1:1 Learning (1) 9/11 (1) ABC (5) Adjectives (4) Alliteration (1) American Government (7) Animals (1) Art (12) Artbotics (7) Australia (1) Author Study (1) BIG PLANS (16) Biographies (8) Black History Program (4) Blog love (18) Book Love (33) Boot Camp (2) Capacity (1) Celebrity Story Saturday (71) Charlotte's Web (25) CHEScompetition (1) ClassDojo (3) Common Core (6) Conservation (2) Contractions (2) Doubles (1) Dr. Seuss (8) Fact and Opinion (2) Family Night (1) Fiction and Nonfiction (1) Field Day (2) Field Trip (2) Food Chains (2) Fossils (1) Fractions (1) Friendly Letters (1) Garden (3) General Delk (5) George Washington Carver (2) Get It (3) Grammar (23) Guest Bloggers (1) Harriet Tubman (2) Health Fair (2) Holiday fun (9) Homophones (1) Inferring (1) Informational Writing (1) International Reading Association (1) iZone (4) Jan Richardson (1) Junior Achievement (3) Just for fun (36) Landforms (4) Lapbooks (3) Learning through play (7) Life Cycles (1) literacy centers (7) Literacy Night (1) Magnets (1) MakerSpace (1) Martin Luther King Jr (3) Math (34) Math Minutes (1) Mini Math Lessons (11) Mini Word Walls (3) Multiplication (3) Mythology (1) Natural Resources (1) Nouns (2) Parts of speech (1) Perimeter (1) Persuasive writing (1) Poetry (10) Power Points (20) Presidents (3) Printables (38) Professional Development (36) Projects (9) Public Library (1) QR Codes (2) Read 20 (6) Read Across America (5) Reading (28) Reads and Seeds (8) Reminders (15) Research Projects (6) Royalty (4) Science (38) Science experiment (12) Science Night (1) Sentences (3) Shapes (8) Shout Outs (35) Simile (4) SIOP (6) Small Groups (7) Social Studies (10) Solar System (3) Songs and Chants (6) songs in lessons (8) Space (2) Subject/ Predicate (1) Synonyms (1) Tall Tales (1) Tasty Text Tuesday (9) TCAP (2) Teach Like a Pirate (8) Time (1) Up-Cycling (1) Verbs (4) Vocabulary (19) Writing (15)

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

iZone Summer Institute: Healthy Teacher, Healthy Student, Healthy Environment

Donna Elle was the guest speaker for this session. She's an educator, motivational speaker, personal trainer, radio personality, and an awesome example of dedication and determination!

This session revolved around being a healthier educator, and a better role model for our students.

As teachers, we tend to focus on the lesson plans and day-to-day education of our students. We tend to forget that our students are watching us. All the time. We need to remember that we are preparing our students for LIFE, not just the test at the end of the lesson.

Donna started the session by showing us this video:

Powerful, right?!
 I know that this video shows that healthy habits start at home, but did you notice that the teacher in the video encouraged the behavior as well?

Now, I'm just as guilty of this as the next teacher. Candy is fast, cheap, and easy. It's bribery, pure and simple, and I'm guilty of using it. Often.

I like to think that my classroom is a little bit healthier than some. We are in charge of our school garden, and had fun trying the squash we grew. I also like to add motions and song in my lessons to keep students engaged and moving. But seriously, is that enough?

So, here are some things that I'm going to incorporate into my class this coming year:

  1. Fewer candy treats. Notice I said fewer.  Candy isn't terrible, but it shouldn't be the one and only treat given as rewards. I'm going to try bringing apples, Cuties (those small oranges), really just fruit in general. Granola bars, NutriGrain bars, and those kinds of items are better as well. 
  2. More feet time. This is as simple as walking laps around the classroom. I do this already, but there's always room for more. And, this coming year I'll be working off baby weight. There's my motivation right there!
  3. Brain and Body Breaks. We teachers know that students have a limited attention span. If students are too long on their seat, make them move their feet! Have students get up, do some stretches, run in place, play some music and encourage movement. This is great for refocusing their attention and getting their brains active again by encouraging blood flow. 
Thank you, Donna Elle for making sure we teachers help our students' bodies as well as their minds!

Some websites to check out!

You can find Donna Elle on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram!

iZone Summer Institute: Putting Active into Activities

I made the (fortunate) mistake of going to this session after lunch. At 37 weeks pregnant, the last thing I wanted was to be in a session that required constant movement.

