I can't even believe we are getting so close to Christmas break! I have 8 days left....8 long days! This time of year is so stressful, remembering to buy gifts for friends and family but then also your students. This has been my go-to present for my students for the last few years. 
My students always love this and it's so quick and easy. I buy Dollar Store mugs and fill them with hot cocoa packets, candy canes and little baggies of mini marshmallows. I usually put the mugs in clear gift bags and attach a tag. Done. One reason why I like this is because all of my students can receive one, no matter what holiday they celebrate.

And you can print the tags for your class too! Click the pic to download:
I can't wait for these next 8 days to zoom by, Christmas break can't get here soon enough. I hope your last few days go by fast too!


Let's face it, having Halloween on a Monday is NOT going to be a teacher's favorite day! I dread this day more than the day before a vacation! Not only is Monday going to be challenge but the day after is going to be worse. But there are a few things we can do to get through these days, because if you can't fight 'em, then join 'em.

First, be prepared! Don't plan on doing anything new. This is not the day to start introducing new concepts. Students that participate in trick or treating are going to be tired the day after and students who do not, might feel left out of all the fun. It could be hard to navigate. Give students extra recess time or some free time, like extra quiet reading and writing time. Better yet, if the weather is nice...try taking your lessons outside. Fresh air will do everyone some good.

Second, have some fun activities to do. Have students all bring in one piece of candy (you can bring in extras for your students who do not bring in a piece) and do some fun sorting and graphing activities, like in this activity pack.There is math, writing and a "Find Someone Who" that will work for everyone in class. (Even your non-trick or treaters can join in.)
Third, try a STEM activity. This is a great way to get students working together and yet learning about the STEM/Engineering design process and the Scientific Method. 
Either way, with a little prep and you'll make it through just fine! Have a happy Halloween.

I still have my desks....I know the current trend is all about ditching the desks and implementing flexible seating. I just feel like for my room, every student needs a consistent seat at a desk. With that being said, I continue to focus on Flexible and Collaborative Learning Spaces. We definitely don't stay at our desks all day! Movement is still so important and keeping students active and engaged. 
So in the meantime, since my desks are arranged in groups...I use this to my advantage! I love to reward my teams with points during the week (I use Class Dojo) then reward the group with the most points. My favorite reward is to "eat with the teacher". They love it and it costs me nothing but my time. The super fun part is.....I let them choose their group names. Every couple of weeks, I usually rearrange desks, then I decide how we are going to name our groups. Here is a list of ways to name groups:
The students love working together to decide on their group names, this week we are candy names like the Smarties, Lifesavers, Herseys, Poprocks, and Tootsie Rolls! 

I got those cute little chalkboard labels from the Target Dollar spot, just write on them with a chalk marker. This makes it easy to rearrange groups. Works like a charm to get everyone working together as a team!


So there it is....It might be a little controversial but I made a big decision last year to switch from using composition books to binders for my students' Writer's Notebooks. 

Here was my struggle, my students wrote during writer's workshop, but often times during my mini lesson I had a list of transitions or vivid verbs......where were they to keep it? So I tried using a folder and a comp. notebook. It was just too much. Students were not using the references I gave them when they were writing.

The Writer's binder was born. Now when we get a graphic organizer, a list of transitions or have a mini-lesson on writing great grabbers, it all here in one place. They have a section for mini-lessons, seed ideas, word lists, rough drafts and published pieces. It worked like a charm! To prepare for this year, I typed up all of the resources I might need (but since it's a binder we can always add things as we go along) and I am so excited to share it with you! The cover comes editable. After you print their name on it, they can decorate it and make it their own. Last year, I did this as a home project so they could add stickers, photos, or anything they wanted.

The divider sections, I put into page protectors. Then as you need the various pages and mini-lessons you print and hand them out to add to their binders. Doing a lesson on using more adjectives in student's writing? Then add that page to their notebooks. You can get your copy by clicking on the picture:
And....just in time for Back to School, TpT is having a sale! 
Hope it's your BEST YEAR EVER!!

