Texas Teaching Fanatic

A look inside a 4th grade classroom

Scratch Off Tickets in Elementary?

Can scratch-off tickets be used to encourage positive behavior in an elementary classroom? You bet! No, not your traditional lottery scratch-offs. Handmade scratch-offs with rewards.

I got this idea off of Pinterest, of course. All you need is some card stock, lamination or wide clear tape, and some acrylic paint.

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Just print out some reward tickets like the ones shown above. Laminate them or cover them with tape, and then spread dark acrylic paint over the reward section.

You now have yourself an awesome way to help students make better choices or a reward for great work.

The reward that my students are loving this year is the positive visit to the principal and the text your parents reward. Prize box? Eh. Texting their parents at school seems pretty cool. 🙂

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Have fun!

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How Expectations Can Manipulate Success

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For those of you who don’t know, I’m teaching math again this year after taking on Reading and Writing for the past three years.  Teaching math is a little stressful intimidating when your passion is in language arts.  BUT–I’m putting on a smile and doing my best.

Last Friday, I gave an assessment on rounding.  My students have been doing so well that I just skipped that crucial piece of giving assessments: expectations.  Yep, I just gave out the test, reminded the students to put their name and date at the top and put it in the turn-in basket when they were finished.  The students put their name and date on it.  They took the test.  They turned it in.  They failed.

Or was it me who failed?

After stressing agonizing over the tremendous failure rate (to the tune of 17 out of a class of 22), I started to think.  Why did they fail?  Was it because I stink at teaching math?  Was it because they really didn’t know the material?  Was it because they were tired?  Why?

Then my brain turned on.  I didn’t see that they had shown their work.  I didn’t see that they had circled important information in the question.  They hadn’t labeled their numbers.  We did all of these things during our lessons and in their stations, but I didn’t see it on their tests.  Why?  Because I didn’t set up those expectations.

I’m all about giving my students a fair chance, so on Monday morning I spoke with several people about the problem and we came up with a simple solution.  Give the test again, but set up the expectations before allowing the students to begin.

So I did.  I told my students EXACTLY what I wanted to see on their assessment–all of the things mentioned above.  I told them that I expected nothing less.

Again, the students took the test.  They turned them in.  They succeeded!

First Round (Class #1): 2 100’s/17 60’s or below        First Round (Class #2): 2 100’s/16 60’s or below

Second Round (Class #2): 7 100’s/6 60’s or below     Second Round (Class #2): 9 100’s/6 60’s or below

A lesson on how expectations can manipulate success slapped me in the face.  Setting up expectations truly is VITAL to student success.  Students have to be reminded of what teachers expect out of them.  They have to know that it is not O.K. to settle for mediocrity.  We expect the best.  We expect them to try.  Most of all, we expect them to succeed.

**Oh, and this week, all but 4 (from both classes together) passed their end-of-week assessment.  🙂

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Teacher Week 2013: 5 Tips & Tricks of Teaching

I’m linking up with Blog Hoppin’ again for the last linky party of the week.

Teacher Week

Today’s topic is tips and tricks that teachers use to help get us through those first few weeks of school.  Some of these things last all year, of course, but others are implemented at the beginning of the year for the most part.

photo 11. Social Contracts:  On the first day of school, I always create a social contract with each group of students.  I don’t like to give rules to my students.  Instead, I let them set the rules, and social contracts make this go much smoother.  I’ve found that the students are actually harder on themselves than I ever would be, and they always come up with the same rules that I would give them, but just worded in their own words.  For more information on how to manage this activity and some of the thinking behind it, click here –> Social Contracts.

2. Build the Climate: I like to have several class building and team building activities for the first few weeks.  Even though these students have been in school together for awhile, there are always new students that move in and others that are very shy and need help getting to know the other students in the room.  Kagan is a WONDERFUL resource for these activities.  My favorites are inside/outside circle, 4 corners, and think-pair-share.  I try to sprinkle these throughout the day.

3. Hand Shakes: Many teachers (and the school nurse) think I am absolutely crazy for shaking my students’ hands when they walk into my room every day, but I don’t care.  Teaching in a school with 78% of students coming from a low socioeconomic background means teaching things that aren’t on “the list.”  Shaking hands is a lifelong skill that these kids need to learn.  I think it also helps build that positive climate that we are all wanting.20130731-174532.jpg  For more information about this and the workshop where the idea was presented, click here –> Capturing Kids’ Hearts.

4. The Safe Place: In the back of my room is a special place where students can always go if they are angry, sad, or upset.  It’s nothing fancy, but a place for students to be away from all other students when they need it the most.  There are several ways to go about setting this up in your own classroom, and you just have to do what works for you.  I choose to put a bed pillow on the floor with a seat cushion and lots of stuffed animals to hug.  For more information on how to manage and implement your own “Safe Place,” click here –> The Safe Place.

