Sunday, August 23, 2015

Get Your Students to Greet Each Other

Good Morning!
As adults we are accustomed to greeting others. We look each other in they eye, smile, and then say something like "Good morning!" or "Hello, how are you today?"
If you watch your students in the morning, most will smile at another student, few will make eye contact, and even fewer will say "Good morning, did you do anything fun last night?" 

Children need to be taught how to properly greet another person. In my classroom we work on this frequently because it is a skill my students will use throughout their lives. Before my students enter our classroom each morning I greet them at the door. They decide if they would like to give me a high-five, handshake, fist bump, or hug. I remind them to make eye contact with me while we are fist bumping or shaking hands. We greet each other by saying "Good morning!" Then, it allows me a few moments to interact with each student and ask, "How are you?"  or What did you do last night?" 

Once everyone has entered the classroom we take 5 minutes to greet each other before we start the day. Students love to be greeted by name. It makes them feel like "it matters that I came." Greeting each other is a great way to help students transition from home to school and provides a time in our day when we can all be silly together. 

At the beginning of the year I teach the students the greetings explicitly. We talk about making eye contact and speaking clearly. As I teach each new greeting I show them the greeting icon and place it on our tic-tac-toe grid in the classroom. 

Once they know all of the greetings I let one student choose our greeting for the day (they love getting to choose!) using our Morning Greeting Choice Cards. I frequently rotate the cards to keep things fresh. There are 24 total greetings.  

Another option is to put the greetings on a ring and let the students choose from there. 
You can get the Morning Greeting Choice Cards here

Friday, August 21, 2015

Small Group Discussion Strategies

Are you tired of using the same speaking and listening strategy in your classroom over and over again? We love the tried and true strategy "Turn and Talk" but are ready to add a few more discussion strategies to our teaching tool belts. Getting students to have meaningful small group discussions can be difficult. 

In the past, I have had students collaborate in small groups. I am sure you have all experienced the same difficulties that I have. Your top students naturally lead the conversation and do most of the work which makes it easy for the other students to get away with not participating. Because of this, we have created some strategies that will engage ALL students in discussions and as well as meet the Speaking and Listening Core Standards.

Conversation chips are a great way to hold students accountable for discussion while at the same time limiting the amount each student can participate. It is an excellent strategy for every type of learner in your classroom. First, the teacher assigns students into small groups and provides a topic or text for them to discuss. Then each student gets 3 conversation chips. Students can only add to the discussion if they have a chip. Teacher can set an expectation that each student needs to contribute all chips to ensure all students are participating in the discussion. It is a perfect solution to get all students equally participating.

Another effective and engaging strategy is using our conversation sticks. This one is simple. Students can only talk if they are holding the conversation stick. Again, teachers can set expectations that each student needs to hold the stick so everyone is equally participating. 

Try our FREEBIE discussion strategy to get meaningful discussions started in your classroom today!

With the Numbered Heads Together strategy each group member gets a number (numbers included in download), then the teacher asks a question. The small group works together to think of an answer. Every student must know the answer because the teacher can call on any number for the answer. It is such a great way to engage student and ensure participation. 

You can purchase more  K-3 discussion strategies here

or our 3-5 discussion strategies here

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Welcome Back to School! 5 Things Teachers Want Parents to Know

      That time of year has arrived!  As we excitedly welcome another group of students to our classrooms we also open the door to build a great working relationship with their parents.  If I could create a crash-course to assist parents as they support their students, this would be it! Read on to find out what I would (and do!) tell my parents whenever given the opportunity.

“Welcome Back to School! 5 Things Teachers Want Parents to Know” 

1-It’s okay for kids to fail  
Educators get it! Parents don’t want to see their kids fail. But, did you know by allowing the opportunity for failure we are allowing students to learn?  Through struggle and persistence to overcome difficult tasks, students can learn that they don’t have to get things right the first time.  There is plenty to be learned from mistakes and those mistakes drive improvement. Our school is a safe place for children to fail because teachers and staff are here to support their failures. We’re teaching students how to get back up, learn from their mistakes and try again. At the same time we are helping to instill in your child the lifelong skills of grit and perseverance. As parents, you can reinforce your child’s ability to cope with challenges. Encourage learning from failure by asking your family members, “Who had a great failure today? What did you learn from it?”  

2-Be involved & stay involved
An involved parent greatly increases the success of a child. There are several ways you can be involved in your student’s education this year.
  •      Talk... a lot!  Take time to discuss what your students are learning at school.  Be sure to ask open-ended questions that elicit deeper conversations.  
  •      Plan to volunteer at the school as often as possible.  It takes a village to educate a child!  Your talents are greatly needed and appreciated.
  • Check on homework regularly. (But please don’t do it for your student!)  Homework is assigned to reinforce the skills they have learned during the day.
  • And most importantly- require your student to read everyday.  Set them up for success with this goal.  Read to and with your young children daily.  Discuss what your students are reading, no matter what their ages.   Check out this visual to find out more about how important reading is!
3-Test results are not the be-all, end-all
While assessments help teachers drive instruction, we believe education is about much more than a test score. We aren’t here just to get your child to pass that high-stakes end of year assessment.  As a parent, it is good to remember that just because your child may score poorly on an exam does not mean they lack intelligence.  Also, just because they may score high, doesn’t mean there is nothing left to learn.  A teacher’s overall goal is to help every student enjoy learning and be prepared for the great big world out there.

