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?? 
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