Guess what? At 8-9 years old, I'm sure my students feel the same way after lunch. That's why I'm glad I went to this session. I was engaged in learning, active (which my doctor would appreciate), and happy. That's right. Happy. I was getting to socialize in a productive way with my colleagues. That makes me happy. :)

This session was created to make sure that our students are actively engaged in learning.
That means moving.
That means productive conversations.
That means manipulatives
That means a whole lot of modeling for teachers before letting students go at these.

Get ready! It's going to be a fun ride!

Putting Active into Activities
 ** Anything written in italics is something I would do to modify the activity in my classroom**

Walk- About Cards

This was our opening activity.
  • Every student has a folded index card- question on the outside, answer on the inside. 
  • Students also have either a stamp or sheet of small stickers.
  • Students walk around the room asking each other the questions on the cards.
  • If students know the answer, they receive a stamp or sticker from their partner. If they don't know the answer, their partner tells them the answer from the inside.
  • Students trade cards before moving on to find another person to ask. 
  • After time is up, students write down as many of the facts as they can remember. Teacher would also walk around and tally how many stamps or stickers were earned during the game. Possible prize?
Possible uses:
  • Vocabulary review
  • Informal pre- assessment
  • Fast facts (like math)
  • English/ Spanish (or any other foreign language being learned)
  • Grammar skills (like singular/ plural nouns)
  • Science/ Social Studies review

Three Strikes

(the example from the session)
  • Students are in pairs for this activity
  • Each student has his/ her own set of questions to ask their partner. Questions can be teacher created or student created, based on what your class can handle or what you need them to cover.
  • Partner A asks Partner B questions. If PB can answer on the first try, he/ she gets 3 points. If PB can't answer, then PA will give them the answer, put an X in the circle, and move on to the next question. 
  • When all questions have been asked, then PA goes back and re-asks the questions that PB missed the first time. If PB gets the answer the second time around, he/ she gets 2 points. If PB still can't answer, PA gives them the answer again and goes on to the next previously missed question. 
  • Keep going until each question has been asked 3 times.
  • Once Partner A has asked the questions on his/ her sheet, then Partner B gets to ask PA questions on their sheet. (questions should be different)
  • Once all questions have been asked, students should add up their points. (Prizes given at teacher discretion)
  • Students go back to their seats and fill in answers to all the questions asked. (from a teacher prepared sheet)
Possible uses:
  •  Science content review
  • Social studies content review
  • Vocabulary review
  • Book study review
If you'd like a blank copy, follow these links!


Scavenger Hunt

(example from session)
  • Teacher prepares the puzzle based on a chosen topic (in the example, it's a review of the book The Outsiders)
  • Cards with answers on the front and "secret letters" on the back are taped to the walls around the room. 
  • Some cards can be decoy cards with the wrong possible answers (I thought that was genius!)
  • Students will walk around the room filling in the blanks with the answers. Then they will flip the card up and fill in the letter for the "secret message" at the bottom. 
  • If the secret message at the bottom is not correct, students will know that their top answers should be checked!
Possible Uses:
  • Story reviews
  •  Math word problems
  • Science/ Social studies review

Scramble (Matching)
This is just a matching game. The thing to remember is to have materials already prepared and separated. You can have students cut and paste, but if you want to be able to reuse the activity, use cardstock and laminate the pieces. 
Students can work in pairs or independently. Make sure they have a documentation sheet to turn in for a grade.

Possible uses:
  • ANYTHING!! That's the beauty of this type of activity! It can be as simple as matching color cards to the color words, or as difficult as Latin prefixes/ suffixes and their meaning. The choice is yours!
Free Matching Games from my TPT store- GO GET THEM!!


  • Teacher prepares 8-12 index cards with errors on each, and places them around the room
  • Students should have a documentation sheet to turn in. Teacher discretion as to whether the sheet has the sentences already written on it to be fixed.
  • Students can work in small groups or individually as they go around the room to "fix" the sentences.
Possible Uses:
  • Vocabulary
  • Spelling
  • Math facts
  • Science/ Social studies facts
  • Grammar practice (ex. noun/ verb agreement, punctuation, capitalization)
  • This activity lends itself well to the previous game- matching. You might have some "sick" sentences and some "well" sentences. Students would have to decide which is which, and then "fix" the "sick" sentences.
These next activities were given to us in our packet, but we ran out of time to do them in the session.


 Possible Uses:
Review on any subject: reading comprehension, science, social studies, etc.


Thank you, Valery Taylor and Patricia Jones, Ed. D for these great ideas!