This morning I read this excellent article Recess Is Not A Privilege, Stop Taking It Away and it really got me thinking! So, instead of taking away recess as a punishment, what can we do? Often we think this is the only consequence that can influence kids to listen or act they way we want them to. But it doesn't work!! Sitting out at recess will not get the work done that they have been dragging their heels on in class, it won't stop the disruptive behaviors and it won't bring in the forgotten homework. But I still see this practice happening in my school, heck I even stoop to it when I get super exasperated with a kid from time to time.  So what should or can we do INSTEAD?? 

Here's what we can be doing, what is really the most effective and long term ways to deal with students. Mostly these are what we know to be "best practices" but it helps to have reminders going into a new school year!
You know this! But consistency is so important! Make sure your school has a solid behavior plan in place and stick with it. We are a PBIS school, the buy-in hasn't been easy but it is working. The one part of PBIS that I love is the refocus. If you are not familiar with refocus, it is similar to a time-out. The student leaves to reflect on his/her behavior then comes back when he or she is ready to reenter the room and return to work. It works really well. We also have a great system of rewarding kids and recognizing kids doing a great job in every area of our school. In other words, catch them doing good!
So many kids act out to get attention. They are not getting what they need at home so they are going to demand it from you at school. Sometimes it just takes a few extra minutes to touch base with them in the morning to see how they are doing, how are they feeling, start off the day on a positive note. This article about school discipline had the best quote, "we spent a lot of time trying to diagnose children by talking to each other," D'Aran says. "Now we're talking to the child and really believing the child when they say what the problems are." Every year I have students who don't do their homework because they have to either watch little brothers or sisters, go to work with mom or dad or other problems that would break your heart! Could I get upset that they don't do their homework? Yes. Should they do their homework at recess? No, it's my job to help them. I usually give them time before class begins to try and get it done. 
If a student does break a school rule, the consequences should fit the rule that was broken. The only time I have students sit at recess is when kids are fighting or arguing on the playground. Sometimes a few minutes of sitting and cooling off is what everyone needs. At my school we don't have large scale fist fights that often, that would mean immediately going to the office. But my boys argue a lot about the games they play, ie kick ball and soccer! So I showed them a few YouTube videos on how to actually play those games correctly so that everyone would know all the rules! This helped the arguing a lot.
This last one is HUGE! If you are going to draw a line in the sand, you better be prepared not to cross it. Don't get caught in the control game. If you spend more time trying to control everyone and everything, you are not going to teach your students the self-control they need to be successful in school and in life! 

Last but not least, give your students some voice and some choice. If they need to stand to work, let them. They will get more work finished. After my mini-lesson, my class works on the floor, around the room on tables, at their desks where ever they can work well. giving students choice lets them take ownership in their work and their classroom. 

I recently presented at my county's Digital Learning Conference and my topic was Student Engagement. I love technology and this was huge for me! My presentation was on some tech tools that you could use besides Kahoot!....because let's face it, we all love Kahoot! But like anything if you overuse it, it will get old. So I presented some new websites and also some old ones you might have heard of but they've added some new features. Here's a quick run down of these websites.  

Kahoot: Of course, it's awesome...but now they've added a new team feature! Kids just love this and there are thousands of public Kahoots posted. It saves so much time.

Quizlet: Also a website lots of teachers have used for a long time. It has thousands of card sets already uploaded by teachers. The newest feature though is AMAZING...they have added Quizlet Live. It's a fun quiz game that randomly puts students into groups. (My own personal children came home from school telling me how fun this was!)

Today's Meet: It is an online chat room. I have blogged about how I use this and I still love it. You can read more here.

Quizziz: This is like Kahoot, the best thing about Quizziz is that you can assign the "game" or quiz for homework and leave it open for a period of time. I love this!

Zaption: Zaption allows you to insert a variety of questions into a video clip. You just pause the video where you want to and insert your question. There are many different platforms from which you can get videos and it is so easy to use. Awesome for flipped classroom.

Nearpod: Nearpod is not new but if you've never played around with it. It is an awesome way to present a lesson. You design a slide show and you can insert a variety of ways students can respond. There are some free presentations to upload or you can also purchase pre-made ones.

Formative: Formative is a great way to assess students, one thing I loved about this is you can upload a pdf and students can answer questions right on the pdf. What a great way to reduce the amount of paper we use!

GoSoapBox: Probably one of the easiest tools to use, you can create quizzes, discussions and polls very quickly and students respond using a quick code. I use this one frequently in my classroom.

