Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Buddy Bio Poems: Partner Poetry Writing

Buddy Bio Poems is a terrific activity that's a content-based writing lesson AND a fun icebreaker!
Imagine yourself in a new classroom during the first week of school. Unless your teacher starts off with at least a few getting-to-know you activities, it might be weeks before you feel comfortable enough to talk with your classmates and actively participate in lessons. 

On the other hand, if you're lucky enough to have a teacher who does start off with icebreaker activities, you'll settle in and be ready to learn in no time! 

The only problem from the teacher's standpoint is that it can be challenge to find meaningful icebreakers that don't feel like a complete waste of time. That's why you'll appreciate this partner poetry lesson! Having students write Buddy Bio Poems is a perfect way to integrate a content-based writing lesson with a fun icebreaker! In this lesson, each student interviews a partner to gather facts and information about his or her classmate. Then each person composes a short bio poem to share what he or she learned during the interview.

My Buddy Bio Poem idea began as a simple back-to-school activity based on my Bio Poems Made Easy freebie. However, as I began to write out the directions and create the printables to go with the lesson, I realized that the activity is something you can do any time during the year! If you like the Buddy Bio Poems concept, feel free to adapt the printables in that freebie to use with the activity. 

Ready-to-Use Buddy Bio Poems Lesson
On the other hand, if you're short on planning time or don't want to bother creating your own printables, you can purchase the ready-to-use Buddy Bio Poems pack shown below from my TpT store. If you'd like a closer look at what's in this packet, click here to see a complete preview.  Buddy Bio Poems includes complete teacher directions, a sample bio poem, buddy interview questions, a list of character traits, a bio poem planning page, and a variety of decorative writing papers for the final poems. In other words, I've done all the work for you, and all you have to do is print what you need and have fun teaching the lesson!

Sharing Buddy Bio Poems
Did I mention that bio poems make a terrific bulletin board display, perfect for open house? :-) One option is to add a student photo to the final version of each poem as shown in the example below. If you choose this option and post the finished products on a bulletin board or wall, your students will learn each other's names in no time! The poems can also be laminated and bound together to create a class book to keep in a literacy center for students to read at their leisure. Or you could scan the poems, convert them to PDF files, and create a digital ebook to publish on a class website or blog. 

Included in Laura Candler's Poetry Combo!
If you've already purchased my Poetry Combo, I have good news for you! Because I just added Buddy Bio Poems to that combo, those who already own it can download this new addition absolutely free! Go to your My Purchases page on TpT and search for this product, then download the file again.

In addition to being a fun back-to-school icebreaker, the Buddy Bio Poems activity would be a fun lesson during the hectic days before a holiday or as an introductory lesson for a poetry unit. No matter when you do this activity, your students will be proud of their poems and will enjoy learning fun facts about their classmates!

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Easy Classroom Management System that Works!

Easy classroom management system that will take the chaos out of your classroom!

When it comes to classroom management, actions speak louder than words. If you have an effective management system in place, you don't have to raise your voice or waste class time lecturing students about their behavior. You simply take action!

The most effective system that I ever used was called the "stoplight" management system. To implement this system, I first created a "Go for Green" bulletin board in my classroom. I posted a large illustration of a stoplight, but mine had a slight modification. It had four colors: green, yellow, orange, and red. I arranged a set of library pockets around the stoplight, and each numbered pocket represented a student in the class. Here's a picture that was taken in my classroom over 10 years ago, and you can tell it was something I used again and again!

Go for Green is an classroom management system that will take the chaos out of your classroom!

Here's how it worked. Everyone started off each day on green. The first time a student engaged in an off-task behaviors, I pulled a yellow "tag," or paper slip from the pocket at the base of the stoplight and inserted in the student's pocket on top of the green tag. This was simply a warning. If the off-task behavior continued, I added an orange tag to the student's pocket and they had to complete a Time Out form. Red was reserved for severe infractions and resulted in a trip to the office and/or an immediate call to parents.

If you like this system, you can download a free set of directions and a picture of the stoplight bulletin board to help you remember what to do.

One reason I like this method so much is that it's an easy way to manage the learning environment without constant nagging and angry outbursts. Students can be reminded without a lot of fuss that they are off-task and easily redirected to the assignment at hand.

I kept a poster like this one on the wall at the front of my room that proclaimed my right to teach and my students' right to learn. I promised to do everything in my power to ensure that these rights were respected. This system helped me keep that promise and ensure that our time together wasn't wasted. If you like this poster and would like a copy, read below to find out how to get it.

Go for Green is an classroom management system that will take the chaos out of your classroom!
Go For Green Stoplight System
A few years ago, I wanted to share the entire system with other teachers and make it easy to implement, so I began to write out step-by-step directions. The next thing I knew, I was creating a pattern for the stoplight because I didn't want anyone to have to draw one by hand. Then I decided to add a helpful class chart for recording the stoplight colors at the end of the day and and two Time Out forms! What started out as a simple one-page description morphed into an entire product! The Go for Green Stoplight Management packet also includes a copy of the teaching and learning poster above. You can preview the whole thing online here or on TeachersPayTeachers to see if it meets your needs.

