 
There's many ways to enter, but you will receive 5 additional entries if you purchase something from my store during the BTS Sale!

Hurry and enter! This giveaway only lasts for two days!

June/July SLANT Box

Friday, August 1, 2014 1 comment
The SLANT Box Exchange

This was my first SLANT box exchange I have participated in and it was so much fun! I love getting things in the mail, especially packages, so this was right up my alley :)

I received my FANTASTIC package from Rachel Edson (check out her blog!) and let me tell you what, she hit the nail on the head with this one. I loved everything she included - definitely a box of sunshine!

Here's what my AMAZING box of sunshine included:
-Homemade (extra large) paperclips that will be perfect for my planbook!
-Polka dot mason jar to match my polka dot classroom theme
-Re-useable ice cubes so my drink is always cold, but of course never watered down
-Drink mixes, these will come in handy next week when workshops start up
-Monogram M notecards
-Magnetic picture frame to show off my favorite summer memory
-Running Magazine because "I swear I'm going to get into running"

I can't wait to participate in the next SLANT box! If you're interested in more information or how to participate, check out Lesson With Coffee's blog!

Whole Brain Teaching Workshop: Day 1 - Part 2

Tuesday, July 15, 2014 No comments
In case you missed it! I'm attending the Whole Brain Teaching Workshop in West Memphis, Arkansas. Yesterday I posted about some of the things I learned in Day 1, but there was just too much to cover! Today I'm going to wrap up what I learned during Day 1 of the workshop.

Let's do a quick recap of what we learned during Day 1 - Part 1:

Attention Grabbers:
"Class - Yes"
"Class - Boom"
"Core Knowledge - Yes"

Don't forget, every student should have eyes on the teacher and hands clasped and in lap when they say the call back!

Coach B also wants us to remember to switch up how we say "Class" each time. We need to keep our kiddos guessing. Need help thinking of creative ways to grab their attention, check out this list of 

Big Time Attention Grabbers:
"Hands and Eyes" 
"Hands, Hands, Hands, and Eyes"

Gestures for Everything!
Keep sentences complete, but short. Use gestures and ask students to...
Mirror Words
Silent Mirrors
Magic Mirrors...Ooohh!

Mirrors aren't just for teachers to use! Students should require listeners to use mirrors when they are speaking too.

The 5 Most Important Rules:
*Big thanks to Amy Groesbeck for the awesome posters! Download them at her store.

Okay! On to the rest of the goodies from Day 1!

How Do We Motivate Students to Work Hard?
We motivate students with the Scoreboard. This is your behavior management system. Live it, love it, use it.
You can grab these super cute scoreboards from Second Grade Style on her Blog.

The purpose of the Scoreboard is to reward or take points away based on student behaviors. To earn a smiley face students should be exhibiting behavior at least 2 grade levels above their grade, or at least made to believe they are! But you always want to remember the +/- 3 Rule. You never want your class to be up or down more than 3, so this is where you may end up "creating" good behavior or possibly bad behavior to keep them on their toes. I know, making up bad behavior...seems weird? Coach B swears by it, and if he says do it, I'm doing it! I have drank the Kool-Aid and I am on board the WBT bandwagon! 

So, as Coach B is going on about the Scoreboard I will be honest...the only thought in my mind is how in the world is this going to keep the kids going? There's no tangible reward at the end of the day other than a "good job!". Here's Coach B's advice...when a student asks, "What do we gettttt!?" here's your response..."What do you get at home when you beat a video game? Does Mom buy you a present, no way! You get the satisfaction of winning! Bragging rights! You beat me!" It was then that I realized how smart that sounds! Who knows how it'll work with my second graders this year, but it sure is worth a try.

Watch how this teacher introduces the Scoreboard in her classroom.

Can't see the video? Click Here.

Coach B suggests that we milk the traditional, simple, Scoreboard with no rewards for as long as we can! When they get antsy, we ask them if they want to learn about Level 2?! But of course, we make them work for it! Here's a brief explanation of the variations of the Scoreboard. 