Padlet: Padlet is a great tool for students to use, it is easy to embed in your own website. Students can see each others posts. (Which they love!) I use this one when I ask my students to take a picture of something they have been working on and post it on a board.

What tech tools are you planning on using next school year?? 
Is this your class?? Or even your children at home?? I just can't even deal with this! We all get into our centers, I sit down with my guided reading group or math small group and out of the corner of my eye I see two students arguing over who's going to go first in a game or who's going to read first...yada yada yada.

So here's a great way to END these arguments before they even start! 

Hang this up and then each day, move the clothes pin down to a different way to choose "Who Goes First". You could even put a copy in each center or area of your room, and presto....No arguments!   

You can get your copy here

I admit...this has been my first free weekend, school's over and we have had no planned activities. And I'm having a hard time turning off my teacher brain. It's hard to go from 100 to 0 just like that. I feel like I've been on overload and now I just can't relax! So I decided to make a little list for myself on things I can do to unwind that are not school related. I know there's plenty to do to get ready for next school year, but I really do need to take time for me!

So here goes my list:
1: Read for pleasure. This is the first book on my list. I love Jen Hatmaker, she's hilarious..so I am looking forward to this.
2. Spend some time doing fun things with my kids. So far we've been to the pool every day this weekend and we went to see the Angry Birds movie. (It was dumb, but they loved it!)

3. Organize my closets! Now I know this doesn't sound like fun for every one but I love it. I get such a feeling of accomplishment cleaning out stuff! I think I'll also tackle the playroom....but shhh, don't tell my kids.

4. Eat healthy! I eat so bad during the school year. Let's face it, school lunch stinks. We spend too many nights eating out too. I've already gone to the store and stocked up on lots of fruits and veggies and we've eaten cooked at home every night.

5. Here's for some relaxtion...Netflix. I never take advantage of all that there is to offer and I'm going to binge watch some TV shows this summer. Any recommendations for me??

I hope you get to relax this summer and can turn of your "teacher brain"!

I can't believe we are getting down to the wire here! Only 3 days left of school for us....I whipped up these cute photo props for my own personal kiddo. But it would also fun to do in class. 
Get yours here:

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Countdown!! I only have 6 more days left of school! But seriously, these are the most challenging days to fill with activities that keep students busy and not off task and crazy. Hop on over to The Primary Peach, I shared some ideas for keeping your students engaged and hopefully out of trouble!

How many ideas do you have left in your year?

So maybe you plan ahead.....or maybe you are like me and woke up in a cold sweat a few nights ago remembering Mother's Day is coming up and wanted something easy and different??? Yes, that was me. For some strange reason I never, ever do the same thing two years in a row. Last year I made these adorable thumbprint necklace from Lory Evans. They were a huge hit but I just didn't have it in me this year to do something so involved.
So, I came up with something so cheap and easy! All you need is popsicle (craft) sticks and buttons. I found colored craft sticks but you could easily do it with any colored sticks and any color buttons.
Then print out this cute poem and glue a magnet on the back for their moms to put on the fridge and you are done!
"Mothers are like buttons, they hold everything together."
I know my student's moms will love it! 
This is a huge day! We are celebrating today with The Primary Peach for it's one year Blogiversary! 
And we are celebrating big time! Hop on over to the Peach to enter to win an Erin Condren planner and also to snatch up some great freebies.
The freebie I have for you today is some Teacher Appreciate thank you cards. This time of year, I love to have my class write cards to all their specials teachers to give them a little thanks for all they do. These specials folks often get overlooked when it comes to being appreciated.
click the picture to get your freebie!
Don't forget to get back over to The Primary Peach and get your freebies and thank you for following us! We really do appreciate you!

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We are really gearing up for our state testing next week! But this time of year can really be stressful for students. As  teachers, we need to address test anxiety and try our best to calm the fears of our students. If our students feel prepared and at ease, obviously they will do better on their tests. As much as we all regret the amount of testing we have these days, for now they are here to stay.

I love to read my student books, this helps them relate to the feelings they might be having. We can talk about the book without calling anyone "out" and embarrassing them.

My other strategy is to show some "pump-up" videos. You tube has some great ones...I just searched our test, the Georgia Milestones and found some fun videos my class will love. This will really get them ready to test.