I recently updated this product, so if you have already purchased it and your version doesn't look like the one shown here, you can go to TpT and download the new version for free.

 If you would like to purchase the complete packet shown here, you'll find it in my TeachersPayTeachers store. I think you'll discovered that it's easy to implement and it really works!  
Laura Candler

Sunday, July 26, 2015

How to Create a Class Handbook that Rocks!

The Teacher's Back to School Survival Guide

Back to School Survival Tip from Laura Candler: Create a Class Handbook That Rocks! Learn helpful tips about what to include in it and download a free class handbook cover!
I'm excited to be joining some of my favorite upper elementary teacher bloggers who have put together a Teacher's Back to School Survival Guide with some of our best tips!

Most schools have a handbook of guidelines and district policies, but have you ever thought of creating a handbook just for YOUR classroom?

My back to school survival tip is to take a little time now to create a class handbook that rocks! It's easier than you think, especially with the tips and samples I'm including in this post. A class handbook is a fantastic way to communicate your classroom policies right from the beginning of the year. It also sends a message to parents that you care enough to keep parent informed. When you make it attractive and thorough, it shows that take pride in your role as an educator.

Why You Need a Class Handbook 
Have you ever had parents tell you during a conference that they didn't know their child would lose credit on late assignments or that they needed to sign their child's daily reading log? If you sent home a handbook during the first week of school with information about that policy, you can politely direct the parent to that handbook.

Creating a handbook also forces you to think through ALL of your classroom policies in a logical way. There's something about explaining your policies in writing that makes you examine them more closely. Finally, a class handbook is a real time-saver when you get a new student. It's a nice way to welcome the child and to help him or her feel more comfortable about your expectations.

What to Include in Your Handbook
You might want to include the items below in your handbook. If the list seems overwhelming, include only the most essential information now and update your handbook next year.
  • Welcome letter
  • Best way to contact you
  • Class website or blog info
  • Homework and grading policies
  • Snack guidelines
  • Birthday party policies
  • List of classmates's names
  • Classroom lunch schedule
  • Supply list or materials requested
  • Brief descriptions of your instructional methods (i.e., cooperative learning, literature circles, reading workshop, etc.)
Click to download a PDF sample of my class handbook pages. You can't edit it, but it will give you some ideas for what to include. You can also download two free printable handbook covers.

Class Handbook Tips
Consider these tips in mind if you're just getting started:
  • Ask a colleague to review it for both clarity and grammatical errors. You don't want your first communication with parents to be confusing and filled with errors!
  • If you're worried about the amount of paper needed to print copies for all students, you can create a digital version and it email it to parents or upload it to your class webpage. 
  • Before you print copies of your handbooks or send it out digitally, ask your principal to review it to be sure all of your policies are approved by your administration. Also, if a parent disagrees with one of your policies and takes your handbook to the principal, you'll be glad that it's not the first time your principal is seeing it! 
  • Print at least 5 extra copies to have on hand for new students, and be sure to keep a copy for yourself. Staple and punch three holes along the left edge of each print copy to make it easy to store in a binder.
  • Give each student a handbook on the first day of school, but DON'T spend the entire first day going over it! Instead, only cover the very most important information on the first day, and space out those discussion with other first day activities. It might take you a week to go through the whole handbook, but at least they will remember the information! 
  • Allow a few days for parents to read your handbook and provide a deadline for it to be signed and returned. Ask that it be stored in their child's binder for future reference. If you email a digital copy or post it on a class website, send home a paper permission form to be signed by students and their parents. 

Create a Class Handbook That Rocks! In this post, learn why you need a class handbook and helpful tips about what to include in it. Find out where to download this editable set of handbook covers and pages from Laura Candler, too!
I hope you found these class handbook tips to be helpful. Creating a handbook that rocks will save you time later in the year and will pave the way for student success in your classroom. What do you plan to include in YOUR handbook?

If you're short on time, check out my newest teaching resource, a collection of editable files that make it easy to create your own class handbook. Click the image on the right or this link to take a closer look at Create Your Own Class Handbook. You'll be able to preview all the handbook pages and cover designs from that page.

By the way, I added it to my Back to School Super Start Combo, so if you've already purchased that item, you can download Create Your Own Class Handbook for free. Go to your My Purchases page on Tpt, locate the Back to School Super Start Combo and download the zip file again.

Check out the Back to School Teacher's Survival Guide, a blog hop of 22 upper elementary bloggers! This post is Laura Candler's tip: Create a Class Handbook That Rocks! Learn helpful tips about what to include in your handbook and download a free class handbook cover!

To visit all the blogs participating in this event, click on the logos in the link up at the bottom of this page to visit each blog. By the way, I'd like give a big shout out to Kristen of Ladybug's Teacher Files who designed the awesome logos for our blog hop! She is so talented!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

How to Sow the Seeds of Classroom Success

Learn how to sow the seeds of success during the first week of school! Blog post includes a link to a free webinar recording by five of your favorite upper elementary bloggers!
Watch the Free Webinar Recording!

