10 Tips and Tricks for Returning to the Social Distancing Classroom

Wednesday, July 15, 2020 No comments

     Returning to the classroom in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic can be very stressful. With many districts and schools still uncertain of their plans or all the details of how the classroom will look that has left the teachers with a lot of questions.
     As I have read and listened to many different teachers and questions they have posed over the past few weeks, I have found a few ideas that have stuck out and have been helpful. So I compiled these 10 great tips and tricks for returning to the social distancing classroom to share:

Tips & Tricks:
1. Pencil zip pouch bags on command strip hooks- this can be used on the side of desks for keeping students supplies to limit supply sharing and storage issues.

2. Pencil zip pouch bags for storing masks during lunch or recess.

3. Lanyards for masks when not wearing them during lunch or recess. This is also great for students so that if their mask falls off the masks won't fall onto the ground but rather is hooked to the lanyard around the student's neck.

4. Voice Amplifier for Teachers wearing masks. This is something I bought and tried out. It works great and will save you from straining your voice throughout the day.

5. Straw Dispenser for sharpened pencils- when students need a new pencil and don't have their own pencil sharpener this is a good option so there aren't multiple people using the pencil sharpener. They can simply grab the pencil and go.

6. Accordion Files for papers- I used accordion files every year instead of binders but this year it can be great for holding students papers instead of using my classroom mailboxes. These are also great when desk storage is not an option. These are easily leaned up against the leg of a desk for storage.

7. Clear Dry Erase Pocket Sleeves- these are great to use instead of passing out white boards to students. These can easily be hung on a command strip hook on the side of the desk so each student has their own without sharing. They also hold a marker on each pocket sleeve that limits supply sharing as well.
8. PVC and Clear Vinyl Distancing Dividers- I have seen pictures of people who have used PVC pipe, clear vinyl, and clear duct tape to assemble their own Distancing/Sneeze Guard dividers for their classrooms. This is a great idea when individual desks are not an option.

9. Duct Tape/ Electrical Tape/ Painters Tape on the floor- this will help students know where their space is for social distancing. For my classroom one way I am going to use this is to use different colors on the floor around desks and use the colors as teams for points. Usually I use row or table points throughout the month as a way to reinforce positive behavior and classroom management. At the end of the month the row/table with the most points gets a treat or prize. With socially distancing I had to think outside the box with how to do points. Now all the students with blue tape will be a team, red tape will be a team and so forth to earn points for being ready, having their books out first, clean desk areas and so forth.

10. Class Library Quarantine Bins- If you are able to have a classroom library this year then this might be an option. Have 2-3 bins marked 24hrs., 48hrs, or 72hrs. The 24hr. bin would always be out for student book returns. At the end of the day you would move the 24hr. bin books to the 48hr. and rotate the 48hr. books to the 72hr. and then the 72hr. books could be placed back on to the shelf. It would be more work for you as a teacher but it would be one way to allow students to enjoy a classroom library if you have restrictions set in your school. This could also be a class job for one student too.

I hope that you have found these helpful and I would love to read some of your other ideas that may not have been shared. Feel free to leave your ideas below in the comments!

Ways to Get Your Kids Into Summer Reading

Sunday, July 5, 2020 No comments
    We've all heard about "summer slide" and the importance of getting kids to read throughout the summer. Data supports that students who don't read regularly over the summer are more likely to fall behind in their skills and we see an increase in the achievement gaps between the students who did actively read thru the summer and those who did not when they return to school. It's like a child who is learning to play an instrument and is use to daily practicing then decides to take a couple months off. What happens? They become very rusty in their ability to play their instrument and it takes extra work and time to get back to where they were before.
    But how do we get kids to read during the summer, especially when kids are so engaged in playing videos games and watching television for hours on end each day. There are actually some different ways to do this that can be fun for kids so let's look at a few ideas:

Ways to Encourage Summer Readers:

1. Provide Incentives: This can be done individually by parents where they can create their own incentives chart or system for their kids or there are many free programs offered during the summer that are already planned for you.
  • Local Libraries- check your local libraries for summer reading programs that include playing online games, earning points towards prizes, and story times.
  • Camp Book-It- this is a free program offered through Pizza Hut that gives free pan pizzas to kids as incentives for reading each month.
  • Scholastic Read-a-Palooza- this is another great program that is free which gives kids the opportunity to play games online, read books, earn special rewards, and earn points towards donating books to others.
  • Barnes & Noble Summer Reading Program- with this free programs kids read a certain number of books, complete a reading journal off the Barnes & Noble site about the book they read, bring their journal to a local store, then get to pick out their own free book off of the books listed on their Reading Journal.                                                   
2.  Make it a Family Activity: Kids need to see the importance of reading and one way they can do this is by seeing and hearing their parents read. I remember like it was yesterday, my dad taking my sister and I to the library to let us pick out books then we would bring this huge stack of books home and each night my parents would read us a book before we went to bed. That sounds simple but it really is just that easy and it can make a big impression on your children that reading is important and its a great way to spend time with them as well. 

