Wednesday, June 17, 2015

School Year Calendar 2015 - 2016 Freebie

When I was teaching, I searched and searched to find the perfect calendar to use with my students, but I just couldn't find one that I liked. I needed 8 1/2 x 11 portrait-style pages that would fit in a 3-ring binder, and I also wanted large blocks for writing in the dates and events. Eventually I gave up the search and decided to make my own. To create more space for writing on the weekdays, I made skinny blocks on the weekends. It turned out to be exactly what I needed! When I started my Teaching Resources website, I decided to share it with other teachers and it was a hit with them, too!

The School Year Calendar starts with July of one year and ends with June of the following year. Each year in June I update the calendar with the correct dates as well as new clipart and fonts to give it a fresh look. The calendar pages are in color, but if you prefer black and white copies, just change your printer settings to the B&W mode.

Calendar Use Suggestions
After I began using these calendar pages with my students, I realized that they also make great planning tools for creating a thematic unit or planning with others teachers. Throughout the year, I discovered more and more ways to use this calendar until it became almost indispensable! Here's a list that might help spark some of your own ideas:
  • Instructional Planning 
  • Personal Meeting Planner 
  • Literature Circle Schedules
  • Attendance Graphing
  • Project Planning and Organization
  • Homework Planner 
  • Classroom Event Calendar
Have you used this freebie before? How do you use the calendar pages? Please share some ideas in a comment below.

Where to Get The Free School Year Calendar
Right now this calendar is only available to subscribers of my free newsletter, Candler's Classroom Connections. If you are already signed up, check the most recent issue for a link to the Newsletter Exclusive Freebies page which is where you'll find this calendar. If you are not a subscriber, click the image on the right to learn how to sign up. When you receive the welcome message, click the link to the subscriber freebies page to find the calendar and several other terrific free resources! If you don't get a welcome message, check your email folders to see if it got filtered out. If you still can't find it, the only fix is to try a different email address.
I hope you find the School Year Calendar to be helpful! Visit Teaching Resources for more free materials to help you get organized for the coming school year!

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

The Magic Solution to Missing Assignments

Fun Friday Works Like Magic!

One my biggest struggles as a 5th grade teacher was getting kids to do their homework. I'm guessing you can relate! I was never a fan of loading kids up with homework, but I did expect them to complete whatever was assigned. Most of my homework was finishing classwork, returning a signed paper, or reading for 20 to 30 minutes. Yet precious minutes of class time were wasted every day while kids looked for missing assignments or worse, wasted my time trying to explain why they didn’t have it.

Then I discovered the magic solution to missing homework... Fun Friday! I can’t take credit for the idea, but I can tell you that it works! It was definitely the most effective system I've ever used for dealing with the problem of missing assignments.

How Fun Friday Works
Fun Friday is a weekly event that 3 or 4 teachers organize and implement together. On Friday afternoon, each teacher hosts one activity in his or her classroom for 30 minutes. One or two teachers take a group of students out to play or organize indoor recess activities. Another teacher hosts a free time in the classroom where students play board games, draw on the Smartboard, use iPads or play with a class pet. Sometimes a teacher will offer a special arts and crafts activity.

At least one teacher supervises a “study hall.”Students who have not completed all homework for the week attend the Study Hall and use that time to make up missing work. Each week teachers rotate activities so that all share the responsibilities equally.

If there aren't 3 or 4 teachers at your school who want to participate in Fun Friday, you can implement the program with just two teachers. One will take students outside or provide indoor recess, and the other will split his or her room between a study hall and a quiet reading or game room.

Why Fun Friday Works
My students loved Fun Friday and looked forward to the chance to get together with friends in other classrooms. It was one of the few rewards that actually motivated them to complete every single assignment all week. I kept a homework chart where I checked off those who completed all assignments for the week, and I was pretty strict with my requirements for Fun Friday. If a student even had one missing or late assignment during the week, they went to Study Hall. If you think this is a bit extreme, let me say that after just a few weeks of implementing Fun Friday, most kids would earn it every week. I was amazed at the difference this program made and how much time it saved me from dealing with late and missing assignments.

Fun Friday Sign-up Freebie
One thing that helped make Fun Friday easy to implement was a sign up chart. Right after lunch on Friday, I allowed those who had completed all assignments to sign up for their preference of activities. I’ve created several variations for you to try that you can download for free from the Odds 'N Ends page on my Teaching Resources website.

