Monday, July 27, 2015

6 Meaningful Student Investment Strategies

What's your why? 

Why is it that you teach? 

What wakes you up every morning and brings you into the classroom?

If you have lost sight of your why it can be very easy to lose your focus and passion for teaching. It is the same with our students. If they do not have a why or a reason for being in school they lose their motivation and investment in school.

In this blog post I am excited to share some insights about student investment strategies that I learned during my first week of summer PD.

In the previous video Eric Thomas shares with football players the importance of the big picture. He shares with these young athletes the power and desire that comes from working towards a goal that is driven by a why. He states that if you do not have a why you are not going to work as hard as someone who's passion and goals are deeply rooted in a why. 

As teachers this rings true for our students as well. If the students are not driven by a why it will be very difficult to get them to buy into what we are doing in our classrooms. This is especially true these first few weeks of school. We want our students to get on board as quickly as possible, because we know that investment is crucial for the success of our students. 

Teach for America identified six keys to meaningful student investment:

1. "I Can" Succeed
It is very important to emphasis the collective responsibility of the class. Our class mantra should be that everything we do has an impact on our collective group. Take some time to explain individual student roles as well as the collective role of the class. Continually share with students your role as their coach this year. Emphasis to students that they can succeed, and that you are there to help.
2. "I Want"
Once you have established that the students can succeed you want them to want it for themselves. Create big goals and share them with your students. Chunk large goals into smaller goals and scaffolded along the way when needed. Give students authentic tasks that are connected to the community. Show students how these goals connect with goals they have for themselves. 

3. Role Models
Utilize students' role models. These can be community role models, pop culture role models, people from history, or other students in the classroom or school community. Invite people from the community into your classroom to make learning real to students. Invest students with the work ethic of their favorite celebrity. Share about a famous person from history. I like to use Ruby Bridges with my third graders. Explain to students how they can be role models in the classroom or school, and make an example of students who rise to the occasion. 

4. Reinforce Efforts
Provide students with positive reinforcement when they reach their goals. This should be in the form of intrinsic rather than extrinsic motivation. Get creative! Have students earn a guest speaker or other classroom celebration. Last year my students loved to earn glow stick dance parties for filling up our compliment jar. Get student input to invest students even more. Whatever you select be sure that it is something that you can keep up with and BE CONSISTENT! 

5. Welcoming Environment
Open up your classroom for families to visit. I know that this may seem scary to some of us. However, the more families are informed of what is going on the more that they are able to help. Invite parents in for student projects and performances. Parents love these kind of events, and students love their parents to be involved. This leads into the final investment strategy. 

6. Invest Families
Make sure that everything you do has a reason, and be sure to communicate that reason to your students and families. Make an effort to be aware of the community in which you teach and be in the community as much as possible. Communicate with parents what is happening in the classroom through newsletters as well as phone calls on a regular basis. There are also several apps available to help you keep in contact with parents.

Finally, invest students to the point that they are so excited they just can't help sharing what they are learning with their family!

What do you do to invest students in their learning?


I hope you have found this blog post helpful. To stay connected with Carly and Adam's teaching tips and classroom freebies be sure to follow us on FacebookPinterestTeachers Pay Teachers, and subscribe to our blog!

Monday, July 20, 2015

5 Things You Need to Know When Taking Over a Class

With only five years of teaching experience I know that I still have a lot to learn about teaching. However, when it comes to taking over a class after the year has begun, that is a topic I feel I have earned the right to speak from experience.

Out of my five years teaching I have spent one of those as a building sub including teaching the first week of a kindergarten maternity leave. The year after that I took over a second grade class three weeks into the school year. The following year I took over a third grade class two weeks into the school year.

I found that the more I took over classes the easier it became, and by the end of that year in third grade I really felt that I had completely transformed that class. I guess the third time is the charm.

If you are preparing to take over a class, here are the five things you need to know:

1. Build Relationships
It is very important to build relationships with your students whether you start out with them on the first day or take over a class later in the year. The students will be more likely to get on board with any changes you are making if they know that you care and want what's best for them.

How to Do It: One way that I built relationships with students was by taking small groups into the classroom during lunch to eat with me. During these mini lunch bunches I would ask the students questions to get to know them better. Other great times to connect with students are at recess, breakfast, and dismissal. Simply taking time to get to know and follow up with students goes a long way.

2. Allow for Student Input
When taking over a class it is important to recognize that the students have been used to a certain way of doing things. That doesn't mean that you need to continue all of the same routines and procedures. However, not all of the routines and procedures may need to be changed. A great way to invest students in the classroom is to let them contribute suggestions as to what things need changed and what seems to be working fine.

How to Do It: I would hold a class meeting with the students to discuss what things are going well and what the students would like to see changed. During this meeting I also had students set expectations for me as well as expectations for each other. We called these expectations our non-negotiables.

3. Be Consistent
Once you and your students have decided on the expectations together it is important to be sure that you are following through. If you are not consistent it will be very easy for your classroom management system to fall apart.

How to Do It: While you collaborate with students on the classroom routines and procedures spend some time having students come up with the consequences for breaking procedures. You will find it easier to give out a consequence to a student that they agreed to, and the students will be more accepting of the consequence since they had some ownership in it.