3. Connect Books to Your Family Activities: As you do various activities over the summer such as going to the zoo, the aquarium, the park, or other places include some fun books that go along with those activities. 

Here is a great starter set of books that go great with summer activities:

 Know of some other great summer reading programs? I would love to hear about them. Share your ideas below...

The Distance Learning Adventure and how Boom Cards Helped Make it Better

Monday, June 22, 2020 No comments
      No matter what level of teaching degree you have or how much experience you have had over the years in teaching, I don't think anything really could have completely prepared us for what we would embark on with distance learning. Some teachers already were comfortable with using platforms such as Google Classroom while others of us were thrown into a frenzy of what seemed like overnight crash courses on Microsoft Teams, Zoom meetings, and etc. Many of us began creating video lessons and thinking of new ways to creatively provide our students and parents with what they needed to finish out the remainder of the year. As we look at what the possibilities of next school year look like we see that no matter whether we are in the classroom full time, doing hybrid classes, or holding virtual classrooms the way students are learning will continue to be completely different than what we have had it look like in the past. 
      With that in mind I would like to share one thing that I discovered along my distance learning adventure that helped to make my student's time out of the classroom a little more enjoyable and is something I will continue to use whether in or out of the classroom this coming year. When we were in the classroom I loved using task cards in various ways such as Math centers, Literacy groups or other ways with my students but with being virtual that made it difficult to do until I discovered Boom Learning. 
      If you haven't heard of Boom Learning or Boom Cards you may be wondering what it is. Well, Boom Learning is an awesome website that is great for educators and even parents to use to support students in their learning by providing digital games and activities created by teachers for students. Boom Cards are digital task cards on the Boom Learning site that are self-grading for instant feedback for students and provides data for teachers. Each set of Boom Cards are called decks that you can assign to your whole class or to individual students. Being able to individually assign decks of cards makes it great for differentiation with students. When I started I purchased a few great decks of Boom Cards on the Boom Learning site or from TpT as well as I learned to make my own. 
      I will say learning to make your own decks of cards can quickly become an obsession as they are fun to make with all the different fun options you can incorporate into your cards. As I started making my own and assigned them to my students during our distance learning time the students really enjoyed using them and it was a great way for me to see through the data areas that they needed more practice or what they had mastered. Looking ahead to this coming school year I look forward to incorporating Boom Cards whether in or out of the classroom to enhance my students' learning. These activities can be used on tablets, computers, or phones. They are also great in class on Smartboards with student interaction for whole class instruction. With options such as drag & drop, multiple choice, fill in the blank, audio on cards for speech therapy or intervention, and more, these are fantastic!

See below some great ways that you can use Boom Cards:

This is a practice I created using Flow Magic on Boom Cards (which gives a home card and students click on whatever option they want to play and it takes them to that section to play/practice).

This is a fun practice with math facts when you can't take time tests, play around the world, or other practices in person:

For younger learners this fun drag and drop activity is a great practice in counting:

One last example is a great practice in measuring angles with a protractor:

You can check out more great Boom Card activities by clicking on the Boom Cards tab at the top.

Developing Social Skills & Rapport in the Classroom Through the Use of Writing

Monday, July 1, 2019 No comments

Many times I have noticed over the years that kids, just like adults get comfortable in their friendships with those who have the same interests as them. To be honest I am just like that too. But in the classroom sometimes we have students who struggle with social skills. These students struggle to initiate a conversation while other students may be unaware that other classmates struggle with this. Many times when an area is easy for us it can almost seem like we are blind to others that struggle in that area. It is definitely a special gift/trait when a student recognizes another classmate who doesn't feel included or is shy and helps them join in and feel welcome. 

One way in my classroom that I like to work on helping students develop various social skills/ rapport is through collaborative activities. One in particular is through my Classmate Biography Writing Project. 

I use this activity when we are working on our writing skills and learning about biographies. Many times I will let the students pair up with a friend as their partner but for this activity I specifically pair students up to put them "outside of their comfort box" you might say because their partner is someone who they normally wouldn't pick. 
With this activity the students have a set interview with prompts that help to promote conversation. As they interview one another I have found that many times students who wouldn't normally partner up begin to find that they may actually have something in common or that working with each other wasn't as bad as they thought. It can help to build new relationships within the classroom and help students work on developing their communication skills through the writing interview prompts. They then take all their information and begin writing the biography about their classmate. If they need more information they go back and initiate more conversation to get the information they need. 
  So in the end what the students thought was just a fun writing mini-project actually helped to build class rapport and individual social skills.