Convincing Administrators
Over the years I did have a few principals who needed to be convinced that the 30 minutes we devoted to Fun Friday were not wasted. My rationale was that we easily made up this time by not having to deal with missing and late assignments all week. Also, everyone, teachers and students alike, are downright brain-dead by the time Friday afternoon rolls around! Have you ever seriously tried to teach a lesson on a Friday afternoon? Trust me, it’s a wasted effort. You’ll just have to reteach it on Monday!

Do you implement a similar program in your classroom? Have you found it to be effective? If you haven't tried it, I hope you'll test it out. I believe you'll discover the magic of Fun Friday, too!

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

5 Fun Ways Pets Can Help Children Learn All Summer

Guest post by Christina Berry from The Lazy Pit Bull

This is the time of year when teachers and parents alike begin to wonder what they can do to help students keep their academic skills sharp all summer long. Is there a way to keep kids active and entertained while also engaging them in learning activities? There sure is, and you might be surprised to know that it’s the family pet that can make all the difference for kids this summer.

If your students – or their parents – are asking you for ideas for staying busy this summer, suggest that they try enlisting the help of some pets – their own as well as shelter pets and neighborhood pets - to keep kids reading, writing, and doing math all while they’re enjoying a few weeks away from school. Here are some ideas to get you started, and you'll find a printable version at the end of the article to send home with your students.

1. Walking Dogs

Walking the family dog should be on every kid’s chore list for the summer, whether the child is old enough to go by himself or if he’s accompanying a parent or older sibling as they walk the dog. The exercise benefits everyone, and there are fun ways to incorporate games and challenges into it, using math skills. The student may not even realize he’s practicing math because it will be so much fun!

Parents might consider purchasing an inexpensive pedometer for kids to wear while walking the dog. Create challenges like taking 1,000 steps per walk. Make a chart so kids can keep track of the steps they’ve taken over the course of a week, and then offer a reward once they’ve reached a certain number of steps. Bonus: have them try to figure out how many steps the dog takes, too (hello, multiplication!).

Students can also use apps on a smart phone to map their dog walking routes and keep track of how far they’ve walked. There are some dog walking apps like Woof Trax that earn money for shelter pets each time you take your dog for a walk. ResQWalk is another popular option.

Adding the tech element is sure to make the dog walking more fun, get kids moving, and help keep their number skills sharp over summer break.

2. Writing Stories About Adoptable Pets

It’s a challenge to get most kids to practice writing over the summer, but if you find something fun to write about, there’s a better chance your students will change their tune.

Ask students to visit their local humane society’s web site and choose an adoptable animal to write a story about. Encourage them to imagine where the pet came from, how the pet ended up in the shelter, and predict what kind of family might be good for him (who knows? Maybe it’s the student’s own family!).

Then, have kids visit the shelter to meet the pet in person and deliver the story to shelter personnel. Shelters love receiving work from kids, and they may even hang the child’s story next to the pet’s cage to entice would-be adopters.

This kind of recognition might be just the motivation your students need to keep up their writing practice over the summer.

3. Reading to Pets at Home… or at a Shelter

If you have students who are enthusiastic readers, suggest that they try reading to the pets in their own families. Sometimes reading to a non-judgmental animal who’s often content to simply sit and listen, helps build a young reader’s confidence.

Some libraries offer “Reading to Rover” programs where kids can practice their skills with therapy dogs. These programs are so much fun for both the two-legged and four-legged participants. Check your local library to see if something like this is available for your students.

And, some shelters and humane societies have reading programs where kids can visit adoptable pets and read to them. This type of interaction has proven helpful to young readers, as well as to the pets that enjoy the company and the socialization. This is also a great way to get kids involved in philanthropic practices at an early age.

Check out the website Crayons and Collars for a database of humane societies across the country that offer programs for kids to see if there’s one near you.

4. Earning Money by Pet Sitting

Lessons about earning and saving money are valuable for kids of all ages! Suggest that students set up a vacation pet sitting or dog walking business, as this is a good way for responsible, animal-loving kids to learn the value of money, plus other great lessons like keeping commitments, managing responsibility, and more. Oh, and don’t forget the ever-present math lessons when it comes to anything money-related.