5. Organization: One of the BEST ways to waste less time and get more bang for your buck is by staying organized.  This is where I have the most trouble.  I don’t have a problem starting the year organized, it’s keeping it that way!  I’m getting better and better at it, and this year I WILL stay organized all year.

Oh, and one more thing: KEEP SMILING!! The best medicine for any situation is a smile.  Breathe, relax, and remember: “This, too, shall pass!”  🙂

Do you have any additional thoughts?  I would love to hear from you!

I wish all of you the best of luck beginning a new school year!

teacherweek2Head over to Blog Hoppin‘ for additional tips and tricks!

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Back To School Forms: Getting To Know You (Student Survey)

Getting to know youNext up is a student survey.  I like to get to know my students on a deeper level than some, so I created a student survey for the students to fill out during the first week of school.  The survey also serves as a conversation piece when it comes to writing.  I get so tired of students telling me that they have nothing to write about, so this is another way to conjure some ideas out of them!  To download the file, click here –> Getting to Know You.

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The Safe Place

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The Safe Place is just that…safe. Safe from people being bothersome. Safe from people talking. Safe from harm.

I have a special place in my classroom where students may go when they feel angry, sad, or upset. It’s a comfortable space in the back of the room that is still visible to me, but not in the line of sight of any other students.

Have you ever had that kid that always came into your room in a bad mood? Or the one who gets upset after recess? Or that other one that gets frustrated with everything his neighbor does or says? Yep, we all experience some sort of issue throughout the course of the year. Let me tell you, my friends, the Safe Place is a great way for students to get away from peers or other issues that are bothering them.

Here’s how it works. As a class, we talk about the Safe Place on the very first day of school. We talk about the rules of the Safe Place. 1. You may go there ONLY when you are angry, sad, or upset. It is not a place to relax and read or play with anything that belongs there. 2. You still have to pay attention and listen. I will not directly call on a student who is in the safe place, but work is still expected to be completed. 3. This is NOT a permanent seat, and the goal is to transition back to your desk within 10 minutes. (Of course, there are always extenuating circumstances)

Some teachers think that I’m crazy for having such a place in my room, but it has worked miracles for some kids!! And I always hear, “Oh, my kids would just always go there or would abuse it.” All I have to say to that is, if you set up the expectations early and stick to it, they won’t. In 6 years I’ve never has a student abuse it.

This, coupled with the Social Contract, is a great way to manage an effective classroom with a positive atmosphere.

Try it. What have you got to lose? 😉

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Your rules or my rules?

Teaching isn’t easy. It never has been. It never will be. But Social Contracts can make a teacher’s life much easier if implemented correctly.

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Social Contract created by 2nd graders

The picture above is my very first Social Contract my students created. It’s messy. It’s colorful. It’s ALL created by the students. This is what makes it effective.

For those of you that are unfamiliar with Social Contracts, pay attention! These things can make your classroom run much more smoothly if you let them. Social Contracts are “rules” created for the classroom by the students themselves. Instead of writing down the rules you expect the kids to follow, you allow the students to come up with the rules that they feel should be followed in order to feel safe and productive in the classroom. And I have to give it to them–they always come up with the same things I would write down, just stated a little differently.

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Social Contract created by 4th graders

I always want my students to follow 3 simple rules: Be safe, Be respectful, and Listen carefully. It never fails, students come up with many more rules than I would give them. There is always a different amount, from class to class, year to year. Some groups feel that they need LOTS of rules spelled out for them, while others can group many of them together into one rule in which they agree. I let the students decide how many there will be and how they are worded on the SC.

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Social Contract created by 4th graders

You’re probably wondering how this all comes about. First, I hand out marker boards and markers to each student and have them generate rules they think are necessary. Next, I put them into groups of about 4-5 and have them share out with each other. They come up with one list compiled from all the students in the group. After that, I ask each group to share out 1 rule that is on their list. We talk about it, what it looks like and sounds like, and then add it to the chart. Students are the only ones who write down the rules. This helps students to value it and take ownership of the rules they are creating. As each group shares out, any other group that has the same rule will cross it out so that there are no repeated rules on the chart. We do this until all groups have shared everything. If we feel that one rule can be categorized with another rule, we talk about it and if ALL students agree, we leave the rule as it stands on the chart. If even one student feels that the rule should be separate, then we add it. Once all rules are written down, each student is invited to sign their name on the contract.

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Social Contract created by 4th graders

As with anything else, there are other ways to do this. In lower grades, the teacher would have to write the rules or designate a child that already knows all of the letters and is capable of doing it. It doesn’t matter if everything is spelled correctly or not, as long as the students understand what the rules are.