Level 1 - Basic Scoreboard, Reward for Winning is Winning!
Level 2 - Basic Scoreboard divided into Boys Vs. Girls, Reward for Winning is lining up first!
Level 3 - Basic Scoreboard, Reward for Winning is extra credit (not sure if this would work in primary)
Level 4 - Basic Scoreboard, Reward for Winning is 1 minute Extra Recess
Level 5 - Basic Scoreboard, Reward for Winning is Less Homework

To read more about the Scoreboard check out the WBT Website.

How do We Teach Common Core Language Arts and Math Concepts?
We do this with the 5 step lesson plan of course!

We spent A LOT of time practicing this and I still think I will utilize the three-column template (we'll talk about that more later).

Remember yesterday, when we talked about spending too much time talking, and we're losing our kids? Still true. We need to keep our teaching moments down to 2 sentence increments before asking students to turn and teach their partner.

Here is the 5 Step Lesson Template:
1. Question: Ask a question.
2. Answer: Give an answer with a gesture.
3. Expand: Expand the answer with examples and details.
4. Test: QT Test for comprehension.
5. Critical Thinking: Employ critical thinking skills (usually writing).

Now...for all the nitty-gritty details, added today by Coach B of course!
Here is the 5 Step Lesson Template:

1. Question: Ask a question. Don't ask for prior knowledge, it's a waste of time and half the time it's wrong. Don't start a fire, just start teaching! Questions could be, "What is a verb? What in the world is a verb?" Make sure to say it twice with gestures. Then teach-okay! students should mirror your words and gestures with a partner. Use an attention grabber to call the class in before moving on to step 2.

2. Answer: Give an answer with a gesture. Give the answer, but only teach 1 thing at a time. Never introduce two concepts at once. Remember, no more than 2 sentences! Then teach-okay! students should mirror your words and gestures with a partner. Use an attention grabber to call the class in before moving on to step 3. If you need to repeat step 2 and give more answers, go for it...just only teach 1 thing at a time! Continue teach-okay! until you're ready for examples. Use an attention grabber to call the class in before moving on to step 3. 

3. Expand: Expand the answer with examples and details. Do exactly what it says! Give examples, but no more than 1 at a time. Then teach-okay! students should mirror your words and gestures with a partner. During this step you can also use sentence starters and have students fill in the blank to practice with a partner. During this time, you should monitor the classroom and listen as your students teach each other. Use an attention grabber to call the class in before moving on to step 4.

4. Test: QT Test for comprehension. Here's your chance to see who's got it, and who has no clue. QT stands for Quick Test and it is exactly that! No paper, no pens, no grading. Coach B suggests that you have a clipboard with all of your students' names. You can simply check a student if they miss a question. Students should cover their eyes, no peeking! You give true and false statements. Students give a thumbs up for true, thumbs down for false. Coach B says if a student is peeking it's pretty safe to assume they don't know it, just give them the check mark. During this time you can quickly see who will need an intervention or if you should just start all over! haha hopefully that is not the case for you :)

5. Critical Thinking: Employ critical thinking skills (usually writing). Only move to step 5 when your students have it! Usually this will be some kind of writing to prove that they know it. You can also use oral writing strategies with your Brainies (more on those tomorrow)!

If you're a visual person...I don't blame ya, check out Chris Biffle's video below.

Can't see the video? Click Here.

And of Course I Had to Ask This Question at the End...
What in the world do you do when you're out of the classroom and you have a sub? What if the sub doesn't know all of this stuff? 

In my mind I'm thinking...EVERYTHING IS RUINED! WE'RE DOOMED!

But Coach B assured me that that is not the case, thank goodness. He says, a sub should NEVER EVER teach new information. Just plan for your sub to review what you've already taught. He says to make sure that your sub understands the 5 rules, Class-Yes! and Mirror Words. 