So now, we helped the kids with their stress. What about our stress?? This time of year can be so overwhelming. There is so much going on! I love this post at Edutopia. There are some great reminders on how we can take care of ourselves. 

Don't forget, take time for you!

I just can't even believe it's Sharing Sunday already! We decided to post up a week early since next Sunday is  Easter and probably most folks will be spending time with family, rather than planning.

My April and also here at the end of March it's crunch time! We do not have Spring Break for a couple more weeks and we are prepping big time for our big tests. We have the Georgia Milestones here in our state (I am sure no matter where you are, you are all too familiar with state testing) Here's some test prep freebies to help out:
click on the pictures to download a pdf with clickable links
We also still have a ton of curriculum to squeeze in before the big test. Our math unit this month is all measurement and line plots and after weeks and weeks of fractions, I love getting out the rulers. It is a welcome change!
And finally, after Spring Break...and I can not wait until we get a vacation, here are some fun things to do:
Do you teach in Georgia? I have some Milestones Prep packets you might love, herehere and here

Please be sure to check out the other Sharing Sunday posts, everyone will have some great ideas and freebies to share.
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Do you love St. Patrick's Day? I am not one of those teachers that get too into this holiday but I know some who really, really do! I just blogged about a really easy and super fun trick to play on your kids this St. Patrick's Day. Hop on over to The Primary Peach and check it out! 
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Literally, the end of this board walk is how far away my Spring Break feels right now! Here in Georgia we don't have Spring Break until the first full week in April! Whether you have a vacation soon or in a few weeks it is such a hard time of year to keep students engaged and not crazy people! I have a few tricks up my sleeve that I pull out at this time of the year....many of you know these all too well! But it doesn't hurt to make a quick list:

1: Change seats and change them often! I swear this is my number one trick for getting things quiet. It just doesn't last though!

2: Have morning work out and ready to go, at this point I even add a little more because they are getting their work done a little quicker. So I don't give them time to rush through and start their "chat" session.

3: Collaboration! Give them lots of opportunities for partner work and group work, this gets them get up out of their seats.

4. Choice boards and project based learning...this is the best time for this type of learning. It's active and gives students choices in the activities that fit their own learning styles. Research projects and technology project are awesome for this time of year!

5. Brain break. Ok, that's a given. But sometimes I get so wrapped up in what we are doing we forget to stop and take a break.

6. More work...this one may be a little against what some people do however, in my experience it is better to keep students working and focused. The more downtime, the more time to get crazy. So I over plan. I have lots of work planned, not busy work mind you. Just lots of things to be done.

These are the things that will help get me through until April....it's going to be a long 3 weeks though I will admit! Would you add anything to my list??
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Does your grade level plan as a team? In my school, we are "highly" encouraged to collaboratively plan. At first I absolutely hated it, I usually am a "shut the door and do my own thing" kind of teacher. But I realized a few things....first of all, I wasn't sure I was covering everything that my team was and in the time frame I was supposed to. Second, it is much harder and more time consuming to do it all, ALL by myself. By working together in planning partners, we can be "experts" in our certain subject. Then we make sure we are all covering the standards.

The big problem we encountered though, was everyone was using their own personal lesson plan template. It took so much time to then copy and paste everyone's plans into our own format.

The solution came in the form of Planbook.com! We set up a grade level planbook using a gmail address. Then each planning team can enter plans for their subject. Then each person has an account for their own planbook. All we have to do then is import plans into our own planbook. Obviously each teacher tweeks the lessons to fit their own class but it saves so much time to work collaboratively!

Some tips for using planbook.com:
  • More than one teacher can work in the planbook at a time. (just hit the refresh button to see what's been entered)
  • They have great video tutorials to help you set up your planbook and learn how to import plans from another teacher.
  • They also have GREAT customer service. If you have any questions, they get right back to you to answer them.
  • It is very easy to enter your state's standards for each lesson.
  • You can upload attachments and links to videos or websites.
  •  You can easily bump a lesson if you don't have time to get to it, and copying or deleting lessons is also really easy.
Check out planbook, it will save you so much planning time! 

I just wrote wrote a post on The Primary Peach to help with a last minute activity for Valentine's Day and Dental Health....check it out!

Happy Valentine's Day!!
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