The first week of school is THE most important week of the year. What happens on those days will set the tone for the rest of the year! But what's the best way to start? Should you start with your students in rows or in cooperative learning teams? Should you be strict and "lay down the law" or relax and have fun with your new class? Should you try to cover any content on the first day or spend the time getting to know your students?

I've had teachers ask me these questions and many others about how I start my school year. They want to know what I do the first few days to create a caring classroom with just the right amount of structure to foster creativity and a love of learning. I created a  page on Teaching Resources called Caring Classroom to share some of those strategies, and I've gradually been adding resources to it.

By following some amazing teacher blogs, I discovered many others who have outstanding ideas for sowing those critical seeds of success at the beginning of the year. There are so many aspects to creating a caring classroom and encouraging lifelong learning, and I'm certainly not the only expert. So I invited some of my favorite teacher bloggers to join me in a webinar to share our strategies for developing a caring classroom community.

Sowing the Seeds of Success Webinar
Five terrific bloggers accepted my invitation and joined me for the webinar, which we called "Sowing the Seeds of Success: Creating a Caring Classroom." Rachel Lynette, Christi Fultz, Mandy Neal, Ari Huddleston and I shared our favorite strategies for getting the year off to a great start. This webinar was actually recorded two summers years ago, but if you missed it you can find the recording on my Caring Classrooms page. The activities and ideas shared during the webinar are all still relevant and will help you get off to a great start this year.

Learn how to sow the seeds of success during the first week of school! Blog post includes a link to a free webinar recording by five of your favorite upper elementary bloggers!

After you watch the webinar recording, be sure to check out some of the resources and activities on my Caring Classrooms page. What are your favorite strategies for getting your year off to a great start? Please share your ideas in a comment below!

Thursday, July 16, 2015

How to Become a Millionaire on a Teacher’s Salary

How to Become a Millionaire on a Teacher’s Salary... it's actually possible! High school teacher Andrew Hallam hit this milestone by age 40 and wrote Millionaire Teacher to share his wealth-building secrets!
I know what you're thinking... How can someone become a millionaire on a teacher's salary? It sounds impossible, but high school teacher Andrew Hallam accomplished this milestone by age 40 on a regular teacher’s salary! No, he didn't invest it in lottery tickets, either! Instead, he learned to live without incurring debt, and he understood how to invest his savings in safe ways to provide the greatest return.

Andrew wrote Millionaire Teacher: The Nine Rules of Wealth You Should Have Learned in School to share his knowledge with other teachers so they could take charge of their own financial futures. I read the book a few months ago, and it totally changed the way I think about saving and investing my money. Before I read this book, I never felt confident about managing my own investments. Books about finances tend to be dry and difficult to understand, so the concepts always seemed just out of reach. However, Andrew’s writing style makes Millionaire Teacher an easy read. Not only is the book witty and entertaining, Andrew makes the concepts easy to understand, probably because he's a teacher. He does a terrific job of breaking complex financial concepts down into simple ideas using stories and analogies. For example, he shares his version of entrepreneur Willie Wonka and the chocolate factory, and uses it to explain how the stock market works, elaborating with manufactured details to illustrate the basic concepts of finance and investing.

How to Become a Millionaire on a Teacher’s Salary... it's actually possible! High school teacher Andrew Hallam hit this milestone by age 40 and wrote Millionaire Teacher to share his wealth-building secrets!
Even if you don't think you have a single extra penny to save and invest, you should read this book. After a few chapters you'll be convinced that you CAN save for the future. Andrew explains how you can manage your money yourself, and he describes how to avoid the pitfalls of hiring a financial manager.

Are you worried about losing your savings if you try to manage it yourself? If so, you’ll be glad to know that Andrew doesn't promote risky strategies like picking individual stocks or timing the market so that you try to buy low and sell high. According to Andrew, "It's not timing the market that matters, it's time IN the market." His strategies are based on setting up a portfolio of a few rock-solid index funds and bonds and holding them over time. He explains exactly how to do this and where to invest your money so that you are not paying high fees.

Why You Need to Read It NOW!
If you aren't convinced that you need to read this book now, remember that the sooner you apply these principles, the greater the payoff in the future. That’s why these concepts are especially important for young adults to master because they have time to ride out the ups and downs of the stock market. Small regular investments now will pay off in a big way in the future. For that reason, Millionaire Teacher would make a terrific gift for any new teacher or teacher-to-be, but it’s also a great read for veteran teachers. In fact, it’s an awesome book for just about anyone who wants to take control of their finances and achieve financial freedom by the time they retire.

I wish I had read Millionaire Teacher years ago, because I’ve made a lot of mistakes due to my lack of understanding about how to invest wisely. However, now that I know how easy it is to manage my own money, I'm excited to begin applying these principles to my own finances from this point forward. As they say, better late than never! To check it out for yourself, click one of the title links in this post to find it on Amazon where you can look inside the book and read buyer reviews. I know you'll find it to be a life-changing guide to financial success!

Disclaimer: Amazon affiliate links are included in this post.

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