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. 

Friday, May 15, 2015

Gallon Robot: Fun with Measurement and Fractions!

Who can remember how many cups are in a gallon and how many pints are in a quart? I have to admit that I used to look this information up every time I needed it. The amounts are so arbitrary and random that I couldn't seem to memorize them. That all changed when I met Mr. Gallon, whom I affectionately renamed with the gender-free term Gallon Robot.

Variations of Mr. Gallon are all over the Internet, and I'm not sure if anyone knows exactly who dreamed up the concept. I first heard about it when my older daughter Wendy was in 3rd grade. Her teacher, Sue Simon, introduced her students to this visual aid so they could easily remember the conversions between gallons, quarts, cups, and pints. The large rectangle in the middle represents one gallon, the four pink rectangles represent four quarts, the green rectangles represent pints, and the small orange rectangles represent cups. When you look at the model, it's easy to see that there are 8 pints in a gallon, 2 pints in a quart, and so on. As soon as I met Mr. Gallon, I never had to look up those amounts again! I immediately taught the model to my 5th graders and began sharing the technique with teachers.

Relating Customary Capacity Units to Fractions 
One thing that I love about Gallon Robot is how you can use this model to reinforce fraction concepts at the same time that you are reviewing customary units of capacity. I created a comprehensive packet of teaching materials to go along with the basic patterns shown above to make it easy to teach these concepts. Gallon Robot to the Rescue is available from my TpT store .

 Gallon Robot to the Rescue - a great resource for teaching customary capacity and fraction concepts!

When I created the patterns for Gallon Robot, I was very careful to make each part fractionally correct so that students can explore how the units are related. After students cut out all the pieces, they can use them in a fraction lesson before assembling them into Gallon Robot. For example, when students place the four quart patterns on top of the gallon pattern, they will see that four quarts equal one gallon. The patterns are black and white outlines, and I suggest printing each part on a different color paper to help students distinguish between them.

Gallon Robot to the Rescue includes cooperative learning activities, math center games, word problems, printables, teacher demonstration pages, and more! Here are a few sample pages from this resource, including a fun game called Fill 'Er Up in which students answer questions, spin a spinner, and add cups, pints, or quarts to their gallon buckets. The first to fill his or her bucket is the winner!

Gallon Robot to the Rescue is not a new product, but I did give it a brand new cover today. As I was working on updating it, I decided to feature it on my blog because it's a terrific, easy-to-use resource for teaching a difficult topic. If you teach customary units of capacity, you owe it to yourself to take a look at this time-saving resource. I also updated the cover of Customary Measurement Conversions, and if you don't have that ebook, you might want to check it out, too. With the activities in these two resources, your students will have fun as they learn to master customary measurement conversions!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

15 Super Gifts for Student Teachers!

Advice from Real Teachers Blog Series

Do you have a student teacher this semester? If so, you might be trying to think of the perfect gift idea! Will it be something that your student teacher will treasure for years? Or will it be something practical to help the teacher-to-be land a job or set up a new classroom?

Last week I asked the fans of my Teaching Resources Facebook page to share the best student teacher gifts they've given or received. Over 250 people responded, and even though there were some duplicates, there were over 150 unique ideas! I read through each and every one and selected 15 to share with you. The ideas below are not listed in any particular order. If you want to read them all, click over to this Facebook post to take a look.

The #1 Gift Idea... 
You know what was suggested over and over as the very best gift for a student teacher? A gift certificate to TeachersPayTeachers! What an awesome idea, and something that's sure to be appreciated! However, I also think it's nice to give something special that your student teacher can keep to remember as a reminder of his or her time with your class. I didn't include the TpT gift card idea as one of the 15 gifts below because it's something that can be added to any of these ideas.