Monday, June 22, 2015

iZone Summer Institute: Engage Me or Enrage Me

My second session at the Summer Institute was also with Dr. LaMarr Shields.

 Engage Me or Enrage Me

This session was about how to keep boys engaged in the classroom. The session mainly addressed the importance of keeping "boys of color" engaged, but he did make the point that all boys are basically wired the same way, and these techniques can, and should, be used across the board.

Dr. Shields shared a lot of statistics about the drop out rate of black and Latino males. From what I can remember, (and I hate that I didn't get this written down) roughly half of black and Latino males will drop out of school before graduation, and, of the half who stay, only around half of them will go on to higher education.
So, for those of you with simple math minds like me, of 100 black and Latino males only 50 will graduate, and 25 of the 50 will maybe go to college. That's just sad.

Again, I don't want to share all of Dr. Shields' strategies since this is how he makes his living. So, I chose a few highlights from this session.

General Strategies: For School-Wide Implementation
  • Parental Involvement
  • School Outreach
  • Better Teacher and Staff Training (I think this is extremely important!)
  • Male Mentors and Instructors (CHES has a mentor program called Boys to Men that has benefited our male students this past year. I hope it gets to continue!)
  • Extracurricular Activities
Specific Strategies: For Classroom Implementation
Dr. Shields provided us a list of 52 tips. You read that right- 52!!  I'm giving you the 5 that he covered today. At the end of this post, there's a link to where you can find posters for 8 of them. All of the tips were provided by The Cambio Group and Dr. Shields' website.

I hate Dora the Explorer. I find the show extremely annoying. Have you heard the map song? Just that song alone is enough to make me want to tear my hair out. Seriously.

So, why do I even bring it up? Because when it comes to boys, you need to give directions like Dora. When Dora goes on an adventure, she uses no more than 3 simple directions, and she repeats them until they are imprinted in her brain.
Oh, you're going to the erupting volcano with your purple monkey, singing backpack, and obnoxious map, are you, Dora? How you going to get there?
  1. River!
  2. Forest!
  3. Volcano!
Then she repeats the 3 directions in a sing-song voice until she can remember it. She must cross the river, walk through the forest, then she's at the volcano!

Teachers, do this in your classroom! Parents, do this at home! Simple directions.
In my classroom I'll write the directions on the board simply as well, with pictures if possible. I'll model the expectations as well, but I'm not going to over load my board with superfluous words.

1. Cut!
2. Sort!
3. Glue!

First you cut the words out, then sort them on your page, then glue them in place! Done!

p.s. And when they get it right- PRAISE THEM! Even small successes deserve praise!

Not only does having them repeat instructions make them actively involved in class, it also lets them "play teacher". In my classroom, this looks like me giving the simple directions (see above), then students get into "teacher position" (hands on hips and pointer finger up) and they repeat the directions to a partner.
Yes, I am an elementary teacher. I actually have no idea if that particular action would work in upper grades. But, I will tell you that my students, boys included, think it's hilarious to pretend to be "teacher" or "bossy momma".

Dr. Shields recommends having students practice Deep Listening. Closing their eyes, holding their hands palms up, and focusing on their breathing.  Yes, they will need to practice this. Yes, they will pretend to be Buddhist monks or doing crazy yoga. But, eventually, they will learn to quiet their bodies (at least for a moment) in order to focus on certain tasks- like listening to you. Once they are focused, they can listen to instructions and properly mirror them back to you.

By having students mirror back instructions you're checking to see that they understand the expectations of a certain task. If they can repeat it, that means they heard it.

Boys, much more so than girls, need movement. Blame it on their wiring, but boys have the need to move like girls have the need to talk. I see it everyday in my classroom, and also at home with my 2 sons. They. Can't. Sit. Still. 

They tap, stand, walk, itch, whatever!! I'm not a stickler for sitting, as long as you're not in the way of someone's view of the board. You can stand next to your seat, sit through your seat, sit on your knees in the seat, whatever; just be able to keep up with the lesson.

With this in mind, why would we expect boys to be able to stand perfectly still when being disciplined?

Discipline doesn't have to be harsh. It had a bad stigma, but discipline is just a way of redirecting or refocusing a behavior.

When thinking of your boys, allow for movement. Maybe a Walk-and-Talk, which makes it feel like more of a conversation.
If possible, try to make discipline private: in the hallway, quietly at the student's desk, maybe even nonverbal. (Give them the Teacher Look)
For my younger son, I have to hold his hands. He stands in front of me, places his hands on top of mine, looks me in the eye, and we talk. His feet and hips may still be swaying to his inner beat, but I have his hands and eyes.