I found this fantastic cheat sheet on WBT for substitute teachers. You better believe it's going in my sub tub!

Whew! That was a lot to cover (again), but we learned more. Come back to the blog tomorrow to learn more about using WBT with writing!

All of this information can be found on the Whole Brain Teaching Website.

What's your favorite part of Whole Brain Teaching? Let's hear your success stories!

Whole Brain Teaching Workshop: Day 1 - Part 1

Monday, July 14, 2014 No comments

I am so excited after leaving my first day of the Whole Brain Teaching Workshop. Chris Biffle (in the flesh) was the presenter, and he was AWESOME! It's so amazing that all of the resources are FREE including tons of internet resources. 

Throughout this post I'm going to try to sum up what we learned today and share some strategies you can implement in your classroom. This is going to be a long one, so strap in!

"Teach!" "Okay!"

How Do We Seize Students' Attention?
If you know anything about WBT you have probably have heard of "Class-Yes". This can be used whenever, wherever, to get your students attention. The most important thing we added to this today is to train your students to have their hands in their laps, clasped, when they say "yes". This get's their body ready to listen to what you have to say. 

In addition to "Class-Yes" we learned "Class-Boom" and Core Knowledge-Yes. These two new attention grabbers can be kept in the back pocket, for special occasions, when you really need to switch things up and grab their attention! 

"Class-Boom" goes like this...you say "Class-Boom" and clap hands together on 'boom'. Then, the kiddos respond with "Yes-Boom" and they too, clap hands together & place in lap on 'boom'. This is a good way to get your students really used to clasping their hands together to get their bodies ready to listen.

Finally, Core Knowledge-Yes is a simple yet genius idea! You yell out a question, a fact, a something that your student's should know. "What is 5x5?" Your student's will respond, "5x5 is 25!". Chris Biffle (Coach B) said the reason our kids struggle is because they don't get enough reps, not enough practice. Why not use every precious moment we have to practice our learning?

How Do We Emphasize a Big Point?
While we're on the topic of attention grabbers, let's talk about how we get students' attention when we need to emphasize a BIG point.

Instead of the normal "class-yes" we will say "Hands and Eyes" students will mirror this making sure to focus their hands and eyes on us...wherever we are. This is what Coach B says is our front pocket move, it can be used all the time.

When you need to pull something out of your back pocket, you REALLY need their attention you say, "Hands, hands, hands and eyes!" Students will mirror this again and get their bodies ready to listen. 

How Do We Achieve 100% Student Engagement?
"The more we talk, the more students we lose." -Coach B. That was what really stuck with me today. As teachers, we love to talk, duh that's why we're teachers! But we need to stop. Coach B told us today that we should try to chunk whatever we're saying in 2 sentence increments, no more! You'll lose 'em!

We need to engage students' whole body when we teach so this is where Mirror Words, Silent Mirror, and Magic Mirror come into play! Mirror Words is your front pocket move. You'll want to use this one the most. But, as always, you need to switch it up...keep them guessing! Silent Mirror and Magic Mirror are your back pocket moves.

Silent Mirror is just like it sounds, silent. Your students will mirror your motions as you talk, but they should not repeat your words.

Magic Mirrors...Oooohh! is a fun one! You, the teacher, speak with your hands behind your back. As you speak, your students will repeat you AND create their very own hand motions to go with what you're saying.

Your mind is going to be blown, watch these 3rd graders. Watch as they use Mirror Words when speaking to the class. Can you find a single disengaged kid? I can't. Mirrors are not just for teachers teaching, your students should use them when they are speaking too!

What Are 5 Powerful Classroom Rules?
This is the last essential thing you need to start your year with WBT. Master these and sprinkle the rest in later.

Here we go:

Rule 1: Follow Directions Quickly
Rule 2: Raise Your Hand for Permission to Speak
Rule 3: Raise Your Hand for Permission to Leave Your Seat
Rule 4: Make Smart Choices
Rule 5: Keep Your Dear Teacher Happy!