15 Super Gift Ideas for Student Teachers
Read on to discover some truly amazing and creative gift ideas for student teachers! Which one is your favorite? Thanks to everyone who shared a suggestion, whether it ended up on this list or not.
  1. Beth Douglas - I give a teacher "survival" kit...a teacher bag of duct tape, m&ms, Tylenol, red pens, band aids, a coffee mug...all those things a teacher must have to survive!
  2. Amy Bell - Two years ago, my cooperative teacher sent home a letter to the students I had been teaching asking them to bring a little something that I might be able to use in a future classroom.  It was the sweetest thing because the kids were able to pick something for me and I started getting stuff for my classroom. She also had a few things for students who couldn't afford to bring something so they would feel included.  
  3. Tammy Eisenhauer - They threw me a book shower. Each student brought in a new or used book for my first classroom library. They also wrote notes to me on the inside covers. LOVE that I still have these books and precious memories in my class today.
  4. Shauna Isenhour - My cooperating teacher and class painted a chair for me with the kids handprints! I love it!
  5. Teresa Hernandez - When I was a student teacher, I received a gift that made me really teary eyed. A photo album put together by the teacher and parents of pics they had taken throughout the year of the kids (I was in some of the pictures). Each picture was personalized with a caption written by a student that was included in the picture, sharing a special thought or memory. It was very sweet.
  6. Connie Guth - My supporting teacher used the Ellison die cut machine and made me some holiday/seasonal decorations for my first classroom and laminated them!
  7. Vicki Neveils - I received a bag of goodies for teaching. It was amazing. But I also got a few "letters of recommendation" from some students explaining "If I were a principal, I would hire Mrs. Neveils because...." Such an awesome gift to add to my portfolio. They were very touching letters of recommendation.
  8. Neely Swygert - I was given a rolling cart full of supplies I would need: legal pads, pens, pencils, chocolate, nuts, ziplock bags, kleenex, highlighters, lysol wipes, and other awesome stuff.
  9. Rachel Honeybone - Last year when I finished my student teaching the teacher presented me with a book. In were a photo of each of the kids and a personal message from each. It was the sweetest gift I have ever received.
  10. Angela Pappas - Oh the Places You'll Go! by Dr. Seuss! Have everyone sign the front! One of the most memorable gifts I ever received!
  11. Shelley Pace - I usually give them a tool set for the classroom. One of those things you don't know you need till you need it. I attach a note that says, "You have all the tools to be a great teacher. Here are the tools for all the other jobs."
  12. Delaney Lattimer - I got a cute book with " letters of reference." Each 2nd grade student wrote a letter of reference for me to take to an interview! It was fantastic!!!
  13. Candice Raines - My first mentor gave me a lamp on my last day with a sweet card to remind me that I may be the only light in some children's lives. I cried when I received it.
  14. Lisa VanderLugt - I used my Scholastic Bonus Points to "purchase" a box of books for my student teacher to start a classroom library. 10,437 bonus points goes a long way! I also gave him a copy of Teach Like a Champion and Harry Wong's -First Days of School.
  15. Sandra Revie - When I student taught I got a canvas bag with my name and year on it, plus it had each students' hand print on it. I also got a framed picture of me with each student and they made me a card they each signed. I look at the picture at the start of each new year and use the bag often!

If you'd like to share your own gift idea, please leave a comment at the bottom of this blog post. 

Do you have a question for me to ask my Facebook fans? If so, stop by the Teaching Resources Facebook page every Wednesday evening after 8:30 pm EST and look for the Question Connection status update. Post your question in a comment there, and I'll share the most relevant of these questions on the page throughout the week. Be sure you are following my Facebook page to see when your question is posted!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Motivate Students to Take Charge of Their Learning

No matter how much you love teaching, it's easy to get discouraged this time of year. There's so much left to do, and not enough time to get it all done. Spring fever always hits at the worst possible time - right before testing! How do you respond? If you're like me, your natural reaction is to push your students harder and harder academically, ignoring all signs of their resistance, until you reach the end of your rope!

When you get to this point, it's time to take a deep breath, calm down, and accept the fact that something has to change.

But what? And how can you turn things around and end the year strong?