When the talk is over, go back to the previous tip: Have them repeat the instructions. Make sure they are walking away from the conversation with a sense of direction and expectation.

Boys are always on the move, remember? That means their eyeballs too. Give them something to focus on.
I've done a book study on the book Teach Like a Pirate.

It's a fabulous book all about  different teaching "Hooks" to use in the classroom. Every "Hook" gets teachers moving, and students' attention. I highly suggest reading this book before walking into your classroom again this fall. It's mainly geared toward middle and high school, but this elementary teacher gleaned A LOT of information and strategies.

Not only is teacher movement good for grabbing student attention, it's also good for observation. A college professor once told my class, "A teacher on her feet is worth 10 on her seat."
The only thing to be gained by constantly sitting is another pant size. GET UP. See what your students are doing. Observe class discussions, peer editing, think-pair-share, and independent work. Take notes, keep records.

Cause, you know, it's YOUR JOB.

And not just your body- make students use theirs as well! Do yourself a favor and Youtube "Whole Brain Teaching", then click on your grade level. There are videos galore of students learning new concepts by engaging their whole bodies into the lesson.

Yes, it's a little weird at first. It takes time and LOTS of modeling. But many teachers swear by its technique.

If you find that it's still a little too weird for you, then go small: rhythm and rhyme.

Remember the movie Akeelah and the Bee? Akeelah learned to spell by tapping her hands on her legs. She used the rhythm of spelling to help her. When they told her to stop tapping, she became lost. Don't take that away from your students! Encourage it and use it to your own purposes!

In my classroom, when I teach the parts of a plant, we use the song Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes.
Flowers, leaves, stems, and roots- stems and roots!
Flowers, leaves, stems, and roots- stems and roots!
Stems and roots!
Flowers, leaves, stems, and roots- stems and roots!

When we sing "flowers" we have hands on our heads, "leaves" we shake our arms, "stems" we pat our legs, and "roots" we touch our toes. 

We use songs and jingles a LOT in my class. For everything. I give them copies of the songs and jingles to keep for reference in their journals. During tests you'll see kids bopping in their seats, quietly singing the songs. That's cool with me.

We also use a lot of picture vocabulary, especially in science and social studies. Whatever works. Engagement is the key. Get the kids moving!


The biggest take-away from this session, for me, was that our male students just don't feel connected to their learning. They might not see the point of certain lessons because they can't see themselves using the knowledge later in life. 
Or maybe they don't see the point in trying, period. They've been told they can't, so they won't. 

Please, teachers, don't let this happen in your classroom. Be the teacher who is willing to connect and engage students, especially the boys of color. An engaged student is focused on learning, not on being a disruption. Use all the tricks in your teacher bag to make sure your students are actively learning. 

Thank you, Dr. Shields for all you're doing in the world of education! Keep up the good work!

If you'd like a copy of the Engage Me or Enrage Me Posters (8 total), click HERE!

iZone Summer Institute: Is Anyone Home? Strategies to Reach the Disengaged Parent

This week I am blessed with the opportunity to attend the iZone Summer Institute as a guest. While Clifton Hills doesn't qualify to be part of the iZone initiative, we are serving students with the same backgrounds. Hamilton County was gracious enough to allow CHES some seats, and I'm so glad my rear end gets to be in one of them!

With this being Day 1 of the Summer Institute, I got to choose 3 break out sessions. Two of the ones I attended were lead by Dr. LaMarr Darnell Shields.

That's right. TWO! A plethora of available information and I chose to stay with Dr. Shields for more than half the day.

Now there are three possible reasons why I would choose to stay with the same presenter for two separate sessions:
1. I'm 2 weeks away from delivering my fourth child and it's wicked hot outside. Walking around Southern Adventist University looking for the different sessions would be INSANE.
2. (As Dr. Shields pointed out during one of the sessions...) Dr. Shields looks like a cross between Chris Rock and Denzel Washington. We could really just stop there.  :)
3.The information being presented is relevant, helpful, and could be easily implemented in my school and classroom. 

I'll let you decide which one won in the end. :)

Since Dr. Shields makes his living as a motivational/ informational speaker, I don't want to share all of the information given to us today. I will, however, go over some of the highlights.