4-Healthy kids are better learners  
Nutritious meals sustain your child’s ability to learn far longer than empty calories or an empty stomach.  Make sure your child has a healthy breakfast every day.  Even a piece of toast eaten on the way to school is better than a grumbling stomach during math class!  Carefully consider what you send with your child for snacks and lunch.  Examine how much sleep your child should be getting per night and adjust bedtime routines to accommodate those needs.
       3-6 year olds need 10-12 hours
 of sleep
       7-12 year olds need 9-11 hours
       12-18 year olds need 8-9 hours

5- Be organized & establish a study routine
You probably already know the importance of providing a dedicated time and place for your student to do homework.  You may also know to arrange a spot to store backpacks, lunch boxes, and homework folders.  Did you know that there are other important study skills that can benefit your child?

Studies have shown that students who review information a few minutes before bedtime increase their ability to recall that information later. This is because all learning is “downloaded” into long-term memory during sleep.   Does your child need to remember spelling words, math facts, or history content? Consider implementing the “Bedside 5” in which your student spends the last five minutes before bedtime studying the most important information from the school day. In addition, we encourage you to limit screen time and strongly suggest turning technology off at least an hour before bedtime.  Turning of the tech along with a Beside 5 helps prime the brain to
 first “download” the school day information once your child falls asleep.  
(This research and information comes from the great educational supporters at Quantum Learning Network.

       We believe the best place for your child is in our classroom!  We are grateful for the associations we have with you and are excited to work together to create a successful experience for your student.  Here’s to a fabulous school year!

Font credit: KG A Year Without Rain

Sunday, August 9, 2015

BTS Blog Hop

We can't believe summer is coming to an end. We have been working hard all summer planning new things to try in our classrooms this year. 

Amy is excited to start her 3rd year in the same grade. This is her first time being able to teach 3 years in the same grade. This will allow her to implement more close reading and cooperative learning strategies because she is familiar with the first grade core standards. 

Tatum is making the move from 1st grade to 4th grade. The change will be new and rewarding! She can't wait to motivate her students while integrating close reading strategies with drama, art, storytelling, movement and more! She is most excited to watch this type of integration support her students as they grow to become excellent writers.

As a curriculum coach Emily is excited to implement a school-wide math RTI program. She spent the past 2 years building a successful reading intervention program, which has had a dramatic impact on student achievement.  She can't wait to see what happens with math intervention. 

Together we have created our 5 best back to school tips:

  1. Spend the first 6 weeks modeling procedures. Then practice, practice, practice! Don't ever stop practicing and reviewing. 
  2. Stay organized. 
  3. Greet your students at the door every morning. This will have an immediate impact on your classroom culture. Your students will feel welcomed and safe the moment they arrive. 
  4. Take advantage of the resources that are available to you. Find resources that are already aligned with the core standards. 
  5. Find opportunities for students to participate in authentic writing tasks.  Use your daily classroom lessons and experiences as springboards for student writing.  (Think history, science, field trips, assemblies, guest speakers, the first snowy day.... the sky is the limit!)  
If you are looking for one new idea to try this school year, THIS IS IT!

We worked all summer to find a way to provide teachers with the tools to create their own lessons to teach close reading and writing about text. This lesson planning guide goes far beyond highlighting passages and helps you plan that perfect close reading and writing lesson using ANY informational text you choose.  Stick with these 5 steps and your student’s work with blow you away! To learn more about the 5 steps click here to visit our blog post.

We love completing close reads in our classrooms and these text coding bookmarks come in handy. You can grab our close reading text coding book marks for free here

Teaching is the only profession that allows time for reflection and then gives you the opportunity to change, to start completely over. Remember, if something isn't working in your classroom you can change it! If you didn't get the results you were seeking now is the time to try something new.

Check out all of these terrific teacher bloggers who are giving away great back to school products. 

 You can win their products by entering the Rafflecopter here:

a Rafflecopter giveaway
-Amy, Tatum, and Emily 

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

6 Must-Read Back to School Read-Alouds to Build Community

We chose our first set of books for our read-aloud mini-lessons in September. We strategically chose books with back-to-school themes so we could integrate classroom community building activities with our read-alouds. We selected stories that were complex enough, they would lend themselves to span across 3-4 days. We plan to dive deep and cover many Common Core Literature Standards while also giving ourselves time to respond to the text with writing and art. 

We wrote rigorous text dependent questions where students use evidence from the text to deepen their understanding of the stories. Questions cover 7-8 Common Core Literature standards each book.  We created graphic organizers and writing in response to text activities to incorporate writing standards. We also incorporated an art piece to compliment each read-aloud and designed bulletin board headings to display the work. 

Each lesson plan will guide us through 3 days of close reading. Each day we will read the book for a different purpose and students will complete a different activity. 

Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon by Patty Lovell, Illustrated by David Catrow

Molly Lou Melon is a heartwarming story about a confident little girl who wins over Ronald Durkin, the school bully. The gorgeous illustrations and positive message of being true to yourself make this a must-read for back to school. This book is perfect for teaching kids about character traits. We plan to compare and contrast Molly Lou and Ronald Durkin by analyzing how their characters changed throughout the story. We will then have kids draw and write a character map about themselves.   

I Like Myself! by Karen Beaumont, Illustrated by David Catrow 

This simple humorous book is about a girl who likes herself no matter what.  Its silly rhyming words and illustrations deliver a powerful message of self assurance.  We paired this book with Molly Lou Melon to discuss the topic of self esteem and plan to have kids draw a self portrait and write an "I Like Me" poem.  

The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires 

We can't say enough about this new picture book by Ashley Spires. This inspiring story presents the idea of perseverance to young kids. The little girl and her dog plan to build the most magnificent thing.  Along the way, things don't turn out the way they plan. They fail and try again many times. Eventually, the girl becomes frustrated and quits when she slams her finger. Her dog convinces her to take a walk to rejuvenate. When they return, her renewed enthusiasm helps them achieve their goal and they finally build the most magnificent thing. This story is perfect for teaching a character's response to events and challenges.  It is a great back to school read-aloud for teaching children to overcome difficult things.  

The Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig, Illustrated by Patrice Barton


This heartfelt story brought us to tears as we empathized with Brian, the boy who feels invisible. He is sad and lonely at school until the new kid Justin asks him to join him and another boy for a class project. At the beginning of the story, Brian is drawn in black and white with the world around him in color, which symbolizes his isolation. As he feels more accepted and included, he becomes more colorful. Brian's journey teaches kids empathy and opens discussion about ways to include others. We plan to have kids illustrate comic strips depicting situations where they have opportunities to include others.  

Stick and Stone by Beth Ferry, Illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld

We fell in love with this book the second we came across it at our Public Library. All three of us had a copy shipped to our homes before returning it. This book can't help but make you smile. Stick and Stone become life-long friends when Stick stands up for Stone as the bully Pinecone taunts him. At first glance, we weren't sure if this text was complex enough for a close read extended over several days. After reading it, we realized the rhyming text and illustrations work harmoniously together to tell the story. We could cover many Common Core standards through deeper text dependent questions about text and illustrations working together. There are many parts worth revisiting to discuss why the author made certain decisions with text structure. There are many opportunities make inferences about characters and events using the illustrations. This book is a great springboard to talk to students about friendship. We plan to have kids complete a story map and write ways to "stick" with their friends.  

Big Bad Wolves at School by Stephen Krensky, Illustrated by Brad Sneed 

This is a lighthearted story about Rufus, a wolf that doesn't like Big Bad Wolf School. He would rather run through the woods and howl at the moon. We plan to use this book as a springboard to discuss classroom rules. As a class, we will act out examples and non examples of following the rules. Kids will write and draw ways they can follow our agreed upon class rules.  

We have written detailed lesson plans for each of these books that can be found in our Teachers-Pay-Teachers store. You can purchase each read aloud separately or in the September Bundle. 

-The Core Coaches 

Sunday, August 2, 2015

5 Step Lesson Planning Guide for Close Reading and Writing About Text

If you are looking for one new idea to try this school year, THIS IS IT!
We are finally ready to reveal our secret formula just for K-2 teachers….
Introducing the 5 Step Lesson Planning Guide for Close Reading & Writing about Text.

This lesson planning guide goes far beyond highlighting passages and helps you plan that perfect close reading and writing lesson using ANY informational text you choose.  Stick with this formula and your student’s work with blow you away!

How do we know?
We’ve tested these ideas again and again with real kids in real classrooms.  These tried and true strategies are 4 years in the making. We’ve been presenting these ideas through teacher development workshops to thousands of educators across the state of Utah.  Some of these ideas have even been presented at the SDE National Differentiated Conference this summer.  Why?  Because they work!  

Your 5 Step Lesson Planning Guide includes several resources.  You will receive:
  • Detailed Lesson Plan that explains every part of the process (complete with diagrams and classroom samples to walk you through every step)
  • Lesson Planning Template (to organize your planning)
  • Text Complexity Checklist (to guide you when selecting your perfect informational text)
  • Text Dependent Questions (including 3 stems for each CCSS RI standard AND the stems are specific to each grade level, K-2)
You will also receive:
Our popular classroom anchor charts
  • 7 Speaking and Listening Strategy Posters
  • 1 Text Coding Poster
  • 1 Vocabulary Poster
Printable Graphic Organizers
  • 2 Vocabulary organizers (for figuring out unknown words)
  • 8 Taking Notes organizers
Printable Writing Templates (for students to write about the text in a culminating task)
These templates are differentiated for each grade, K-2.  Just print off the version you need for your students!)
  • Chapter book
  • Flip book
  • Tab-book
  • 1 page summary

If you want to be impressed with the writing your students can produce this year, don’t delay. Download the 5 Step Lesson Planning Guide today!  

With this guide, we promise your kids can do this too!