4. Build Community
I know that it can be tempting to want to jump right in to the curriculum when taking over a class to either keep the momentum going or to get students back on track. However, investing time building a strong classroom community will save you many headaches down the road.

How to Do It: Classroom community can be built by designating a portion of your morning meeting time for students to greet one another, share about themselves, and role play how to effectively communicate. You can also incorporate team building games and challenges.

5. Set High Expectations

When taking over a class it is important to make it clear that things will be different from the previous teacher. Also give students clear expectations, like the non-negotiables I discussed earlier.
The students will rise to your level of expectations. If you expect them to do something they will. If you don't expect them to be able to do something they won't.

How to Do It: As you set those expectations and non-negotiables be sure to explain the why along with the what. Let students know why you have such high expectations for them. Last year I talked a lot with my students about their responsibility as leaders in the school as the second oldest grade. I was so pleased to watch them rise to the challenge throughout the year.

What do you feel is important to do at the beginning of the school or when taking over a class?


I hope you have found this blog post helpful. To stay connected with Carly and Adam's teaching tips and classroom freebies be sure to follow us on FacebookPinterestTeachers Pay Teachers, and subscribe to our blog!

Monday, July 13, 2015

Wonder-ing About Which Read Aloud to Select This School Year?

It was August, two weeks into the school year. I had just found out that I was taking over the third grade class. It was a very exciting opportunity! While I was thrilled, from my interactions with this class, I knew that I had my work cut out for me.

This would not be the first time that I had taken over a class a couple weeks into the school year. In my experience I knew that in order to get this class back on track I needed to not only set firm expectations, but also build a strong sense of community.

The weekend before taking the position I set out to look for a good read-aloud to help build that classroom community. I knew that this class was very diverse and part of the diversity included a student with autism. I wanted to find a book that helped my students embrace diversity. I wanted them to begin to not only understand but appreciate the differences of their peers.

I began my search by browsing through several Pinterest suggestions. This was followed by a trip to the store for further research. As I read the back of multiple novels in the store one novel caught my attention immediately. The cover had a cartoon face of a boy with one eye. As I read the back I knew that this was the book I had been searching for.

The novel that I picked up was Wonder by RJ Palacio. It follows the story of August "Auggie" Pullman, a 10-year old living with a facial deformity. Due to his disability Auggie has been homeschooled most of his life. However, as he enters middle school his parents decide to enroll him in a private school known as Beecher Prep. The story follows Auggie's journey through this difficult transition. Each section is told from a different character's perspective, which is great for discussions about point of view.

However, my favorite part about reading this novel to my class was that it opened the door to a lot of great conversations about bullying and how to treat others with kindness. My favorite memory of reading Wonder to my kids happened on the day we finished the story. One of my students suggested that we have a class group hug. I guess I got that classroom community that I was looking for.

I would highly suggest using this story as a read-aloud in your classroom.  I used it with my third graders, but I feel that it would make a great read-aloud for older grades as well.

What are your favorite classroom read-alouds?


I hope you have found this blog post helpful. To stay connected with Carly and Adam's teaching tips and classroom freebies be sure to follow us on FacebookPinterestTeachers Pay Teachers, and subscribe to our blog!

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

10 Ways to Use Shaving Cream in the Classroom

"Are we going to be using shaving cream today?"

This was a question my students asked almost daily. Shaving cream is one of the most fun teaching tools I have discovered. My students get so excited when they see me getting it out.

There are multiple uses for this relatively inexpensive magical foam. To get started all you need to do is go to your local grocery store or pharmacy and pick up a bottle of shaving cream. Make sure that you purchase a foam cream rather than gel. The foam tends to be less sticky. Below I have listed ten examples of how I have used shaving cream in my classroom.

1. Brain Breaks
Spray a small amount on students desks and let them draw or write in it.

2. Behavior Rewards
For my students on a Reflective Behavior Plan (free in my TPT store) one of the rewards that they could earn for meeting their goal was a break to play with shaving cream.

3. Calm Down
Last year I had a couple students who struggled to calm down coming back inside from recess. I would set a timer and give them a calm down break where they played with shaving cream.

4. Cleaning Desks
Shaving cream is fun method for cleaning desks. It gets students up and moving while serving a purpose.

5. Classroom Celebrations
It is fun to break out the shaving cream during celebrations or even after celebrations to clean the tables. You could even have a shaving cream fight during field day or as an end of the school year activity.

6. Spelling Practice
Have students use shaving cream rather than whiteboards to practice spelling words.

7. Quick Checks
Use shaving cream like a whiteboard for students to answer questions. Use the questions as quick checks to gauge student understanding.

8. Sight Word Practice
Have students practice writing sight words in shaving cream.

9. Vocabulary Practice
Give students a definition and have them write the vocabulary word in shaving cream.

10. During Math or Literacy Warm Up
Have students warm up before math or literacy by practicing previous concepts or key fundamentals using shaving cream. In my classroom at the start of guided reading I would have my low reading group write the letters and blends from their ABC chart in shaving cream while saying the sounds. This was a fun warm up that helped students practice their reading fundamentals.

What ways have you used shaving cream in your classroom? Let me know in the comments below.


I hope you have found this blog post helpful. To stay connected with Carly and Adam's teaching tips and classroom freebies be sure to follow us on FacebookPinterestTeachers Pay Teachers, and subscribe to our blog!