Is Anyone Home? Strategies to Reach the Disengaged Parent

This session was pretty straight forward. We, as teachers, need to be able to reach the parents of our students. Sounds easy, but in reality there are many things that might hinder parent/ teacher communication:
  • No working phone numbers
  • Parents work schedule doesn't mesh with school schedules
  • No transportation for conferences
  • Teachers only call with "bad" news, thus making parents not want to answer
That's just a few.
As a teacher, I see the impact a good relationship with parents has on their student in my class.  As a parent, I see that staying in contact with my children's teachers insures that I stay updated with what's going on. Education is a 2-way street.

"Student achievement increases as the level of parent education increases."

This quote hit me on two levels:
1. Parents with "higher education", which includes having a high school diploma or GED, and a college degree of some sort, see the value of a good education. There's a reason that NBC did a whole group of mini segments based around the catch phrase "The More You Know". Knowledge is power, a good education is key, and parents who have pushed themselves through these stages are more likely to push their children as well.

 2. "Parent education" doesn't have to be solely based on how far parents got in their own personal schooling. Many people in America haven't attended colleges or universities and still live powerful, influential lives. In this case, "parent education" refers to keeping parents educated in what is going on in the classroom. Whether this means sending out newsletters, sending class texts, blogs (ahem), phone calls, or a daily behavior log, keeping parents in the loop insures that students stay in the loop.

No matter which type of parent is the most prevalent in your classroom, remember that teachers and parents work best when acting as a team. The goal is to end the year with the student more engaged, more empowered, and more learned than when they arrived on your doorstep.

Teamwork also needs to be the new "it" word in your school building.  
It takes a village to raise a child, right? Well, the teachers, administrators, and staff in your building make up a large part of that village.
Here's another cliche for you:
"You're only strongest as your weakest link." You know what this means? It means that everyone in your building needs to buy in to the concept of Teamwork. Just one "weak link" can mean a poor educational experience for a student, and, in turn, for the parent. Just one.

For the love of all things holy, get on the Teamwork Train and don't be THAT ONE. 

 With some of my CHES Teammates who also attended the iZone Summer Institute. We are not weak links!

Reflection Questions: These questions can be used during staff or parent meetings!
1. What was the best and worst advice given to you by your parents?
For me, I was a typical middle child. Most of what I was told revolved around the phrases, "Stop that", and "Leave well enough alone". Not sure if that was "advice" exactly, but goodness knows I heard it enough.  
After hearing those phrases at least 100 times, I learned to stop and think about my actions. What I say and what I do affects others, and I need to stop and consider what could happen should I follow through with a decision.
"Leave well enough alone" was, and sometimes still is, a hard one for me. To me, it obviously isn't "well enough" enough. It needs a fix. An upgrade. A... something. Who knows what I could be thinking at the time, but in my brain something needs to be fixed. 
Sometimes this is a good thing. Some things can be improved upon and the world obviously needs me to be the one to do it!
On the other hand, I'm not perfect (or a rocket scientist), and some things really DON'T need my interference. 
It's a hard call most days. I'm working on it.
2. What's it like being in a relationship with you as a teacher/ parent? 
Dr. Shields asked the question in the context of "Would you date you?", but I'm tweaking it a little bit. (See? Can't leave well enough alone!)

As a teacher, I want my parents to feel that my door is always open. Making an appointment to talk would be fabulous, but not 100% necessary. I want my parents to feel informed and updated on their student's behavior, grades, and goings-on. If there's a problem, I want my parents to know that they can come to me to work things out. I'd like to think that my parents feel this way, but I know I've let things fall between the cracks before. I'll do my darndest to not let this happen this coming year. 

As a parent, I'm one of those.  I can admit it. I think it's because I'm a teacher as well, but, if my child is in your class, I'm judging you. 
  • Are you conducting your class in a way of which I approve? 
  • Are you staying in contact with me? 
  • Do I feel updated and connected? 
  • How's your spelling and punctuation in that newsletter of yours? (Don't even get me started. I once fixed a newsletter with a red sharpie and sent it back the next day. #notahappymommy #useadictionary) 
If I have any concerns with my personal children, I'll follow procedures to make sure my concerns are heard. I'll be polite. I'll be sensitive. But I'll also be  thinking that, if I can do it in my classroom, so can you.

My little Minions. Upcoming 1st graders and 3rd grader.

Thank you, Dr. Shields for a great first session! 

Websites to check out:
Raising Him Alone- a website for single moms


I'd love to hear from you!
Answer the reflection questions down in the comments and I'll email you a product from my TPT store! 
After you answer the questions just add which product you'd like from my store and your email address. I'll get it to you as soon as I can!