Obviously, pet sitting or dog walking is more appropriate for older kids, unless a parent or older sibling is willing to be the child’s “business partner,” which could be fun, too!

No matter what age your students are, suggest that parents work closely with them when it comes to the money they’re earning, how much they’re saving (this is a good way to work on percentages!), and how much they’re pocketing. Kids can benefit from consistent reinforcement about good money management from teachers and parents alike.

5. Holding a Donation Drive

Summer is a great time for kids to learn about philanthropy. Animal shelters always need supplies and many of the things they need can be found secondhand in our own homes. Encourage your students to open their hearts and give to those in need!

With adult supervision and guidance, students can hold a supply drive in their own neighborhood to collect things that neighbors may not need but the shelter can use, like old sheets, towels, and other items.

Suggest that parents sneak in some math practice by working with their kids to create goals for items collected, and then keep track of the number of items they collect for their shelter.

Some shelters make toys for the pets in their care using empty toilet paper or paper towel rolls. Some collect milk jug caps to use as cat toys, and some make toys out of empty plastic water bottles. These are all things students can collect from friends, neighbors, and family without asking for a dime! Check with your local shelter to see what kind of supplies they need.

Recommend that students organize the collected supplies into categories, tally up the number of items, and then proudly deliver the donations to their local organization. I promise, that will be an experience these kids won’t forget.

Free Printable Checklist!

During the summer, it can be tough for teachers and parents to help kids balance work and play. Finding fun ways to incorporate lessons into pet-related activities might be just the key to help your students continue to build their academic skills all summer long. Before you know it, school will be back in session and students will have had a valuable summer full of good times and learning, too!

Download this free printable checklist with these 5 fun ways pets can help children learn all summer long! Teachers, send it home with your students to share with their parents, and you'll help them avoid the academic "summer slide!"

Christina Berry lives in Indianapolis where she is a wife, mom, Virtual Assistant and Social Media Strategist, Pet Lifestyle Blogger, movie lover, and recovering Diet Dr. Pepper addict. She loves helping bloggers and handmade shop owners create successful businesses, and she enjoys advocating for pets as a volunteer with her local humane society and a Pit Bull rescue. She blogs at The Lazy Pit Bull.

Friday, May 22, 2015

20 Creative Ways to Encourage Good Behavior at the End of the Year

Advice from Real Teachers Series

Do you dread the last few weeks of school because your students are full of energy and unable to focus? Administrators might say to stick to your routines and keep your kids busy with regular assignments, but that didn't work for me. Making my students do seatwork at the end of the year was like putting a lid on a pressure cooker, turning up the heat, and wondering when it was going to blow sky high!

For me, it was far more effective to do something different at the end of the year, something meaningful but exciting enough to keep my kids interested and on task. I described 12 of my favorite ideas in an article called, A Dozen Fun Ways to Wrap Up the School Year. But before you head over to that page, take a look at the awesome responses below to a teacher question that was posted on my Teaching Resources Facebook page on this very topic.

Featured Teacher Question
Last week Michelle asked, “I'd love to hear creative approaches to what other teachers are doing to keep negative behaviors at bay in the last 20 days of school. I'm a second grade teacher, and my kiddos are convinced it's already summer break! We still have standardized tests and many other things to accomplish this year and I'd like to get through it all without constantly feeling like I'm threatening to remove privileges. Ideas?”