You better believe there are gestures to go with your classroom rules. Learn them by watching below.

I got the cutest set of classroom rule posters here!

Okay, back to business. Coach B says that when you're teaching the rules you should practice 5 times a day! Anddd that you need to practice the wrong way followed by the right way. This is important for students to see. 

Here's my absolute favorite part of the whole rule procedure! Let's say you, the Almighty Teacher, are talking and one of your friendly students forgets to raise his hand and blurts the answer right out! (like that ever happens?) You simply say rule 2 and gesture a 2 in the air. Your entire class will repeat rule 2, showing and reminding that student of the correct procedure. I love this because everything is a learning experience. Your students are helping each other to learn and reinforce the classroom rules. You can gesture any of your rules and teach your entire class to recite them when necessary.

My favorite was when Coach B said if you have a student who loves to talk back, rather than responding to him or her, just hold up your 5 fingers and say "Class, What's Rule 5?" Your students will rattle off "Keep Your Dear Teacher Happy". Coach B says that your disrespectful students won't like to be working against his "homies" and his "homies" have your back as the teacher. With luck, that disrespectful student will join his "homies" and support you too!

Whew! That was a lot to cover, but we learned more. Come back to the blog tomorrow to learn more about the Scoreboard, the 5 Step Lesson Plan and what to do when you have a Sub!

All of this information can be found on the Whole Brain Teaching Website.

What's your favorite part of Whole Brain Teaching? Let's hear your success stories!

Amazon Wish Lists in the Classroom

Monday, June 30, 2014 5 comments
Do you have a list of books that you'd love to have for your students but you just can't keep pouring your own money into your classroom library? Do you go through dry erase markers like they grow on trees?

You need to create an Amazon Wish List!

Amazon Wish Lists are great for asking for specific supplies for your classroom. It's simple and easy to share the link to your Wish List via Social Media, emails, letters, blogs, etc. too.

First, you need to create an Amazon account. If you don't have one already [click here]. 

Next you'll want to create your Wish List. 
You'll see this button on the far right hand side of your screen. Click the drop down button and choose 'Create A Wish List'.

You then need to choose if your list is for you, a friend, or a child. I created my list for me. 

Give your list a fun name, and be sure to include a description. I was sure to write where I graduated from, any degrees I hold, where and what I teach.

Now your Wish List is done! Here's the fun part, you get to begin shopping for your classroom! Simply search Amazon as if you were looking to buy something. On the right hand side, you'll choose 'Add To Wish List'. This is located underneath the 'Add to Cart' button. You can even choose from a drop down list if you create multiple lists.

Finally, you need to share your Wish List. As a first year teacher last year, I shared mine with family members and friends. Most of my loved ones realized how hard setting up a classroom was when you're starting from scratch and they were happy to help. Also, after checking with your administration, you could include the link to your Classroom Wish List in your weekly newsletters or even on your classroom site. I have my Wish List linked up on my Blog, my Facebook, and I will send this to friends and family again this year around Christmas time.

Do you have a Wish List? How do you use it in your classroom? Who do you share it with?

Leave your link in the comments! 

Giveaway Time

Thursday, June 26, 2014 1 comment

I'm so excited to have teamed up with Ms. 3rd Grade to celebrate some fantastic milestones!

From Mrs. 3rd Gradeherself,

"I am so excited for how far I have come on this journey! I started this journey hoping to make some things for my classroom, and to make new things for my students. I never imagined so many people would want to know what I have to say! Thank you all!!

I am so happy with this giveaway!! I have some AMAZING products to share with you valuing over $80!!

HEY! That's me :)

The amazing teachers that have teamed up with me for this giveaway are offering you some amazing products!  Make sure to check each of them out to see what they have to offer for you!!  The giveaway will run today through Sunday night!!  I will announce the winner on Monday!!"

Good Luck!

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