Believe it or not, it IS possible to regain your enthusiasm and get your class back on track. But you need more than motivation... you need practical strategies and concrete action steps to take today. Angela Watson's newest book, Unshakeable: 20 Ways to Enjoy Teaching Every Day ... No Matter Whathas that and more! Every chapter is AMAZING, filled with wisdom, encouragement, and specific strategies to implement right away.

Angela Watson is the teacher who created The Cornerstone for Teachers website, and she's been sharing awesome resources with teachers for years. This is her 4th book, and it's just as inspirational as her others. I was excited to be invited to participate in a blog series that examines each chapter in Unshakeable, day by day. Today is Day 15, so I'll be sharing my insights about Chapter 15, "Motivate Students to Take Charge of Their Learning." You can find all 20 chapter reviews on her Unshakeable page, where you can also download a list of all 20 chapter titles.

Why Kids Need to Take Ownership of Learning
Reading Chapter 15 was a joy! Angela confirmed something it took me 20 years to figure out: when kids take ownership of their learning, they work harder, make greater academic gains, and ultimately discover the joy of learning for its own sake. Angela makes a case for motivating students by giving them choices whenever possible, and I agree. Student choice makes all the difference.

You might be thinking, "What? I'm the teacher! I'm the one who will be held accountable for what they learn or don't learn! I can't give them too many choices because I have a curriculum to teach!"

But stop and examine that thought. Yes, administrators will be holding your feet to the fire if your students don't make academic progress. But, ultimately, who will pay the biggest price? If your students don't learn the skills they need to survive in a world that's ever changing, THEY will feel the affects for the rest of their lives! When kids stumble through each school day like zombies, following directions but never asking questions or caring why they need to learn, they are setting themselves up for a lifetime of failure and missed opportunities. They need to feel a sense of ownership and responsibility for their own learning.

How To Motivate Kids to Take Ownership
So how can you cover everything in your curriculum, yet provide opportunities for student choice and ownership? Here's the key: You might not be able to let them choose WHAT to learn, but you can give them some choice in HOW they learn.

Easier said than done, right? Normally I would agree, but Angela makes it easier than you might imagine. Unshakeable includes loads of practical strategies for teaching kids how to take charge of the learning experience. Here are a few of the methods Angela shares to motivate students:  
  • Teach kids to use technology for both content consumption and content creation
  • Personalize learning with student-directed projects
  • Give self-assessments for students to reflect on their progress
  • Let your students help develop assessment rubrics so they understand how they are being graded
  • Conduct student-led conferences 
Each of these ideas is covered in Chapter 15 in great detail, with classroom examples and specific strategies. You'll find yourself jotting notes in the margins and filling the pages with sticky notes so you don't forget a single great idea!

Motivate Your Students to Motivate Yourself!
What does motivating your students have to do with YOUR own motivation, or lack of it? Remember how I said it took 20 years for me to discover the importance of kids taking charge of their learning? When I finally let go of the need to control every aspect of the learning process, I started to enjoyed teaching more than ever. I loved coming to school each day and learning right along with my students. Not surprisingly, these changes resulted in measurable academic growth for them, too!

Angela  sums it up really nicely, "Any topic instantly becomes more fun and meaningful for everyone involved when the kids are given some ownership of how they learn." When your students begin to ask thoughtful questions, make choices, and take an active role in the learning process, they blossom right before your eyes, and it's a joy to watch!

Angela is the creator of the Truth for Teachers podcast series, and she has a short podcast called How to Motivate Students to Take Ownership of Their Learning. You can download it for free from her website and listen to it on your way to work!

Where to Find Unshakeable
What if you're still going strong and you don't need motivation to finish out the year? You'll love Angela's book anyway! Reading it will reaffirm the best practices you're already using, and you'll learn new techniques to add to your bag of teaching tricks. You can get the Kindle or paperback edition of Unshakeable: 20 Ways to Enjoy Teaching Every Day... No Matter from or from Angela's website. Read a chapter a day and enjoy 20 days of inspiration!

Affiliate links are included in this post.
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