Top 20 Creative Ways to Encourage Good Behavior
There were so many terrific ideas that I decided to compile them into a new article in my Advice from Real Teachers Series. Here are 20 of the most creative suggestions; if would like to read them all, click over to my Facebook page where you'll find them. The first idea on the list was by far the most popular, so I listed it at the top. The rest of the suggestions are not in any particular order.
  1. Heather Collingwood - Have you tried the idea of a Secret Agent? You make secret agent cards for each of the students' names, select one at the beginning of the lesson/day and out it in the secret agent envelope. At the end of the lesson/day, if the child has behaved/had a good lesson/day, the whole class is rewarded (with a raffle ticket in their prize box, with a 2 minute game at the end of the day or whatever reward you choose). The secret agent is never revealed whether they win the reward or not so there is never any negativity towards them. All children will want to behave because it may just be their name that is in the envelope. It then becomes the collective responsibility of the class to ensure they get their reward. This way, you are not taking anything away from the class if a certain person doesn't behave appropriately. They only have something to gain and no one can be blamed if the reward isn't received.
  2. Joan Wilson - We are doing a living biography project. After reading & researching, they have to cut out a head/arm holes in a poster board and decorate it to look like their person. Then they will "talk" as that person all about their life & accomplishments. It always keeps them engaged and on task in a fun and creative way!
  3. Joline Keeler - I like to use centers that are hands-on and engaging for math and science. I also bring back some of their favorite games and activities from throughout the year. For language arts, I have the kids work on reader's theater plays.
  4. Linda Young - I'm having mine make maps of their choice- showing longitude, latitude, and scale. I've also had them do a mini research project using online resources, a book source, and an interview for added information. They are making visuals of their material to share at the end of the week. We are just finishing our whole class novel study of Charlotte's Web (with comprehension questions too). I've also introduced more STEM activities since the state testing finally ended. I've found it best to keep them busy!
  5. Joy Jefferies - We do a pickle party every two weeks for the last six weeks. If the class earns enough behavior points by the Friday of week two they get pickles and an hour of game time for prizes. A good time to rid my room of extra pens, pencils, anything I don't plan to keep for the next year.
  6. Lisa Marie - I'm using a lot of games built around what we are working on. Scoot, Team Question answering, trivia contests for vocalizing open response questions and deeper thinking, knowledge bowl type games, "spelling bee" games for any info....
  7. Ally Alexsonshk - Writing a letter to the next class or reflecting on memories is always a fun thing to do. Create instructions for the next class to create a time capsule or take some time to focus on their interests.....if you don't have much curriculum to finish ask then what they're doing over the Summer, maybe they're traveling so show the class the area they are going to or maybe they're going to visit a museum do some research on it look at the website.
  8. Pe Howell - We are doing an ABC countdown calendar, and last year it was great! Each day, here was a little activity to look forward to, and it helps get through the DRA testing, fact fluency assessment, end-of-year math assessment, and all of the other assessments that are done at the end of the school year. I am even looking foward to it because it starts this Thursday, with stuffed "animal" day! I'm going to have my class make trading cards, and I'm going to take pictures of each student in my class with their stuffed animal.  This activity is a wonderful way to start the countdown to the last 26 days of school.
  9. Katie Eskridge - We make a book hall of fame- they write up reports on the best novel they read this year and give them an award. I save them and it's my first bulletin board for next years fifth graders. Kid made recommendations!
  10. Karen  Martz - Maybe some collaborative learning projects which can be used as a culminating activity opposed to traditional assessments outside of standardized testing. Also, instead of threatening, do what you say will happen. After a few times some will understand privileges are earned, not given. They will also help to remind others who aren't willing to grasp that concept to catch on much quicker.
  11. Adajean Rothberg - We have 3 days left.  I pulled out the money unit, not common core but needed for the last 2 weeks and they've been earning money for everything.  They are really enjoying it and behaving since this best behaved and hard-working get more money.  As I'm packing up the room, the things I would usually send home I've been pricing and we're having a "yard sale"  It's working wonders kids.
  12. Yvette Shadrick -!! It helps them release energy and calm down!  Have them earn points with Class Dojo for a prize instead of taking things always! Have them create new class rules now that they are "older and wiser" they will come Up with some great more than five! Catch them being good! Give them attention when: on task, being respectful, being kind, participating etc.
  13. Dawn-Marie Jackson - I've been doing a science experiment each day if they keep the behavior on track. We never had time all year for experiments so I'm throwing them in now. I also do a tally reward. Every time I hear another teacher compliment my students or class or if they are exceptionally on task, I put a tally on the board. At 10 tallies they earn a tally party. I give them a choice between 3-4 things: Popsicles, eat in the classroom, bring a board game to school, etc. They love it!
  14. Angela Lawler - Try to out-energize them! Or do some of those awesome Science demos you've been wanting to do - clouds with water, shaving cream, and food coloring, or make OOBLECK with cornstarch and water, read the Dr. Seuss book and then debate if oobleck is a solid or liquid, eat some fractions (Skittles, M&Ms, graham crackers and icing, ...).
  15. Sandy Kalson - Promise fun rewards instead. They will monitor each other. Let them offer suggestions for one a week. Write each one on a piece of paper and draw one at random or let them vote each week.
  16. Sara Quinn - Bubbles! Get each kid a small bottle of bubbles and put their names on them. The bubbles sit on their desks and you take them away as needed. At the end of the day those with bubbles left get to blow them outside while the others sit and watch. Refill bottles as needed. All bubble bottles are returned each morning.  Good luck!
  17. Colleen Beecher - Give them a "Free Recess", but they have to earn it. Tell them they will have an extra recess at the end of the day. Write FREE RECESS on the board. Every time they act up, erase a letter. Be very strict about it. If there are still letters on the board, they earned it! I usually am very strict about erasing, but when they are on target and working hard, I will usually add a letter back. Just make sure you don't give them the recess if they don't earn it!
  18. Jennifer Neuhof - Revamp your incentives. Change seats. Alter routines to make the 'same boring thing' seem fresh. Stay a step ahead of them. Know when to cut a lesson short. Create lessons to incorporate movement and finally include many wiggle breaks into your day.
  19. Millie Ervin - Don't let the tail wag the dog. Think 'camp director' and make sure you fill up their agenda with interesting activities each day. I used to be able to find a bubble gum contest kit at store. So much fun!!  So many other fun things to do!! Now's your chance!!
  20. Kelly Raney - At the beginning of each day, give each child 3 tickets. Have them write their name/number on the back. As the day progresses, those students who do not make good choices, lose a ticket. At the end of the day, collect all the tickets, put them in a container, and draw for small treats, prizes or special privileges. The next day, everyone starts with 3 new tickets. Works like a charm!
Do you have any of your own end-of-the-year activities to share? If so, please post them in a comment below. If you would like to submit a teacher question of your own, be sure to watch for the Question Connection announcement every Wednesday at 8:30 pm EST on the Teaching Resources Facebook page. Even if you don't have a question, please follow me on Facebook and offer your advice when you see the questions come through! Working together, we can accomplish more!