If you don’t already use Social Contracts in your classroom, I strongly recommend that you start this year! If you have any questions on how to make this work for you, or if you currently use these and have something to add, please do!!

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Homeworkopoly Revisited

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Homeworkopoly has been drawing the attention of several people and conjuring questions of all kinds, so I decided to revisit this popular topic and do my best to answer the questions that have been asked.

What is it?  Homeworkopoly is a game that was created by some brilliant person (I’m guessing a teacher, but not sure of the original owner) to encourage homework participation.  The best part about it is that you can customize it to fit your needs.

How does it work?  It works differently in every classroom, I’m sure.  Some teachers are lucky enough to have only one set of students, while others are departmentalized and have numerous classes rotating through each day.  I teach 4th grade, and my team is departmentalized, so I see about 44 students every day.  Last year, the year of implementation, I actually had 3 classes of 22 students in a rotation, so it was a little difficult to manage, but still possible.  Because of the high volume of participants, my rules for the game were probably very different from a self-contained classroom.

The rules: During the fall semester, I was fortunate enough to have an AMAZING student teacher helping me out, so I had extra hands to aide in the execution of everything.  I kept a simple spreadsheet that had each student’s name and the dates of assigned homework.  Each time a student turned in homework, he/she got a check.  At the end of the week, students would get to roll the dice and move around the board as many times as they turned in homework for the week.  I also asked volunteers to help out while the students were actually being called back and playing the game.

During the spring semester, without help and with THE test looming over us, we just had less time for Homeworkopoly.  I told the students that instead of rolling once for each time they turned in homework, now they would have to be consistent all week in order to receive one roll.  Not only did this cut down on the time required to play, it helped reinforce the idea of responsibility and turning in homework consistently.

Computer and Chance Cards: When students land on a Computer Card or Chance Card space, the student would choose the card in the front/on top and receive the prize that was written on the card.  I’m not a big fan of sending students to the prize box all the time, so I chose to provide prizes that didn’t necessarily involve money.  I found a great website that offered 125 FREE rewards to students, so I picked the ones I liked most–and felt I could live with–printed them on labels, and then put them on the back of the cards.  I’ve posted the website under my classroom management page, but here it is again: http://www.managemyclassroom.com/?p=128

The other spaces: I hate to say it, but we just didn’t have time to mess with any spaces other than the Chance and Computer Card spaces.  If you have been fortunate enough to employ other ideas with these spaces, I would love to hear what you do!!

Pawns: Since I hung my Homeworkopoly game board on the wall, I had to use something that would not fall off the board (aka: no pawns).  I decided to designate a color to each class, and they had an Expo marker to write their assigned class number on the space where they landed.  Rather than writing it each time they landed, they only wrote their number where they landed LAST.  This is where those student helpers came in very handy!!  Since the game board was laminated, we just kept some Expo board spray and paper towels on the ledge next to it for when we needed to erase.

Time devoted to playing: As I mentioned earlier, this took up more time in the fall than it did during the spring, for various reasons.  Holding the students accountable for turning in homework every day in order to roll once cut down on the number of participants, especially towards the end of the year when all they want to do is go home and be DONE with school!  I would say it probably took around 20 minutes or so in the fall (with lots of help) and dwindled down to 5-10 in the spring.  This is per class.  Remember, I had classes of about 22 students.  We played only on Fridays.

Hopefully I’ve answered most of the questions you might have on the implementation of Homeworkopoly.  If you have played this game with your students, I would LOVE to hear your spin on it!!

 

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DIY Dry Erase or Wet Erase Pockets

ImageI despise wasted paper.  It’s bad enough that many teachers just shove worksheets at kids these days, but seeing all the papers in the trash every day after students exit the classroom makes me think that we could probably be doing some things better!  So…I set out to find something to help cut down on wasted paper.

I found this on PInterest, I must admit, but I felt it was too neat to keep to myself.  These dry erase pockets are super cute and easy to make.  All you need is some duct tape and page protectors.  Just line 3 edges with the duct tape, and you have yourself some neat dry erase pockets to use with your lessons.

How could I use these?

1. Instead of running multiple class sets of a reading passage, allow students to use a Visa-Vis or dry erase marker to underline evidence in the story.  When they are finished, it can be easily erased for the next class.

2. Use these pockets in centers when students are rotating through.  Instead of having to run a whole class set, you can run just enough for the amount of students in the group.  They can erase before switching to the next group.

3. If you make a whole class set, these can be used to cover science papers when in the science lab or while doing experiments.  Many times their papers end up in the middle of the experiment, so by using these, there may be fewer accidents and fewer requests for a new paper!

4. Slide a nonfiction text into the pocket and label the text features.  This could be used as a display with a real book, instead of listing out on a chart.

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