End of the Year Fun Activities

Sunday, April 28, 2019 No comments
The end of the school year is always filled with fun activities from things in the classroom to activities outside of the classroom such as field day. One thing I enjoy doing with my students is making an End of the Year Memory Book. This is a great way for my students to reflect on things we have learned throughout the year that may have included field trips, STEM labs, or more. It also is a great way to have students share some of their fun friend memories from the year as they have made new friendships, developed deeper friendships, or maybe someone is moving away they will have this book as a way to remember their friends. Then after the students complete them we have time as a class to come together to listen and laugh as students share their memories. 
The set I use with my students includes 12 great activity sheets to pick and choose from:

                                          End of the Year Memory Book -Print & Google Classroom  | Distance Learning

The 12 Activities included are:
1. Teacher acrostic- students use the teachers last name to create an acronym with words or phrases about their teacher.
2. Student's name acrostic- they write their own name and then find a classmate to write positive and encouraging things about them using their name.
3. Favorite field trip or class activity- writing and illustration activity
4. 4 Friends favorite memory- they find 4 different classmates who will write down a favorite memory about them from the year.
Favorite memory about the teacher- writing activity
6. You are teacher for the day- You switched places with the teacher and now you write a short story about the day you were teacher for a day.
7. Name of School Word Work- students will write the name of their school then use those letters to create as many 2, 3, 4, and 5 or more letter words.
8. Tell about someone who has inspired you this year- writing activity
9. Classmate Scavenger Hunt- students will try to find as many different classmates who match a description on the page and get their signature as possible.
"Figure Me Out" Math activity- students will create math problems to solve For Example: My Age 14 + 2 - 6 = 10 (you would be 10 years old.)
11. Favorite scene from a book you read this year- writing and illustration activity
12. Top 10 things that have made this year SUPER!!!- writing/list activity

Celebrate Fun in April- Part 2

Wednesday, April 10, 2019 No comments

April is National Poetry Month. I don't know about you but when I first mention to my class that we are going to learn about poetry this month many of them (especially the boys) let out groans! It seems many times that kids have a misconception about poetry, that it always has to rhyme, or that its too hard. Then once I begin to explain an overview about some of the fun types of poetry that we will be learning about and trying their attitudes hit a 180 and their faces actually have smiles on them. 

One great way that I give my students a visual of the different types of poetry is by using this Types of Poetry bulletin board set in my classroom.

Types of Poetry Bulletin Board/Poster Set

With this up on the wall in the back of the room, students are reminded of the different types we are studying and the patterns each style follows. They can even use these anchor charts to write their own extra poems on their free time. Which I find many students trying and then giving to me as gifts for my wall or desk. :)

A great resource that I have found that pairs well with my bulletin board/ anchor chart posters is this set by Rachel Lynette.

I don't use all 21 of the patterns with my 4th graders but we use about half of them. The examples are great and the students really love the simplicity of these different types of poems. I even find my boys who in the beginning let out groans now loving to write poems.

Celebrate Fun in April- Part 1

Thursday, April 4, 2019 No comments

April can be a super busy month for teachers. We are coming close to the end of the school year. Some are excited to have spring break, while others may be coming back from spring break. Many of us are even starting to count down the number of days until the end of the school year! :)

The month of April itself has many fun and exciting things for teachers to enjoy celebrating and to come up with creative activities for their classroom that can give students that much needed enjoyment break from the dreaded state testing!

So over the next couple weeks I want to share just a few fun ideas that I do with my kiddos and hopefully you will feel free to comment below to share some of your ideas as well.

Idea # 1: Beverly Clear Author Study for D.E.A.R. day and Author Study Posters:

The kids in my class absolutely LOVE to read. In fact this year I have many students who also really enjoy writing their own stories and mini books. So with this in mind I know this year especially my students will enjoy D.E.A.R. day where we stop everything and just relax in a special spot around the room and read.
In my class we read novels and one in particular we read is Dear Mr. Henshaw by Beverly Cleary. Its a great discussion book and one that many students can relate on a personal level with or know someone who can. One way for students to enjoy reading even more is for them to learn about the authors themselves. So many authors actually developed their love for reading and writing as children but Beverly Cleary is one that can inspire that child who is not your average student. She struggled with reading and actually dreaded it, refusing to read except at school because she had a teacher in first grade who did not encourage her. However, the school librarian took her under her wing and introduced her to some great books and really encouraged her. This helped changed Cleary's life because it made reading fun and she developed an interest in writing as well. Her story is one that can encourage those struggling students. Cleary promoted S.S.R. (sustained silent reading) in her book Ramona Quimby, Age 8 and the national rise of the D.E.A.R. program took off. It is now celebrated on Cleary's birthday, April 12th. So if you are looking for something good to add to your day check out the following author study on Cleary. You can also check out this fun set of Children's Author Posters which make great reading area anchor charts with fun facts about some of the student's favorite authors. Like this fun fact: Jan and Stan Berenstain were inspired by Dr. Seuss and began writing their own books later to have some of them actually edited by Seuss himself.
Beverly Cleary Author Study- Print & Google Classroom  | Distance Learning

                           Children's Author Anchor Chart Posters Set