Monday, May 18, 2015

Getting Started with Whole Brain Teaching

Have you heard of Whole Brain Teaching? To keep it simple, I'll just say it's an exciting method of delivering instruction that keeps students actively engaged in the learning process. Because students are moving, talking, writing, reading, and THINKING, they are using all parts of their brains.

These lessons could easily become chaotic, but the WBT approach includes management strategies to keep instruction on track. Right away, students learn the 5 "classroom-transforming" rules shown on the right. Last summer, Chris Biffle, the founder of the Whole Brain Teaching movement, offered to write a series of guest blog articles on Corkboard Connections introducing these rules. Chris wrote about each rule individually, explaining WHY it's important and exactly HOW to teach that rule to your students. If that sounds boring, you don't know Chris! (Click here for the first article in the series.)

Newly Updated WBT Classroom Rules Posters
I love to create teacher resources, so I offered to design a set of free classroom rules posters to go along with Chris's blog series. That set featured clipart of young children, so I frequently get requests for a set that has older students. Today I created a brand new set of posters using the adorable characters from Whimsy Workshop Teaching. These children look a little older so the set should be perfect for upper elementary classrooms. Both the original set and this new one are included in the Whole Brain Teaching Rules Posters freebie in my TpT store.

Whole Brain Teaching for Challenging Kids
If you are brand new to Whole Brain Teaching, the easiest way to get started is to read Chris's best-selling book, Whole Brain Teaching for Challenging Kids. His writing style is very entertaining and will have you laughing out loud, but there's a lot of meat in the book, too. Be sure to get a pack of sticky notes so you can mark important pages and return to them as you implement the strategies. You'll also find free information and videos on the Whole Brain Teaching website, but be forewarned - there's so much on the site that it can be a bit overwhelming on your first visit!

If you haven't heard about Whole Brain Teaching before, you might not want to start using the entire system this school year. However, if you're game for it, there are many easy-to-use strategies you can try out with your current class to get a feel for the techniques now. Then take your time reading about Whole Brain Teaching and checking out the free resources on the website so you'll be ready to go in the fall.

I wish I had learned about Whole Brain Teaching when I was still teaching because it sounds truly transformative! If you've had a tough school year, WBT might be just what you need to turn things around next year!

Disclaimer: Affiliate link included in this post. 
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